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  • Archive for the 'History' Category

    Around the World by Zeppelin, in 1929

    Posted by David Foster on 21st March 2017 (All posts by )

    In August 1929, the airship Graf Zeppelin set off for a round-the-world tour.  Among the 20 passengers on board was Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, whose trip was paid for by the Hearst newspapers and whose assignment was to write about the venture from a woman’s perspective.  Lady Hay was somewhat disconcerted to find out that among the other passengers on the trip would be a journalist named Karl Henry von Wiegand, with whom she was deeply in love–Karl having broken off their relationship six months earlier.

    Here’s a wonderful pseudo-documentary about the flight, with the story told from Lady Hay’s perspective.  I call it a pseudo-documentary because while the film is genuine, the narration is only partly taken from Hay’s articles and letters–part of it was created by the screenwriters—and there is at least one event that was fictionalized. Includes great film footage of New York, Friederichshafen, and Toyko.  Very much worth watching.

    Posted in Aviation, Film, History, Transportation | 7 Comments »

    Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2017 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    (This being St Patrick’s day, I’m again taking advantage of the hook to re-post this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this incredibly fine historical novel)

    Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

    In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland.  The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.

    Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition.  He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising.  With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar.  They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.

    Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia.  Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,”  jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,”  Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.”  “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”

    Ferdy O’Donnell  is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land.  Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper  “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”

    Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘

    Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen.  This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic.  His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.

    John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land.  He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster.  “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”

    Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.

    Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses.  His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishman…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”

    Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces.  A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution.  He is a talented commander, but  the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and  Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland.   Seen through the eyes of  a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it.  “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”

    This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships.  Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | 2 Comments »

    Music Review: The Rose of Roscrae

    Posted by David Foster on 14th March 2017 (All posts by )

    This work by Tom Russell is a highly ambitious album:  a song-cycle, practically an opera, whose storyline extends from Ireland to the American West to the island of Molokai, where the priest Father Damien cared for outcast lepers.

    In the title song, Johnny Dutton tells of being beaten up by the father of the beautiful 15-year-old Rose (after being caught in the hayloft with her) and making his way from Ireland to the United States, where he planned to live out the dreams he had absorbed from cheap novels of the West.

    Johnny works for the legendary rancher Charlie Goodnight, but eventually turns to a life of crime.  He is caught and found guilty, but escapes.  He is pursued by his nemesis Augie Blood, US Marshal and evangelist, who travels in a prairie schooner (drawn by mules named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) with a cross on the sail and a saloon piano in the back on which he plays gospel tunes.

    Will Johnny escape Augie Blood?  Will he ever be reunited with the Rose of Roscrae?  Will his longing for Ireland ever take him back to the Old Country?

    A few of the songs:

    The Rose of Roscrae

    Doin’ Hard Time in Texas

    I Talk to God

    The Water is Wide / Overture

    He Wasn’t a Bad Kid When He Was Sober.  (Russell got a letter from “a rather well-known Western artist” who apparently wanted him to write a song based on “new information that Billy the Kid was a real hero of sorts. A true Irishman and a friend of the Mexican poor.”  This song is Russell’s answer)

    There are a LOT of performers on this album, in addition to Tom R himself, they include Johnny Cash, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Maura O’Connell, Ian Tyson, and Gretchen Peters.  There is even a Swiss Yodel Choir!

    When I first heard this album, I liked it but didn’t think it quite measured up to TR’s earlier song-cycle, The Man from God Knows Where (link goes to my review)  But The Rose of Roscrae grows on you.  An exceptional piece of work, well-worth buying and listening to many times.

    The album can be purchased at Amazon.  Also available is a bundle which includes the program guide / libretto as well as the album itself.

     

    Posted in History, Ireland, Music, USA | No Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: NPR’s Planet Money, President Trump, and the Foreign Emoluments Clause

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Noel King & Robert Smith, NPR Podcast #758, Can Trump Take the Money, NPR: Planet Money (Mar. 10, 2017), http://tinyurl.com/zg6cgte.
     

    Noel King: Presidents and other elected officials have been so paranoid that they might seem to be in violation of [the Foreign Emoluments Clause] that they do everything they can to avoid it. In fact, in the handful of times it does come up it sounds ridiculous.

    Noel King: Or if Presidents or other U.S. officials do accept gifts, they do what the [Foreign Emoluments] [C]lause says they got to do, they ask Congress for permission.

     
    Dear Noel,
     
    I listened to your full podcast. In fact, I listened to it twice. And then I delayed two days before writing you.
     
    In your podcast (at 10:20ff), you state that Presidents have done “everything they can to avoid” application of the Foreign Emoluments Clause “or … they ask Congress for permission [to keep the gift].”
     
    I find your willingness to make this claim more than a little troubling. You interviewed me for well over an hour, and you and I discussed in detail President George Washington’s diplomatic gifts: gifts which he received, acknowledged, and kept, absent any request for congressional consent.
     
    [. . .]

    Read Seth’s full post.

    Posted in History, Law, Media, Politics, Trump | 5 Comments »

    A Classical Education in the Azores

    Posted by David Foster on 12th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Here’s a very interesting article by a Portuguese teacher who developed and ran an intensive classical-studies program for high school students in the Azores Islands.  Highly recommended.

    Meanwhile, back in the USA.

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Education, History | 8 Comments »

    History Friday: The General’s Lady

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th March 2017 (All posts by )

    (A version of this post appeared on the website Heroes, Heroines and History in January, 2017.)

    It is suggested that she may have been a spy – the general’s lady, Margaret. She was the wife of General Thomas Gage, a long-serving officer in the service of his Majesty, King George III, a veteran of the wars against the French and their native Indian allies against the British colonials settled along the long and mostly temperate shores of North America. Thomas Gage was a commander and administrator of agreeably competent ability, a scion of minor nobility; titled, but not one of the grander, wealthier houses, and in any case, a younger son. In the 18th century scheme of things, the heir got the title, the property and the income, the spares were allocated to the church or the military, with a suitable rank or living purchased. Thomas Gage had been in the British army at various ranks appropriate to his age and experience, participating in campaigns in Flanders (the War of Austrian Secession) and Scotland (the second Jacobite uprising). He dabbled in politics briefly and unsuccessfully, to the point of running for a seat in Parliament in the early 1750s, after suffering a disappointment in love when a lady of rank and quality broke their engagement. He briefly contested the first, not the second, and probably took refuge in the fact that his regiment was posted to the Americas … just in time to experience the brutal defeat of an expeditionary force of British and Colonial troops sent to capture the French stronghold of Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River. There, Thomas Gage was a comrade with his eventual foe, George Washington, then a colonel in the Virginia militia. The catastrophe of the Braddock expedition had Thomas Gage seriously re-thinking established British Army practice when it came to fighting. He was promoted to full colonel and given the authority to recruit a new kind of army unit, which were to function as skirmishers and irregulars, taking advantage of the wooded landscape in skirmishes with the French and their Indian allies. He recruited in up-country New York and New Jersey, drawing on local soldiering talent and from other British army units, making friends, and connections. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History | 4 Comments »

    Mark Zuckerberg as Political and Social Philosopher

    Posted by David Foster on 7th March 2017 (All posts by )

    A long essay by the founder of Facebook includes this assertion:

    History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever greater numbers — from tribes to cities to nations.

    To which Steve Sailer responds:

    As we all know, independence and diversity have always been the enemy of progress.

    For example, that’s why Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Dependence submitting the American colonies to the British Empire.

    Similarly, the father of history, Herodotus, wrote to celebrate the mighty Persian Empire’s reduction of the various Greek city-states to a satrapy ruled from Babylon.

    Likewise, every year Jews gather to admit that their stiff-neckedness provoked the Roman Empire into, rightfully, smashing the Temple in Jerusalem on the holy day of We-Had-It-Coming.

    And, of course, who can forget Shakespeare’s plays, such as Philip II and Admiral-Duke of Medina Sidonia, lauding the Spanish Armada for conquering the impudent English and restoring to Canterbury the One True Faith?

    Similarly, Oswald Mosley’s prime ministership (1940-1980) of das englische Reich is justly admired for subordinating England’s traditional piratical turbulence to the greater good of Europe.

    Likewise, who can not look at the 49 nations currently united by their adherence to the universalist faith of Islam and not see that submission is the road to peace, prosperity, and progress? If only unity had prevailed at Tours in 732 instead of divisiveness. May that great historical wrong be swiftly rectified in the decades to come!

    (links via Isegoria)

    Zuckerberg’s assertion about history being about “coming together in ever larger numbers”…with the implication that this is inherently in a good thing…is quite reminiscent of the views of Edward Porter Alexander, a Confederate general and later a railroad president…as excerpted in my post What are the limits of the Alexander analysis?

    Following his initial snarkiness, Steve Sailer goes on to point out that “consolidation is some times a good thing, and other times independence or decentralization is a better thing. Getting the scale of control right all depends upon the circumstances. It’s usually a very interesting and complicated question that is the central issue of high statesmanship.”

    Thoughts?

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Organizational Analysis, Political Philosophy, Tech | 33 Comments »

    Some Thoughts on Trump, Free Trade, and Horses

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th February 2017 (All posts by )

    A friend sent a link to a leaked, recorded conversation between Trump and Wilbur Ross, his nominee for Commerce Secretary. There is nothing particularly troubling in the conversation. Trump is talking like Trump. He is the same person in public and in private, which is nice.

    I responded:

    Sounds good to me.  A tariff is a consumption tax collected at the port of entry.  The American founders expected to fund the operations of the national government with revenue from a tariff, and it worked.  He is also right that the Japanese and other countries use safety regulations as non-tariff import barriers.  There is nothing bad on here at all.  

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Culture, Economics & Finance, History, Politics, Public Finance, Taxes, Trump | 20 Comments »

    Air Raid Darwin, This is No Drill — Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Seventy five years ago today, on Feb 19, 1942, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia had been turned from a backwater port supporting a railway distribution system for cattle and other agricultural products into the forward staging air and sea facility for the Allied Defense of Java against the Imperial Japanese Military juggernaut that was over running the Philippines and South East Asia.  And in this role, Darwin became “Australia’s Pearl Harbor” as four carriers of the IJN 1st Air Fleet — the dreaded  Kidō Butai — arrived. They delivered a raid of 188 strike planes  comprised of 36 A6M Zero fighters, 71 D3A “Val” dive bombers, and 81 B5N “Kate” torpedo bombers that arrived at around 10:00am.  This raid was followed later around noon the same day by 54 high altitude, land based, twin engine bombers (27 Mitsubishi G3M medium bombers and 27 Mitsubishi G4M medium bombers) that gutted the RAAF Darwin airfield.

    The strike on the port of Darwin sank 11 vessels — including the US Navy’s only seaplane tender in the South Pacific — saw another 3 vessels grounded and left an additional 25 ships damaged.

    RAAF Darwin was the forward staging base for the “BRERETON ROUTE“, a pre-WW2 air ferry route through Australia to the Philippines named after General Lewis Hyde Brereton that avoided Imperial Japanese territorial possessions.  The route was being used at this time predominantly to support the movement of P-40 fighters, B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers plus A-24 dive bombers (USN SBD’s in USAAF service) to Java.   As such, the field was filled with planes.  Of the RAAF aircraft present, six Hudson light patrol bombers were destroyed and another Hudson and a Wirraway (a trainer re-roled as a fighter for the lack of anything else) were badly damaged. Two American P-40s and a B-24 Liberator bomber staged for Brereton Route the were also destroyed.

    These strikes doomed the defense of Java logistically and were the beginnings of a series of 53 strikes on Australia lasting two years.

    Below are a series of links commemorating the battle —

    It has been 75 years since the bombing of Darwin

    Bombing of Darwin 75th anniversary: Darwin’s underground shelters | NT NewsSTILL hidden within the hilly terrain and dense bushland are a network of bomb storage shelters that reveal a desperate cat-and-mouse tale of hide and seek from Japanese bombers.

    Bombing of Darwin 75th anniversary: attacks inspired Territory resilience | NT NewsTHE resilient Territory spirit was born the day Darwin was bombed Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim told the 75th anniversary marking the event.

    Bombing of Darwin 75th anniversary: Veteran Peter Hackett recalls Top End experience | NT News

    ON Christmas morning, 1941, Peter Hackett slipped into a coma as the Ghan pulled into Oodnadatta.

    World War II attacks outside of Darwin need more recognition, historians say – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)While Darwin bore the brunt of World War II attacks in northern Australia, historians are calling for more recognition for places outside of Darwin that were bombed by the Japanese.

    75 years since the Japanese attack on Darwin – Sunday Morning – ABC Radio Does commemorating events like the attack on Darwin or the fall of Singapore show how little remembering does to change who we are and what we are capable of?

    Darwin bombing: 75 year commemorationONE of the last surviving World War II veterans to witness the Darwin bombings says the diggers involved never got the recognition they deserved. Tasmanian Brian Winspear can still picture the sun glinting off the bombs like confetti as hell rained down on the city 75 years ago.

    75 years on, Darwin bombing remembered | Photos, video | Illawarra Mercury The first wave attacked the CBD and harbour infrastructure. The second wave came for the RAAF base.

    As it happened: Japanese bombers attack Darwin The bombing of Darwin 75 years ago was the single largest attack ever mounted by a foreign power against Australia. WWII had come to the Australian mainland.

    Bombing of Darwin commemorations mark 75th anniversary since Japanese attacks – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Survivors and veterans of the bombing of Darwin 75 years ago have been honoured for their role in preserving freedom and rebuilding peace.

    ‘They’ll be over tonight‘: veteran recalls Darwin terror raids – 9news.com.au Seventy five years to the day after Japanese bombs devastated Darwin, Warren Stickley vividly remembers the night he shone a spotlight on an enemy bomber so fellow soldiers could blast it out of the sky.

     

    Posted in History, Japan, Military Affairs | 9 Comments »

    ENIAC Anniversary

    Posted by David Foster on 15th February 2017 (All posts by )

    With all the current discussion about robotics and artificial intelligence, this seems like an anniversary worth noting:  the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) was formally announced on February 15, 1946.  (Or maybe it was February 14.)  Originally developed to compute artillery trajectories, it was sufficiently general in its design that it could be programmed to address other kinds of problems as well.  The programming was originally done with patch cords, but soon a sort of stored-programming approach was developed wherein the patch cord layout remained the same and the program was entered via an array of rotary switches.

    See also Robot Mathematician Knows All The Answers, about the Harvard Mark I, a slightly earlier computer that was electromechanical rather than purely electronic in its operation, and a post about the Naval Ordnance Research Calculator, a ‘supercomputer’ of 1954.

    I wonder if these early computers would have made such a strong popular impression if they had not been so physically large.

    Posted in History, Tech, USA | 5 Comments »

    Scaring Ourselves to Death

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    We have a neighbor several doors down the street who has – over the years that we have known her – been somewhat of a trial. Not only is she is a gossip with an appallingly low degree of accuracy in the stories that she passes on, she is also a keen consumer of local news, and takes the most sensational crime stories to heart. She was in her element, the evening that we had a double murder in our neighborhood, having claimed to see the murderer running down the street past her house and begging one of the other neighbors for a ride. She provided a description of the murderer to one of the police patrols who went screaming through the neighborhood – a description which turned out to be inaccurate in every detail save that the escaping murderer was a male. As for the what she sees on the news; let someone across town be carjacked in their own driveway, she is totally convinced that everyone in the neighborhood is in dire peril of this happening to them. She lurks at the community mailbox of a morning, bearing dire warnings of all kinds of unlikely scenarios. She never goes much beyond the community mailbox, having successfully frightened herself out of going any farther on most occasions. In earlier times, I would try and talk her into taking a more realistic view of things. Eventually I realized that she purely enjoyed scaring herself into conniptions, and those irrational fears provided a handy all-purpose excuse for her not to go and do much of anything with herself when her only child went to college on the other side of the state and her husband moved out.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Trump | 19 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Opening Arguments Podcast on the Emoluments Clause, With Andrew Torrez and Thomas Smith

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th January 2017 (All posts by )

    Listen here.

    Posted in History, Law, USA | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: Opening Arguments Podcast on the Emoluments Clause, With Andrew Torrez and Thomas Smith

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Tillman’s Poetry Corner: Flanders Fields

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th January 2017 (All posts by )

    This is interesting:

    John McCrae’s Flanders Fields is iconic. No more need be said. Unfortunately, its meaning has been distorted by the most popular voice and instrumental accompaniment. This new reading of the poem has transformed Flanders Fields’ meaning. My guess is that this metamorphosis was unintentional, but one and all should work to recover the original public meaning.

    Read the rest.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Culture, History, Poetry, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »

    What are the Limits of the Alexander Analysis?

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd January 2017 (All posts by )

    Edward Porter Alexander, who was Lee’s artillery commander at Gettysburg, became a railroad president after the war. His experiences in running a major transportation system probably had something to do with the evolution of his thoughts regarding state’s rights:

    Well that (state’s rights) was the issue of the war; & as we were defeated that right was surrendered & a limit put on state sovereignty. And the South is now entirely satisfied with that result. And the reason of it is very simple. State sovereignty was doubtless a wise political instution for the condition of this vast country in the last century. But the railroad, and the steamboat & the telegraph began to transform things early in this century & have gradually made what may almost be called a new planet of it… Our political institutions have had to change… Briefly we had the right to fight, but our fight was against what might be called a Darwinian development – or an adaptation to changed & changing conditions – so we need not greatly regret defeat.

    I think a lot of the belief in unlimited globalization is implicitly driven by an extension of Alexander’s argument, with the jet plane, the container ship, and the Internet taking the place of the railroad, steamboat, and telegraph.

    How far does this extension make sense?  If the ability of locomotives could pull trains across the United States in three days meant that full sovereignty for individual states was obsolete, does the ability of jet airplanes to carry passengers and freight anywhere in the world in less than one day similarly imply that full sovereignty for nations is obsolete?

    I suspect that most people at this site will not agree with a transportation-based argument for the elimination of national sovereignty.  So, what is valid and what is invalid about Alexander’s analysis, and what are the limits for the extension of its geographical scope?  Discuss.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Political Philosophy, Tech, Transportation, USA | 22 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Ed Kilgore, At NY Mag’s Daily Intelligencer, Asks President Obama To Use Recess Appointments: Kilgore’s Strategy Won’t Work & This Is Why

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Kilgore argues that the only route the Republicans would have to remove these recess appointees* would be through slow moving lawsuits which would take months, all the while leaving these appointees in place during the first year of Trump’s new administration. See Kilgore (“TR made 193 recess appointments at the beginning of 1903, and while the legality of the action has been questioned, it has never been clearly overturned. If Obama were to follow this procedure, it would take extensive litigation to reverse it, and it might stand after all.”). Kilgore is entirely wrong. No lawsuits would be needed—just two swings of the Majority Leader’s gavel. Just two swings and the recess appointees would be out.**

    Read the rest.

    Posted in History, Law, Obama, Politics | 1 Comment »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: This Is What I Think And This Is What Other People Think Scholarship Looks Like

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth points out differences in the ways in which different legal scholars characterize arguments that challenge conventional legal wisdom. Worth reading.

    Posted in History, Law | 2 Comments »

    Video Review: A French Village

    Posted by David Foster on 19th December 2016 (All posts by )

    I’m currently on Season 5 of this series, which ran for 6 seasons on French TV.  Set in the fictional town of Villeneuve during the years of the German occupation and directly afterwards, it is simply outstanding – one of the best television series I have ever seen.

    Daniel Larcher is a physician who also serves as deputy mayor, a largely honorary position.  When the regular mayor disappears after the German invasion, Daniel finds himself mayor for real.  His wife Hortense, a selfish and emotionally-shallow woman, is the opposite of helpful to Daniel in his efforts to protect the people of Villaneuve from the worst effects of the occupation while still carrying on his medical practice.  Daniel’s immediate superior in his role as mayor is Deputy Prefect Servier, a bureaucrat mainly concerned about his career and about ensuring that everything is done according to proper legal form.

    Daniel’s brother Marcel is a Communist.  The series accurately reflects the historical fact that the European Communist parties did not at this stage view the outcome of the war as important–it was only “the Berlin bankers versus the London bankers”…but this is a viewpoint that Marcel has a hard time accepting.

    In addition to his underground political activism, Marcel works as a foreman at the lumber mill run by a prominent local businessman, Raymond Schwartz.  A strong mutual attraction has developed between Raymond and Marie Germain, a farm wife whose husband is away with the army and is missing in action.

    Much of the movie’s action takes place at the local school, where Judith Morhange is the (Jewish) principal and Lucienne Broderie is a young teacher. Jules Beriot, the assistant principal, is in love with Lucienne, but hopelessly so, it seems.

    German characters range from Kurt, a young soldier with whom Lucienne shares a love of classical music, all the way down to the sinister sicherheitdienst officer Heinrich Mueller. The characters include several French police officers, who make differing choices about the ways in which they will handle life and work under the Occupation.

    The series does a fine job of bringing all these characters–and many more–to life.  Very well-written and well-acted, well-deserving of its long run on French television. Highly recommended.

    In French, with English subtitles that (unlike the case with many films) are actually readable.  Season 1 is available on Amazon streaming, and seasons 2-5 are available there in DVD form.  MHZ Networks is another available source for the series.  (Season 6, which I believe is now running in France, is not yet available in translation.)

    Not to be missed.

    Posted in Film, France, Germany, History, Video, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    History Friday — Revisiting the P-51 Mustang Historical Narrative

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 16th December 2016 (All posts by )

    James Perry Stevenson and Pierre Sprey recently (Dec 2, 2016) wrote a column over on the War Is Boring media blog titled “Arrogant U.S. Generals Made the P-51 Mustang a Necessity — With better leadership, the iconic fighter plane might’ve been unnecessary” that used my September 2013 Chicagoboyz blog post “History Friday: Deconstructing the P-51 Mustang Historical Narrative” as a basis for a lot of their article with a link back to my Chicagoboyz post with a comment to the effect that it was a “detailed post.” Given who those two men are, that is the military history good housekeeping seal or approval. ***

    Yeah Me!! — Glyph of a middle age fat man doing a happy dance!

    Go over and check it out at this link:

    “Arrogant U.S. Generals Made the P-51 Mustang a Necessity — With better leadership, the iconic fighter plane might’ve been unnecessary”

    The 165 Gallon Lockheed Drop Tank in Front of a P-38 Lightning Fighter dated Nov 1943
    A 150/165 Gallon Lockheed Drop Tank in front of a P-38 Lightning Fighter. Production of the tank increased from 300 in September 1943 to 22,000 in December 1943.

    That said, it turns out their closing paragraph,

    “Arnold’s mindset, which caused him to forbid drop tank development in 1939, doomed thousands of unescorted bomber crews throughout all of 1943 to death and dismemberment. This needless slaughter remained unrelieved until the belated deliveries in 1944 of adequate quantities of drop tanks — and of long ranged P-51B’s.

    ….and my Sept 2013 blog post are going to need a rewrite thanks to my research partner Ryan Crierie’s latest find, a September 1943 fighter range chart from the Gen. Hap Arnold Microfilms Reel 122.

    The “truth in the details” is that the tragically poor decision General Hap Arnold made in 1939 to halt the use drop tanks in the US Army Air Force that made the disaster the 2nd Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission inevitable was also the decision that made the P-51B technically possible.

    The 2nd order effects of that procurement decision on the USAAF’s “technological development tree” gave Wright Field fighter development engineers the “design chops” to place in the P-51B the additional 85 gallon internal fuel tank that Mustangs used to reach Berlin in early 1944, when it was needed in late 1943.

    -more-

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    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs | 17 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 15th December 2016 (All posts by )

    A USAF jet fighter pilot flies a WWII P-51 Mustang.

    An argument that China will never be as wealthy as America.  (‘Never’ is a long time, though)

    A huge database of artworks, indexed on many dimensions.

    An ethics class that has been taught for 20 years (at the University of Texas-Austin) is no longer offered.  According to the professor who taught it:

    Students clam up as soon as conversation veers close to anything controversial and one side might be viewed as politically incorrect. The open exchange of ideas that used to make courses such as Contemporary Moral Problems exciting doesn’t happen. It’s not possible to teach the course the way I used to teach it.

    At the GE blog:  Direct mind-to-airplane communication…and, maybe someday, direct mind-to-mind communication as well.  Although regarding the second possibility, SF writer Connie Willis raises some concerns.

    Also at the GE blog:  The California Duck Must Die – a very good explanation of the load-matching problems created when ‘renewable’ sources become a major element of the electrical grid. Media discussion of all the wind and solar capacity installed has tended to gloss over these issues.

    The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945.

    Posted in Academia, Aviation, China, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Education, Energy & Power Generation, History, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor, December 8th 1941 – Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th December 2016 (All posts by )

    One of the important things to know about General Douglas MacArthur was that almost nothing said or written about him can be trusted without extensive research to validate its truthfulness. There were a lot of reasons for this. Bureaucratic infighting inside the US Army, inside the War Department, and between the War and Naval Departments all played a role from MacArthur’s attaining flag rank in World War 1 (WW1) through his firing by President Truman during the Korean War. His overwhelming need to create what amounts to a cult of personality around himself was another.

    However, the biggest reason for this research problem was that, if the Clinton era political concept of “The Politics of Personal Destruction” had been around in the 1930s through 1950s, General Douglas MacArthur’s face would have been its poster boy. Everything the man did was personal, and that made everything everyone else did in opposition to him, “personal” to them. Thus followed rounds of name calling, selective reporting and political partisanship that have utterly polluted the historical record and require research over decades to untangle.

    A case in point is the December 8th 1941 attack on Clark Field and the massacre of the American B-17 force.  This 2007 article by Michael Gough titled “Failure and Destruction, Clark Field, the Philippines, December 8, 1941″ is a good example of the accepted narrative of the Clark Field attack.

    The real reason we lost those planes on Dec 8th 1941 was American bad luck, delusion and political ghost dancing meeting a very well prepared Japanese enemy.  Luzon was too close to the center of Japanese air power for the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) to survive.  Nothing MacArthur did or didn’t do would have made a real difference in that outcome.

     

    Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack

    Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack. (Source: USAF Photo via Hyperwar web site)

     

    The following was posted to the Academic H-War listserve back in late May 2012 and addresses the timing of the raid on Clark and Iba fields Dec 8th 1941 —

    “Hi Gang

    I’ve refrained from commenting on this thread because of the subject’s
    complexity, the dearth of primary documents, and a desire to avoid
    replying to endless questions, but I will make a bit of an effort here:

    From 0330 until 1014, HQ USAFFE specifically denied Brereton permission to
    launch his bomber force at
    Clark (19 B-17s) against the Japanese
    facilities on
    Formosa and did not allow him to speak directly with
    MacArthur either in person or on the telephone.

    FEAF dispersed the bombers to holding positions in the air at about 0800
    to avoid an attack expected that morning. Most of the bombers were in the air
    most of that morning.

    MacArthur gave Brereton permission to attack Formosa during a telephone
    call at 1014, and Brereton recalled the dispersed force which began landing
    about 1100.

    It took two to two and a half hours to refuel, load bombs, and prepare an attack,
    thus FEAF’s aircraft were on the ground at about 1220 when the Japanese air
    forces, delayed by fog on
    Formosa for roughly five hours, reached Clark.

    USAFFE persistently denied Brereton’s efforts to conduct reconnaissance of
    Formosa prior to 8 December, but the 19th Bomb Group’s target files
    apparently contained enough information that, although dated, made an
    attack on
    Formosa more than just a thrust into the unknown.

    Who ignored MacArthur’s chain of command and in what way?

    I am still working on my biography of Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton.

    Hopefully, it will get done.

    Cheers,

    Roger G. Miller, Ph.D., GS-14
    Deputy Director
    Air Force Historical Studies Office
    HQ USAF/HOH
    Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling
    Washington, D.C. 20373-5899”

    So the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) took precautions to protect their B-17s from a dawn Japanese strike on Dec 8, 1941, but as Dr. Miller mentioned, they landed out of fuel just in time for the delayed-by-fog Japanese naval air force strike from Tainan Airfield, Formosa.

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    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    Pearl Harbor, December 7th 1941 — Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 7th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Today is the 75th anniversary of the December 7th, 1941 Imperial Japanese Navy’s (IJN) surprise aerial attack on the American Pacific Fleet’s “Battleship Row” at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  With this air attack, and air attacks in the following weeks on Clark Field in the Philippines, and on the British fleet off Malaya — sinking the new British battleship Prince of Wales and the WW1 era battlecruiser Repulse — the Japanese established unchallenged air and naval superiority across the Pacific and ran wild for six months.

    The key failure that day leading up to the attack —  A final point falure in a years long list of failures starting with the US Army Air Corps purge of fighter advocate Claire Chennault for his all too successful telephone-equipped ground observer air warning network that threatened the budget of the B-17 heavy bomber —  was the ignored warning from the US Army SCR-270B radar at Opana Point, Hawaii as the IJN Strike Force flew in.

    Chennault's 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network

    Then-Captain Claire Chennault’s 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network. It was so successful in catching bombardment formations that Chennault was black balled by the “Bomber Mafia” of two air chiefs of staff. This telephone based surveillance network was both effective and cheap…and a threat to the B-17 heavy bomber’s development budget.  Photo Source: Coast Artillery Journal Mar-Apr 1934, pg. 39

    In 2012 I discovered the book ECHOES OVER THE PACIFIC: An overview of Allied Air Warning Radar in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines Campaign by Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith that explained some of the reasons for that last failure. ECHOS is the story of Australian and wider Anglosphere efforts to field radar in the Pacific during WW2.  This year I also found John Bennet’s “SIGNAL COMPANY, AIRCRAFT WARNING, HAWAII ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY” which expanded on and clarified the background to those failures further.

    US Army SCR-270 Radar used at Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific War by Army, Navy and Marine Radar detachments.

    US Army SCR-270 Radar used at Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific War by US Army, US Navy and Marine Radar detachments.

     

    ECHOS has these passages regarding the bureaucratic and political failings of radar deployment at Pearl Harbor:

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    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 28 Comments »

    Book Review: The Road Back, by Erich Maria Remarque (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 20th November 2016 (All posts by )

    The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque

    —-

    (I had intended to rerun this post during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which took place from July 1 to November 18, 1916…missed that window, but of course the war lasted for two more years after the Somme)

    The narrator is a young German who served in the First World War. The war is finally over, and Ernst, together with his surviving comrades, has returned to the high school from which they departed in 1914. The Principal is delivering a “welcome home” speech, and it is a speech in the old oratorical style:

    “But especially we would remember those fallen sons of our foundation, who hastened joyfully to the defence of their homeland and who have remained upon the field of honour. Twenty-one comrades are with us no more; twenty-one warriors have met the glorious death of arms; twenty-one heroes have found rest from the clamour of battle under foreign soil and sleep the long sleep beneath the green grasses..”

    There is suddden, booming laughter. The Principal stops short in pained perplexity. The laughter comes from Willy standing there, big and gaunt, like an immense wardrobe. His face is red as a turkey’s, he is so furious.

    “Green grasses!–green grasses!” he stutters, “long sleep?” In the mud of shell-holes they are lying, knocked rotten. ripped in pieces, gone down into the bog–Green grasses! This is not a singing lesson!” His arms are whirling like a windmill in a gale. “Hero’s death! And what sort of thing do you suppose that was, I wonder?–Would you like to know how young Hoyer died? All day long he lay in the wire screaming. and his guts hanging out of his belly like macaroni. Then a bit of shell took off his fingers and a couple of hours later another chunk off his leg; and still he lived; and with his other hand he kept trying to pack back his intestines, and when night fell at last he was done. And when it was dark we went out to get him and he was as full of holes as a nutmeg grater.—Now, you go and tell his mother how he died–if you have so much courage.”

    Not only Willy, but several other student/soldiers rise to challenge the tone of the Principal’s speech:

    “But gentlemen,” cries the Old Man almost imploringly, “there is a misunderstanding–a most painful misunderstanding—”

    But he does not finish. He is interrupted by Helmuth Reinersmann, who carried his brother back through a bombardment on the Yser, only to put him down dead at the dressing-station.

    “Killed,” he says savagely, “They were not killed for you to make speeches about them. They were our comrades. Enough! Let’s have no more wind-bagging about it.”

    The assembly dissolves into angry confusion.

    Then suddenly comes a lull in the tumult. Ludwig Breyer has stepped out to the front. “Mr Principal,” says Ludwig in a clear voice. “You have seen the war after your fashion—with flying banners, martial music, and with glamour. But you saw it only to the railway station from which we set off. We do not mean to blame you. We, too, thought as you did. But we have seen the other side since then, and against that the heroics of 1914 soon wilted to nothing. Yet we went through with it–we went through with it because here was something deeper that held us together, something that only showed up out there, a responsibility perhaps, but at any rate something of which you know nothing and of which there can be no speeches.”

    Ludwig pauses a moment, gazing vacantly ahead. He passes a hand over his forehead and continues. “We have not come to ask a reckoning–that would be foolish; nobody knew then what was coming.–But we do require that you shall not again try to prescribe what we shall think of these things. We went out full of enthusiasm, the name of the ‘Fatherland’ on our lips–and we have returned in silence,. but with the thing, the Fatherland, in our hearts. And now we ask you to be silent too. Have done with fine phrases. They are not fitting. Nor are they fitting to our dead comrades. We saw them die. And the memory of it is still too near that we can abide to hear them talked of as you are doing. They died for more than that.”

    Now everywhere it is quiet. The Principal has his hands clasped together. “But Breyer,” he says gently. “I–I did not mean it so.”

    Ludwig Breyer’s words: “We do require that you shall not again try to prescribe what we shall think of these things…Have done with fine phrases” capture well the break which the Great War caused in the relationship between generations, and even in the use of language. It is a disconnect with which we are still living.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Germany, History, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Room for Debate: Constitutional Restrictions on Foreign Gifts Don’t Apply to Presidents

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th November 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth makes the New York Times:

    Still the Constitution does not always demand that we and our government act wisely. And that is the situation here. The Foreign Gifts Clause provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them (i.e., the United States) shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
     
    Does the Foreign Gifts Clause and its office under the United States language apply to the presidency? There are three good reasons to believe that it does not.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: Room for Debate: Constitutional Restrictions on Foreign Gifts Don’t Apply to Presidents

    Attack of the Job-Killing Robots, Part 2

    Posted by David Foster on 15th November 2016 (All posts by )

    In my previous post of this series, I remarked that most discussion of the employment effects of robotics/artificial intelligence/etc seems to be lacking in historical perspective…quite a few people seem to believe that the replacement of human labor by machinery is a new thing.

    This post will attempt to provide some historical perspective on today’s automation technologies by sketching out some of the past innovations in the mechanization of work,  focusing on “robots,” broadly-defined…ie, on technologies which to some degree involve the replacement or augmentation of human mind/eye/hand, rather than those that are primarily concerned with the replacement of human and animal muscular energy…and will discuss some of the political debate that took place on mechanization & jobs in the 1920s through 1940s.

    Throughout most of history, the production of yarn for cloth was an extremely labor-intensive process, done with a device called a distaff, almost always employed by women, and requiring many hours per day to generate a little bit of product.  (There even exists a medieval miniature of a woman spinning with the distaff while having sex…whether this is a comment on the burdensomeness of the yarn-making process, or a slam at the love-making skills of medieval men, I’m not sure—-probably both.)  Eventually, probably around 1400-1500 in most places in Europe, the spinning wheel came into use, improving the productivity of yarn-making by a factor estimated from 3:1 to as much as ten or more to one.

    Gutenberg’s printing press was invented somewhere around 1440.  I haven’t seen any estimates of its effect on labor productivity, compared with the then-prevailing method of hand copying of manuscripts, but surely it was at least 1000 to 1 or more.

    The era from 1700-1850 was marked by tremendous increases in the productivity of the textile trades.  The flying shuttle and other advances greatly improved the weaving process; this created a bottleneck in the supply of yarn, which was partly addressed by the invention of the Spinning Jenny–a foot-powered device that could improve the yarn production of one person by 5:1 or better. Power spinning and power looms yielded considerable additional productivity improvements.

    An especially interesting device was the Jacquard Loom (1802), which used punched cards to direct the weaving of patterned fabrics.  In its initial incarnation, the Jacquard was a hand loom: its productivity did not come from the application of mechanical power but rather from the automation of the complex thread-selection operations previously carried out by a “Draw Boy.”

    Turning now to woodworking:  in 1818, Blanchard’s Copying Lathe automated the production of complex shape–a prototype was automatically traced and copied. It was originally intended for making gunstocks, but also served in producing lasts for shoemakers, and I believe also chair and table legs.

    Another major advancement in the clothing field was the sewing machine.  French inventory Barthelemy Thimonnier invented a machine in 1830, but was driven out of the country by enraged tailors and political instability.  The first commercially-successful machines were invented/marketed by Americans Walter Hunt, Elias Howe, and Isaac Singer, and were in common use by the 1850s.

    By the late Victorian period the sewing machine had been hailed as the most useful invention of the century releasing women from the drudgery of endless hours of sewing by hand. Factories sprung up in almost every country in the world to feed the insatiable demand for the sewing machine. Germany had over 300 factories some working 24 hours a day producing countless numbers of sewing machines. 

    The beginnings of data communications could be seen in gold ticker and stock ticker systems created by Edison and others (circa 1870) , which relayed prices almost instantaneously and eliminated the jobs of the messenger boys who had previously been the distribution channel for this information.  Practical calculating machines also appeared in the 1870s.  But the big step forward in mechanized calculation was Hollerith’s punched card system (quite likely inspired in part by the Jacquard), introduced in 1890 and used for the tabulation of that year’s census.  These systems were quickly adopted for accounting and record keeping purposes in a whole range of industries and government functions.

    Professor Amy Sue Bix, in her book Inventing Ourselves out of Jobs?, describes the fear of technological unemployment as silent movies were replaced by the ‘talkies’. “Through the early 1920s…local theaters had employed live musicians to provide accompaniment for silent pictures.  Small houses featured only a pianist or violinist, but glamorous ‘movie places’ engaged full orchestras.”  All these jobs were threatened when Warner Brothers introduced its Vitaphone technology, with prerecorded disks synchronized to projectors.  “Unlike other big studios, Warner did not operate its own theater chains and so had to convince local owners to screen their productions. Theater managers would be eager to show sound movies, Harry Warner hoped, since they could save the expense of hiring musicians.”

    The American Federation of Musicians mounted a major PR campaign in an attempt to convince the public that ‘living music’ was better than ‘canned sound.’  A Music Defense League was established, with membership reaching 3 million…but the ‘talkies’ remained popular, and the AFM had to admit defeat.  A lot of musicians did lose their jobs.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, History, Tech, USA | 47 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Armistice/Veterans Day Post and Summary of State & Local Election Results

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th November 2016 (All posts by )

    Staff of the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) who fell in World War I and World War II

    A Summary of the 2016 Governors Races, State Legislative Races, and State-level Death Penalty Referenda

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Culture, Elections, History, Holidays, Politics, USA | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: Armistice/Veterans Day Post and Summary of State & Local Election Results