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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2014

  1. #81
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    I just wanted to add that the road itself is officially closed for bikes, but you still can get a great ride&walk trip. As so often there have been some guys which didn't respect the guys on foot and others which didn't pay enough attention. It is a bit of a shame for the mtb community, at least there are still great trails out there. Sadly the weather has been terrible so far this year.
    Last edited by Firn; 08-10-2014 at 11:23 AM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  2. #82
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firn View Post
    There is actually very little in it about the 'White War' or the high-alpine front. For good reasons, one should add, as that area wasn't the Schwerpunkt of the war apart form the Austrian offensive also often called 'Strafexpedition' in Italian even if this wasn't the official Austrian name.
    In looking over Thompsonís book yesterday afternoon the thing that most jumped out at me was that 3x as many Italians died during WWI as during WWII. I had no idea.
    If you donít read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. Ė Mark Twain (attributed)

  3. #83
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Italian Front in WW1

    I have been to the region twice, once based in Italy and then years later based in Slovenia - a good part of the study tour was spent in the mountains.

    I became aware that after the Italian collapse at Caporetto, corps sized British and French formations were sent as reinforcements. My local infantry regiment, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment were on the Asiago Plateau when attacked later. There is a UK historian who writes on this period, but being a Sunday my memory cannot recall him.

    Rommel was there too, with his Alpine infantry unit and IIRC his WW1 memoirs are largely about his time on the Italian Front.

    Italian losses were horrendous, partly as their leaders just kept on attacking and appear oblivious to learning any lessons.

    The study tours enabled me to follow one of my interests, the study of military architecture since the advent of artillery via the Fortress Study Group:http://www.fsgfort.com/
    davidbfpo

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    Just finished "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. First third was pure fun and educative too, second part dissapointment by author and his companion giving up, and third part even bigger dissapointment as they gave up again. But Mr. Bryson definately has a very readable style of writing. Now I got "Blackwater" from Eric Prince under way.

  5. #85
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I became aware that after the Italian collapse at Caporetto, corps sized British and French formations were sent as reinforcements. My local infantry regiment, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment were on the Asiago Plateau when attacked later. There is a UK historian who writes on this period, but being a Sunday my memory cannot recall him.
    The contribution of allied troops in Italy is perhaps one of most neglected elements of the Great War from an 'Italian' perspective. The rise of fascism did more then it's share there through the instrumentalisation of the Great War and in addtion the allies of those years became the competitors and afterwards enemies in the next big thing. The most visible traces of fascist glorification can be seen on prominent hills or mountain tops along the front. In some cases a few 'ossari' were also built far away from it, close to the new border. The Italian Wikipedia offers a rather long article on those sites and their story.

    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    In looking over Thompson’s book yesterday afternoon the thing that most jumped out at me was that 3x as many Italians died during WWI as during WWII. I had no idea.
    It is more 2.5 IIRC, but higher then that percentage-wise.
    Last edited by Firn; 08-11-2014 at 12:14 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  6. #86
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    The Human Face of War (Birmingham War Studies) by Jim Storr. For me so far a very insightful 'dense' read which takes more time then usual, which is a good sign. Got the kindle edition, which seems cheap for the value you get.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  7. #87
    Registered User @timrayner7's Avatar
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    I just finished reading David Kilcullen's Out of the Mountains: the Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla.

    It was a great read as he has not rested on his laurels with his current theories on how to conduct counterinsurgency, but has built upon it.

    Chapter 3 on his "Theory of Competitive Control" and the Appendix on how to conduct amphibious assaults on heavily populated cities was worth the price of the book alone.

    An example of "Competitive Control" in a peaceful society such as Australia is the use of traffic lights, road rules, and law enforcement all combining together to create normalcy, security, and predictability for Australian citizens. However, in conflicts zones these systems can be manipulated by criminal organisations, or even terrorist elements. But "Competitive Control" is a two-way street, i.e., criminal/terrorist organisations need a population to provide services to, and the population needs criminal/terrorist organisation to receive services from.

    He also identifies four "megatrends" that will shape future conflicts.
    1. Population growth. The global population will increase to 9.5 billion by the year 2050.
    2. Accelerated urbanisation. 75% of these 9.5 billion people will be urbanised.
    3. Littoralism. This urbanised population will be concentrated on coastlines in the developing world.
    4. Increasing connectedness. Communication and networking opportunities in these coastal cities will increase because of easy access to the Internet, mobile telephones, and social media.

    Sorry if this sounds like an advertisement for the book - I've just copied and pasted different parts of a book review I did on it.
    Last edited by @timrayner7; 10-03-2014 at 09:40 AM.
    timothyrayner.com

  8. #88
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Il sergente nella neve, or The Sergent in the Snow. It is one of the most famous Italian novels about the second world war, but surprisingly I never read it before.

    Redirected from their way to the Caucasus find themselves thinly spread in the vast open steppe in the freezing temperatures of the winter 42-43, holding the western bank of the Don with few mobile units in depth. Apart from local infiltrations to capture 'tongues' and sporadic sniper activity it is quite Then down the chain of command come reports that Soviet tanks have broken through and the part one 'The strongpoint' gives way among confusion to 'The pocket'...

    A brilliant little book of a desperate chapter in a miserable war, I will read more of Stern. In military terms it meshes in some areas remarkably with 'The Human Face of War' and some German 'lessons learned'. For example in a terrbile situation the morale gathered from strong human ties dating often back to areas, schools and villages back home helps to fight towards it.
    Last edited by Firn; 10-10-2014 at 08:48 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  9. #89
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Firn,

    Thanks for that discovery. One to add to my list.

    I was aware of the Italian Army in Russia, although not in detail. Then a few years ago I read in Jamaica Anthony Beevor's book on Stalingrad, which refers to the Italians in the steppes and a detachment who were surrounded in the city whilst trying to get timber for their field positions.

    The Italians were in the Crimea campaign and the siege of Sevastapol before the campaign towards the Caucasus and Stalingrad.
    davidbfpo

  10. #90
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default girls just want to have fun

    Warfare and the Third World by Robert E. Harkavy and Stephanie G. Neuman.


    The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone.


    "Confusion will be my epitaph
    As I crawl a cracked and broken path
    If we make it we can all sit back and laugh,"

    King Crimson, Epitaph

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    SHADOWS OF A FORGOTTEN PAST: To the Edge with the Rhodesian SAS and Selous Scouts
    by Paul French

  12. #92
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Firn,

    Thanks for that discovery. One to add to my list.

    ...

    The Italians were in the Crimea campaign and the siege of Sevastapol before the campaign towards the Caucasus and Stalingrad.
    Glad to help. I don't know how the translation is. In the orginal dialects play a considerable role, just as the Italian army slang of that time.

    I'm not sure about the Crimea one but as Alpini or mountain troops they were earmarked as far as I know for the Caucasus before getting used to hold those extended lines along the Don. Which also meant that they were not only relatively badly equipped as was usual for Italian forces, but also very lightly. If the anti-tank situation was dire for the standard German infantry divisions it was even more so for the Italian mountain ones. Leadership, up from the junior level and morale were problems for Italian troops, less so arguably for the Alpini. I think the rather competent Balck asked why an Italian should fight at the river Don - a question arising also in that book not only once...

    Still it seems that the company of Stern wasn't doing badly and did more then it's share in breaking blocking positions, sometimes with German armored and combined fire support.

    Writing from a German camp after refusing to join in 1943 he doesn't shy away from describing the nasty and criminal stuff comitted by others or unknowns which is usually omitted if done by one's side. No surprises there, especially if at best the discipline broke down in some of the troops of the various nations or it was seen as 'military necessity'...
    Last edited by Firn; 10-13-2014 at 07:21 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  13. #93
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default WW2 Crimean campaign: Italians fighting?

    Firn replied:
    I'm not sure about the Crimea one...
    When I visited Sevastapol our guides pointed out an Italian war memorial, built recently after the USSR fell - that is what I relied upon.

    Incidentally the official German war cemetery organisation pulled out when they realised their negoitations were not with the local government, but the local mafia. There was only a wooden marker on a German mass grave.

    I shall see if my memory can be confirmed by some research.
    davidbfpo

  14. #94
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Maybe your guide intended to say Romanian, which speak a Romance languages and fought with the Germans in considerable numbers against Soviet troops from 1941-1944. I can not recall anything about Italians, nor did I find any in the order of the Sevastopol battles in Crimea:Where the Iron Crosses grow. Another book which I intend to read in the future but time is harder to find then the money for good books.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  15. #95
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default NYRB essay on "Broken Windows" philosophy in NYC

    I can typically see the seams when writers whose subject matter expertise is the profession of writing tackle a topic, but Michael Greenberg’s essay “‘Broken Windows’ and the New York Police” in the latest New York Review of Books doesn’t have a shreds and patches feel to it. The prose is fluid and informative, and the essay comes off to me as fair to all involved. Those involved may feel differently, obviously.

    From the essay:
    Currently, in New York, possession of less than twenty-five grams is not a crime unless you are caught lighting up in public or, in the language of the law, the drug is “open to public view.” A beat cop on foot patrol, instructed to enact the policy, may approach a person he deems to be suspicious. He orders the suspect to empty the contents of his pockets, which may contain a couple of grams of pot. The suspect has now publicly displayed the drug and is arrested according to the letter of the law. Black and Hispanic men make up 86 percent of these busts.

    []

    I saw for myself some of the effects of these low-level arrests during an unplanned visit I made, in July 2013, to the “Tombs”the windowless holding pens in the basement of the 100 Centre Street courthouse in Manhattan. I counted four white men out of hundreds of prisoners who were waiting to be arraigned. One was there for allegedly slugging his girlfriend, another for buying cocaine in an upscale night club. The other two were accused of driving while intoxicated. (I was one of the latter; the charges against me were eventually dismissed.)

    This was a large summer weekend crowd, men tightly crammed in the cells, agitating for a few inches of bench space. A neatly dressed seventeen-year-old boy had staked out a spot on the floor, where he sat with his head between his knees in what appeared to be a state of silent despair. The single overflowing toilet that served the thirty or forty men in the cell seemed to bring him close to tears.

    The boy had made the mistake of asking a rider who was exiting a subway station to swipe him through with her MetroCard. “I was thirty-three cents short for a single fare,” he told me. He neither jumped the turnstile nor harassed the woman, who obligingly swiped him through. A policeman witnessed the exchange, arrested the boy, and let the woman off with a stern warning, though what law she had broken is unclear. The policeman now had cause to search the kid and found the remnants of a joint in his pocketcrumbs of pot. Though he had no prior arrests, he was now facing two charges: marijuana possession and theft of services, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. He wouldn’t do time, most likely, beyond his current incarceration, but he feared, with good reason, that the financial aid a college in Pennsylvania had granted him for his freshman year would be rescinded.
    And:

    Sometimes, police will use the pretext of minor infractions, such as truancy or riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, to lock up crew members on the day of a planned shoot-outa selective employment of the broken windows tactic that may actually save kids’ lives. Many of these cops are trained in community relations. “I need help, and if the cops are the ones giving it, that’s fine by me,” a mother in the Albany Houses in Brooklyn told me.

    It isn’t rare for parents to plead with police to take their children into custody, in order to protect them. In households with domestic abuse, a crime that has not decreased in recent years, police repeatedly check in, paying follow-up visits after an arrest or a complaint, to see how the family is getting on.

    Ray Kelly, who started the Crew Cut initiative toward the end of his tenure as commissioner, said, “If I had to point to one reason why the murders and shootings are down, it is this program. And I can tell you that there is a lot of positive feedback from cops.” The remark is as close as he has come, to my knowledge, to questioning the relative effectiveness of stop and frisk, whose main purpose was to confiscate guns; it’s also an indirect acknowledgment of the widespread dissatisfaction among the NYPD’s rank and file during the Bloomberg and Kelly years. Beat cops particularly disliked stop and frisk, and sometimes would write up “ghost 250s”fake stop-and-frisk reports with no namesin order to meet quotas.
    The digital version is free for all at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/arch...w-york-police/.
    Last edited by ganulv; 10-17-2014 at 05:36 PM. Reason: formatting fix
    If you donít read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. Ė Mark Twain (attributed)

  16. #96
    Council Member mirhond's Avatar
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    Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson. The hardest SF I've ever read.
    Haeresis est maxima opera maleficarum non credere.

  17. #97
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default everybody wants to rule the world


  18. #98
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    The Viaz'ma Catastrophe, 1941: The Red Army's Disastrous Stand against Operation Typhoon, even if 'reading' is a bit much. After the introduction, some chapters and maps I decided to go to 'The Dimensions of the Defeat' as in this month and the next one I won't have time to go through the operations. Still already lots of food for thought.

    He, like other Russian authors, seems rather upset that a vast quantity of very important is still practially hidden away and that the official positions are seemingly rather often in conflict with researched facts from other soures. In his words the supporters of 'Mama and borsch' patriotism 'are in agreement that a patriot can only be someone who refuses in principle to to see any flaws in his or her country'. In short the author makes a detailed and very convincing argument, partly based on not offically published work of the TsAMO and other sources that the total irrevocable losses (of the Soviet forces) were 'to the most conservative calculations no less then 14,500,000 people, which is a approximately half of the total number of 29,500,000 who were mobilized throughout the war.' A deeply shocking loss of life, indeed, and impossible to truly comprehend.

    I could not resist to look at what the other side lost. The irrevocable losses by the German forces, which obviously had by far the highest share of men and material of the Axis forces are coverd by here by Ruediger Overmans, who published key research in this area. According to his work 'Overall probably 3,5 to 4 million German members of the Wehrmacht* lost their live on the Ostfront or died as Soviet prisoners of war. To this one has to add the casualities of the other Axis forces and those of non-German Soviet origin. According to the Italian Wikipedia, citing quite old research roughly 75,000 Italians lost their lives in the East, the great majority presumably in captivity, a large number which of course pales after the others. Others, like 'Greater Hungary', Finland and the Romania had high absolute losses, roughly 500,000 in all, if Wikipedia is to be believed.

    My post took a turn I didn't anticipate and I have to stop. Maybe I will follow it up later.

    *of course including Waffen SS, Luftwaffe and Marine
    Last edited by Firn; 10-27-2014 at 06:43 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  19. #99
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default to your scattered bodies go

    Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang


    The Apocalypse Door by James D. MacDonald


    "The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck." - Paul Virilio

    ...

    David St. Hubbins: "It's such a fine line between stupid, and uh..."

    Derek Smalls: "...and clever." - Spinal Tap
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 10-28-2014 at 06:29 AM. Reason: quote

  20. #100
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firn View Post
    In short the author makes a detailed and very convincing argument, partly based on not offically published work of the TsAMO and other sources that the total irrevocable losses (of the Soviet forces) were 'to the most conservative calculations no less then 14,500,000 people, which is a approximately half of the total number of 29,500,000 who were mobilized throughout the war.' A deeply shocking loss of life, indeed, and impossible to truly comprehend.
    Am I right to assume that some of the (indeed, deeply shocking) loss of life was of a piece with pre-War Stalinist political purging, economic reorganization, and social engineering?

    Which is to say, being a Soviet citizen meant you had been dealt a bad hand, a situation that Operation Typhoon only exacerbated?

    OTOH, it seems difficult to imagine a counterfactual Tsarist Russian economy turning back the Third Reich as did the centralized Leninist/Stalinist USSRís.
    If you donít read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. Ė Mark Twain (attributed)

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