Steven Hayward over at PowerLine published an article Monday about Sam Weinberg’s review of Howard Zinn’s History of the American People in all its shabbiness. Steven says this.

I’ve never bothered to declaim on the fundamentally shoddiness of Howard Zinn’s scandalously popular People’s History of the United States, in part because I simply can’t get through it. Every few pages offer egregious errors of fact and even more tendentious interpretations of facts, such that it is impossible to take seriously. I’d rather read Heidegger or grind my teeth.

Certainly an honest history of America (or any country) should include its crimes, mistakes, oppressions, and manifold other defects, and many bland history textbooks can be faulted for doing this poorly (or not at all). But Zinn’s approach includes only that aspect of the American story, and supposes that the evils and shortcomings of America represent the whole of America. And that explains the book’s enormous popularity: it becomes a balm for people who wish to think poorly of America, and as an intellectual boat anchor to sink the republic we have.

A book so biased and so agenda-driven actually cuts off sensible evaluation of past events, and what they might tell us about today. […]

My evidence for this is an article appearing recently in Slate, usually thought of as a mainstream liberal site, by Sam Weinberg, a professor of education and history at Stanford, entitled “Howard Zinn’s Anti-Textbook.” Weinberg is not a fan, starting off by noting the books’s formal weaknesses:

Like traditional textbooks, A People’s History relies almost entirely on secondary sources, with no archival research to thicken its narrative. Like traditional textbooks, the book is naked of footnotes, thwarting inquisitive readers who seek to retrace the author’s interpretative steps. And, like students’ textbooks, when A People’s History draws on primary sources, these documents serve to prop up the main text but never provide an alternative view or open a new field of vision. . .

Largely invisible to the casual reader are the moves and strategies that Zinn uses to bind evidence to conclusion, to convince readers that his interpretations are right. More is at stake in naming and making explicit these moves than an exercise in rhetoric. For when they encounter Zinn’s A People’s History, students undoubtedly take away more than new facts about the Homestead strike or Eugene V. Debs. They are exposed to and absorb an entire way of asking questions about the past as well as a means of using evidence to advance historical argument. For many students, A People’s History will be the first full-length history book they read—and, for some, it will be the only one. Beyond what they learn about Shays’ Rebellion or the loopholes in the Sherman Antitrust Act, what does A People’s History teach young people about what it means to think historically? . . .

A search through A People’s History for qualifiers mostly comes up short. Instead, the seams of history are concealed by the presence of an author who speaks with thunderous certainty.

He’s just warming up, good for him, it’s well overdue. Steven may not have spoken about this farce of a book before, but his colleague Paul Mirengoff noted a connection between Zinn and Obama here.

I too have written about this intentionally dishonest book. Like Steve, I could not make it through it. Just something about barefaced lies, that make me lose interest.

“The Revolution did not just eliminate monarchy and create republics; it actually reconstituted what Americans meant by public or state power and brought about an entirely new kind of popular politics and a new kind of democratic officeholder. . . . Most important, it made the interests and prosperity of ordinary people — their pursuit of happiness — the goal of society and government. The Revolution did not merely create a political and legal environment conducive to economic expansion; it also released powerful popular entrepreneurial and commercial energies that few realized existed and transformed the economic landscape of the country. In short, the Revolution was the most radical and most far-reaching event in American history.”

Gordon Wood in the introduction to The Radicalism of the American Revolution

That’s a clear statement, and it states what to anybody has read American History is plainly visible. It doesn’t take any Doctorate to figure it out

All you have to do is look at American history, especially economic history. In less than 150 years, the United States went from a strip of subsistence farms along the eastern seaboard (and yes a few slave worked plantations) to a colossus whose output was many multiples of the world’s output when it was formed. In the course of that trajectory, it, in cooperation with Great Britain, outlawed first the slave trade and then chattel slavery itself in the western world, even though that same slavery had been the mainstay of the economy at the Revolution.

Zinn’s crap is the kind of rot that they are filling our children’s heads with, in school, is it any wonder at all that they come out indoctrinated with such crap, and unable to see the truly amazing story of the United States (and yes, this also applies to the United Kingdom). The two nations who, above all others, have made the world free and prosperous.

It is well past time that we take back control of our schools from the progressives and start teaching real history, not to mention math, science, and reading again.


Ripples in the Bricks

The title refers to a column in the Purdue Exponent when I was there, and indeed we are going to talk about Purdue today. It’s also mostly a good news post, because we are overdue for one, in my opinion.

Kate Hardiman wrote last December in The Washington Examiner about why enrollment is soaring at Purdue.

New numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that university enrollment has continued to decline for the sixth straight year. Community colleges and for-profit institutions have taken the biggest hit, losing 97,000 students and 69,000 students (on average) respectively. […]

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has pledged that his tenure at Purdue University will bring new efficiency to the stultifying higher education sector — he has frozen tuition through 2019 (one of the only schools in the nation to do so), and has created a new plan to help students earn a bachelor’s degree in three years. Daniels is also tapping into the burgeoning online education sector through a partnership with Kaplan.

Since his tenure began in 2013, Purdue’s undergraduate applications, enrollment, alumni donations, graduation rates, and the number of startups launched by researchers have hit record levels. Daniels recognizes the need to innovate and it’s paying off.

Purdue was the first public University to subscribe to that fantastic letter published by the University of Chicago, but it has gone farther. Alex Morey writing for The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) tells us about that.

Purdue University has been making good on its promises to promote free speech on campus. In May of last year, it became the first public institution to formally commit to upholding free expression by adopting the FIRE-endorsed Chicago Statement, and it eliminated all of its speech-restrictive policies to become one of FIRE’s distinguished “green light” schools. Many universities might have declared a job well done and moved on.

Not Purdue.

Steven Schultz, Purdue’s chief legal counsel, said those sweeping changes instead marked the beginning of a larger, ongoing conversation about the role of free speech at the public university, which serves nearly 40,000 students. More specifically, the developments prompted Schultz, along with small groups of interested faculty and students, to begin discussing how Purdue could create a culture where free expression is truly understood and appreciated in light of these new commitments.

“A consensus started to emerge about the need for a training session and the value it would have,” Schultz said.

And they reached a decision: Free speech would play a starring role in student life from the moment a freshman stepped on campus.

At the direction of university President and former Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, Schultz’ office began working with Purdue’s Director of Orientation Programs, Kasi Jones, and a newly formed task force within the University Senate’s Equity and Diversity Committee to create a first-of-its-kind free speech orientation presentation for incoming students. The session debuted to great reviews this fall during the first night of Boiler Gold Rush, the university’s weeklong orientation program. (Watch the session in full below, or on Purdue’s YouTube page.)

You know, part of the reason I selected Purdue back in the early seventies was its reputation for concentrating on education, and not all the nonsense which, then as now, liberal politics brings to disrupt one’s education or even completely destroy it.

A while back, Purdue entered a partnership with Kaplan University to widen it’s exposure to adult education – something that has always been in its mission statement as a land grant university. That partnership led to Purdue buying Kaplan. Adam Rusch writing in The Federalist tells us about it.

Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, shocked the world of higher education on April 27 by announcing the public institution has agreed to purchase Kaplan University. Kaplan is a for-profit school that primarily caters to working adults seeking professional degrees online.

It is really more of an invited corporate takeover than a purchase, with only $1 paid to acquire the assets. In return, Graham Holdings, the current owner of Kaplan, will get a long-term contract to provide marketing, student and faculty support, and technology services for a share of the revenue.

On the surface, the schools could not seem more different. Purdue is an elite public Reseach-1 institution whose faculty received more than $400 million last year in external grant funds. Most undergraduates enroll straight out of high school, and the graduate students are among the top in the world. Best known for its engineering and technology programs, notable alumni include Gus Grissom, Neil Armstrong, and Brian Lamb. […]

Creating a vehicle that provides practical education to the masses is not a new problem. In fact, it is the very problem that Purdue and other land-grant universities were created to solve in the mid-1800s. The Morrill Act of 1862 turned over federal land to the states so proceeds from their sales could be used to establish colleges that focus on agricultural, mechanical, and “practical education” without excluding the liberal arts. Since 1914, land-grant schools have also run the cooperative extension offices in their states to provide agricultural and consumer continuing education, including the 4-H program for youth.

Read it all, this is the backstory to the Purdue University Global whose ads we have all been seeing. I’d call Mitch Daniels a worthy successor to the many great Presidents Purdue has had.

Success brings problems though. Katherine Tmpf writing in National Review tells us about one at Purdue.

[P]hotos of temporary dorm rooms at Purdue University have prompted people to compare the living spaces to “boot camp” and “prison” — and that’s absolutely ridiculous.

The dorms in question are temporary living spaces that house eight to ten students, according to an article in BuzzFeed. They made news when a student-run paper, Purdue Exponent, posted a photo of them on Instagram.

“Faced with an excess of admitted students, Purdue University Residences continues to place some students in makeshift rooms in the basements and study lounges of residence halls around campus, like these in Shreve and Meredith residence halls,” the Instagram caption stated. [..]

Yeah, well, I lived in Shreve Hall for two years, that furniture is the standard stuff we had, and it is amazingly versatile, probably because it was designed by Purdue undergraduate engineers.

I’ve personally never been to prison (not to brag) but I have seen a lot of Lockup, and I know that prisons are far worse than what’s on offer at Purdue. In prison, there are little tiny toilets in the corners of the rooms, and you’re forced to use them in front of other people — some of whom may be vicious murderers, which I’m guessing these other Purdue students are not. In prison, one of your walls is a cage. You’re not allowed to bring the blanket that your grandma knitted for you to snuggle under to sleep at night. Also, it is my understanding that when you’re in prison you’re not allowed to just leave your room whenever you feel like it. Honestly, the fact that I even have to point out these differences is so absurd that I feel like my head is going to explode. Daring to compare these dorms to prisons is a slap in the face to anyone who is actually incarcerated.

What’s more, these communal rooms actually cost far less than the typical student housing at Purdue. Beth McCuskey, the vice provost for student life at Purdue, told BuzzFeed that the students in these rooms pay “the absolute lowest rate” that the school offers, which is about $1,200 per semester. (According to Purdue’s official website, the typical cost of housing is $6,714 per year — or more than double that cost.)

And that $1200 per semester is less than I paid in Shreve Hall in 1972. Think about that. A world class University where you can live for the same money as 46 years ago. Whoever is paying that bill must love it. And in truth, unless students have changed, except when we were studying, we were rarely in our rooms anyway, we were down in the lounges interacting with other people.

And Purdue attrits a lot of people, so unless you like it, you’re unlikely to be in these rooms long. Hey, it’s always been a tough (otherwise known as excellent) school.

And football season starts next week!

Making American Steel Great Again

If one was to drive up Broadway (the main street) in Gary, Indiana, probably not a recommended thing these days, although my mother and sisters used to do their Christmas shopping there saying it was just as good as the ‘Miracle Mile’ in Chicago, one would get to the 0 block, and then one would get to 1 North Broadway. When you got there you would find the main gate of United States Steel, Gary Works, the largest integrated steel mill in the world.

It was built to be such, at a time when US Steel already produced more steel than Great Britain, in 1906. US Steel also built Gary, itself, for its workers, and the city’s fortunes gained with the mill, and then declined with it.

Why Gary? Because it was close to the railroad superhub of Chicago, with a usable lakeshore on Lake Michigan for the ore freighters from the Missabe Range in Minnesota (like the Edmund Fitzgerald), and railroads like the Nickle Plate and the Pennsylvania could economically bring the coal from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A good share of the steel would go on to Detroit to build American cars and trucks, mostly by rail.

This was the world that J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie designed: utilitarian, efficient, huge, and yes, a bit depersonalizing. In my first post here, I commented on driving through here back in the early sixties, when the flares from the mills illuminated the skies like hell itself.

But even then, things were changing. European and Japanese mills were starting to export steel to the US, not least because their mills were more modern and efficient. They should have been, they were built in the fifties, not least because of American aid, and their protective tariffs, which we allowed to subsidize their recovery from World War II.

And that is what President Trump is trying to fix, the unfair tariffs which have hobbled American business ever since World War Two. How’s he doing? I’d say, not too badly.

From Breitbart:

U.S. Steel has announced that they will invest $750 million at their 110-year-old steel manufacturing plant known as Gary Works in Gary, Indiana, crediting President Trump’s protective tariffs on steel imports.

What was once the largest steel mill in the world will now get a $750 million facelift thanks to Trump’s 25 percent tariff on all imported steel into the United States, designed to protect American industries and jobs from being outsourced.

In a statement this week, U.S. Steel executives said they would be revitalizing the Indiana plant which employs about 3,800 American workers, the Chicago Tribune noted.

While U.S. Steel executives say they are not yet planning to increase the number of jobs at the Indiana plant, U.S. Steel Corp. President and CEO David Burritt said the company is “experiencing a renaissance” because of Trump’s tariffs.

Now mind, it will never be as it was back in the day when reports of guys earning $20 an hour for leaning on a broom were believed, in a country where the minimum wage was $2 an hour. That world where America had 50+% of gross world product, and most of the world’s steel capacity, is gone forever.

But American workers are amongst the best in the world, and we can compete with anybody in the world, given an at least fairly level field.

And that is what this trade policy is about. It’s not about increasing corporate treasuries, or boosting Wall Street, although it probably will do that.

It about putting America back to work, doing productive things, not shuffling through the wreckage. I can remember in the Eighties when I was working on air conditioning systems for contractors who were tearing down USS South Works, which had the only rolling mill in the world that could roll the armor for the Iowa class battleships. That entire mill is gone. Killed by the Unions, poor management, and foreign competition, not to mention newer processes, such as used by Nucorp, now the largest American producer.

And that too is necessary and proper. Capitalism is, above all, a force that working through free markets forces us to do our best or fall behind. Sometimes we call it “creative destruction”. That’s an accurate term, the old has to give way to the newer, better way of doing necessary things. Just as the Conestoga gave way to the railroad which in turn gave way to the airplane and the automobile.

We can long for a simpler, slower time, and many of us do, but I doubt we’d want to live there, knee deep in horse dung, and working at least dawn to dusk. or at least, I wouldn’t.

MAGA indeed, a new and improved (still again) America.

A Free Man and Boring Pigs

First a note: Tommy Robinson is out on bail, to be retried at a later date. It’s a victory worth celebrating, but not a complete one. The court said this:

In the ruling, the lord chief justice quashed the Leeds finding of contempt. That court hearing should not have proceeded immediately but waited to hear the case on a “fully informed basis”, he said.

The judgment added: “It was unclear what conduct was said to comprise a breach of that order and the appellant was sentenced on the basis of conduct which fell outside the scope of that order.

“… The decision at Leeds crown court to proceed to committal to prison so promptly and without due regard for [part] of the rules gave rise to unfairness.

“… The judge might have referred the matter to the attorney general to consider whether to institute proceedings. That course would have avoided the risk of sacrificing fairness on the altar of celerity.”

Gee! Ya think? Still, a win is a win is a win.

Boring Pigs

This caught my attention at The American Spectator yesterday.

But how do you deal with cars that are pigs?

Which is all new cars.

Even hybrid cars.

The 2018 Kia Niro plug-in hybrid I just finished reviewing (here) averaged just over 42 MPG… right there with a 1984 Chrysler K-car. Which didn’t need an electric motor and batteries to achieve 40-plus MPG.

The K-car also cost about half what the Niro costs, in inflation-adjusted dollars — but that’s another rant.

The 2019 Subaru Ascent I test drove the week prior averaged a truly dismal 22.4 MPG — despite being powered by the very latest in fuel-saving high-tech: a 2.4 liter direct-injected/turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the works bolted to a fuel-saving continuously variable (CVT) automatic and geared for maximum MPGs.

All that… and 22.4 MPG.

My ancient (1976) Pontiac Trans-Am, a muscle car with an engine more than three times as large (7.5 liter V8) as the Soobie’s and which doesn’t have a computer, direct injection, or a turbocharger but does have a big four-barrel carburetor and burnout-enhancing 3:90 gears is only slightly less thirsty.

It is capable of averaging in the high teens.

The question arises — in view of all the “efficient” and “fuel saving” technologies new cars boast: Why are they so fuel-inefficient?

It is because they are grotesque fatties.

The average 2018 model car is on the order of 500-800 pounds heavier than its 1990 equivalent.

Here are some for-instances:

  • 1990 Ford Escort, curb weight 2,242 lbs. vs. 2018 Ford Focus (the current Escort equivalent) which weighs 2,974 lbs. — a gain of 732 lbs.
  • 1990 Toyota Camry, curb weight 2,811 lbs. vs. 2018 Camry, 3,340 lbs. — a gain of 529 lbs.
  • 1990 Dodge Caravan, curb weight 2,910 lbs. vs. 2018 Caravan, 4,510 lbs. — a gain of 1,600 lbs.!
  • The 2018 Kia Niro hybrid I test drove — ostensibly an “economy” car and a “compact” by modern car standards — weighs almost 3,400 pounds. Which is just a couple of hundred pounds less than my 1976 Trans-Am — which has a heavy steel frame and a massively heavy cast-iron V8 engine.

And the Subaru Ascent weighs several hundred pounds more than my 42-year-old muscle car, despite the Pontiac’s huge cast-iron V8, cast iron rear axle and a bolt-on steel subframe just like a truck’s.

So why is the Trans-Am so relatively svelte?

It is because the Trans-Am’s designers didn’t have to cope with the numerous weight-adding saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafetyfatwas which have made new cars so obese.

I never heard anyone call a Trans Am svelte before, it was one of the most space inefficient cars ever designed. But he’s right, it was fairly light, especially if you ordered it without all the “comfort and convenience” junk that ate fuel and made it heavier.

When I was in high school, my dad after he retired, drove a 63 Chevy Bel Air, with a 230 ci 6, Powerglide transmission, with ps and brakes. 0-60 was about a day and a half, and it got around 20 mpg. By today’s standards, it was a huge car, six passengers, and luggage for six weeks. He used it like a pickup, and it did its role well. By the way, he paid $500 for it, because it was in excellent, clean condition, book was about $300. Those really were the days. 🙂

Mom had a 68 Fleetwood Brougham, with every bell and whistle that Cadillac could dream up, and they were good dreamers, including the 472 ci V8. I found out one night, in a mile it could keep up with a 427 Vette. If one drove reasonably, it got 18 mpg on the highway. Yeah, it was even bigger than the Chevy, the footrests in the backseat actually were useful, as were the four power vent windows. Nobody ever made a better car for driving 12 hours a day on the Interstate. It was, indeed, a great date car.

Me? I had a 64 Riviera with the old 401 Nailhead engine, the very first (in 63) personal luxury car. It didn’t have all the toys of the Caddy, but it moved pretty good. It could even corner, although it was rather dramatic about it. How fast? I don’t know, it was still accelerating fine when the rear end started lifting at 110. A friend of mine had the one with the big engine, including the dual quads, and a rear spoiler, he said he had buried the 140 mph speedometer and I believed him. It too could be nursed to about 18 (on premium fuel), I usually got around 15. Hey, I was young and invincible in those days. Still the best vehicle I ever owned.

All of those cars were built with good solid American steel, they were downright sturdy as a Mack truck, not the beer cans you find now, and like the author’s Trans Am you were expected to pay attention and not hit things – if you don’t hit nothing, all that safety junk is just that – junk. And you know, for the most part, we didn’t. Maybe because we weren’t texting and putting on our makeup while we drove, cause driving was fun, not the chore it is today. Chicago to Philadelphia in one day – sure why not? Did it many times. Chicago to LA to Seattle visit relatives in Minnesota and home in two weeks, with a camper – been there done that, but dad drove, I was in Junior high. Easy peasy.

And the thing about those cars, there was almost nothing on them that I (or dad) couldn’t fix in the driveway, sure sometimes we needed a machine shop, but other than that we could do anything.

The safety idiots and the emission idiots ruined the American car with their various mandates. Americans did what Americans always do – Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome. That’s why we drive SUVs and pickups now, but they are going the same way.

Let’s give Eric the last word (and you should read all of his link).

If they lacked the power to issue (and enforce) such fatwas, we’d have lighter and more economical cars that would almost certainly be quicker and cheaper, too.

It might be worth looking into.

Severing the Future from the Past

There is a really good piece from Scot S. Powell up at The American Spectator, and you really should read it. Some excerpts:

[…] The Reformation and Renaissance set in motion a cultural awakening as well as an unusual concentration of human genius and extraordinary wisdom that culminated in the birth of a new nation, the United States — dedicated to the rule of law, separation of powers and limited government, and accountability to its citizens whose rights were God-given and thus unalienable and not subject to infringement by the state — a truly revolutionary model that subsequently influenced other nations worldwide well into the 20thcentury.

Copernicus, followed by Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, and more were key figures in the scientific revolution that expanded the frontiers of understanding the physical universe. Collectively, they gave birth to the scientific method, which became the most reliable and powerful means of pushing the envelope of discovery and invention through hypothesis testing that involved compiling and rationally evaluating empirical evidence and results to arrive at facts.

What is striking about the modern age compared with all previous ages is the speed at which progress was made. Coming on the heels of the Dark Ages, which encompassed nearly a millennium of relative stagnation and punctuated with the Bubonic Plague in the mid-14thcentury, the modern age made rapid progress applying science and harnessing innovation and discovery, reviving and pursuing cultural excellence, and addressing and solving people’s common needs and problems.

That’s worth thinking about. When the US was founded, a Roman farmer would have been completely at ease on an American farm, very little had changed, but before the Civil War, pretty much everything had, it would again before the Spanish-American War, and again before World War II, and still again now.

These successive waves of revolutionary change have transformed the world, they are the reason why the world’s population has multiplied, and all those people are living better than ever.

It’s a logarithmic rate of increase because it has built on itself. Tractors and electricity before World War II begat telephones and computers, which begat the internet. Building on the shoulders of what came before.

[…] We are told that our culture and the way we live is now post-Christian and that the need for redemption by God has been replaced by the imperatives of a secular redemption defined by political correctness. That new framework is largely based on the one-two approach of promoting guilt among largely successful white males for their alleged biases and misdeeds, past and present, and then providing them a solution in the form of relief and good feelings through making amends and accommodation to new groups and minorities.

In short the path of the new P.C. redemption has nothing to do with character improvement and everything to do with identity politics — races, classes, gender and sexual identity — and also the relationship that man has with the environment. And there is simply no end to atonement, role reversals, and reparations to fix things. As a result, we have come to a point where seemingly endless manufactured injustices are crowding out the joy of everyday life, stripping people of their spontaneity and their humor.

And that is the perniciousness of the PC culture, it tries to make us feel guilty for our positive accomplishments. It’s not my place to tell you what to do, but as for me, I simply refuse to play their game. I recognize that white men in concert with all the other colors, and yes, with women as well, who are essential in our culture, have improved our common world by orders of magnitude, in my lifetime certainly, but also in my father’s, and his father’s and so on for about 500 years. There is nothing, nothing in that record of which I am ashamed.

Have mistakes been rectified, wrongs righted, all that stuff along the way? Sure, that’s the point. Everything has gotten better for everyone.

And that’s why the regressive left has to try to destroy history so they can destroy freedom which is our greatest legacy.

RAF Centenary 1918–2018

This came to me from The Churchill Centre, as it may have to some of you, by Robert Courts

The Mall leading from Buckingham Palace to Admiralty Arch is alive with red, white, and blue. Union Jacks combined with sky-blue RAF ensigns hang from every lamppost. The centenary celebration of the first air force to become a fully independent branch of any nation’s military is underway in London.

On the roof terrace above the House of Commons, the first aircraft appear: a lumbering phalanx of Chinooks, the distinctive rumble from their double rotors beating off the office blocks below. Next come the big stars passing the London Eye, roaring behind the scaffold-clad Elizabeth Tower, and zipping around the Foreign Office and Treasury buildings with their proudly displayed RAF station flags. The audience audibly gasps at the music of nine Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon engines powering the Lancaster, Spitfires, and Hurricane of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The national DNA stirs within every watching person.

The flypast slowly speeds up. The heavy transports from West Oxfordshire’s RAF Brize Norton lead the secretive intelligence aircraft from the old Bomber County of Lincolnshire before the brand new Anglo-American F-35s roar in to lead the centrepiece: twenty-two Typhoons—the backbone of the RAF’s modern fleet—forming a “100” figure in the sky. And as a finale, the world-famous Red Arrows slide in effortless formation across the grey sky, trailing red, white, and blue smoke as they go.

In Parliament Square, Whitehall, and Trafalgar Square, tens of thousands of people wear RAF roundel rosettes while their eyes search skyward. They clutch the augmented reality app to “collect” aircraft types as they appear. The iPhone app illustrates how far the RAF’s aviation has come. On Horseguards Parade, the RAF have brought a selection of their most famous aircraft for public display. The first—the BE2c, a canvas and wood contraption—is a world away from the digitally inter-connected, supersonic F-35s and Typhoons. Yet these radically different types of machine are separated by only 100 years.

For the RAF personnel of today, flying the plane is a basic skill compared with operating the mission systems on their complicated aircraft and that more akin to operating their iPhones than the “seat of the pants,” stick-and-rudder flight of the First World War.

In just a century, the Royal Air Force has gone from experimental novelty to the heart of British national identity. It has policed an Empire, taken help to the victims of natural disasters worldwide, flown a nuclear deterrent, fought for victory above the trenches, taken the fight to the enemy when no-one else could, and, in the long, hot summer of 1940, saved a nation and the free world before being justly immortalised by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Few may be fewer now than once they were, but they still lead the world, and have a richly-deserved place in the centre of Britain’s national life.

Robert Courts is Member of Parliament for Whitney.

I would have given much to be standing in, say, Trafalgar Square that day. Not least because the music of the Merlin speaks at a very deep level to one’s soul. Think of that, standing in the square honoring one of the greatest heroes of the English Speaking people, while honoring some of the bravest of them, the renowned “Few”.

Mr. Courts gives an accurate, albeit short history of the RAF, little point to adding to it in a general post. But the RAF (especially, but not only) epitomizes the toughness, the doughtiness, dare I say the pluck, of the British forces. It is one of the base causes of the modern world and needs to be more honored.

Part of the reason that this came through to us from The Churchill Centre is, of course, his speech which memorialized the RAF in the Battle of Britain:

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain…

All true, and perhaps understated, here was the first check on Hitler’s designs, which led him in his hubris to take on the Soviet Union, thus leading to his regimes ignominious end.

The last paragraph of that speech spoke of another matter, one that foretold the future

…Some months ago we came to the conclusion that the interests of the United States and of the British Empire both required that the United States should have facilities for the naval and air defence of the Western Hemisphere against the attack of a Nazi power… We had therefore decided spontaneously, and without being asked or offered any inducement, to inform the Government of the United States that we would be glad to place such defence facilities at their disposal by leasing suitable sites in our Transatlantic possessions for their greater security against the unmeasured dangers of the future.… His Majesty’s Government are entirely willing to accord defence facilities to the United States on a 99 years’ leasehold basis… Undoubtedly this process means that these two great organisations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage. For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished; no one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days

So it has proved, to the benefit of all the world, and that too was on display as the RAF flew over London the other day. Leading the current day warriors in their Typhoons, was the future, in the Anglo-American F35, the aircraft that is the future of air power in all the English speaking world. Unless I miss my guess, the F-35s were from the first squadron of Lightning IIs in the RAF, No 617 Squadron, the justly famed Dambusters. It is fitting that it should make its first ceremonial appearance leading the oldest air force in the world.

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