October 22, 2014 5 Comments
Sorry guys, I’m neck-deep in a project, and the water keeps rising. But here’s Bill Whittle’s current Firewall.
What’s that? Yep, I agree with everything he says here.
The view from the Prairie, with an emphasis on Energy
October 21, 2014 3 Comments
The British Empire got it’s start as a Tudor Enterprise as Henry VIII established the Royal Navy and as men increasingly saw how England could challenge Spain on the sea. Britain was well placed for this as an island off the coast of Europe. And so St Vincent made the now famous remark: “I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea.” And so it has always proved. And part of that was one of the Earl of St. Vincent’s protegé. This is his story.
I’ve referred several times to President Jefferson’s open letter regarding the return of Louisiana to France from Spain, where he commented that “on that day we shall have to marry ourselves to the British fleet and people”, and later commented “that from that day forward France shall end at her low water mark”. This is the day that France (and Spain) would forever lose control of the sea to Great Britain.
Today is the anniversary of a battle to rank with Salamis, with Waterloo, and with Yorktown. For today the English speaking peoples with their concepts of individual liberty and rights took control of the sea.
That battle is Trafalgar. The battle was fought off of the south-west coast of Spain between the British Squadron with 27 Ships-of-the-Line and the combined French and Spanish fleets with 33.
The Franco-Spanish fleet was under orders to sail for Brest to help accomplish the invasion of England, which was, by far, Napoleons most steadfast enemy.
Remember these were sailing ships, completely dependent on the wind. and at Trafalgar there was very little. The French and especially the Spanish were short-handed and had to fill their ship’s companies with soldiers. The British on the other hand had been blockading the coast for years and had been drilled mercilessly. Their commander, himself, had not been off the flagship for more than two years.
Alfred Thayer Mahan in his classic The Influence of Sea Power upon History puts it this way: “Those distant, storm-tossed ships, never seen by the Grande Armee, were all that stood between it and world domination.
And so today, in 1805, the battle was joined. The British had the weather gage, and a very unusual plan. Because of the light wind they would divide their battle line in two, with each squadron approaching the Franco-Spanish line at an acute angle. With a well-trained enemy, this would have been nearly suicidal but, under these conditions it allowed the British to engage the entire fleet and win the battle in a single day.
The British were under the command of a man who had had his introduction to naval war in the American Revolution, he fought in several minor battles off Toulon, was integral in the capture of Corsica, was captain of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. At the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, he lost his right arm, he won a decisive victory over the French at The Battle of the Nile and against the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen.
At Trafalgar the British fleet went into battle with this signal flying from the flagship:
That flagship is, of course, the HMS Victory, which is now the oldest naval ship in regular commission in the world.
The Admiral in command is Horatio, Lord Nelson.
Or to give him his full name:
The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronté in the Kingdom of Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim
as it is inscribed on his coffin in St. Paul’s cathedral, for he was killed by a French marine during the battle.
The first tribute to Nelson was fittingly offered at sea by sailors of Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin’s passing Russian squadron, which saluted on learning of the death.
King George III, upon receiving the news, is reported to have said, in tears, “We have lost more than we have won”.
And the Times reported:
We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England; but it has been dearly purchased.
And so tonight in the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth navies, and at least in some places in the United States Navy and even in other navies and places will be drunk the one naval toast that is drunk in total silence:
“The Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson and those who fell with him”
The traditional music to follow the toast is: Rule Britannia.
In a remarkable coincidence, the other remaining warship of the period USS Constitution was christened on this day in 1797 at the Boston Navy Yard. While HMS Victory is the oldest ship in commission, USS Constitution (nicknamed “Old Ironsides”) is the oldest warship still afloat and able to sail on its own. Victory is in permanent drydock.
October 20, 2014 6 Comments
But we also all know the phrase, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” don’t we? And that’s the danger here. Because Obama is a statist and a progressive that believes everything should come from the government. Nor is he the first to put his politics ahead of his duty to the country. And for that matter there is a precedent for Ebola getting completely out of hand. Didn’t know that did you? I didn’t either.
But there is, and it’s a horrid story. It goes back to Woodrow Wilson, who may well be the worst man to ever be president, including Obama. Like him, Wilson was a statist, and a progressive, who thought the Constitution was outdated, and wanted to rule by his prerogative, to use the old term. He pretty much did, especially after we got into the Great War.
And as James Jay Carafano says in the linked article, the last time we made an epidemic/pandemic a national security matter, fifty million (50,000,000) people died, worldwide. Think about that for a minute.
Sufficiently revolted? Yeah, me too. Let’s let him tell part of the story.
Progressives like to expropriate the label of national security to help drive their agendas. Statist, centrally managed, with top-down direction, the national-security model is the perfect vehicle for any policy “crusade,” be it fighting global warming or raising taxes. Thus, for example, when the administration got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to label the “debt the biggest threat to national security,” it had all the cover needed to press for cutting defense and raising taxes—two cornerstones of President Obama’s progressive political agenda.
But playing “national security” progressive politics with public health can bring outright disaster. When the United States entered World War I, Woodrow Wilson played the national-security card early and often. The war effort became an excuse for everything from jailing political opponents to spying on everyday Americans. But, when the president used a global war as an excuse to preempt sound public-health policy, he reaped a global catastrophe.
In 1917, the war to end all wars was well under way. At Camp Funston within the boundaries of Fort Riley, Kansas, sergeants were turning recruits into doughboys. During their training, the soldiers picked up backpacks, rifles, helmets—and a new strain of flu. They carried all these with them as they traveled from the camp to the railroads, the big cities, the ports and, ultimately, overseas. On every step of the way to the trenches in Western Europe, they spread the deadly disease.
When news of the epidemic reached Washington, the White House decided it was a national-security problem. The British and French desperately needed reinforcements to turn the tide of the war; getting our boys over there was far more important than stopping the spread of the flu over here.
I can understand their thinking, I guess, but it’s simply wrong isn’t it? Was delaying the American deployments until the flu was burned out going to cost the war? Doesn’t seem very likely, does it? And starting a pandemic is pretty callous, even for a progressive.
Of course, so is ignoring the problem to fundraise, campaign, and play golf. Although, the president did cancel a fundraiser and a rally yesterday, so he could look like he was doing his job. What I really detest, along that line is that Wilson kept having mass rallies to sell war bonds.
President Wilson took one precaution. He transferred the Public Health Service to military control. Support the military effort, not the public health, became Surgeon General Rupert Blue’s main mission.
In less than a year, the Kansas outbreak had become a global pandemic. It was commonly referred to as the “Spanish flu.” Spain was a nonbelligerent in the First Word War. The government had not imposed press censorship. As a result, widespread news of the disease’s deadly progress appeared first in Spain. Most assumed that was where the problem started.
In the end, more died from the pandemic than from the war.
Stateside, at a military camp outside of Gettysburg, a young post commander named Dwight David Eisenhower ignored Washington’s advice to ignore the disease. Instead, he developed health protocols that broke the back of the disease’s run through the ranks. Impressed with the success of his methods, the Army ordered Eisenhower to dispatch his staff to other camps to train them on how to rein in influenza.
Likewise, many American cities got the disease under control only by ignoring the federal government and adopting responsible public-health policies.
See the thing is, even then, how to stop an epidemic was conventional knowledge, likely we didn’t know why, until we figured out germ theory, and all that in the late nineteenth century, but we had known that quarantines worked since the Black Death cost Europe one third of its population in the middle ages.
The moral of the story is not that it’s 1918 all over again. Ebola and influenza are two very different contagious diseases. But this cautionary tale from the last century reminds us is that the best way to deal with a disease outbreak is to follow sound public-health policies, not cloud the issue with the trappings of national security.
H/T Moe Lane
All accounts say that Ebola isn’t anywhere near as contagious as the (Spanish) flu. But that is no reason to screw around and generate another pandemic, while playing politics.
October 19, 2014 3 Comments
Apparently in 2007 the EU Parliament passed a law that made 18 October ‘Anti Human trafficking day’ and in 2010 the british Parliament made the same day ‘Anti-slavery day’. My take on that is: whoopee, maybe we could have a hashtag next–they’re all about as effective.
Why this is here is a reminder that it was the British, led mostly by Wilberforce, that ended the transatlantic slave trade, by putting the Royal Navy, and their money where their mouth was.
Still, I like Ann Jolis’ article here, she says some good things, and that’s her job. And she did a good job.
But we need to heed what the Spectator editors of an earlier age said.
We could not have believed for a moment, a year ago, that the Times and Saturday Review would both in the same week devote their ablest pens to an apology, not merely for Slavery itself, but for the Christian character of that institution. Yet so it is. . . .
The Times follows its bolder contemporary on the same track, modestly suggesting that it would be much more Scriptural and Christian in the abolitionists to preach the ‘amelioration of the negro’ (we suppose the writer means, of his lot), than his emancipation. . . .
For ourselves we do not hesitate to say that no religious scepticism of the present day seems to us so monstrous and so atheistic as this; nay, that if the Gospel were weighted with such a condition, it would be one that neither sign nor miracle could prove. It is, speaking relatively, of infinitely little importance whether we live under an aristocracy or a democracy, compared with whether we live under a God who loves freedom, or a Devil who loves Slavery. But, we confess, nothing seems to us more astounding than the assertion that the Divine revelation is indifferent on the matter. No doubt, the Divine education of the Hebrew people never attempted to ignore the actual historical condition of the nation. It recognized, under the strictest possible limitations, the fact of Slavery, at an era when no other people had learned to impose any limitation on the power of the master at all.
Those are words we would be well advised to heed, and with more than our mouths.
There is still much work to do.
October 19, 2014 Leave a comment
If you remember we talked the other day about the Battle of Hastings and its aftermath, right down to this day. But fifty years before 1066, there was another battle in England, this one between Cnut and Edmund Ironside. In this one the Danish King won, and the first time the House of Wessex lost the throne, actually Edmund conceded half the kingdom and when he died a month later Cnut took over it all.
I don’t know if they teach about this in the UK but, I had barely heard of it, and essentially remember less. But that got remedied yesterday, thanks to The Clerk of Oxford. Here’s a fascinating story about piecing together history, and some beautiful pictures of England and an English church, as well.
All in all a perfect Sunday article for a blog that loves history. Enjoy
18 October is the anniversary of the climactic battle of the Danish Conquest of England: on this day in 1016 the Danish army, led by Cnut, defeated an English army led by Edmund Ironside at a place called Assandun in Essex. After Assandun Edmund Ironside conceded defeat to the Danes and agreed to divide the kingdom with Cnut; when he died just over a month later, Cnut was accepted as king of all England. Assandun was, therefore, a significant date in the history of Anglo-Saxon England, which probably would have been even more significant if it had not been overtaken by the Battle of Hastings, which took place exactly fifty years later, almost to the very day. Last year I wrote about three sources for the battle in English, Latin and Old Norse, partly in an effort to suggest just how large this battle loomed in the memory of Cnut’s conquest later in his reign (those three sources were written between 5-25 years after Assandun). Today I want to do something different – where that post was nearly all words, this will be nearly all pictures.
As I’ve been working on narratives of the Danish Conquest and writing a series of posts about it (which you can find here), I’ve been getting interested in what you might call the landscape of conquest: what significance certain places might have had for the people involved in the various events of the conquest. (For a possible comparison, think how the single word ‘Hastings’ has come to stand for everything that happened at the Norman Conquest.) We don’t know whether Assandun had that kind of significance to Cnut and his followers, but there are various bits of evidence to suggest it might have done – I touched on another possible example in my post about a church in Sandwich. This train of thought has encouraged me to try and visit some of the places in question, so today, come with me on a visit to Assandun.
Actually, that’s not possible. The site of the battle of Assandun has never been conclusively identified: it’s a common placename, and there are various possible candidates. TheAnglo-Saxon Chronicle says it was in Essex, so the two most likely sites are Ashdon and Ashingdon, in the north-west and south-east of Essex respectively. Ashingdon has traditionally been the favoured candidate, but there are strong arguments for both (I personally lean towards Ashdon, for reasons I’ll only bore you with if you really want to hear them). I recently paid a flying visit to Suffolk, in the course of which I found myself not far from Ashdon, which is on the border between Suffolk and Essex. This seemed the perfect opportunity for an impromptu pilgrimage. Now, even I wouldn’t attempt to plan a pilgrimage to a completely unidentified battlefield, but there’s a more tangible relic of Assandun, more worth going in search of. In 1020, a few years after becoming king, Cnut founded a church at the site of the battle. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (D) tells us in the entry for 1020:
on þisan geare for se cyng 7 Þurkyl eorl to Assandune, 7 Wulfstan arcebiscop, 7 oðre biscopas, 7 eac abbodas 7 manege munecas, 7 gehalgodan þæt mynster æt Assandune.
[In this year the king and Earl Thorkell went to Assandun, with Archbishop Wulfstan and other bishops, and also abbots and many monks, and consecrated the church at Assandun.]
The people named in this entry indicate the importance of this church to the new Danish regime. Wulfstan is the great archbishop of York, whom we last encountered in 1014 railing against the disloyalty of English people who collaborated with the Danes; he had by this time had quite a change of heart, and become one of Cnut’s chief advisers and law-makers. (A lot can happen in six years!) Wulfstan presided at the consecration of the church at Assandun, and one of his surviving sermons, ‘On the Dedication of a Church’, may well have been preached on this occasion. The other person named by the Chronicle is Earl Thorkell, who was remembered as thehero of Assandun, and whom Cnut had recently made Earl of East Anglia. Any event which could bring these two men together must have been pretty extraordinary. We can also populate the Chronicle‘s crowd with various people likely to have been there, standing beside Cnut, Thorkell and Wulfstan: Cnut’s new wife Emma, Earl Godwine (and his new Danish wife, Gytha?), Æthelnoth (soon to be made Archbishop of Canterbury), the Norwegian earl Eiríkr, newly appointed earl of Northumbria, and more. The church was entrusted to Stigand, a priest probably of Anglo-Danish origin, who though very much a winner after the Danish Conquest was very much a loser after the Norman Conquest. With hindsight, there are many tantalising connections and ironies to be drawn out from this disparate collection of people – English, Danish, Norwegian and Norman – who were between them to shape England’s fate throughout the eleventh century: the following year Thorkell would be outlawed, three years later Wulfstan would be dead, and fifty years later the young priest Stigand would be Archbishop of Canterbury, crowning the upstart Godwine’s son King of England.
Continued at A Clerk of Oxford: A Visit to Assandun maybe.
October 18, 2014 5 Comments
This is from Aeon, and it speaks about how one of the reasons that our world is getting screwed up is short-term thinking. This is something I’ve spoken a lot of, both on the blogs and in real life. The authors here posit that part of the reason is that historians have messed up their part of the mission.
It has long been fashionable to say that the globe is shrinking. In the wake of the telegraph, the steamship and the railway, thinkers from the late 19th century onwards often wrote of space and time being annihilated by new technologies. In our current age of jet travel and the internet, we often hear that the world is flat, and that we live in a global village. Time has also been compressed. Timespans ranging from a few months to a few years determine most formal planning and decision-making – by corporations, governments, non-governmental organisations and international bodies. Quarterly reporting by companies; electoral cycles of 18 months to seven years; planning horizons of one to five years: these are the usual temporal boundaries of our hot, crowded, and flattened little world. In the 1980s, this myopic vision found a name: short-termism.
Short-termism has no defenders. Everyone seems to be against it, and yet proponents of alternatives are also in short supply. One prominent opponent of short-termism is Stewart Brand, founder in the 1960s of the Whole Earth Catalog and a leading cyber-utopian ever since. Among his visionary projects is the Long Now Foundation, based in San Francisco and founded in what Brand and his fellow foundationeers call 01996 ‘to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years’. The extra zero alerts us to a longer timescale, not of decades or centuries but of millennia.
The Long Now Foundation does look to the past, for example with its ‘de-extinction’ project, Revive and Restore, to bring defunct species back to life using genomic technology. But Brand’s most imaginative solution to short-termism is to look further into the future. This is the principal message of the Clock of the Long Now, a slow-moving mechanism being built in a Texas mountain that will run for 10,000 years.
Looking forward into the future is also the strategy proposed by the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, chaired by the former director-general of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy, and convened under the aegis of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University. Last year, the Martin Commission issued its report, Now for the Long Term, ‘focusing on the increasing short-termism of modern politics and our collective inability to break the gridlock which undermines attempts to address the biggest challenges that will shape our future’. Again, the thrust was forward-looking and firmly turned to the future.
What Brand and the Martin Commission have missed is the need to look deeper into the past as well as further into the future. There are no historians on the board of the Long Now Foundation, nor were there any among the global luminaries assembled on the Martin Commission. The Clock of the Long Now points forward for millennia but has roots barely decades long; few of the examples of global problems in Now for the Long Term came from before the 1940s. Short-termism about the past apparently afflicts even those who attack short-termism about the future. Yet if historians have been absent from these initiatives, they can’t blame only the futurologists for their fate.
The mission of the humanities is to transmit questions about value – and to question values – by testing traditions that build up over centuries and millennia. And within the humanities, it is the discipline of history that provides an antidote to short-termism, by giving pointers to the long future derived from knowledge of the deep past. Yet at least since the 1970s, most professional historians – that is, most historians holding doctorates in the field and teaching in universities or colleges – conducted most of their research on timescales of between five and 50 years.
The novelist Kingsley Amis satirised this tendency towards ever more microscopic specialisation among historians as early as 1954 in Lucky Jim, [...]
Continue reading How history forgot its role in public debate – David Armitage – Aeon.
I think they make a reasonable case for this. If we can’t get a reasonable overview of the past from historians, where will we? I know there are exceptions, I know some of them, but in the main, business and government don’t look to the past for answers to the future.
But we must because we built the present on the shoulders of the past.
So how do we fix it? It’s going to take both historians, and those of us in the private sector, and ideally government as well but, I think it may be as important as any other thing in our society today. Want an example? How about how the US is handling Ebola compared to how we essentially eradicated Polio.
It’s time for the historians to get out of their ivory tower, and learn to help us in the real world. After all, they live here too.