Herman Wouk

Author Herman Wouk at his home in Palm Springs in 2000. (Los Angeles Times)

It’s strange how things happen. As some of you’ll be aware, I found out a few short weeks ago, while I was on break, that Herman Wouk, one of my favorite authors, was still alive at 103. That was from a post at Warsclerotic that reminded us that Winds of War/War and Remembrance are available on YouTube. I’ve been watching them (binge-watching, really).  Between them, especially the books, they form perhaps the best overall history of World War II.

That was from an article there by the site’s editor, Joseph Wouk, and I commented how much his dad’s writing, going back to The Caine Mutiny when I was perhaps eight years old, had taught me some lessons that had stood the test of time. Joseph kindly informed that his father was still alive and nearing his 104th birthday.

Sadly, he didn’t make it, dying last Friday, writing till the end. That remarkable since his first novel was published shortly after World War II, in which he served as an officer in a destroyer minesweeper, which will sound familiar to anyone who has ever read about the Caine or seen the play or movie adapted from it.

As I told Joseph, The Caine taught me much about organizations and how they work and has stuck with me. In fact, I wrote about it back in 2013, in a post titled Of Mutiny and Education.  What is interesting about what is probably a somewhat inaccurate book review in it, is that I hadn’t read the book in probably 30 years, and a fair amount of it stuck with me. And allowed me to draw lessons from it. And, you know, that article still has lessons for us, as well.

Not surprisingly he’s been eulogized all over the world. You can find quite a few at Warsclerotic. I rather like the one in the LA Times.

Herman Wouk, the prolific and immensely popular writer who explored the moral fallout of World War II in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Caine Mutiny” and other widely read books that gave Americans a raw look at the horrors and consequences of war, has died at his Palm Springs home, where he wrote many of his acclaimed novels.

Wouk, who was honored by the Library of Congress in September 2008 with its first lifetime achievement award for fiction writing, died in his sleep Friday at the age of 103, his literary agent Amy Rennert told the Associated Press. Wouk was working on a book at the time of his death, Rennert said.

As a writer, Wouk considered his most “vaultingly ambitious” work the twin novels “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance,” about “the great catastrophe of our time,” World War II. Critics, however, considered “The Caine Mutiny” to be his finest work.

Taut and focused, the book is a riveting exploration of power, personal freedom and responsibility. “Caine” won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for literature and was on the New York Times’ bestseller list for more than two years, selling more than 5 million copies in the U.S. and Britain in the first few years after its publication.

In the novel, Wouk creates one of American literature’s most fascinating characters, Philip Francis Queeg, the captain of the U.S. destroyer-minesweeper Caine, who is removed from his command by a lower-ranking officer in the middle of a typhoon.

In one of the book’s most famous scenes, concerning the theft of the captain’s strawberries, Queeg lapses into paranoid incoherence as he is questioned during his court-martial. He pulls a pair of ball bearings from his pocket and obsessively shuffles them in his hand:

“Ah, but the strawberries! That’s, that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with, with geometric logic, that, that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist. And I would have produced that key if they hadn’t pulled the Caine out of action. I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer. (He pauses, realizing that he has been ranting.)

“Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory.”

Keep reading, nor would it hurt any of us to revisit these works, to learn again how we won the war, but more how we treat people to accomplish our mission, and even more, perhaps, to simply enjoy ourselves. Like a good storytelling father, Herman Wouk brings us a lesson while entertaining us with a ripping yarn.

Rest in peace sir, knowing you are missed, and your memory honored.

Sunday Funnies, Carrying On

I said yesterday that not all that much happened this week, which is true. That, however, is not to say that a lot was said, a lot of it, especially on the left, that is very snark-worthy, not to say stupid. So here we go.

Promises, Promises!

Not the worst proposal I’ve seen.

I’m already missing Doris Day

 

 

 

Heroes

A fairly quiet week for a change, so let’s back off a bit today and look around. A while back Gene Simmons of Kiss was visiting the Pentagon. He has some things to say. They are worth remembering. From Breitbart.

A remarkable story isn’t it? And yet it is not, that view of America is fairly common all around the world. Something to remember, and something to live up to.


I grew up in Northwest Indiana, and this man was on the news a lot in those strangely calm although noisy days. From Front Page Magazine.

I was checking the new releases in a local theater when I saw the title HesburghSounds like a Dracula spin-off, I thought. I had never heard the name before and I knew nothing about the movie. [ How sad is that, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh is, arguably one of the greatest men of the last 100 years. Neo] Curious, I did a quick Google search and discovered that Hesburgh is a documentary about a Catholic priest. A documentary about a Catholic priest running in a suburban multiplex? I had to see it.

Father Theodore Hesburgh was president of Notre Dame for thirty-five years, 1952–1987. He also played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, the effort to limit nuclear arms, and immigration reform. He had close, personal relationships with Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, and Obama, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr and Ann Landers. Much of the film consists of grainy, decades-old film footage of the Space Race, The Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. A few scenes are reenactments of key moments in Hesburgh’s life. There are also contemporary interviews with people who knew Hesburgh, including Leon Panetta and Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. Speakers at Hesburgh’s memorial service included Mike Pence and Condoleezza Rice.

Hesburgh sounds like a priestly Kardashian, no? Listen, I walked into the theater knowing nothing about Theodore Hesburgh and by the end of the film my face was sloppy with tears. I cry no tears for Kardashians. Why did this film move me so much?

The film depicts Hesburgh as a remarkably humble man. As a man who, yes, wined and dined with the rich and powerful, but who never lost the personal touch, and who was almost supernaturally humble, and relentlessly committed to his priestly vocation. In every scene I can remember, from the time he took his vows to his 2015 death at age 97, Hesburgh is wearing the exact same clothing: the unadorned, dark suit and white collar of a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Selecting personal dress and adornment is a fundamental human choice. Hesburgh surrendered that choice at 18 and never took it back. In a clip from an interview, TV host Phil Donahue presses Hesburgh. How have you lived your life alone, without a wife? Hesburgh’s visage is severe but calm. “I made that choice at 18.” It’s remarkable to witness a man of his word.

Pope Paul VI presented Hesburgh with his own emerald ring as a gift. The implication was that the pope hoped to elevate Hesburgh to cardinal. Hesburgh put the ring in a drawer. His vocation was as a priest, not a “prince of the church.” Former students from Notre Dame testify on camera that Hesburgh was like a father to them. Journalist Robert Sam Anson, a Notre Dame alum, was taken prisoner in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Hesburgh phoned the Vatican to help broker his release. Anson is visibly moved when discussing Hesburgh.

Hesburgh’s most sustained effort in public affairs, at least as depicted in the film, was in the field of Civil Rights. In one of the most famous images of Hesburgh, he is linking arms with Martin Luther King Jr. at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1964, as they sing together “We Shall Overcome.” Hesburgh was no mere fellow traveler. When Civil Rights Commission members were stonewalling each other, the Northerners against the Southerners, Hesburgh kept his eye on the individual human soul. His faith taught him that each Commission member, no matter how obstructionist, was made in the image and likeness of God. With that perspective, Hesburgh recognized that one thing all these diverse combatants had in common was a love of fishing. He arranged for a Notre Dame donor’s private jet to transport them to a secluded lake. There they could connect as human beings, and make progress. Hesburgh was willing to stick his neck out even when the presidents who counted him among their friends dropped the ball. The Kennedy administration had concluded that pushing Civil Rights would cost Kennedy votes in the South, and, thus, the election. They decided to “slow walk” progress. Hesburgh at this instance, and at other key moments as well, took it upon himself to press for an end to Jim Crow. Sorry, Hollywood and film critics cum social justice warriors, but yes Hesburgh was one of many white allies without whom the Civil Rights Movement would have been an historical blip that reached the same dead-end of a thousand other liberation movements in societies without conscience.

Like any serious Catholic, Hesburgh faced criticism from the right and the left. The Catholic Church opposes abortion, and, thus, gains approval and allies on the right. Other stances on poverty and immigration earn approval and allies on the left.

He faced more than criticism really, it was more like vilification as we see it today, and yes from both the right and the left. And the author is right, it was because he was a Catholic, an authentic and dare I say orthodox one. That may be one of the most difficult things to be in the world today.

The author found another interesting movie:

Franciszka Halamajowa died in obscurity. Few outside her immediate family had any idea of her heroism. She never rubbed elbows with the rich or the powerful. When Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded Poland in 1939, Halamajowa was a 54 year old Polish, Catholic farm woman, her gray hair brushed back into a simple bun. She was plump, with apple cheeks and kind eyes. She wore simple, loose, cotton dresses. She lived on a small plot of land with fruit trees and pigs in the small town of Sokal. Sokal was then in Eastern Poland; it is now in Ukraine. In 1939, it had a mixed population of Poles, Ukrainians, and 5,200 Jews. Only thirty Jews survived the war. Sixteen Jews were sheltered by Franciszka Halamajowa. The documentary No. 4 Street of Our Lady tells the almost unbelievable story of Halamajowa’s heroism. This ninety-minute, 2009 documentary is currently available on Vimeo.

One can’t begin to understand Halamajowa’s feat without understanding the Nazi and Soviet approach to Poland. Both were genocidal, and their hostility to the continued existence of Poland had begun centuries before. Under German and Russian occupation beginning in the eighteenth century, at times and in places, Poles could not build permanent dwellings on their own land, could not speak their own language in school, and were subject to mass deportations to Siberia, where many died. The Nazi Generalplan Ost called for the genocide and occupation of Slavic nations. In his infamous August, 1939 “Armenian speech,” Hitler said, “I have placed my death-head formation in readiness … with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need.”

Soviet Russians, Sokal’s first World-War-Two-era occupiers, deported between 500,000 and 1.7 million Poles to Siberia. Soviet Russians arrested and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of other Poles. Many were tortured and executed, including 22,000 Polish Army officers shot in the Katyn Massacre. Soviet propaganda depicted Poles as enemies of the people. Polish land was seized and redistributed, most to collective farms. An estimated 150,000 – 500,000 Polish citizens died during the Soviet occupation.

In June, 1941, as part of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazis arrived. Scarred by the 1932-33 Soviet-orchestrated Ukrainian famine, interwar Polish rule, and Soviet occupation, some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis. In addition to persecuting Jews, Ukrainians tortured, mutilated, and massacred Polish Catholics. Historians estimate that approximately 100,000 Poles were murdered by Ukrainians.

All this bloody history swirled around Franciszka Halamajowa as she tended her fruit trees, chickens and pigs. Ukrainians knocked on her door and told her to leave. Sokal was now Ukrainian territory, and no longer safe for a Polish woman alone with a young daughter. Nazis could kill Poles for infractions so minor as owning a radio. Poles were regularly rounded up and sent to slave labor or concentration camps. Any aid given to any Jew, even something so simple as offering a drink of water, was a capital crime, not just for the one giving the aid, but for her entire family. This punishment was unique to Poland. Miep Gies, who aided Anne Frank in Holland, for example, survived betrayal and discovery. One list of Poles killed for helping Jews includes 704 names. No doubt many more were killed but their accounts cannot be documented.

Jews escaping a Nazi aktion asked Halamajowa for help. Yad Vashem reports that Halamajowa and her daughter Helena “believed that it was G-d who had brought the Jewish refugees to their door to test their faith. They considered it their religious duty to protect the Jewish refugees, and never demanded payment of any kind.” It was not until after the war that the Jews Halamajowa was hiding in a pigsty discovered that she had another Jewish family hiding in a specially built dugout under her kitchen floor. Indeed, Halamajowa was also hiding a renegade German soldier in her attic. He did not want to participate in Nazi killing.

This post is already ridiculously long, so I’m not going to comment on it other than to say that this is what the left is trying to destroy when the attempt to destroy Christianity, for Gene Simmons’ story is not really that different, except in outcome to millions of others. If not for Christianity, and in a sense the last gasp of European culture, America, it may well have been lost by now, and very likely would be.

China: What is it Good For

From Steven W. Mosher writing in American Greatness:

The latest numbers on U.S. economic growth are astonishingly good. The land of the free enjoyed 3.2 percent annual real GDP growth for the first quarter of 2019. It would have been even higher—3.5 percent—without the government shutdown.

The numbers vindicate President Trump’s position on trade. The dealmaker-in-chief has been saying for decades that a trade deficit is a drag on growth. And we now learn that almost 1 percent of our GDP growth was a result of a reduction in imports.

Imports are down because Trump’s tariffs are driving down the trade deficit with China. Now that he’s increased tariffs on $200 billion more of Chinese goods, expect the U.S. economy to grow even faster.

Amazing, isn’t it? When the largest economy in the world fights its own corner, it tends to win.

The thing is, since the end of World War II, we have been a bit guilty about our success, and for reasons that may have been reasonable, even cogent, in 1945, we have set our foreign exchange system to favor everybody else and disfavor ourselves. It’s part of that American magnanimity in victory that has rebuilt Germany and Japan (and would have our ally Great Britain as well, if they hadn’t wasted it experimenting with socialism).

To continue:

The Trump Administration has taken a decidedly different tack, pursuing an economic nationalist agenda that insists:

  • We must defend ourselves against China’s relentless cyberattacks on American businesses, and its theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property each year.
  • We must stop China’s state-owned, state-subsidized and state-controlled enterprises from the wholesale dumping of products. Flooding foreign markets with steel and aluminum, not to mention autos and robotics, is only the first step. The end game is the destruction of free-market capitalism altogether.
  • We must stop China from forcing America companies to hand over their cutting-edge technology as a condition of doing business there. Forced technology transfer is theft, pure and simply.
  • We must stop China from manipulating its currency to gain an unfair advantage in trade.
  • Finally, we must defend Americans from the flood of fentanyl and other dangerous opioids that are killing them by the tens of thousands. The first two Opium Wars were waged by Great Britain against China. The Third is being waged by China against the United States and its people, and it must stop.

Understandably, China is not enthused at America fighting its corner, and so are resisting. So what? The President didn’t campaign on ‘Make China Greater Still”. His remit is to “Make America Great Again”. And so far, so good.

The tariffs are bad for China but very good for America. American companies that in the past would have offshored production to China will stay put. Some companies that have already left will be coming back. Whatever the opposite of “offshoring” is—inshoring? reshoring?—we are about to see it happen.

We should expect that China—the Bully of Asia—will try to retaliate. In fact, they have already begun to threaten to do just that. It’s unlikely that President Trump will back down, however. He understands that we buy $5 worth of goods from China for every $1 the Chinese buy from us. That gives us much more leverage.

As far as the soybeans and other grains that China will no longer buy from us, Trump has already announced a plan to make sure that America’s farmers are not hurt. Some of the tariff money will be used to buy and ship grain to parts of the world suffering from chronic food shortages.

Think about that for a while – we invent various products (not excluding iPhones) and then we outsource the production of some of the most advanced products in the world, to a country who has no desire to allow free people to live anywhere in the world. If that wasn’t enough, they always steal the ideas and the products, and often half of the companies set up to produce them.

And by the way, other than those products that our shortsighted companies allow to be stolen from them for a mess of pottage called cheap labor, what do we sell? Soybeans.

One of the underlying cause of our Revolution was the fact that Great Britain’s considered policy in the First Empire was to use the colonies to provide raw material and increase the market for its manufactured products. It’s called mercantilism, and it’s designed to keep colonies dependant on the other country.

Sound familiar?

The Gloves Come Off

David Marcus wrote in The Federalist that the battle over abortion in the United States is becoming total war. He’s correct. from his article.

Since the day that Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, abortion has been a hot button political topic in the United States. But while it is an emotional issue that has always had inflamed rhetoric surrounding it, over the past 46 years, the abortion question has existed in a kind of stalemate or détente. Very little, including the polling numbers on how many people are pro-choice or pro-life, has changed.

On the right, given the composition of the Supreme Court during that time, and the unlikelihood of Roe being overturned, it has been mostly a fight around the edges of the issue. Pro-lifers have sought to cap abortions at early periods in pregnancy, or advocated for parental notification, but there was no clear path to actually making all abortions illegal.

On the left, secure as they also once were in Roe, the attitude for most of that time had been that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Abortion was not something to be celebrated, but rather a sad and dire thing only to be used in extreme and necessary circumstances.

Today, none of this is true anymore. Pro-lifers for the first time feel that it is possible that the Supreme Court could overturn Roeand allow states to ban abortion, and for abortion advocates, it has been become something to celebrate, to shout, and to be considered an unfettered good.

As a result of these changes, we have seen bills from both sides in state legislatures that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. In New York and Virginia, state lawmakers passed bills that would allow for abortion up to birth, and arguably, make allowances for finishing the job if a botched abortion produces a live baby.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, a new law would effectively ban abortion after as little as six weeks and, in Alabama, legislation was passed this week that would basically ban abortion entirely. The détente which has held for 50 years is gone and the fight over abortion has become a total war. What has always been a testy battle in American politics is poised to become very ugly, very fast.

Indeed, the gloves are off. It is now a bare-knuckle brawl. And that is as it should be, the gentlemanly sparring we have been doing for nigh unto 50 years was never going to solve anything. In the meantime, we have murdered some 60 million babies in the United States. An order of magnitude more than Hitler killed. Why? For our convenience.

By the way, I notice too, that the debate is getting harsher in Britain as well, for all the same reasons. It is ironic, that they kill a goodly part of the next generation pretty much indiscriminately, while at the same time importing a new working (or not working) class from abroad.

The Alabama bill is designed to challenge Roe v Wade in the courts. As such, I suspect it will be overturned at the district level and that confirmed at the circuit court and the SCOTUS will decline to get involved, and so will lose. But I’ve been wrong before, and Roe is universally considered bad law so we will see.

But it is also a sign that the Federal government needs to abdicate the field, the states are moving both ways at once, so what the court fight will really be about is some imagined right of privacy against the 10th Amendment.

Nor will the current bills be the last, there are more pending in the states. For much of the US, the time when infanticide for the mother’s convenience is legal is coming to an end. Very late, but very late is better than never.

A vision from the Founders

The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, received the Claremont Institute’s Statesmanship Award recently. Obviously, it called for dinner and a speech. And that happened. here it is.

There’s not all that much to add. Scott Johnson wrote about it for PowerLine. Scott pulls a very good quote from it. Human Events also wrote about it, with Raheem Kassam pulling this quote…

“The Founders were keen students of human nature and history,” he said. “They saw that conflict is the normative experience for nations. Hamilton put this Federalist 34. He said, ‘To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and [beneficial] sentiments of peace’.

“I’ll simplify,” Pompeo continued: “The Founders knew peace wasn’t the norm. And in response to this reality, the Founders knew the first duty of the federal government was to provide for the safety of its citizens. Madison said, ‘[Security] is an avowed and essential object of the American Union.’ You all know that.

“How about restraint? The Founders sought to protect our interests but avoid adventurism. The Barbary War, fought so soon after independence, was an effort of last resort to protect our vital commercial interests. The Monroe Doctrine – relevant even today – was a message of deterrence, not a license to grab land. ‘Peace and friendship,’ said Jefferson, ‘with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it. But the temper and folly of our enemies may not leave this in our choice.’

“And finally, respect,” Pompeo mused. “The Founders had recently cast off the tyranny of an empire. They were not eager to subjugate others. In 1821, John Quincy Adams wrote that America ‘goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.’ But indeed, quite the opposite: ‘She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all’.”

An excellent statement of traditional and current US foreign policy. Like all such thing, perhaps easier to promulgate than to follow in all cases, but an excellent guide. Something we have needed in the last thirty or so years.

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