Day By Day

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Misandry in American Culture

Eric over at Classical Values notes the pervasive anti-male bias in our culture. It's more common, more subtle, and more acceptable [even in its most extreme "gendercidal" forms] than you think.

Check it out here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

China's Labor Shortage

Of all places China, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, is experiencing a labor shortage. Read about it here.

The interesting thing is that it is the result of governmental policies. The one-child policy has led to a shortage of young people, while mandatory retirement policies have removed millions of men and women from the workforce. At the same time expanded education policies have kept young people out of the workforce.

Unintended consequences.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Iowahawk Strikes Again

Don't you people realize -- this is WAR!!!!

The Axis automotive powers have declared war on American motorists and our cherished union-made way of life. They've established secret assembly beach heads in so-called "right-to-work" occupied Vichy states like Alabama and Tennessee, manufacturing six sigma deathtrap jalopies with hillbilly slave dupes paid less than prevailing wages!

And now Hitler and Hirohito have opened up a second front in their crazed plan for world market share domination right here in America's auto malls. Don't let those whimsical inflatable gorillas and wind-whipped plastic pennants fool you: lurking behind every Toyota showroom lies a rat's nest of fifth columnist and Jap saboteurs scheming to get you behind the wheel of a Tokyo timebomb!

Don't let Tojo turn you into a unwitting freeway kamikaze for the "Divine Emperor"! At the U.S. Department of General Motors, our G-Men are working 'round the clock to stop Jap sneak attacks on America's publicly owned automotive industrial arsenal. But here on the home front, America's vehicular victory requires the vigilance of regular Joes and Janes like you. Together we can Shun the Huns and Nip the Nips, and send 'em packing their non-union Priuses back to Yokohama!

Read the whole thing here.

The Awakening

Glenn Reynolds thinks that we are in the midst of the "Third Great Awakening" [here] I would say it is at least the fifth.

It's All In the Interpretation

Harvey Silverglate argues that the current corruption of language that obscures rather than reveals meaning accords enormous power to those who interpret meaning to their ends.

He writes:
The respective cultures of the college campus and of the federal government have each thrived on the notion that language is meant not to express one's true thoughts, intentions and expectations, but, instead, to cover them up. As a result, the tyrannies that I began to encounter in the mid-1980s in both academia and the federal criminal courts shared this major characteristic: It was impossible to know when one was transgressing the rules, because the rules were suddenly being expressed in language that no one could understand. In his 1946 linguistic critique, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote that one must "let meaning choose the word, not the other way around." By largely ignoring this truism, administrators and legislators who craft imprecise regulations have given their particular enforcement arms---campus disciplinary staff and federal government prosecutors---enormous and grotesquely unfair power.
This is an important issue for our time. Read the article [here] and be informed

Racism in Shenandoah

Filed without comment:

From the Republican Herald:

A preliminary hearing has been set for a Shenandoah woman facing multiple charges in connection with a bar fight in the borough last week.

Miriam Leticia Malave, 36, of 114 W. Laurel St., will go before Magisterial District Judge Anthony J. Kilker, Shenandoah, at 9 a.m. April 14. She faces two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, two counts of recklessly endangering another person, one count of making terroristic threats and one count of harassment.

Malave and three Hispanic men allegedly beat several white patrons inside M&T Bar, 200 S. Main St., on Feb. 17.

Malave also allegedly yelled, “All the whites will die tonight,” during the assault, and hit bartender Melissa Elrod with a baseball bat.

Elrod eventually escaped and called police.

No charges have been filed against the three men involved in the fight, and they are not named in court documents.

Read the whole thing here.

This is not the first time this has happened.

Malave and three Hispanic men tried to assault three people with baseball bats on Aug. 7, 2006, according to court records. Malave and the men instead began smashing the victims’ cars with the bats before police arrived, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

Authorities initially charged Malave with ethnic intimidation in that case, but those charges were later dropped….

[Emphases mine]

If whites had...., well, you know....

This is in the heart of the area singled out by President Obama as being inhabited by bitter clingers who can't get along with people who aren't like them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pro-Business Films

HT Instapundit -- the folks over at the Conglomerate are looking for pro-business movies. The suggested list is pitifully short.

My favorite is still "Other People's Money". You gotta love Danny DeVito as "Larry the Liquidator".

Theories on why Hollywood hates big business:

  1. "Artists hate "beancounters" who tell them "No, you can't have another twenty million to play with."
  2. The major studios came into existence as alternatives to the Edison trust. They are being true to their subversive roots.
  3. Major studios have been taken over, often in hostile circumstances, by big conglomerates and resent it.
  4. Hollywood films really came into their own in the sound era -- which also is the time when East Coast "money men" took control of the studios, wresting control from the founders. All those storied studio bosses were under the thumb of the bankers who financed their little businesses. Resentment again.
  5. During the thirties Stalinist popular-front propagandists targeted Hollywood. They established an anti-capitalist bias that still persists.
  6. Any other ideas?

This Day In History

Today is "Pistol Patent Day" honoring the memory of Samuel Colt, inventor of the revolver, who patented his design on this day in 1836. Colt's "Paterson Pistol" [named after its place of manufacture, Paterson, N.J.] was the first practical repeating firearm. That was only the first of Colt's innovations. At his factory he took steps toward establishing an assembly line mode of manufacture and also pioneered the concept of interchangeable parts. Additionally he developed a waterproof cable that could carry telegraph signals and an underwater mine that could be used to protect harbors. All in all, a highly productive career.

And on this day in 1901 a group of investors headed by J. P. Morgan and Elbert Gary, founded U. S. Steel, the world's first billion-dollar corporation. It was formed from the merger of Andrew Carnegie's steel holdings with those of the National Steel Company and at its founding it made two-thirds of the steel produced in the United States.

The founding of U. S. Steel was a high point in the first great wave of corporate consolidation that swept through the American economy. Between 1895 and 1904 more than 1800 separate firms were merged into 157 consolidated corporations. Many of the great corporations that dominated the American economy through the Twentieth Century were established at this time. This wave of incorporation transformed the nation's economy, from one characterized by personally-owned and managed firms into one dominated by vast corporations in which ownership was dispersed among numerous stockholders and operations were controlled by professional managers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "National Tortilla Chip Day". Need I say more? So get out there, slather on the dip or salsa and crunch away to your heart's content.

On this day in 1868, the House of Representatives impeached Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth President of the United States. Johnson is a fascinating figure. Born into poverty in North Carolina he was completely uneducated. He was apprenticed to a tailor to learn a trade, and in his free time taught himself to read and write. In his teens he ran away to Tennessee and found work as a tailor. He then married an educated woman who taught him mathematics and honed his speaking skills. He was involved in the early workingmen's movement and won election to local office. In the 1830's he joined the Jacksonian Democrats and was elected to the Tennessee State Legislature and then to the State Senate. Throughout he was associated with the radical wing of the movement, consistently attacking Tennessee's planter elites. He campaigned as the personification of the common man [sort of a Sarah Palin of his day] and in 1843 he was elected to Congress. Ten years later he became Governor of Tennessee.

In 1857 Johnson was elected to the Senate, promising to enact a Homestead Bill that would provide assistance to small farmers. It was in the Senate that he made his most fateful decision. The election of Abraham Lincoln split the country. All of the Senators from southern States resigned in protest save one. Johnson held his seat and proclaimed his loyalty to the Union. In 1862 President Lincoln appointed Johnson to the rank of Brigadier General and made him the military Governor of Tennessee. Johnson saw secession as a conspiracy hatched by his hated enemies, the planter class and used his wartime powers to systematically suppress them. Then in 1864 Lincoln, facing electoral defeat, abandoned the Republican party and campaigned at the head of a new, fusionist, political movement -- the "Union Party" -- incorporating both Republicans and pro-Union Democrats. To symbolize this new bi-partisan coalition, Lincoln invited Democrat Andrew Johnson onto the ticket as his running mate.

When Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 Johnson became president and inherited the problems of Reconstruction. Because of his hatred for the planter elite Radical Antislavery Republicans expected him to take a hard line against Southern slaveholders but he disappointed them, taking a Lincolnesque moderate course toward the defeated Confederates. He pardoned many of them, supported the electoral process that returned many of them to power, and vetoed a Civil Rights Bill that would have protected the voting rights of freedmen [former slaves] and undermined the power of the southern Democrats, which by now was proclaiming itself the Party of the White Man. Republicans were furious and they over-rode Johnson's veto. Then came a second battle as Johnson unsuccessfully opposed passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. Then in 1866 Johnson actively campaigned, again unsuccessfully, against the Republican radicals. The battle lines were drawn.

In 1867 Congress acted to limit Johnson's power, passing over his veto the "Tenure of Office Act" which prohibited him from firing any official who had been confirmed by the Senate. House Republicans also made an unsuccessful attempt to impeach him. Johnson correctly charged that the Tenure of Office Act was unconstitutional and, to test it, he fired his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton [a radical Republican who had at one point been an attorney in Pittsburgh -- see, I knew I could get a Pennsylvania angle into this] and appointed an interim replacement, Lorenzo Thomas. At that point the House of Representatives passed articles of impeachment against him. Among the articles was one charging that he had made public speeches that would sow disrespect toward Congress.

Historians have argued endlessly over Andrew Johnson. In the late nineteenth century he was usually seen as a martyr to political extremism, protecting the Constitution and defending States rights against an intrusive Federal power. In the Progressive Era, historians portrayed him as a virtuous champion of the common man against big business interests. Then in the Civil Rights era he was portrayed as a diabolical racist who was trying to block virtuous Republican efforts to impose racial justice on the South. A new consensus on Johnson has not yet emerged, but it will. History is an endless argument.

And on this day in 1920 the "German Workers' Party", a small radical organization in Munich, decided to change its name to the National Socialist German Worker's Party [Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei]. We know them today as the Nazis. The term "Socialist" in their title should remind us that in many ways the Nazis were creatures of the Left, not the Right.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pittsburgh After Hours

Getting snowed in at Pittsburgh International Airport is not all bad. Check it out...

In Case You Wanted to Know...

The history of toilet paper here.

Hitch Hates Haig

Wow! Christopher Hitchens unloads on Alexander Haig here and it's not pretty, but then there was nothing pretty about Al Haig career in the national spotlight. Here's Hitch's description of Haig's behavior after Ronald Reagan was shot:

[N]othing could equal that day's performance, which evinced all the sweaty, pasty-faced, trembling symptoms of a weak king or of a slobbering dauphin who could not wait to try on the crown. For a few hours at least, the United States of America appeared to be—and actually was—a pathetic banana republic. Indeed, the bulk of Haig's awful political career was an example of banana-republic principles and the related phenomenon of an overambitious man in uniform who mastered the essential art of licking the derrières of those above him while simultaneously (see above) bullying and menacing those below.
They say we shouldn't speak ill of the dead, and generally I would agree, but here I am in complete agreement with Hitchens -- Alexander Haig deserves every bit of the sputum and bile launched in his direction.

This Day In History

On this day in 1945, the fifth day of the battle for Iwo jima, U.S. Marines and one Navy Corpsman raised the flag on top of Mount Suribachi. They actually did it twice. The second raising was a public relations shot for the benefit of a news photographer, Joe Rosenthal. The result was one of the most celebrated and iconic pictures to emerge from the Second World War.

And on this day in 1836 another iconic battle began as approximately 1,500 Mexican troops under the command of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna invested a Texian garrison at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas. This was the beginning of the "Battle of the Alamo", which culminated on March 6th. The defenders, fewer than 300 men under the co-command of Col. William B. Travis and James Bowie, were hopelessly outmatched. An attempt to arrange an honorable surrender was rebuffed and the defenders settled in for a siege. Thirteen days later the Alamo fell. The precise circumstances of the battle have been debated ever since. All but two of the defenders were killed and stories of the massacre of the wounded and those who attempted to surrender fueled resentments throughout Texas and the U. S. A. "Remember the Alamo" became a rallying call for the Texas revolutionaries and the heroic defense of the mission became one of the great patriotic narratives of America's national myth.

One year ago today President Barak Obama promised to drastically slash the nation's budget deficit.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Day In History

Today is George Washington's birthday. Historians may quibble over whether or not Washington was our greatest president, but there is no doubt that he was the greatest figure to ever hold the office. He was, as a recent biographer called him, "the indispensable man". As commander of the Continental Army he forged a successful strategy, maintained the loyalty of his troops, engaged in constant political negotiations with Congress, State governments and with the French that kept the military effort afloat, squashed an incipient military revolt, and became the living embodiment of the movement for American independence. If that were all, he would deserve to be called the "Father of the Country" [a description applied to him as early as 1778], but there was more, much more.

At the end of the war, King George III asked what Washington would do next. When told that the great man intended to retire to his country estate the King replied, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." He was right. Washington's retirement and his determined refusal to accept efforts to make him an American despot, made him world famous. He was hailed everywhere as "the American Cincinnatus" -- a reference to the Roman general who repeatedly came out of retirement to save the republic, then when the crisis passed, went back to his farm.

Later, when disputes within and between States threatened their unity Washington came out of retirement to preside over the Constitutional Convention. So great was his prestige that during the ratification debate the most persuasive argument advanced by the "federalists" [supporters of a federal union] was the assurance that George Washington would be heading up the new government. It is not unreasonable to suggest that without Washington's leadership there would have been no federal constitution.

As president Washington followed a consistent course of strengthening and protecting the federal union from both internal and external threats. Over strong opposition he suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, made peace with Britain, promoted the establishment of a national bank, and maintained a policy of neutrality in the ongoing conflict between France and Britain. Then, after two terms of office, he retired again, this time for good. His farewell address, a warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and foreign involvements, sketched out the principles on which he had governed -- a scrupulous avoidance of all actions and policies that would imperil the unity and independence of the republic. Upon his death in 1799, Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee famously described him as "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen...."

Later, Napoleon in exile at Elba explained what had led to his downfall. He said, "they wanted me to be another Washington." He went on to explain that the circumstances in France were such that he could not have measured up to Washington's standard.
As for me, I could only have been a Washington with a crown, amid a congress of conquered kings. Only under such circumstances could I have shown his moderation, wisdom, and disinterestedness. These I could attain only by a universal dictatorship, such as, indeed, I strove for.
In utterances such as these, Napoleon Bonaparte, once the master of Europe, tacitly admitted that Washington was the greater man. Such was the reputation of the American Cincinnatus. It is altogether appropriate that we take some time today to remember him.

More Pennsylvania Pictures

Red Tail over an open field. There were actually two of them, but they were too far apart to get into one frame, so I waited and waited and waited. They never got close enough to each other but kept getting farther away from me, so I had to settle for this.

Angry sky along Rte. 83 south of Harrisburg.

Ice fishing at Lake Redman just north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Creeks in Schuylkill County, not far from Rte. 895

Hanging ice

Along Rte. 895 near Molino

Slanting sun in late afternoon.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

France Embraces the Baconburger

The Times reports:

After the burka, France is now grappling with the bacon burger. The culinary import that was once anathema for Gallic patriots is at the heart of the latest bout of anguish over the rise of Islam in France.

Politicians, media and Paris penseurs have been piling in against Quick, a Franco-Belgian fast-food chain, over its policy of serving only halal meat in 8 of its 362 burger outlets. Smoked turkey has replaced bacon at the Islamically correct restaurants at Roubaix, on the Belgian frontier, and in Muslim-dominated suburbs of Paris and other cities.

Read it here.

Don't get me wrong, the French have wonderful food, but to at least some extent their snobbishness on the matter is a reflection of national defensiveness. The same chauvinism that led France to reject the "Anglo-Saxon" baconburger as a culinary atrocity, now leads them to embrace it. As a bacon lover, I can only see this as progress.

The article rightly points out that there is an ideological component to this. The French are no devotees of "pluralism". They are relatively intolerant of cultural or intellectual diversity that undermines the ideal of the unitary state. I would argue, though [contra the Times], that this long antedates the French Revolution and has its origins in the trend toward royal absolutism that affected all of the major European states in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dubya Resurgent

The online store "Cafepress" reports that merchandise featuring Bush's image and the words "Miss me yet?" are increasingly popular.

Ten "Miss Me Yet?" items were on the company's list of its top-selling designs, CafePress spokeswoman Jenna Martin told the Daily News.

"There were no Obama-themed designs on the list," she said. "Bush has stolen the political spotlight....
Read it here.

This Day In History

As the song goes, "Happy Days Are Here Again" and we are once again celebrating gastronomical goodies. I mean, world peace and kindness and such things have their place, but all right thinking people put food at the top of their list of priorities. Today is "National Chocolate Mint Day". Actually national chocolate anything day is worthy of celebration. So go out there and snack your way through the day. I know I will.

On this day in 1942 Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the relocation and internment of American residents of Japanese ancestry [including American citizens]. Ultimately approximately 120,000 people were locked away in the internment camps and persons of Japanese descent were completely excluded from west coast States. Sixty two percent of the internees were American citizens. For purposes of classification, persons with one sixteenth Japanese ancestry were considered to be Japanese.

General John L. Dewitt, head of the Western Command, was placed in charge of the program. He was an apologetic racist. He famously stated:
I don't want any of them [persons of Japanese ancestry] here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty... It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty... But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.
Many moralists have attempted to portray the American internment policy as equivalent to Nazi race policies, but that would be wrong. Internment, however morally problematic, is not equivalent to the genocidal policies instituted by Germany's National Socialists. It's not even close. Life in the camps was difficult, but not life-threatening. Eventually many of the internees were allowed to leave the camps and relocate outside the West Coast exclusion zone. Some were even allowed to return to their homes under strict supervision. Some of those who voluntarily renounced their American citizenship were even repatriated to Japan. Still, many of the internees suffered financially from internment and the psychological and social costs they incurred were severe and Japanese internment. It is not something that can be ignored.

Finally, we should note that the program was extremely popular with the American public, especially on the West Coast. American culture in the mid-twentieth century was profoundly and unapologetically racist. That is a truth that needs to be told, but it is not the same as the virulent homicidal policies that characterized contemporary European and Asian societies.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This Day In History

Today is another of those industry-sponsored days -- "National Battery Day". We're not talking here about "assault and battery" or artillery batteries -- no, it's the common batteries you put in everything these days. Take a moment today and think about just how many battery-powered things you use and just how different your life would be without them. Just imagine the extension cords....

On this day in 1546 Martin Luther died in Eiselben, the city of his birth, and eighteen years later Michelangelo died in Rome. These two men representing the radically different cultures of the Renaissance and the Reformation were contemporaries. What is more, Luther was a lad of nine and Michelangelo a teenager when Columbus discovered America. What an exciting time that was in Western Culture!

Luther, of course, is given credit for starting the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when he nailed his "Ninety-Five Theses" to the church door in Wittenburg. In them he attacked the Catholic practice of selling indulgences and in so doing called into question the doctrine of salvation by works, one of the fundamental bases of the Church's authority. Luther's refusal to recant his arguments led to him being excommunicated and branded a heretic. Fortunately for him, several German noblemen were willing to give him protection. His writings were printed up and circulated widely throughout northern Europe and inspired religious reformers in several countries. Eventually Luther himself organized a church based on his teachings.

Michelangelo is most famous for his magnificent paintings on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In addition to his painting, he was a sculptor, an architect, an engineer and a poet -- the living embodiment of the "Renaissance Man" ideal. Because of his personal eccentricities Michelangelo did not attract much of a following among artists, but he never lacked for patrons and his work includes some of the greatest treasures of Western Culture.

Luther famously enjoyed the good life. Michelangelo was extremely abstemious, obsessed with his work and caring little for other things. He ate little -- whatever came to hand -- and seldom bathed or changed his clothes, often sleeping fully dressed. Luther was the monk who married. Michelangelo penned several poems extolling the beauty of the young men and boys he picked up on the streets of Rome. Both men consorted with the rich and powerful. Luther seems to have enjoyed their company. To Michelangelo they were simply patrons. Luther's life was consumed with religion and politics. Michelangelo obsessed about his art and little else. Both men were insufferably arrogant. Very different men living at the same time in very different worlds, but both made huge contributions to the world in which we live today.

For a Catholic appraisal of Luther see here.

PBS has a nice site on Luther's life and works here.

You can read more about Michelangelo here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Random Acts of Kindness Day". So go out there and do something nice for someone. It will make you feel good and in a small way might make the world a little bit better.

On this day in 1801 the House of Representatives voted to make Thomas Jefferson President. In the general election Jefferson had tied with Aaron Burr. The reason was that the "Founders", in their infinite wisdom, had written into the constitution a provision that each member of the Electoral College would cast two votes. The person getting the greatest number of votes would become President, and the person in second place would become Vice President. The problem with this was the emergence of political parties. It ensured that the President and Vice President would belong to different parties. Not a good idea. What happened in 1800 was that the "Jeffersonian" Republican Party won the popular election and instructed its electors to vote for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, ensuring that both President and Vice President would be Republicans. One of the electors was to refrain from casting their second vote [for Burr]. That way Jefferson would be assured of becoming President while Burr would become his Vice President.

The trouble was that the Republican electors screwed up. They all voted for both Jefferson and Burr and so the two men were tied in the Electoral College. That threw the election into the House of Representatives where the losing party, the Federalists, could influence the outcome. For several days the House could not choose between Jefferson and Burr and tempers grew ever shorter. Burr refused to step aside and the Federalists refused to vote for Jefferson, whom they hated. Finally, though, Alexander Hamilton who led the New York Federalists, decided that he hated Burr [who was also from New York and had engaged in long and bitter political fights with Hamilton in the past] more than he hated Jefferson. On the 36th ballot he instructed his allies to switch their votes to Jefferson and the crisis was resolved. Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States.

One of the results of this breakdown of the electoral system was the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution which stipulates that electors must distinguish between their votes for president and for vice president. But the personal consequences were much more interesting.

Jefferson, himself a world class hater, decided that Vice President Burr had to be driven from national politics. He made it clear that Burr would not be on the ticket in 2004 so the Vice President shifted his attention back to the State level, deciding to run for Governor of New York. That put him directly in competition again with his old enemy, Alexander Hamilton. The campaign got really nasty and eventually Burr demanded that Hamilton recant some of his outrageous statements. Hamilton refused to do so; Burr then challenged him to a duel. The two men met on a field in Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton shot and missed, Burr's shot hit and Hamilton died.

There remained the animosity between Burr and Jefferson. Burr became involved in a scheme to promote settlement on land he had purchased in Texas, which at the time was still part of Mexico. One of his partners in the deal, General James Wilkinson, was a scoundrel and a spy for Mexico. A number of other shady characters were involved in various ways. Just what Burr intended is not clear, but President Jefferson, suspecting the worst, decided to charge him with treason and ordered his arrest. Burr tried to flee the country, but was apprehended and brought back to Washington for trial. Since there was no solid evidence against him Burr was acquitted. He remained a free man but his political career was over.

On this day in 2009 Barak Obama signed a mammoth, $787 billion economic stimulus bill into law; he also approved adding some 17,000 U.S. troops for the war in Afghanistan. Make of those what you will.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This Day In History

Today is another one of those tough ones. It's "Do A Grouch A Favor" day. My first reaction was that the biggest favor you could do them would be to put them out of their misery, but then my wife reminded me that I can get pretty grouchy at times, so I reconsidered. Maybe it's better just to be forgiving to the grouches in your life, or even better than that, do something nice for them so they [we] can quit being grouchy.

On this day in 1804 Stephen Decatur, a Penn alumnus, led a contingent of U. S. Marines in a successful raid on Tripoli harbor where they burned the "USS Philadelphia" which had been previously captured by pirates. This was a spectacular act of daring, one that impressed even British naval hero Horatio Nelson who called it "the most bold and daring naval act of the age".

The circumstances leading up to Decatur's raid are interesting. Through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Muslim states in North Africa regularly preyed upon European peoples and commerce. Slavers and pirates struck as far north as Iceland and an estimated one and a half million Europeans were taken into slavery in Africa. Powerful European states like England and France paid tribute to the Barbary Pirates in order to keep them from attacking their coasts and ships.

Prior to the 1780s American ships were protected by these treaties. In 1783, however, that protection was withdrawn and protection of American commerce became the responsibility of the American government. In 1784 Congress authorized John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to negotiate tribute payments with Tripoli. When asked why his country was capturing American ships and enslaving Americans the Muslim ambassador replied:
It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share....
The ambassador then demanded tribute above and beyond the amount authorized by Congress.

Faced with Muslim intransigence Congress caved, authorizing annual payments to the Barbary Pirates. This policy continued under the Federal Constitution and through the Washington and Adams administrations. By 1800 tribute and ransom payments to the pirate amounted to 20 percent of federal government revenues. By that date, however, due to the policies of the Adams administration, the United States had a small but state of the art navy and was in a position to confront the pirates.

In 1801 newly elected President Thomas Jefferson refused payment to the Pasha of Tripoli. In response Tripoli declared war on the United States and began capturing American ships. Jefferson then sent a fleet of frigates to the Mediterranean to protect American commerce. This was the beginning of the First Barbary War. One of these frigates was the USS Philadelphia, commanded by William Bainbridge. During one of its patrols the Philadelphia ran aground and was captured by Tripolitan pirates who converted it into a gun battery for defense of their harbor. Decatur's raid several months later destroyed the ship and ended its usefulness to the pirates.

For more than two years after Decatur's raid the war continued inconclusively until finally the Pasha agreed to ransom the Americans he had captured. Piracy continued, however, for several years thereafter and was not ended until the Second Barbary War of 1815 during which Decatur further distinguished himself. But that is a story for another day.

The Heritage Foundation has a nice piece on the First Barbary War and its implications for today here. Check it out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Ship Is Sinking

Oh my!
First Evan Bayh decides to call an end to his career through the Senate [here]; now word is that Babs Mikulski, Maryland left-winger is also contemplating retirement [here].

I've just heard from an impeccable source that Barbara Mikulski, the Democratic Senator who is up for reelection this November, will choose to retire. Mrs. Mikulski is expected to make her formal announcement in the next few days.

Mrs. Mikulski seriously fractured her right ankle last fall just prior to Edward M. Kennedy's death. Due to the severity of the fracture, she had to have open reduction surgery, that included the insertion of pins, as well as the use of special surgical boots, during recovery. She had tried to arrive in time for Mr. Kennedy's funeral but was turned away.

Her recovery has been exceptionally slow and she is evidently still in a great deal of pain. Reportedly, she has told her physician that she does not desire to seek reelection. Additionally, friends and family have been saying in the near future she will announce her retirement. Because of the very slow recovery, she has been forced to use a wheelchair, a walker or a cane in order to get around.

One of her complaints is that the health insurance that is provided for Congress is "poor" with high deductibles and "limitations" on coverage. My contact tells me that she told an aide that she should have inserted in the ObamaCare bill an amendment to improve Congressional health insurance!
Mrs. Mikulski was first elected to the Senate in 1986, and thus is a very senior member of the Democratic caucus. Despite this seniority, she has never been offered any important chairmanships or leadership positions. Born on July 20, 1936, she is 74 years old, come is perhaps fitting that she has choose this year to retire.
Read the whole thing here.

Interesting that one of the reasons Babs wants out is that government health care is crappy.

Sarah Hits Daytona

Sarah Palin went to Daytona for the race and found a warm reception:
DAYTONA BEACH – Palin-mania easily surpassed Danica-mania at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.

While Patrick got all the headlines for the better part of two weeks, she had no stake in the Daytona 500. Palin did, and as a VIP guest for the race, she ate up all the attention.

When she arrived for the drivers meeting, Palin was immediately mobbed. She briefly chatted with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, shook hands with supporters and smiled big.

She took a seat up front next to Harry Connick Jr., who sang the national anthem for the race. When NASCAR president Mike Helton acknowledged her as a special guest, she got the largest ovation from the room, packed from the front to the back with drivers, team members, support personnel and onlookers.

After sitting through the meeting, Palin could not get out the door. Fans mobbed her, asking for pictures and autographs. Her 12-person entourage, comprised of track security, a policeman, friends and spokespeople, tried to get her to the door and to her next appearance. But Palin could not help herself, and kept signing and posing for pictures.

Even when she was able to get out the door, she stopped every few feet to take pictures.
Read the whole thing here.

That's something else you won't see reported on NBC or NPR.

Amy Bishop -- Another Violent Far-Left Loon

It seems that every day we learn more and more about Amy Bishop, the professor who shot and killed three of her colleagues and wounded two others after receiving news that she had been denied tenure [here]. It turns out that she had also shot and killed her brother back in 1986 but had not been prosecuted because local authorities decided that the incident had been an "accident". What is more, she and her husband had also been suspected of being involved in a plot to bomb a Harvard professor [here].

Now it turns out that the woman was also an Obamaphile. The Boston Herald reports:
A family source said Bishop, a mother of four children - the youngest a third-grade boy - was a far-left political extremist who was “obsessed” with President Obama to the point of being off-putting.
[emphasis mine]

Why am I not surprised?

Yet the MSM continues to suggest that violent nuttiness is exclusively a right-wing phenomenon.

I might also note that violent left-wing political activists have threatened figure skater, Johnny Weir because one of his costumes incorporates fox fur. [here]

Jim Geraghty concurs: "she [Amy Bishop] interrupts that "right-wing maniacs go on shooting sprees" narrative that the media loves so much."

This Day In History

Today is "Presidents Day". Originally the nation celebrated George Washington's birthday (February 22nd) but after the Civil War, some States added Lincoln's Birthday [February 12th]. Then, during the Sixties we decided to start celebrating a new holiday, one that would recognize the contributions of all presidents. The new holiday didn't really catch on, though, until the 1980s when advertising agencies began to use it as a peg for sales. Today hardly anyone still celebrates Washington's birthday or Lincoln's. Instead we honor all our chief executives, even the really bad ones. I'm not sure I entirely approve. It seems that these days we focus far too much attention on the office of the chief executive. I'm old enough to remember when Congressional figures like Sam Rayburn were iconic figures, or cabinet officers, like General George C. Marshall, were revered. Today they are just window dressing as we focus obsessively on the guy who sits in the Oval Office. Anyhow, today is a day to spend a little time thinking about the presidents other than the current embodiment of all our dreams and discontents. Here's a good place to start -- a list of links to presidential websites from Washington to Clinton.

On this day in 1898 the U. S. Battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor. This was the event that precipitated the Spanish-American War.

The situation in Havana was tense when the Maine had arrived there three weeks earlier, but that was not unusual. There had been intermittent Cuban revolts against Spanish rule from the 1860s, and the most recent of these, led by Jose Marti, had erupted in 1895. Spanish resistance to the revolutionaries was led by General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau who used as one of his tactics, the relocation of civilian populations into "reconcentration camps". The rebels took advantage of the emergence of a national media in the United States to generate support for their cause. They established a propaganda office in New York and began to feed stories of General Weyler's terrible atrocities to the press. William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal, and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World were at the time locked in a bitter circulation battle and both papers picked up these stories and hyped them. These stories then were distributed over wires services to local communities all across the nation. Popular pressure for U.S. intervention in Cuba to stop the carnage began to rise.

In popular imagination the Spanish-American War was the one created by media hype but serious historians are in general agreement that the media input did not cause the war, it only inflamed an already dangerous situation. At the time President William McKinley, backed by most of the business community, favored peace and was actively seeking an agreement that would end the violence [in fact an agreement on Cuban autonomy had already been achieved], and the media certainly did not help these delicate negotiations, but the decisive factors impelling the United States to war were not media driven.

Early in January, 1898 a series of riots broke out in Havana and the U.S. Government sent the Maine there to protect American citizens and business interests. Three weeks after its arrival the Maine exploded killing 266 American sailors on board. The Navy launched an investigation that concluded that an external explosion had destroyed the ship. The press had a field day with this news, ignoring a Spanish government investigation that had concluded just the opposite. Public opinion was divided as to whether the explosion had been caused by a mine, or by an act of sabotage but all were in agreement that the sinking of the Maine was a provocation that could only be answered by military action. "Remember the Maine, and to Hell with Spain" became the catchword of the day.

As the debate raged over what to do, two factors became decisive. First several religious leaders who had previously opposed war now switched sides and began to demand that the government take action to end the violence in Cuba. Secondly, Congress passed the "Teller Amendment" to a war authorization resolution stating that the United States had no territorial ambitions in Cuba. These two developments overcame most of the moral objections to military action and President McKinley sent an ultimatum to Spain demanding that they withdraw their forces from Cuba and grant it full independence. Spain's response was a declaration of war and on April 25th the United States responded in kind. The Spanish-American War had begun.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More Pennsylvania Pictures

During a lull in the week of storms we drove through Dutch country from York to Lancaster to Reading and beyond. Here's a bit of what we saw along the way. A heavy snow brings out some of the stark beauty of the Gorgeous Commonwealth in winter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Feeling Romantic?

Slate magazine has a marvelous photo gallery of couples in love. Check it out here.

This Day In History

On this day in 1809 Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born and one hundred years to the day later the NAACP was founded. This is truly an auspicious day.

No president, with the possible exception of George Washington, is more highly regarded than Abraham Lincoln which might be thought unusual because during his lifetime he was widely despised. I have long argued that the reputation of historical figures depends less on what they actually did than in their ideological or cultural utility. If it serves the interest of people to exalt the memory of a person he or she will be exalted; if it serves their interest to denigrate that person, he or she will be despised.

There is no doubt that Lincoln was a significant figure. Politically, he articulated a moderate position on the great issue of his day, slavery, that a majority of Americans could support and this enabled him to secure the Republican nomination for the presidency and to be elected against more famous and prestigious opponents. His election, however, broke the union as several states elected to secede rather than to remain in a nation dominated by Republicans.

Lincoln's decision to reunite the nation by force was highly controversial, especially as conflict dragged on and casualties mounted. Moreover, in his response to the military crisis Lincoln, more than any other president, systematically and flagrantly violated both the word and the spirit of the Constitution. Despite mounting opposition within the Northern States Lincoln was able to secure re-election in 1864 and, more importantly, to hold together a majority coalition in support of the war effort. Moreover, Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation", while it had little practical effect, was an enormously important policy statement because it in effect changed the nation's war aims from preservation of the Union to the abolition of slavery. His "Gettysburg Address" while little noted at the time has since been seen as an important statement redefining the nature of the Federal Union, and many of the policies he adopted during wartime promoted national economic, financial, and cultural unity.

Was this enough to make Lincoln the greatest [in the minds of many] president of all? Perhaps, although a strong counter-argument could be [and occasionally has been] made. But as Sean Wilentz has recently pointed out in a long review article [here], Lincoln has often been accorded undeserved praise [see also here]. This is because successive generations of scholars have found Lincoln's memory to be useful. His assassination made him in the post-war decades a martyr to national unity, invoked by nationalists of all stripes and of course the Republican Party found his martyred memory useful in their political campaigns. Toward the end of the century, as the nation sought to integrate a flood of immigrants, Lincoln's wise-cracking country boy persona became a useful symbol of the essential American character. In the mid-twentieth century, in the midst of intense ideological conflict, Lincoln was recast as a moderate who held the nation together in an age of extremism. And, of course Lincoln was also invoked as a symbol of the civil rights movement. I could go on, but the point is clear -- Lincoln has been a remarkably useful dead president.

No less consequential was the life of Charles Darwin and he, like Lincoln, has become a useful cultural image. His theory of evolution posed an alternative to invocations of divine providence that has stirred intense debate ever since it was first proposed. It has also provided "scientific" support to a wide range of distasteful movements, from eugenics, to scientific racism, to Western imperialism, to "social Darwinist" defenses of an oppressive class structure, to sex-based discrimination, to German race theory that involved the extermination of entire classes of people, etc. Whatever the scientific merits of Darwin's work, and they are considerable, they must be balanced against the moral implications of its application. That is why today Darwinism is just as controversial and stirs passions just as much as it did in the late Nineteenth Century.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Silver Lining

David Hearts Sarah

David Broder is smitten -- the dean of Washington pundits has fallen under Sarah's spell. He writes:

The snows that obliterated Washington in the past week interfered with many scheduled meetings, but they did not prevent the delivery of one important political message: Take Sarah Palin seriously.

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.

This was not the first time that Palin has impressed me. I gave her high marks for her vice presidential acceptance speech in St. Paul. But then, and always throughout that campaign, she was laboring to do more than establish her own place. She was selling a ticket headed by John McCain against formidable Democratic opposition and burdened by the legacy of the Bush administration.

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

Her invocation of "conservative principles and common-sense solutions" was perfectly conventional. What stood out in the eyes of TV-watching pols of both parties was the skill with which she drew a self-portrait that fit not just the wishes of the immediate audience but the mood of a significant slice of the broader electorate.

Freed of the responsibilities she carried as governor of Alaska, devoid of any official title but armed with regular gigs on Fox News Channel and more speaking invitations than she can fulfill, Palin is perhaps the most visible Republican in the land.

Read the whole thing here.

In conclusion he writes:

Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.

Indeed she is, David, indeed she is and thank you for reminding everyone that populism is anything but a marginal and discredited force in American political culture. It was an essential element in the successful presidential campaigns waged by Carter, Reagan and Clinton.

This Day In History

Today is "Make A Friend Day". So go out there and make some friends. It used to be that you did that by being friendly toward people and doing nice things, but today the internet has changed all that. The new key to having lots of friends is to become a celebrity. They have thousands and thousands of friends. Even better, become a politician. You can see for yourself -- just check out Facebook. Sarah Palin has 1.3 million friends.

On this day in 1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin signed the Yalta Agreement. The Yalta Conference was the second of three meetings of the "Big Three" allied leaders during World War Two. The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate plans for the reorganization of Europe after the war was won. The resulting agreement was, in many people's opinion, overly generous to the Soviet Union.

Stalin demanded that Eastern Poland be annexed to the USSR and, as a precondition to entering the war against Japan, he demanded that Mongolia be separated from China [so that it could fall within the Soviet orbit] and that the USSR regain control over Manchuria, including Port Arthur [which had been lost in the Russian-Japanese War of 1904. Roosevelt, who felt that Stalin was trustworthy and had no other territorial ambitions, agreed to these demands. Furthermore the agreement stated that, Germany and Berlin would be divided into zones of occupation and, with some few exceptions, that the governments of nations occupied by the Germans would be restored on a democratic basis. Roosevelt apparently believed that Stalin could be trusted to uphold his promise of free elections in the nations of Eastern Europe and Churchill, despite strong reservations, agreed. They were wrong. Stalin had no intention of allowing nations in what he considered to be Russia's traditional "sphere of influence" to have independent governments.

Many people have strongly criticized Roosevelt for acceding to Stalin's demands and, by so doing, consigning hundreds of millions of people to life under Soviet domination. Supporters of FDR argue that the only alternative to trusting Stalin to honor the pledge to hold free elections was armed confrontation and possibly war between the US and the USSR. In 1945 the American people would not stand for that so Roosevelt had no real choice in the matter. It seems that FDR was naive in that he hoped that the creation of the United Nations organization would be an effective check on Soviet ambitions, but everyone had high hopes for the organization back in those days.

And on this day in 1979 followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in Iran. Turn on any cable news channel and you will find out all you want to know on the subject. They are all covering the anniversary.

And on this day in 1751 Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the United States, was founded in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This Day In History

Today is another of those days I can't make sense of. It is "Umbrella Day", not exactly appropriate here in the middle of the Great Gore Snowstorm [Mark II]. Yes there is plenty of precipitation, but no umbrella is going to be much use against it and the high winds. So let's just pretend that it is hot chocolate day or something equally appealing [although I really can't imagine anything as appealing as hot chocolate right about now.

On this day in 1763 Spain, France and Britain signed the Treaty of Paris bringing an end to the Seven Years War. One of my professors used to refer to it as the "Real First World War" because it involved every great power of the time and was fought on every continent except Antarctica as well as on all seven seas. The North American phase of the war is usually referred to as the "French and Indian War" [or more properly, "the war against the French and Indians"]. It was an enormously consequential conflict, one that decided for centuries to come the fate of the peoples of India and North America.

Few people are aware that this enormous conflict had its origins in Western Pennsylvania. The European phase of the war didn't start until 1756, but two years earlier fighting had already broken out in North America.

For nearly a century Britain and France were engaged in a global imperial rivalry that from time to time broke out into open warfare between the two powers. The most recent of these, "King George's War" [also known as the "War Of the Austrian Succession"] had ended in 1748, but it had been indecisive and both sides took advantage of the peace to get ready for the next round of hostilities. Part of this effort on the part of the French was a plan to establish a line of fortifications stretching south from Lake Erie that were intended to keep British settlers out of the Ohio country and to interdict the lucrative Iroquois fur trade in that area.

The first French expedition into western Pennsylvania took place in 1749 and did little more than to explore the region, make contact with local Indians, and to bury lead markers proclaiming French ownership of the land. A second, military expedition in 1752 was intended to cow the local Indians. It was only in 1753 that construction of the fortifications actually began. The first of these was at Presque Isle; the second was Fort LeBoeuf near Waterford. Virginia responded to these by sending a young militia officer, George Washington, west with a demand that the French abandon the region [which was claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania]. Not surprisingly, the French declined to obey Washington's demands.

Then began a race to secure and fortify the key point in the chain of fortifications -- the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at what is today Pittsburgh. Virginia got there first, early in 1753, but a much larger French force took over and forced them to withdraw. France then began construction on a major fortification which they called Fort Duquesne. Virginia then sent a large armed force under Washington to secure the site. In May, 1754 Washington's expedition encountered and attacked a French patrol commanded by Joseph de Jumonville. This is generally considered to be the first military engagement of the war. It did not go well. The French surrendered, but one of Washington's Indian allies assassinated de Jumonville. Washington then withdrew and constructed a fortification [Fort Necessity], but was forced to surrender and to sign a document admitting to murder. Not a very auspicious outcome for the future Father of the Country.

In the following year the British launched a major expedition against Fort Duquesne, led by General William Braddock. Washington was a participant in this effort too, and once more it was a disaster. Then in 1856 the war expanded to global proportions. At first things continued to go badly for the British, but by 1758 the tide began to turn [and in that year a third expedition, this one led by Gen. John Forbes finally drove the French out of Western Pennsylvania]. Other British victories followed and by 1763 the French and their allies had been thoroughly defeated in North America, in Europe and in Asia.

In the Treaty that ended the Seven Years War France had to yield all its North American possessions and was reduced to a marginal presence in India. The great war for empire had finally been decided in Britain's favor. But there were other important consequences. Britain's attempt to recoup the costs of the war and to administer her vast new territories led to policies that strained relations with her colonies and helped to bring on the American Revolution. French resentment at the outcome of the war was a major reason she later supported the American bid for independence. And, the financial costs of the conflict contributed to internal tensions that later contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution. The consequences for the Indians [both North American and in India] were even more significant Prior to this war they had been able to play off the European Great Powers against each other and so to maintain a degree of independence. Now that was no longer possible and their attempts to maintain a degree of self-determination were doomed.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Another Scientific Consensus Collapses

For eight decades there has been a consensus position among biologists regarding the explanation for life's origins -- that it arose out of a "primordial soup" and that the energy to cause formation came from ultraviolet rays. It's in all the textbooks, and has been validated by experiments. The only trouble is, it's wrong.

From Astrobiology:

For 80 years it has been accepted that early life began in a 'primordial soup' of organic molecules before evolving out of the oceans millions of years later. Today the 'soup' theory has been over turned in a pioneering paper in BioEssays which claims it was the Earth's chemical energy, from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, which kick-started early life.

"Textbooks have it that life arose from organic soup and that the first cells grew by fermenting these organics to generate energy in the form of ATP. We provide a new perspective on why that old and familiar view won't work at all," said team leader Dr Nick lane from University College London. "We present the alternative that life arose from gases (H2, CO2, N2, and H2S) and that the energy for first life came from harnessing geochemical gradients created by mother Earth at a special kind of deep-sea hydrothermal vent – one that is riddled with tiny interconnected compartments or pores."

Read the whole thing here.

Bush Was Right [continued]

William Mcgurn writes in the WSJ:
Bush Was Right, Says Obama

'We're not handling any of these cases any different from the Bush administration.'

This weekend, Americans were treated to something new: Barack Obama defending his war policies by suggesting they merely continue his predecessor's practices. The defense is illuminating, not least for its implicit recognition that George W. Bush has more credibility on fighting terrorists than does the sitting president.
Read the whole thing here. [subscription needed]

The subject was the question of civilian trials for detainees, one that Obama demagogued relentlessly during the campaign. His switch to Bush's position now either indicates duplicity on his part or growth into the job he was elected to fill. Either way it testifies to the fact that George W. Bush was a better and wiser man than his critics would admit.

The Good President [continued]

I don't know about you, but I've been missing him for more than a year now.

This Day In History

Today is "National Toothache Day". Yep, that's what it says. I don't really know what that means, or how to celebrate it, so I'm going to fall back on an observance I overlooked yesterday. Today is the day after "Clean Out Your Computer Day" which is observed on the second Monday of each month. So take some time today to go back over those document and picture files that are cluttering up your drive, check your e-mail lists, clear your caches, and by all means run a security scan on your hard drive.

On this day in 1943 the Guadalcanal Campaign came to an end. This was the first major Allied offensive against the Japanese empire and in many ways represented the first step on the march to victory in the Pacific.

After Pearl Harbor the Japanese had acted quickly to over-run much of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. The naval component of this huge offensive was finally halted in the battles of the Coral Sea [May 4-8, 1942] and Midway [June 4-7, 1942]. While the Japanese took the following several months to consolidate their gains in the South Pacific a furious bureaucratic battle took place in the American high command as various military and political leaders argued over how to respond.

It was finally decided that an Allied counter-offensive should begin in the southern Solomon Islands where the Japanese presence threatened both Australia and Allied supply lines. Guadalcanal turned out to be a crucial part of this offensive because it was there that the Japanese were constructing a major airfield.

"Operation Watchtower", as the offensive was named, was a combined U.S. and Australian effort and was mostly a Navy and Marine operation. Overall command was in the hands of Major General Alexander Vandergrift [USMC]. The naval component was commanded by Vice Admiral Frank Fletcher whose flagship was the USS Saratoga, and the amphibious forces were commanded by Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner.

After a few minor assaults on small neighboring islands and a major bombardment, Allied forces went ashore on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942. The landing was almost unopposed and the airfield was quickly captured and renamed "Henderson Field". This became the focus of operations for months thereafter. The Japanese launched a major assault on the airfield which was repulsed with heavy losses while naval forces fought to a standstill, then both sides poured in reinforcements. What followed was a war of attrition on the land, on the sea, and in the air with both sides taking heavy losses. What eventually decided the outcome was the fact that the Allies were much more effective in resupplying their forces than were the Japanese. In December, the Japanese high command decided to withdraw from Guadalcanal, fighting a ferocious rear-guard defense as they left. On February 9th 1943 that evacuation was complete and the Allies claimed victory on Guadalcanal.

In retrospect Japanese leaders considered Guadalcanal to have been the turning point of the War in the Pacific. Americans usually point to Midway. It was certainly a decisive confrontation, not least because Allied victory there caused Washington to change its mind about the conduct of the war. Prior to Guadalcanal the "Europe First" strategy had dictated that in the Pacific Theater we would be fighting only on defense, seeking to slow or contain Japanese offensives. Victory at Guadalcanal opened the way for offensive Allied operations and prompted a reallocation of resources to that theater.

You might want to look at the Victory at Sea treatment of the battles surrounding Guadalcanal [here]. It covers the main points pretty well and makes the crucial point that logistics -- the vast resources America was able to mobilize in support of the troops -- was the crucial element in victory not only at Guadalcanal, but throughout the Pacific. It is also a neat little document illustrating mid-twentieth century American triumphalism. Check it out. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 08, 2010

This Day In History

I'm back. I was up against a deadline and couldn't blog for a while. So much for my resolution to write something each day.

One hundred years ago today the Boy Scouts of America were officially incorporated, so let's wish a very "Happy Birthday" to the Scouts on this, their centennial. The BSA have scheduled a fourteen month long centennial celebration marking a number of milestones in their history, but today is the official beginning of the organization.

The first scout organization had been founded three years earlier in the UK by Lord Robert Baden-Powell. The American version was founded by Chicago publisher William Dickson Boyce. The organization has experienced some troubles in recent years and has been the target of criticism from left-wing activists, but it has survived and even thrived amidst all the controversy. Today there are more than four million scouts in America, and over the course of the century more than 110 million boys and young men have been scouts. The avowed purpose of the scouts is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities and educational programs. My brothers and I were all scouts and have fond memories of our scouting days.

On this day in 1587 Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded on the order of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Almost invariably Mary is portrayed sympathetically in popular fiction and film, but both her actions and those of her supporters made her too dangerous to be allowed to live. Mary had challenged Elizabeth's claim to the English throne and stubbornly insisted on displaying arms that identified her as not only Queen of Scots and Queen of France [titles to which she had just claim] but also as Queen of England. Her reign in Scotland was so tumultuous, involving murders and assassinations and pronounced anti-Protestantism, that eventually her brother raised a revolt against her, forcing her from the throne [in favor of her infant son]. She then fled the country, seeking refuge with her cousin Elizabeth.

The problem there was that not only had Mary challenged Elizabeth's right to the throne, but her followers had also been implicated in a Catholic revolt against Elizabeth. Rather than let this dangerous woman roam free, Elizabeth quite understandably imprisoned her. While in prison Mary was implicated in not one, not two, but three separate plots to assassinate Elizabeth. Finally Elizabeth's patience was at an end and she ordered the decapitation of Mary. I don't really see what else she could have done. So long as she lived Mary was going to be a threat both to Elizabeth and to the nation she ruled.

And on this day in 19904 the Japanese imperial navy launched a surprise attack on Russian forces at Port Arthur. The attack occurred three hours before war was declared. Sound familiar? The ensuing conflict, called the Russo-Japanese War, is one of the great turning points in modern history.

The war did not go well for Russia. Militarily Russia suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the Japanese and lost two of its three naval fleets. In the treaty of Portsmouth that ended the war Russia was forced to relinquish all claims on Korea and to withdraw from Manchuria. A few years later Japan annexed Korea. The balance of power in East Asia had shifted dramatically.

Domestically, discontent at the progress of the war helped to fuel a popular revolt against the Czarist regime. However the revolt was suppressed and the government embarked on a program of industrial and military reform that greatly strengthened its military capabilities. Both the discontent and the military modernization would have consequences when World War I broke out a decade later.

The Russo-Japanese war marked the first time that one of the European Great Powers had been defeated by a non-western state -- a fact that made an impression on rulers throughout Asia and in subsequent decades contributed to the development anti-colonial sentiment.

Finally, the end of the war was negotiated in the United States under the auspices of the American president, Theodore Roosevelt, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Many consider this to mark America's emergence on the world stage as a Great Power, equal in influence to the European powers.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Lies Liberals Tell Themselves

Gerard Alexander has a nice piece in the WaPo in which he analyzes the self-congratulatory narratives liberals tell themselves to demean and delegitimize conservatives. He identifies four mutually supporting explanatory narratives:
The belief in a "vast right wing conspiracy" funded and directed by "corporate interests".

Ordinary Americans are stupid and ignorant, unable to discern objective truth, and therefore easily manipulated by dishonest corporate conspirators.

Ordinary Americans are racist bigots whose fear and hatred of "the other" makes them easy dupes for unscrupulous politicians.

Conservatives are driven by their emotions, most prominently fear of change. This fear makes them impervious to logic and reason.
Read the whole thing here.

The ubiquity of these themes in liberal discourse, the ease with which they are deployed in front of sympathetic audiences, and their frequent use as explanatory factors in academic works indicates that, against all evidence to the contrary, liberals and leftists of all stripes have internalized and deeply believe them. It makes sense that they should do so. These narratives serve to delegitimize any criticism of liberal values, programs and arguments and cast progressives in the role of rational, sensible people opposed by the forces of misrule and unreason. But, as Alexander points out, these personally and politically supportive narratives impoverish and stultify important policy debates because they imbue liberals with a false confidence in the rightness of their positions and lead them to disregard legitimate criticism.

There are serious debates that, for the good of the country, should be conducted fully and honestly, but all too often they are not because liberals, smug in their self-regard and contemptuous of their critics, refuse to take seriously any opposition. For the sake of the country these liberal myths must be exposed. Alexander's article, appearing in a liberal organ, is a good first step.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Snow Pictures

My brother asked me to post some pictures of the snowfall in Baltimore, so here goes.