Monday, July 18, 2011

Here and There

Busy week since the last post.

The Women's World Cup roared into the final with a pair of runaway semifinal matches; one more-or-less as expected with the USWNT defeating the overachieving Frenchwomen of Les Bleues 3-1, the other something of a shock as the Nadeshiko of Japan saw off the Swedes by a similar score.Interesting. Did you know that the nickname of the Japanese women's national team means the "personification of the idealized Japanese woman"? Seriously. And Japan being Japan, this means "acting for the benefit of the family, loyalty, domestic ability, wisdom, and humility"If there was a worse description of the JWNT I can't think of it. Their play was characterized by a ferocious tenacity. In England a certain type of footballer is referred to as a "terrier" and the Japanese women were the most terrorist of terriers in the Cup finals. You could count on one thing - they would keep coming at you. Down a goal to the Swedes, they pulled back first one, then another, and finally a third. They played an surprisingly effective possession game, finished efficiently, and seldom made errors.

By contrast the USWNT played as they had all the way up to the final, combining moments of inspiration with minutes of utter chaos. In particular, the US backline was a trouble spot against France as it was all tournament. Coach Sundhage at least recognized that Amy LePeilbet's lack of speed was a real weakness against decent forwards by shifting Chris Rampone over to left inside back to help her out. The Americans were still level in the second half before two lovely goals within three minutes put them through to the final.

Too much has been written about the final match for me to add much of note. It was a splendid show of football, 120 minutes of turn and turnabout that ended in that most unfortunate of modern accommodations to the tyranny of electronic mdeia, the penalty kick shootout.

The Nadeshiko were worthy champions. As they had all tournament they never stopped, never gave up. Down a goal they pulled one back in regular time; down another, they found an equalizer with three minutes left to play in extra time. Needing to win on penalties they made what they had to make. They lift a well deserved trophy as the best in the world.The USWNT was left with a bitter draught.

Although they were not at fault on Japan's second goal in the run of play the first was a dreadful, fundamental error - fullback 101; never, never clear the ball across the face of your own goal. The U.S. backs were panicked and acting randomly and the Japanese forwards made them pay for it.

The US finishing was appallingly wasteful. Although the Americans took three shots to Japan's one most of their strikes were not on frame. Even though they had about half the possession and many opportunities they could not find the strike to put the match away.

And their penalty taking was just dire. Missing one penalty kick is not good play. Missing three is inexcusable, and the American women will have a long two years to reflect on what might have been.The Japanese team itself, and much of the world's press, have made much of the "triumph" of the Nadeshiko over the tragedy of this spring's earthquake and tsunami, as though a fragile victory on a faraway playing field can rebuild the shattered houses and stores and factories, can console the bereft, can restore the land and people that were broken. And, certainly, for some in Japan there must be some nepenthe in enjoying the success of their women's national team.

But today the wonderful two hours are cold ink on forgotten newspaper, and the people in Tōhoku who celebrated yesterday will waken to face another day of grim rebuilding.Somehow I don't think that they are still celebrating.

In England all the news is about the "phone-hacking" crimes committed by Rupert Murdoch's employees. The English, and, increasingly, other peoples in other nations are heaping coals on Murdoch's head as evidence of his organization's contempt for laws, rules, common decency, and common sense piles up. Much public commentary on the terrible consequences in store for the media mogul amid lots of schadenfreude over the public spanking of the old swine and his lackeys.But, really.

When did anyone, any sane human, any functionally rational hominid with more than a rudimentary hindbrain think that giving this man - or any man, for that matter - the sort of power that Murdoch has over the Western "democracies" was a good idea?

And while Murdoch's personality - a crude, bullying shitweasel lacking anything resembling "morals", "compassion", or "introspection" - makes his immense unearned power all the worse because of the use he puts it to, the entire notion of allowing any single individual that sort of power is deeply, fundamentally flawed.

After all, in our modern far-flung polities we cannot hope to participate in the kabuki of citizenship without information. Information - news, gossip, rumor, research, muckraking - is power, real power. The capability to shape this information is power. And while we in the democracies have jealously doled out our political power in bits to prevent the autocratic accumulation of that power we have carelessly looked on without a murmur whilst this loathsome little man scrabbled up huge masses of it.

Now he is in difficulty because of the very sort of drives that drove him to amass that power - insatiable greed, brutal disregard of anyone's welfare but his own - caused him to break yet another set of rules. And why should we be surprised? The man has been honest about his contempt for the entire notion of "community". He is the epitome of a modern "conservative"; a selfish thug whose only limits are the capacity of his own lusts, a bloated Falstaff with a copy of Ayn Rand in place of his bottle of sack, a cartoon of a plutocrat, sneering and mocking the common scum too little and too frightened to prevent him from taking what he wanted, a caricature of a man who has no respect for anything but a boot in the face. He was born for this.

But more to the point - anyone in his situation would be dangerous, madly, insanely dangerous, as dangerous to democratic government as a viper in an unmade bed, as an unlabeled bottle of toxin in a medicine cabinet. His clutch on the information business should have been a concern of every sensible citizen of the US and UK (not to mention his spawning beds in Australia) years ago, regardless of whether he was publishing paeans to their policies or not. He was and is not the symptom but the disease, the slow, fatal poison of arrogant stupidity and blind partisan rancor that shouts its beliefs so loudly that, regardless of their value, the warnings of danger and threat cannot be heard over the moronic din. In the throes of the late stage Murdoch Syndrome an entire society can strut off a cliff because it is convinced by its own noise that the cliff doesn't exist, and that those tiny voices warning of danger are the rantings of dirty hippies who hate profit and patriotism.

Will anything come of this latest bit of dirty Murdochism?But at this point expecting our debased "democracies" - where elections have degenerated into auctions, and legislatures into brothels sucking and humping for the wealthy and powerful pimps that own them - to actually do anything about the vile Murdoch's grip on information power would be like expecting one of those debased catamites to become Solon.

No. In this, as in everything else, our own luxury, ignorance, and sloth will assure that Cousin Rupert will be invited to continue to grease our long national descent into servitude and ignominy.

And, as if to make my point with a vicious humor, the ridiculous mummery over the U.S. "debt ceiling" continues. I won't even bother to discuss it. What's the point in trying to dissect which bozo is using a bigger hammer to hit himself, his opponent, and every bystander within arm's length, harder than the other bozo?

Make no mistake; the United States has always been an oligarchy.

But at least one time the oligarchs were men who took themselves and their duty to their nation seriously. They might have been rapacious bastards intent on enriching themselves, but they at least did it with a sense of the importance of the stage on which they acted. Now all that it seems to require to take part in the Washington carnival is a monstrous ego and a complete lack of shame or personal integrity. The small handful of decent souls on the Left, like our junior Senator from Oregon, are left, like orphans in the storm, to look around them and wonder what will remain when the foul winds cease and the successors of our idiot polity emerge to claim the ruins.

What degree of fools with they think us, I wonder?

While wide and abroad the ignorant teatards clash by night we here in Portland are enjoying quite the cool, wet summer. The poor Mojo Grandparents aren't quite sure what to say. They've been here visiting for the month of July and so far we've managed to rain on them several times. I tell them it's global climate change and they just look about them in a sort of disbelieving incomprehension. Their little rental place over near Kenton is lovely, though - we stayed over the past weekend and enjoyed the hot tub and the comfortable Pullman kitchen and the high brass beds. The rain shivering the maple leaves and dappling the dark waters of the koi pond was much cozier viewed from a hot morning ofuro and a steaming cup of the richness of Colombian tilth, earthy as soil and thick with cream.

My little girl left me a message on my cell phone at work today; "Hi" she piped "Are you here, or not? Maybe you are having fun but maybe we can do special stuff! Bye!" You are pretty special stuff yourself, little girl.Meanwhile the Big Boy has discovered a "massive multiplayer online" game called "World of Tanks". He enjoys the heck out of it - though I notice that the magic is palling a little lately - even though he appears to be really terrible at it. His gameplay seems to consist of driving around until someone else shoots him up. long as the death and destruction are just pixels.But what does make it difficult for the kid is that for some reason the game designers haven't bothered to try and give the game any sort of tactical context. It's just what is says it is - a world of tanks, clanking around spitting out projectile death like big steel bugs. The problem is that my son had to start like everyone else, with one of three types of light tanks - one, interestingly, being the pre-WW2 German "Leichtetraktor", a purely training vehicle that never fired an actual shot in anger.But the little battles he ends up in usually have one or more medium tanks as well, and the larger Pzkpfw-38t and BT-7 lights tear apart the tiny tankettes as they did back in 1939. And by the time the kiddo gains enough experience points to move up to a heavier light or a medium tank he finds himself in simulated battle against T-34s and Panthers, or M-10s and Easy Eight Shermans with his BT-7 or his Panzer III Ausf. A.I tried to explain that he got beat because in real warfare a light tank is a scouting and screening weapon, intended to face nothing more than machinegun fire of the cannons of other reconnaissance vehicles, and than a recon commander faced with a battalion of medium tanks would quickly pop smoke and grab a hat...that his lack of success against the heavier tanks was an artifact of the roles of the different weapons in actual battles versus the demands of his make-believe World of Tanks.

I don't think he got it.

But, speaking of tanks and just for the record: the Panzer IV really was a hell of a good weapon.I'm not a tank man and for me the big steel foxholes always just looked like shell magnets. But in its time the Sonderkraftfahrzeug 161 went wherever it was sent and fought whoever it found there and did its job damn well. Whether freezing cold, baking heat, rain, mud...the Pzkpfw IV was a reliable tool and a tough enemy, and where weapons are concerned you can't give much higher praise than that. The Germans of WW2 were right bastards; outside of the American Civil War South there isn't another cause in history quite as bad as Nazism. But they made some good weapons, and the ugly, boxy, clunky-looking old panzer did good service in its day.

Did you know that the last Panzer VIs fought in the Levant in 1967?No shit. The story I read is that while the Syrians armed themselves from whoever would sell them weapons the largest number of former German tanks came from France, who were also selling weapons to the new Israeli government and felt that they had to be..."fair". So they sold off some dozens of war-reparation Pzkpfw IVs to the Syrians. In the Six-Day War the Syrian armor attacked along the Golan Heights and were defeated, although with some loss among the Israeli tank corps. Several of the Syrian panzers still remain on the heights, silent reminders of battles long ago.Anything else? No? I guess that's all the blogging for today, then. Back later with the Battle for July.


rangeragainstwar said...

The movie-THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN used Spits obtained from Spain.

FDChief said...

And the HE-111s, too. Not surprisingly, ol' Franco had a ton of Nazi kit...