The Immortal Memory

During the negotiations with France when we were trying to buy New Orléans President Jefferson wrote an 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”, meaning if France took control of Louisiana it would mean war between France and the United States, and later commented “that from that day forward France shall end at her low water mark” Of course we know that France sold Louisiana to the US so it ended well.

But, 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 our 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 blockaded 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 (and against standing orders) 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 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.

HMS Victory

HMS Victory , HM Naval Base, Portsmouth

The Admiral in command was Horatio, Lord Nelson.

Or to give him his full name:

Admiral Lord Nelson

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.

It is also interesting Nelson being Vice Admiral of the White is the reason that the Royal Navy from that day flies the White Ensign, before it flew all three depending on the fleet commander’s rank. The black hatband on British, American, and Russian naval enlisted caps all memorialize Nelson as well.

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.

Great Britain would hold uncontested command of the sea, even joining World War I partly to prevent Germany from overtaking the Royal Navy until, in 1921, she agreed to parity with the United States at the Washington Naval Conference. And it should be noted, that even then, it was not willingly, Britain was exhausted and bankrupt from the Great War, and probably recognized that the US would use her sea power much as Britain had, which has proved to be the case. It is also from this date that the United Kingdom began to recede from the first rank of great powers, although her legacy has been for the most part upheld by the US and the Commonwealth.

That’s fine, I hear you say, what’s that got to do with me, especially as an American, these 212 years later? Several things which we will talk about a bit here.

  1. The Atlantic Slave Trade ended because the British decided that it should and the Americans agreed. This led to the establishment of patrols by both navies off the west coast of Africa, effectively ending the trade. Without this, and without the Abolitionist sentiment in the United Kingdom, it is almost inconceivable that slavery would have ended in the western world.
  2. The South and Central American Republics remain independent (and sometimes free) countries. After the Napoleonic wars Metternich’s Council of Vienna considered all of continental Europe helping Spain recover her American colonies, until they found out that they would have to go through the Royal Navy. Yes, we proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 after Prime Minister George Canning proposed a joint statement, the story is that Secretary of State John Q. Adams said that would make us look like a cockboat in the wake of the British man-of-war. Therefore, we proclaimed it unilaterally. But it was enforced almost exclusively until the Spanish-American War by the Royal Navy because it was to the advantage of British mercantile interests. Britain thereby performed the same service for the New World that the US would for Europe in the last half of the Twentieth Century.
  3. The growth and development of America, if a continental power had regained control of Mexico there is a very good chance that it would have expanded into the heartland of America, certainly Texas and entirely possibly all or most of the Louisiana Purchase.

And so we, as Americans, even as the British, should remain grateful for those ‘distant storm-tossed ships’ of the Royal Navy, led by one of the great commanders of history.

And so, I give you the toast that will be drunk 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. It is the one traditionally 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.

And so today as the Queen Elizabeth, the first of the CVFs prepares to join the fleet, we again see the Royal Navy prepare to take on all the tasks that the Anglo-Saxons have performed for the world’s benefit since the Armada, itself.

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.

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The Left’s Last Spasm

Bring it on.

I think the author here, J.r. Dunn, may well be correct. I can think of no other reason, other than perhaps mass delusion, which isn’t all that different. And do read it all, I’ve just excerpted a few of my favorite parts.

As far as anybody knows, the November 4th revolution/tantrum/jamboree planned by Antifa and its associate organizations remains on schedule. The “Opposition” – Antifa, the John Brown Clubs, Refuse Fascism, and assorted other scraps have announced that on that date the revolution will begin with a mass nationwide uprising that will continue until the Trump/Pence regime is overcome. Dozens of hundreds of the people’s vanguard will hit the streets, squatting at intersections and holding their breaths until the fascists are exorcised and the new epoch of light is fully underway. (Further details can be found here.)

Conservatives, as is all too often the case, have overreacted.  Numerous sites, publications, and radio shows have featured rhetoric such as “Antifa Planning Communist Revolution for America on November 4,” “Patriots beware! ANTIFA plans armed uprising on November 4!,” and “The Leftist Chaos Will Be Coming On November 4th.” (Links withheld to protect the guilty.)

But the truth, if anything, is exactly the opposite. What we are experiencing, far from a deadly revolutionary upsurge threatening everything of value, is a historically unique situation where, for the first time on record, a leftist movement is in complete and accelerating collapse within a democratic polity. The upcoming people’s revolt is simply another symptom of this.

The Democrats, America’s de facto leftist party (note how a sworn socialist, Bernie Sanders, is effectively exercising leadership of the party without anyone so much as blinking) have lost over 1,000 offices nationwide in the past year. The GOP controls nearly two-thirds of all governorships and nearly half of state governments. The left’s political presence and influence is negligible across vast areas of the heartland. They have abandoned the working class, the bedrock of any leftist movement, in favor of representing transsexuals, ball club millionaires, and noncitizen criminals, not a strategy with much of a future, on the face of it.

The year since the 2016 electoral debacle has witnessed a number of off-elections to replace cabinet picks, each one hailed by the media as the turning of the progressive tide, each one won by the GOP.

Thus leading many of us to recall Trump’s prediction, “So much winning. You’re going to get tired of winning”. Well, I haven’t, yet. It feels real good.

[…]

Then we have the NFL. The national anthem uproar is the fruit of the latest attempt by the left to turn American workingmen’s institutions – sports and country music in particular – into left-wing systems to shunt the regular Joes into the arms of the commissars, where they belong. Its failure, at the hands of an irate public (not to forget Donald Trump, certainly, here as in many other instances the indispensable man), is one of the most encouraging developments in the wake of 2016. Colin Kaepernick, who attempted to revive a foundering career on the field though political posturing, can serve as an object lesson to all the others attempting to follow in his wake. The NFL, already on the skids, now faces an accelerating and well-deserved financial hemorrhage. (I say that even though my grandfather helped found the organization.)

Finally, we get to Harvey. Harvey Weinstein was a bicoastal combination of Graydon Carter and George Soros, acting as a facilitator between left-wing politics and popular culture while at the same time financing left-wing politicians – including the Clintons, the millennial Borgias – to the tune of millions. All this bought him immunity for decades of sex offenses. The fact that it came to an end in large part due to the efforts of Rose McGowan, onetime inamorata of Marilyn Manson and collaborator with Quentin Tarantino, and Ronan Farrow, a virtual stereotype of the Manhattan liberal, makes his fall even sweeter.

I like many of you, wasted many hours watching the NFL, and like others, I have noticed the quality of play decrease, and then this silliness during the Anthem. Well, I really can’t say I miss it much and see no reason to ever start watching again. Those hours are far better spent now. Buh-Bye NFL!

[…]

Yet all attention on the right seems to be focused on a gang of undergrads in black hoodies and Guy Fawkes masks. How can we correlate the two – black-clad militants brash enough to threaten the government itself while their entire political/social superstructure collapses in ruins around them? On the face of it, it seems paradoxical. But there’s actually no contradiction at all. The one follows the other as sure as Stalin followed Lenin. The left has turned violent because it’s falling apart. They don’t have anything else. No plans, no prospects, no leadership. The left has failed, and violence is all that remains.

Left-wing failure is not arguable. The international record stands for itself, having become a truism without ever quite attaining the status of a cliché. Though the academy and the media have tried their best to bury the record (while earnest and naïve types such as Anne Applebaum scratch their heads as to why it lacks the immediacy of the Nazi crimes), it’s impossible to hide failures so gargantuan as to have left mountainous piles of corpses across the entire landscape of Eurasia. (Every few years the spring thaw in Siberia and the Urals uncovers mass graves, the legacy of the Gulag, sending thousands of mummified, nearly intact corpses drifting down the rivers. This is what Weinstein, Antifa and the rest would wish on us.) The same pattern is occurring at this moment in Venezuela, a wealthy nation reduced first to pauperdom and soon to open massacre.

Something to interject here is that the reason that America leads the free world, is because we fought very hard to be free, and we all know hard lessons stick. And then our founder’s had the gumption and foresight to write it all down so that we could refer back to what they had said and done. And they even had the foresight to make their plan the supreme law of the land, subject to change only with great difficulty and with the consent of a supermajority of citizens, and legislators at all levels. It is something that even our near peers, like the UK lack. Their rule, that one Parliament may not bind another, means that it can all be lost in an instant. And finally, our leadership is based on our passionate defense of liberty which hasn’t waned since before 1776. We lead because we tend the flame of freedom, we were the first and if necessary we will be the last, but the flame shall not go out again.

I have Brits tell me every day that demographics will destroy us (and them). My standard answer is (although more politely) “Here, hold my beer”. We were the first, and we have kept the faith. It is nearly 120 years since the first Progressive Teddy Roosevelt, (who actually wasn’t all bad) was elected, and watch us, of all the people in the world, while we’ve been hurt, sometimes badly, by the disease, yet here we still stand, and get this: WE ARE WINNING! Mostly because we have the guts and the means to fight back. Something else the smarter ones tell me often is to never, ever let them take your guns. You’d be surprised how often I hear that from Brits I respect highly.

What I tell them is that it is a long process, and they went much further down the road than we did. They need to get control of the Conservative Party, even as we are starting to do the Republican Party, another place where Trump is proving indispensable. But Corbyn’s Labour party is showing the same signs as our left. They need to quit making excuses and just do it.

It’s best to ignore them, and let the law take its course. We hold all the cards. The thunderous, nationwide shout of “No!” that greeted the NFL “protests” clearly demonstrates that the United States remains solid. The greatest public humiliation endured by the American left in this century proved that the bedrock of this nation still exists, uneroded by ephemeral entities like Obama and the Clintons. The teenage ninjas think they can take that down with a few slingshots and Molotov cocktails. Let them try.

I think the best thing to do with the leftists is simply laugh at them, and then use their tears as a mixer in our whiskey. It also reminds me of a bit of graffiti from when I was in college back in the early seventies. Carved on the stall wall in the Union was this,
Workers of the World arise,
So that we may more easily gun you down.
Bring it on, I’m tired of this nonsense, even as my dad was in the sixties.

Donald Trump: An American Patriot of the Same Stripe as Ronald Reagan

From my friend, Danmillerinpanama whom many of you will know, but if you happened to miss the post, you’re missing a good one. A bit…

 

To my mind, that unholy dialectic between political power and an agenda of enforced dependency is one of the most despicable and destructive coefficients of the administrative state. It is despicable because it deploys power for personal aggrandizement under the camouflage of helping (i.e., pretending to help) others (the “Great Society,” etc.). It is destructive because its end is the eclipse of liberty for the sake of expanding and institutionalizing the apparatus of bureaucracy (and the perquisites of the bureaucrats running it).

So I applaud the president’s plan to cut taxes and allow Americans to keep a bit more of what after all is their own money. (We tend to forget this.)

But although taxes formed the official centerpiece of the president’s speech last night, and though I liked what he said about taxes, I thought the most impressive part of the speech was its rhetorical setting.  The occasion was a meeting of Heritage Foundation supporters. Accordingly, President Trump began by talking about the importance of embracing our history, our heritage. “For America to have CONFIDENCE in our future, we must have PRIDE in our HISTORY.”

I think that is right, and I think it is worth pondering each of the three stressed words.

One of the great liabilities of so-called identity politics is that, ironically, it acts as a solvent on shared cultural confidence. The irony flows from the fact that identity politics is supposed to leave its partisans with an enhanced sense of self-worth and solidarity but in fact it tends to isolate them in rancid grievance ghettos.

Along the way last night, the president spoke up for preserving our heritage, our history, an enterprise that encompasses not just the preservation of monuments and other historical markers that commemorate our past, but also extends to the spiritual decorum of civic respect: standing for the national anthem, for example, or (since this multiethnic country was and is, as Samuel Huntington observed, a country of “Anglo-Protestant” values) wishing people “Merry Christmas” in due season.<

It is worth noting, by the way, that saying one should have  pride in our history and confidence in our culture is not thereby to issue a plenary indulgence for past wrongdoing.  The fact that people erect a statue commemorating Gen. Robert E. Lee does not in any way imply that they are racist advocates of chattel slavery, any more than erecting a statue of JFK implies that one is an advocate of satyriasis.

Do read it all at Donald Trump: An American Patriot of the Same Stripe as Ronald Reagan. Because what Dan sees is what I also see, an American patriot, who will do his best (and his best is proving pretty damned good) for America. Perfect? No, he’s a man, and an imperfect one, as we all are. And that post from Theodore Roosevelt in my sidebar is my measure of a president.

“Every man, who parrots the cry of ‘stand by the President’ without adding the proviso ‘so far as he serves the Republic’ takes an attitude as essentially unmanly as that of any Stuart royalist who championed the doctrine that the King could do no wrong. No self-respecting and intelligent free man could take such an attitude.”

And the inverse is just as true, any man who parrots the cry of stand against the president, so far as he misserves the Republic, is as unmanly as TR said. And yes, I’m looking at you, Bill Kristol, who was one of the people in the conservative movement I admired most, until last year.

And Dan’s ending for his post will do admirably for this one as well.

That is no surprise. The history of the world is full of redemption and conversion stories, from Saul of Tarsus to Henry V and beyond. Quoth the King at the end of Henry IV Part 2:

Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn’d away my former self.

The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating.  It seems to me that in just nine months Donald Trump has given us a lot of savory tidbits to chew on.  Some people might object to the style.  But how about the substance?  In any event, it seems ungracious, not to say short-sighted, to withhold any possibility of reformation from a man just because he had the temerity to win an election without the permission of the would-be governing class.

Dereliction of Duty, Dishonor, Hatred of Country

And so, we’ve all heard of LT Spenser Ramone, he of the Che T-shirt under his academy uniform. How did he get through the Academy and back into the forces? Here’s how. This is a signed letter from one of his instructors at the Point. Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. Heffington, USA, Retired. Which of course is why he can write the letter without consequence. From American Military News. I’ve taken the liberty of reposting the whole letter. It’s long, but it is very important.

Dear Sir/Ma’am,

Before you read any further, please understand that the following paragraphs come from a place of intense devotion and loyalty to West Point. My experience as a cadet had a profound impact upon who I am and upon the course of my life, and I remain forever grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of the Long Gray Line. I firmly believe West Point is a national treasure and that it can and should remain a vitally important source of well trained, disciplined, highly educated Army officers and civilian leaders. However, during my time on the West Point faculty (2006-2009 and again from 2013-2017), I personally witnessed a series of fundamental changes at West Point that have eroded it to the point where I question whether the institution should even remain open. The recent coverage of 2LT Spenser Rapone – an avowed Communist and sworn enemy of the United States – dramatically highlighted this disturbing trend. Given my recent tenure on the West Point faculty and my direct interactions with Rapone, his “mentors,” and with the Academy’s leadership, I believe I can shed light on how someone like Rapone could possibly graduate.

First and foremost, standards at West Point are nonexistent. They exist on paper, but nowhere else. The senior administration at West Point inexplicably refuses to enforce West Point’s publicly touted high standards on cadets, and, having picked up on this, cadets refuse to enforce standards on each other. The Superintendent refuses to enforce admissions standards or the cadet Honor Code, the Dean refuses to enforce academic standards, and the Commandant refuses to enforce standards of conduct and discipline. The end result is a sort of malaise that pervades the entire institution. Nothing matters anymore. Cadets know this, and it has given rise to a level of cadet arrogance and entitlement the likes of which West Point has never seen in its history.

Every fall, the Superintendent addresses the staff and faculty and lies. He repeatedly states that “We are going to have winning sports teams without compromising our standards,” and everyone in Robinson Auditorium knows he is lying because we routinely admit athletes with ACT scores in the mid-teens across the board. I have personally taught cadets who are borderline illiterate and cannot read simple passages from the assigned textbooks. It is disheartening when the institution’s most senior leader openly lies to his own faculty-and they all know it.

The cadet honor code has become a laughingstock. Cadets know they will not be separated for violating it, and thus they do so on a daily basis. Moreover, since they refuse to enforce standards on each other and police their own ranks, cadets will rarely find a cadet at an honor hearing despite overwhelming evidence that a violation has occurred. This in tum has caused the staff and faculty to give up even reporting honor incidents. Why would a staff or faculty member expend the massive amount of time and energy it takes to report an honor violation-including writing multiple sworn statements, giving interviews, and testifying at the honor hearing-when they know without a doubt the cadet will not be found (or, if found, the Superintendent will not separate the cadet)? To make matters worse, the senior leadership at West Point actively discourages staff and faculty from reporting honor violations. l was unfortunate enough to experience this first hand during my first tour on the faculty, when the Commandant of Cadets called my office phone and proceeded to berate me in the most vulgar and obscene language for over ten minutes because I had reported a cadet who lied to me and then asked if “we could just drop it.” Of course, I was duty bound to report the cadet’s violation, and I did. During the course of the berating I received from the Commandant, I never actually found out why he was so angry. It seemed that he was simply irritated that the institution was having to deal with the case, and that it was my fault it even existed. At the honor hearing the next day, I ended up being the one on trial as my character and reputation were dragged through the mud by the cadet and her civilian attorney while I sat on the witness stand without any assistance. In the end, of course, the cadet was not found (despite having at first admitted that she lied), and she eventually graduated. Just recently a cadet openly and obviously plagiarized his History research paper, and his civilian professor reported it. The evidence was overwhelming-there was not the slightest question of his guilt, yet the cadet was not found. The professor, and indeed all the faculty who knew of the case, were completely demoralized. This is the new norm for the cadet honor system. In fact, there is now an addition to the honor system (the Willful Admission Process) which essentially guarantees that if a cadet admits a violation, then separation is not even a possibility. In reality, separation is not a possibility anyway because the Superintendent refuses to impose that sanction.

Academic standards are also nonexistent. I believe this trend started approximately ten years ago, and it has continued to get worse. West Point has stated standards for academic expectations and performance, but they are ignored. Cadets routinely fail multiple classes and they are not separated at the end-of-semester Academic Boards. Their professors recommend “Definitely Separate,” but those recommendations are totally disregarded. I recently taught a cadet who failed four classes in one semester (including mine), in addition to several she had failed in previous semesters, and she was retained at the Academy. As a result, professors have lost hope and faith in the entire Academic Board process. It has been made clear that cadets can fail a multitude of classes and they will not be separated. Instead, when they fail (and they do to a staggering extent), the Dean simply throws them back into the mix and expects the faculty to somehow drag them through the academic program until they manage to earn a passing grade. What a betrayal this is to the faculty! Also, since they get full grade replacement if they must re­take a course, cadets are actually incentivized to fail. They know they can re-take the course over the summer when they have no other competing requirements, and their new grade completely replaces the failing one. ST AP (Summer Term Academic Program) is also now an accepted summer detail assignment, so retaking a course during the summer translates into even more summer leave for the deficient cadet.

Even the curriculum itself has suffered. The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus completely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression. Cadets derisively call it the “I Hate America Course.” Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes. On the other hand, an entire semester of military history was recently deleted from the curriculum (at West Point!). In all courses, the bar has been lowered to the point where it is irrelevant. If a cadet fails a course, the instructor is blamed, so instructors are incentivized to pass everyone. Additionally, instead of responding to cadet failure with an insistence that cadets rise to the challenge and meet the standard, the bar for passing the course itself is simply lowered. This pattern is widespread and pervades every academic department.

Conduct and disciplinary standards are in perhaps the worst shape of all. Cadets are jaded, cynical, arrogant, and entitled. They routinely talk back to and snap at their instructors (military and civilian alike), challenge authority, and openly refuse to follow regulations. They are allowed to wear civilian clothes in almost any arena outside the classroom, and they flaunt that privilege. Some arrive to class unshaven, in need of haircuts, and with uniforms that look so ridiculously bad that, at times, I could not believe I was even looking at a West Point cadet. However, if a staff or faculty member attempts to correct the cadet in question, that staff/faculty member is sure to be reprimanded for “harassing cadets.” For example, as I made my rounds through the barracks inspecting study conditions one evening as the Academic Officer in Charge, I encountered a cadet in a company study room. He was wearing a pair of blue jeans and nothing else, and was covered in tattoos. He had long hair, was unshaven, and I was honestly unsure ifhe was even a cadet. He looked more like a prison convict to me. When I questioned what he was doing there, he remained seated in his chair and sneered at me that he “was authorized” because he was a First Class cadet. I proceeded to correct him and then reported him to the chain of command the next morning. Later that day I received an email from the Brigade Tactical Officer telling me to “stay in my lane.” I know many other officers receive the same treatment when attempting to make corrections. It is extremely discouraging when the response is invariably one that comes to the defense of the cadet.

That brings me to another point: cadets’ versions of stories are always valued more highly by senior leaders than those of commissioned officers on the staff and faculty. It is as if West Point’s senior leaders believe their job is to “protect” cadets from the staff and faculty at all costs. This might explain why the faculty’s recommendations are ignored at the Academic Boards, why honor violations are ignored (and commissioned officers are verbally abused for bringing them to light), and why cadets always “win” when it comes to conduct and disciplinary issues.

It seems that the Academy’s senior leaders are intimidated by cadets. During my first tour on the faculty (I was a CPT at the time), I noticed that 4th class cadets were going on leave in civilian clothes when the regulation clearly stated they were supposed to be wearing a uniform. During a discussion about cadet standards between the BTO and the Dept. of History faculty, I asked why plebes were going on leave in civilian clothes. His answer astonished me: “That rule is too hard to enforce.” Yet West Point had no problem enforcing that rule on me in the mid-1990s. I found it impossible to believe that the several hundred field grade officers stationed at West Point could not make teenagers wear the uniform. This anecdote highlights the fact that West Point’s senior leaders lack not the ability but the motivation to enforce their will upon the Corps of Cadets.

This brings me to the case of now-2LT Spenser Rapone. It is not at all surprising that the Academy turned a blind eye to his behavior and to his very public hatred of West Point, the Army, and this nation. I knew at the time I wrote that sworn statement in 2015 that he would go on to graduate. It is not so much that West Point’s leadership defends his views (Prof. Hosein did, however); it is that West Point’s senior leaders are infected with apathy: they simply do not want to deal with any problem, regardless of how grievous a violation of standards and/or discipline it may be. They are so reticent to separate problematic cadets (undoubtedly due to the “developmental model” that now exists at USMA) that someone like Rapone can easily slip through the cracks. In other words, West Point’s leaders choose the easier wrong over the harder right.

I could go on, but I fear that this letter would simply devolve into a screed, which is not my intention. I will sum up by saying this: a culture of extreme permissiveness has invaded the Military Academy, and there seems to be no end to it. Moreover, this is not unintentional; it is a deliberate action that is being taken by the Academy’s senior leadership, though they refuse to acknowledge or explain it. Conduct and behavior that would never be tolerated at a civilian university is common among cadets, and it is supported and defended by the Academy’s senior leaders in an apparent and misguided effort to attract more applicants and cater to what they see as the unique needs of this generation of cadets.

Our beloved Military Academy has lost its way. It is a shadow of what it once was. It used to be a place where standards and discipline mattered, and where concepts like duty, honor, and country were real and they meant something. Those ideas have been replaced by extreme permissiveness, rampant dishonesty, and an inexplicable pursuit of mediocrity. Instead of scrambling to restore West Point to what it once was, the Academy’s senior leaders give cadets more and more privileges in a seeming effort to tum the institution into a third-rate civilian liberal arts college. Unfortunately, they have largely succeeded. The few remaining members of the staff and faculty who are still trying to hold the line are routinely berated, ignored, and ultimately silenced for their unwillingness to “go along with the program.” The Academy’s senior leaders simply do not want to hear their voices or their concerns. Dissent is crushed-I was repeatedly told to keep quiet at faculty meetings, even as a LTC, because my dissent was neither needed nor appreciated.

It breaks my heart to write this. It breaks my heart to know first-hand what West Point was versus what it has become. This is not a “Corps has” story; it is meant to highlight a deliberate and radical series of changes being undertaken at the highest levels of USMA’ s leadership that are detrimental to the institution. Criticizing these changes is not popular. I have already been labeled a “traitor” by some at the Academy due to my sworn statement’s appearance in the media circus surrounding Spenser Rapone. However, whenever I hear this, I am reminded of the Cadet Prayer:

” … suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretense ever to diminish. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. …that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

West Point was once special, and it can be again. Spenser Rapone never should have been admitted, much less graduate, but he was-and that mistake is directly attributable to the culture of permissiveness and apathy that now exists there.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Robert M. Heffington

LTC, U.S. Army (Retired), West Point Class of 1997

Pretty disgusting to one who, like me, was raised to honor above most men, those who went to the point, and led our armed forces. Sure we always kidded about Hudson High and elitism, and such but it was because we knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they were amongst the best of us, always had been always would be. I’m pretty old to be losing my heroes, but I am.
And then this, from a tenured professor at the Naval Academy, via The Federalist. Not the whole thing, do read the links today.

The military world and military academies—I’m a tenured civilian professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis—were rocked by an October 11 “open letter” exposing the rotten underbelly of our sister academy at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy.

The letter was penned by Robert Heffington, an Army officer and West Point graduate who taught there for several years before retiring. Only his retirement made it possible for him to publish the letter, since officers in uniform cannot publicly disagree with superiors. Within 24 hours, West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslan Jr., head of the administration Heffington holds responsible for its deficiencies, respondedby evoking the “thousands of graduates who sacrifice and serve honorably every day.”

Heffington’s letter is a scorcher. It pulls no punches and concludes it’s questionable whether West Point, founded in 1802, “should ever remain open.” Heffington’s “BLUF,” Bottom Line Up Front: “First and foremost, standards at West Point are nonexistent. They exist on paper, but nowhere else. The senior administration at West Point inexplicably refuses to enforce West Point’s publicly touted high standards on cadets, and, having picked up on this, cadets refuse to enforce standards on each other.” He goes on: “The Superintendent refuses to enforce admissions standards or the cadet Honor Code, the Dean refuses to enforce academic standards, and the Commandant refuses to enforce standards of conduct and discipline.”

Heffington notes that students are admitted to play Division I football, which degrades academics: “we routinely admit athletes with ACT scores in the mid-teens across the board. I have personally taught cadets who are borderline illiterate and cannot read simple passages from the assigned textbooks.” Faculty members who object are silenced, he says.

To this, I say “Amen, brother.” Heffington’s letter caused me personal joy and professional agony. I’ve been making a number of the same points about Annapolis, an essentially identical taxpayer-funded institution, for the last several decades, earning repeated salvos of our administration’s ire and attempts to silence me. (West Point has few civilian professors, and no tenured ones.) So it was gratifying to hear someone else say the same things about our sister institution, with more vitriol than I usually employ.

So much needs to change with our institutions, yet there no signs of any changes even being contemplated. This is bad news for the taxpayers who are footing the bill and depend on them for one-fifth of the new officer pool. It’s also bad news for the disaffected, cynical students who have lost faith in the system. I think Heffington saw the cynicism without understanding its source. I think I do.

There’s lots more at the links, but this post is already far too long. In sum, what I’m seeing here is a somnambulant, bureaucratic administration who has sold its (and perhaps the academies’ souls for a quiet life without the discord of the modern world. It’s a Faustian bargain, when the Academies were the model for all of us in ROTC and OCS, it didn’t really matter if they were much better than us, they were at all time and in all places, something to live up to, if they are just lousy not quite Ivy League schools wasting our tax money, that is quite a different proposition. I fear the latter is true, and thus the title of this article.

The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

I don’t know about you guys, but most of what we have talked about this week, I find distasteful. There are few things that infuriate me more than the abuse of power, and it’s only worse when it is a powerful man abusing young women. perhaps at least some of them were willing to play the game, after all ‘the casting couch’ is a cliché for a reason, but why, exactly, should they have to. Yes, people will always abuse power, if they can, but we do not have to let them. In any case that was part of the reason that this week’s picture post was about Navy Day, not that they don’t deserve the recognition. I had simply had enough, and most of what I had was about Weinstein. Yuck! As I said today in a comment, Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back in our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. here’s my dearly beloved dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

242 Years in Pictures; Happy Birthday Navy

The United States Navy was originally established as the Continental navy on 13 October 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.


At St Eustatius, in the Dutch West Indies, the brig Andrea Doria took the first salute offered by a foreign power to the US Flag. Later the man that Catherine the Great called “the greatest sailor who ever served Russia” would fight a single ship action, off Flamborough head, on the east coast of England. He won, although his ship, the Bonhomme Richard was sunk by HMS Serapis.

Her captain, John Paul Jones, when asked, after the flag was carried away if he had struck, replied, “I have not yet begun to fight”. He also passed along some wisdom which still guides the navy today,

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.

In 1794, Congress authorized six frigates. Amongst a few other things, this convinced Paul Revere to start the Revere Copper Works, to make the copper sheets for their bottoms. You might have heard of that organization, they still make some of the best cookware in the country, copper-bottomed, of course.

Those ships, Chesapeake, Constitution, President, Congress, and Constellation, were so good, and well constructed that one of them, USS Constitution is still afloat and in commission, the oldest warship in the world to be so. HMS Victory is older but is in permanent drydock.

These were the ships that fought the quasi-war against France, The Barbary war against Tripoli, where Decatur burned the Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor, to keep the Barbary Pirates from using it. This accomplishment led Britain’s Lord Nelson to call it the most bold and daring act of the age.

In the War of 1812, credible and valorous service obtained from the fledgeling navy – until it was driven from the sea by the overwhelming force of the Royal Navy. But when the British attempted to counterinvade from Canada, the navy found a new hero in Oliver Hazzard Perry after his victory in the battle of Lake Erie ended the threat of invasion. He flew a flag with the last command of Captain Lawrence of USS Chesapeake, “Don’t give up the ship, fight her till she sinks”. His dispatch to General Harrison has become a classic.

Dear General:

We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.

Yours with great respect and esteem,
O.H. Perry

 

At Vera Cruz, during the Mexican war in concert with General Scott, the navy conducted the largest amphibious assault seen until that time, one of the toughest battle problems even to this day.

Then came the Civil War and blockade duty, and what we today call riverine war. Occasionally exciting as when Admiral Farragut commanded, “Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead”, at Mobile Bay. And there was a precursor as off Hampton Roads two Ironclad vessels fought each other to a standstill. These were, of course, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac).

Then in 1898 the US Navy finished what Drake had started with the Armada in 1588, the end of the Spanish Empire, off Cuba at the battle of Santiago e Cuba the Atlantic fleet destroyed the Spanish fleet, while in Manila Bay Commodore Dewey leading in his flagship USS Olympia destroyed the local fleet, and ended up with the Philippines.

And it is here that the United States became one of the Great Powers, primarily a maritime power, like Great Britain, and for the same reason, we have always been traders, all over the world, soon we would be involved in hunting U-boats and fighting at Jutland. But we really came of age in that wars second act. After the devastating loss at Pearl Harbor.

The next few years would see the building, training and employment of the greatest fleets in the history of the world, the liberation of not only Europe but Asia as well, as the power of the New World was transported around the world to fight and to win.

On the deck of one of the most powerful battleships to ever sail, in Tokyo Harbor.

But American have always known that freedom needs safeguarding and so, the sons and grandchildren of those warriors are still on guard around the world, not that many, but hopefully enough of them. Because we still have enemies, even if they are not so clear as they once were. But still, the fleets of freedom sail, to do good to friends, and to destroy enemies, for always there are rumors of war on the horizon, and no longer will we have time to build the fleet when we need it.

And so, yesterday, on Navy Day, the President issued a statement.

13 October 2017

As Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, it is an honor to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the United States Navy.

Today, we recognize generations of brave men and women who have served in the United States Navy. Through their courage, selfless service, and unmatched professionalism, America’s sailors have projected American power on the seas, on land, and in the air. Today, the Navy continues to deter our enemies and confront the threats posed by terrorists and rogue nations around the world.

As we proudly celebrate the legacy of our Navy, we are all reminded of the duty we share to support our service members, military families, and veterans. Earlier this year, I commissioned the USS Gerald R. Ford into service—marking our Nation’s renewed commitment to providing our military with the tools and technology needed to preserve peace and win any war.

We are making progress on this commitment, but we remain forever indebted to all who serve and sacrifice, Non Sibi Sed Patriae—Not For Self, But For Country. I proudly salute these American heroes, especially those who gave their lives in defense of our Nation.

May God bless the men and women of our great Navy and all our Armed Forces. And may He continue to bless the United States of America.

Donald J. Trump

Happy Birthday, Navy

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