Friday, September 28, 2012

Taxi Cab Wisdom

Seattle Taxi Driver

I travel a lot and I enjoy talking to taxi cab drivers.  They often enjoy discussing their views on all matters and are a great source for local weather, gossip and information.  They are usually very well informed about their respective communities.

I spoke to my cab driver in Seattle this past week on the run to the airport.  He was from Somalia, but had been in the United States for twenty years and had become an American citizen.  He told me quite a bit about himself.  He had been a University student in Mogadishu when civil war broke out in that country in 1992.  He had heard and seen the effects of artillery fire in his own city.  He managed to flee his country, escaping on the back of a truck to Kenya.  There he had waited for a while in the limbo of a refugee camp with appalling sanitation and very little food.  As he spoke English and native languages he volunteered to assist with translation work of the camp.  He still remembers the name of the Italian-American woman who was assisting in the camps.  He eventually received sponsorship form a Lutheran church in North Dakota to come to the United States.  When he saw the lawns in North Dakota he could not, at first, believe that the grass was real.  He had never seen such well-manicured gardens anywhere in Africa!

A few years later, he returned to Somalia as an american citizen where he met his wife and brought her back with him to the United States.  They now have six children under the age of 12 which, he told me, is a lot by US standards, but not so many by Somali standards.

Over the course of twenty years in the states, he has absorbed many American customs.  He has, for example, become an NFL football fan.  He was quite enthusiastic about the Seahawks 14 to 12 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football from the night before our trip.  He had definite views on the ongoing referee strike that now plagues the league.

He told me something that really stayed with me.  These were his words...

"Any child that is born in the United States is born in the red zone.  Many children born in Africa and other places around the world are born on the zero yard line.  All American children, whether they know it or not, have only twenty yards to go in order to score."

Born in the USA = Born in the Red Zone

Commander Kelly says, "You can learn a lot by talking to taxi drivers!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Obama vs. Romney Foreign Policy

Obama at DNC Convention, Charlotte, NC

The media likes to remind us that polls show that Obama has an edge over Romney in terms of foreign policy.

At the recent Democratic convention Obama had this to say about Romney/Ryan and foreign policy...

"My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy."

That line received laughter from the partisan crown gathered in Charlotte.  Given Obama's foreign policy record of the past four years, however, this nervous laughter seems a bit misplaced.

In truth, it must be admitted that Governor Romney does not have vast amounts of foreign policy experience.  Nor has he covered himself with glory with some of his foreign policy pronouncements.  Romney's most egregious gaffe in this category was when, on this summer's visit to the UK after meeting with the head of MI-6, he declared, "I appreciated the insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and the opposition here as well as the head of MI6."

Oscar Wilde 1854 - 1900
If the Oscar Wilde's maxim is correct that "experience is the name we give to our mistakes," then it must be acknowledged that Obama had far more "experience" in foreign policy that Governor Romney.

Candidate Obama was the peace advocate who opposed President Bush's surge; but it was the surge that helped bring stability to Iraq and allowed us to make an exit.

After being wrong on the surge, Obama drew the incorrect conclusion and tried to apply surge-like tactics to Afghanistan where the "peace candidate" of 2008 turned, on his election, into an LBJ-style escalator.  Afghanistan in spite of being a long-standing historical quagmire for empires (British, Soviet and now American) was somehow designated the "good war" in Democratic circles.  The result has been more US and NATO casualties in the longest lasting conflict in American history that lacks clear objectives.  Now the Taliban is targeting Prince William for propaganda purposes.

Afghanistan War Cartoon
Sixty years ago the Presidential election of 1952 turned primarily on questions of foreign policy.  Eisenhower won that campaign with a single line -- "I will go to Korea."  Americans were weary of the bleeding ulcer that Korea represented and longed for leadership from a military and foreign policy professional.  I suspect that Eisenhower, based on his policy with regard to Korea, would, if confronted with our current military situation in Afghanistan, advise pulling the soldiers out and sending the drug companies in (see earlier post, Eisenhower in London, 7/23/12).  Ike was no fan of American involvement in un-winnable Asian ground wars.  Today, sadly, neither Presidential candidate wants to address the central issues of Afghanistan seriously.

Obama and the Democrats love to point out that he "got" Osama bin Laden.  That is to say, Obama's chief foreign policy success was a continuation of the policies of Bush / Cheney.  For more on the true heroes behind Osama's demise -- the Navy Seals, see my earlier post and the movie Act of Valor, 6/17/12.

Candidate Obama liked to fulminate against the horrors of Gitmo (see earlier post, Gitmo and St. Helena, 1/4/12).  President Obama recognized that a mass release of Gitmo would have led directly to the deaths of more American citizens and, perhaps, even more US ambassadors.

Moreover, recent events have made it crystal clear that Obama policies have been fuzzy  and wrongheaded on so many levels around the globe.

In Iran today (see earlier post, Iran, 3/24/12) the centrifuges continue to spin ominously.  Our sanctions policy against Iran seems ineffectual.  Just this week during the UN meetings in New York, our President prefered to make an appearance on The View, where he described himself as "eye candy,"* rather than taking time to meet Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, our principal ally in the Middle East.  Don't care for Israel?  Well, he didn't meet with the Palestinians or any other foreign leaders during UN week in New York either.

In the Middle East, Obama's (remember the peace candidate of 2008?) preferred foreign policy is, ironically, to apologize for America and then to drone on and on, so to speak.  He is even quite willing to take out US nationals with predator drones.

In Syria chaos reigns, the death toll mounts and the Russians continue to sell over half a billion dollars worth of arms to Assad  Little wonder that Obama is able to score an endorsement from Putin (see earlier post, Obama picks up Key Endorsement, 910/12).  Obama's inability to lead on Syria stand in sharp contrast to Bill Clinton's intervention in the former Yugoslavia.  Thousands of Syrian refugees are now flooding across the border into Turkey straining resources in that country.

The brutal assassination of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 gives the lie to the notion that Obama has somehow improved perceptions of America abroad (see video below).  Anti-American demonstrations surge throughout the middle east showing the vulnerability of Obama on foreign policy issues.  For a terrific analysis of Obama's failure to cope with the unfolding "Arab Spring" see Fouad Ajami's excellent article Muslim Rage and the Obama Retreat...

The Economist 9/22 - 9/28/12
In Asia, an absurd potential war between China and Japan over barren islands (This week's Economist cover asks the question "Could China and Japan really go to war over these?" and answers "Sadly, yes".) threatens the peace of the Pacific and the global economy; Is the fecklessness of American foreign policy not partly to blame?  "One Chinese newspaper has helpfully suggested skipping the pointless diplomacy and moving straight to the main course by serving up Japan with an atom bomb,"  writes The Economist (week of 9/22/12).  Would China be rattling its sabres thus if Reagan were still President?

The symbolism of foreign policy is oftentimes nearly as important on the substance.  Obama, on being elected, chose to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House.  He later snubbed British sensibilities even further by referring to to an "English Embassy" which has not existed for about four centuries

Upon his election in 2008, Obama's allies on the left flattered his self-evident vanity by awarding him a too readily accepted Nobel peace prize for "not being Bush" rather than for having accomplished anything.

The Obama-led bid for hosting the 2016 Olympics in Chicago did not even make it into the final round before losing to Rio!  Is it not conceivable that Romney, architect of the successful Salt Lake City Olympics, might have been better-equipped to pursue Olympic gold for the USA?

In Eastern Europe, Obama has floundered.  Just last year he referred to "Polish death camps" demonstrating an embarrassing ignorance of history and antagonizing a vital NATO ally.  How much media attention has been given to Lech Walesa's endorsement of Governor Romney?  Shouldn't the opinions of a man who has struggled all his life for worker's rights and helped the peaceful triumph of the West in the cold war count for something?  Shouldn't Walesa's endorsement count for a bit more than an endorsement from Russia's Putin?


If Obama holds a polling lead with Americans in terms of foreign policy performance over Romney it is quite undeserved.

You may, dear reader, in spite of all of the above, continue to object that Romney lacks critical foreign policy experience.  George Washington never left North America.  Neither did Abraham Lincoln.  Truman had less foreign policy experience than Governor Romney before to decided to drop the bombs on Japan that ended World War II (see earlier post, Truman's Decision to use Atomic Bombs on Japan, 9/23/12).

*  The vanity of our President is truly mind-boggling.  Shortly after his election victory in 2008, but before his inauguration, he compared himself to Lincoln by invoking Dorris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln ( on account of his appointment of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State.  Had he truly been interested in a "Team of Rivals" John McCain would have been his choice for Secretary of Defence and Sarah Palin would have been his Energy Secretary.

Our President is fond of comparing himself to Lincoln and FDR.  Has he no sense of shame, of history or of Hubris?  His escalation policy mirrors that of LBJ, his dithering on Syria reminds us of Jimmy Carter on Iran, his Solyndra and "Fast and Furious" scandals recall Nixon and Watergate.  Perhaps most significantly, Obama's economic performance including US credit rating downgrades remind us most of all of Herbert Hoover; are the US city parks defaced by the Occupy Wall Street crowd not modern "Hoovervilles"?

Critique of Obama Foreign Policy from the Left, Source: Russia Today


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wings of Heroes Gala 9/22/12

Commander K. and Hugh Allen, Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Wings of Heroes Gala event held on 9/22/12 at the Museum of Flight (see earlier post, Museum of Flight, 7/9/12) in Seattle Washington.  The gala was intended to benefit the educational efforts of the Museum of Flight -- one of the premiere aviation museums in the world.   A galaxy of superstars from the space race were in attendance.

Gala attendees were piped in to dinner
Valery Kubasov, a Soviet cosmonaut and the the first man to walk in space was there.  Jim Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, was in attendance.  Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, gave a moving tribute to his friend Neil Armstrong.  Mark Armstrong, Neil's son, spoke movingly and with good humor about his late father.  Once when Mark was in the car with his dad David Bowie's song "Space Oddity (see below) came on the radio..."Ground Control to Major Tom".  Neil immediately got upset with the song, turned off the radio and pointed out that proper procedure would dictate that the caller identify the recipient first.   The lyrics should, therefore, have been "Major Tom, this is Ground Control"!

Buzz Aldrin, Museum of Flight, Seattle,WA
In 1957 the Soviets launched a beach ball-sized object called Sputnik into earth's orbit.  Yuri Gargarin was the first man launched into space orbit in 1961 on the Vosktok spacecraft.  The cold war space race was on.

Wings of Heroes, MOF, Seattle WA
In the just released White House tapes made secretly by JFK there was this disclosure: "In a meeting in November 1962, the president bluntly told James Webb, the NASA administrator, that putting a man on the moon was his top priority. Webb said it was more important to understand the environment of space, prompting Kennedy to say, 'If we get second to the Moon, it’s nice, but it’s like being second anytime.'

Do you remember Astronauts riding these in ticker tape parades?
Webb continued to push back, prompting the president to spell it out: “I’m not that interested in space," he said, only in beating the Russians." Source:

Neil Armstrong, 1930 - 2012
Today space exploration has evolved away from competition between nation states into a commercial marketplace with multiple players such as Space-Ex and Richard Branson's Virgin Space.  A sub-orbital space flight was among the items in the evening's charity auction.

Wing of Heroes Gala
The gala was a benefit to support the mission of the educational programs at the Museum of Flight (see earlier post Museum of Flight, 7/9/12), which is a national treasure located in Seattle.  Here is their web site...

Commander Kelly, who was in awe of the presence of so many genuine Commanders and heroes from around the globe, would encourage anyone with any interest in aviation and space travel to visit and to support to this worthy cause.  Please consider donating here...

Special thanks to my friend Hugh Allen for alerting me to the Wings of Heroes Gala event.

You can find Commander Kelly's book America Invades
or on

Monday, September 24, 2012

Proof of Reincarnation...?

Eternal Recurrence of the Dung Beetle (Mao Ze Dung Beetle?)

If General George S. Patton (see earlier post, Patton Quotes 8/12/12) and the Buddhists are right about reincarnation and cosmic justice then, given the moral characters of Hitler, Stalin and Mao (see earlier post Mao Ze Dong -- Major Badass, 9/10/12), there must be three dung beetles out there somewhere in the world -- one with a swastika, one with a hammer and sickle and one with a little red book on their respective backs.  Perhaps an enterprising entomologist will someday verify my hypothesis for the benefit of metaphysicians and theologians everywhere!

"Do We Reincarnate?"

The Galaxy Song

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Walla Walla Wines

Commander K., Vinnie and Pepe, L'Ecole No 41, Walla Walla, WA

Drive about 4 and a half hours southeast from Seattle and you will reach Walla Walla, Washington on route 12.  On the way, you will pass the desolate area of Hanford Washington where plutonium was generated to build the atomic bomb used on Nagasaki, Japan (see earlier post Truman's Decision to Use Atomic bombs on Japan, 9/23/12).  You will also pass through a current US Military Training Center near the Yakima ridge and the "Rattlesnake hills".  Do not let any of this trouble you for an instant!  The Military-Industrial-Complex and the serpents now co-exist harmoniously with first-class wine country.

Steve Roberts' excellent book, Wine Trails of Washington, 2007, South Slope Productions ( was our guidebook for the region.  Here is his link with updated information on Washington

Bergevin Lane, Walla Walla
Walla Walla is famous for its Walla Walla sweet onions.  It has also become well-known as the heart of some of the best American wines.  Leonetti is a renowned and pricey Walla Walla wine created by Gary Figgins and adored by Robert Parker among others.

Woodward Canyon is known for their artist series, Walla Walla, WA
"Walla Walla" is a word in the Nez perce Indian dialect meaning "running water."  The nearby wide flowing Columbia river makes the name entirely appropriate.

Last week I went on a a quick road trip to Walla Walla wine country with my brother-in-law, Vincent Driano.  We toured six different wineries: Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole No. 41, Dunham Cellars, Mansion Creek, Russell Creek and Bergevin Lane vineyards.  Our limited time only allowed us to skim the surface of Walla Walla's dozens of wineries.

Dunham Cellars' dog "Port" (deceased)
Dunham Cellars was my personal favorite winery in Walla Walla.  They had a wine called "three legged red" with a dog on the label (see above).  Their Syrah is velvety smooth and pleasurable.

Julia Russell and Vinne, Walla Walla, WA
At Mansion Creek in downtown Walla Walla, we met Julia Russell, the friendliest winemaker in Walla Walla.  Her Sangiovese pairs up beautifully with pizza.  Mansion Creek's Lewis vineyard Syrah at $20 a bottle is an outstanding value proposition.  Here is their

Russell Creek's winemaker and owner is Larry Krivoshein -- a former funeral director known affectionately as "Digger"!  He produces a nice Syrah as well.

We stayed at the historic Marcus Whitman hotel ( in Walla Walla...

Ike slept here.  Marcus Whitman Hotel, Walla Walla, WA
It was only a very short walk to dinner at the Whitehouse Crawford restaurant for, perhaps, the best dinner in Walla Walla. We both had the duck which was well paired with a demi of the Woodward Canyon artist series red.

The next morning we had a hearty breakfast at Clarette's fueling us up for the return trip to Seattle...

Clarette's near Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA
Commander Kelly says, "If you are in the Northwest, go check out Walla Walla wine country, and, if not, order one at dinner tonight"!

Special thanks to my brother-in-law Vincent Driano!


"Great post and good choices on wine country. If you can only visit a few, Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole 41, Dunham and Russell Creek are nice selections. There's always a bottle of Dunham Syrah in my 'cellar' and you cannot go wrong with Russell Creek's 'Tributary' blend - around twenty bucks but tastes like much more.

The most salient point IMHO is this; at a certain price range, Washington wines clobber California. A Sparkman Cellars 'Ruckus' Syrah, which sells for forty bucks would cost $70 if it came out of Napa. I find this is true of most WA wines in the $35-$45 range. They'd easily be $50 - $75 if they came from down south.

If you haven't visited the Woodinville wineries lately, check out Sparkman, Mark Ryan, Trust Cellars (there's a guy with a great story!) and Ross Andrews. If you drop by Sparkman Cellars, tell Chris I said, "hi!".

Next time you're in Walla Walla, check out Sinclair Estates' 'Pentatonic' or 'Vixen' reds. So big you may need a fork. Also, the winery owner has a lovely bed and breakfast near the park called "Vine & Roses".  Highly recommended for a romantic retreat with the missus!"


I could not agree more about Washington and Walla Walla wines clobbering California wines and particularly Napa wines when it comes to value.  Thanks Jan for your insight!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Truman's Decision to use Atomic Bombs on Japan

Harry S. Truman, 1884 - 1972

Only a few months after the death of FDR in August of 1945 President Harry Truman made one of the most fateful decisions in world history -- he decided to use atomic bombs against Imperial Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  On August 6, 1945 the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress opened its bomb doors at 08:15 and "less than a minute later most of the city of Hiroshima disintegrated in a blinding light.  Around 100,000 people were killed instantly, and many thousands more died later from radiation poisoning, burns and shock.  President Truman's staff in Washington issued a warning to the Japanese that if they failed to surrender immediately, 'they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth'". The Second World War, Antony Beevor, 2012 (  A second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki, killed over 35,000 people.

Enola Gay, B-29 Superfortress
Truman knew that the recent invasion of the island of Okinawa in the Ryuku chain had been extremely costly.  US Marine and army formations suffered 7,613 killed, 31,807 wounded and 26,211 'other injureis', most of which consisted of psychological breakdown.  Nearly the entire Japanese force 107,539 was killed in the battle with General Ushijima committing ritual suicide.  The suicide of 1,465 kamikaze pilots sank twenty-nine ships, damaged 120, killed 3,048 sailors and wounded another 6,035.   Source: The Second World War, Antony Beevor, 2012 (  The 'no surrender' policy of the Japanese meant that an invasion of the home islands would be incredibly costly in terms of both allied and Japanese lives.

Japanese Zero, Flying Heritage Collection, Everett, WA
Andrew Roberts writes, "Estimates of expected casualty rates differed from planning Staff to planning Staff, but over the coming months -- perhaps years -- of fighting anything in the region of 250,000 American casualties were thought to be possible.  'If the conflict had continued for even a few weeks longer,' believes Max Hastings, 'more people of all nations--especially Japan -- would have lost their lives than perished at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.'"  The Storm of War, Andrew Roberts, 2009 (http:/

Truman also knew that the fire bombings of Tokyo had been even more destructive than the atomic bombs. during the summer of 1945 Boeing built "B-29s dropped tons of Henry Kaiser's magnesium goop and burned out the heart of industrial Japan.  Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka, Yokoham, Kawasaki, Toyama: all vanished in a blistering cloud of fire."  Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, Arthur Herman, 2012 (http:/

Modern Tokyo

When you visit Tokyo today you see a modern city of skyscrapers and neon because almost everything was destroyed by the firebombing.  Even the Emperor's palace, built in 1888, was destroyed in the war.  The Emperor's palace that can be seen today in Tokyo was completed in 1968.

Japanese Mystery sign, Tokyo, Japan
Truman also knew that the USA had made an enormous investment in building the atomic bomb.  The Manhattan project is estimated to have cost over $2 billion and employed thousands of people over many years. The Plutonium that was used in the "Fat Boy" (named for Winston Churchill) bomb dropped on Nagasaki was produced at the Hanford site ( in my home state of Washington.

"Fat Boy", National Museum of the Pacifc War
Fredericksburg, TX


President Truman was a failed Haberdasher from Kansas City.  His only travel to Europe prior to becoming President had been his service in battery B during the First World War.  He had virtually no foreign policy experience when he made the decision to drop the atomic bombs.

Truman did not, however, know some critical things that we know today.  He did not know, for example, that...

1) His use of atomic weapons would be the first, second and last occasion in world history (at least up to now).  The involuntary sacrifice of thousand of Japanese civilians in the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would help to prevent any future leaders, whether American, Soviet or others to ever employ nuclear weapons.  The use of Hydrogen weapons during the cold war (e.g. Cuban missile crisis) would have been exponentially worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  It was the horror of Hiroshima that helped to deter cold war leaders on all sides from utilizing nuclear weapons during the many twists and turns of the cold war.  Truman's use of the atomic bombs was, therefore, a major reason for the West's ultimate and peaceful victory in the cold war.

I-401 Japanese Aircraft Carrier Submarine model
2) The Japanese had developed the I-401 aircraft carrier submarine which had the capability of hitting the west coast of the United States.  (  It is also critical to also bear in mind that the Japanese had already used biological weapons against the Chinese during the war ( killing about 50,000.  The Japanese sent a submarine with biological weapons for the defence of Saipan but it was sunk by a US navy submarine -- thanks again to the Silent Service in World War II, 8/14/12.  For more on the Japanese plot to attack the US West coast with biological weapons (code-named "Cherry Blossoms at Night" check out this article from the NY Times...  The endgame of the Second World War could have been even worse than it actually proved to be.
Samurai Spirit, Japan
3)  There is strong evidence that the Japanese WERE developing an atomic weapons program of their own (

4) At Potsdam, after V/E day but prior to V/J day, there was an infamous exchange between Stalin and the American diplomat Averell Harriman.  According to Antony Beevor, the American said, ""It must be very pleasant for you to be in Berlin after all your country has suffered.'  The Soviet leader eyed him.  'Tsar Aleksandr went all the way to Paris', he replied.  This was not entirely a a joke...a meeting of the Politburo in 1944 had decided to order the Satavka to plan for an invasion of France and Italy, as General Shtemenko later told Bero's son  The Red Army offensive was to be combined with a seizure of power by the local Communist Parties.  In addition, Shtemenko explained, 'a landing in Norway was provided for, as well as the seizure of the straits (with Denmark),  A substantial budget was allocated for the realisation of these plans.  It was expected that the Americans would abandon a Europe fallen into chaos, while Britain and France would be paralysed by their colonial problems.  The Soviet Union possessed 400 experienced divisions, ready to bound forward like tigers.  It was calculated that the whole operation would take no more than a month...All these plans were aborted when Stalin learned from (Beria) that the Americans had the atom bomb and were putting it into mass production.  Stalin apparently told Beria 'that if Roosevelt had still been alive, we would have succeeded'.  This, it seems, was the main reason why Stalin suspected that Roosevelt had been assassinated."  The Second World War, Antony Beevor, 2012 (


After the wars' conclusion, Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the first wave of Japanese planes in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, met Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  He said, “You did the right thing.  You know the Japanese attitude of that time, how fanatic they were.  They’d die for the Emperor.  Every man woman and child would resist the invasion with sticks and stones if necessary.”

George MacDonald Fraser, 1925 - 2008
I had the good fortune to meet George MacDonald Fraser at a book signing at Hatchards bookstore in London on the publication of his last book, The Reavers, in 2007.  Fraser was the author of the highly entertaining Flashman series of novels and a veteran of the Burma campaign.  He also wrote the screenplay for the Bond movie Octopussy.  Fraser wrote this about the decision to use the atomic bombs on Japan:

"We were of a generation to whom Coventry and the London blitz and Clydebank and Liverpool and Plymouth were more than just names; our country had been hammered mercilessly from the sky, and so had Germany; we had seen the pictures of Belsen and of the frozen horror of the Russian front; part of our higher education had been dedicated to techniques of killing and destruction; we were not going to lose sleep because the Japanese homeland had taken its turn.  If anything, at the time, remembering the kind of war it had been, and the kind of people, we, personally, had been up against, we probably felt that justice had been done.  But it was of small importance when weighed against the glorious fact that the war was over at last." Source: Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II, George MacDonald Fraser,


Commander Kelly says, "President Truman had a constitutional duty as commander in chief of the United States of America to protect the lives of Americans and our allies.  By deciding the drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, President Truman discharged his duty faithfully and saved countless lives".

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Commander Bond in Thailand

Man with the Golden Gun, Blu-Ray, 1974

The Man with the Golden Gun, starring Roger Moore as James Bond, was shot partly on location in Thailand in 1974.  This was Roger Moore's second Bond role after Live and Let Die, made long before he went soft and began denouncing foie gras on behalf of PETA (see earlier post Marijauna and Pate in California, 6/30/12).  James Bond does battle with Scaramanga, a professional assassin, played by Christopher Lee -- who was an actual intelligence operative during the Second World war.  Christopher Lee ( served in the SOE (see earlier post Beaulieu, Bond and the SOE, 6/20/12) during the war.  Lee's mother married a step cousin of Ian Fleming -- the creator of James Bond.

In the movie's opening scene Nick Nack (played by Herve Vilechaize) brings his boss Scaramanga a tray of oysters along with up with bottles of champagne and Guiness.  Scaramanga makes himself a black velvet (champagne and Guinness, see earlier post Sweetings, 5/15/12) to wash down his oysters.  A highly decorative Maud Adams reclines on the secluded beach.  Maud Adams is the only actress to be featured in two starring Bond roles -- she later had the title role in Octopussy (1984).

Boat to Floating market, Thailand
During the movie Bond visits the floating market near Bangkok.

Commander K. at Floating Market, Thailand
Visit the market today and you will find all kinds of souvenirs on sale.  You can find a wooden elephant like the one that was offered to Bond if you like.  I bought a couple of elephant lighters which proved useful.

E.T. (driver) and my Pilot at The Floating Market, Thailand

There is a high speed boat chase where Bond manages to evade the bad guys.

Thai Kickboxing, Bangkok
Later there is a scene at a Thai Kick Boxing arena where Scaramanga's lover, played by the Swedish actress Maud Adams, is found shot through the heart.  Bond meets Scaramanga face to face for the first time at the ring.

Thai Kickboxing, Bangkok
Bond also attends a Thai kickboxing match.  Kickboxing continues to be popular in Bangkok today.  Many of the boxers are surprisingly young -- 15 years old.  They weigh in at from 100 to 150 lbs.  Like boxers everywhere they tend to come from the "wrong side of the tracks".  The average Thai wage is less than $2,000 per year and kickboxing is one way to make money and help your family.

In gender-bending Thailand, an acclaimed kickboxer, Nong Tum, became a Ladyboy (  Now they have made a movie based on his life called Beautiful Boxer.

The Man with the Golden Gun
still manages to be relevant in today's world.  In October, 2011, Libyan dictator Gaddafi was killed with his own golden gun (see earlier post Yankee Fan Kills Gaddafi with his own Golden Gun, 1/15/12) by a young man wearing a Yankees baseball cap.  Sic Semper tyrannus.

You can now purchase 
Commander Kelly's book, 
America Invades or on

Friday, September 21, 2012

Japanese Toilets

Commander K. at Ryokan, Mount Fuji, Lake Kawaguchiko

I had the pleasure of staying in a Japanese Ryokan on my recent visit to the Mount Fuji area.  The Kukuna Inn ( was conveniently located at the base of Lake Kawaguchiko.  On check in, all guests are issued a Japanese Yukata which they encourage guests to wear at breakfast and dinner, which are included in the price.  This may strike westerners as a bit odd, but it does simplify one's decision making process and reduce laundry issues.

This Ryokan had wonderful Onsai baths which are communal, but separated by gender.  On a cloudless day -- which I did not experience -- you could see Mount Fuji from your bath. They had outdoor and indoor options for their Onsai.

Amazing Japanese toilet
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Kukuna Ryokan, however, was the toilet in my room's bathroom.  When you open the door to the bathroom several things happened: 1) the light came on automatically, 2) the toilet seat popped up and 3) the toilet seat started heating.  When you sit down to do your business, the sound of birdsong fills the air to soothe you through the experience.  When you stand up, the toilet flushes automatically.

Commander Kelly says, "Never have I enjoyed evacuating on vacation more than in Japan!"

Turning Japanese

If you would like to book a stay at a Japanese Ryokan, see...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Tailor in Bangkok -- Empire Tailors

It's "Always Sunny" at Empire Tailors, Bangkok, Thailand
Looking for a great deal on handmade suits and shirts?  Interested in some beautiful silk ties from Thailand?  Look no further than Commander Kelly's official tailor!

Commander Kelly now has an official tailor, headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand.  His name is Harji Palsingh, but you can call him "Sunny"!  His store is called Empire Tailors, 124-126 Between Sukhumvit Soi 4 - Soi  6, Bangkok 10110, Thailand. Tel: 02-254 4760-1, Fax: 02-254 4762.

Sunny and Commander K., Bangkok, Thailand
I really put Sunny to the test on my recent stay in Bangkok.  I was only in town for three nights and could only be fitted on the one day (Saturday) I arrived in his store.  Nevertheless, I was able to go in for 4 fittings in one day and purchase one tailored suit and 6 handmade shirts for under a $1,000.  The price was a steal compared to prices in the USA or UK.  The quality of the materials and workmanship was outstanding.  The customer service was always attentive and friendly.

Commander K. in my suit from Empire Tailors, Seattle WA

If your travels bring you to Bangkok treat yourself to a new suit; you can also send him your measurements and Sunny will ship the goods to you.  Either way, you are certain to be pleased.

Special Thanks to Sunny!

Here again is his

One Night in Bangkok and the World's your Oyster!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Red Baron

Manfred Von Richthofen, 1892 - 1918

Manfred Von Richthofen ( was "The Red Baron".  He published a book The Red Air Fighter (Der Rote Kampfflieger in Germany in 1917 while the First World War was still raging.  Richthofen was the head of the Flying circus Jagdegeschwader Nr. 1.  He was the greatest flying ace of the war, downing 80 enemy aircraft before he was killed on April 21st 1918 over the Somme valley.  He had managed to land his red Fokker Dr1 Triplane, but he had been shot and killed by a single bullet, likely fired by allied ground forces;  He was twenty five years old.

Commander K. and Albatros D.Va L24 (repro.), Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
"The D.V. is so outdated that one does not risk anything with it." Manfred Von Richthofen
The Red Air Fighter, though heavily censored by the Kaiser's government, contains many interesting details about the life of the Great War's greatest flying ace.

World War I was a family affair for the Richthofens.  His younger brother Lothar, who survived the war, also flew in the Flying circus and won the Ordre Pour Le Merite as well.  His cousin, Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, served in the German infantry in the Great War, but later rose to become a General Field Marshall in Hitler's Luftwaffe during the Second World War.  Manfred's sister Ilse nursed the wounded during the war.

Sopwith Triplane, "The Black Prince" (repro.),  Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
Richthofen was born into an aristocratic land owning German family in Breslau (now Poland).  His father served as a cavalryman in the 12th regiment of Uhlans.  Manfred was an indifferent student - "I did just enough work to pass".  He loved hunting, football and gymnastics.  He joined the cavalry and became an officer in 1912.

French Nieuport 24 bis, "Zigomar" (Repro.), Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
Reading Richthofen's book reminds one of his essential boyishness.  He writes about the first time he was ever in an airplane, "The houses seemed to come out of a child's toy box.  Everything seemed pretty.  Cologne was in the background,  The cathedral looked like a little toy."  Later Manfred even takes his dog 'Moritz' up on a flight with him, "Once I even took him up with me.  He was my first observer.  He behaved very sensibly.  He seemed much interested in everything, and looked at the world from above,  Only my mechanics were dissatisfied when they had to clean the machine.  Afterwards Moritz was very merry."

The night before the outbreak of the First World war in August 1914 Manfred writes that he and his fellow officers "were eating oysters, drinking champagne and gambling a little.  We were very merry.  No one thought of war." (Somehow, you had a feeling there might be oysters!)

Soon after the start of the war though, Von Richthofen develops a startling callousness.  He writes, "I heard that the inhabitants (of Arlon, France, Commander Kelly) had behaved very treacherously several days previously towards our cavalry, and later on towards our ambulances.  It had been found necessary to place quite a number of these gentlemen against the wall."

Fokker E. III Eindecher, Museum of Flight, Seattle WA
Von Richthofen apprenticed with the German ace Oswald Boelcke.  "Everything that Boelcke told us was to us gospel truth.  During the last few days he had, as he said, shot for breakfast every day one or two Englishmen," Von Richthofen writes.  He once asked his mentor Boelcke how he was such a successful fighter pilot.  Boelcke replied, "Well it is quite simple.  I fly close to my man, aim well and then of course he falls down."  On October 28, 1916 Boelcke's plane collided with another German plane and he himself "fell down."  Richtofen reflected, "Nothing happens without God's will.  That is the only consolation we can put to our soul during this war."

Italian Caproni Ca. 20, Museum of Flight, Seattle WA
On September 17, 1916 Von Richthofen shot down his first enemy plane.  He writes, "My Englishman twisted and turned, flying in zig-zags.  I did not think for a moment that the hostile squadron contained other Englishmen who conceivably might come to the aid of their comrades.  I was animated by a single thought: 'The man in front of me must come down, whatever happens.'  At last a favorable moment arrived.  My opponent had apparently lost sight of me.  Instead of twisting and turning he flew straight along.  In a fraction of a second I was at his back with my excellent machine.  I gave a short burst of shots with my machine-gun.  I had gone so close that I was afraid I might dash into the Englishman.  Suddenly I nearly yelled with joy, for the propeller of the enemy machine had stopped turning.  Hurrah!  I had shot his engine to pieces; the enemy was compelled to land, for it was swinging curiously to and fro.  Probably something had happened to the pilot.  The observer was no longer visible.  His machine-gun was apparently deserted.  Obviously I had hit the observer, and he had fallen from his seat."

Von Richthofen admired his English opponents and disdained those of France.  He wrote, "Everything depends on whether we have for opponents those French tricksters or those daring fellows the English. I prefer the English...The French have a different character.  They like to set traps and to attack their opponents unawares.  That cannot be done easily in the air.  Only a beginner can be caught, and one cannot set traps, because an aeroplane cannot hide itself.  The invisible aeroplane has not yet been discovered.  sometimes, however, the Gallic blood asserts itself.  Then Frenchmen will then attack.  But the French attacking spirit is like bottled lemonade.  It lacks tenacity.  In Englishmen, on the other hand, one notices that they are of Germanic blood.  Sportsmen easily take to flying, but Englishmen see in flying nothing but a sport...Therefore, the blood of English pilots will have to flow in streams."

"Bottled Lemonade" French WWI Aviator uniform, Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
About his fellow Germans Von Richthofen wrote, "In my opinion the aggressive spirit is everything, and that spirit is very strong in us Germans.  Hence we shall always retain the domination of the air."  Two World Wars in the 20th century would tend to confirm Richthofen's notion of a "strong aggressive spirit" in the hearts of many German people.

Fokker D. VII (repro.), Museum of Flight, Seattle WA
Von Richthofen took pride in being a sportsman and not a butcher, unlike his brother Lothar who, he tells us, "was differently constituted".  On a leave from the front, he boasts of having shot a rare European bison on the estate of the Prince von Pless.

In the very last chapter of The Red Air Fighter Manfred playfully speculates about the future of aviation.  He writes, "I think things will come to this, that we shall be able to buy a flying suit for half a crown.  On the one end there is a little engine and a little air screw.  One sticks one's arms into the planes and one's legs into the tail.  Then one does a few leaps in order to start, and one goes up into the air like a bird...Besides Giant aeroplanes and little chaser machines, there are innumerable other types of flying machine, and they are of all sizes.  Inventiveness has not yet come to an end.  Who can tell what machine we shall employ a year hence to perforate the atmosphere?"

Manfred's favorite plane, Fokker Dr.I Triplane (repro.), Museum of Flight, Seattle WA
19 of von Richthofen's final 21 combat victories came while he was flying his trusty all-red Dr.I
In the appendix of my edition of Manfred's book (published in English as The Red Baron there is a poignant list compiled by editor Norman Franks of the 80 allied aircraft he shot down.  There was, for example, an engagement which took place "on February 1, 1917 between the Red Baron and a BE2d on a photo-reconnaissance operation to Thelus, piloted by Lt. P.W. Murray from Durham, England (died of wounds) and observer Lt. T.D. McRae, Canadian (died of wounds).  Forced down inside German lines and destroyed by shell fire twenty minutes later". This information helps us to understand why so many allied pilots and air crew were moved, perhaps, to utter the phrase, "Curse you, Red Baron!"

Commander Kelly says, "While Manfred Von Richthofen was surely an exceptional pilot, his tragedy was the universal story of callow youth caught up, buffeted about and ultimately drowned in the maelstrom of total war."

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

An Adventure in 1914 is now available to 
Also now on Amazon
And on