Hiroshima Army Base

February 25th, 2010

~ Victory in Marjah sounds a little bit too familiar.

I think that there may be a great new undercurrent rising, bigger than Vietnam, a massive upwelling of people in America and across the world united in the one great cause – to end the Afghan War.  “Pull Out”, pull out now, it was the cry then and it is the cry now and once again.  We don’t need a body count from Marjah (Marja) to know that things are wrong.  It’s very simple, really.  We know that war is wrong.  There are no “good” wars or the headlines would have said, “City of Hiroshima bombed, 50,000 women and children dead.”  Instead the papers carried a picture of the August mushroom cloud and subheads about an “army base”.  Google “Hiroshima Army Base” and try and find it on a map just for laughs or just to get my point.

Today’s headline is just about the same, “Victory in Marjah”, CNN prefers to add the “h” as if “give em ell, Harry” would have taken the punch out of the “H-bomb”; the bomb at Hiroshima had no “h” but it was “ell” anyway if you were there.   The real name when spelled in English or American is “Marja”, posted about this yesterday, you can see the map yourself on Google images under “Marja” (Helmand Valley – 1956).  You can’t win wars with spin and lies and hot-headed rushes to judgment and journalism fast and dirty.  That was THE lesson of Vietnam.  Start with the truth and build slowly.  All else, including peace, will in time follow.

The CNN news (I should say “news”, because CNN spins the news in such an untrue way) story ran a picture actually (they said) from Marjah (but then again there is that sloppy “h” which puts everything in doubt).  There are so few real pictures from Marja, some attributed to Marja fighting show too many hills (as background), assume that no one has really been there.  Where are all the cell phone pictures from the 15,000 Americans “hanging out” in this “town” of 80,000?  Pictures posted on the net of “bazaars” filled with grains and spices and switchblade knives and T-Shirts that say “Taliban” or “Taliban is Bad” which might be good, but I don’t know – I’m not there; or not there yet.  Because is “bad” bad or good?

So now we have a picture, with a flag, with people standing (maybe with guns) around the edges and what looks like a photo-cropped crowd of smaller people huddled in the center.  The photo is taken of a field, notice the small berms of earth everywhere – the Afghan way of watering, small flooded plots, there are no pipes for irrigation in Marja.  Everything is gravity and water flowing along the lines of least resistance, no pressure, just the flow and the water to each pond; and when it is time the flow is cut-off with just one small shovel full of earth.

So a people who can grow a million pounds of poppies without so much as ten feet of PVC need “telephones, computers and other electronics”.  That is what NATO said (read Stanley T. McChrystal).
And CNN said “new shops” have opened (in Marja) as if the recovery in Afghanistan is about new jobs and not about the Taliban after-all.  It sounds like Marja is ready for a new Wal-Mart, the fear (of the Taliban) is gone and people there can open their wallets and start spending again.  But wait, if it works for Afghanistan, why not here?  Maybe it is only the fear of the Taliban in America that keeps those wallets all locked-up tight.  Think about it.

So let me know when the Marja pictures start flooding in; pictures of T-shirts and TV’s and electronic game-boys and halter-tops for the summer heat in all the bazaars of this Little America mostly made up.  That is the point.  We are fighting a virtual war in Afghanistan; no real towns, no real troops, no real enemy worth fighting.  It is a media war, with no greater depth than your LED TV screen; except that some Afghan civilians die each day, along the way, scenes that the American TV’s never seem to capture.

Show me photographs of the power lines into Marja, of the telephone exchange, of the cell towers everywhere.  Show me the merchandize in the bazaars; the imports from Pakistan and Iran and Kazakhstan and India and even Russia like there was when I was there, in Kabul or in Ghazni or in Lashkar Gah or just about everywhere with a population over 1,000.  Americans took pictures of these things even then (in 1958 and 1959 and 1960) and film was really scarce.  Why do Americans not take pictures of those things now?  Send in your Stars and Stripes reporters, let Bill Mauldin sketch a scene, do a documentary on Victory In The Desert, cameras always rolling as if there was something real to report.

This is a clash of cultures.  It was too in 1959.  There are no railroads in Afghanistan because the Afghans knew that with railways came Empire and with empire came war.  The Afghans don’t really want new roads and more roads and super-highways to a rebuilt Bamian or lakefront resorts at Band-i-amir.  It is not about skiing the Hindu Kush or white-water rafting the Kabul Gorge.  Afghanistan is better than all of that.  Its people deserve better than all of that.  Why do we fight?  Is Big America not enough, not corporate enough, not ruined enough?  Why can’t we be content to keep our waste just here, why must we always seek to export it, to find new worlds or old worlds to trash?

Some say that my posts are cryptic.  I guess I assume a lot from my readers.  I assume they can and want to and will THINK.  I assume that they know a lot or know when they don’t know what they don’t know and will want to find out about what they don’t know (about).  I assume that my readers know that violence is basically wrong, greed IS wrong, and ignorance is not bliss because it is always fatal.  I also assume that everyone has a sense of humor and is capable of a dry wit and knows the difference between the two.

Having said all that, and since it is spring and it was April 1st (1959) when I left Carson City for Afghanistan and no one knew then where or what “Afghanistan” was (and most people still don’t) I guess it is time to play more of my old Afghan hand and share more of the memories and make a better case for Afghanistan and the Afghans than seems to be being made out there now.  I guess I (like you) were expecting to find water towers in Marja, little signs of American aid and progress; Laundromats, not men washing clothes in the nearby ditches; fire hydrants on the corners, fire trucks shined up in the firehouse like any community of 80,000 in America might have.  Get your checkbooks ready; saving Marja is going to cost a bundle and after that a whole lot more – like Hiroshima, we will have to rebuild the place from scratch.

[2010.02.25 / Thursday – Hiroshima Army Base]

Saving More Marja

February 24th, 2010

~ 1,000 die in Marja fighting – but who is fact checking anyway?

If one flies as a crow flies, flies due west from Qala Bist for maybe 14 miles (15 at the most) one will arrive in the heart of Marja.  So if that is not a “Qala Bist” connection I don’t know what is.  Google earth (maps) are very illuminating.  Last week I was looking at the S.S. United States from the air, straight down, like today I was looking at Marja and Qala Bist and the space in-between; which is not very large at all.

You can see the whole ship on Google, all the rust and rot, all the ruin – even almost see all the lies that made the ruin possible.  The same is true of Marja from the air.  The first thing that is evident is that Time (news) is wrong, like on February 9th when they reported that Marja was a “town of 80,000”.  It’s not.  Marja is not really a town at all, it is (or was) a very small village, a small spot of green in the vast Dasht-i-Margo where the word “dasht” means desert in the very meanest of the meanings of desert.

The only map that recorded the name was made in 1956, a US made map of the Helmand Valley for the Helmand Valley Project which was supposed to develop agriculture in southern Afghanistan so it could look like southern California, maybe like around Fresno or Bakersfield, checkerboard farm roads with big canals running alongside and Cadillacs outside each garage and a TV aerial on every farmhouse roof.  The problem was that there were no GM dealerships in Afghanistan and there was no television either.

The spit of green surrounding the village of Marja (population maybe 200) was named the “Marja agricultural development area” (or something equally vague) on this 1956 map.  People in Washington and in the Shook Office in Kabul (I think it was Mr. Shook who was in charge of USOM / Afghanistan agricultural operations) just called the place “Marja”, not meaning the “town” so much as the whole immediate surrounding area of maybe ten or twelve square miles of green in this otherwise desert area.

Apparently the Russians built an improvised airfield there when they were there.  It shows on the Marja satellite view from space, the coordinates for Marja are on the Wiki article for Marja, Afghanistan in case you don’t believe me.  This is science, not the fog of war or the fog of the media getting press releases from the Pentagon.  You look, then you decide.

If you look real close you can see that the almost empty dirt lot where the dirt runway (airfield for a town of 80,000 – no scheduled service and not one plane on the ground) is located is where the real Marja once was.  It has the shape of ancient Afghan towns, but Marja has been obliterated – by either the US agricultural project or by the Russians when they were there.  You see, by the 1960’s when the Marja area was really taking shape they called it “Little America” because it was so un-Afghan in its design and developmental direction.  So why would not the Russians take “Marja” off the map?  Why would the Americans let the Afghan Marja live when the greater American made Marja looked so much like outside Mendota or Fowler or Reedley even?  How many towns are there near Fresno where one never really lives “in town”?  Let’s just call these rural areas “Marja”, it means “to follow” and that’s where “Marja” leads.

I have always said that my father built the Kandahar International Airport – being the one that was paved, not the dirt runway that was there before.  He did.  He was in charge of the construction in 1959 and 1960.  America bombed it with B-52’s in 2002.  America gives and then takes it away; even in Afghanistan.  So it is of little wonder that the Little America that the US created in Marja (area) is the first place we will totally destroy so that we can build it up again – like we did once before.  It’s a bit like Qala Bist (not far away), taken and captured and destroyed and then rebuilt so many times that history finally just wants to forget the name.

The Norwegian Cruise Lines now owns the United States (the ship).  It’s OK because in this case Norway is US owned, so it’s a US corporation that owns the United States.  But from the Google satellite the ship still looks in disrepair.  I have decided there is no hope.  It will lie and die in Philly, maybe sink a little lower first.  There is no “town” of 80,000 in Marja; it’s like evacuating Stanislaus County without entering Turlock or Denair – there is no “urban warfare”, there is nothing urban there, just US laid out poppy fields – a lot like Oz, yellow brick road and “Surrender Dorothy” with just one catch – there’s no way back to Kansas; we’re in Afghanistan now and the ruby slippers are missing.

Note:  The road lines and English overlays for Google / Afghanistan are very poorly done.  Lashkar Gah is placed in a field about seven miles due west of the real Lashkar Gah, a real city (“town”) of 80,000.  Compare Lashkar Gah to Marja (coordinates) and you will know more than the Editors of Time, the LA Times, and the Washington Post combined.  Is there a message in the fact that Stanley McChrystal has sent his troops to literally die alongside the residents of Little America?  Save the United States or Save America; it looks like just Save More Marja please.

[2010.02.24 / Wednesday – Saving More Marja]

Saving Marja

February 22nd, 2010

~ Is it about the Times, about the media, about academia, or more about Afghanistan?

I was in New York City last week.  I was revisiting places that I had not seen for 33 years or so.  I was looking for changes.

Some things do not change, not fundamentally.  The Empire State Building hasn’t changed a lot, except the tenants now have different names and the lobby is looking better than it did even in 1957 when I was first there.  The place had become dingy and dirty and worn (in 1957) after 26 years of daily use.  Now the lobby and the ground floor sparkles – it is a site to behold.

Lord & Taylor too is sparkly, clear clean glass pillars, a ground floor dedicated if not devoted to “make-up”, it makes sense to show ones best face under the circumstances.  But ride the elevators up and the quality of the store goes rapidly down.  The upper floors could be in Albuquerque for gosh sakes – hardly worth paying $600 a night at the Plaza to go shopping in the big apple.

The people in the store are older too, like my age type older – sixty types and a few seventy (Silent) seniors (all wearing thick pancake makeup like their grandmothers use to wear).  The upper floors were nearly empty while there were long lines outside of Abercrombie and Fitch (a store dedicated to outrageous decadence and totally clueless about life in the real world).  But maybe this is what the war in Afghanistan is really about – making Marja (Afghanistan) safe for Abercrombie and Lord and Taylor stores and maybe as a site for a new Empire State building once the government and US forces really get control.

Is the “burqua” really less ruinous in time and health than the cosmetics that so many “believing” American women are forced to buy?  Is it worse to cover up the body or to flaunt a public nakedness that illicit a sexuality that leads to a 50% rate of illegitimate births like we have in New Mexico, in Texas – and how often has Afghanistan been compared to Texas for purposes of illustration.  At least in traditional Afghan culture (actually many cultures) one knows who their daddy is (except in times of invasion and in war).  With 7,500 US troops “on the ground” in Marja it looks like a lot of new “American Cousins” will be born beginning this Thanksgiving.  It’s always been this way with the armies of the night; I lived in Korea on a US Army base; I know.

But this is not so much about thinking about Afghanistan; it is about Afghanistan in the “news”.  I still read my Albuquerque Journal (proving that habit trumps logic every time).  There is a reprint (article) today from the Los Angeles Times (L.A. Times).  It is about Afghanistan and about Marja and of course about Texas (Marfa, Texas).  It is also about academia, academics, journalism and the power behind who gets what printed.  Oh, and it’s also about the east coast so I guess it’s as easy as “ABC – All Blocks Covered” as they say in Hawaii (Hono) about the presence of a chain store on nearly every corner.

Anyway, Andrew J. Bacevich gets published.  Maybe he gets published because he is from Boston (Boston University), maybe because the “Lannan Writing Residency Fellowship” has a really really good PR person, maybe because the LA Times is just stupid (or lazy, or both).  Or, maybe it is because it is a really slow news day in Marfa, Texas (population 2,200) and the cable went out (which brings up the point that there is more money to be made in Marja, Afghanistan (population 85,000) (where there is NO cable television ((yet)) than in Marfa, Texas where cable TV is so very limited by the limited population).

Is life really better with Fox News and cable TV in every home?  Is pay TV really what freedom is all about?  Who would have ever believed that a “free” people would pay money so that they could watch other people lie to them?

Of course we cannot (in America) agree on what a “lie” is anymore.  We are beyond that now – “agreeing”.  Professors and college classrooms are just a place to “wing it”, publish or perish; not a place to “fact check” or get things right or add a modicum of wisdom to the world.  You may disagree.  I think that that is the point.  It is really OK to disagree about why “professorial historians” get it wrong when they don’t have the intellectual stamina to do the hard work of getting it right before they blather.  I’m not a professor for this very reason.  I can get things wrong without the credentials or the degree.

You’ve been patient.  So what is my complaint?  The sentence is: “An ambitious agricultural reform program sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development in the 1950s proved a total flop in terms of lasting changes.”  I could quibble about whether the introduction of 10 $1,000 gasoline driven tractors to replace the more practical oxen then in use was “an ambitious agricultural reform program” – I won’t.  To claim that one million dollars total spent in Afghanistan in the Helmand Valley in the 1950s was “ambitious” might be revealing.  But, there’s always been a lot more money available for war than for peace – plowshares into swords has always been the military mantra.

But, let’s get down to simple basics.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) was created by President Kennedy.  Kennedy ran in 1960 according to most historians, someone from Boston should know that.  Before there was AID there was ICA (the International Cooperation Administration), it was an Eisenhower presidency thing (think 1950s).  Before ICA there was the Marshall Plan (mostly about aid to Europe) and then a few transitional “help” programs to feed people and export the (non-green) virtues of technological solutions.  So Mr. Andrew J. Bacevich might have claimed that the Marshall Plan failed in Afghanistan – maybe that is the “ambitious agricultural reform program” he is really talking about.

I have never been to Marja – it is not even on my map.  The province was Girishk in the 1950s.  The Taliban was not there.  I visited Qala Bist and took the (now old) dirt road that connected Kandahar to Herat.  I met most of the USOM Agricultural people “in the field” then – there were not too many, maybe I should write a list of names so that future historians will know, can fact check before speaking out or up.  My father built (really finished) the dam at Arghandab which was designed to “revolutionize” agriculture in the Helmand Valley.  I have been there (at the dam), comparatively small dirt structure with rock facing, nice bronze plaque or two.

The reservoir approach of the US is nothing compared to the underground water tunnel system used by the Afghans for a thousand or more years to irrigate the region.  Thought you should know.  So I guess that Marja has grown a bit, become more cosmopolitan, maybe ready for a Saks Fifth Avenue and coalition visitors, not just those from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Dubai.  If the US were smart we would watch the other foreigners lose in Afghanistan and then celebrate their loss like in the time of Kipling.  In that case, Marja might be saved

But then, the key word is “If”.

[2010.02.22 / Monday – Saving Marja]

Saving the United States

February 19th, 2010

~ The SS United States may be a metaphor, or it might be just about being connected.

This is one of those posts that might be best filed under “notes to myself” or “posts that might be worth writing”.  I don’t know.  The story begins back about 1992 when the United States was beginning to be in real trouble; the S.S. United States that is, not its namesake.

It seems like the guy that owned her (I forget his name) had gutted her (stripped her of almost everything of real value, sold of the art and assets – even the dinnerware).  It was all done under the name of “timeshare” and renovation and under the banner of progress and new beginnings and with the idea of floating condominiums and penthouses worth a million or so each (flat), even if they weren’t really flats as this was a ship you must remember (if not a ship of state) – but, then, there was that name “The United States”.

The railroad wanted the berth back; Conrail, in which the “con” stands for “consolidated” and not “con” as in “con job”; which is what everyone thought when the New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad (arch enemies) both went bankrupt and were merged by the feds to form a mega-railroad that was a virtual monopoly on the transportation front, so why not get into shipping too (as “ship” really is the root of the word “shipping”).   Anyway, the berth was needed to ship coal from West Virginia to the places that burn coal and shipping coal on the rail lines from West Virginia is more profitable than berthing (birthing) a new United States or an old United States that was now bankrupt, which was why the berth was not being used to pay the bills (the Conrail bills that is).

The owner of the United States lived in Seattle, and his office was there too.  I lived in Oregon at the time (a nearby state) and the bankruptcy of the United States was a local news story picked up by the Oregonian which I read, living at the beach and all (“Seaside”, but we will call it Warrenton because we like rabbits – everybody should like rabbits.  I lived next door to where Rolf Klep lived (before he died) and Rolf was a naval architect and famous and connected which is why I guess that he was selected to access the Top Secret blueprints of the United States so that they could be simplified into a double-fold foldout for Life Magazine that would show the innards of the new ship of state namesake of the United States with a lot of glitz, but not too much nitty-gritty (or real) militarily or economically important accuracy.  This is a true story.

The first issue of course was keeping the speed of the ship secret.  It had “Nimitz” class engines (only on the top US carrier of the time – or maybe it was another fast carrier, I don’t have my notes in front of me).  The point was that a ship (shipping) is about engines and speed and this boat was about getting military boots to far-off foreign places real fast in time of war or crisis or things like Afghanistan, which is land-locked, which is why planes are better, but planes were small and expensive at the time so the US massively funded the US, which the second US refers to the ship (least we all forget).

I liked Rolf.  He loved everything nautical, and water driven which is why he loved women and people and duck decoys and probably somewhere in there is a liquid connection to architecture, because first and foremost he was an architect, Chicago style or school, or anyway he lived and worked in Chicago once and a lot and had fun there and moved to the Oregon Coast to retire and set up a Maritime Museum in Astoria (Oregon) which is still there to this day – Astoria being at the mouth of the Columbia and all and having a fresh water port (being on the river) which is really good for ships as salt and brine does ships no good.

Maybe Warren Buffett is right; everything may be about the rails and railroading and being railroaded.  When I found the perfect home for the United States on the shores of Astoria (near where Lewis and Clark gave up their search for living dinosaurs at the President’s direction – all true, but we’ll save that for a different post) I discovered that the spot was owned by the railroad, not Conrail this time, but another railroad, the Burlington Northern then (before it was “consolidated” with the Santa Fe).  One train a week came into Astoria in 1992, two cars usually, one diesel engine and one caboose because they still needed the caboose because featherbedding was not quite yet dead and a train that short is otherwise really too hard to see (which is a safety issue among other things).

The shoreline of the river owned by the BN was a toxic waste dump, had more chemicals called pollutants than Carter had customers (Carter’s “little liver pills”, “Carter had pills” – for those that might not get the reference).  So my initial inquiry about a place to berth the bankrupt boat was met by a 23 page document on toxic messes and the liabilities inherent to clean-up and the suggestion that maybe it would be better if the United States might just “go away” and not find a new and better fresh-water home in the west (even if there were no dinosaurs) and even if the boat would be easier to restore and visit in Astoria than at a Conrail coal site in Norfolk, Virginia even if that was where the ship was built.  “Born here, died here”, so east coast or old style in its meaning – but, what practical application for something that might plan to live forever?

The BN had a better idea for me than my plan to buy the boat.  Yes, I know that “ships” are not “boats”, but the TV series “love boat” put an end to all that and why fight a nomenclature that calls giant floating barges “cruise ships” as if they had the lines and beauty of the Titanic or something, as opposed to the design and lure of a Las Vegas casino, but the United States was not like that once – it was fast and sleek and beautiful and even had a big screen aboard where one could watch movies if the big structural pillar was not in the way and if one was sitting in the wrong chairs it was always in the way, but that is what military architecture will always get you.

The boat was to be auctioned off in Virginia, the final vengeance against the Union for the Civil War; “The Bankrupt United States sold at auction on the steps of a Virginia Courthouse” – subhead: “very few bidders express interest”.  The gavel price was expected to be one million dollars or less – for 170,000 square feet of developed real estate, for at least $3,000,000 worth of scrap aluminum, for a pair of turbines that could power a small city for a hundred years or two.  It was a no-brainer to buy the ship, it was impossible to lose money and then there was the history-tourist angle that made even better sense since the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose exhibit was making money even then.

It wasn’t quite that simple.  Getting the United States relocated from the deteriorating environment in the east coast to the fresh waters of the west coast would take another (in round figures) one million insurance costs being what they are, Panama Canal fees, ocean going tugs and a few other fees for ports parking and temporary pulling and placements.  I got everything in order.  But, I still did not have the million or two in cash.  No banks were at all interested; it was the United States after all, a ship, a boat to some, aluminum was not interesting (nor any other metals).  The movie “Titanic” of course had not yet had its titanic success.  Even Phillip Knight (Nike of Portland) said no; I still have the letter.  The Solar-flex fortune said no although they were in Washington DC at the time; a Saudi-prince was not interested – must not have seen the potential of sandlots in Dubai.

Word had it that the Turks would get America (the United States), dismantle the ship on the Black Sea shores, sell off the aluminum to make beverage cans for use on airlines.  Congress had said the ship could never be sold overseas, or to any foreign power.  But, Turkey was not a power and the Black Sea is more like a lake (big perhaps, but just a lake the way Congress thinks).  No Congressperson would get aboard to save the ship or save our ship (SOS call), and so many people tried, though few in number).

I toured the ship just before the auction; took a lot of pictures.  I took pictures of the Top Secret turbines never (privately) photographed before; of the theater and the pillar, of the swimming pool now dry and a picture of the busted toilets, broken out to make way for new ones that would never come.  I was a day early and two million short (in round figures) – the United States would not be saved that day.

I visited the east coast yesterday (and a few more days before).  I had not been in Philadelphia for 22 long years.  The city has changed, but not enough.  There are new buildings, but it is the preponderance of the old that bothers me.  The blight of Ben Franklin still lingers, homes older than the factory town still linger, row houses and worse – row hovels that defy description and correction and restoration and even the visage of hope.  There are vast areas that cannot be moved to Astoria or the west and fresh waters and the hope of a new life on a far distant (but native) shore.  This is the living purgatory of life or the threshold of hell’s gate, “abandon all hope, ye who enter here” – it is misery and decay, it is waste.  The banks of south and east Philadelphia do not care, have no money to fund even a primitive revival and the community knows that at best the rich remain indifferent.

So was it any wonder that within sight of the original “American Bandstand”, home of Dick Clark and one facelift too many, home of where it all started (the United States that is) the metaphor model has come home to roost or rot or die.  I could glimpse it from the freeway, salt water berth, red white and blue stacks shedding the little paint that’s left.  It was a sorry sight or site or both.  The Black Sea would have been better, but not as fitting.  Michael Moore should film this great ship that’s now a wreck, make the movie; rust and broken toilets and enough aluminum to supply the world with cans for at least a week.  We give power to our symbols.  We hide our future in plain sight.  I did not stop the car; I’ve been there and done that and now it’s someone else’s turn or time to turn or maybe I too am just too old to get involved.

Isn’t every one too old to get involved?

Tomorrow I may write about Manhattan; paint pictures of cathedrals and subway stations and of statutes of dead poets in the park.  But, it was last night that I flew back; West; where the west side story is one of wonder and the east side is the side that’s dark and lost and almost forgotten (or at least when it comes to the comparison of things, to sorting out advantage, to defining what is “class”).  And, before I think too sure that I am too safe I look out my door this morning.  They are filming for the billboard that I saw while in New York City, East Side, Manhattan – “AMC – Breaking Bad” – it’s in my neighborhood where the cameras are rolling, almost next door, more people than on the sidewalks of Manhattan, more desperate than anything in Philly – or maybe that’s just the hope shining through – breaking bad (the movie), but it’s not good.

[2010.02.19 / Friday – Saving the United States]

The Big Snow

February 10th, 2010

~ Harp Seals and the shape of flakes.

I was in Washington D.C. in Febuary of 1958.  The web has recorded that the dates were the 15th and 16th.  It was the big snow.  The snow started falling and kept falling and before it was over it was the “worst” or the “best” winter (storm) since 1922 (a year so far back that few were alive that even remembered the big snow of 1922).  Thirty-six years is a long time between “record” snows.

I lived on Harrison Street (NW).  Next door lived a reporter who worked for the “other” Washington newspaper, which at the time was not The Times, but The Star – The Washington Star.  The Washington Post was around, but in those days the Post had competition, it was American to have competition.

Anyway, reporters being what reporters are it was easier to look next door to find a story than to look far a field and “who else in Washington wore a red ski parka made of genuine nylon” and was willing to shovel snow when they were only nine years old?  This is a question, not a statement.  I don’t think you could buy a red nylon ski parka (really wind breaker) in D.C. at that time.  I was from Nevada where all one wore in the winter was ski stuff or fake fur stuff imported from the eastern outfitters who sold snow wear to those not really ready for real snow.

What is “real” snow.  I say 21 feet deep is real snow, like the snow they have in Norden, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near Tahoe – like in 1951.  Like I was there (in Nyack, California) and it was Thanksgiving and my mother was trying to get to Tahoe and the roads were closed and Tahoe was isolated and we ate dinner at the Lodge and turned back for Berkeley because the snow was bad or deep or whatever you call it when snow changes your travel plans.  It kept snowing.  It snowed and snowed and snowed.  Finally, all the roads were closed and the City of San Francisco train was stuck and the people on board were starving and freaked out and Chinese coolies were sent to dig out the train and 21 feet of snow piled up in nearby Norden.  We read about it in Berkeley (California) where it just rained a lot.

The next year (1952) I was in Lake Tahoe (not the lake, but the “Tahoe basin”).  The cabin was 600 square feet in size and there were four of us and the snows started falling and a two foot snow was nothing in Kings Beach that winter.  Push plows could not keep the roads clear.  They had big rotary plows with eight foot high metal grinders to grind away at 12 foot drifts which were what needed to be moved to keep the highways open.  Those were scary machines.  The driver couldn’t see the cars in front (if there were any) and relied only on seeing the eight foot snow poles on the sides of roads (if the snow poles weren’t covered with snow).   Of course there were accidents.  Abandoned cars mangled by the rotary plows – imagine seven layers of steel augurs layed sideways swirling with a steel wall laid behind.

Sissy or prissy or just lame is the world of push plows – real snows need rotary.

Anyway, of course the power failed and the phone lines went down and all the roads were closed and the stores were closed and the trucks stopped running and the trains too were buried in drifts that even snow sheds couldn’t save them from.  Maybe the Chinese “coolies” were hardier than the western bunch, or the eastern tourists and business folks bound for San Francisco from Chicago or other “points east”.

I forget myself.  I was in Washington (DC – like Donald Clayton) and I was shoveling snow, 14.4 inches (officially) and it was nothing compared to Tahoe and this guy comes up with a camera and says something about “Star” and I say I should ask my Dad (really “father”) and he says “OK” and the next day my picture is in the paper with an article all about “the storm”.  “Snow buries DC” was the headline, or something that read “records broken” or something that referred to 1922 or 1899 or 1776 (1772 really) and isn’t it so patriotic to shut down the Capitol (and capital) with a few feet of snow?

So what does “Harp” (or HAARP) have to do with this?  How come all the really bad DC storms have occurred in modern times when there is “greenhouse warming” (the 1958 storm is #8 on the record list, 1899 is the worst, all the other storms are recent).  Oh wait.  I forgot.  “Warming” means “severe”, as warming weather is code for “severe” weather, so you don’t notice the tornadoes, the hurricanes, the record snows (do I add earthquakes to this list)?

So if a Haarp program to use the military to modify the weather and to create “weather events” with a military advantage (like Valley Forge or like the Korean War or like in the Battle of the Bulge) is a good idea then the best cover ever would be “greenhouse warming” so that the severe weather events would not be noticed.  Oh, good.

So how does one say “Harp” in Mandarin, or Chinese or in the proper dialect that is ever present in the tongue spoken in China?  Does America alone have a Harp or Haarp or weather modification program or protocol?  Maybe it is Iran that did this.  Maybe Iran created the snow that shut down the Congress and the government of the USA for record days.  Fear the nukes, but flee the weather.  Oh right, you can’t – the snows too deep.  But, my bets on China.  The Haiti thing (earthquake) was just a test, earthquakes in China just a nusiance, but taking down DC – now that’s a miracle.  And it just looks “green” to me.

Did we see it coming?  Oh, yeah.  The guy who keeps people home (government employees) said “use this as a practice for a real emergency” (Government Radio 1500 is the source).  And I guess 9-11 was just a drill?  What do we expect when we don’t pay our bills (to China) and then want to sell weapons to Taiwan?  Build a snowman.  That’s what I did in 1958 – when the reporter left; but I finished shoveling the walk first.

[Note:  I live in Albuquerque.  The federal government just announced a millions of dollars program to make Los Alamos (National Labs) “Quake safe”.  There are (traditionally) no serious quakes in New Mexico, so what gives?  The small quakes that do occur are never near Los Alamos.  The Haarp weapon is a two edged sword; one is “ours” and the other is “theirs”.  It all makes sense to me.]

[2010.02.10 / Wednesday – The Big Snow]

Posting the Night Away

February 3rd, 2010

~ A new twist on an old theme.

It has been three months since I posted last.  I have probably lost all my regular readers.  In the web world this means one starts again, rebuilds the ruined words with new words, new mortar, new dots and dashes and periods and commas and the ever ready semi-colons that I like so much.

A hiatus is a good thing; like summer vacation or winter holidays or a Fourth of July picnic – it is not just a break in the year, it is an event into itself – it is perhaps even and only that which makes the whole year worthwhile, worth looking forward to.  Breaks are what one gets when a chance to get better presents itself, “a lucky break” (as if not all breaks are lucky).  Or, do you believe in “luck”.

The above mentioned break has not yet brought me a new roof (I’m still working on it), but it did bring word from a long lost relative that posted me in response to a post (on this site) that I posted long ago.  It was just the mention of a name, and the name was known and recognized and brought the possibility of hope – at least the hope that is entailed in the possession of new information, the clearing of deficits and mysteries, the finding of missing links.

A part of my family it seems came from Ireland.  It is a common boast, or lament; depending upon the politics, the interest in literature and pints – the intensity of feeling about religion and death and famine and the causes of it all, or the causes created by it all.  Or maybe as it’s Ireland; it’s really just all about the dancing, or the jig, or the blarney which is just another name for the yarn.  Life is like that; a fabric for the weaving, homespun fibers with warp and weave and the sometimes push of pedal and all the ups and downs that are as repetitious as the hills and as predictable if you know them.

I know a hill or two.  I’ve lived life long enough.  My eyes were not always just looking at my feet, watching each slow step in the march or walk ever forward – I did look up occasionally, if only just to see the sun.  It seems that my Irish forebears were “driven out of Ireland”; as if the need to eat is not motivation great enough, Catholic mouths always hungry, families too large to feed, there is little sympathy for that; or there was too little sympathy in England once for the plight of the poor, the occupied tenants of lands occupied by greater force and forces (military even) – but, has time changed so much?

But my forebears were not Catholic.  “It was the Catholics that drove them out, tried to kill them, followed the fleeing brothers to America even to harm them.“   Death squads they would call it if it happened today.  The year was (about) 1799, not 1845 or later.  It was not about the hunger perhaps, but more about the occupying armies, the foreign businesses and estates, the presence on the land by those who perhaps did not belong; or was it just about religion – some feel more deeply, more passionately, more murderous about their faith.

The words about “the Catholics” were passed down through succeeding generations.  The enemy was a religion, a people, not real faces.  The brothers though had faces.  They were relatives, unnamed perhaps, but relatives just the same, made better perhaps by the absence of real names; they could be anyone, even relatives of yours – provided that “the Catholics” never get them.  I’m bothered about “the Catholics”.

It’s the notion of Catholics of course that bothers me the most.  My relatives were people, not “Protestants”, they had lives and faces and hopes and dreams and evidently fears (which is why they left (old) Ireland.  Why cannot “Catholics” be the same, each person different, some good, some bad.  Was it “all the Catholics” that drove the Martin brothers out of Ireland?  I think not.  It was not the Catholics that were arrayed into squads of death; it was a religious passion too passionate that was bound to kill, not the many of the multitude.

So do we condone our Christian brothers for stealing babies to save them from a “Voodoo” fate?  Are our Moslem brethren not unlike “the Catholics”, too unspeakable to be despised?  Are Christians so lesser in the eyes of the Jewish faith?  When can all this religious rancoring just go away?  I’ve had enough.   I have no time for faith-based squabbling, or the cat-calls of scientists too inexperienced to earn their wings.  We all have so many better things to argue about, on which we might disagree; each person’s approach to God is not one of them.

So I’m looking for the bad guys; not Catholics, but people that would drive one away from home.  But, then again the bad guys might have been the Martins, my own blood in part, for others were in Ireland before them, first, and it is unlikely that the Martins were invited to the land – they probably just invaded, were invaders, had a message and a method.  It was not unlike Afghanistan after all – just a little closer.

Would you love me more if I were Jewish?  Would you hate me less if I were black?  Does it matter that “the three brothers Martin” were Protestants or Hindu; was the journey across the sea so necessary or so bad?  Would you like this post better if I were writing from Ireland, of Irish blood?  Isn’t it all just history, and isn’t most history just about the same?

So if you know of Irish history and can make any sense of any of this all – please write.  It might have been William Martin and his brother Michael (Michael Martin) and another brother yet unknown that were the victims (or causes) of such a vendetta as to raise passions to a murderous pitch.  The year was circa 1799 or thereabouts, maybe just before.  These boys fled to McKeesport, Pennsylvania if the story might be true; but, it’s from where they left that is of interest to me now.  These are my Irish roots.  If I’m not Catholic should I be sorry?  I think the greater loss is not to know your grandfather’s home.

[Note:  On page #206 of the History of Butler County (online) is more information about the William Martin family in question.  There is also the possibility that the story originated with Thomas Wilson (information on the same page), since he was called a Squire.  William Martin married Ellen Wilson, so it is possible that the “Martin family story” really originated with the Wilson family and the three brothers were really “Wilson’s”.  In this case the “Wilson outrage” (if it existed) would probably have occurred in Ireland sometime after 1760 and before 1790.]

[2010.02.03 / Wednesday – Posting the Night Away]