The Great Texas Pig War of 1841

(Another in my historical trivia posts – this is a cross-post from my book-blog. The Pig War features in my latest book, Deep in the Heart … along with a lot of other relatively unknown mid-19th century trivia.)
The Pig War was not actually an honest-to-pete real shooting war. But it did involve a pair of international powers; the Republic of Texas, and the constitutional monarchy of France. And thereby hangs the story of a neighborhood squabble between a frontier innkeeper and a gentleman-dandy named Jean Pierre Isidore Dubois de Saligny who called himself the Comte de Saligny. He was the charge d’affaires, the representative of France to the Republic of Texas, arriving from a previous assignment the French Legation in Washington D.C. He had been instrumental in recommending that France extend diplomatic recognition to the Republic of Texas, but one might be forgiven for thinking that some kind of 19th Century Peter Principle was at play . . . for Dubois turned out to be terribly undiplomatic.

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Burmese Pythons in the Everglades

A just-released study suggests that Burmese Pythons have devastated Florida Everglades animal populations (e.g., raccoon and opossum sightings are down by 99%).

The pythons were originally released in the Everglades by people who had kept them as pets and their population has grown rapidly. It’s possible that much of the snake population was killed off by last year’s cold snap. However, as with cancer cells, a fast-growing population regenerates quickly unless almost all of its members are exterminated.

The cited article points out that it’s not certain the snakes are responsible for radical declines in small-animal populations but that no one has a better explanation.

The article mentions the possibility of preventing the snakes from expanding their territory but doesn’t discuss how close the snake population is to equilibrium in its current habitat. (Since a large number of prey animals needs to be around to support each predator, and Everglades prey populations appear to have been radically reduced, how close is the snake population to equilibrium?) Also, I wonder if the snakes will kill off the panther population by depleting its food supply.

Naturally, the federal govt has responded to the snake problem by banning importation and interstate trade of several kinds of snakes. This will have no effect. The snake is out of the barn, so to speak.

“Pythons are wreaking havoc on one of America’s most beautiful, treasured and naturally bountiful ecosystems,” said Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, whose scientists contributed to the study. “Right now, the only hope to halt further python invasion into new areas is swift, decisive and deliberate human action.”

I wonder if it’s possible to constrain the snakes to their current habitat. From the tone of the article, and frequent media stories about giant snakes captured in the wild, it looks like the Park Service is slowly trying to figure out what to do. Maybe they should try to eradicate the snakes altogether. OTOH, I wonder how much farther North the snakes can migrate before they get killed off by winter freezes.

I don’t know if there’s a moral or political point to be made here. It’s a difficult problem.

Working River, or Real-Estate Amenity?

Minneapolis is the head of commercial navigation on the Mississippi river. The city’s barge facilities handle about 600,000 tons of traffic annually–not huge by water-transport standards, but not trivial either.

Concerns about a predatory fish called the Asian Carp have raised the idea of permanently closing the locks at St Anthony Falls and hence eliminating Minneapolis’s industrial waterfront. Maybe this is necessary, or maybe there is an alternative way of dealing with the carp invasion–I don’t know. But I do think that the reaction of the Mayor to the potential termination of barge operations in his city is a little–jarring:

Get over it. Minneapolis does not need a port

What Minneapolis apparently does need, in the opinion of many real-estate developers and politicians, is a new swath of riverfront parks, condos, and restaurants.

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Oh, this is going to be a cheerful Monday…

So tomorrow (Monday) morning there’s going to be a new pact signed in Brussels at the EU leaders’ summit which basically wrests more fiscal power away from Greece, and turns it over to a “Eurozone budget commissioner”. Here in Ireland, the current government is going to sign on with the understanding that it won’t need to ratify it with the people (75% of whom are hankering for a vote). According to the Independent, President Higgins can refer it to the Supreme Court for a legal test. I doubt he’ll do it – he’s a Labour man and his party is currently sharing power with Fine Gael. All should make for hours of exciting Eurocrisis soap opera on the radio…

Getting to the bottom of PJs

So while I was doodling out a thoughtful post on British identity in the Emerald Isle, this whole pajama business in Dublin blew open, meriting mention not only in the London Times editorial section on Friday(sorry-behind a paywall), but Althouse as well! So what’s up with dressing down?

The debate that took place was fascinating – in part because there really was no debate. The Dept of Social Welfare hung up a bunch of signs asking people to show up in street clothes, and Irish punditry applauded. I read this as part of a continuing meme in Irish thought and culture – that Irish manners, once the finest to behold, are crumbling due to American/British media, the Celtic Tiger, the end of the Celtic Tiger, the Church, the lack of the Church, Leinster Rugby losing to Connacht, so on and so forth. Mind you, this is a nation where people still thank the bus driver as they exit the bus. Where thank you notes are sent with profusion. It’s not a political thing one way – or the other. It’s more like a nationwide “Mind yer manners” moment.

Portrait of Courage

The body of Peruvian ship’s waitress Erika Soria has been recovered from the wreck of the Concordia. It has been revealed that as the ship went down, and Captain Schettino was busy being one of the first off the ship, the young Peruvian waitress, working on her third cruise, stayed back to help dozens of passengers into the lifeboats. The last time rescued passengers saw her, she was giving her lifejacket to an elderly man.

RIP heroine Erika Soriamolina.

The End of “Moral Equivalence”, and the Moral Bankruptcy of the Left

A common refrain among the Left can be summarized as “moral equivalence” – i.e., comparing the negative events that the US is involved with (i.e., Abu Ghraib) or the inherent difficulties involved with attempting to turn a despotic state such as Iraq or a “failed state” such as Afghanistan into a functioning democracy with the horrors of the Russian invasion of Chechnya or the Chinese armed suppression of Tibet and then concluding that “we are all the same”.

While the individuals here at Chicago Boyz never bought into the “moral equivalence” model it is true that the US had to prop up and stand by some odious regimes for quite a while in order to win the Cold War. While South Korea today is a vibrant democracy and certifiably free country it wasn’t always this way and while that is the ideal there are other countries that are at varying steps along this path.

With the “Arab Spring” the US is looking at things differently. While we supported Egypt and Tunisia it was clear that we weren’t giving them unlimited support against their people; our contacts (the military) in fact minimized the violence in the overall situation and now at least these countries have an opportunity to have a democratic society.

On the other hand you can see how the former Soviet “client states” are treating the uprising – with unimaginable brutality against unarmed civilians protesting peacefully. Libya and Syria behaved (and are still behaving, in the case of Syria) with insane behaviors such as opening fire with anti-aircraft weapons and tank fire against peaceful citizens which is a slaughter. This type of behavior of course is perfectly acceptable to a Russian style client state trained military, which use all means of oppression available to preserve the power of the ruling class against the will of the people. There is no “state” or “populace” of value; there is only the power of those in control (Gaddafi or Assad’s clique, or Putin’s clique, for example) and thus an ever escalating chain of violence is OK in their interpretation of events if that is what it takes to control power.

As a country the US certainly has made mistakes but we LEARN from mistakes and are now on the side of freedom and voices for the people. And it isn’t only the US; France and Britain led the Libyan intervention much to the dismay of THEIR left wing.

And yet Russia today shows why moral equivalence was NEVER correct; they are fundamentally anti-freedom and supporting regimes with the same core values of their own. One of the best description of the former USSR was that they were just “third generation gangsters” and it is clear that Assad is just a “second generation gangster” (Gaddafi’s second generation were mostly hunted down and killed or about to stand trial, something Gaddafi would never have done for his opponents).

Russia continues to veto resolutions that would support unarmed citizens against Assad; their logic is clear – the goal of a regime is to CONTINUE TO EXIST and all means necessary to do this are OK. The will of their own populace is irrelevant, and the doctrine of “do not interfere in country’s affairs” provides the justification. There are obvious parallels to the situation in Putin’s Russia in that he will do everything to retain power (stuff the ballot box, threaten violence, blame foreign powers, or actually deploy violence in ever escalating levels if needed).

Whatever the sins of the US in the modern era there are no equivalents of using anti-aircraft weapons and tanks against unarmed citizens, and using scorched earth tactics against civilians. This never happened. Instead the US took great pains to shield civilians and grow nascent democratic institutions, although the outcome of this is never certain.

China too waits in the wings; the “third generation gangster” label could be applied there but they are more circumspect in the use of violence and do seem to believe that their goal as a regime does include raising the overall standard of living and giving people freedom (except to criticize the government, of course). Since Russia will block all effective sanctions against Syria, China has an out. This doesn’t stop China from crushing dissent where it suits them (Tibet) in a way that Western nations could never pull off; and a Beastie Boy concert or two obviously hasn’t dissuaded them a bit from their activities.

And yet there are no protests outside Russia or China’s embassies by the Left; this isn’t a battle that concerns them (Syria or Libya), because it doesn’t fit their narrative that all the governments are oppressive and of moral equivalence. There are no angry posts on left wing blogs about these issues. It doesn’t fit their pre-defined agenda that the US is an oppressive place since birth and that we are all the same.

That is the definition of moral bankruptcy.

Declassified, after 66 Years

Mavis Batey, a WWII codebreaker, was presented by the British intelligence agency GCHQ with a document (“the history of Abwehr codebreaking”) that she co-authored in 1945 and that has only now been declassified. One of the other authors was her late husband Keith, but the information was considered so secret, and was so compartmentalized, that she had not previously read or even been aware of his contributions to the document.

I’ve previously written about Mavis Batey (née Mavis Lever) in my post the bombe runs again. Her realization that a certain enciphered message did not contain a single occurrence of the letter “L” led to the breaking of the message, the setting of a trap for the Italian fleet at Cape Matapan, and the sinking of four enemy ships.

“The Zionist Imperative”

Caroline Glick:

Today’s principal form of Jew-hatred is anti- Zionism. Anti-Zionism is similar to previous dominant forms of Jew hatred such as Christian anti-Judaism, xenophobic and racist anti- Semitism, and Communist anti-Jewish cosmopolitanism in the sense that it takes dominant, popular social trends and turns them against the Jews. Anti-Zionism’s current predominance owes to the convergence of several popular social trends which include Western post-nationalism, and anti-colonialism.

Worth reading in full.

UPDATE: David Foster provides a link to a well written blog post about a BDS conference at U. Penn.

Frontier Surgeon or Ferdinand and Hermann’s Excellent Frontier Adventure

The practice of medicine in these United (and for the period 1861-1865, somewhat disunited) States was for most of the 19th century a pretty hit or miss proposition, both in practice and by training. That many sensible people possessed pretty extensive kits of medicines – the modern equivalents of which are administered as prescriptions or under the care of a licensed medical professional – might tend to indicate that the qualifications required to hang out a shingle and practice medicine were so sketchy as to be well within the grasp of any intelligent and well-read amateur, and that many a citizen was of the opinion that they couldn’t possibly do any worse with a D-I-Y approach. 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 – they may have been better off having a go on their own at that.

Most doctors trained as apprentices to a doctor with a current practice. There were some formal schools of medicine in the United States, but their output did not exactly dazzle with brilliance. Successful surgeons of the time possessed two basic skill sets; speed and a couple of strong assistants to hold the patient down, until he was done cutting and stitching. Most of the truly skilled doctors and surgeons had their training somewhere else – like Europe.

But in San Antonio, from 1850 on – there was a doctor-surgeon in practice, who ventured upon such daring medical remedies as to make him a legend. His patients traveled sometimes hundreds of miles to take advantage of his skill …

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The Art Of Hipgnosis

I was having a drink one night reading an article about someone’s “favorite things” and they mentioned an out-of-print book from the ’70s about the firm Hipgnosis that designed iconic album covers. Literally 5 or so clicks later I ordered it from my iPhone through Amazon and it recently arrived (amazing what the Internet can do).

Hipgnosis was the name of the now-defunct firm that produced all the record covers that you have in your collection from the era when a record cover was a work of art, something to look at for hours on end while the music played over your stereo (or headphones). Wikipedia has a good summary of the firm here and also the main designer (Storm Thogerson) here who even today still creates great CD Covers (it doesn’t sound the same, I admit) for bands like Muse. Here is a great site (non official) of Hipgnosis material, as well.

I was very impressed with these record covers growing up. At that time the internet didn’t exist so unless you went to a show and saw the band “in the flesh” or read a music magazine (which I never paid for) at a magazine stand you didn’t know much about the band “behind the music” so these iconic images helped you to imagine what the band stood for. Plus Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and similar artists never really toured the states when I was at an age to afford to attend shows so their “message” came through on album covers, posters, and sleeves.

Some of the album art that Hipgnosis made from the ’70s era is from great bands and albums like “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, the Pink Floyd classics, and the Led Zeppelin era, as well as the Peter Gabriel unnamed solo albums. These bands seemed to stand well with the images.

I am a huge Michael Schenker / UFO fan and loved their covers, too, except I didn’t really understand them (especially “Force It” with the gleaming bathroom appliances). Obsession with the “ball bearing” images didn’t make the book but it also was iconic.

Then you get the more obscure bands like Montrose (Sammy Hagar’s band before he went solo) with their “arty” covers. Some of the band covers are hilarious when juxtaposition-ed against the fact that much of the underlying music was awful. Obviously these images were damn racy in the day; when I bought the book there were photocopies from a xerox machine inside the book of some of the racier album covers involving human body parts. These photocopies were likely 15 years old (nowadays way racier stuff is everywhere in the internet).

I also like the logos (in the collage) and the inside sleeve from “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”. Hipgnosis really did outstanding work and I highly recommend the book if you can find it. The book is organized in a somewhat “cheeky” fashion (they are British, after all) with the famous “Flying Pig” over the power station for “Animals” filed under the category “Fiascos”.

Cross posted at LITGM

One of my Least-Favorite Politicians

…out of a wide range of potential choices, is Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). I first became aware of this reprehensible individual after seeing the incredibly arrogant letter that she wrote to Kathleen Fasanella (of the blog Fashion Incubator) in response to Kathleen’s attempts to call attention to the harm being done to many small manufacturers by the ill-thought-out CPSIA legislation.

There are lots of reasons to dislike Schakowsky (see this, for example)—another such reason made its appearance Wednesday with her assertion, in an attempt to defend Obama’s suppression of the Keystone Pipeline project, that “Twenty thousand jobs is really not that many jobs, and investing in green technologies will produce that and more.”

Twenty thousand jobs is really not that many jobs?

There is of course a huge difference between a project funded with private money that will act to reduce America’s energy costs and increase its industrial competitiveness, and one funded with taxpayer money (much of it undoubtedly going to politically-well-connected corporations) which would quite likely act to increase America’s energy costs and thereby reduce its industrial competitivness. Perusal of Schakowsky’s bio reveals no experience at all working in the private sector, of course.

Whatever one thinks of the Pipeline and of various “alternative energy” options, surely it should be obvious to all that this CongressCreature’s cavalier dismissal of twenty thousand jobs should be considered unacceptable arrogance on the part of any American officeholder. It is a level of arrogance that, unfortunately, has become far too common among the government classes.

WBEZ: Chicago-area firms looking to veterans to help with NATO, G-8 security

Some private security firms around Chicago are looking to beef up their ranks with Iraq and Afghanistan war vets ahead of two world summits that are expected to bring multitudes of protesters to the city this spring.

The article states that the security firms are interested in hiring veterans because they are likely to show “better restraint” if the protests turn violent. Interesting.

And I really hope any protests don’t turn violent.

Update: Thanks to Carl Prine’s Line of Departure for highlighting the above article/ad and mentioning this blog-within-a-blog. Second City Cop has a post on the topic and lots on the upcoming summit, too. Just keep scrolling.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

This is a delightful little movie by Moonbot Studios.

From the movie’s description at the Vimeo page:

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is one of five animated short films that will be considered for outstanding film achievements of 2011 in the 84th Academy Awards ®.

Film Awards Won by “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
To date, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” film has drummed up fans all over the world taking home the following awards:
· Cinequest Film Fest: Best Animated Short
· Palm Springs International ShortFest: Audience Favorite Award
· SIGGRAPH: Best in Show

I still can’t seem to center images or videos in WordPress, at least not easily. When I save a post, WordPress simply removes the ‘center’ tags. With images I can work around the problem by putting the HTML code for a table into the post. Inside the cells of a table, WordPress will leave the ‘center’ tags alone. I don’t want to do this with a video like this, for I’m not sure if I won’t mess up the look of the blog if I make it too wide.

Facebook Again

[Bumped. I need 12 more likes. Many thanks to everyone who already clicked my button, if you will.]

Having cooled off after my last attempt to set up a FB page I have reactivated my account (because nothing is ever forgotten at Facebook) and am ready to give it another go. If you have a FB account I’d be grateful if you could click my Like button. I need 25 likes so that I can change my URL.

Thanks again.


UPDATE: If the like box doesn’t appear here, please click here to visit my page.

UPDATE 2: Mission accomplished. Thanks to all who clicked.

Turning Point

My daughter and I are watching and very much enjoying the period splendors of Downton Abbey, showing on the local PBS channel here over the last couple of weeks – just as much as my parents and I enjoyed Upstairs, Downstairs – the original version, yea these decades ago. Of course, the thrust of this season is the effects of WWI on the grand edifice of Edwardian society in general. The changes were shattering … they seemed so at the time, and even more in retrospect, to people who lived through the early 20th century in Western Europe, in Russia, the US and Canada. In reading 20th century genre novels, I noted once that one really didn’t see much changing in book set before and after WWII, save for the occasional mention of a war having been fought: people went to the movies, listened to the radio, drove cars, wore pretty much the same style of clothes … but in novels set before and after WWI, the small changes in details were legion.

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