Welcome to this first article for an upcoming new section, Trail Blazer, magazine-length features on a variety of topics. Joe Bruns introduces his piece here. Read the entire article and add your comments at Russian Roulette. Are you ready to be a Trail Mix Contributor? Write to
firstname.lastname@example.org — Craig”
By Joe Bruns — Twice during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet union came dangerously close to nuclear war. The first time was the Cuban Missile Crisis. The second time, lesser known, was thirty-years ago, in late 1983. Some analysts think it was a more dangerous period than 1962.
But as American families in November, 1983 prepared to watch a new holiday comedy, A Christmas Story, about the dangers of a Red Rider BB Gun, much more dangerous weapons were being loaded and nuclear launch keys encoded. A series of events culminating in a NATO nuclear war exercise Able Archer 83 led to a crisis sufficiently grave for President Ronald Reagan to be ‘stunned,’ and for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to warn her friend to tone down his rhetoric and to work to ease tensions.
The Major Actors were:
- Richard Nixon and Soviet General Brezhnev, Cold War antagonists who bridged their differences to sign the ABM Treaty;
- President Jimmy Carter, who moved after the Iranian Revolution and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to pronounce The Carter Doctrine;
- Ronald Reagan, who wanted America to stand tall again on her principles, and spooked the Soviets;
- Yuri Andropov, the ailing Soviet General Secretary. Ambassador to Hungary during the 1956 uprising, he had no use for dissidents;
- Averell Harriman, Served as diplomatic advisor to four Presidents, including Reagan. Brought back a warning in 1982 from Andropov that the Soviet Union was alarmed with the state of relations between the two countries.
- Stanislas Petrov, a Lt Col in the Soviet Air Defense command, in 1983 made the judgement call that a Soviet spy satellite system had malfunctioned in issuing a warning that Americans had launched ICBMs at the USSR;
- Oleg Gordievsky, a Soviet KGB agent who was secretly aiding British Intelligence. Gordievsky warned the British how close the West had come to nuclear war.
- Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady Prime Minister of Great Britian, was shocked to learn from British intelligence about the crisis of November, 1983, and counseled her friend and counterpart, President Reagan that tensions had to be eased;
- Mikhail Gorbachev, the last General Secretary of the Soviet Union. Worked with Reagan and the West during the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.
at Russian Roulette
- 1972 Salt (I) talks between Nixon and Brezhnev lead to ABM Treaty and offensive warhead interim agreement.
- June 1979 Salt II leads to limitations on strategic weapons (Not Ratified by U.S. Senate)
- November 4, 1979 Iranian Students storm the US Embassy in Tehran taking American diplomats hostage and effectively ending Jimmy Carter’s Presidency.
- December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan for the purpose of putting down Mujahideen uprising and installing a puppet regime.
- January 1980, President Carter announces The Carter Doctrine, designating the Persian Gulf as an American vital interests.
- January 1981, Ronald Reagan takes office, the American hostages are released. Reagan pledges a new era of American supremacy.
- May, 1981, Soviet intelligence initiates Operation Ryan to look intensively for indicators of an American first nuclear strike on the USSR1982- Reagan begins build up of American military forces and increased global military exercises. Renovation of the Voice of America and increase emphasis on public diplomacy confronting the Soviets on human rights and military interventions. Roll-back of Communism replaces containment.
- May 21, 1983, National Andrei Sakharov Day in the United States, celebrating the dissident physicist and jabbing the USSR on human rights.
- April 4, 1983, American naval fighter-bombers simulate a bombing run over Soviet island in the Pacific.
- September 1, 1983, Soviets shoot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, killing all 269 on board.
- September 26, 1983, a Soviet spy satellite indicates that the United States has launched up to five ICBMs against the USSR.
- November 4, 1983, NATO War Exercise Able Archer 83 commences with a scenario involving a Soviet land invasion on multiple fronts against Western allies. Soviets perceive this as potential cover for an actual first-strike attack.
- November 11, Able Archer winds down after testing Command and Control response to simulated attack and culminating in multiple nuclear attacks against Soviet targets. The Soviet Union places its strategic forces on highest level of alert, prepared to launch.
Joe Bruns is a Trail Mix Contributor.
Read his entire narrative and comment on this topic at Russian Roulette.
It’s been a while since we checked in on our pal Curiosity. After a recent power glitch the Mars rover is back at work. Here’s a 2-min. update on what’s ahead.
John Grotzinger, Curiosity’s project scientist, narrates an aerial tour of the rover’s past, present and future.
Follow Curiosity on Twitter: @MarsCuriosity
On Nov. 27 Curiosity tweeted:
No long drives for me this #Thanksgiving. I’m going to stop & smell the science.”
Whither a day of national honor? What the heck happened to a day that used to be a day off to remember our first years as colonists, starving and saved by our native brethren (or something like that).
Look at it this way. Yeah, there were a lot of “thanks giving” days associated with November, and feasts and lots of feathers from turkeys being turned into dinner. November in most temperate climates was harvest time. Grains were gathered and put into storage for the winter (and sometimes that storage was needed for more than a year due to bad weather). Game was easier to spot without leaves on the trees too. It is a good time to put on the extra weight needed to survive a long night of winter.
What about our Native American cousins? Yup. They saved many colonists, which then eventually turned around and killed the saviours. This occurred up and down the coastline, from north to south. So once again we have a lot of “thanks giving” days.
Okay. It was Abe Lincoln, once again, who gave us a holiday, Thanksgiving. It was 1863 and things were not exactly ducky in the Civil War. So he declared a national day of Thanksgiving to celebrate all the good things happening in the war. However, it was not a holiday, it was just a day of “thanks giving”.
A few years later our hero, FDR (a hero, but kind of weird), saves the day (really does) when he declares the fourth Thursday of November a day of ‘thanksgiving.” This is a good thing because it turns a miserable day for football in Detroit into a good day for sitting home and eating turkey.
Something important to state at this moment. The turkey that was almost the national symbol is not the turkey on your plate this year. The dinner turkey of the 1600′s and earlier, and up until the modern era, was a tough, skinny, wily, and somewhat evil natured beast with a sense of humour. Think of a tyrannous Rex shrunk down to the size of a parrot on steroids.
That bird is not what we eat today. I just read an article regarding how the thing on the table is not the same as what we chowed down on in 1960 (I remember when Ike was president). What we eat today is not the same as a wild turkey. What we have today will die an unnatural death whether it becomes a dinner or not.
Oops. Back on track. What happened to our day of giving thanks? Do you remember, oh forget that, most of you were born after Ollie North lied to Congress. One of the easiest days to give up has been Thanksgiving. Congress gave it a Thursday, and not a four day weekend. It has no religious backing, just a lot of pig out. The “real” holiday of the year is four weeks away. And, there is not much else to do other than hole up and drink or go shopping at this time of year.
So. We have football in crappy weather. We have good food, lots of food. We have the day off and nobody wanting to hang around with Crazy Aunt Bee or Creepy Uncle Bo, so why not go outside and pretend all is right with (ops wrong holiday). You can’t do anything like we did back in the 50′s in school because it really is offensive to our Native American cousins and others. So?
Why not go shopping? The retailers were tired of a dead day in the cash register, so they advertised a little trying to get people to come to the store and shop. The people were there — who wanted to go to work on Friday? Nobody. Without a church holiday (except for a freaky couple I know who had Black Friday as one of their religious holidays (very freaky) to keep people from over drinking and eating left-overs the store keepers came up with a winner.
And, so the stuffed, pickled and on holiday Americans are now skipping a national holiday, hence the under-abundance of Thanksgiving decorations and straight to Christmas from Labor Day life. I do miss the build up to Thanksgiving from Halloween. I do miss having time in the stores where carols and jingles were to happen after Thanksgiving Day.
What can we do to reclaim a holiday? Sadly, I fear very little. The holiday vanished long ago. The few things we can do is enjoy the day, focus on happiness and eat healthy. Sanity is ours, only if we know we are sane.
– Blue Bronc is a Trail Mix Contributor
Note from Craig: As always I am thankful for Trail Mixers, and an extra thanks to the many contributors, such as Blue Bronc, who have been writing a rich variety of interesting and thought-provoking posts for us this year. Hope to see more joining the team. And now, a little something one of my Kentucky cousins passed along, read by her preacher in church last Sunday:
My big brother Mike took me out on the stoop,
Then he sat me down, and he spoke real slow,
And he told me there was something that I had to know;
His look and his tone I will always remember,
When he told me of the horrors of….. Black November;
Come about August, now listen to me,
Each day you’ll get six meals instead of just three,
“And soon you’ll be thick, where once you were thin,
And you’ll grow a big rubbery thing under your chin;
“And then one morning, when you’re warm in your bed,
In’ll burst the farmer’s wife, and hack off your head;
“Then she’ll pluck out all your feathers so you’re bald ‘n pink,
And scoop out all your insides and leave ya lyin’ in the sink;
Well, the rest of his words were too grim to repeat,
I sat on the stoop like a winged piece of meat,
And decided on the spot that to avoid being cooked,
I’d have to lay low and remain overlooked;
I began a new diet of nuts and granola,
High-roughage salads, juice and diet cola;
And as they ate pastries, chocolates and grapes,
I stayed in my room doing Jane Fonda tapes;
I maintained my weight of two pounds and a half,
And tried not to notice when the bigger birds laughed;
But ’twas I who was laughing, under my breath,
As they chomped and they chewed, ever closer to death;
And sure enough when Black November rolled around,
I was the last turkey left in the entire compound;
So now I’m a pet in the farmer’s wife’s lap;
I haven’t a worry, so I eat and I nap;
She held me today, while sewing and humming,
And smiled at me and said
“Christmas is coming”
Two years ago this month we lost two cherished Trail Mixers, Patsi Bale Cox and Sean Holton. I’ve created new categories in our sidebar for collections of our memories of them (click their names here to see the archives — I especially enjoy reading the many comments to them and about them in the individual posts) …
As partisans square off here and abroad, finding honest brokers to explain and evaluate the international deal with Iran can be tricky. Here’s my best effort …
CARPING is easy. The interim deal between Iran and six world powers hammered out in the small hours of November 24th to curb the former’s nuclear programme is a long way from perfect, but it meets two key tests. The first is that it will extend Iran’s so-called ‘critical capability’ — the time needed for it to produce one or several nuclear devices following a decision to weaponise—by many months compared with the trajectory it was on before the agreement. Secondly, it forms the basis for a more permanent solution to the decades-long problem of Iran’s nuclear activities to be reached over the next six months. Moreover it has done so without giving too much away, either in the form of premature relaxation of the sanctions regime that has brought Iran to the negotiating table or by conceding its claim to an “inalienable right” to enrich uranium.”
New York Times Chief Washington Correspondent David Sanger:
The deal does not roll back the vast majority of the advances Iran has made in the past five years, which have drastically shortened what nuclear experts call its “dash time” to a bomb — the minimum time it would take to build a weapon if Iran’s supreme leader or military decided to pursue that path. Lengthening that period, so that the United States and its allies would have time to react, is the ultimate goal of President Obama’s negotiating team. It is also a major source of friction between the White House and two allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have made no secret of their belief that they are being sold down the river.”
Former UN Chief Weapons Inspector David Kay: “It certainly is a significant step. … Trust is not the issue. Trust is verification and more verification.”
A perfect storm is one in which multiple forces intersect and, feeding off of each other form a massive, cataclysmic event of great intensity
By Joe Bruns — National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell right now might be feeling like the captain of a fishing boat seeing on his radar screen the confluence of four storms, each by itself manageable, but combined they threaten to shake the foundation of what has become America’s national sport.
Traumatic Brain Injury
PBS Frontline recently aired the aptly named program League of Denial, investigating the mounting evidence that football playing causes both acute and chronic brain injury even when playing within the rules of the game and with the recommended safety equipment. Furthermore, the program chronicles half-measured – some would say bogus — attempts by the NFL at research into the connection between playing football and traumatic brain injury and the condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). As with the tobacco industry before it, the NFL continues to hide behind the argument that there is no ‘conclusive proof’ of a cause and effect relationship. It is hard to not accept the premise, though, that NFL players are risking permanent and serious brain damage every time they take the field. Several former NFL players have committed suicide and have specifically asked that their brains be examined.
But the NFL’s problem goes beyond its own professional players who are being paid for taking such risk. The physical style of play and the toughness of the professional players sets an example of the sport played at its highest level. As such it is the style of play encouraged by coaches and emulated by players at every level, sometimes with tragic consequences. Just this month a high school football player in Arizona died of a brain trauma suffered on the field. Children as young as eight are playing tackle football, and have coaches telling them to be tough, to ignore pain and to take a physical toll on opposing players.
Big hits (i.e. violent ones) are celebrated by parents and routinely posted on You Tube. USA Football, the governing body of the sport, sends mixed messages on its website. In one article they talk about the need to teach kids as young as eight to overcome their fear of hitting. They also have an entire section of their website dealing with concussion risk and diagnosis. But their message becomes clear as you dig down, their conclusion is that concussions are “a manageable injury,’ and as for permanent brain damager, “…there is no proof.”
College football: Everyone Prospers Except the Players.
The second threat to professional football as we now know it is the possible professionalization of its ‘minor league,’ NCAA college football.Unlike Major League Baseball, which has a multi-tiered minor league system of professional prospects, professional football depends upon college football to identify talent, teach fundamentals, test players in high-pressure games, and eventually allow the best to rise to the top, ready for admission into the NFL cartel through the college draft system.
All of the costs of this process are borne by the colleges, and funded by television contracts, filled stadiums of fans, and you, the taxpayer. The players themselves, however, are so-called amateurs supposedly playing for the thrill of the competition and the honor of representing the alma mater, or at least that is the story. But players, and even some university administrators are beginning to rebel. For their part, players see the billions of dollars of revenue generated by their play on the field, and wonder why they live on the equivalent of food stamps (sometime literally). They’re beginning to want a piece of the action. One study by Sports Illustrated concluded that a University of Texas football player was worth $578,000 per year. As it now stands, a player cannot legally accept a used car without jeopardizing his career, while his coach makes something upward from $1 Million. Even a college player’s own image can be used and marketed by video game producers without compensation. He may or may not make it through four years of college football without a career ending injury, and only if he is among the best will he be allowed to negotiate with a single employer for a professional contract. There is change lurking in the future.
The third threat to the NFL is brought on by the arrogance of team owners. Take the case of the Washington Redskins. The “Washington Redskins” actually play their home games in Landover, Maryland, having moved out of Washington, DC many moons ago. It turns out the sports stadiums are generally built in the jurisdiction that will give them the greatest taxpayer funded breaks, not necessarily either where the fans reside or in their namesake city. Few of the negotiated concessions are passed on to the fans. The Redskins have among the highest prices for parking, beer and food. They also severely restrict what a fan can bring into the stadium, purportedly for ‘security concerns.’ Even the size of a women’s purse is restricted.
And then there’s the issue of the name “Redskins.”
Many old-time Washington Redskins fans will tell you about the legendary history of the football team, but many don’t know that before Washington, the team was the Boston Redskins (and the Braves before that.) More fans probably do know, but choose to brush aside the fact that, along with a number of championships over the years, the Washington Redskins in 1962 were the last NFL team to integrate, and did so only under the threat of federal legal action that would have denied them use of their DC stadium where they then played.
While opinion polls find people divided, at least some Native Americans find the name Redskins to be offensive – a racial slur. Indeed, many dictionaries describe the term as disparaging or a slur. Defenders contend that the name is meant to honor American Indians, as a tribute to their bravery and warrior spirit. And many public opinion polls support that point of view, along with the sense that the name is part of a tradition, sort of like Semper Fi.
But we are talking here about a football team, not the United States Marine Corps. The ‘tradition’ of a professional football team is hardly something sacred. If even a small number of people are honestly offended by a name that clearly has racist overtones, why keep it? Owner Dan Snyder is on record as saying he will NEVER change the name of the Redskins. (Capital letters are his). This sounds more like simple arrogance than it does like principle. But arrogance in the guise of denial seems to be an NFL trait. While the Super Bowl is described by activist Cindy McCain as the ‘largest human trafficking venue on the planet,” the NFL refuses to cooperate with those trying to address the issue.
Finally there is the inside look at the players culture, as demonstrated by the New Orleans Saints locker room. By now, everyone with even a passing interest in sports knows the story of Jonathan Martin, a classics graduate from Sanford being harassed by fellow Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito to the point that Martin quit the team and Incognito was suspended. While there are many questions to be resolved about the whole affair, one thing seems pretty clear:
The culture inside a professional football team is a pretty ugly one, with behavior that would be considered entirely out of bounds, perhaps even illegal, in most work places.
It also spills over outside the locker room. A Miami Dolphin staffer has come forward with accusations of harassment as well. What does it say about us as a culture that behavior and language, including frequent use of the N-word, that would be grounds for dismissal at almost any worksite is the norm among those we idolize as sports heroes? Perhaps it is a culture that leads to bounty-hunting bonuses for injuring opposing players.
Football and the NFL will endure these trials, I have no doubt. But you never know when a tipping point might be reached when a popular sport begins to decline in popularity as happened with boxing
Boxing was once considered a major sport, and television sports programming grew up with Wednesday and Friday night fights, and broadcasts of major championships before the age of HBO and pay television. But professional boxing had long had seedy underworld connections, including boxers willing to take a dive, corrupt managers and scorers, and plaster added to boxing gloves. But the turning point for boxing, when it lost much of its popularity and glamour, might be the death by brain trauma of Duk Koo Kim at the hands of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in 1982. Mancini beat Kim to death on national television.
While boxings popularity has waned, it does still continue, and so does the brain trauma. Even as I write this a boxer, Magomed Abdusalamov, lies in a New York hospital with life threatening injuries.
Unlike boxing, the effect of brain injury usually occurs later, out of sight and not on camera, but if a high school boy dies of brain trauma playing football it is only a matter of time before we witness such an event on national television. What will be our reaction?
– Joe Bruns (cajunjoe) is a Trail Mix Contributor