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Posts Tagged ‘DAVID CROCKETT’

HEROES ARE REMEMBERED, THUGS ARE FORGOTTEN

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 25, 2022 at 12:13 am

March 6, 2022, marked the 186th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio, Texas.

It’s been the subject of novels, movies, biographies, histories and TV dramas (most notably Walt Disney’s 1955 “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier”).

Perhaps the most extraordinary scene in any Alamo movie or book occurs in the 1993 novel, Crockett of Tennessee, by Cameron Judd. 

And it is no less affecting for its being—so far as we know—entirely fictional.  

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The Alamo

It’s March 5, 1836—the last night of life for the Alamo garrison. The next morning, 2,000 men of the Mexican Army will hurl themselves at the former mission and slaughter its 200 “Texian” defenders. 

The fort’s commander, William Barrett Travis, has drawn his “line in the sand” and invited the garrison to choose: To surrender, to try to escape, or to stay and fight to the death.  

And the garrison—except for one man—chooses to stay and fight. 

For the garrison, immortality lies only hours away. Or does it?  

An hour after deciding to stand and die in the Alamo, wrapped in the gloom of night, David Crockett is seized with paralyzing fear. 

“We’re going to die here,” he chokes out to his longtime friend, Persius Tarr. “You understand that, Persius?  We’re going to die!”  Related image

“I know, Davy.  But there ain’t no news in that,” says Tarr. “We’re born to die. Every one of us. Only difference between us and most everybody else is we know when and where it’s going to be.” 

“But I can’t be afraid—not me. I’m Crockett. I’m Canebrake Davy. I’m half-horse, half-alligator.” 

“I know you are, Davy,” says Tarr. “So do all these men here. That’s why you’re going to get past this. 

“You’re going to put that fear behind you and walk back out there and fight like the man you are. The fear’s come and now it’s gone. This is our time, Davy.” 

And then Tarr delivers a sentiment wholly alien to money-obsessed men like Donald Trump—who comprise the richest and most privileged 1% of today’s Americans. 

“There’s men out there with their eyes on you. You’re the only thing keeping the fear away from them. You’re joking and grinning and fiddling—it gives them courage they wouldn’t have had without you. 

“Maybe that’s why you’re here, Davy—to make the little men and the scared men into big and brave men. You’ve always cared about the little men, Davy. Remember who you are. 

“You’re Crockett of Tennessee, and your glory-time has come.  Don’t you miss a bit of it.”

The next morning, the Mexicans assault the Alamo. Crockett embraces his glory-time—and becomes a legend for all-time. 

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David Crockett (center) at the fall of the Alamo

David Crockett (1786-1836) lived—and died—a poor man. But this did not prevent him from trying to better the lives of his family and fellow citizens—and even his former enemies. 

During the war of 1812, he served as a scout under Andrew Jackson. His foes were the Creek Indians, who had massacred 500 settlers at Fort Mims, Alabama—and threatened to do the same to Crockett’s family and neighbors in Tennessee.

But as a Congressman from Tennessee, he opposed then-President Jackson’s efforts to force the same defeated Indians to depart the lands guaranteed them by treaty. 

To Crockett, a promise was sacred—whether given by a single man or the United States Government. 

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David Crockett

And his presence during the 13-day siege of the Alamo did cheer the spirits of the vastly outnumbered defenders.

Crockett, with his fiddle—and a Scotsman named MacGregor, with his bagpipes—often staged musical “duels” to see who could make the most noise. 

Contrast this devotion of Crockett to the rights of “the little men,” with the attitude of Donald Trump, the alleged billionaire former President of the United States. 

Donald Trump

Throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump made such statements as: 

  • “…I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice.  I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.” 
  • “I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world….” 
  • “So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well over $10 billion.” 
  • My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”   
  • “My IQ is one of the highest—and you all know it.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.” 
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”   

Unlike Crockett, who defended the weak, Trump boasted of his power:

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Those who give their lives for others are rightly loved and remembered as heroes. Those who dedicate their lives solely to their wallets and egos are rightly soon forgotten.

THE MYSTERY OF INSPIRED LEADERSHIP: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2022 at 12:12 am

They seem to come out of nowhere—people who have never had military training nor even any experience with violence. Yet they display an utter fearlessness and eloquence that inspires others to great deeds in the face of overwhelming danger.

For 13 days—from February 23 to March 6, 1836—about 200 frontiersmen defended a ruined mission in San Antonio, Texas, against an army of 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

Few of them had known each other before finding themselves besieged. None of them had had professional military training. Some had served in local militias or as irregulars fighting Indians under the command of frontier officers such as Andrew Jackson.

One of these was David Crockett, recently a Congressman from Tennessee. 

Since the vast majority of the garrison were volunteers, they could have deserted the fortress at any time.

Holding them in place was a former lawyer named William Barret Travis. Gifted with an eloquence beyond his 26 years, he gave purpose to their stand. 

William Travis — Badass of the Week

William Barret Travis (with sword) at the Alamo

As historian T.R. Fehrenbach writes in his monumental book, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans:

“From the Alamo, from his first message before the arrival of the Mexicans to his last, his words had the ring of prophecy. The Texas historian who stated publicly that few people would want to have a son serve under William Barret Travis had forgotten, in the comforts of long security, the reasons why men make war.”

When the final assault came before dawn on March 6, 1836, the roughly 200 defenders killed and wounded about 600 of their enemies—inflicting a casualty rate of 33% on the Mexican army.

Travis’ body was found near his cannon on the north wall.

The garrison’s sacrifice inspired Sam Houston’s ragtag army to fall on the Mexican army at San Jacinto on April 21. Slaughtering about 800 soldiers, the Texans captured Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna—and forced him to surrender control of Texas in return for his life.

  • Volodymyr Zelensky (January 25, 1978 – ) is a former attorney, actor and comedian who, as the sixth president of Ukraine, now leads his country in a life-or-death struggle against the aggressive Russia of Vladimir Putin.

After earning a law degree from the Kiev National Economic University, he pursued a career in comedy. He created his own production company, Kvartal 95, which produced films, cartoons, and TV shows. His comedy, Servant of the People, starred Zelensky as the president of Ukraine.  

Volodymyr Zelensky Official portrait.jpg

Volodymyr Zelensky

In 2019, he announced his candidacy for president of Ukraine. He opposed the corruption that had been rife under the country’s luxury-loving president, Victor Yanukovych.

(In 2014, Ukrainians had rioted in Kiev and evicted Yanukovych. And that didn’t sit well with his “sponsor”—Russian President Vladimir Putin.)

A second feature of Zelensky’s presidential campaign: He promised to resolve the Russia-sponsored separatist movement in Donbas and end Ukraine’s protracted conflict there with Russia.

Zelensky won election by a landslide, with 72% of the vote.

In 2021, his administration came under mounting pressure from Russia. On February 24, Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

In the early hours of February 24, shortly before the start of the Russian invasion, Zelensky recorded an address to both Ukraine and Russia. As a Jew, he refuted Putin’s claims that there were Neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian government. 

And he appealed to Russians—in Russian—to pressure their leadership to prevent war.

During the assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kiev, the Biden administration urged Zelensky to evacuate to a safer location and offered to help him do so. Zelensky refused, saying: “The fight is here [in Kiev]; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

As CBS correspondent Scott Pelley put it: “The moment Zelensky told his people he refused to flee, they refused to fall.”

Russia expected Kiev to fall in three days. But 61 days after the invasion, Kiev still remains defiant—and in the hands of Ukrainians.

When he wasn’t broadcasting defiance at Russia and rousing Ukrainians to heroism, he was often visiting the battlefront.  

Interviewed on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Zelensky said: “I don’t want to make myself out to be a hero. I love my family. I want to live many more years, but choosing between running or being with my people, of course I’m ready to give my life for my country.”

Since the start of the invasion, he has reportedly been the target of more than a dozen assassination attempts.

Other world leaders have applauded his courage and leadership. Historian Andrew Roberts compared him to Winston Churchill. 

The Harvard Political Review said that Zelensky “has harnessed the power of social media to become history’s first truly online wartime leader, bypassing traditional gatekeepers as he uses the internet to reach out to the people.”

Zelensky sees Ukraine’s struggle as the opening round of Russia’s war against the West.

“Some are….saying, ‘We can’t defend Ukraine because there could be a nuclear war.’ I think that today, no one in this world can predict what Russia will do. If they invade further into our territory, then they will definitely move closer and closer to Europe. They will only become stronger and less predictable.”

THE MYSTERY OF INSPIRED LEADERSHIP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 26, 2022 at 12:10 am

Joan of Arc.  William Barret Travis.  Volodymyr Zelensky.

The first two names long ago burned themselves into the pages of history. The third one is now doing the same.

They seem to come out of nowhere—people who have never had military training nor even any experience with violence. Yet they display an utter fearlessness and eloquence that inspires others to great deeds in the face of overwhelming danger.

  • Joan of Arc (c. 1412 – 30 May 1431) was an illiterate peasant girl who, in France’s darkest hour, became its greatest hero. 

In 1428, when she was about 17, Joan traveled to Vaucouleurs and asked for an armed escort to King Charles V11. She said that she had received visions from the archangel Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine of Alexandra, instructing her to deliver France from English domination.

An image of a woman dressed in silver armor, holding a sword and a banner.

Joan of Arc

Her request was rejected twice, but eventually Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commander, relented and gave her an escort to meet Charles at Chinon. She had never seen Charles, but even though he disguised himself among his courtiers, she instantly recognized him.

After their interview, Charles sent Joan at the head of a relief army to lift the siege of Orléans.

She had never wielded a lance or sword, or even ridden a war horse. She had never studied military strategy nor even seen a battlefield. Yet nine days after arriving at Orléans, she lifted the siege on May 8.

On May 4, her army attacked the outlying fortress of Saint Loup. She arrived just as the French soldiers were retreating after a failed attempt. Her sudden appearance roused the soldiers to cheer and launch another assault—which overwhelmed the fortress.

In June, Joan decisively defeated the English at the Battle of Patay. She then advanced on Reims,  entering the city on July 16. The next day, Charles was consecrated as the King of France in Reims Cathedral with Joan at his side.

These victories paved the way for the final French victory in the Hundred Years’ War at Castillon in 1453.

Joan never attributed her success to anyone but God. She referred to herself as “Joan the Maid” and demanded that her soldiers refrain from sexual activity. At her orders, prostitutes—the camp followers of both French and British armies—were driven out of her encampments.

She did not expect to live a long life—and warned that the French had only about a year to claim their victories before she died.

On May 23, 1430, while relieving the siege of Compiegne, she was captured by Burgundians troops and exchanged to the English. Tried for heresy, she was declared guilty and burned at the stake on May 30,1431. 

Only 19 when she died, she had, through her inspired leadership, restored the kingdom of France.

  • William Barret Travis (August 1, 1809 – March 6, 1836) was a South Carolina lawyer whose courage and eloquence inspired 200 Texans to hold back a Mexican army at the Alamo.

An early advocate of Texas’ independence from Mexico, Travis entered the newly-formed Texas army as a regular officer. Although he had no experience in battle, he burned for glory as a cavalryman. But he accepted the order of Governor Henry Smith to go to San Antonio and defend the Alamo from the approaching Mexicans.

William B. Travis by Wiley Martin.JPG

William Barret Travis

Arriving there, he found himself overshadowed by the popularity of co-commander James Bowie, the legendary knife fighter. But when Bowie collapsed with pneumonia on February 23, 1836—the first day of the siege—Travis took command.

According to historian T.R. Fehrenbach:

“The true measure of this man, with his soldier’s cap, his sword, his exalted ideas of honor, and his florid rhetoric, was that he captured these violent frontiersmen and bent them to his purpose.

“No competent Texas historian really believes Travis drew his line on the ground with his sword and invited his men to leave or stay. That was not Buck Travis’ style. He intended to keep his command on the walls regardless of what the men wanted. He was consciously guarding the ramparts of Texas.”

A sprawling complex of buildings with low walls sits in a shallow valley overlooked by rolling hills.

The siege of the Alamo

On February 23, 1836, Travis penned one of the most famous letters in early American history. Addressing it “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” he wrote: 

“I am besieged with a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna [the president and dictator of Mexico]….

“The enemy has demanded our surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison is to be put to the sword. I shall never surrender or retreat. Thus, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character, to come to my aid with all dispatch…

“If this call is neglected I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country. VICTORY OR DEATH.” 

On March 3, Travis wrote his last letter, addressing it to the newly-declared Republic of Texas. “I shall have to fight the enemy on his own terms….The victory will cost the enemy so dear it will be worse for him than a defeat.”

On March 6, 1836, his prophecy came true.

TRUMP’S ULTIMATE CORONAVIRUS LEGACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2021 at 12:18 am

It was the night of March 5, 1836. For the roughly 200 men inside the surrounded Alamo, death lay only hours away. 

Inside a house in San Antonio, Texas, Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was holding a council of war with his generals.

For 12 days, his army had bombarded the old mission. Still, the Texians—whose numbers included the legendary bear hunter and Congressman David Crockett and knife fighter James Bowie—held out.

Now Santa Anna was in a hurry to take the makeshift fortress. Once its defenders were dead, he could march on to sweep all American settlers from Texas.

One of his generals, Manuel Castrillón, urged Santa Anna to wait just a few more days. By then, far bigger cannon would be available. When the Alamo’s three-feet-thick walls had been knocked down, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

The lives of countless Mexican soldiers would thus be spared.

Santa Anna was eating a late-night chicken dinner. He held up a chicken leg and said: “What are the lives of soldiers but those of so many chickens?”

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Santa Anna ordered his generals to prepare an all-out attack on the Alamo, to be launched the next morning—March 6, 1836—at 5 a.m.

Hours later, the attack went forward. Within 90 minutes, every Alamo defender was dead—and so were at least 600 Mexican soldiers. 

“What are the lives of Americans but those of so many chickens?”

That could well have been the slogan of President Donald Trump in his approach to COVID-19. 

The United States had become the country worst-affected by Coronavirus—with more than 3.9 million diagnosed cases and more than 143,000 deaths. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Americans were living through their seventh month with the virus, and still the Trump administration could not—or would not—design a coordinated plan to combat it.

Trump started out 2020 by dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. On January 22 he said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

By February 28, he had termed the disease the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

By March, he was making it clear that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients.

This resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other.

Even worse: Trump didn’t simply refuse to provide states with vitally-needed medical supplies—he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to illegally seize those supplies that states had ordered.

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Donald Trump

When states’ governors issued stay-at-home orders, Trump was forced to cancel his campaign rallies. Starting Easter weekend, he held almost 50 daily press briefings at the White House.

Their official purpose: To update the country on the administration’s ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Their real purpose: To serve as a substitute for Trump’s hate-filled political rallies, which have been likened to those staged by Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, at Nuremberg. 

Eager to return to his mass rallies and reignite his support from Right-wingers, he began furiously campaigning to end social distancing and the wearing of masks. Both of these had been mandated by such governors as California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

He also demanded the reopening of businesses across the nation—although there was no vaccine nor even adequate testing and contact-tracing facilities. This led many states—especially in the South and Midwest—to reopen prematurely, with a resulting rise in COVID infections and deaths.

He urged his Right-wing supporters to flood into the capitols of such states as Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia—whose governors were Democrats—and demand an end to mask-wearing and social distancing. This was in direct defiance of the laws legally in force in those states.

And they did as he ordered—massing shoulder-to-shoulder, most of them not wearing masks, and with many of them carrying automatic rifles.

On April 23, at a White House press briefing, he suggested that UV light and disinfectant—such as Clorox—might prove an effective preventative or cure for Coronavirus. This prompted alarm from medical professionals—even as some Americans believed him and swallowed disinfectant to prevent COVID-19.

Unable—or unwilling—to effectively attack the virus, Trump chose to attack the medical professionals desperately trying to save lives. He accused them of hoarding scarce medical supplies and lying about the number of COVID cases they were treating. 

His chief target: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There were two reasons for this:

  1. Fauci repeatedly warned about the dangers of the virus—and criticized the failure of the Federal Government to effectively combat it; and
  2. His warnings and criticisms repeatedly proved correct, while Trump’s rosy predictions proved wrong.

By September, Trump demanded that Americans put their children at risk by sending them back to school in the fall—so their parents could return to work. Then he could claim he had “saved” the American economy—and be re-elected.

For Donald Trump, the ultimate “strategy” on COVID-19 was: “Pretend it’s over and re-elect me. Then drop dead for all I care.”

MEXICO: A PAST VICTIM–AND NOW AN EXPORTER–OF UNCHECKED IMMIGRATION

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 9, 2021 at 12:04 am

On May 8, 2018, one year after Donald Trump became President, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that a “zero-tolerance” policy toward people illegally entering the United States might separate families while parents are prosecuted. 

“We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter into this country improperly,” Sessions said. “The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be. So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions.” 

Actually, the policy of family separations began a year before its public announcement.

Children who are separated from their parents would be put under supervision of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, Sessions said.

Jeff Sessions, official portrait.jpg

Jeff Sessions

Thomas Homan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director, backed up Sessions’ “get tough” policy change: “Every law enforcement agency in this country separates parents from children when they’re arrested for a crime. There is no new policy. This has always been the policy.”

So that policy went into effect. And it has generated widespread outrage from:

  1. Civil liberties organizations; and
  2. Those who believe the United States should not have—or enforce—its immigration laws.

“Criminalizing and stigmatizing parents who are only trying to keep their children from harm and give them a safe upbringing will cause untold damage to thousands of traumatized families who have already given up everything to flee terrible circumstances in their home countries,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director.

In fact, alien-smugglers have increasingly used children as a wedge against American immigration laws. Their strategy: “Surely, Americans won’t arrest innocent children—or the adults who bring children with them.

The Trump administration proved them wrong.

This is typical behavior for law enforcement agencies: When criminals devise new ways to defeat existing police measures, the police devise new ways to counter those methods.

Meanwhile, those who believe the United States should throw open its doors to everyone who wants to enter are missing—or ignoring—a vital historical lesson learned by Mexico.

Mexico knows even better than the United States the perils of unchecked illegal immigration. 

In 1821, Moses Austin sought a grant from Mexico to settle Texas. After he died in 1821, his son, Stephen, won recognition of the grant by Mexico.

The Mexican government had been unable to persuade large numbers of its own citizens to move to Texas, owing largely to raiding by such fierce Indian tribes as the Comanches.

The government saw the Anglo settlement of Texas as its best hope to tame an otherwise untamable frontier.

Stephen f austin.jpg

Stephen Austin

Austin convinced numerous American settlers to move to Texas, and by 1825 he had brought the first 300 American families into the territory.

Throughout the 1820s, Austin helped ensure the introduction of slavery into Texas, even though, under Mexican law, this was illegal. Tensions developed between unchecked numbers of Anglo settlers flooding into Texas and the Mexican authorities in charge there.

(“GTT”—“Gone to Texas”—was often carved on cabin doors by debt-ridden settlers who decided to seek their fortune in Texas. And some of the most notorious criminals on the frontier—such as land swindler and knife-fighter James Bowie—joined them.)

Three-quarter portrait of a young clean-shaven man with long sideburns and a widow's peak hairline. His arms are crossed.

James Bowie

Eventually, the irresistible force of unlimited Anglo illegal immigration rebelled against the immovable object of Mexican legal/military authority.

The result:

  • The battle of the Alamo: From February 23 to March 6, 1836, about 200 rebellious Texans withstood a 13-day siege in a former San Antonio mission, only to be slaughtered to the last man by an army of 2,000 Mexican soldiers commanded by President (actually, dictator) Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Among the victims: James Bowie and former Congressman David Crockett.  
  • The massacre at Goliad:  On March 27, 1836, 425-445 Texans captured after the battle of Coleto were shot en masse by Mexican soldiers.
  • The battle of San Jacinto:  On April 21, 1836, Texans led by General Sam Houston won a surprise Texas victory over Mexican forces who were caught in a mid-afternoon siesta. Santa Anna—who had fled—was captured the next day. 

Mexico was forced to give up all rights to Texas—which, 10 years after winning its independence, became a state.

But ongoing conflicts between Mexico and the United States over Texas led to the Mexican war in 1846.

This, in turn, led to a series of devastating American victories over the Mexican army, and the capture of Mexico City itself.

Territory (in white) that Mexico lost after the Mexican War

Mexico suffered the humiliation of both military defeat and the loss of its land holdings within the American Southwest—which, up to 1848, it had controlled.

This territory later became the states of California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and western Colorado. 

And the United States finally spread “from sea to shining sea.”

So Mexico knows what it’s doing when it unloads millions of its own citizens—and those of other Latin and Central American countries—on the United States.

Mexico, in short, is a textbook case of what happens to a country that is unable to enforce its own immigration laws.

THE LIVES OF CHICKENS–AND COVID VICTIMS

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2020 at 12:07 am

It was the night of March 5, 1836. For the roughly 200 men inside the surrounded Alamo, death lay only hours away. 

Inside a house in San Antonio, Texas, Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was holding a council of war with his generals.

For 12 days, his army had bombarded the old mission. Still, the Texians—whose numbers included the legendary bear hunter and Congressman David Crockett and knife fighter James Bowie—held out.

Now Santa Anna was in a hurry to take the makeshift fortress. Once its defenders were dead, he could march on to sweep all American settlers from Texas.

One of his generals, Manuel Castrillón, urged Santa Anna to wait just a few more days. By then, far bigger cannon would be available. When the Alamo’s three-feet-thick walls had been knocked down, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

The lives of countless Mexican soldiers would thus be spared.

Santa Anna was eating a late-night chicken dinner. He held up a chicken leg and said: “What are the lives of soldiers but those of so many chickens?”

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Santa Anna ordered his generals to prepare an all-out attack on the Alamo, to be launched the next morning—March 6, 1836—at 5 a.m.

Hours later, the attack went forward. Within 90 minutes, every Alamo defender was dead—and so were at least 600 Mexican soldiers. 

“What are the lives of Americans but those of so many chickens?”

That could well be the slogan of President Donald Trump in his approach to COVID-19. 

The United States has become the country worst-affected by Coronavirus—with more than 8.38 million diagnosed cases and more than 222,000 deaths. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

Americans are living through their tenth month with the virus, and still the Trump administration cannot—or will not—design a coordinated plan to combat it.

Trump started out 2020 by dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. On January 22 he said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

By February 28, he had termed the disease the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

By March, he was making it clear that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients.

This has resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other.

Even worse: Trump didn’t simply refuse to provide states with vitally-needed medical supplies—he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to illegally seize those supplies that states had ordered.

Related image

Donald Trump

When states’ governors issued stay-at-home orders, Trump was forced to cancel his campaign rallies. Starting Easter weekend, he held almost 50 daily press briefings at the White House.

Their official purpose: To update the country on the administration’s ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Their real purpose: To serve as a substitute for Trump’s hate-filled political rallies, which have been likened to those staged by Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, at Nuremberg. 

Eager to return to his mass rallies and reignite his support from Right-wingers, he began furiously campaigning to end social distancing and the wearing of masks. Both of these had been mandated by such governors as California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

He also demanded the reopening of businesses across the nation—although no vaccine nor even adequate testing and contact-tracing facilities existed. This led many states—especially in the South and Midwest—to reopen prematurely, with a resulting rise in COVID infections and deaths.

He urged his Right-wing supporters to flood into the capitols of such states as Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia—whose governors were Democrats—and demand an end to mask-wearing and social distancing. This was in direct defiance of the laws legally in force in those states.

And they did as he ordered—massing shoulder-to-shoulder, most of them not wearing masks, and with many of them carrying automatic rifles.

On April 23, at a White House press briefing, he suggested that UV light and disinfectant—such as Clorox—might prove an effective preventative or cure for Coronavirus. This prompted alarm from medical professionals—even as some Americans believed him and swallowed disinfectant to prevent COVID-19.

Unable—or unwilling—to effectively attack the virus, Trump chose to attack the medical professionals desperately trying to save lives. He accused them of hoarding scarce medical supplies and lying about the number of COVID cases they were treating.

As fall approached, Trump demanded that Americans risk the lives of their children by sending them back to school. This would allow their parents to return to work. Then Trump could claim that he had “saved” the American economy—and be re-elected.

His chief target: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There were two reasons for this:

  1. Fauci repeatedly warned about the dangers of the virus—and criticized the failures of the Federal Government to effectively combat it; and
  2. His warnings repeatedly proved correct—while Trump’s rosy predictions proved wrong.

Finally, Trump wants Americans to simply ignore the virus—and re-elect him.

With about 910 Americans dying every day from COVID-19, neither of these seems likely.

THE LIVES OF CHICKENS—AND AMERICANS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 21, 2020 at 12:31 am

It was the night of March 5, 1836. For the roughly 200 men inside the surrounded Alamo, death lay only hours away. 

Inside a house in San Antonio, Texas, Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was holding a council of war with his generals.

For 12 days, his army had bombarded the old mission. Still, the Texians—whose numbers included the legendary bear hunter and Congressman David Crockett and knife fighter James Bowie—held out.

Now Santa Anna was in a hurry to take the makeshift fortress. Once its defenders were dead, he could march on to sweep all American settlers from Texas.

One of his generals, Manuel Castrillón, urged Santa Anna to wait just a few more days. By then, far bigger cannon would be available. When the Alamo’s three-feet-thick walls had been knocked down, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

The lives of countless Mexican soldiers would thus be spared.

Santa Anna was eating a late-night chicken dinner. He held up a chicken leg and said: “What are the lives of soldiers but those of so many chickens?”

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Santa Anna ordered his generals to prepare an all-out attack on the Alamo, to be launched the next morning—March 6, 1836—at 5 a.m.

Hours later, the attack went forward. Within 90 minutes, every Alamo defender was dead—and so were at least 600 Mexican soldiers. 

“What are the lives of Americans but those of so many chickens?”

That could well be the slogan of President Donald Trump in his approach to COVID-19. 

The United States has become the country worst-affected by Coronavirus—with more than 3.9 million diagnosed cases and more than 143,000 deaths. 

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Coronavirus

Americans are living through their seventh month with the virus, and still the Trump administration cannot—or will not—design a coordinated plan to combat it.

Trump started out 2020 by dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. On January 22 he said: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

By February 28, he had termed the disease the Democrats’ “new hoax.”

By March, he was making it clear that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients.

This has resulted in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere of cutthroat competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other.

Even worse: Trump didn’t simply refuse to provide states with vitally-needed medical supplies—he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to illegally seize those supplies that states had ordered.

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Donald Trump

When states’ governors issued stay-at-home orders, Trump was forced to cancel his campaign rallies. Starting Easter weekend, he held almost 50 daily press briefings at the White House.

Their official purpose: To update the country on the administration’s ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Their real purpose: To serve as a substitute for Trump’s hate-filled political rallies, which have been likened to those staged by Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, at Nuremberg. 

Eager to return to his mass rallies and reignite his support from Right-wingers, he began furiously campaigning to end social distancing and the wearing of masks. Both of these had been mandated by such governors as California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

He also demanded the reopening of businesses across the nation—although there was no vaccine nor even adequate testing and contact-tracing facilities. This led many states—especially in the South and Midwest—to reopen prematurely—with a resulting rise in COVID infections and deaths.

He urged his Right-wing supporters to flood into the capitols of such states as Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia—whose governors were Democrats—and demand an end to mask-wearing and social distancing. This was in direct defiance of the laws legally in force in those states.

And they did as he ordered—massing shoulder-to-shoulder, most of them not wearing masks, and with many of them carrying automatic rifles.

On April 23, at a White House press briefing, he suggested that UV light and disinfectant—such as Clorox—might prove an effective preventative or cure for Coronavirus. This prompted alarm from medical professionals—even as some Americans believed him and swallowed disinfectant to prevent COVID-19.

Unable—or unwilling—to effectively attack the virus, Trump chose to attack the medical professionals desperately trying to save lives. He accused them of hoarding scarce medical supplies and lying about the number of COVID cases they were treating. 

His chief target: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There were two reasons for this:

  1. Fauci repeatedly warned about the dangers of the virus—and criticized the failure of the Federal Government to  effectively combat it; and
  2. His warnings and criticisms repeatedly proved correct, while Trump’s rosy predictions proved wrong.

Now Trump demands that Americans put their children at risk by sending them back to school in the fall—so their parents can return to work. Then he can claim he’s “saved” the American economy—and be re-elected.

Donald Trump’s ultimate “strategy” on COVID-19: “Pretend it’s over and re-elect me. Then drop dead for all I care.”

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART THREE (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2020 at 12:16 am

On the night before the final Mexican assault, one man escaped the Alamo to testify to the defenders’ courage. Or so goes the most famous story of the 13-day siege.

He was Louis Rose, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and the dreadful 1812 retreat from Moscow. Unwilling to die in a hopeless battle, he slipped over a wall and sneaked through Mexican siege lines.

At Grimes County, he found shelter at the homestead of Abraham and Mary Ann Zuber. Their son, William, later claimed that his parents told him of Rose’s visit–and his story of Travis’ “line in the sand” speech.

In 1873, he published the tale in the Texas Almanac.

But many historians believe it is a fabrication. The story comes to us third-hand—from Rose to the Zubers to their son. And it was published 37 years after the Alamo fell.  

Even if Travis didn’t draw a line in the sand, every member of the garrison, by remaining to stay, had crossed over his own line.

After a 12-day siege, Santa Anna decided to overwhelm the Alamo.

Some of his officers objected. They wanted to wait for bigger siege cannon to arrive—to knock down the Alamo’s three-feet-thick adobe walls. Without shelter, the defenders would be forced to surrender.

But Santa Anna insisted on an all-out assault: “Without blood and tears, there is no glory.”

The first assault came at about 5 a.m. on Sunday, March 6, 1836.

The fort’s riflemen—aided by 14 cannons–repulsed it. And the second assault as well.

But the third assault proved unstoppable. The Alamo covered three acres, and held at most 250 defenders—against 2,000 Mexican soldiers.

When the Mexicans reached the fort, they mounted scaling ladders and poured over the walls.

Travis was among the first defenders to fall—shot through the forehead after firing a shotgun into the Mexican soldiery below.

William Travis — Badass of the Week

Death of William Barrett Travis (waving sword)

Mexicans broke into the room where the ailing James Bowie lay.

In Three Roads to the Alamo, historian William C. Davis writes that Bowie may have been unconscious or delirious. Mistaking him for a coward, the soldiers bayoneted him and blew out his brains.

But some accounts claim that Bowie died fighting—shooting two Mexicans with pistols, then plunging his famous knife into a third before being bayoneted. Nearly every Alamo movie depicts Bowie’s death this way.


James Bowie’s death

As the Mexicans poured into the fort, at least 60 Texans tried to escape over the walls into the surrounding prairie. But they were quickly dispatched by lance-bearing Mexican cavalry.

The death of David Crockett remains highly controversial.

Baby boomers usually opt for the Walt Disney version: Davy swinging “Old Betsy” as Mexicans surround him. Almost every Alamo movie depicts him fighting to the death.

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David Crockett’s Death

But Mexican Lieutenant Colonel Jose Enrique de la Pena claimed Crockett was one of seven Texans who surrendered or were captured and brought before Santa Anna after the battle. Santa Anna ordered their immediate execution, and they were hacked to death with sabers.

Only the 2004 remake of The Alamo has dared to depict this version. Although this version is now accepted by most historians, some still believe the de la Pena diary from which it comes is a forgery.

An hour after the battle erupted, it was over.

That afternoon, Santa Anna ordered the bodies of the slain defenders stacked and burned in three pyres.

Contrary to popular belief, some of the garrison survived:

  • Joe, a black slave who had belonged to William B. Travis, the Alamo’s commander;
  • Susanah Dickinson, the wife of a lieutenant killed in the Alamo, and her baby, Angelina;
  • Several Mexican women and their children.

Also contrary to legend, the bravery of the Alamo defenders did not buy time for Texas to raise an army against Santa Anna. This didn’t happen until after the battle.

But their sacrifice proved crucial in securing Texas’ independence:

  • The Alamo’s destruction warned those Texans who had not supported the revolution that they had no choice: They must win, die or flee their homes to the safety of the United States.
  • It stirred increasing numbers of Americans to enter Texas and enlist in Sam Houston’s growing army.
  • Santa Anna’s army was greatly weakened, losing 600 killed and wounded—a casualty rate of 33%.
  • The nearly two-week siege bought time for the Texas convention to meet at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declare independence from Mexico.

On April 21, 1836, Santa Anna made a crucial mistake: During his army’s afternoon siesta, he failed to post sentries around his camp.

That afternoon, Sam Houston’s 900-man army struck the 1,400-man Mexican force at San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, the Texans—shouting “Remember the Alamo!”—killed about 700 Mexican soldiers and wounded 200 others.

The next day, a Texas patrol captured Santa Anna–wearing the uniform of a Mexican private. Resisting angry demands to hang the Mexican dictator, Houston forced Santa Anna to surrender control of Texas in return for his life.

The victory at San Jacinto won the independence of Texas. But the 13-day siege and fall of the Alamo remains the most famous and celebrated part of that conflict.

In 480 B.C., 300 Spartans won immortality at Thermopylae, a narrow mountain pass in ancient Greece, by briefly holding back an invading Persian army of thousands.

Although they died to the last man, their sacrifice inspired the rest of Greece to defeat its invaders. 

Like Thermopylae, the battle of the Alamo proved both a defeat—and a victory.

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2020 at 12:26 am

Friday, March 6, 2020, marks the 184h anniversary of the most famous event in Texas history: The fall of the Alamo, a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio.  

After a 12-day siege, 180 to 250 Texans were overwhelmed by 2,000 Mexican soldiers. 

Mexican troops advancing on the Alamo

Americans “remember the Alamo”–but usually for the wrong reasons.

Some historians believe the battle should have never been fought.

The Alamo was not Thermopylae—a narrow mountain pass blocking the Persian march into ancient Greece.  Santa Anna could have simply bypassed it.

In fact, several of Santa Anna’s generals urged the Mexican dictator to do just that—leave a small guard to hold down the fort’s defenders and wipe out the undefended, widely-separated Texas settlements.

But pride held Santa Anna fast to the Alamo. His brother-in-law, General Perfecto de Cos, had been forced to surrender the old mission to revolting Texans in December, 1835. 

Santa Anna meant to redeem the fort—and his family honor—by force.

In virtually every Alamo movie, its two co-commanders, James Bowie and William Barret Travis, are portrayed as on the verge of all-out war—with each other.

In John Wayne’s heavily fictionalized 1960 film, The Alamo, Bowie and Travis agree to fight a duel as soon as they’ve whipped the Mexicans besieging them.

James Bowie

William B. Travis

In fact, the frictions between the two lasted only a short while. Just before the siege, some of Bowie’s volunteers—a far larger group than Travis’ regulars—got drunk. 

Travis ordered them jailed—and Bowie ordered his men to release them. Bowie then went on a roaring drunk. The next day, a sober Bowie apologized to Travis and agreed they should share command. 

This proved a wise decision, for just as the siege started, Bowie was felled by worsening illness—typhoid-pneumonia or tuberculosis.

In almost every Alamo movie, Bowie repeatedly leaves the fort to ambush unsuspecting Mexicans.

In reality, he stayed bed-ridden and lay close to death throughout the 13-day siege.

The Texans intended to make a suicidal stand.

False.

From the first day of the siege-–February 23, almost to the last, March 6, 1836—messengers rode out of the Alamo seeking help. The defenders believed that if they could cram enough men into the three-acre former mission, they could hold Santa Anna at bay.

No reinforcements reached the Alamo.

False. On March 1, 32 men from Gonzalez—the only ones to answer Travis’ call—sneaked through the Mexican lines to enter the Alamo.

Meanwhile, the largest Texan force lay at Fort Deviance in Goliad, 85 miles away. This consisted of 500 men commanded by James Walker Fannin, a West Point dropout.  

Fannin was better-suited for the role of Hamlet than military commander.

Upon receiving a plea of help from Travis, he set out in a halfhearted attempt to reach the mission. But when a supply wagon broke down, he returned to Fort Defiance and sat out the rest of the siege.  

When the Mexican army approached Fort Defiance, Fannin and 400 of his men panicked and fled into the desert. They were surrounded, forced to surrender, and massacred on March 27

The Alamo garrison was fully prepared to confront the Mexican army.

False.  When the Mexicans suddenly arrived in San Antonio on the morning of February 23, 1836, they caught the Texans completely by surprise.

The previous night, they had been celebrating the birthday of George Washington. The Texans rushed headlong into the Alamo, hauling all the supplies they could hastily scrounge.

Santa Anna sent a courier under a flag of truce to the Alamo, demanding unconditional surrender. In effect, the Texans were being given the choice of later execution.

Travis replied with a shot from the fort’s biggest cannon, the 18-pounder (so named for the weight of its cannonball).

Santa Anna ordered the hoisting of a blood-red flag and the opening of an artillery salvo. The siege of the Alamo was on.

San Houston, who was elected general of the non-existent army of Texas, desperately tried to relieve the siege.

False. 

At Washington-on-the-Brazos, 169 miles east of San Antonio, Texan delegates assembled to form a new government. When news reached the delegates that Travis desperately needed reinforcements, many of them wanted to rush to his defense.  

But Houston and others declared they must first declare Texas’ independence. On March 2, 1836, they did just that. Houston spent a good deal of the time drunk.

Sam Houston

Did Travis draw a line?

Easily the most famous Alamo story is that of “the line in the sand.”

On the night of March 5—just prior to the final assault—there was a lull in the near-constant Mexican bombardment. Travis assembled his men and gave them a choice:

They could try to surrender and hope that Santa Anna would be merciful. They could try to escape. Or they could stay and fight.  

With his sword, Travis drew a line in the dirt and invited those who would stay to cross over to him.  

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The entire garrison did—except for two men.  

One of these was bed-ridden James Bowie. He asked that his sick-bed be carried over to Travis. The other was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars–Louis Rose.

THE ALAMO: TRAGEDY AND GLORY: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 4, 2020 at 12:22 am

On March 2, 1836–184 years ago this year—Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico, of which it was then a province.-

Sixty-one delegates took part in the convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

Their signed statement proclaimed that the Mexican government had “ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived.” 

Meanwhile, 169 miles away, the siege of the Alamo–a crumbling former Spanish mission in the heart of San Antonio–had entered its ninth day. The Alamo.

The mission that became a fortress. The fortress that has since become a shrine. 

By Daniel Schwen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Alamo Chapel 

The combatants: 180 to 250 Texans (or “Texians,” as many of them preferred to be called) vs. 2,000 Mexican soldiers. 

On the Texan side three names predominate: David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis. “The Holy Trinity,” as some historians ironically refer to them. 

Crockett, at 49, was the most famous man in the Alamo. He had been a bear hunter, Indian fighter and Congressman. Rare among the men of his time, he sympathized with the Indian tribes he had helped subdue in the War of 1812.

David Crockett

He believed Congress should honor the treaties made with the former hostiles and opposed President Andrew Jackson’s effort to move the tribes further West.Largely because of this, his constituents turned him out of office in November, 1835. He told them they could go to hell; he would go to Texas.

James Bowie, at 40, had been a slave trader with pirate Jean Lafitte and a land swindler. But his claim to fame lay in his skill as a knife-fighter.

James Bowie

This grew out of his participating in an 1827 duel on a sandbar in Natchez, Mississippi. Bowie was acting as a second to one of the duelists who had arranged the event.

After the two duelists exchanged pistol shots without injury, they called it a draw. But those who had come as their seconds had scores to settle among themselves–and decided to do so. A bloody melee erupted.

Bowie was shot in the hip and then impaled on a sword cane wielded by Major Norris Wright, a longtime enemy. Drawing a large butcher knife he wore at his belt, he gutted Wright, who died instantly.

The brawl became famous as the Sandbar Fight, and cemented Bowie’s reputation across the South as a deadly knife fighter.

William Barret Travis had been an attorney and militia member. Burdened by debts and pursued by creditors, he fled Alabama in 1831 to start over in Texas. Behind him he left a wife, son, and unborn daughter.

William Barret Travis

From the first, Travis burned to free Texas from Mexico and see it become a part of the United States.

In January, 1836, he was sent by the American provisional governor of Texas to San Antonio, to fortify the Alamo. He arrived there with a small party of regular soldiers and the title of lieutenant colonel in the state militia.

On the Mexican side, only one name matters: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, president (i.e., absolute dictator) of Mexico. After backing first one general and would-be “president” after another, Santa Anna maneuvered himself into the office in 1833.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna

Texas was then legally a part of Mexico. Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas,” had received a grant from Spain—which ruled Mexico until 1821–to bring in 300 American families to settle there.

The Spaniards wanted to establish a buffer between themselves and warring Indian tribes like the Comanches. This immigration continued after Mexico threw off Spanish rule and obtained its independence.

But as Americans kept flooding into Texas, the character of its population changed, alarming its Mexican rulers.

The new arrivals did not see themselves as Mexican citizens but as transplanted Americans. They were largely Protestant, as opposed to the Catholic Mexicans. And many of them not only owned slaves but demanded the expansion of slavery—a practice illegal under Mexican law.

In October, 1835, fighting erupted between American settlers and Mexican soldiers.

In November, Mexican forces took shelter in the Alamo, which had been built in 1718 as a mission to convert Indians to Christianity. Since then it had been used as a fort—by Spanish and then Mexican troops.

Texans lay siege to the Alamo from October 16 to December 10, 1835. With his men exhausted, and facing certain defeat, General Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, surrendered. He gave his word to leave Texas and never take up arms again against its settlers.

Most Texans rejoiced. They believed they had won their “war” against Mexico. But others knew better.

One was Bowie. Another was Sam Houston, a former Indian fighter, Congressman and protégé of Andrew Jackson.

Still another was Santa Anna, who styled himself “The Napoleon of the West.”  In January, 1836, he set out from Mexico City at the head of an army totaling about 7,000.

He planned the 18th century version of a blitzkrieg, intending to arrive in Texas and take its “rebellious foreigners” by surprise.

His forced march proved costly in lives, but met his objective. He arrived in San Antonio with several hundred soldiers on February 23, 1836.

The siege of the Alamo—the most famous event in Texas history—was about to begin.

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