...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

May 17, 2007

Great Worries Throughout History

Remember when overpopulation was all the rage?

Okay, this was just an excuse to do one last Goldie Hawn post.

Update: More overpopulation humor at 6MB.

Posted by annika, May. 17, 2007 | link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

May 02, 2007

Belgrano Anniversary

Today is the 25th anniversary of the sinking of ARA General Belgrano* by HMS Conqueror.

The General Belgrano group was now sailing between Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands. The British submarine HMS Conqueror had made a long range sonar contact on the 30th April, when it had arrived in the area fresh from the operation to recapture South Georgia and as there were no regular trade routes in the area the submarine closed in on the contact. On the 1st May HMS Conqueror came up to periscope depth but could not see the Argentine ships, so dived again and increased speed. On approaching the surface again an hour later HMS Conqueror found itself in sight of four Argentine ships, the General Belgrano, its two destroyer escorts and a tanker which was replenishing the cruiser.


HMS Conqueror followed the General Belgrano group for the whole of the next day as it moved south-eastwards, although, like the Groups to the north of the islands it never entered the Exclusion Zone. On the 2nd May the Group abruptly changed course and headed west, continuing to zigzag on an apparently aimless course. This worried the British commanders as it looked like a typical pincer movement was developing, with the Argentine carrier Group to the north and the General Belgrano Group to the south. All the ships in the General Belgrano Group were equipped with Exocet missiles giving the whole Group tremendous firepower at long range. It was realised that if the group split up, HMS Conqueror would not be able to follow all three ships, during the cover of darkness the Argentines would be able to steam hard towards the British fleet and attack the vital aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and Invincible with their missiles, consequently posing a great threat to the British ships.

At this point no British submarine was permitted to fire on any Argentine ship, so a request for action to be taken was put through to the Government. After a short 20-minute meeting in a side room of Chequers the go ahead was given to attack the General Belgrano. The Captain of HMS Conqueror, Commander Wreford-Brown, recieved his orders and immediately set about the final stages of his attack. He decided to attack the cruiser as the primary threat and chose to use the older Mk 8 torpedoes for this mission, as they had a bigger warhead to penetrate the hull and the anti-torpedo bulges. If he could not get in close enough to use these weapons he could still use the newer wire-guided Tigerfish. The Captain then spent 2 hours working his way into a good firing position. He regularly came up to periscope depth but this kept on losing the submarine ground so each time they would have to dive and run at high speed to catch up. At this point the Argentine ships were not using their sonar systems, so the Captain managed to position the submarine on the cruiser's port beam with the destroyers on her starboard bow and beam. HMS Conqueror fired 3 torpedoes at 18:57 Zulu, from a range of 1,400 yards, 2 of which hit the cruiser. Six minutes after the first torpedo struck the cruiser the escorting destroyers switched on their sonars and released depth charges. The submarine dived and evaded them, but when the depth charge attacks ecame closer they decided it was time to leave the scene


One of the torpedoes hit the General Belgrano near the middle of the ship and the other one hit near the stern. The second torpedo caused the most damage internally, and most of the sailors who lost their lives were killed in the stern engineering spaces. Thirty minutes after the first torpedo struck the order to abandon ship was given, 15 minutes after this order being passed, the ship sank. The Argentinians who escaped into the rubber life-rafts had to spend another 24 hours at sea before they were rescued. Of the 1,042 crew 368 lost their lives in this one incident, the single greatest loss of life in the whole conflict.

There was a lot of criticism regarding the sinking of General Belgrano, an old cruiser sunk by a nuclear submarine outside the Exclusion Zone, but the Royal Navy had no such qualms about taking out a real threat to the British fleet. As Admiral Fieldhouse said:

I have no doubt that it was the best thing we ever did. It cut the heart out of the Argentinian Navy and we only had their Air Force to deal with then. That was a very considerable advantage.
The simple fact remains that it was a war ship, in a war zone. The Group was well-armed and powerful, their intervention at this time could have very well prevented the success of Operation Corporate. Due to the sinking of the General Belgrano the Argentinian warships did not venture away from the continental shelf of South America again, the water here being too shallow for the British submarines to operate. This meant that not only did HMS Conqueror sink the second largest ship in the Argentinian Navy, but they also neutralized their only aircraft carrier and many of the smaller ships, in fact, the Argentine Navy as a whole.


This battle was the first (and so far only) time a warship was sunk by a nuclear powered submarine. The Belgrano did not even have sonar and was taken completely by surprise. When the Conqueror arrived back home in Scotland, she flew the Jolly Roger from her conning tower, following Royal Navy submariner tradition.

While the sinking of the General Belgrano was the most spectacular of the naval engagements during the Falklands War, by the end the Argentine Navy had outscored the British 5 ships to 2. The quote above states that the Belgrano carried Exocets, although I read elsewhere that she did not. The old Mark 8 torpedoes which sunk the Belgrano were designed in the 1920's.

HMS Conqueror was the ninth and most recent vessel by that name in British naval history.** She was decommisioned in 1990 and her periscope is now on display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hampshire.

* ARA General Belgrano is the answer to a favorite trivia question. If you've read this far, you probably know the answer. Here's another: What does the "ARA" stand for?

** The fourth HMS Conqueror was a 74 gun ship of the line, whose captain of the marines accepted Admiral Villeneuve's sword at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Posted by annika, May. 2, 2007 | link | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

April 29, 2007

Sunday Morning Jet Porn

Have you seen the History Channel's Dogfights on Randy Cunningham? That guy was bad-ass. Skill, too much balls and just enough luck. He and his RIO William Driscoll became the first and only US Navy aces of the Vietnam War.

Cunningham and Driscoll's May 10, 1972, sortie was one of the legendary dogfights of all time. Despite several tactical errors, and lacking a gun which would have been useful, they shot down three MiG-17s that day. The team became America's first "all-missile" aces.*

They flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom. The navy plane in the video is not one of Cunningham's F4Js. The plane from the May 10 dogfight never made it back to the USS Constellation after Cunningham and Driscoll shot down their last MiG. They ejected over the ocean on the way back, after taking damage from an SA-2 ground-to-air missile.

* Trivia: of the four American aces from the Vietnam War, the top scorer (with 6) was a back-seater, USAF Capt. Charles DeBellevue.

Posted by annika, Apr. 29, 2007 | link | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

April 21, 2007

Interesting Bit Of Trivia

I found this interesting:

[A]bout 10 per cent of the Victory's crew came from outside the British Isles: twenty-two Americans, one Brazilian, two Canadians, two Danes, seven Dutch, four French, three Germans, nine Italians, six Maltese, two Norwegians, one Portuguese, four Swedes, two Swiss, two from India, and five from the West Indies. Such a mixture was due partly to press-gangs and partly to volunteering. French men serving in the British Navy were usually royalist volunteers, opposed to the revolutionary and then Napoleonic regimes in France.
Source: Roy Adkins, Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World, p. 50. Lots of interesting stuff in that book.

Posted by annika, Apr. 21, 2007 | link | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

April 03, 2007

The Category Is "Heads Of State"

Identify the European head of state who, according to Time Magazine, complained that the President "acts like a faith healer" and formulates "policy from the pulpit?"

Answer here (paragraph 6).

Posted by annika, Apr. 3, 2007 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

February 06, 2007

Ronald Reagan Day

Don't forget today is the birthday of my great hero, Ronald Reagan.

He was also Maggie's hero.

via Good Lt at Jawa

Posted by annika, Feb. 6, 2007 | link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

December 07, 2006

Pearl Harbor Day

I like this photo of U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

As most of you know, it is a naval tradition for sailors to line the deck of a carrier when passing U.S.S. Arizona and also Mt. Vernon.


I visited the Arizona Memorial once. (It's where I learned that "quay" is prononced "key.") For those who haven't yet, you definitely should go see it. The National Park Service runs the museum onshore, and before you get on the ferry to the memorial, they make you watch a movie about the attack. It's a good idea because it puts everybody in a somber mood before they go to the memorial.

When you get on the ferry boat, they make a big deal about how you are no longer in the custody of the Park Service; now the Navy is in charge, which makes you even more respectful by the time you step onto the memorial. It is a cemetary after all.

The group I was with was very quiet while on the memorial, as I imagine most visitors are. It was a beautiful day, and all you could hear was the flapping of the American flag overhead or the occasional clang of the line against the flagpole. When you look over the side, you really can see the Arizona, only a few feet below the water's surface. And there really is oil coming out of her after all these years. And inside still, are the men. They died sixty-five years ago today.

Pearl Harbor Trivia: Bonus points go to whoever can name the ship that survived Pearl Harbor, only to be sunk by a British torpedo!

Posted by annika, Dec. 7, 2006 | link | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

December 02, 2006

This Day In WWII History

From Gordon Prange's comprehensive tome about Pearl Harbor, At Dawn We Slept:

At 1700 on the evening of December 2 a telegram arrived aboard Nagato . . . directing the opening of certain sealed top secret envelope. As his eager fingers tore open the seals, [Adm. Matome] Ugaki sensed that he had in his hands the orders he had awaited impatiently. His instinct was correct. Down the page ran the words "Our Empire has decided to go to war against the United States, England, and Holland early December." Ugaki immediately sent a message to the commanders in chief of each fleet: "Decision made, but date and time will be ordered later."

[Adm. Chuichi] Nagumo had been even more than usually concerned with security that day. At 0730 he signaled his ships:

This force is already in the anticipated scouting areas from Kiska and Midway Islands. Tonight we will pass the 180 degree line and near the enemy zone. More strict air alert and strict lookout against enemy ships suspected of tracking us will be maintained. Particular attention will be paid not to reveal any light at night and to limit blinker signals as much as possible.
Now, on receipt of the "Go" signal, Nagumo knew that he would have to push forward on this gambler's venture he had so dreaded.
The next morning, Admiral Ugaki sent out the second most famous Japanese coded message of the war, "Climb Mount Niitaka, 1208," which meant that the attack would begin on December 8, 1941 (Japan time).

Meanwhile on the other side of the world, the German Wermacht had cut off Leningrad from the rest of Russia. They had been unable to take the city and now the first winter of the long seige had begun. Neurobiologist Alexei Alexeivich Ukhtomsky was one of the leading Soviet scientists of his day. Also a devout Russian Orthodox, he would not survive the seige of Leningrad.

From Harrison E. Salisbury's harrowing The 900 Days:

Ukhtomsky was sisty-six years old when the war broke out. He had just completed editing his lectures on the nervous system for the University of Leningrad publishing house and was planning in the 1941-42 academic year to offer a new course in physiology. With the onset of war he put aside these occupations . . . His laboratory and institute were packed up and shipped to Elabuga in the Tatar Republic and Sratov, but he himself refused to go. His lifelong associate, Nadezhda Ivanovna Bobrovskaya, was critically ill; she had suffered a brain hemorrhage on June 6, and he was caring for her in his apartment. Moreover, his own health was extremely bad. . . .

Nonetheless, he refused to be evacuated with his laboratory. Nadezhda Bobrovskaya died September 26, but Ukhtomsky still refused to go. . . .

"I remain in Leningrad," he said, "in order to finish my work. I haven't long to live. I will die here. It's too late to leave."

The university organized a meeting on December 2 to mark the fiftieth anniversity of Lenin's graduation. It was held in the assembly hall. The electricity was working. From somewhere flowers had been produced for the platform. But the windows were broken, icy winds filled the chamber, and there were snowdrifts on the floor. Air-raid sirens sounded during the meeting, and there were occasional explosions of German shells.

Although he was now suffering from emphysema, although his toes were gangrenous and his cancer much worse, Ukhtomsky spoke with such vigor that participants counted his address one of his most striking.

. . .

So the intellectual life of Leningrad went on; so the intellectuals kept to their laboratories and their libraries, dying by the hundreds but making no concession to the terrible enemies which threatened their existence.

Professor Ukhtomsky finally succumbed to his illnesses and starvation on August 31, 1942.

Posted by annika, Dec. 2, 2006 | link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

November 10, 2006

231 Years

Hoo-rah! Happy birthday, Tio & Lt. JR!

Posted by Victor, Nov. 10, 2006 | link | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

October 25, 2006

St. Crispin's Day

Today represents a confluence of five favorite blog themes: poetry, drama, politics, history and religion. Today is St. Crispin's Day. Wikipedia says this about Saints Crispin and Crispinian.

Crispin and Crispinian were once the Catholic patron saints of cobblers, tanners, and leather workers. Born to a noble Roman family in the 3rd century AD, Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twin brothers, fled persecution for their faith, winding up in Soissons, where they preached Christianity to the Gauls and made shoes by night. Their success attracted the ire of Rictus Varus, the governor of Belgic Gaul, who had them tortured and beheaded c. 286. In the 6th century, a church was built in their honor at Soissons.

The feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian is October 25. However, these saints were removed from the liturgical calendar (but not declared to no longer be saints) during the Catholic Church's Vatican II reforms.

The reasoning used by Vatican II for this decision was that there was insufficient evidence that Saints Crispin and Crispinian actually existed. Indeed, their role as shoemakers, their relationship as twins, and the timing of their holiday are suggestive of the possibility that they could have represented a local Celtic deity (Lugus-Mercurius) which had been made into a saint as a result of syncretism. [links omitted]

You may not know about the Catholic feast day, but I hope you know about the most famous speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, the St. Crispin's Day Speech. I posted that speech back during the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. Today I am reminded of the appeasers and the "cut-and-run" crowd by this famous line:
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
Celebrate St. Crispin's by watching Kenneth Branagh recite the Bard's poetry:

And let's not forget too, that 62 years ago was day three of the biggest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Posted by annika, Oct. 25, 2006 | link | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

October 14, 2006

655,000 Iraqis Dead?

Is the line between intellectual dishonesty and bald-faced lying a fine line or is it a wide chasm? Whichever it is, The Lancet and those who masturbate over its latest Iraqi war dead estimate have leapt across that line with ease.

A study published in the Lancet this week estimates that 654,965 Iraqis have died as a consequence of war since 2003. . . .

. . . The researchers—led by Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins University—gathered data on more than 12,000 people in clusters of houses around Iraq, and tried to figure out how many people had died both before and after March of 2003. By comparing the pre- and post-invasion mortality rates, they figured out how many deaths could be attributed to the war, and then extrapolated from their sample to the country's entire population. [via Slate.com]

655,000 is roughly the population of Baltimore, Maryland, where Johns Hopkins University is located.

Historian Gwynne Dyer (who wrote the very readable book War, which pretty much made me want to be a history major) is against the Iraq war. He predictably gushed over the Lancet's study:

Johns Hopkins University, Boston University and MIT are not fly-by-night institutions, and people who work there have academic reputations to protect.

The Lancet, founded 182 years ago, is one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world.

Must be true then. These people couldn't possibly make a mistake. In fact, I bet the peer review process is waived for all studies coming out of JHU, BU, MIT, or the Lancet.


The most disturbing thing is the breakdown of the causes of death.

Over half the deaths -- 56 per cent -- are due to gunshot wounds, but 13 per cent are due to air strikes. No terrorists do air strikes. No Iraqi government forces do air strikes either because they don't have combat aircraft. Air strikes are done by "coalition forces" (i.e. Americans and British) and air strikes in Iraq have killed over 75,000 people since the invasion.

Oscar Wilde once observed that "to lose one parent ... may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

To lose 75,000 Iraqis to air strikes looks like carelessness, too.

Actually, blind acceptance of the Lancet's figures and methodology by a historian such as Dyer looks like carelessness to me.

Now, I didn't do too well in statistics, so I won't pick apart the Lancet's methodology, no matter how suspect it seems to me (it was based on interviews?!). But I do have a history background and the 655,000 number seemed wildly far-fetched to me the instant I saw it. Wildly far-fetched.

I immediately wondered why the study's authors had not considered placing the estimate into historical perspective. That would be a kind of "smell test," which I suspected the study might not pass.

Consider this. In 3½ years, the Lancet figures we have been responsible for 655,000 civilian deaths. (Not casualties, deaths. The term "casualty" includes missing, wounded and POWs.) For comparison, I simply went to two easily available sources: The Oxford Companion to World War II, and the often less reliable Wikipedia.

According to those two sources, Japanese civilian deaths in World War II ranged from 400,000 to 600,000. One generally expects the Wikipedia figure to be at the higher range, and that was true in this case. I also consulted Wings of Judgment, by Ronald Schaffer, a somewhat left leaning historian of the two World Wars. Shaffer gave an estimated range from 330,000 to 900,000 Japanese deaths (p. 148), which coincidentally is almost exactly the range that the Lancet used for Iraqi civilian deaths (392,979 to 942,636).

Looking at all three sources, the Wikipedia estimate of 600,000 Japanese civilian deaths seems most reasonable. So the obvious question to me is this:

Are we to believe that the United States has killed more Iraqi civilians in the current war than we killed Japanese civilians during World War II?

I have no doubt that there are very many anti-war kooks who would not hesitate to believe that, but it sure doesn't pass the smell test to me.

Keep in mind that we attacked Japan repeatedly with unguided incendiary bombs in WWII, while we mostly relied on precision guided bombs when bombing Iraq. Also remember that the aerial bombing in Iraq occurred in the first three weeks of the war, and thereafter was only used to support certain offensives like in Fallujah, etc.

Keep in mind that the purpose of strategic bombing in WWII was to kill civilians and that we intentionally targeted Japanese civilians for over a year. In Iraq, we make a great effort to avoid civilian deaths. In fact, Iraqi civilian deaths are counter-productive to the war effort and can be used as a propaganda against us by our enemies, as the Lancet study proves.

Keep in mind that we flattened two Japanese cities in WWII with nuclear weapons, and that those attacks weren't even as deadly as the Tokyo firebomb raid in which three hundred B-29s burned the city to the ground and killed almost 100,000 civilians in one night. We bombed the crap out of Japan so thoroughly that we had pretty much run out of cities to destroy by the end of the war.

It was a lot easier to kill Japanese civilians by firebombing than it is to kill Iraqis today. The Lancet figures that most Iraqis (56%) were killed by gunshots, which is probably the least efficient way of killing mass numbers of people. Remember that Japanese civilians lived in houses made of paper and wood, and that the population density of Iraq is nothing compared to Japan in the 1940s. During the Tokyo raid, escape was near impossible. Shaffer wrote:

The fire storm quickly roasted those who stayed in under-house shelters. Alleys and small gardens filled with flaming debris. Shifting flames blocked exit routes. Abandoning their efforts to check the inferno, firemen tried to channel people across already burned areas, and where there was still water pressure they drenched people so they could pass through the fire. Some inhabitants ducked themselves in firefighting cisterns before moving. . . .

Choking inhabitants crawled across fallen telephone poles and trolley wires. As superheated air burned their lungs and ignited their clothing, some burst into flames, fire sweeping up from the bottoms of trousers or starting in the cloth hoods worn for protection against the sparks. Residents hurried from burning areas with possessions bundled on their backs, unaware that the bundles had ignited. Some women who carried infants this way realized only when they stopped to rest that their babies were on fire.

. . . Thousands submerged themselves in stagnant, foul-smelling canals with their mouths just above the surface, but many died from smoke inhalation, anoxia, or carbon monoxide poisoning, or were submerged by masses of people who tumbled on top of them, or boiled to death when the fire storm heated the water. [p. 134]

That is what it takes to kill 655,000 civilians. Death on that kind of scale is not something that can easily escape notice, yet there have been no such stories coming out of Iraq in the last three years. I'm not trying to minimize the horrible situation in Iraq, but some perspective is definitely in order. And the Lancet's estimate is so insanely exagerrated I can only conclude that the researchers are bald-faced liars.

More: Confederate Yankee wonders, "where are the bodies?"

[cross-posted at A Western Heart; Technorati: ]

Posted by annika, Oct. 14, 2006 | link | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & annikapunditry

September 01, 2006

67th Anniversary Of Case White

Today is the 67th anniversary of the beginning of World War Two in Europe. As you should remember, it began with the German invasion of Poland, which the Wehrmacht codenamed "Case White." (DANEgerus also reminds us that the Red Army invaded from the east sixteen days later.)

I think it's especially appropriate to pause today and think about that fateful moment in 1939, which led to the death of so many millions.

Many folks have noted that our situation now is not unlike the time before that first panzer crossed the Polish frontier. I'm one of them. I see the failure of our international institutions and the blindness of so many prominent figures and I think of the League of Nations, Chamberlain, Lindbergh, and Coughlin.

There is no cosmic law that says we can't re-ignite the horrors of World War Two for a new generation. The United States lost 293,000 brave men to the conflict, but almost zero civilians. We had it lucky. We were the saving heroes from across the water in that war. We won't be so lucky next time.

The bill from the last world war was staggering. Twenty-five million Soviet citizens, fourteen million Chinese, seven million Germans, six million Poles, two million Japanese, and on and on.


If you were a European Jew, a Philipino, a Chinese or Russian peasant, even a lowly German or Soviet conscript, your life was a hell in the 1940's. All because a handful of world leaders could not, or would not, stop the juggernaut of fascism.

The atrocities were so numerous, we've given them names: Bataan, Auschwitz, Malmedy, Nanking, Dachau, Katyn Forest, Lidice, Treblinka, the Burma Railway, and on and on.

We must also remember the unimaginably horrible deaths from new techniques of killing developed for the war by our side, and used at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Tokyo, and on and on.

There are those who say we are on the precipice of World War Three right now. Others say it started five years ago. I am not going to argue with either viewpoint. Nor will I end this post with a pollyannish "don't worry, our leaders have things under control."

Because even if we were blessed with the greatest of statesman, which we're not, I don't know that it will be possible to avoid another trial of war brought upon us by evil men.

Some people insist our current enemies are not dangerous, or if they are, they're not evil. I'm at a point now where I don't think that argument matters a whole lot. Our enemies have their own agenda, and they will settle the issue in their own time. And we will have to fight them whether we're ready or not.

I looked up at the sky last night and saw a fiery meteor burn across the horizon. It was scary, though I knew it was no bigger than a coin. It made me think about how wise we think we are, yet how much there is we don't know. I wonder if there are intelligent beings who have been watching us these past hundred years. How they must laugh at our folly.

Posted by annika, Sep. 1, 2006 | link | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & annikapunditry

August 28, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall on the Gulf Coast. Lots of bloggers are remembering the event, and I just want to point to two ways it touched my life.

The first was definitely the proudest moment for me as a blogger. This whole exercise in semi-regular public writing is pretty ridiculous most of the time. But last September I can honestly say we made a difference. By we, I mean you, the very generous visitors to annika's journal who pledged $2,250 for hurricane relief.

You folks really deserve congratulations, because you showed how beautiful you are. We outdid some real big time blogs,* as you can see from the final list. Special thanks to Shelly who added a lot of cheerleading and cajoling to his characteristic generosity last year.

The second thing was that I bought a gun and started a disaster preparedness kit. Even though some of the horror stories turned out to be exagerrated, what did happen was still pretty horrible. And it could happen anywhere. I grew up in Oakland and have witnessed my share of natural disasters, so I have no excuse not to be prepared. The one lesson we should all take from Katrina is that each one if us is responsible for his or her own safety. Don't ever count on the government to do it for you, it's your job, and they're not very good at it.

* I didn't mention it at the time, because I thought it in bad taste (and maybe it still is) but I was really amazed at the sharp political division between the bloggers who joined in the fundraising and those who stood on the sidelines.

I did some informal research during the drive. I checked the biggies, like Kos etc, and they were on the ball. But I was curious about the smaller fish, so I started going down the list of the blogs listed as members of the League of Liberals. I actually went through the whole blogroll. Of those blogs that were still active, I was disappointed to see that the vast majority had absolutely no link to any charitable organization. That was despite the fact that most were not shy in hurling criticism at the administration (deserved) or at conservatives in general (undeserved). I seem to remember that there were only two blogs that had any charity hyperlinks. One of them put it up only after I left a scathing comment. And then it was to PETA or some sort of animal rescue org.

I acknowledge that my point is probably unfair. How do I know what these people donated in private? But the contrast between the left and right sides of the blogosphere back then really surprised me, and I think of it as kind of a watershed moment.

Posted by annika, Aug. 28, 2006 | link | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & On The Blogosphere

July 21, 2006

Friday at the Park **Lunchtime Update**

I stepped out of the Metro at Farragut North, looked at my watch, and saw that I was more than an hour early for work. I'd be about 59 minutes early if I went straight to the office...

Instead, I took advantage of the new Pennsylvania Ave. location of my office and I decided to walk to the White House to see, with mine own eyes, the Code Pink Vigil/Fast. It's not every day I play tourist; this AM I looked the part: backpack w/ water bottle and camera in hand. Were it not for the long pants and leather shoes I think I would've looked like someone from out of town.

But Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, was practically empty.

Baron von Steuben was there.

As was Andrew Jackson.

But no Code Pink, no Cindy Sheehan. It seems I was mistaken; the vigil in Lafayette Park is scheduled for 10 AM to 7 PM. My bad.

However, William Thomas and his dog were out there, as they have been every day since June of 1981 (working in shifts with Concepcion Picciotto), protesting against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

You have to admire the courage of his convictions: Twenty-five years in one place...now, that's a vigil.

Also there was a newcomer, laptop on lap, protesting about Darfur:

Sadly, I did not chat with him, as I had to get to work. And I still do.

Reporting from Washington, for annika's journal, I'm Victor.

***Lunchtime Update***
I walked over to the park during my 30-minute (by choice) lunch break to take some pix of the anti-war protestors. It took me awhile to find them.

Falun Gong was there, en masse, protesting China's alleged organ harvesting (NOTE: A Canadian report on these allegations can be found here):
I'll try to post some video later at home.

Iranian protestors were there, about where the Darfur protestor from this morning was:
Note that was the Iranian flag while under the Shah.

I finally found the anti-war protestors when I turned around, against the White House fence:
I saw no counter-protestors.

Reporting from Washington for annika's journal, I'm Victor.

Posted by Victor, Jul. 21, 2006 | link | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

June 18, 2006

The Strange Case Of Leopold And Loeb

The following is a paper I did for an undergrad class almost ten years ago. I found it on my crappy old laptop, in a DOS directory if you can believe it. Funny how I still remember the basic DOS commands.

I haven't changed anything except for the first word of the essay, in reference to the year, and removal of the footnotes. I apologize for the excessive use of the passive voice, the unwieldy subordinate clauses, redundant modifiers and other hallmarks of a desperate undergrad's writing syle. Most everything I wrote back in those days was done at the last minute, with a hangover and barely proofread.

But I got a good grade, and it is on a subject of general interest and therefore blogworthy, I hope.

[Eighty-two] years ago, in May of 1924, America was shocked by what has often since been called "the Crime of the Century." In prohibition era Chicago, two wealthy and intelligent teenagers who had almost everything in life coldly murdered a fourteen year old boy for the sheer fun of the experience.

This event has become known as the case of Leopold and Loeb, the two young murderers who were saved from the hangman's noose through the efforts of a defense team led by an aging, yet still able Clarence Darrow.

After a brief discussion of the dastardly crime itself, this paper will examine the strategies of the State of Illinois and that of the Defendants. This paper will then discuss the evidence used in the hearing, including the use of psychiatric reports, and the novel use of expert witnesses by both sides. Finally, the paper will conclude with an examination of the closing arguments and commentary on the prosecution's failure to persuade the court to impose a death sentence on the two defendants.


Nathan F. Leopold Jr. and Richard A. Loeb were raised by wealthy Jewish parents in the fashionable upper class neighborhood of Kenwood on Chicago's South side. They had both been brought up with governesses, chauffeurs and large bank accounts. Both young men were widely read and extremely intelligent. Leopold had been the youngest man ever to graduate from the University of Chicago, at 18. Loeb had been the youngest man ever to graduate from the University of Michigan, at 17. Both planned to study law. Both were homosexuals.

The murder of fourteen year old Robert Franks was the last in a long line of criminal activities for Leopold and Loeb. Up until the incident, however, their crimes consisted mainly of burglaries, petty larcenies, vandalism and arson. In Spring of 1924, Loeb convinced Leopold that it was time to plan a kidnap for ransom and murder.

The conspirators used a false name to open a bank account and rent a car for the crime. The plan was to find a small child, take him into the rented car, hit the victim over the head, and then strangle him with a rope. A ransom note was prepared in advance with a blank spot for the name of the victim's parents.

On May 21, 1924, Leopold and Loeb drove to the Harvard School and spotted their young neighbor and acquaintance, Robert Franks. Once Franks was inside the car, they turned a corner and killed Franks by a few blows to the head with a heavy metal chisel. The two murderers then drove twenty miles around town through "thickly populated streets" with the dead body in the back seat. They waited until darkness before burying the body in a culvert.

Forty-eight hours later the body was discovered and a pair of glasses found nearby was traced to Leopold. On May 31, 1924, soon after the capture of both Leopold and Loeb, the police succeeded in obtaining confessions from both young men. On June 6, 1924, the two prisoners were indicted for the kidnapping and murder of Robert Franks and the crime of the century was set to become the trial of the century.


The so-called trial of the century was not to be a trial at all because on July 21, 1924, the defendants withdrew their not guilty plea and entered a plea of guilty on both counts, to the surprise of all observers. With guilt established, the trial had become merely a hearing on the mitigation or aggravation of the offense, for the purpose of fixing a sentence.

The prosecution team of State's attorney Robert E. Crowe, and assistants Joseph Savage, John Sbarbaro and Milton Smith had originally anticipated that the defendants would try for an acquittal based on an insanity defense. The defense team of Clarence Darrow, Benjamin C. Bachrach and Walter Bachrach had a number of reasons for changing the plea to guilty. Due to the extreme notoriety of the case and the public clamor for the death penalty, the defense wanted to take the case away from a jury. A surprise plea of guilty on both counts was the best way to avoid a death sentence, in the mind of Darrow, because the State would then be unable to try the defendants on one capital charge first and then try a second time if unsuccessful. Darrow felt that a jury would find it easier to hang his clients because they could share the responsibility for the decision. On the other hand, Darrow knew Judge Caverly, and though the Judge had handed down death sentences before, there was a better chance that Darrow could persuade him to be merciful in this case.

Darrow intended to convince Judge Caverly that Leopold and Loeb should not be sent to the gallows because of their mental condition and their youth.

The only defense sought to be interposed was 'mitigating circumstances,' to avoid the extreme penalty of the law, death. The mitigating circumstances claimed by counsel for the defendants did not consist of the facts surrounding the commission of the crime, but of the alleged abnormal diseased mental condition of the defendants.
Judge Caverly placed no restrictions on the introduction or admissibility of medical evidence to support mitigation "thereby making possible", in Darrow's words, "for the first time in the history of medical jurisprudence a completely scientific investigation in a court of law of the mental condition of persons accused of crime."

This decision was a major blow to the prosecution, which argued that medical evidence of degrees of insanity is improper where guilt is established, and used for the sole purpose of proving mitigation. As State's Attorney Crowe put it: "Our interpretation of this is, your Honor, that they are attempting to show degrees of responsibility. There is nothing in law known as degrees of responsibility. You are either entirely responsible for all the consequences of your act, or you are not responsible at all." Crowe argued that such a tactic amounted to the use of an insanity defense and required that the question be put to a jury.

The defense's argument that Judge Caverly found persuasive in the matter was that there are degrees of insanity and mental deficiency that fall short of the threshold required for a defense of legal insanity. These lesser degrees of insanity should be considered as evidence on the issue of mitigation, just as youth or other factors affecting responsibility.


The most important piece of evidence introduced by the defense after Judge Caverly's ruling was a report made by psychiatrists Drs. Hulbert and Bowman. These lengthy, comprehensive reports contained information on both defendants' family histories, the effect of governesses on their development, their childhood memories and fantasies, and their academic and sexual histories. The report called the murder "a climax to criminal careers that had been developing over a period of years." The report was useful to the defense because it supported their theory of diseased mind with statements such as the following:

"The psychiatrists wrote: 'Leopold denies any feeling of remorse. . . . [H]e has no feeling of having done anything wrong as he doesn't feel that there is any such thing as morals. . . . He maintains that anything which gives him pleasure is right, and the only way in which he can do any wrong is to do something which will be unpleasant to himself.'"
The prosecution presented eighty-one witnesses in an attempt not only to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but to demonstrate to the Judge the full horror of the crime. This strategy called for the presentation of the State's evidence "in minute detail, as though before a jury", while the defense attempted to counter this tactic with extremely limited cross-examinations. Defense counsel Benjamin Bachrach objected to the cumulative use of evidence by the State at one point, saying that guilt had already been conceded by their side. State's Attorney Crowe responded:
I prefer . . . to present my case. Of course the plea of guilty admits everything. Your Honor is going to be asked to fix the punishment here and I want to show by the mountain of evidence we have piled up that, when they pleaded guilty, there was nothing else they could do. . . . I want to show their guilt clearly and conclusively, and the details of it and ask that they be hanged. I don't think I ought to be limited.
The defense presented three alienists who had examined Leopold and Loeb and were each highly distinguished forensic psychiatrists of the day. Dr. William Alanson White, the first to testify, was president of the American Psychiatric Association and superintendent in charge of the national mental institution, St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Each of the three Doctors testifying in support of the defense, concluded that "[Leopold and Loeb] suffer[ed] from a mental disease, characterized by disturbance of [their] emotional life, which, when the two boys were brought into association with each other, resulted in the murder of young Robert Franks."

The second alienist to testify, Dr. William Healy was an expert in juvenile delinquency. His testimony included details of a secret "compact" between the conspirators in which Loeb would perform sex acts with Leopold in exchange for Leopold's regular assistance in various criminal activities. On Cross-examination, Crowe elicited this statement from the witness: "[T]he crime itself is the direct result of diseased motivation of Loeb's mental life. The planning and commission was only possible because he was abnormal mentally, with a pathological split personality."

Crowe seized the opportunity to again move for a jury trial, saying: "[I]f the defense here is insanity, there is only one thing to do under the law and this is to call a jury." Again, the motion was denied and the defense continued with the third alienist, Dr. Bernard Glueck.

Dr. Glueck had formerly been psychiatrist at Sing Sing prison in New York. His direct testimony concerned the defendants' almost total lack of guilty feelings or normal emotional response to their crimes.

In what may have been a crucial error, State's Attorney Crowe attempted to establish monetary gain as the motive for the murder. Dr. Glueck sidestepped Crowe's questions saying that Loeb's motive probably involved "power, potency, and the realization of the fantasy of a perfect crime", while Leopold may not have had any motive. This line of questioning was attacked by Darrow in his closing argument, as lacking credibility since the defendant's were so wealthy money was not a likely motive for the killing.

Later, the defense called certain acquaintances of the defendants to the stand, including two of Loeb's former girlfriends. One spoke of Loeb's recent bizarre behavior, and his reckless driving and taunting of pedestrians. The defense rested soon after calling Dr. Hulbert, co-author of the initial psychiatric report.

For the State's case in rebuttal, Crowe called two alienists who testified that the defendants were normal and not mentally diseased. For his cross-examination, Darrow tried with limited success to show that the alienists' examinations were not credible since there were others in the room at the time they questioned the defendants.


The closing argument of Clarence Darrow, which began on August 22, 1924, has often been called his finest speech. He began by saying that hangings of prisoners who had plead guilty was a rarity and the youth of the defendants would set a precedent. Darrow admitted that his controversial decision to plead his clients guilty and hope for life in prison was made out of fear of public opinion. He attacked the prosecution, calling their arguments "cruel; dastardly; premeditated; fiendish; abandoned and malignant heart; . . . cowardly, [and] cold-blooded." Darrow argued that since the defendants did not murder out of passion or a need for money their crime was less cruel. His main argument was that the defendants were mentally diseased, that killing them would not remove the disease, and finally that as part of a civilized society the court should be moving away from the death penalty. Darrow's eloquence ended with a quote from the poet Omar Khayyam and the Judge reportedly had tears in his eyes when the attorney sat down.

State Attorney Crowe's began his summation by answering the attacks made by Darrow against the prosecution. He then began to paint a picture of the defendants that included sadism, cruelty, perversion, but not insanity. Referring to Drs. Hulbert and Bowman's assessment of the defendant's abnormal lack of emotion, he said:

[I]f it is the fate of these two perverts that they must pay the penalty of this crime upon the gallows, when they realize it, you will find that they have got emotion and you will find they have got fear and you will find these cowardly perverts will have to be carried to the gallows.
At another critical point in the argument, Crowe made a serious error by alienating Judge Caverly. Crowe intimated that the defense was happy with Judge Caverly because he was "friendly" to their side. Caverly responded angrily saying "[T]he court will order stricken from the record the closing remarks of the state's attorney as being a cowardly and dastardly assault upon the integrity of this court." Despite Crowe's apologies, the damage had been done.

On September 10, 1924, Judge Caverly read the judgment of the court, sentencing Leopold and Loeb to life in prison plus 99 years. In making his decision, the Judge stated clearly that he did not use the medical evidence of psychiatric disorder to mitigate the sentence. However, it seems clear that Judge Caverly was persuaded in some measure by Darrow's unusual strategy of painting the killers as victims of their own diseased minds.


The prosecution's failure to obtain a death sentence in this case was a startling defeat, considering the amount of public opinion on their side. One reason Darrow and the defense was successful may have been his stature in the public mythology. Darrow was a champion of the underdog, and this may have affected public opinion in his favor, and Darrow's heroic reputation may have made the Judge more receptive to the defense's novel arguments. Crowe neglected public opinion and throughout the trial, his aggressive tactics combined with Darrow's victimization of the defendants began to turn Leopold and Loeb into folk heroes. In the end, the prosecution may have lost by alienating Judge Caverly with their tactics of badgering witnesses, their lack of respect for the professional stature of the defense experts, and their insulting attacks on the defense. In doing so, State's Attorney Crowe helped to increase the legendary status of Clarence Darrow and foster a renewed attitude in this country toward the use of the death penalty.

Posted by annika, Jun. 18, 2006 | link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

June 08, 2006

Death Of An Enemy


Now that Al Zarqawi is getting fucked in the ass by his cellmates Pol Pot and Beria, I think we should celebrate the heroes who dropped the two 500 lb. JDAMs that killed him. Their victory is as historic at the one that occurred on April 17, 1943, also heralded as great news:

[A]s the mountains of Bougainville came into view [it was] 0934 when sharp-eyed Doug Canning called out "Bogeys, eleven o'clock. High." Mitchell couldn't believe it; there they were, right on schedule, exactly as planned. The Japanese planes appeared bright and new-looking to the pilots of the 339th. They jettisoned their drop tanks and bored in for the attack. Holmes and Hine had trouble with their tanks, only Barber and Lanphier of the killer group went after the Japanese bombers. All the other P-38s followed their instructions to fly cover.

. . . The Lightnings had waded into the Japanese flight, pouring forth their deadly streams of lead. In the manner of all aerial combat, the fight was brief, high-speed, and confused. . . .

. . . Both Lanphier and Barber claimed one bomber shot down over the jungles of Bougainville. Frank Holmes claimed another shot down over the water a few minutes later. From Japanese records and survivors, among them Admiral Ugaki, the following facts are certain. Only two Betty bombers were involved; Yamamoto's was shot down over Bougainville with no survivors; the second went into the ocean and Ugaki lived to tell about it. Shortly after the attack, a Japanese search party located the wreckage, including the Admiral's body, which they ceremonially cremated.

. . .

The pilots uneventfully flew back to Guadalcanal, where upon landing, the ground personnel greeted them gleefully, like a winning football team. While Lanphier and Barber briefly disagreed about the air battle, all was subsumed in the generally celebratory atmosphere. Lanphier later recalled enjoying his best meal of the war that night.

Link to the full history here.

Posted by annika, Jun. 8, 2006 | link | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & annikapunditry

June 06, 2006

Ike's Message To Us

In this newsreel, General Eisenhower remembers D-Day with a message that applies equally well in 2006.

Posted by annika, Jun. 6, 2006 | link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

June 05, 2006

All They Wanted Was Freedom

Seventeen years ago yesterday, the massacre happened.

More still photos here.

I'd say something about "lest we forget," but I know we already have forgotten. All they wanted was freedom.

h/t J.D.

Posted by annika, Jun. 5, 2006 | link | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

May 29, 2006

Great Men Honored By A Great Man In A Hallowed Place

I cannot hear this speech without breaking up when he gets to the words "Why... why did you do it?"

This was one of a handful of truly great speeches of the post war era. It's closing lines are what Memorial Day is all about.

Posted by annika, May. 29, 2006 | link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

May 28, 2006

Fifth Fleet Poetry


Here's a little piece of doggerel I came across, which will probably only appeal to my fellow aviation nuts. I found it in Clash of the Carriers, a great book I'm reading about the First Battle of the Philippine Sea (otherwise known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot).

Oh Mother, dear Mother, take down that blue star,
Replace it with one that is gold.
Your son is a Helldiver pilot;
He'll never be thirty years old.
The people who work for Curtis
   are frequently seen good and drunk.
One day with an awful hangover,
   they mustered and designed that clunk.

Navy aircrews nicknamed the Curtis SB2C the "son of a bitch 2nd class." It was not popular.

Check out the animation section in this link. If you follow the "planes and commanders" link, then click on "radio newscast of the battle," there's a pretty cool vintage audio broadcast.

Posted by annika, May. 28, 2006 | link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & Poetry

Remembering Vietnam

Country musicians Big & Rich pay tribute to the sacrifices of our Vietnam heroes in the song and video, "8th of November." It's very touching and well done. See it at Tammy's blog.

Posted by annika, May. 28, 2006 | link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Arts & C.T.O.T.I.O.T.D. & History

May 27, 2006

Ben Franklin Rap

Check out Smallholder, layin' down a Ben Franklin rap over at Naked Villainy.

Posted by annika, May. 27, 2006 | link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & On The Blogosphere & Poetry

May 16, 2006

Vice Presidential Gun Safety

Web Loafer has uncovered a historical photograph showing Vice President John Nance Garner during a hunting trip in 1937. The vice president is the one with his gun pointed at another guy. Senator Truman is also among the party.

You may remember that Truman was famous for saying "the buck stops here." Well, this picture shows the origin of that phrase. Vice President Garner's most famous quote was when he described the vice presidency as "not worth a bucket of warm piss."

Posted by annika, May. 16, 2006 | link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & On The Blogosphere

May 02, 2006

Chancellorsville Anniversary

Robert remembers Chancellorsville at the Llama Butchers.

Posted by annika, May. 2, 2006 | link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & On The Blogosphere

April 25, 2006

What If Annika Had Lived In 1905?

Via the Maximum Leader, this site purports to show what my life would have been like if I had lived in Edwardian England.

The result is a little disappointing:

You live alone and have a private income!
- A Snapshot of your life as it might have been in 1905

Your parents will send you to a private school and despite the fact that you are bright and enjoy school you'll leave at 16.

Career Prospects
When you're young you'll do some household chores but won't do any work in the kitchen. When your mother dies you'll be left the house and a private income and your spinster friend will come to live with you. You'll believe strongly in the need to improve the quality of food and sanitation for the poor so you'll join a commission on public health and campaign for improvements.

Leisure Time
You'll eat your main meal - meat and vegetables - in the evening, except on Sundays. You'll support the church by sewing kneeler covers, arranging flowers and raising money for charity. You'll learn the piano and enjoy going to the theatre and musical concerts in the local town. Every week you'll make time to borrow books from the mobile library that will pass through your village.

Living Conditions
You'll employ two servants who live in your house but will be unimpressed with the quality of their work.

Marital Relations
You'll be engaged to a man from the parish but he'll be killed at war. You'll never marry which will set you apart from most of your contemporaries.

World War One
When World War One starts you'll join a women's auxiliary force and will survive to be awarded a 1914 Star and a bronze Victory Medal.

Pity about my fiancé. He must have been Russian, or possibly Japanese, because I don't know of any other European wars that were going on in 1905. The Boer War had just ended and I think Britain remained at peace until the Great War.

Hat tip: Naked Villainy.

Posted by annika, Apr. 25, 2006 | link | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Dumb-Ass Quizzes & History

April 22, 2006

annika Trivia

Q: Who was on the cover of Time Magazine when I was born?

A: Lilly Tomlin.

Q: Who was on the cover of Rolling Stone?

A: Fleetwood Mac, with cover story by Cameron Crowe!

Q: Who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

A: Bump Wills?! Son of the great base stealer, Maury Wills.

Q: Esquire?

A: Chevy Chase and two skunks.

Q: High Times?

A: Carlos Castaneda, sort of.

Q: TV Guide?

A: Jack Klugman as Quincy, M.E.

Q: Tiger Beat?

A: The Bay City Rollers, and The Hardy Boys!!! Bitchen!

Q: Detective Comics?

A: Justice League vs. The Calculator?! I love the Calculator's quote: "Now I compute that you have less than a minute to live!" Pretty comical.

Posted by annika, Apr. 22, 2006 | link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
Rubric: History

April 20, 2006

In Memoriam: Scott Crossfield

Yesterday we lost one of the great legends of aviation, and an American hero. Scott Crossfield was the first man to travel twice the speed of sound. He died when his single engine Cesna 210A crashed in Gordon County, Georgia.

On November 20, 1953, Scott Crossfield's Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket dropped from the belly of a B-29 and accelerated to 1,291 miles per hour at about 72,000 feet over California's Mojave desert. He had just lapped the sound barrier, twice.

If you would like to see actual footage of the Skyrocket launching from a B-29, go here.*

If aviation fanatacism were a religion, the entrance gallery of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum would be its Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Mecca all rolled into one. As any visitor to this temple knows, all you have to do is look up and you will see alongside the Wright Flyer** a constellation of the greatest planes in the history of the world. One of these planes is the North American X-15.

Scott Crossfield was the first man to pilot the X-15, in its dual rocket configuration, on June 8, 1959. He was one of 12 test pilots, a group which also included Neil Armstrong. The plane flew 199 times, launching from under the wing of a B-52. Thirteen of those flights exceeded 50 miles in altitude, bestowing the title of "astronaut" on the pilots. Two flights exceeded 65 miles.

One X-15 pilot, Michael Adams, was killed when the plane began to spin and hit 15 g's before it broke up over the desert.

Here's a picture after a hard landing with Scott Crossfield at the controls. This was the X-15's third flight, and one of the rocket engines had exploded after launch. Amazingly, Crossfield walked away from this landing unhurt. Stud.


Scott Crossfield survived 30 flights in the X-15, including another mid-flight engine explosion. His last flight was in 1960, and all of the speed and altitude records were set later, by other men. But it was Scott Crossfield who made the courageous first test flights of this amazing and historic aircraft.

The X-15 could go 4,520 mph, almost seven times the speed of sound. It set altitude records that were not broken by any plane except the Space Shuttle until the recent flight of SpaceShipOne. The fifth American to enter space did so in an X-15!

Its highest flight made it to over 67 miles (354,199 feet). The X-15's rate of climb was 60,000 feet per minute. Contrast that with the 767 I flew in recently, which gets to its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet at about 2,400 feet per minute.

But those are just numbers. Wanna see how bad-ass this thing was? And how insane pilots like Scott Crossfield were to fly them? Check out this unbelievable video from inside the X-15, looking backwards as it launches. I had to run it a few times, and each time I was moved to shout something like "holy shit..." in disbelief. Keep an eye on the upper left, and you can see the contrails of the B-52 launch plane disappear in about five seconds as the X-15 rockets into space.

Just amazing.

Albert Scott Crossfield: pilot, American hero; born October 2, 1921 in Berkeley California; slipped the surly bonds of earth April 19, 2006.

* By the way, the Dryden Test Center site is amazing. There's so much good stuff here. Check out this fly-over shot of my alltime favorite jet. It's absolutely awe-inspiring!

** Not a reproduction, mind you. I'm talking about the real actual very first airplane ever.

Posted by annika, Apr. 20, 2006 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & Science & Technology

February 21, 2006

Please Let This Be An Omen

Jennifer and Cassandra both have links which ask the essential question, "What was the #1 song in the U.S.A. the day you were born?"

If there's any justice, I think this should be a more accurate predictor of future life than the astrology charts.

That's because my song is "Rich Girl" by Daryl Hall & John Oates, lol. I love that song.

Posted by annika, Feb. 21, 2006 | link | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)
Rubric: History

Planes & Poetry

David Foster has a post about The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour, where a B-17, a B-25, and a B-24 are visiting various cities around the country this spring. The schedule is here. I would sure love to ride in one of those things, if they give me a parachute.

In addition, David excerpts some wonderful WWII bomber poetry. I bet you didn't think there was such a thing.

Posted by annika, Feb. 21, 2006 | link | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & Poetry

February 19, 2006

The Re-Re-Reconquista

Is this the latest step in Islam's campaign to gradually retake Europe?

The Spanish Islamic council has asked prime minister Rodriguez Zapatero to promote the conversion of Cordoba cathedral, which was previously a mosque, into an ecumenical temple. The council said that the gesture 'would help with the foundation of the Alliance of Civilizations,' and denounced 'a continued campaign of Islamophobia in some media outlets.' Mansur Escudero, president of the council, thanked Zapatero for his 'brave support for alliance and understanding between civilizations, which should not leave out in any way the different religions.' He said that the conversion of St. Sophia's Basilica in Istanbul and Cordoba cathedral to ecumenical temples would 'allow Christians, Muslims, and believers in other religions to pray together to the same God and strengthen spiritual and brotherly links,' and added, 'We are convinced that the Catholic Church, which works for ecumenicalism and dialogue between Christianity and Islam, will receive this initiative favorably.'
Convinced? As far as I know, Cordoba Cathedral, also known as la Mezquita, is still in operation as a Catholic Church. I'm not so sure the Pope would want to turn it into some sort of generic spriritual feel-good center.

Before you go saying "well, the Mezquita was originally a mosque," check this out:

First, the Romans built a pagan temple on the site. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the new Germanic masters of Spain (the Visigoths) replaced it with the Christian church of Saint Vincent. When the Arabs conquered the peninsula in the early 8th century, they tore down the church and began building their great mosque, which - commensurate with Cordoba's importance as the centre of Muslim power in Spain - became the largest mosque in all of Islam after that of Caaba, in Arabia.

When the Christians re-conquered Cordoba in 1236, they did with the mosque what they did in all of the cities of Andalucia - instead of bothering to build a new church, they simply 'converted' the building to Christianity and set up an altar in the middle. In the 16th century, this modest gothic insert was enlarged and given its current Renaissance - and later, baroque - styles, resulting in the strange hybrid which we now see . . .

So perhaps the Italians have the primary right to the Mezquita, since it was originally a Roman temple.

As an aside, the story of the Bells of Santiago is interesting:

[I]n spite of lengthy peaceful interludes and economically-motivated episodes of laissez-faire, there was generally, in the 800-year long war between Spain's Christians and Muslims, an uninhibited desire to cause as much harm and humiliation to one's adversary as possible. This explains many of the apparently irrational acts which took place - perfectly illustrated by the story of how the huge bells of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela were dragged 500 miles south to Cordoba and then all the way back again.

At the height of Muslim power, during the Omega Caliphate at the end of the 10th century, the fearsome warlord Al-Mansur led a bloody raid through northern Spain, going as far into Christian territory as Santiago de Compostela. On the loose in the great pilgrims' city, the Moor had the audacity of riding his horse into the cathedral and letting it drink from the font of holy water, outraging the Christian townsfolk; then, even more insultingly, he had the church's bells carried 500 miles south to Cordoba, where they were melted down to make lamps to illuminate the Great Mosque.

When, two and a half centuries later, in 1236, the Castillian King Ferdinand the Third ('The Saint') reconquered Cordoba, his first action, to avenge the humiliation caused by Al-Mansur, was to have the lamps carried back to the shrine of Saint James, where they were melted down to make a new set of bells.

Yes, this has been a long war.

Posted by annika, Feb. 19, 2006 | link | Comments (9) | TrackBack (1)
Rubric: History

December 03, 2005

Big Day In Rock & Roll History

Today is the 37th anniversary of Elvis Presley's 1968 Comeback Special, a legendary event in music history.


From NME.com:

By the mid-'60s, The King was washed-up, so his detractors claimed. The world was being wowed by the experimentalism of The Beatles, the Stones' dirty rock'n'roll, the string-drenched sonic onslaught of Phil Spector. Presley was a distant memory, an anachronism, remembered mainly for his decline from hip-swivelling slick-haired rock Adonis to slightly campy balladeer sleepwalking through a string of bad movies. Then, in 1968, after years absent from live performance, Elvis decided to put on a show in Las Vegas, go back to his musical roots, perform some rock'n'roll standards with a stripped-down band, recapture the raw energy that characterized his '50s heyday.

It should've been a disaster - like, who was this old nark with his bad hair and blues standards? But no! He gathered together a coterie of brilliant musicians, including ace guitarist James Burton, slung on a leather jacket and a six-string, and got up onstage and blew everyone away.

He kicked off with 'Blue Suede Shoes', went on to do 'The Wonder Of You' which stayed at Number One in the UK for six weeks, joked with the band, improvised, messed around, looked cool, and won millions of fans back. From then on, until his death in '77, he remained The King, and his crown was never threatened again.

Posted by annika, Dec. 3, 2005 | link | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Arts & History

November 30, 2005

Ride Through New Orleans

Deroy Murdock's NRO piece on New Orleans today reminds me of the Ride Through Chernobyl site i posted about last year. Just the other day i was wondering if anybody was going to update us about New Orleans, or if it was just another important story about which the media had lost interest.

The column is worth a read, and there are some eerie pictures. Here's the key quote for me:

'I see a lot of media coverage, especially on television,' [local radio GM, David] Freedman says. 'It seems that there's always so much focus on the music, and the spirit, and the life of that music...But don't be fooled. This city is deeply wounded. I'd say it's like an amputee with phantom memory.'
Update: i got my first New Orleans beggar this morning. A guy came up to me on the sidewalk and introduced himself as a "New Orleans hurricane victim," then asked me for a dollar. Of course i didn't believe him, but i gave him a dollar anyway only because i always give money to beggars when asked.

Posted by annika, Nov. 30, 2005 | link | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

November 06, 2005

What If...

What if journalists on September 1, 1939, followed today's journalism rules, and refused to identify the enemy by its name?


Posted by annika, Nov. 6, 2005 | link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

October 25, 2005

If WWII Had Had A Chat Room

On this blog, i once lamented the way we teach history in this country. i haven't figured out a solution, but i think it should probably include a chat room.

Click on the link, it's funny. Here's an excerpt, which explains the origins of the Cold War in teen friendly language:

*tru_m4n has joined the game.*
tru_m4n: hi all
T0J0: hey
Stalin: sup
Churchill: hi
tru_m4n: OMG OMG OMG i got all his stuff!
tru_m4n: NUKES! HOLY **** I GOT NUKES
Stalin: d00d gimmie some plz
tru_m4n: no way i only got like a couple
Stalin: omg dont be gay gimmie nuculer secrets
T0J0: wtf is nukes?
T0J0: holy ****holy****hoyl****!
*T0J0 has been eliminated.*
*The Allied team has won the game!*
Eisenhower: awesome!
Churchill: gg noobs no re
T0J0: thats bull**** u fockin suck
*T0J0 has left the game.*
*Eisenhower has left the game.*
Stalin: next game im not going to be on ur team, u guys didnt help me for ****
Churchill: wutever, we didnt need ur help neway dumbarss
tru_m4n: l8r all
benny~tow: bye
Churchill: l8r
Stalin: fock u all
tru_m4n: shut up commie lol
Isn't that pretty close to the way it happened?

Via Rocket Jones &c.

Posted by annika, Oct. 25, 2005 | link | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

October 14, 2005

Second Term Stumbling Block

Clinton had Monica, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Nixon had Watergate. Eisenhower had, uh i don't know, golf i guess. Second terms always contain a stumbling block, either real or imagined. When the history books are written, what will they say about Bush's second term?

Free polls from Pollhost.com
When the history books are written, what will be the stumbling block in Bush's second term?



Plamegate (Rove)

The fake press conference



Something that hasn't happened yet

None of the above, the history books will say the second term went perfectly

Posted by annika, Oct. 14, 2005 | link | Comments (45) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

September 11, 2005



Posted by annika, Sep. 11, 2005 | link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)
Rubric: History

August 20, 2005

Boomer Deathwatch

i discovered an interesting niche blog this morning, Boomer Deathwatch. It's about that old Gen X - Boomer antipathy. i consider myself a Gen Xer, so i can relate to a lot of it. Here's an excerpt from the top post:

In the meantime, I worked minimum wage jobs and buffed up my political and social paranoia, built out of bits and pieces of leftover 60s radical rhetoric. Reagan was evil; Thatcher was a witch; the CIA pulled the strings; the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their counterparts at the Kremlin were glaring at each other over some future battlefield, wracked with nervous ticks and drenched with booze-soaked flopsweat, and one day they'd go too far and blow us all to kingdom come. There was no good or evil, or it was all evil, or we all had the potential for good. I don't know, it changed all the time, depending on what I was reading.

Then the 80s boom ended and the Wall fell and I finally got tired of being afraid and confused. More to the point, I got tired of letting fear and ignorance dictate how I saw the world, so I started reading books, some of which I didn't agree with at first. I stopped reading music magazines and started reading about economics, if only to find out just why all of the magazines I'd worked for as a freelance writer and photographer came and went in such regular cycles.

I was 'empowering myself'. Sure. Basically I was trying to peek my head up over the surging boomer crest ahead of me before the building echo wave behind me swept me down again. There had to be more to be seen or heard than the surging spectacle of sex, drugs and rock and roll that had been the backdrop for my whole life. If it looked like I'd never afford a house or a family, at least I wanted to know why I didn't die in a nuclear holocaust, or live in the Orwellian 'security state' of total surveillance and mind control that so many of my peers seemed to think was inevitable - indeed, already here, if you listened to many of them.

i was born later than the authors of this blog, so i don't have the same reference point they do on Carter, Punk, Disco, etc. (i read Douglas Coupland one night, yawned and promptly dismissed it.) But i get the whole "Boomers ruined it for us" meme.

i remember when Time ran that cover story about Gen X back in the eighties and it wasn't too flattering. And this whole shit storm erupted about whether Gen Xers were slackers, and why the Boomers were so bitter about the next generation.

Then the conflict seemed to die down, sometime in the late nineties perhaps. Boomers started to realize with their mortality staring them in the face, that their entire life could not be the big self-indulgent youth movement they thought it would be. And that Gen-Xers weren't all lazy cynics, and they didn't necessarily want or need to follow in the Boomers' footsteps either.

By the way, i recently saw The Big Chill for the first time on DVD. i'd heard so much about that movie that i figured i was missing out for having never seen it. i was wrong. i didn't miss a darn thing.

Posted by annika, Aug. 20, 2005 | link | Comments (3) | TrackBack (3)
Rubric: History & On The Blogosphere

August 05, 2005

Jeopardy With annika, Round 22

The category is "Fuckin' Lawyers," for $500. As before, i give you the name of the lawyer, you tell me who was fucking 'em.

Casca is in the lead with $1200, Victor and Trevor have $1100 each, Phil has $500, Skippy and D-Rod have $400 each, Jasen has $300, Ken and Kyle have $200 each. Incredibly, the two Daily Doubles still haven't been found.


Posted by annika, Aug. 5, 2005 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Dumb-Ass Quizzes & History

July 30, 2005

This Day In Military History

Today is the 141st anniversary of the Battle of the Crater. If you don't know what that is, i suggest renting Cold Mountain tonight. i love that movie.

Anyways, the Battle of the Crater was one of the craziest episodes of the Civil War. It was an idea that should have worked in theory, but in execution was fucked up from start to finish. If you think of all the Federal blunders committed during the Civil War, it's a wonder we're not two countries today. But we stuck it out, thanks to a man named Abraham Lincoln, whose resolve did not waver despite innumerable setbacks and intense opposition to the war.

Speaking of Civil War films, one movie that i saw recently, which doesn't get enough credit as a fabulous CW movie, is The Horse Soldiers from 1959. It was directed by John Ford, and starred John Wayne and Bill Holden. i think that's all you'd need to know in order to go rent it ASAP.

Posted by annika, Jul. 30, 2005 | link | Comments (10) | TrackBack (2)
Rubric: Arts & History

July 08, 2005

Where Is This Britain?

i wonder, where is the Britain celebrated in this poem by James Thomson and set to music in 1740 by Thomas Augustine Arne?

Rule Britannia!

When Britain first at Heav'n's command, Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land, And guardian angels sang this strain;

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never never never shall be slaves!

The nations not so blest as thee, Shall in their turns to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free, The dread and envy of them all.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never never never shall be slaves!

Still more majestic shalt thou rise, More dreadful from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies, Serves but to root thy native oak.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never never never shall be slaves!

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame, All their attempts to bend thee down;
Will but arouse thy generous flame, But work their woe, and thy renown.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never never never shall be slaves!

To thee belongs the rural reign, Thy cities shall with commerce shine;
All thine shall be the subject main, And every shore it circles thine.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never never never shall be slaves!

The Muses, still with freedom found, Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crowned, And manly hearts to guide the fair.

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never never never shall be slaves!


i hate to rain on everybody's parade, but i don't see that kind of fighting spirit when i look at today's Britain. What i see is a bunch of effete multiculturalist apologists. And a "blame Bush and Blair before the terrorists" attitude that will only get more people killed.

This We're not Afraid! site, which everybody's linking to, is great but you know... so what? i think the problem with Europe in general is that they haven't developed a healthy enough fear of the enemy in their very midst. And courage without action is not courage at all. Britain, i fear, is paralyzed by their own liberalism. They don't get it.

Check this firsthand report of Londoners' opinions by Charmaine Yoest at Reasoned Audacity.

'It's Tony Blair's fault! They've killed 100,000 people [repeating the now discredited Lancet statistic] it's like a boomerang.' Later she repeated this, talking about 'killing innocent people' and 'invading other peoples' country . . .'

When we asked her the question about the calm, she shrugged too. 'We're used to it,' she replied. 'Americans get patriotic over anything silly.'

9/11 was silly? What can i say? i know that was one ignorant person's reaction, but it's so typical of what i hear all the time from people. Invading other people's countries is the cause of terrorism? That idea has been debunked so many times that it's almost useless to keep trying. People have a choice about where they get their information and whom they can choose to believe. It seems that in England, and in Europe in general, they consistently choose wrong.

So to my original question. What happened to that Britain that will never never never be enslaved? Maybe it's still there, below the BBC-ified surface. i knew a Brit in undergrad, a huge Celtic fan, who loved to sing the chorus of Rule Britannia at the top of his lungs when he got a few Guinesses in him. i don't know whatever happened to that guy, but i'd bet he be as pro-kicking ass as Christopher Hitchens was on tv today.

A poster at the We're not Afraid! site quoted a recent movie with its own anti-Bush/Blair undertones:

The irony is too obvious to pass up. As most of you remember, in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda also said

"You will be..."

You will be afraid, Britain, if you don't stop working against this "War On Terror." If you don't stop blaming Bush and Blair for the actions of murdering criminals. If you don't demand truth from the BBC. If you decide to emulate the Spanish, who by the way, will be attacked again. (OBL himself has said that he wants Andalusia back. Don't think he's forgotten about Spain.)

And look, memo to the rest of Europe: You're all targets. If you don't like the way we're doing things, if you think we've been sidetracked by Iraq and we should be concentrating on Afghanistan, nobody is stopping you from going over there and taking care of the problem yourself. You all got armies don't you? Go get OBL. He's your problem too. Or is it all you can do to criticize Bush and Blair, who at least are trying to do something?

Posted by annika, Jul. 8, 2005 | link | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History & annikapunditry

June 29, 2005

Wednesday Is Poetry Day: Whitman's Civil War

Here's a great poem, written by America's greatest poet, who was an eyewitness to what he writes about.

The Artilleryman’s Vision

While my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars are over long,
And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the vacant midnight passes,
And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just hear, the breath of my infant,
There in the room, as I wake from sleep, this vision presses upon me:
The engagement opens there and then, in fantasy unreal;
The skirmishers begin—they crawl cautiously ahead—I hear the irregular snap! snap!
I hear the sounds of the different missiles—the short t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle balls;
I see the shells exploding, leaving small white clouds—I hear the great shells shrieking as they pass;
The grape, like the hum and whirr of wind through the trees, (quick, tumultuous, now the contest rages!)
All the scenes at the batteries themselves rise in detail before me again;
The crashing and smoking—the pride of the men in their pieces;
The chief gunner ranges and sights his piece, and selects a fuse of the right time;
After firing, I see him lean aside, and look eagerly off to note the effect;
—Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging—(the young colonel leads himself this time, with brandish’d sword;)
I see the gaps cut by the enemy’s volleys, (quickly fill’d up, no delay;)
I breathe the suffocating smoke—then the flat clouds hover low, concealing all;
Now a strange lull comes for a few seconds, not a shot fired on either side;
Then resumed, the chaos louder than ever, with eager calls, and orders of officers;
While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts to my ears a shout of applause, (some special success;)
And ever the sound of the cannon, far or near, (rousing, even in dreams, a devilish exultation, and all the old mad joy, in the depths of my soul;)
And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions—batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither;
(The falling, dying, I heed not—the wounded, dripping and red, I heed not—some to the rear are hobbling;
Grime, heat, rush—aid-de-camps galloping by, or on a full run;
With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the rifles, (these in my vision I hear or see,)
And bombs busting in air, and at night the vari-color’d rockets.

We're coming up on the one hundred forty-second anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 to July 3, 1863) and the conclusion of the Vicksburg Campaign (May 19 to July 4, 1863). With Shelby Foote's death yesterday and the Fourth of July this weekend it's appropriate to remember the most important event in our nation's history. Of course i'm talking about the Civil War.

Yesterday in the comments to my post about Shelby Foote's death i mentioned how i am fascinated by the differences between our own time and the way people lived in the time of the Civil War.

We all have a pretty good idea of how soldiers fight today. Heck, we've grown up watching war on tv. But it's almost impossible for most of us to imagine how men fought during the Civil War. It must have taken a special kind of courage and discipline to march side by side with a bunch of other men towards a line of cannon and guns.

Posted by annika, Jun. 29, 2005 | link | Comments (4)
Rubric: History & Poetry

June 28, 2005

Remembering Shelby Foote

Shelby Foote died this morning in Memphis at age 88.

Shelby Foote was the man. About two years ago, i had the pleasure of finishing his Proustian three volume history, The Civil War: A Narrative. It took me nine months of reading to finish it, and like having a baby i imagine, it was both painful and rewarding at the same time.

You may be familiar with Mr. Foote from his talking head appearances in Ken Burns' Civil War series on PBS. His folksy style and always interesting anecdotes were what interested me in his writings originally. So i bought his short novel Shiloh, which was not bad. With my membership in the History Book Club, and a few surplus bonus points, i purchased the 14 volume illustrated Time Life version of the Civil War narrative. i intended to just look at the pretty pictures, set them on a shelf to impress friends with, and maybe pass them on to my kids someday. i never intended to read it.

i saw Ken Burns' documentary, i have two history degrees, i thought i knew enough about the Civil War. And besides, my concentration was always WWII and postwar history. CW history was for the real history geeks, not me. Still, one day i picked up the first volume of the Time Life set during an idle moment, and read a few paragraphs. Amazing. That led to a few chapters and pretty soon i was committed.

The Narrative is very readable -- Foote was a novelist first -- but it is also very detailed. Having read it, i realize now how superficial the Ken Burns documentary was. And that thing was like 12 hours long! To do full justice to the huge subject that is the American Civil War takes time. A lot of time. But as has been said so often, you can't truly understand America without understanding the Civil War. And i do believe that.

It helps to have an interest in military history, though. Because Foote's history describes every single battle and campaign from both a micro and macro perspective. The macro is often the most esoteric, and difficult material. But along with that stuff, there's plenty of personal, political and biographical detail, which makes the Narrative the most comprehensive popular history of the Civil War that will ever be published.

i worked through it partly for the challenge. i knew the general outline of the war, and i knew i had to get to the big events. Sumter, the Bull Runs, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Emancipation, Sherman's march, Appomatox, Ford's Theater, etc. But i learned so much along the way that i had to finish it. To my surprise, i found that some of my favorite subject matter was the history of naval operations during the war. That's a much deeper subject than just the Monitor vs. Virginia battle. Some of the shit that happened on the rivers is pretty unbelievable.

Anyways, i would love to have shaken Shelby Foote's hand and thanked him for having written that huge work, which kept me enthralled for the better part of a year. i almost consider him a professor of mine, because through his books i became a Civil War buff, which i was not before i started.

More: And in the great minds think alike department: The Maximum Leader also wishes he could have shaken the celebrated author's hand.

Posted by annika, Jun. 28, 2005 | link | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: History

June 15, 2005

Today Is St. Valdemar's Day


Today, i quote something i wrote when i first started blogging:

While you're looking at the Dannebrog, it might be a good time to note that the Danish flag is the oldest national flag in the world. It has been in use since the 1200's. Legend says that King Valdemar the Victorious was fighting a battle against the Estonians on St Viti's Day in 1219. The Estonians had thrown all their best warriors at the Danish and their attack was succeeding. The Danish were on the retreat when they received a sign from God: the Dannebrog floating down out of the sky! The Danish soldiers caught the flag and then fought back with renewed strength, eventually defeating the Estonians with the help of the 'Sign of the Cross.'

The day of the battle is still celebrated in Denmark as Valdemar's Day, which falls on June 15th. Everyone in Denmark displays the flag on that day, just like we do in the U.S. on our own Flag Day, June 14th.

Posted by annika, Jun. 15, 2005 | link | Comments (5)
Rubric: History

June 12, 2005

A Forgotten Great American

John Hawkins has a post about the Greatest Americans of all time. Allow me to mention a forgotten great American, who didn't make anybody's list, without whom life would be very different all over the world.


The man is Willis Haviland Carrier, the father of air conditioning.

In 1902, fresh out of Cornell University and working as an engineer at Buffalo Forge Co., Carrier developed the world's first modern air conditioner, combining temperature and humidity control in one system, for a Brooklyn, NY, printing plant. He earned a patent for this system design in 1906. His air conditioner used a centrifugal system, under low pressure, to gather air through a filter and pass that air over coolant-filled coils. That cooled and dehumidified air was directed at its target location while warmer air around the motor was vented out of the location. The technology behind Carrier's air conditioner was patented in 1911 and is the basis for air conditioner technology available today.
The ability to control indoor temperatures has influenced almost every aspect of our daily lives. Think about it -- where we live, where we work, what we eat, what we wear, what we smell like, how we travel, our architecture, our modern healthcare, our life expectancy, food storage, what we read, how much leisure time we enjoy, even the existence of the computer you are reading this on -- all influenced by or made possible by air conditioning.
Look back for a moment to the world before the widespread use of refrigeration and air conditioning—a world that was still very much present well into the first decades of the 20th century. Only fresh foods that could be grown locally were available, and they had to be purchased and used on a daily basis. Meat was bought during the daily trip to the butcher's; the milkman made his rounds every morning. If you could afford weekly deliveries of ice blocks—harvested in the winter from frozen northern lakes—you could keep some perishable foods around for 2 or 3 days in an icebox. As for the nonexistence of air conditioning, it made summers in southern cities—and many northern ones—insufferable. The nation's capital was a virtual ghost town in the summer months. As late as the 1940s, the 60-story Woolworth Building and other skyscrapers in New York City were equipped with window awnings on every floor to keep direct sunlight from raising temperatures even higher than they already were. Inside the skyscrapers, ceiling and table fans kept the humid air from open windows at least moving around. Throughout the country, homes were built with natural cooling in mind. Ceilings were high, porches were deep and shaded, and windows were placed to take every possible advantage of cross-ventilation.

By the end of the century all that had changed. Fresh foods of all kinds were available just about anywhere in the country all year round—and what wasn't available fresh could be had in convenient frozen form, ready to pop into the microwave. The milkman was all but gone and forgotten, and the butcher now did his work behind a counter at the supermarket. Indeed, many families concentrated the entire week's food shopping into one trip to the market, stocking the refrigerator with perishables that would last a week or more. And on the air-conditioning side of the equation, just about every form of indoor space—office buildings, factories, hospitals, and homes—was climate-controlled and comfortable throughout the year, come heat wave or humidity. New homes looked quite different, with lower rooflines and ceilings, porches that were more for ornament than practicality, and architectural features such as large plate glass picture windows and sliding glass doors. Office buildings got a new look as well, with literally acres of glass stretching from street level to the skyscraping upper floors. Perhaps most significant of all, as a result of air conditioning, people started moving south, reversing a northward demographic trend that had continued through the first half of the century. Since 1940 the nation's fastest-growing states have been in the Southeast and the Southwest, regions that could not have supported large metropolitan communities before air conditioning made the summers tolerable.

Living in Sacramento, i should thank Mr. Carrier every day. Come to think of it, so should George W. Bush, as the great southern migration of the last few decades, which increased the electoral value of the red states, can be traced back to the widespread use of indoor air conditioning.

More: Jeff Harrell names another forgotten great American, Norman Borlaug. After reading Jeff's post, i'd have to agree.

Posted by annika, Jun. 12, 2005 | link | Comments (13)
Rubric: History

April 25, 2005


Happy ANZAC Day to all my visitors from Australia and New Zealand! ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps, the colonial force that was sent to support the empire during WWI, most notably at the infamous battle of Gallipoli. The holiday mirrors our own Memorial Day.

Good Hope

James at A Western Heart posts about his great grandfather, a gunnery officer on H.M.S. Good Hope, the British flagship that went down on 1 November 1914 at the battle of Coronel. The opposing German force contained the original S.M.S. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (not their more famous WWII namesakes). Scharnhorst hit Good Hope with her third salvo, and the older ship's magazine exploded twenty minutes later. All hands were lost.

A summary of Coronel is here.

Posted by annika, Apr. 25, 2005 | link | Comments (5)
Rubric: History

April 05, 2005

Medal Of Honor Recipient, Paul Ray Smith

U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor yesterday. Here are some of the President's remarks:

[I]n a small courtyard less than a mile from the Baghdad airport[,] Sergeant Smith was leading about three dozen men who were using a courtyard next to a watchtower to build a temporary jail for captured enemy prisoners. As they were cleaning the courtyard, they were surprised by about a hundred of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.

With complete disregard for his own life and under constant enemy fire, Sergeant Smith rallied his men and led a counterattack. Seeing that his wounded men were in danger of being overrun, and that enemy fire from the watchtower had pinned them down, Sergeant Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a damaged armor vehicle. From a completely exposed position, he killed as many as 50 enemy soldiers as he protected his men.

Sergeant Smith's leadership saved the men in the courtyard, and he prevented an enemy attack on the aid station just up the road. Sergeant Smith continued to fire and took a -- until he took a fatal round to the head. His actions in that courtyard saved the lives of more than 100 American soldiers.

Scripture tells us, as the General said, that a man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. And that is exactly the responsibility Paul Smith believed the Sergeant stripes on his sleeve had given him. In a letter he wrote to his parents but never mailed, he said that he was prepared to 'give all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home.'

As an aside, my family thinks we may have an ancestor who was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing a Confederate flag during a Civil War battle in Tennessee. i have not yet done enough research to determine if he was a relation, but i know where he is buried.

Posted by annika, Apr. 5, 2005 | link | Comments (5)
Rubric: History

April 03, 2005

Reagan And John Paul II

Here's an interesting article about Reagan and John Paul II. i've been hearing a lot lately about how the Pope was such a key figure in ending European communism. i'm a skeptic. i think the most important thing John Paul did to help end communism was to stay out of Reagan's way.

Posted by annika, Apr. 3, 2005 | link | Comments (12)
Rubric: History

March 23, 2005

Help Wanted

Doug TenNapel and i have been trying to find the source of the following quote, allegedly made by Thomas Jefferson.

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.
We've both searched a few Jefferson sites, but come up empty. The Jefferson Digital Archive is run by the University of Virginia (which TJ founded), so you'd think it would be comprehensive. But a search for that quote yields no results.

i maintain a Missourian's attitude towards the Virginian's quote. Unless i know where it came from, i am not willing to believe that TJ actually said it. It sounds like something someone made up and attributed to Jefferson to give the quote more weight.

Now i know there are some Jefferson scholars in my audience. What do you folks think?

Update: Wow, that was fast!

Publicola found the source, which is an 1809 letter from TJ to Maryland Republicans. The quote can be found at page 359 of volume 16 in the 20 volume set, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (ME) Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors), Washington, D.C., 1903-04.

The legend of Publicola continues...

Posted by annika, Mar. 23, 2005 | link | Comments (6)
Rubric: History

March 02, 2005

Bubba Is Dead

Bubba, the giant lobster, is dead.

Update: At 24 lbs., they could feed 32 mourners using this recipe. They should try it at Bubba's after-funeral pot luck.

Posted by annika, Mar. 2, 2005 | link | Comments (4)
Rubric: History

February 22, 2005

Robot Etymology

Greetings. Here is some robot trivia.

The word robot apparently dates back to 1920, from a play by Czech author Karel Capek called R.U.R., or "Rossum's Universal Robots."

Capek is the founder of the Czech school of science fiction writers and an annual award given in the field of science fiction writing in Prague bears his name. This play introduced the word 'robot' first into Czech in its present meaning and then on to the world's languages.
Here's a snippet of philosophical dialogue from R.U.R., concerning the very nature of an android:
Mr. DOMAIN: ...a working machine must not want to play the fiddle, must not feel happy, must not do a whole lot of other things. A petrol motor must not have tassels or ornaments, Miss Glory. And to manufacture artificial workers is the same thing as to manufacture motors. The process must be the simplest, and the product must be the best from a practical point of view. What sort of worker do you think is the best from a practical point of view?

Miss GLORY: The best? Perhaps the one who is most honest and hard-working.

Mr. DOMAIN: No, the cheapest. The one whose needs are the smallest. Young Rossum invented a worker with the minimum amount of requirements. He had to simplify him. He rejected everything that did not contribute directly to the progress of work. He rejected everything that makes man more expensive. In fact, he rejected man and made the Robot. My dear Miss Glory, the Robots are not people. Mechanically they are more perfect than we are, they have an enormously developed intelligence, but they have no soul.

Reminds me of what Data said to Riker in the Star Trek TNG pilot episode: "I am superior, Sir, in many ways. But I would gladly give it up to be human."

More etymological trivia:

Some references state that term 'robot' was derived from the Czech word robota, meaning 'work', while others propose that robota actually means 'forced workers' or 'slaves.' This latter view would certainly fit the point that Capek was trying to make, because his robots eventually rebelled against their creators, ran amok, and tried to wipe out the human race.
Stupid robots. Always bent on destroying the human race. Even from the beginning, it seems.

Back to the etymology:

However, as is usually the case with words, the truth of the matter is a little more convoluted. In the days when Czechoslovakia was a feudal society, 'robota' referred to the two or three days of the week that peasants were obliged to leave their own fields to work without remuneration on the lands of noblemen. For a long time after the feudal system had passed away, robota continued to be used to describe work that one wasn't exactly doing voluntarily or for fun, while today's younger Czechs and Slovaks tend to use robota to refer to work that's boring or uninteresting.
Kind of like the work i'm trying to avoid doing at this very moment.

Robot week! Let's celebrate it together, shall we?

Posted by annika, Feb. 22, 2005 | link | Comments (1)
Rubric: History

January 20, 2005

Hail To The Chief

i love the grand melody of Hail To The Chief. It's always inspiring. But did you know that there are lyrics to that song?

Hail to the Chief we have chos-en for the na - tion,
Hail to the Chief! We sa-lute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge co-op - er -a- tion
In proud ful-fill-ment of a great, no-ble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand coun-try grand-er,
This you will do, That's our strong, firm be-lief.
Hail to the one we se-lect-ed as com-mand-er,
Hail to the Pres-i-dent! Hail to the Chief!

Yay, four more years!

Posted by annika, Jan. 20, 2005 | link | Comments (10)
Rubric: History

January 17, 2005

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here's a cute picture of Mike and Coretta in 1956.


Read Why This Day Matters, by Soonerland, at Dustbury.com. Link via Michelle Malkin.

Posted by annika, Jan. 17, 2005 | link | Comments (6)
Rubric: History

January 06, 2005

Watermelon Man Sets Sniper Record

From USMC.mil:

Sgt. Herbert B. Hancock, chief scout sniper, sniper platoon, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, is credited with the longest confirmed kill in Iraq, hitting enemy terrorists from 1,050 yards in Fallujah Nov. 11, 2004. Hancock, a 35-year-old activated reservist and police officer from Bryan, Texas, has been a Marine Corps sniper since 1992.
Read the whole story.

Posted by annika, Jan. 6, 2005 | link | Comments (0)
Rubric: History

January 05, 2005

The Smartest President We Ever Had Poll

Here's the final results for the poll. Not much i can say except that there is something wrong with the way we teach American history in this country.


The reason i came up with this poll was because i've heard more than once from Clinton admirers that he's "the smartest president we ever had." That's just silly.

Sure, Bill Clinton is a smart guy. But i was trying to make a point by putting him on the list just above Thomas Jefferson. Besides having written the most important founding document in the history of the world, TJ was also an architect, naturalist, founder of the University of Virginia and designer of its campus and curriculum, Latin and Greek literate, etc. etc. etc.

Yet, inexplicably, 15% of voters thought Thomas Jefferson was not as smart as Bill Clinton. How is that possible? And what about the other presidents whom those 15% also rank lower?

Theodore Roosevelt wrote a four volume history of the American West, a history of the Naval War of 1812, biographies of two American statesmen, and many other books. What has Clinton written? A memoir.

Woodrow Wilson wrote a five volume history of the American people, a biography of George Washington, and an important work on congressional government among many other books. Besides his law degree, he had a Ph.D. in history and political science.

James Madison? Father of the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln? Self-taught, and have you ever read the Lincoln-Douglas debates? Could you imagine language like that coming out of Clinton's mouth?

Who's the smartest president? That's a subject for legitimate debate. But given the competition, Clinton shouldn't make anyone's cut.

Posted by annika, Jan. 5, 2005 | link | Comments (15)
Rubric: History

November 17, 2004

Clinton's History

Larry King and historian Michael Beschloss were talking tonight, on the occasion of the opening of Clinton's library. As usual, King asked one of his famous leading questions. Something like: "It's too early to judge Clinton's presidency, don't you think?" Beschloss agreed, noting that Truman had something like a 12% approval rating at the end of his presidency, and now he's considered one of our great presidents. Beschloss also compared the Clinton legacy to Eisenhower's.

Is it too early to judge Clinton's presidency? Well, i didn't quite get a Ph.D. in history, but i'm ready to call it right now.

Clinton should be rated somewhat higher than Jimmy Carter, probably nearer to the only other president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson. Dangerously ineffective and misguided in foreign affairs, we will be dealing with the mess Clinton left us for decades.

And my opinion of Bill Clinton has improved since he left office. Nice guy, nice library, bad president.

Posted by annika, Nov. 17, 2004 | link | Comments (12)
Rubric: History

November 10, 2004

Bonus Wednesday Poem (in honor of the USMC and all Veterans)

When you think of the United Sates Marine Corps and the Korean War, one epic battle always comes to mind. Chosin Reservoir. Here's a selection by poet John Kent, which captures the bitter -25° cold experienced by marines during that battle.


How deep the cold takes us down,
into the searing frost of hell;
where mountain snows,
unyielding winds, strip our flesh,
bare our bones.

The trembling of uncertain hearts,
scream out to echoes not impressed,
as swirling mists of laughing death,
reach out their fingers to compress.

How white the withered skin exposed,
turns into black and brittle flesh,
and limbs cast out from conscious thought,
still stagger on the arctic frost.

Immobile does the breath extend
as crystal on the mountain wind,
and eyes now fixed in layers of ice,
see nothing through the dawning light.

This road that leads down to the sea,
twists and turns at every bend,
and Chosin's ice that molds like steel,
rains the fire that seeks our end.

The trucks cry out a dirge refrain,
their brittle gears roll on in pain;
upon their beds, the silent dead,
in grateful and serene repose.

Still the mind resists the call,
to lie and die in final pose,
where blood in stillness warms the soul,
and renders nil the will to rise.

The battle carries through the night,
give witness to the dead betrayed,
when frozen weapons fail to fire,
their metal stressed by winter's might.

Still we fight to reach Hungnam,
in solemn oath and brotherhood,
as every able-bodied man,
will bring our dead and wounded home.

Uphold traditions earned in blood,
break through the hordes that press us in,
depress their numbers to the place,
where waves of dead deny their quest.

And on to the sea...

Update: (i moved this poem to the top. Happy Veterans' Day all!)

Posted by annika, Nov. 10, 2004 | link | Comments (7)
Rubric: History & Poetry

November 04, 2004

Yasser Arafat Is Dead?

If it's true, may God have mercy on the evil man's soul.

Posted by annika, Nov. 4, 2004 | link
Rubric: History

August 02, 2004

A Better Band Of Brothers

On this day, sixty one years ago, the United States Navy motor torpedo boat number 109, commanded by Lieutenant, Junior Grade John F. Kennedy, was struck and cut in half by the 1750 ton Japanese destroyer Amagiri.

The PT boat was creeping along to keep the wake and noise to a minimum in order to avoid detection. Around 0200 with Kennedy at the helm, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri traveling at 40 knots cut PT 109 in two in ten seconds. Although the Japanese destroyer had not realized that their ship had struck an enemy vessel, the damage to PT 109 was severe. At the impact, Kennedy was thrown into the cockpit where he landed on his bad back. As Amagiri steamed away, its wake doused the flames on the floating section of PT 109 to which five Americans clung: Kennedy, Thom, and three enlisted men, S1/c Raymond Albert, RM2/c John E. Maguire and QM3/c Edman Edgar Mauer. Kennedy yelled out for others in the water and heard the replies of Ross and five members of the crew, two of which were injured. GM3/c Charles A. Harris had a hurt leg and MoMM1/c Patrick Henry McMahon, the engineer was badly burned. Kennedy swam to these men as Ross and Thom helped the others, MoMM2/c William Johnston, TM2/c Ray L. Starkey, and MoMM1/c Gerald E. Zinser to the remnant of PT 109. Although they were only one hundred yards from the floating piece, in the dark it took Kennedy three hours to tow McMahon and help Harris back to the PT hulk. Unfortunately, TM2/c Andrew Jackson Kirksey and MoMM2/c Harold W. Marney were killed in the collision with Amagiri.

Because the remnant was listing badly and starting to swamp, Kennedy decided to swim for a small island barely visible (actually three miles) to the southeast. Five hours later, all eleven survivors had made it to the island after having spent a total of fifteen hours in the water. Kennedy had given McMahon a life-jacket and had towed him all three miles with the strap of the device in his teeth. After finding no food or water on the island, Kennedy concluded that he should swim the route the PT boats took through Ferguson Passage in hopes of sighting another ship. After Kennedy had no luck, Ross also made an attempt, but saw no one and returned to the island. Ross and Kennedy had spotted another slightly larger island with coconuts to eat and all the men swam there with Kennedy again towing McMahon. Now at their fourth day, Kennedy and Ross made it to Nauru Island and found several natives. Kennedy cut a message on a coconut that read '11 alive native knows posit & reef Nauru Island Kennedy.' He purportedly handed the coconut to one of the natives and said, 'Rendova, Rendova!,' indicating that the coconut should be taken to the PT base on Rendova.

Kennedy and Ross again attempted to look for boats that night with no luck. The next morning the natives returned with food and supplies, as well as a letter from the coastwatcher commander of the New Zealand camp, Lieutenant Arthur Reginald Evans. The message indicated that the natives should return with the American commander, and Kennedy complied immediately. He was greeted warmly and then taken to meet PT 157 which returned to the island and finally rescued the survivors on 8 August.

Kennedy was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroics in the rescue of the crew of PT 109, as well as the Purple Heart Medal for injuries sustained in the accident on the night of 1 August 1943.

As you may know, Kennedy never fully recovered from the re-injury to his bad back sustained in the collision. He lived with the constant pain for the rest of his life (with the help of heavy doses of drugs, it has recently been disclosed). The coconut became a fixture atop his desk in the oval office. The destroyer Amagiri did not survive the war. She struck a mine and sunk on April 23, 1944.

For a more detailed and prosaic version of the story, here's the transcription of a 1944 article by John Hersey in the New Yorker about the events.

Posted by annika, Aug. 2, 2004 | link | Comments (2)
Rubric: History

July 20, 2004

July 20, 1969

On July 20, 1969, an event which i argue is the greatest accomplishment in human history occurred.


It was "one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," as Neil Armstrong said. But, it must also be said that no one but an American has ever been to the moon. And we have every right to be proud of that fact.

We did it with vacuum tube computers and slide rules. We did it in the days before fax machines and e-mail and pocket calculators. We did it before copy machines and PDAs and DVD drives and laptops. We did it with computers that filled a whole room but were slower than the computer i'm typing on right now.

And when the computer miscalculated on the descent to the lunar surface, one American took the controls and landed the damn thing himself.


On that historic day Associated Press reported:

Two Americans landed on the moon and explored its surface for some two hours Sunday, planting the first human footprints in its dusty soil. They raised their nation's flag and talked to their President on earth 240,000 miles away.
And the whole world watched.

Be proud.

Update: Has Ted forgotten about this anniversary?

Posted by annika, Jul. 20, 2004 | link | Comments (10)
Rubric: History

July 18, 2004

My Life, Preliminary Impressions

i've been slogging my way through My Life, by Bill Clinton for the last week or so. i'm about 90 pages into it. The book is written in casual prose, almost like a blog, and it's easily accessible to the least common denominator. Anyone expecting multi-syllable words and complex sentences from this "Rhodes Scholar" will be disappointed. Clinton is a competent writer, but he's no Thomas Jefferson. He's not even a Theodore Roosevelt. Further proof to my mind that those fawning ignorami who insist that he was "our smartest president" are way off base.

Clinton delights in naming people he knew as a young man, probably for their own benefit, so they can point to the book and say "hey, I'm in it," or "hey, my dad/brother/sister is in it." The first few chapters are full of anecdotes that are only marginally interesting: Bill's boyhood encounter with an angry ram, the famous confrontations with his abusive stepfather, the famous handshake with President Kennedy, the time Bill's car got stuck in the mud at a bauxite quarry.

i'm no fan of Clinton as a president. He had some successes in office, but lord knows he hurt this country in many ways, which we are only now beginning to fully realize. But as a man, as a historical character, he fascinates me. Like Henry VIII, he's a tragic leader who cannot be ignored if you have any real interest in history. And like King Henry, Bill Clinton was a sincere idealist, who left his country in a mess because he let his cock do more thinking than his head.

At this early stage in my reading, i thought it might be fun to see what Clinton had to say about the man who aspires to carry on his progressive Democratic legacy. i'm talking about the presumptive Democratic nominee for president at the time of the book's celebrated release: Massachussets senator John Kerry. As you may have heard, Clinton's book damns Kerry with faint praise. Actually there's almost no praise at all.

According to the index, John Kerry is mentioned only seven times, despite his being a "prominent" United States senator since 1985, throughout the entirety of Clinton's two terms. By contrast, Senator John McCain is mentioned eleven times. The other Kerry, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, earned seventeen mentions in Clinton's index despite having been senator for only eleven years compared to John Kerry's twenty years. In fact, all but one of John Kerry's seven apearances in President Clinton's book are in passages where he's only one name in a list of names.

Here are the seven passages that mention the "prominent" senator from Massachussets, John Kerry:

. . . America's efforts to reconcile and normalize relations with Vietnam were led by distinguished Vietnam veterans in Congress, like Chuck Robb, John McCain, John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, Chuck Hegel, and Pete Peterson, men who had more than paid their dues and had nothing to hide or prove. [p. 161]

. . .

There was support in Congress from her brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senators Chris Dodd, Pat Moynihan, and John Kerry; and New York congressmen Peter King and Tom Manton. [pp. 578-579]

. . .

My decision was strongly supported by Vietnam veterans in Congress, especially Senators John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, and John McCain, and Congressman Pete Peterson of Florida, who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than six years. [p. 581]

. . .

After the meeting I went to Boston for a fund-raiser for Senator John Kerry, who was up for reelection and would likely face a tough opponent in Governor Bill Weld. I had a good relationship with Weld, perhaps the most progressive of all the Republican governors, but I didn't want to lose Kerry in the Senate. He was one of the Senate's leading authorities on the environment and high technology. He had also devoted an extraordinary amount of time to the problem of youth violence, an issue he had cared about since his days as a prosecutor. Caring about an issue in which there are no votes today but which will have a big impact on the future is a very good quality in a politician. [p. 659]

. . .

. . . [I]n July[,] I normalized relations with Vietnam, with the strong support of most Vietnam veterans in Congress, including John McCain, Bob Kerrey, John Kerry, Chuck Robb, and Pete Peterson . . . [p. 665]

. . .

At the end of the month, I announced that the Veteran's Administration would provide compensation to Vietnam veterans for a series of severe illnesses . . . that were associated with exposure to Agent Orange, a cause long championed by Vietnam veterans, Senators John Kerry and John McCain, and by the late Admiral Bud Zumwalt. [pp. 713-714]

. . .

. . . [F]our of the seven Senate candidates I had campaigned for won: Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson, John Kerry, and, in Louisiana, Mary Landrieu. [p. 734]

Besides repeating the "little-known fact" that John Kerry served in Vietnam, the best Clinton can muster is to say that Kerry knows a lot about technology and the environment. Actually, i thought that was Al Gore's bailiwick.

Sure, one might attribute the lack of extended praise to the mighty Clinton ego, but if you look elsewhere in the book you will find paragraph after paragraph where Clinton ladles extravagant compliments over the most minor characters in his life. i would think he'd have spent a little more time on the "next Democratic president of the United States" if he had really wanted to.

Then again, it's very likely that Clinton has someone else in mind to be the next Democratic president. Who could that be? Hmmmm . . . i don't know . . . Let me see . . . could it be . . . Satan?

Posted by annika, Jul. 18, 2004 | link | Comments (8)
Rubric: History

June 20, 2004

Recommended Reading

Good stuff: "If D-Day Had Been Reported On Today."

Link thanks to Shelly.

See also: Photon Courier's "BISMARCK SUNK, BRITAIN DOOMED."

Posted by annika, Jun. 20, 2004 | link | Comments (2)
Rubric: History

June 12, 2004

Reagan Memorial Week, Final Impressions

Whatever else you can say about this week, i think it's been a seven day long commercial for the Republican Party. Tremble Democrats, because countless young people watching the proceedings are almost certainly going to grow up to be Republicans.

Nancy Reagan handled everything with a selfless grace and dignity that should set an example for us all.

i love Michael Reagan. He seems like a really decent and kindhearted man.

When the Democrats act like pessimistic crybabies again, starting next week i should think, your average American will remember the pride he or she felt during the week of Reagan's remembrance.

Looking at the tens of thousands of people who waited 5+ hours on both coasts, just to pay their respects where the President's body lied in state, i was struck by how many hundreds of thousands there were, myself included, who would have done the same if they could.

And looking at the thousands of people who lined the route from Point Mugu N.A.S. to Simi Valley, just to show their gratitude, i was struck by the fact that we may all owe our lives to that great man. Maybe there's no way i can prove that, but can you prove it's not true?

President Bush managed to put a former president, a former prime minister and the heir to the throne of Great Britain to sleep. That's power.

The musical performances at the Cathedral service on Friday were outstanding, particularly the choral version of Jerusalem, both versions of the Battle Hymn and the very moving recessional music.

The two most heart-wrenching moments for me were when George H. W. Bush got choked up for a moment, and when Nancy Reagan, surrounded by her family, said a final goodbye to her husband, who loved her so very much.

Did you see John Kerry whisper something in Bill Clinton's ear before the Cathedral Service, then hold his finger up to his lips? What sort of conspiracy are they cooking up?

Ronald Reagan was both a good man and a great man. i fear that the world owes him a debt that cannot be repayed. i am grateful that he lived, and for his many gifts to us all. But now that he's gone, i don't see anyone that even comes close to his goodness and his greatness. And that makes me afraid for the future.

Posted by annika, Jun. 12, 2004 | link | Comments (14)
Rubric: History

June 08, 2004

Incredible WWII Escape Story

i love adventure stories and WWII is a great source for true stories of escape and adventure . From every theater, it seems. Everyone knows that The Great Escape was based on actual events. And i'd highly recommend reading the The War Journal of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause, which is a true story about an escape from Bataan.

Here's yet another true WWII escape story, about a soldier from the historic 506th PIR, who took part in D-Day, only to be captured by the Wermacht, escape twice, get captured again by the Gestapo, get beaten and tortured, escape again, flee to the east, take refuge with a Russian tank battalion, fight with them for a month as they headed to Berlin, get wounded during an attack by Stukas, land in a Polish hospital, where he met Marshal Zhukov, and finally make it back to the US embassy in Moscow, where he learned that he had been declared dead. What an amazing story.

Link via Serenity.

Posted by annika, Jun. 8, 2004 | link | Comments (2)
Rubric: History

May 10, 2004

La Marseillaise?

Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac informs us that today is the anniversary of Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle's birth. Who he? Well, he wrote the French national anthem, better known as La Marseillaise. It was originally entitled Chant de guerre de l'armeé du Rhin, which means "War Song of the Army of the Rhine."

Musically, i think the Marseillaise is one of the most inspiring national anthems ever written (i think the Internationale is quite rousing too, even though i hate communism as much as i hate the French). i get goose bumps watching that scene from Casablanca in Rick's bar when the Frenchies try to drown out the Nazis by singing their anthem. But i never knew what the words meant until now.

Garrison Keillor says that the Marseillaise's lyrics "are filled with some of the most bloody and violent imagery of any national anthem." i guess he's referring to lines like this:

The bloody flag is raised,
The bloody flag is raised.

. . .

They come right into our arms
To cut the throats of your sons,

. . .

Let us march, Let us march!
That their impure blood
Should water our fields

It's also full of typical bombastic French arrogance and ethnocentrism: "Qu'un sang impur?" Gimme a break.

The Writer's Almanac also notes that on this day in 1994, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated president of South Africa. There follows a pretty glowing bio of President Mandela, but read this AP story if you don't mind your heroes having feet of clay.

Posted by annika, May. 10, 2004 | link | Comments (6)
Rubric: History

April 26, 2004

WWI Sports History

As noted in the aftermath of Pat Tillman's death, many sports figures gave up successful careers to fight in World War Two, including baseball players Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio and boxer Joe Louis.

Baseball Crank reminds us that things were no different in the Great War.

* 'Harvard Eddie' Grant, formerly an everyday third baseman for the Phillies and Reds, killed in action October 5, 1918 in the Argonne Forest.

* German-born Robert Gustave 'Bun' Troy, who made a brief appearance with the Tigers in 1912, killed in action October 7, 1918 in Petit Maujouym, in France.

* Christy Mathewson, who suffered severe health problems from which he never recovered - possibly contributing to his death in 1925 at age 45 from tuberculosis - after inhaling poison gas in a training accident. (Ty Cobb also served in the same unit).

* Grover Cleveland Alexander, who as I explained here, would probably have made it to 400 wins or close to it if he hadn't lost a year at his peak to World War I, and who suffered lasting trauma from seeing combat with an artillery outfit.

* Sam Rice, who as I explained here, missed a year following his first big season after being drafted into the Army in World War I; Rice also got a late start in the majors because he’d joined the Navy at age 23 after his parents, wife and two children were killed by a tornado (Rice saw combat in the Navy, landing at Vera Cruz in 1914). Without those interruptions, Rice could easily have had 3500-3700 hits in the major leagues.

* Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville also missed a year to the Great War, as did several others I've overlooked here. [links omitted]

Some big names there, if you follow baseball history.

Posted by annika, Apr. 26, 2004 | link | Comments (2)
Rubric: History

April 21, 2004

Kilt Stories

The Maximum Leader informs us that he has been known to wear a kilt,* then links to this story about a Marine who plays the bagpipes.

[1st Sgt. Dwayne] Farr, an African-American from Detroit, was inspired to learn when he saw another player who didn't match the Scotsman stereotype.

'I was at a funeral and I saw a Marine playing the bagpipes, and I thought, this isn't a big, burly, redheaded guy with a ponytail and a big stomach. He's a small Hispanic Marine. I said if he can learn to play the bagpipes, I can learn,' he said, chuckling.

When he is not on the front-line, Farr wears a kilt when playing, and some Marines have been skeptical about a member of one of the toughest fighting forces in the world donning what looks like a skirt.

But Farr is unfazed. . . .

'Kilts are something that fighting men wore many years ago, and we know that the Marines are fighting men. So real men wear kilts. And they are pretty comfortable too,' he said.

This story reminded me of an amusing vignette from the book i'm reading called Intimate Voices from the First World War. Here's the excerpt, written by a twenty-four year old German recruit at the western front shortly after the battle of Ypres Salient. Apparently it was the first time he'd ever seen a Scotsman:
There are lots of Scots amongst all the dead and wounded. Instead of trousers they wear a sort of short, warm skirt that only reaches halfway down their thighs. Well it’s not really a skirt, it’s more of a sort of folded wrap-around thing. It is a strange sight. I’m amazed the boys don’t freeze their bums off, walking around half-naked like that, because they don’t wear any underwear either.

That said, they do have a warm, heavy coat like the other English soldiers. The colour of their uniform is much more suited to the terrain than ours. It’s a sort of dirty brownish green. Their hats and wrap-around things are the same colour. The English soldier can move much more freely than we can. With their practical clothing and light packs, they can run like hares. This really is an advantage when under fire. But we’re still going to win.

Pretty funny, eh? That was written in 1914. i love the irony of the last line.

* Permalink doesn't seem to work, scroll down to April 16, 2004.

Posted by annika, Apr. 21, 2004 | link | Comments (7)
Rubric: History

March 30, 2004

Ride Through Chernobyl

Via Anne SFTH's recommendation, i checked out this website/photo essay by a Ukrainian chick who toured the ghost town of Chernobyl on her motorcycle.

It takes a few minutes to go through all the photos, but they're fascinating and definitely worth your time. Her prose is cool too, she writes with a charming accent:

Motorcycling is a great hobby of mine. I ride all my life and I owned different bikes and I ended with big kawasaki ninja. This motorbike has matured 147 horse powers, some serious bark, it is that fast like a bullet and comfortable for a long trips. I travel a lot and my favorite destination lead through so called Chernobyl 'dead zone' It is 130kms from my home. Why favourite? because one can ride there for hours and not meet any single car and not to see any single soul. People left and nature is blooming, there are beautiful places, woods, lakes. Roads haven't been built or repaired since 80th but in places where they haven't been ridden by trucks or army technics, they stay in the same condition as 20 years ago. Time do not ruin roads.
Haunting photographs and lots of information that i didn't know. (i was nine when the disaster happened.) She uses the European method of writing numbers, which threw me at first. For instance, she says that the "radiation will stay in Chernobil area for the next 48.000 years." i thought forty-eight years, that's all? Then i realized, she was saying forty-eight thousand years!

Truly amazing, and so sad. Chernobyl is like Pompeii. It's a time capsule, but more than just a capsule of the Eighties, Chernobyl is a snapshot of the Soviet Union. It's all that remains of a society that no longer exists. There's Elena, on a big Kawasaki Ninja, visiting the Soviet factory that once made the dream bike of Soviet teenagers in the 1980's: a top-of-the-line scooter with only 26 horsepower. So much has changed.

Posted by annika, Mar. 30, 2004 | link | Comments (27)
Rubric: History & On The Blogosphere

March 21, 2004

Sunday Morning Weapons Trivia

Trivia Question: In the name of the famous British submachine gun of WWII, what does "STEN" stand for?

Check out this very interesting and informative site for the answer.

Posted by annika, Mar. 21, 2004 | link | Comments (11)
Rubric: History

February 23, 2004

The Year 1975

Karol at Spot On posted some very interesting facts about the year 1975. An interesting perspective on how much we have changed, or not. Do read the comments too.

Posted by annika, Feb. 23, 2004 | link | Comments (3)
Rubric: History

February 06, 2004

Happy Birthday President Reagan

RR 12-07-88.jpg

This is one of my favorite pictures of Ronald Reagan. With the Statue in the background it's so allegorical, isn't it?

He was, and is, a truly great man.

Posted by annika, Feb. 6, 2004 | link
Rubric: History

February 05, 2004

GWB's Airplane

Without entering the fray on the AWOL controversy, (You probably can guess where i come down on that one, anyway.) i wanted to shed some light on the plane George W. Bush learned to fly back in the day. Kind of a bookend to my famous post on his father’s plane (and this gives me an excuse to recycle that link yet again).

Truth be told, the F-102A was almost obsolete by the time George W. Bush began flying them. But in it’s day, Convair’s Delta Dagger was pretty badass. It was billed as the first supersonic all weather fighter. It first flew in 1955 and began operational service about two years after the Korean armistice. Nine hundred and seventy-five were built by the Convair division of General Dynamics between 1955 and 1960. It was used sparingly in Vietnam. Later, some planes were sold to The Greek and Turkish air forces, and it flew during the Cyprus conflict of 1974.

It was big. If i’m not mistaken, i think it was the biggest fighter we’ve ever had. At over 68 feet long, it was almost six feet longer than the F-4E Phantom, which was no midget itself. But with only one engine, the Delta Dagger weighed half as much as an F-4.


The weight difference makes sense when you consider the mission of the F-102A. It’s kind of misleading to call it a fighter, because that’s a term that encompasses a wide variety of planes that were designed to do vastly different things. It’s more accurate to call the Delta Dagger an interceptor.

To understand the job of an interceptor, as opposed to a pure air superiority fighter, you have to remember what we were afraid of back in the Fifties and early Sixties. These were the early years of the Cold War, before intercontinental ballistic missiles. If a nuclear war happened, it would have been fought by long range bombers penetrating the enemy’s homeland to drop bombs just like in World War II.

To defend against these long range bombers, the superpowers relied on early warning radar to detect an attack and interceptors to stop it. The idea was to shoot down the bombers as far away from the homeland as possible. Early warning radars needed to detect the bombers while they were still far enough away for the defending interceptors to take off and get within range.

Thus, speed was the one overwhelming requirement for a true interceptor. Maneuverability was not so important. These planes were like dragsters, not formula one cars. They needed to get within range of the bombers fast, so they could shoot them down before the bombers crossed into homeland territory or got near their targets. The Delta Dagger had no guns; interceptors weren’t intended for dogfighting.

We had the Delta Dagger, and it’s unbelievably fast successor, Convair’s F-106 Delta Dart. The Russians came up with the Yakovlev Yak-28 and the huge Tupolev Tu-28 Fiddler. Perhaps since it was the first of its kind, Bush’s Dagger was relatively slow compared to the Delta Dart and the Russian Fiddler. The Dagger’s top speed was only 825 mph, while the Dart went 1,587 mph.

The strategy was for interceptor units to be ready to scramble on a moment’s notice, in the event of a nuclear attack. They would race towards the incoming bombers and fire air-to-air missiles as soon as they came into missile range. i would guess that the range of an interceptor was important, but then the range of the air to air missiles would be added to the aircraft range.

i don't want to sound like i’m minimizing the contributions of the brave pilots who flew the F-102A. Those men stood guard so my parents could sleep at night during a very dangerous period of the Cold War. Still, flying the F-102 was not the same as flying a Phantom over Vietnam. Interceptor pilots sort of pointed their plane in the right direction and stomped on the gas pedal. The radar automatically guided the plane into attack position and fired the missiles.

Thankfully, we never discovered whether interceptors would have been enough to stop a nuclear bomber attack. There was a period of time when military planners thought that the wave of the future would be faster and faster bombers. But that ended in the early 1970s when strategic planning had abandoned the idea of nuclear bombers penetrating enemy territory. The new method of nuclear war relied on inter-continental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and submarine launched missiles. Obviously the interceptor was no defense against these newer strategic weapons. The nuclear missile made the long range bomber obsolete. And when the bomber was no longer needed, the interceptors became extinct too.

Although the Delta Dagger remained in service until 1974, the U.S. Air Force began moving its interceptors to National Guard units at the end of the sixties. So by the time George W. Bush graduated from his T-33A trainer into an F-102A at Ellington AFB, his unit’s mission had already begun the transition from air defense on 24 hour alert status to pilot training.

It’s a tricky thing to try to place a value on one individual’s service in the Armed Forces. Who am i to judge? i have a friend who has the seemingly cushy task of serving on the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman as an administrative clerk. Besides the fact that she’s sitting in a gigantic floating target, she’s doing a hell of a lot more to serve her country than i am doing, even if her duties are somewhat mundane. i would never denigrate her service, because she volunteered and every person in the military is there to protect me.

Obviously, flying an obsolete plane in a training squadron is different than driving a boat in the Mekong Delta. Still, they also serve who only stand and wait. Bush had the misfortune (or good fortune, depending on your perspective) of being born a few years too late for his chosen mission. We shouldn’t hold it against him that he became an interceptor pilot at a time when that mission was winding down for reasons he probably was not aware of when he joined. If he had served in the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group a few years earlier, he would have been on the front lines of the Cold War, a far more important and potentially dangerous war than Kerry’s Vietnam. i don’t think that lessens the value of his service to our country one bit.

Bonus trivia question: What is the plane in the picture doing?

Posted by annika, Feb. 5, 2004 | link | Comments (29)
Rubric: History & Science & Technology & annikapunditry

February 04, 2004

Lincoln/Bush Parallel?

This piece at Free Republic.com appealed to my love of historical irony so much, i am reprinting it in full here:

We must fact the fact that our Republican president was a DESERTER! He never even served in the REAL military. Instead he was in the Illinois state militia during the Blackhawk War and NEVER saw any combat. Captain Abraham Lincoln even admitted years later that the worst he suffered in the Blackhawk War was a bunch of mosquito bites. Not only that, even though Captain Abraham Lincoln mustered out of the militia on July 10, 1832, there is NO RECORD of a Captain Abraham Lincoln being in the militia (not a REAL army) from May 27, 1832 to July 10, 1832. One can only conclude, despite any facts to the contrary, that Abraham Lincoln was a DESERTER. At the very least he was AWOL.

Contrast that sad military record with that of our great Democrat, George McClellan who bravely faced down Quaker Guns outside Richmond, VA in 1862. McClellan, who is now running for president, is absolutely correct in his assertion that Lincoln is a miserable failure as a president especially since he did not seek the advice and consent from our European allies in the War of Rebellion. I look forward to a political campaign featuring a distinguished REGULAR military officer with a chest full of medals up against a Republican deserter who slacked off in the militia, not the REAL army. One candidate spent the war slacking off and suffering from nothing more than a bunch of mosquito bites and the other candidate is a genuine WAR HERO who did not desert.

This November the choice is yours. VOTE for the Democrat candidate WAR HERO....NOT the Republican deserter.

p.s. Did I mention that the Democrat candidate is a WAR HERO?

Note: the "Quaker Gun" reference is a bit obscure. Quaker Guns were logs painted to resemble cannons, which were placed by the defenders of Richmond to fool McLellan into believing he faced a stronger Confederate force than he actually did. McLellan took the bait and refused to move on the Confederate works, continually asking Lincoln for more men and more time. Until the Seven Days battles, when McLellan was whipped good by Robert E. Lee, cementing McLellan's reputation as a coward and Lee's as a genius. Read aboout it here and here.

Link thanks to Professor Hewitt.

Posted by annika, Feb. 4, 2004 | link | Comments (5)
Rubric: History & annikapunditry