Sunday, January 31, 2010


I freely admit that one point of THIS post was just to have 31 posts for the 31days of January......but it IS a funny video.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dear Chief - Putting the Agony in "Agony Aunt"...

The letters just keep coming. Here's the latest to call in to the All Night Fire Direction Center of Love to ask for relationship advice.

"Dear FDChief;

I need a man's HONEST opinion on something....

Do all guys go to see strippers? Do some just not go, either because they just don't like them or out of respect for their woman?

Not that this is happening in the case of my boyfriend, but if it comes up with him am I being completely unrealistic in expecting him to NEVER go to a strip club, like with his buddies??

Because most women don't want their man doing that, but let's face it...they do anyways!

I would rather be honest about it and not have him feel like he needs to hide it from me.......but it's also not a quality I would want in a that goes to strip clubs, you know!?!

Anyways, I would love to hear your perspective when you get the chance.


Stripless in Seattle"
"Dear Stripless;


OK, let's break this down.

First, regardless of whether he goes to the titty bar or not, let me put your mind at ease - YES, he IS checking out her rack. He DOES look at porn. He probably has a fantasy about a tub of Crisco, Sarah Palin, knee socks and a turkey baster.

Or Princess Leia's metal bikini.

Whatever. I hate to tell you this, but we ALL do it. We don't like to tell you about it, but we do.

That is - we do if we love and respect you.

Don't laugh (or shriek, or cry...not sure how you feel about this)! It's true, and there are three kinds of men; the ones who don't because they have the sex drive of a tortoise, those who do and those who lie to you about it.

The thing is we're hardwired for reproduction. Our sexual motto is "More! Better! Faster!" We LIKE the idea of harems, of orgies, or "more than one" – that’s why when we get the law or religion on our side (religion is better – who argues when God says “He gets you and you and you, and you only get him.”?) we give you stuff like...harems, polygamy, orgies... Sorry, but we're that way when we aren't mature enough to control our little head.

That's the whole reason that titty bars and the Internet exist - to cater to our pervy obsession with laying multiple women without actually having to learn their names and stuff.

Those of us who DON'T respect you will just go and DO it - we'll cheat on you, lie to you, and then swagger off without a second thought. We'll give you chlamydia and the clap, get you pregnant and abandon you...we can be utter shits that way. And the malfunction there is US, not you.

Look at this woman; tres hot, no?

Jeri Ryan, spandex-ly-clad alien sexbot from one of the goddam Star Trek shows (and no, I don't remember which one, they're all over the place like fucking hamsters). What's she famous for? Her then-husband wanted her to go to a sex club and get all kinky and/or jiggy with other men.

See what I mean? Christ, it's like our penises are stuffed with Stupid Juice.It's those of us who really want you, who love your unique and special qualities, who confine ourselves to merely fantasizing and looking.

I do it, your boyfriend does it...we do. And I will be the first to admit that it's skeevy...but it's LESS skeevy that being a cheating bastard or a liar or a man-slut.

So. Even if he doesn't go to the Backswing or the Viewpoint or whatever trust me - he's fantasized about his hot third cousin Rachel in her push-up bra.

Are we OK so far?

Now - the titty bar thing. For me, the issue is one of respect. Not so much "respect" in the sense of "abandoning me for another woman" - like I said - he thinks about other women already. But if he loves and respects you, that's ALL he does.

No, the titty bar thing to me is about lacking respect for you by spending time he could be spending with you with some skeevy tattooed dancer.It's one thing to spend that five minutes sipping his coffee and watching the pretty girls, or peeking at "alt.binaries.brunettes" while checking the e-mail - it's another to spend a whole evening stuffing twenties into some skank's undies when he could be a) getting his own personal table dance from you, and b) spending that money on a nice bottle of wine for you (or the movies or whatever...).

I had a friend who used to do this all the time - go right from work to some nasty strip club and hang over the railing for hours. And this guy had a really smart wife (who had sweater puppies that would have made those skinny hags' run screaming for cover!) - I once suggested to him in a sort of nasty way that his wife had a gorgeous rack, and if he asked her nice she might even dance for him if he'd shove some of that money in her scanties.

He didn't get it.

I, personally, don't like the money-for-nothing atmosphere in the places, I don't like wasting time there (on some woman who probably either pities or despises me) that I could be spending with my family...but I do understand that sometimes a guy's pals arm-wrestle him into going, and he has to go to be a pal.

In a case like that, I'd hope he would call you and say "Aww, shit, honey, Joey and the guys are all about this strip place. I'll try and not look, OK?" and you could both laugh about it.Or - if he was REALLY slick - he'd call you and nod, and smile, and then shut the phone and turn to the buddies and say; "Gee, boys' I'd love to - but my girl says she's got a new routine that involves two parrots that peck away at an outfit that's made of nothing but balloons, so I'll see you tomorrow at work, 'K?"

And then he'd come over - and you WOULD!

So here's a free bit of relationship advice:

One wonderful thing we love is when our lover becomes that "someone else" for us. Whether you dance for him and keep your hat on - and nothing else...or wear a blond wig and sing "Cabaret"...

...or try seducing him with a funny accent...or parrots and balloons. That way we can be in love with you - AND scratch that little polygamous itch we all have...

And remember - this works both ways. What's fantasy sauce for the gander is perfectly good for the saucy goose when HE gets to provide YOU with the same service. He's not the only one with desires, right?

So go out there and break a leg, Stripperella!


Friday Jukebox

No, I don't listen to country; here's what I listen to. Another classic from the Eighties.Remember when having a great video was almost as important as having a great song?And here's Joan Osborne ruminating about religion. It's not country, but it's kind of sad for all that.
"Just a stranger on the bus/trying to make his way home./Back up to Heaven all alone./Nobody callin' on the phone/'cept for the Pope maybe in Rome..."

A Grand Day Out

Not by choice, mind you - I had a job of work down at the Coast today.So I loaded up the wagon and headed to Beverly...Beach, that is. No movie stars, - in fact, not much of anyone, the Coast being rainy and windy at the best of times in the winter, and the best times are far between. You can see by the size of the big North Pacific swells that sort of weather we'd been having.

But, delightfully, the rains held off, and we had a dry and very pleasant day.

The postcard view above is of something called "Devil's Churn", which, as you can see from the snapshot below, was churning quite vigorously today.

Cape Perpetua is one of the several massive basalt headlands that washboard the Oregon Coast. Because it's south of the main tourist destinations around Lincoln City and Seaside it doesn't get as much visitation. But it has a spectacularly morose sort of beauty.The one inescapable thing in the coastal forests is moss..The constant dampness and deep shadow are perfect for the stuff, and it creeps over and enfolds everything like a congressman slurping down lobbyist lucre. Everything immobile gets covered with the stuff. Everything.

The view from the top of the Cape is pretty...mmm...impressive.Along the quiet path was this, a secondary feather from the wing of a Northern Flicker, which must have left in some haste. Lovely, fragile thing, as crimson and weightless as a kiss. It made a striking contrast with the stone gray and moss green and conifer black of the forest around me.Ah, lad, it's not work you're doing, is it?

At the very crest of the Perpetua massif the CCC constructed a stone structure in 1934 that remains today. To call it a "shelter" seems like hubris; it wouldn't shelter a large dog from the fearsome storms that beat against this coast. But it was a pleasant spot to sit and think and enjoy the view.One thing I wanted to mention just as a by-the-way; I seldom listen to country music - I don't have a dog or a pickup, don't drink much or cheat on my wife, and I would look silly in a cowboy hat or boots. But the radio selection at the coast isn't wide, and I usually end up listening to more country there than I ever do elsewhere.

I used to work in Texas in the late 70's and 80's, and spent a fiar amount of time in North Carolina then, too. Country music was inescapable there, and I heard my share of it.

I have to note that the stuff I was hearing today had a lot of similarity to what played on country stations in 1979; pickup trucks, whiskey, pretty girls (either stealing your heart or stompin' that sucker flat...). And lots, LOTS of mawkish sentimental guff about wives, sons, daughters and Jesus. Ack - sorry, I'm too cynical for that shit. But after a full day of listening to the 2010 version of "country" there was something I believe I noticed.

Oh, and while I was down at the coast working, I wasn't ONLY you can see.The "old" country, the country music I listened to in the late Seventies and early Eighties - when a lot of the singers and songwriters had come up through the honky-tonk pre-Nashville country - was a sad music, really. A lot of the songs were about loss and pain, about being the small man or woman in a big, rich world, of getting beaten down and discarded. The country singers were telling their listeners that they knew about getting fired, about losing your ranch or getting forclosed out of your home. Of being looked down on for being poor rubes, sneered at as a hayseed, of losing when the banker and the lawyer were winning.But a lot of the country music I heard today had a LOT of puffery about how proud the singer was to be a redneck, how great life is in the sticks, how them city folk don't get it. It wasn't ashamed about being unsophisticated. It seemed to be saying "Country folks are BETTER than you, and if you don't think so that's your problem."

I'm not sure what that says about country music and the people who perform and listen to it. I offer merely the observation.

The black turnstones were working harder than I was, picking over the shell midden at the Oregon Oyster Farms;...and slipping under the beaks of the larger, more aggressive crows and gulls, succeeding not by strength or pride but by perseverence and diffidence. Perhaps the turnstone is the old-school country singer of the shorebird world.?I got some of those delicious little reptiles, too. Mmmmm. There's something about the Yaquina Bay oysters - they're fresh, clean and delicious.

And then I had to leave the modern-day shell midden behind and get on the road for home. It's been a long week, and I'm for bed, Hal, and all's well.Hope you enjoyed the Coast. Come back and visit again soon, 'K?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maintenence Halt

I'm still here, just slogging through the tail end of a busy week. Plus there's nothing very interesting here at home; wake, eat, dress, work, school, daycare, home, meal, play, read, sleep. Get up the next day and repeat...

Good discussions over at MilPub; check 'em out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

Jim and Lisa at RANGER AGAINST WAR have a nice little post up discussing something similar to the preceding post here - regarding what is happening to the U.S. economy and the apparent disconnect between the travails of the ordinary citizen and the circus act going on inside the Beltway.
"Discretionary wars, health care tampering . . . it seems like fiddling while Rome burns. Walmart is the new GM, and when this bellwether of our economic fitness is straining at the seams, doesn't that demand notice?"
Perceptive boyo that he is, the Minstrel Boy adds:
"...the game needed to be changed. the styles and rules altered. That wasn't done. also, the pig of bad debt, credit default swaps and other failed schemes has yet to move through the python of the economy. Without intense and often draconian measures to rearrange the way business is done, all we are doing is postponing the inevitable collapse."
The frustrating thing about all this is that this isn't rocket science. Pretty much anyone who has looked at market economies knows and knew that without some sort of regulatory and fiscal governor that the market goes through these booms and busts regularly. U.S. history is full of them, from the foundation of the republic until the Great Depression.After 1932, though, and the rentier class having shat the bed so thoroughly that even the self-delusional Rockefeller wannabes couldn't pretend something wasn't wrong, the Roosevelt Revolution slammed down on the financial high-rollers, forcing them to swap some of their profits for the assurance that the Feds would prevent the proles from lynching them - and remember, they had Soviet Russia as a scary reminder that this wasn't impossible.

So most of us labored under the artificial stability of the regulated market for most of our lives. We thought that this sort of economic crash, the kind that destroyed people's lives and wrecked entire regions, was a sort of myth we read about in history books.

But Ronnie and his merry band of freebooters (and let me add that although the debased intellectual coin that brought us "Greed is Good" came from the Right, the political lifting that removed the New Deal brakes on the financial gamblers required many enablers of the Left, as well, the hypocritical bastards...) brought back the Big Casino, gutted Glass-Steagall, releveraged the markets and ushered in the financial crapshooters (Bob Reich, I think, said once that the only real financial "innovation" that benefited the average consumer was the ATM - everything else was a way for the financial insiders to spin illusory profits out of the bubbles) and, hey, presto, it's back to the Great Panics of the 19th Century.So, MB, it's more than just a temporary digestive problem. I truly believe that we've fundamentally changed the way the game is played, changed it back to be closer to the way it was played in the days of the Robber Barons and the Gilded Age.Thoughts?

(Crossposted from MilPub)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why people hate insurance companies.

So back in October my little guy went in to the doc for a minor operation.

It really was minor, the removal of a tiny skin tag which, had it been anywhere else, would have involved a local dab of xylocaine, a snip, a band-aid and a lollipop. But this one was on his eyelid, so we had to go the entire operating theatre route to keep him still enough for the plastic surgeon to whack it and throw a single stitch.He did a great job, and you can't even see where this goofy thing was. And his classmates no longer tease the Peep about his freaky eye booger.

But while the skin tag is gone, the medical bills keep coming, reminders of the Byzantine fucking complexity of our medical system.

There's the hospital bill, the surgeon's bill, the lab bill, the anaesthesiologist's bill...

And then there's the insurance claim, and that's where the REAL frigging mess begins.

Because nothing's simple there. There's the billed amounts, the "provider's discount" (WTF? So you're telling me that the physicians, surgeons and the hospital had padded the bastard enough to knock the official billed price down 30% or so and STILL make a profit?), the amount we have to pay on our personal deductible, the amount not covered because it's part of our family deductible, the part not covered because it's part of our "total-out-of-pocket" expenses, the part the insurance plan covers at 80% and the part that it covers at 60% (forget 100%, Giacomo...that don't happen...)I've been calling the insurance company and talking to all of these very helpful, very knowledgable's hard for me to hate them personally. But the entire system requires a tremendous amount of unpaid time on my part to track down this information and try and apply it to everyone's bills.

And then I talk to my parents, who lived in Dusseldorf for many years, and they tell me that when my mother saw the doctors there she got a single bill, with a cost, the amount paid by the national health (usually something like 90% or better) and the amount they owed. They were done with the nonsense when they walked out of the clinic or the hospital.

Plus there's the irritation factor. Why the hell didn't Blue Cross apply the $500 that Mojo paid upfront to Peep's deductible? And once they do, and once we pay off the remaining $750 we owe to cover our $2K "out-of-pocket" costs, why do they then not pay their expected 80% of the anesthesiologist's bill, on which they have payed nothing?Add this all together and I'm left doing a slow burn; hating the insurance company for doing what private insurers have to do - making it difficult for me to spend their money and fuck up their balance sheet - and causing me to spend all this time on the phone, hating the medical providers for complicating the billing process and padding their costs, and hating the people who are so worried that this wonderful system is going to be "changed" by health care reform.

And I'm a pretty sharp guy. Makes me wonder what the dull-normal people do when they have to deal with this stuff..?

I mean, it's better than bleeding and purging, but, still...

Face my Cat, Face Death

I'm not sayin' that my cats would do this......but if the bear was small enough and Fat Nitty was hungry enough...the part I love is where the bear goes for the trash bag and Fluffnums rockets off the porch. You can almost hear it yowling "The FUCK? That's MY used human food, Yogi!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

American Psycho

OK...raise your hand, everyone here who thinks that those poor, voiceless little waifs, those sadly neglected and ignored stepchildren of the American Dream, the American corporations, have too little say in our political process. Just rai...anyone? Hello? Can I see a hand here? Is this thing on? Hello?

You would think that the last thing any human with a functioning brain that had spent a month or two of waking moments in this United States would want to see is more, and stronger, corporatism in the U.S. electoral and governing process. Or a fiercer embrace of the legal fiction that Xerox and I.G. Farben and Microsoft are "people", with all the legal rights and powers you have, only with a fucking gajillion more dollars and about an entire phalanx more attorneys. Especially given the kinds of "people" we know that corporations would be - the skeevy neighbor who is always out trimming the hedge when the nubile teenage daughter is out sunbathing. Fuck, we all know how that's gonna end.

Well, thank goodness for our Supreme Court, who knows better than you goddam commie corporation-hating bastards. Here's Dalia Lithwick on Justice Stevens concurrence:
"While Stevens is reading the portion of his concurrence about the "cautious view of corporate power" held by the framers, I see Justice Thomas chuckle softly. (Scalia takes on this argument in his concurrence.) Stevens hammers, more than once this morning from the bench on the principle that corporations "are not human beings" and "corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires." He insists that "they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established." But you can plainly see the weariness in Stevens eyes and hear it in his voice today as he is forced to contend with a legal fiction that has come to life today, a sort of constitutional Frankenstein moment when corporate speech becomes even more compelling than the "voices of the real people" who will be drowned out.
Free at last, free at last, thank God All-Wal-Mighty, they're free at last!

Kissy Little Missy...

From 1958;"You're a snooty little cutie
You're a pert little skirt
You're a knockout, you're a beauty, you're a flirt.
You're a dapper little flapper
You're just as cute as a trick
You're a kissy little missy, a vain little jane,
You're slick.

You're a classy little lassie
You're keen little queen
And although sometimes you're sassy and you're mean
I'm a fiend for romance with you
Squirly little girly, you're fine.
You're a knockout, you're a beauty, snooty little cutie
Snooty little cutie, mine."

I...I...I just don't know what else there is to say.

Perhaps the Stupidest Magazine Cover EVER.

Check middle center right:"The hour men crave sex most"?

Check your watch, Einstein; what time is it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Revolt of the House Pets

It's not the rain, which held off long enough to make a long day in the field bearable. The wind was friggin' cold, but wind I can handle. Rain and wind?

Not so much.

And it wasn't the soil, although I can now tell you with some confidence that Sandy, Oregon should be called "Clayey", Oregon. Clay and elastic silt are nasty things to drill with mud rotary methods. The drilling mud, which is pretty slippery to begin with makes them slimy and as goopy as you can imagine. Think of the "pottery" scene from "Ghost" only without the skimpy clothing and the groping.

I think it had to do with the special election in Massachusetts yesterday.

To explain WHY a goddam single election all the way across the country has me feeling grim - about my country, about my kids - I have to walk you back a little.

First of all, I'm pretty liberal. You know that, eh?

Mm. Thought so.

But I didn't start out that way. Nope, I was a good son of my father, who was a duty Democrat in his youth (when FDR made it impossible to be a Republican if you weren't either a bloated plutocrat, practically a fascist, or a damn idiot) who became what a lot of those middle-class Democrats became after the end of the war; an Eisenhower Republican.These critters used to be called "Rockefeller Republicans", and, as the Wiki entry says:
"...were moderate or liberal on domestic and social policies. They typically favored New Deal programs and a reasonable social safety net; they sought to run these programs more efficiently than the Democrats. They were strong supporters of big business and Wall Street...In fiscal policy they favored balanced budgets, and were not averse to raising taxes in order to achieve them. In state politics, they were strong supporters of state colleges and universities, low tuition, and large research budgets. They favored infrastructure improvements, such as highway projects. In foreign policy, they tended to be Hamiltonian, espousing internationalist and realist policies, supporting the United Nations and promoting American business interests abroad."
Yep. That was my dad. Still is, pretty much.

And I was a little chip of that sturdy block (I think my Dad is a pretty great man, in case you haven't guessed). Like him, I believed that your religion (should you have one and desire to fiddle with it) was your own goddam business - and your religious beliefs were not my business, either, or yours to force them on me.

Like him, I believed that the point of even HAVING a government was simple - it did things that he and I and everyone else couldn't do on our own, like equip nuclear submarines, build dams and bridges, deliver the mail, help the poor, the sick and the injured. And to do that, it collected taxes from those who could pay them, and the most from those who benefited the most from the civil society those taxes paid for.

One of the huge reasons my Dad felt and feels this way is because he had seen about the worst the world had to show him. He'd grown up seeing grown men, proud men cry and beg for work and find none, while the rich turned away or, worse, reviled them for begging. He'd seen millions killed in war and then a world, destroyed, trying to rebuild itself.

He'd been a very small dog in a dangerous world where wolves and tigers prowled loose, impoverishing, destroying, killing and taking what they wanted.He felt and feels that taxes, even the high taxes he paid on his income in the Sixties and Seventies - before Ronald Reagan convinced us that All Taxes Are Bad - were a small price to pay if it helped build fences and train wolfhounds to keep the wild animals at bay, and to build schools and help young people go to them so that they would grow into hardworking, civilized creatures; dogs, cats, horses...rather than rats, and skunks, and wolves, and tigers themselves.

When you think about it, this country was founded on the remarkable premise that its citizens would continue to exact the price of this civilization from themselves. In the European monarchies and oligarchies from which it descended taxes were the province of the powerful. They were extracted by main force, or, worse, turned over to tax farmers who collected them for their own profit, with the expected accompanying corruption.

I understand that we have come a long way from where I started, but...

Yesterday the people of Massachusetts were offered a choice:

On the one hand they were offered a woman who is, apparently, a solid liberal but a political idiot. A complacent, antisocial idiot at that, who ran one of the poorest campaigns anyone could have who didn't haul off and shoot an actual baby on live TV.

But...this woman was running for the seat vacated by Ted Kennedy, one of the most liberal of liberal Democrats of 2010 - which means fairly close to the sort of Rockefeller Republican my Dad is, and I was. And this woman - although, yes! Shes! A! Fucking! Idiot! - held political views relatively similar to Kennedy's, the views that the voters of Massachusetts liked well enough to return the man to the Senate for, Jesus, seems like forever. If you liked Kennedy, one would assume, you would like Coakley.

On the other hand they were offered a man who, by all accounts, has the political convictions of a brain-dead Capuchin monkey.

Harsh, you say?

Read. Here's Brown on the subject of the "public debt":
"My plan for the economy is simple: an across-the-board tax cut - in the tradition of John F. Kennedy - for families and businesses that will increase investment and lead to immediate new job growth. More tax increases will hurt our recovery. That’s why I have taken a no-new-tax pledge. My opponent will raise taxes."
Tax cuts. Got it? Tax cuts will heal your wounds, feed the hungry and house the homeless.

At least, that's what the Bushies told us for goddam eight years. Tax cuts. Surplus government revenue? Tax cuts? Deficits? Tax cuts. All we needed to grow the economy like a hydroponic tomato was tax cuts.How'd that work out?Oh.Yeah.

And on top of the prima facie foolishness, like every goddam Republican I've ever heard of since Ronnie, he has no plan, no details, on what he we's going to axe to pay for the damn tax cuts. Mom's health care? Dad's Social Security? The cop car at the end of the street? Oh, yeah, "waste and inefficiency"! So we cut taxes and...ummm...we'll, that's it. We still pay for lots of war and lots of corporate handouts and lots of other stuff we can't cut or the people affected would not re-elect us.

That'll work. That and a fucking magical pony.


Like every Republican I've seen - and I have another post full of snark for our Oregon GOP, I might add - this little fucker was all about not connecting the dots and not wanting YOU to connect the dots.

He was for the Massachusetts state health care plan but against the federal one...which is BASED on the Massachusetts plan.

He was for for tax cuts but against cutting, say, Medicare Part D, the massive unfunded mandate the GOP passed back in their salad days.

He doesn't think we should be spending money to put people to work but has no problem spending money to send people to West Buttfuckistan to fight the Buttfuckistanis who are fighting us...because we're in West Buttfuckistan.

In other words, he's a typical Republican circa 2010.Well except maybe the "posing nude for Cosmo" thing

So...when they had to choose, who did the people of Massachusetts choose?

You know who they chose.

This really sets me off for some reason, and I think it's because these Republicans, these people just like Brown, who have NEVER seen a tax they liked, who would like to turn your parents' Social Security over to the Goldman Sachs Ponzi schemers, who have huge problems finding money to help poor kids get to college or people downsized by corporations find work but gleefully throw money at whatever idiocy can be tagged as "fighting terror"...these people seem to want some sort of libertarian utopia, where there are no taxes and no "services", where the wealthy and powerful exercise all the power and control the wealth, while us poor schmucks can subsist as best we can.

And all I can think of is that most of these people must live in a safe, comfortable world where taxes are a penury and a byword and a hissing. Where a hand up is a hand out. Where, despite the ooga-booga scary brown boogiemen, there is no danger in reducing our ability to do things together to the point where we CAN'T do anything. Where we reach the Tea Party people's dream and have nothing but the tiniest of ineffective governments.

It's like these people are sweet, fat little house pets; adorable Persian kitties and plump little Pomeranians, who think that every scrap of largesse given to someone else is stealing the Tender Vittles from their own bowls. It's like my cats, who seem to think that their food and warm sleepy-spots magically appear and will ALWAYS be there. These people seem to believe, like most conservatives, that civil society is something magical that just happens, and that all this fuss about taxes and infrastructure and social safety nets is just a scam to take THEIR food and soft pillows.And since 1980 these pets have been rebelling, having their own little tea party revolution, where they will shout down talk of balanced budgets and fiscal policies and tax strategies, ramming their fingers in their ears and shrieking "lalalalalalaI'mnotlistening!!!" when we tell them that you can't have society without taxes.

And that once you've set the bottom limit on taxes as "none" you've kicked the prop out from under the structure the Framers built, because you've given the other idiots - the real mouthbreathing, dumb-as-dirt-really-believe-all-that-Ayn-Rand-bullshit CHUDS - the green light to try and reduce the government to the levels of Haiti and the Sudan.

And all this because their world will only be right when all the Tender Vittles belong to them and no mean taxes can take them, or social programs put claims on them, because after all, there's no need to worry about wolves and tigers?

We all live in the suburbs, after all, don't we?

Here where everything is safe, where people's hands are always gentle, where everyone is Good and Kind, and we will never, ever need someone to keep out the cold wind, or the claws of the tiger, or the teeth of the wolf.

I hope so, people of the Bay State. Because you just gave us another one of these goddam revolting house pets where you used to have a wolfhound.

And that just depresses the shit out of me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blessed are the Snipers, for they shall Hit the Center of Mass

This is sweet;
"Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. The company's vision is described on its Web site: "Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom."
"We believe that America is great when its people are good," says the Web site. "This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history, and we will strive to follow those morals."
Because nothing - nothing - says "Blessed are the peacemakers" like a full metal jacketed round right through the fucking forehead.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As it was then, so it is now;"Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours."

I think he'd have something to say about Wall Street, too.

Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I have an odd sort of love-hate for Michael Yon.

He is one of the few journalists really willing to spend a LOT of time in some of the filthiest ass-end parts of the world finding out what's happening there. He also knows soldiers and soldiering in a sort of latter-day Ernie Pyle way, and I like that.

On the downside, he's a sort of dirty-boot Bob Kaplan, Tom Clancy with a notepad, a guy who's never met gee-whiz cool Aaaaaarmy training he didn't love. He's sort of a man-size eleven-year-old that way, and he commonly mistakes technical and tactical proficiency for strategic and geopolitical competence, and he always assumes that the GI's are the epitome of studly cool and the fuzzy-wuzzies are dirty rats.I love the fact that he has some great pictures and a nice little article about the gunners at FOB Frontenac (although, Mike? That'd be "Cobra Battery, 1st Battalion, 17th Artillery - the 17th Infantry are those guys walking around with the teeny little bullet launchers, remember?).

But as I'm enjoying the pretty night fire pictures I come across this:
"Sometimes the crews fire “H & I” or “terrain denial” missions. Harassment and Interdiction missions are fired at terrain known to be used only by the enemy at certain times, and so anytime the enemy feels like rolling the dice, they can move into that terrain. Such missions also provide influence for “shaping” the battlefield. If the commander is trying to flush the enemy into a blunder—maybe an ambush—or maybe to cut them off from an escape route, he can have the guns pound into a gorge, say, that is used as an enemy route. Or maybe he just tries to persuade the enemy to take a route where we have sniper teams waiting. The battery can be used in many ways that do not include direct attacks on enemy formations."
Yes, indeed.

When I was just a mere slip of a redleg, my FDC Chief taught me that H&I fires in a LIC were the worst way of substituting motion for direction, a bad excuse for shooting unobserved rounds at a grid coordinate, a waste of rounds and a good way of pissing off the locals at you.We did this shit a lot in Vietnam, where my Chief got sick of it. Typically you had no eyes on the "target", which could be a trail junction, the edge of a treeline, a river ford, anywhere. And since you were also typically in the middle of a farming district, these were also typically used by local Romeos slipping out to see their hootchie Juliets, woodcutters, farmers, enemy runners, monkeys, roebucks...just about damn near anything. But the point was that - despite what Yon thinks - you never really knew. It was a statistic, a way that the artillery battalion or brigade could say "We fired XYZ missions on Targets Able, Fox and Whiskey"

I have no idea if H&I fire is any better in A-stan than it was in Vietnam. But the fact that we're doing it at all...?


Take a memo, Astaroth...

Dear Pat Robertson;

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating.

I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake.

Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.



(not original, I know, but too funny not to repost. What IS it with this guy? H/T to "Alterdestiny" and the original author, Lily Coyle in the great city of Minneapolis.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Decisive Battles: Isandlwana 1879

Isandlwana Date: January 22, 1879Forces Engaged: Impi kwaZulu (Zulu Royal Army): A total of fourteen ibutho ("battalions" or "regiments" - the most common Zulu maneuver element for general war), roughly 20,000 spear-and-shield-armed infantrymen under inDunas (Princes) Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khozalo and Mavumengwana kaNdlela Ntuli. Dabulamanzi kaMpande, the king's half-brother, commanded the reserve.We'll talk more about the impi that fought that day, but the Zulu Army of 1879 was perhaps the best organized, trained and led military organization the Bantu Africa has ever fielded, the Romans of southern Africa, and the Zulu Kingdom was a military power to be reckoned with between the Escarpment and the Cape. Although by 1879 many Zulu troopers had acquired some sort of firearm the real fighting value of the Zulu soldier was in a charge with cold steel that Scipio and Marius would have approved.

British Imperial: No. 2 and No. 3 Column, Natal Field Force, consisting of six companies of Imperial regular infantry (roughly 600 troops armed with repeating rifles), 900 irregular troops (the Natal Native Contingent or NNC, a mix of horse and foot armed with rifles), two batteries of artillery (one cannon, one rocket), approximately 80 gunners, and roughly 150-200 casuals, detachments, odds and sods - a total of about 1,500 under COL Anthony Durnford or LTC Henry Pulleine (we'll talk about this issue of command further on, as well).

The British invasion force was divided into three columns (see "The Campaign", below), of which this was the Center Column. To the north (left) was the 1st Column led by COL Wood formed around the 90th Regiment of Foot, to the south the 4th under COL Pearson organized around the 3rd Regiment (the Buffs). All three columns were under the command of MG Thesiger (better known by his title, Lord Chelmsford).

The Campaign: The British Empire is said to have been acquired in a "fit of absence of mind" which is nonsense.

The British, known as they are now for odd fashion, bad food, rock music and soccer, were the most rapacious and greedy of imperialists and by far the most competent and successful. They had established themselves on the Cape of Good Hope during the early years of the world war with revolutionary France. The original Dutch - now "Boer" - colonists were considered to be enemy aliens when the French swarmed over Holland, and a British amphibious operation seized Cape Town in 1795 and began British rule over the Cape Colony.The British had two large pains in the imperial arse; the native Bantu inhabitants of southern Africa - principally the Xhosa (pronounced "cosa") tribes of the southeastern Cape region, and their cousins the Zulus to the northeast - and the habituated Dutch settlers that had displaced them. Scattered groups of the earliest title-holders, the San and Khoi people, remained but had been so hunted and harried first by the Nguni Bantu and then by the Boers that they were politically and militarily meaningless.

But the Nguni tribes and the Boers were different. They were numerous, for one thing, and they were - although they would have hated to admit it - very similar. Both groups were pastoralists and farmers, requiring large expanses of pasturelands for the herds that they prized.

Both were convinced of their own importance, of their own place in destiny. Both were firmly convinced of the principle "What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable." And both were militarily aggressive, heavily armed societies whose temper made them instantly ready and often eager for war.Of course, they were dealing with the British, who in this, their imperial heyday, would have made Attila look like a blushing virgin for rapacity and Genghis seem a cooing infant for cunning. In the hundred-year period between the first landings at Cape Town and the showdown across the Buffalo River the British had expanded their control northwards in their usual fashion; negotiating, bribing and cajoling when they could, fighting when they had to.In the process they irked the shit out of the Boers, whose idea of a good time was grabbing several thousand acres of Xhosa land (usually in the form of what they called a "Kaffir War"), using the enslaved war captives and any other black-skinned person they could seize to work their spread, then go to church and pray for more land and more slaves. Even in a hard world, the Boers really were a pretty despicable bunch. Tough, hardy, bold, brave, strong...but not someone you'd want to see trekking into your neighborhood. Really.

By the 1870's the Boers had run or been pushed north and east from the Cape, destroying most of the southeast Xhosa chiefdoms in the process. Meanwhile, starting with Shaka's campaigns in the 1820s the Zulu overran most of the Qwabe lands to the southwest in the process of establishing first a Zulu Kingdom and then a small empire.The combined pressure from Boer expansion north and east, Zulu expansion south and west, slaving, tribal warfare, environmental factors such as overgrazing, and various cattle pests and murrains had the effect of knocking several tribes loose and sending them careering around southern Africa, setting off something called the mfecane, a holocaust of devastation, war, flight and starvation between the 1820s and 1840s. After pantsloads of people had been killed, and not a few of them eaten, the last real forces standing were the two that were the most trouble; the Boers and the Zulus.

The British, meanwhile, just wanted the damn troublemakers to sit down, shut up, and start paying taxes and obeying the law. To that end they tried to quash Boer slaving (irritating the Boers) and Zulu tribal war and judicial murder (puzzling and irking the Zulus). No one was very happy with British meddling, which, as usual, concerned the British not a whit.

And let's not forget the activities of the missionaries, whose busy little bodies also got up the wick of the Zulu king, Cetshwayo - the very notion of a God more powerful than the King of the Zulu - really! Hard to take for a man whose merest flick of a cowtail whisk could send you off to get sharpened stakes pounded up your bottom or your brains bashed in with a single strike of a knobkerrie.

Cetshwayo, who became king in 1873, was a hard man; you had to be, to be a successful king in Zululand, where fratricide and patricide were just tools in the box for ruling the joint. In 1877 he met an equally hard adversary, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, British Commissioner for Southern Africa.

Frere's brief was to establish some sort of self-governing confederation for the Cape colony. To do this he had to find a way to sweet-talk in the two independant states in the region, the Boer South African Republic and the kingdom of Zululand. It's a measure of Frere's genius that within five years he had started wars with both.

The Zulu War was the product of Frere's intrigue, a series of demands that Cetshwayo could not acquiesce to (and remain king), culminating in a British ultimatum that required him to disband the Army. Instead, when the ultimatum expired, Frere directed Chelmsford to invade.

The so-called "First Invasion" was a masterpiece of British imperial mismanagement. The British had no intelligence on Zulu dispositions, strengths or movements. The columns were glacially slow, moving as little as a mile a day and dragging mountains of baggage and impedimentia. The imperial columns had no communications faster or more reliable than a man on horseback and were, for tactical purposes, out of supporting distance from each other.

Worse, the British considered their enemies no more than "kaffirs" or "niggers", spear-chucking Stone Age tribesmen who would be difficult to catch at worst.

Meanwhile, the kwaZulu impi was assembled for active service. Outside a handful of royal troops in attendance on the king, the army was based on an active/reserve-like system. Unmarried men were the "active force", living in barracks-kraals and available for service quickly. Older men, married with families, were the "reservists" and could only be called out for short periods - months or more realistically weeks at best. The pastoral Zulu culture produced little imperishable food, a very limited logistical capacity and the troops would be obliged to return to their herds and farms quickly.The 24,000 troopers were doctored for war at the royal kraal near Ulundi and departed on 17 January to cross the White Umfolozi River. The next day a 4,000-man force was detached to deal with Pearson's South Column, while the remaining 20,000 Zulus camped at the kraal of the isiPhezi ikhanda (a subordinate military unit much like a company).On the 19th the force camped near Babanango mountain, the 20th near Siphezi mountain, and arrived in the Ngwebeni valley on the 21st, where the plan was to rest the following day and attack the British Center Column on the 23rd.

This organization had been at the Mission Station at Rorke's Drift (in Natal near the border of Zululand) since January 9th, and had crossed the Buffalo on the 11th. Chelmsford led two roughly half-battalions - six companies each of both the 1st and 2nd battalions, 24th Regiment of Foot as his main element of combat power.

About 2,500 NNC levies (he African troopers were led by European officers considered by the imperials to be very poor quality) and some irregular cavalry units, a detachment of artillery consisting of two field guns and several Congreve rockets. Adding on wagon drivers, camp followers and servants, there were more than 4,000 men in the column.

They reached the Isandlwana hill* on January 20th, where the force made camp.
*(A commonly heard translation of the name of this feature is "little hand". "Lugg prefers eSandlwana and says it means the "second stomach of a cow." Tradition has it that the curious hill was given its name by Chief Sihaye Ngohese or one of his predecessors because its shape reminded him of this organ. Sandlwana is the diminutive form of Isandlu, a small elevated hut used for the storage of grain, and such a structure is known as an esandiwana, or ''second stomach of a cow" which is also used for storage purposes. It has nothing to do with "a small hand," says Lugg - that would be isandlana."[Ref: Stayt, Don. Where on earth? A guide to the place names of Natal and Zululand. Durban: Daily News, 1971.])
In violation of their standing orders this camp was neither entrenched nor "laagered", that is, enclosed by a box of wagon bodies, a field-expedient fortification found useful by the trek Boers.

The reason for this was that Chelmsford felt that the laager would take too long to make and break down - and probably because of the contempt of the British for their primitive foe.

An mounted reconnaissance detachment sent out the morning of the 22nd encountered a small force of Zulus demonstrating to the southeast. Chelmsford immediately took half the imperial troops; one company from the 1/24 and the bulk of 2/24, the mounted troops and several NNC units to pursue, leaving the remainder of the force in the Isandlwana camp.Reports of Zulus, from individuals to ikhanda strength (up to several hundred) had been coming in to Pulleine all morning (these were mostly foraging parties for the main army, though the British didn't know that). In response he deployed a company of imperial infantry to the ridge north of the camp and send some mounted troops out to scout the surrounding area.

At about 10am, COL Durnford arrived at the camp with about a battalion's worth - 500 troops, more or less - of mixed irregular horse and infantry of the NNC and Natal Native Horse (NNH) and the RA rocket troop. There appears to have been no real consideration that Durnford would take command; instead, he left Pulleine in charge of the camp defense and deployed his troops to the east in an attempt to determine the nature of the Zulu presence there.

Sometime later - presumably between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. - a patrol of Natal Native Horse chased a Zulu foraging party over a hilltop less than a mile from the camp, where they discovered the main Zulu force, all 20,000 of them, sitting silently in the defilade beyond.

As the panicked British recon patrol fired a volley and turned to run the Zulu force rose at command and advanced at the run, shaking itself out into the traditional attack formation of central mass and emveloping wings.

The Battle of Isandlwana was beginning.

The Sources: From the standpoint of Western histories the best covered side of the battle should be the British; a literate industrial culture that typically produced all the usual documents that we use to assemble historical accounts. But the problem with Isandlwana is that the literate, industrial side was defeated, and not just defeated, destroyed. Not a single soldier from the six Imperial companies survived. And of those Britons who did - irregular officers, individual mounted troopers, casuals, civilians - we get, often, at best a chaotic impression of the day of the sort you'd expect from men hurled out of a shattering slaughter.

Chelmsford's troops reoccupied the battlefield several days after the defeat, so we have the testimony of what those men saw, the location of the dead, artifacts such as shell casings and debris.

Some effort was made to interview the Zulu survivors of the battle, many of whom died in later engagements. Certainly an oral tradition of praise songs and tales of battle deeds recorded acts such as those at Isandlwana, but these were often disregarded by Western historians of the time and, by the time they were considered evidence, had largely been forgotten.

Isandlwana has generated a tremendous volume of written material dating from 1879. There are several worthwhile books in english, starting with D.R. Morris' "The Washing of the Spears". A popular history, Morris has been faulted on several factual issues (including the "ammunition box" controversy we'll talk about later) but still remains one of the most readable versions in print - "goes as thund'rously as though it conjured devils." John Laband's fine "The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation" does well in covering both the battle and the larger political issues surrounding the war and its aftermath.

Ian Knight's "Isandlwana 1879" falls well within the fine Osprey campaign series for readability and clarity.

The Engagement: As far as we know, the situation at the time the Zulu field force emerged from the donga probably sometime not long before noon) was as follows:

Imperial: Two infantry companies had been deployed in open firing skirmish order on the high ground to the north of the camp. At the word that the Zulu attack was unfolding - about 12:15 - the remaining four companies were deployed to the east with the two cannon in support near the hinge in the line. NNC companies were thrown out to the British left (on the slopes and over the north crest of the Isandlwana hill itself) and Durnford's NNC and Native Horse covered the imperial right. The Rocket Troop was caught by the initial Zulu rush with their systems just unlimbered and were overrun, six of the nine gunners dying over their lauchers.

Zulu: One of the beauties of the Zulu system was its simplicity. Every unit knew its place in the formation, and the maneuvers of each element were well-understood. The center (referred to as the "chest" as in the center of mass of a charging bull) would close with the enemy force. The flanking wings (the "horns" of the bull) would then extend beyond the enemy mass and envelop it. The reserve ("loins") would be held to reinforce a critical sector or to exploit a breakthrough.The three left horn ibutho were the uMbonambi “The Evil Omen”, the InGobamakhosi “Bender of Kings”, and the uVe "Flycatchers". All were young men, unmarried, and the uVe had been on strength for less than five years, relatively green troops. They raced out to engage Durnford's NNH and NNC, sliding to their left to outflank the poorly armed Natal Natives.

In front of the camp the four regiments included two unmarried regular outfits (umHlanga “Reeds” and umCijo “the Sharp Points”) and two regiments of married reservists (the IsAngqu “White Tails” or “Orange River” and the umKhulutshane “Straight Lines” which had been formed in 1833 and would have been in all probability a very small unit of fifty- to sixty-year-olds) ran straight into the fire of the four companies Pulleine had deployed facing east.The Zulu commanders sent the three regular regiments of the right horn; the iMbube “Lions”, uDududu, and the uNokhenke “Skirmishers”, looping wide to the Zulu right to sweep around the Isandlwana massif.The Zulu tactic was successful on their right - Pulleine never really "saw" the Zulu attack unfolding on his left - but the center and left ran into the imperial firing line just as the British commanders had expected. Privates of imperial infantry standing and kneeling in skirmish order (several yards apart, with the two ranks 3 to 5 yards interval) could load and fire six aimed shots a minute.The .577 Martini-Henry bullet was a real man-killer, large and heavy enough to knock a big man off his feet even when striking a limb, and produced horrific wounds, shattering bones and shredding flesh.

This fire tore into the Zulu left and center. The charging amabutho were hammered flat, seeking cover where it existed and lying under their shields where it didn't. By 1 p.m. the attack of the Zulu center and left had stalled.The stalemate was broken by the uMbonambi, sweeping around Durnford's right while driving a small herd of terrified cattle before them to absorb the irregulars' fire. With the uVe this unit turned the imperial right and began to tear into the cantonment, spearing and clubbing the casuals and support troops in the rear.

About the same time the Zulu right hooked in behind the imperial left; the uNokhenke fell on the flank of the A/1/24 and the two NNC companies (4 Co. 2/3 and E 1/1 NNC) at the left end of the imperial line.

As the ends of the imperial firing-line were overrun Pulleine tried to pull his companies back into a close-order defense around the camp. The accounts state that this was done as a movement - that the imperial infantry ceased fire to move rather than moving back by covered bounds - and that the Zulu commanders saw this chance to put in their attack.A man named Ndlaka, a commander of the umCijo, raced down to his troops roaring "The little branch of leaves that puts out the fire (one of King Cetshwayo's "praise names") didn't order you to do this." - i.e. you don't get paid to sit on your fucking ass just because some honky's shooting at you! As the umCijo rose and went in at a steady walk, their regimental rivals the iNgobamamakhosi were challenged by their commander not to let their rivals get all the glory. The center put down their muskets and old rifles, took up their iKlwa - the broad-bladed stabbing assegai - and shields and waded into the British line.

One of the persistent myths about Isandlwana is the "ammo box" tale. In this story the British veterans are overrun because of the rigidity and peacetime prissiness of their supply officers. Unwilling to open the heavy wooden ammo boxes (since an open box would have to be accounted for by the individual round) until required, the quartermasters are supposed to have found themselves in action desperately trying to open the boxes - secured with large screws and metal bands - as the dusky hordes pour in. They fail, and the imperial infantry are overwhelmed as they run out of ammunition.Morris draws this dramatic scene for us in Washing of the Spears:
"Despite the trickle of ammunition, the fire was slackening everywhere, and the warriors still stretched in grass around the camp noted the change. Then a great voice cried out in Zulu from the thick of the umCijo regiment. Cetshwayo had many praise names, and making use of a well known unknown warrior shouted "The little branch of leaves that extinguished the fire gave no such order as this!" Thousands of Zulus heard him and took fresh heart. They leapt to their feet and charged forward.

The sight and the sound were too much for the quivering Natal Kaffirs at the knuckle. They were isolated ahead of the lines and the fear of the sharp assegais brandished by the advancing warriors was bred into their bones. The umCijo were upon them and to stay was death."
A well-limned scene and properly terrifying...but not particularly true.

While the NNC and NNH may very well have had ammo supply problems - Durnford apparently wasn't the sharpest pencil in the box and it's very likely that he either didn't know or failed to tell his troopers where their ammo point was located. But the testimony of those at the scene is fairly clear that the Zulu attack turned both flanks and broke into the British rear while the imperial infantry was still suppressing the Zulu center. The failure of the flank and rear security made Pulleine attempt to withdraw his troops under pressure without conducting a proper fire-and-maneuver and the Zulu center then moved in to, as the North Vietnamese and Vietcong would do 90 years later, "hug the belt" with the British regulars.The "ammo box myth" is just that.

The Zulu just flat-out outfought the British column.

In a hand-to-hand fight British infantryman and Zulu trooper were fairly evenly matched. The tough cowhide shield was an effective battering weapon and the Zulu were masters of the spear. But the bayoneted Martini-Henry was a deadly implement in the hands of a good soldier, and Zulu survivors reported that even after closing with the imperials the warriors preferred to break up the British formations with thrown spears before closing.

And, of course, quantity has a quality all its own. While a British rifleman might win a man-to-man fight, as the imperial line disintegrated it became 1-to-3 and 2-to-5, with the outcome never much in doubt.

From forensic evidence gathered after the end of the battle it appears that several of the imperial companies managed to form square or otherwise fight back-to-back down towards the river that lay to the west. There the imperial soldiers were finally overwhelmed.Cetshwayo had warned his soldiers that civilians dressed in dark clothes would be with the imperials and they were not to be harmed; as a result a handful of officers wearing dark blue or black "patrol jackets" escaped along with a scattering of mounted irregulars and some of the NNC.

The six imperial infantry companies - 52 officers, 727 other ranks - died to the man. More than 450 Xhosa, Gricqa and Zulu levies also died on the slopes of the sphinx-shaped hill where the luck of the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment ran out.

The Outcome: Tactical Zulu victory with strategic implications...but not the way you might think.

The Impact: In general the British preferred to rule much of their empire with local proxies, buffers and clients at the perimeter. Cetshwayo was a smart, ruthless ruler and had he been more pliant and less dependent on his army might have made a good client king. Certainly when Frere and Chelmsford planned the invasion of January 1879 the possibility that it would lead to a quick massacre of the "kaffirs" and the retention of a disarmed Cetswayo as a puppet wasn't out of the question.But after the massacre at the Hill of the Cow's Second Stomach, there was no possibility of any agreement with the old Zulu order. The filty savages had butchered civilized white men (the deaths of the African irregulars were of no consequence to the Briton starting up from his kippers and marmalade at the reports in the newspaper of the worst colonial defeat since the Afghan War in 1844). The brutes had to be exterminated.

Worse followed. Pearson's column was cut off and besieged in Eshowe from 24 January to 4 April, 1879. While two-thirds of the invading force was immobilized or destroyed the invaders lost a bloody little skirmish at iNtombe and rather larger fight at Hlobane in March. Victories - that bled the Zulu army badly - at Eshowe, Kambula and Gingindlovu merely got Chelsmford back to where he'd started in January.

The British public and Her Imperial and Royal Majesty's Government had had enough. Sir Garnet Wolsely was assigned to relieve Chelmsford, and was dispatched to South Africa.

Chelmsford wanted no part of going down as the loser in a battle with the Bronze Age; he reorganized his forces, invaded again in June - this time ensureing that his camps were securely fortified and his troops concentrated - and destroyed the remaining amabutho at Ulundi in July. Cetswayo was captured in August and held in exile for three years.

A British attempt to reintroduce him as a client failed disasterously and the Zulu kingdom collapsed; division in 13 mini-kingdoms devolved into a predictably bloody chaos until absorption into the Natal province of the colony of South Africa.

The Zulu arose as a fighting people. The malignant genius behind the Zulu impi that won at Isandlwana was a man so ruthless that when he changed the uniform regulations for his army - he demanded that the soldiers throw away their sandals and toughen their feet - that when the first regiment protested he paraded them in a kraal filled with thorns, commanded them to perform a stamping war-dance and had his personal guard kill any man not perfectly intent on the steps!

As a fighting people they fell; they ran head-on into another people just as ruthless and simply better armed.

Shed no tears for the young regiments who went down like rye before the reaper at Isandlwana, at Kambula, Eshowe and Ulundi.

They fought for their king and country, for their old way of life, for their regiments, and would have died no other way.

But the legacy this killing left behind...that has rent and is rending the country that became South Africa to this day, reminding us that tribal hatreds and wars are thin soil for peaceful prosperity and the blessings of civil society.

Touchline Tattles: The British needed a tonic after the bitter draught of Isandlwana. They found it in a tiny engagement fought as an afterthought to the events of January 22. The "loins" reserve of the army that fought that day - unable to get stuck into the slaughter of the imperial column - kept on moving west, crossed the Buffalo River and found 96 men of B Company, 2/24th forted up in the mission station near the ford (or "drift"). A company of the NNC, terrified by the news from across the river, fled along with a group of mounted fugitives from Isandlwana.Prince Dabulamanzi was already in deep shit. His half-brother the King had ordered that no Zulu maneuver unit would cross into Natal - the political reality was that the Zulu engagements had to be purely defensive to prevent the "to-arms-the-kaffirs-are-coming" reaction a Zulu invasion would provoke. But the the uDloko, uThulwana, inDlondo, and the inDlu-yengwe - more than 4,000 troopers - were angry that they had not washed their spears and threw themselves into the attack immediately off the march.The British company defended the mission station all night, losing fifteen or so. But here was the mirror image of Isandlwana; instead of being in scattered skirmish order trying to shoot down an elusive leaping, bounding enemy the imperials could pack themselved in tightly behind hard cover and use their massed firepower to butcher the Zulu fighters who couldn't use their speed or their overwhelming numbers. In other words, what the column across the river could have done behind a wagon laager.

Makes you want to dig up Pulleine and kill him all over again.

Nothing makes an Englishman as happy - or used to - as a hearty tale of jingo heroism. Back in the Sixties, when the imperial sunset was still a lingering glow in the sky, Cy Enfield made a stolid little movie about Rorke's Drift that gives you a hint of an idea of how inequal the engagement SHOULD have been:Now you should know straight up - this little clip is full of the most delightful bullshit.

The 2nd Warwickshire was NOT the "South Wales Borderers" in 1879 - more than 2/3rd of the imperials were British or Irish, and, no, they didn't sing "Men of Harlech waiting for the final Zulu attack.

There WAS no final climactic assault at dawn, either; Dabulmanzi's men got a bellyful the preceding afternoon and that night. By dawn they were exhausted, and probably worried that their king would tear a strip off their backsides for disobeying his orders. They slipped away as Chelmsford's men returned that morning.

And Gonville Bromhead wasn't Michael Caine, he was a stocky little middle-aged man with a beard like a quickset hedge, and hard of hearing, too.

But any Zulu warrior or imperial soldier could tell you; there's colonial war as it happens and colonial war as the great power tells it to you.

But my favorite little story about this strangely indecisive decisive battle is that you can now bump down the rutted dirt tracks - probably not that much better than what it took Chelmsford's men to trudge down 131 years ago - to the "Fugivites Drift Lodge", where you can sip your rum and tonic by the pool and gaze out at the massif of Isandlwana on the skyline and the "beautiful, shady, well established garden, home to innumerable birds, and the most spectacular large swimming pool situated on a secluded spur on the lip of the Buffalo River gorge". And "...enjoy superb cuisine, a unique fusion of home and modern flavours, in the splendid atmosphere of a veritable museum of Zulu War memorabilia."When you do - spill a mouthful of the rich liquor to the dusty shades of those bearded imperials and the headringed amabutho, who died so that a portly Boer could stand in the well established garden and the most spectacular large swimming pool and tell you stories of war and death and the fall of kings.