History Archive

Nine Years

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There are remembrances of that awful day nine years ago all over the blogosphere today, as well there should be. Michelle Malkin has a 9/11 collection that deserves to be seen, but if you read only one recollection of that day, you might want to make it Allapundit's Twitter posts from last year, collected by TV's Andy Levy.

There are memorial events going on all day today. If nothing else, turn on your TV.

Me... I'll be starting work in a couple of hours. By the middle of the afternoon I expect I'll be hip-deep in a routing protocol problem, or perhaps diagnosing a router crash, or helping redesign someone's network traffic flow. Or, just possibly, I'll be involved in someone's disaster recovery testing.

And maybe that's a small glimmer of a reflection of a good side of this time and place in history. The country took a severe body blow, and yet we carry on as we have to, as Americans always have.

Greatest Americans

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Over at Right Wing News, John Hawkins has a followup to last week's Worst Americans poll: Conservative Bloggers Select The 25 Greatest Figures In American History.

I quickly banged out my list — bolded names made the Top 25.

John Adams
Neil Armstrong
Norman Borlaug
Luther Burbank
Andrew Carnegie
George Washington Carver
Vint Cerf
Thomas Edison
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Philo Farnsworth
Henry Ford
Lou Gehrig
Billy Graham
Thomas Jefferson
Audie Murphy
Ronald Reagan
Mark Twain
George Washington
John Wayne
Wright brothers

If I'd given it a minute's more thought, I'd have fit Martin Luther King Jr. into the list.

Worst Americans

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Over at Right Wing News today: Conservative Bloggers Select The 25 Worst Figures In American History.

Jim Geraghty, the man behind the Campaign Spot blog at NRO, questions the sanity of the contributing bloggers. I think he's right.

The problem here is that people are treating "worst figures" as though it means "least liked," so of course Carter, the Clintons, Obama, Pelosi, et al., made the list.

When asked to submit my selections, I decided to give myself only five minutes to make a list, and I tried to avoid politicians altogether.

I went a bit... eccentric, perhaps. A few of my selections (bolded) made the Top 25.

Alger Hiss
Elbridge Gerry
George Soros
John Dewey
John Wilkes Booth
Joseph Kennedy Sr.
Julius & Ethel Rosenberg
Larry Flynt
Margaret Sanger
Michael Moore
Roger B. Taney
Sanford Wallace
Ted Bundy
Ted Turner
Timothy McVeigh
Walter Duranty

For a bit of additional fun, check out the #WorstAmericansInHistory topic on Twitter. Lots of good suggestions there.


Update, 8/14: See also Ed Morrisey's take on the matter: Hot Air ยป Do a couple of blog posts prove politics is "broken"?

Other than that, yeah, I completely concur with Ace.

I find myself cussing at the TV screen more and more these days.

20 years ago, I was a year and a half into my stay in Korea, courtesy of the US Army. There, we noted with a degree of celebratory glee the falling of the Berlin Wall.

We also wondered how long it would be before the Soviet bear rolled over and died, and what it might mean to those of us dedicated to facing the North Koreans. Sure enough, not long later the Soviet Union did die, and with it — for a while, at least — Americans could forget about existential threats.

Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, John Paul II, and many many others stood for freedom, and won it for Eastern Europe, ultimately defeating the greatest threat to civilization that has ever existed.

The lesson seems clear to me: freedom is a fragile thing; where it exists it must be jealously guarded, and where it does not it sometimes must be fought for. Freedom is never free.

Compared to the USSR, North Korea, Iran and others are small potatoes, albeit very dangerous ones. And yet some day, the people of Iran and of North Korea may be free. Who is standing up for them? Who is standing against those regimes?

We could use another Ronald Reagan today.

Three pieces of the Berlin Wall are now on display at my alma mater, the Defense Language Institute in Monterey. You might have seen that display in a recent Navy recruiting ad.

I cannot imagine finer trophies.

Never Forget

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Never, never, never.

American Exceptionalism

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Just a little while ago, I noticed in my site referrer logs a visit from someone who had hit this site from a Google search for the phrase "Bill Whittle is racist." Having followed Bill's career as a writer, and having met the man, all I can say is: utter, complete and slanderous nonsense.

Since I have Bill on my mind, here's a link to his PJTV video for today: Bill Maher, Barack Obama and the Truth About American Exceptionalism.

As always, my recommendation is to sit back, relax, and prepare to be awed by the truth, and by Bill's ability to deliver it succinctly and engagingly.

Let's go!

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40 years....

I was a seven year old kid when Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the Moon, while Collins orbited above them. It was a time that, though the details may be fuzzy to me, I will never forget.

July 20, 1969 was a Sunday, and Moon landing or no, the Emerson family was off to church — first in the morning, but then there was also the evening service that we went to. I remember almost nothing about that day's religious observances, as such.

What sticks in my mind is the memory I have of standing around with my Dad and some other men outside the church as they finished their smokes (yes, cigarettes were legal then) before going in. Some of those men were the men that had defeated Hitler and Tojo in the fields and on the beaches and in the air and on the oceans of the world, and they then were the age I am now.

And all of them were looking up at the moon that night with wonder and awe... as was I.

I remember asking, with a seven year old boy's curiosity, if it was possible to see the spacecraft from here on Earth, and I remember the chuckled replies. We soon went in for the evening church service, and afterwards went home. We spent the remainder of the night in front of the TV.

All the turmoil of those years — assassinations, war, protest, rock and roll — none of it has meant as much to me as that one night.

It's been 40 years, and we've done... what? The entire Apollo program consumed less computing power than currently sits on my desktop, and the best we can do is an low Earth orbit space station?

It's long past time that Man become truly space-faring... and for the good of Man, for the good of the future of all of us, it had better be free men and women leading the way. And that means Americans should be out there among the the planets.

Let's get to it.

Hocus pocus

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I certainly enjoyed former VP Dick Cheney's speech yesterday. I didn't bother listening to Obama's.

It continues to irk me that Obama would release details about interrogation methods used against captured terrorists, but won't, per Cheney's request, release any information about what results were yielded, what specific terrorist plots were thwarted. Heaven forfend that anyone begin to suspect that our intelligence methods might be effective.

This turns the entire notion of "classification" on its head. One of the very first things they teach everyone in the intelligence business is that things are classified based on sources and methods, not on the results achieved.

The way he's operating, I suspect that if Obama had been president in 1942, he'd have released the details about Magic, but not told the American people about the US victory at Midway.

I'm not entirely convinced that Obama has our best interests in mind.

Writer, blocked

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It's not that I haven't had anything to say this week... it's just that I'm being paid to write something for corporate consumption, and I have a deadline.

In the meantime, go watch Bill Whittle give the best smackdown ever to the historically illiterate Jon Stewart: 16 minutes 46 seconds of pure awesome.

Anniversaries

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Today is Pearl Harbor Day.

This is the battleship U.S.S. Arizona in the 1930s:

ussarizona.gif

And this is the U.S.S. Arizona and 1177 of her crew today:

ArizMemorial.gif

Never forget.


Last year I was not able to do my traditional Pearl Harbor Day post, because one year ago today I was in the hospital having a minor bit of brain surgery.

In the year that has passed since, I've progressed quite well, better than expected. I will probably always require a cane to get around... but that sure beats a wheelchair, let me tell you.

I'm never going to be "normal" again, but I'm better than I was when I was at my physical lowest. I was, and continue to be, buoyed by the support of my family and friends. Thank you all.

Victory in Iraq

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By every measure, The United States and coalition forces have conclusively defeated all enemies in Iraq, pacified the country, deposed the previous regime, successfully helped to establish a new functioning democratic government, and suppressed any lingering insurgencies. The war has come to an end. And we won.

What more indication do you need? An announcement from the outgoing Bush administration? It's not gonna happen. An announcement from the incoming Obama administration? That's really not gonna happen. A declaration of victory by the media? Please. Don't make me laugh. A concession of surrender by what few remaining insurgents remain in hiding? Forget about it.

The moment has come to acknowledge the obvious. To overtly declare a fact that has already been true for quite some time now. Let me repeat:

WE WON THE WAR IN IRAQ.

The Iraq War is over. We won.


Oh what a tangled Webb . . .

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I could have sworn that the Left was all about supporting the troops, but not their mission.

I guess that doesn't apply if the war has been over for nigh on 140 years, and if the supporter in question is a potential Vice Presidential candidate:

Barack Obama’s vice presidential vetting team will undoubtedly run across some quirky and potentially troublesome issues as it goes about the business of scouring the backgrounds of possible running mates. But it’s unlikely they’ll find one so curious as Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb’s affinity for the cause of the Confederacy.

Webb is no mere student of the Civil War era. He’s an author, too, and he’s left a trail of writings and statements about one of the rawest and most sensitive topics in American history.

He has suggested many times that while the Confederacy is a symbol to many of the racist legacy of slavery and segregation, for others it simply reflects Southern pride. In a June 1990 speech in front of the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, posted on his personal website, he lauded the rebels' "gallantry," which he said "is still misunderstood by most Americans."

I'd say that pretty much kills Webb's chances for future advancement in the Democrat party, the privileges afforded ex-Klansman Senator Byrd notwithstanding.

The problem, of course, is slavery. While the root cause for which the South fought was indeed states' rights, the fact that the specific right they were defending was the right to own slaves taints the Confederacy beyond the hope of recovery. Had the casus belli been the right of states to set their own tariffs, we'd be having a different discussion. The Civil War would be a much less "raw and sensitive" topic if the South had acted as suggested by Lt. General James Longstreet in the film Gettysburg: "We should have freed the slaves, then fired on Fort Sumter."

For the sake of argument, can we posit that there is no one (apart from some vanishingly small number of nanocephalic cranks) in this country who believes that chattel slavery is a good idea? That no one, not even Senator Webb, would like to see a restoration of the antebellum South?

Might it then be just possible for the millions of Americans whose ancestors fought for the South to take some degree of pride in the undeniable courage and sacrifice of those ancestors — the overwhelming majority of whom never owned a slave?

My own ancestors were Northerners, or still lived in the Netherlands in the 1860s, so I really don't have a dog in this fight, but as a student of history, I can recognize gallantry for what it is, or was; a great deal of it sprang from the South in the period 1861-1865.


More at Gateway Pundit, Protein Wisdom, Hot Air.

Six Years

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911_for_blog.jpg

(Graphic via the now-defunct A Small Victory)

September 10, 2001

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The world has always been a dangerous place; the conflict between civilization and barbarism never ends, though from time to time it can seem otherwise to those of us who have the luxury of living in a society noteable for its wealth and ease.

It certainly seemed so six years ago.

Like everyone I know, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on 9/11/2001, but I have absolutely no recollection of the day before, none at all, because nothing extraordinary happened.

As much as I might like the world to be as it was six years ago today, I recognize that it is, in fact, not, and never again will be.

An unfortunately large number of people, willingly or not, remain blind to the dangers civilization continues to face in a post-Cold War world. They seem to have slept through 9/11 and today still long for the "vacation from history" of the 1990s. Worse, many people — unfortunately including not a few of the movers and shakers in popular society; celebrities and whatnot — still behave as though 9/11 had never happened.

Even worse, there are those within our civilization who would act to the benefit of the barbarians — throwing open the castle gates, as it were — for the sake of mere political advantage.

Why they do it matters little in the long run. That they do it bodes not well for our future.

Theme Song

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In honor of the final event of Saddam's life, I'd like to offer this song.



[Lyrics here.]

I should have worn a necktie to work today. Dang it.

11pm update: good riddance to bad rubbish.

Other commentary:
Outside the Beltway
Confederate Yankee
Captain's Quarters
Hot Air

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is Pearl Harbor Day.

This is the battleship U.S.S. Arizona in the 1930s:

ussarizona.gif

And this is the U.S.S. Arizona and 1177 of her crew today:

ArizMemorial.gif

Never forget.

More at Michelle Malkin's site, and plenty of photos at Castle Argghhh!

Verdict

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Saddam guilty, sentenced to swing. More at Hot Air.

As I predicted. Almost three years ago. Sort of.

Countdown to moonbats questioning the timing — in three... two... one....

Band of Brothers

Today is St. Crispin's Day.

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd. . . .

Go see the Greatest Speech Ever, and more, at the Llamabutchers.

Five Years

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[This is a re-post, modified, from 9/11/2004]

One morning while working from home I turned on the TV in time to see one of the World Trade Towers burning. As I watched, an airliner slammed into the second tower; in that second, the world changed.

No, that's not right. The world didn't change — we all woke up.

As events unfolded, I could only think of the people trapped by the fire, and I wondered how the authorities would evacuate so many people. Helicopters on the roof, I figured.

Then the towers fell. A plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and everyone expected there would be more attacks.

Our "vacation from history" was over, and we were at war. Against whom didn't quite matter at that moment.

Remember the preliminary casualty estimates? Numbers upwards of 30,000 were cited that morning. The shock I felt could only have been the merest shade of the horror and despair felt by the families of the victims watching on TV, wondering if their loved ones had escaped... or wondering if the body falling from the tower was their family member.

Five years later, we count ourselves fortunate that "only" 3,000 died on 9/11.

From that day and in the years since, we have learned of acts of incredible courage and steadfastness, starting with Todd Beemer and his fellow passengers on Flight 93, continued by the people who stopped Richard Reid's potentially deadly shoe-bomb plot, carried on by men leaping into the darkness over Afghanistan, with leaders like GEN Tommy Franks, and continuing today with all our armed forces.

We are also fortunate that the man in the White House is a man of moral courage and intestinal fortitude, who knows that doing the right thing should not be subject to an opinion poll.

Since 9/11, the war on terrorists and terrorist states has gone very well overall, with few mistakes and a blessedly low casualty rate for our soldiers. We have also been lucky enough — and good enough — not to have suffered another attack approaching the magnitude of 9/11.

The lesson I take from all this is that we can never again allow ourselves to nap through history; it has a way of catching up with us, and when it does, it will take all our skill, intelligence and courage to face it down. The bad guys, present and future, may get lucky again some day, but real Americans are made of stern stuff. No matter the setbacks we may face in the future, we will ultimately win.

Recent Reading

Lately, my nightly reading has been a 6-book series, A Naval History of Great Britain: During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Written and published in the 1820s, the six volumes are a chronological record of every significant (and perhaps not so significant) action and expedition in which the Royal Navy participated. Gleaned by the author, William M. James, from Admiralty records and the after-action reports of the participants, these volumes are as close to "source material" as one could get without visiting the Admiralty's archives oneself.

For anyone interested in the period and the facts that underlay such historical fiction as C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series*, or the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian (the source material for the film Master and Commander - the Far Side of the World, which I reviewed here), this series of books is invaluable.

The author was British, and was initially motivated to write the histories by what he thought were overblown American press accounts of US naval victories in the War of 1812. Seeking to put the best face on British losses — it was stunning, virtually unthinkable at the time, that ships of the Royal Navy could lose battles to the upstart Americans (but lose them they did) — there is undeniably pro-British spin, but on the whole the books do a good job of telling what happened in a straightforward way.

Sometimes, however, the author's take on matters is hard to ignore... nor would one want to, in passages such as this from Volume 2:

On the 22nd of February [1797], in the evening the French 40-gun frigates Résistance and Vengeance, 22-gun ship-corvette Constance, and lugger Vautour, anchored in Fisgard Bay on the coast of Wales. During the night, they landed 1200 galley-slaves, dressed and accoutered as soldiers, but without any cannon or camp equipage.

The alarm soon spread, and it was not long before a strong body of militia, under the command of Lord Cawdor, assembled near the spot. The Frenchmen, whose intentions were rather predatory than warlike, immediately surrendered, and were marched as prisoners to Haversfordwest. Meanwhile the vessels that had brought them weighed, and soon disappeared from the coast.

What was the object of this silly expedition, no one, not even among the French, seems rightly to have understood.

How often does one get the opportunity to laugh out loud while reading history?

This series of books, six volumes in all, is not always available new, but nevertheless belongs in the collection of anyone interested in naval history.

* Those who enjoyed the Hornblower films might be interested to note that there really was an Indefatigable, and it really was captained by Sir Edward Pellew.

Tartan Day: Why Me?

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[This is the second of my 2006 Tartan Day posts. The first can be seen here. It's probably more interesting than this one.]

How, one might be tempted to ask, does a guy without a drop of Scots blood in him (or, if there's a drop, it's diluted to the point of requiring measurement in parts-per-million) have the brass to participate in an event like Tartan Day?

It's easy. Just arrange to be related to someone who served as Prime Minister of Canada.

Simple, really.


Born in 1821 in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Charles Tupper attended the University of Edinburgh and became a physician, serving from 1867 to 1870 as President of the Canadian Medical Association.

He entered into Canadian politics in 1855, winning a seat in the Canadian Parliament. By 1864 he had risen to become the Premier of Nova Scotia. For his efforts to bring Nova Scotia into the Canadian union (previously, Canada had been a motley collection of colonies) he became known as one of the Fathers of Confederation. Thereafter, he served in a variety of ministerial positions: Inland Revenue, Customs, Public Works, Railways & Canals.

Knighted (and tartaned) by Queen Victoria in 1879, he went on to serve as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Minister of Finance, and as Secretary of State.

In May of 1896, after the resignation of the previous officeholder, he became Prime Minister. Two month later, the elections mandated by his predecessor's resignation turned his party out of power and Sir Charles out of office. He thus became the shortest-serving Prime Minister in Canadian history.


If you've stuck with the story this far, you might at this point be saying to yourself, "so how does a guy named Emerson claim family ties to some old dead guy named Tupper?" What, you never heard of people changing their names? Were it not for an anonymity-seeking ancestor, my name would be Tupper. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

No, I'm not a direct descendant. "Cousin" would be more accurate. Nonetheless, tartans belong to families, not individuals, so remote though the relationship may be, I'm claiming it and the tartan that goes with it.

For more in Tartan Day bloggery, visit the fine blogs participating in the Gathering of the Blogs 2006:

Today is Pearl Harbor Day.

This is the battleship U.S.S. Arizona in the 1930s:

ussarizona.gif

And this is the U.S.S. Arizona and 1177 of her crew today:

ArizMemorial.gif

It would behoove our enemies — actual and potential — to realize that when the United States went to war after an unprovoked attack in 1941, it ended in fire.

America has a long memory.

Others posting:

Right Wing News
Michelle Malkin
Pirate's Cove
bRight & Early
Mr. Minority
LaShawn Barber's Corner
Dean's World
Speed of Thought
John of Argghhh!
Blackfive
One Hand Clapping
Llama Butchers (and here and here)
Cold Fury
Florida Cracker
The Politburo Diktat
Vodkapundit
Patriette (and here)
Memento Moron
Ace of Spades (and here)
Winds of Change
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler

[This post is now officially an annual feature here. Never forget.]

Feast Day

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Greatest speech ever.


WESTMORELAND
    O that we now had here
    But one ten thousand of those men in England
    That do no work to-day!

KING HENRY V

    What's he that wishes so?
    My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
    If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
    Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
    But if it be a sin to covet honour,
    I am the most offending soul alive.
    No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
    God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
    As one man more, methinks, would share from me
    For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
    Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart; his passport shall be made
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.
    This day is called the feast of Crispian:
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
    And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
    Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
    But he'll remember with advantages
    What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
    Familiar in his mouth as household words
    Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
    Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
    This story shall the good man teach his son;
    And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remember'd;
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition:
    And gentlemen in England now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Shakespeare still rules.

Art and Artists

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Ace opines on the proposed Flight 93 Memorial "Crescent of Embrace" as a work of alleged "art."

But can the heroism of a group of strangers -- of Americans -- coming together to save the lives of their fellow human beings dare be expressed in something less symbolic, and perhaps more vigorous, than red trees and lilting windchimes?

And on that-- why is always our assumptions which need to be provoked?

Can we have a monument to the brave dead of Flight 93 which shows them in cool reflection as they decide to make their attack? Huddled together as they collectively decide to give their lives to spare others? And just before they mount the first battle in the war on terrorism?

And yes, engraved at the base of the statue, the rallying cry: "Let's roll."

Ahhhh... but such a tribute would "provoke" and "challenge" the wrong people-- the tastemaking elites who presume to rule us. Their beliefs and assumptions are never to be provoked or challenged, always to be reassured and reinforced by their preferred sorts of meaningless symbolic nothingnesses. It is we who need to be shaped and scolded like schoolchildren; it is they who wield the rulers.

So that I don't forget or lose it, I reproduce here the comment I posted:

A statue could have been good.

A handful of men and women huddled banded together, in the midst of plotting their counterattack; one looking over his shoulder, keeping an eye on the unseen jihadists; another with cellphone in hand; and perhaps another pair actually praying (!) before their desperate attack.

Something simple. Something inspiring. Something that actually memorializes those who fell that day in the first defeat of those who would kill or enslave every single one of us who remain.

Something everyone can look at and say "Thank God it wasn't me up there... but if it had been me, would that I had the courage of those men and women to face the evil that showed itself that day."

That's my idea of a memorial.

It is my idea of a memorial. Something people can look at and know precisely what it stands for.

No one has to wonder about the meaning of the Marine Corps Memorial. The six men raising the flag on Mount Suribachi is an enduring image, with meaning that no abstract geometrical construct could ever by any stretch of the imagination hope to convey.

If a work of Art isn't meant to convey meaning, then in exactly what aesthetical way does it differ from, say, interior decorating?

Four Years

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911_for_blog.jpg

(Graphic via A Small Victory)

Stewart. James Stewart.

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I don't go in much for Hollywood "fan-dom." Entertainers are (or should be) just that: people hired to entertain us, not people over whom to swoon. [I'd consider making an exception for Emily Procter.]

There have, however, been a few entertainers – actors, athletes, and so on – I've admired for one reason or another. For as long as I can remember, Jimmy Stewart was one of those.

Was it because I enjoyed every single film of his I ever saw? Maybe that played into it... but I've enjoyed every Errol Flynn movie I've seen, and I am not an Erroll Flynn fan, as such. More likely, it was because I learned early on that Stewart had set aside his Hollywood career during World War 2 to be a B-17 pilot – a decidedly hazardous occupation. Other things I learned about his off-screen life only reinforced my conception of the man.

[By purest coincidence, Stewart and my father died on the same day: July 2, 1997. Because of that, I feel what would be considered an irrational connection to the man. I have this mental picture of Dad and Jimmy meeting up at the Pearly Gates....]

Now, new revelations that Stewart was doing a bit of work for the FBI – in an era when there really were communists trying to take over Hollywood – only adds to the high regard in which I hold him (despite the article's obvious negative slant.)

Stewart, FBI badge

There really were communists in Hollywood. They really were trying to take over. They really were enemies of America.

Too many people have forgetten that.

Now we have Oliver Stone, Michael Moore and Sean Penn.

What we could really use is another Jimmy Stewart.

(via Ace.)

(More at PoliPundit.)

Who Said It?

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Who said the following?

Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself, for example is more prevalent than precepts.

Was it:

  1. King Solomon, Proverbs (King James Bible)
  2. Plato, The Republic
  3. Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew
  4. George Washington, Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior
  5. Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

Hysterical / Historical

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When your cable company provides upwards of three hundred channels, not even a DVR is going to help you find the good stuff on TV... and yes, there are some good things on the air wire.

Historyonics is a BBC production that currently airs on History International, but could just as easily be shown on Comedy Central. It takes a very funny look at some of the major events in English history — the battle of Hastings, the tale of Robin Hood, and so on — while imparting some actual historical knowledge to the viewer.

And when I say it's very funny, I mean it's fall-out-of-your-chair hilarious, if British style humor is your thing. I have the bruised hip to prove it. Examples:

• The Battle of Stamford Bridge rages, set to the song "Everybody was kung-fu fighting...."

• William the Bastard, having just sailed from Normandy across the English Channel with his army, disembarks upon the shores of England; he is about to go through the legal forms required to change his name to William the Conqueror. First, however, he summons his soothsayer to give him the, er, sooth.

William: Bring forth my soothsayer!

Knight: He drowned on ze way over, Sire.

William: As omens go, that's probably a bad one.

If you are fortunate enough to get History International on your cable or satellite system, I urge you to give this program a look. It will probably be listed in your TV Guide as "Almanac." For air times search the H.I. website for "Historyonics."

Pooped

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In naval parlance from the age of sail, the term "pooped" is used to describe what happens when a ship is struck from the rear by a large wave – travelling faster than the ship itself, obviously – which breaks over the poop of the ship.

Ha-ha-he-said-poop. Grow up, people. Think "poop deck."

In those days of yore, being pooped could be a disastrous occurrence. The wave could break through into the stern galleries (which were usually lightly-built glassed-in enclosures, like this) and flood the ship, doing rather a lot of damage along the way.

Not only could the mass of water damage the stern – invariably the weakest part of the structure of the hull – it could also push the ship's stern sideways, slewing the ship around, leaving it broadside to the next oncoming wave.

This is the deadly part. Since the only time swells or waves were likely to be higher than the stern of the ship was during a storm, the next wave striking the ship broadside had a very good chance of being big enough to actually lay the ship on its side, if not completely capsize it.

With the ship laid over, cannons weighing 5500 pounds or more could break free from their lashings – thus becoming the proverbial "loose cannon" – and severely damage the internal structure of the ship or, more dangerously, punch a hole through the side. If the ship happened to be laid over by a wave and a cannon went out through the side, water would rush in and the ship would be doomed.

Even if the cannons' lashings held, and even if all the other heavy objects aboard stayed in place, the framing and planking of the hull could be sprung loose, allowing seawater to flood through the gaps. The ship would be doomed.

Clearly, being pooped was an exceptionally bad thing.

This is the kind of thing you think about when you've gone all night without a wink of sleep.

Man, I'm pooped.


Update: Wow, it's a regular link-o-rama around here. Be sure to check out all the fine blogs that have tracked back.

Update 2: Welcome, MSNBC visitors – take a look around; lots of good stuff in the blogrolls.

And if you feel compelled to hit the Amazon or PayPal tipjars, I'm not going to stop you.

Addendum: If you'd like to learn a little bit about the "Age of Sail" without cracking open a book, I'd highly recommend giving this movie a viewing.

Wearing of the Green

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Is there enough green on this page?

Being Dutch on my Mom's side, I grew up with the notion that we were supposed to wear orange instead of green on Saint Patrick's Day. Perhaps that's a by-product of the intense anti-Catholicism of the Dutch Calvinist camp. That sort of attitude is understandable, given the anti-Reformation persecution conducted by Rome in centuries past.

But those centuries are past. The differences between Catholicism and mainline Protestantism are not actually numerous, though they are doctrinally profound... but burning at the stake does not exactly remain a threat to those of us who dissent.

In Ireland, sectarian differences are used as rallying cries for partisans on both sides, though I think it's been fairly well established that the IRA is primarily not a religious group but a Marxist-leaning political group that cynically uses anti-Protestantism as a surrogate for its anti-British agenda. In turn, their political opponents have turned to anti-Catholicism to energize their followers. As a result, honest Catholics and Protestants both suffer.

There is much more that binds Catholics and Protestants to each other than separates them, and many people would be better off if we all started acting like it. Compared to the differences between Christianity and (e.g.) Islam, denominational differences within Christianity are nearly trivial.

Sadness

I was born the day Scott Carpenter went aloft and into orbit in Aurora 7. Space flight has always been an interest, no, a fascination of mine. Astronauts have always been heroes to me.

It's a dangerous thing, going into space. Many have died, and yet the ranks of those eager to follow the path into space never seem to shrink. We hope our astronauts will fare well, but we know some will die.

But we somehow never expect them to be old men, dying of the things old men die of.

So long, Gordo.

Three Years Gone By

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Blogs For Bush is running 9/11 remembrances all through the day today. Go there and keep scrolling down - and be sure to check back frequently during the day as more posts are added.

Here's my contribution.

THREE YEARS

One morning while working from home I turned on the TV in time to see one of the World Trade Towers burning. As I watched, an airliner slammed into the second tower; in that second, the world changed.

No, that's not right. The world didn't change — we all woke up.

As events unfolded, I could only think of the people trapped by the fire, and I wondered how the authorities would evacuate so many people. Helicopters on the roof, I figured.

Then the towers fell. A plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and everyone expected there would be more attacks.

Our "vacation from history" was over, and we were at war. Against whom didn't quite matter at that moment.

Remember the preliminary casualty estimates? Numbers upwards of 30,000 were cited that morning. The shock I felt could only have been the merest shade of the horror and despair felt by the families of the victims watching on TV, wondering if their loved ones had escaped... or wondering if the body falling from the tower was their family member.

Three years later, we count ourselves fortunate that "only" 3,000 died on 9/11.

From that day and in the three years since, we have learned of acts of incredible courage and steadfastness, starting with Todd Beemer and his fellow passengers on Flight 93, continued by the people who stopped Richard Reid's deadly plot, carried on by men leaping into the darkness over Afghanistan, with leaders like GEN Tommy Franks, and continuing today with all our armed forces.

We are also fortunate that the man in the White House is a man of moral courage and intestinal fortitude, who knows that doing the right thing should not be subject to an opinion poll.

Since 9/11, the war on terrorists and terrorist states has gone very well overall, with few mistakes and a blessedly low casualty rate for our soldiers. We have also been lucky enough — and good enough — not to have suffered another attack approaching the magnitude of 9/11.

The lesson I take from all this is that we can never again allow ourselves to nap through history; it has a way of catching up with us, and when it does, it will take all our skill, intelligence and courage to face it down. The bad guys, present and future, may get lucky again some day, but real Americans are made of stern stuff. No matter the setbacks we may face in the future, we will ultimately win.

History and Myth

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Stephen Den Beste talks about the Battle of Waterloo.

The truth about Waterloo, after nearly two centuries, remains imperfectly understood. The latest scholarship on the subject, as revealing as it is, is less satisfying (particularly to Anglophiles) than the legend that has persisted to this day.

There's a difference between History and a good story; the former is truth, but sometimes the latter, the "good story," is more pleasant to believe, or teaches a lesson better than the actual history does.

Joseph Campbell would understand. This is what Myth is all about.

For instance, I know, intellectually, that there was never an actual Sherlock Holmes, but I might willingly suspend my disbelief. I may prefer to think of him as a historical figure, because of some educational or even inspirational value that the Holmes stories might provide. I may act as though Holmes was real [though you'd be amazed at how infrequently this act is discernable to the human eye], but I know the difference.

I was once a History major. I've studied, I've read. My reading list consists of (among other things) books on things historical. I think I know (or at least have a better-than-average understanding) how the battle of Waterloo was fought, won, and lost.

But I also think the smaller stories that build into the legend, true or not, are valuable in and of themselves — perhaps, nearly two centuries later, more valuable than the truth is. As the saying goes, if those stories didn't exist, they would have to be invented.

That's why they persist.

The legend of the "thin red line" was an inspiration to the British during the darkest days of the Second World War. I call that "valuable." [The expression was, as far as I can tell, actually coined to describe the 93rd Highlanders at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, but is often associated with the actions of the British infantry at Waterloo.]

After 1500 years, the legend of King Arthur remains a fixture of the English-speaking world [and maybe beyond, but I don't know.] We believe what we will about who Arthur was, what he did, and so on. No one really can say what the truth is — except that what we think we know is almost entirely a fiction. But the legend remains valuable.

And it's perfectly allright to hold legends and myths in high regard. They can inspire, they can motivate. They can, in difficult times, give the courage to carry on.

But always remember that myths and legends are just that. Don't mistake them for the truth.

[Self-study question: Michael Moore has made it his mission to build a Myth that stands in stark contrast to the facts. Will his version of the events of September 11, 2001 stand the test of time? Discuss.]

D-Day +60 Years

Blackfive has everything you need, to remember D-Day.

"The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory." - General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ronald W. Reagan, 1911-2004

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I grew up in California; Ronald Reagan was the first governor I remember.

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Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence. (January 7, 1970)
Heaven help us if government ever gets into the business of protecting us from ourselves. (April 12, 1973)
All who have led California since are but pale shadows of his greatness.

My formative years were years when America seemed to be on the decline. While I was in elementary school, the Vietnam War raged. As I began junior high school, a president was forced from office, and his successor had to deal with crisis after crisis. During my high school years, Carter was in the White House, the economy was in shambles, the military was falling apart, and there seemed to be no hope of improvement. The Soviet empire was expanding unchecked.

There was little good news about anything, from anywhere.

Then came Ronald Reagan, and all that changed. All of it.


I caught my first hint of optimism as a freshman at Wheaton College. The campaign leading up to the 1980 presidential election, the first in which I was eligible to vote, had caught my attention because of my former governor's candidacy.

Then he made a campaign stop and speech at my small midwestern college.

What is it that Americans truly want, for themselves and for their country? . . . All we want is to live in freedom and in peace, to see to it that our nation's legitimate interests are protected and promoted. We want to see our children have at least the opportunities we had for advancement or maybe even better.

We want to worship God in our own way, lead our own lives, take care of our families and live in our own style, in our own community, without hurting anyone or anyone hurting us. We want the kind of personal security human beings can reasonably expect in a system of economic freedom and democratic self-government. And, yes, we want to bring the blessings of peace and progress and freedom to others. (October 8, 1980)

I was hooked.

On the occasion of his birthday this year, I recalled my encounter with Mr. Reagan on that day he came to our college. I deeply regret that I have no photo of that moment. My parents met him a decade later, and did get a photo.

I recall Mr. Reagan's election and inauguration as a time of ever increasing optimism. We had a man in the White House who was clearly determined to shake off the malaise of the previous years and to stiffen the spine of American resolve in the face of the greatest threat we had ever faced.

We cannot escape our destiny nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. (Jan 25, 1974)
No weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. (First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981)
The other day, someone told me the difference between a democracy and a people's democracy. It is the same difference between a jacket and a straight-jacket. (December 10, 1986)
Our cause is still, as it was then, the cause of human freedom. (Jan 30, 1986)
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! (June, 1987)

It wasn't only in matters of defense and foreign relations that Ronald Reagan encouraged Americans. When he took office, the economy was in tatters. I well remember working part time in a bank when I was in high school, and seeing interest rates in the teens and even low twenties. Unemployment was in the double-digits. Gold was selling for over $800 an ounce.

Reagan took office and, with the help of a rightward-shifted congress that followed on his coattails, began his program of economic reforms.

The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing. (October 27, 1964)
Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? Today in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp. (October 27, 1964)
We believe that liberty can be measured by how much freedom Americans have to make their own decisions - even their own mistakes. (Feb 7, 1977)
The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much. (Frequent saying.)
For many years now we have preached 'the gospel,' in opposition to the philosophy of so-called liberalism which was, in truth, a call to collectivism. (March 1, 1975)
Every dollar spent by government is a dollar earned by individuals. Government must always ask: Are your dollars being wisely spent? Can we afford it? Is it not better for the country to leave your dollars in your pocket? (Feb 7, 1977)
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Always, always, always his theme -- and his dream -- was Freedom.

We should never forget that, and always try to live up to his ideal of an America that stands as "a shining city on a hill," a beacon of freedom to people around the world.


When the Lord calls me home, whenever that day may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.
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We have every right to dream heroic dreams.

Farewell, Ronald Reagan

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