Today: Pope Damasus organizes the Bible in 382; Britain conquers Jerusalem; Alcoholics Anonymous; Nazi Germany does FDR a favor and declares war on the U.S.; Christmas Music . . .
A look at some of the history and holidays on December 8
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is held on this day to celebrate the belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary — i.e., that from the moment of her birth, Mary, the chosen of God to bear Jesus, was herself born without sin. “The feast was first solemnized as a Holy Day of Obligation [in] . . . 1708 under the Papal Bull Commissi Nobis Divinitus by Pope Clement XI and is often celebrated with Mass, parades, fireworks, processions, ethnic foods, and cultural festivities in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is generally considered a Family Day, especially in many majority Catholic countries.”
A look at some of the history and holidays on December 7
The U.S. and Japan were in ongoing peace negotiations when, at 7:48 AM Hawaii time on this day in 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Honolulu, home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The goal of the IJN was to convince the U.S. to come to an acceptable bargain, or barring that, to sufficiently damage the Pacific Fleet that it would not hinder Japanese planned offensive operations in the Pacific against resource rich Islands controlled variously by Britain, the Netherlands and the U.S.
Three U.S. Aircraft Carriers assigned to the Pacific Fleet were operating outside of Pearl Harbor when the IJN attacked. The IJN was aware of this but was operating on the premise, incorrect, that battleships would be the decisive weapons of naval warfare. The reality turned out to be that airpower launched from the carriers was decisive. Thus, the IJN attack at Pearl Harbor, even though it sunk 4 battleships and damaged four others, was not the decisive blow the Japanese had hoped. Moreover, the IJN forces concentrated on the ships in and around the harbor and the airplanes on the ground. The IJN did not attack Pearl Harbor’s support facilities whose loss would have severely hampered the American navy.
Ninety minutes after the IJN attack began, it was over. The U.S. have suffered 2,403 people killed and 1,143 were wounded, Japanese losses were minimal, but they withdrew from the battle thinking incorrectly that they had succeeded in their mission. The U.S. was able to regroup, and with its aircraft carriers intact, scored a strategic victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea six months later.
In 1994, Congress passed a resolution making Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in honor of the Americans who perished and were injured in the attack.
In this Bookworm Podcast, I examine how the term “Right Wing” is misused to imply that conservative Americans are fascists lusting for world domination.
My latest podcast is up and running. You can listen to it through the audio embed below, or at LibSyn, or through Apple Podcasts. Also — and this is a grand experiment I cooked up while spending 12 hours hopscotching from Tennessee to California and another 12 hours (a week later) making the return trip — I’ve made a companion video, which I’ve also embedded below.
The video is very much an experiment and I have to confess that the video and the companion podcast (which is a direct copy of the audio on the video, minus some long pauses) have a few rough spots. I’ve figured out how to work out those rough spots, but after spending more than six hours yesterday making a 35 minute video, I was just too “done with” the project to make repairs. Bear with me, though, for it will get better. [Read more…]
A look at some of the history and holidays on November 20
Feast of the Blessed Anacleto González Flores, José Sánchez del Río, and companions (Martyrs of the Cristero War): After communists rose to power during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1920, one of their major efforts was to drive Catholicism out of the country and to impose atheism. This resulted in a massive, popular uprising known as the Cristero War. Thousands of Catholics died in the fighting or were executed by the state. In 2000, Pope John Paul II cannonized 25 of the faithful who fell in that conflict, the majority of whom were priests executed for carrying out their ministry despite the suppression under the anti-clerical laws of Plutarco Elías Calles.
1943 – World War II: Battle of Tarawa
The Battle of Tarawa began on this date when U.S. Marines conducted an amphibious assault on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. It was the first U.S. offensive in the central Pacific region and it was the first contested landing. The Japanese forces on the island were 4,500 strong and in entrenched defenses.
Because of unexpectedly low tides and effective Japanese defenses, the amphibious assault went poorly. The fighting over three days was intense with the U.S. taking heavy losses. The battle ended with the U.S. in control of the island, while the fanatical Japanese force was annihilated almost to the last man. Only 17 Japanese soldiers were taken as prisoners.
The high casualties suffered assaulting but one small island shocked many Americans. Still, the success set the stage for the Marshalls Campaign some ten weeks later, and lessons learned from the contested landings were put to use.
We remember Pearl Harbor, not just because it was an infamous attack on a peaceful nation, but because it marked the start of America’s world dominance.
Today, we “remember Pearl Harbor,” the day on which the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack again the United States, killing 2,335 Americans serving in the military and wounding another 1,143, as well as killing 68 civilians and wounding 35 others. If you have ever been to the Pearl Harbor memorial, you know what a solemn and painful place it is. When I was there in 1988, the U.S.S. Arizona was still leaking oil, with one drop after another rising slowly to the surface, where each drop created a shiny, dark patch on the water. That oil was a surprisingly vital connection to a long-past tragedy.
Pearl Harbor is memorable not only because of the savagery of the attack and the devastating damage inflicted on America’s seagoing forces, but also because it marked the start of American world dominance. Although it took American might to help end WWI, after the war Europe and America returned to their respective corners.
The two continents, the old and the new, spent the next two decades indulging in various degrees of self-destruction, with America first enjoying the 1920s and then struggling with their aftereffects, and Europe watching passively as Germany bounced from bankruptcy and destruction, to revolution after revolution, to the Tacitus-like peace that Hitler and his fascists imposed on that unstable nation. They also sat things out when an increasingly belligerent Japan smashed through China, where the Japanese committed truly unspeakable atrocities against Chinese civilians.
So it was that, when Germany’s malevolent fascism burst out across Europe, America was more than willing to sit that war out. Americans hadn’t forgotten that their one-year involvement in WWI she killed almost 117,000 men. Americans therefore had no desire to pull Europe’s coals out of the fire again. Even the spectacle of Hitler’s demonic antisemitism and his drive to enslave the Slavic nations (which, ironically, long ago had given their name to the English word “slavery”), didn’t change America’s decision to sit tight. While her emotional commitment and, thanks in large part to Churchill’s persuasive powers, her money might have been on England’s side, Americans were not willing to shed their blood again for the foolish old world. [Read more…]
Darkest Hour is a wonderful historic picture on its own terms and an important modern allegory about standing firmly against encroaching tyranny.
I very seldom go to movies, as I almost invariably regret both the time and money I end up spending. Still, I was willing to take a chance on Darkest Hour and I’m awfully glad I did. It’s a wonderful movie, both on its own terms, and as an allegory for modern times.
The movie’s plot is relatively simple, unfolding over the course of a couple of weeks in May 1940. European countries are falling like ninepins before Germany’s amphetamine-fueled Blitzkrieg and Prime Minister Neville “Peace With Honor” Chamberlain has lost the confidence of his own party, causing him to proffer his resignation. Churchill, who had been sounding the tocsin about the Nazis throughout the 1930s, steps in as the new Prime Minister.
Viscount Halifax, who had earlier refused an offer to serve as PM, is nevertheless horrified that Churchill has the job. He, along with Chamberlain and George VI, are worried about Churchill’s explosive temperament, his unguarded utterances, and his history of bad decisions, beginning with the disastrous campaign at Gallipoli during WWI. Moreover, Halifax is the leader of those who think that England’s survival is dependent on a negotiated peace with Hitler. As the British Expeditionary Force comes ever closer to annihilation at Dunkirk, Halifax’s certainty about a negotiated surrender, which Chamberlain shares, infects the war room over which Churchill presides.
Although there are a few scenes in which Churchill does not appear, the movie focuses tightly on Churchill’s interactions with his wife, Halifax, Sir Anthony Eden, the King, and a secretary during the pivotal days leading up to the Evacuation at Dunkirk. Apropos the secretary, played by dewy, lovely Lily James, I am happy to say that she is not used for some trumped-up cheesy romantic farce. Instead, the secretary exists so that we can hear Churchill dictating his thoughts, especially his speeches. Churchill’s romance is with his wife, Clemmie, whose character benefits from a brisk, warm performance by Kristin Scott Thomas.
The standout actor, though, is Gary Oldman who is, quite simply, superb. He looks and sounds Churchillian, playing the role with a wonderful panache. The supporting performers are necessary props, and they all handle their roles with elan, but Darkest Hour is Oldman’s movie. [Read more…]
Our Closet Conservative Movie Critic explains how Their Finest just missed being a powerful, charming take on women’s role in England’s WWII propaganda.
I saw the trailer for Their Finest, and it was an engaging preview. It had all the markings for my kind of movie: History, Charm, Love, Humor, and all centered around the world of movie-making. Movies about “making movies” almost always strikes a chord with me. This movie has received almost exclusively positive reviews, and is going over well with the public. This all of course sets expectations way too high. With that kind of build-up, maybe it’s not surprising that I did not enjoy Their Finest.
All the humor, charm, and magic that was in the trailer was never transferred to the 2-hour feature version. It was slow, methodical, melancholy, and really lacked the big moments the trailer seemed to imply it was going to have.
The movie centers on three young lovers in London in 1940. Eight months after World War II began, England suffered a big blow in the retreat from Dunkirk. Morale is low, and the Germans are bombing London in their night raids. The protagonist, played by Gemma Arterton, is hired by the British Ministry to spice up their propaganda movies with her angle on female dialogue and perspective. There is a love story triangle that goes in ways the viewer might not expect, and there is a tragic loss that is more bizarre (if not ludicrous) than sad. [Read more…]
A decade ago, I spent almost ten hours, many of which occurred when I should have been sleeping, reading Paullina Simons’ debut novel, The Bronze Horseman. It’s a historical romance novel, about a young Russian woman and a soldier during the Siege of Leningrad. Although Simons’ approach to the romance is a bit shaky — a lot of endless teasing and kind of unusual lovemaking (although nothing graphic) — I nevertheless think that it is a book that’s really worth reading.
In all my many years of reading a lot of novels and history books, I’ve seldom read such a vivid recreation about what it’s like to survive (or die during) a modern siege. We often associate siege warfare with Biblical or Medieval times, but this book is a reminder that the events in Simons’ book happened slightly more than 70 years ago.
During the Nazi’s brutal Siege of Leningrad, which lasted almost two-and-a-half years, more than 1.5 million soldiers and civilians died, with some resorting to cannibalism to stave off death, while another 1.4 million women and children were evacuated, only to have an unknown number of them die during the evacuation process. According to Wikipedia (which I believe is accurate here), the battle between the Russians, on the one hand, and the Germans, Finns, and Italians, on the other hand, “caused the greatest destruction and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city.”
Commentary Magazine ran a post asking “Can American Save Europe Again?” It seems to me that the better question is should America save Europe again? Europe is certainly a repository of some of the world’s greatest art and architecture, not to mention some damn fine food, but I am not feeling the love for Europeans, who always seem to learn the wrong lessons from history.
The problem, as I see it, with continental Europe is that it has absolutely no tradition of individual liberty. It is statist to the bone. Whether Europeans are indulging in garden-variety-dictatorships, medieval/Renaissance theocracies, monarchies, aristocracies, oligarchies, socialist parties (communist or otherwise), or rule by bureaucrat (i.e., the EU), the European model is always directed at total state control. That’s why there is no conservative movement in Europe, as we in America understand conservatism.
To Americans, conservativism means small government, free markets, and maximum individual liberty, a belief in the common man’s energy, imagination, and initiative that paved the way for America’s dynamic emergence on the world stage in the 20th century. To Europeans, being “right wing” or “conservative” still means total government control — it just means total government control with varying degrees of nationalism, as opposed to all those other -isms, thrown in. The European “right-winger” still wants his government checks and government regulations. It’s just that he just doesn’t want the “other,” whomever that other happens to be (sometimes Muslims, sometimes Roma, sometimes Italians or Greeks, and always Jews) to live with him under that tight government control.
Europe’s obsession with citizen control, whether it comes through the socialist party, the communist party, the church, the bureaucracy, the aristocracy, or the monarchy, may go some way to explaining Europe’s endless hostility to the Jews — the Jews have never and will never yielded to state control. They can be confined to ghettos or forced into a narrow range of professions or even routinely slaughtered, but they still insist on being Jews. They refuse to bow down to anyone but their God.
How frustrating for control freak nations to have these stubborn people living among them. If they are that stubborn, they must be dangerous. And in a total control society, when something appears dangerous, you must destroy it.
This video is an extraordinary visual representation of the demographic catastrophe that was WWII, as well as the staggering number of individual tragedies that WWII represents. It’s also an uplifting reminder that the world does actually seem to have made some progress.
Because of my obsession with governments that support or deny individual liberty, I also found the video a useful reminder that totalitarian governments view their own citizens as little more than cannon fodder and their enemies’ citizens as even less than that. (Around WWII, the major players amongst totalitarian governments were Germany, the Soviet Union, China, and Japan all of which suffered and imposed staggering military and civilian deaths.) While the Allies during WWII, were certainly less respectful of their enemies’ civilian population than Western armies are today, and they threw more soldiers into the battle than our armies do, when held up against the totalitarian nations’ way of waging war, the Allies still look good, even in retrospect.
Speaking of totalitarian disregard for human life, the video was made in May 2015, so it misses the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS. Otherwise seems accurate enough — and certainly jives with my more facile understanding of 20th and 21st century wars around the world.
At 18 minutes, the video is a bit longer than most videos that I usually have the time or the patience to watch, but I found it so mesmerizing, I couldn’t stop:
You can learn more about the project here.
I watched about 30 minutes of the debate. I missed the beginning because I was taking care of business, and I tuned out after 30 minutes because my feed broke down. What little I did watch still left me with a few impressions about the field.
Before I begin, let me recommend to you an article from Breitbart that is really a predicate to deciding which of the Republican candidates you like best: “A Stark Choice: Ted Cruz’s Jacksonian Americanism vs. Marco Rubio’s Wilsonian Internationalism.”
The article boils the foreign policy issue (which the Constitution gives to the president) down to two world views: The Wilson world view is that we have to intervene all over the world to make it a better place, and that it’s shameful to win wars; instead we have to make peace. The Jackson view is that we shouldn’t fight a war that doesn’t directly benefit us, but when we fight, we fight to win. Wilsonians would say a safer world indirectly benefits us, making intervention wars worthwhile. Jacksonians would say that too many of our wars have not only failed to give us any benefit, they’ve been very bad for us, especially because — as Obama exemplifies — we shouldn’t win.
Given ISIS’s role in the world, it’s useful to get a handle on the candidates’ fundamental foreign policy orientation.
(The rest of what I’m going to say is un-researched stream-of-consciousness stuff, based solely on my own often faulty memory. If I’ve made mistakes (and I’m sure I have), feel free to correct me. I only ask that you be kind when you do.)
I tried to use this Jackson/Wilson divide as a filter by which to view 20th century wars and found it a little confusing, to say the least. America automatically sided with England against Germany because America had her roots in England. In fact, though, from the standpoint of America’s interests, there really was little to choose between England and Germany. If it weren’t for German perfidy, as revealed in the Zimmerman telegram, it’s entirely likely that Wilson really would have kept his pledge to keep America out of the continental war.
As it was, once Wilson got a taste of American military power, he began to believe that it was America’s manifest destiny to bring goodness and light to the whole world — without any actual benefit to America, something that would have been just too, too crass and self-interested. Ironically enough, given Wilson’s “world peace” vision, it was because America tilted the war in Britain’s favor that Germany not only lost, it ended up so destabilized that the anarchic 1920s created the perfect power vacuum for the rise of the Nazis.
I’ve still got a few more things I want to share with you tonight, so consider this Part 2 for the day (with Part 1 here).
The coming (and inevitable) Leftist implosion
Every time I read a Kevin Williamson article, I like his writing and thinking just a little bit more. In one of his latest outings, about the inevitable fissures on the Left (as exemplified by (1) the way Black Lives Matters activists are attacking old, white Bernie and Hillary, and (2) the way the black/Hispanic majority in very Leftist Houston nevertheless voted down men in women’s restrooms), Williams has the following wonderful lines:
The challenge for the Left is that while the Republican party is mainly a coalition of ideologies, the Democratic party is mainly a coalition of interest groups, and the current model of Democratic politics — poor and largely non-white people providing the muscle and rich white liberals calling the shots — is unsustainable. The social attitudes of non-white voters are pretty plainly not those of white liberals, and, at the same time — and probably more significant — the economic interests of white liberals are pulling away from those of the people in whose interest they purport to act. Hispanic immigrants and urban blacks make below-average wages; public-school administrators and other government employees make wages that are well above average. There aren’t a lot of people in Cleveland’s Glenville who give a fat furry rat’s patootie how much interest Caitlyn from Bryn Mawr is paying on the student loans that financed her women’s-studies degree. If you’re wondering why Democrats lean so deeply into the racial rhetoric — Joe Biden’s shameful “They want to put y’all back in chains!” etc. — that’s a big part of your answer.
Rich Lowry’s article nails why I don’t trust Rubio
Marco Rubio is bright, articulate, focused, conservative, and telegenic. I ought to like him . . . but I just don’t. I’ve been pfumphering around for a while trying to put my finger on my problem with him and I think it really does boil down to his support for amnesty:
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because of the 2,402 Americans killed there.
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because it catapulted us into an incredibly bloody war for dominance over the Pacific.
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because, within a few days, Hitler also declared war on America, so that America found herself a combatant in the biggest war in the world’s history.
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America’s participation in the European theater was the main thing that beat back Hitler’s genocidal bid for world domination (Britain had done her best, but couldn’t do it alone).
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America’s participation in the Pacific theater was the main thing that beat back Japan’s genocidal bid for domination over the Pacific.
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because America, after utterly destroying Germany, Japan, and Italy in World War II, stuck around to build them up again as peaceful, economically successful republican democracies that have been our allies, not our enemies.
Let’s remember Pearl Harbor because, pretty much until Obama quit doing the job, it marked the beginning of America’s role as the world’s policeman, protecting as many people as possible from the “peaceful graveyard” that is communism as well has our efforts to protect as many people as possible from sharia’s murderous hands.