Today: Slavery, Dunmore’s Proclamation, Small Pox & The Ethiopian Regiment in the Revolutionary War; England’s Glorious Revolution; Lutefisk; John Milton; Christmas Music . . .
AND MORE . . . [Read more…]
Today: Slavery, Dunmore’s Proclamation, Small Pox & The Ethiopian Regiment in the Revolutionary War; England’s Glorious Revolution; Lutefisk; John Milton; Christmas Music . . .
AND MORE . . . [Read more…]
A look at some of the history and holidays on December 4
Feast of Giovanni Calabria, a 20th century Catholic Priest who dedicated his life to easing the plight of the poor and ill. He establshed several religious institutions, corresponded in Latin with C.S. Lewis, and during WWII, helped to hide a female Jewish Doctor from the Nazi’s in a nunnery which he oversaw.
1563 – Reformation & Counter Reformation: The Council of Trent
The Church, aware of its problems of corruption, had addressed some of the issues in the 1517 Fifth Council of the Lateran, but it was too little, too late. On 31 October 1517, the Catholic Priest, Martin Luther, famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, setting in motion the chain of events that led to the Protestant Reformation. Many of Luther’s criticisms of corruption within the Church were valid, with one of the most visible being the sale of indulgences by Pope Leo X to fund the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica. Indulgences were a grant of dispensation from divine punishments, often for certain good acts, but increasingly during the Middle Ages, indulgences were sold to bring wealth to the Church. As one cynic of the era put it, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
The Protestant movement quickly gained momentum and the support of various nobles throughout Europe. Pope Paul III convened the Council of Trent in 1545, ostensibly to heal the breach between the growing body of Protestant reformers and the Catholic Church. The Council would meet 25 times, with the last meeting occurring on this date in 1563. When it was clear that the breach between Catholics and Protestants would not be healed, the Council became “the embodiment of the Counter Reformation.” The council ended with a condemnation of Protestant heresies and a clarification of Catholic dogma. Further, the Council addressed many of the issues of corruption raised by Luther and instituted other reforms. Ultimately, the Council rejected Matin Luther’s central thesis, that faith alone decided one’s fate, while the Catholic Church clarified its position that both faith and good works were necessary for salvation. Both the Reformation and the Counter Reformation would significantly impact the course of European history in the 16th through the 18th century, and we are still very much living with its reverberations today.
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 19
Feast of St. Raphael Kalinowski – Polish by birth, Kalinowski started his adult life in the mid-19th century as a military officer in the Russian Imperial Army. He eventually resigned and joined the leadership of the Polish rebels in the January Uprising. When that rebellion was crushed by Russia, he was jailed at hard labor in Siberia for ten years. When he was released, Kalinowski joined the Carmelite Order and the priesthood. For the next thirty-three years, he worked tirelessly to build and grow multiple Catholic organizations around Poland and Ukraine. He is considered the Patron Saint of the Polish Military and of Polish exiles in Siberia.
1863 – The Gettysburg Address
On this date in 1863, on the battlefield where Union soldiers had won a pivotal victory four months earlier, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication ceremony for the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The speech soon passed into the canon of our nation.
1942 – World War II: Battle of Stalingrad:
Soviet Union forces under General Georgy Zhukov launched the Operation Uranus counterattacks at Stalingrad, turning the tide of this pivotal battle of WWII in the USSR’s favor.
1600 – Charles I of England was a tyrannical ruler who believed in the divine right of Kings. Britain’s Parliament tried to come to an agreement with the King, issuing one of the foundational documents of British Government, the Petition of Right of 1628. Charles I ignored the Petition and, within a dozen years, had plunged his nation into the English Civil War. It ended poorly for Charles I, as he lost his head to the executioner’s axe in January, 1649. More than a few provisions of our U.S. Constitution have roots in the lessons learned from the tyranny of Charles I.
1905 – Tommy Dorsey, a trombonist and one of the most popular bandleaders of the swing era.
1581 – Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich of Russia, son of Ivan the Terrible, died when his Father struck him with his sceptre during an argument. The murder left Ivan the Terrible without an acceptable heir, eventually plunging Russia in the Time of Troubles.
1703 – The Man in the Iron Mask died after 34 years of confinement in France. His identity remains unknown to this day.
A look at some of the history and holidays on November 12
None of note. Now get to work . . . after you’re done reading.
1942 – World War II: Battle of Guadalcanal
Eight months after America entered WWI following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, America went on the offensive in the Pacific. The Japanese had built air and naval bases in the Solomon Islands. In August, America, successfully launched the Guadalcanal Campaign to capture those bases, the most important being an airfield at Tulaga.
Japan sent a naval flotilla transporting a division of soldiers to retake the airfield. Initial combat happened on the 12th of Nov., when Japanese planes staging out of New Britian attacked America’s nearby naval task force. Then at 1:25 a.m., in near total darkness, the Japanese and American fleets made contact near Guadalcanal. The engagement was short and furious, fought at close range by naval cannon and torpedo. Both sides took significant damage, the American side more so, but after 40 minutes of sustained combat, the Japanese fleet retreated, likely in anticipation of the coming dawn, when the U.S. would be able to attack from the air with its planes staged at Tulaga. Air combat and a second surface battle on 14-15 November concluded the battle, a decisive American victory that marked a tipping point in the war with Japan.
The Japanese made no further effort to retake Tulaga. From that point on, were fighting on the defensive against a relentless island hopping strategy that would end three years later at Japan itself.
An eclectic survey of some of the history that occurred on this day
Veterans Day, originally a celebration of the Armistice ending WWI, it was changed in 1954 to a celebration honoring all U.S. military veterans. Happy Veterans Day.
Feast of Martin of Tours, a 4th century Roman cavalry soldier and later a Catholic Bishop most famous for an act of kindness – cutting his cloak in two and giving a half to a poor man in the midst of a cold winter. He is known today the patron saint of soldiers and winemakers and as a Saint who stood against poverty and alcoholism
1620 – The Mayflower Compact
The Puritans left Britain headed for the Colony of Virginia in search of a home to freely practice their faith, but storms forced them into Cape Cod Harbor. Taking account of their dwindling provisions and the approaching winter, they decided to disembark and make a home there. Mindful of the legalities of settling outside of Virginia, and facing the reality that they would be wholly self-governing, the leader of the expedition, William Bradford drew up a governing document for the new settlement.
On this day, the Puritan men aboard the Mayflower signed the Mayflower Compact, pledging their loyalty to the King (whom they hoped would grant them a patent to settle in this new area) and agreeing as between themselves and “in the Presence of God” to make and be bound by “such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony . . .” As author William Davis observed, “In the cabin of the Mayflower, then not only was the foundation stone of republican institutions on this continent laid, but the first New England town-meeting was held and the first elective officers chosen by the will of a majority.”
The American college has lost its way. Saving it requires removing all taxpayer funds and refocusing the mission on high-level, job-based skills.
(If you prefer listening over reading, the companion podcast to this post is embedded below, or you can listen to it at Libsyn or at Apple podcasts. I’m trying to make a go of my podcasting so, if you like the podcasts, please share them with your friends and on social media. Giving my podcast good ratings helps too.)
Several people have emailed me the link to Victor Davis Hanson’s latest article at American Greatness, entitled From Icon to Just a Con. It’s about the downfall of America’s colleges and universities.
My friends have sent the link to me because, if they’ve followed my blog over the last 15 years, they know that it’s peppered with my disdain, disrespect, dislike, and sometimes downright hatred for education in America, from elementary school to post-graduate degrees.
When my kids were younger, after I transferred them from a Montessori school to public school, my attacks were aimed at a few specific issues. The first was that their teachers were, with almost no exceptions, young, pretty, good-natured . . . and totally moronic women, none of whom knew nothing outside of their teaching manuals.
This shouldn’t have surprised me given that, with a few notable exceptions, most of today’s teachers are drawn from the bottom third of any college class. My Dad, who was a teacher, rightly said that women’s liberation killed American education. Before women’s lib, those women who were academically inclined women and went to college graduated as nurses, teachers or, if they got lucky, wives. After women’s lib, academically-inclined women went into the professions (e.g., as I did). The end result was that a disproportionate number of post-women’s lib teachers are now nice girls who weren’t bookish, but liked kids and needed a career. [Read more…]
With the Left now gunning for Dr. Seuss, it’s tempting for conservatives reflexively to support him — but they may want to think twice about doing so.
I’m sure that you’ve already heard that, per the most recent Leftist purge of pre-woke people, ideas, and books, a new study states that Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Seuss Geisel), probably the most famous children’s book writer in America, has now landed on the naughty list:
“[This study reveals] how racism spans across the entire Seuss collection, while debunking myths about how books like Horton Hears a Who! and The Sneetches can be used to promote tolerance, anti-bias, or anti-racism,” Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens write in their February 2019 report, “The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, AntiBlackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’ s Children’s Books,” as part of St. Catherine University’s Research on Diversity in Youth Literature.
They continue: “Findings from this study promote awareness of the racist narratives and images in Dr. Seuss’ children’s books and implications to the formation and reinforcement of racial biases in children.”
The study continues by explaining that some of the most iconic characters relay the troubling messages of Orientalism (the representation of Asia and Asian people based on colonialist stereotypes), anti-blackness and white supremacy.
“Notably, every character of color is male. Males of color are only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles,” the authors write as part of their findings. “This also remains true in their relation to White characters. Most startling is the complete invisibility and absence of women and girls of color across Seuss’ entire children’s book collection.”
I know that conservatives will be tempted to cling more tightly to Dr. Seuss’s books now that he’s persona non grata on the Left, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I know he’s dead, but the fact is that, whether you’re coming at him from a leftist or a conservative perspective, he wasn’t that great a person and pouring more money into his estate may end up feeling as wrong for you as it does now for the lefties. Here are a few interesting points about Theodor Geisel the man, and Dr. Seuss the writer:
First, Geisel was a lifelong Democrat. [Read more…]
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…]
Trump’s decision to change the paradigm with North Korea illustrates the precept in my annual Passover post: Tyrannies must be decapitated, not placated.
Starting with Bill Clinton, America fawned over North Korea’s tyrannical rulers, sending them money and promising not to hurt them. In those same years, North Korea’s rulers expanded their concentration/death camps, presided over unnecessary famines, and somehow managed, with every passing year, to find more ways to crack down on a people already starved, terrorized, and denied any rights.
It did not matter one whit to the Kim dynasty that their people experienced incomparable suffering (most of it at the hands of the Kims). The only thing that mattered to the Kims and those closest to them was maintaining their power, prestige, and oh-so-comfortable lifestyle, complete with the finest food (as their people starved), the most luxurious products from around the world and, of course, sex slaves. Lots and lots of sex slaves.
Then something changed. Beginning in January 2017, instead of an American president saying to Kim Jong-un “What can I do to make you happy?” we got a president who said “I’m going to kill you.” He also said to the Chinese, “I’m not very happy with your behavior either, although I’m sure we can resolve our differences when you stop using economic war against America and trying to turn the international waters off of China into your own pond.” Very impolitic. Very mad man. Very undiplomatic. A very big break from more than a quarter century of “diplomacy.”
The usual talking heads amongst the chattering class promised Armageddon. Interestingly, something entirely different happened: With the threat brought directly home to him, Kim Jong-un changed his behavior. He sent athletes and sex slaves to the Olympics. He reached out to South Korea. And of course, most importantly, he scuttled off to China and, rather than admitting the truth — namely, that he feared the “crazy” guy in the White House — announced that the wise Chinese had persuaded him to abandon his nuclear dreams. Even if Kim and the Chinese won’t admit it, you and I know where the credit goes for this announcement.
Watching Trump’s conduct and its outcome, I had to ask myself, has he been reading my annual Passover post or, perhaps, talking to one of Ivanka’s rabbis? Or maybe he’s just had a chance to think about things as he’s attended family Seders over the years.
Did I just hear someone say “What annual Passover post?” Well, this one. As I do every year, I’ve edited it to reflect current concerns. [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…]
Tonight marks the beginning of Passover 5778. Donald Trump’s targeted attack on Syria indicates that he understands the import of this timeless story.
In mid-2009, a few months into Barack Obama’s presidency, Iran had its Green Revolution, when tens of thousands of brave Iranians took to the streets in Tehran seeking to undermine the Mullahs. Their enemy was our enemy. Not only were the Mullahs repressing their own people, they were sowing terrorism throughout the world.
Had Obama thrown America’s moral weight behind the revolution, that alone might have been sufficient to destroy the Mullahs’ power base and create room for a somewhat more moderate and conciliatory Iranian government. Obama, however, chose to align himself, not with the Iranian slaves in the street yearning for freedom, but with the Mullahs, who were playing the role of Pharaoh.
Because those historic events coincided with Passover 2009, I was moved to write a post about the Passover message, a post I’ve reproduced every year at Passover since then. As you will read at greater length below, my post argues that a primary message to take away from the Passover story is that the only way to topple a tyrant and free the slaves crushed under his heel is to bring the revolution, not just to the tyrant’s door, but over the threshold and into his house.
Despite his ostentatious Passover celebrations in the White House, Obama has been blind to the meaning behind the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. Throughout his eight years in the White House, whenever a tyranny arose anywhere, Obama chose to placate tyrants, rather than fight them. He placated the Mullahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, Kim Jong-un, ISIS (aka the JV team), Assad, Putin, and a rotating cast of Islamic fundamentalists who went by different names but hewed to the identical genocidal ideology. It was inevitable that, when Obama finally left office, he bequeathed to us a world remarkably close to the world in 1938/1939: trembling on the verge of a dangerous explosion, with tyrants of the ugliest cast having the momentum and initiative.
It’s this scary world that Donald Trump inherited when he stepped into the Oval Office. However, last week, I came away with the hope that, when Trump sat down to celebrate Passover with Ivanka and her family (assuming he did) or when he discussed Passover with his Jewish friends and family, he understood Passover’s message.
How else can we explain his intuitive understanding that, when dangerous men release weapons of mass destruction, the only possible action is immediate, powerful, targeted retribution. Both Daniel Greenfield and Andrew Malcolm understand this, so I urge you to read their articles. (You might also want to read my post about the Trump doctrine.)
With this introduction, it’s time for my annual Passover post. As I do every year, I’ve edited it slightly to reflect current concerns.
I’m too young to remember a time when dignity was considered a virtue, not only in individuals, but in entire groups. The other night, I was reminded of what I missed when I watched a 1944 U.S. Army Propaganda film, The Negro Soldier, which Frank Capra directed. The Army commissioned the movie because it was trying to reach out to blacks who were unwilling to enlist in the fight.
The movie qua movie was a resounding success, undoubtedly paving the way for Americans accepting Truman’s executive order integrating the military and, perhaps, moving the American conscience forward towards the Civil Rights movement:
The film began shooting in 1943. The movie crew traveled the United States, visiting over 19 different army posts. The final movie totaled 43 minutes long and received official support in 1944. At first, The Negro Soldier was intended for only African American troops; however, the creators of the film decided that they wanted to distribute the film to a wider military and civil audience. Nobody was certain what the impact of the film would have on viewers, and many people feared that African Americans would have a negative response to the film. However, when the first African American troops saw the film, they insisted that all African American troops should see it. Furthermore, after both African Americans and whites were surveyed about their response to the film, the filmmakers were shocked when over 80% of the white population thought the film should be shown to both black and white troops, as well as white civilians.
Although the Wikipedia article from which I quoted, above, does not say it, TCM stated that blacks did in fact respond to the movie’s message by enlisting in significant numbers. I think you’ll see why if you take the time to watch the movie yourself. Because of it’s importance in American history, the U.S. National Archives restored it and you can see the entire movie here:
I know it happened last week, but I’m still processing Obama’s visit to Hiroshima. There are three things I want to share with you, starting with the Leftist take and then leaving the gutter and heading for the high ground, where intelligence and morality live. The Leftist take revealed itself in a popular cartoon I found on my Facebook feed this morning. This cartoon, incidentally, boasted almost 8,000 shares when I grabbed it:
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.