Mom’s Dating Tips — Bonds of Love or Bonds of Crazy?

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Everyone is a head case. The only question is whether they are a head case you can live with. ~ Mom

In the first article, First Be Happy Alone, we looked at why the first step to being happy with someone else is learning to be happy alone. A full cup attracts a full cup. If you’re happy alone, then it’s time to open yourself to the world of opportunities.

Opening yourself means you have to get rid of pre-conceived notions. The fact is that you might not know what you need. Trust that God, Life, the Universe, your Higher Power, or simply your Inner Good Sense does know. In other words, don’t stay trapped in a box of what you think you want. Open yourself to what you need.

 

Canstock 2015 Aug Think Outside Box

 

Relationships are journeys of discovery. They are not enactments of pre-conceived fantasies.

Forget thinking that you must have crazy hot chemistry the moment your eyes meet. Crazy hot chemistry – the kind that makes you want to jump a stranger right there in the produce section of the grocery store – is exciting and makes us feel alive and tingly, but it’s still CRAZY. The fact is that our hottest attractions occur when our own crazy meets a compatible crazy. Crazy sucks onto crazy like a fanatic sucks onto dogma. Crazy is not a basis to build a life together.

Crazy is attracted to crazy in the hope that if you can fix each other’s crazy, it will somehow fix your own. In reality, though, the only thing crazy can build together is more crazy. This results in one of two inevitabilities. You spend your lives in an increasingly miserable death spiral, OR, one of you gets better, and the bond is broken. The classic example is the alcoholic and the co-dependent. They either die inch by inch together in alternating ecstasy and misery without ever building a stable life, or one of the two gets better, and the relationship falls apart.

Crazy love sparks the firestorm that burns down our world.

Lasting love is the hearth fire that warms us for a lifetime.

Bonds of love are bonds of solace and refuge that are built over time. They nurture each partner while nurturing the relationship. And don’t worry. This does not preclude hot sex. The difference is that the hot sex is real and solid, and you’re in the room with your mate and not lost in your head with someone you don’t even really know outside of crazy. It’s an exchange of nurturing love rather than an expression of needs that the relationship cannot fill.

 

Canstock 2015 Aug Hearth Fire with warming feet

 

Signs You’re Bonded in Crazy

This is not a comprehensive list, but it hits some major points.

  • You understand each other’s pain before the dessert course.

Bonds of pain are at the foundation of crazy love, and they can be a force of nature. Finding someone with matching scars is like reaching an island in an endless stormy ocean, and it is one hot, steamy island. But unless there is a great deal more to the relationship, you either indulge each other’s pain for the duration, or, the moment one of you starts to heal, the bond is broken.

  • You fall into bed and ask questions later.
  • You have the same strengths and the same weaknesses.
  • You overlook Red Flags* and plow forward without resolution.
  • You make excuses for the other person’s words and behavior.
  • You keep the relationship compartmentalized from your family and friends.
  • When you are together with family or friends, you act differently than you would if the other wasn’t there.
  • You treat the other like a fixer-upper, focusing on who the other can be rather than who the other is right now, today.

 

So much potential!

So much potential!

 

Signs You’re Bonded in Love

  • You learn each other’s life stories over time.
  • You become friends who genuinely enjoy each other’s company before you become lovers.

As we discussed in the last article, sex is easy. Love takes time and commitment. The vast majority of relationships that begin in the bedroom never make it to the altar, much less through a lifetime. Think of controlling yourselves as a way of respecting the sacred relationship you want to share. It also builds trust in that you show each other that you aren’t slaves to lust – something anyone married over a decade can tell you will be a potential danger to the relationship at some point. Establish that you are up to the challenges to come.

  • You have different strengths and weaknesses, preferably complimentary ones that will help you draw strength from each other.
  • There are no unmitigated Red Flags.*
  • You are comfortable with the other’s words and behavior.
  • You socialize easily with each other’s friends.
  • You are drawn to who the other is today, not who the other might be tomorrow.

 

Canstock 2015 Aug Family with a Home in its hands

 

At the heart, lifelong relationships are about time and boundaries. A dear friend once explained it to me like this . . .

You are in the center of multiple circles of fence. Not walls. Fence. When you meet someone, go to the outer circle, and stand behind your fence. Chat over the fence for a bit. If you’re comfortable with them, open the gate and let them in to where you were standing while you go behind the next fence. Wash, rinse, repeat. THE CHOICE TO OPEN A GATE IS COMPLETELY YOURS. You don’t owe an open gate to anyone. Not anyone. Most people will remain in those outer circles as acquaintances. Some will come in several layers and be good friends. And, in time, one will make it in far enough to be your mate for life, and a mate for life is worth the investment of a little time.

Now give yourself a hug and be good to yourself today.

Many blessings,

Mom

*Red Flags are signs that you’re barking up the wrong skivvies. We’ll talk about those next time.

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

When it comes to dating, Piper Bayard did it wrong, and then she did it right. She’s now been happily married for over two decades and is passing on the tips that helped her find a solid partner in building a life and a family.

Piper Bayard, is also an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, coming soon!

THE SPY BRIDE Final Cover 3 inch

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

Mom’s Dating Tips — First Be Happy Alone

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

I’ve often posted dating tips on FB. This post is in response to friends there who have asked me to elaborate . . .

“Seducing someone is almost as difficult as watching ice melt, but not quite. You can do better.” ~ Mom

 

Canstock 2015 Aug Melting Ice

 

It’s easy to find sex.

Almost all of the population wants it at any given moment of any given day, and regardless of your sexual orientation, half the horny people on the planet are potential sex partners.

But finding a life partner? That’s another matter altogether.

The most important step to finding a life partner is to learn to be happy alone. Yes, that’s right. Learn to be happy alone. That way, you won’t settle for a toxic relationship just because you’re afraid of the sound of your own head rattling around in an empty house.

But wait a minute, you say. If I were happy alone, why would I bother dating at all?

Because when you’re happy alone, you end up with more of yourself than you need. You develop an abundance of spirit that makes you want to share yourself with someone else. You are an overflowing cup that seeks another vessel to fill. That “other vessel” is the “We” of a relationship.

Relationships have an “I,” a “You,” and a “We.”

People who aren’t happy alone are half full cups. They find other half full cups and empty themselves into a third cup – the “We” cup. Since the “I” and “You” are now empty cups, they draw from the “We” without having anything left to nurture it, and the “We” runs dry.

People who are full cups attract other full cups, and together, they make a “We” cup that holds their overflow. The relationship is about giving to the “We,” and not about taking from it. The “We” is a creation born from abundance and not from want, so it doesn’t run dry.

 

Full "I" + Full "You" = Full "We"

Full “I” + Full “You” = Full “We”

 

Great, you say. So how do I start being happy alone?

  • First, clean your room. Seriously. Clean your room. Messy surroundings sap the spirit, and you’re going for abundance here.
  • Treat yourself with class. You matter.
  • Ask yourself what it is that you want someone else to give you, and find ways to give those things to yourself.
  • Figure out if you have unresolved pain. That’s the restlessness that keeps you overscheduling your life and seeking out social media in lieu of quiet time alone with your head.
  • Get help to resolve that pain. Find a competent professional or a good friend who can guide you to a better place, so that time alone with yourself doesn’t scare you anymore.
  • Make a list of twenty things you want to do in the next five years.
  • Turn off the computer, pick something off of the list, and go do it.
  • Get rid of the people in your life who don’t respect you. Likewise, get rid of the ones you don’t respect. You and your time are too precious to share with anyone who doesn’t feed your dreams and nurture your soul.
  • Cook good meals for yourself. Feeding yourself well is the most nurturing thing you can do for both your body and your soul.
  • Actively seek out laughter and beauty. Both fill the spirit and lead to happiness.

Now give yourself a hug and enjoy the feel of your own embrace. Stop waiting for someone to come along make you happy. Love yourself, and the happy will come, and with it, a fellow full cup.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

When it comes to dating, Piper Bayard did it wrong, and then she did it right. She’s now been happily married for over two decades and is passing on the tips that helped her find a solid partner in building a life and a family.

Piper Bayard, is also an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE, coming soon!

THE SPY BRIDE Final Cover 3 inch

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

America is Not a Location

By Piper Bayard

America is not a location. America is an ideal. It is the dream of a country in which freedom is paramount, and it is secure because the government is the servant of the people.

Because America is an ideal, Americans are not born. Rather, America, itself, must be born anew with each generation. Each generation has the choice of embracing the American ideal of a government that answers to the people, or of rejecting that ideal in favor of a more paternalistic system of government.

 

Actual photo of ideal elected American official at work.

Actual photo of ideal American government at work.

 

When the government spies on us with everything from street corner cameras to warrantless searches of random individuals to collection and analysis of our every electronic transmission and phone communication, we are no longer the masters, and the government is no longer our servant. It is our ruler. It is a parent searching our rooms and opening our mail on the off chance that we might be doing something it doesn’t want us to do. That is exactly what is happening now.

The difference between the government being the servant and the government being the master can be boiled down to one thing:  a warrant.

When an agency such as the NSA, FBI, DHS, etc., is required to obtain a warrant, an official paper trail is created by which the people can force the government to answer for who and how it searches, why it searches, and what it obtains. It is a record by which citizens can hold the government accountable for its actions in a court of law.

Since Edward Snowden dropped his NSA whistleblower bomb, the White House has gone from denying that the U.S. spies on its own citizens to unashamedly stating that it will continue to collect and analyze data on American citizens in the name of “national security.”

 

meme by bizarrojerri.wordpress.com

meme by bizarrojerri.wordpress.com

 

At this point, numerous disturbing facts have become public information:

  • Through various means, our government is collecting and storing every digital transaction American citizens make – every email, every phone communication, every bank transaction, every credit and debit card transaction, every check remittance, and every online health and education record.
  • Our government allows the other Five Eyes countries – Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., Australia – as well as Israel and unnamed others access to this raw data on American citizens.
  • Our government has written agreements with these countries for their unlimited access to our raw data, with only smoke and mirror oversight of what data they collect or how they use it. It is an “honor among eavesdroppers” arrangement.
  • Our government trades information about American citizens and intelligence operations with corporations in exchange for their data on American citizens.
  • When trigger words* like “snow,” “bust,” or “sick” alert one of the countless analysts in both the government and the private sector who are tasked with pawing through this hoarder’s mountain of raw data, they are free to peruse and interpret the threads of our lives at their personal discretion.
  • Everything these analysts do is off the public record. No probable cause. No individual warrant. No accountability.

 

U.S. Government Serving Up Americans to the World

U.S. Government Serving Up Americans to the World

 

The administration rationalizes all of these acts with the all-encompassing buzzwords “national security” and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Originally, FISA was enacted to allow data collection on foreign terrorists. Warrants were based on probable cause, and the judges of the FISA court approved them. These boundaries slipped substantially with the Patriot Act. Now, under the current administration, there are no meaningful boundaries at all, with the FISA court essentially rubberstamping every administrative request* to spy on American citizens that comes their way, issuing blanket orders that are nothing but fishing trips, subjecting Americans to data collection and retention with no probable cause.

One example of a typical FISA-approved blanket order is the Top Secret order to Verizon Wireless signed on April 25, 2013, which was published by The Guardian on June 6, 2013.

This order was requested by the FBI, which in turn receives its orders from the White House. It forces Verizon Wireless to give the NSA information on ALL telephone calls in its system on an “ongoing daily basis.” Telephone calls originating and terminating in foreign countries are specifically excluded—the height of irony considering the original purpose of FISA was solely to collect data on suspect foreigners. For full text of this order, see Verizon Forced to Hand Over Telephone Data–Full Court Ruling Dated April 25, 20143 (below).

At its core, our government has given itself authority and provision to maintain a wiretap on every American and foreigner within U.S. borders.

No probable cause. No discretion. No accountability to the public. Each and every one of us is now assumed guilty until proven innocent. Each and every one of us now answers to the government master that was once our servant, turning the American ideal on its ear.

 

Ideal photo of actual U.S. government at work.

Ideal photo of actual U.S. government at work.

 

Spy on suspected terrorists. Do it unapologetically. Do it inside or outside our borders. But let there be probable cause. Let there be warrants. Let there be public records. Let there be accountability. If we are to remain American, we must not allow the government to exercise such omnipotent power with impunity.

Freedom is the essence of the American ideal. It is about shouldering the responsibility for ourselves, for our safety, and for our governance. It is not about perfect security from cradle to grave. When we abdicate our responsibility for our freedom in favor of comfort and the illusion of safety, we become wards of the state. What were once our rights as responsible adults are now merely our privileges as subjects, granted or withheld by our rulers at their whim and discretion.

We must demand more of our leaders. Freedom can be won, and freedom can be surrendered, but Freedom will never be given back once successfully taken by the ruling class. Unbridled surveillance of American citizens is that taking.

Like nuclear weapons, the surveillance train has left the station. But like nuclear weapons, we have the choice about how we will use that technology. America is at a crossroads. Will our generation shoulder the responsibility for our freedom and set firm boundaries on the actions of our government? Or will we devolve into a location on a map? The choice belongs to each of us.

 

This Means You

This Means You

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Verizon Forced to Hand Over Telephone Data–Full Court Ruling Dated April 25, 2013. The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

NSA PRISM Program Taps in to User Data of Apple, Google, and others. Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

Obama Blasts Media ‘Hype’ Over Secret Program, Calling Them ‘Modest Encroachments on Privacy’. Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, June 7, 2013.

US, British Intelligence Mining Data from Nine U.S. Internet Companies in Broad Secret Program. Barton Gellman and Lora Poitras, The Washington Post, June 7, 2013.

Here’s the Law the Obama Administration is Using as Legal Justification for Broad Surveillance. Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, June 7, 2013.

Obama: No One is Listening to Your Calls. Michael Pearson, CNN Politics, June 9, 2013.

Edward Snowden: The Whistleblower Behind the NSA Surveillance Revelations. Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Lora Poitras, The Guardian, June 9, 2013.

US Agencies Said to Swap Data with Thousands of Firms, Michael Riley, Bloomberg, June 14, 2013.

British Spy Agency Taps Cables, Shares with US NSA , Reuters, June 21, 2013. (Info on Five Eyes)

NSA Shares Raw Intelligence Including Americans’ Data with Israel, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, September 11, 2013.

NSA and Israeli Intelligence:  Memorandum of Understanding–Full Document, The Guardian, September 11, 2013.

What Makes US-Israeli Intelligence Co-operation ‘Exceptional’?, Matthew Brodsky, The Guardian, September 13, 2013.

Judge Upholds NSA’s Bulk Collection of Data on Calls, Adam Liptak and Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, December 27, 2013.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court Orders 1979 – 2014, Electronic Privacy Information Center, May 1, 2014.

 

 

 

Consider Crying for Argentina

By Jay Holmes

This evening I treated myself to a theatre performance, or at least to the recording of a theatre performance. On March 1, 2014, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner addressed the 132nd National Congress of Argentina. I was forwarded a recording of the speech, but had not taken the time to enjoy the nearly three-hour impromptu performance until last night. Former First Lady of Argentina Evita Perón was great at those well-rehearsed, seemingly “impromptu” addresses. Dream though she may, Cristina is no Evita.

 

Image by Presidency of the Nation of Argentina wikimedia commons

Image by Presidency of the Nation of Argentina
wikimedia commons

 

The result was nearly three hours of speech with very little new or meaningful information. Cristina sees herself as a victim of dark conspiracies by the world’s wealthy movers and shakers. While I am no fan of the new age economic potentates, it’s not the job of the Argentine National government to whine about them. Their job is to develop effective policies to help the troubled economy of Argentina.

Cristina promised more cooperation with opposition parties, but she has yet to actually foster political cooperation in Argentina. In that sense, her speech was not altogether dissimilar to political speeches in any democratic nation.

In a theme that is gaining voice in the U.S. and some parts of Europe, Cristina claims the shale oil/gas development, known as “fracking,” will bring an economic boom to Argentina. In the U.S., the opponents of fracking like to hoist “No Fracking” signs at protests. What would it be in Argentina? Perhaps it would be something along the lines of “No Me Fraques.” It has a nice ring to it. Perhaps the more militant placards would read something like “Fraca Tu Madre.” I can’t wait.

According to Cristina, Argentina is enjoying its greatest economic growth since the Gauchos first set out to tame the Pampas. She doesn’t explain how chronically high unemployment and inflation that may be as high as 40% fits into this picture of economic Nirvana.  To many observers, the growing slums around Buenos Aires paint an altogether different portrait of Argentina’s economy.

While Cristina is only partly to blame for Argentina’s current economic crisis, she can shoulder the blame for the current failed policies that have hurt Argentina. Nationalizing the Argentine airlines and oil companies has left foreign investors unwilling to help modernize the Argentine energy sector or invest in their economy. The traditionally strong agricultural sector has grown stagnant, and in spite of food shortages around the globe, Argentina is no longer enjoying the agricultural export profits that it once took for granted.

Cristina increased taxes on rural agricultural Argentinians and indirectly instituted price controls on agricultural products. The result has been food shortages, which is bizarre because Argentina is traditionally a food-exporting nation. Held up as national heroes in the past, Cristina is now using agricultural populations as scapegoats for this problem. That sort of adversarial relationship with Argentina’s farmers and ranchers plays well in most of Buenos Aires, but it only exacerbates the decreased productivity, and in the end it hurts the poorest urban dwellers the most.

 

Wiki Falkland Islands Argentine Air Force public domain

April 2, 2014, was the 32nd anniversary of the ill-conceived Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands by a military junta that wanted desperately to distract the Argentine public from their troubles at home. Subsequent governments have marked the occasion with a more somber form of patriotism that focused on remembering the loss of life that resulted from that failed invasion. This 2nd of April, the celebration included Cristina’s introduction of a new 50 Peso note that sports a map of the Falklands, or Las Malvinas as they are called in Argentina. The Beijing government, which recently employed similar propaganda methods concerning their expansionist aspirations in the Pacific, might be wondering if they’ll get a royalty for having their idea copied. I would tell them not to bother sending a bill. Most international bills arriving at the desk of the Argentine Treasury have been ignored of late.

One of the thrilling highlights of this particular three hour Evita sequel (sans music) was Cristina’s explanation to a fascinated audience that the Falklands are used by the U.K. for all of their electronic espionage against the southern hemisphere. Apparently, Cristina has not yet heard about that marvelous new invention that we call “the satellite.” You’ll be surprised to know that the Falklands are not just a southern headquarters of British intelligence systems, but that they in fact house ICBMs for use against South America. I’m not making this up folks. Translations of her speeches are available to any member of the public that wishes to endure nearly three hours of bad theatre.

So what do Evita 2.0’s recent theatrical extravaganzas mean? Anything? The answer depends on who you ask. I will offer you my best guesses.

The U.K. Ministry Of Defense has not further reinforced the Falklands in response to Cristina’s performances. That’s because they don’t take her very seriously. The Argentine military has languished since the Falklands War. Cristina has not delivered on her many promises to the Argentine military of new and improved bases or a major expansion of the Argentine Air Force. The U.K., on the other hand, has taken the precaution of installing a modern air defense system in the Falklands and has four modern warplanes stationed there. And no, there are no atomic weapons on the Falklands.  Well, you say, certainly she would have rebuilt the Argentine fleet by now. No. She is patiently waiting to commission two modern carriers that are being built. Even though the U.K. Royal Navy currently has no carriers either, Argentina is still at a disadvantage. In all, whatever Falklands invasion Cristina Fernandez pretends to dream of won’t become a reality in the near future.

As for Cristina’s “all new, more whitening power, economic detergent,” don’t expect much change. While some critics of the Fernandez Kirchner Theatre Company are willing to compare Argentina to Venezuela, I don’t see them slipping that far. Cristina and her supporting cast can no longer count on automatic middle class support for radical economic reforms. She’s all but run her course. As well as I can guess, Argentina is unlikely to improve much in the near future, but it’s not likely to get much worse at this point. The socialist sky is not quite falling in Buenos Aires.

 

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner image by Agencia Brasil, wikimedia commons

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
image by Agencia Brasil, wikimedia commons

 

Enjoy the theatre season.

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Consider Crying for Argentina

James Bond vs. The Spook

By Piper Bayard

You could say I work with Bond. James Bond. The real one. But that wouldn’t be quite right. I work with a spook.

 

Please don’t ask me how a small town author/belly dancer/recovering attorney grew up to be the writing partner of a seasoned covert operative, because that is a story I can never tell. But I can tell you this . . . It’s nothing like fiction.

 

His name is Holmes. Jay Holmes. And unlike James Bond, that’s not his real name. That’s because when covert operatives reveal their identities – even decades after they are out of deep cover – people can die. Assets and loved ones alike can become targets. So when a celebrity author shows up in an “I’m a Spook” T-shirt flaunting a “covert” career, it’s a dead giveaway that though she may have done some great and necessary work with an intelligence agency, she has never been a covert operative in the field. Covert operatives must forever keep a Chinese wall around their true identities.

 

Not Holmes. Holmes avoids suits wherever possible.

Not Holmes. Holmes avoids suits wherever possible. 

 

So what’s this real covert spook writing partner of mine like? First off, Holmes and his ilk are “spooks,” not spies. As Holmes says, “Spying is seamy. It’s what the Russians do.”

 

Spooks refer to each other lightheartedly as “spooks.” That’s also what military personnel call them when military and intelligence operations overlap. For example, if an intelligence team is working in a secured area of a ship, the crew refers to them as “the spooks.”

 

There is no official Dictionary of Spook Terminology, but the proper terms for spooks are “intelligence operatives” and “intelligence agents.” By habit, “operative” is used by CIA personnel when they are talking among themselves or reviewing an operation, and “agent” refers to someone – usually a foreigner – who is collecting information in a foreign country. Intelligence personnel are the “operatives” who are managing the foreign “agents.”

 

And all of those wild car chases that happen in books and movies? Sure. They happen now and then in real life. Holmes has personally driven down the Spanish Steps and gone the wrong way up a narrow one-way street to get his man. But what you almost never see in fiction is that spooks wear seatbelts. Religiously. “Because you can’t finish the mission if you’re dead.”

 

There are also many things fictional spooks do that real spooks never do—or at least few live to tell if they do. How many times in fiction does a spook duck into a doorway and peek out of it to spy on someone he’s following? That’s a good way to get dead in real life.

 

One of the first things spooks must learn about following people is to not be followed themselves. It’s common for bad guys to have their own people tailing them to pick up any newcomers, so spooks can’t only focus on who’s in front of them. They have to be acutely aware of who is behind them, too. That means that if a spook wants to watch someone from a doorway, she has to take her eyes off the target, go all the way inside a building, and only turn around once she’s out of sight of the street. Then she can come back out and stop in the doorway under some other pretense than watching someone. It also gives her the chance to handle the bad guy’s trailing entourage.

 

Another thing fiction almost invariably gets wrong is the spook’s relationship to room service. How many times has Bond ordered room service? And how has that worked out for him? You’d think he would have learned after Rosa Klebb’s stunt in From Russia with Love that this is a seriously bad idea. Even the spooks in the otherwise realistic movie Act of Valor ordered take out and paid the price.

 

This isn’t only because of the opportunity for an enemy to poison them, it’s also because it’s generally bad juju for spooks to invite strangers into their space when they are on a mission. In fact, Holmes won’t even have a pizza delivered to his home. The only food he actually enjoys is his own, his wife’s, or mine if it includes chocolate, and only then if he is eating at home or at the home of a trusted friend.

 

So back to my original question – what’s this real life spook like? Unlike fiction, Holmes is incredibly mundane. While he has an incredibly charming boyish smile, he doesn’t look a thing like James Bond, Jason Bourne, or Jack Reacher. In fact, real spooks come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. When they aren’t on a job, they might be working as Wal-Mart managers, secretaries, teachers, insurance salesmen, or corporate CEOs. And their days at home can look like anyone else’s, filled with gardening, grocery shopping, cleaning, and following behind their children turning off lights. Holmes would say that spooks are ordinary people with a bit more than average commitment and dedication to their work.

 

More like Holmes. Never too good for the dirty work.

More like Holmes. Never too good for the dirty work.

 

Notice I said that Holmes would say that. He strongly objects to the notion that he and other covert operatives are special in any way. However, speaking as a small town author/belly dancer/recovering attorney with a home in “normalville” and a window into the shadow world, I would suggest that from most people’s perspective, there is one thing fiction definitely gets right. These folks are anything but ordinary.

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James Bond vs. The Spook

Cowardly French? Not at the Battle of Verdun!

By Jay Holmes

France has the reputation for being highly uncooperative in the Western community, which has led to the American and European habit of describing the French as being cowardly—a “nation of whores and waiters.” Every nation has whores. Fortunately, every nation also has waiters. And every nation has its cowards, but history indicates that in spite of France’s popular reputation, France’s military has been no less courageous than that of any other nation.

One event in particular that stands out as an example of French courage and as a defining force in the French political psyche is the Battle of Verdun. Like Guadalcanal, Gettysburg, Austerlitz, and Stalingrad, few people outside of Verdun’s immediate neighbors knew about the town or cared about it until a major battle was fought there. In 1916, the word “Verdun” took on a new meaning in France and to the Allied Powers and the Central Powers.

On Ne Passe Pas! "They shall not pass!" Poster by Maurice Neumont, public domain

On Ne Passe Pas!
“They shall not pass!”
Poster by Maurice Neumont, public domain

By early 1916, Europe and the European colonies had been involved with a particularly bloody war for nearly two years. France, Germany, and their allies had suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties on the “Western Front.” Given the largely effective naval blockade of the Central Powers, the German war economy was beginning to suffer, and German leaders knew that the long-range prospect of a German victory was dwindling. Without a rapid victory, the effective balance of forces on the Western Front would shift against Germany.

In an effort to secure that victory, German General Erich von Falkenhayn employed a method that Alexander the Great used frequently with great success in the fourth century B.C. Alexander had learned that enemies often least expect an attack at the strongest point of their fortifications, and that if he quickly concentrated his forces at that point, then he could destroy the center of his enemy’s defensive position and the bulk of its forces while it attempted to maneuver into a counterattack or regain defensive positions.

This method works as long as the attacking army has well trained, disciplined forces that can concentrate their firepower, and its leaders at all levels understand the tactics and are prepared to execute follow-up movement after obtaining the breach in the enemy line. General von Falkenhayn’s situation at the Battle at Verdun met those requirements.

In military terms, the area around Verdun constituted the last high ground between the attacking German army and the city of Paris. Von Falkenhayn counted on the French being unable to reinforce against the German advance. He planned that his army would capture the heights around Verdun and march through the grape fields of Champagne to trample Paris along with the grapes. My assumption is that von Falkenhayn and the German government thought that at some point prior to the German army arriving in Paris, France and the UK would agree to peace terms that were favorable to Germany. Germany could then concentrate its efforts in the east against the faltering Russian army and effect a sizeable real estate acquisition in Eastern Europe. While the long-range hopes of the German leadership concerning the attack on Verdun cannot be determined with certainty, it is safe to say they viewed the Battle of Verdun as vital to German victory.

In the winter of 1916, Verdun’s defensive works were depleted. Most of the mobile artillery that was crucial to its defense had been moved to more active sectors of the front, and the French forces in garrison in the area were too few to deal with a major assault. To the Germans, it seemed that von Falkenhayn’s application of Alexander’s favorite tactic would once more prove effective.

Fortunately for the French, their intelligence services succeeded in detecting the German buildup and discovered that the Germans intended to launch a major assault against Verdun. Due to bad weather and good French intelligence analysis, the French were able to move two additional full divisions to Verdun prior to the assault, but the Germans still enjoyed a two-to-one advantage in forces.

Map public domain, wikimedia commons

Map public domain, wikimedia commons

As a rule of thumb, military planners consider a three-to-one ratio to be optimal for a force attacking prepared defenses. While the Germans realized that they now lacked that preferred ratio, they remained confident because they had a five-to-one advantage in artillery. If we also examine the throw weight/hour and the ranges of the artillery pieces on both sides, it looks more like a twenty-to-one advantage for the Germans.

The Germans were also confident because they already held the land on three sides of the Verdun area. They assumed, quite reasonably, that since they had a major high capacity rail line running to within 20 km of the battle front, and the French had only one narrow road and a low capacity narrow gauge rail line supplying Verdun, that the French would not be able to move ammunition and food to Verdun fast enough to support a battle there. On the map table of the German headquarters, it all looked perfect. From the French side, it had to look like an impending disaster.

At 0715 hours on February 21, 1916, the well-planned German attack started with the world’s first “shock and awe” display. On a scale never seen before, the Germans conducted a massive artillery bombardment against the French defenders. It was heard up to a hundred miles away.

Most of the French soldiers in their defensive trenches were wiped out, and telegraph lines were cut. The massive artillery bombardment was followed up with attacks by specially trained German shock troops equipped with hand grenades and, for the first time, flamethrowers for clearing any enclosed French positions. The Germans quickly gained ground. For the most part, no Frenchmen were alive to defend the ground that the Germans were capturing. The situation was close to desperate for the French.

French reserves crossing a river on the way to Verdun image public domain, wikimedia commons

French reserves crossing a river on the way to Verdun
image public domain, wikimedia commons

Then something interesting happened. Rather than run out of supplies and fall back in retreat as the Germans expected, the French pulled off a near logistical miracle. In spite of the dire conditions and the frequent storms of German artillery shells, they kept supplies and men moving forward. That small, solitary French road leading up to Verdun was filled with supplies and soldiers pushing forward against the flow of wounded Frenchmen being moved to hospitals.

If we try to understand the mindset of the French soldiers that were first sent to reinforce Verdun, it’s difficult to justify thinking of them as cowardly. They had a long walk toward the roaring artillery bombardment of the town on a narrow road jammed with wounded soldiers returning from hell on earth. That previously insignificant road would become known as La Voie Sacrée, the Sacred Path. If those first French troops at Verdun cannot be called cowards, what would we call the men in the last troop of reinforcements? They started up that road knowing that their chances of escaping death or serious injury were less than forty percent. Yet with that knowledge, they marched up that road to face the Germans.

The battle raged until December 16, 1916, and 362,000 French soldiers as well as 332,000 German soldiers died. Depending on how we evaluate injuries, each side also suffered around an additional 100,000 to 200,000 badly wounded soldiers. There were isolated incidents of French and German soldiers refusing to execute suicidal frontal attacks against each other’s positions during the battle, but these were exhausted, malnourished, sleepless men who had suffered long artillery bombardments day after day for weeks on end.

Verdun 1916 French 87th Regiment Cote 304 image public domain, wikimedia commons

Verdun 1916
French 87th Regiment Cote 304
image public domain, wikimedia commons

After December of 1916, both sides waged successive attacks and counter attacks until the end of the Great War. That War was indeed “great” in scale, but it was horrific in nature, and the French held their own. Even those few that suffered mental collapse cannot fairly be called cowards.

Given the independent character of Westerners, the French and their fellow Westerners will likely continue hurling insults back and forth. It’s something of an amusement to all who participate. We can keep telling those jokes about the lack of French military courage, but if any of us is ever tempted to believe those jokes, we should remember one simple word that more than any other word disproves the theory of French cowardice.

Verdun.

Mémorial de la Voie Sacrée, Maison Brûlé image by Gérald Garitan, wikimedia commons

Mémorial de la Voie Sacrée, Maison Brûlé
image by Gérald Garitan, wikimedia commons

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Bayard & Holmes

Cowardly French? Not at the Battle of Verdun!

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Surround Sound Coffins

I’m thinking the Swedes have a lot of time on their hands during those long winter nights.

No Rest for the Dead with Surround Sound Coffins

Coffin Robert Lawton wikimedia

image by Robert Lawton, wikimedia commons

For the full story, click on the title above.

My thanks to funny lady Leanne Shirtliffe for this tip. I recommend her new book, Don’t Lick the Minivan, at her site at Leanne Shirtliffe ~ Ironic Mom.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

We have a bold move to make us smile. This man wanted a job on Wall Street. His qualifications? ” . . . I have no unbelievably special skills . . . ” But he does have moxy. Cover Letter from Average Joe Earns Praise on Wall Street

And then there are those who just want the paycheck and aren’t interested in working. Via best selling author Larry Enright, the Story of a Man Who Outsourced his Work to China so He Could Watch Cat Videos All Day. You can find Larry’s outstanding books at Larry Enright.

Grumpy Cat Stupid Alternative

From top literary agent, Chip MacGregor, How Reading Shakespeare and Wordsworth Offer Better Therapy than Self-Help Books.

An eloquent reminder that being physically present with our children is not the same as being present with our children. How to Miss a Childhood by Hands Free Mama.

Once again, soon-to-be best selling author Susan Spann freely shares her publishing attorney expertise at Chiseled in Rock. More Than You Bargained For: Contracts Up Close & Personal

A voice from the past. 100-Year-Old Photos Found in Antique Camera

For twelve years now, people have been simultaneously taking off their pants to ride the subway. The No Pants Subway Ride started by Improv Everywhere now has participants as far away as Mexico City and Stockholm. This is their video of the 2013 event in New York City.

As you can see, I learned how to frame questions from all of those damn political fliers that won’t stop showing up in my mailbox.

All the best to all of you for a week of pleasant music.

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse