MartiniPundit

Random thoughts and insights – always shaken, never stirred

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Royal Tea Leaves

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What is it about Royals that causes people to become irrational?

It seems that there is an enormous amount of interest in the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and his long-term girlfriend Kate. So much so that the not even remotely new speculation that the Queen will step down silliness is back. I can understand the interest in the wedding which will in all likelihood produce the next head of state for the United Kingdom. Other than that …

For example, there is renewed speculation that the Queen will abdicate. This is the same sort of nonsense that we saw year after year with Pope John Paul II. It was driven by nothing other than the journalistic desire for change for change’s sake so that it could be reported. It is said that the Queen wants to abdicate so that Charles will have time on the throne before William succeeds. Huh?

Why would Elizabeth – arguably one of the most successful and popular monarchs in British history – want to step down? What would she do then? Why would anyone think it would be a popular move for her to abdicate in favor of Charles – an obvious airhead? Frankly, the best outcome for the British monarchy is for Elizabeth to outlive Charles and leave William as king after her. This is beyond the ken of your average journalist of course.

A word about Kate as she is endlessly compared to the late Princess Diana. The latter was a beautiful woman who possessed a heart of gold. She was also more of an airhead than her husband. As in, she was a moron. She captured the imagination of the world through her beauty and her novelty. She also had charm. Rumor has it the Queen Mum did not approve of her as a Royal bride. Looks like the old gal was spot on. Those who want to talk about her charitable works need to look to the entire Royal family. Crikey – that’s what they do.

But Kate looks to me like a different animal entirely. I think she’s got the Royals by the tail and not the other way around. As lovely to behold as her late mother-in-law (perhaps even more so), but far more savvy, I think she’ll go the distance. Indeed, I think she will be queen eventually, and will have the same influence and power that the late Queen Mum had. In my opinion, she may hold the future of the British monarchy in her hand – and it will be her children and her influence which see out the 21st century. After all, she’s waited eight years, and stood by loyally through it all.

Ironically, Kate may prove to be just what all the pundits thought Diana was going to be. Their comparisons will prove out, just not in any way they thought.

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April 23, 2011 at 2:14 am

Posted in General, History

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John Paul the Great

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Today is the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, the first pope to be acclaimed “Magnus” by the people in some fourteen centuries (he joins Leo the Great and Gregory the Great as only the third pope so honored by his flock).

It’s still hard to imagine he’s gone. For twenty-seven years, this man was our shepherd, and for many, he was the only pope they had ever known. I myself was born in the pontificate of Paul VI, but he was a distant figure in Rome when I was a child. I didn’t fully appreciate who (or even what) he was. John Paul I went by in a wink of an eye, so even for me, John Paul II was really the only pope. If others have a similar experience, that means a sizeable percentage of the population simply had no idea what the Catholic Church was like without John Paul II at the head.

It’s been a long year in some ways. At first, despite my very positive reaction to the election of Benedict XVI, it seemed as if the house was empty. It was with surprise each Sunday for almost a year that I heard not “John Paul our Pope” but “Benedict” at the consecration. I watched the new Pope with approval, but still it seemed less somehow. And it was. We have lost something we’ll never get back – a truly saintly man, a truly great man, and a truly humble man. Two out of three ain’t bad, as they say, but for a while – a generation – we had all three. That legacy can take the Church far I suspect – beyond any of us now living. I’m still digesting the notion that we witnessed one of those rarest of things – a truly transformative pope. He is missed.

While we’re at it, George Weigel has written an excellent book on the last days of John Paul II, the conclave that elected Benedict XVI, and his take on this present Pontificate. It’s called God’s Choice and it’s a must read for anyone interested in this topic.

My take last year on John Paul II’s death and my own encounter with a living saint.

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April 2, 2006 at 12:26 am

Posted in Church, History, Leadership

Tagged with ,

If That Turtle Could Speak …

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A turtle has died in India. Ordinarily, this would be of little interest at all, except in this case, the turtle was two hundred and fifty-five years old. That’s not a bad run for a turtle.

Apparently, he was gifted to the British conqueror of India, Robert Clive who died in 1774. This must be a record for a pet surviving its owner. Read more here.

Update Soxblog has a picture. (Last item.)

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March 24, 2006 at 9:55 am

Posted in General, History

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Pearl Harbor Plus 64

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Today is Pearl Harbor day – sixty-four years ago, the Japanese Empire launched a sneak attack on the United States Pacific Fleet, then based at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. President Roosevelt called it a date which would “live in infamy.” It was a bright, Sunday morning, when just before 8 am, a wave of planes came out of the blue to shatter the American fleet. Two hours later, when it was over, the eight US battleships: Arizona, California, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia, were sunk or badly damaged. One, the Arizona, would never be repaired, and another, the Oklahoma would founder being towed to the west coast, but the other six would eventually be returned to service.

This is the Pennsylvania after the attack: 

Also destroyed in the attack was most of the air power the US had there, but significantly, neither the dockyard facilities nor the logistics facilities of Pearl Harbor were seriously damaged. Most important of all, not a single American carrier was at Pearl Harbor.

So why did the Japanese attack? The short answer is resources. Engaged in a brutal conquest of China, the Japanese were consuming vast quantities of oil, rubber, and other resources basically not found in the Japanese Isles. As their invasion of China created more alarm and revulsion in the west, the Japanese found themselves facing a trade embargo, and now began to look for the resources it needed in Southeast Asia. However, the US Pacific Fleet was a serious threat to Japanese expansion plans. Thus they resolved to strike at the US battleship fleet, ironically with the weapon – the aircraft carrier – that would make the battleship obsolete and render the entire attack a colossal error.

The Japanese attack was a brilliant piece of planning, staff work, tactical execution, and daring. It was, at the same time, strategically insane. The last thing the Japanese wanted was a protracted war with the United States, which they knew they could not win, so they staged a blow which would prevent the US from projecting naval power in the Pacific for the amount of time necessary for them to complete their resource grab. After which, some sort of negotiated truce would be possible. Or so the Japanese warmongers deluded themselves. Instead, the surprise attack galvanized a nation, and made a return to the status quo ante impossible. The Japanese – admittedly, not all of them – fundamentally misread the American character and it cost them dearly.

There is a parallel to our modern Pearl Harbor – September 11th. In this, the same fundamental miscalculation was made by the enemies of the United States, believing the nation weak, and unwilling to defend itself. The 9/11 attacks were intended to force us to withdraw from the Middle East, and from the world stage so as to give Osama bin Laden and his ilk a free hand to reestablish the Caliphate. Like the Japanese sixty-four years ago, Osama misread the American character and it has cost him dearly. It’s not over yet, but it will end the same way World War II did – with the unconditional surrender of the enemies of the United States.

A glass raised to the men and women who died at Pearl Harbor, and on 9/11.

Information, links, and images of Pearl Harbor can be found here. My thoughts on this day last year are here.

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December 7, 2005 at 1:59 pm

Posted in History, Ships

The Rule of Law

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A remarkable thing happened in Iraq today. The Rule of Law sprouted.

By putting Saddam Hussein on trial in an Iraqi court for crimes he committed against his own people, an Arab nation has taken the first steps out of the byzantine barbarism that has characterized so much of life in that part of the world. Many have compared this to the Nuremberg Trials, or that of Slobodon Mlosevic in The Hague, but the true parallel is to Charles I, King of England from 1625 to 1649.

Now, Charles I was not the monster Saddam so manifestly is. He was at odds with his people for a variety of reasons: religious, financial, political, and mostly, on the liberties of the people. He famously fought a war against Parliament, and lost. Put on trial by that body and accused of treason, he was condemned and on January 30, 1649, executed. Parliament had largely pre-ordained the outcome, and the charge itself – treason – was ludicrous given the definition of treason at the time was an act against the crown, but it was a trial, conducted under the rule of law, and the accused was given the right to mount a defense. Charles I paid the price for losing a war, but the way he paid that price was new.

English kings had been deposed and murdered before. Edward II was deposed by his Queen and her lover and quietly murdered. Richard II was deposed by his cousin and quietly murdered. Henry VI was deposed, allowed to live for a decade in custody but then was quietly murdered after his supporters failed in an uprising. Edward V was deposed by his uncle and quietly murdered. (Most probably by that uncle, Richard III, but some have argued that he was murdered by Richard’s foe and successor Henry VII.)

Thus we see the primary means of disposing of a troublesome ex-king was a knife in the dark. This changed in 1587 when Elizabeth I, in the height of the fears over a Spanish invasion, ordered the trial, and eventually the execution of her cousin and heir Mary, Queen of Scots. This was a little different, involving as it did international intrigue and Mary was not Queen of England. However, the difference was that she was tried and sham though it was, it represented a break with the previous practice. When Charles I’s time came, a trial was required. The Rule of Law had trumped the medieval rule of the sword.

Which brings us back to Iraq. Arab strongmen like Saddam have ruled by the sword and the gun for generations. Today, Iraq took a giant step forward to a different and better way. To be sure, Saddam will be found guilty and hanged someday soon, but it will not be a bullet in the dark, it will be justice.

Written by martinipundit

October 19, 2005 at 10:54 pm

Posted in GWOT, History

Thoughts on the 22nd Amendment

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In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower became the first Republican elected President since 1928. In that time, Franklin Roosevelt had won four successive presidential elections, and the Republicans were determined never to have a repeat of that. The 22nd Amendment – which had been proposed in 1947, was ratified in 1951, in time for it to apply to Eisenhower. It reads, in part:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.

Ironically, two people have already slipped out of the second half – both Presidents Johnson and Ford served less than two years of their predecessor’s term and so were each eligible to be elected twice themselves. Johnson got one, and Ford none, but in theory Gerald Ford could have been President for very close to a decade.

The idea of the “Imperial Presidency” took root in Roosevelt’s day and blossomed in Nixon’s. The notion that the nation’s chief executive needed to be limited fixed in the imagination in the way the imperial overreach of the legislature or the judiciary never has. And so we have a peculiar situation where every second term President has been hobbled to one degree or another.

Glossing over Eisenhower, who had the good fortune to be President in quieter times, there are four Presidents of interest: Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43. Nixon’s second term was filled with the acrimonious national mood over Vietnam and Watergate. A third-rate burglary in which the President was only peripherally involved at best grew into a national scandal the likes of which had not been seen before or since. Nixon’s enemies knew they had him, and they knew his power was lessened by his inability to run again. Someone else would be President in January of 1977, and thus Nixon’s ability to reward, protect, or punish diminished with each passing day. Weakened, he was unable to do anything but resign.

Reagan’s second term was similarly a time of slowing down, especially by 1987 when Democrats in Congress conducted the partisan Iran-Contra hearings. They did not achieve their aim of doing in a second Republican President, but the fact that Ronnie would be riding out of town in a few years enabled the whole farce to get off the ground in the first place. Such would have been politically impossible in a first term. Same for Clinton. Like Nixon, his ‘crime’ was not the act itself but the clumsy attempt to cover it up afterwards. Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 – ostensibly about sex or lies depending on which side of the political divide you are – was really about the Republicans foolishly playing the same political gotcha game the Democrats had previously tried on Nixon and Reagan. They failed as the Democrats did with Reagan, partly on the flimsiness of the charges and partly on the personal populatity of Clinton himself. But it remains that it was Clinton’s inability to maneuver in his second term due to the fact that he would be gone shortly regardless that allowed it to happen at all. How would Clinton be able to punish those who impeached him? Which brings us to the current President Bush. Reelected less than a year ago, pundits on both the right and the left are all but declaring his presidency over. Point to what you want – posturing Democrats in Congress, witch hunts against Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, nominee wrangling, hurricane finger-pointing, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, gas prices, education, healthcare, cats vs. dogs, it’s all Bush’s fault. Polls show that this is the lowest point of the Bush presidency and no wonder what with the relentless hammering away at him. Why? Because there is no Democratic majority in Congress to run sham impeachment trials or even shammer hearings. But it will take its toll nevertheless as everyone knows there will be a new President come January 2009 and no one wants to wait. Inexorably, though some 80% of his term of office remains, Bush will be relegated to the sidelines. Reagan very likely could have had a third term, and so probably would Clinton, but the Constitutional prohibition made them the proverbial “lame ducks” and forced them to defend themselves rather than concentrate fully on the job the people elected them to do.

This is what the 22nd Amendment has wrought. Presidents who achieve second terms spend most of them fighting irrelevancy and the baying pack at their heels. We may want to rethink the whole thing and repeal it.

Written by martinipundit

October 3, 2005 at 12:10 pm

Posted in History, Politics

What I Found at FDR’s Place

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It’s August, things are slow. I’ve been on the road for the past couple of days, and despite that, I find that Cindy Sheehan, Maureen Dowd, and other assorted moonbats continue to be their strange selves while I was tooling about the Hudson River Valley. It’s a beautiful part of the country which everyone should visit at least once. On this trip, I stopped at the Franklin Roosevelt home and presidential library.

Now, regular readers of this blog may not be surprised to learn I think very little of FDR’s economic policies – it’s fairly clear he lengthened the Great Depression unnecessarily, and that his credit for ending it really belongs to the war. That having been said, his wartime leadership was superb, and he deserves a place in the pantheon of great presidents for that if nothing else.

The museum cum library is a fascinating place. The house itself has been maintained in just the state it was when Roosevelt was alive, and it’s humbling to walk in hallways where he had to be wheeled, to look at chairs that Winston Churchill sat on, and rooms that have seen some dignitaries indeed. For all that, it has the feel of a home, and a place where people were happy. I noted with amusement given the current annual whining about Bush going to Crawford that Roosevelt went home to Hyde Park an average of once every three weeks while he was President. Bush is falling behind.

The library was equally fascinating. Roosevelt himself opened it, and even worked there while he was in office. His desk and study have been left just as they were when he last left in March 1945, never to return except for his funeral. He and Eleanor (along with two pet dogs) are buried in a lovely rose garden, and far from having the somber sense of a shrine, has the peaceful aspect of repose. It was a very enjoyable afternoon. (Oh, and the Everready Diner on Rte. 9 will fill you up but good.)

However, for all that, the thing that most amused me was the gift shop. Almost overlooked on my way out, I noticed several small busts of various presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Kennedy, and George W. Bush. (They had much larger ones of FDR.) Well, at $15.95 the Bush one was sold, and I took it up to the counter. The very polite store manager said he thought this was the last one, but he would look. Indeed, he came back a few minutes later with an empty box, and proceeded to wrap up the display model for me. While he was doing this, he mentioned he had quite a few of the other presidents left, but that of the several dozen Bush busts, this was the very last one.

Yep. At the Franklin Delano Roosevelt museum shop in the very Blue State of New York, they’ve sold out of the Bush statues. Here it is on my shelf:

Heh.

Written by martinipundit

August 24, 2005 at 11:43 am

Posted in General, History

Feast of St. Benedict

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Also noted in passing, today is the Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of western monasticism. It was his spritual descendents who preserved the store of knowledge during the Dark Ages, were suppressed by Henry VIII, and have provided inspiration and solace to countless people over the centuries. Their motto, “ora et labora” (prayer and work) sums up the values of these men and women who devote their lives to Christ.

St. Benedict’s life here. His famous rule, and information about Benedictine houses can be found here.

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July 11, 2005 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Church, History

Trafalgar 200

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Today marks the opening of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, a victory which assured Great Britain’s command of the sea for the next hundred years, and which ultimately confined Napoleon to the continent. Although Admiral Horatio Nelson fell in his moment of triumph – mortally wounded by a French sharpshooter – he knew that he had won the day. (Nelson was quite battered in his time, having already lost an eye and an arm in other battles.) Warships from 35 nations have gathered at Portsmouth England to partake. Here are (bottom to top) the HMS Invincible, the USS Saipan, and the FS Charles de Gaulle:

Trafalgar200 website here, and a good description of the battle here.

Update There have been some suggestions that the French were trying to upstage the British by sending the de Gaulle – their most impressive naval unit – inasmuch as they actually lost the battle of Trafalgar. I think this is reading too much into things. Look at the picture – if size matters, the de Gaulle compares unfavorably to the HMS Invincible and definitely to the Saipan. It is important to consider that both of the latter carriers are not ‘attack’ carriers, the Invincible being what the British call a “through-deck cruiser” meant primarily for helicopters and VSTOL aircraft like the Harrier. The Invincible, by the way, is by no means a new ship, having fought in the Falklands twenty-three years ago. The Saipan, similarly, is not an aircraft carrier, but is what we in the States call an ‘amphibious assault ship.’ This means she has harriers, and helicopters, and a lot of marines. Her primary role is to project a complete battle force – air, land, and sea – at any given point, but she is not a fleet carrier like a Nimitz class.

The Charles de Gaulle, on the other hand, is the French version of a Nimitz, and she does not compare favorably at all. She carries fewer aircraft (less than half), displaces far fewer tons (look at the picture), and has proven rather cranky in actual operations. This is not surprising given that only the US has had real experience and success building nuclear-powered surface warships. Teething pains are to be expected, as the Russians found out when they tried to build ships of this sort. The de Gaulle is what she is, and that is the finest warship in the French fleet. I think it appropriate to give the French the benefit of the doubt on this one. No doubt some Gallic pride is involved, but I believe they sent the de Gaulle not to snub the British, but to honor their role in this great naval conflict. Personally, I wish we could have sent a super carrier to this review, but there is a war on.

Here is a picture of the de Gaulle in company with the USS Enterprise CVN-65 which give some idea of the relative size: 

The Enterprise was the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the world. Of course, she was commissioned in 1961 (de Gaulle in 2000), and displaces some 90,000 tons (more than twice the de Gaulle) and carries nearly 100 aircraft (de Gaulle carrries 40). If someone really wanted to upstage the British, they would have sent a ship like the Enterprise.

Written by martinipundit

June 28, 2005 at 9:30 am

Posted in History, Ships

First American Carriers at War

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The United States was somewhat slower to develop aircraft carriers than other navies, both the Japanese and the British gaining a head start. But in the interwar period, the US built some remarkable ships, several of which would become instrumental in turning the tide of battle in the Pacific in 1942.

Here is a photo of the first three US carriers in Bremerton, WA in 1929:

At the bottom, we find the USS Langley CV-1, the first American carrier. She saw action in WWII as a converted seaplane tender, being sunk in February, 1942. In the middle is the USS Saratoga CV-3, a ship which survived the war only to be sunk during the nuclear tests at Bikini Atholl.

It is the top ship we’re most interested in. This is the USS Lexington CV-2, the “Lady Lex.” She and her sister Saratoga began life as battlecruisers, but they and the four other ships of the class were cancelled in 1922 in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty. The Lexington and Saratoga had already been launched, and the decision was made to convert them to aircraft carriers. In this guise, they were undoubtedly more successful and more valuable to the nation. Before Pearl Harbor, a total of eight carriers were built by the US, all of which eventually saw action of some sort in WWII, and only three of which survived. The other five were all lost to Japanese action in 1942.

The first six months of 1942 were difficult ones for the American military forces in the Pacific. Pearl Harbor had devastated the American battleships, forcing the Navy to rely on the carriers for major operations. That Pearl Harbor had changed naval warfare in favor of the carrier only made a virtue of the necessity. Three key objectives drove American strategy in those months: Protect American forward bases in the Pacific, prevent the Japanese from seizing New Guinea and the Solomons (which would threaten Australia), and conserve the carriers. Basically, two of these three objectives would be met.

As a prelude to the invasion of New Guinea, the Japanese sent a task force to seize Port Moresby which included three carriers: the Shokaku and Zuikaku – two heavy carriers that had been at Pearl Harbor, and the light carrier Shoho. In total the Japanese carriers had 140 aircraft. In response, Admiral Nimitz dispatched two carriers, the Lexington and the much newer USS Yorktown CV-5 with 138 planes. This is the Yorktown in 1940 in San Diego:

The resulting battle, called Coral Sea and fought over May 7-8, 1942, was the first battle ever to be fought entirely with carrier-based aircraft. The American commander, Rear Admiral Fletcher, attacked the Japanese invasion force on May 7, and sank the Shoho. The next day, the main carrier duel began, and the Japanese withdrew after losing 73 aircraft, cancelling the invasion. The first time out, the American carriers had inflicted a strategic defeat on the Japanese.

It came at a very high cost, however. In addition to the loss of 66 planes, the Yorktown was damaged and the Lexington hit by two torpedoes. Here she is just before the war (the dual 8″ turrets were removed early in 1942):

The damage was severe, and fires raged throughout the ship. Many men were trapped below decks, and herculean efforts were made to save them. The crew managed to put out the fires, only to have them flare up again when the ventilation system was turned back on. The order was given to abandon ship, all hope lost for the trapped crewmen. The Lexington was scuttled, and the US had lost her first heavy carrier. The Yorktown had also been damaged in the battle, and she steamed to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

This loss was not without gain, however. One month later, a decisive carrier action took place near Midway Island, key to a Japanese invasion of Hawaii. A huge Japanese fleet, including the other four heavy carriers from Pearl Harbor: the Akagi, the Kaga, the Hiryu, and the Soryu were met by the newly repaired Yorktown and her sister ship the USS Enterprise CV-6. When the battle was over, all four Japanese carriers had been sunk, and along with their irreplacable loss was the irreplacable loss of the cream of the Japanese aviators. But this battle was won at the cost of the Yorktown, damaged by the Japanese planes and finished by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine.

Yet Midway was a staggering victory. From that point forward, the American took the offensive in the Pacific, and the invasion of Guadacanal followed soon after. The Japanese had shown the world the power of the aircraft carrier, but it was the US Navy which took them to school. A salute to all our veterans, past and present, on Memorial Day.

Written by martinipundit

May 30, 2005 at 11:45 am

Posted in History, Ships

Worst Jobs in History

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Do you like your job? Well, it could be a lot worse. Channel 4 has a roundup of the worst jobs in history. A taste:

Medieval: Lime Burner: Do you like to live on the edge? How about creating and handling an extremely nasty chemical agent to make a vital component of mortar?

Running a lime kiln requires you to supervise the heating of chalk — or, near the coast, oyster shells — until they start producing incredibly toxic carbon monoxide. This can easily make you drowsy or even paralyse you before you suffocate. Don’t worry, though — you only have to sit with the kiln for 48 hours at a time.

If you really like a risky challenge, the next process could be for you. The hard cake of quicklime (calcium oxide) is taken from the kiln and added to water. It immediately reacts, producing intense heat and a shower of caustic, agony-inducing specks of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide). These crumbly grains are then crushed into lime powder, which will be added to sand to make mortar. You obviously don’t need safety goggles because they haven’t been invented yet.

There are lots more, neatly organized by period. Not while you’re eating though, okay?

Written by martinipundit

May 13, 2005 at 9:28 am

Posted in General, History

World War II No Longer a Just War

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At least, that seems to be the view of Pat Buchanan, whose greatest contribution to the Republican Party was to leave it.

I don’t normally pay any more attention to Buchanan that I pay to Michael Moore, or Arianna Huffington, or any of the other fringe players. Still, statements like this do make one wonder:

When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France — hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires — was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a “smashing” success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.

Leaving aside his all too predictable omission of the Holocaust, Buchanan attempts a very clumsy sleight of hand here. By stating the destruction of Nazi Germany as a conditional, he can then rewrite history in this way:

In 1939, Churchill wanted Britain to fight for Poland. Chamberlain agreed. At the end of the war Churchill wanted and got, Czechoslovakia and Poland were in Stalin’s empire.

But this myopic view of Churchill’s policy gets it precisely wrong. Churchill did not wish to fight Nazi Germany on behalf of Poland but on behalf of the British Empire. He recognized the sort of man Hitler was – grasping, megalomanaical, and insatiable. As he did not stop at the Rhineland, so he did not stop at the Sudetenland, Austria, Bohemia. And he would not have stopped at Poland. Germany had invaded France twice already within living memory in 1939, yet Buchanan says:

But before Britain declared war on Germany, France, Holland and Belgium did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany — on behalf of Poland.

When one draws a line on tyranny, that doesn’t mean that the line is all there is. Buchanan sounds a lot like the anti-war Left who focus only on WMDs and not the other reasons for invading Iraq. He also excoriates Churchill and FDR for giving away too much at Yalta. Indeed, they did, but one must look at the situation objectively. FDR was a sick man at Yalta, and by no means on top of his game. Churchill was the first minister of an exhausted empire. They were simply not going to go to war against the Soviet Union at that time even if that might have been a good idea it was impractical in the extreme. Churchill wanted to do it, but could not act without the US.

I have to wonder if Buchanan honestly suggesting that the world would be a better place today if Nazi Germany had been allowed to continue grabbing territory, perfecting genocide, developing atomic weapons, and conducting human experiments. Or does he think that the Nazis would have fought the Soviets and solved the problem that way? What might have happened to eastern Europe then?

One would have thought that this war of all wars would be clear. Another view here.

Update InstaPunk agrees and he’s got pictures!

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May 12, 2005 at 8:45 am

The Last German Pope

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A reader asked when was the last German Pope. It’s been a while, about a thousand years ago. Pope Victor II (1055-1057).

Some have said Adrian VI (or Hadrian), but that’s not right as he was Dutch.

Written by martinipundit

April 19, 2005 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Church, History

Habemus Papam!

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Cardinal Ratzinger has been elected Pope! He is taking the name Benedict XVI.

He’s a surprise this early. I thought he might be a late-breaking candidate. Just goes to show, no one ever knows what the cardinals will do …

Update Fox has video.

Written by martinipundit

April 19, 2005 at 11:48 am

Posted in Church, History

Thoughts on Ex-Presidents

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To be President of the United States to be the most powerful person in the world. This truism is one we typically hear most around election time, but over the last three Administrations it has been truer than ever as we have no real rivals to our superpower status today. However, our Presidents are living longer just like the general population and we tend to have them around much longer and in greater numbers than in the past. True, both Adams outlived their administrations by decades, and John Tyler lived long enough to serve the Confederacy, but ex-Presidents were somewhat thinner on the ground nevertheless. We have four ex-Presidents today: Ford, Carter, Bush the Elder, and Clinton.

Theirs is the most exclusive club in the world – more exclusive than the justices of the Supreme Court, more exclusive than the royal family, the College of Cardinals (although not quite so exclusive as the Pope but that’s a club for one which is hardly the same thing). These are men who have sat in the Oval Office, who’ve been entrusted by the citizens of a great republic with almost unimaginable power. They are men who willingly relinquished that power when their time came – whether through losing an election or the 22nd amendment – standing in a honorable line of forty-one men who have done the same*.

Today, we saw the spectacle of three Presidents in the White House – Ex-Presidents Bush and Clinton meeting with President Bush to discuss the Tsunami relief efforts. I am not among those who thought President Clinton was a great President, indeed I don’t think the first President Bush did that great a job. Yet it was heartening to see both men – onetime rivals but now virtual colleagues – standing shoulder to shoulder as elder statesmen. This is an irony, for as I see it, Bill Clinton is shaping up to be a very fine ex-President. One contrasts this with President Ford who has hardly lifted anything but a golf club after his administration and President Carter who despite his dismal performance as President has managed to be an even greater failure as an ex-President. From meddling in foreign policy to giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the nation, Carter has erased any good his charity work has done and instructed a new generation in just how bad a President he was. Ex-President Bush has done yeoman work for a man his age on Tsunami relief, and naturally has been supportive of his son. But he also supported President Clinton in the way a former occupant of the White House ought.

And so has Bill Clinton. I’ll confess I expected far less from him, but he has surprised me in the years since he left office by deftly walking the line between elder statesman of his party and also of the nation. He has supported President Bush in the war on terror, he has given sage counsel to his party’s presidential nominees (ignored both times), and answered the nation’s call to service. In this, he is almost unique in his party today (although Senators Clinton and Lieberman are in this camp as well) and deserves kudos for it. As Clinton grows in stature as his administration recedes, it seems the nation will benefit more and more.

* I know, seven died in office and one resigned, so it’s really thirty-three. But if one wishes to get picky – it’s thirty-four since Cleveland had to do it twice.

Written by martinipundit

March 8, 2005 at 10:53 pm

Posted in History, Politics

Last Cannon Arrives at the Dorchester Heights

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In a moment suitable for a M*A*S*H one-liner, the last of Colonel Henry Knox’s cannon has finally come to Boston:

Nearly 229 years after leaving Fort Ticonderoga to help Gen. George Washington drive the British out of Boston, a 2,000-pound cannon has arrived in time to celebrate Evacuation Day. One of 48 six-pounder cannons sent from New York with Col. Henry Knox in the winter of 1776, the one that arrived in Boston this week crashed through ice on the Mohawk River and never made it to Dorchester Heights where the artillery persuaded Britain to end its occupation of Boston.

The Dorchester Heights aren’t what they once were, and the city has changed dramatically, but one can see how those cannon would once have pulverized the city had Washington had to make good his threat in this map:

The British, seeing that their position was untenable, evacuated without Washington needing to fire a shot. Things were a touch more civilized then.

Written by martinipundit

March 2, 2005 at 11:07 pm

Posted in History

Paul Johnson on Democracy

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It’s been fairly obvious that many on the Left both at home and abroad wished fervently (even if silently) for the recent Iraqi elections to fail. They simply couldn’t abide the idea that George Bush might get the credit. Meanwhile, much of Europe continues to drag their heels even as the President (again) extends the olive branch. Some feel that we should pay more attention to the opinions of the rest of the world but that ROW always seems to boil down to a handful of European nations. Paul Johnson takes a brief look at their record:

France and Germany have remained on the sidelines, greeting America’s costly efforts to bring democracy to the Arab world with a mixture of vicious criticism, sneers and obstructive tactics. But then, neither nation has much of a democratic record.

The Germans have had democracy imposed on them twice by the victorious Allies, each time after a world war Germany started. German democracy is a superficial growth, and if the Socialists there continue to mismanage the economy and impoverish the people, who can say whether freedom in Germany will survive?

The French have had 12 written constitutions since 1789. None has given ordinary French people the feeling that they are really in charge of their affairs. If they have a real grievance they take to the streets and block the roads and ports, knowing from bitter experience that force is more likely to get results than arguments or votes.

The French mirage draws Leftist admiration like the moth is drawn to the flame – with the same results. The French revolution invented mass murder, the Napoleonic revolution invented dictatorship, and don’t even get me started on the Paris Commune poisoned progeny. The cheese is simply not worth that (I’ve switched to Wisconsin).

Johnson gets it too:

As for European intellectuals, who command so much power in the media, universities and opinion-forming circles, they have done everything they possibly could to abuse America’s initiative in Iraq and to prevent the installation of freedom. Some make it clear that they would much prefer Iraq to be run by men like Saddam than by American-backed democrats. Of course, intellectuals pay lip service to free elections but in practice have a profound (if secret) hatred of democracy. They cannot believe that their votes should count for no more than the votes of “uneducated” people who run small businesses, work on farms and in factories and have never read Proust.

Proust. Snooze.

Written by martinipundit

February 22, 2005 at 10:51 am

Posted in Eurofollies, GWOT, History, Iraq

Loathing May Be All They Have

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A worthy piece on Lefty loathing for Republican presidents. A taste:

Fast-forward two decades, and playwright and screenwriter John Steppling is still mad. He remembered Reagan at the time of his death by writing that the former president had “waged a relentless assault on the poor.” In fact, the unemployment rate fell from 7.1 percent in 1980 to 5.5 percent in 1988, inflation dropped from 13.5 percent to 4.1 percent, and the poverty population, after growing by 7 million people in the 1970s, declined by 4 million during the Reagan years. Simply stated, Reagan launched an assault on stagnation, not an “assault on the poor.”

There are more than a few such people here in Massachusetts. An entire identity structure has been erected on this sort of loathing, and I often suspect that were it to be dismantled, the identity would collapse leaving only rubble. It may explain the Left’s often peculiar immunity to facts and logic.

Written by martinipundit

January 17, 2005 at 6:26 pm

We’ll Always Have Chicken Little

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Most of us probably read, or were read, the story of Chicken Little as children. Some of us have remained invincibly ignorant, however, of the story’s basic message. My skepticism of the various chicken littles over ‘global warming’ is that these were the same people who were warning of an impending ice age in the 70s and mass starvation from overpopulation. Soylent Green may be looking a little long in the tooth, but the basics are still with us: environmental catastrophe, evil corporations, conspiracy, and heroes intent on exposing the truth to all.

The despicable act of poisoning Viktor Yushchenko has pulled the veil off one of the pieces of the falling sky however. Michael Fumento discusses:

The “deadly dioxin” legend began with, of all things, guinea pigs. When fed to them in studies, they did fall over like furry tenpins. Yet hamsters could absorb 1,000 times as much dioxin before emitting their last squeals and other animals seemed impervious to the stuff.

Further, the animal deaths were from acute poisoning. Yet as a matter of convenience for activists, it not only became accepted that guinea pigs are the best animal model for humans but also that dioxin is a powerful carcinogen.

The original promoters of the humans-are-like-guinea-pigs legend were Vietnam activists. Agent Orange, which contained a trace of dioxin, effectively stripped away the jungle canopy that hid communist forces. So the enemy and its U.S. sympathizers claimed it was poisoning not just trees but humans. Pressured by these “humanitarians” the military quit spraying in 1971, giving back the enemy his sanctuary from which to kill our troops.

Yep, always comes back to the herroic activists. If the sky weren’t falling, they’d have nothing to do.

Written by martinipundit

December 20, 2004 at 10:40 am

Mayor Daley’s Legacy

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Here in Massachusetts it’s axiomatic amongst the liberal inhabitants that George W. Bush ‘stole’ the 2000 election. The idea that a Democrat would do such a thing is dismissed as so much nonsense. Yet, they do seem to keep at it. Over at the American Thinker, Richard Baehr explains:

The late Chicago columnist Mike Royko often told a story about election night 1960 in Illinois, and the Presidential contest between then-Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon. As Kennedy’s lead over Nixon in Illinois kept falling through the night, Robert (Bobby) Kennedy, the Senator’s campaign manager, nervously kept calling then-Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the father of the current Mayor Daley, to get an update on the race. Daley kept assuring Bobby that there was nothing to worry about. Illinois would come through in the end for his brother. Kennedy continued to remain one state short of victory in the Electoral College as night turned into day at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Massachusetts. Bobby’s growing nervousness finally caused him to blow up at Daley and demand an explanation as to why the Mayor could be so sure of eventual victory in the state. Daley told Bobby that he was — holding out” some precincts in the city, to which Bobby replied: — How do you know they will be enough?” Daley replied: — I assure you they will be enough”.

One might have hoped that 44 years on, we would have evolved into a somewhat more transparent and legitimate way of deciding elections, particularly close ones.

Unfortunately, the events unfolding in Washington State the past few weeks in the very tightly contested race for Governor, suggest the Daley approach to politics is still being practiced. When your candidate (in this case, the Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire) appears to be coming up short, the Party works to find some “missing” votes. When they are still short at the end of the count, they have a recount, and find some more that need to be counted. When that still fails to put their candidate over the top, they demand and pay for a statewide hand recount, and “find” some more. The process, as in Florida in the 2000 Presidential race, is to keep counting and finding votes until your candidate eventually takes the lead. Then you stop counting. In Washington State in 2004, Democrats in King County are behaving like Chicago Democrats in 1960, and Broward, Dade and Palm Beach County Democrats in 2000.

Maybe they should consider changing the name of the party to Dictacrats. Baehr follows with an excellent summary of the Washington governor’s race – still undecided as of this writing. It’s a must read.

Written by martinipundit

December 17, 2004 at 10:54 am

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