Friday, July 31, 2015
SOME THOUGHTS ON ANGER
Girlwithadragonflytattoo has a post on anger, in which she argues that expressing one’s anger is generally not a good idea, from the standpoint of one’s own mental health.
Dragonfly Girl’s post reminded me of a recent post by Grim, in which he discusses anger in a political context, and channels Andrew Klavan to point out that anger can make you stupid.
Grim: We need to be cunning. We need to think and act strategically.
Klavan: You want to win back your country? Here’s how. Fear nothing. Hate no one. Stick to principles. Unchecked borders are dangerous not because Mexicans are evil but because evil thrives when good men don’t stand guard. Poverty programs are misguided, not because the poor are undeserving criminals, but because dependency on government breeds dysfunction and more poverty. Guns save lives and protect liberty. Property rights guarantee liberty. Religious rights are essential to liberty. Without liberty we are equal only in misery.
Anger of course does have a purpose. In politics, it is anger at bad policies and their destructive impact that can motivate one to get involved and work hard for positive change. In relationships, anger at mistreatment can motivate one to fix it or get out of it. But anger needs to be controlled and moderated or it becomes the enemy of judicious thought and effective action.
Speaking of effective action, the original post also reminded me (oddly enough!) of a famous event in military history, the Charge of the Light Brigade. This unnecessary disaster took place during the Crimean War, in 1864, and seems to have been driven in considerable part by toxic emotions on the part of British officers involved. While the details of the Charge are still being debated by historians, 161 years later, the general outline was as follows…
The Light Cavalry Brigade was commanded by Lord Cardigan, who in turn was subordinate to the overall Cavalry commander, Lord Lucan. The two men were related, and they could not stand each other, to the point where they avoided communication. Neither was popular in the army.
On October 25, the overall British commander in the Crimea, Lord Raglan, was situated on high ground, from which he had a far better view of the field than did Cardigan and Lucan. He and his staff observed that the Russians had captured some heavy British guns and were about to haul them away. An order was dispatched to Lucan under the signature of Raglan’s chief of staff:
Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front – follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. R Airey. Immediate.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
MORE ON POLITICS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
A lot of what happens on Facebook, as with Twitter, is “virtue signalling” – showing off to your friends about how right on you are.
I mentioned this long ago in terms of Not In Our Name, and also suggested that Jonathan Haidt overlooks those places where liberals are just as purity vs. disgust* concerned as conservatives. (See also environmentalism, vegetarianism, NASCAR and a host of other disgust issues, including, I think wealth – though that is more ambiguous in both camps.
*And authority driven, another trait supposedly more common among conservatives. The imprimatur of Roberth Reich or Paul Krugman is enough in economics; climate change catastrophe is based on choice of authorities.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
KING PHILIP OF SPAIN
…and his Portuguese subjects.
Yesterday I was talking to my mom and she said the news from the States and the things “your funny critters” (pretty much how mom refers to governments in general!) are doing remind her of the Spanish occupation of Portugal.
Monday, July 20, 2015
SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE, BUT YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS
…do you, Mr Priebus?
A study by Pew Research says that Americans are increasingly getting their news from Facebook and Twitter. The study indicates that 63% of both FB and Twitter users says that they get news from these sites, up from 47% and 52% in 2013. (Bear in mind that 66% of US adults use Facebook, whereas only 17% use Twitter.) In general, it seems that FB users are more likely to pro-actively share and comment on politically-related posts, whereas Twitter users are more likely to follow stories from “official” news organizations.
Of course, the fact that someone gets news from FB or Twitter does not by itself say anything about how important that site is to them within the universe of possible news sources. Another part of the survey attempts to answer that question. Among people 35 and over, 34% say Facebook is “the most or an important” way they get news; the corresponding number for Twitter is 31%. But among those 18-34, the number is 49% for both FB and Twitter.
recently reviewed a new book, The Selfie Vote
, by political analyst Kristen Soltis Anderson, who says:
“I’ve spent the last six years trying to crack the code on young voters. What I’ve found should terrify Republicans.”
She believes the current Republican approach to political marketing does not mesh with the way Millennials (“who view their comfort with technology as what makes their generation ‘special'”) tend to get information. Quoting the WSJ piece:
“Take the 2012 presidential race. Mitt Romney’s campaign stuck mostly with network TV ads during prime time, sometimes…paying nearly six times as much as Barack Obama’s campaign for an ad of the same length during the same time slot. Team Obama made use of individually targeted ads for satellite subscribers, tailoring the campaign’s message to specific voters in swing states and spending less money on network TV. The Obama campaign also developed cost-effective online ads that targeted Facebook and YouTube users based on personal-preference data, even running ads in online videogames…As more millennials pull the cable plug and spend their free time exclusively online, Republicans can’t expect to compete by pouring resources into 30-second spots during “Jeopardy!””
I think Facebook is a poor source for news and a very inferior venue for political discussion. But the Left is using it very effectively to circulate memes, usually in the form of simplistic poster-like images with a photo or graphic of some kind and a few words or dubious statistics. There does not seem to be any coherent effort on the part of the RNC, or any other Republican campaign organization or conservative/libertarian organization, to rapidly generate refutations of these when called for, nor do I see very many counter-leftist memes that I judge to be good enough, from a marketing standpoint, to be worth circulating. And there is very little of marketing value to be found on either the FB page of the RNC or the FB page of RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
My sense is that while the RNC leadership may understand old-style get-out-the-vote campaigns and precinct organization, they have little concept of social media marketing, and have also been outdone in the use of “big data” for campaign management. (See my post Catalist, “The 480,” and The Real 480.) I don’t think they’re really all that good at old-fashioned direct-mail marketing, either, based on what shows up in my mailbox.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
SOMETHING POSITIVE AND INSPIRATIONAL, FOR A CHANGE
If you’re flying an airplane at 30,000 feet, in the clouds, communicating with Chicago Air Traffic Control Center, here’s something you really don’t want to hear over your headset:
Chicago Center is evacuating. Radar service is terminated….Good luck.
But that’s what numerous pilots heard on the early morning of September 26, 2014, after a fire was set by a saboteur in the equipment racks at Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
GOETHE, THE ORIGINAL GRETCHEN, AND THE HACKERS OF 1764
When Goethe was 15, he was already recognized by friends as an exceptional writer. One of these friends, “Pylades,” told Goethe that he had recently read some of his verses aloud to “some pleasant companions…and not one of them will believe that you have made them.” Goethe said he didn’t much care whether they believed it or not, but just then one of the “pleasant companions” showed up, and Pylades proposed a way of convincing the fellow of Goethe’s abilities: “Give him any theme, and he will make you a poem on the spot.”
The disbeliever asked Goethe if he “would venture to compose a pretty love-letter in rhyme, which a modest young woman might be supposed to write to a young man, to declare her inclination.”
“Nothing easier,” said Goethe, and after thinking for a few minutes commenced to write. The now-former disbeliever was very impressed, said he hoped to see more of Goethe soon, and proposed an expedition into the country. For this expedition, they were joined by several more young men “of the same rank”…intelligent and knowledgeable, but from the lower and middle classes, earning their livings by copying for lawyers, tutoring children, etc.
These guys told Goethe that they had copied his letter in a mock-feminine hand and had sent it to “a conceited young man, who was now firmly persuaded that a lady to whom he had paid distant court was excessively enamored of him, and sought an opportunity for closer acquaintance.” The young man had completely fallen for it, and desired to respond to the woman also in verse…but did not believe he had the talent to write such verse.
Believing it was all in good fun, Goethe agreed to also write the reply. Soon, he met the would-be lover, who was “certainly not very bright” and who was thrilled with “his” response to his inamorata.
While Goethe was with this group, “a girl of uncommon…of incredible beauty” came into the room. Her name was Gretchen, and she was a relative of one of the tricksters present. Goethe was quite smitten:
“The form of that girl followed me from that moment on every path; it was the first durable impression which a female being had made upon me: and as I could find no pretext to see her at home, and would not seek one, I went to church for love of her, and had soon traced out where she sat. Thus, during the long Protestant service, I gazed my fill at her.”
The tricksters soon prevailed upon Goethe to write another letter, this one from the lady to the sucker “I immediately set to work, and thought of every thing that would be in the highest degree pleasing if Gretchen were writing it to me.” When finished, he read it to one of the tricksters, with Gretchen sitting by the window and spinning. After the trickster left, Gretchen told Goethe that he should not be participating in this affair: “The thing seems an innocent jest: it is a jest, but it is not innocent”…and asked why “you, a young man man of good family, rich, independent” would allow himself to be used as a tool in this deception, when she herself, although a dependent relative, had refused to become involved by copying the letters.
Gretchen then read the epistle, commenting that “That is very pretty, but it is a pity that it is not destined for a real purpose.” Goethe said how exciting it would be for a young man to really receive such a letter from a girl he cared about, and…greatly daring…asked: “if any one who knew, prized, honored, and adored you, laid such a paper before you, what would you do”…and pushed the paper, which she had previously pushed back toward him, nearer to Gretchen.
“She smiled, reflected for a moment, took the pen, and subscribed her name.”
Saturday, July 04, 2015
SHALL IT BE SUSTAINED?
For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People. The title I’ve used for these posts prior to 2013 was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.
This is Independence Day,
Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
Whatever happens and whatever falls
Out of a sky grown strange;
This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
The day of the parade,
Slambanging down the street.
Listen to the parade!
There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
The Fire Department and the local Grange,
There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
There are the veterans and the Legion Post
(Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
Good-humored, watching, hot,
Silent a second as the flag goes by,
Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
All of them there and all of them a nation.
There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
By somebody the Honorable Who,
The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
Will read the declaration.
That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
That’s our fourth of July.
And a lean farmer on a stony farm
Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
And walked ten miles to town.
Musket in hand.
He didn’t know the sky was falling down
And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
By kings or any such.
A workman in the city dropped his tools.
An ordinary, small-town kind of man
Found himself standing in the April sun,
One of a ragged line
Against the skilled professionals of war,
The matchless infantry who could not fail,
Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
But first, and principally, since he was sore.
They could do things in quite a lot of places.
They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.
He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces
The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.
Benet’s poem ends with these words:
We made it and we make it and it’s ours
We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained
Friday, July 03, 2015
One of the many tragedies of the World War II era was a heartbreakingly fratricidal affair known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kebir.
I’ve written before about the defeat of France in 1940 and the political, social, and military factors behind this disaster. Following the resignation of Paul Reynaud on June 16, the premiership was assumed by the First World War hero Philippe Petain, who immediately asked the Germans for an armistice. With an eye toward revenge, Hitler chose the Forest of Compiegne…the same place where the armistice ending the earlier war had been executed…as the venue for the signing of the documents. Indeed, he insisted that the ceremonies take place in the very same railroad car that had been employed 22 years earlier.
The armistice provided that Germany would occupy and directly control about 3/5 of France, while the remainder of the country, together with its colonies, would remain nominally “free” under the Petain government. (One particularly noxious provision of the agreement required that France hand over all individuals who had been granted political asylum–especially German nationals.)
Winston Churchill and other British leaders were quite concerned about the future role of the powerful French fleet…although French admiral Darlan had assured Churchill that the fleet would not be allowed to fall into German hands, it was far from clear that it was safe to base the future of Britain–and of the world–on this assurance. Churchill resolved that the risks of leaving the French fleet in Vichy hands were too high, and that it was necessary that this fleet join the British cause, be neutralized, be scuttled, or be destroyed.
The strongest concentration of French warships, encompassing four battleships and six destroyers, was the squadron at Mers-el-Kebir in French Algeria. On July 3, a powerful British force under the command of Admiral James Somerville confronted the French fleet with an ultimatum. The French commander, Admiral Jean-Bruno Gensoul, was given the following alternatives:
(a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans.
(b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment.
If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile.
(c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans unless they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies — Martinique for instance — where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated.
If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours.
Finally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty’s Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands.
The duty of delivering this ultimatum was assigned to the French-speaking Captain Cedric Holland, commander of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal.
Robert Philpott, a trainee gunnery officer on the battleship Hood: ”Really it was all very peaceful. Nobody was doing any firing; there was a fairly happy mood on board. We all firmly believed that the ships would come out and join us. We know the French sailors were just anxious to get on with the war. So we didn’t think there would be a great problem.”
André Jaffre, an 18-year-old gunner on the battleship Bregagne: ”Our officer scrutinizes the horizon, then looks for his binoculars and smiles. What is it, captain? The British have arrived! Really? Yes. We were happy! We thought they’d come to get us to continue fighting against the Nazis.”
Gensoul contacted his superior, Admiral Darlan. Both men were incensed by the British ultimatum: Gensoul was also personally offended that the British had sent a mere captain to negotiate with him, and Darlan was offended that Churchill did not trust his promise about keeping the French fleet out of German hands. Darlan sent a message–intercepted by the British–directing French reinforcements to Mers-al-Kebir, and the British could observe the French ships preparing for action. All this was reported to Churchill, who sent a brief message: Settle matters quickly. Somerville signaled the French flagship that if agreement were not reached within 30 minutes, he would open fire.
It appears that one of the the options in the British ultimatum–the option of removing the fleet to American waters–was not transmitted by Gensoul to Admiral Darlan. Whether or not this would have made a difference, we cannot know.
As Captain Holland saluted the Tricolor preparatory to stepping back into his motor launch, there were tears in his eyes. Almost immediately, Admiral Somerville gave the order to fire to open fire.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING