Neptunus Lex

Blogging is a very personal effort. NEO is not the same as any other blog, even though I may draw on many of them for inspiration, or even long quotes. It has been so as long as I’ve been around. One of the blogs I read, even before I started was Neptunus Lex, the blog of Carrol Le Fon, a naval aviator. He made me laugh, he made me cry and he made me think, what more can a man do for another. Lex died on 6  March 2012 doing what he loved best: making naval aviators even better. That’s a legacy that any man can aspire to.

Our blogs overlapped, but I don’t think I ever referred to him. I was amazed, reading the Victory Girls last night, that he still appeared on their blogroll. On a nostalgic whim, I followed the link. As I thought, the site disappeared shortly after his death, but what I didn’t know is that it was preserved. YAY!!! It is here, mostly. It’s not the same as having Lex amongst us, but I think it will serve. A sample of why so many of us loved him, and still do.

Well, and I very much appreciate all those who offered their thoughts. They pushed and pulled in many different directions, and apart from those who counselled immediate retirement – sorry, that’s not me – I have shared in all of them, all in a moment. Funny how things can swirl so quickly through your mind, between the moment when you hear unlooked for news, and the moment after, when you are asked what you think of it.

Is there a moment of wounded pride, wherein you ask: What? How can I be offered up? How can I be spared? As busy as I am, and as much as I contribute?

There is. But we are none of us irreplaceable, the wheel continues to turn. And it does not surprise me that I am offered up: I made a decision some time ago that this would be my last tour, which obviated the need for self-promotion. I do my work quietly, accept no thanks, offer it instead to others. It’s really quite astonishing what you can do, when you don’t care who gets the credit.

Is there a moment when the old joy of battle sings again in your heart? When you think of joining the fray rather than reading about it? When you think of qualifiying in weapons whose range is measured in meters rather than in miles? Of strapping on and suiting up once more? Of hurling yourself into the fight?

There is such a moment. A moment only. And then you reflect that no one places super-annuated FA-18 pilots on the deck in order to carry the fight to the foe. You reflect that of all the things you might learn in Sojer School, the most valuable would be to count your rounds as they went down range, in order to save the last one for the end. Because just like in the days when I strapped an airplane on to go to war, if it comes at last to a pilot with a pistol in his hand and dust on his boots, something has already gone horribly wrong, and the odds of it getting any better are vanishingly small.

From Now is the autumn of our discontent Who amongst us older people can’t relate to that? It’s happened to me and I’ll bet it’s happened to you as well. All we can do is try to pass on all those lessons we’ve learned, often to youngsters who think they know it all, but it’s our duty.

I note that Lex died a few days before the USS Enterprise set out on its last tour. Is it connected? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised, legends are like that.

Times and Seasons

BL Cotton MS Tiberius B I, the C-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

BL Cotton MS Tiberius B I, the C-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Yesterday, I read some people complaining that Trump hasn’t stopped DACA yet. This is Wednesday, he was inaugurated last Friday, so give me a break. He’s accomplished more in the part of the last week than most presidents do in their first term. Take a deep breath and relax, he’s not going to do everything we want, anyway, but it looks like he’s going to do an incredible part of it.

My friend, The Clerk of Oxford says this in her latest post.

We don’t have to think about history only as a stream of events down which we helplessly drift, talking and fretting solely about the very latest thing to happen, without a moment for reflection or memory. (We’ll call this the ‘social media timeline’ model of history). There are other options, even if they’re not very fashionable ones: paying mindful attention to the details of the natural world, listening to the voices of poets of the past, thinking about patterns and constants and the changeless, instead of being solely fixated on the present.

Yeah, I know, it’s not always easy in our very noisy world, not for any of us. But there are ways. In that post, she’s talking about an old English poem called Menologium, which is bound with a copy of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, along with a copy of a wisdom poem called Maxims II.

All deal with time, but in different ways, The Chronicle starts with the Incarnation of Christ (Cristes geflæscnesse) and traces history by use of the feast days of the church. This version end with the Battle of Stamford Bridge on ‘the Vigil of St Matthew the Apostle’.

[T]he Menologium, though one might more poetically call it ‘The Beauties of the Year’, since that is really its subject. The poem moves through the calendar year, month by month, feast by feast, finding something to praise about every season in the traditional language of Old English poetry. It marks saints’ days, the 12 months, the two solstices and equinoxes, and the beginning of each of the four seasons, which are dated to the days halfway between each solstice and equinox. Every significant date or season receives its own brief lyrical description…

Maxims II  … begins by musing on kings, power, and the passage of the seasons:

Cyning sceal rice healdan. Ceastra beoð feorran gesyne,
orðanc enta geweorc, þa þe on þysse eorðan syndon,
wrætlic weallstana geweorc. Wind byð on lyfte swiftust,
þunar byð þragum hludast. Þrymmas syndan Cristes myccle,
wyrd byð swiðost. Winter byð cealdost,
lencten hrimigost – he byð lengest ceald –
sumor sunwlitegost – swegel byð hatost –
hærfest hreðeadegost, hæleðum bringeð
geres wæstmas, þa þe him god sendeð.
Soð bið switolost, sinc byð deorost,
gold gumena gehwam, and gomol snoterost,
fyrngearum frod, se þe ær feala gebideð.
Weax bið wundrum clibbor. Wolcnu scriðað.

A king should defend a kingdom. Cities are seen from afar,
the skilful work of giants, which are on this earth,
wondrous work of wall-stones. The wind in the sky is swiftest,
thunder is loudest in season. Great are the powers of Christ.
Fate is the most powerful thing, winter is coldest,
spring frostiest – it is the longest cold –
summer sun-brightest – the sun is hottest –
harvest most glory-blessed; it brings to men
the year’s fruits, which God sends them.
Truth is most treacherous, treasure is dearest,
gold to every man, and an old man is most wise,
made wise with years gone by, he who has experienced much.
Sorrow is wondrously clinging. Clouds glide on.

via A Clerk of Oxford: Times and Seasons, do read it all.

And that is important, I think. No matter the pressures of the day, life goes on, much as before. The seasons come, each in their turn, babies are born, people die or move on, but such things move at the older, slower pace, that our ancestors knew so well, living close to the land as they did. Marking off their life by the feast days of the church, which likely was often the only thing that penetrated their life from outside. It would make us crazy, to be without the constant noise, movement, and controversy, for a time. But I suspect, in the end, we would be more peaceful in our lives.

In Beowulf, the poet tells us

Metod eallum weold
gumena cynnes, swa he nu git deð;
forþan bið andgit æghwær selest
ferhðes foreþanc. Fela sceal gebidan
leofes ond laþes se þe longe her
on ðyssum windagum worolde bruceð. (1057-62)

The Measurer governed all for mankind, as he now does yet;
and so understanding is best everywhere,
forethought of mind. Much must he endure
of love and hate, who long here
in these days of strife enjoys the world.

Seems to me, that depending on how you live your life, those may be some of the most comforting, or the most disconcerting words you will ever read.

She ends her post, as I will mine with a quote from Maxims II.

gomol snoterost,
fyrngearum frod, se þe ær feala gebideð.
Weax bið wundrum clibbor. Wolcnu scriðað.

an old man is most wise,
made wise with years gone by, he who has experienced much.
Sorrow is wondrously clinging. Clouds glide on.

45 Finally

And so for the forty-fifth time, we in America will pass the presidency to a new man. That man is Donald Trump, it hasn’t mattered since 8 November whether you (or I) think that is the greatest thing ever or the worst. As I say so often, reality is real. He joins an uninterrupted line that stretches back to George Washington. That is, I believe the longest continuous government in the world, quite a record for a bunch of men who rebelled against the greatest empire in their world, and when they managed to win, designed a government from scratch.

This has been a divisive election, the whole world knows that, and there are a lot of what can only be called sore losers around. This too is nothing new. My friend, juwannadoright, wrote of another one, we both remember.

It was Inauguration Day, January 20, 1961 and I was very sad.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy was going to become President of the United States, succeeding Dwight David Eisenhower in that position.

My parents had both supported Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election and were disappointed in its outcome.  Nevertheless, like most of those in the country, they accepted its results and hoped that the new president would be good for the country.  Kennedy’s election was not the source of my sadness.  It was that we were losing Eisenhower.

I never knew either of my grandfathers.  But when I watched Ike on our Dumont television, he always impressed me as the kind of person who, if I were able, I would adopt as my foster grandfather.  He impressed me as calm, reasoned and a person who had control of every situation using his extensive life experience as his guide.  I felt safe with him running the country.  That was true despite the fact that many of our public buildings hosted “Air Raid Shelter” signs on their facades and that we conducted regular air raid exercises at school.  The cold war with our recently former ally, the Soviet Union, was in full bloom.

The presidential election of 1960 had not been without controversy.  Nixon carried 26 states to Kennedy’s 22.  But Kennedy won the nationwide popular vote by slightly more than 118,00,  rather remarkable considering that at that time there were 17 million more voters registered as Democrats than there were Republicans.   Kennedy overwhelmingly won the electoral college garnering 303 votes to Nixon’s 219, a margin of victory not very dissimilar from the margin that Trump had over Clinton in the 2016 election.  Ten states were decided by fewer than ten thousand votes each.  It was the closest election since 1916 when incumbent President Woodrow Wilson defeated Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes.  Despite a number of state recounts affirming the results, there were those who considered Kennedy’s election “illegitimate.”

She’s right, I remember it too. My parents supported Kennedy, but I remember it was a bit reluctant. They were New Dealers, like so many that lived through the Dirty Thirties and the Second World War, but they were also staunch Protestants. They would never have thought of discriminating in their personal lives against Catholics, but the history of our churches would have entered their minds. But it didn’t work out all that badly, although Kennedy’s inexperience did end up costing America both life and treasure. That’s the way of the world.

Unless we’re very lucky, Trump’s experience may be similar. Obama’s certainly has been, compounded by his seeming inability to learn from his, let alone others, mistakes. There are rumors of protests, well, there usually are, although they are spiced this time with threats of violence. Protest, as always in America, is fine, Violence, as always, is beyond the pale, and no doubt will be met accordingly. And no matter what anyone says, this is not the most divisive time in our history, that was 1861-65, and I pray we never again see the like.

Ronald Reagan, in 1977, gave a speech that summarized many of the problems we face. He said.

But how much are we to blame for what has happened? Beginning with the traumatic experience of the Great Depression, we the people have turned more and more to government for answers that government has neither the right nor the capacity to provide. But government, as an institution, always tends to increase in size and power, not just this government—any government. It’s built-in. And so government attempted to provide the answers.

The result is a fourth branch added to the traditional three of executive, legislative, and judicial: a vast federal bureaucracy that’s now being imitated in too many states and too many cities, a bureaucracy of enormous power which determines policy to a greater extent than any of us realize, very possibly to a greater extent than our own elected representatives. And it can’t be removed from office by our votes.

Hat tip to Steven Hayward at Powerline for that.

That is indeed much of our problem, as it is for others as well. The bureaucrats, however necessary they may be, have grown out of control, of the President, of the Congress, and especially of the People. That is a problem we must solve, our very freedom depends on it. Steve in his upcoming book says this:

“That bureaucratic government is the partisan instrument of the Democratic Party is the most obvious, yet least remarked upon, trait of our time.”

He’s correct, and it would be just as pernicious if it were the Republicans. Somehow, a solution must be found. But not today.

Today is a day to reflect on what we have created and sustained in America. A land that started as a subsistence farming strip along the Atlantic ocean has transformed itself into a free land that is by quite a lot the most powerful country the world has ever seen.

Congratulations, Mr. President and may God bless you and the United States.

Less than a Fortnight

trump-putin-1024We haven’t said much here about Russia. There’s a reason for that. The Adaptive Curmudgeon (wonderful name, BTW) spells out that reason for us and for you.

Nobody regrets this advice:

“If you’re doing a dumb, dangerous thing for a bad reason, or aren’t really clear on the reason… stop it.”

Reasonable people can (and should) reasonably disagree. The proper foreign policy of America, a nation of 300+ million people, is certain to create an array of options and folks will flock to various points on a spectrum. Fine, I get it. It’s all a complex mosaic, blah blah blah.

That said, whatever interests seem to be converging right now on the “antagonize Russia” gambit… please stop. Whatever game you think you’re playing; it’s not worth it.

It’s unwise. Russia is the big leagues. No matter how much you’re cheesed off that the future president lacks a vagina, has bad hair, or doesn’t like Obamacare… it’s not worth going large.

via Eleven Days | Adaptive Curmudgeon Read the whole thing, comments too. That’s something often overlooked. We who write blog posts don’t cover everything, you can learn a lot from our various commenters.

Yeah, mucking about seriously with Russia is just about the most stupid thing we can do. That’s why for the last 50 or so years, we haven’t made a lot of noise about them interfering in all sorts of things. Anybody really think, for example, that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was a British grassroots outfit? Yeah, me neither. Some bears are best to let lie and sleep. This is decidedly one of them.

The saving grace is, of course, that Putin and Trump are sane, and have little desire to take each other on. That’s great, but it makes me question just what this noise is all about. I often wonder if one of AC’s commenters is right here.

I would only note that President Putin believes in Russia as an independent sovereign nation, and thinks that Western culture is worth preserving.

President Trump also believes in the United States as an independent sovereign nation, and also thinks that Western culture is worth preserving.

Those who are poking the Russian bear do NOT believe in either Russia nor the United States as sovereign independent nations, and are doing their best to destroy Western culture.

The first two paragraphs are givens, I think, and I’m not entirely sure that the third isn’t true as well, noting as the commenter did, that neither of us means the Democratic Party exclusively, there are lots of Republicans involved as well.

In any case, pushing (or trying to) Russia around is a fool’s bet, just as it is with the United States. I think we’ll give AC the last word here, cause I can’t do better, and he deserves it.

We’re both nations of genuine bad asses and we shouldn’t be getting in barroom spats. Doubt me? Ask Napoleon about messing with Russia. Ask Japan about messing with America. We’re both big and slow and goofy but we can both land a punch like no other. Nothing that happened in 2016 merits antagonism.

New Year thoughts

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[One more of Jessica’s, because it reflects my beliefs as well, and is an excellent wrap up for the year. It’s been a very strange year, and in truth, I’m glad it’s ending. I should be home fairly late tonight, so with luck, I’ll have a new post for you tomorrow, although I’m not guaranteeing anything. 🙂 ]

As we head towards 2014, our thoughts tend to travel in that direction: we make (and fail to keep) resolutions; we speculate on how things will be different (and they often won’t be); and we wonder where we’ll be in a year’s time (if we’re lucky, where we are now).  So focussed have we become as a society on material well-being, that many of the commentators seem to think that an economic recovery is the be all and end all of existence; it is as though a form of utopia would be “can be we all go back to spending like it was 2007”.  As someone who didn’t spend a great amount then, it isn’t that specific aspect which bothers me, it is the poverty of aspiration.

I sometimes wonder to what extent this concentration of material things is a function of our societies forgetting about God, or thinking He must be confined to the private sphere?  It is easy enough (which is why it gets done so often) to focus on the bad things which came from a time when society was more Christian: the intolerance of other views; the attempts to force belief on others; the narrow-mindedness of some believers, and the like; it is little use pointing out that these features were also to be found in non-Christian societies and seem to be art of mankind’s development (where it does develop); those who wish to blame Christianity for the world’s ills will do so regardless of the evidence. But there is another side to it all. The values which Christianity espouses are about personal responsibility but also altruism: you take responsibility for your own sins, but you are saved by God’s mercy; you are part of a Christian family, and you have responsibilities to others; you are not better than others, but others are no better than you: at your worst you are a sinner; at your best you are also made in God’s image. Redemption is always possible. No one is so bad God cannot save them; no one is so good that they do not need God’s forgiveness.

All of that gives a focus to life which takes us beyond narrow definitions of self-interest, and which helps put material wealth in a proper perspective. There’s nothing in Christianity which says money is wrong; there’s a great deal which says that loving money more than people is very wrong; it is bad for you and bad for the society of which you are a part. The moment you begin to regard another human being as somehow instrumental in a search for personal wealth, whatever you may gain, you are losing your soul.  Christianity has been responsible for education and social and health care long before civil society took an interest in such matters; it has inspired some great art and architecture. It is easy enough (and therefore often done) to think that a Church should simply sell off anything that can be sold to feed the poor, but that ignores so much about the motive for the art and architecture, and it betrays an attitude towards religion which comes from the purely material world.

Men and women have given of their gifts freely to God and His service, and some of these have been great artists and architects. They take us beyond the realm of the everyday to visions of what can be, they raise our eyes above the horizon of the possible towards what could be. It is good for the human spirit to have that, as it is good for it to repent of sin and to help others; all of these are part of what it is to be really human.  In losing these dimensions, our modern society threatens to shrink our world to the merely possible and the expedient. It was not thus that mankind advanced, nor will it be thus it advances further.

Ordinary Joes

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I’m going to talk about the upcoming Presidency some this week, and I think Jessica, in this post, speaks to part of the reason Trump won, and I thought it more reasonable to simply repost her article, than to extensively quote from it. We will be looking at some of the reasons but it surely looks to me like one of them is that Trump simply feels ‘real’ to those of us outside the Beltway.

Another thing that I see, is something else she spoke about several times, quite a few of our early presidents were wealthy men, Washington amongst them, who because they had no need for more money, were incorruptible. Of course, there are those, and I think the Clintons among them, for whom enough is never enough, but that isn’t universal.

The third obvious theme is that Trump quite obviously loves America, as we do, and as most of the left seems not to. Trump may or may not be a Christian as we understand the term, but it seems that at a minimum he is willing to accept that we Christians have some valid points, and perhaps that it is our morals that built this country into what it has become. We’ll see, I suppose, and here’s Jessica. Neo.

On my own blog yesterday I wrote a post on St. Joseph – ‘an ordinary Joe’. I hope no one finds it in poor taste to call a Saint that, but for me, that’s the point of him for us other ordinary folk. Neo here speaks, like so many of those who post here, as one of ‘we the people’. From where I sit a long a way aways, the problem I see is the one you guys have – no one is listening to Ordinary Joes.  We, like you, have a bunch of Fancy Dans, guys and gals for whom politics is everything and who get a good living from it; but like you, we don’t think they understand us – or even want to.

The politicians aren’t like us – they are obsessed with politics for a start. Through my co-author I know a few professional politicians, and when they come home they are full of who is ‘in and who is ‘out’ and what job x is getting, or who y is sleeping with; they are fixated on the process. Perhaps they weren’t all like this, and of course, we know they are not and that there are some, like Rebecca Hamilton, who set the most marvelous example; but do these politicians prosper in their profession? How many of them get to ‘the top’?

When that smooth-talking guy Tony Blair wooed us UK voters, I was in my teens, and because I am not easily impressed by such guys, I kept a tight hand on my virtue; I wish others had, as he thoroughly debauched the economy and political life. He rode the great tide of easy money and he made the sorts of promises which seducers to innocent young ladies; but when she woke up and found herself pregnant, where was he to be found? Why, nowhere, he’d found another mistress – money.

There was a time when politicians paid to be politicians because they were wealthy enough to spend their own money on public life. Men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were not plutocrats or millionaires, but they had enough and they loved off it and served the Republic. Even very recently, someone like Harry S Truman could leave public office no wealthier than he entered it. Over here the other successful Labour leader, Clement Attlee, had his wife drive him round when he campaigned against the great Winston Churchill in 1945. They used to stop by the side of the road and have a picnic, and then she’s drive Clem off to give a speech somewhere. He, too, left office no richer than he had entered it.

Ordinary Joes could relate to Harry S or Attlee. No one had to agree with their politics, and they could be nasty ‘sobs’ when they wanted, but they were like us – they lived in the world we lived in. Attlee looked like a provincial bank manager, Truman-like he ran a drapers store or sold dry goods. When Attlee was pictured smoking a pipe it was because he smoked a pipe; when his later successor, Harold Wilson was so pictured, it was because it was a good ‘image’; made him look down to earth and one of the people, even when he wasn’t.

But hey, at least back then they wanted to look like us. Now they don’t care, they flaunt their wealthy connections and their jets and their privilege. Nothing is too good for the representatives of the people. Shame about the people themselves – where’d it all go wrong?

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