George Carlin On Flamethrowers

My favorite George Carlin quote of all time is this:

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”

I laugh like a schoolgirl whenever I think about it. And here’s a video of him doing this bit, though worded slightly differently:

Courtesy, In the Midst of War

I’m reading a book called Tybee Island: The Long Branch of the South, by Robert A. Ciucevich, because my wife’s cousin and her husband have a house on Tybee, and we just got back from a lovely beach trip.  This morning I came across something that gave me a chuckle, and I thought I’d share it.

In April of 1862, the Confederate army was shoring up Fort Pulaski to keep the Savannah river open and to repel any river-borne assaults on Savannah. About a mile farther down the mouth of the river, known as Tybee Roads, lies Tybee Island. Here, the Union army was building batteries with which to assault Pulaski. They were also building batteries behind Pulaski, including the introduction of new, and mostly untested, “rifled guns.”

Early on April 10, 1862, the commander of the Union army at Tybee, General David Hunter, dispatched a letter to the commanding officer of Fort Pulaski, Charles Olmstead, demanding his immediate surrender. Here is the text of that letter. Notice how the decorum of the time required it to be so utterly polite.

To the Commanding Officer, Fort Pulaski:

Sir: I hereby demand of you the immediate surrender and restoration of Fort Pulaski to the authority and possession of the United States. This demand is made with a view to avoiding, if possible, the effusion of blood which must result from the bombardment and attack now in readiness to be opened. The number, caliber, and completeness of the batteries surrounding you leave no doubt as to what must result in case of your refusal, and as the defense, however obstinate, must succumb to the assailing force at my disposal, it is hoped that you may see fit to avert the useless waste of life. This communication will be carried to you under a flag of truce by Lieut. J. H. Wilson, United States Army, who is authorized to wait any period not exceeding thirty minutes from delivery for your answer.

I have the honor to be, Sir, very respectfully your most obedient servant,

David Hunter Maj-Gen. Com’g

There’s no record of how close to the thirty minute deadline Olmstead made Wilson wait, but here is Olmstead’s reply:

To Maj-Gen. David Hunter, Commanding on Tybee Island.

Sir: I have to acknowledge receipt of your communication of this date, demanding the unconditional surrender of Fort Pulaski. In reply, I can only say that I am here to defend the Fort, not to surrender it.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient Servant,

Chas H. Olmstead, Col. 1st Vol. Regt. Of Georgia, Com’g Post

Shelling began at 8:10 AM. At 2:00 PM the following day, unable to withstand the devastating damage done by the “rifled guns,” Olmstead had no choice but to surrender the fort.

What I thought was particularly interesting about these letter is that while they were pointed and deadly serious, they were coated in 19th Century manners. Compare that to General Anthony McAuliffe‘s response in WWII, when a German commander demanded that US forces surrender the town of Bastogne: “NUTS!

Let Them Build The Mosque

Unless you are living under a rock, you have heard the controversy surrounding the “ground zero mosque.” Essentially, a group of Muslims want to build an “Islamic community center,” that will house a mosque, two blocks away from the former World Trade Center. This has sparked a firestorm of protest from the right, claiming it is everything from insensitive to the next terrorist attack itself. This has annoyed me greatly.

One of the founding principles of this country was religious freedom. This means that you can support any religion you want, or no religion, and not be molested by the government. Increasingly, those on the right construe this as, “You can be any religion you want, as long as it’s Christian.” If you are a Buddhist, a Hindu or, (God forbid!) a Muslim, (I’m not sure if they consider atheists better or worse than Muslims), then your rights and desires are not relevant. This is a clear case of religious freedom: these people want to built a house or worship, on private property, using private funds. There is no compelling reason why they should not be allowed to do it. Unless you believe that all Muslims are terrorists.

And that’s exactly what most of the commentators on the right seem to think. Listen to the statements of Newt Gingrich, that moron Sarah Palin, or any of the talking heads on Fox News. They are all screaming about how “it just isn’t right” to build this Mosque “at ground zero” where so many lost their lives. Yes, 3,000 people did lose their lives at the WTC site, and yes, the attack was carried out by Muslim extremists, but that does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists.

Now, if you were to search my blog, you would probably find some inflammatory statements made by me about Muslims. Statements that might indicate that I considered all Muslims to be terrorists. I wish to publicly repudiate those statements right now. (Or “refudiate” them, as the learned Sarah Palin would say.) I’m not making excuses for my former statements, (well, maybe I am…) but I don’t think I was thinking about the situation rationally. I was caught up in a patriotic ferver, that I now see was incorrect. I’ll say it again: not all Muslims are terrorists.

In fact, a very small minority of them are terrorists, or support the actions of terrorists.

“But wait,” you say, “the Koran is ‘full of violence’ and commands by their ‘god’ to kill the unbelievers.” Indeed. May I then direct you to your bible to that part called the “old testament.” That’s the part that lots of Christians seem to forget about. There’s more violence in there than you can shake a stick at. Does that make us a violent religion? No. See what I’m getting at?

“But wait,” you say again, “those Muslims want to spred Islam all over the world! They want everyone to be a Muslim.” Indeed. Now, may I direct you to your bible, to Matthew 28: 19-20, which reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What this all comes down to is a bunch of Christians who are scared of Islam and don’t like to see it spreading. Despite their claims of “But I have a Muslim friend!” or “I don’t care if they build another Mosque, just build it somewhere else!” or “I don’t have a problem with them building it, but building it there is just insensitive!” it all amounts to the same thing. They don’t like Muslims, and they want them to go away.

I think they should be allowed to build it. I think the protesters are wrong, but I support their right to protest and make their opinions known, as long as they remain non-violent. That is my main concern. I wonder how long it will take, after construction begins, before the site is vandalized (or worse) by those who oppose it. “But that wouldn’t be very Christian!” you say. Indeed, it would not.

Heartbreaking Photos From the Congo

c33_18090801You simply must see these images. It’s a pictorial of “life” in the “Democratic” Republic of Congo. As in many African countries, long-running civil wars between enemy tribes take an almost unbelievable human toll. The photos in this pictorial show what a truly miserable existence these people have.

The little boy in the photo to the right is eight. He, his mother and seven siblings were attacked with machetes by a militia of the Lendu tribe. He was left for dead in a pile of bodies. His father found him still alive and hid him in the jungle. Later, the same militia found the father and hacked him to death, too. The child now lives in an orphanage with scars to remind him of what happened to his family.

It’s so hard to comprehend, sitting here in comfort in the United States, that suffering like this exists, but I know it does. What can we do to stop it? Can an outside force have an effect, of do we have to wait for those people to have a change of heart? The UN is clearly impotent in situations like these, and the US would be seen as some sort of interloper based on current world opinion, so who can help? Do we simply have to let it continue until one side wins, or both sides lose enough blood?

Risky Business

The world after Day Zero.

The world after Day Zero.

Thomas and I started our first game of Risk last night. We got everything setup, I explained the rules, and then we began. As I was reading him the rules, when I got to the one that states that during an attack, a draw always goes to the defender, his response was, “Aww. That stinks.” Little did we know how much his opinion of that rule was about to change.

After we placed our initial armies, he moved first. He placed his new armies and decided to attack me in New Guinea from Eastern Australia, and it was bloody. I lost and he moved in. He then tried to take Indonesia from me, but there, he failed. He decided to end his turn, and then it was my turn to start a war.

I placed my new armies, and immediately set out to take Congo from him. I attacked from Egypt, we rolled and it was a draw. I lost an army. Undeterred, I decided to attack Congo from North Africa. Again we rolled, and again it was a draw. I then attacked Congo from South Africa. Again, a draw. I tried once again to take Congo, this time attacking from East Africa. Against all odds, it was another draw. I was stunned. He was highly amused.

We played through, I believe, four turns each, and then called it a night. Since we have cats, I decided to take a picture of the board, so that when we continue the war, we’ll know if anything has gotten moved.

I am thrilled that Thomas enjoyed the game. I had fun, too. But I’m no longer sure I like that “defender wins all draws” rule…