We’re Still Stuck in the Mire

We’re Still Stuck In the Mire

sung to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with apologies to Billy Joel.

Outbreak COVID-Nineteen, pandemic quarantine,
World Health Org, N-I-H and the CDC.
Virus from Wuhan, Trump orders travel ban.
Mouthpiece doc and mouthpiece doc Birx and Fauci.

Short of gowns, gauze and test kits, de-tained cruise ships.
Wrong projections lead to, ventilator snafus.
Stay at home” Cuomo, “Shelter in place” de Blasio.
No church services, no funerals, nursing homes and lawsuits.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Guidelines, treatments, deaths of patients.
Govs get power, politics sour, Hydroxychloroquin.
Sources spread panic, profiteers ecstatic, Trump holds rally,
George-Floyd-arrest, GUN VIOLENCE, then real hell begins.
Angry people blow off steam, stress for the response team.
Antifa, BLM, propaganda provoke them.
De-fund the police, book from prez’s niece,
optional masks, vigilante tasks, no one gets any peace.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Gilead, Seattle, Chicago/Portland battle.
Trump holds rally, SARS-COVID-2, unclear what sources knew.
GUN VIOLENCE, empty malls, fan-cutouts in baseball.
Reopen the schools, Trump-rally, no-TikTok-fools.

GUN VIOLENCE, Trump holds rally, GUN VIOLENCE.
Trump holds rally, GUN VIOLENCE.
Trump holds rally, con-ventions, Kenosha tensions.

GUN VIOLENCE, VP Biden no-see
Trump holds rally, maskless Pelosi.
GUN VIOLENCE, Texas Gulf hurricane-slam,
Bannon wall-scam.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Trump holds rally and tax returns, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Barrett all set, de-bates, Trump holds rally.
Whitmer plot discovered, Hunter emails uncovered.
Trump goes to Walter Reed, says poll-watch on vote-tally.

GUN VIOLENCE, sugar-coating, lots of early-voting.
Poll-sters, guess and pray. What else do I have to say?

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

Trump holds rally. Same thing a-gain, stokes fears of Biden win.
GUN VIOLENCE, COVID spreads, Trump holds rally, touts meds.
Trump talks up vaccine, rally, rally rou-tine.
GUN VIOLENCE, same list, screams Biden socialist.
Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania: uncertain.
GUN VIOLENCE.
Nerves get raw, Trump challenges election law.
American election war, but with a rally whore.
GUN VIOLENCE, GUN VIOLENCE.
Still deafening silence!!!

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
It’s history’s ups and downs.
We go round and round.

We’re still stuck in the mire.
But we’ll be kind again.
And GOVERN and mend.
And mend and mend.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
The whole thing’s been sickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening.
We’re still stuck in the mire.
The plot’s been thickening…

Arms and the Dudes

The Book of the Week is “Arms and the Dudes, How Three Stoners From Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History” by Guy Lawson, published in 2015.

In summer 2004, when he was eighteen years old, the Orthodox-Jewish high school dropout, pothead and pathological liar Efraim Diveroli became passionate about the lucrative field of supplying firearms to the U.S. military. He had been mentored by his father and uncle on contracting with the U.S. government, through their businesses. There was one particular website where he could see all the needs for weaponry for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Diveroli worked around the clock combing the website’s classified ads for competitive-bidding contracts he thought he could win, and making phone calls to contacts he made to find suppliers from whom to purchase arms, to sell and deliver, via planes and / or trucks to the U.S. military on-location. He also needed lenders to finance the deals, as he had to make down-payments of tens of thousands of dollars he didn’t have, when he was finally awarded a bid.

In early 2005, the battles in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis became even more fierce, resulting in more roadside bombings, kidnappings, sniper incidents and ambushes. Thus, there occurred an increase in demand for rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47’s (or their equivalents; the whole world was already full of them– but apparently still not full enough), ammunition for them, and missiles.

This resulted in an even bigger spike in the number of bribes, kickbacks and Swiss bank accounts among war profiteers. Diveroli also benefited from the high turnover of inexperienced procurement officers in Iraq. Every few years, he attended war-weaponry trade shows, such as Eurosatory in 2006 in Paris, and the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in 2007 in Abu Dhabi.

The State Department rated resellers such as Diveroli pursuant to their reputations for satisfaction in completing contracts, similar to the way eBay does. Eventually, the Department allegedly compiled a “watch list” of resellers (which included a lot of offshore and shell companies) with whom the Department was supposed to exercise caution in doing business. Diveroli’s company’s name (AEY) was on that list, but background checks were (accidentally-on-purpose) sloppy or non-existent, because the shortages of weaponry and ammunition in Afghanistan were so severe.

Unsurprisingly, there was inter-agency rivalry between the State Department and Defense Department (run by the bureaucrats in the Pentagon). When Congress authorized the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security through a long, complicated document, one little phrase gave the Defense Department unlimited powers: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

To boot, the Pentagon used its new hegemony to wreak capricious vengeance on people who gave it bad publicity for its misdeeds and embarrassed it; there was no honor among thieves in the cut-throat war-weaponry business. One specific overzealous individual at yet another agency, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), helped with the Pentagon’s dirty work.

In May 2007, the main plot of a suspenseful saga started when Diveroli’s two friends (also only in their twenties) from grade-school assisted him with a $300 million (!) contract (that had an interesting origin) with the Department of Defense.

Unfortunately, the trio encountered numerous obstacles in trying to complete the contract and get their money. For one, the shipment of arms and ammunition that was supposed to go from Albania to Kabul was held up at an airport in Kyrgyzstan on a legal technicality. Two, an irresponsible article in the New York Times completely botched up the real story, prompting the Department of Justice to get involved.

Read the book to learn the rest, and what became of the participants (which included a wayward Albanian official, and an Albanian-American investment banker, among other pesky characters).

The Generous Years – BONUS POST

The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Generous Years, Remembrances of a Frontier Boyhood” by Chet Huntley, published in 1968.

Born in March 1911, the author grew up in Montana. When he was about two years old, his immediate family took advantage of the Homestead Act, claiming 320 acres of ranch and farm land in northern Montana. Extended family members acquired hundreds of additional acres. His mother’s father was particularly helpful in beginning to make the land livable and workable. The author detailed the extensive hard manual labor required for doing so.

They had to dig a well, construct various buildings on the site as residences for people and animals, for storage; not to mention outhouses. They had to purchase and maintain farm machinery (primitive at the time, of course), and install fences. The author learned how to approach and care for farm animals without getting injured. Regardless of the author’s grandfather’s accumulation of life experiences that warded off reasonably preventable problems, there still occurred all kinds of disasters beyond the family’s control.

One year, in less than ten minutes, a hailstorm ruined the flax crop. Other years, devastation was wrought by: locusts, rust spores, tumbleweed of thistle, fires resulting from a lightning storm and other causes, blizzards, drought, etc., etc., etc. The author described the tenor of the times– one of virtue and cooperation among the members (not just his relatives) of his community. “There were bills to be paid in town. They must be settled; that was a point of honor and conscience.”

Due to financial struggle, the author’s father was forced to return to his previous career as a railroad telegrapher, which required the family to move around Montana every few months or years. The author began his formal education in a one-room schoolhouse, with about a dozen other kids (which eventually included his three younger sisters) in grades one through eight, and one teacher.

Read the book to learn how the author’s education of the outside world accelerated when his family moved to urban areas such as Saco and Butte (hint: he and his high school friends were treated almost like adults in the gambling halls, speakeasies, bordellos and elsewhere), and many more aspects of the kinder, simpler America of his generation.

The Edge of Terror

The Book of the Week is “The Edge of Terror, The Heroic Story of American Families Trapped in the Japanese-Occupied Philippines” by Scott Walker, published in 2009.

This was a suspenseful story that focused mostly on a few lucky survivors of a war ordeal, but “American military losses in the Philippines are staggering and have never been fully realized by the American people.” For the reason of brevity, the author obviously could not cover all aspects of the historical backdrop that came together to determine which people in the story survived or died.

Anyway, in 1898, the Philippine islands became a protectorate of the United States. After WWI, Baptist medical missionaries settled in the city of Capiz on the island of Panay there. They established a nursing school and teaching-hospital, treating patients in a province comprised of approximately three hundred thousand people.

American expatriates in the Philippines fell largely into two categories: missionaries and mining-industry employees. They interacted socially– playing bridge and volleyball, attending beach parties and dances. The islands had mineral resources, and were strategically located on major trade routes.

In the first half of 1941, General Douglas MacArthur was appointed the supreme leader of American troops in the Philippines. But he wasn’t physically present for the rest of the war. That summer, some expatriate and military families sent wives and children back to the United States because they knew America would be entering WWII at some point. Up until the last week of December, others were evacuated from Manila to Bataan or Dumalag.

A week after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in early December 1941, they attacked Luzon. American and Filipino troops retreated, leaving large quantities of ammunition, supplies and food. MacArthur, already suffering from a bad case of hubris syndrome, incompetently waited a few weeks too long before deploying American troops to deter an attack on Manila Harbor; that Japanese attack came in the first week of January 1942. Many American lives were lost, and much American military hardware was destroyed. Mining engineers would no longer receive shipments of food, currency and supplies from the harbor.

By February 1942, what with all the bloodshed and disease, about 17,000 Japanese men died on Bataan alone. A couple of months later, the vast majority of 10,000 Americans commanded by 62,000 Japanese men, marched to their deaths there. In certain regions, the American military used scorched-earth tactics. They burned a hospital and sabotaged electricity and water supplies so that the Japanese couldn’t avail themselves of the benefits when they took over.

After several more aggressive attacks in the Philippines in the next several months, the Japanese demanded that the Allies surrender by June 6, 1942 so that they could occupy all of the islands, or they would kill every last person on them.

One particular group of American miners and missionaries decided to defy the Japanese order, and fled into the foothills to hide outside of Katipunan on Panay. They built a community called Hopevale. A few thousand Filipino troops also refused to surrender, and cobbled together a ragtag guerrilla army to fight the Japanese. At any time, the Japanese could have bribed a disloyal individual to tell them were the enemy was hiding. By then, the Japanese had a reputation for barbarism, and didn’t hesitate to massacre, torture, bayonet, rape or behead people, burn villages, etc.

The Japanese aimed to occupy the strategic location of Port Moresby near Australia, but the Americans bested them with air power in the Battle of the Coral Sea. In early 1942, about 3,200 people who didn’t flee for whatever reason, were interned in Manila.

By summer, that number had grown to 7,000. About three quarters of them were American. They organized themselves to fulfill their basic needs, and even educated the young. The living conditions were primitive of course: lack of food and other necessities, poor sanitation, vermin, and limited activities. However, the Japanese were sufficiently liberal to allow dancing, poker playing and touch-football.

Read the book to learn of additional ways war brings out the best in human beings– in terms of cooperating to survive; and the worst in human beings– how they have learned war-crime techniques from previous combatants; and the fates of the Hopevale expatriates, their families and others in the Philippines (Hint– even the survivors’ stories never have an entirely happy ending.)