Dispatches from Wolf Country — Feel the Joy

Like a lot of fundamental shifts in the way a country does things, this wasn't intentional but the result of a lot of things over decades. Like land speculations, drunkeness, treachery, treason, confusion and misplaced trust.

I could go on for pages about the G20 and the sad and shameful performance of the President/Manatee for Life, but why would I want to? The meeting with Putin and the orchestration of it so successfully by Lavrov and Putin to keep the competent out and the naifs in, the absurd fawning posture of the BS to the journalists, and the sucking up to the Russian dictator is really all that we need to consider. This photo really seems to say it all for us.

The Master and the Margarita, AP Photo, 7/7/2017

Treason doth never prosper. what’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason. — Sir John Harrington

Interestingly, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Richard Painter, the White House Ethics Attorney and Officer in the Bush White House, has commented on the Trump Junior, Kushner and Manafort meeting with the Blonde Russian “Lawyer”and Kremlin connection.  Junior describes a meeting that began with her offering OPPO information on Hillary Clinton and ended with a discussion of the possibility of working together to arrange adoptions of Russian Children in the USA fairly as confused and non-productive. Painter has a slightly different, and far more informed opinion.

In the Bush White House, we’d have him in for questioning by now!

Don Junior says they never informed his dad, which is possible in the plausible deniability column, but as Painter points out that when you meet with someone from a country like Russia who offers you dirt on an opponent, you’re being offered the opportunity to get your hands on espionage product.

The KGB had a term for folks like the Trump children, Trump senior, and Kushner — “Useful idiots.” But, Manafort is definitely not in that category. He’s more likely an “Agent of Influence’ and in this case serving to help compromise the next generation of greedy real estate developers and political manipulators.

New York Magazine photo, July 10, 2017

I am not a climate change Crusader. Frankly, it’s so obvious that arguing about it seems to be a bit of a waste of my time. There are other things that need to happen and until we get the other things happening, we’re going to be unable to do anything meaningful here. Wish it was otherwise, but it’s not.

That doesn’t mean I advocate anything like ignoring it or doing things that aren’t “green!” And, our beloved Manatee-Orangutan Overlord’s decision to end our participation in the Paris Accords because…well, because he wanted to, makes things a lot worse.

So, finding this article in The Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine’s website for political and social commentary and criticism got my attention. It’s a very simple attempt to use complex scientific material in terms that perhaps the average reader can understand to explain a very simple fact — the world is becoming uninhabitable for human beings, and the end is closer than we might think. When the corn crop in Antarctica and the soybean crop in Port Barrow don’t come in sometime int he future, the last humans will starve…except, of course, Port Barrow will be under water by then, so maybe it will still be temperate enough in Fairbanks to get a crop in. Or not.

Cunningly illustrated, and well-written by author David Wallace-Wells, a staff writer living out here in the California desert — he mentions outside temperatures that make me think Palm Springs which has made my Barstow home seem almost temperate by comparison — he knows how to use language well and make his points very clear.

He discusses the various problems that climate change will cause by category; it just keeps getting more depressing. For example, after explaining how at certain temperatures and humidities we’ll just cook walking the dog, he goes on to discuss the larger scale impact, say, for inhabitants of the Islamic world.

Air-conditioning can help but will ultimately only add to the carbon problem; plus, the climate-controlled malls of the Arab emirates aside, it is not remotely plausible to wholesale air-condition all the hottest parts of the world, many of them also the poorest. And indeed, the crisis will be most dramatic across the Middle East and Persian Gulf, where in 2015 the heat index registered temperatures as high as 163 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as several decades from now, the hajj will become physically impossible for the 2 million Muslims who make the pilgrimage each year…It is not just the hajj, and it is not just Mecca; heat is already killing us. In the sugarcane region of El Salvador, as much as one-fifth of the population has chronic kidney disease, including over a quarter of the men, the presumed result of dehydration from working the fields they were able to comfortably harvest as recently as two decades ago. With dialysis, which is expensive, those with kidney failure can expect to live five years; without it, life expectancy is in the weeks.

Interesting, informed and scary. Of course, if you are into ignoring scientific stuff or basic evidence, well, ignore it. Otherwise, it’s pretty obvious that we have really selfish reasons as a species to figure out some meaningful alternatives really fast…

Tar and Feathers, Boston, 1773

There are some fascinating books out at the moment on the revolutionary period and the Indian Wars. Things weren’t as nice as we like to think, and Mel Gibson may not have been all that wrong with The Patriot. Probably no one burned a crowd of middle-class Carolinians in church at Sunday services, and Banastre Tarleton wasn’t killed in battle by a vengeful father with a pair of hatchets. But, the American Revolution was like all civil wars, in that it got very bloody and vicious.

In Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birthauthor Holger Hoock makes the point that as with most origin myths, the USA has one that omits the amount of blood, pain and mindless violence that resulted in what we have today…which at times seems a bloody, painful orgy of mindless violence, punctuated by NFL games, America’s Got Talent shows, and Republican Candidate Debates. Well, there is thought that past is prologue.

George Will published a review of the book on June 30, 2017, America’s Shockingly Violent Birth, that made me re-think the book a bit. At times, when I read it I thought it was more a catalog of horrors that a coherent picture; Will’s column reminded that when you start looking at the numbers or the pictures, you forget about the images of victory or heroism, and start thinking about the fact that what we have as a world was for better or worse, won by anger, aggression, passion, fear, valor and a bit of sado-masochism. While not a fan of the book, Will points out that

Hoock is, however, right to document the harrowing violence, often opportunistic and sadistic, that was “fundamental” to how both sides experienced “America’s founding moment.” The war caused “proportionately more” deaths — from battle, captivity and disease — than any war other than that of 1861-1865. The perhaps 37,000 deaths were about five times more per capita than America lost in World War II. Sixty thousand loyalists became refugees.

We often mistake the Declaration of Independence and the Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown for the origins of the United States. Not really, they’re part of the origins but the USA went through a great deal of dislocation and confusion before the Founders met again at Philadelphia to scarp the Articles of Confederation and put together something that might work a bit better. They did, and with relatively few modifications, it has since ratification. That does not mean there weren’t problems.

One set of problems began with that same origin myth — the “superiority” of the Continental Army to the British Army and the relatively small number of Regulars in the ranks of Washington’s Army. Nice story, but the idea of woodsmen shooting from behind fences at marching red coats wasn’t really true anyway. The fact is that with some exceptions, like the Battle of Cowpens which was a battle largely between British Light Cavalry and Infantry versus Daniel Morgan’s riflemen and militia in ground unsuitable for mass troop formations and movements, the Continental’s had relatively few outright victories and when they did, Regulars played a big part in the positive outcome.

However, the people who understood that best — Washington, Hamilton and other experienced

John Vanderlyn’s The Death of Jane McCrea (1804). (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT)

battlefield commanders who remembered the problems and the solutions that regulars offered. Washington had considered taking a regular British Army commission as his older brother had done for a while, but chose instead not to do so. Hamilton is best remembered as a soldier as “Washington’s aide de camp” but really was a combination of chief and secretary of the general staff.

The theory, which remained in place largely until after World War II, was that a large or even adequate regular Army was really not necessary and could lead to dictatorship. A small cadre of regulars could be justified, largely so that they could train the mobilized militia and get them ready for action and inevitable victory. One supposes that no one organizes a military to lose, although sometimes you have to wonder.

If the United States of America didn’t come into existence until after the ratification of the Constitution, the United States Army has a equally different sort of opening act, in what the author calls a War without a name.  Like a lot of fundamental shifts in the way a country does things, this wasn’t intentional but the result of a lot of things over decades.

Like land speculations, drunkeness, treachery, treason, confusion and misplaced trust. William Hogeland has written about the revolution before but now turns his attention to the frontier and that first war between the trans-Appalachian tribes and the United States. In the Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army and the Invasion that opened the west, he’s produced a fascinating and detailed story of failure, disaster and recovery. Unlike our current debacles in the middle east, there was a desired outcome that could be quantified and turned into objectives. Subdue the Indians, relocate them as necessary, open the area for settlement and get the British to physically relinquish lands and control of what would become the Northwest Territories of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana.

For contrast, what exactly is the end strategy for Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? How the hell will we know that we’ve won? Or tied? Somebody needs to remember their Clausewitz, that “War is a continuation of policy by other means.”

The book begins with a military disaster not all that different than the Little Big Horn. Indian attacks on the frontier led to the commitment of the relatively small force of regulars along with a large force of various militia under the leadership of some experienced revolutionary war commanders. The commander for some reason decided to split his forces, and when the tribes descended things did not go well, for the settlers. The Indians, one the other hand, did very well indeed.

A force of over 1000 members of the Western  Confederacy of American Indians under the joint leadership of Little Turtle of the Miamis, Blue Jacket of the Shawnees and Buckongahelas of the Delawares attacked the force in what became know as St Clair’s Defeat, or “Sinclair’s Defeat” or the Battle of the Wabash. Under the overall command of Major General Arthur St Clair with the regulars and Major General William Butler commanding a battalion of “short term regulars” or “levy soldiers” with some support by the Kentucky Militia, the battle took place on November 4, 1791 near what is now Fort Defiance, Ohio.

Peter Dennis Paintingfrom Osprey’s “Wabash 1791: St Clair’s Defeat.

When the battle ended, St Clair and about 24 other members of the joint command escaped. The remainder were killed or missing in action. General Butler, who was very popular was seriously wounded in action and left sitting next to a tree by his two brothers, whom he asked for two pistols and then ordered to leave. This is statistically the worst defeat that the US Army has suffered, with a casualty rate in a few hours of combat of over 97%.

A fundamental shift was about to happen in North American life. With the losers outrage and terror deepening, in response to St.Clair’s awful defeat on the Wabash and with the winners excitement over their great victory mounting. The existence, purpose and future of the United State of America was formed in that war. 

Well, Washington fired St Clair, and the Congress began it’s first investigation of the Executive Branch. Washington and Hamilton worked to get Congress to authorize a reasonably sized, equipped, paid, trained and led force. This was ultimately formed, and led by Major General “Mad Anthony” Wayne who had been a highly effective and daring cavalry commander under Washington. He was Lafayette’s favorite subordinate commander, and he would request Wayne from Washington whenever he took command during the revolution.

Battle of Fallen Timbers, Toledo Archives

Ultimately, Wayne organized the First American Legion, a force of about 1500 and with some support from Kentucky and Tennessee Militia invaded Indian Country and at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (or Skirmish, depending on whom you read!) defeated the Western Western Confederacy including Blue Jacket, Little Turtle and others including some British troops who”volunteered” to fight with the Indians in civilian clothes.  On August 20, 1794, Wayne’s infantry charged the tribes with bayonets, and the cavalry flanked them.The tribes fled the battlefield, the British at Fort Miami near the battlefield locked their gates and refused assistance and the tribes were forced to disperse. Wayne had his troops go through the area, burning crops and settlements. They then withdrew, and subsequent treaties between the United States and the British as well as between Wayne and Blue Jacket resulted in the accomplishment of the original goals and objectives.

And yet, it would all be forgotten. The first war the United States ever fought, in which the US Army itself came into being, would never even be given a name.

The Signing of the Treaty of Greene Ville, 1795” as depicted by Howard Chandler Christy, via Ohio Memory


One of the interesting characters in the story is James Wilkinson. Wilkinson has the honor of probably being the highest placed American General to ever knowingly give aid and comfort to the enemy. I’m sure that Benedict Arnold and he meet for ale in hell to compare notes. Twice appointed as head of the American Army during his career which span the Revolution through the War of of 1812, he signed on as an covert agent and spy for Spain while a civilian speculator and never do well in Kentucky as Agent 13. He tried to undermine Wayne who became suspicious and investigated the rumors of Spanish involvement, and charged Wilkinson with treason, intending to court martial him. Wayne’s death before he could bring Wilkinson to trial resulted in an odd thing; no charges filed, and a year later, he was appointed Senior Commander in the United States Army an office he held for two years.

“Mad Anthony Wayne” also is a mass of contradictions. In his personal life, he was fortunate to

General Anthony Wayne, Journal of the American Revolution

not be thrown into debtor’s prison or to spend a lot of time on the dueling field. He ignored his family, wanted to be a land speculator but didn’t quite pull it off, and was at loose ends when Washington and Hamilton approached him about going west to salvage the situation. But, while as a revolutionary cavalry commander he’s been the classic dashing, not terribly concerned about anything but coming to blows with the enemy kind of leader, his exposure and work with Lafayette, Nathaniel Greene and Washington himself made him conscious of logistics, discipline, training and planning. As a result, he force an organized, focused and controlled force as opposed to a cobbled together mob. His opponent at Fallen Timbers, Blue Coat, was the one who called him “the Black Snake” because of the speed and organization with which he moved his forces.

There is some current research to indicate that Wilkinson may have conspired to have Wayne poisoned, thus ending any possibility of his own court martial and exposure as a spy.

Some things just never seem to change.




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