'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grouchy Historian's Favorite Non-Fiction Book of 2016.

SO many great books this year...interesting that for the first time since I can remember, almost 50% of the books I read this year were fiction.  

Strangely, this was a much tougher choice than my fiction selection. As I continue my awesome relationship with the New York Journal of Books, I have had the chance to review some really outstanding works of history this year, ranging from a history of the Great Plains Indian Wars to the current fighting in Afghanistan.

They really are a great bunch of folks to work with and I look forward to continuing this relationship into 2017.

In addition, I have had the direct opportunity to work with the great team at Rowan Technology, who are currently working on a multi-volume history of war and warfare for my old nemesis, West Point. 

Football aside, the whoops on the Hudson have always done an excellent job of teaching military history, and the complete hi-tech overhaul of their curriculum has resulted in my choice for favorite non-fiction book of 2016-- The West Point History of World War II, Vol. 2 (The West Point History of Warfare Series) .  

Appearing in both hardcover and advanced e-book forms, this wonderful volume really redefines what an undergraduate text can be, particularly the e-book, which is aimed at the current crop of cadets weaned on the internet and interactive books, with an amazing but well placed amount of animated maps, video clips, and other technology marvels to keep the attention of today's college students. 

But these whiz bangs do not come at the expense of solid scholarship and excellent writing from some of the top military historians in the world.   I was lucky to be able to review both versions and found each of them equally enthralling, even though I have a penchant for hardcover books that I can browse.

One can only hope that upcoming volumes on World War I, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan maintain the high quality of work.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Grouchy Historian's Favorite Fiction Books of 2016

2016 was a pretty good year for fiction, at least from my point of view. Of course, I have a very selective list of fiction that I like to read, so normally it is a pretty safe bet that my favorite fiction work will be from Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, or occasionally, JD Robb AKA Nora Roberts.

And, all of these folks had great books this year that I enjoyed immensely, especially the author chosen by the late Vince Flynn's estate to continue the adventures of his indomitable character, Mitch Rapp.

But for favorite fiction, this year I chose a new and previously unknown author, at least to me, named Linda Nagata.

Coming out of nowhere, she has written a wonderful trilogy, The Red, which in my mind, really is some of the best military SF I have ever read, evoking memories of Ian Douglass, one of my favorite military SF authors, and even the great Robert Heinlein.

These books follow the adventures of a squad of infantry using enhanced exoskeletons and AI implants, both things being researched by DARPA, in pursuing a rogue AI loose on the internet. A basic plot, it seems, but done very well, with a great deal of suspense, mystery, and plot twists to make me very happy that I was able to get all three books at once--I hate waiting for sequel books to come out.

More importantly, as with all good SF, the technology and science does not overwhelm the readers and provides a good compliment to the characters and their internal and external conflicts, the basis for all good fiction. Ms. Nagata develops sympathetic and flawed characters that draw you in and make you either cheer or jeer their fate.

Sadly, these have not done as well commercially as the author hoped. Which is too bad, because they would make outstanding ORIGINAL movies, something the dopes in Hollywood are certainly lacking.

Provocative, thoughtful, and certainly timely, these books are what everything good SF should be---stories that both entertain and make you ask, "Wow, could this really happen?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Father...Rest in Peace 1931-2016.

Donald Dean Lenaburg was born November 8, 1931, in Arapaho, Oklahoma, to Julius Earnest and Alvena Ernst Lenaburg. He died Tuesday, December 27, 2016, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the age of 85 years. 

Don was reared and educated in Arapaho, Oklahoma, and graduated with the Arapaho High School Class of 1950. He was a veteran of the armed forces having served his country honorably with the United States Army. Don continued his education attending Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in engineering. He completed his education at Oklahoma A & M Technological School in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. 

Don was married August 19, 1955, in Clinton, Oklahoma, to Eleanor Pearl Hunter. They had made their home in Collinsville, Oklahoma, since December of 1967. He spent most of his working life with IBM as a customer engineer. Don was very active in giving back to the Collinsville community as a founding member of the Collinsville Lion’s Club, Collinsville VFW Post #5691, and also served as a Collinsville Rural Fire Protection board member. 

He was faithful member of the Lutheran church and was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. He served as leader for both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and was an Eagle Scout sponsor. Don enjoyed a variety of pastimes including watching John Wayne movies and Fox News, but he especially enjoyed spending time working, or playing, in his yard.

My father was devoted to his family, spending untold weekends at football games when my brother and I were in the marching band, my sister’s basketball and volleyball games, countless band and chorus trips as an adult chaperone and finally, many, many weekends on Boy Scout campouts eating scrambled eggs lightly cooked with grass and maybe a leaf or two, which he always ate, although not always happily.

That was my father’s philosophy—there are few problems in life that couldn’t be solved with hard work. He always seemed to be doing something around the house, either working on one of the family cars, fixing something in the house, or his favorite thing—riding his tractor and digging in the dirt.

My father’s other favorite activity was working on cars, he could have given instruction to any car dealership mechanic and seemed to always have grease under his fingernails. I did not inherit his knack or desire to work on cars, sometimes I wish I did. I remember him telling my siblings and I-“Check to see if your tires are still round on the bottom.”

He served during the Korean War era and was a proud lifetime member of the local VFW, some of whose members are here to honor Dad today. He never really talked too much about his time in the Army, but I know it was important to him, and helped turn him into the husband and father he became when he left the service.

My father lived a pretty quiet simple life, but it was a faith filled life. He was life-long Lutheran, and served in many capacities at the various churches he attended. More importantly, my father lived a life of christian charity and service to others, something that I think he tried to instill in his children, and which he performed without a lot of fuss or expectation of thanks or praise. 

I think it is no coincidence that Dad died two years to the day his granddaughter, my daughter Courtney went home to heaven. It gives me great peace to know they are together again. I can just see Courtney taking her Grandpa’s hand and walking him home to God.

When I think of my father, I will always think of this passage from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25:23, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Thursday, August 25, 2016

So fans of Vince Flynn and his indomitable character, Mitch Rapp, were very saddened at his passage in 2013 from prostate cancer at only 47. However, we may rest assured that Mitch is in good hands with the next book in the series, The Survivor, by Kyle Mills. Now, I have never heard of this new author, but I can tell you, he is very good. I went back to re-read the previous book, The Last Man, Vince’s last novel before his untimely death, since I knew that The Survivor was a sequel of sorts, and I have to say I was very impressed at how smoothly one book flowed into the other. 

Mr. Mills has definitely got the characters, theme, and general attitude of Vince’s books down to the letter. I literally read this book in 2 days, consuming pages like Hillary Clinton consumes Saudi money through her foundation…in an endless stream. The plot and pacing are superb and I was actually getting nervous that this book was going to also leave me hanging…which it kinda does, but not in one of those DAMN, I have to wait another year ways. I have already noticed the next book by Mr. Mills is almost here, and have, of course, pre-ordered it from Amazon.

For fans of political or spy thrillers, if you have never read one of these books, you’re definitely missing out. Vince was one of my must read authors, along with Brad Thor and JD Robb (yea, what can I say I have eclectic tastes). Few books can actually make me INTENSELY dislike the villains and cheer for the heroes, but these books definitely can.

The entire series is really top notch. If you are looking for fast paced reads with excellent characters and plots, Vince Flynn…and now his estate I guess, will fulfill your need. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic..

So we are less than 90 days out to Election Day and Republicans are rearranging the deck chairs and fighting for life boat seats as they attempt to escape what many consider to be the sinking ship of the Trump campaign.

So in this blog post I am not going to debate polls, gaffes, or even the utter incredulity many Americans feel at having to choose between these two candidates.  As I tell my liberal debate partners, I am no Trump fan, but there is no way in hell I can vote for Hillary.  I suspect far too many Americans feel my pain, voting AGAINST, instead of for a candidate.

I can only say, as a life long Reagan Republican that my disappointment in my party runs deep and will take a long time to mend.  

Not that I will become an Independent, since I consider most of those knuckleheads just liberals too cowardly to just come out and say they are pseudo-Democrats....you know like Bernie Sanders is an INDEPENDENT...yea right....

And forget about Libertarians or Greens, when you build your politics around the right to smoke dope, you are pretty much dead to me.

SO what the hell is happening to my Republican Party?  Darn good question, and sadly, not one they are asking themselves.  




As Trump loves to point out, and I alluded to in my earlier blog post,  he absolutely DESTROYED a field of 16 candidates, many of them with excellent name recognition and huge war chests.  IT wasn't even a real contest...none of them, and there were some truly excellent candidates, came even close.  Now personally,  I would have loved to be campaigning for Scott Walker or Rick Perry, but they couldn't defeat a loud mouth, obnoxious political neophyte.  GOOD GRIEF, now I wonder how any of these men would have stood up to the Hillary juggernaut.

SO, the question remains, if Trump is SO horrible, how did he win?  

Well, quite simply, because the entire Republican party is dazed and confused after eight years of pummeling by the Obama Administration and it's allies in the journo-entertainment-cocktail party industrial complex, as I like to call it.

What do I mean by this?

Well for eight years, with one notable exception, Republicans have ceded not only the political field, but the entire political narrative to Barrack Obama and his minions.  

How have they done this you ask?

Well, first, they fell for the trap of not really criticizing Obama's foreign policy blunders, economic malaise or lawless behavior, both within the Administration and his own personal verbal assault on law and order in the form of our nation's police forces.  They feared being called racists and the cry of simply opposing him for being our first black President.

Here's a clue fellas---the media, Hollywood, Obama, and every single Democrat were going to call you racist and bigoted anyway...so grow a pair and criticize him just like every white male President has been criticized.  DUH.

BUT more than that, and being intellectually honest, with the sole exception of the Sequestration deal, the Republican leadership didn't really have any good alternatives to the Obama Agenda.


I said it...I have to admit sometimes I have a challenge discussing (okay arguing) politics with my liberal counterparts since the Republicans actually DID not put forth any bold legislative agendas.  Did they become the party of NO as their critics claimed.  Well, partly.  There were RIGHT to say no to most of Obama's agenda, but from a PR point, that clearly wasn't enough.  They had to have SOMETHING else to offer, and in this case...sorry John Boehner was just not a big thinker.  He accomplished the sequestration deal, which although it is having a long-term detrimental effect on our military readiness, at least kept Obama's excesses under control.  

WHICH is kinda funny when liberals run around patting themselves on the back about Obama's $1T deficit reduction...clearly Common Core Math, but nonetheless I think our Republican Congress might have had a LITTLE bit to do with it.  Obama's yearn for dictatorial powers never quite achieved the ability to control the country's credit card completely. 

But back to my point, love him or hate him, Newt Gingrich was a very effective Speaker of the House.  AND he had a vision, the Contract with America, which put Bill Clinton on the spot.  Although they didn't get everything, they at least had a roadmap, a plan, and talking points to rally the troops and talk to the country.  And they got a surprisingly large amount of their agenda passed.  Now we can be sure Obama would have wielded his veto pen like a 9 iron against anything the Republicans did, but then they could at least have a talking point about how OBAMA had no other plans...I mean think about it, what BOLD legislation has this Administration proposed since the train wreck of Obamacare?  NONE that I can remember...shoot, not even an immigration reform package...Obama just whipped out his dictator card and used an Executive Order.

The Republican Party needs a platform...an agenda...that can rally the troops, whether Trump wins or loses.  AND, here's the dirty secret...they need to be bold and different, and stop trying to be "Democrat-lite" politicians...how does the old joke go--"Hey, we're Republicans, we're not as bad as you think."

What do I mean by this...well, Republicans can never out Santa Claus the Democrats...anytime the Republicans try to use government to help some problems, the Democrats can always trump them (no pun intended)..examples...

Republicans- "We need intelligent immigration reform to help protect our borders and provide a path to citizenship."
Democrats- "IMMEDIATE AMNESTY!  And sign them up as Democratic voters!"    

Republicans- "We need to reform our student loan system to help ease the ability to pay them back."
Democrats- "FREE COLLEGE FOR EVERYONE!  And sign them up as Democratic voters!"

Republicans- "Welfare reform helps put people to work and improve their lives."
Democrats- "MORE FREE STUFF PAID FOR BY RICH PEOPLE!  And sign them up as Democractic voters!"  

Now I exaggerate a little bit....but not much... Democrats have an instinctive, permanent ability  to propose government as the cure for all of society's ills, as long as they are in charge and can tax the crap out of everything...and the money doesn't run out.

NOW, conservatives know better...people need to learn to take care of themselves with as LITTLE government help as possible...not NO government help, but minimal government help.  WHY?  Because anytime you take help from the government, you cede control to the government.

REAL Republicans need to get better at articulating this...what the government gives you, it can take away, and a whole lot more.   

Maybe the current Republican leadership will get their act together and come up with a 21st century version of the Contract with America to deal with things like REAL Health Care Reform when Obamacare collapses, real immigration reform, real counter-terrorism and homeland security, and a REAL economic program that goes beyond the mantra of "Free Trade" to rebuild our industrial capacity and make America a real economic engine again.

I hope so...we'll see.