How the Tables Have Turned

The buck stops here, General.

Harry Truman’s delightfully salty answer to why he fired Douglas MacArthur… spoke volumes about the division between our civilian and military authorities:

“I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President…I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the laws for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

The buck is in his pocket

Today it appears the proverbial shoe is on the other foot… the ignorant whelp with conjectural progeny is in the oval office.  Generals are now trying to steer a rational course and save the republic from a man-child with a serious Napoleon complex.  The lines between the civilian and military are dangerously blurred.


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Comparisons Must Make Sense

Edward Coles freed his slaves… and was a neighbor(at one time) of Thomas Jefferson.  Paul Finkelman wants to know why Jefferson couldn’t follow the example of this “contemporary.”   Professor Finkelman’s analysis suffers a fatal case of contrariwise-  Coles was following the examples set by his illustrious neighbor.

Just a kid

Jefferson and Coles were not contemporaries… Jefferson was 43 years older than Coles-  an overlooked distinction in Finkelman’s interrogatory.  Coles grew up and matured in a Virginia largely crafted by Jefferson.  The anti-slavery spirit so many associate with Coles was made possible by the liberal society Jefferson helped reform(we should also note that Coles freed his slaves in Illinois territory, not Virginia.)

You have done well, my son.

You have done well, my son.

Edward Coles was the perfect representation… of the generation Jefferson predicted would have an impact on slavery.  Much ink has been spilled about Coles writing Jefferson encouraging emancipation.  While Jefferson never emacipated all his slaves- his anti-slavery views and actions have been documented.  Coles’ activism was the next step forward in the cause, while Jefferson’s were becoming a footnote.  Jefferson said as much in response to one of Coles’ letters:

“The sentiments breathed through the whole do honor to both the head and heart of the writer. Mine on the subject of slavery of negroes have long since been in possession of the public, and time has only served to give them stronger root…. I had always hoped that the younger generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty had been kindled in every breast, & had become as it were the vital spirit of every American, that the generous temperament of youth, analogous to the motion of their blood, and above the suggestions of avarice, would have sympathized with oppression wherever found, and proved their love of liberty beyond their own share of it….Your solitary but welcome voice is the first which has brought this sound to my ear; and I have considered the general silence which prevails on this subject as indicating an apathy unfavorable to every hope. Yet the hour of emancipation is advancing, in the march of time. It will come…”  Jefferson to Coles; Aug. 25, 1814

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On War

America’s War on Terrorism enters its 16th year… our Commander-in-Chief continues to display a subtle contempt for the honored traditions of the Office-  should we be surprised at his willingness to rattle the sabres and promote continued military actions?

The First Constitutional Scholar

In 1793, James Madison warned of the dangers in conducting long, expensive wars…


“War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

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“Zinn-s” of the Father

Mitch Daniels is absolutely right… “A People’s History of the United States” is a fraud.  It is a best-selling fraud, but it isn’t the first, nor will it be the last  bad history book to reach an unwitting audience.   Zinn, an avowed Marxist (in life, not just academia) crafted a hymnal for New Left disciples to espouse anti-American gospels for generations to come.

This country made me a multimillionaire, but I hate it because this guy says I should !

Zinn’s true genius is the ability…. to pass Marxist bias and left-wing generalities off as actual scholarship.  He offers no research of his own, merely citing the work of others- to mock it with his unsubstantiated drivel.  Impressionable undergrads adore its simplicity while celebrities mine whatever anti-establishment credibility waving a well worn copy can win them.  Matt Damon  used his “academic” credentials (he played a genius once) to support a new edition following Zinn’s death in 2012.  The irony here is that Will Hunting (Damon) proposed a choice in that film–Gordon Wood or Howard Zinn- historian or huckster- sadly, too many eager students accept the cheap thrills of Zinn to the disciplined scholarship of Wood.

Wait ! Obama <hearts> Gordon Wood? He must be a traitor!

Zinn believed the United States was… founded by rich people, to perpetuate evil and oppress millions of the nameless and faceless.  These are the true heroes, the idealized workers who Zinn never really understands beyond Marxist caricatures.  Current historians pay obedient homage in fear that criticism may lead to academic backlash- Doris Kearns- Goodwin is the perfect example of a writer Zinn despised, yet she fawns over his legacy… the New Left has its lock-step.   Michael Kammen, the great historian at Cornell University, summarized Zinn succinctly ….

“Not only does the book read like a scissors and paste-pot job, but even less attractive, so much attention to historians, historiography and historical polemic leaves precious little space for the substance of history”

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Let the Readers Decide

Compare two descriptions of the same historical event… the American Revolution.  The first is an introduction by the esteemed Colonial era scholar, Gordon Wood.   The second passage is the analysis of “radical historian”  Howard Zinn.  Two very different ideas by men who cannot possibly be writing in the same discipline.

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

“Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from the favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.”

Liberty, equality, pursuit of happiness… be damned.  The founding of the United States was simply  for exploitation and profit.  Now, Mr. Zinn can prove all of this with documentation, right?  Ummmmmm…..


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Howe to Prolong a War

The British defeat at Saratoga…in October of 1777 was clearly the turning point of the Revolutionary War.  The surrender of an entire British army finally brought the French recognition and aid the Americans desperately needed.  The defeat also put tremendous pressure on the administration of Lord North and its failing war policies.  What is often overlooked is how close the war came to ending following Burgoyne’s surrender.  Just days before Saratoga, Washington’s army had launched a surprise attack on Sir William Howe’s army near the sleepy village of Germantown, Penna.  Two crushing defeats, nearly on top of one another, would have surely spelled the end of  the North ministry.  His replacement would have pursued resolution.


Fighting an increasingly unpopular war

The British forces and Germantown never expected… Washington’s bold stroke.  Just three weeks earlier, the redcoats routed the Americans at Brandywine, the largest battle of the war.  British commander Sir William Howe was not expecting an attack as his forces rested on the outskirts of Germantown.  The battle that occurred on October 4, 1777 could have helped end the Revolution…..The British survived:

British stubbornly defend the Chew House

  • Fog blanketed much of the field that morning, obscuring vital marching routes and confusing commanders on both sides.
  • Washington’s plans were complex, too complex for his poorly trained army.  His forces had to advance 16 miles on a night march in four separate columns.  Orders were confused, troops became lost, and the attacks were not coordinated.
  • At a pivotal moment early in the fighting, General Howe personally rallied his retreating troops, and was nearly killed by American artillery.
  • Significant confusion led to a destructive round of friendly fire, which forced Washington’s men to disengage at the British center.
  • British reinforcements were able to exploit the American disorder and drive the Continentals from the field.

Washington’s audacity at Germantown… attacking a numerically superior foe, just weeks after suffering a serious defeat, did not go unnoticed in Europe.  The French were every bit as impressed by Washington’s near victory in Pennsylvania, as they were by the British surrender in New York.

Washington’s nemesis

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Women and Computers in WWII – Intermission Story (22)

Pacific Paratrooper

Women with the ENIAC computer

Before the invention of electronic computers, “computer” was a job description, not a machine. Both men and women were employed as computers, but women were more prominent in the field. This was a matter of practicality more than equality. Women were hired because there was a large pool of women with training in mathematics, but they could be hired for much less money than men with comparable training. Despite this bias, some women overcame their inferior status and contributed to the invention of the first electronic computers.

In 1942, just after the United States entered World War II, hundreds of women were employed around the country as computers. Their job consisted of using mechanical desk calculators to solve long lists of equations. The results of these calculations were compiled into tables and published for use on the battlefields by gunnery officers. The tables allowed soldiers…

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