Sunday, December 21, 2014


During the Christmas season (no generic “holidays” here) it may be helpful to reflect upon this year’s events in Iraq and Syria, both part of Biblical geography.
This year the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, aka ISIL or just IS) made substantial territorial gains, continuing to attract thousands of foreign volunteers, and often drubbing the U.S. sponsored Iraqi army.  That despite an unopposed Allied air campaign throughout the operating area.
Conventional airpower wisdom holds that the desert is Airpower Country because there's no place to hide. The RAF did rawther well with its little known 1920s-30s Air Control scheme in Iraq but that was mainly against tribal banditti rather than organized military forces.  ISIS is very much an organized military force, and reminds me of the Waffen SS: ideologically fanatic AND professionally competent.
The reason that airpower has had so little effect is, in a word, targeting.  Basically it’s a repeat of the largely failed (and likely illegal, not that it matters) Libya op. NATO (and eventually the U.S.) had total air supremacy but it made little difference on the ground, at least partly because of concern about civilian casualties.  Today we're largely limited to plinking specific targets such as vehicles, bulldozers, and artillery tubes. It may help but it will not and cannot decide the issue.
For airpower to be truly effective, it needs an area target--a massed troop concentration. ISIS is far too smart for that, and seems to get along fine.
Frequent drone and fighter-bomber strikes have prompted U.S. government spokesmen—uniformed and otherwise—to assure us that ISIS’ ability to coordinate and control actions has been diminished.  Not that it’s obvious, but that’s the claim.  It comes from the same people who said “If you like your health plan, you can keep it.”
A bit of historic background:
This month marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.  In December 1944 Germany was on the strategic ropes, reeling from six months of defeats on the Western Front while the Soviets steamrolled from the East.  Some famous and semi-famous star wearers believed that Nazi Germany was on the verge of collapse.
Then on the morning of the 16th, Panzers clanked out of the mist in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest—the same “impassable” area where Panzers had clanked in the Blitzkrieg four and a half years before.  The Allies were taken by surprise, having no indication of the massive attack from any intelligence sources.
The reason?
The Germans avoided electronic communication.  They planned, coordinated, and launched the biggest surprise of the European war by phone, teletype, and paper--all secure methods.  Yet Hitler launched some 300,000 men and 600+ armored vehicles against the thinly-held American line. It took five weeks and more than 90,000 Allied casualties to stop the attack.  It was the costliest battle that the U.S. fought in the Second World War, with nearly 20,000 known dead.
That was 1944-45.  Does anybody seriously contend that ISIS is incapable of similar procedures today, on a far smaller scale?
Nor is that all.
For a chilling dose of reality, look up Dabiq, ISIS' online magazine. Slick, sophisticated, better written and edited than many American publications.  We've never seen anything comparable--a nuanced, multi-tiered, fully integrated military/PR effort, and absolutely ruthless.  Even when Dabiq runs a photoshopped pic of the black flag over the Vatican, the Church talks of "stopping" ISIS rather than destroying it.
And meanwhile, the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces assured us, "ISIS is not Islamic."
We the People naively (some say stupidly) bought into the political rhetoric after 9-11.  Dubya Bush said, “They hate us for our freedom.”  Batguano.  Radical Islamists are not remotely interested in freedom.  They hate us for existing, and they have a plan to correct that situation, starting with Israel.
At that time every politician within reach of a microphone bleated about “cowardly suicide bombers.”  Good lord!  I’ve probably interviewed a few hundred veterans of the Pacific Theater in WW II, including men whose ships were sunk or burned nearly to destruction by suicide air attack.  None of them—not one—ever mentioned “cowardly kamikaze pilots.”  The very notion removes anyone who utters the phrase from consideration as a serious commentator.
Like Imperial Japan’s kamikazes, ISIS—and every other militaristic Islamic force—cannot be convinced or dissuaded by logic or reason.  Both are examples of committed, courageous, intelligent zealots, absolutely convinced of the rightness of their cause.  They deserve our unstinting respect, because when we denigrate them with stock phrases, we open ourselves to greater peril.
The thing that Mainstreet USA needs to grasp is that despite all the PC hype about The Religion of Peace, there are millions of Muslims who oppose ISIS and al Qaeda.  Muslims have killed vastly more Muslims than they have killed Christians, Jews, or others.  And if the global Caliphate ever is achieved, that will merely be the penultimate step in the process, leading to The Final Battle between Suuni and Shia.
Until then, if Western Civilization wants a reality check, look at one of ISIS’ favored methods of execution.  It’s familiar to anyone who ever stepped into a Christian church.
It’s called crucifixion.
What else does anyone need to know?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Most of us have seen news stories about potential victims killing “unarmed teens,” implying that shooting an unarmed assailant cannot be justified.  But that’s just plain wrong.  “Unarmed” does not mean “not dangerous,” and it does not mean that lethal force is never justified. 

In recent years young urban predators have gained national attention for “The Knockout Game.”  The object of the Game is a one-punch knockout—or at least knockdown—of an unwitting “player.”  Multiple deaths have resulted from The Knockout Game and other one-punch assaults.  Here’s a brief sampling:

Las Vegas, July 2011.  A former football coach was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after a single punch to a 46-year-old tourist.  The visitor from Utah died when his head struck the floor.

St. Cloud, Minnesota, September 2012.  The 20-year-old victim, accompanying two women late at night, was attacked by an 18-year-old driver who exited his vehicle for unknown reasons.  The assailant delivered one blow, knocking the escort to the ground where he landed on his head.  He died the next day.

During 2013 at least three people were killed in deliberate Knockout Game attacks: a 78-year-old woman in New York; a 32-year-old woman in Washington; and a 46-year-old man in New Jersey.

Lakeland, Florida, May 2014.  A 43-year-old man was engaged in a gas-station argument with a hothead who punched the man in the face, knocking him down.  The victim struck his head on the pavement and died two weeks later.

Two soccer referees were killed by single blows just this year.  In Salt Lake in April a 17-year-old player punched a 46-year-old referee in the face; he died comatose.  Three months later a 44-year-old Michigan referee was struck one time by a 36-year-old player who disagreed with the ref’s call.  The victim died without regaining consciousness. 

Around the nation other victims were murdered or crippled in Knockout Game and similar attacks.  A Syracuse, New York, incident involved a failed one-hit knockout so the predators stomped the man to death.  Another was found with his head jammed through a metal fence, his neck broken.

Frequently the juvenile assailants are given light sentences owing to their youth.  The two who beat the New Yorker to death received 18 months and may serve less.

The problem is not limited to the U.S.

Northern Territory, Australia, December 2010.  A 39-year-old off-duty policeman was harassed by a pub patron on New Year’s eve, resulting in a scuffle.  The patron struck the policeman once in a fatal “king hit.”

Northern Territory reported two other lethal one-punch incidents that summer.  But according to news reports, some Western Australia juries did not believe that a single punch could be lethal, and ruled some deaths “accidental.”  The territory then passed a law addressing “unlawful assault causing death.”

The phrase “causing death” is important.  Frequently—perhaps usually—the victim dies not from the direct effect of the fist but from striking his head on a hard surface.

In February 2012 a national frenzy embroiled Florida neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.  His shooting of Trayvon Martin focused attention on “unarmed” attackers.  The 17-year-old Martin had no weapon when he smashed Zimmerman in the face with his fists, then pounded Zimmerman’s head against the sidewalk.

In August 2014 another racially-charged incident occurred in Missouri when policeman Darren Wilson fatally shot teenager Michael Brown.  The grand jury stated that Brown—a 290-pound 18-year-old who had just committed a strong-arm robbery—struck Wilson at least twice in the head and tried to seize his pistol.  Subsequently Wilson said that he feared for his life as the assailant charged him, resulting in Brown’s death.

None of the foregoing are isolated incidents.  According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2012, 682 people were killed by assailants using hands and/or feet.  The figure was even higher in 2011, with 726 “unarmed” killers.

So: what is “unarmed” and how are potential victims to respond to physical assault?

In most of the cases noted above, the victims were in their twenties to forties.  Thus, they were not aged or frail such as the 78-year-old New York woman.  In short, anyone in decent health can be killed or crippled by one blow from an “unarmed” assailant, including teen attackers.

In other cases, an assailant “only” armed with a knife has killed or injured people armed with firearms.  The first instance I knew of occurred in my home county in Oregon in 1976.  A policeman was confronted with a knife-wielding youth who inflicted a fatal wound.  The officer’s last words to a partner, “I couldn’t shoot him.  He was just a kid.”

Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-105(14) defines deadly physical force as “force that is used with the purpose of causing death or serious physical injury or in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of creating a substantial risk of causing death or serious physical injury.”  It says nothing about weapons or the age of the attacker.  It only says “capable of creating a substantial risk of causing death or serious physical injury.”  Case studies show that “unarmed teens” are entirely “capable of creating a substantial risk of causing death or serious physical injury.
Despite media and cultural antipathy against lethal responses to “unarmed” attackers, the pattern is crystal clear: the empty-handed assailant bearing down upon an intended victim is fully capable of killing or crippling that person.  The situation is especially of concern to older people who are far less able to defend themselves mano a mano.  It’s a concern that we Baby Boomers increasingly will have to face.

The pacifist crowd follows a predictable script: if you must have a weapon, use a non-lethal method.  But a taser is a one-shot weapon: what do you do against two attackers, let alone a pack?  Mace or pepper spray is only useful at arm’s length, when effective at all.  Police training demonstrates that often it fails to deter an assailant, and again—how do you handle multiple attackers?

Recently I was recalling what most of us learned in kindergarten:

1.   Be nice.
2.   Don’t hit.
3.   Share the toys.

We nice folks follow those rules, but when others do not, the solution is clear: carry a sidearm you have learned to use safely and well.  Do not hesitate because the predator attacking you is “unarmed” or is “just a kid.”  Check your laws and base your decision on whether you face substantial risk of death or injury.  If you believe not, then don’t shoot.  If you reasonably believe you are at risk, then you might shoot to stop the threat. 

The life you save may be your own.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


It just struck me: I’ve been published for fifty years now.  Good lord!  How did that ever happen?

I keep a list of my published articles, not so much for ego or old-time’s sake as for reference.  Ask any author and you’ll learn that it’s a whole lot easier to thumb through “the files” for THAT article than to research the subject again.  There’s also the monetary factor—recycling articles doubles (or triples) your productivity.  My personal best is three reprints for an article first published in 1977.  One article, four checks.  Love it.

Anyway, recently I was looking at my articles list and noted the first entry:

October.  Drum Corps World.  “Beaver State Beat.”  $0.00

That was the first of ten entries for DCW, as I was a 15-year-old percussionist in my hometown’s American Legion drum and bugle corps.  The Falcons had a lot of talent—one year at the state championships we won 60 percent of the medals for individual competition but finished near last in the corps field event.  A year or so later one of our horn players finished third at the nationals. 

Because I didn’t start flying until the next year, in ’64 drum corps and Scouts occupied most of my time.  I subscribed to DCW and noted a dearth of coverage from the Pacific Northwest, so I contacted the publisher, offering to fill in the gap.  His name was Joseph Something, and he readily accepted.  No reason he shouldn’t since he wasn’t paying anything!

The year and a half of “Beaver State Beat” exposed me (corrupted, some might say) to The Power of the Press.  The column was part news, part gossip, and part opinion.  Well, OK, a lot of opinion.  But suddenly a high-school freshman from Athena, Oregon, was considered Influential in the esoteric world of Northwest drum and bugle corps.  People started deferring to me.  Some phoned with Insider Information, which even at that callow age, I knew to treat with caution.  Were the Cadets really dumping their music director?  Was the Eagles’ drum major really ineligible because he’d passed his 20th birthday?  People wanted to know such things.

I learned a valuable lesson, writing for DCW: when in doubt, waffle.  My columns contained useful phrases such as “We hear that,” or “Reliable sources claim…” 

Finally my drum corps participation came to an end.  My last column was in May 1966, the last year I was active.  By then I’d done about all I was going to accomplish.  I’d placed three times in individual competition, winning state titles in tenor drum and rudimental bass, and besides, I’d started flying in ’65 and finished my Eagle Scout badge that year. 

However, the overall experience was a positive one, other than a severe crush on an extremely cute blonde in the Seattle Thunderbirds color guard.  Alas, geography worked against us. But I gained some confidence as a writer, learned life lessons about competition, and made some long-term friends.  It’s been fun catching up with a couple of them on Facebook.

Looking farther down the list, I see that I’ve been published every year except 1967 and 1969.  That’s understandable, because I graduated from high school and started college in ’67, and worked summers on the ranch and at the local airport.  The interim articles were published in Northwest Flyer, the Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society and the International Plastic Modelers Quarterly.

I published 15 articles before I finally got paid for one, a magazine journalism class at the University of Oregon.  The deal was: sell an article and you got an A.  “Omens, Augurs, and Jinxes” sold to Air Progress in 1971—a whimsical study of aviation superstitions.  The most memorable one dated from France in the Great War.  A pilot was considered bulletproof if he carried a garter removed from the leg of a virgin in the dark of the moon.  Honest.

It was a point of pride that I aced every writing class I took at OSU, the U of O, and later in Mesa Community College’s screenwriting course.  But a then-and-now comparison invites broad contrast.  I wrote my first six books and about 100 articles on a Royal Standard manual typewriter that my father bought before I was born.  It’s still in the family but most of the vowels are worn down.  When I was dragged into the computer age with a doorknob in each hand and skid marks on the floor, I devoutly did not want to change.  But it was clear that the publishing world was inevitably headed over that cyber-cliff, so I adapted.

However, the discipline I learned on that Royal served me extraordinarily well.  So did the most valuable class I ever took: freshman typing in high school.  It was held in the unheated basement of the Athena First Baptist Church at 8:00 a.m., an hour before the regular school day began.  I was oafishly proud to earn my 40 word-per-minute pin, a sort of compensation for never getting a perfect attendance pin owing to childhood asthma.

Far more importantly, composing on a manual typing writer forced me to organize, to focus, and to think ahead.  After all, in those days Cut And Paste involved scissors and Scotch tape, if not actual paste.  So economizing on words and time paid dividends.

Now I realize that a PC’s cut and paste function has tempted me to become less disciplined, even leaning toward laziness.  It’s easy to become profligate with words, since they’re only electrons on a screen.  Today writers can move entire pages or even chapters around to suit their fancy, and what took hours before can be done in minutes or less. 

But whenever I catch myself tending toward laziness, I can revert to the early 1960s, recalling the tiny thrill of seeing my byline and the satisfaction of providing information and opinion to My Readers, however many they were.

That was 650 articles and 50 books ago, but moreover, it was FIFTY years ago. 

How did that ever happen?