Posted in Book review

We’re All Going to Die – A Review of Raven Rock by Garrett Graff

One of my fascinations is with alternate history. I appreciate a well thought-out, well written alternate history that forces me to think through what actually happened in the past and what could have happened under certain circumstances. About seven months ago, I saw that author Garrett Graff was publishing a new book on the U.S. government’s continuity of operations plan during the Cold War, which is in a sense the ultimate alternative history story. I pre-ordered the book – something I never do – and waited patiently for it to arrive in my Kindle. Finally, the day came and, despite a backlog of things to read, I plowed through the book.

Graff researched many, many government documents and was denied access to many more to write a narrative about how the Executive Branch tried to protect itself from the moment the first atomic weapon was dropped on Hiroshima to today. I say the Executive Branch because, as this book makes clear, it was the presidents from Truman to Obama that really drove the government’s continuity of operations planning. This is disturbing because both the Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch conceded (and still do) running of government in the event of an attack that cripples government operations to the president’s designee(s) who may or may seek assistance from the other two branches.

The book is a healthy 500+ pages but in short the government of the United States has never truly been able to create a solid plan to save government operations in the event of a massive attack on this country. Graff does a good job setting the scene for each administration and why they varied in their approach to planning. For example, in the 1950s there was a rush to train the population to react correctly in the event of a nuclear attack to try and save as many civilian lives as possible; by the Kennedy years advancing technology and limited means meant that the hope to save millions of citizens was considered untenable. Instead, the military and executive branch created redundancy after redundancy and spent untold billions of dollars in bunkers, boats, planes, and other means of protecting enough people to keep the government operating. And yet, every time the system was remotely challenged, it would have failed spectacularly if the worst case scenario would have occurred. From the Bay of Pigs to 9/11, the systems our government created to protect itself as best as possible were woefully deficient. In many cases, principles were unable to communicate with each other or the outside world, and who was in charge in some cases was disputed.

Graff is methodical in outlining the alphabet soup of who was in charge of what and how the agencies changed. He does not get bogged down in a straight historical narrative but uses what we all know to paint a larger picture of what the principals were thinking when they concocted these ideas to make sure a president was around to order a nuclear strike or simply show the U.S. still existed. He does not morph into Dan Brown with cheesy cliffhangers but does write a compelling narrative that saves some material that can at times be dry.

There are, however, two major strikes against this book. First, I noticed some small factual errors, such as a mention of a Civil War battle taking place outside of Gettysburg in 1865. These may be the editors’ faults but it is hard to trust completely everything I read if I see things I know to be wrong. The second is that some of the most compelling aspects of the story are incomplete. A perfect example is the fact that the Declaration of Independence, in the event of a cataclysmic attack on DC, would be saved by the National Archives before the original Constitution. Graff mentions this in his introduction and about 60% of the way in returns to the National Archive’s continuity plans. This story of how this vital agency decides what documents would get saved and how goes for about three pages and simply says the agency has three rankings for document safety. Both the Declaration and Constitution are in the top tier, so why is one more vital than the other? This is the kind of story that I feel would be very interesting to all readers but is incomplete. Maybe it is due to the plan being classified, but then he should not have teased it in the introduction.

Overall, Graff takes a tough topic and writes a good history of a scary time that still colors how we approach domestic terrorism and civil liberties today. While far from perfect, it is a good book that shows just how far we still have to go to figure out what will happen to this country if something terrible happens.

Posted in Myself, news

End of April Update – Miss Me?

Well, I am still here. It has been a while on this site, but believe me, I’ve been busy.

If you don’t follow me on social media, you probably missed my myriad articles on a number of topics, mostly soccer. I’ve been moving away from posting individual articles as posts on this site, as it I’m sure it gets annoying for those of you who receive updates via email or RSS. I am working on finding a way for a sidebar on this site to update automatically with my new posts and stories on different sites, so stay tuned. In the meantime, don’t use this as an excuse not to click on my articles and posts for other sites.

What about this site? I’ll continue to keep it updated (promise) but will feature more original content and musings on a number of topics. There will be a lot of soccer but they may also include things like why I think La-La Land has commitment issues. The upside to having diverse interests is there is a lot to write about but the downside is the blog’s topics can be a little scattered.

If you remember back to the beginning of the year, I listed my writing goals for 2017. One of my resolutions was to revise them quarterly. However, looking over my list, I am quite pleased with the list:

  1. Finish that manuscript I said I would finish in 2016 – the introduction is done! Now to the hard part but progress is being made.
  2. Join a writers’ organization or community and pay for the dues with money I’ve earned writing – still working on this but still a goal.
  3. Start, join, or become a regular contributor on a podcast – all of these things are in the mix. We’ll see if any of them work out.
  4. Become a regular contributor on three new blogs – I’ve met this goal!
  5. Write an article, chapter, story, or something similar every day – this is still a struggle with my busy life but I am almost at this point.
  6. Publish an article about a destination I visit this year – I have two articles in my pocket about a recent trip that I am going to start shopping soon. I’ll keep you updated.
  7. Revise my goals every three months to adjust for the unexpected – not much has changed since March, so I’m still good!

More in-depth content soon.

Posted in Tales from the Top Flight

An American in Vicarage Road – BFTGT Post

From where I was sitting, I could experience all my favourite parts of the match. When the whistle blew, the chanting started. And continued. And continued. At an American soccer match, the home team supporters’ section cheers for most of the game. I’m a member of the DC United Screaming Eagles but this experience – even though I sat across from them – made me realise what I was missing. The crowd at Vicarage Road had two major advantages over an American soccer crowd.

Read more about my experiences at my first Premier League match here.

Posted in Bck Page Football

My First Article for Back Page Football on Improving Scottish Football

I am excited to share that I will now be contributing to a great site Back Page Football, which focuses on the wide world of soccer. I will be contributing regularly on a wide variety of topics but here is my first article on improving Scottish soccer:

Modern football and Scotland are forever tied together. If Scotland did not give birth to football as we know it, it certainly was the midwife that guided the sport during its early days. Despite having two of the most historic clubs in Europe and producing a number of top flight managers, the game is in trouble in its ancestral home.

Read more here.  Keep an eye out because I will have an update post coming in the near future.

Posted in Tales from the Top Flight

Angst Over the Bundesliga Title Race – Article for @ByFarBlog

One of the greatest aspects of sports is the underdog taking on the favoured team. There’s no greater thrill than watching a smaller club take down a favourite. If you are rooting for the favourite, there is a special thrill in rooting for the favourite club, as you have a large community to draw energy from. Often, this is the best way to describe the Bundesliga, but this year’s title race between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig presents a new paradigm.

Read more here about why this title race is stressful.

Posted in Tales from the Top Flight

How PSG Overran Barcelona – Latest From the Touchline Column on @ByFarBlog

Emery’s line-up was a bit of a gamble in a few senses. Marco Verratti was just coming back from a calf injury, but he held up long enough to be a vital distributor for the goal scorers. His tandem partner Adrien Rabiot was the man-of-the-match, playing a stifling defense to protect a good but shuffled backline while allowing the midfielders to roam and attack. While Cavani, who is expected to score, got his later in the match, it was the mercurial Angel Di Maria who played his best match in a long while. Di Maria is a notorious hot and cold player, but it was he world class Argentine who showed up in this match.

Read more here.