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  • Archive for the 'Britain' Category

    The British Cabinet reshuffle

    Posted by Helen on 16th July 2014 (All posts by )

    It is my strong suspicion that the last big reshuffle before next year’s General Election in Britain has gone largely unnoticed in the rest of the world, though it is the biggest political story here. Nevertheless, it is possible that people might like to see what is behind the headlines about the promoting of women, the supposedly eurosceptic Cabinet (no, it is not) and the reshuffle that has been described by no less a person than Charles Moore, as the worst in twenty-five years (can’t remember the others but doubt it). So I have written my own analysis on the subject and present it to CBz herewith.

    The one thing I am very pleased about is the replacement of William Hague by Philip Hammond who seems to have a better understanding of reality.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day from Winston Churchill, July 4, 1918

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th July 2014 (All posts by )

    The Declaration of Independence is not only an American document. It follows on the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as the third great title-deed on which the liberties of the English-speaking peoples are founded…. The political conceptions embodied in the Declaration of Independence are the same as those expressed at that time by Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke and handed down to them by John Hampden and Algernon Sidney. They spring from the same source; they come from the same well of practical truth….

    Winston Churchill, speech given at the Anglo-American rally at the Albert Hall on US Independence Day 1918.

    RTWT.

    (Note that Churchill’s reference to the “Bill of Rights” is to the English Bill of Rights of 1689.)

    Quoted in a review by Andrew Roberts of Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship” by Peter Clarke.

    We made a similar argument in America 3.0:

    [T]o fully understand the meaning of the American Founding, and of our Declaration and Constitution, we need to go back even farther, to see where they came from. The Founders were not writing on a blank page. Far from it. They made a Revolution because the American people already held strongly to certain principles that they saw coming under increasing threat. And they wrote our Founding documents as a conscious attempt to preserve a valued way of life, at least as much as to make something entirely new.

    And Daniel Hannan made much the same point in Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, when he wrote:

    American Patriots didn’t just propose ideas that were inspired by the philosophy of Magna Carta. They saw that document itself as a part of their inheritance. When, as they perceived it, George III violated their patrimony, they too up arms to defend it.

    We rightly celebrate our independence, and the Declaration that proclaimed it.

    And we are right to recognize that the freedom our Founders fought for was ancient and the Declaration was the embodiment of something very old.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, History, Quotations, Speeches | 10 Comments »

    Rerun: Mers-el-Kebir

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd July 2014 (All posts by )

    One of the many tragedies of the World War II era was a heartbreakingly fratricidal affair known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kebir.

    I’ve written before about the defeat of France in 1940 and the political, social, and military factors behind this disaster. Following the resignation of Paul Reynaud on June 16, the premiership was assumed by the First World War hero Philippe Petain, who immediately asked the Germans for an armistice.  With an eye toward revenge, Hitler chose the Forest of Compiegne…the same place where the armistice ending the earlier war had been executed…as the venue for the signing of the documents. Indeed, he insisted that the ceremonies take place in the very same railroad car that had been employed 22 years earlier.

    The armistice provided that Germany would occupy and directly control about 3/5 of France, while the remainder of the country, together with its colonies, would remain nominally “free” under the Petain government. (One particularly noxious provision of the agreement required that France hand over all individuals who had been granted political asylum–especially German nationals.)

    Winston Churchill and other British leaders were quite concerned about the future role of the powerful French fleet…although French admiral Darlan had assured Churchill that the fleet would not be allowed to fall into German hands, it was far from clear that it was safe to base the future of Britain–and of the world–on this assurance. Churchill resolved that the risks of  leaving the French fleet in Vichy hands were too high, and that it was necessary that this fleet join the British cause, be neutralized, be scuttled, or be destroyed.

    The strongest concentration of French warships, encompassing four battleships and six destroyers, was the squadron at Mers-el-Kebir in French Algeria. On July 3, a powerful British force under the command of Admiral James Somerville confronted the French fleet with an ultimatum. The French commander, Admiral Jean-Bruno Gensoul, was given the following alternatives:

    (a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans.

    (b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment.

    If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile.

    (c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans unless they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies — Martinique for instance — where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated.

    If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours.

    Finally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty’s Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands.

    The duty of delivering this ultimatum was assigned to the French-speaking Captain Cedric Holland, commander of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal.

    Among the ordinary sailors of both fleets, few expected a battle. After all, they had been allies until a few days earlier.

    Robert Philpott, a trainee gunnery officer on the battleship Hood:  ”Really it was all very peaceful. Nobody was doing any firing; there was a fairly happy mood on board. We all firmly believed that the ships would come out and join us. We know the French sailors were just anxious to get on with the war. So we didn’t think there would be a great problem.”

    André Jaffre, an 18-year-old gunner on the battleship Bregagne:  ”Our officer scrutinizes the horizon, then looks for his binoculars and smiles.  What is it, captain?  The British have arrived!  Really?  Yes. We were happy!  We thought they’d come to get us to continue fighting against the Nazis.”

    Gensoul contacted his superior, Admiral Darlan. Both men were incensed by the British ultimatum: Gensoul was also personally offended that the British had sent a mere captain to negotiate with him, and Darlan was offended that Churchill did not trust his promise about keeping the French fleet out of German hands. Darlan sent a message–intercepted by the British–directing French reinforcements to Mers-al-Kebir, and the British could observe the French ships preparing for action.  All this was reported to Churchill, who sent a brief message: Settle matters quickly. Somerville signaled the French flagship that if agreement were not reached within 30 minutes, he would open fire.

    It appears that one of the the options in the British ultimatum–the option of removing the fleet to American waters–was not transmitted by Gensoul to Admiral Darlan. Whether or not this would have made a difference, we cannot know.

    As Captain Holland saluted the Tricolor preparatory to stepping back into his motor launch, there were tears in his eyes. Almost immediately, Admiral Somerville gave the order to fire to open fire.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, France, Germany, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Julie Burchill on Margaret Thatcher, Newly Timely After Nine Years

    Posted by Lexington Green on 2nd July 2014 (All posts by )

    [A]s some smart-aleck said, we must change or perish. And who should break our long postwar consensual slumber — not with a snog but with a short sharp smack around the head with a handbag and a cry of “Look smart!” — but the Iron Lady herself.
     
    Mrs Thatcher meant, and still means, many things — some of which she is not yet aware of herself, as we are not. Only death brings proper perspective to the triumphs and failures of a political career; it is only with the blank look and full stop of death that that old truism “all political careers end in failure” stops being true. Only a terminally smug liberal would still write her off as an uptight bundle of Little Englandisms, seeking to preserve the old order, however hard she worked that look at first; voting for her was something akin to buying what one thought was a Vera Lynn record, getting it home and finding a Sex Pistols single inside.
     
    She was just as much about revolution as reaction, and part of any revolution is destruction. Some of the things she destroyed seemed like a shame at the time, such as the old industries — though on balance, isn’t there anything good about the fact that thousands of young men who once simply because of who their fathers were would have been condemned to a life spent underground in the darkness, and an early death coughing up bits of lung, now won’t be?

    Here is the original article. RTWT.

    Let’s hear that one more time:

    “She was just as much about revolution as reaction, and part of any revolution is destruction.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, History, Judaism, Middle East, Politics, Tea Party, USA | 4 Comments »

    Book Review: That Hideous Strength, by C S Lewis

    Posted by David Foster on 24th June 2014 (All posts by )

    That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

    —-

    This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

    Mark Studdock is a young on-the-make sociologist, a professor at Bracton College, in an English town called Edgestow. He is is far more interested in university politics than in his research or teaching. and as a member of the “progressive element” at the college, he strongly supports Bracton selling a tract of property to a government-sponsored entity called NICE. The NICE is the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation,which Lewis describes as “the first fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.”  What excites Mark most about the NICE is this:

    The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.  One hopes, of course, that it’ll find out more than the old freelance science did, but what’s certain is that it can do more.

    Trigger Warning: There is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  It contains things that will offend technologists and believers in human progress…social scientists…feminists…academic administrators…bioscience researchers…and surely many other categories of people.  It will probably also offend some Christians, for the way in which Christian theology is mixed with non-Christian magic. By the standards now becoming current in American universities, this book, and even this book review, should be read by no one at all.  But for those who do not accept those standards…

    The Basic Story. Mark has recently married Jane, a woman with strong literary interests and with vague plans for getting an advanced degree. She has recently started having disturbing, indeed terrifying, dreams, which suggest that she has a clairvoyant ability to see distant events in real time. Afraid that she is losing her mind, Jane seeks advice, and is told that her dreams are actually visions, they are very real, will not stop, and are of utmost importance:

    “Young lady,” said Miss Ironwood, “You do not at all realize the seriousness of this matter. The things you have seen concern something compared with which the happiness, and even the life, of you and me, is of no importance.”

    Miss Ironwood warns Jane that extremely evil people will seek to use her gift, and that she would do well–both for her own interests and those of the entire human race–to join the community of which Miss Ironwood is a part, located at a place called St Anne’s. Jane responds quite negatively to the invitation, afraid that membership in the St Anne’s group will limit her autonomy. She is not interested in the dreams’ meaning; she just wants them to go away.

    Mark, on the other hand, responds enthusiastically when he is invited to take a position at the NICE, temporarily located at an old manor called Belbury.  One of the first people he meets there is the Head of the Institutional Police, a woman named Miss Hardcastle (picture Janet Napolitano), nicknamed the Fairy, who explains to Mark her theory of crime and punishment:

    “Here in the Institute, we’re backing the crusade against Red Tape.”  Mark gathered that, for the Fairy, the police side of the Institute was the really important side…In general, they had already popularized in the press the idea that the Institute should be allowed to experiment pretty largely in the hope of discovering how far humane, remedial treatment could be substituted for the old notion of “retributive” or “vindictive” punishment…The Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite; you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was.  And if cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?  Soon anyone who had ever been in the hands of the police at all would come under the control of the NICE; in the end, every citizen.

    Another person Mark meets in his first days at Belbury is the acclaimed chemist William Hingest…who has also come down to investigate the possibility of a job at Belbury, has decided against it, and strongly advises Mark to do likewise:

    “I came down here because I thought it had something to do with science. Now that I find it’s something more like a political conspiracy, I shall go home. I’m too old for that kind of thing, and if I wanted to join a conspiracy, this one wouldn’t be my choice.”

    “You mean, I suppose, that the element of social planning doesn’t appeal to you? I can quite understand that it doesn’t fit in with your work as it does with sciences like Sociology, but–”

    “There are no sciences like Sociology. And if I found chemistry beginning to fit in with a secret police run by a middle-aged virago who doesn’t wear corsets and a scheme for taking away his farm and his shop and his children from every Englishman, I’d let chemistry go to the devil and take up gardening again…I happen to believe that you can’t study men, you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing. Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash. You also want to take away from them everything that makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”

    Nevertheless, Mark decides to remain at Belbury, and is drawn ever-deeper into its activities–which, as only those in the innermost circles of that organization realize, are not only consistent with the goals of the 20th-century totalitarianisms, but go considerably beyond them.  The NICE seeks to establish a junction between the powers of modern science and those of ancient magic, accessing the latter by awakening the medieval wizard Merlin and using him for their purposes.  At the same time, Jane–despite her reservations–becomes increasingly involved  with the company at St Anne’s and is entranced with its leader, a Mr Fisher-King. (His name comes from the Wounded King in Arthurian legend.)  The St Anne’s group is aware of the truth about NICE and its ultimate goals, and exists for the primary purpose of opposing and, hopefully, destroying that organization.

    I will not here describe the war between the forces of Belbury and those of St Anne’s (in order to avoid spoilers), but will instead comment on the characters of some of the protagonists and some philosophically-significant events in the novel, with appropriate excerpts. Hopefully this will be enough to give a sense of the worldview that Lewis is presenting in this book.

    Mark Studdock. His character is largely defined by his strong desire to be a member of the Inner Circle, whatever that inner circle may be in a particular context.  The passage at the start of this review where Mark agrees to engage in criminal activity on Belbury’s behalf is proceeded by this:

    After a few evenings Mark ventured to walk into the library on his own; a little uncertain of his reception, yet afraid that if he did not soon assert his right to the entree this modesty might damage him. He knew that the error in either direction is equally fatal.

    It was a success. Before he had closed the door behind him all had turned with welcoming faces and Filostrato had said “Ecco ” and the Fairy, “Here’s the very man.” A glow of pleasure passed over Mark’s whole body.

    That “glow of pleasure” at being accepted by the Belbury’s Inner Circle (what Mark then thinks is Belbury’s Inner Circle) is strong enough to overcome any moral qualms on Mark’s part about the actions he is being requested to perform.  Lewis has written a great deal elsewhere about the lust for the Inner Circle, which in his view never leads to satisfaction but only to a longing for membership in another, still-more-inner circle. In That Hideous Strength, there are concentric Inner Circles at Belbury, which Mark does penetrate–and each is more sinister than the last.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy | 12 Comments »

    Heroism in America, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 19th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Bookworm posts about America’s cultural journey from an age in which the heroism of Audie Murphy was widely recognized to one in which Bowie Bergdahl is referred to by a senior Administration official as having served with “honor and distinction.”  With references to George MacDonald Fraser’s excellent WWII memoir, Quartered Safe Out Here and thoughts about the Oprah-ization of America.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, Human Behavior, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Remembering

    Posted by David Foster on 6th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Today, June 6, is the  70th anniversary of the Normandy landings. See the Wikipedia article for an overview. Arthur Seltzer, who was there, describes his experiences.

    Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured: the pivot day of history.

    Two earlier Photon Courier posts: before D-day, there was Dieppe and transmission ends.

    See Bookworm’s post from 2012, and Michael Kennedy’s photos from 2007

    A collection of D-day color photos from Life Magazine

    Neptunus Lex: The liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.

    The Battle of Midway took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942. Bookworm attended a Battle of Midway commemoration event in 2010 and also in 2011: Our Navy–a sentimental service in a cynical society.

    See also Sgt Mom’s History Friday post today.

    Posted in Britain, France, Germany, History, Photos, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    History Friday – 6 June 1944

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th June 2014 (All posts by )

    (An archive post from 2008, evoking the memories of D-Day.)

    So this is one of those historic dates that seems to be slipping faster and faster out of sight, receding into a past at such a rate that we who were born afterwards, or long afterwards, can just barely see. But it was such an enormous, monumental enterprise – so longed looked for, so carefully planned and involved so many soldiers, sailors and airmen – of course the memory would linger long afterwards.

    Think of looking down from the air, at that great metal armada, spilling out from every harbor, every estuary along England’s coast. Think of the sound of marching footsteps in a thousand encampments, and the silence left as the men marched away, counted out by squad, company and battalion, think of those great parks of tanks and vehicles, slowly emptying out, loaded into the holds of ships and onto the open decks of LSTs. Think of the roar of a thousand airplane engines, the sound of it rattling the china on the shelf, of white contrails scratching straight furrows across the moonless sky.

    Think of the planners and architects of this enormous undertaking, the briefers and the specialists in all sorts of arcane specialties, most of whom would never set foot on Gold, Juno, Sword, Omaha or Utah Beach. Many of those in the know would spend the last few days or hours before D-day in guarded lock-down, to preserve security. Think of them pacing up and down, looking out of windows or at blank walls, wondering if there might be one more thing they might have done, or considered, knowing that lives depended upon every tiny minutiae, hoping that they had accounted for everything possible.

    Think of the people in country villages, and port towns, seeing the marching soldiers, the grey ships sliding away from quays and wharves, hearing the airplanes, with their wings boldly striped with black and white paint – and knowing that something was up – But only knowing for a certainty that those men, those ships and those planes were heading towards France, and also knowing just as surely that many of them would not return.

    Think of the commanders, of Eisenhower and his subordinates, as the minutes ticked slowly down to H-Hour, considering all that was at stake, all the lives that they were putting into this grand effort, this gamble that Europe could be liberated through a force landing from the West. Think of all the diversions and practices, the secrecy and the responsibility, the burden of lives which they carried along with the rank on their shoulders. Eisenhower had in his pocket the draft of an announcement, just in case the invasion failed and he had to break off the grand enterprise; a soldier and commander hoping for the best, but already prepared for the worst.

    Think on this day, and how the might of the Nazi Reich was cast down. June 6th was for Hitler the crack of doom, although he would not know for sure for many more months. After this day, his armies only advanced once – everywhere else and at every other time, they fell back upon a Reich in ruins. Think on this while there are still those alive who remember it at first hand.

    (Another D-Day perspective from The DiploMad.)

    Posted in Britain, Diversions, Europe, France, Germany, History | 2 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review: To the Last Salute, by Georg von Trapp

    Posted by David Foster on 1st June 2014 (All posts by )

    If you’ve seen The Sound of Music–and who hasn’t?–you’ll remember Captain von Trapp.  The real Captain’s real-life children were not thrilled with the way he was portrayed in the movie–according to them, he was by no means that rigid disciplinarian who summoned the children with a bosun’s whistle and required them to line up in military formation.  (The bosun’s whistle was real, but only for communication purposes on the large estate…no lining-up involved.)

    The movie was indeed correct that Captain von Trapp was a former naval officer whose services were much desired by the Nazis after their takeover of Germany and, later, Austria…and that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. His memoir, To the Last Salute, was originally published in German in 1935 and later translated into French; an English translation has only become available fairly recently.

    Captain von Trapp could not be called a brilliant writer, but he does achieve some nice descriptive and reflective passages. Here, he is returning from a patrol very early in the First World War, when he was commanding a torpedo boat:

    We had been out all night searching for enemy ships that had been reported, but once again, had found nothing.  Far out in the Adriatic we had investigated, looked, and looked, and again came back disappointed through the “Incoronate,” the rocky, barren island,s that extend in front of the harbor at Sebenico…These islands look bleak; nevertheless, years ago people found them and still live there…It is a heavenly trip there between the islands with the many large and small inlets swarming with fish. But it is most beautiful in the wind still nights, which are uniquely animated.

    From one place or another, red and white lights flash on and off. They are the beacons that flash their warnings to the ships. Out of the many inlets merge innumerable fishermen’s boats. Some are under sail, hauling big nets; others, sculled about almost silently by heavy steering rudders, search the water with strong lanterns…As they put out to sea, the people always sing their ancient folk songs: ballads with countless verses, wild war cries, soft, wistful love songs…

    The war broke into this peaceful world. Traveling between the islands changed overnight…The singing has become silent, for fishing is forbidden, and the men are fighting in the war…Mines lie between the islands.  At any moment an enemy periscope, or a plane with bombs, could appear, and the nights have become exceptionally interesting; there are no more beacons. The war has extinguished them.

    Soon, Captain von Trapp was reassigned to command of a submarine,the U-5.  This board was one of a type that was extremely primitive, even by WWI standards. Propulsion for running on the surface was not a diesel but a gasoline engine, and gasoline fumes were a constant headache, often in a very literal sense.

    The Captain seems not to have thought a great deal about the rights and wrongs of the war.  As a professional, at this stage he also felt no animus toward the men it was his duty to attack; quite the contrary. Here, after sinking a French cruiser:

    I quickly scan the horizon. Is there absolutely no escort ship? Did they let the ship travel all alone? Without a destroyer? WIthout a torpedo boat? No, there is nothing in sight, only five lifeboats adrift in the water.

    After discussing the matter with his exec and determining that there was no feasible way to take the survivors on board:

    With a heavy heart, I order the engines to be turned on, and I set a course for the Gulf of Cattaro. “They let our men from the Zenta drown, too,” I hear one of the men say.  The man is right, but I cannot bear to hear that yet.  With a sudden movement I turn away. I feel a choking in my throat. I want to be alone.

    I feel as if something were strangling me…So that’s what war looks like! There behind me hundreds of seamen have drowned, men who have done me no harm, men who did their duty as I myself have done, against whom I have nothing personally; with whom, on the contrary, I have felt a bond through sharing the same profession. Approximately seven hundred men must have sunk with the ship!

    On returning to base, von Trapp found numerous letters of congratulation waiting for him, one from an eighth-grade Viennese schoolgirl.  To thank her for the letter, he arranged to have a Pruegelkrapfen from a noted confectioner to be delivered to her.  ”The outcome of all this is unexpected. Suddenly it seems all the Viennese schoolgirls have gotten the writing bug because it rains little letters from schoolgirls who are sooo happy and so on.  But such a Pruegelgrapfen is expensive and, at the moment, I don’t have time to open a bakery myself.”

    On one patrol, U-5 met up with an allied German U-boat, and von Trapp had an opportunity to go on board.  He was quite impressed with the diesel engine, compartmentalization of the boat, the electrically-adjustable periscopes, and even creature comforts like tables for dining.  ”It’s like being in Wonderland…”  The German commander’s comment, on visiting U-5, was “I would refuse to travel in this crate.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Europe, Germany, Military Affairs, Transportation, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Participatory Retrotech – the Concorde Flight Simulator

    Posted by David Foster on 26th April 2014 (All posts by )

    There is an airline grade simulator for the Concorde supersonic transport, located in the UK and available to the public, with instruction by former Concorde flight crew members.

    The simulator was originally built in 1975 as a full-motion simulator, with the “motion” part provided by six hydraulic rams. The view out the cockpit windows was created by moving a television camera over a large model landscape in an adjacent room. I’m not sure whether the flight dynamics calculations were done by analog, digital, or a combination of both methods. In 1987, the simulator was upgraded to replace the TV camera and the physical map with computer-generated imagery. Original cost of the simulator was £3 million, and the 1987 upgrade cost an additional £3 million.

    When Concord operations ceased in 2003, the simulator was decommissioned and re-installed at the Brooklands Museum, minus the hydraulic actuators for the motion feature. (“enabling access to a Concorde cockpit for less able visitors to the museum” is the reason stated for this decision, but I would imagine it also had something to do with the maintenance costs for the hydraulics.)  The restoration of the simulator involved the replacement of whatever electronic systems were doing the computations with modern flight simulator software, and a more modern projection system for the visuals. The flight controls and the majority of the flight instruments are connected to the simulation engine, along with some sections of the Flight Engineer’s panel.

    Simulator time is available for 165 pounds for about an hour, with 15 minutes actually at the controls, or the “Gold” package at 425 for a two-hour “flight” with 30 minutes at the controls, plus lunch and champagne.

    Posted in Aviation, Britain, History, Tech | 4 Comments »

    Radar Wars: a Case Study in Science and Government

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2014 (All posts by )

    In 1960, the British scientist/novelist C P Snow gave a lecture–later turned into a book–which was inspired by the following  thought:

    One of the most bizarre features of any advanced industrial society in our time is that the cardinal choices have to be made by a handful of men: in secret: and, at least in legal form, by men who cannot have a first-hand knowledge of what those choices depend upon or what their results may be…and when I say the “cardinal choices,” I mean those that determine in the crudest sense whether we live or die.

    Snow discusses two very cardinal cases in which he was personally if somewhat peripherally involved: the pre-WWII secret debate about air defense technologies, and the mid-war debate about strategic bombing policies. This post will focus on the first of these debates, the outcome of which quite likely determined the fate of Britain and of Europe. (Snow’s version of these events is not universally accepted, as I’ll discuss later.) Follow-on posts will discuss the strategic bombing debate and the issues of expertise, secrecy, and decision-making in our own time.

    The air defense debate had two main protagonists: Sir Henry Tizard, and Frederick Lindmann (later Lord Cherwell.) These men were similar in many ways: both were scientists, both were patriots, both were men of great  courage (involved in early and dangerous aircraft experimentation), both were serious amateur athletes. They were “close but not intimate friends” when they both lived in Berlin–Tizard was a member of a gym there which was run by a former champion lightweight boxer of England, and persuaded Lindemann to join and box with him. But Lindemann proved to be such a poor loser that Tizard refused to box with him again. “Still,” says Tizard, “we remained close friends for over twenty-five years, but after 1936 he became a bitter enemy.”

    Snow, who makes no secret of his preference for Tizard, tells of a conversation with Lindemann in which he (Snow) remarked that “the English honours system must cause far more pain than pleasure: that every January and June the pleasure to those who got awards was nothing like so great as the pain of those who did not. Miraculously Lindemann’s sombre, heavy face lit up…With a gleeful sneer he said: ‘Of course it is. It wouldn’t be any use getting an ward if one didn’t think of all the people who were miserable because they hadn’t managed it.’”

    Some people did like Lindemann, though–and one of them was Winston Churchill, who though still in the political wilderness was not without influence. Indeed, the future PM considered Lindemann (later to become Lord Cherwell) to be his most trusted advisor on matters of science. If Snow’s version of events is correct, Churchill’s trust and advocacy of Lindemann could have driven a decision resulting in Britain’s losing the war before it even started.

    During the inter-war era, the bombing plane was greatly feared–it was commonly believed that no effective defense was possible. PM Stanley Baldwin, speaking in 1932, expressed this attitude when he said “I think it is well also for the man in the street to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed, whatever people may tell him. The bomber will always get through.” Indeed, the problem of air defense was very difficult–the bombers could arrive at any time, and by the time they were sighted, it would likely be too late to get fighters in the air. Maintaining standing patrols on all possible attack routes was unfeasible. The only detection devices were long horns with microphones and amplifiers, intended to pick up enemy engine noise a considerable distance away–but their value was limited to say the least.

    In early 1935, the British government set up a Committee for the Scientific Study of Air Defense, chaired by Tizard. It reported to a higher-level committee, chaired by Lord Swinton, who was the Air Minister. One member of that higher-level committee was Winston Churchill, and he insisted that his favorite scientist, Lindemann (who had been quite vocal about the need for improved air defense), should be appointed to Tizard’s working-level committee.

    Radar had only recently been invented, and was by no means operationally proven, but all of the members of that Tizard committee–with one exception–viewed it as the key to successful air defense. That exeption was Lindemann. While not hostile to radar, he believed the committee should given equal or greater attention to certain other technologies–specifically, infrared detection and parachute mines…the latter devices were to be dropped from above, and were intended to explode after getting caught on the wing or other part of the enemy bomber. He also thought there were possibilities in machines that would create a strong updraft and flip a bomber on its back.

    “Almost from the moment that Lindemann took his seat undisturbed in the committee room,” says Snow, “the meetings did not know half an hour’s harmony or work undisturbed.” Exercising his novelistic talents, Snow imagines what the meetings must have been like:

    Lindemann, Hill, and Blackett were all very tall men of distinguished physical presence…Blackett and Hill would be dressed casually, like academics. Tizard and Lindemann, who were both conventional in such things, would be wearing black coats and striped trousers, and both would come to the meetings in bowler hates. At the table Blackett and Hill, neither of them specially patient men nor overfond of listening to nonsense, sat with incredulity through diatribes by Lindemann, scornfull, contemptuous, barely audible, directed against any decision that Tizard had made, was making, or ever would make. Tizard sat it out for some time. He could be irritable, but he had great resources of temperament, and he knew that this was too serious a time to let the irritability flash. He also knew, from the first speech that Lindemann made in committee, that the friendship of years was smashed.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Britain, History, Management, Military Affairs, Tech | 10 Comments »

    How Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama & Crew Want You to Live Your Life…

    Posted by David Foster on 21st February 2014 (All posts by )

    …as prefigured in a poem by W H Auden:

    He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
    One against whom there was no official complaint,
    And all the reports of his conduct agree
    That, in the modern sense of the old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
    For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
    Except for the war till the day he retired
    He worked in a factory and never got fired,
    But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
    Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
    For his union reports that he paid his dues,
    (Our report of his union shows it was sound)
    And our Social Psychology workers found
    That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
    The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day,
    And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
    Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
    And his Health-card shows that he was once in hospital but left it cured.
    Both Producers Research and High–Grade Living declare
    He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
    And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
    A gramophone, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
    Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
    That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year;
    When there was peace he was for peace; when there was war he went.
    He was married and added five children to the population,
    which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
    And our teachers report he never interfered with their education.
    Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
    Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. 

     The Unknown Citizen, W H Auden, 1940

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »

    History Friday: T.E. Hulme (1883-1917)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    T.E. Hulme was a poet and critic who died leaving behind a very small corpus of work. Nonetheless, he is considered to be an influential figure in artistic modernism, and more tenuously, in modern conservatism.

    Further, Hulme was an English version of a peculiar type of artist and intellectual that emerged in the early 20th century, which we rarely see anymore: A radical reactionary, a revolutionary conservative, or an anarchistic tory. On the Continent, these sorts of people tended toward fascism. An excellent book on this era is The Generation of 1914.

    In the English speaking world, they tended to be religious and cultural conservatives. T.S. Eliot falls into this category. My favorite, Evelyn Waugh falls generally on this part of the spectrum, as well, though Waugh is a late specimen of the type, and on the more pugnacious side, which I like.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Quotations | 8 Comments »

    Under Water

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A large part of the British Isles is – apparently under water – just as a large part of the US is snowed in. The up side of too much rain is that you don’t have to shovel the rain our of your driveway so that you can get to work. The bad side of too much rain is that you can’t shovel it out of your driveway…

    Anyway, I ran across this article in the Spectator (which I used to read on-line a lot before they re-did their site and put the best stuff behind a pay-wall…) about the massive flooding in one particular area. Blame it on the EU, apparently. And super-greenie environmentalists.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Europe | 8 Comments »

    The Depression may be here.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2014 (All posts by )

    I have believed for some time that we were entering another Depression. I have previously posted about it.

    The Great Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.

    I posted that statement earlier and it got a rather vigorous rebuttal. I still believe it, however. I think a depression is coming soon. What is more, I am not the only one. Or even only one of two.

    The second article preceded the election of 2012 but is still valid.

    When employment hit an air pocket in December, most analysts brushed off the dreadful jobs number as an anomaly, or a function of the weather. They chose to believe Ben Bernanke rather than their lying eyes. It’s hard to ignore a second signal that the U.S. economy is dead in the water, though: on Monday the Institute for Supply Management reported the steepest drop in manufacturing orders since December 1980:

    fredgraph

    In January, only 51% of manufacturers reported a rise in new orders, vs. 64% in December. Not only did the U.S. economy stop hiring in December, with just 74,000 workers added to payrolls; it stopped ordering new equipment. The drop in orders is something that only has occurred during recessions (denoted by the shaded blue portions of the chart). The Commerce Department earlier reported a sharp drop in December orders for durable goods. In current dollars, durable goods orders are unchanged from a year ago, which is to say they are lower after inflation.

    So, the economy stopped hiring, even at the poor pace the past five years have seen, but business also stopped buying.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Business, Health Care, Obama, Politics, Taxes, Tea Party, Urban Issues | 33 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    Western Civilization and the First World War…with a very good comment thread.

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy.

    The Normalization of Abusive Government.

    Would You Trust Your Financial Future to This Woman? Patty Murray, a U.S. Senator and an obvious moron and bigot..as the quotes in this post clearly demonstrate…is head of the Senate Budget Committee.

    Whose Interests Will Jack Lew be Representing? There were some rather interesting clauses in the Treasury Secretary’s employment agreement with Citigroup.

    Time Travel. Some personal connections with the past.

     

    Posted in Britain, Economics & Finance, Europe, France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    The Next World War

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Bumper-Stickers-MA-Deport-620x343

    This next summer will be 100 years since the fatal August of 1914. We live in a similar era of “history is over and everybody is happy.” See above. In August 1914, Germany’s major trading partners were Britain and France, as well as the US. There were people who believed that democracies that did business with each other never went to war. Sound familiar ?

    UPDATE: I am not the only one thinking about this, of course. Here is another version. I worry less about China as a geopolitical rival to the US but a China Japan conflict would not be impossible.

    The Telegraph has an excellent piece on the present world situation.

    As we look forward to the First World War commemorations, three stark conclusions are hard to refute. First, that in the course of this century we will need a great deal of luck to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. Second, that the Enlightenment has failed. Third, that this can all be traced back to the Great War.

    As a result of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that mankind might make a decisive break with the scarcity and oppression that had characterised previous eras. There was, admittedly, one early warning. The French Revolution proved that a radical reconstruction of society on abstract principles was likely to end in tyranny and bloodshed. But after 1815, the 19th century developed into one of the most successful epochs in history. Living standards, life expectancy, productivity, medicine, the rule of law, constitutional government, versions of democracy – there was dramatic progress on all fronts, and in the spread of civilisation across the globe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security | 27 Comments »

    Book Review – Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy by Ian W. Toll

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll

    —-

    I had some time to kill a few months ago and was stumbling around a local bookstore when this book caught my eye. I went ahead and bought it and am very glad that I did.

    Six Frigates is a fairly long book that takes a deep dive into the origins of the US Navy. The book is very well written, easy to read, and tells some great stories for those interested in the subject matter.

    The book gives in detail how the original six frigates were paid for, why they were conceived, and the associated debates that went along with those appropriations. Toll blends perfectly in the book a balance of the politics of the day along with the realities of sailing vessels in this era. It is rare in my experience to find a book that balances these things so well. It is clear that Toll spent a LOT of time researching the presidential and congressional archives to pick the correspondences and events out that were appropriate for the subject matter of the book. Toll lets the statesmen of the past speak for themselves during the debates about the original appropriations and also enlightens the reader as to the politics of the day. Also mentioned are the debates about the continuing maintenance of the frigates.

    There is a detailed section about the construction and engineering of the frigates. Toll explains very well how the boats were made and how the raw materials had to be obtained – again, just enough information for a relative layman such as myself to understand the how’s and why’s.

    Now that the frigates were built, Toll explains how they were used, and again blends in the politics of the day so the reader can understand why the ships were where they were. Along with this, he recreates many of the battles that the frigates were involved in. This part was to me the most enlightening.

    I have read many times of the famous battles of some of these frigates, the most famous being the Constitution. However, I never understood how insanely bloody and violent these ship to ship battles were. Toll goes into full on gore mode, sparing no adjective to make the reader get a feel for how the sailors felt and what actually went on. This book is extremely bloody so if you can’t handle that sort of thing, I would perhaps not recommend it. But it was a very good dose of reality for me, as I had never fully understood the power of the cannon they used, and how they used it. Also enlightening were Toll’s descriptions of the marine actions during battle. It was very interesting to hear how each side would use sharpshooters to try to pick off officers on the decks of the ships during battle.

    Great detail is given to the first Tripolitan war. This is a subject that has always interested me, and it was amazing how Toll was able to even blend in the politics of the Tripolitans into his narrative.

    Finally, we move to the War of 1812. Most readers here probably know the basics, but again, Toll is masterful blending in the politics of not only the US, but of Great Britain into the narrative.

    The book uses a LOT of sailing terms which I, not being a sailor of any sort, didn’t understand. This was on purpose. In the beginning of the book, Toll puts out for the reader his reasons for this. Basically he says that he could explain each term and have the book be twice as long, or let the reader pick and choose what they wanted to research as far as terms went. I think he took the correct approach. I have no clue what this sentence from page 348 means:

    Constitution stood on to leeward before the freshening northeast breeze, wearing double-reefed topsails and courses, with her royal yards struck down on deck.

    However, it is easy to imagine a ball park idea of what Toll is saying in the context of the overall topic – that the Constitution was getting ready, somehow, to engage the HMS Guerrierre in battle. It was really no big deal after you got used to the flow of the text. I did look up a few terms along the way, but not many.

    It is very clear that Toll spent a long time researching and writing this marvelous book. It is easily one of the top ten books I have ever read on any subject and I highly recommend it if you have any sort of interest in sailing, or early 19th century politics or even just to get a flavor of those times. Toll also speaks about the early cities and how they worked to a certain degree although the focus is on the Frigates, their battles, and the politics surrounding them.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, USA, War and Peace | 18 Comments »

    The Mini-Series in 1878

    Posted by David Foster on 21st November 2013 (All posts by )

    Just re-read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native (outstanding) and watched the 1994 movie (pretty good.) The book, like much Victorian literature, was originally serialized in a magazine, in this case Belgravia: a Magazine of Fashion and Amusement.

    I found the original illustrations that accompanied the serialization here. Inclusion of illustrations was apparently quite expensive in comparison with straight text, even after the efficiency improvements that went with higher print volumes, so they tended to be fairly scarce–only 12 of them for the whole serialized novel, in this case.

    More about the book and the economics of Victorian publishing here…it is interesting that the high cost of book encouraged lending libraries to insist that books be published broken into multiple volumes, so that reader access to the book could be “timeshared,” resulting in a higher ratio of revenue to cost.

    Hardy and the artist who did the illustrations (Arthur Hopkins) were able to collaborate only by mail, and Hardy was not thrilled with the first image of his main female protagonist, Eustacia…he was happier with the later versions of this character.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Media | 2 Comments »

    Attention Brits: There Are Expanding Career Opportunities For You…

    Posted by David Foster on 14th November 2013 (All posts by )

    …in the fields of chimney-sweeping and firewood sales.

    Some of this is just because people enjoy having and using a fireplace, which is good…much of it, though, is apparently because people can’t afford to heat their houses due to increasing energy prices, which is not so good.

    I wrote about similar phenomena in Germany, here.

    Posted in Britain, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Germany | 13 Comments »

    Appeasement, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 26th October 2013 (All posts by )

    The Prime Ministership of Neville Chamberlain is closely associated with the word “appeasement.” The policy of appeasement followed by Britain in the late 1930s  is generally viewed as a matter of foreign policy–the willingness to allow Germany’s absorption of other countries, first Austria and then Czechoslovakia, in the desperate but misguided hope of avoiding another war.

    But appeasement also had domestic as well as foreign policy aspects. In a post several years ago, I quoted Winston Churchill, who spoke of  the unendurable..sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure…In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands” which “may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty.” A “policy of submission” would entail “restrictions” upon freedom of speech and the press. Indeed, I hear it said sometimes now that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians.”

    Churchill’s concern was not just a theoretical one. Following the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, photographs were available showing the plight of Czech Jews, dispossessed by the Nazis and wandering the roads of eastern Europe. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, refused to run any of them: it wouldn’t help the victims, he told his staff, and if they were published, Hitler would be offended.

    I’ve just finished reading Niall Ferguson’s War of the World, and this book contains much more information about appeasement in British domestic society and politics. Some excerpts:

    (Times Berlin correspondent Normal Ebbut) wrote regularly on…the (Nazi) regime’s persecution of Protestant churches. As early as November 1934, he was moved to protest about editorial interference with his copy, giving twelve examples of how his stories had been cut to remove critical references to the Nazi regime.

    and

    The Times was far from unique in its soft-soap coverage of Germany. Following his visit in 1937, Halifax lobbied near all the leading newspaper proprietors to tone down their coverage of Germany…The government succeeded in pressuring the BBC into avoiding ‘controversy’ in its coverage of European affairs…Lord Reith, the Director-General of the BBC, told Ribbentrop ‘to tell Hitler that the BBC was not anti-Nazi’…Pressure to toe the line was even stronger in the House of Commons. Conservative MPs who ventured to criticize Chamberlain were swiftly chastised by the whips or their local party associations.

    and

    At around the time of the Abyssinian crisis, the historian A L Rowse–who was just thirty-four at the time of Munich-recalled a walk with (Times publisher Dawson) along the towpath to Iffley, in the course of which he warned the older man: ‘It is the Germans who are so powerful as to threaten the rest of us together.’ Dawson’s reply was revealing: ‘To take your argument on its own valuation–mind you, I’m not saying I agree with it–but if the Germans are as powerful as you say, oughtn’t we to go in with them?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Civil Liberties, Europe, Germany, Islam, Leftism, Terrorism, The Press, USA | 27 Comments »

    The news from Britain is not good

    Posted by Helen on 3rd October 2013 (All posts by )

    The news about public opinion and political debate in Britain is not good, I am afraid. My evidence is the recent brouhaha, possibly noticed by some American readers of this blog but probably not. It is, however, important in what it indicates. The fuss is about the Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister in waiting (theoretically) and newly reborn firebrand socialist, Ed Miliband and his father, influential left-wing Marxist thinker and writer, Ralph Miliband. I put up a longish piece on Your Freedom and Ours and my unhappy conclusion is that, for the time being at least, the Ralph Milibands of this world have won the battle for the hearts and minds of the establishment, political and media.

    Posted in Britain | 14 Comments »

    301 Years of Steam Power

    Posted by David Foster on 15th September 2013 (All posts by )

    In 1712, Thomas Newcomen erected a steam engine of his own design near Dudley, in the West Midlands of England, thereby kicking off the age of steam. (Yes, this would have made a better post last year, to mark a round 300-year anniversary, but better late than never..)

    We were told in the 5th grade that the steam engine had been invented by James Watt after noticing the way that the steam pressure in a teapot could cause the lid to lift a little. A nice story, but (a) James Watt did not invent the steam engine, and (b) early steam engines did not work the way that the teapot story would suggest.

    In ancient Greece there were some experiments with the use of steam power to create mechanical motion; thereafter nothing significant happened in this field until the late 1600s, when Thomas Savery invented a device for raising water by steam: it was intended to address the growing problem of removing water from mines. Savery’s invention was conceptually elegant, with no moving parts other than the valves: unfortunately, it could not handle a water lift of more than about 30 feet, which was far insufficient for the very deep mines which were then becoming increasingly common.

    Newcomen’s engine filled a cylinder with low-pressure steam, which was then abruptly cooled by the injection of a water jet. This created a partial vacuum, which pulled the piston down with great force–these were called “atmospheric” engines, because the direct motive force came from air pressure, with the role of the steam being simply to create the vacuum when condensed. After the piston reached the bottom of the cylinder, it would be pulled upwards by a counterweight, and the cycle would repeat. (See animation here.)  Conceptually simple, but modern reconstructors have found it quite difficult to get all the details right and build an engine that will actually work.

    These engines were extremely inefficient, real coal hogs, requiring about 25 pounds of coal per horsepower per hour. They were employed primarily for water removal at coal mines, where coal was by definition readily available and was relatively cheap. But as the cotton milling industry grew, and good water-power sites to power the machinery became increasingly scarce, Newcomen engines were also employed for that service. For example, in 1783 a cotton mill–complete with a 30-foot waterwheel–was constructed at Shudhill, near Manchester..which seemed odd given that there was no large stream or river there to drive it. The mill entrepreneurs built two storage ponds at different levels, with the waterwheel in between them, and installed a Newcomen engine to recycle the water continuously. The engine was very large–with a cylinder 64 inches in diameter and a stroke of more than 7 feet–and consumed five tons of coal per day.

    Despite their tremendous coal consumption and their high first cost, a considerable number of these engines were installed, enough that someone in 1789 referred to the Newcomen and Savery engines in the Manchester area as common old smoaking engines. The alternative to the Newcomen engine described above would have been the use of actual horses–probably at least 100 of them, if my guesstimate of 40 horsepower for this engine is correct. These early engines resembled the mainframe computers of the early 1950s, in that they were bulky, expensive, resource-intensive, and limited in their fields of practical applicability…but, within those fields, absolutely invaluable.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Energy & Power Generation, History, Tech, Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    September 1, 1939

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd September 2013 (All posts by )

    (This post is a rerun, updated to include a link to Sheila O’Malley’s extensive coverage of this topic)

    On September 1, 1939, Germany launched a massive assault on Poland, thereby igniting the Second World War.

    Britain and France were both bound by treaty to come to Poland’s assistance. On September 2, Neville Chamberlain’s government sent a message to Germany proposing that hostilities should cease and that there should be an immediate conference among Britain, France, Poland, Germany, and Italy..and that the British government would be bound to take action unless German forces were withdrawn from Poland. “If the German Government should agree to withdraw their forces, then His Majesty’s Government would be willing to regard the position as being the same as it was before the German forces crossed the Polish frontier.”

    According to General Edward Spears, who was then a member of Parliament, the assembly had been expecting a declaration of war. Few were happy with this temporizing by the Chamberlain government. Spears describes the scene:

    Arthur Greenwood got up, tall, lanky, his dank, fair hair hanging to either side of his forehead. He swayed a little as he clutched at the box in front of him and gazed through his glasses at Chamberlain sitting opposite him, bolt-upright as usual. There was a moment’s silence, then something very astonishing happened.

    Leo Amery, sitting in the corner seat of the third bench below the gangway on the government side, voiced in three words his own pent-up anguish and fury, as well as the repudiation by the whole House of a policy of surrender. Standing up he shouted across to Greenwood: “Speak for England!” It was clear that this great patriot sought at this crucial moment to proclaim that no loyalty had any meaning if it was in conflict with the country’s honour. What in effect he said was: “The Prime Minister has not spoken for Britain, then let the socialists do so. Let the lead go to anyone who will.” That shout was a cry of defiance. It meant that the house and the country would neither surrender nor accept a leader who might be prepared to trifle with the nation’s pledged word.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    A very small constitutional earthquake

    Posted by Helen on 30th August 2013 (All posts by )

    By now, there can be nobody in the United States who is even remotely interested in foreign affairs who does not know that on Thursday the government in Britain suffered a defeat in the House of Commons with a clearly hostile debate in the House of Lords over the question of whether to intervene militarily in Syria.

    Much has been made that this is the first defeat for a government over matters of war since some imbroglio in the eighteenth century when the Prime Minister was Lord North. The reason is actually simple: the government does not have to go to Parliament over either declaration of war and actual acts of war. These come under the Royal Prerogative, which is now vested in the government of the day and all attempts to change that through legislation have failed. However, Tony Blair found it necessary to ask Parliament (several times) about the war in Iraq and got his authorization. It would have been impossible for David Cameron to do otherwise but his case was quite genuinely not good enough to pass muster.

    I wrote a blog a few days ago, in which I put together some of the questions that, in my opinion, those clamouring for intervention needed to answer. This has not happened to any acceptable degree and even after the vote, those who are hysterically lambasting the MPs refuse to do so, constantly shifting the ground as to why we should intervene.

    Since the vote, which was immediately accepted by the Prime Minister, possibly with secret relief, I became involved in ferocious disputations on the subject. In the end I decided to sum up the situation as I saw it in another, rather long, blog. It is largely about the situation as far as Britain is concerned so it may be of interest to readers of this blog.

    For the record, I do not think this is the end of the Special Relationship, which exists on many more levels than political posturing. As I say in the blog, if it survived Harold Wilson’s premiership, it will survive the Obama presidency. Some things are more important than immediate and confused politicking.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Blogging, Britain, Current Events, Middle East | 16 Comments »