“Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes”*

Center of Moscow seen through the axis of Lenin Prospect, from the Kosygin Street overpass, southwest quarter of city. September 2010.

Center of Moscow seen through the axis of Lenin Prospect, from the Kosygin Street overpass, southwest quarter of city. May 2000.

*apologies to David Bowie
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#2,582

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Slap the Stax of Wax!

Korat RTAFB, AFTN Central, 1974 B.D. (before dyssentary)

Korat RTAFB, AFTN Central
1974 B.D. (before dyssentary).  And, yes, the mandatory, "Angry Young Man" face. 

Recently, an acquaintance remarked with amazement at the great wit, depth, and ingenuity of those producing fresh art daily  Those who choose to toss themselves into the highly-demanding regimen of daily art-- column, political cartoon, "funnies-page" cartoon, TV host, radio host, blogger and more-- are models of courage and presence of mind. For some, the spring runs dry or simple fatigue sets in.   When that happens, the best-- like Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), and Gary Larson (The Far Side) have the integrity to quit, rather than produce pablum for a paycheck with disregard for the audience. Yes, daily creators are in my pantheon.  That's because I experienced the demands of their regimen and could not handle those demands even when young. In retrospect, one of my early episodes of OCD and depression (though of course in those days I had no way of recognizing them) was caused by this regimen. While serving in Thailand as an American Forces Network announcer, the format I chose for my radio time was esoteric and eclectic.  That is, the format comprised what then was called variously "Progressive Rock" (beware different contemporary meaning), "AOR, (album-oriented rock), or simply "FM".  It demanded fresh material daily. There were deepening anxiety, daily dread of going on duty.  This largely was because of the oppression of the daily, demanding quest for fresh material.  Then-- if the quest was successful-- there was the anxious burden of obsessively-seeking the perfect arrangement of the material.  And all this activity was time-consuming, extending my duty-day, cascading into more dread and anxiety. Comrades with arched eyebrows, I learned to tell them, "Every moment of my air-time is scripted"  Their quizzical and bemused expressions in response, only in retrospect make sense. That air-time, its length, also was a big (pardon the pun) part of the problem.  My air-spot was midnight-fifteen until three a.m.  This was, by far, the lengthiest block of "live" airtime on the network's clock.  Of course, this length just increasingly drained me. However, "The Customer Is Always Right!" rescued me.  Word came down from command my show was unpopular. Notwithstanding a full-colonel, a night owl, had complimented me on my show.  We had been face-to-face in his office.  He had smiled as he expressed his enjoyment. Nevertheless, Befehl ist Befehl.  A broader, more-accessible format (read, "Top 40", "pop-music") was imperative. After that, every night, it was simply stroll into the station just minutes before air-time, glance at the latest "Hot 100" from Billboard, pull from the library enough of that material to fill two and three-quarters hours (a relatively quick-and-easy task), march into the studio, reach for the turntables, slap the stax of wax, and away we go!  My duty day relatively a brief breeze of ease! "Relax, no worries, Bro'!"
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The “Christmas War”

Thirsty D-Model BUFF

A thirsty "Tall Tail" or "Black Belly" or-- official tag-- B-52D, receives aerial refueling in 1982. Likely this aircraft was a veteran of the Christmas War

The controversial Christmas War:  its 40th Anniversary is upon us. For about two weeks in December 1972, North Vietnam's vital logistical heart-- the Hanoi/Haiphong metroplex-- was inflicted with heavy, widespread bombing for the first time. The significance:  the mighty B-52 (endearingly known to all associated with her as "BUFF", "Big Ugly Fat F*cker") was turned loose over urban North Vietnam for the first time.  This novelty notwithstanding the U.S. had been openly-fighting almost a decade in Vietnam.  The novelty of this precedent also contradicts American-public conventional "wisdom". Death and destruction rained upon urban North Vietnam for almost two weeks.  The operation was tagged "Linebacker II" (the "II" because the quite-different operation "Linebacker" had been the previous summer). Like everything about American fighting in Southeast Asia, viewpoints of the Christmas War are polar. One view:
  • the campaign was useless
  • the terms subsequently secured at the Paris peace-treaty talks were no different then those available before the campaign
  • thus American blood and treasure were squandered
Another view:
  • the campaign coerced Hanoi to serious, practical and realistic negotiations in Paris
  • the campaign coerced Hanoi to sign the treaty
  • the campaign coerced Hanoi to release American POW's
  • the campaign therefore was successful
The facts:
  • Hanoi in protest had quit the Paris talks
  • Heavy, widescale bombing of the Hanoi-Haphong metroplex ensued for the first time
  • Shortly after the end of the bombing, Hanoi returned to the peace talks
  • Shortly thereafter a treaty was sealed ostensibly ending American fighting in Southeast Asia
  • Shortly thereafter American POW's were released
Again, like everything else about American fighting in Southeast Asia, to understand this campaign one must study the facts and draw one's own conclusions (a coincidental paraphrase of then-SecState Henry Kissinger's comments, after treaty agreements, on Linebacker II). Despite the polar location of where one pitches one's ideological tent, the following also are certain:
  • the magnificent courage, skill, accuracy and effectiveness of the BUFF crews
  • the bombing was accurately and successfully aimed at specific logistical and military targets, thanks to all of the above-cited qualities of the BUFF crews
  • among the first deployments of the first-generation of the now-famous electronically-assisted "precision bombing"
  • thus, there was no indiscriminate, terrorist "carpet bombing" of urban North Vietnam as has been widely-assumed
  • the courage, skill, and accuracy of the BUFFs' essential supporters, the crews of airborne-warning-and-control aircraft, and the crews of aerial-refueling tankers
  • the skill, accuracy, effectiveness and Herculean, sleepless endurance of "maintainers" at the bases, without which such a relentless tempo of fighting would have been impossible
For what it's worth, your humble correspondent attributes the above-cited courage also to BUFF flightcrews at Andersen AB Guam engaged in rumored mutiny about night four of the campaign.  After almost half-a-century, this rumor just won't die.  When asked, those who had been in a position to know reply with elliptical, vague, ambiguous comments. The rumored-mutineers are said to have refused to fly.  Their protest:  the plodding, simplistic attack pattern duplicated night after night was unduly hazardous. The memoirs of at least one Vietnamese AAA battery commander corroborate the rumored-mutineers' protests.  He watched his search radar incredulously on night two as the attackers arrived, attacked, and then departed in the same pattern as the previous night.  So, he applied grease pencil to the search radar screen in the pattern of the first two nights.  On the next night, he stared even more incredulously as those grease-pencil lines were obediently followed by the attackers!
  • Fact:  after a few nights, the campaign stood-down for a night or two.  When the campaign resumed, its very-different profile (one can get an idea of its complexity and effectiveness by its nickname, "Basket Weave") presented the target-area's defenders with an utterly new, confusing, and hard-to-beat attack profile.
Mutiny?  Does it matter?  Whatever the cause, the profile changed and the rate of aircrew losses declined.  Mission-accomplishment was more effective.  Taxpayer dollars in the form of very-expensive aircraft were preserved.  And, infinitely more-precious, American lives were saved. Regarding any mutiny:

"Like everything else about American fighting in Southeast Asia, one must study the facts and draw one's own conclusions".

At the infamous "Hanoi Hilton", morale soared among American POW's.  They well-recognized the distinctive sound of nearby detonation of "strings" of bombs dropped by B-52's.  They recognized something unprecedented.  Unfortunately, there was a sudden influx of more prisoners, aircrew-survivors of downed bombers.  Nevertheless, the POW's felt the this campaign's precedent would win their freedom soon.  Indeed, it was not long before they were freed. And regardless of this almost-forgotten campaign's degree of effectiveness or necessity, whatever pole one's opinions reside, let us stir our memories in honor of the courage, skill, effectiveness and stamina of the aircrews and ground crews who accomplished one of the greatest campaigns in the history of strategic aerial bombardment. Let politics not obscure their legacy.
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The deafening silence

Where is the outrage?  The passionate cries of, "DEFEND MARRIAGE!" are not heard.  The conservatives considering themselves Christian, dominant in this community, are mute.  Their silence is deafening. A local wife shot and killed her husband recently, reports the ModBee.  No soap-opera writer would dare pen the circumstances of their lives and marriage(s) as described by the Bee.  Such a script would be laughed out of conference.  Why?  Because this couple's history-- especially as regards marriage-- as described by the Bee is an amazing example of "fact is stranger than fiction". And the avowed "Defenders of Marriage" are not heard. Why?
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