Modern armies study wars of Sun Tsu, wisdom from mists of time

Lately I have been immersed in a book called Sun Tsu on the “Art of War,” an ancient Chinese military manual which has become a classic in the 21stcentury.  It is more than two millennia old and has been the source of inspiration for generations of Chinese generals, but contains

Sun Tsu tough teacher

strategies and tactics applicable to the world of space exploration and atomic energy. But the question arises: just how well have the book’s rules panned out since Sun Tsu wrote them down?

For instance, Sun Tsu cautions a general against wasting his men and material in besieging cities and fortified points.  “Go around them,” he advised.  The Chinese strategist pointed out that an army could capture six or more cities in the time it took to overrun one stronghold.

The German Wehrmacht made this Sun Tsu precept a guide in developing their blitzkrieg warfare at the start of World War II. At the heart of Nazi strategy was avoidance of strongly held points in favor of weaker areas and keeping the attack going until the enemy surrendered. It paid off handsomely, winning them all of Europe plus land all the way to the Volga River in Russia. There  they tossed the Chinese sage’s rule overboard, and laid a monumentally expensive siege to the city of Stalingrad, a move opposed by practically every German general.

The Nazis wielded a powerful mechanized force which could move swiftly over open terrain, yet they tied their tanks down in street fighting amid the rubble of Stalingrad.  In the process they forfeited one of the bloodiest battles of attrition fought during the war.  Casualties were heavy on both sides, but especially on the German; they lost their Sixth Army, and the armies of two allies—Italian and Romanian.

Sun Tsu also advised against running a war from the ruler’s palace instead of the general’s tent, which applied strikingly on the German side during Stalingrad.  Here both strategy and tactics were dictated by the ruler, German dictator Adolf Hitler.  He wanted to capture the city for Continue reading

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Piggy bankers burgeoning: their fees becoming hungry and itchy as fleas

If anything irritates me as much as government giveaways, it’s the banking industry and its grasping takeaways.

I’m talking about fees, which are proliferating like fleas on a dog’s back. Latest new gimmick to fleece with fees: our bank demands depositors maintain an average $1,000 monthly balance or suffer forfeiting a three or four-buck fee. This bit of bad news is spreading through the financial business like an uncontrolled case of shingles.

Now this isn’t going to affect us personally; we maintain a better balance than that. But it’s really going to sock the poor who live from paycheck to paycheck. Most badly-educated day laborers aren’t going to read the announcement that Regions Bank mailed us warning of its latest creative bloodsucking. They probably won’t even notice their accounts are being silently tapped from month to month. Continue reading

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There’s gold in those television ads, but I’ll stick to my worthless dollar

Gold looks great, but try spending it at the store

I like gold. It is nice looking; it doesn’t rust; and people stand in awe if you have a lot of it hanging on your person.

What frosts my cupcake is having to listen to all the gold-blather on radio and  television for the past 10 years.  You’ve heard it too: the economy is crashing, the dollar is worthless, and you better buy gold or you’ll starve and die. This scare cacophony of the gold salesmen began back when their expensive metal sold for $300 an ounce; after a decade and more of panic advertising they’ve forced the price up to over $1,800. You would think they would be satisfied to sit back and rake in the dough, but their apocalyptic shrieking has only intensified.

Let’s see if I understand the logic: my dollars are now almost worthless. Their gold is rising swiftly and predicted to hit $2,000 an ounce in the near future. Yet they want me to trade my pitiful, ragged currency for their miracle metal, the only guarantee of economic salvation. Am I missing something here? It seems more sensible if they harassed me to sell them my gold wedding ring.  Continue reading

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Best poet of all, back in the day? Prize goes to Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay among the blossoms

There it was on a book shelf, SAVAGE BEAUTY, The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford. So I bought it right away and took it home for a mid-winter reading project. I’ve had no reason since to regret it.

Milford makes a creditable investigative run at one of America’s premier poets. She fills her book with juicy Millay details gleaned from reading the poet’s personal letters,

Youthful Edna

plus interviewing a surviving sister. One awesome revelation:  Edna’s parents gave her that prestigious middle name because they admired Maine’s St. Vincent Hospital.

In this debased era – when poetry is relegated to the domain of rock musical lyrics and advertising blank verse – one is more likely to encounter an honest politician strolling the boulevards than a real poet.

But there was a time in this country, during a frenetic Jazz Age, when these charming versifiers proliferated. National poetry magazines printed their stanzas, while newspapers routinely reported the results of their contests and interviewed their traveling lecturers. Even some radio stations held weekly poetry readings which attracted wide audiences. And among the bards writing during the third decade of the 20th century, one stood highest in public acclaim. Continue reading

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Confessions of an art guerrilla; critics, painters often scam unwary public

“The Scream,” a pastel by late Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, sold this year for $120 million at Sothby’s. I screamed when I read the news: “What a rip-off!!!” Your Aunt Susie could do a better job of drawing with finger paints.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear – the confessions of an art guerrilla: I am the

Mona Lisa: a big bust

ErnestoCheGuevara of the art set, a nasty rebel amongst aesthetes of the wine and cheese brigade.  I’ve banished the drab opinions of ” experts” and now accept only art that I personally prefer.  And like my alter ego, Che,  I intend to make ceaseless war on the fat sacred cows of painting.

This urge to topple fat-headedness is so heretical that I don’t even like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” that hymn to Renaissance mediocrity which has been hyped for centuries as a world masterpiece beyond price. Oh, it is okay, a nice piece of drawing, but that’s all. I might hang it on the wall if someone gave me Leonardo’s artwork for free. But in no alternate universe fantasy would I waste millions of dollars buying it. A great place to display it would be the bathroom, where visitors are in a hurry and in no mood to linger over the painting’s deficiencies. Continue reading

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Don’t procrastinate. Emigrate! It is to laugh as feds continue their fumbles

The classic wetback maneuver: floating on inflated bags

Illegal immigration – there’s a thought-provoking subject. And the Gulf oil spill, even more so.

Both provoke me to think that the federal government – as it is haphazardly stitched together – would have trouble organizing and policing a two-car funeral.

Concerning immigration, it has been apparent for decades (except perhaps for the most deeply brain-damaged among us) that the federal bureau of that name, and its policies, are one of history’s great disasters. Ten to 12 million illegal aliens among us stand as proof.  Despite this, the Obama administration still insists on command of the problem, threatening lawsuits to states like Arizona which organize minimal defenses against the horde of Mexicans flooding across its borders. Continue reading

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Where were you when? Historical events energize our flabby memories

President Kennedy and Jackie in Dallas

“Where were you when?…” It’s a fascinating memory game. Where were you when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? When World War II began?  When those planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11?

Adolf Hitler

It illustrates the fact that most of our days are not significant enough to recall. Memories have to be jogged by some event, a war, disaster, or a murder. But just recalling the event isn’t enough.  Our event has to be so stunning, horrifying, or thrilling that  you can remember where you were at the time and often what you said or thought.

I can’t answer for anyone else, but the moment President  Kennedy was shot I was in my basement, sitting on the floor.  I had stepped through the basement door into the dark interior, and my foot landed on the tines of a carelessly placed rake whose handle rose swiftly and smacked me smartly between the eyes. I collapsed and assumed the sitting lotus position for what seemed like ages, counting the comets and stars shooting before my eyes. Continue reading

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