In 1492, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue

Arms of the Portuguese Prince Henry, the Navig...

Image via Wikipedia

Another Columbus Day has come. And again we celebrate the (re)discovery of the New World. And look what has been erected on that discovery! If you didn’t know; Columbus was a student of Prince Henry the Navigator’s school.

Those students made almost all of the voyages of discovery from the Iberian Peninsula. By the way, Prince Henry of  Portugal was the Grandson of John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster. The English always make it into these stories of the sea, don’t they?

So we know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But why? His crews were afraid of starving or falling off the edge of the world. His ships were ridiculously small. What exactly was the point? Nobody in Portugal had even heard of Brazil, nor were they all that enthused about an overseas empire. So, why?

Trade, that’s why. Everybody knew where India and China were (at least all the cool cats that knew the world was round). They had since Marco Polo made that remarkable trip, if not before. They liked the silk and other good things that came from China. But there was a problem.

You see there were pirates in the Mediterranean, then one had to get through the totalitarian Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Persians, and various and sundry other Islamic States. If you remember Spain had just managed to reconquer Spain from the Moslems and just plain didn’t want anything to do with them. So they decided to take a shortcut and sail west to go east. Yeah, their calculations were off a bit about the size of the world, but that’s why.

Now let’s think about this a little, Spain went way out of its way to avoid the clowns and founded both the New World and New Spain in the process: and got themselves into a shooting war with England that would eventually cost them their world power status. See A Cloud Smaller Than a Fist.

A few hundred years later, the United States won its Independence from Great Britain. The United States’ very first war was a regime change in Tripoli. There are still Islamic pirates, they still hold slaves and all in all they are still living in the 7th Century. And still today, Iran threatens war on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Some things never change.

Only now with their oil wealth, instead of modernizing and improving their people’s lives and such, they seem intent on conquering the world and seem to believe the world will use its modernity to help

They have found some fellow travelers, who had best hope they lose because they aren’t going to enjoy winning for long. Ask the survivors of the Kingdom of the Visigoths in about 1000 AD.

So there you have it. The cause of Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue.

In Other News:

  • General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old.

Lee was born to Henry Lee (Light Horse Harry) and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington and was later a governor of Virginia. Robert Lee attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Afterward, Lee embarked on a military career, eventually fighting in the Mexican War (1846-48) and later serving as the superintendent of West Point.

  • On the morning of October 12, 1915, the 49-year-old British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad in Brussels, Belgium.

Before World War I began in 1914, Cavell served for a number of years as the matron of a nurse’s training school in Brussels. After the city was captured and occupied by the Germans in the first month of the war, Cavell chose to remain at her post, tending to German soldiers and Belgians alike. In August 1915, German authorities arrested her and accused her of helping British and French prisoners-of-war, as well as Belgians hoping to serve with the Allied armies, to escape Belgium for neutral Holland. As I wrote on the centenary of her execution, here, there was no doubt at all of her guilt. And you can watch (no sound BTW) the procession for her state funeral at Norwich Cathedral in 1919 here.

  • On this day in 1776, British Generals Henry Clinton and William Howe lead a force of 4,000 troops aboard some 90 flat-boats up New York’s East River toward Throg’s Neck, a peninsula in Westchester County, in an effort to encircle General George Washington and the Patriot force stationed at Harlem Heights.

This was the largest British amphibious attack before Normandy.

After hearing of the British landing at Throg’s Neck, Washington ordered a contingent of troops from the Pennsylvania regiment to destroy the bridge leading from the peninsula to the Westchester mainland. The destruction of the bridge stranded Clinton and his men at Throg’s Neck for six days before they were loaded back onto their vessels and continued up the East River toward Pell Point.

  • On this day in 1946, Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the man who commanded the U.S. and Chinese Nationalist resistance to Japanese incursions into China and Burma, dies today at age 63.

All courtesy of This Day In History.



I often go to sleep with something on the computer (the one I use as a radio/television. I did so last night, with it tuned to Sky News. Why do I mention this? Because I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night, as the Catalan election did/didn’t get underway in Spain. I was awakened by gunfire.

That gunfire was directed by the Guardia Civil on citizens of Catalonia (the area around Barcelona) who wanted to vote on what Spain says is an illegal referendum on secession from Spain. I have no idea who is right or wrong here. I can see both sides sympathetically. The right of self-determination opposed to the right of Spain to rule its territory. I don’t know, and frankly, it is none of my business. But it is all our business when the state opens fire on its citizens. And here, other than the fact of the referendum itself, the people seem far more peaceful than the state. In fact, it rather reminds me of Chicago in 1968, albeit with less cause, when the police staged a riot and invited the protestors to attend.

In any case, here’s some about it from the BBC.

The Spanish government has given the regional government in Catalonia 48 hours to abandon “illegal” referendum plans or lose budgetary powers.

Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro said a mechanism had been approved for the state to take control of the autonomous region’s finances.

Madrid is seeking to stop the Catalan government spending public money on its planned independence referendum.

The Catalans are defying a court order to suspend the 1 October vote.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont launched his campaign for a “Yes” vote on Thursday night in the town of Tarragona, telling a rally at a former bullring: “Vote, and in so doing bring light to darkness that has lasted for too many years.”

The crowd shouted back, “Independence”, “We will vote” and “We’re not afraid”, AFP news agency reports.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was taking the unionist cause directly to Barcelona on Friday, addressing a meeting of his Popular Party in the Catalan capital.

‘Unprecedented repression’

If the deadline is not met, the central government will take over the funding of most essential public services in the region, Mr Montoro said.

“These measures are to guarantee that not one euro will go toward financing illegal acts,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency after a cabinet meeting in Madrid.

The takeover would last as long as the “situation”, he explained.

Public finances are a particularly sore point for Catalans who for years have contributed more to the state budget than they get back in spending on public services.

Secessionists in the wealthy region in north-eastern Spain pushed ahead with their referendum project after winning control of the region’s parliament in 2015, buoyed by a wave of discontent with rule from Madrid.

The Spanish government refuses to countenance a referendum on self-determination for the region of 7.5 million people, insisting the country is indivisible.

More than 700 Catalan mayors who have agreed to help stage the referendum now face criminal investigation and police have been ordered by Spanish prosecutors to seize ballot boxes, election flyers and any other item that could be used in the referendum.

Like I said, I have no idea who (if anyone) is right or wrong here. I do however think that the Spanish authorities are overreacting and that far more Catalonians will be in favor of secession at the end of today than were this morning. Attacking the people in the streets often has that effect.

I suspect they are better off in Spain and the EU, materially at least, but material goods are not the only, nor even the most important thing in life. Nobody for us to take sides with, just to watch with compassion and sympathy as they work it out.

In other news, from Second City Cop.



Spanish Flu ≠ Ebola Virus; Unless We Make It

spanish_flu_newOK, let’s be honest here, Ebola is not anything to panic about. And there’s little reason it should ever be.

But we also all know the phrase, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” don’t we? And that’s the danger here. Because Obama is a statist and a progressive that believes everything should come from the government. Nor is he the first to put his politics ahead of his duty to the country. And for that matter there is a precedent for Ebola getting completely out of hand. Didn’t know that did you? I didn’t either.

But there is, and it’s a horrid story. It goes back to Woodrow Wilson, who may well be the worst man to ever be president, including Obama. Like him, Wilson was a statist, and a progressive, who thought the Constitution was outdated, and wanted to rule by his prerogative, to use the old term. He pretty much did, especially after we got into the Great War.

And as James Jay Carafano says in the linked article, the last time we made an epidemic/pandemic a national security matter, fifty million (50,000,000) people died, worldwide. Think about that for a minute.

Sufficiently revolted? Yeah, me too. Let’s let him tell part of the story.

Progressives like to expropriate the label of national security to help drive their agendas. Statist, centrally managed, with top-down direction, the national-security model is the perfect vehicle for any policy “crusade,” be it fighting global warming or raising taxes. Thus, for example, when the administration got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to label the “debt the biggest threat to national security,” it had all the cover needed to press for cutting defense and raising taxes—two cornerstones of President Obama’s progressive political agenda.

But playing “national security” progressive politics with public health can bring outright disaster. When the United States entered World War I, Woodrow Wilson played the national-security card early and often. The war effort became an excuse for everything from jailing political opponents to spying on everyday Americans. But, when the president used a global war as an excuse to preempt sound public-health policy, he reaped a global catastrophe.

In 1917, the war to end all wars was well under way. At Camp Funston within the boundaries of Fort Riley, Kansas, sergeants were turning recruits into doughboys. During their training, the soldiers picked up backpacks, rifles, helmets—and a new strain of flu. They carried all these with them as they traveled from the camp to the railroads, the big cities, the ports and, ultimately, overseas. On every step of the way to the trenches in Western Europe, they spread the deadly disease.

When news of the epidemic reached Washington, the White House decided it was a national-security problem. The British and French desperately needed reinforcements to turn the tide of the war; getting our boys over there was far more important than stopping the spread of the flu over here.

I can understand their thinking, I guess, but it’s simply wrong isn’t it? Was delaying the American deployments until the flu was burned out going to cost the war? Doesn’t seem very likely, does it? And starting a pandemic is pretty callous, even for a progressive.

Of course, so is ignoring the problem to fundraise, campaign, and play golf. Although, the president did cancel a fundraiser and a rally yesterday, so he could look like he was doing his job. What I really detest, along that line is that Wilson kept having mass rallies to sell war bonds.

President Wilson took one precaution. He transferred the Public Health Service to military control. Support the military effort, not the public health, became Surgeon General Rupert Blue’s main mission.

In less than a year, the Kansas outbreak had become a global pandemic. It was commonly referred to as the “Spanish flu.” Spain was a nonbelligerent in the First Word War. The government had not imposed press censorship. As a result, widespread news of the disease’s deadly progress appeared first in Spain. Most assumed that was where the problem started.

In the end, more died from the pandemic than from the war.

Stateside, at a military camp outside of Gettysburg, a young post commander named Dwight David Eisenhower ignored Washington’s advice to ignore the disease. Instead, he developed health protocols that broke the back of the disease’s run through the ranks. Impressed with the success of his methods, the Army ordered Eisenhower to dispatch his staff to other camps to train them on how to rein in influenza.

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Likewise, many American cities got the disease under control only by ignoring the federal government and adopting responsible public-health policies.

See the thing is, even then, how to stop an epidemic was conventional knowledge, likely we didn’t know why, until we figured out germ theory, and all that in the late nineteenth century, but we had known that quarantines worked since the Black Death cost Europe one third of its population in the middle ages.

The moral of the story is not that it’s 1918 all over again. Ebola and influenza are two very different contagious diseases. But this cautionary tale from the last century reminds us is that the best way to deal with a disease outbreak is to follow sound public-health policies, not cloud the issue with the trappings of national security.

H/T Moe Lane

Obama’s Great Big Ebola Error | The National Interest.

All accounts say that Ebola isn’t anywhere near as contagious as the (Spanish) flu. But that is no reason to screw around and generate another pandemic, while playing politics.

Fast Trains and Big Wrecks

spain1downloadSo the Spanish managed to wreck a train quite thoroughly the other day. I actually don’t know anymore about it than you do but let’s look at it a bit. Looking at that picture, it seems to me that it was just plain going fast enough that the wheels couldn’t keep it on the track. That could mean that a flange jumped, a truck broke or anything that held it on the track let go. It looks for all the world like a car in a rear end skid though.


The one thing those all have in common is this:

Speed kills.

There is a limit, I don’t know what it is, but there is a limit to the speed that is safe for a standard gauge carset, and it’s lower in a curve, where the centrifugal forces are trying to turn it over. That didn’t happen here though, it came off the track upright rather than rolling over. But let’s take a look at the track plan here.


That’s a pretty sharp curve, and notice it came unglued pretty much in the middle of the curve. I don’t know how fast he was running but, most of the stories I’ve heard say he was going pretty fast, which of course trains like this are designed to do. But I’d bet this is just about the steepest curve on the system.

And there is something else here I think. It’s a bad train wreck, and no mistake but, it’s a worse train wreck because of that retaining wall. Coming sideways at that at say 100 mph and slamming to a stop in 1.2 seconds or so, I suspect was worse than coming off the rails.

In my work on power lines we’ve always said (so do paratroopers, by the way) that it’s not the fall, it’s the sudden stop to the fall that hurts. That applies here too.

Was he running too fast? Most likely. Does that make him responsible? Yep But what (if any) other pressures was he under, trying to make up time to get back on schedule, or texting his girlfriend? I don’t know and it matters.

A Comparable Accident

On 19 April 1940, the westbound New York Central Lake Shore Limited wrecked at Little Falls, NY, killing 31 people

Lake Shore Limited Wreck

Lake Shore Limited Wreck

From the write up at The Historical Marker Database

After extensive investigation the “official” cause was listed as excessive speed. The Gulf Curve in Little Falls was the sharpest curve on the New York Central at 7 degrees, 24 minutes in 856 feet. The mandatory speed limit through the curve was 45 mph. The Lake Shore Limited had left Albany 21 minutes late and was running late. Besides Engineer Jesse Earl and Fireman J.Y. Smith, Road Foreman of Engines Andrew Bayreuther was riding in the cab. Earl had braked before the curve and Bayreuther didn’t think it was enough. The train entered the curve at 59 mph. It was reported that Earl suddenly closed the throttle, causing all the momentum of the train to shove the engine off the track into a rock wall. Fireman Smith was thrown out of the cab and died instantly. Earl died several hours after the wreck, trapped in the cab. Thirty one passengers died as well.

Quite a few commentators have said that if Earl hadn’t closed the throttle, there would have been a pretty good chance of making it through the curve but the momentum of the train (and it was a pretty big and heavy train) shoved the front end into the rock wall. Again we have the sudden stop at the end that contributed to the casualty count.

The cause of the accident was excessive speed, that means it was purely human error, specifically Engineer Earl’s, although undoubtedly Road Foreman of Engines Bayreuther who was Earl’s superior would have shared in the blame. (The write up doesn’t say). American railroads in that era were very proud of the on time record of their senior trains which the Lake Shore Limited was. It was second only to The Twentieth Century Limited and so there was pressure to make up the time they had lost.

But civil engineers can fix things sometimes, after the war the Central decided to fix this one. They spent about $2.5 million (in late 40s dollars) realigning the grade, which included rerouting the Mohawk River. Here is what it looked like.

LFRER1 (21)

You can see a train on the new alignment, and just how sharp the old alignment was, and why management would consider that to be a contributory factor in the wreck, and how this fixed it. In truth when you ride the Lake Shore, you barely notice the curve.

So we can see how in both cases it was the speed that caused the accident (pure human error) but engineering factors made the accident far worse than it would have to have been. Of course, in a perfect world, it would all be tangent track.

All Aboard

Kipling: And Current Events

English: Three-quarter length portrait of Rudy...

English: Three-quarter length portrait of Rudyard Kipling, photographic postcard, by Bourne & Shepherd. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Take up the White Man’s burden
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Ye dare not stoop to less–
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Have done with childish days–
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!


Rudyard Kipling wrote this poem in 1899 to welcome the United States to the ranks of the imperialist powers after we defeated the Spanish and took over the Philippines. All my life I have been told that it is racist and terribly politically incorrect. Politically incorrect it is, to me that is a feature because if it was politically correct it would be a lie but, racist maybe we should talk about because, like so many things, I think we need to reevaluate..


In the ancient world there were empires. They ranged from the Egypt of the Pharaohs, to the Sassanids, the Babylonians, the Chinese, the Persians, and the rest. Then came the Greeks and the Phoenicians. All were based in the last analysis on slavery, and on serfdom, you were what you were born to be.


Then came Rome. It was a little different because no matter who or what you were it was barely possible to rise to become a citizen. Remember how we learned that the proudest boast of the ancient world was Civis Romanus Sum? One of the ways to get that citizenship was 20 years enlistment in the Army, which also kept you fed, paid (sometimes in salt which it is said, which was worth it’s weight in gold) and if you lived paid you a pension as well. Best deal there was in the ancient world. In the middle of this, in the middle east, Christ was born, lived, was crucified, and resurrected. Within just a few years of that event Rome received its first check from the Germanic barbarians. “The Way” spread widely from Spain to China and the Arctic to below the equator.


Right about the time that Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, Mohammed was born and while Christianity has always looked to the betterment of men here and in the next life, Islam has always been about conquest and enslavement. Thus was set up the conflict that would occupy the next fifteen centuries. Islam spread rapidly over the middle east, Africa, southern and southwestern Asia, and hit its high water marks in Southern France and at the Gates of Vienna. And then it subsided as western Civilization rose.


First the Italian and Spanish navigators trained by Prince Henry of Portugal (who was John of Gaunt’s grandson) decided to find a way around Islam to carry on the spice trade with India and China, only to find a new continent blocking them. At the same time the English were picking up the quest started centuries earlier by the Vikings and starting to break out of Europe, hoping to find the Northwest passage to Asia but like the Iberians finding their way blocked and founding colonies as well. Thus was set up the climatic battle between Spain and England, in truth it mostly had other more overt causes but the real results happened in the new world.


After the Armada, Spain found itself hemmed in to the north in the New World by the English colonies in North America. And then, in the worst possible development for Spain those colonies won their independence and turned into an assertive and brash new republic, inspiring most of New Spain to follow suit. Thus ended The Spanish Empire as a real empire, remnants like Cuba and the Philippine would live on until 1898 but the real empire ended as South America broke away with democratic ideal but insufficient education to make it work very well.


And so those remnants fell into the lap of the United States in 1898 and Rudyard Kipling sent his greeting to us as we joined the club. And ever since it’s been considered racist. But is it?


Because the sketchiest overview of world history shows something very odd. When the Europeans and the North Americans descended from them, and more specifically the Northern Europeans, especially the English, and the Americans take charge, human life gets better for everyone, people eat better, live longer, have more personal freedom and nearly any other measure you would care to use. If you would have an extreme report, study the lives of women. But study any group you like, where the British and Americans are, life is better by any objective measure. And never forget either, that chattel slavery in the west ended only because of the Anglo-Americans, In the Middle east and Africa it has never ended. Kipling nailed the cause, our people have been willing to


Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.


And our pay has been to be insulted and swindled, tortured and murdered. And finally it seems as if our people have had enough. For the first time since the Armada in 1588 neither the British nor the Americans are leading the free world. In truth, no one is because who else is there? And what is happening in the world that we have abandoned?


You know as well as I. Moslems are killing everyone in sight except those they wish to keep for slaves. North Korea and soon Iran will be threatening with (and likely using) nuclear weapons, if they manage to detonate an EMP weapon, the civilized west will regress a 100 years in an instant without a population that has the skills to survive in that much harsher environment.


And this is what our Progressive politicians with their anti-western/anti-colonialist rhetoric have been promoting for the last century. Anybody who read history could see what they were promoting, but our people have become lazy, and didn’t want to look, they wanted an easy life, where they could sell a little freedom for a lot of security. They shall (as always) have neither. For if you sow the wind; ye shall reap the whirlwind.


But, what of the future? Well, who knows, until early 2017 the United States has a President who doesn’t believe in the mission, and so is unlikely to pick up the mantle he threw away in disgust, is there anyone else? China is still an autocratic empire, which is what Russia aspires to. Europe is bled out from the civil wars of the twentieth century and slowly dying, and Canada and Australia have never learned how to lead. These are the developed countries that have some sort of vision of themselves and the world.


The mideast continues to be the cockpit of the various flavors of Islam battling amongst themselves for control but willing enough to unite to oppose anybody else. Anybody who expects anything like humane leadership from these satrapies is most likely delusional, and Africa is what Africa has always been, except for a brief period in the nineteenth century, a dog’s breakfast of dueling tribes and chieftains.


May God Help Us All


A Milestone

English: Map of the world showing the location...

English: Map of the world showing the location of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been a bit busy with one thing and another and not paying too much attention to my stats lately. Apparently, I’m doing OK, though with the blog, because I just noticed that sometime in the last few days, I passed 25,000 views. I have no idea (and care little) if that is above, below, or about average. I’m happy with it.

I suppose I could say it’s all because of me but, I try not to lie to you, it’s not. It’s because of you. You who inspire me, challenge me, read what I write, good and bad. It’s especially because of you who care about the path of Christianity and America, this time. I’ve been pretty focused on those two subjects lately and hope I’ll be able to deemphasize politics some in the coming months. We’ll see.

Along that line, I want to make a special note of my dearest friend, Jess, who has inspired so many of the posts I written lately that I have taken to calling her my muse.

I also want to take note of those who have been here almost from the beginning, a year ago last July, who have helped me so much, and most especially those, old and new you have given me such eloquent, and intelligent comments.

If you’re curious views here come overwhelmingly from the United States, followed by the UK, Canada, Switzerland, and Spain, and the most popular subjects are the United States, Politics, History, Conservatism, and Corruption. I suspect that tells you something both about what I write about and what you want to know about.

Thanks to you all! 🙂

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