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  • Archive for the 'History' Category

    Ferdinand and Hermann’s Excellent Frontier Adventure

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th May 2021 (All posts by )

    (As promised during the Zoom meet-up this afternoon, the absolutely true story of the first cataract surgery in Texas.)

    The practice of medicine in these United States for most of the 19th century was a pretty hit or miss proposition. Such was the truly dreadful state of affairs generally when it came to medicine in most places and in all but the last quarter of the 19th century that patients may have been better off having a go with the D-I-Y approach. Doctors trained as apprentices to a doctor with a current practice or studied some books and hung out a shingle. Successful surgeons possessed two basic skill sets; speed and a couple of strong assistants to hold the patient down, until he was done cutting and stitching.

    But in South Texas from 1850 on, there was doctor-surgeon who became a legend, for his skill, advanced ideas, and willingness to go to any patient, anywhere and operate under any conditions – and most usually with a great deal of success. Doctor Ferdinand Ludwig von Herff, who dropped the aristocratic ‘von’ almost immediately upon arriving in Texas, was also an idealist, and prepared to live in accordance with his publicly espoused principles. He came to Texas in 1847 as part of a circle of young men called the “Forty,” who had a plan to establish a utopian commune along ideas fashionable at the time.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Germany, Health Care, History, Texas | 1 Comment »

    Across the Great Divide

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 7th May 2021 (All posts by )

    Peter Watson, The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New (New York: Harper Perennial, 2013)

    As my reviews tend to do, this one will highlight some negatives, but which I will get out of the way early on. Peter Watson is a highly successful author and journalist who has rather more than dabbled in archaeology along the way. I am … somewhat less of an authority. Nonetheless, The Great Divide is kind of a mess, but one that ends up being sufficiently thought-provoking to be worth the effort.

    Fun stuff first—shout-out to Jim Bennett for recommending the book; and here are my ideas for relevant musical interludes while reading the following:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Christianity, Culture, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, Judaism, Latin America, North America, Personal Narrative, Religion, Russia, Society, Texas, USA | 36 Comments »

    Archive Post: Pax Romana

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th May 2021 (All posts by )

    (A snippit at Sarah Hoyt’s place reminded me of this post, from 2006 at my original milblog.

    The stone ruins of Imperial Rome underlie Western Europe and the Mediterranean like the bones of a body, partially buried, yet here and there still visible and grandly manifest above ground, all but complete. From Leptis Magna in North Africa, to Hadrian’s Wall in the contentious border between Scotland and England proper, from Split in the Former Yugoslavia, to the 81 perfectly preserved arches of the ancient bridge over the Guadiana River, in Merida – that part of the empire called Hispania –and in thousands of lesser or greater remnants, the presence of Rome is everywhere and inescapable. The same sort of cast- concrete walls, faced with pebbles, or stone or tile, the same sort of curved roof-tiles, the same temples to Vesta, and Jupiter, to Claudius, Mars and Mithras; the same baths and fora, market-places, villas and apartment buildings, all tied together by a network of commerce and administration. Goods both luxury and otherwise, adventurous tourists, soldiers and civil administrators— the very blood of an empire, all moved along the veins and arteries of well-maintained roads and way-stations, of which the very beating heart was Rome itself. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, History | 10 Comments »

    An Early and Excellent Example of a High-Technology Product Press Release

    Posted by David Foster on 27th April 2021 (All posts by )

    The poet/historian  Antipater sings the wonderfulness of the vertical waterwheel as a power source:

    Cease from grinding, ye women who toil at the mill

    Sleep late, even if the crowing cocks announce the dawn

    For Demeter has ordered the Nymphs to perform the work of your hands

    And they, leaping down on the top of the wheel, turn its axle which

    With its revolving spokes, turns the heavy concave Nisyrian millstones

    Learning to feast on the products of Demeter without labour

    ( circa 65 bc)

     

    I would so hire that man for a Marketing Communications job.

     

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, History, Tech | 6 Comments »

    “Yom HaShoah and the importance of recognizing when the rules of the game have changed.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th April 2021 (All posts by )

    Worth reading.

    Sarah Hoyt summarizes:

    Not just the conviction that “it can’t happen here.” There is also the deep in-built certainty that tomorrow will be more or less like today, and the worst that can happen within relatively safe bounds. Even while everything is shifting against you. From Pompeii to Nazi Germany, from Alexander’s conquests to Communist Russia, the normalcy bias has killed more human beings than any other factor in history.

    See also Note 12 here.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior | 42 Comments »

    The Deep State and World War I

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th April 2021 (All posts by )

    I have been reading, actually rereading, a book on the origins of World War I. It is titled “The Sleepwalkers” It is a bit of a revisionist treatment of the topic which has been popularized by Barbara Tuchman and “The Guns of August which lays the blame for the war on Germany. This book does a pretty good job of assigning responsibility to two new culprits, Sir Edward Grey, who is also blamed by Pat Buchanan in “The Unnecessary War.” Buchanan blames Grey and Churchill, which I disagree with. Buchanan goes on to blame Churchill for WWII, as well but I think he has a good argument with Grey about WWI.

    What is striking to me on this rereading, is the role of the bureaucracies of several countries. Many know of the willfulness and erratic behavior of Kaiser Wilhelm. His ministers often did not inform him of serious matters, lest he impulsively make them worse. A gross example was “The Daily Telegraph Affair.” In this example, the Kaiser wrote a letter to then English newspaper making some extreme statements. His ministers were horrified.

    The Russian Czar was equally erratic and his ministers frequently maneuvered to discourage his role in foreign affairs.

    What seems to me to be new insight concerns the English and French bureaucracies. Edward VII had been a Francophile and Germanophobe and had encouraged The Entente Cordiale with France and Russia. Edward died in 1910, leaving his son George V on the throne. George V was new, uncertain and left foreign affairs in the hands of his Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey. Grey was a quiet, seemingly passive man but he was also a bureaucratic manipulator. He was a Germanophobe and had a collection of like minded men in the foreign office. The worst of the Germanophobes was Eyre Crowe born in Germany and spoke with a German accent but a Germany hater. Grey’s policy was not popular with other Liberals in government so he kept the policy of alliance with France vague right up until 1914. He denied the existence of an alliance with France right up to the declaration of war. As for Crowe:

    He is best known for his vigorous warning, in 1907, that Germany’s expansionist intentions toward Britain were hostile and had to be met with a closer alliance (Entente) with France.

    Crowe organized the Ministry of Blockade during the World War and worked closely with French President Georges Clemenceau at the Supreme Council at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

    Lloyd George and Crowe’s rivals in the Foreign Office tried to prevent Eyre’s advancement but as a consequence of his patronage by Lord Curzon, Eyre served as Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office from 1920 until his death in 1925.

    A similar group in France ran the foreign Ministry and was referred to as the “Centrale.” The French government was as unstable as it was before WWII and for the same reasons. Weak parties and weak Foreign Ministers who came and went, often in months not years. The man who was the center of this system was Maurice Herbette. There is very little about this man in English sources. He apparently controlled the Foreign Ministry’s public communications and very nearly caused a war with the Agadir Crisis of 1911.

    The point of this discussion of history is that we have a similar situation in this country right now. We have a weak, very weak, president in Joe Biden who is senile and who is being controlled by someone mysterious. The Deep State is a term used to describe the federal bureaucracy and probably includes a network of rich corporatist donors who control the Democrat Party.

    The faceless bureaucrats of 1914 botched the crisis the followed the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Yes, the Serbian Black Hand created the crisis and there has been much discussion of the competence of the “Three Emperors” who ruled the main belligerents, but the real rulers of these three countries plus republican France were unknown (to the public), unelected bureaucrats who might well have resembled the people running Joe Biden.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military Affairs | 58 Comments »

    Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2021 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    St Patrick’s day gives me a good hook for re-posting this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this superb book.  Ralph Peters calls this it “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He ran his hand along the stone.  When was it this keep had been built?  The fourteenth century or the fifteenth. The MacDermotts had held it in Cromwell’s day…When the Cromwellian army moved west from Sligo, the MacDermotts had been blown out of their keep, quite literally. The yawning crater in the east wall was the work of Ireton’s artillery…

    And here stand I, Manning thought, inheritor of that conquest, sick at heart because other armies are moving along the same road.  Faces flushed by candleflame in Daly’s gaming rooms, children, like himself, of Cromwell’s spawn, bank drafts written against the harvests of Muster and Connaught.  Ellen Kirwan, taken by right of Cromwell’s conquest, peasant’s daughter brought gawky and long-legged into the big house, her legs spread to receive that ancient conquest, Ireton’s battering cannon.  More wife than mistress now, fussing over him, reminding him to shave, knitting patiently by firelight as he worked and reworked the account books.  

    “It is a sorry mess that history has made of us,” he tells Ellen.  “Old wounds and old debts.  God help us all.”

    The book is also about the way in which history is driven by words and abstractions.  “Words have a splendor for us,”  observes Malcolm Elliott, “and so we send them off into the world to do mischief.”

    Ellen Treacy:

    On a rise of ground from which she could see the distant bay, she stopped and sat motionless, the reins slack in her thin, capable hands. The bay was empty, not a sail or a hull in sight, the water lifeless and gray.  History had come to them upon these water, three foreign ships riding at anchor, filled with men, muskets, cannon.  History had come ashore at Kilcummin strand, watched by fishermen standing beside their huts.  Poetry made actual.  Not her mother’s, not Goldsmith’s or The Seasons by Mr Thompson…That other, older poetry, the black letters of an alphabet remote from English, with prophesies of ships from France, gold from Spain, the deliverance of the Gael. History, poetry, abstractions, words which had transformed and shattered her world. 

    An incredibly good, involving, thought-provoking, emotionally-affecting book.  I recommend it very highly.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | 8 Comments »

    A Machine for Preventing Civil War

    Posted by David Foster on 12th March 2021 (All posts by )

    Scott Alexander, in a 2017 post at Slate Star Codex:

    People talk about “liberalism” as if it’s just another word for capitalism, or libertarianism, or vague center-left-Democratic Clintonism. Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.

    Very insightful and correct, I believe, if by liberalism one means free speech, freedom of religion, and limited government, rather than the cluster of ‘progressive’ believe that often fly under the ‘liberalism’ brand today.

    And when the above attributes of a society do not exist or are eroded, then live-and-let live  become difficult to impossible, and all questions become politicized, because political outcomes determine everything.

    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.

    Ultimately, the game of politics becomes like those Aztec ball games in which the losers are said to have been sacrificed.  Indeed, some of this is happening in America already today, with Democrats demanding that Trump and his supporters be pursued post-election in almost every possible way.

    If the machine of liberalism (as defined above) is destroyed, then another kind of machine will quickly take its place…the machine described by Jean Anouilh in his version of Antigone:

    The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil of itself. That is what is so convenient in tragedy. The least little turn of the wrist will do the job . . . The rest is automatic. You don’t need to lift a finger. The machine is in perfect order; it has been oiled ever since time began, and it runs without friction

     

     

     

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, History, USA | 90 Comments »

    Welcome to Section 22 Week’s Sixth & Concluding Post

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 24th February 2021 (All posts by )

    Welcome to the sixth and final Chicagoboyz post (Feb 24, 2021) in the “Section 22 Week” count down to the 24 Feb 2021 premiere of the Bilge Pumps podcast with the Section 22 Special Interest Group e-mail list. Today’s post will include slides 72 through 82 of 82 of the Section 22 Powerpoint information packet.
    .
    These “back up slides” slides cover Section 22’s interactions with the US Navy over IFF and the utter disaster of the capture of the submarine USS Darter’s technical library by the Imperial Japanese Navy in October 1944.
    .
    You won’t find that disaster in any US Navy institutional history, classified or unclassified, on what the US Navy lost that day.  That is not how institutional histories work.  Institutional histories are all about glorifying the institution and its leaders while naming scapegoats and throwing shade at other institutions, with the classified histories detailing the “shade.”  That is why you have to go to the declassified US Army ULTRA history “SRH-254 THE JAPANESE INTELLIGENCE SYSTEM MIS/WDGS 4 September 1945”, to find any details on the  Japanese haul of intelligence from the grounded US Navy submarine USS Darter.
    .

        Page 53 (62)

       “One of the most important discoveries of captured documents was made
    by the Japanese Navy from the U.S. submarine Darter, which ran aground
    west of Palawan on 23 October. The Japanese recovered many documents
        dealing with radar, radio, and communications procedure, as well as
        instruction books, engine blueprints, and various ordnance items.

     

    It is difficult to evaluate the intelligence which the Japanese have
    obtained from documents, but in those cases here it has been possible
        the information has been found to be relatively accurate.

    .

    USS Darter (SS-227) grounded on Bombay Shoal off Palawan on 4th patrol, 24 October 1944

    Figure 1: USS Darter (SS-227) grounded on Bombay Shoal off Palawan, the Philippines on 4th patrol, 24 October 1944. The shell holes from a Japanese destroyer, several US Navy submarines, and a Japanese air attack. This included 55 point-blank hits from the 6-inch deck gun of the Nautilus (SS-168) on 31st October 1944.  Unfortunately, Darter was boarded prior to that shelling by an away team from a Japanese destroyer and the entire unburned contents off her classified  technical library were seized for analysis by Imperial Japanese Naval Intelligence. Visible on the top of the conning tower are the undamaged radar, radio and identification friend or foe antenna’s. Photo credit — Navsource.org

    .

    See my Chicagoboyz post here for a more complete telling of the Darter’s lost classified documents story:

    .

    The Grounding of USS Darter — A Case Study of an Operational Security Disaster
    October 29th, 2017
    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/56192.html

    .

    The Bilgepumps podcast is now posted, see–

    .

    Bilgepumps Episode 38: Section 22 – The Forgotten Electronic Warfare Superstars of WWII and the Historians who are changing that
    FEBRUARY 24TH, 2021

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Welcome to Section 22 Week, Day 5

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 23rd February 2021 (All posts by )

    Welcome to the fifth Chicagoboyz post (Feb 23, 2021) in the “Section 22 Week” count down to the 24 Feb 2021 Bilge Pumps podcast with the Section 22 Special Interest Group e-mail list. Today’s post will include slides 61 through 72 of 82 of the Section 22 Powerpoint information packet.
    .
    These slides cover Section 22’s part of the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands called “Operation Olympic,” the last RCM flight of WW2 by the successor of Field Unit #6 that ended in tragedy, the “Defenestration”  (being “thrown out the window” of the official historical narrative of Section 22 by the American Joint Chiefs of Staff with the “Seventeen guys on an e-mail list” credits and resource links for further research for naval history academics.
    .
    The 82 slides worth of material being published in “Section 22 Week” are a “picture book highlights reel” of what the between 500 to 1000 men involved in Section 22 radio counter measures operations did between May 1943 and August 1945.  Tomorrow’s concluding post will include the back up slides explaining the role of the Mark III identification in the Pacific war and other elements not central to the Section 22 story but important to the war for the electromagnetic spectrum from March 1944 to August 1945.
    .
    Today’s “extra” involves the dysfunctional intelligence system inside World War II’s Washington DC that lead to Section 22’s “Defenestration.”
    .
    The following are screenshots from SRH-130, MIS Intelligence Processes Relating to Japanese, Science Branch Project No. 2528A, 14 Sept 1945.   This “SRH-130” was the smaller of the two documents with the “SRH-130” cover page at 83 pages vice the 975 of the other.  I’m going to use “Project No. 2528A” to refer to the smaller document and SRH-130 to the larger document.
    .
    First, see the conclusion on how effective the War Department’s G-2 Military Intelligence Division  (MID) electronics section that did “Scientific intelligence”  which was the official D.C. name for the radar intelligence Section 22 provided:
    .
    SRH-130 MIS Scientific Intelligence on Japanese Radar July 1945 - part 2, Tab A , pg 4 of 975.jpg
    Next, this is the recommendations section in “Project No. 2528A” where they list all the things they did wrong in WW2:
    .
    SRH-130 -- Everything the MID G-2 Science Branch got wrong in WW2.jpg
    .
    And finally this is the floor plan of the MID “Science Branch” from “Project No. 2528A” on VJ-Day to give you an idea of the scale of effort put into radar intelligence work at the War Department G-2 compared to Section 22 in Brisbane, Tacloban and Manila.
    .
    SRH-130 -- Science Branch maximum effort foot print VJ-Day.jpg
    The defenestration of Section 22 from the public eye in the immediate post-war makes a great deal of sense, given the level of effort demonstrated by that office plan .  Section 22’s offices in May 1943 Brisbane were larger than the electronics section you see above.
    .
    The War Department was facing Congressional accountability hearings & investigative reports for the Pearl Harbor intelligence failure.  That level of “Scientific Intelligence” performance about radar for the duration of WW2 cannot be in anyway excused, if the story of Section 22 in the SWPA was generally known.  There were assets to cover,  budgets to shield, and careers to protect.  So “out the window” of public acclaim and deep, deep, into the unaccountable hidey hole of decades long classification Section 22 went.
    .

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Helter Skelter Redux?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd February 2021 (All posts by )

    The stated aim of that murderous freak Charlie Manson and his deranged family of dropouts and druggies in committing the brutal slaughter of seven people in 1969 was to incite a race war. The murderers deliberately left bloody graffiti at the murder scenes, attempting to frame the Black Panthers – yet another set of murderous and equally racist freaks active in that period. In Manson’s twisted vision, the Tate-LaBianca murders would set off a brutal race war; black against white, in which whites would be enthusiastically genocided. During this mayhem Manson and his followers would hide out in a vast underground city. They would then emerge to take command over what remained of society. Manson was a particularly noxious racist, unsavory qualities which were veiled by the last putrid remnants of the hippie commune culture, which let his cult family fly under the social radar as it existed in the afterglow of the so-called “Summer of Love” in the formerly golden state of California. (Jim Jones was another one of those super-organized racist-cult freaks of the era, whose’ commune was slightly longer-lasting and successful, until suddenly it wasn’t. Yeah, a supposedly race-prejudice-free socialist commune, with a white leadership cadre and mostly dead black bodies when it all came crashing down some years later.) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Crony Capitalism, History, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Urban Issues, USA | 31 Comments »

    Welcome to “Section 22 Week,” Day Three

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 21st February 2021 (All posts by )

    Welcome to the third post in the “Section 22 Week” count down to the Bilge Pumps podcast with the Section 22 Special Interest Group e-mail list.  By way of background, the Section 22 ‘SIG’ started in March 2015 with myself as list administrator and later as the groups cloud drive guru. The list accomplished it’s goal of mapping the Australian, New Zealand and American archives for Section 22 materials in early 2020 with the publication of Craig Bellamy’s doctoral thesis.

    Since early 2020 my goal for the list has been to get this material wider visibility in the WW2 history community.  By posting Section 22 materials from that thesis, and other list research, consistently on Twitter, I earned the list an invitation to the Bilge Pumps naval affairs podcast on the CIMSEC web site.  That podcast is due to go up on their site 24 Feb 2021.

    Today’s post will include slides 30 through 48 of 82 of the Section 22 information packet.  This will include a spotlight on Section 22’s third Assistant Director, Cmdr. J.B. Jolley, USN reserve.

    Cmdr. J. B. Jolley US Navy Reserve, Asst Director Section 22

    Cmdr. J. B. Jolley US Navy Reserve, Assistant Director Section 22

    Commander J.B. Jolley USNR was with Section 22 early – at least from Oct 1943 from documents Craig Bellamy found in the Australian national archives.   Current Statement #48 dated 24 October 1943 states that USN submarines (unnamed, darn it!)  were being fitted with radar intercept receivers at that time.   Cmdr. Jolley then ran Section 22 for a short time before and during the Leyte campaign (from about 4 September 1944 until at least the 10 Nov 1944) until his health failed.  Yet that time, Section 22’s efforts under his leadership made its biggest contributions of WW2 and Jolley demonstrated a level of moral courage in his leadership that was unmatched in the Pacific War.

    Yet, despite much research, our list has never found Cmdr Jolley’s first and middle names to go with his initials.  This anonymity was part of the price Jolley paid for his moral courage as a leader, for he crossed Admiral Ernest King on the issue of Japanese radar tracking US ships and planes through their Mark III identification friend or foe (IFF) systems.

    See Jolley’s IFF procedure at this link — ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/r at paragraph 11. IFF PROCEDURE sub-paragraph f. which is named in slide 30 below. 

    Adm. Turner, CENPAC’s amphibious forces commander, did not include anything like it in his Iwo Jima or Okinawa attack plans.  And he knew far better…but did not want to draw Adm. King’s attentions.

    To understand the context here, you have to know that electronic IFF was the US Navy’s technological turf in WW2. The U.S. Navy had created an IFF system before WW2, but the UK’s Mark III IFF was chosen for the sake of Allied commonality. And with radar centralized under Adm. King, IFF was part of his personal fief. King’s actions in the “Great South Pacific IFF Visitation” in Jan – Mar 1944 versus Section 22 made the combat failure of the Mark III IFF a failure in the same class as the Mark 14 torpedo and his own very personal tar baby.

    Adm. King’s CIC magazine did not admit to what Jolley wrote into the Sept 1944 7th Fleet Leyte invasions until the March 1945 issue.  Far too late for the intimidated Adm. Turner to add Cmdr. Jolley’s technique into the Okinawa invasion plans.

    The combat failure of the Mark III IFF had to be made to go away…and it did…but that story is for coming “Section 22 Week” posts and slides.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, USA, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    The Computer Age Turns 75

    Posted by David Foster on 21st February 2021 (All posts by )

    In February 1946, the first general purpose electronic computer…the ENIAC…was introduced to the public.  Nothing like ENIAC had been seen before, and the unveiling of the computer, a room-filling machine with lots of flashing lights and switches–made quite an impact.

    ENIAC (the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was created primarily to help with the trajectory-calculation problems for artillery shells and bombs, a problem that was requiring increasing numbers of people for manual computations.  John Mauchly, a physics professor attending a summer session at the University of Pennsylvania, and J Presper Eckert, a 24-year-old grad student, proposed the machine after observing the work of the women (including Mauchly’s wife Mary) who had been hired to assist the Army with these calculations. The proposal made its way to the Army’s liason with Penn,  and that officer, Lieutenant Herman Goldstine,  took up the project’s cause.  (Goldstine apparently heard about the proposal not via formal university channels but via a mutual friend, which is an interesting point in our present era of remote work.)  Electronics had not previously been used for digital computing, and a lot of authorities thought an electromechanical machine would be a better and safer bet.

    Despite the naysayers (including RCA, actually which refused to bid on the machine), ENIAC did work, and the payoff was in speed.  This was on display in the introductory demonstration, which was well-orchestrated from a PR standpoint.  Attendees could watch the numbers changing as the flight of a simulated shell proceeded from firing to impact, which took about 20 seconds…a little faster than the actual flight of the real, physical shell itself.  Inevitably, the ENIAC was dubbed a ‘giant brain’ in some of the media coverage…well, the “giant” part was certainly true, given the machine’s size and its 30-ton weight.

    In the photo below, Goldstine and Eckert are holding the hardware module required for one single digit of one number.

    The machine’s flexibility allowed it to be used for many applications beyond the trajectory work,  beginning with modeling the proposed design of the detonator for the hydrogen bomb.   Considerable simplification of the equations had to be done to fit within ENIAC’s capacity; nevertheless, Edward Teller believed the results showed that his proposed design would work. In an early example of a disagreement about the validity of model results, the Los Alamos mathematician Stan Ulam thought otherwise.  (It turned out that Ulam was right…a modified triggering approach had to be developed before working hydrogen bombs could be built.)  There were many other ENIAC applications, including the first experiments in computerized weather forecasting, which I’ll touch on later in this post.

    Programming ENIAC was quite different from modern programming.  There was no such thing as a programming language or instruction set.  Instead, pluggable cable connections, combined with switch settings, controlled the interaction among ENIAC’s 20 ‘accumulators’ (each of which could store a 10-digit number and perform addition & subtraction on that number) and its multiply and divide/square-root units.  With clever programming it was possible to make several of the units operate in parallel. The machine could perform conditional branching and looping…all-electronic, as opposed to earlier electromechanical machines in which a literal “loop” was established by glueing together the ends of a punched paper tape.   ENIAC also had several ‘function tables’, in which arrays of rotary switches were set to transform one quantity into another quantity in a specified way…in the trajectory application, the relationship between a shell’s velocity and its air drag.

    The original ‘programmers’…although the word was not then in use…were 6 women selected from among the group of human trajectory calculators. Jean Jennings Bartik mentioned in her autobiography that when she was interviewed for the job, the interviewer (Goldstine) asked her what she thought of electricity.  She said she’d taken physics and knew Ohm’s Law; Goldstine said he didn’t care about that; what he wanted to know was whether she was scared of it!  There were serious voltages behind the panels and running through the pluggable cables.

    “The ENIAC was a son of a bitch to program,” Jean Bartik later remarked.  Although the equations that needed to be solved were defined by physicists and mathematicians, the programmers had to figure out how to transform those equations into machine sequences of operations, switch settings, and cable connections.  In addition to the logical work, the programmers had also to physically do the cabling and switch-setting and to debug the inevitable problems…for the latter task, ENIAC conveniently had a hand-held remote control, which the programmer could use to operate the machine as she walked among its units.

    Notoriously, none of the programmers were introduced at the dinner event or were invited to the celebration dinner afterwards.  This was certainly due in large part to their being female, but part of it was probably also that programming was not then recognized as an actual professional field on a level with mathematics or electrical engineering; indeed, the activity didn’t even yet have a name.  (It is rather remarkable, though, that in an ENIAC retrospective in 1986…by which time the complexity and importance of programming were well understood…The New York Times referred only to “a crew of workers” setting dials and switches.)

    The original programming method for ENIAC put some constraints on the complexity of problems that it could be handled and also tied up the machine for hours or days while the cable-plugging and switch-setting for a new problem was done. The idea of stored programming had emerged (I’ll discuss later the question of who the originator was)…the idea was that a machine could be commanded by instructions stored in a memory just like data; no cable-swapping necessary. It was realized that ENIAC could be transformed into a stored-program machine  with the function tables…those arrays of rotary switches…used to store the instructions for a specific problem. The cabling had to be done only once, to set the machine up for interpreting  a particular vocabulary of instructions.  This change gave ENIAC a lot more program capacity and made it far easier to program; it did sacrifice some of the speed.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, History, Science, Tech, War and Peace | 20 Comments »

    Welcome to “Section 22 Week” on Chicagoboyz, Day One of Six

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th February 2021 (All posts by )

    General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area, Section 22 was a secret radar intelligence organization established under General Douglas MacArthur in World War II.  This posts is the first in a series of six that will include the entire 82 slide information packet that I sent to the CIMSEC Bilge Pumps pod cast which was recorded this morning (Feb 19, 20201) and will “air” Feb 24, 2021

    Since March 2015 I have been administering an international e-mail list being named “The Section 22 Special Interest Group” with my role being both administrator and cloud drive guru.  This link was my announcement on Twitter of the list completing it’s 5-year mission in mapping the multi-continent archival history of General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area, Section 22:
    Section 22 Field Units Map, 7 Oct 1944 (Alwyn Lloyd).jpg

    Section 22 Field Units Map, 7 Oct 1944 (via Alwyn Lloyd)

    And especially this PhD Thesis by Craig Bellamy:

    The beginnings of the secret Australian radar countermeasures unit during the Pacific War Feb 2020
    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) – CDU

     This is my “2-minute elevator speech” thumb nail of Section 22’s historical role in WW2 in the Pacific theater versus Japan that I sent to the Bilge Pumps pod cast crew.

    THE BIRTH, LIFE & DEATH OF MACARTHUR’S SECTION 22 RADAR HUNTERS
    In the aftermath of the “Channel Dash” or Unternehmen Zerberus (Operation Cerberus) in February 1942, the Royal Australian Navy decided after a series of meetings that it needed a radio/radar countermeasures (the modern term of art is “electronic warfare”) section to prevent the Japanese from doing to them what the Germans did to the UK Royal Navy when it snuck the fast battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen through the English Channel with the assistance of radio and radar jamming.
    (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_Dash)

    This RCM section was based in Sydney and administered from the RAN Office in Melbourne. It’s commander was Lt. Cdr. Joel Mace, RANVR(sp)  (RANVR decodes as – “Royal Australian Navy Voluntary Reserve” special)
    There was then a decision made — either supported or stage managed by Mace, according to one of the scholars on the E-mail list I administer — to move the organization to Brisbane under the control of the USN’s 7th Fleet in or before May 1943.

    Bellemy - Joel Mace Service photo.jpg

    Then in June 1943 this “Radio and Radar Countermeasures Division” was taken over by MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area General Headquarters (SWPA GHQ) under the direct command of General Spencer Akins, MacArthur’s Chief Signals officer and one of the “Bataan Gang.”   A group of trusted American officers who were at Bataan with MacArthur.

    This informal decision was ratified in GHQ Operations Instructions No. 36 issued by MacArthur on 5 July 1943 and in November the group was christened “Section 22” based on it’s officer number in a Brisbane office building.

    Section 22 encompassed and organized disparate RCM elements in the US Army, US Fifth Air Force, US 7th Fleet, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army into a coherent whole to deal with the Japanese deployment of radar in the Rabaul and South Pacific areas in 1942-1943.

    The organization reached its full maturity in the Summer of 1944 (see photo above) after it absorbed the South Pacific theater’s RCM organizations, primarily in the 13th Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal New Zealand Navy.  South Pacific Theater having become a rear area by that time.

    Section 22 supported General MacArthur’s drive to the Philippines and had a role in mapping Japanese radar networks throughout New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, South China, Formosa and the Ryukyus (including Okinawa) and the Japanese home islands (See May 1943 Rabaul map below).

    Bellamy -- Aussie RCM Map May 1934.jpg

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Degrees of Toxicity

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th February 2021 (All posts by )

    The Daughter Unit clued me in this week to a humongous ruckus which brewed among Air Force contributors to military-oriented discussion boards on Reddit – a ruckus which involves the current Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force – which for the laymen audience, means the very tippy-top enlisted, that singular and exemplary senior NCO who supposedly sits at the right hand of the highest military commanders in the land, to keep them appraised of the interests of the enlisted men and women. The Daughter Unit keeps track of this military ‘gen on a more regular basis than I do, as my two-decades long service was a good while ago, and I walked away from it all and constructed another life and long-term interests in writing, book-blogging and publishing. I will confess to some sentimental feelings for my service, as it provided me with a lot of fun, foreign travel, a decent paycheck and benefits (to include the pension and retirement benefits), a chance to hang out with some amazing people (as well as a soupcon of psychos, amiable freaks and the severely mal-adjusted), and a kind of mental grounding, even a rough sympathy when it comes to people who work for a living and get their hands dirty and their fingernails broken. But enough about me, and my not-particularly-rewarding career as an enlisted minion, toiling away in the bowels of the mighty military public affairs machine some two- or three-decades past.

    The office of the Chief Master Sergeant of any service is a huge thing, in all the military forces: the name of the current Chief-Master-Whatever is one of the things military recruits to whatever branch are expected to know and recite on demand when in Basic Training. General officers there are, in legions, and the multi-stars roost en masse like grackles in the highest levels of command – but there is only one Chief Enlisted, for all four (five counting the Coast Guard) military services. This one – CMSAF JoAnne Bass – is the first female to take up that exalted office for any of the services. I wish her the best luck in the world. When I began serving, there weren’t but a bare half-dozen of female senior enlisteds in the Air Force, and a fair number of the junior enlisted that I served with were the first or second females in certain traditionally male specialties which had just been opened to females. Unfortunately, as things are shaping up in the first months of her tour of duty, Chief Bass had better buckle in, as it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy flight. She put her foot wrong, straight off the bat, when a young NCO (innocently, or perhaps not so innocently) inquired on the CMSAF’s FB page as to how her last name was pronounced – like the fish or the musical instrument?    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Narrative, Predictions, Trump, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    Narrowing Horizons

    Posted by David Foster on 31st January 2021 (All posts by )

    William Shirer, on his experiences in Germany during the early Nazi era:

    I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were.

    Even though Shirer had plenty of access to outside news and information sources, and was well aware of Nazi lies, he still found it difficult to escape psychologically from the effects of the stiflingly-constrained information environment.

    Many of us have wondered how intelligent people–some of whom we may know personally–can fall so completely under the spell of the Democrat worldview, as it exists in its present ‘woke’ state…a worldview which is replete with ‘the most outlandish assertions,’ to use Shirer’s phrase.  But consider: if one gets one’s news from CNN, MSNBC, and even the traditional networks, and from newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times and their imitators…and one’s entertainment from mainstream movies and musical groups…and one works for a company, university, or ‘nonprofit’…then one is living within a highly uniform information and opinion environment. Yes, you might be exposed to the occasional dissident opinion on social media or directly from friends and acquaintances, but you will develop ‘antibodies’, inculcated by the approved sources, which lead you to dismiss such opinions as conspiracy theories, brainwashing by Trump, or something similar.

    It is, of course, much easier to find dissenting voices in 2021 America than it was in the time and place of which Shirer wrote.  (Shirer does say that ‘in those days, in the Thirties, a German listener could still tune his dial to a score of foreign radio stations’ without taking much risk…but most didn’t, evidently, or chose to disbelieve what they heard from outside sources.)

    The psychological drive to conform reinforces the controlled information environment and discourages explorations outside of it.  In my post Oxytocin and Conformity, I cited some research on how the ‘cuddling and belonging’ hormone oxytocin affects public and private conformity, and recalled one of the episodes of the TV series The World at War in which a German man spoke about the temptation to conform.  He had been strongly anti-Nazi, but admitted that he had felt a strong emotional pull to join the rallies and be a part of the the movement.  (He said it much more eloquently than the foregoing sentence would suggest)  I also cited a blog post whose author, after critiquing the craziness of the extreme “progressives,”  went on to say:

    I’m going to be very real with you for a moment, and take off my hat has a blogger, an author, and whatever else I may be, and just speak to you as a man.

    This could have been me.

    Does that surprise you? There was a time I skirted so close to falling under this spell, it would shock you. I felt the guilt, the social pressure, the desire for conformity. Despite the terrible weight such ideology carries on the mind, it is absurdly easy to fall into it. Every day we are assaulted by the agitprop. It is so easy to just say “yes, it’s all my fault, I will submit and obey.”

    It will bring momentary relief, because you will no longer have to fight a narrative that is bombarded upon you 24 hours a day. That mental effort is, itself, rather exhausting on the mind. But if you accept the chains, that is a far greater weight, one that will destroy you. The chains are seductive. They call, because of the enormous weight of social power behind them.

    The pressure is both great and subtle. Imagine a conversation about the weather, innocent enough on its own. A friend might say “wow, that global warming sure is kicking in today!” You’ve a few choices here. You can challenge him, but the immediate counter is likely to be something like “well, 99% of scientists agree, sooooo….” The implication, of course, is that you are stupid for disagreeing with 99% of scientists (whether or not there is any truth to that claim, either). You could remain silent because it’s easier. Or you could just give in, regardless of the truth of the matter, because it’s easiest. Meanwhile, if you counter your friend successfully, you may be down a friend by the end of the night.

    So whether or not a lot of folks believe this thing, soon consensus is reached, as much to peer pressure as anything else. Then it is, further, easier to agree on welfare, tax policy, affirmative action, black lives matter, social justice, etc… Each one has a superficial rhetorical argument which sounds nice, and which has enormous media programming and social pressure behind it.

    A thousand such chats happen every day, both in the real world, and the social media world. The sum total of which is designed to move you, via peer pressure and Weaponized Empathy, toward self-hatred, and intense personal guilt for things which you neither did, nor were capable of preventing.

    Soon a man might find himself agreeing with lunatic propositions that all Republicans are literal Nazis, and Donald Trump is worse than Hitler because… well, nobody really knows the reasons.

    Submission is always the easier short-term choice. Long-term, however, it just destroys a man’s soul.

    I am not asserting that the present-day Democrat belief system is identical to Naziism (although there are indeed some disturbing similarities as well as differences), or that the control of the information environment is as tight as what existed in mid-1930s Germany…but still, when you step back and look at all the ways in which a consistent worldview is being promulgated and views from outside that worldview are being suppressed, then the information horizons–especially for those people who don’t have a particularly strong need to think for themselves or willingness to challenge accepted beliefs–are narrowing at a pretty frightening rate.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Science, Society, USA | 52 Comments »

    The Past as a Foreign Country

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th January 2021 (All posts by )

    I’ve just finished and released into the wild a WWII novel, My Dear Cousin, for which the concept came to me in a dream last July. Since the current year-long plus covidiocy demolished nearly every fall market and holiday event which would otherwise have taken up my time, I set to work and finished it in six months.  As much as is possible, I did my research – and the internet makes the kind of information I needed available at my fingertips: a detailed 1930s map of Singapore, a hand-written diary of a woman who escaped Malaya in early 1942, a breakdown of what constituted the tents and facilities for a frontline Army hospital in 1944, and the newspaper archives of the wartime Singapore Straits Times and Brisbane Courier Mail. All that and more went into an account of the war, as seen through the lives of two cousins, on opposite sides of the world.  Accuracy is what I strive for – and most times, I think I come very close. The rest of this entry is what I felt obliged to include in the notes at the back of the book.

    In the interests of fidelity to history and racial attitudes of the 1940s with regard to the Japanese and to a lesser extent, the Germans, the current social climate requires me to add the following caveat; yes, the general attitudes of American and Australians towards the Japanese were by current standards, viciously and unrepentantly racist. However, this book is, as nearly as I can make it, written with an eye to fidelity to the historical record. I will not cut and tailor my fictional cloth in accordance with current fashion. ‘Presentism’, wherein the accepted fashionable attitudes and conventional opinions of the current day are retrofitted, however unsuited and historically unlikely, onto those characters living in past decades and centuries, is a grim transgression against the art of bringing a past era into life, warts and all. Writing a so-called historical novel merely by placing 21st century characters in different costumes and strange technological shortcomings is a disservice to the past, and a hampering to complete understanding. It’s the past – they did things differently, back then. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 68 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading, Viewing, and Listening

    Posted by David Foster on 25th January 2021 (All posts by )

    Smiling Victorians…a photo essay

    A tour of the Atlanta Hartsfield air traffic control tower

    Speaking of ATC…a controller at Boston Center and a Delta pilot on her frequency discover that her grandfather was the man who hired him, back in 1981.

    The transistor:  a documentary from 1954.

    Tonight being Burns Night, here’s a song I like from Robert Burns...musical setting by Ludwig Beethoven, oddly enough.  Some 19th-century musical entrepreneurship was involved in the Burns-Beethoven connection. Lyrics, including modern-English translation, here.

    Think I’ll pass on the kilt and the haggis, though.

    Posted in Aviation, History, Music, Photos, Poetry, Tech, Transportation | 14 Comments »

    The Twilight Zone

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th January 2021 (All posts by )

    Well, it appears that the mullahcracy in Iran is still steamed over the death of their military mastermind Quassam Soleimani, the chief of so-called Quds Force – sort of the Iranian SS, I have always thought. On the one-year anniversary of that momentous drone-zap (a consummation quite overdue in my opinion) the president of Iran directly threatened the life of President Trump. Talk is cheap, and Iranian threats of dire revenge are the equivalent of those teeny and nearly worthless Spanish 1-peseta coins, which were struck from aluminum in the early 1990s, about the size of a child’s fingernail and looked like nothing so much as doll money. But still … the militant Muslims of Iran are certainly dedicated and determined sufficiently to have racked up any number of lesser-known and less-protected hits, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was something more than just tough talk for the benefit of their domestic audience and fans of Islamic mayhem in other countries. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Current Events, History, International Affairs, Iran, Media, Middle East, Trump | 81 Comments »

    Streaming Note: What Killed Michael Brown?

    Posted by Ginny on 31st December 2020 (All posts by )

    We’re pretty cheap, so it took a celebratory night (46 years of fairly amiable tolerance of one another) to splurge on Prime’s “stream for pay” documentary: Shelby Steele’s What Killed Michael Brown?. We’d seen reviews* that sounded interesting. Steele’s voice and perspective define the film; it is directed by his son, Eli. It is polished, its music, use of historical footage smooth.

    He interviews citizens from Ferguson, he compiles a brief but clear description of that fatal afternoon, uses clips of George Stephanopoulos’ interview of Darren Wilson. He notes Holder’s arrival in Ferguson after the shooting, the response of residents to his statements. A repeated presence is Al Sharpton, who seems to represent those who force incidents into patterns presented as “poetic truth” – prejudged, premade narratives that ignore the shifts in culture (and reality) over a hundred years. While the central focus is the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, it interweaves personal narrative to quietly honor the strength and integrity of his father’s choices. He traces his parents’ lives (we see the Kentucky community in which his father was born in 1900 and from which he joined the great northern migration as an orphaned boy at 14; by emphasizing the house ownership rate in the black communities of his youth and showing houses his parents bought in the forties and fifties in Chicago, he tells us much about a culture and a time, about the incremental nature but powerful force of economic liberty and responsibility). Less of his own life is described, but, born in 1946, he lived through the transition: he came of age in the Great Society era: we hear LBJ, we see the projects when as a young man he worked in St. Louis, and we see them implode.

    But the touchstone for him lies in his parents’ choices: their civil rights activism reflected their values in the forties and fifties as were their hard-won and steady movement toward a secure home. He returns to the self-made man, a concept central to his father’s life as it had been to Frederick Douglass, two generations before. His argument, characteristic of a Hoover scholar, is familiar, if subtle, personal and complex. His father was not helpless, but the Great Society assumed helplessness; that assumption was destructive but accepting it was also a choice and also destructive. Steele seems intent on communicating what he has learned over a long lifetime, wisdom and appreciation that connects his father, his own maturation, and the present to the importance of making one’s self, accepting agency. (* Links of reviews below fold.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Biography, Current Events, History, Video | 7 Comments »

    Christmas 2020

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2020 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    In the bleak midwinter, from King’s College Cambridge

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. (although there is debate about the historical veracity of this story)

    An air traffic control version of  The Night Before Christmas.

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    A Christmas-appropriate poem from Rudyard Kipling

    I was curious as to what the oldest Christmas carol might be:  this Billboard article suggests some possibilities.

    The story of electric Christmas tree lights

    Mona Charen, who is Jewish, wonders  what’s going on with the Christians?

    The 2017 Christmas season, in combination with the Churchill movie Darkest Hour, reminded me something written by the French author Georges Bernanos:  A Tale for Children.

    Here’s a passage I’ve always liked from Thomas Pynchon’s great novel Gravity’s Rainbow.  The setting: it is the grim winter of 1944, just before Christmas. The military situation in Europe is not good, and WWII seems as if it will never end. London is under attack by V-2 rockets and V-1 cruise missiles (as they would be called today.) Roger and Jessica, two of the main characters, are driving in a rural area in England and come upon a church where carols are being sung. They decide to go inside.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, History, Holidays, Miscellaneous, Music, Poetry | 5 Comments »

    If the Battle of Waterloo was Won on the Playing Fields of Eton…

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd December 2020 (All posts by )

    ….as the Duke of Wellington has been quoted as saying, then what battles are being won and lost at Eton College today?

    See also:

    A petition from some of the boys at Eton in defense of their teacher.

    The video itself, which I have not yet watched.

    Posted in Britain, Education, Feminism, History, Quotations | 28 Comments »

    Hope and Fear

    Posted by David Foster on 15th November 2020 (All posts by )

    I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said “Liberals vote with their hope, conservatives vote with their fear.”  Of course the same car was also decorated with a Biden-Harris sticker.

    I think that the sentiment on the hope/fear bumper sticker was, if not 180 degree wrong, at least 170 degrees wrong.

    Take K-12 education, for example:  Conservatives see hope in a more open system with more options and more competition, providing not only hope for those kids attending the new alternative schools, but also hope for the public schools via the improvement sparked by competition.  Liberals and ‘progressives’, in the current meaning of those terms, seem happy to maintain the current institutional structure, which no serious person can believe will yield meaningful improvement regardless of how many dollars are dumped into it.  Their fear of changing the institutional arrangements that exist dominates any hope for possible improvement.

    Take manufacturing.  Conservatives, or at least the Trump flavor of same, see hope for reinvigoration and growth.  Liberals, generally speaking, do not.  More generally, ‘progressives’ tend to see the entire American economy–and America’s position in the world–in terms of managing the decline.

    Or take free speech.  As repeatedly documented here and elsewhere, there is growing hostility to free speech on the left.  And anti-free-speech views tend to be strongly associated with generalized fear.

    Peter Drucker (I think it was) wrote that before World War I, socialism was largely about hope, afterwards, it was about envy. He was talking about European socialism. In America, I think that the relative amount of hope in the overall “progressive” mix is a lot lower than it was in the FDR era or the JFK era.

    Regarding fear, I’ll note that it is a lot easier to disclaim certain kinds of fear–such as the fear of crime–when living certain neighborhoods (like the high-income area where I saw the bumper sticker) than in others.  Similarly for many other kinds of fear.

     

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, History, Leftism, Society, USA | 15 Comments »

    American Weimar or American Habsburg?

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd November 2020 (All posts by )

    Aaron Sibarium has an interesting article on the Weimarization of America thru the normalization of political violence and intimidation…it is a trend I’ve raised concerns about in the past, for example, here:  The United States of Weimar?  An article by Dominic Green, though, argues that Weimar is less of a threatening precedent for American today than is the Habsburg monarchy of Austria-Hungary:

    The Habsburg monarchy was riven with ethnic division, but:

    Where the Hapsburgs had nationalism, we have ‘identity’. Like the Hapsburgs, we have racialized nationalism within an imperial framework. The result is what English-speakers call ‘Balkanization’. You need only look at the history of the Balkans in the half-century before 1914 to see where our current path leads.

    I was reminded of a quote from historian AJP Taylor:

    The appointment of every school teacher, of every railway porter, of every hospital doctor, of every tax-collector, was a signal for national struggle. Besides, private industry looked to the state for aid from tariffs and subsidies; these, in every country, produce ‘log-rolling,’ and nationalism offered an added lever with which to shift the logs. German industries demanded state aid to preserve their privileged position; Czech industries demanded state aid to redress the inequalities of the past. The first generation of national rivals had been the products of universities and fought for appointment at the highest professional level: their disputes concerned only a few hundred state jobs. The generation which followed them was the result of universal elementary education and fought for the trivial state employment which existed in every village; hence the more popular national conflicts at the turn of the century.

    Taylor also noted that the ethnic conflicts were exacerbated by the government dominance of economic life. “There were no private schools or hospitals, no independent universities; and the state, in its infinite paternalism, performed a variety of services from veterinary surgery to the inspecting of buildings.” The present-day US doesn’t have that level of government dominance, certainly, but the degree to which many nominally-private activities are now government-funded (universities, healthcare)–combined with the extreme politicization of everything from coffee to football–is helping to drive those same behaviors of intergroup squabbling.

    Also from Dominic Green:

    Above all, the typical affluent young American, the sort who in a more stable time might have thrown in his or her lot with the bureaucracy or a management job in the Mittelstand, the corporate heart of the economy, now resembles no literary figure so much as Ulrich, the protagonist of Robert Musil’s 1913 novel The Man Without Qualities.

    Ulrich is a forerunner of our college-educated millennials: morally enfeebled, sexually frustrated, professionally stunted. He has acquired enough sophistication to see through the forms of politics and social life — ‘critical thinking’, as the imposters of our schools call it — but not enough conviction to act in a way that might improve his life by bringing him into authentic contact with ‘reality’, which he knows is somewhere out there but cannot touch.

    I’m reminded of some comments by the deposed German Kaiser and by the writer Goethe, 94 years apart…not sure how directly relevant these points were to the Austria-Hungary of the time, but they are relevant to America today:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Education, Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Society, USA | 16 Comments »

    Apropos of nothing, really: The Browder Boys

    Posted by Ginny on 31st October 2020 (All posts by )

    Jay Nordlinger’s National Review article has stuck in my mind – an interesting family history of curious (in both senses) people and how complicated man and his loves and choices are. I know nothing about math and little about American communists, who seemed (and seem) to me quite foreign.

    But the Browders were broad in their abilities: perhaps the effect on of Russia and America, communism and western values, might draw observations, especially if readers are more familiar than I with their lives. Bill Browder “goes around the world campaigning for “Magnitsky acts” — laws in honor of the murdered lawyer” who had represented him, battling Putin who was behind Magnitsky’s persecution and death. His grandfather is probably not a familiar name today, but he represented the Communist Party in America for decades and was famous for what we may (I’m sure my parents who were more his contemporaries would) see as absurd, the concise argument: “Communism is 20th-century Americanism.” The generation between – three sons – were remarkable American mathematicians.

    The complexity of human nature? What we learn from our parents and what we believe and how we rebel? How remarkable talents are handed down and how some families are able to cultivate those talents? How math can deliver real answers and politics become fuzzy as consequences, empirical evidence, is ignored? Oh, well, at least this may entertain as we await Tuesday’s verdict on our culture – perhaps a temporary one but important nonetheless.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Business, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, National Security, Political Philosophy, Science | 11 Comments »