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  • Archive for August, 2013

    Enjoy the Weekend

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st August 2013 (All posts by )

    A small visitor surveys rock formations in Arches National Park, Utah. (Jonathan Gewirtz   jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    A very small constitutional earthquake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    History Friday: Technological Surprise & the Defeat of the 193rd Tank Battalion at Kakuza Ridge

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 30th August 2013 (All posts by )

    In April 1945 the US Army’s 27th Infantry Division launched an attack against the Kakuza Ridge position held by the Imperial Japanese Army on Okinawa with the 193rd Tank Battalions 30 thirty tanks, self-propelled assault guns, and attached armored flame throwers from the 713th Flame Tank Battalion. When the battle was over, 22 of the 30 armored fighting had been destroyed in a coordinated ambush by Japanese anti-tank guns, artillery, mortars and suicide close assault teams. Among the dead was the battalion commander of the 193rd, on whom blame was laid for attacking without American infantry in close support. This battle is referenced in almost every narrative account of Okinawa as proof of the tougher defenses American soldiers and marines would face in an invasion of Japan.

    This is a M4 Sherman Tank after striking an aircraft bomb land mine in front of Kakuza Ridge

    This is a M4 Sherman Tank after striking an aircraft bomb land mine in front of Kakuza Ridge

    It turns out that while this particular narrative has a great deal of truth, it isn’t the whole truth and hides the most important one. In a photo film negative image of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s comment that “In war, The Truth must have a bodyguard of lies,” This narrative has a huge lie buried in a bodyguard of truth.

    The most important truth of this battle was that American troops suffered a technological surprise. The Japanese were listening to the SCR-300, SCR-500 and SCR-600 series frequency modulated (FM) radios of American infsntry, tanks and artillery forward observers at Kakuza Ridge (and other battles through out the Pacific in 1945) with Japanese Type 94 (1934) Mark 6 walkie-talkie radio that was issued to every Japanese infantry battalion.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Okinawa 65, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    Six Hundred Million Years in K-12

    Posted by David Foster on 30th August 2013 (All posts by )

    (This rerun is in honor of the beginning of the new school year…indeed, many kids have now already been in school for 3 weeks or even more.)

    Peter Orszag, who was Obama’s budget director and is now a vice chairman at Citigroup, thinks it would be a good idea to cut back on summer school vacations for kids, arguing that this would both improve academics and reduce obesity.

    I’m with Jeremy LottBut to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.

    I wrote about the war on summer vacation back in 2006, after stopping at a store in Georgia on the first day of August and discovering that this was the first day of school for the local children. In this post, I said:

    The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them–waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.

    When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.

    Orszag and similar thinkers seem to have no concept that good things can happen to children’s development outside of an institutional setting. Plenty of kids develop and pursue interests in science, literature, art, music…plus, there is plenty to be learned simply by interacting with friends in an unstructured environment.

    Would the world be better off if Steve Wozniak and Jeri Ellsworth..to name only two of many, many examples..had their noses held constantly to the school grindstone rather than having time to develop their interests in electronics?

    Lewis E Lawes, who was warden of Sing Sing prison from 1915 to 1941, wrote an interesting book titled Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing. The title refers to the aggregate lengths of the sentences of the men in the prison at a typical particular point in time.

    Lawes:

    Twenty-five hundred men saddled with an aggregate of twenty thousand years! Within such cycles worlds are born, die, and are reborn. That span has witnessed the evolution of the intelligence of mortal man. And we know that twenty thousand years have seen nations run their courses, perish, and give way to their successors. Twenty thousand years in my keeping. What will they evolve?

    Following the same approach, the aggregate length of the terms to be spent in K-12 schools by their current students is more than 600,000,000 years. What proportion of this time is actually used productively?

    And how many of the officials who supervise and run the public schools, and the ed-school professors who influence their policies, think about this 600,000,000 years in the same serious and reflective way that Lawes thought about the 20,000 years under his supervision? Some do, of course, but a disturbing percentage of them seem to be simply going through the bureaucratic motions.

    And the politicians and officials of the Democratic Party are the last people in the world who are ever going to call them on it.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Education, Politics, USA | 7 Comments »

    Daniel Hannan: Channeling America 3.0!

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Daniel Hannan is an internationally renowned voice of liberty. He is a Euroskeptic Conservative Euro MP for Southeast England, a writer for the Daily Telegraph, the author of several books, most importantly, an upcoming book called Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. I have pre-ordered mine and I STRONGLY encourage you to do the same.

    Mr. Hannan has informed us that his book and America 3.0 have shared intellectual foundations. We cannot wait to read it.

    In the meantime, he had a terrific review today of a book about Russian colonization in North America called Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America.

    Mr. Hannan’s review contained a great concise summary of a point we made in America 3.0, when discussing why the Russian lodgment in North America did not take root:

    The American settlers had an advantage over every rival power: they administered their affairs locally. Dispersed land-ownership, elected town leaders, common law, religious pluralism, free contract, county militia: these made up an Anglosphere toolkit better suited to expansion than any rival model. Small wonder that contemporary Americans thought in terms of a manifest destiny.

    Yes. Yes, exactly so.

    We understand his review of America 3.0 is forthcoming, and we are looking forward to it.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 9 Comments »

    A Plea for America 3.0: “Can we just fast-forward to 2040? Please?”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    This plea comes from Dave Swindle, the associate editor of PJ Media. Dave “writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section.” Dave has been posting about his progress through America 3.0.

    Chapter 1 is our depiction of America in 2040, when America 3.0 is reaching full flower. Dave’s desire to jump ahead to 2040 is understandable. But, as we make clear in the book, there is a difficult transition period ahead. The outcome is not inevitable. There is plenty of work for everyone to do in the meantime. We have to make America 3.0. So, keep smiling and stay strong. And be cheerful, the tectonic forces are in our favor. But we live in the granular details, and those are up to us.

    BTW, Dave tells us a full review is coming soon. Way cool. Can’t wait.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 4 Comments »

    What in the Name of…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    …the wide wide world of sports is going on here? The IRS trolling for specific information on members of individual American Legion posts, requiring proof of the individual member’s veteran status as a way of pinning local American Legion posts to the wall, for some kind of purpose besides vulgar curiosity … hmm, that’s just what they did to various Tea Party organizations applying for certain exemptions. Asked for terribly specific information … my, who doesn’t think that isn’t going into some enormous database somewhere? Military veterans and retirees, in my humble opinion and experience tend to be rather more to the libertarian-conservative side of the political scale, for a number of reasons, chief of them being that we spent a certain number of years living a fairly conformist and regimented life … for which we (save those initially drafted before the advent of the all-volunteer force) freely volunteered. But the military experience doesn’t necessarily leave us with a lifetime fondness for living under the watchful eye of a higher authority and having every teeny little jot and tittle of personal lives and conduct scrutinized and counseled over… oh, no, my chickadees. It does not.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, History, Military Affairs | 14 Comments »

    Max von Oppenheim, German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Max von Oppenheim was a German ancient historian, and archaeologist who also worked as a diplomat and spy for the German Empire during the First World War. In those latter two capacities, he basically tried to incite Jihad against the Entente powers. From Wikipedia:

    During World War I, Oppenheim led the Intelligence Bureau for the East and was closely associated with German plans to initiate and support a rebellion in India and in Egypt. In 1915 Henry McMahon reported that Oppenheim had been encouraging the massacre of Armenians in Mosques.[12]
    Oppenheim had been called to the Wilhelmstrasse from his Kurfurstendamm flat on 2 August 1914 and given the rank of Minister of Residence. He began establishing Berlin as a centre for pan-Islamic propaganda publishing anti-Entente texts. On August 18 1914 he wrote to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to tell him that Germany must arm the Muslim brotherhoods of Libya, Sudan and Yemen and fund Arab exile pretenders like the deposed Egyptian Khedive, Abbas Hilmi. He believed Germany must incite anti-colonial rebellion in French North Africa and Russian Central Asia and incite Habibullah Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan, to invade British India at the head of an Islamic army.[13] Oppenheim’s Exposé Concerning the Revolutionizing of the Islamic territories of our enemies contained holy war propaganda and ‘sketched out a blueprint for a global jihad engulfing hundreds of millions of people’. Armenians and Maronite Christians were dismissed as Entente sympathizers, quite useless to Germany nicht viel nutzen konnen. [14]

    Because Germany was not an Islamic power the war on the Entente powers needed to be ‘endorsed with the seal of the Sultan-Caliph’ and on 14 November 1914 in a ceremony at Fatih Mosque the first ever global jihad had been inaugurated. The impetus for this move came from the German government, which subsidized distribution of the Ottoman holy war fetvas, and most of the accompanying commentaries from Muslim jurists, and Oppenheim’s jihad bureau played a significant role. By the end of November 1914 the jihad fetvas had been translated into French, Arabic, Persian and Urdu.[15] Thousands of pamphlets emerged under Oppenheim’s direction in Berlin at this period and his Exposé declared that, “the blood of infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity”, the “killing of the infidels who rule over the Islamic lands” , meaning British, French, Russian, and possibly Dutch and Italian nationals, had become ” a sacred duty”. And Oppenheim’s instructions, distinct from traditional ‘jihad by campaign’ led by the Caliph, urged the use of ‘individual Jihad’, assassinations of Entente officials with ‘cutting, killing instruments’ and ‘Jihad by bands’,- secret formations in Egypt, India and Central Asia.[16]
    “During the First World War, he worked in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where he founded the so-called “message Centre for the Middle East”, as well as at the German Embassy in Istanbul. He sought to mobilize the Islamic population of the Middle East against England during the war and can be seen thus almost as a German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia. The AA pursued a strategy of Islamic revolts in the colonial hinterland of the German enemy. The spiritual father of this double approach, the war first, by troops on the front line and secondly by people’s rebellion “in depth” was by Oppenheim.”[citation needed]
    The German adventurer met with very little success in World War I. To this day, the British see him as a “master spy” because he founded the magazine El Jihad in 1914 in an effort to incite the Arabs to wage a holy war against the British and French occupiers in the Middle East. But his adversary Lawrence of Arabia, whom he knew personally, was far more successful at fomenting revolts.[17]

    Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence was successful because he didn’t appeal to religious fervor, but rather to the far more basic sentiment of ethnic solidarity against an oppressor of different ethnic origin. In other words, the Arabs cared far more about their struggle against the Turkish Empire than they did about religion, leave alone jihad.

    Posted in Britain, Christianity, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, Religion, Russia, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Counting heads in Syria

    Posted by Margaret on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    While President Obama has been dithering about Syria, I’ve been nerdishly crunching numbers. On the web you can find every possible opinion about what the US ought to do, ranging from “Nothing,” to “Depose Assad.” Apart from the difficulty of achieving the latter goal, shouldn’t we think about what happens if Assad goes? Long term, some equally nasty types take over, and better-informed people than I can argue about just how bad that’s likely to be. But I haven’t seen any discussion of one likely immediate consequence.

    At the beginning of this year, Syria had an estimated 2.6 million Alawites and 2.3 million Christians. Despite the refugee exodus, I believe most of those people are still in Syria. If Islamist groups like al-Nusra replace Assad,what are their chances of survival?

    100,000 people have been killed so far, and that’s bad enough. But if we do seriously attempt to depose Assad, we should at least acknowledge the likelihood that another five million people will die.

    The Holocaust is credited with six million deaths. Will the deaths of Syrian Alawites and Christians be less tragic because their murderers aren’t as well organized as the Germans? Will this massacre be okay because nobody will take the time to tattoo numbers on the victims’ arms?

    Posted in International Affairs, Middle East | 12 Comments »

    America 3.0 author Mike Lotus at America’s Future Foundation Chicago, Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th August 2013 (All posts by )

    I will be speaking to on September 11, 2013 to the Chicago chapter of America’s Future Foundation about our book America 3.0, answering the question: “are America’s greatest days yet to come?”

    Spoiler alert … The answer is YES.

    Details at this handy link. (Interestingly, this page has a version of the cover of the book that we did not end up using.)

    The event is at Ontourage, 157 West Ontario Street, Chicago, at 6:00 p.m.

    You can purchase tickets here. General admission is $10, but for $30 you can pre-order the book as well. That is actually a pretty good deal.

    I am thrilled to be speaking to AFF. I like their libertarian stance, which I mostly share. I like the earnestness and braininess. I like the liquor at their parties. I like the tenor of the evening at their events. I like the whole stimmung of it.

    Our book has several target audiences, and our libertarian friends are one of them. Let’s see how the ideas go over with them.

    I hope to see many of you there.

    Posted in America 3.0, Announcements, Chicagoania, Libertarianism | 3 Comments »

    WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING

    Posted by David Foster on 28th August 2013 (All posts by )

    How did Estonia become a leader in technology?

    Richard Fernandez on the creation of a whole generation of risk-averse elites

    Why is the golden age of television so dark?

    Finding the right balance between optimism and realism

    How to evaluate your own emotional intelligence

    How the politicized life is destroying society

    Flying aboard the PanAm–Boeing Clipper, circa 1940

    Transoceanic aircraft navigation in the Clipper era.  (The author uses the term “bearing” incorrectly: the proper term for the direction the airplane is headed in is actually “heading.)

    The man who loved not wisely, but at least twice

    Posted in Aviation, Europe, Human Behavior, Media, USA | 6 Comments »

    US Route 95 South

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th August 2013 (All posts by )

    signs

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off on US Route 95 South

    Unhistory Monday: The Impossibility of Writing Truthfully About a Battle

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th August 2013 (All posts by )

    The Chief, the Quartermaster, the Adjutant-General, know well enough what the strength of the army is, and can map out to a quarter of a mile where it lies; but to the casual and ignorant spectator all this is mystery. The vastness of the area over which the armed host is spread, confounds him. He is unable to realise the fact of thousands being present when scattered around him; he only sees a few groups of white tents widely separated. And as it is in a camp, so, I apprehend, it is in a battle. When the great Duke of Wellington was asked by a lady at a ball to describe Waterloo, he pointed to the brilliant pageant which was running its course before them, and asked her if she thought she could describe all that was going on in that ball-room. If it be ever my lot to be present at a battle—although of wars and its alarms I have had enough by this time—I shall have but little to say, I fancy, about the manoeuvres of great bodies of men, desperate charges, skilful flank movements, and so forth. Such graphic narratives are best written at home, years after the event, with the general’s despatches and a good map before one. If ever I were called upon to send home an account of a sanguinary engagement between two great armies, it would most probably—if the account were candid and conscientious—be confined to mentioning that, standing somewhere under a tree, I could make out, through a race-glass, that something like an Irish row appeared to be going on in a field a long way off; and that riding away, rather in a hurry, I met many carts full of men that were wounded, and were crying out, for God’s sake, for water; and that I saw many ditches full of men that could cry no more, for the reason that they were dead.

    George Augustus Sala, My Diary in America in the Midst of War, Vol. 1 (1865)

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Military Affairs, Quotations, USA | 5 Comments »

    A Week in Michigan

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th August 2013 (All posts by )

    grandbeach_web

    When my sister and I were very young, I was 10 and she was 7, we used to go on vacation to a small village on the lake in Michigan. It is named Grand Beach. It’s a delightful place across the lake from Chicago. Shortly after the war, we began to spend more time there in the summer. I vaguely remember the first time but the month we spent there in 1948 is one of my fondest memories of childhood. My parents, along with another family, the Coyles, rented a good sized house for the month of August through Labor Day weekend. The house is still there although no longer rented by the owners.

    Thirty years ago, my wife Jill and I, plus our three year old daughter Claire, spent a week at Grand Beach with my sister’s family. My sister, Patty, and her husband rented the same cottage last year and this year I joined them for the week. The weather was delightful and we all had a nice time. It gave me a chance to know my nephew Jimmy’s children and my niece, Caroline, joined us for a few days. Jimmy’ wife, Holly, was there and had her hands full with the small kids. The women were also on vacation so we ate most of our meals out. When we were there 30 years ago, Claire hid under a bed with Patty’s dog. Jill was frantic looking for her until someone heard scuffling under the bed. We didn’t have any crises like that, at least.

    The village is entered from a frontage road that runs along the railroad tracks. The gate is a large white painted arch that pierces a white fence along the road. In 1948, there was less foliage and I used to help the village policeman, who drove an ancient Model A Ford, retrieve the mail when the train passed and the mail pouch was tossed from the mail car. This was usually about dusk. There was a hook by the side of the tracks which was supposed to catch the mail pouch but they usually missed and I had a good time searching for the pouch along the tracks.

    grand beach road

    The entry road passes the golf course where I first played golf at age 9 and then the playground, seen here. The entire road is lined with white painted cement pillars that were there in 1948. They may have been there in the 1930s.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Personal Narrative, Photos | 6 Comments »

    Unhistory Monday: The General

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 26th August 2013 (All posts by )

    The best written portrayal of Douglas MacArthur. More truthful than factual.

    Posted in Speeches | 7 Comments »

    Ivan Aivazovsky, naval painter

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 25th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Ivan Aivazovsky (1817 – 1900) was in his time famous around the world, and deservedly so.

    This picture is about the Battle of Navarino in 1827. There are others at the Wikipedia page on Aivazovsky and a lot more at Wikimedia Commons.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Military Affairs, Russia | 6 Comments »

    The Future of Media (?)

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th August 2013 (All posts by )

    As I was walking in River North I stopped short after seeing this sign for “Buzz Feed”. If you don’t know the name, they are a very successful internet site (is that what you call it nowadays?) that creates their own content that typically goes “viral” or pushes out existing content. You know, the ones with cats, cute animals, funny GIFS, etc…

    It is strange seeing the physical manifestation of all the time-wasting crap on the web that most of us enjoy from time to time. If you go to their “about” page on their web site (I probably am literally the first person to do this) you can see the usual types of people that you’d expect to run a web site (or mobile content site? I’m not sure what to call it anymore). I looked at their jobs site and didn’t see any open ones in Chicago so I’m not sure what goes on there besides the little plaque.

    Another aggregator is “Gawker Media” that has a bunch of sites (mobile sites?) that we visit a lot especially Deadspin, but also LifeHacker and many others. These sites, like Buzzfeed, are a big challenge to “traditional” media because 1) they sell a lot of advertising 2) they create their own content (or borrow it) 3) they aren’t really journalists (mostly). For instance Deadspin absolutely breaks stories or “piles on” when something happens (like Sandusky in Penn State) but often they just take what’s out there and call it like they see it. Deadspin in particular could care less what journalists / media / companies think of them and they are immensely likable as a result. Gawker too breaks stories like when they had long-term unemployed write in about their plight or Wal-Mart employees started writing in about how miserably that company apparently treats their staff.

    The future of media (?) in my own neighborhood…

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Blogging, Internet | 1 Comment »

    City Living

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th August 2013 (All posts by )

    For those of you reading this post from the suburbs or rural America you won’t know why this photo of the River North Walgreens drug store is so unique, but city dwellers might if they ponder for a bit… The answer is –

    Because there are no bums out front

    For people who live in the city, especially women, the presence or absence of bums or aggressive panhandlers in fact is a serious criteria for selecting where you live, shop and eat.  This Walgreens in River North usually has a crew of bums accosting everyone going in and out of the turnstiles, like clockwork.

    After a while you subconsciously avoid those places and favor other places.  Another common bum congregation zone are churches.  I usually walk on the other side of the street whenever churches are in my path, except for the brief times when the churches are fully of happy people all dressed up which would be a wedding.

    Someday I will walk through the loop and count how many times a day I am asked for money or asked to buy something of no value (i.e. the magazine “Streetwise”).  It has to be in the dozens of times.  Another common topic of interaction – “can I ask you a question?” is that they have lost their bus pass / CTA pass / need some money for the train back home.  This “line of inquiry” is consistently heard anywhere near the commuter rail stations.

    Businesses would be wise to hire security of some sort or use their own managers to figure out how to minimize the presence of bums and panhandlers and aggressive street people on their premises.  I’m sure many of the smarter businesses have already done this.  Women in particular will likely shy away from your establishment if they have to run a gauntlet in order to patronize it.

    I feel sorry for the tourists that actually interact with these bums and panhandlers.  Their kids are usually surprised and the “smart” bums will try to strike up a conversation with the children that after a brief start of recognition the parents are quick to want to get out of.  This is a good tactic to get a buck, and quite sneaky.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania | 23 Comments »

    Do The Great Books Have a Place in the 21st Century?

    Posted by T. Greer on 24th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Originally posted at The Scholar’s Stage on the 27th of May, 2013.

    A selection of the 60 volume Great Books of the Western World.
    Image source.


    A “proper education” changes with its times.

    In the days of America’s founding a true education was a classical education. An educated man was not simply expected to be familiar with the great works of Greek and Roman civilization; the study of these works was the foundation of education itself. Thomas Jefferson’s advice to an aspiring nephew captures the attitudes of his era:

    It is time for you now to begin to be choice in your reading; to begin to pursue a regular course in it; and not to suffer yourself to be turned to the right or left by reading any thing out of that course. I have long ago digested a plan for you, suited to the circumstances in which you will be placed. This I will detail to you, from time to time, as you advance. For the present, I advise you to begin a course of antient history, reading every thing in the original and not in translations. First read Goldsmith’s history of Greece. This will give you a digested view of that field. Then take up antient history in the detail, reading the following books, in the following order: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophontis Hellenica, Xenophontis Anabasis, Arrian, Quintus Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, Justin. This shall form the first stage of your historical reading, and is all I need mention to you now. The next, will be of Roman history (*). From that, we will come down to modern history. In Greek and Latin poetry, you have read or will read at school, Virgil, Terence, Horace, Anacreon, Theocritus, Homer, Euripides, Sophocles. Read also Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shakspeare, Ossian, Pope’s and Swift’s works, in order to form your style in your own language. In morality, read Epictetus, Xenophontis Memorabilia, Plato’s Socratic dialogues, Cicero’s philosophies, Antoninus, and Seneca…. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 11 Comments »

    Reality lives in the details

    Posted by TM Lutas on 24th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Sometimes you come across a comment that passingly mentions a central truth that you just want to climb up on a roof and shout it out to the world. That! Pay attention to that!

    Trent Telenko comments on his own excellent post:

    Reality lives in the details.
    You have to know enough of the details to know what is vital and to be able to use good judgement as to which histories are worthwhile and which are regurgitated pap.
    No one has bothered to do that with MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area, especially as it relates to the proposed invasion of Japan.

    Yes, reality lives in the details and we are living in a world that both has more of those details available and has fewer of those details capturing our attention. We leave important details unexamined and fixate on the exciting but unimportant details of celebrity and titillation.

    What makes the situation supremely frustrating is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Computers are both becoming cheaper and more powerful. We’re deploying new technologies such as the Semantic Web to fix it but the progress is agonizingly slow.

    Faster please

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 11 Comments »

    History Friday: With Winston Churchill at the Front

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    I am reading Churchill: A Study in Failure (1970), by Robert Rhodes James. It is a famous book, which describes Churchill’s career up to 1939. It is an excellent book as of page 132/385. In fact, it is so good, I now want to read other things by this author.

    A relatively little-known episode in Churchill’s career was his uniformed service at the front in World War I. Following the failure of the Gallipoli campaign, which was Churchill’s brainchild, he was driven out of the cabinet, where he had been First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill volunteered for active service, and was given the command of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers battalion from January to May, 1916.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Biography, Book Notes, Britain, History, Military Affairs, Quotations | 7 Comments »

    Camille Paglia Applies Old-Fashioned Common Sense

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    …and thereby misses the real story.

    Writing about Hillary Clinton as the prospective Democratic presidential candidate, Camille Paglia asks “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”

    Camille, Camille, Camille.

    Would anyone have asked, upon George III’s accession to the Kingship, “What exactly has he ever accomplished?”

    Would anyone have asked, when Marie Antoinette became the Queen of France, “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”

    Would anyone have asked, when Lord Cardigan was named commander of the Light Brigade and his brother-in-law the Earl of Lucan was named overall British cavalry commander in the Crimean War,  “What exactly have they ever accomplished?” (Well, a few people did, but they were pretty much ignored)

    Camille, your question reflects the mindset of an earlier America in which it was widely believed that leaders should be selected based on their actual accomplishments.  This didn’t always actually  happen, of course, but at least it was the ideal. But today, our society is being pushed hard in the direction of an aristocratic model wherein elevation to leadership is a matter of factors quite other than a track record of success in performing whatever tasks the leader is supposed to be carrying out. This transformation is largely complete in the field of politics, and is rapidly advancing in other areas of American life as well.

    Hillary Clinton is a member of a political family–a member by marriage, it is true, but still a member. She attended an Ivy League college. She vacations in the Hamptons. She is popular with members of the entertainment industry. She has name recognition among people whose reading does not go past the celebrity magazines on the rack at the supermarket checkout stand.

    These are the things that matter today in identifying an aristocrat who is qualified for high political office. Actual accomplishments, actual failures (see Benghazi, see indeed the whole Middle East) are of minor significance by comparison.

    America is falling increasingly under the domination of a political aristocracy of great power and privilege: an aristocracy, moreover, which imposes very little in the way of responsibilities on itself. We are getting the social rigidity and the incompetence in high places that tend to be associated with the aristocratic form of government, without any of the partially-offsetting virtues that historical aristocracies have sometimes developed.

     

    Posted in Middle East, Politics, Society, USA | 23 Comments »

    Give Me Land, Lots of Land…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    And the starry sky above, don’t fence me in. So goes the old pop song – but I’m not asking for lots o’land, just some small bits of it for which I will pay. Not too much will I pay, though – since I am not one of the economic or political aristocracy, for whom corners are cut and favors rendered. But I do have a point and I am getting to it, round-about.
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    Posted in Personal Narrative | 8 Comments »

    History Friday: 81st ID’s Peleliu Lessons for MacArthur’s Invasion of Japan

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    I have written in my columns on the end of WW2 in the Pacific about institutional or personally motivated false narratives, hagiography narratives, forgotten via classification narratives and forgotten via extinct organization narratives. Today’s column is on how generational changes in every day technology make it almost impossible to understand what the WW2 generation is telling us about it’s times without a lot of research.

    Consider the difference between using a rotary phone land line communications and wireless smart phone internet device simply in terms of daily conversation and ability to know things. It is hard for the “100 texts a day smart phone generation” to get in the head of someone who has such a radically different, available daily, tool set.

    Now take for a second example how we deal with computers in the 21st century versus how they dealt with them in 1940’s. World War 2 (WW2) computers were mechanical analog devices that predicted ballistic trajectories. How friction worked was very important to their use. Friction is the amount of force needed to start and keep something moving when in contact with something else. If you look further into the world of friction, you will see it categorized as either “static friction” or “dynamic friction.” It takes more force to overcome a “static friction” than a “dynamic friction.” In other words, a slight vibration made WW2 computers work better. The name for doing this is “Dither.” When you check out the word “Dither” in Wikipedia, you will see a reference to mechanical analog computers in aircraft. The vibrations of planes while airborne reduced the friction between all the gears in the mechanical analog computer making it run smother. This was taken advantage of with the Norden bomb site. Which was a 1940’s high tech mechanical analog computer.

    “Dither” also showed up in the case of WW2 anti-aircraft (AA) guns. There was a small electric device with an off center weight on it that kept the gun platform jiggling to reduce the friction, so when gunners were aiming the gun, it could respond faster. A similar device was added to the mechanical analog fire control computers — also called “directors” — that aimed the guns. All that induced vibration was “dither.” Having the gun platform and associated directors jiggling just a little with a “dither” was important to improving AA gun system performance.

    In the age of electronic digital computers, the term “dither” and it’s meaning in context with its associated technology has been largely forgotten. (See the once common phrase “Quit dithering!”) That “dither” and analog mechanical computer example is one of the things I am running into in my WW2 writing project.

    81st Infantry Division's Aerial Tramway Moving Supplies on Peleliu, Sept - Nov 1944

    81st Infantry Division’s Aerial Tramway Moving Supplies on Peleliu, Sept – Nov 1944

    The fact is that many of the technologies used in late WW2, like the “Aerial Tramway” device in the photo above were taken for granted in the reports of the time, but have huge differences in understanding today when “the smart phone generation” looks at what the “slide rule generation” is talking about.

    Recently, my understanding of both the logistics and how fighting would have unfolded in General Douglas MacArthur’s proposed Kyushu land campaign, had the A-bomb failed to get Japanese surrender in August 1945, just changed radically away from the established narrative — “It would have been a mutual blood bath the Japanese had a chance to win.”

    When I got the 81st Infantry Division’s 1944 Peleliu and 1945 post-Peleliu Operation reports and then looked up the military history of WW2 Tramway and Cableway technology. That research changed my understanding of what the “Slide-rule generation” was saying. A completely different narrative of possible events emerged, simply from understanding what that technological tool kit meant in context.

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    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Okinawa 65, USA, War and Peace | 51 Comments »

    Israeli Gas Station

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd August 2013 (All posts by )

    Vent pipes and signs on edge of a gas station parking area in Hod Hasharon, Israel. (© 2012 Jonathan Gewirtz / jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Israel, Photos | 3 Comments »