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Articles on Weaponry

There Is No Best Sword

Hype - An Ancient an Art as Swordmaking

Humor

The Night before Hankmas

The Football Game That Will Never Happen

TV Reviews

Jane Goodall’s Return to Goombe

-Book Reviews: General NonFiction

Slander - Ann Coulter

Catatrophe - David Keys

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson

The Power of Logical Thinking - Marilyn Vos Savant & How To Think Straight - Robert Thouless

Demonic Males - Wrangham & Peterson

-Book Reviews: Weapons & War Nonfiction

The Barbarians of Asia - Stuart Legg

An Army at Dawn - Rick Atkinson

Blood Red Roses - Fiorato, Boylston & Knusel

Ghost Soldiers - Hampton Sides

Guns & Violence: The English Experience - Joyce Lee Malcolm

-Book Reviews: Fiction

The Mighty Manslayer and The Curved Sword - Harold Lamb

The Long Ships - Frans G. Bengtsson

The Archer’s Tale - Bernard Cornwell

Thoughts

Political Commentary

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There Is No Best Sword: If there were no firearms, they'd still be designing new swords

This new interest in swords is both gratifying and partly frustrating. It gives me a chance to share an interest and hobby I have had for many years, but now I encounter more and more mistakes, misunderstandings, and just plain stupid ideas.

Frequently, I hear this stuff from people who should know better. I know a collector of custom knives who is a fanatic in the care of his blades. He will buy a very find and well-made knife and take superb care of it. The edge will never be abused. He was stunned recently to find out that swords will nick when struck edge to edge. He frankly didn't think I knew what I was talking about, I guess because they do it in the movies all the time. When I suggested he try it with a couple of his knives, he got the idea.

I once had a guy pick up one of my swords, a schiavona. I warned him that it was quite sharp, but he assured me that he was quite familiar with swords and actually was quite expert in their use. He then proceeded to go into some katas designed for the katana. Before I could say anything he had drawn the back edge of the sword along his shoulder, cutting a 6-inch gash in his deltoid and arm.

On another occasion I watched a young guy pick up a large two-hand claymore. He immediately assumed some of the stances made popular by Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan -- stances also based on katas for the katana. After manfully trying to whirl the heavy sword one-handed, he handed it back to the owner, said "Nice balance" and strutted off, obviously convinced the people watching were impressed. Alas, most of them were giggling. It was obvious he couldn't handle the sword; it was simply too big for the way he was trying to use it.

Because of the popularity of Oriental martial arts and the Japanese sword, what I see the most are people trying to handle one-handed broadswords like katanas. But I have also had fencers pick up the same sword and tell me it is impossible to fight with, as you can't even hold it in a proper guard position.

There is not just one type of sword, nor is there just one way to use a sword. A specific technique requires a specific sword, and a specific type of sword requires a specific technique. Rapiers do not cut near as well as katanas. Katanas do not penetrate near as well as rapiers. Neither is very good against plate armor.

At the risk of repeating myself I want to point out that swords are designed with specific uses in mind. They should be judged this way.

I have heard people argue over which is the better sword, the rapier or a Viking type, for instance. This is foolish. What they are actually talking about are fighting styles, not swords. Any sword should be discussed only in the context of what it was designed to do.

This is not a chicken or egg question. Sword designs came first, and practical styles evolved around them. The first sword design was dependent on the skill of the maker, and the material from which it was made -- copper, then bronze. Then sword and technique in Europe entered into a constantly whirling and evolving dance that didn't end until the development of the repeating firearm. Swords and technique in many parts of the world evolved very slowly; in some places they never arrived; and in some places they took directions that were strange to say the least.

Wooden swords edged with shark's teeth, draw cuts, pulling cuts, slashes - all of these are understandable, but there has always been one type of sword and fighting technique that fills me with... well, I'm not sure what. You decide: The Abyssinian shotel is a long curved double-edged sword. At first glance, it looks like a Near Eastern scimitar, but on closer inspection you realize that the curve is a full half circle. And it is, I repeat, double-edged. The blade, generally, is a flattened, diamond cross section and quite stiff.

The natives fight with these swords from behind large, circular leather shields. Rather than try to cut through the shield, or feint it out of the way, they reach around it to hook their opponent with the point of the sword. I think you can image what a strange type of combat it must be. Many years ago, when the movie theaters had shorts subjects, I saw a travelogue that briefly showed two Abyssinians "fencing" with sword and shield. They hoped and ducked and bounced all around, with the long curved swords moving in very awkward ways. Really strange.

When you handle a shotel you realize that it isn't very effective for slicing, nor slashing, and certainly not built for thrusting, but it is pretty good for hooking, and that is how it should be judged.

To get a better idea of function and design, usage and effectiveness, let's take brief looks at how changes have taken place with some specific types.

The term "rapier" doesn't show up until the late 15th century and was used to denote a slender sword worn as part of civilian dress. But its origins go further back, and it can be argued that it had its beginnings in the estoc of the 14th century.

The estoc was a long sword, with a stiff blade of square or triangular section and no functioning edges. It was designed to punch through armor, either plate or mail. Against plate, there was the possibility it could pierce the plate if it struck squarely, and if not, it could slide and wedge in one of the joints of the armor. It was at about this time that they were learning to put little bars and circles on crossguards to help protect the hand. The counter argument regarding the ancestry of the rapier points out that earliest rapiers were double-edged -- in essence, merely lighter swords worn with civilian dress. Such swords were not used in battle and were primarily for self-defense and
dueling.

At this time, the blades were generally double-edged, but somewhat slim, and used for both the cut and thrust. The Art of Fence was quite rudimentary. The sword had always been considered an offensive weapon; one blocked or parried only in dire emergencies. Soon, however, the sword was used as a defensive weapon as well. Of course, this tore the edges up pretty badly, but they also quickly learned to parry with the flat, and anyway, the point was more deadly.

As this style of combat took over, the sword began to change again. The hilt began to acquire more elaborate rings in order to protect the hand, and the blade began to lengthen and narrow. By the middle of the 16th century, the sword had become the swept-hilt rapier. The blade had gotten quite long, and the edge was no longer important. Indeed, there was one blade that was square in section and flattened for the last inches, so that it was sharp there. This point was used for slashing cuts, usually at the face and eyes. The blade was excessively long, up to 60 inches in some cases. It was felt, incorrectly, that the longer blade gave advantage.

It must have been awkward walking around with a 60-inch sword blade banging into things and tripping people. It got to be such a nuisance in England Queen Elizabeth issued an edict, and every sword over a yard long was broken.

The Art of Fence was getting better and better, and by the turn of the century, the lunge was developed. This really put an end to excessively long blades, and they rapidly shrank to about 36-39 inches. In the meantime, the hilt had been acquiring a few shells and plates and finally, in the early 17th century, acquired the form known as a cavalier hilt. It is very similar to the slightly earlier dish hilt, and both are frequently confused with the cup hilt. It has a tendency to bounce about and proved annoying. Besides, they didn't think it looked very dressy. I do, but I also realize that to me it looks romantic as hell.

And so the sword continued to change. The guard became smaller; the crossguard, wherein one once looped his fingers for a very secure grip, was now merely decorative. The blade continued to shrink until at last the final form of the smallsword was reached -- triangular blade, very light and fast, from 30 to 33 inches long.

They look like beautiful and deadly little toys, smallswords do. They are light and slim and very attractive. Many consider them the ultimate sword and the most deadly of all the dueling weapons. Personally, I strongly disagree. They are quite deadly when used within the limitations now taken for granted. This is, one is not supposed to grab the blade. However, grabbing the blade was an honorable and valued tactic, even if it is now illegal in sport fencing. I can assure you it is not difficult to slap a blade aside with your off hand or even seize it if the missed thrust is even the tiniest bit slow. This is not a feasible tactic if the blade is well edged, but with a triangular blade it is quite possible.

We have not really studied the development of the rapier here, but it is hoped we have shown something of the dynamics of the design progression from the beginnings to the peak in the 1670s and then to its final and (my opinion) degenerate form. The purpose of this sort of sword at this time was to provide civilian protection. As more was learned the sword changed to take advantage of this knowledge. Fashion and changing social conditions worked on the rapier, but even in its final form it never strayed from its intended purpose as a thrusting weapon, designed to be used with one hand, and to provide protection from a similar weapon. In none of these forms was it intended to be used against armor or in the heavy heat of battle.

Another sword that needs to be looked at is the medieval or knightly cruciform sword that is always incorrectly referred to as a broadsword. This sword can easily be traced back to the beginning of the Iron Age. For our purposes, we can start with the Vikings.

The early Viking sword in general use was long -- about 33-34 inches -- broad -- 2-2.5 inches -- with a single fuller. The blade had parallel sides, with little or no taper. Steel was quite valuable, and at this time making large quantities was quite difficult. As a result, the swords were made by a process called pattern welding.

In this process, steel bars containing a good deal of carbon were welded to iron bars, then all were twisted and rewelded to produce the patterns we refer to as Damascus. A high-carbon edge was then welded on, the sword was filed, ground, tempered and polished. The end result was a light and fast blade, capable of delivering a terrible shearing cut. A good Viking sword was flexible, yet had a very hard edge.

This sword was designed to be used in conjunction with a wooden shield. It would be facing, more than likely, another wooden shield, and a foe wearing an iron helmet and armored with leather. If that opponent were very rich he would be wearing a mail shirt.

The sword, therefore, had to be flexible. It needed to take a lot of shock when hitting a shield, and cutting into a torso or even a leg -- the most likely target -- put a lot of strain on the sword. If it wasn't flexible, then it would bend easily. Of course, the sword could have been made thicker, but then the weight would be too great for combat. Swords at this time weighed between 2 and 3 pounds, tops. One wins an encounter with swords by cutting the other fellow first. In the 14th century, given the state of defensive armor, that meant leg cuts. Of the hundreds of corpses piled at Visby in 1361, 70% had leg wounds, most of them deep enough to be seen in the bones 500 years later.

The edge, we see, had to be hard. Bone is tough, so is a steel rimmed shield. And there was always the likelihood of hitting mail. One tried to avoid this by cutting at the neck, the hands and arms and, particularly, the legs.

Sometimes you got an opening and just had to take a cut. Mail is tough, composed of iron wire. It was not tempered and is somewhat soft. Tempered mail is not a good idea -- under a blow, such mail will break, giving free rein to the edge. Soft mail will bend and deform, resisting the cut a long way. Any mail will nick the edge, but if the blow is delivered accurately, at the proper angle and with a great deal of force, this sword can and will cut mail.

That is the sword in general use in Europe at the beginning of the Viking Age.Around 900 AD, a new sword appeared. The blade was slightly shorter -- 32 inches average -- but with the same width. It tapered much more acutely, and ended in a good serviceable point. The change in blade shape makes this a much faster sword in both the cut and the recovery. By throwing the weight closer to the hand, the sword becomes easier to maneuver.

Those features weren't the big difference. The real biggie was that the whole sword was made of steel. No matter how good the smith, a pattern-welded sword was an expensive and slow production. With large pieces of steel, the whole process is speeded up, the sword is cheaper, and just as good. But the new sword had to be better because the armor had also started to improve. Actually, the armor was pretty much the same, except there was now more of it, and mail was more likely to be encountered because it was accumulating, generation by generation.

The next 200 years saw more changes. Mail now covered the whole body. Fighting on foot was left to the peasant. The knight, fully armored, held a good solid wooden shield and the lance was the main weapon. The sword became secondary, a back-up, and was used against lightly armored foot soldiers.

The sword had changed again. Its shape reverted and the two edges were more nearly parallel. Speed was not quite as important now as the weight of the blow. The blade had become slightly longer to give greater impetus to the blow, and to give the horseman greater reach.

The next 200-year jump brings us to 1300 AD, and even more changes.

At this time, armor was beginning to win the eternal fight with arms. Mail was slightly thicker and stronger, and strengthened with plates and splints of steel. These changes brought about changes in sword design and new types of swords appeared.

The most prominent of these swords was the Great Sword or War Sword. This is a long-bladed sword, and blades average about 40 inches in length. The sword is not particularly heavy, weighing 4 to 5 pounds. It is light enough to be swung one-handed in conjunction with a shield, but the grip is long enough to accommodate another hand, so that the sword can be used two-handed. The great length increases velocity and cutting power. Along with the long-bladed Great Sword, a shorter weapon appears, with a blade shape similar to the later Viking swords, but more exaggerated. These are big swords, with very wide blades tapering sharply. The wide blade increases the cutting power of the sword, while the strong taper makes the point a most important part of the sword. Flexibility is now sacrificed for rigidity to strengthen the thrust.

Even a third sword achieved new use. The falchion had always been around, but with the increase in protective capability of armor the falchion became a most useful weapon. With a short very wide blade, single-edged, it is capable of delivering a terrible blow. Shaped like a modern Shriner's scimitar, it became popular not only with knights, but with archers and men-at-arms.

From here until the 1650s the changes in arms and armor became more rapid.

Mail, that most ancient and honored form of defense, was discarded in favor of plate. The skill of the armorer reached heights that have never been, and never will, be equaled. Plate armor is a light, rigid defense that allows a man to move quite freely, and yet gives great protection. The only real drawback is that it is extremely hot. Ventilation is almost nil, and this can cause exhaustion. Fighting on horseback, when the main body parts used are the arms, is OK. One can do this for a rather long while. However, on foot, when the legs are used, much more heat is generated and more oxygen required and plate is less useful

Swordmakers made one last attempt to overcome the new armor. Light and flat cutting blades were abandoned. The sword profile with a blade wide at the top and tapering very sharply, stayed pretty much the same. However, the cross-section became a thick, flattened diamond, and the sword became quite rigid. Weight varied a great deal. Some blades stayed light, weighing 2 to 3 pounds, while others went upwards of 5 pounds. These heavy swords became nothing but sharpened bars of steel. Both the heavy and the light versions were attempts to punch through the armor, and it could be done if the blow was heavy and square. In a slightly off-center blow, there was a chance the sword would slide into a crevice or chink and wound the man. And the heavy swords also tried to "break" the armor by sheer weight and force.

This was the last attempt of the sword to overcome armor and that fight was abandoned. There was simply no way that a sword was going to cut through steel plate. Axes, maces and war hammers became the weapons of armored combat.

The sword was by no means abandoned. It simply was not used when fighting armored knights. The sword was too important socially and traditionally to be cast aside. Civilian swords became important items of dress. In combat, the flat, light cutting sword came back and was carried to fight men at arms and other lightly armed troops.

This is, of course, a quick and simplified view of the whole thing. Obviously, the bow and the pike were to render armor almost obsolete, and gunpowder administered the coup de grace. However, we can see here that swords are all shaped to achieve specific goals while overcoming specific obstacles. Each new type of sword was a response to a new development in armor or fighting style.

Let's look at a modern example where sword and style conflict mightily.

Japanese arms and armor were fully developed by the 1200s, and stayed pretty much the same for several hundred years. The katana is an excellent sword, and quite well designed for the type of fighting for which it is intended. The fencing techniques are excellent. Regardless of other styles you may consider superior -- sword and shield, rapier fencing, Turkish and Iranian swordplay -- Japanese fencing and the katana are perfectly matched.

In fighting with a katana, many of the moves are drawcuts, and many of the attacks are designed to be struck with the front 6 inches of the blade. The katana is well suited for this, as the blade is strong, thick, and well curved.

In a recent movie, the hero uses a wide, straight and heavy sword. All his moves and posturing, however, are for the katana in attacks that simply would not work with such a sword. A blow with the front 6 inches would set up vibrations that could jar your teeth. And it wouldn't cut very deep. Now you could stop the vibrations by making the blade extremely thick, but then you also increase the weight and lessen the cutting power even more. In short, the movie sword was simply wrong for the type of fighting shown. About the only thing more ludicrous would have been using it like a rapier. Of course, the movie's hero was the sort of superhero who could handle a heavy sword. The actor, however, was swinging an aluminum blade. Don't ever try those moves with a sharp 6-pound steel sword, let alone one of those 9-pounders some guys make.

On the subject of modern swords, I am told some of them are hung on the wall in anticipation of defense against intruders. The merits of this as an idea should be debated in some other forum; we can discuss the new swords, however.

Most of them are well-made of good materials. I believe some of them are a little too hard for the shocks a sword blade must take. Almost all are far too heavy. A 6-pound sword is laughable, and a 4-pounder is only worth a chuckle. A sword is not a long knife; it mush be, for its size, more lightly constructed.

Only a 2 to 3 pound sword should be considered for modern use; nothing heavier will achieve the velocity needed, nor will a heavier sword maneuver, parry or recover fast enough. It should be relatively short and quite sharp and straight enough for a serious thrust. The straight wakizashi sold as a "ninja" sword, the hanger or European hunting sword, and shorter 19th century foot officers swords are all useful models, but 12-pound knightly swords? Never.

One sword that provides quite interesting material for such speculation is the saber. It can also show the relationships between fighting styles, perceived fighting styles and design.

Most people will tell you that the curved cavalry saber was tired for a number of years, was found wanting, and the final, most efficient cavalry sword was the straight one. They will point to both the British and U.S. cavalry swords of this century. Both were straight-bladed thrusting weapons. They were, however, the last designs only because the machine gun had rendered cavalry obsolete. The question as to which was the best was never fully answered.

The fight was bitter for a century or more, and the thrusting sword won only by very narrow margins. Here is some of the argument employed over the efficiency of the two styles:

The curved sword has been the sword of the mounted warrior in many places and for many years. A curved slashing blow is very damaging, and even if it does not kill, it can render the victim unable to continue the fight. Against infantry, the curve allows the cavalryman to strike a strong and effective blow that does not imprison the blade and cause it to be wrenched from the hand. Against other mounted troops it provides effective offense and defense. Sitting astride a horse, the sword is easier to handle in cutting motions than the unnatural thrusts that a straight blade requires.

Opponents pointed out the many times that soldiers had been struck repeatedly on the head with curved sabers and continued to fight. They also cited times when swords have been driven deep into the body, and wrenched from the grasp as the horse swept past. After pointing out the horrors and inadequacies of the curved saber, they launch into the merits of the straight blade.

It can reach an infantry soldier lying flat on the ground. The horse won't willingly step on a man, and you need to lean too far out of the saddle to cut someone lying flat. However, with a straight blade you can reach the ground with the point, which means you can thrust through. A most valid point is that when someone is stabbed, he isn't likely to continue to fight. As for fighting other mounted troops, with proper training you can learn to stab. As for holding on to the weapon, with the proper wrist motion the sword can be pulled from the body of the enemy, either by the cavalryman himself, or he can let the motion of the horse do it. And it was claimed the thrust was hard to dodge or parry.

One can see that both swords have their merits, and both have their flaws. One of the most serious flaws of the curved saber was one that could have most easily been corrected. You see, most military sabers were never sharpened. They just had flats and no real edge. They made nasty surface wounds by splitting the flesh, but did not cut deeply. Had they been sharpened -- ah, then things would have been quite different. On the other hand, the thrust of a 40-inch blade at the end of an outstretched arm, urged along by 800 pounds of moving horse, provides a serious problem and certainly no easy answers.

That, in a nutshell and with different problems and different swords, is the story of sword design. Most well-made swords did their jobs well, but there never was an all-around sword. Judge them that way, each in its own context -- there is no best.

 

Hype . . .
As Ancient An Art As Sword Making

Hype is part of the American scene, maybe even the culture, and most of us have learned this and are ready to discount a lot of hype we hear. In some areas, however, it appears that hype is becoming true, and many people take as facts stories that are, at beast, outrageous. This seems to be particularly true with the Japanese sword. In the early 1950s, with the release of the movie Bad Day at Black Rock, in which one-armed Spencer Tracy uses karate/judo to tear up villain Ernest Borgnine, the U.S. went on a kick glorifying the Oriental martial arts. Since that time we have been treated to increasingly impossible feats of derring-do -- heroes who leap straight up over 10 feet, who unarmed and single-handedly take 15-20 villains and destroy them without working up a sweat or getting a bloody nose, who can hurl a knife 50 feet into the trigger guard of a pistol. Ridiculous.

If the unarmed impossibilities are not bad enough, we are also treated to the armed impossibilities: Mac 10 submachine guns that fire 300 rounds from one magazine, swords that shear plate and concrete columns and then are struck edge to edge and never take a nick, and knives that cut barbwire with a mysterious twist of the blade. Most of this people see as hype, but for some reason, when the Japanese sword is hyped, everyone believes it.

As a student of arms and armor for many years, I find this both distressing and amusing. When I mention that a Viking sword, "Quernbiter" by name, was called this because it was supposed to have cut a millstone in half, everyone laughs and considers it a tall tale, which it undoubtedly was. Then the same audience will gravely assure me that the Japanese Katana has been known to cut a machine gun barrel in half.

This stunt must have happened several times, because when I tried to track the source, it seems to have occurred on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and several other islands. I have to believe Japanese soldiers have some sort of pathological hatred for machine gun barrels. I have also wondered why they never tried to cut down the gunner.

Not only are Japanese blades exalted by such folks to the point of sheer absurdity, but European blades are downgraded until they become mere bars of iron, incapable of cutting hot butter. This just isn't true.

Students of arms and armor have always regarded the Japanese sword as a very fine weapon. It has good balance, may be well constructed, and it does what it was designed to do pretty well. But it is made out of steel, and has all the limitations of other steel swords. It isn't magic.

The earliest Japanese swords were direct descendents of the Chinese swords of the same period-straight, single-edged blades. These swords were poorly made, and may not have been tempered. Around 300 to 400 AD the Japanese learned how to temper the swords to produce a steely iron. Even after this, the sword was not highly regarded, and the bow was considered much superior. Soon, straight double-edged swords began to appear, but did not remain on the scene very long, possibly because tempering a double-edged sword offers problems. Legend has it that a single smith, Amakuni, designed the first single-edged and curved sword. The exact shape of this blade is not known, but it was not until roughly 1100 AD that the sword reached the final shape. By 1300, it was a truly good sword and very well made. These early blades all seemed to be slightly larger and longer than blades made after the end of the 16th century. There have been volumes written on the methods of constructing a Japanese sword, and it is not my purpose here to elaborate on them. The method was complex and involved layering the steel to produce a blade very nearly homogenous in its various elements. On top of this, a very hard steel was used for the edge, and a softer, more shock resistant type was used for the rest of the blade. Sometimes the edge was covered by the softer metal, sometimes the hard steel covered a softer body.

The end result was a blade that had a very hard edge, and a resilient body. However, even with the resiliency, the Japanese sword was not very flexible. One school of swordsmiths, the Soshu, was noted for producing blades that were very tough because they possessed a slight degree of flexibility. A look at European theories in the same time frames shows different approaches.

As early as 700 BC, the Celts were forging weapons, both spears and swords, by piling on layers of iron and forging the whole mess. This process continually improved until by 500 AD excellent pattern-welded swords were being made. In this process, bundles of carburized iron bars were welded together, and then a hard steel edge was welded on. This produced a sword, usually double-edged, with a soft, resilient body and a hard edge. The sword was flat, rather thin, quite light and flexible. Weight was in the area of 28 to 40 ounces.

These swords remained quite popular until about 900 AD when a new sword appeared. This sword was somewhat slimmer in the area of the point, tapering more sharply from the hilt, and was composed of steel-not iron that had been carburized, but steel all the way through. They were easier to make and, for all intents and purposes, just as strong as the earlier blades.

Two very important factors should be noted here. The European smiths were constantly trying out slight variations and whole new shapes. There were single-edged swords, slightly curved blades, and short swords like the Roman gladius as well as wide-bladed chopping weapons.

The Japanese, once they had decided on a basic shape, never made any attempts to improve on it. Many would like to say that having found the perfect shape, there was no reason to improve on it. I don't think that's true at all.

The Japanese culture has always been quite rigid, heavily bound by tradition. This highly controlled society did not encourage experimentation. The plus side is that it did leave us with a large number of very fine swords that are quite old and in excellent shape.

Let's take a look at cutting powers. The European blade was light, fast, with a hard edge (carbon content ranges from .75% to 1.2%) and capable of delivering a terrible, shearing blow. It was also a one-handed weapon, usually used in conjunction with a wooden shield. Flexibility was a definite necessity. When cutting into a shield or the body of a foeman, the blade had to be able to twist and bend and not break or distort. A man with a sword cutting him does not stand still. Opposed by the armor in use at the time -- mail, leather or heavy padding -- a sword can cut much deeper if it is thin and wide at the striking point because a thin blade does not have to push a great deal of material aside. These swords will cut mail when a hard blow is struck and the mail hit squarely. I've spent a lot of time and money testing the cut on hams covered with mail. If the blow is not hit squarely, the edge will skate and not bite. When the mail is fairly hit, even with force, there is very little, if any, damage to the edge of a good sword.

The Japanese sword is a superb draw-cutting weapon. This is the method that has been taught for the past several hundred years, and the evidence seems to indicate that it was always used in a similar fashion. In a draw cut, the blade is pulled as it cuts, and therefore not only shears, but slices as well. In soft tissue such as flesh or bone, it delivers a truly fearsome cut, being easily capable of cutting a torso in half. The draw back is that it doesn't cut armor, even mail, very well. A draw cut is very ineffective against hard armor. Changing the cut, and delivering a shearing blow does not work either. The blade of the katana is thick, with a sharp cutting bevel. The edge is strong, but the wedge it presents has to move aside more material. When cutting into metal, this is very difficult to do.

There are two additional points that should be considered. The Japanese sword was a two-handed weapon. Using both hands, a much harder blow can be delivered. Earlier swords, which were slightly heavier and longer, would add even additional force to the blow. But even with these advantages, the sword was not very good at penetrating armor.

The Japanese made good swords, but they also made very good armor. Many of the suits have plates of the same steel as the sword blades. The front of the plates was just as hard as the sword edge, while the back was soft and springy.

In order to have a good chance against the armor there are three weapons that are much better than the sword. They are the bow, the yari (spear) and the naginata. That explains why in battle, the three principal weapons used were the bow, theyari and the naginata.

In Europe, when practical firearms made armor obsolete, it was quickly abandoned. The same thing is true of Japan. One thing the Japanese are not is stupid.

That is true with all warrior societies. The sword was never the principal battle weapon. It has always been the weapon of last resort. The Roman relied on his pilum, the Greek his spear, the knight his lance, the Mongol his bow, and the Landsnecht his pike or halberd. In Japan it was just more so. The sword was used on the battlefield for the last bit of hand-to-hand combat, to finish off the wounded, and for the last forlorn stand, when the warrior chooses to kill and die.

All of the above refers to fully armored warriors. Never forget that in both Europe and Japan there were many warriors on the field who were not fully armored.

Another "fact" about Japanese swords is that the point, which is distinct and unique, is an armor-piercing point. It isn't. Shoving a knife or sword through a car door isn't that hard and many blades can do it. The Japanese point is harder to pierce with than many other designs. However that point is one of the best cutting points ever designed. Generally a sword point involved in a cut produces a lot of drag and reduces the efficiency of the cut. However, the Japanese point with its sharply angled "edge" portion, actually aids the cut. This would be quite important, as many standard cuts with Japanese swords are made with the first 6 inches of the blade. Europeans simply ignored the problem, which for them was very minor. Most of their cuts were made well back of the point. Due to the shape of the sword, the optimal striking point on most European blades was very well down the blade. Much later, many European cavalry sabers had points similar to the Japanese.

I have been assured, frequently in fact, that Japanese blades are so strong and tough that they never break, nick or bend. Well, they break, they nick, and they bend. They frequently nick quite badly. Damascus steel is a superior steel, or it can be when done by a superb smith. But even a superior steel is still steel and will respond like steel. One sad fact is that the harder the steel, the more likely it is to chip and nick. A softer metal will bend, flatten or otherwise distort. When this happens, it is relatively easy to pound or file a new cutting edge. When a chip leaves a gap, not much can be done. A piece can be reforged into the blade, but this also requires that the blade be retempered.

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE HANKMAS
by Hank reinhardt


‘Twas the Night before Hankmas, and all through the castle
Not a warrior was stirring, not even to wrestle,
The swords were hung in their scabbards with care,
For fear that old Grendel soon would be there.
The warriors were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of rapine danced in their heads.
With Conan in plate, and me in my mail,
We both settled down to hold wassail.
When out from the court there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our chairs to see what was the matter.
Away to the windows we flew like flashes, tore open the shutters,
And threw up the sashes.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a luster of Faerie to objects below.
When what to our startled eyes should appear,
But a ten-foot troll, in warlike gear!
With a seven-foot mace with a head like a trendle,
We knew in a moment that is MUST be Grendel!
More rapid than eagles, the Wolfbrothers came,
Grendel danced and shouted and called them by name.
“Ho Hewlin, Ho Torgutai, Ho Eric the Black,
I’ll crush you all, and break Irongrim’s back!
Over the shields, under the shields and through the shield wall,
I’ll never stop killing till I’ve killed them all.”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle and mount to the sky,
So through the castle the Wolfbrothers flew.
Then Conan charged, and he flew too!
And then in a twinkle I leapt to the floor,
And Grendel charged, his club like a door!
“Ulric, you dog!” he grave a great bound
And that giant of a mace came spinning around.
I ducked my head and spun to the side,
Had I not done so, I would have soon died.
The great club shattered, with the force of the blow,
And I leapt and roared and closed with my foe.
He was dirty matted fur from his head to his foot,
His teeth were yellow, with a tongue black as soot.
He seized me quickly around my back;
He squeezed and laughed and thought I would crack.
But I laughed and howled with a warrior’s glee,
Gripped his arms, and soon I was free …
He twisted and turned and howled and fought,
But all his struggles soon came to nought.
I let loose one arm, and grabbed the other.
He yelled and prayed and called for his mother.
I tugged and tugged with might and main.
He gurgled and guggled and moaned with pain.
I heaved, and spun, and he flew like a rocket,
And I tore his arm off, right at the socket!
He screamed and yelled and fell to the floor,
Bounced like a ball, and dashed through the door.
The Hall was now free from its fearsome taint,
But the walls were red with a strange new paint.
I felt no sorrow for the ten-foot troll.
Ulric’s humor is known to be droll.
For the monster realized, as he died in his cave,
That Ulric is a disarming knave.

 

THE FOOTBALL GAME THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!

by Hank Reinhardt

 I am sure that most of you out there realize that both Toni and I are football fans. It is well known that I am a follower of Georgia Tech Football. And I will admit that Tech football has fallen on hard times. Toni is a follower of a more heathen and debased form of the sport as is practiced in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (also now fallen on hard times).

However, jointly we can point with pride that in the bowl match-ups it was the ACC who proved its superiority, while the SEC finished a close second.

 It was during our discussion of the games that we realized that there would never be a game between Oregon State and the University of South Carolina. It does not matter how they will finish in the polls, it simply will not happen.

 Now I am sure that some of you will wonder why, and in the following vignette, we will attempt to show you why this is impossible.

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Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen! We are proud to bring you the final game of the football season. This fabled match-up will determine who is the number one team in the country. Right now the Oregon State Beavers are on top, but the Mighty Gamecocks of South Carolina hope to reverse that position.

 Here is the opening kickoff. The Gamecocks have it at their 10 yard line. They see an opening in the center, but the Beavers shut it down quickly.

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At halftime:

 This is a very hard fought football game. Each team has tried to assert itself and to dominate the other, but neither has been successful. The first half saw the Gamecocks, driving and thrusting straight up the center, using all of their fabled speed and power, but at each thrust they were thwarted by the clever defense of the Beavers.

 When the Beavers had the ball, they used their Tight Ends and Wide Receivers to the fullest, luring the Gamecocks to commit themselves, but the defenders were always able to pull back in time to limit the gains of the Beavers.

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The summary of the second half:

 Ladies and Gentlemen, the last half of this fabled game was even more exciting than the first. Unable to complete a meaningful pass, the Gamecocks continued to drive, pound and grind their way forward, while the Beavers yielded ground, always fading back, shifting their defenses, and while giving ground, never allowing the tough, hard Gamecocks to score.

 In the final minutes of the game the Gamecocks mounted a really long, hard drive, and just continued to pound right up the middle. Although driven back and down, with the Gamecocks on top, the gallant Beavers continued their defiance. Just when it seemed impossible for the Gamecocks to overcome this yielding defense that never gave up, a hard-charging fullback split the line, thrust deep into the secondary, and suddenly arrive in the promised land---

 TOUCHDOWN-TOUCHDOWN—the Gamecocks have scored!!! What an explosion of joy! 

 After the game, the South Carolina Gamecocks appeared wilted after their monumental efforts, while the Beavers of Oregon State appeared content that they had put up such a fine effort.

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We rest our case.

 

TV REVIEWS

Jane Goodall’s Return to Gombe

I rarely think about reviewing television shows, but this Discovery program was really excellent. Jane Goodall returns to Gombe, and is able to find some of the old chimps that she studied for so long.

 She finds the alpha male that she watched grow up. Frodo is now somewhat sickly and is facing a challenge from a group of would-be alpha males. He is challenged by the youngest and is driven off.

 Jane explains that he was the biggest and most aggressive, and dominated by sheer brute force. It seems that he wasn’t even a nice chimp, but was just a bully. As she put it, “He was just a big thug.”

 Ms. Goodall was the first to show and see that chimps are meat eaters, and that they really do organize hunts for monkeys. She comments on one instance where she saw an actually war. One group of chimps invaded another group’s territory, drove them out, then hunted them down and killed them. There is a flashback scene when Frodo was a young alpha male, and he is one big, mean-looking chimp. Frodo and three others of his band invade another group’s territory, and Frodo finds a lone young male, and beats him to death.

 Ms. Goodall fears that many people will use this to say that violence is in our genes and that we can’t help it. But as she points out, we have a mind, and can control our actions. In this I am in complete agreement with her.

 Since I was quite young I have believed that this aggressive, violent streak, is built into us and, unless we admit it, we will never be able to control and channel the emotions it causes. All too often people wish to blame society, poverty, poor upbringing, etc, for these tendencies. Then they try to correct these false causes, and –surprise--there is no change in actions. It’s like treating a raging infection and fever with cold baths. It might help a little, but it sure as hell isn’t getting where the problem lies.

BOOK REVIEWS - GENERAL NONFICTION

Slander by Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter is the unquestioned bane of the Liberal Democrat. An avowed Conservative, with Republican leanings, she is more than cordially hated by the Left. James Carville, that staunch defender of Clinton Morality, called her a fool on a recent Crossfire episode. The reason that Ms. Coulter is so hated is that she has a very annoying habit of bringing facts, reason, logic and truth to arguments. This is something the Left really hates. Politics should be about feelings, and People, and, of course, The Children. It doesn’t matter that these policies that the Left has endorsed all fail, or that they cause much more grief and harm than even just ignoring the problems. No, what matters is that their “hearts were in the right place.” [Excuse me while I puke.--TKFWR]

 Regretfully, most people are politically na´ve. They dutifully listen to what is said on TV or in the magazines, and have no thought of actually checking to see if it is right. It can be easily pointed out that all politicians, Democrats and Republicans, put their re-election well before the good of the nation (hell, even before the survival of the nation!).

 Ms. Coulter opens her book with an acknowledgement to friends and family, and then to the New York Times, “Without whom this book would have been impossible.”

 I thought that was a delightful and pleasant little dig at one of the most biased and politically correct news organizations in the world. She then proceeds to list all of the lies that have been spread about conservatives and Republicans. She also, much to the disgust of the liberal press, starts telling the truth.

 The 2000 election is handled beautifully, and the truth is told about the fabulous brain of Al Gore. (My impression of Gore has always been that the man is a dunce and a liar—one borne out by Coulter’s book.) She also gives the truth about Bush. Certainly not a flattering picture gets painted, but just as certainly he’s not the idiot the press has portrayed.

 But these are just two of the items she deals with. Generally, she is listing the lies and slander that the Liberals have used to attack Conservatives, and then showing the truth.

 Her book will be very difficult for the Liberals to refute (they won’t even try), as she list all of her sources and footnotes aplenty. For those sitting on the fence, or for Conservatives who like to have ammunition in debates, this is a must read.

 

Catastrophe by David Keys

The jacket blurb, “An investigation into the origins of the modern world,” is a little bit misleading. But, what it is, is a fascinating historical search into the cataclysmic event that took place in about 535 AD. Recorded all over the world, the event produced famine, plague, and helped in the fall of cultures and peoples.

 All too often there are books of this nature that promise to offer shocking revelations, and they are mainly junk. However, this one is quite different. I don’t feel that I would be giving anything away to state that he believes that the year of disaster was caused by a volcanic eruption, somewhere around Sumatra. The cloud of ash, spreading around the world, caused crop failures, and sent nomads roaming further afield in search of food.

 His search for information and his detailed analysis of ancient records is fascinating.

 It’s a worthwhile read for anyone interested in history and society. It also makes you realize just how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature.

 

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

 I picked this up at the Atlanta airport to have something to read during our trip to England. It looked interesting, and I was willing to take a chance. Boy, was I ever right.

 This is a very interesting and delightful book. Mr. Bryson explains that he had no idea as to what a proton even was before he started writing this informal history. And so he spent the next three years learning about science, and better, its history.

 His writing is engaging and yet straightforward. He explains what he can, gives comparisons in size, and presents delightful anecdotes about the famous scientists. He admits to being baffled by both cosmology and quantum mechanics. He also gives the source for the quote, “If one isn’t baffled by quantum mechanics, then one doesn’t understand quantum mechanics.”

 I admit to being puzzled, and one thing in particular that is puzzling is “entanglement.” I can accept that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Okay. But two particles, separated by several light years, can know instantly the spin of the other?! Hmmm. Why is it that I have the feeling that we have barely scratched the surface of knowledge?

 This is a truly fun and interesting book, and I recommend it to everyone.

 

The Power of Logical Thinking

 by Marilyn Vos Savant

&

How To Think Straight

 by Robert Thouless

 

 I have recently reread both of these books and thought it would be fun to review them together. I will start with the second, as it was the first I read, oh so many years ago.

I first encountered an excerpt of this book as a supplement in grammar school English, in the 6th grade. My teacher, Mrs. Thompson, made it a point to try to teach her students to think. (As a side note, I used to shudder when I think of the tricks we played on her. As I have obtained a few years, I have realized she was fully aware of them, and handled us perfectly. As a result, my respect for her has increased tremendously. I only wish she were still around for me to thank her.)

A few years later I was lucky enough to find the whole book and immediately devoured it. I think I can honestly say that it changed my life a great deal. Of course when I was young, hormones frequently replaced logic, but there were times when I was able to think, and act, with some degree of logic.

 Mr. Thouless takes the reader through all of the steps and discusses not only the basic principles of logic, but also many of the tricks used to hide and distort: fallacies, false logic, circular logic, and the smoke and mirrors that many people use to prove a point. One of the things that I find most helpful is the “tests” at the end of the book. They can still be difficult to solve unless you have paid careful attention to the book, and careful attention to the tests of logic that he cites.

 This is a book that I strongly recommend. Even though I read it many years ago, and have reread it several times, I still have to stop and think on several of the problems. Alas, I still find myself letting emotion come into it, when I am better served by thinking clearly. I doubt if I will ever fully overcome this, but this book helps.

Marilyn Vos Savant has scored the highest IQ ever recorded, somewhere around 220 or so. I enjoy her column in Parade Magazine, and is the only thing I read in it. It’s fun, she is clever , witty, and has a engaging way of writing. This book is mainly about the need for logical thinking in our everyday lives. She also takes on the political establishment, and shows how figures are easily manipulated to give totally false information.

She also quotes several problems that are counter-intuitive, and talks about the many, literally thousands, of irate responses from those who disagreed with her. One of the more interesting examples was a drug test that was 95% correct for a drug-user, and 95% correct for a non-user. Meaning that it gave true negative 95% of the time, and a false positive 5%. She then explains that for a person subject at random and tested the results will be accurate only about 50% of the time!

Her book emphasizes the need to plot things out. To not only reason logically, but to put it on paper and plot out the results. I hope I remember to do this. Right now when arguing with Toni I find that is very logical to agree with her. Whether she is right or wrong is immaterial. If I wins, she hits me, so logic dictates that I lose.

 

Demonic Males by Wrangham & Peterson

Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

I read this book several years ago, and found it most fascinating and intriguing. I also gained a great deal of ego points, since it reinforced opinions that I had formed many years ago, i.e. that much of the violence of humans is in their genes, and that the primate species is a violent one.

The book deals with the relatives closest to man: the gorilla, the orangutan, and the chimpanzee (both pan troglodyte and the bonobo).

The book is filled with incidents that reflect the closeness of the various species, including murder, raids, prostitution, war, theft, and rape. What amazed me was the recorded incident of rape of a human female by a male orangutan. A female primatologist observed this and tried to help the woman fend off the ape, but to no avail.

I have always been interested in anthropology, cultural as well as physical. Jane Goodall’s work on chimps was the first time it was proven that they were not the comical, peaceful vegetarians that most people thought. Instead there were tough, bright, tool-using, meat-eating hunters that also engaged in murder, random violence, and all of the other fun things that people do. Indeed, it seems that the only difference is that we are just better at it.

Unlike Consilience by Edmund Wilson, the last two chapters of this book fail. The authors try to come up with ways to tame the Demon and fail to understand that violence is a part of nature. That the very aggression that leads to war and violence is also the aggression that leads us to better ourselves, to explore, to achieve, to go to the Moon. Man is violent. That cannot be changed. However, it can be channeled.

One problem is that violence is quite successful. One of the more ludicrous politically correct comments is that “violence never solves anything!”

 It solved the issue of slavery, here and all over the world (at least for a time). WWII was solved nicely by violence, so was our separation from Great Britain. Violence may not be a “nice” solution, it may not be the best solution, but all too often it is a solution, and man has never shown any reluctance to employ it. Those that are reluctant, they don’t stay around very long.

 In order for the Utopian idea of nonviolence to work, then all people have to be nonviolent. Not just a few, ALL. I don’t think that is possible. And if it were to work, then we would no longer be men. No thanks. I would prefer to live in a violent world and still be a man. Sheephood is not my style.

 

The Barbarians of Asia: The Peoples of the Steppes From 1600BC by Stuart Legg

 I bought this book several years ago, and when I started to read it I was turned off by the first chapter. In the first chapter the author details his journey and the geography of the Trans-Siberian Railway. I put the book down, and did not pick it up again until quite recently. As several of you have pointed out (repeatedly I might add), I am far from perfect, and not picking up the book again was a big mistake.

 Mr. Legg uses the first chapter to set the stage for the rest of the book. He breaks down the huge continent of Asia into the Heartland and the Littoral. The Heartland being the immensely vast Steppes and Grasslands that extend into Europe, while the Littoral consist of the countries surrounding it, China, India, Europe, etc.

 He continues to set the stage with the development of China, and the earliest invasions known by the steppe nomads. The Great Wall of China was built to keep out the nomads, and was remarkably unsuccessful, but since it wasn’t finished when the original builder, Shih Hwang Ti, died, others continued this futile effort.

 What is so interesting is that he details the inner workings, the droughts, the famines, that cause many people to shift. A tribe invades China, is partially successful, then becomes slightly weak and is driven out. They move into grasslands where another tribe has settled. They crowd the other tribe, who crowds another, who packs up and moves, driving other people before it, and before long you have some new people moving into Europe.

 Although he does not deal with anything regarding race, it still makes me wonder as to where we all originated. When the Goths, the Angles, Saxons, etc. all seemed to have drifted into Europe from Central Asia, where did we begin? It is doubtful that we will ever have an answer to that.

 He is one of the few historians to give any detail about the defeat of Romanus Diogenes at Manzikert in 1071AD. This fateful battle broke the power of Byzantium, and made it easy prey for the Crusaders in 1204AD, which of course led to the Fall of Byzantium in 1453. This led to the Islamic-Turkish attacks on Eastern Europe that led to the Bosnian War just a few years ago. Interesting to think that an otherwise competent general who becomes Emperor, fails to take any precautions and gets butchered, has so much influence a thousand years later.

 This is a highly interesting book, and I would recommend it to anyone.

 

An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson

 This is the first of a trilogy that will detail WWII in Europe. The next volume is due in Fall of 2005, and third in Fall of 2008. I find this quite irritating as I want to read them now.

 Without a doubt this is the best book I have read dealing with WWII. It is well researched, well written. It is book that does not paint glamorous pictures of our soldiers, our leaders or our allies. It simply tells what happened, what people thought, and what they said. It paints a picture that is quite different from much of the popular view. Although the author does draw a few conclusions, and states his opinions, these are all minor to the narrative, and you cannot help but agreeing with him anyway.

 In Fall of l942 the US landed on the coast of North Africa. This was our first actual encounter with the German army. It is a picture of green troops pitted against seasoned combat veterans, green leaders against seasoned generals, and a tale of how everything came together to produce an army that knew how to fight, and did.

 I had known that we encountered some resistance from the Vichy French, but I did not realize how much, and how many American lives were lost. It also makes me less willing to cut modern France any slack at all for their anti-American rhetoric and actions.

 The book also shows earlier portraits of our generals, and they are not at all how they are seen later. Eisenhower is indecisive and uncertain, and much better at playing politics than at war, Patton is a real jackass and more interested in his own personal glory than anything else. By everyone but the British, Montgomery has been pictured as a vainglorious prima donna more interested in being in charge than of winning. Guess what, everyone is right. What a jerk.

 The typical GI of the time was scared, ill-equipped, ill-trained, ill-supplied and ill-led. It took time and experience for the great American War Machine to get cranked up, to teach it men how to kill, and to properly supply them when it did.

 The book could have been in two volumes. At 540 pages of text, plus a 140 pages of reference material it was uncomfortable to hold and read. However, I couldn’t put it down, and I would suggest everyone read it.

 

BLOOD RED ROSES: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave from the Battle of Towton AD1461
by Veronica Fiorato, Anthea Boylston, and Christopher Knusel

 This is a most important book for the serious student of arms and armor and of history. One hundred years after the Battle of Visby, in 1361, there was the Battle of Towton. Visby was important not so much as a turning point in Swedish history, but because the mass graves there survived to the present day and form an invaluable archeological resource. So it is, too, with Towton in England. A mass grave was recently excavated, there was an intense forensic study of the skeletons that were unearthed.

 Although there are interesting chapters on Archery, Weapons and Armor by John Waller, Graeme Rimer and Thom Richardson, the real value of the book is the detail regarding the victims.

 These appear to be average soldiers of the period, and we learn about the general condition of their health, their teeth, their height, and previous wounds. It is extremely interesting, and confirms many things that have long been suspected. One of the most important is that people were tough and strong, and not near as small as many like to think.

 The one flaw in the book is the attempt to pretend that the victims were not murdered. One idea is that they were killed while fleeing the battle. They had thrown away their helmets when a detachment of cavalry attacked. This is why all the wounds are head wounds.

 This whole idea falls apart when you consider that the dead had received multiple wounds to the head. A horseman is not quite able to deliver a number of blows to the head, as the recipient would usually start falling, and it would be difficult to reach down and continue to deliver blows. However, multiple blows to the head are very likely when a group is being killed. It is easy to imagine the armed men attacking and hitting hard and often, and even striking while the victim is on the ground. This isn’t fighting, it is killing. Another conjecture was that the men had fallen in the battle, and as the waves of troops passed over them, they were again struck in the head. That doesn’t make any sense either. Occam’s Razor applies here. They were simply prisoners that were killed.

 The Wars of the Roses were notoriously brutal, as are all civil wars, so one shouldn’t be surprised at this action. This was the 15th century, and people behaved differently than they do today. But even today such things happen, witness Bosnia and Africa.

 But this is merely a quibble on my part. This is a book that I wholeheartedly recommend. Regardless of how the victims met their fate, it is a very important book.

 

Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides

 This is the true story of a mission to rescue allied prisoners from the Japanese near the end of WWII.

 Frankly, I had never heard of it. It seems that the mission was deliberately hushed up so as not to inflame the American people. The US Army felt the need to rescue these prisoners, and the people would want to know why. After all, they were prisoners of war and the Japanese had signed (but not ratified) the Geneva Accords.

 After the invasion of the Philippines it was pretty obvious that the Japanese were losing the war. As they retreated they were faced with the problem of what to do with their POWs. The solution, which launched the raid, was simply to kill them. One camp of 300 was murdered by the simple expedient of luring them into a trench, then pouring gasoline on them and setting them on fire. Out of the three hundred, 11 managed to escape in the turmoil and make it back to US lines. Their story was told, and the rescue mission was launched.

 The book tells the story of the rescue mission, and also the story of the prisoners themselves. The Rangers sent on the rescue were a new unit, and most of them had not been in combat. The mission was simple: go about thirty miles deep into occupied territory, kill whatever guards happened to be there, rescue 500 men, believed to be in God awful condition, and bring them 30 odd miles back.

 The book is very well written, not flamboyant at all. It is told in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone, and this very quietness seems to emphasize the incredible courage, honor and toughness of the men involved.

 One of the most amazing examples of a determination not to die unavenged is told in the beginning when the Japanese are killing the prisoners. One of the prisoners is on fire, and while burning he leaps up, grabs a guard, and will not let go, so that the guard also burns to death!

 Mr. Sides is careful to point out and detail the cultural differences between the US and Japan, particularly in the question of prisoners. The Japanese regard any soldier that surrenders as less than human, and treat them much worse than they do animals.

 I can understand and even accept this cultural difference. However I also insist that my culture be accepted also. And that calls for people who mistreat others be shot and executed immediately.

 This is a book that I would strongly urge everyone to read.

 However, I would not recommend the book The Rape of Nanking. I read it, and frankly I wish I hadn’t. Oh, the book is very well written, well documented, and very, very, accurate. I just don’t have that strong a stomach. I don’t think I have to mention that I am not a Pacifist, and blood and gore doesn’t bother me. But I will be the first to admit that the torture, murder, mutilation, just for fun, as done by the Japanese to the Chinese, was more than I wanted to deal with.

 But make no mistake; this was not a few aberrant soldiers, but a whole nation that was enjoying what its troops were doing. Two officers engaged in a race to see who could cut off the heads of the most Chinese. This was reported in the Japanese papers, and people followed it with the same enthusiasm that we follow Barry Bonds in his homerun quest.

 This is why I have no sympathy, or compassion, for those killed in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My main regret is that we didn’t have about 4 more bombs to drop.

 What I also find incomprehensible is the actions of the US Government at the end of the war. So very few Japanese were tried and executed that it appears that we were more concerned with covering war crimes up than actually bringing any of these people to justice. Oh well, I never cared for FDR or Truman anyway.

 Regretfully, most Japanese still cling to their idea of racial superiority and their xenophobia.

 But do check out Ghost Soldiers.                                      

 

Guns and Violence: The English Experience by Joyce Lee Malcolm

 This is one of the most engrossing books on guns that I have encountered. I rarely buy books extolling the right to keep and bear arms. It would be, after all, preaching to the choir. However this book starts by dealing with guns and violence in England. But not only does it deal with modern England, it actually starts in the 14th century. Granted that at this time guns were really not available to the common man to use, and availability did not increase for many years. By establishing a baseline level of violence, and comparing that level with the levels that occurred in the years as firearms became more plentiful, she is able to show a correlation between the two. (England has amazingly complete records for the period, and she is able to draw on them.)

 Her conclusion: there doesn’t seem to be a correlation. England, despite legends to the contrary, was a fairly peaceful society in the 14th century. Indeed, its levels of violent crime, have always been low. During the Middle Ages most murders involved knives and staffs, fists and feet, and every now and then an ax. No swords are mentioned.

 It appears that although there are minor fluctuations, the overall element of violent crime, particularly murder, remained quite low even with the introduction of firearms. In fact, it appears that guns not only do not cause an increase in violence, but seem to have the opposite effect. This is also the opinion of John Lott, the economist who has caused a great stir in a long, detailed, very scholarly work on guns in America, More Guns, Less Violence. After all, there have been many studies that show criminals much prefer unarmed victims.

 But that is not the shocking and disturbing facet of this book. What really catches your attention is the erosion of English law and the determination of the government to turn its citizenry into passive sheep, even at the expense of their safety.

 Even before Henry VIII made it a law that all Englishmen practice with the bow, it was a given fact that all Englishmen had the right to have weapons to protect themselves and their neighbors. Not only could they do so, it was demanded of them that they do so. The right of self-defense was realized and encoded in their legal system.

 Ms. Malcolm carefully details the attacks on the firearms and the whole concept of self-defense until England is in the state it is today.

 There are some amusing anecdotes (amusing to me as I don’t live there) including one about an elderly woman who scares off some burglars by pointing a cap gun at them. She is charged and convicted of putting someone in fear of his life from a firearm. Another is about the man who is being beaten and strangled by two men while on a train in the subway. He is about to pass out when he manages to unsheath a sword cane and stab one of them. The attackers are both tried for wounding, while the victim is convicted of carrying a concealed weapon.

 She also points out that England has very few police per capita. Quite honestly, she makes a very good case for any one desiring to engage in a life of crime to move to England. Certainly it strikes me that it would be profitable. Even if you’re caught, you can always plead that it was parents abusing you that made you do this, and probably get off completely.

 This should be a must read for anyone who thinks “it can’t happen here.”

 

FICTION REVIEWS:

 

The Mighty Manslayer & The Curved Saber both by Harold Lamb

 Harold Lamb was a popular historical biographer who wrote popular biographies of major figures, including those Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Tamerlane, Hannibal, Charlemagne and many others. Even today serious historians give him a great deal of credit for the accuracy of his histories. This in itself is strange, as most serious historians love to quibble with anyone who writes a popular work on any historical subject.

 But Lamb was also a prolific story teller, and a pretty good one at that. Like all pulp and magazine writers, his quality varies, and some of the plots are rather similar, but all are entertaining. I have read a great many of his tales, but the ones listed above are my favorites. I had not read them in many years, and recently old age has made a sudden onslaught, so I started to read of Khlit once again, to bolster my own battle against the dread demon, Elli.

 The opening novel of this two-part series takes place at the end of the 16th century. Khlit is a Zaporogian Cossack, called the Wolf, he of the Curved Saber. Khlit is rather old for a Cossack, somewhere in his early sixties. At a council meeting the local hetman says that although Khlit is quite famous as a warrior, it is now time for him to hang up his sword and enter into a monastery, there to pray for the remission of his sins. (Curiously, this was a rather common practice of the times.) Khlit replies that this is for those who have lost the taste for blood. That hasn’t happened to me, and when you hear of my deeds you will want me back, but I won’t return because a Wolf does not run with jackals. There is much that he wishes to see, and he heads into Central Asia.

 Khlit carries a strangely curved saber, beautifully made, and with an inscription on the blade. The sword has been given to him by his father, and so on, from the original owner, Kaidu, grandson of Genghis Khan, and Khan of the Golden Horde. Khlit knows this, but has never made an issue of it. (Toni and I saw such a saber at the Metropolitan, and it dated from the time of Kaidu. A beautiful sword, slightly curved, but differently curved than the Cossack Shashqua, with a longer point and a distinct back edge.)

 I will admit that I find it most entertaining to find a young hero (early sixties) who also ages. He eventually retires a little early (in my opinion), somewhere in his early 70’s and passes his sword on to his nephew. But I can forgive his early retirement, for Khlit is not like other sword swingers. Although a superb swordsman, he is above all, crafty, clever, wise and devious. He is not stupid, and will not stick his head in a lion’s mouth, and then kick it in the stomach.

 The adventures of the two books take him through Central Asia, where he rides with Mongols, and even assumes (for awhile) the title of KhaKhan. He adventures in China, then down into India, and once again back to the steppes of the Don, the Dnieper and the Volga rivers.

 Lamb traveled these areas extensively, and studied them quite well. He is a little nicer to the Moslems than I would have been, but he was writing in a time when there was never a threat from Islam. He is also knowledgeable about India, and even mentions Dehra Dun, where the main office of Windlass are located. I have been there quite a bit so can vouch for his verisimilitude about that place.

 The swordplay is not accurate by any means, and I doubt if Lamb had any real knowledge of it. But he writes it well, and all in all, the books are a lot of fun.

 They are particularly enjoyable if you are tired of young, good looking and well built heroes. Bah, I feel more at ease with older graybeards who can swill corn brandy with ease, and also lop off a few heads for the fun of it.

 

The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson

 I first read this in 1954, and have reread it many time since then. It is always a delight. Hollywood bought the rights to the book, and many years ago made a truly horrible movie based on really nothing in the book except the title.

 Recently I had to go to the doctor’s office for a check up, and the book was in the car, having been returned from a loan. In order to have something to read, I took it in, and immediately was once again enthralled and immersed in the Nordic world of the end of the 10th century. Harald Bluetooth is on the throne of Norway, and Thane Toste, a Viking, is getting set to go aviking.

 He has three sons, one of whom left many years ago, and the other two, Odd and Orm, are still at home. Orm is the younger and because he once had a cold, his mother is constantly frightened for his health. She is quite concerned, and sees that he gets the choicest meats. None of this pleases Toste or Odd, but Orm enjoys it.

 At his mother’s insistence, Orm is forced to stay home and not go aviking with father and brother, but he makes his first voyage anyway: he is kidnapped by other Viking raiders, and is allowed to row in the place of the man he killed trying to defend his sheep that the raiders were stealing.

 These Vikings raid a few ships, have some adventures, but then are attacked by Moslems when they go into the Mediterranean. Captured, they are forced to row on the galleys, but are eventually set free and serve the Lord Al Mansur in his war against the Christians.

 Orm has made good friends with one of his shipmates, Toke Graygullson. Together they see a chance to avenge their Viking chieftain, Krok, and do so. But they have to flee. They make it to the court of Harald Bluetooth

 But this is the beginning.

 What is so wonderful about this book is the way it is told. The narrative style is very similar to that of the Icelandic Sagas, laconic, and with an understated style that conveys the both the ferocity and the humor of the times.

 Orm, called the Far Travelled or Red Orm, is wonderful hero. Somewhat grouchy about his imagined ill health, he is nevertheless one tough, hard warrior. He is also wise in the ways of women, and realizes that all his arguments with his wife end up the same way. He apologizes, she gets what she wants, and he is left feeling somewhat confused.

 This is truly a fun and delightful book. I would suggest it all and sundry.

 

The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell

 Bernard Cornwell is justly famous for his Richard Sharpe novels. The Sharpe series, for those of you who haven’t heard of them, is about a British soldier who fights and claws his way up the ladder of the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. This series is very well written, and extremely well researched.

 Alas, the same cannot be said for this novel.

 Based in England in the mid 14th century, it starts with a French raid on a small English village, and culminates with the Battle of Crecy in 1346 AD. Cornwell has researched the battle, and also the use of the longbow. He acknowledges a debt to Robert Hardy (the actor) who advised him on the longbow.

 If I may steal a line from Lichtenberg, “He swallowed a lot of knowledge, but most of it seems to have gone down the wrong way.”

 Bows are not heavy. They are made of wood: yew, elm, or ash, to name a few of the woods. A long bow, six feet tall, might weigh at the most 3 pounds, probably less. The heavy weight of a bow refers to its draw weight, the amount of force required to draw the arrow to its release point (generally to the point of the jaw or corner of the mouth), not the gravitational weight, as he seems to think. English war bows did indeed have heavy pulls; they have recovered some from the Mary Rose, which sank in the early 16th century. The draw weights ranged between 90 to 160 pounds. The average was about 110 pounds.

 Armor is not as heavy as he makes out. A full suit of the period might weigh 45-50 pounds. Most knights, particularly young active ones, could, and did, vault on their horse while wearing a full suit. Cornwell says that they had to be helped on.

 There is no such thing as plate mail, a term he uses. There is plate armor, there is mail, and there are many other types of armor, but there is no such thing as plate mail. That is an SCA invention.

 There are other inaccuracies; some I understand is just through lack of research.

 But the story is entertaining, and the character development is fine for a book of this type. It’s fun, and an easy read. But it certainly isn’t up to the standards he set for the Sharpe series.

 

Thoughts

The mayfly lives but a short time, and in the mayfly’s world, no doubt it is a happy time for some, and sad for others. But he is not aware of the ephemeral nature of his life. So it is with Man, for we are as unaware of time as the Mayfly.

 It is doubtful that anyone under the age of 65 is even aware of the swiftness of Time’s flight. But at 65 many suddenly look about them and are aware that things have changed. Suddenly there are no longer “young adults”, or “full grown” or even “mature”. They are reaching for that time that is best thought of as “senior”. Which is a euphemism for “old”.

 They are bewildered and filled with confusion which is often gracefully hidden. In those less controlled it erupts as a plaintive cry, “Where did the time go?”

 I consider myself the most fortunate of men. One stroke of luck was the awareness of time and life when I was only 12 years old.

 My grandparents died about 18 months apart. I was not close to my grandparents at all. They had a large number of grandchildren, and I do not think they liked my father at all. I felt no animosity toward them, indeed I had no feelings at all. They were simply two people that I was required to visit on a somewhat irregular basis.

 I remember when my grandfather died and I remember seeing him lying in the coffin. When my grandmother died I was a year and a half older. I remember seeing her, hearing my mother crying, and realizing that one day I would witness the death of my parents.

 I was filled with a curious wonder about life and time. I remember quite clearly being in the back of a yard two doors from me, and one in which I played a great deal. I was there alone, they had buried my grandmother earlier in the day and when I had returned home I changed clothes and went outside. I sat on a pile of old lumber and gave it a lot of thought. My life stretched before me like some enchanted road, a road that would be filled with strangeness, danger, adventure and romance. I knew I would be quite sad when my parents died, so I pushed this out of mind as quickly as I could. And then the realization that one day I would also die. One day I would be lying in a coffin, and that I would no longer be. This didn’t frighten me, but rather filled me with awe! I, Henry Reinhardt, would no longer exist! The world would continue without me, and except for whatever friends or family I might have, would not even notice my passing!

 This was pretty heavy stuff for a 12 year old to handle. But curiously, the feeling that it engendered was one of hurry, not fear. The road of my life still stretched an unimaginable distance before me, but this time there was the certainty that one day it would end.

 From that day own my life took on a bitter sweetness that I would not trade for all the world!

 

Political Commentary

Note: Many of these comments were originally written for a science fiction fanzine run in the Southern Fandom Press Alliance.

Written 7/04:

REPORTS FROM INSIDE THE SANE ASYLUM

Gathered together and printed for the edification of many,
by that noted example of sanity,
Hank Reinhardt

* Despite having several stabbing incidents and wounded guards, Corrections Canada will not allow guards to wear vest vests to prevent them from being stabbed. The reason is that it would send a message to the prisoners that they are considered dangerous and untrustworthy.

* The California Department of Real Estate will not allow home owners to advertise their homes for sale until they have a real estate license.

* Merrillville, Indiana. School officials have banned students from wearing the color pink. They have noticed a large number wearing pink, and are afraid it indicates gang activity. Although no gang activity has been noticed, they prefer, ”not to take a chance.”

* There is a bill in the European Parliament that would require all wild game to be certified as fit and healthy before it is shot.

* Several years ago, in Gainesville, Ga., a 13-year-old student was expelled for being violent. His mother screamed that it was racism, and that her child wasn’t violent. In a meeting between the boy, the mother, and the principal, the boy got angry, grabbed a nail file, and stabbed the principal to death.

* Grade school boy was expelled for drawing a gun. (Using a wood pencil, he did a pictorial representation of an automatic handgun. Caliber undetermined.)

* Kansas has a Democratic Governor and a Republican dominated state legislature. They have recently passed a law that allows any illegal alien who has attended 3 years of high school in Kansas be allowed to go to go to a state college at the same cost as legal Kansas residents. (They are also eligible for scholarships—cutting out legal residents.) Legal citizens of other states are required to pay a great deal more. [You’d think all the money their parents had saved by not paying taxes would let them at least pay for college!—TKFWR]

* Several Mexicans are suing the Federal Government. They are suing because some members of their families died from dehydration while illegally crossing into the United States. They are saying that the U.S. should have way stations filled with water for their convenience.

 

Written 7/04:

On Comments about Abu Ghraib

(Portions of this comment were adapted from a letter of comment to Guy for his latest edition of Challenger; Guy, feel free to skim.)

 The events that have been reported from Abu Ghraib are a disgrace, and the people responsible should be dealt with according to the law. What is more disgraceful has been the Democratic Party’s disgusting attempt to use this as a political lever against Bush. The distortions and outright lies are unbelievable, particularly when the come from a political party, and an individual, who have a lot of blood on their hands.

 First let’s deal with the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention only deals with prisoners of war that are in uniform. The accords do not deal with irregulars, partisans, guerrillas or spies. Spies have always been subject to immediate execution. Enemy combatants not in uniform are not subject to the Geneva Convention. Plain and simple, like it or not.

 Sleep deprivation and/or being made to stand or sit for long hours is a recognized means of interrogation. It is used all over the world to a very minor degree. Every other country in the world besides the U.S. use methods that would curl your hair. This includes Israel, Britain, France, Germany: you pick your favorite.

 Humiliation, sexual or otherwise, is not an interrogation technique. People do not give out information from fear of being humiliated, or having some woman make fun of their genitals. Having electrodes attached to the same genitals--some would change their minds. That constitutes torture, not making fun of them and forcing them into various sexual positions with other men. 

 It should then be obvious that what was done at Abu Ghraib was done for fun by the groups involved. As such, the perpetrators should be, and will be, punished. The trial and investigation is already underway—it got underway one day after the trouble there was reported. Sound like a cover-up to you? And the investigation was underway before the story broke. The photos so widely circulated were from the investigation.

 I do not like Bush, he is a Liberal President, he’s expanded the role of government, increased spending and passed the Medicare expansion prescription bill. About the only thing he did right was to pass a small income tax reduction. I will not vote for Kerry, but I haven’t decided as to whether I will vote for Bush or the Libertarian candidate. But to hold Bush and Rumsfeld responsible for this is beyond belief.

 What I find staggering is the Democrats’ sheer hypocrisy. Where was the call for the “suits” to be charged when a 14-year-old boy was shot in the back by U.S. government agents? When a mother, holding an infant in her arms, had her head blown off! That happened right here. Oh, the government admitted no wrongdoing, but they awarded three million dollars to the family. The Clinton-appointed judges agreed that the FBI agent who killed the mother, and the BATF agent who killed the boy should not be charged. Or what about Waco, where a small sect of people were annihilated for a photo op! (You don’t think it was a photo op: Consider a bad warrant, on things which were perfectly legal, local news agencies notified before the raid so that they could have helicopters and cameras there.) The few survivors stated the government fired first, and pointed as evidence to the steel door. What, the steel door had vanished, how odd! The government said that there were tons and tons of illegal weapons and ammunition there, but no one saw it. After all, you can trust your government!

 How about it, folks? Did you call for the resignation of Bill Clinton and Janet Reno? Did you scream about the child killers being let off and even promoted?

 Talk about a corrupt political party, and who is responsible!

 

SOMETHING I CAN’T PASS UP

 Two Arabs met for the first time in several years. After exchanging information, they both pulled out photos and began to show them to each other.

 “This is Ahmed. He was 15 when this was taken. But he is with Allah now, he was a martyr.”

 The other replied, also showing two photos. “This one is Osama when he was 13, and this is little Fediyah, he was 14. But they are both martyrs, and are with Allah now.”

 The other nodded sagely. “The children today, they blow up so quickly.”

 

THE CLINTON LEGACY LIVES ON!!!!!

 The primary ploy of the Clinton Administration when anything surfaced that they did not like was very simple, and quite effective

 Stonewall, stonewall, stonewall, lie, lie, obfuscate, obfuscate, then claim its all old news any. Wheee, here we go again! And you thought just because he was gone we were rid of these tactics.

 Sandy Berger is under investigation for taking documents from the National Archives. Reported by the attendants, he stuffed papers in his pants and even in his socks.

 Let’s look at this closely for a change.

 Sandy Berger was Chief Security Advisor for President Clinton. He is fully familiar with the National Archives. He is also an attorney, and is fully aware that this is a criminal offense, and that he could go to jail for taking unauthorized documents from the premises. He is also aware that copies of certain documents can be made if required and proper authorization is obtained.

 All of the documents he pilfered have to do with the terrorist attacks. Some have been returned, but several documents are missing.

 Why would a man risk his career and jail for a few documents when copies could be obtained?

 There is only one reason. The documents he stole contained damaging evidence on the Clinton/Democratic administration’s lack of activity regarding Osam Bin Laden.

 There is the usual howl about the “timing.” The White House has said they heard about it from the Justice Department. Doesn’t matter. If they knew about it and sat on it until the time was ripe politically, that’s politics. The other party would have done the same, and have. That’s politics, and I’m sick of it. The real problem is why and what did he steal?

 I recently heard two speeches replayed, both made by Clinton. In one he says that he wanted to catch Bin Laden, but wasn’t sure that the Sudanese actually had him. In the other he states that he wanted to get him, but didn’t have the evidence to bring him to the States, and asked the Saudis to grab him, and they refused. Well, was Bin Laden there or not?

 And Clinton Groupies like Guy still love him. You know, Ted Bundy was really likable, too….

 

Written: 5/04

A Plague on Both Their Houses:
Immigration Revisited
By H & T Reinhardt

It is believed but not certain that gunpowder was used at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. In any case, shortly after that it began to make its appearance on battlefields all across Europe. After this, social structure and military history began to change, and began to foreshadow the dominance of Europe all over the world. Although the development of firearms was very important, it affected social structure only slightly.

Around 1346 the Black Death hit Europe. The estimates range from 2/5ths to 3/5ths of the population killed. This plague, which proceeded across Europe at a steady pace, east to west, came close to destroying the social structure of Europe entirely and put an end to feudalism. Although the aristocracy was also devastated, it was the townspeople and peasants who suffered the most.

Most importantly, what this depopulation did was make labor valuable. Prior to this time, the serf, the peasant, was relatively unimportant. There were always more serfs, and if one died or failed to produce there were more waiting to take his place.

What it also did was make innovation valuable and necessary. It allowed for new labor-saving innovations like gunpowder to take hold. Thus you have the beginnings of the Renaissance, the precursor to the Enlightenment, and thence the Industrial Revolution.

When you look at cultures where labor is cheap, you do not see innovation. For instance, China.

For instance, U.S. current day. With the importation of mass amounts of serfs, oops, I mean illegal aliens, we are devaluing labor and stifling innovation, and re-creating the conditions for a brand new Dark Ages.

A MODEST PROPOSAL TO SFPANS & YNGVI READERS

(No apologies to Swift. He’s dead and can’t do anything about it.)

 Election time draws near, and already the airwaves are screeching and reverberating with lies, distortions, half-truths, accusations, and counter accusations. Should one made the mistake of listening to the comments from both parties, one is instantly convinced that all of our politicians are not only deceitful and lying scoundrels, but are infected with the most loathsome diseases imaginable! (I already knew the first one, but I didn’t know they there were germ-laden as well.)

 Now is the time for our media prognosticators to step forward and tell all of us how each party can win. Big Deal. You have a 50-50 chance, regardless.

 So I have a more interesting proposal. One that will take some time to fully work, but will be fun and interesting.

 Let each of you that enter into this contest predict what each candidate will do should they win the election. If you so desire, you can also state what you would like to see your candidate of choice do. This allows you to compare your wishes with what you will get.

These predictions will be for the first two years in office. In November 2006 we will look at all of the predictions and see who was the most accurate, and who should be the most pleased by the candidate of his choice.

This will allow all of us to put our mouths where our mouths are. I realize that we do not have to make any statements about who we desire to win the election, but when I say that I think Kerry is a lying rich pig, and that I would vote for a red-assed baboon before I would vote for him, it should not be a secret as to which candidate I am going to vote for. Step right up, Ladies and Gentlemen, Now is the time to display to the world your political acumen and desires. How strong is your belief in a Conservative agenda, how much do you really believe Liberal Ethos? Come, hide not your brilliance, let your obvious mental abilities shine forth!

Suggested topics:
Economy & Job Market
Immigration
War on Terror & Terrorist Strikes inside the US
Foreign Policy
Domestic Tranquility
Health Care Systems

THE WOLFLORD COMMENTS

 

War With Islam.

 Let me give the reason for my beliefs that we are currently engaged in a religious war. First, a very brief history lesson.

 The Islamic conquest of the 7th century was in many respects more brutal than the conquests of either the Mongols Ghengis Khan or Tamerlane. Although the Koran allows tolerance for people of the Book, (i.e. Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians) all others are to be converted to Islam or slain. This belief they embraced with a vengeance. With the invasion of India they embarked on this with a will and a dedication that could be admired if the results had not been so horrible. The Holocaust was more efficient, and probably accounted for more total deaths, (approx. 12 million total, including 6 million Jews), but I would bet the Moslems had held the record until Hitler. Like Custer, there were just too many Indians to kill them all, and so they ended up co-existing. Until the split between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, the religious division was probably half and half in the sub-continent of India. Today, with a population of about 1 billion, India has about 300 million Moslems.

 The Islamic expansion was over all of North Africa and into Spain where they were stopped by Charles Martel in the 8th century. They also conquered lands belonging to Byzantium, a Christian state. This led to the First, Second and Third Crusades. The Moslem expansion into Central Asia and China was helped by converting many of the Mongols to Islam. Islam conquered much of Eastern Europe, but wasn’t halted until hundreds of years later in the 17th century outside the gates of Vienna.

 The divisions within Islam are not as great as within Christianity. The major ones are between the Sunni and the Shiite factions. This split occurred almost as soon as the religion was founded as factions developed over who was to inherit Mohammed’s mantle as leader. There are a few smaller sects, including Ishmalites, (the assassins of the Old Man of the Mountain fame) and the Sufis, but none of these are particularly important. The only other important group is the Wahabis, who go for a strict interpretation of the Koran and are gaining power on a daily basis. This is the branch that is gaining converts all through Africa and Asia.

 It had been mentioned that most of the Near East is composed of secular governments, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, etc. That is not quite accurate when compared to the secular governments of the West.

 Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were true secular governments. The Soviets tried to destroy the Russian Church, and failed. Once the USSR fell, the churches came back as strong as ever. Germany didn’t last long enough for Hitler to completely suppress religion, although it was in the works. Modern secular governments in the West still adhere to basic Christian morality, and although they are trying to distance themselves from Christianity, it would be impossible for a professed agnostic or an atheist to get elected to national office.

 In the 1920s Kemal Ataturk took control of Turkey, and forcefully tried to bring it into the 20th century and into the West. He made a lot of progress, but 80 years later Turkey is still beset with groups who are determined to bring Turkey back to being an Islamic state. A tough, at times brutal, military is what keeps Turkey where it is, but how long it can last is anyone’s guess.

 The Shah of Iran tried repeatedly and with great effort to bring Iran into the 20th century and to destroy the power of the clerics. You can see where Iran is now.

 To the West it appears that the rest of the Near East is governed by repressive, authoritarian governments that are secular in nature. But this is fine by the people being governed. As long as the government gives lip service to Mohammed and the Koran, it’s OK. For the Koran is repressive, and this is what the people want. Let any of these governments make mock of the Koran, Mohammed or Allah, and see what happens. Algeria is one of the least repressive governments and they are constantly at war with branches of Islam.

 But this is the way it has always been in Islam. No matter who was in power, they had to obey the strictures of Islam. Even the Ottoman Sultans had to give lip service, no matter what they did in private.

 It has been said repeatedly by the various clerics they cannot forbid what the Koran allows, nor can they allow what the Koran forbids.

 What are some of their beliefs?

 Complete subjugation of women. (I didn’t say the religion was all bad— No, no, Toni, put down the axe!! I was just kidding, really, it was just a joke.)

 Death to homosexuals. No alcohol. Flogging, dismemberment, beheadings, torture: all of these are allowed under the Koran. Oh yeah, let’s not forget slavery. It is true that the Koran says that you need to take care of your slaves and treat them fairly, but they are still slaves. You are allowed to cheat and steal from infidels, but not from Moslems. It is also true that the Koran says a lot about fair treatment, hospitality, etc.— but this only applies to Moslems.

 Forget about worshiping, or not worshiping, as you please.

 If you don’t believe any of this, don’t just say so, read the Koran. (And if you don’t want to read an interpretation, learn Arabic. But don’t argue from ignorance.)

 About a year before 9/11, Steve, Suzanne, Pat and Felecia, and Toni and myself were at a dinner party at my house. We had been shooting during the day, and that night we lied about how well we shot. Then the subject came up as to the source of the next war. Steve believed that the US and Japan may be on a collision course, while Pat was of the opinion that it would be China or a resurgent Russia. I thought it would be the Moslems.

 Since the early nineties there have been constant attacks on Christians by Moslems throughout the world including especially Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Near East, and Eastern Europe. Wherever there are Christians and Moslems in proximity, the Moslems attacked the Christians. Since I read the paper thoroughly, I noticed this, even though the reports were always buried in the back.

 Not surprisingly, these reports ceased after 9/11. After all, we mustn’t offend the Moslems, they got the oil. But the attacks are still occurring, just not being reported as much.

 The day after 9/11 Moslems all over the world were rejoicing, and not just in Palestine, but in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, even our friend Jordan.

 There has not been the faintest outcry from any Moslem about the attacks. The so-called moderates have not been heard from; there is no talk that the killing of innocent people is wrong. Just recently the Moslems in the US protested us attacking a mosque, just because there were people in it trying to kill our troops.

 True, we are getting some help from Pakistan. With an angry, nuclear India on one side, and the US offering to help, Mushareff had no choice, and even he is hanging on to his leadership position by his fingernails.

 Islam has no formal priesthood. Instead they have mullahs and clerics and all sorts of titles for religious teachers. It is the mullahs and the clerics that are leading this war. They are directing it, preaching it, and securing money for it. They are joined by a few opportunists, both individuals and states, that hope to be able to gather spoils and power when it is over, or for what they can grab now. The war is being led by the religious leaders, but I should not assume it is a religious war? This is not a state run war, it is a war dominated by religious beliefs and an overwhelming desire to once again be dominant in the world.

 Islam had a somewhat nice culture in the 13-14th centuries. It was nice to slaves, and did fairly well in medicine. Forget Arabic numerals and the concept of zero, those were done by Indians, not the Arabs. But it always has been an intolerant religion, whose strictures admonish True Believers to convert the World.

 

A Word About Afghanistan

 The Afghans have been fighting each other since the collapse of Tamerlane’s empire in the 15th century. They like it, they consider it their right, and they deeply resent anyone telling them anything different. They are no threat to anyone other than themselves. Pull out, let them alone. Let the world howl, and let those who howl move in and change things if they think they can. The Taliban is gone, and if another religious group shows up, we can always bomb them back to the stone age as well. But we have no reason to be there now.

 Now, I do not think that my discussion here will convince anyone. Frankly, I would be shocked if it changed anyone’s mind. Decisions already made are almost impossible to change. I could produce one billion signatures from Moslems stating that they were in a religious war, and someone would say, “that’s not all of the Moslems.” And they would be right. It is not all of the Moslems.

 Curiously, I do not believe that ALL of the Germans were Nazis, or that all of the Germans believed in world conquest and the extermination of the Jews. But it doesn’t take full co-operation, only acquiescence.

 I don’t think I need to invite you all to point out any errors, you’ll do that anyway. But if you can show me where I am wrong, I’m always open to mending my ways. It’s not like I wanted a religious war, but cannot close my eyes when one is foisted on me despite my wishes.

 

Written: 3/04

HANK AND TONI SOLVE THE IMMIGRATION PROBLEM AND SAVE THE UNITED STATES AND WESTERN CULTURE, TO BOOT!

There has been much talk about the great numbers of illegal aliens in the United States. The number has been estimated as between 8 and 13 million, with most people opting for the higher figure. I [Hank] myself feel the higher figure is probably closer to being correct. Granted I have no source for this, but I look at Gainesville, Georgia, a small town in the mountains of north Georgia. And I see a town that is almost covered with signs in Spanish, and more illegal aliens than birth inhabitants.

 One of the most oft repeated comments, and the most trite, is that we are a nation of immigrants. That is true. People still come to this country in droves. Despite the often told tales of the horror of the United States, (which you hear frequently from the Left) people still strive to enter and become an American. They come from all over the world, they keep facets of their culture, and within two to three generations, their children are Americans. I am told that these new immigrants are here trying to improve themselves, and that they are doing work that Americans refuse to do, and that this is a good thing. Well, let’s look at these contentions.

Benefits of Massive Numbers of Illegal Aliens

There is the obvious fact that this illegal immigration mocks all of the people worldwide who try to get into this country legally, but that is so obvious that there is no point in discussing it.

 Due to the fact that these people are illegal, it is difficult to get accurate figures on the actual amounts of money involved, but the ones I hear seem to be pretty close.

 The benefits derived from these illegal aliens are quite obvious. First is cheap labor. They are often paid less than the minimum wage, you don’t have to pay benefits and they do indeed perform work that most Americans will not. The second benefit is that they allow many Americans to feel both superior and compassionate. Superior because they have inferiors to work for them, and compassionate because they are kind enough to let them sneak into the country and work for low wages.

 It is also believed that by paying them less than minimum wage, the general public is also saving money, and buying various goods for less. That appears to be true only in the area of farm produce. In the area of general construction and low grade factory workers, the savings are not passed on, but are used to make more profit for the owners of the companies. Often the labor is unskilled and frequently consumers end up with low grade and substandard construction.

 They do contribute in sales taxes and in Social Security (and if they use fake SS numbers, the money just isn’t claimed, and is put into the general government fund).

 In the area of farm produce there would probably be a rise in prices. However, I feel that machines would be developed to gather the produce, and for those items too delicate for this, then the price would rise. The choice would be to pay people enough to pick it, and charge an appropriate price, or simply stop growing the item. Like it or not, the law of supply and demand always works.What Do We Lose?

 Having looked at the benefits, what is the reverse of the coin? What are the bad effects of this uncontrolled and illegal immigration?

 In the past, legal immigration resulted in new citizens, new Americans if you will, who wanted to be quickly assimilated in the culture. They often brought an increased vitality into both the country and the marketplace. Regardless of their wages, they usually spent their money in this country, also increasing the economy.

 Not so these illegal aliens. The hardworking Hispanics send most of the money they earn back to Mexico. This is a boon to the Mexican economy, but detrimental to ours. Nor do they wish to become Americans. They are Mexicans, and they intend to remain Mexicans. They do not learn the language, and they have no intentions of doing so, and we make no effort to make them. In fact, there are several groups whose primary aim is to take back the Southwest US. They have such delightful mottoes, “For the Race, Everything! For Those Outside the Race, Nothing!” (Try a Google search on “reconquista” and see what we mean.)

 What does this failure (from both sides) to assimilate mean? Permanent second class citizens. We ran that experiment with people from Africa for a few hundred years and decided it didn’t work. Why do we think this will?

 I have heard varied figures about welfare. One states that 34% of all recipients of welfare in California are Hispanics, and others say that almost 50% of those Hispanics receiving welfare are illegal. There are others that claim even more illegal aliens are receiving welfare. One thing that is known is that the amount of emergency medical service that they are receiving, and it is enough so that many of the states are close to going broke because of this. The GOA has stated that the cost of illegal aliens, minus the so-called “benefits,” is somewhere over four billion dollars.

 I have not mentioned the criminal aspects of the illegal Hispanics. Drugs flow across the border with ease. Murder, robbery, rape, assaults, all in large numbers are done by the criminal element that enters this country, and frequently flees back to Mexico. Mexico has refused extradition to the U.S. of so many criminals that it’s almost a game, running back to Mexico before you get caught.Solve the Problem

 It seems quite apparent that this is a problem that needs to be addressed, but what is the solution?

 Several people, including President Bush, have suggested a guest worker program. Curiously, only the populist Bill O’Reilly supports tightening our border. President Bush did not mention that.

 In the ancient world, guest worker programs just didn’t work. They were tried by Rome, Byzantium, and even China. Of course these places had their guest workers protect their boundaries, but didn’t have anyone to protect them from their guests. But they didn’t have just guest worker border guards, they also had inside workers. These they called slaves. They also had slave revolts. If they had just called them “guest workers,” then they would not have had slave revolts. It would have been “guest worker revolts,” which sounds so much better.

 I won’t go into the horrors of the Middle Ages and serfdom. Serfs were taxed to a horrendous degree! Sometimes as much as 30% if you can believe it.

 But people are different now, more civilized; we all know that. And indeed, in the modern world several countries have tried a guest worker program including Germany, France, The Netherlands, and I believe, but am not positive, Italy. The results has not been pleasant for the host countries. Germany is beset with Turks, France and The Netherlands with Moslems (Moslems now making up about 15% of the population of Europe), all of whom are seeking to change the culture of the host countries, and to remake it into the culture they left. Makes sense to me. After all, you leave a place because you can’t make a living, go to a place where you can, and then immediately try to make it over into the place where you left! Hey, some people like starvation!

How to Get Rid of Them

 It has been said that we simply cannot deport 13 million people. Well, we could, but it would be awfully expensive and time consuming. But we really don’t need to. The first thing we have to do is change the law that says any child born within the borders of the U.S. is automatically a U.S. citizen. We are the only country in the world that does this. This encourages a pregnant woman to sneak across the border, have a baby and immediately be legal, and bring in the rest of the family, because the child is legal. Wish we were making this up—but check the stats of hospitals near the Mexican border. [And in the summer of 2004 a judge has just approved a case where a woman who is pregnant can’t be deported because her unborn child will be a U.S. citizen. Still think this provision isn’t being abused?]

 Second thing we have to do is make heavy, heavy fines for any person or business employing an illegal alien. Hit ‘em in their pocketbooks and hit ‘em hard. That doesn’t work, add jail time. Of course, going along with this, we have to crack down on counterfeit IDs—which you can buy on street corners in California (and Atlanta, come to think of it).

 All social services that have previously been given to illegal aliens should be immediately denied, including healthcare and education. Anyone applying for emergency medical treatment should be treated (we are noted humanitarians), then deported. Anyone committing a crime, felony or misdemeanor, who is an illegal alien should be deported. The laws are already on the books for this last one, but it is not enforced. Why? Even if you buy the argument that the illegal alien is only here to work and improve himself, once he has committed a crime surely that has been disproven in at least that case, right? So why not enforce that law? Because politicians want to buy ignorant, illegal votes, that’s why.

How to Save Civilization

 With the money saved in education and health care, and since we need to increase the number of jobs in this country, we can add very large numbers of people to control the borders. We give them the leeway to shoot people and wave hasta la vista to those going South (in Mexico, vice versa in re: Canada, of course). We can also use the money to vastly increase the numbers of legal immigrants from around the world, and use it for English and civics classes for everyone applying to be a citizen.

 To that end, we should pass a law acknowledging English as the official language of the U.S. If businesses want to use other languages fine, but official business should be in English only.

 If you disagree with our proposals, consider the reverse: open our borders to everyone who wishes to come to this country. This should include, since we don’t wish to be xenophobic, Haitians, Cubans, Dominicans, etc. We can increase our tax rates so that these people who are unable to function in our society can still be housed, fed and clothed. We are after all, a country of immigrants, extremely rich, and we should share this with the world. In a few years, when our population is roughly 3 billion, some of us might wish to immigrate to someplace else, that will be vacant by that time, like tropical paradises like Mexico, Haiti or Cuba….

 You have to have limits: the debate is where are you going to put these limits? Or will we just ignore the problem until a great migration has washed over the country and our culture drowns?

 

Written 1/04:

ON THE HOMELESS

 Recently I was talking with one of the ladies at Museum Replicas who had been annoyed by some of the homeless people that haunt the vicinity of the Fox theater. (This has also happened to Toni and me, but I am not annoyed, I just ignore them and continue on.) Susan felt that something should be done, and I agreed. But then she added, “I liked Reagan, but I felt that he was wrong to cut the funding and create the problem of the homeless.” I was slightly shocked, but only slightly. I have heard the same nonsense several times in the past few weeks. This is very much like Vietnam. A war started by Kennedy, spread by Johnson, and then blamed on Nixon, the one who actually got the U.S. troops out!

 I believe that it was during the waning years of the Carter Administration that the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit on the behalf of people held in mental institutions. The law suit said that these people were not crazy. The defendant agreed with this, but said that people were highly incompetent and unable to care for themselves. After a court battle, the ACLU won the case, and thousands of people were turned out into the streets. It was several months after this happened that Reagan cut the government funding. The institutions were closing their doors because of the sudden drain, or combining with other facilities, the money was not needed, so the funding was cut. That is the source of our “homeless” problem.

 Every society in the history of Man has had bums and winos, and we are no exception. These are people who do not chose to live a normal life, and many actually like living on the street, and begging. Fine. It is their choice. Some are drug addicts, some are alcoholics, and again, that is fine with me. I firmly believe that every man has a right to go to hell in the hand basket of his choice. I do not believe that they have the God given right to relieve their bladders and bowels in public, to take over city parks and streets and to annoy everyone else. They are a nuisance. Those people who are incompetent should be placed in homes. (Maybe the ACLU could be made to pay for much of their housing….) The bums should be handled as they used to be, with laws against panhandling, etc.

 For years I have heard that my rights end at the tip of someone else’s nose. Okay, but I have rights as well. One of those rights is not to be accosted by bums, winos and crazies when I am walking down the street. I also have the right not to have my city parks taken over by these same slobs. So much so that I am not allowed to enjoy it. Ahh, Tamerlane, where are you when we need you!

WHAT IS A POOR CONSERVATIVE TO DO???

 When I was young, and somewhat foolish, I voted for Kennedy. Early in 1963 I regretted it. Later I voted for Johnson, and regretted that also. I voted for Nixon and then Ford. I was smart enough not to vote for Carter. I voted for Reagan, and then Bush. I won’t say that I regretted voting for Bush, but in his second term I sat it out. Before anything had happened, I felt that Clinton was smarmy, slimy sociopath, but Bush had promised no new taxes, and no new gun laws. He then raised taxes and with a executive order stopped the importation of military look-alike rifles. (No. they are not assault rifles by any stretch of the imagination.) The whole gun community was up in arms about that, and this was where Bush lost the most votes.

 Now we have Bush II. The government is growing at a record pace, Bush is talking about extending the same laws that his dad did, now he compounds everything with this amnesty for the illegal aliens. No matter what he calls it, it is amnesty. If they have a child, then the child is an American citizen, and they then have the right to be here. I will grant that his war on the Taliban and Iraq has been successful, and it is bringing some stability to the Middle East. Look at Syria and Libya; even Saudi Arabia is arresting some terrorists. Still, entitlements, like the new one for prescription drugs, are going to require incredible amounts of money.

 I have never considered the Republicans to be Conservatives, and felt that they were as bad the Democrats, just not as competent. Alas, it appears that there is a Republican just as competent at spending money as the Democrats, which leaves me again with no candidate to vote for, only one to vote against.

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