A Question of Interpretation

'Truth Presenting a Mirror to the Vanities', Dutch, c.1625

‘Truth Presenting a Mirror to the Vanities’,
Dutch, c.1625

This is interesting. Here we base most of our stories on history, whether it is that of a British regiment, or the church, the American Revolution, or politics, or whatever. We firmly believe that we should make decisions based partly on what happened when similar decisions were made in the past.

If there were no other reason, and there are many, it would be sufficient to say that it reduces the scope of ‘the Law of Unintended Consequences’ because some of them have already happened. That’s partly why those who want to make unprecedented change almost always denigrate history, such as the often heard disdain for ‘old, dead, white men’. Thing is, those guys have something to teach us because they had many of the same problems we do, and often hit on the same solutions. So, they provide a guide as to what works, and what doesn’t, if we read and learn.

Yet those lessons can often be clear as mud. Why? Because history is an interpretation, it’s not the complete story. It can’t be. There was a Republican debate just last night, maybe you watched it, as I did. If we wrote the lessons we learned from it, they would likely be quite different. That’s last night. Now, what if it was between Charles I and Oliver Cromwell about 400 years ago. And all we have to go on is what the published reports said. If we spin those reports enough, we probably can posit almost anything.

And that is in some ways what historians have to work with. In my experience, most (but not all) do a very good job of trying to being objective, and writing the truth, as it presents to them. Some, like politicians, serve an agenda rather than the truth, but they are, usually a minority. If they become the majority, history becomes essentially useless, and reputable historians know it and pay attention.

One of those very reputable ones is Suzannah Lipscomb, Head of History at The New College of the Humanities, London, and she explains this very well, I think.


In the term before Christmas I was teaching first-year undergraduates. At the end of each term those who have been lecturing and tutoring get together with each student to talk about how it has gone. They are bright students who made great progress, but a repeating theme that emerged from this general round-up was the need for them to develop their own voices in the midst of the historical argument: to imagine, with each essay, that they take their seat at the dinner table of historians who have written in that field and then join in the debate. This is no new counsel. I remember a comment written on one of my undergraduate history essays at Oxford by my then-tutor, Susan Brigden, with her characteristic elegance of phrase: ‘Don’t bow with such becoming submission to the secondary authorities.’

History is debate, history is discussion, history is a conversation. Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in 1957, ‘history that is not controversial is dead history’. While some of this controversy comes from the pronouncements of historians as public intellectuals addressing the present day, much of it comes from them arguing with each other. The collective noun for historians is – honestly – an ‘argumentation’.

Continue reading:  A Question of Interpretation | History Today.

I love that phrase, as well as the admonition:

‘Don’t bow with such becoming submission to the secondary authorities.’

That’s some really good advice, even when you apply it to me!


Tongues of Fire on Idris Flaring

Practically Historical reminds us that last Friday was the 137th anniversary of the battle of Rork’s Drift. This was the occasion when the British fought against an attack from the Zulus in Natal. It was held by the B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, who became not long afterward the South Wales Borderers, and is now part of the Royal Welsh. On that day, 11 Victoria Crosses were earned, a level never surpassed in the British Army. It was immortalized in the film Zulu in 1964, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/O6astUUUc4o, It’s pretty well up on my favorites list!

via Men of Harlech | Practically Historical.

The most famous part for many of us, is the regimental march of the 24th, the SWB, and the Royal Welsh. It is called Men of Harlech, and it celebrates the longest siege in British history, the seven-year siege of Harlech Castle between 1461 and 1468, commanded by Constable Dafydd ap Ieuan. This very moving version is by the band of the Royal Regiment of Wales, in the church at Rorke’s Drift on the 120th anniversary of the battle

I always like to note that it has a place in American history as well. It was heard during that bayonet charge at the 1st of Ia Drang, and again on 911, both times a Cornish variant being sung by Colonel Rick Rescorla, ret. of the 7th Cavalry, who was raised in Cornwall.

Since we’re doing the Welsh military today, not to mention Men of Harlech, it should be noted that Men of Harlech is also the slow march of the 1st the Queens Dragoon Guards, more commonly called the Welsh Cavalry, who returned recently from Germany, and are now stationed at Robertson Barracks, in Norfolk, and seem to like it, as they are training on their new Coyote wheeled armoured vehicles. There’s a video here, and I suspect my American readers will enjoy the Norfolk version of ‘coyote’ as well :)

Different Economic Models

I seem to have found an unlikable bug, and just spent a large portion of the night in that bathroom. So here’s a simple but still correct post.

To cheer you up I bring you – the Economic Models explained with Cows – latest update

You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk

You have 2 cows.
Either you sell the milk at below cost price or you neighbours will try to take the cows and execute you.

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

Keep reading: Different Economic Models | Oyia Brown.

The Death of a Bad Idea

English: Picture of Barack Obama's first Weekl...

English: Picture of Barack Obama’s first Weekly Address as President of the United States – Saturday, January 24th, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Andrew Klavan. But no video this time. He doesn’t need to do one, he expresses himself just fine in proper English. Yeah, I like his videos too, but some things are too deep to penetrate from a video. This is, I think, one of them.

The left is simply and completely bankrupt. They have ruined Europe, wounded, perhaps mortally, the United Kingdom, and inflicted severe damage on the strong horse, the United States. And yet they still try to inflict their nihilistic, anti-liberty, and yes, anti-Christian so-called philosophy on us. Well, quite a few of us read history, ours, and the history of (especially) the west, and we can see what has driven our civilization. It was driven to heights never before glimpsed by man by the role of the individual, first espoused by the jews of the Old Testament, and brought higher still by Judaism’s daughter: Christianity.

When one looks at the U.S. Constitution, one finds very learned men writing a document, to build a document to minimize the role of what has (for 2000 years) been called ‘original Sin’. If you don’t understand the term; you would be wise to blame it on those who taught you your life lessons, in the schools, and yes, often in our churches as well. That those who hate freedom, don’t teach the underpinnings of freedom should be no surprise.

To sum up, perhaps we should turn to a great Briton, one who understood America perhaps better than Americans do: Margaret Thatcher, who once said this:

In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”
― Margaret Thatcher

Was she talking about the ancient Athenians, or about us?

Here’s Andrew:

Watching Obama’s speech Sunday night, it occurred to me that we are watching the death of a bad idea. The idea that there is no moral truth — and that therefore no one culture is better than any other — and that therefore any dominant culture must have become dominant through injustice — and that therefore the dominant west is to blame for the rest of the world’s ills — follows from a certain strain of western thought, call it the Nietzschean strain. It is incorrect and it has failed and now it’s crumbling.

Under the duress of mounting evidence, the president was forced to abandon his euphemisms and denials, to admit that we were under attack from terrorists, and that the ideas and motivations of those terrorists arose from Islam. To be sure, there were the usual hemmings and hawings, but the very fact that he was forced to drop these few little crumbs of truth to a populace hungry for moral leadership is proof that his underlying philosophy — the underlying philosophy of his administration and of his political party — is in ruins.

This doesn’t mean Obama will abandon that philosophy. He can’t. It has given him everything he has. It’s the reason he was promoted so far above his competence, the reason he was elevated to a power he does not have the first idea how to use effectively. Rather than abandon that source of his strength, he will continue to do what he has done up to now: engage in dubious battle with make-believe enemies like the climate while appeasing and hiding from real enemies like the makers of worldwide jihad. […]

Source: The Death of a Bad Idea | PJ Media. There’s more, it just as good. Go there now, read and understand I’ll wait over here.

As always, when Donald Trump came up, his followers displayed his glass jaw, I’ve never had much respect for a man who likes to dish it out, but can’t take it, and so it is here. Maggie understood quite well:

If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing. ”
― Margaret Thatcher

So said someone who won a war halfway around the world without recourse to bankruptcy, lawsuits, or the overbearing and inappropriate use of eminent domain, not even making personal attacks on Twitter.

A famous half-American said this, perhaps we should try a bit sooner!

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.

– Winston Churchill

Someone We Should Remember

English: Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USNR Offic...

English: Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USNR Official portrait photograph. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does it take for someone to have a navy ship named for them, and a tech conference as well? How about if it’s a woman? It takes a lot. Likely though, you’ve never heard of her.

I’m lucky, I guess, I have. She was the graduation speaker (a good many years ago) when my niece graduated William and Mary. She was also a pretty good speaker. Who was she? Professor Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, PhD.

Grace Hopper isn’t a household name. But it should be.

As Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, noted in the short documentary The Queen of Code:

“She’s like an Edison of our day. Like a Turing. And yet Hopper isn’t with those names in the history books. And it needs to be.”

Why Should Hopper’s Name Be in the History Books?

Let’s start with this: To the best of my knowledge, Grace Hopper is the only person in history to have both a tech conference (the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing — the world’s largest gathering of women technologists) and a U.S. Navy destroyer (the 500-foot, 7,000-tonU.S.S. Hopper) named in their honor.

Those two accolades might begin to give you a sense of just how extraordinary the accomplishments of Professor Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, PhD truly were. (And yes, those titles are legit.)

In 1934, Hopper became the first woman to earn a PhD in mathematics from Yale (which she earned in absentia while teaching math and physics at Vassar College). Then, in 1985, at the age of 78, she became the first woman to reach the rank of Admiral in the U.S. Navy.

As you might imagine, a lot of stuff (in this case, stuff that would revolutionize the world of computing) happened in-between those two events.

In 1943, Hopper joined the Naval Reserves. Three years later, she was assigned to inactive duty at Harvard’s Computation Laboratory, where she worked on programming the Mark I — the first computer that could automatically execute long computations.

In 1949, she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, where she worked on programming the UNIVAC I — the world’s first large-scale electronic computer.

Hopper was one of the first computer programmers … ever.

Know the expression “debugging” a computer? Hopper was one of the first people to use it. And at the time, it referred to literally removing bugs (moths, in particular) from computer components.

During her time at Eckert-Mauchly, Hopper had a breakthrough idea — an idea that would come to define her computing career. After noticing that her fellow programmers were constantly writing the same commands over and over, Hopper suggested that they write their commands down once and then store them in shared libraries.

By 1952, this idea had evolved into the world’s first compiler (Hopper’s greatest innovation), which allowed programmers to store and recall code using English language-based commands.

But You’ve Probably Never Heard of Her

Source: There’s a Navy Destroyer & a Tech Conference Named After This Person — ReadThink (by HubSpot) — Medium

A truly great woman, who get far less recognition than she deserves for her seminal, and objectively stunning contributions, that in large part have made the world we live in possible. Another Edison? Yes, but maybe even more, perhaps another Nikola Tesla, because of the wide range of applicability of her inventions.

Modern Educayshun and Yale

English: Yale University logo There is minimal...

English: Yale University logo There is minimal innovation upon the pre-1923 design . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[…]Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, one of our panelists, remarked that these hysterical ninnies were acting like Professor Christakis had burned down an Indian village. Which is to say: The idiot children were screaming about Lukianoff because he said they were overreacting to Christakis’s criticism that they tend to scream and overreact. Well played, idiot children.

Of course, these idiot children aren’t children. These are young adults who can serve in the military, get married, buy firearms, drink alcohol, etc. They are at the beginning years of adult life, but they are entirely unprepared for adult life. It’s fashionable to blame Yale and other elite institutions for this sorry state of affairs, but, while the colleges certainly do their share of damage, the truth is that these children are maladjusted buffoons when they show up in New Haven. Yale doesn’t make them into hysterical ninnies — their families do.

There is a certain strain of upper-middle-class American culture that cultivates an excess of self-importance that grows cancerous when it isn’t counteracted by a deep understanding that the world is full of things that are much more important than you are: God, country, the rest of the human race. That American striver culture has many invaluable aspects — it is the culture that produces the high-achieving students who go to Yale and other elite institutions — but in the absence of transcendent values it turns everybody into a miniature Donald Trump. If your concerns in life are limited to personal economic advancement and status whoring, then everything — literally — is about you. That’s when you see things like Lena Dunham’s dopey political advertisements, which reduce citizenship to another shallow channel of self-satisfaction: Never mind patriotism, never mind history, never mind anything else — what does your vote say about you? How do it make you feel?

Source: Yale University — Students Try to Shut Down Free-Speech Event | National Review Online


Australian-based millennial, Neel Kolhatkar, foresees the end of the modern world. Watch it commit suicide.

Robert Tracinski sum it up better than I can:

This is higher ed’s time for choosing. If this is the new purpose of the universities—to nurture a crop of activists trained at whipping up angry mobs, and a generation of college graduates conditioned to submit to those mobs—then there is no longer any purpose served by these institutions. There is certainly no justification for the outrageous claim they are making on the economic resources of the average family, who sends their kids to schools whose tuition has been inflated by decades of government subsidies.

The universities have done this to themselves. They created the whole phenomenon of modern identity politics and Politically Correct rules to limit speech. They have fostered a totalitarian microculture in which conformity to those rules is considered natural and expected. Now that system is starting to eat them alive, from elite universities like Yale, all the way down to, er, less-than-elite ones like Mizzou.

They created this Frankenstein monster, and it’s up to them to kill it before it kills them.

Source: Mizzou Shows Why We Should Burn Down the Universities

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