Archive for the 'History' Category
Posted by David Foster on 13th January 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Obama White House wants to persuade/encourage/pressure media to drop coverage that might upset jihadis or potential jihadis
Last Thursday, I mentioned the administration’s 2012 criticism of Charlie Hedbo’s decision to publish “offensive” cartoons. Comes now presidential spokesman Josh Earnest, defending that administration position and asserting that there will be more such presidential critiques directed toward noncompliant media in the future.
This reminds me of something. Oh, yes…
In the late 1930s, Winston Churchill spoke of the “unendurable..sense of our country falling into the power, into the orbit and influence of Nazi Germany, and of our existence becoming dependent upon their good will or pleasure…In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands” which “may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty.” A “policy of submission” would entail “restrictions” upon freedom of speech and the press. “Indeed, I hear it said sometimes now that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians.” (excerpt is from The Last Lion: Alone, by William Manchester.)
Churchill’s concern was not just a theoretical one. Following the German takeover of Czechoslovakia, photographs were available showing the plight of Czech Jews, dispossessed by the Nazis and wandering the roads of eastern Europe. Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, refused to run any of them: it wouldn’t help the victims, he told his staff, and if they were published, Hitler would be offended. (same source as above.)
Obama’s desire to ensure that the media avoids antagonizing jihadis is of a piece with Chamberlain and Dawson’s desire to avoid antagonizing the Nazis.
And I’m reminded of something else Churchill said. In March 1938, he spoke of Britain and its allies descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.
Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Civil Liberties, Germany, History, Islam, National Security, Obama, Terrorism | 26 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th January 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Some commentators talk about the threat of “terrorism” but it is coming from one source; radical Islam or “takfiri Islam” if you prefer.
However, a growing number of splinter Wahhabist/Salafist groups, labeled by some scholars as Salafi-Takfiris, have split from the orthodox method of establishing takfir through the processes of the Sharia law, and have reserved the right to declare apostasy themselves against any Muslim in addition to non-Muslims.
These people are the threat although the fact that most Muslims are unwilling to speak out against this group is worrisome. Today, the new Chairman of the Homeland Security said he expects more attacks like that in Paris last week.
“I believe… larger scale, 9/11-style [attacks] are more difficult to pull off – a bigger cell we can detect, a small cell like this one, very difficult to detect, deter and disrupt which is really our goal. I think we’ll see more and more of these taking place, whether it be foreign fighters going to the warfare in return or whether it be someone getting on the internet as John Miller talked about, very sophisticated social media program then radicalizing over the internet,” McCaul said.
Some of these are “lone wolf attacks” like the the 2002 LAX attack by a limousine driver from Irvine, near my home.
The assailant was identified as Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, a 41-year-old Egyptian national who immigrated to the United States in 1992. Hadayet arrived in the United States from Egypt as a tourist.
Hadayet had a green card which allowed him to work as a limousine driver. He was married, and had at least one child. At the time of the shooting, Hadayet was living in Irvine, California.
A more devastating “personal jihad” attack was the Egyptair Flight 990 attack in 1999.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in France, History, Islam, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism | 23 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th January 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
If ever there were a 19th Century journalist more deeply wedded to the old mission statement of comforting (and avenging) the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable with energy and fierce enthusiasm, that person would have to be one William Cowper Brann. In the last decade of the 19th Century, he possessed a small but widely-read newspaper called the Iconoclast, a reservoir of spleen the size of Lake Michigan, and a vocabulary of erudite vituperation which would be the envy of many a political blogger today. Born in 1855, in Coles County, Illinois, he was the son of a Presbyterian minister. Upon losing his mother when barely out of diapers, he was placed with a foster family. At the age of thirteen, he ran away from the foster home and made his own way in the world, armored with a bare three years of formal education. He worked as a hotel bellboy, an apprentice house painter, and as a printer’s devil, from which he graduated into cub reporting. He and his family – for he did manage to marry – gravitated into Texas, settling first in Houston, followed by stints in Galveston and in Austin, working for local newspapers as reporter, editor and editorialist, and attempting to launch his own publication – the first iteration of the Iconoclast – terming it “a journal of personal protest.” For William Cowper Brann had opinions – sulfurous, vituperative and always entertaining, even for a day when public discourse not excluding journalism was conducted metaphorically with brass knuckles – and he despised cant, hypocrisy and what he termed ‘humbuggery’ with a passion burning white-hot and fierce.
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Posted in Arts & Letters, Christianity, Civil Society, Diversions, History, Media, Religion | 10 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 6th January 2015 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
The world weighs on my shoulders, but what am I to do?
You sometimes drive me crazy, but I worry about you
I know it makes no difference to what you’re going through
But I see the tip of the iceberg, and I worry about you …
– Neil Peart, Distant Early Warning
But wouldn’t it be luxury to fight in a war some time where, when you were surrounded, you could surrender?
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Reading through background material on the UN’s recent request for $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid in 2015, I find that the number of displaced people was already at its highest since World War II at the end of 2013, and has risen by several million since then. Nearly all are somewhere inside or on the perimeter of the Muslim world, with Ukraine the only sizeable exception. My sense, in which I am hardly alone, is that we are reliving the mid-1930s, with aggression unchecked and chaos unmitigated by morally exhausted Western institutions. That “low dishonest decade” ended in global war with a per capita death toll around 1 in 40. A proportional event a few years from now would kill 200 million people.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Book Notes, China, Christianity, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, India, International Affairs, Islam, Latin America, Libertarianism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Society, Space, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 31 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th January 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
A speech by the new President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is a huge break with the usual rhetoric coming from public figures in Islam.
The full speech is here, but the key phrases are:
Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world”; that it is not “possible that 1.6 billion people [reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live”; and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
This is pretty strong stuff and might get him the fate of Anwar Sadat, at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Making peace with Israel was a bridge too far for the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood’s stated goal is to instill the Qur’an and Sunnah as the “sole reference point for … ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community … and state.” The movement officially renounced political violence in 1949, after a period of considerable political tension which ended in the assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha by a young veterinary student who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The renunciation obviously did not apply to Sadat who was assassinated in 1981.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Current Events, History, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Terrorism | 56 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 2nd January 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
A prehistoric village, found beneath the sea near Haifa
A timelapse video of the Albuquerque balloon festival
Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack assert that actually, the world is not falling apart: “Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in such peaceful times”
Also, Richard Fernandez argues that the American can-do spirit continues to exist
The allure of omnipotent explanations
Is Washington the new Wall Street?
Ideology and closed systems, at Grim’s Hall
In France, criticism of Islam can get you prosecuted. Basically, we are seeing the return of laws against blasphemy–and not only in France–but with this difference: I don’t think ever before have governments forbidden criticism of a belief system that is not held by the majority of their citizens, or at least of their ruling classes
Posted in Aviation, Europe, France, History, Islam, Leftism, Photos, USA, Video | 14 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 30th December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
I recently saw this film, which is based on the life and exploits of the mathematician, codebreaker, and computer science pioneer Alan Turing. It is very well acted and definitely worth seeing; it’s good for more people to become familiar with Turing’s story and the accomplishments of the Bletchley Park codebreakers. HOWEVER, the extremely negative portrayal of Commander Alastair Denniston, who ran BP, seems to have little basis in fact. Denniston was a real person, and his family is understandably upset at the way he was misrepresented in the film. Dramatic license is one thing, but if you want a villain, then make one up; don’t turn a real historical non-villainous individual into one. There have been several articles in the UK press lately about the film and its portrayal of various individuals, especially Denniston:
Bletchley Park Commander not the ‘baddy’ he is in The Imitation Game, family says
Bletchley Park ‘villain’ was kind and dedicated, says ex-colleague
The Imitation Game falsely paints Bletchley Park commander
The film also could have done a better job at giving credit to the Polish mathematicians who pioneered machine methods of codebreaking, before WWII began. Also, the film gives the impression that Turing’s friend Joan Clark was the only female codebreaker at Bletchley…this is not true, a very large number of women worked at BP, and some of them were in professional codebreaking roles. One of these women was Mavis Lever; I excerpted some of her writing about BP at my 2007 post the Bombe runs again. And it seems that the real Alan Turing, while he definitely came across as a bit of an odd duck, was more likeable than he is (at least initially) portrayed in the film; he has been called “a very easily approachable man” who did in fact have a sense of humor. There’s a bit too much of “standard character type 21037–eccentric genius” in this version of Turing.
The above critiques to the contrary, though, you should definitely see the film. It does a good job of maintaining interest, even for those like myself who are already pretty familiar with the history The filmmakers could have avoided the above problems without harming the film’s impact as drama; indeed, I think there are accuracy-related changes that could have made the film more rather than less dramatic.
This article compares several of the fictionalized Bletchley Park individuals with the real-life counterparts. And this piece, by a woman who has spent a lot of time studying Turing and BP, is focused particularly on the character of Turing in real life versus in the film. Probably makes most sense to see the movie first and then read these links for additional perspective.
Posted in Britain, Film, Germany, History, Society, Tech, War and Peace | 17 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th December 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The Washington Post is worried that the “Islamic State is failing as a state.”
Services are collapsing, prices are soaring, and medicines are scarce in towns and cities across the “caliphate” proclaimed in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State, residents say, belying the group’s boasts that it is delivering a model form of governance for Muslims.
The Muslims have never been much at governing. In the early days after Muhammed and his nomadic warriors conquered much of the Middle East, the people pretty much governed themselves as the Arabs were better at fighting than governing.
The “Golden Age of Islam” was from the rule of Harun al Rashid to the Mongol conquest, in 1260 to 1300. The Sack of Baghdad, which ended the “Golden Age”, occurred in 1258.
Although the Abbasids had failed to prepare for the invasion, the Caliph believed that Baghdad could not fall to invading forces and refused to surrender. Hulagu subsequently besieged the city, which surrendered after 12 days. During the next week, the Mongols sacked Baghdad, committing numerous atrocities and destroying the Abbasids’ vast libraries, including the House of Wisdom. The Mongols executed Al-Musta’sim and massacred many residents of the city, which was left greatly depopulated.
The Golden Age of Islam had been chiefly carried out by Christians and recent converts (mostly involuntary) who translated Greek classics into Arabic. It was mostly a fiction created in the 19th century.
The metaphor of a golden age begins to be applied in 19th-century literature about Islamic history, in the context of the western cultural fashion of Orientalism. The author of a Handbook for Travelers in Syria and Palestine in 1868 observed that the most beautiful mosques of Damascus were “like Mohammedanism itself, now rapidly decaying” and relics of “the golden age of Islam”
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism | 39 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 22nd December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
…a case study in the difficulties of finding historical truth.
On Christmas Eve of 1906, a few shipboard radio operators–listening through the static for signals in Morse code–heard something that they had never before heard on the radio, and that most had never expected to hear. A human voice.
The first voice radio broadcast was conducted by Reginald Fessenden, originating from his experimental station at Brant Rock, Massachussetts. After introducing the transmission, Fessenden played a recording of Handel’s “Largo” and then sang “O Holy Night” while accompanying himself on the violin. Fessenden’s wife and a friend were then intended to conduct a Bible reading, but in the first-ever case of mike fright, they were unable to do it, so the reading was conducted by Fessenden as well.
Fessenden’s radio work at this period was based on a high-frequency AC generator (alternator), an electromechanical device created by Ernst Alexanderson of GE and modified by Fessenden. The signals were generated at somewhere around 45-80khz. (Low frequency compared to today’s normal radio, where the AM band starts at around 500khz; high frequency compared to the 50-60 hz that AC generators normally produce.) The Alexanderson machines were expensive and very large–broadcast radio on a commercial scale was not practical until the introduction of the vacuum tube for both transmitting and receiving, several years later.
The italicized story, which was the subject of a post I wrote in 2004, has apparently been accepted in radio and electronics engineering circles for many years: in fact, in 2006 there were commemorative events of the broadcast. More recently, though, the story has been challenged: James O’Neal has done considerable research on the matter and concludes that the Christmas Eve broadcast never actually happened, based on lack of contemporaneous evidence (logs of other radio stations, for example) among other factors. He argues that Fessenden was no shrinking violet, indeed, he was a publicity hound and would have been expected to do everything possible to publicize such an obviously PR-able achievement…if it had actually happened. (There is no question that Fessenden did do pioneering work in radio, including speech/music transmission: the controversy deals specifically with the legendary Christman Eve broadcast.)
Comes now John Belrose, who has also done considerable research on this matter and who argues that the broadcast did in fact happen. Belrose notes that from a business point of view, Fessenden was pursuing radio for point-to-point applications, rather than broadcasting, and hence would have had no reason to devote great effort to publicizing the Christmas Eve event. I found a much longer analytical piece by Belrose here; he has done further research and continues to believe that the broadcast did in fact happen. The associate editor of IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, where the article appears, finds his arguments persuasive.
1906 was only 108 years ago, not long in historical time. Yet even for an event so relatively recent, which would have involved several people directly and been heard by several more, and which was relevant to extremely intense litigation around the rights to various radio-related patents, anything near absolute certainty appears impossible to attain.
In any event, here’s O Holy Night.
Posted in History, Holidays, Tech | 12 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 18th December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
…from Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo did not attend a university to study the liberal arts, and apparently some of his contemporaries disrespected him considerably because of this omission. His response:
Because I am not a literary man some presumptuous persons will think that they may reasonably blame me by arguing that I am an unlettered man. Foolish men!…They will say that because I have no letters I cannot express well what I want to treat of…They go about puffed up and pompous, dressed and decorated with the fruits not of their own labours but those of others, and they will not allow me my own. And if they despise me, an inventor, how much more could they–who are not inventors but trumpeters and declaimers of the works of others–be blamed.
(The quote is from Jean Gimpel’s book The Medieval Machine)
Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Education, History, Lit Crit | 5 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 14th December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
The posts in this fourth “theme” roundup are about the British actress and writer Fanny Kemble, whose observations on America…and on life in general…are very interesting.
Fanny Kemble’s train trip. A ride on the newly-constructed London-Manchester line, in 1830. Fanny’s escort for the trip was George Stephenson (“with whom I am most horribly in love”), the self-taught engineer who had been the driving force behind the line’s construction. She contrasts Stephenson’s character with that of an aristocrat called Lord Alvanley and the class of which he was an outstanding representative.
Author appreciation: Fanny Kemble. Shortly after her railroad trip, Fanny visited the United States on a theatrical tour and married an plantation owner from Georgia. Her “Journal of a Residence in America” got a lot of attention, quite a bit of it negative; however, her vivid description of the realities of slavery has been credited with helping to ensure that Britain would not enter the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.
Further Fannyisms. Some excerpts from the Kemble journals that I thought were particularly interesting.
There are a number of memoirs by Europeans who visited America during the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s, and I hope to review some of the other ones in the future.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, USA | 4 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 11th December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
(I came across this while going through some old Photon Courier posts…originally from 2005)
I recently read The U-Boat Peril, by Captain Reginald Whinney, RN, a British destroyer commander during WWII. In the late 1920s, Capt Whinney attended the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. He was not very impressed with the place, and his retrospective analysis is interesting:
What was really wrong with Dartmouth then? Well, my answer is cynical. The jobs of captain in command of the college and of his second-in-command, the commander, were ‘promotion jobs'; and, in those days, the incumbent in a promotion job had only to do the same as his predecessor had done and he could hardly fail to be promoted. Further, these same captains and commanders had, while at Dartmouth…usually themselves been Cadet Captains. What was good enough for them…The requirement was to keep the sausage machine going.
I have no idea how accurate Capt Whinney’s assessment of Dartmouth is…surely, they must have been doing something right, given the Royal Navy’s performance in the war. But his analysis of the “promotion job” is an interesting one, with its applicability by no means limited to military organizations.
It’s almost tautological…if you put people in jobs where all they have to do to get promoted is to remain in the job for a few years, then they are unlikely to do anything but remain in the job for a few years. You’re certainly unlikely to see much in the way of innovation or of risk-taking behavior.
So, if you are an executive, you might ask yourself whether your organization includes anything that looks like a “promotion job”–and, if so, restructure it; that is, unless you actually like drones and time-servers as subordinate managers.
And what about the realm of education? It strikes me that, as things are now, the role of being a college student has been largely structured as a “promotion job.” The student is incented to go through his 4 years or more, avoid taking any classes that might be difficult enough to unduly threaten his GPA, and avoid antagonizing any faculty members in a way that might harm the GPA or the letters of recommendation. Because the objective is, too often, not to accomplish things during the time spent on the job (in this case, to learn things), but rather to spend the requisite amount of time so that the much-desired certification can be obtained. That’s a “promotion job” in Whinney’s sense.
This is less true, of course, in the hard sciences and in engineering, where it’s obvious that after graduation you’re actually going to need to know what Young’s Modulus is (or whatever)…but across wide swaths of American higher education, the concept of the “promotion job” seems highly applicable.
Posted in Britain, Education, History, Management | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 8th December 2014 (All posts by Jonathan)
Henry Kissinger, World Order (quoted in a review by Niall Ferguson):
…If the balance between power and legitimacy is properly managed, actions will acquire a degree of spontaneity. Demonstrations of power will be peripheral and largely symbolic; because the configuration of forces will be generally understood, no side will feel the need to call forth its full reserves. When that balance is destroyed, restraints disappear, and the field is open to the most expansive claims and the most implacable actors; chaos follows until a new system of order is established.
Posted in Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, USA, War and Peace | 1 Comment »
Posted by David Foster on 7th December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
A date which will live in infamy
See Bookworm’s post and video from 2009 and her post from 2011; also, some alternate history from Shannon Love.
In 2011, Jonathan worried that the cultural memory of the event is being lost, and noted that once again Google failed to note the anniversary on their search home page, whereas Microsoft Bing had a picture of the USS Arizona memorial.
(12/7/2014: same thing this year, at least as of this posting)
Shannon Love analyzes how Admiral Yamamoto was able to pull the attack off and concludes that “Pearl Harbor wasn’t a surprise of intent, it was a surprise of capability.”
Trent Telenko wrote about the chain of events leading to the ineffectiveness of the radar warning that should have detected the approaching attack.
Via a Neptunus Lex post (site not currently available), here is a video featuring interviews with both American and Japanese survivors of Pearl Harbor.
Posted in History, Japan, USA, War and Peace | 15 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 5th December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
The posts in this third “theme” roundup explore different aspects of the question: How did one of the world’s most advanced and cultured nations descend so rapidly into a state of utter barbarism, which was eventually curable only by the application of apocalyptic violence?
Book Review: The Road Back. This neglected novel by Erich Maria Remarque, best known for All Quiet on the Western Front, is a beautifully-written portrayal of the psychological impact of the First World War.
Western Civilization and the First World War. Cites some thoughts from Sarah Hoyt on the impact of the war, and excerpts a powerful passage from the Remarque book mentioned above.
An Architect of Hyperinflation. Central banker Rudolf von Havenstein, “der Geldmarshall,” although a well-meaning public servant, had much to do with the extreme inflation that proved so socially destructive.
Book Review: Little Man, What Now? Hans Fallada’s famous novel follows the experiences of a likeable young couple in late-Weimar Germany. (see also movie review)
Book Review: Wolf Among Wolves. Also by Fallada, this is an epic novel with many characters and many subplots, set a little earlier in time than Little Man, during the period of the great inflation.
Anti-Semitism, Medieval and Modern. Suppose you had historical information from the 1300s showing in which German cities pogroms had occurred…and in which German cities pogroms had not occurred. Would you think this data would be of any use in predicting the levels of anti-Semitic activity in various localities in the 1920s thru 1940s….almost six hundred years later?
Book Review: Herman the German. Gerhard Neumann, who would eventually run GE’s jet engine business, writes about growing up in an assimilated German-Jewish family (more stereotypically Prussian than stereotypically Jewish) during the 1920s and 1930s.
Book Review: Defying Hitler. Sebastian Haffner’s important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars.
Who would be a Nazi? Writing in 1941, the American author Dorothy Thompson speculates about which of her acquaintances would and wouldn’t “go Nazi” in a “showdown.” The original post consisted of links to the Harpers and to a Chicago Boyz post by Michael Kennedy with ensuing discussion.
Posted in Germany, History, Human Behavior | 18 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 3rd December 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Home movie footage from a 1931 cruise aboard the ocean liner Mauretania.
This ship was built in 1906 and was sister ship to the ill-fated Lusitania.
Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, History, Transportation | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 28th November 2014 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
And yet there are signals of personal defeat which are like red lamps on broken roads, to these we must pay heed. I grew anxious when a man’s speech began to betray him; when he was full of windy talk of what the Boche had done in the new sector the battalion was taking over, of some new gas. It was always about something which was going to happen; the wretched fellow must have known the mess would muzzle him if it could, but he seemed driven by some inner force to chatter incessantly of every calamity that could conceivably come to pass. It was as if he had come to terms with the devil himself, that if he could make others as windy, his life would be spared. How full of apprehension the fellow was; death came to him daily in a hundred shapes. This was fear in its infancy. It was a bad sign, for when a man talked like that, his self-respect was going, and the battle was already half lost. It was just a matter of time. Such a man did the battalion no good for the disease was infectious; I was glad to get him away.
– Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage
[Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola or Black Heva?; and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola Realities and the True Test.]
Not everyone is helpful in what Strauss and Howe call a Crisis Era. This is not a matter of ability or resources, but of attitude. I have recently encountered numerous highly intelligent, capable, and often firmly upper-middle class men who at the slightest provocation vehemently insist that the United States is doomed. This year alone, they have predicted at least three of the last zero national calamities. Repeatedly failed scenarios make no impression on them. Some of these people are actually planning to run and hide somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, International Affairs, Leftism, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Quotations, Society, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by Lexington Green on 27th November 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
The Mayflower Compact
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.
Thanks to all the people who came to America at the hazard of life and limb and who built this country and gave it to us to build up and make better and pass on in our turn.
God bless the Pilgrims who settled in New England and brought (almost) the first seeds of Constitutional self-government to this continent. They arrived in what is now Massachusetts on November 21, 1620 (under the current calendar). It is cold in Massachusetts in November. They had thousands of miles of stormy sea behind them, and a cold, bare, unfriendly wilderness before them, not a single roof or fireplace for shelter or warmth. It was touch and go. They lost many of their number during the first winter. They had many practical details to attend to when they arrived. But the first thing they did before they set foot on the new continent was to covenant and combine themselves in to a “civil body politic” to live under law and by orderly political processes. We can learn from their example.
God bless America. God bless our Chicago Boyz contributors and readers. God bless our service members, past and present, especially those in harms way to defend our nation. God bless the people travelling and staying with families.
Thank you to Jonathan for starting this blog in 2002 and keeping it going.
May there be peace and happiness in all homes and across the land — and if we fall short of this high standard, here and there, let us work to do better in the days ahead.
I hope no one is too busy poking around the Internet and not paying attention to the turkey. Make sure you don’t over-cook it. May the gravy come out perfectly, and may there be enough pie for everybody to get two pieces of the kind they like best.
Posted in History, Holidays | 4 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 27th November 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
(rerun, with updates)
Stuart Buck encountered a teacher who said “Kids learn so much these days. Did you know that today a schoolchild learns more between the freshman and senior years of high school than our grandparents learned in their entire lives?” (“She said this as if she had read it in some authoritative source”, Stuart comments.)
She probably had read it in some supposedly-authoritative source, but it’s an idiotic statement nevertheless. What, precisely, is this wonderful knowledge that high-school seniors have today and which the 40-year-olds of 1840 or 1900 were lacking?
The example of knowledge that people usually throw out is “computers.” But the truth is, to be a casual user of computers (I’m not talking about programming and systems design), you don’t need much knowledge. You need “keyboarding skills”–once called “typing.” And you need to know some simple conventions as to how the operating system expects you to interact with it. That’s about it. Not much informational or conceptual depth there.
Consider the knowledge possessed by by the Captain of a sailing merchant ship, circa 1840. He had to understand celestial navigation: this meant he had to understand trigonometry and logarithms. He had to possess the knowledge–mostly “tacit knowledge,” rather than book-learning–of how to handle his ship in various winds and weathers. He might well be responsible for making deals concerning cargo in various ports, and hence had to have a reasonable understanding of business and of trade conditions. He had to have some knowledge of maritime law.
Outside of the strictly professional sphere, his knowedge probably depended on his family background. If he came from a family that was reasonably well-off, he probably knew several of Shakespeare’s plays. He probably had a smattering of Latin and even Greek. Of how many high-school (or college) seniors can these statements be made today?
(In his post, Stuart compares knowledge levels using his grandfather–a farmer–as an example.)
Today’s “progressives,” particularly those in the educational field, seem to have a deep desire to put down previous generations, and to assume we have nothing to learn from them. It’s a form of temporal bigotry. Indeed, Thanksgiving is a good time to resist temporal bigotry by reflecting on the contributions of earlier generations and on what we can learn from their experiences.
As C S Lewis said: If you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its neighboring units. If you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations. (Approximate quote.)
How better to conduct such destruction than to tell people that previous generations were ignorant and that we have nothing to learn from them?
11/27/2014: In the Hawaiian traditional religion, there is apparently a saying that goes something like this–
A monster cannot survive in an environment of gratitude.
It seems likely that the decline in the emotion of gratitude in our society is indeed correlated with the rise of monsters.
Previous CB discussion threads here and here. See also related posts by Jonathan and Ginny.
Thoughts on the lessons of the Plymouth Colony from Jerry Bowyer and Paul Rahe.
Posted in Education, History, Holidays, Society, USA | 9 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 25th November 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
A special Russia-focused issue of National Geographic, in 1914
Does automation make people dumb?
Strategies for dealing with randomness in business
Labor market fluidity in the US seems to be declining
There are very different reactions to the waving of an Isis flag and the waving of an Israeli flag at Berkeley
Strategies for dealing with toxic people
Czars as political officers
Two princes: Machievelli’s Il Principe and Antoine de St-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince
“Speaking Truth to Power.” A great post by Sarah Hoyt on the way this expression is being used:
One of the most fascinating conceits of our ruling powerful elites — be they in entertainment, politics, governance, jurisprudence or news reporting — is the often repeated assertion of being some kind of underdog “speaking truth to power.” This comes with the concomitant illusion that anyone opposing them is paid by powerful interests.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Business, History, Human Behavior, Management, Politics, Russia, Tech | 13 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 23rd November 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
Interesting that girls as well as boys were participants in this network
Posted in History, Society, Tech, USA | Comments Off
Posted by David Foster on 22nd November 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
(I should have included this post in my Theme roundup on totalitarianism and the fully politicized society. It’s important enough, I think–especially in our current circumstances–to be worth putting up as a stand-alone rerun post.)
Almost five years ago, I reviewed the important and well-written memoirs of Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars. I think the state of affairs in America today makes it appropriate to re-post some excerpts from the review and from the book.
In 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, Haffner was working as a junior lawyer (refendar) in the Prussian High Court, the Kammergericht. He was comforted by the continuity of the legal process:
The newspapers might report that the constitution was in ruins. Here every paragraph of the Civil Code was still valid and was mulled over and analyzed as carefully as ever…The Chancellor could daily utter the vilest abuse against the Jews; there was nonetheless still a Jewish Kammergerichtsrat (high court judge) and member of our senate who continued to give his astute and careful judgments, and these judgments had the full weight of the law and could set the entire apparatus of the state in motion for their enforcement–even if the highest office-holder of that state daily called their author a ‘parasite’, a ‘subhuman’ or a ‘plague’.
In spring of that year, Haffner attended Berlin’s Carnival–an event at which one would find a girlfriend or boyfriend for the night and exchange phone numbers in the morning…”By then you usually know whether it is the start of something that you would like to take further, or whether you have just earned yourself a hangover.” He had a hard time getting in the Carnival mood, however:
All at once I had a strange, dizzy feeling. I felt as though I was inescapably imprisoned with all these young people in a giant ship that was rolling and pitching. We were dancing on its lowest, narrowest deck, while on the bridge it was being decided to flood that deck and drown every last one of us.
Though it was not really relevant to current events, my father’s immense experience of the period from 1870 to 1933 was deployed to calm me down and sober me up. He treated my heated emotions with gentle irony…It took me quite a while to realize that my youthful excitability was right and my father’s wealth of experience was wrong; that there are things that cannot be dealt with by calm skepticism.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Law, USA | 6 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 20th November 2014 (All posts by David Foster)
As Jonathan pointed out here, one problem with the blog format is that worthwhile posts tend to fade into the background over time, even when they might be of continuing value. One approach I’d like to try is Theme roundups, in which I’ll select a number of previous posts on a common topic or set of related topics, and link them with brief introductory sentences or paragraphs. At least initially, I’ll focus on my own posts.
The posts in this first “theme” roundup focus on the nature of the politically-dominated society, ranging from the effects of extreme political correctness in America and Europe today to the nature of life under absolutist totalitarianism.
Stasiland. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, author Anna Funder traveled to the previous East Germany to interview both those who had lived under Communist oppression and the perpetrators of that oppression.
The Nature of Dictatorships. Thoughts from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, maker of the excellent film The Lives of Others, which is set in Communist East Germany.
Prefiguring the Hacker…and the American Surveillance Society. A 1953 science fiction story, Sam Hall.
Eric Hoffer on the destruction of individualism. “Even in the freest society power is charged with the impulse to turn men into precise, predictable automata. When watching men of power in action it must be always kept in mind that, whether they know it or not, their main purpose is the elimination or neutralization of the independent individual – the independent voter, consumer, worker, owner, thinker – and that every device they employ aims at turning man into a manipulatable ‘animated instrument,’ which is Aristotle’s definition of a slave.”
Bitter Waters. A Stalin-era Soviet factory manager writes about his experiences. Describing the chaos into which the Russian lumber industry had been thrown by Soviet central planning: “Such is the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.”
Rose Wilder Lane. The author and political thinker describes a debate she had with a Russian village leader, back in 1919 when she was still a Communist, about the centrally planned society. “It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head. No. Only God can know Russia.”
The mentality of the totalitarian revolutionary. Thoughts from the Russian writer of Dr Zhivago, Boris Pasternak.
Life in the fully politicized society. Michelle Obama explains what Barack Obama wants to make you do, Sebastian Haffner writes about those 1920s and 1930s Germans who needed to have “the entire content of their lives…all the raw material for their deeper emotions” delivered gratis by the public sphere, and Ayn Rand paints a vivid picture (based on personal experience) of the dreariness of living in a society in which everything is political.
Life in the fully politicized society, continued. Even Maureen Dowd may be finding limits as to how much politicization of art she wants to see.
The bitter wastes of politicized America. “The best way to hold a large group of people together is to make them feel as if everyone else is out to get them. The most effective political adhesives are distilled from hatred and distrust. People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you…When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension. It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends. They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on. That’s not a good thing.”
“But would you want your daughter to marry one?” Americans increasingly say they would be displeased if their son or daughter were to marry a supporter of the opposing political party.
Deconstructing a Nazi death sentence. The text of the justification for the sentence passed on three members of the White Rose resistance group provides useful insight into the totalitarian mind. (The link to the transcript in the post doesn’t work anymore; use this instead)
Defying Hitler. This important and well-written (but mis-titled) memoir deals mainly with the social environment in Germany prior to the Nazi takeover, but the latter part of the book demonstrates what life was like under a new totalitarianism that was rapidly tightening its grip. The section about the author’s father–who was given the choice of either endorsing political opinions he did not share or losing his pension and being reduced to destitution, along with his family–is painful to read and is unpleasantly reminiscent of certain recent events in America today.
The party of paranoia, racial obsession, and totalitarian thinking. Link to a post by Daniel Greenfield, aka Sultan Knish, in which he explains the nature of today’s Democratic Party.
Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Europe, Germany, History, Leftism, Politics, Russia, Society, USA | 15 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th November 2014 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
The most important issue is missing from debate over the coming Obama administration’s “Executive Amnesty for illegal immigrants.” If such an action is taken without even an attempt at impeachment, we will mark that day as the day the U.S. Constitution was murdered.
Certainly some Constitutional forms will hold on another decade or two, but the relevance of Congress to federal policy making, Constitutional branch separation of powers generally, and ultimately the rule of law will be gone. Future generations of Americans will mark the Constitution as a dead letter from that day. Our American birth right to the rule of law and ordered liberty under the Constitution will have been traded for a blatant pursuit of power by any means necessary. Ultimately such power only comes from the barrel of a gun, and here only one side has guns.
That President Obama is dissolving the Constitution for a faster influx of non-white voters so he can dissolve the current declining white majority polity shows a deep love of power, and a deep hatred of any past or current American cultural institutions, that gets in the way of his power.
This isn’t new. Leftists in America have been heading down this road since before the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union started in the 1940’s.
What is new, and the real test here, is acquiescence of the opposition party (Republican) elected elites to this turn of events. They have preemptively surrendered the only real counter to this Executive usurpation of the Legislative power, impeachment of the President, for purported fear of a voter backlash and loss of their new majority in Congress.
The coming failure of the Republican Congress to do their Constitutional duty means the Republican Party is led by the same sort of narrow partisans who lead the Democratic Party, i.e., men more concerned with their fleeting power than their duty, America or freedom. Why should any of the American people obey the law when their elected officials openly defy it and their Constitutional obligations? Their elected representatives in Congress would replace the rule of law with the rule of men for the sake of their own power.
It may be that impeachment of President Obama for his proposed unconstitutional mass amnesty of illegal immigrants costs the Republican Party its new majority in Congress. Not even trying is simply the short road to hell. “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing” – John Stuart Mill. Failure by the GOP Congressional majority to even try to impeach President Obama here would be a clear and overwhelmingly powerful message to the Tea Party and others on the Right that only violence, and not the ballot box, is the answer to Executive tyranny.
For while Democrats and current Republican leaders may not remember, the following words are the cultural DNA of the American people, and it only took 1/3 of them to win the Revolution and drive out a Superpower:
“…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, History, Immigration, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, North America, Politics, Predictions, Uncategorized, USA | 75 Comments »
Posted by Dan from Madison on 14th November 2014 (All posts by Dan from Madison)
Lone Star Sons by Celia Hayes (buy direct from the author)
Lone Star Sons by Celia Hayes (Amazon)
Back in September, our very own Sgt. Mom, aka Celia Hayes, was shamelessly plugging her new book, Lone Star Sons. I bought a book and was pleasantly surprised to find what appears to be a personalized inscription on the inside:
Low Dow –
Our Mom in Madison!
Wide op predator –
Undeterred by what appeared to be a cipher of some sort, I forged ahead and read the book. I really liked it.
I don’t read much fiction, but if I do, it needs to be historically based, and Hayes does a great job of really bringing you into the time period of old Republic of Texas. The descriptions of the scenes were very realistic and I could almost smell the stews that the Mexican ladies were making on the square on a daily basis.
Lone Star Sons is six short stories of Texas Ranger Jim Reade and his Indian helper/comrade Toby Shaw. They travel far and wide on their assignments which vary from murder investigations to search for buried treasure.
The end section was most enjoyable for me, as Hayes explains what parts of the short stories were hers, and which were historically based.
The book reads very quickly, as once you start getting interested in the characters, the book is difficult to put down. I would highly recommended it if you need a good idea for a stocking stuffer for someone who likes these type of frontier stories.
You can order Lone Star Sons from the Amazon link above, or directly from Ms. Hayes here. You can order her other books here.
Posted in Book Notes, History | 15 Comments »