D-Day plus 80 Years

Neptunus Lex:  The liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.]

American Digest:  A walk across a beach in Normandy

Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured:  The pivot day of history

Stephen Green about the complexity of the planning that made success possible.

A collection of D-day color photos from Life Magazine

See Bookworm’s post from 2012, and Michael Kennedy’s photos from 2007

The Battle of Midway took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942. Bookworm attended a Battle of Midway commemoration event in 2010 and also in 2011: Our Navy–a sentimental service in a cynical society.

See also  Sgt Mom’s History Friday post from 2014.

Women building airplanes during WWII, in color and the story of the Willow Run bomber plant.

A very interesting piece on  the radio news coverage of the invasion

However, I am very sorry that this link needs to be included:  From Sacrificing FOR Freedom to Choosing the Sacrifice OF Freedom.  And this morning, one of the first things I ran across was this.  Real late-Weimar / early-Third Reich stuff.

A lot of pushback seems to be building.  Let us hope it is not too late.

Ukraine, and the World Outside US Borders

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse and more simplistic ‘debate’ than the arguments taking place in the US over aid to Ukraine. There are big quality problems with the level of argumentation…on both sides.

On the anti-funding-Ukraine side: Many commentators say we shouldn’t be funding Ukraine’s efforts to protect their own border because we are failing in protecting our own border.

But can anyone really think that the problems with the US border are primarily a matter of resources?  It should be obvious that these problems are a matter of will: the border is largely open because the Biden administration has wanted it open.  If the Biden administration had been provided with $X billion more available for border enforcement, where X is any number, the situation would have been exactly what it has been.

On the pro-funding-Ukraine side: Many commentators seem unable to imaging why anyone would object to US participation in the war (even if only in the form of aid and weapons) other than being a Putin advocate and/or being paid off by Putin–there are a lot of ad hominem arguments accusing people of being in the pay of Putin, or simply of caring about Russia more than they care about their own country.  But there are wars and injustices all over the world, and the US must carefully choose which ones it gets involved in.  Resources are finite, and almost every military intervention carries at least some risk of undesired escalation. US experience with wars in recent decades has not been terribly encouraging.

On the anti-funding-Ukraine side: Sometimes, the argument goes beyond the US border and the assertion is made that the US should not be doing things like the Ukraine involvement until our own country is fixed.  But will there ever be, has there ever been, a time when everything about the US is ‘fixed’?  I note that the US maintained a higher level of military funding (as a % of GDP) during the Cold War than we do today, and yet public infrastructure–from roads to parks to subway systems to school–generally worked better than the corresponding entities do today.

Also on the anti side, it is observed that there is a lot of corruption in Ukraine, and that it is also far from a perfect democracy. These points seem to be true.  But sometimes one needs to support certain countries despite serious differences in values…as we did in supporting the Soviet Union in WWII and in supporting certain unpleasant regimes during the Cold War. The specific situation needs to be considered and analyzed. (And, Indeed, some of the things now going on in Canada and in Western Europe–not to mention in America itself–seem quite contrary to American ideals.)

Those opposed to funding Ukraine often assert that the aid is being provided in order to support American arms manufacturers–Raytheon, especially, tends to be mentioned for some reason–really, this is reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s denunciations of arms manufacturers as ‘merchants of death.’  But if the political goal was to keep arms manufacturers happy, there are plenty of other projects available, such as the badly-needed building of more ships for the Navy.  And when people denounce arms manufacturers, I always wonder: Are they absolute pacifists? Do they favor having all arms manufacturing done by government agencies?  What would be their plan for ensuring that our forces have what they need to win conflicts and minimize their own casualties?

On the pro-funding-Ukraine side:  It is argued that if Putin isn’t stopped in Ukraine, he will likely invade other European countries. I think this is a very legitimate fear. But it needs to be traded off against the threats from the larger and much more economically dynamic nation of China.  I note that many of the people who harp on the threat from Russia never (or very rarely) have anything to say about China. Does investing resources in Ukraine reduce the threat of, say, a Chinese invasion or blockade of Taiwan? If it points in the direction of reducing the threat for US credibility reasons, how does this trade off against the consumption of US munitions?

Someone said at Twitter that he doesn’t see how anyone who knows the history of the 1930s and 1940s can oppose supporting Ukraine.  But it’s not always 1939, sometimes it’s 1914.  Also, history didn’t stop at the end of the 1940s, and many people have observed the poor outcomes of US military interventions in our century, not to mention the Vietnam War.

The pro-Ukraine people, especially politicians, have been arguing that the money spent mostly goes to US arms manufacturers…this is kind of the flip side of the “it’s all to benefit Raytheon” argument.  If the only objective is to “create jobs” and “put money in circulation”, then that could be achieved equally well by paying people to dig ditches and then fill them up again. There has to be some other benefit.

On the anti-funding Ukraine side, there actually are some people who glorify Russia…not the majority of the anti-Ukraine people, certainly not enough to support a generalized ad hominem argument against the antis–but there are indeed some in that category. The argument that Russia under its current regime is the defender of civilization is not to my mind a very convincing one, unless one’s definition of ‘civilization’ is a pretty strange one. The main effect of these people has been to further poison the entire debate.

Above and beyond the particular issue of Ukraine: there is a world beyond US borders. We don’t get to call ‘time’ just because we have serious internal issues.  When France and Britain decided not to intervene at the time of the German Rhineland incursion in 1936, one of the arguments made by some French politicians was that it would be unwise to interfere with the economic recovery. How did that work out for them?

My own view: We do need to be supporting Ukraine, and we should be doing so a lot more effectively than the Biden administration has chosen to do.  Biden’s initial reaction to the invasion–suggesting that it might be OK if Putin didn’t take too big a bite, and then offering Zelinsky a ticket out–didn’t exactly sound a Churchillian note of defiance. Arms supply has been too little, too late, and not nearly enough has been done to increase US defense-industrial output potential, especially of consumables such as artillery shells and missiles, and to provide better supply-chain resilience against components and materials cutoffs by other countries.  My sense is that the Biden strategy is not to achieve a Ukraine victory, or to force a negotiated settlement on favorable terms, but to drag the war out with the goal of bleeding Russia while minimizing domestic political risk…a cynical and cruel strategy, in my opinion.

The main purpose of this post, though, is not to argue for or against any particular policy, but rather to express concern and disappointment…even dismay…over the extremely poor quality of the arguments being made on both sides of the issue and the generally toxic tone of the debate.

Heartsignals (updated)

Various types of communications media…letters, telegrams, telephone calls…have long played a role in popular music. Just for some weekend fun, here are some songs, ranging from the light-hearted to the very sad, in which various forms of communication make an appearance.

Conventional Mail:

Please Mr Postman, The Marvelettes (1961)

Return to Sender,  Elvis Presley (1962)

Unconventional Mail:

The Carrier Dove, (1836)

Telegraph:

Western Union, The Five Americans, 1967

Telephone:

Sylvia’s Mother, Dr Hook (1972) (also recorded by Bon Jovi in 2003)

Memphis, Tennessee, Chuck Berry/Johnny Rivers (1963/1964)

Operator, Jim Croce (1972)

Missing You, John Waite (1984)(also recorded with Alison Krauss in 2007)

Why Haven’t I Heard from You?, Reba McIntire (1994)

Telephone: Lady Gaga (2009)

Telephone Line:  Electric Light Orchestra

Broadcast Radio:

Border Radio, Dave Alvin  (also this version)

Marine Radio:

Ship to Shore, Chris De Burgh

Newspapers and Magazines:

Escape (The Pina Colada Song), Rupert Holmes

My True Confession, Brook Benton

How about e-mail and text messaging?…are there any good songs featuring these media?

Here is a collection of songs featuring e-mail that I found…haven’t listened to them all. There are quite a few songs referring to text messaging, haven’t found any particularly impressive ones so far.

This post is an updated version of my earlier post on the same theme: fixed some broken links and added some communications types.

Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

How to spot high-agency people.  Interesting list.

The genealogy of nuclear fear. (Nuclear here referring to nuclear power, not nuclear war.)

A survey cited at LinkedIn:  Gen Z (aged 16-25) wants to work in media and entertainment when they grow up.  “This generation values things like work-life balance, flexibility and creativity over more traditional values like job security” also, half of this demographic is interested in pursuing entrepreneurship in some way.  Here’s a link to the actual survey.

How much ‘work-life balance’ does a successful actor or director really have, though?  And entrepreneurship, other than the most casual, tends to be quite intense in its time demands.

CBS News reports that roughly one in three young shoppers in the U.S. has admitted to giving themselves five-finger discounts at self-checkout counters, according to a recent survey.  A response at X:

America does not have the moral cultural norms for there not to be a massive amount of theft. We’re too self-centered, individualistic, and we celebrate envy as a desert claim in the name of “equity.”

There is certainly a big cultural problem here, but I question the idea that Individualism and Community are opposites…traditionally, there has been quite a lot of both in America, as I believe Tocqueville observed.  My thought is that both individualism and community are in danger of being replaced, and in many case have been replaced, by anomie.

Claire Lehmann suggests some books for helping children learn about history and philosophy.  Other suggestions in the replies.

NYT finally reports what many others have been writing and speaking about for some time:  the school closures for Covid are correlated with a sharp decrease in student learning.  How do we square this data, though, with what we know about the preexisting generally poor low and declining quality of US public education?

The AI world is all astir with the news that San Altman has been removed as CEO of OpenAI…and now, the board is negotiating with him for his possible return! There are many explanations floating around as to what is really going on. The organization/governance chart for this enterprise, which someone posted at X, is rather…unique.

 

Speaking of AI, somebody at X thought that Biden should have issued an executive order to require the rehiring of Sam Altman and his associate who also left. (Tweet  now deleted.)  There was no mention of what possible legal authority Biden might have for issuing such an order, but increasingly people seem not to worry much about such things. The other thing that struck me was that such an order would be analogous to an order by President Eisenhower to require the Traitorous Eight to return to Shockley Semiconductor in 1957.  Or, even earlier, to require Bardeen and Brattain to remain at Bell Labs and keep working with Shockley on grounds that the transistor was such a critically important technology for national security and economic well-being.

A lot of people have trouble grasping the idea that if something important is being done by a particular institution, that doesn’t mean it could not be done equally well…or much better…by other institutions, including ones that may not yet exist. We see this phenomenon, for instance, in discussions of education and the future of the Social Security system.

Revealing

About every 3 or 4 weeks, Peggy Noonan’s WSJ column has something worthwhile to say.  The September 14 column was one of those times.  Talking about Biden, she cites ‘Whatever it Takes’, Richard Ben Cramer’s history of the 1988 presidential campaign, which she says presages a great deal of what we observe each day of Mr. Biden, and it is suggestive of the origins of the Hunter Biden problems and allegations.

For one thing, Joe Biden has always been obsessed by real estate and fancy houses, and money was always an issue. On a house he would buy a few years into his first Senate term: “The house is gorgeous, an old du Pont mansion in the du Pont neighborhood called Greenville, outside Wilmington. It’s the kind of place a thousand Italian guys died building—hand-carved doorways, a curbing hand-carved grand staircase that Clark Gable could have carried a girl down, a library fit for a Carnegie. . . . And a ballroom—can’t forget the ballroom.” He bid more than he had, “but Biden never let money stand in the way of a deal. He got in the developer’s face and started talking—fast.” He got the house—he always got the houses—and thereafter scrambled to cover its cost.

He wanted it all and had a sharp eye for how to get it. There is a beautiful speech Cramer presents as Mr. Biden’s. He was sitting around a back yard in Wilmington with friends when his sons were young, and Mr. Biden asked, “Where’s your kid going to college?”

His friend said, “Christ, Joe! He’s 8 years old!” Another implied it wasn’t important.

“Lemme tell you something,” Mr. Biden says, with a clenched jaw. “There’s a river of power that flows through this country. . . . Some people—most people—don’t even know the river is there. But it’s there. Some people know about the river, but they can’t get in . . . they only stand at the edge. And some people, a few, get to swim in the river. All the time. They get to swim their whole lives . . . in the river of power. And that river flows from the Ivy League.

See my related post Harvard and America and the discussion here at Chicago Boyz.