"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Or, having exhausting every other opportunity to forget, to remember poorly.
In the course of a series of posts on how the United States of America has implemented selected clauses from its constitution…
a well-regulated militia
“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions”
“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress”
“The President shall be Commander in Chief…of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States”
“No State shall, without the Consent of Congress…keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
…Dmitri Rotov has unearthed some forgotten yet particularly shiny pebbles:
Every few months since 1991, there is a new op-ed calling for a new grand strategy or bemoaning the fact that the US doesn’t have one. I’ve written a few blogs/articles to this tune myself. But it’s time to realize that the problem lies with the very conception of grand strategy itself.
Though different scholars and statesmen define “grand strategy” somewhat differently, at its heart, the concept is straightforward: Grand strategy is “the big idea” of foreign and national security policy — the overarching concept that links ends, ways and means, the organizing principle that allows states to purposively plan and prioritize the use of “all instruments of national power,” diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military. A grand strategy can’t be a list of aspirations, wishes, or even a country’s top 10 foreign-policy “priorities.” (When you have 10 priorities, you really have no priorities at all.) Grand strategy is the big idea that guides the tough decisions, helping policymakers figure out which of those top 10 priorities should drop off the list, which aspirations are unrealistic and impossible, and which may seem like good ideas on their own, but actually undermine the nation’s broader goals.
After this definition, Brooks then criticizes the Obama administration for not formulating one, But with such an expansive definition of strategy, is it ever possible to create one? The problem is that Brooks and other grand strategy writers searching for a “big idea” conjoin policy and strategy together.
To recap, policy (a condition or behavior) generates a strategy (an instrumental device) that executes it through operations and tactics. Policy, in turn, is the product of a political process. In my post on victory, I gave a Chinese food-flavored explanation of this in practical terms. Strategy is not supposed to be an “idea”—it is an practical method of getting things done, a purpose-built bridge between politics and raw violence. I will concede that sometimes a policy will require a global strategy to accomplish it—which is what Basil-Liddell Hart originally meant when he used the term “grand strategy” to refer to World War II.
The idea of grand strategy as both policy and strategy is by definition unachievable, and the source of much confusion. By infusing normative policy elements into strategy, this fusion turns strategy into a manifestation of ideology rather than a technical device for getting things done. Think, for example, of how debates about regional strategy and even the tactics and operations of COIN, drones, and counterterrorism have become proxies for domestic ideological political battles. This happens, in larger part, because the policy-strategy distinction in American national security circles is extremely weak, as strategy is taken to be politics and politics becomes strategy.
One sure way to detect politics is signs of desperate efforts to call politics something other politics. Though politics is the most elemental of human endeavors, disgust with overt political machinations is one of the most elemental of human emotions:
Who likes a brown noser?
Who likes a squealer?
Who likes the kid who gathers up his toys and goes home when he doesn’t get his way?
Who likes the guy who obviously looks out for number one?
I’ve long believed that the U.S. Constitution of 1817 is more important than the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The Constitution of 1787 was only a specification: it had to be implemented to become more than just another piece of parchment. With trial and error, over the thirty years between 1787 and 1817, a constitution founded on hope became a constitution rooted in practice.
Many of those who did the crucial leg work that transformed the hope of 1787 into the reality of 1817 either helped draft the 1787 original or influenced those who drafted it. In 1787, we see them crossing their fingers. In 1817, we see many of the same men only now they are tempered by thirty years of troubled neutrality during the largest war in human history, a brief, disastrous, yet ultimately triumphant second round of war with the British Empire, partisan strife more vicious than any seen thereafter, a serious secession attempt by a disaffected region of the country, and the monumental effort it took to make that whole government of the people and by the people thing work.
This post is an annual Committee of Public Safety Christmas tradition. From Wikipedia c. 2008:
The metamorphosis of Saint Nicholas into the more commercially lucrative Santa Claus, which took several centuries in Europe and America, has recently been re-enacted in the saint’s home town: the city of Demre. This modern Turkish town is built near the ruins of ancient Myra. As St. Nicholas is a very popular Orthodox saint, the city attracts many Russian tourists. A solemn bronze statue of the Saint by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, donated by the Russian government in 2000, was given a prominent place on the square in front of the medieval church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, mayor Suleyman Topcu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted the central statue to be more recognizable to visitors from all over the world. Protests from the Russian government against this action were successful only to the extent that the Russian statue was returned, without its original high pedestal, to a corner near the church.
Alas, poor Russia. So far from God, so close to the North Pole.
There are members of the National Association – of this association that has achieved a reputation owing to the justness of its demands – highly esteemed members who have stated that all standing armies are superfluous. Well, what if a public assembly had this view! Would not a government have to reject this?! – There was talk about the “sobriety” of the Prussian people. Yes, the great independence of the individual makes it difficult in Prussia to govern with the constitution (or to consolidate the constitution?); in France things are different, there this individual independence is lacking. A constitutional crisis would not be disgraceful, but honorable instead. – Furthermore, we are perhaps too “well-educated” to support a constitution; we are too critical; the ability to assess government measures and records of the public assembly is too common; in the country there are a lot of Catiline characters who have a great interest in upheavals. This may sound paradoxical, but everything proves how hard constitutional life is in Prussia. – Furthermore, one is too sensitive about the government’s mistakes; as if it were enough to say “this and that [cabinet] minister made mistakes,[“] as if one wasn’t adversely affected oneself. Public opinion changes, the press is not [the same as] public opinion; one knows how the press is written; members of parliament have a higher duty, to lead opinion, to stand above it. We are too hot-blooded, we have a preference for putting on armor that is too big for our small body; and now we’re actually supposed to utilize it. Germany is not looking to Prussia’s liberalism, but to its power; Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden may indulge liberalism, and yet no one will assign them Prussia’s role; Prussia has to coalesce and concentrate its power for the opportune moment, which has already been missed several times; Prussia’s borders according to the Vienna Treaties [of 1814-15] are not favorable for a healthy, vital state; it is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by iron and blood.
Pop history sees the trees of “blood and iron” but misses the forest surrounding it: loss aversion. This mental bias intensifies man’s fear of loss, making it a stronger motivator for action than any hope for gain. Since the brain is a narrative computer that discovers truth by linking the most of vivid facts together through the most vivid of events, loss aversion often shows up in the form of negative fables. While positive fables link together facts with events to show how x + y + z = gain, negative fables gloomily argue that x + y + z = loss.
History, a game where the many try force square facts into round fables, often channels loss aversion as “no more” complexs.
No more Lehmans
No more Iraqs
No more Afghanistans
No more September 11ths
No more Srebrenicas
No more Rwandas
No more Vietnams
Is every stand that anyone takes in private or public life is only a thin veneer stretched over a no more complex? If so, history is little more than one no more after another. Otto von Bismarck’s own history, a history that let him to bait the (classical) liberals of the Prussian parliament with provocative talk of “blood and iron”, was strongly motivated by one “no more”: no more Olmützs.
assumptions: Oahu is an island. Pearl Harbor is a good anchorage for naval vessels.
theories: Oahu is an island. Pearl Harbor is a good anchorage for naval vessels. A fleet based at Pearl Harbor can attack into the western Pacific or block attacks into the eastern Pacific.
hypotheses: Oahu is an island. Pearl Harbor is a good anchorage for naval vessels. A fleet based at Pearl Harbor can attack into the western Pacific or block attacks into the eastern Pacific. Moving the U.S. Pacific fleet to Pearl Harbor leaves it close enough to deter Japan but far enough away to be safe from Japanese attacks.
guesses: Oahu is an island. Pearl Harbor is a good anchorage for naval vessels. A fleet based at Pearl Harbor can attack into the western Pacific or block attacks into the eastern Pacific. Moving the U.S. Pacific fleet to Pearl Harbor leaves it close enough to deter Japanese aggression but far enough away to be safe from Japanese attack. The Japanese lack the will or power to attack Pearl Harbor with carrier based planes.
These are all exercises in faith. Eventually, they all end up reduced to fable. But each flavor of faith or fable differs from other flavors in the rigor of ritualized attention it demands, the fallout when it is followed or ignored, and the lessons it aspires to teach its true believers. The biggest risk run by statecraft is mistaking one kind of faith or fable for another and acting on that mistaken belief. Acting on a guess you have mistake for truth when the truth is that it is only a guess creates a mismatch between hard truth and hazy guess. It’s the impact of these mismatch that separate the harmful from the harmless and the tolerable from the inevitably fatal.
By profession, Kapler was a screenwriter, journalist, director, and actor. By avocation, he was an accomplished womanizer. One night, Kapler, a man of forty years, met a sixteen year old girl at a party. This young woman was intelligent, strong-willed, attractive, and sad. It was the tenth anniversary of her mother’s death. No one seemed to remember. Kapler was happy to listen, comfort, sympathize, and seduce.
Since his new conquest came from a sheltered background, Kapler decided to show her the wild side of life. He lent her forbidden adult books. He took her dancing, took her to see avaunt garde theater, and took her to meet outrageous people at outrageous parties. Kapler was a man of the world, witty, knowledgeable, a skilled raconteur. The young woman was swept off her feet by this urbane sophisticate. There were problems though: Kepler was married. And he was having an affair with a sixteen year old girl.
Hiding the affair from her family was a must. Hiding it from the girl’s father was especially important. Kapler was a smooth enough operator that he might have kept their affair secret from the girl’s father under normal circumstances. Unfortunately for him, this girl’s father had a particularly suspicious temperament. While something like this temperament is not unusual in any father of a sixteen year old girl, this father was different:
Things weren’t always this way between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Clark Hoover.
In 1920, Herbert Hoover was the Greatest American of the Twentieth Century™. Between 1914 and 1920, he saved millions of people in Europe and Russia from starvation by leading the greatest humanitarian aid effort in human history. Worldwide acclaim for Hoover’s efforts led many Americans to push to make him president of the United States.
Both parties eagerly courted Hoover as a candidate. The incumbent president, infernal war criminal and Democrat Thomas Woodrow Wilson, supported Hoover’s nomination as his successor. Even the Democratic Party’s eventual vice presidential nominee, Wilson’s Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, encouraged Hoover to run for president as a Democrat, remarking that, among the possible nominees for 1920, “There could not be a finer one”.
Courtesy of Isegoria, the correspondence of Geoffrey Boothroyd, 31, English, unmarried, and member of the National Rifle Association, Great Britain, English Twenty Club, National Rifle Association of America (nonresident member), West of Scotland Rifle Club, and Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain and Ian Fleming, author, journalist, and birdwatching enthusiast.
I linked to the Europe from its Origins podcast earlier. It may not be for everyone since it uses a traditional European historical sensibility, big words, and fancy pants furrin’ pronunciation but since the ChicagoBoyz demographic skews older and wiser, it should give everyone something meaty to chew on (I’d put in your teeth first).
There was a problem with the iTunes link. That problem has been largely fixed (episode 10 points at an image but the link should be eventually correct). I’ve updated the links from my original post below the fold:
Like other commenters, I was struck by this observation of Lex’s while he related his tale of his initial Occupy Chicago encounter:
My hatred of the Boomers, who have brainwashed and wasted these kids
is boundless. There is nothing wrong with them. They have just never
been taught anything but bullshit. They have been betrayed by their
parents and their teachers. It is very depressing. The country has
been shamefully dumbed down.
Three weeks ago, Thomas S. Monson, the president of my church, observed:
I recently listened to this fascinating podcast: Europe from its Origins. It provides a unique in-depth review of the history of the Dark Continent from 312-1414 (so far).
Joseph Hogarty, the author, takes the unique tack of using contemporary names of historical people and places rather than the received historical name.
Constantinius vs. Constantine
Antiochea vs. Antioch
Clodovicius vs. Clovis
Fracia vs. France
Carolus Martellus vs. Charles Martel
Carolus Magnus vs. Charlemagne
Hogarty stresses the strong continuity between Rome and post-476 Western Europe (except poor distant Britannia). He argues that the great discontinuity between Western medieval Europe and the Western empire of antiquity was not the Germanic barbarian invasions of c. 400 onward but the Islamic conquest of half of the Roman empire after 633. In following this narrative thread, Hogarty’s work slants away from recent scholarship that portrays the Islamic conquest as a welcome breath of desert tolerance warmly embraced by the Christians of Roman Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Africa. Hogarty argues instead that the Islamic conquest was a bloody usurpation that, uniquely in world history, retribalized every complex urban civilization it touched.
Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.
The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on effective government:
The best way to quiet a country is a good thrashing, followed by great kindness afterwards. Even the wildest chaps are thus tamed.
The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on how to win friends and influence people:
The human mind is never better disposed to gratitude and attachment than when softened by fear.
The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on colonialism:
So perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to be misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another.
The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on self-improvement:
Success is like war and like charity in religion, it covers a multitude of sins.
The sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier on life’s little setbacks:
Honorable retreats are no ways inferior to brave charges, as having less fortune, more of discipline, and as much valor.
Not a sentiment of Mr. Charles James Napier regarding south Pakistani tourism:
Whatever may be the traditional sympathy of our countrymen as individuals with a people who seem to be struggling for larger autonomy and greater freedom, deepened, as such sympathy naturally must be, in behalf of our neighbors, yet the plain duty of their Government is to observe in good faith the recognized obligations of international relationship. The performance of this duty should not be made more difficult by a disregard on the part of our citizens of the obligations growing out of their allegiance to their country, which should restrain them from violating as individuals the neutrality which the nation of which they are members is bound to observe in its relations to friendly sovereign states. Though neither the warmth of our people’s sympathy with the Cuban insurgents, nor our loss and material damage consequent upon the futile endeavors thus far made to restore peace and order, nor any shock our humane sensibilities may have received from the cruelties which appear to especially characterize this sanguinary and fiercely conducted war, have in the least shaken the determination of the Government to honestly fulfill every international obligation, yet it is to be earnestly hoped on every ground that the devastation of armed conflict may speedily be stayed and order and quiet restored to the distracted island, bringing in their train the activity and thrift of peaceful pursuits.
In 1935, French foreign minister Pierre Laval visited Moscow to win greater Soviet support against Hitler’s Germany. During his visit, Laval asked Joseph Stalin to ease up on his rough handling of Soviet Roman Catholics. Laval argued that this public show of toleration toward Soviet Catholics would increase French diplomatic clout with the Vatican and help Laval persuade Pius XI to oppose the rising Nazis threat more fervently.
Stalin dismissed Laval’s request out of hand, snorting sarcastically, “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”
Stalin may have been surprised when it turned out that at least one Pope commanded enough divisions to make a strong contribution towards fatally undermining Stalin’s own handiwork. Marxist-Leninism, with its emphasis on purely material factors, may have mislead Stalin into discounting the Pope’s divisions of the imagination. Or Stalin was being misleading since he used his own invisible legions of useful idiots, fellow travelers, and fifth columnists to great effect.
But, in this current frantic moment, when the division between imagined and real is in blurry flux, we might find it useful to ask another version of Stalin’s question:
Last week saw its share of sound and fury. One again, commentators from around the globe, ranging from noted Clausewitzian to unnoted COINdinista, gathered to answer, once and for all, one question: does America conquer through love or through death? (hint: the answer is yes). However, last week saw something more important: substantive and troubling hints of the reemergence of a real threat, a specter that has haunted American defense thinking since 1844: unapologetic magic bulletry.
Iraq 2003 was the last hurrah of the dotcom era. Echoing a classic “netizen” conceit, Pentagon planners believed that American forces would interpret the Iraqi army as damage and route around them to victory. Intensive “network-centric” warfare would combine data from each network node (soldier) into a grand central clearinghouse that would deliver total information omniscience. Commanders could then move forces to needs, on demand. Any enemy infantryman that sneezed in the night would draw instant, exactly targeted fire that would hermetically package and deliver them to Allah with the best IT driven efficiency that the private sector could provide. Light shows of dizzying precision would capture enemy eyeballs, break their will to resist, and leave Mesopotamia the newest target demographic for Madison Avenue.
This thought was the logical endpoint of dotcom mania. Governmental institutions, the military being one such institution, lag behind the private sector in tech mania adoption. Dotcom groupthink hit the military hardest after it had passed its peak of hysteria in the rest of American society.
In its nineties heyday, techno-opiates promised a future where U.S. forces moved freely like network packets across an antiseptic information battlespace. These force “packets” would be effectively omniscient since enemy forces would continue to unheedingly mass Soviet style forces in large formations across flat, treeless, and unpopulated terrain. There the enemy could be anesthetized in detail with precision, with laser-guided fluffy down pillows lulling enemy soldiers gently to sleep. The American military would simply interpret resistance “as damage and route around it“. The result of such thinking was an American military that could deter a large country, destroy a medium-sized country, or occupy a smallcountry.
On July 3, 1776, Congressman John Adams of the newly independent State of Massachusetts wrote to his wife Abigail:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
July 2, 1776 was the day that the Second Continental Congress voted to declare the thirteen unoccupied British North American colonies (the Bahamas, Nova Scotia, and Canada had been reoccupied by British troops) independent of British rule. This makes it one of the stronger candidates for America’s independence day. Others include:
October 19, 1781 – British surrender at Yorktown
September 3, 1783 – Treaty of Paris recognizing American independence signed
January 14, 1784 – Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris
January 8, 1815 – American victory in the Battle of New Orleans
June 23, 1865 – last Confederate unit surrenders, ending the War of the Rebellion
Given all of those choices, July 4 it is.
In honor of whichever Independence Day you choose to celebrate this weekend, here’s a reconstruction of how the Declaration of Independence evolved from the first draft by Thomas Jefferson (blue) to the revised draft by the Committee of Five (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman (red) to the changes made by the Continental Congress as a committee of the whole (bold black) (source). The blue strikeout line indicates words struck out by Congress or the Committee of Five:
I’d like to thank the members of the ChicagoBoyz community for their condolences on my mother’s passing last month. They’re deeply appreciated. I’m comforted by the knowledge that she’s in God’s all-caring hands, that she’s free of mortal cares or sorrows, and that we’ll be reunited forever in God’s good time.
One aspect of my family’s recent experience is worth sharing. It’s a data point of some interest to CB readers for many of the same varied reasons that bring us together here.
My mother suffered three major bouts of breast cancer over the last 16 years. Her cancer was likely triggered, and exacerbated, by the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) she took for five years prior and ten years following her first cancer diagnosis. Recent studies suggest that HRT’s benefits are limited to treating one post-menopausal condition and then only for a limited time. Extended use greatly increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Mom’s 15+ years went well past any red line. She didn’t stop HRT until after the third, ultimately fatal, bout with cancer.
On June 22, 1941, a day that will live in infamy (everywhere else but America), the Wehrmacht poured over the barely established line of partition between the Hun-dominated Third Reich and the Georgian-dominated Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. So began Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history.
It was named for Frederick I Barbarossa, the twelfth century Holy Roman Emperor and Hohenstaufen powerhouse who went east on Crusade only to drown ignominiously in an obscure Anatolian river along the way. After his death, Barbarossa became a sort of Hun Arthur. Hun legend told that Barbarossa hadn’t died in the swirling mountain currents of the Saleph. Instead, Barbarossa was sleeping with his knights in a cave under a mountain in Hun-Land named Kyffhauser. Once the ravens stop circling this mountain, Barbarossa will arise and lead the Hun back to his ancient greatness.
Just in time for Father’s Day, this puff piece purports to list the 12 most doting dads in history. Its criteria for measuring paternal dotage are vague but seem to center on dads who educated their daughters when it was historically unfashionable to do so. Charlemagne (#10), Thomas More (#8), and Lt. Col. George Lucas (#7, not the one you’ve heard of) get mad props for being pioneers of women’s rights.
Based on that criteria, I’d add three more doting dads of history to their list:
Last week, the sinister Dr. Kissinger was interviewed on The Charlie Rose Show about his new book On China.
The Charlie Rose Show is the hour of television that America’s brain dead elites watch to reaffirm the tired cliches that constitute their provincial cosmopolitan worldview. Rose himself, the favored Mouth of Elite Opinion, is the ultimate nadir of the American elites’ corruption of the traditional American can-do spirit. Rose constantly badgers his guests about what the solution is to intractable problems.
For instance, Rose incessantly asks what the solution to the Israel-Palestinian issue is, implicitly assuming it’s the two-state solution where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in peace. Some guests dutifully echo the conventional elite wisdom that all that has to happen is happy reason to infect a brave Israeli leader and a brave Palestinian leader and peace will break out all over. This ritualistic performance of elite liturgy is usually sufficient to satisfy Rose and his audience’s need for cliche validation.
Some guests, however, occasionally accidentally hint that they know the real solution will be one of two outcomes:
Israelis in the Mediterranean
Palestinians in the Syrian Desert
Ted Koppel once had the bright idea of having a televised “town meeting” that was half-Palestinian and half-Israeli. The concept was based on the naive elite view that, once you eliminate the misunderstood, whatever’s left, however improbable, must be unconditional love. Even Koppel, with Reality Elimination Field turned to full power, was taken aback by the crackling energy of the hatred in the room. There was dark primordial enmity there that does not sleep, even under the tender ministrations of American elite enlightenment.
At the two minute mark in his interview with Dr. Kissinger, Rose asks the good Doctor about one of the Twenty Key Quotes that make up conventional American historical wisdom. Dr. Kissinger once supposedly asked Chou En-lai, one of Mao’s chief stooges, what he thought the impact of the French Revolution would be. The story goes that Chou face assumed a wise and inscrutable look as he answered, “It’s too soon to tell”.
Or, as a laundry detergent commercial of my youth jingled, “Ancient Chinese secret”.
The fashion for calling our current economic climate a “second Great Depression” or the second Great Depression or, following the DotComish naming of community organizer/grizzly bear wrestler John Robb, D2, is more evidence of the fundamental lameness of American LegacyThink™.
The vacuum of imagination revealed in American naming of current events is staggering. Take the initial name of this crisis: “global financial crisis”. That name is little more than lexicographic inertia left over from the “global” naming fad of the 1990s: “globalization”, “global war on terror”, “global climate change”, “global village”, and other such rubbish. Compare this to the vivid nineteenth century genius for retrospective naming of historical episodes revealed in names like the “Hundred Years War“, “Pilgrimage of Grace“, or “Rough Wooing“.
Even the most commonly advanced alternative to “global financial crisis” is lame: “great recession”. Recession is a gray word; it’s more accounting identity than description. It’s no more exciting than its gray dawn. Imagine: somewhere deep in the bowels of the sinister National Bureau of Economic Research, an econometrician checks off a few boxes in a spreadsheet and finds with barely concealed glee that gross domestic product has declined for two consecutive quarters.
This glee is why econometricians have been a barely tolerated and often persecuted minority of the population throughout history.
If we insist on retelling history as a series of sequels, and that is the habit of this decadent age, then we are currently living through the third Great Depression. The first episode of economic contraction called the Great Depression by its contemporaries was the period of economic contraction from the Panic of 1873 to c.1896. Some historians, if they believe in it, now call this period the “Long Depression” to distance it from its more vivid sequels. This follows the logic used to name Batman Returns, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight. However, the Long Depression is too vague. We should call this period Great Depression I or D1.
D2 is easy: Great Depression II was the definitive macroeconomic collapse, lasting from 1929 to c. 1944. This would leave the current economic unravelling we’re living through Great Depression III or D3.
History without hip catchy abbreviations may be cursed to decay into a dreary march of endless retreads. Unconscious human masochism may have made us like D2 so much that we decided to make a sequel. Human experience may be cursed to occur first as tragedy, second as farce, and third as a whimper.
Grandmother Croizet was far more regal than any descendent of Georg, Elector of Hanover. She had far more personal qualifications for the title of queen than the ability to produce an heir to secure the Protestant succession of occupied Britain.
She was warm but correct when pleased and wrathful with flashing eyes when displeased. When she was not amused, she was not amused. I was never around when she ordered heads to roll but roll they must have.
I was looking through an online newspaper archive for family history when I came across this photo. The headline beneath says PISTOL-PACKING POLICE WIVES AIM FOR SHOOTING TITLE. The lede reeks of 1951 period charm: The term “weaker sex” certainly is a misnomer for five eagle-eyed ladies who will represent the Nantes police department at the Brittany Peace Officers convention in Meissen next Friday.
Grandpa Croizet was a police officer who enjoyed all the perks of a pre-Miranda era, including the option of driving drunks home in the trunk of his squad car in order to preserve the taxpayers of Nantes’ upholstery from alcohol-induced ejecta. Grandma, referred to in the article in the style of the day as “Madam Jean Croizet”, participated in local police auxiliaries as a pistol-packing society matron.
Three of the police wives in the photos are obviously being campy for the camera. Grandmother, second from the right, looks every part the royal slumming it with the commoners. She is in the photo but not of the photo. She is bemused by the antics of the rabble but she retains the shroud of majesty and mystery as she hovers above them on a higher plain.
If the hapless son of a former subject had come from across the sea and tried to upstage her, she would have had them drawn and quartered and their viscera draped over the gallows at Tyburn as a warning to other presumptuous fresh fellows. But she was a ruler of a different age, a rare creature not of the same common matter of today’s pale shrunken Disneyland monarchs or Urkelesque presidents.
[Coolidge] used radio addresses very effectively long before Roosevelt adopted the medium. Coolidge’s voice, unlike most politicians of the era, was well suited to radio but could not reach the back of large crowds. In a 1927 poll on radio personalities, Coolidge came in fourth, after three musicians.
This being the age of YouTube, I went looking for audio so I could hear the voice of Silent Cal whisper from the dust:
This led me to a collection of YouTube audio of presidents that were even more dead than Silent Cal. Quoth the collection:
Scholars routinely observe that the advent of radio reshaped political speech. But for more than a decade before the first commercial radio broadcast station was inaugurated in Pittsburgh in 1920, citizens had been listening to candidate speeches. This feat was made possible by the phonograph.
I’m old enough to remember being chided by my parents or older siblings not to jump up and down as a small child because I might make the record player jump and scratch the record. To the youngins of today who grew up sniffing heavy doses of Steven Paul Job’s Reality Distortion Field, this might as well have happened long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away where dinosaurs and discos ruled the Earth by walking 100 miles to school through 1 mile deep snow uphill both ways. But digital audio only discriminates based on the skill of the encoder and the compression algorithm used to encode so here’s a few highlights from the Dead Presidents Society on YouTube:
The story of Cadet La Porte on the morning of 16 April, 2007 is tragic and short. It is not based on eyewitness account but rather on physical evidence. Given the magnitude of the tragedy, and the seriousness of trying to understand how to prevent further similar events, his story has almost been lost. And that’s just not right…
The basic story
In the early morning of Monday, 16 April 2007, 23-year old Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho entered a dormitory room and killed two students. Sometime later he then entered the Norris Hall engineering building and began to systematically attack five classrooms on the second floor, ultimately killing 30 students and professors and wounding or causing injury of an additional two dozen. As police officers approached classroom 211, Cho took his own life. These premeditated attacks represent the worst mass-murder shooting to ever take place in an American school.
The final act
Around 9:52 the police entry teams move up the stairways shouting “Police, Police!” Cho has returned to room 211 where he had previously attacked and killed several students. There is about a half minute of silence with no shots fired by Cho, then a final two shots, the last being the one turned on himself. Evidence indicates that the next to last shot would have been into Cadet La Porte who would have been dead for some time from the previous attack to the classroom.
From evidentiary photographs…
The body position and the wounds of Matt La Porte indicate that he had maneuvered around the room from his desk in the rear right of the classroom and attempted to attack Cho across the front of the classroom. Attired in his uniform, he fell just short of the door, lying next to the blackboard facing where Cho would have been standing while shooting. Matt’s arms were outstretched in a classic football tackling position. He had eight bullet entry wounds – fingers, thumb, arms and shoulders and to the front of his head – that could only have been sustained while moving forward on the shooter in the very position he fell.
The Archangel team believes there is no other conclusion that can be drawn from the physical evidence other than that Cadet Matthew Joseph La Porte died in a charging attack on Seung-Hui Cho.
His story has not been told:
Note that nothing of the above is mentioned on any of the available reports or recounting of the incident, and I cannot find anything indicating this story has ever been told, or that this young man’s bravery has ever been recognized…
As to why this story has never been told, I can only speculate. Recognizing the magnitude of the tragedy, the necessary crime scene investigation, and the intense desire to understand how this could ever happen and thus translate into prevention of future occurrences in our schools, I can appreciate why key aspects may not have been released for some period of time…
But to not recognize this act of valor above and beyond just strikes me as –if not wrong – certainly just not right…while there might be an issue of the media presenting a model of student fighting back, the evidence seemed clear of his attempt to stop the killer and dying in the process. Was he not a military serviceman in uniform, who fought to save others under heavy fire at close quarters? Should Cadet La Porte not be recognized as a national hero?
There is no axe to grind here on “why” no recognition or award. My assumption is that within the magnitude of the tragedy and the nature of the investigation, Cadet La Porte’s actions got lost if for no other reason there were no witnesses. It is indeed only the physical evidence that supports this – where he sat, vice where he died, his posture, and where his wounds were…It just doesn’t appear that you can draw any other conclusion other than that this young man “gave all valiantly.”
Sometimes it is impossible not to be a victim, but I don’t think Cadet La porte died as a victim at all- when challenged, he acted.
To me, seems he died like a fighter pilot – “spirit of attack, born of a brave heart.”