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.

Written by martinipundit

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.

Written by martinipundit

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.)

Written by martinipundit

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.

Written by martinipundit

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

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