“Enduring Vietnam”: A war that got very personal in the 1960s; now we stare down North Korea

I recall as a boy, particularly one summer in grandma’s house in Kipton, Ohio, asking “Why do boys have to go to war?” (and not girls…).  My cousin and I would bang bass arpeggios on the upright piano in the den to simulate the sounds of airplanes and war, maybe the beginnings of composition.

I’ve described my own involvement with the Vietnam era draft in many places online, as well as in my books.  So I went to exhibit “Remembering Vietnam: Twelve Critical Episodes in the Vietnam War” at the National Archives in Washington (no indoor photography allowed) in late November, 2017.   The exhibit closely followed Ken Burns’s PBS series “The Vietnam War” (legacy review).  At the book store, I bought the historical narrative book by James Wright, “Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and its War”.

The book provides a historical narrative of how American talked itself into the war, with many personal narratives and case histories, almost the way many AIDS books would be written in the 1980s.  The book provides a good sense of how the Baby Boomer (and slightly earlier, like mine) generation saw its prosperity against a simmering Cold War with Communism (“Duck and cover”), and the idea that people could be called upon to defend freedom, even sacrifice personally.  There are early gruesome narratives, like about Hamburger Hill, and how a lieutenant bleeds out from losing a leg and dies, as if he did not want to come back maimed.  LBJ seems to have been totally duplicitous, saying at first (in 1964) that no American boys should be offered up when the Vietnamese boys should do their own sacrificing. That would change very quickly with the increased draft calls in 1965.  And the idea of bringing an “enemy to its knees” quickly lost credibility against a guerilla enemy that saw individual human life as fungible.

Wright covers the agony of the military draft in Chapter 4 (“Receiving the Torch”) and discusses McNamara’s Project 100,000 on p. 121.  His account of the ruse is less critical than those of other books like “McNamara’s Folly” (January 16), although Wright often covers the disproportionate portion of the sacrifice borne by African-American (then “Negro”) and lower income men. (He never refers to the soldiers as “McNamara’s Morons”.) He also reports that a commission had reported back in 1967 recommending the ending of student deferments (as well as “oldest first” draft calls), but LBJ feared the political backlash from voters and didn’t go along. He notes the disruption that came as tours in Vietnam were individualized at one year.

A middle section of the book, in boldface, covers the 1968 elections (including the “Medium Cool” riots) and Nixon’s October ruse to interfere with any LBJ peace initiative.  I recall hearing Johnson’s announcement March 31, 1968 that he would not run when I was doing KP in Special Training Company, one of the bottom days of my own life.  He covers Nixon’s implementation of a draft lottery, which gradually increased the participation of the “college boys” in the draft.

The books covers the attitude toward evading the draft.  Some people went to prison for several years. Yet others saw soldiers who got drafted as “suckers”.  He covers the poor treatment of Vietnam veterans in the early 1970s.  In one case, a bank refused to accept a veteran’s business.

On p. 273, the author notes, in discussing the relationship between Nixon and Kissinger (the Ninth Street Center saw both as “psychologically feminine”) and the view of the war as the movement and possible sacrifice of a “chess piece”, that may have made the Cold War less immediately threatening to most civilians.  If the United States could maintain a ground game and was willing to endure the uneven personal sacrifice of a draft, the temptation to nuclear war might be reduced – yet the book reports that Nixon considered using tactical nuclear weapons against North Vietnam in 1972.

Toward the end, the book recounts the narrative of triple amputee Max Cleland.  There is an account of a soldier who lost not only both legs but part of his lower abdomen but somehow survived a while before dying before being moved out of Vietnam. All of this is difficult for someone who sees body sanctity as a personal value.  Before the war, on campus in the 1960s, I even heard people say they would shoot themselves on the battlefield if wounded rather than come back maimed and pitiful.    The book also recounts the crimes of Lt. Calley, which occurred while I was in Basic (in the infirmary) and which provide an example of a substandard officer who got promoted due to McNamara’s folly.

The author briefly discusses two important films, “The Deer Hunter” (1979, which I saw in Dallas in Northpark when it appeared) and “Apocalypse Now” (1979, and I saw a director’s cut in August 2001 in Minneapolis).

Pondering the Vietnam War seems critical now as President Trump seems to have trapped himself in a particularly dangerous position with respect to North Korea and Kim Jong Un, officially Communist (or post-Communist emperor). Again, American civilian society has a lot more to lose in a nuclear exchange (assuming North Korea’s missiles really can reach us or perhaps create EMP attacks too) than most North Korean civilians.

I can recall writing a letter to my church when I was a grad student at KU int he spring of 1966 (before my 1968 draft) and getting an answer that we had to trust our elected political leadership.

So the lesson of uneven personal sacrifice and bad karma and perhaps “purification” should not be lost on us.

Vietman village search, Wiki picture.

Earlier coverage, here.

Author: James Wright
Title, Subtitle: Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and its War
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-09248-9 hardcover (also e-book)
Publication: Thomas Dunne (St. Martins), 445 pages, indexed, endnotes, bibliography, Preface (roman), Introduction, 9 chapters, maps
Link: Politics-Prose, Dartmouth

(Posted: Friday, January 26, 2018 at 2 PM EST)

“12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”: if we knew enough to pull this off, why didn’t we stop 9/11?

12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”, based on the book “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton, directed by Nicolai Fuglsig and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, is a large historical war film, available in Imax, about the initial American intervention in Afghanistan right after 9/11.

The covert operation in eastern Afghanistan comprised some CIA operatives but mainly US Army Special Forces, Green Berets, Operational Detachment 595.   It achieved a major victory against Al Qaeda in about three weeks, helping buttress the Northern Alliance, which Sebastian Junger’s subsequent books, articles and films would cover. The lead is Captain Mitch Nelson, played by Chris Hemsworth, with the laconic Michael Shannon playing CWO Cal Spencer.  The main NO ally is Gen/ Abdul Rashid Dostum, played by Navid Negahban.

The film starts with the history trail of terror attacks, going back to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, followed by Kenya in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and then 9/11.  The film shows 9/11 as seen from a special forces base in Kentucky (I thought it would have been Fort Bragg, NC).  We see it only after both towers and the Pentagon have been hit. During the morning hours, many observers expected over 10,000 civilian dead in NYC.

The politics of the engagement seem to be the point of the film.  All this happened before Bush addressed the nation on a Sunday afternoon in early October 2001. Dostum makes the point that once the Americans are there, they will be perceived as cowards if they leave, or enemies if they stay. Nelson has to deal with the reality of playing one warlord against another, when some warlords were more concerned about their competitors than they were about the Taliban, with its fanatical religious fundamentalism. Nelson, before the final battle scene, makes the point that the special op (at the time SCI Top Secret) is necessary to prevent more 9/11’s on the homeland.  Yet if the Bush administration knew enough to put together this operation so quickly, why couldn’t it prevent 9/11?

The film was shot on location in New Mexico, apparently just north of Albuquerque.  I visited the area, specifically the Lama Foundation north of Taos, in 1980 and 1984.

The film is a 2018 release, and apparently is not part of the 2017 awards season.

I still remember that in 1958, in ninth grade, when we studied the middle east in geography, I chose Afghanistan for my report.  How prescient.

Northern Alliance Picture, December 2001, Wiki.

Name:  “12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers”
Director, writer:  Nicolai Fuglsig, Doug Stanton
Released:  2018/1/19
Format:  2.35:1 IMAX
When and how viewed:  Regal Potomac Yards. 2018/1/25, fair mid afternoon audience for a weekday
Length:  129
Rating:  R
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Black Label Media, Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 9:15 PM EST)

“McNamara’s Folly”: How LBJ’s administration drafted low-IQ and other disabled men to protect student deferments, during the Vietnam War

Much of my own first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book (1997) played off the moral dichotomy of the Vietnam era draft, where college students by and large could be deferred (until 1969), with the particularly iconoclastic arguments of those who objected to allowing gays to serve in the military when President Bill Clinton proposed to do so in 1993. Much of Chapter 2 had dealt with the male-only conscription of the time, as did a fiction “story” (actually a chapter from an unpublished early novel “The Proles”, actually cursively handwritten as I lived in the barracks in 1969) in DADT III (2014).

Now there is a book by former Associated Press writer, Hamilton Gregory, with a very long title and subtitle: “McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low -IQ Troops in the Vietnam War, plus the Induction of Unfit Men, Criminals, and Misfits”.

The narrative components include a summary of what the Folly was, with analysis of the moral dilemmas, many specific case histories, and, in the opening chapters, Gregory’s own experience when “enlisting” in 1967.  As a reviewer, I need to compare this with my own experiences.

The backcover of the paperback (e-book is also available) summarizes the Folly.  In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson and his dapper smart boy Robert McNamara, realized they could not draft enough men to support the war in Vietnam, without ending college deferments.  They had already ended most marriage and family-based deferments at one time proposed by Kennedy. They feared loss of popularity with middle class voters (and we can look ahead to see that Nixon actually took some credit for stopping the draft in 1973).  So McNamara came up with Project 100,000, implemented October 1, 1966, allowing the induction of lower-IQ men.  These men were given the uncomplementary group name “McNamara’s Morons”.   They also allowed the induction of men with various other quasi-medical problems and sometimes criminal histories.

Complicating this setup was the reality that many men enlisted to avoid exposure to combat arms and get an MOS of their choice, in exchange for longer enlistment terms.   Gregory himself went into military intelligence (as did a chess playing friend of mine at GWU, who wrote often after he joined in 1967). But low-IQ men often flunked the AIT and would wind up in infantry anyway. And Gregory analyzes many situations where lack of mental ability exposed men to increased risk of death and maiming on the battlefield, as well as endangering others in their unit. (Nevertheless one such man won a silver star for saving his lieutenant’s life by hovering over him in battle after leg wounding.)  Gregory gives particularly graphic explanations of “walking point” when on infantry patrols, usually every third night.

Obviously, as I argued in my own book, this poses multiple moral problems. The worst seems to be that, barely twenty years after defeating Hitler, we were implementing an Orwellian system that declared that some men’s lives were more valuable to protect than others.  Indeed, McNamara was said to be committing a crime against the intellectually disabled.  We also have the karma of some men living off the sacrifices of others, if you accept the Domino Theory that ground troops in SE Asia were necessary to halt Communism and eventual nuclear threat (all of this got covered in Ken Burns’s series “The Vietnam War” on PBS).

A flip side of the argument was that McNamara and his Nightbreed minions argued that military service would be a way to give the less well-off skills they could use in civilian life later (if they only could survive combat). McNamara even said that intellectual skills could be raised with “video tapes”.

The book starts with Hamilton’s own experience in Basic Combat Training. When he was going through processing in Tennessee, a sergeant asked for all the college grads to speak up.  He wound up being responsible for one of McNamara’s Morons through training, which was, obviously, very difficult. He would eventually collapse from heat stroke on a march, and wind up being recycled through Special Training Company.  This is the first time I’ve encountered Special Training Company mentioned in a book or movie, other than my own book(s).

At this point, a comparison with my own experience at Fort Jackson, SC starting in February 1968 is in order.  First, I had failed the physical twice (4-F in 1964, 1-Y in 1966) as a result of my own pseudo-psychiatric history over “latent homosexuality”. According to my own DADT-1 book (pp 66-67) the Armed Forces questionnaire had asked about “homosexual tendencies” in 1964 but had dropped the question in 1966.  So, in a sense, an informal “don’t ask don’t tell” was in effect because the Army needed the   I note that I didn’t see any discussion of gays in the military in the book;  I would have expected to find it.

I had requested retesting twice because, according to the values of the time, my own reputation had been damaged.  In August 1967 I was retested and found to be 1-A.  Very few people had gone from 4-F to 1-A (although J. D. Salinger – “The Catcher in the Rye”, had). By 1967, as Gregory notes, the Army (and even Marine Corps, which was drafting) seemed to be trying to take everyone.

I did answer an affirmative on a request for college grads when I arrived at the Fort Jackson Reception Station, but the only consequence was my supervising a printing operation for about 30 minutes before we were sent through chow.  That’s ironic, that 30 years later I’d be printing my own book. Later the subject came up favorably in the MOS interview.  I had enlisted for two years (“RA11937256”) two weeks before my induction date (very few people knew you could do that) and it seemed to work.

I failed the PCPT in the second week of BCT (the fireman’s carry had replaced the grenade throw), with a score of 190.  I was too thin and “weak” (although thin people can be very strong;  a quick look at some Major League Baseball, and basketball, players shows that).  I caught the flu during the end of the third week (on the first day of rifle range), and spend four days in the infirmary. When I came back, I was told I would be shipped to Special Training Company in a private meeting with the Captain after chow.

I spent three weeks there, but passed the PCPT with a 318 on the third try. The first week was actually “G-3” stuff, but I went into PT platoon the second week.  We were housed in tents, but the training was not as bad as in Gregory’s book (there were no log carries). While I was there, Martin Luther King was assassinated, and we were supposedly on “red alert”.  I would pass the PCPT with a 357 on the final with my second company, and I believe I scored near 100% on the G-3, which was graded very easy.   I then was safely assigned to the Pentagon as an “01E20” (mathematician) and was shielded from combat because of my graduate degree in math.  The rest of my story is in my books and blogs.

Conditions at Fort Jackson were not quite as brutal as at Benning (I remember many trainees from the Reception Station went to Gordon).  Lights out was at 9:30 PM and reveille was a 5:30. It’s true, on Sundays (unless you had KP) the chapel was a bit of the sanctuary. I played the organ (some music from the last movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony) by ear as a postlude for a service.

Gregory mentions another book: On p. 129, “Moron Corps“, by John L. Ward (Strategic Book Publishing), which I have just ordered on Amazon.

I tried the AFQT test in the appendix and actually missed the last spatial question (I got 10/11 or 91%).

The author notes that combat medics were sometimes unarmed because of CO (or they could be armed normally) but medics had some of the most dangerous jobs in the military in combat zones. Consider the film “Hacksaw Ridge” set in WWII.

This book appears to be self-published, but it sounds like something that today Milo Yiannopoulos with his “Dangerous” books might have considered.

I think this material lends itself to documentary film, like a PBS Independent Lens piece.  There is an hour long “amateur” video film, “McNamara’s Morons”  by Bill Dixon on YouTube which I reviewed here.

I would mention here a rather obscure Supreme Court ruling from 1981, Rostker v Goldberg (after the draft had ended, but was threatened again by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), accepting the constitutionality of the male-only draft. However, there have been some bills in Congress requiring women to register for Selective Service, just as there are others seeking to abolish registration.  See the table here after note 48b on the history of Selective Service deferments (Kennedy fathers, etc) from the notes on my own DADT-1 book.

Hamilton Gregory has an interview on “History Net” where he says he is working on a book asking whether we should bring back the military draft. (Again: “Milo-Dangerous”).  Right after 9/11, Northwestern University’s Charles Moskos, an “author” of Clinton’s “don’t ask don’t tell” wrote in favor of resuming the draft and dropping his own DADT.  Gregory also notes that the “Stop-Loss” policy in the Bush years with the volunteer military in Iraq amounted to a backdoor draft of less able men.

The author offers a note in the beginning about the use of certain terms common in previous generations but now seen as denigrating (or “dangerous”) to some people with disabilities, as Trump is finding out.

Author: Hamilton Gregory
Title, Subtitle: “McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War, plus the Introduction of Unfit Men, Criminals, and Misfits”
publication date 2015
ISBN 978-1-4958-0548-6
Publication: Infinity Publishing (appears to be self), paper, 251 pages, six parts, 41 short chapters, indexed, prologue (roman)
Link: another review

(Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 11:30 AM)

“Shadow World”: how American businessmen get rich selling arms to our enemies

Shadow World”, directed by Johan Grimonprez, written by Andrew Feinstein, based on his own book (“Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”) , chronicles the underbelly of corporate contractors (especially defense contractors) which allegedly sell to the enemies of the US and the west.

A highlight of the film concerns Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who was kidnapped in 2007 and who had been arrested at least twice by US forces.  The scene where he throws shoes at president George W. Bush at a December 2008 press conference in Baghdad becomes a centerpiece of the film, which for the most part is a collage of speakers with short narratives about secret dealings.

The film mentions American support of Iraq and Saddam Hussein during the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.  That caught my attention because Keith Meinhold, one of the early sailors to challenge the gay man the US military (even before “don’t ask don’t tell”), had claimed he was the “best submarine hunter in the Navy” when he served on Orion planes patrolling the Straits of Hormuz – in the days that oil supply really mattered.  (It still does.)

The film does cover some of the misleading rhetoric about Saddam’s phantom WMD’s that serves as a justification for the war in Iraq (I remember watching the accounts at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis when the “shock and awe” started in March 2003).

There is also coverage of selling arms to Saudi Arabia and to countries who have implicitly supported terror.

But selling arms simply becomes a big business career for a lot of people, making them rich.

The practice is particularly disturbing as it could have contributed to the NSA tool leaks that led to an outbreak of ransomware in some companies and hospitals last spring.

The film aired on PBS Independent Lens on Nov. 20.

Wikipedia collage pictures of Baghdad.

Name:  “Shadow World
Director, writer:  Johan Grimonprez, Andrew Feinstein
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS Independent Lens, 2017/11/20
Length:  90 (84 on PBS)
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS Independent Lens, Louverture, Tricoast Films
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 at 12:15 PM EST)


“Almost Sunrise”: two Iraq war veterans walk across America to raise awareness of “moral injury” from combat

Almost Sunrise”, directed by Michael Collins, written with Eric Daniel Metzgar, aired on PBS Independent Lens and POV Monday Nov. 13.  The film depicts a journey of two Iraq war veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, on foot, across much of the country (from Milwaukee to Santa Barbara), to raise awareness of veteran PTSD and suicide, and particularly with the psychological issue of “moral injury”. That concept refers to the idea that when in combat soldiers engage in behavior that would be criminal or otherwise morally reprehensible in civilian settings.

But of course one of the points of international terrorism (especially some associated with radical Islam) is to blur or eliminate the distinction and vulnerability between civilian and military combatants.


The men gather support, including from those who find that some veterans’ families don’t get full benefits, as after suicide.   There is a home with a family of an affected veteran with a “no media” sign on the front door.

In Colorado they reach an ashram run by an unusual Catholic priesthood.  They explore some other forms of spirituality. In Utah, they go through some of the familiar scenery.

The film was funded by Kickstarter.

The film was accompanied by two shorts.  One of them, “Voices of Resilience: Insight from Injury”, by Veterans Trek and Pacific Islander.  The film presented a support group in Hawaii, where there seemed to be no VA hospital (Pearl Harbor notwithstanding). But there followed  panel discussion about the effect of a volunteer Army which almost seemed to beg the question of returning to conscription (including women, and making the now settled question about gays [don’t ask, don’t tell as repealed in 2011] and less settled issue of trans solders morally [aggravated by Trump’s tweets] relevant). The film said we have a warrior class of a small percentage of the people waging a war on terror of unprecedented length. It is also a problem that civilian citizens act as if military and foreign policy should not be their concern.

The program also presented a very short animated film “Tom’s War” where Tom visits the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.

Name: Almost Sunrise
Director, writer:  Michael Collins, Eric Daniel Metzgar
Released: 2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2017/11/13
Length:  98
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Thoughtful Robot Productions, PBS POV
Link:  official PBSofficial

(Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 12 noon EST)

“A Good American”: The story of Bill Binney, whose metadata analysis system at the NSA should have prevented 9/11

A Good American”, directed by Friedrich Moser and based on his book, tells the story of (Bill) William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, and of the metadata analysis tool he helped develop over several decades, which should have prevented 9/11.

The film opens with a woman calling her family from one of the hijacked planes, already knowing that other planes have been crashed. She may be on Flight 93. The film soon shows us the aftermath of the February 1993 truck bombing in the basement parking garage of the old World Trade Center, which had been intended to take out a load bearing abutment.

The film then gives us a retrospective biography of Binney, who enlisted in the Army into an intelligence program in 1965 to avoid drafting into combat.  One of my chess playing friends at GWU enlisted for Army intelligence for four years in 1967, so I remember this. Binney spent some time in Turkey spying on the Soviet Union (near a base that had been surrendered) after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Over time, Binney worked on tools that would enable the military to predict enemy events based strictly on metadata that did not require identifying people. It was possible to predict the Tet offensive in 1968, although the tool wasn’t used adequately.  It was used better in predicting the Soviet action in Czechoslovakia.

The NSA did not do a particularly good job at first in shifting from analogue to digital intelligence (Edward Snowden would not appear for some time). But other terror events, like in 1998, and then the attack on the Cole in 2000, would have made it apparent just how determined Al Qaeda was to undermine secular American life.

During this time, there was a lot of internal politicking to get funds from Congress, and a revolving door of people who retired from the NSA and became contractors at SAIC.  Financial gain compromised good judgment, as the metadata tools could have detected 9/11 if deployed properly.  Important components of the system were Trailblazer Project and Thinthread.

Binney retired on Oct. 31, 2001, after 9/11 and a horrible sequence of anthrax attacks. But in 2007, the FBI raided his home, claiming he had compromised classified information as a whistleblower after he left.

William Binney has been active recently in retirement on the post-Trump-election and Russia-gate investigations, meeting with Pompeo, NBCNews story here.  The details are likely to evolve quickly.

Name:  “A Good American”
Director, writer:  Friedrich Moser
Released:  2015
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant, 2017/11/7
Length:  100
Rating:  NA (PG-13)
Companies:  Gravitas Venturas
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2017 at 4:15 PM EST)

“17 Misconceptions about the Effects of Electromagnetic Pulse”: half-hour film seems the best explanation of the real threat to ordinary Americans so far


I usually review “YouTube” films on my legacy blogs on Blogger, and the following 25mnute video by “Reality Survival” would normally go on my “Films on Major Threats to Freedom” blog. But I thought that this particular technical explanation of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat so cogent as to need to be brought over here as a significant longer short film that ought to be offered in festivals.

It is titled “17 Misconceptions about the Effects of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)” by Reality Survival

He (the presenter) does not list his point, so I trust that his strike count is 17.

He starts out by pointing out that a high altitude nuclear blast from a thermonuclear weapon (hydrogen bomb) who have a “source area” below where the effects are severe, and a “tangent” area surrounding it where they are much less severe.

The most widely touted damage is the “E3” phase, or third phase, lasting perhaps a minute, where Earth’s magnetic field around the event is severely disturbed.  This is the phase that overloads transformers and knocks out the power grids (there are three in the U,S.)  He says there are about 370 major transformers in the United States that are too large for conventional transportation and have to be built in situ.  It could take two to three years to rebuild them all.  That presumes that the components could still be manufactured in other parts of the world and shipped.  But he says that a solar storm that was severe enough (larger than Carrington in 1857) could envelop the Earth even on the night side and prevent any remanufacturing anywhere, so that rebuilding would take maybe 10 years.  We may have had a close call with a huge coronal mass ejection in late July 2012.  So from the power grid perspective, the solar storm risk may be greater than what is posed by North Korea (although Russia and China are capable of wiping out civilization for good, as are we).

But the EMP from a nuclear blast has two other components, E1 and E2, where it is much easier to provide some protection. Furthermore, (at least according to Resilient Societies) fission nuclear weapons produce only these first two effects (a fact touted by “EMP deniers”).  That is one reason why North Korea’s claim to have a hydrogen bomb is strategically significant.

The HEMP E1 is a fast pulse that destroys magnetic data and personal electronics.  These devices might be protected by “nested Faraday cages”.  He notes that solid state electronics (like thumb drives) can be destroyed by E1 even though they are not ordinary harmed by household magnets or ordinary magnetic fluctuations in the environment (like by nearby transmission towers).  He recommends people back up their data on optical data, like single-sided CD’s.  Automobile ignition systems are often touted as vulnerable (as in the book “One Second After”).  He says that most cars made before 2003 would probably run, and some newer cars still have the proper shielding.  He says that sometimes a car will start if the battery is disconnected and then reconnected.  But of course you would run out of gas eventually, and electrical charging stations presumably would not work.

The speaker hints that old-fashioned electronics of early stereo and HiFi enthusiasts in the 1960s might work (when I was collecting classical phonograph records) but some vacuum tube components could be undermined by “selenium rectifiers”.

The E2 pulse is more like what a lightning strike to an existing power line does.  Your surge protectors may actually shield from these.  The E2 pulse is the easiest to deflect.

It’s noteworthy that the E3 pulse (like from solar storms) does not normally threaten personal electronics.

James Woolsey, as noted before, has warned that North Korea could launch an EMP attack (possibly in retaliation if Trump strikes the DPRK mainland) from one of its “Shining Star” satellites.  But it does not appear that it would have a thermonuclear weapon on one of these satellites, but it might be capable of an E1 strike.  So consumers need to back up their data on optical data now, even this week?  Remember, an E1-only strike would wipe out devices without wiping out the power grid, apparently.  As a purely geopolitical matter, I note that some other videos on YouTube suggest that China could actually goad North Korea into a high-altitude thermonuclear E3 EMP strike over the US so that China could then conquer the US.  The Domino Theory is back.

There is no information that I am aware of as to whether big cloud companies (Google, Apple, etc) have physical protection of their data with faraday-like covers.

It’s also possible for non-nuclear magnetic flux devices deployed by terrorists in local areas.  It is not clear which effects they have, but they might mainly be E1 and E2.  This was covered by a now largely forgotten Popular Mechanics issue around Labor Day of 2001, one week before 9/11.   The Washington Times wrote about this in 2009.  The US Army uses these devices in Afghanistan now, and one is on display in the Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, MD.

All of this suggests an enhanced kind of cultural hygiene that we have already gotten used to in meeting cyber threats and hackers (particularly, recently, ransomware as well as doxing and release of PII).  Protection of personal data with optical devices or with Faraday cages could become part of the culture that people need to learn to deal with.  I plan a visit to Best Buy soon to discuss this with Geek Squad.  But that seems applicable only against one kind of threat: older fission nuclear weapons.

The larger point is that society has become much more technology dependent than it was, again, say in the 1960s, the time of the last Cuban Missile Crisis.  While the Pentagon seems to have protected its own systems, protection of consumer and commercial use of technology seems to have lagged behind the serious threats.

It’s noteworthy that “Resilient Societies” has claimed on Twitter that the power grids could be protected with an investment by the utility industry of about $5 per consumer (about $2 billion nationwide), but I can’t yet find any statement as to what the technology at the transformer protection level would be.  However, many utilities (Dominion Power in Virginia for example) have recently announced unspecified security enhancements to their grids against both cyberterror and direct physical threats.

That’s one reason why the “doomsday prepper” and survivalist crowd has developed its somewhat extreme vision of personal morality (that we sometimes associated with the alt-right):  that everyone needs to learn to deal with the immediate physical world and participate in a familial social hierarchy to protect others before seeking global fame through modern civilized living.

The Wikipedia article on nuclear EMP is here.  Note the 2013 bill proposed in the House.

This article by Motoko Rich and David E Sanger about the geopolitical strategy is quite chilling. The Domino Theory of the Vietnam ear draft (my DADT I book) is indeed back.

I have to ask, also, where is the mainstream media on this?  It’s hardly ver mentioned.  But Newt Gingrich and others have testified about this threat before Congress as recently as March of this year. It’s not just North Korea, it’s also space climate (which doesn’t change.)

(Posted: Monday, September 4, 2017, at 10:30 AM EDT)

Update: Sept. 5

The filmmaker has sent me the link of his followup:
How to Build a Nested Faraday Cage: Protect Your Electronics from an EMP

(28 Minutes)

“War Machine”: a studious look at self-serving military career motivations in “Obama’s War” in Afghanistan

David Muchod’s political drama “War Machine”, based on the book by Michael Hastings, looks at the ethics of U.S. military policy and of career military officers.  Most of it takes place indoors on base in Afghanistan (filmed in Abu Dhabi), or on international “will raising” trips to Berlin and Paris.  Toward the end, it explodes into a brutal, personal battlefield scene in a village, worthy of being in “American Sniper”. Otherwise, it’s pure art.

Brad Pitt plays the lifer officer Gen. Glen McMahon, who has been tasked, around 2009, by “Obama’s War” (as Bob Woodward had called it on an NBC documentary) into pacifying and winning back some villages from the Taliban.  Unlike his other movies (like “Babel”), this time he does not look or act like Brad Pitt, the role model. Pretty soon, the movie lunges into long discussions where show that a military career like McMahon’s, starting at West Point, needs to justify its own continuation by making up objectives.  My summer in the Pentagon in 1968 after Army Basic at Fort Jackson, I used to hear this said;  and the Pentagon brass probably didn’t like to hear this from the more privileged, sheltered and well-educated draftees (the “01E20” crowd).  Maybe (besides security clearances for a latent homosexual, in the language of the time) that contributed to my own transfer to Fort Eustis.

McMahon spends a lot of time explaining “insurgency”.  In one speech, he explains the math or the “group theory” where if you kill two of ten insurgents you suddenly have twenty.  In one scene, a reporter in Germany quizzes him about all of this, whether it is indeed self-serving for his own career, Of course, “insurgency” had been a concept in Vietnam, during the time of my own service.  There is also some discussion about how 9/11 probably changed military careers a lot more than it did normal life of Americans (although I could contest that idea). The film presents the idea that American occupation on its own may aggravate religious tensions.

McMahon also courts Hamid Karzai (Ben Kingsley), unconvincingly, about “nation building.”  How self-serving.   But think about what the same idea meant in Vietnam,

With Iraq, of course, it was Obama’s exist that left the power vacuum that allowed ISIS to overrun it, so it gets complicated.

The film comes to a head with the daylight patrol in the Afghan Village.  I know someone (NG) deployed there now (really by Obama, not Trump) and I wondered if this is what he could face. It gets brutal.  One soldier gets shot in the eye and is blinded. Another (Pico Alexander or Will Poulter) is saved by his steel pot. Then one more goes it alone.

Afghanistan picture (Wiki).

Berlin picture (Wiki).  I was there in 1999.

Paris picture (Wiki), near site of 11/13/2015 attacks.

Name:  “War Machine
Director, writer:  David Muchod, Michael Hastings
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant Play, 2017/7/27
Length:  122
Rating:  PG-13
Companies: Netflix, Plan B
Link: (subscription)

(Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)

“A Troublesome Inheritance” still provokes controversy, but over eons environment does affect the genetics of different peoples

Nicholas Wade (science reporter for the New York Times) created controversy and anger with his 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History”.  Right away, I wonder if this is the conservative-to-libertarian answer to Al Gore’s idea of “An Inconvenient Truth” as a book and movie title.

Let’s go over his basic argument.  Mankind originated in Africa (we are all “black”), and a mass migration north split off into two groups:  one group, gradually becoming Caucasian, settled Europe, the Middle East, and India. Another, becoming “oriental” settled East Asia, centered on China.  More recently further splits led to separate groups in Australia (aborigine), and the Americas (across the Bering Strait).

Mankind started out living in tribal groups with very close association with biological kin, as is common among other primates and many social animals.  First in Asia, and later in Europe, as populations increased and faced a “Malthusian trap”, populations had to organize into larger social and political groups (sometimes mediated by religion) to feed themselves.  Gradually, as social structures became more complex, society started to reward deferred gratification and individual problem solving. Families who were good at these skills, compared to using short term use of force and tribal violence, tended to prosper, especially as commerce developed. They had more children.  So in some parts of the world people are better adapted to modern civilized living than in others.

Africa, by comparison, did not have the population growth and geography that favored the growth of modern states, and colonialism intervened before it had time to catch up.  Likewise, smaller populations in the Americas and Australia did not have as much population mass to build modern states, although it seems to me that the Incas and Maya indeed built impressive civilizations.

For other reasons having to do with geography and the relative safety from invaders, Europe went through a second wave of innovation and developed openness to modern science (and balancing the power of the centralized state with other institutions) that led to technological superiority.  This is not always connected to “white people”.  Muslim populations in the Middle East often maintained tribal ways for geographical reasons, and tended support religious fundamentalism in a tribal context.  In China, innovation did not continue as quickly because the state became too centralized and conformist.

Wade has a lot of discussion of genes, alleles, and the statistical nature of how these are distributed.  At an individual level race may mean nothing as to innate capacity.  But in the aggregate, aggregate small differences in some psychological traits associated with genetics can wind up having profound political consequences.

Some reviewers have criticized Wade’s analysis of genetics (like on a final exam in Biology 101).  He gets into the issue of IQ, and notes that by some measures East Asians measure the highest, then Europeans, and then Africans.  But the work of others “A Path Appears” by Nicholas Kirstoff, would claim that the relative intelligence of groups in different parts of the world has a lot to do with child medical care and the availability of early learning. But Wade maintains that it is not easy to teach “western values” to tribal populations.

Wade also goes into detail on the relative success of Jewish populations in intellectual and artistic pursuits, and hints why western classical music sounds richer and more nuances than tribal or folk music of many parts of the world.

I think that Wade’s comments on the values of tribal societies are very interesting. Tribal groups (most of all, hunter-gatherer) are both egalitarian within and authoritarian. The values behind some kinds of religious social conservatism (like “The Natural Family” by Carlson and Mero) reflect extended familial or tribal values.  In tribal culture the nuclear and extended families develop slowly as social constructs, with many rigid rules about gender.  It takes many generations for nuclear families to develop and it may venture toward polygamy, favoring more powerful alpha males; in the beginning, most men interact with women and protect them from rival tribes collectively.  Sexual intercourse is strictly about procreation and, when in marriage, is connected to local privilege over the lives of others in the family.  Family values evolve from a system where most men had to be good at warrior behavior to protect the women and children in the tribe.  The refusal for a man to sacrifice himself when required to do so for the tribe is considered cowardly, and Wade bluntly points this out.  That relates to the practice of military conscription of men by more advanced states. It also helps explain “homophobia” (and now “transphobia”) and why modern gay rights seems so recent and so dependent on modern civilization.  But the practices of some native tribes would refute that claim.  In any case, personal morality is about a lot more than just making wise choices according to consequentialism.

Modern neuroscience does support the idea that various personality traits are influenced by genetics (and for sexual orientation and sometimes gender identity, epigenetics — I won’t get into how traits that seem to hinder procreation remain persistent here).  Sometimes these can become pathological or destructive, as in various recent violent events related to mental illness and probably somewhat to genetics.   Indeed, the existential “combativeness” of young men in tribal cultures seems hard-wired to a degree shocking to people who have grown used to openness.  So it seems reasonable that over time, characteristics that promote individual competiveness in an open society, rather than just following the group, could be favored and become more common in an advanced culture.

There’s one other thing to say “in favor” of tribalism, as it occurs in nature.  I think there are reasons that it may connect to “the afterlife” (through genetics) better than a self-directed individual’s own “soul”.  I’ve covered this recently on my News Commentary blog. Ponder again, the big cats: lions are social, tigers are not, and in a pride the alpha male lion guards his own lineage first.

Author: Nicholas Wade
Title, Subtitle: “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History”
publication date 2014, 2015
ISBN 978-0-14-312716-1
Publication: Penguin, 278 page, paper, indexed, 10 chapters
Link: Charles Murray review

(Posted: Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 3:45 PM EDT)

“Churchill” dramatizes the British Prime Minister’s nervous waffling before D-Day

Churchill” (2017), directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, re-enacts four days in Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Chuurchill’s (Brian Cox) life, his retreat to the bottle well handled by his dedicated wife (Miranda Richardson), as he challenges the Allied Command, especially Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery) and the plans to make a concentrated D-Day attack across the English Channel in early June 1944.

Churchill has been called “the Greatest Briton of all time.” He doesn’t act like it in his personal life in this film, like when he screams at a female typist for double-spacing a memo. It turns out the typist has a fiancée midshipman who will participate in storming the beach.

Churchill doesn’t want all the Allies’s eggs to stay in one basket. He wants another initiative in the Mediterranean at the same time. But the Command says there are not enough resources to do everything. The film script leads one to believe where the real legal authority to order D-Day resides.

Eisenhower calls the troops back once for weather. But then the storm has a lull, after a warm front moves through, leaving a window of calmer weather. Eisenhower says “Let’s go!” My father used to say that Ike ordered “Let ‘em rip!”

What followed, as we know, was like a pawn storm against a castled position in a chess game (where the two sides are castled on opposite sides of the board, like in a Dragon Sicilian). Tens of thousands of men, many draftees, were lost. Churchill has a beach conversation with Eisenhower where Churchill questions the morality of leaders ordering other men to sacrifice themselves when the leaders stay behind in safer quarters or bunkers. Ike says, “It’s their job. It’s not yours.”

The film never shows the actual attack (like “The Longest Day”, by Zanuck based on Cornelius Ryan’s book, 1962).

When I lived in downtown Minneapolis 1997-2003, I lived in a downtown modern highrise called “The Churchill”.

I have visited a D-Day landing site once, near Bayeux, France, in May 1999.  “The Cross of Sacrifice” (wiki).

Churchill visits the troops in Normandy (wiki).

Name:  “Churchill”
Director, writer:  Jonathan Teplitzky
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2016/6/2, late, I was the only person in the auditorium, showing just for me!
Length:  98
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Cohen Media Group
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 4 PM EDT)