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  • Archive for the 'History' Category

    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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    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 | No Comments »

    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.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, History, Tech, USA | 44 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 | No Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The Case of the Ship Money, R v Hampden 3 State Trials 381 (1640), and its relevance today

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th November 2016 (All posts by )

    In The Ship Money Case [R v Hampden 3 State Trials 825 (1637), superseded by Act Declaring the Illegality of Ship-Money, Aug. 7, 1641, 17 Charles I, chapter 14], a bare majority of the judges of the Court of Exchequer Chamber voted for the Crown and against Hampden, the tax payer, who objected to being forced to pay purported taxes absent parliamentary consent.

    Seth asks:

    100 years from now which will be recognized as the more odious decision? Hampden or Miller? Hampden merely opposed Parliament; Miller opposed a national popular referendum.

    Read the whole, brief, thing.

    (I’m guessing Hampden wasn’t one of the foreign laws our own Justice Ginsburg had in mind.)

    Posted in Britain, Elections, Europe, History, Law | 1 Comment »

    Sell Your Soul or Lose Your Livelihood

    Posted by David Foster on 5th November 2016 (All posts by )

    Sebastian Haffner, whose memoir I reviewed here, describes what happened to his father–a civil servant under both Weimar and the Kaiser–following the Nazi takeover.  The elder Haffner, long-since retired, had considerable accomplishments to his credit:  There had been great pieces of legislation in his administrative area, on which he had worked closely. They were important, daring, thoughtful, intellectual achievements, the fruits of decades of experience and years of intense, meticulous analysis and dedicated refinement”–and it was extremely painful to him to see this work ruthlessly trashed by the new government.  But worse was to come.

    One day Mr Haffner received an official letter. It required him to list all of the political parties, organizations, and associations to which he had ever belonged in his life and to sign a declaration that he ‘stood behind the government of national uprising without reservations.’ Failure to sign would mean the loss of his pension, which he had earned through 45 years of devoted service.

    After agonizing about it for several days, he finally filled out the form, signed the declaration, and took it to the mailbox before he could change his mind.

    “He had hardly sat down at his desk again when he jumped up and began to vomit convulsively. For two or three days he was unable to eat or keep down any food. It was the beginning of a hunger strike by his body, which killed him cruelly and painfully two years later.”

    Haffner Senior was retired; he would surely have no chance for other employment if he crossed the new regime.  He could either violate his convictions and sign the document, or sentence his wife and himself to total impoverishment and possibly actual starvation.

    As recently as 10 years ago, it would have seemed unlikely that any American would have to face Mr Haffner’s dilemma.  But things have changed.  If current trends continue, it is very likely that YOU will have to foreswear your beliefs or face career and financial devastation.

    Plenty of markers along this dark path are already visible.  Things are worst in academia, it seems.  At Yale, lecturer Erika Christakis resigned after being vitriolically attacked for suggesting that people not get all stressed up about Halloween costumes.  Her husband, Nicholas, has also resigned from Yale.  Ms Christakis says that many of those were intellectually supportive of the couple were afraid to make their support public:  “Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted us personally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously supported us publicly were admonished by colleagues for vouching for our characters.”

    Just the other day, I ran across this article, which uncomfortably parallels the Haffner story.

    (Iowa State University) students are told that they must abide by the school’s policy against “harassment” of anyone in the university community. Students must complete a “training program” consisting of 118 slides online, covering the university’s non-harassment policies and procedures, and then pledge never to violate them.

    But what if a student thinks that the ISU policy goes way beyond preventing true harassment and amounts to an abridgement of his rights under the First Amendment?

    In that case, ISU reserves the right to withhold the student’s degree. So either the student agrees to abide by the policy even though it may well keep him from speaking out as he’d like to, or have his academic work go for naught. 

    Iowa State is going beyond ‘only’ requiring you to shut up about your opinions and will also require you to positively affirm beliefs which you may not share.

    The attack on individuals’ careers and finances due to their political/philosophical beliefs is by no means limited to academia.  There is the case of Brendan Eich, who was pushed out as CEO of Mozilla because of his personal support (in 2008) of a law which banned same-sex marriage in California.  There are multiple cases of small businesspeople subjected to large fines because of their refusal to violate their convictions by baking a cake or providing other services for a same-sex wedding.

    And don’t think that just because you support gay marriage…even if you support what you think is 100% of the ‘progressive’ worldview–that you are safe.  Deviationism can always be found, as the Old Bolsheviks discovered during the time of Stalin.  Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis, herself a self-defined feminist, was investigated by the university after complaints were made about an essay she published under the title “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academia.”  Kipnis writes:

    A tenured professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social-media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child. I’d thought she was exaggerating, but that was before I learned about the Title IX complaints against me.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Elections, Germany, History, USA | 6 Comments »

    Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th November 2016 (All posts by )

    carton-de-wiart
     
    Carton de Wiart was wounded a grand total of 11 times; twice in the Boer War, once in Somaliland and eight times on the Western Front. Two of these injuries resulted in serious impairments: the loss of his left eye, and the loss of his left hand. He was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear. He tore off his own wounded fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. For many years after he had been wounded in the First World War, pieces of shrapnel were being taken from his body.
     
    He summed up his experience in the First World War: “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”
     
    Carton de Wiart started his service as a Trooper in the Middlesex Yeomanry during the Boer War. He was gazetted into the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards in India in 1902 and was later seconded to the Somaliland Camel Corps with whom he won the DSO in 1916, losing his eye in the process. After returning to the 4th Dragoon Guards in Flanders, he was severely wounded and lost his left hand whilst in action near Ypres. On recovery, he returned to France, was given command of the 8th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment and whilst commanding them during the fierce fighting at La Boiselle on the 2nd/3rd July 1916, he was awarded the VC. His citation reads:
     
    “He displayed conspicuous bravery, coolness and determination in forcing home the attack, thereby averting a serious reverse. After the other Battalion Commanders had become casualties, he controlled their commands as well, frequently exposing himself to the intense barrage of enemy fire. His energy and courage was an inspiration to us all.”
     
    After recovering from further wounds he was given command of 12th Brigade.
     
    During the Second World War, Carton de Wiart served first as Head of the British Military Mission to Poland until its collapse, this was followed by command of the Central Norwegian Expeditionary Forces in its hopeless attempt to hold Trondheim. A year later, he was sent to head the Military Mission in Yugoslavia but on the way, his plane crashed into the sea and after swimming ashore he was made a prisoner of the Italians. In August 1943, the Italians released him and sent him to Lisbon to negotiate their surrender terms. From October 1943 until retirement in 1946, he was the Government’s Military Representative with General Chiang Kai-Shek in China.
     
    Carton de Wiart is the basis for the character Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy.
     
    His eyepatch and missing hand caused him to be known as “Nelson” to his troops.
     
    Carton de Wiart’s memoir Happy Odyssey – The Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart (1950) is very good.
     
    “Governments may think and say as they like, but force cannot be eliminated, and it is the only real and unanswerable power. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.”
     
    Carton de Wiart’s medals:
     
    Top Row, L to R: Star badge, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire; Badge, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire; Companion of the Order of the Bath; Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George; Knight of the Legion d’Honneur.
    Bottom row: Victoria Cross; Distinguished Service Order; Queen’sSouth Africa Medal, with clasps: South Africa 1901, Transvaal, Orange Free State, Cape Colony; Africa General Service Medal, with clasp Shimber Berris, 1914-15; 1914 Star; British War Medal, 1914-20; Allied Victory Medal, with oak leaf for Mention in Dispatches, 1914-19; France and Germany star; Africa Star; Burma Star; Italy Star; British War Medal, 1939-45; Coronation Medal, 1937; Coronation Medal, 1953; Officer of the Belgian Order of the Crown; silver Cross of the Polish Order of Military Virtue; Belgian Croix de Guerre (WWI); Polish Cross of Valour (WWI); Polish Cross of Valour (WWII); French Croix de Guerre (WWII), with oak leaf for Mention in Dispatches.
     
    carton-de-wiarts-medals

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs | 22 Comments »

    Speculations, and Positions, for the Public Record

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 1st November 2016 (All posts by )

    One week out seems like a good time to put some stakes in the ground.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, History, Immigration, International Affairs, Israel, Libertarianism, National Security, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Society, Terrorism, Trump, USA | 20 Comments »

    Two Posts from Seth Barrett Tillman

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th October 2016 (All posts by )

    From President James Buchanan, Chief Justice Roger Taney, Copperheads—and the Quakers:

    If our moral intuitions accord with the second view, if we credit the Quakers’ behaviour without regard to their religious inspiration, then why do our standard histories judge President James Buchanan and Chief Justice Taney so harshly?** Buchanan and Taney preferred the United States to go to pieces rather than maintaining it by war. They were unwilling to order or to support a war, and the deaths, which would undoubtedly follow. Yet very few today see Buchanan and Taney as heroes or as acting on moral principles akin to those of the Quakers. Why?

    ——-

    From Law of the Clinton Candidacy (Again):

    #1. If Hillary Clinton resigns as the Democratic Party’s candidate prior to the general popular election, what process does the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) use to select a new candidate?
     
    [. . .]
     
    #8. If President-elect Clinton were sworn in, but subsequently became incapacitated prior to her appointing any cabinet members, can the Vice President succeed her, even temporarily? See Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4 (“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments … transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.” (emphasis added)). Do acting heads of executive departments (i.e., senior high level civil servants not subject to presidential nomination and Senate confirmation) count for this purpose? Isn’t this a good reason for the members of President Obama’s cabinet to remain in office until their successors are actually nominated, confirmed, appointed, and sworn in?

    Both posts are worth reading.

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, History, Politics, USA | 11 Comments »

    “The Thucydides Roundtable”

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

    Ongoing at Zenpundit.

    Posted in Announcements, Arts & Letters, History, Military Affairs | No Comments »

    Turning and Twisting in the Gyre

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd October 2016 (All posts by )

    I am currently torn three ways, between the start of the holiday market season for myself and my daughter’s various enterprises, my own blogging and writing, and a book project for a Watercress Press client. The book project is to do with local history, and a particularly contentious event during the Civil War – in Texas. Even as far west of the Mississippi as Texas was, from the main theater of war, some comparatively minor skirmishes in the first Civil War took place in Texas. And the final battle, and surrender of the last hold-out Confederate command took place down on the Rio Grande, and the very last Union Army casualty fell in that Texas fight. But that is stuff for history trivia contests. (The answers are, FYI, the battle of Palmito Ranch, and Private John J. Williams, of the 34th Indiana.)

    The book project has a fair amount of my attention, as it touches on a local history matter featured in my own books – but in the interesting coincidence of the Tiny Publishing Bidness having published some of the local history books noted as sources, or citing local historians whom I have met or have had something to do with; the late Rev. Ken Knopp, James Kearney, and Jefferson Morganthaler, most notably – and referring to many of the sources that I read as research for the Adelsverein Trilogy. This book that I am working on now caps a series which can only be produced by a writer/researcher involved to the point of intense – yea, even fanatical interest – in a specific Civil War event. Seriously, Colonel Paul Burrier (USA, Ret.) has gone back into the archives of various establishments and re-published at his expense just about every relevant document there is to find in national and state archives regarding the locally infamous incident memorialized by the True to the Union monument in Comfort, Texas.

    I’ve written here and there about the Nueces Fight/Battle/Massacre here, here, and there…and how the peculiar situation in the Hill Country of Texas – well-stocked with Abolitionist, pro-Union inclinations – generated a bitter civil war-within a civil war. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous | 17 Comments »

    The Swirling Winds of Time

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th October 2016 (All posts by )

    I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
    I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
    I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
    And saw that death was both the bride and groom
    I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
    At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
    And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
    And life is born in stars as some contend
    The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
    And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
    Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
    Away the time in counting kings and tsars
    Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
    Believing they are mighty as the sword
    Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
    The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
    Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
    With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
    Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
    The winds we have but time is what we lack –

    Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.

    So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, History, Leftism, Military Affairs | 16 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed from a Soviet Launch Facility (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th October 2016 (All posts by )

    This month marks the 54th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Several years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Eisenhower (WWII) and MacArthur (Korea): the Limits of Civilian Control

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th October 2016 (All posts by )

    Excerpt:

    At the very outset of creating the first integrated Anglo-American command structure in 1942, Eisenhower made it clear that he would not tolerate any diminution of his own authority and responsibility as supreme commander. The British War Office had issued its own directive to General Sir Kenneth Anderson, the British land force commander, which simply repeated the terms of that given to Haig in the Great War, authorising Anderson to appeal to his own government if and when he believed that an order from Eisenhower endangered his army. Such a directive stood in blatant contradiction to the new integrated command structure, whereby Eisenhower was serving as an Allied commander responsible to an Allied authority, the combined chiefs of staff, and thence to the prime minister and president jointly.

    [Emphasis in original.]

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Biography, History, Military Affairs, National Security, Organizational Analysis, United Nations, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: “Weighing” Good & Evil, and What We “Forgive” in History

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st September 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth follows up his post on Ireland and World War II.

    Seth’s central point:

    I do not suggest that Sakharov, Longstreet, or Rommel were evil men, but they did serve bad causes. I do not say that the good they did (or attempted to do) during their lives is made void by the bad. But I do say it is wrong to suggest that the bad is outweighed by the good. Cf. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) (“I do not say [God forbid], I do not say that the virtues of such men were to be taken as a balance to their crimes; but they were some corrective to their effects.” (language in square brackets is Burke’s)). Such a moral quantification of right and wrong is not possible by mere mortals, and those who attempt such a calculus only callous our consciences.

    The notion of weighing, as Seth cites it, is a metaphor that deserves more scrutiny than it gets from many of the people who casually use it. It begs the question of who has standing to do the weighing. I don’t think it’s human beings, certainly not the humans alive today who didn’t themselves pay much of the price of, in this case, Ireland’s WW2 neutrality. The people who paid aren’t around to speak for themselves. It’s hubris for us to make moral calculations, to weigh, to forgive, in their names. Better to say, so-and-so did these good things and these bad things, and leave it at that.

    (See the previous Chicago Boyz post here.)

    Posted in Anglosphere, Deep Thoughts, History, Ireland, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Ireland and World War II

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th September 2016 (All posts by )

    I am an American. I currently live and work in Ireland. But, I carry no special brief for Ireland and its people. When you wrote: “Ireland, like Sweden, has gotten a pass for behavior during World War II that doesn’t deserve a pass.” That’s true. But it is not the whole story either.

    Read the rest.

    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Ireland, War and Peace | 17 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th September 2016 (All posts by )

    Excerpt:

    I suspect there is no General James Longstreet Prize, and if someone asked me if such a prize should be created, I would say “no”.
     
    There is no Rommel Prize, and if someone asked if such a prize should be created, I would say “no”. (And—just to be clear—I am not comparing Longstreet and the Confederacy to Rommel and Nazi Germany.)
     
    There is a Sakharov Prize, and if someone had asked me prior to its creation whether it should be created, I hope I would have had the moral clarity to say “no”. There were and there are other people in Europe and elsewhere who this prize could have been named for: persons who were not quite so morally ambiguous. E.g., Average people—people who were not heroic or even particularly bright. Perhaps it could have been called the Ivan Denisovich Prize. It speaks volumes about the modern European zeitgeist that a major prize is named for Sakharov, but the founders of NATO—which protected Europe from Sakharov’s warheads—remain largely unknown. It goes without saying that the American taxpayer who paid for Europe’s defence (and who continues to do so) is entirely lost from sight. Europe’s cosmopolitan transnational elites much prefer believing that the years of peace and plenty were their creation, as opposed to their being the beneficiary of American good will beyond their control.

    Seth’s argument is well worth reading in full.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Europe, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    The General, the Devil, and the Election

    Posted by David Foster on 10th September 2016 (All posts by )

    Heinz Guderian was a German general who played an important role in the development of Blitzkrieg tactics.  He was also a highly effective field commander, known to his men by the nickname “Hurrying Heinz.”

    Also not a bad writer–here’s his description of the character of Adolph Hitler:

    He had no real friend. His oldest Party comrades were, it is true, disciples, but they could hardly be described as friends. So far as I can see there was nobody who was really close to him. There was nobody in whom he would confide his deepest feelings. There was nobody with whom he could talk freely and openly. As he never found a true friend, so he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman. He remained unmarried. He had no children. Everything that on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals, friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children, all this was and remained for ever unknown to him. His path thru the world was a solitary one and he followed it alone, with only his gigantic plans for company.

    There is an interesting parallel between the above excerpt and a passage in Thomas Carlyle’s review of Faust, published in 1822:

    Mephistopheles is not the common devil of poetry, but one much more adapted to his functions.  It is evident that he was a devil from the first and can be nothing else.  He is emphatically ‘the Denyer’, he fears nothing, complains of nothing, hopes for nothing.  Magnanimity, devotion, affection, all that can sweeten or embellish existence, he looks upon as childish mummery.

    (No, I’m not accusing Guderian of plagiarism…there are things a lot worse than plagiarism of which he could be justly accused!  But it is very likely that he read Faust in school, and I wonder if he might have also been exposed to early commentary on the play, including the Carlyle piece.)

    While searching for the Guderian quote (in conjunction with my recent Faust post), I ran across this blog post, which attempts to draw parallels between Guderian’s description of Hitler’s character, and…the character of Donald Trump.  The blogger does this by interspersing passages from the Guderian quote with comments about Trump made by Mark Shields and David Brooks in a PBS Newshour appearance.

    (Now, personally, I don’t see why anyone would consider a man who evaluates presidential candidates by the quality of the crease of their trousers as a particularly good source for analysis and insight, but whatever…)

    Something is missing from the linked blog post, as it is from many similar Trump denunciations….and that is the name Hillary Clinton.  Because Trump isn’t running in a vacuum, he isn’t running against, say, JFK or Harry Truman or even Jimmy Carter; he is running against Hillary Clinton, and barring some unlikely event or events, one of the other of them is going to be President.

    And I would assert that whatever degree of match there might be between Trump’s character and the character outlined in the Guderian piece, the match is considerably stronger in the case of Hillary Clinton.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, Germany, History, Leftism, Media, Trump, USA | 35 Comments »

    Happy V-J Day, Plus 71 Years and a Few Days

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th September 2016 (All posts by )

    It has become something of a tradition for the Chicagoboyz web site to commemorate the major events closing out World War II in the Pacific, Where the worst recorded war in human history became a nuclear war — the August 6th and 9th 1945 A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the Imperial Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, and the Sept 2, 1945 formal surrender on the battleship USS Missouri.  See the link enabled list below —

    2015 — Happy V-J Day, at 70 Years Plus a Day and Hiroshima, Nagasaki & The Invasion That Never Was (+70)

    2014 — History Friday — The WMD Back-Up Plans for the Atomic Bomb

    2013 — History Friday: US Military Preparations The Day Nagasaki Was Nuked

    2012 – Nagasaki Plus 67 Years

    2011 – Happy V-J Day!

    2010 – Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job and
    Hiroshima — The A-bomb plus 65 years

    Color Photo of the Sept 2, 1945 Imperial Japanese Surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.

    Color photo of the Sept 2, 1945 surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.

    Since that ceremony, a whole mythology about that period of history has grown, driven by various institutional and political imperatives following those events.  And in particular, with regard to the use of nuclear weapons to end the war.

    This year’s Chicagoboyz commemoration deals not with those myths, but with the war plans of the US Army Air Force (USAAF) from May thru August 1945.  Too understand the use of the A-bomb in August 1945, you have to understand it in terms of the context of those May to August 1945 plans, not the institutional games that came after, games ably laid out in Michael Gordon’s recent WW2 book FIVE DAYS IN AUGUST — How World War II Became a Nuclear War”.

    The short form was that the USAAF institutional leadership, Chief of Staff of the USAAF, General Arnold; operational commander US Army Strategic Air Forces (USASTAF) General Spaatz and Far Eastern Air Forces (FEAF) General Kenney were trying to win the war with conventional bombing via

    1. The Small City Target Plan — Bombing out the smaller, 100,000 person or less, Japanese cities within range of Saipan to ‘induce’ a surrender;

     

    2. The Transportation Plan — A massive two month (1 Oct – 30 Nov 1945) long campaign intended to destroy Japan’s rail system; and

     

    3. Beach Preparations on Kyushu — The proposed B-29 carpet bombing of Kyushu beaches on 29, 30 and 31 October with 100 B29 per beach per day.

    Between the agenda of the USAAF bomber generals to form and independent air force and the coming merger of the Navy and War Departments into the Defense Department, much about these three plans never made it out of the secret files — particularly the use of the then high tech SHORAN radio navigation system — to the general public…until now.

    (More at page 2)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security | 34 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: My Next Paper: Counting Framers & Counting Originalists

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th August 2016 (All posts by )

    In 1995, the Amars (as have others before and since) argued that James Madison opposed legislative officer succession on constitutional grounds. This is a legal and historical meme or myth. Madison never stated that he thought that legislative officer succession was unconstitutional, at least as far as our historical records show. The original source involved indicates only that Congressman Madison was relaying news from the capital to Pendleton in Virginia—in private correspondence. Madison merely transmitted to Pendleton several arguments touching upon the constitutionality of the 1792 Act which had been made by others on the House floor during debate on the 1792 Act. There is no reason to believe that Madison agreed with any one or more of the particular arguments he transmitted to Pendleton.
     
    There are those today who wish to impugn the constitutional bona fidés of the modern 1947 Act, which like its 1792 predecessor, provides for legislative officer succession. There are some policy grounds for objecting to the 1947 Act—I do not suggest that all the policy arguments go in one direction. But I do state that rooting a modern constitutional objection in Madison’s voice or that of the Framers as a group is entirely ahistorical. In these circumstances, one cannot appeal the judgement of the Second Congress (as a whole) to the Framers (as a group), and if that appeal—for whatever reason—has, in the past, convinced some unwary authors and consumers of prior legal scholarship, it is only because some originalists cannot count.

    Read the rest.

    Posted in History, Law, USA | 1 Comment »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Letter to the Editor: Responding to Robert Fisk’s “To understand the Islamist beheading of a French priest ….”

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st August 2016 (All posts by )

    It is not “inevitable” in any civil war—no matter how brutal—that one side murder foreigners. Certainly, the GIA’s murdering foreigners—even during the brutal Algerian civil war—was not “inevitable”. It was a choice; it was the wrong choice…

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Europe, France, History, Islam, Media, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Terrorism, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: As A Legal Matter, MacArthur Was Right And Truman Was Wrong

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st July 2016 (All posts by )

    An interesting post.

    Posted in History, International Affairs, Korea, Law, United Nations, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    Automated Systems Need to be Supervised by Humans

    Posted by David Foster on 17th July 2016 (All posts by )

    …and not just any humans.

    Listen to this very-well-done podcast about one of those times when thermonuclear war did not happen: Flirting with the end of the world.

    Automated systems need to be supervised by humans, and not just any humans, as Stanislav Petrov’s story makes clear.  Individuals and bureaucracies that themselves behave in a totally robotic fashion cannot be adequate supervisors of the automation.  See also my post Blood on the tracks for an additional example.

    Posted in History, Russia, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Impeachment of Associate Justice Samuel Chase

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th July 2016 (All posts by )

    Déjà vu.

    (Related: Justice Ginsburg apologizes over comments about Trump)

    Posted in Current Events, History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: Impeachment of Associate Justice Samuel Chase

    The United States of Weimar?

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2016 (All posts by )

    There is much political violence in the US these days, ranging from attacks on Trump rally attendees to protesters at those rallies being sucker-punched to the politically and racially-motivated murder of police officers in Dallas to the throwing of Molotov cocktails at police in the state of Minnesota (where the social climate was once characterized by the term ‘Minnesota nice’)—and there is every prospect that the violence will get worse as the political season moves into full swing.  Indeed, it seems that political violence is in the process of being normalized in this country. To understand the roots of this malign phenomenon, I think it is important to look at what has been going on in America’s universities for the past decade and a half.

    In 2002, a pro-Israel event at San Francisco State University was interrupted by ‘protestors’, screaming things like “go back to Russia!” and “get out or we will kill you!’ and shoving Hillel students against a wall.  Laurie Zoloth, a campus Jewis leader “turned to the police and to every administrator I could find and asked them to remove the counter demonstrators from the Plaza, to maintain the separation of 100 feet that we had been promised. The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone, and that if they did, ‘it would start a riot.’  I told them that it already was a riot.”

    “This is the Weimar Republic with Brownshirts it cannot control” is how Professor Zoloth summed up the situation on her campus.

    This kind of Brownshirt behavior at an American university was by no means an isolated incident: there have been many, many cases of intimidation, vandalism, and outright violence being employed against campus groups and speakers which some people–those people being almost always self-defined ‘progressives’–do not like.

    At St Cloud University in Minnesota, for example, the College Republicans had a kiosk supporting Israel, complete with Israeli flag.  Two professors approached the booth and asserted that since the members of the group were not Jewish, they had no right to fly the Israeli flag!  One of the professors told a students that she would break his camera if he took her picture, and then tried to grab the camera–also, according to this report, also grabbed the student by the neck and slammed him up against the wall.  The university administration backed the professors, also asserting that non-Jews have no right to fly the Israeli flag.  (The real issue, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t that the students were non-Jewish, but rather that they were Republican.)

    At Yale in 2002, some students had set up a memorial to victims of a car bombing in Israel.  The memorial was destroyed by vandals. A week earlier, at the same university, a petition opposing divestment (ie, withdrawal of pension fund investments from companies doing business in Israel) was defaced–in the law school.

    Theft of newspapers containing unapproved viewpoints has become common at universities. In 2004, the entire press run of the Yale Free Press, a conservative publication, was stolen by people who did not want Yale students to be able to read the opinions contained therein.

    In Florida in 2004, a social sciences instructor at a community college walked into local Republican headquarters and punched a cardboard cutout of George W Bush…and then, according to this report, also punched a Republican official in the face.  The punchee reports that the assailant “proceeded to say how he had a Ph.D., and he was smarter than me. I’m a stupid Republican,” and other comments laced with obscenities.

    In 2006, “Protestors” of the Brownshirt variety attempted to disrupt a scheduled speech by Congressman Tom Tancredo. The chairman of the campus organization that had sponsored the event was kicked and spat upon by some of the thugs, and the building fire alarms were pulled twice.

    Also in 2006, at Columbia University, left-wing students distrupted a speech hosted by the College Republicans. Angry students stormed the stage, shouting and knocking over chairs and tables and succeeding in their intent to prevent Jim Gilchrist (founder of the anti-illegal-immigration group known as the Minuteman) from delivering his talk. Columbia Public Safety did nothing to prevent the disruption. Christopher Kulawik, the College Republican president, told The New York Sun he was berated afterward by Columbia University administrators for allowing the speakers to say anything that would infuriate the crowd.

    A week later, Columbia administrators interfered with another event planned by the College Republicans. The scheduled speaker was Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist who saw the error of his ways and is now a supporter of Israel and the U.S. Just 3 hours before the event was to take place, a Columbia administrator sent an e-mail uninviting many of those who had already RSVP’d for the event–some of whom were already in transit. Apparently, Columbia was afraid of a repetition of the earlier disruption, and preferred to deny legitimate attendees their right to hear Mr Shoebat speak, rather than to take effective action against thuggishness by beefing up security and expelling disrupters.

    In 2008, Robert Spencer spoke at U Wisconsin-Madison, on the subject of the thread from jihad.  He says:

    I got off the phone a little while ago with one of the student organizers of my address tonight at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He told me that I would be led to and from the stage via secret passageway; that thirty security personnel would be on hand (in addition to my own); that attendees would have to pass through metal detectors; and that a bomb-sniffing dog would also be on hand…and also: The Rushdiean security precautions and these warnings were all necessary because of the fascist tactics of trying to intimidate and shout down opponents that students and others at UWM have employed in the past against speakers such as David Horowitz. 

    In 2003, former Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky visited several US campuses:

    When I got to Rutgers University in New Jersey last month, I almost forgot I was on a college campus. The atmosphere was far from the cool, button-down academic reserve typical of such institutions. It was more reminiscent of a battlefield…Things were not much calmer at Boston University: An anonymous bomb threat brought swarms of police to the lecture hall and almost forced a cancellation of my appearance. But here, too, some good resulted when the bomb threat caused the lecture to be moved to a larger hall, which was quickly filled with some 600 listeners who were unwilling to accept the violent silencing of pro-Israel views.

    and

    During a frank and friendly conversation with a group of Jewish students at Harvard University, one student admitted to me that she was afraid — afraid to express support for Israel, afraid to take part in pro-Israel organizations, afraid to be identified. The mood on campus had turned so anti-Israel that she was afraid that her open identification could cost her, damaging her grades and her academic future. That her professors, who control her final grades, were likely to view such activism unkindly, and that the risk was too great.

    Having grown up in the communist Soviet Union, I am very familiar with this fear to express one’s opinions, with the need to hold the “correct opinions” in order to get ahead, with the reality that expressing support for Israel is a blot on one’s resume. But to find all these things at Harvard Business School? In a place that was supposed to be open, liberal, professional? At first I thought this must be an individual case, particular to this student. I thought her fears were exaggerated. But my conversations with other students at various universities made it clear that her feelings are widespread, that the situation on campuses in the United States and Canada is more serious than we think. And this is truly frightening.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Germany, History, Society, USA | 49 Comments »