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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm..."

Graph by Dr. J. Storrs Hall, Foresight Institute

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

I've stayed (mostly) clear of the climate debate on this blog, mainly because opinion on the issue is so politically polarized.  People are yelling at each other, but nobody's listening.  And what's worse, people are utterly unwilling to critically examine the conclusions they spew. 

The release of emails from the CRU and the refusal of other researchers to allow public access to the research and methods underlying their work seems to have revealed a science bureaucracy and a compliant press intent on solely political motives, ignoring the voices of the 31,000 scientists who disagree.  Also, the revelation that the IPCC's findings on global warming came not from the scientific method, but an undergraduate's research paper.  This whole mishmash has, in my mind, called into question the entire basis for the conclusion of Anthropogenically-caused Global Warming (AGW), and its adherents who seem far more intent on destroying the economies of western nations. 

I've looked at data from both sides, but this chart, based on NOAA ice core data showing the temperature history going back some 425,000 years, is too compelling to ignore. 

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Battle of Gettysburg

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

Between July 1 and July 3, 1863, the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the scene of what many historians call the pivotal battle, and the turning point of the Civil War. On this ground, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the command of the legendary Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of General George Meade, met in a bloody fight, the result of which changed history. After three days of unremitting bloodshed, the two armies quit the field, having lost some 57,000 of their comrades dead, wounded, and missing. It was a battle characterized by bad strategy and stubborn leadership at the top, indescribable heroism in the ranks, and unbelievable luck and timing.

The battle was framed by events in the spring of that year. In May, Union and Confederate forces clashed at Chancellorsville, Virginia. The Confederates, as always, were outnumbered. Nevertheless, Lee divided his smaller force, sending Stonewall Jackson against the Union right flank. The Union 11th Corps under General Oliver Howard had been poorly deployed and were unprepared to meet an attack. The shocking appearance of the large Rebel force resulted in shock that quickly turned to widespread panic. They broke and ran. This attack sealed the victory for Lee. Unfortunately, even though they won the battle, the South lost General Jackson to friendly fire, as he was returning to his lines after reconnoitering the Union position. His eventual death from those wounds deprived Lee of a brilliantly aggressive battlefield commander, a loss that would prove pivotal at Gettysburg two months later.  In a surprising move, Lee appointed J.E.B. Stuart, his brilliant and colorful cavalry commander to take command of Jackson's troops.  Stuart proved his abilities as a professional soldier, performing brilliantly.

In June, Lee embarked on an invasion of the North. The Army of Northern Virginia marched through the Shenandoah Valley, using the Blue Ridge Mountains and Stuart's cavalry to shield their movements. Up to that point, the Union Army had proven to be slow to react and even slower to move. Lee counted on that temporary paralysis to allow him to advance unchallenged. By June 28, Lee’s forces were stretched out on a 55-mile arc from Chambersburg, PA to the outskirts of Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital, a line that roughly follows the modern route of I-81. On that day, however, Lee and his “Old Warhorse” James Longstreet, received information that not only was the Union Army on the move, but were perilously close. Considering his options, Lee looks at a map, and seeing a farm town with a large network of roads, issues orders for his Army to concentrate there. The town was Gettysburg.