Hillary Clinton visits the troops in Iraq and disses the President, saying that "there are many questions at home about the administration's policies." I bet some of the troops have a few questions about the previous administration's policies.
Let me add this. It took me almost exactly eight hours to make the 430-mile driving trip from Irving to Corpus Christi, to see family for Thanksgiving. Seventy minutes (about one-seventh of the time) was spent driving about 25 miles (about one-seventeenth of the distance) to get from home to the intersection of I-35E and I-20 in south Dallas. 35 was so congested I had to stay on the feeder road - and find another south-bound highway where the feeder road vanished. Another reason to never ever live in Dallas proper.
As for mass transit, I remember when I relied on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit's 409 route to take the 12-mile trip to work; the commute lasted an hour. (That's not counting the time involved in walking to and waiting at bus stops.) When I could finally afford two-wheeled transportation, the drive took 25-35 minutes.
This site was originally owned by John Neely Bryan, the founder of Dallas. During the 1880s French native Maxime Guillot operated a wagon shop here. In 1894 the land was purchased by Phil L. Mitchell, president and director of the Rock Island Plow Company of Illinois. An office building for the firm's Texas division, known as the Southern Rock Island Plow Company, was completed here four years later. In 1901 the five-story structure was destroyed by fire. That same year, under supervision of the company vice president and general manager F. B. Jones, work was completed on this structure. Built to resemble the earlier edifice, it features characteristics of the commercial Romanesque Revival style.
In 1937 the Carraway Byrd Corporation purchased the property. Later, under the direction of D. H. Byrd, the building was leased to a variety of businesses, including the Texas School Book Depository.
On November 22, 1963, the building gained national notoriety when Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot and killed President John F. Kennedy from a sixth floor window as the presidential motorcade passed the site.
Recorded Texas Historical Landmark - 1980
These words (in all caps) are recorded on the historical marker that sits on the north wall of the former Texas School Box Depository that now houses the Sixth Floor Museum and, among other things, offices for at least some of the Dallas County Commissioners. If you look at the marker, you'll see that someone has taken an abrasive to the word "allegedly," making it somewhat brighter than the rest of the text.
Every year the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute gives out its Four Freedoms medals, for furthering the ideals cited in FDR's famous "Four Freedoms" speech. Five medals are awarded; one representing each of the freedoms and one representing all four. This year's Freedom From Fear medal went to Senator Robert Byrd. The nomination for the award came from Hillary Clinton. No one has confirmed whether HRC consulted Eleanor Roosevelt on the matter.
Some will see this as Hillary's "Trent Lott" moment. The comparison is weak, but not completely ludicrous. Although HRC didn't state any praise of the Klan-era Byrd as Lott stated praise for the segregationist-era Thurmond, Byrd never made a sufficiently clean break from the KKK - he quit the Klan and simply swept that chapter under the rug.
The real story is that Byrd deserves the prize more than most people realize. Have y'all ever read a transcript of the Four Freedoms speech? In that address delivered before Congress on January 6, 1941, Roosevelt said the following:
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor - anywhere in the world.
Liberty represents these four basic rights: to life and physical safety, to property, to choice and expression of personal beliefs, and to choice and pursuit of personal interests.
Many would state, within reason, that the rights to life and physical safety are already implied, being a necessary condition for the stated freedoms. The first two of FDR's freedoms are subsets of ideological liberty. Missing are the rights to property and "choice and pursuit of [peaceable] personal interests." Instead, Roosevelt champions freedoms from "want" and "fear" - that is, the "rights" to welfare redistribution and international arms control (the latter of which tends to draw support from domestic arms control hawks). Robert Byrd got the Gun Grabber medal. Surprise?
In addition to Senator Byrd, this year's Four Freedoms award recipients are: George Mitchell, former U.S. Senate majority leader from Maine and an international peace negotiator, Four Freedoms medal; Louis 'Studs' Terkel, Chicago broadcaster and author who turned oral history into an art form, Freedom of Speech medal; the Reverend Robert F. Drinan, a Jesuit priest, former Massachusetts congressman, dean of the Boston College Law School, author and activist on legal and moral issues, Freedom of Worship medal; and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers of America and civil rights leader, mother of 11 children, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Freedom from Want medal.
Update: I doubt that many of the holders of the Freedom From Fear medal were nominated because of their support for arms control. It's more likely that they were people who impressed the institute with the way they addressed the fears and/or paranoias of the day. Judging by Byrd's acceptance speech, the paranoia du jour is the supposed rapid erosion of speech rights:
"I have urged the people of America to awaken to what is happening and to speak out. To speak out, for it is the duty of each citizen to be vigilant to what his or her government is doing, and to be critical, if need be. We are in danger of the right to dissent, the right to disagree, may be trampled underfoot by misguided zealotry and extreme partisanship."
Still, the Gun Grabber Prize moniker fits, because it reflects FDR's naive presuppositions about what threatens peace. Note that his "Four Freedoms" speech was delivered eleven months and one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese leaders didn't attack because they had guns; they made guns because they wanted to attack. They attacked us because we were in the way of their imperialistic plans, and because they had no regard for the lives of those on whom they wished to make war. It's attitudes, not implements, that threaten the peace.
Richard Poe writes about a few court cases involving the Second Amendment. What stands out is his link to an article from the February 1999 William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal. The article concerns Tench Coxe, who was one of the "other Federalists" contributing to the Federalist Papers, and who served in five presidential administrations. His importance to the gun rights debate is explained thus (footnotes excluded, emphasis added):
As the Standard Model ["the interpretation that the [Second] Amendment guarantees the right of individual Americans to own and carry firearms"] has become a widely-shared consensus among legal scholars who have written on the Second Amendment, the competing "states' rights" theory of the Second Amendment has nearly vanished from legal literature. Instead, the opponents of the Standard Model have adopted what might be called the "nihilist theory" of the Second Amendment: The Second Amendment "had no real meaning." Garry Wills first advanced this view in a New York Review of Books article in which he asserted that James Madison, author of the Second Amendment, had pulled a hoax on the entire nation: despite what Madison's contemporaries thought, the Second and Third Amendments have no content. In a letter to the editor, Glenn Harlan Reynolds quoted the most contemporaneous known exposition of the Second Amendment - a newspaper article written by Tench Coxe just days after Madison introduced the Bill of Rights in Congress. Coxe described the Second Amendment as an individual right; Madison wrote Coxe a letter praising Coxe's article. Wills replied angrily that just because Madison wrote Coxe a nice letter approving Coxe's article "does not mean that Madison agreed with it." Indeed, if Madison were so dishonest that he would defraud the American nation when writing the Bill of Rights, it would be reasonable to expect that Madison would also be less than forthright in his personal correspondence.
As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.
I cannot find a direct quote of Madison's reply to Coxe, but I can find what Madison wrote in Federalist No. 46 (emphasis added):
The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops...Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.
Madison speaks of Americans having a right lacked by most Europeans. Not "being armed by their state governments." It says "being armed," plain and simple. He clearly used "the militia" synonymously with "the number able to bear arms" (about one fourth of the population by his estimate, if you do the math) when he calculates his hypothetical standing army vs. militia steel cage match.
Garry Wills seems to think it's all a hoax, though. Maybe the First Amendment was a hoax, too. Let's require all paid journalists to register with and supply the names of all sources to the National Security Agency, and limit the number of newspapers that can carry a single writer's syndicated columns.
In the wake of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, gay activists told us that if priests were able to marry, they wouldn't be abusing boys. (Actually, they said priests wouldn't be abusing children - the activists avoided mentioning the gender of the overwhelming majority of victims.) I don't recall anyone in the media raising the question of whether pedophiles or ephebophiles are even capable of sustaining a healthy marriage. Two words: Michael Jackson. He married twice; both marriages failed. Assuming the recent allegations are true, he's more sexually comfortable with boys* than with grown women, and trying marriage didn't put a stop to it.
(*I am unaware of any girls raising such allegations.)
Of course, if sexually abusive priests could make marriage work, they would never cheat on their wives and start acting like they did when they were single. Riiiight.
After years of neglect in this department, I had a long-overdue dental checkup today. Aside from having two fillings replaced, I'll be needing a periodontal cleaning. They work on one half of the mouth at a time. Phase One will occur the Monday before Thanksgiving; the job will be completed early in the following week.
My dentist will also be recommending a gum specialist to address the problem of seriously receding gums. A lot of the bone under the gums has worn away, and one molar may have to be removed.
On the band's official website, Jethro Tull's lead singer has posted a response to the controversy surrounding a recent interview (see earlier post.) Anderson apologizes (emphasis in original):
In an interview with a US newspaper, I expressed my concerns regarding the "flag-waving" mind-set - not only of some Americans - but across the world.
I now regret the tone of these statements and offer my belated apologies to those offended by any perceived slur on the Stars and Stripes. I really didn't understand - even after 35 years of visiting the USA on a regular basis - that this symbol had such fierce resonance for so many people as is now apparent to me.
Anderson continues with a condemnation of the negative attitudes toward British and American citizens across the globe, and asks for input on changing them. Send email or post to the "Changing Views" conference in the chat room.
My first suggestion is to get past the language barrier. Near the end of his statement, Anderson threw in this, evidently aiming to clarify the concerns voiced in the controversial interview:
Patriotism is the good guy: fraternal, supportive, the paying of respects particularly in the face of adversity. Space shuttle disasters. 9/11. Commemorative anniversaries. Flags are great.
Nationalism is the bad guy: protectionist, isolationist, triumphalist, buccaneering. Flags seen in this context are, I maintain, likely to be resented.
Some of the current arguments hover around misconceptions about the definition of "patriotism." Anderson nails that issue. But he does not fully comprehend "nationalism." We don't use that word a lot in everyday speech; it mainly pops up in news stories about "nationalist" factions doing this or that. Nationalism in and of itself is morally neutral; it is fierce support for a nation's sovereignty, or for a region's quest to secede from a country to become its own nation. What separates the different types of nationalists is what they wish to accomplish with their sovereignty. Some are patriots; others are protectionists, isolationists, triumphalists, or buccaneers.
The key problem behind grass-roots international tensions is that people from different countries don't get to know each other. What are the barriers to this? In some countries, especially in the Muslim and Communist worlds, the greatest barrier is the absence of free press. Such countries also tend to lack tourist trade, denying locals the opportunity to have first-hand experience with foreigners other than dictator huggers like Edward Asner and Noam Chomsky. Trade in general opens up doors, as does the Internet, through its chatrooms, blogs, and such.
Update: The text of this post has been blogged over at Sasha's.
Update: I sent the following email to Ian Anderson:
I posted two columns on the Asbury Park Press interview on my weblog; URLs listed at bottom.
US foreign policy issues aside, our only real disagreement is the definition of the word "nationalism." In the second post I stated that the term means support for the preservation (or the quest for) national sovereignty; the differences lie in what noble or ignoble achievements nationalists expect from the State.
People by and large aren't getting hung up on this term - it's "patriotism" that's tripping people up. This explains the prejudices you addressed in your official response. People from many different parts of the world simply don't understand each other. They fail to distinguish potential friends from real enemies.
Essentially three things break the barriers: free press (absent in the remaining Communist states and much of the Third World), free trade, and travel (including virtual "travel" via Internet).
"You know, one of these days, they're going to kill 10,000 people in one of these firetraps. And I'm gonna keep eating smoke [and] bringing out bodies, till somebody asks us how to build 'em."
I watched The Towering Inferno for the very first time last night. Found the DVD at the Wal-Mart bargain bin. One of the jokes at the time of its release was that they used the water from 1972's The Poseidon Adventure to put out the fire.
In that quip at the end of the film, Steve McQueen's character suggests that firefighters of 1974 knew something about making skyscrapers fire-unfriendly that skyscrapers by and large were ignoring. I think he's blowing smoke. Fire departments would never stay silent over such an issue, and a press obsessed with safety issues would never miss such a story. To my memory, no such stories arose during the decade of the birth of the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the EPA.
Instead of "what did they know and when did they know it," we should be asking about what we know today. Are we doing everything we can for skyscraper fire safety? Break this down into two categories: preventing and fighting fires. Starting with the defense, the obvious answers are: flame-retardant building materials, detection systems, and automatic fire extinguishing systems - and, of course, electrical systems that aren't overloaded or improperly insulated. We already have smoke detectors, which didn't exist in 1974 if the film is to be believed. We also have sprinkler systems, and other early-stage fire suppression systems; they are generally set to go off automatically, but there's probably some areas where it would be wiser to rig them to be set remotely at the security section. Walls and ceilings can (and usually are) sprayed with flame-retardant coatings and, when possible, made from materials less flammable than wood. In that spirit, I don't know if any skyscrapers like the one in Towering Inferno use natural gas, but for the record it's a bad idea.
Firefighting offense wrestles with getting firefighters into and tenants out of the building and getting water (or other substances) to the fire. The obvious problem of skyscrapers, illustrated and magnified vividly in the 9/11 WTC attack, is that most of the building is too far away from the exits and out of reach of fire trucks. (Back to the issue of defense, the WTC lacked sufficient structural insulation to survive fire fed by mass quantities of airliner fuel.) In Towering Inferno, to rescue the people in the penthouse our heroes rigged something resembling a crude ski lift between the burning building and one across the street. Fire departments could employ similar contraptions - and like real ski lifts they could have more than one "car" to expedite evacuation. Simpler would be portable winches for lowering people to the ground (or at least to a lower floor) out a window. I wouldn't recommend bungee cords or parachutes.
The real toughie is the actual firefighting. The problem with skyscraper fires is that firefighters are heavily dependent on water sources within the building. Sometimes - the WTC being an extreme example - the only hoses near the fire are in the fire. Helicopters have been put to work, but they can carry only so much water. I've got three suggestions. First, maybe fire departments could use the ski lift and winch ideas for getting firefighters to upper-story fires more quickly. Second, if they can send robots into volcanos, maybe they can design firefighting robots to go into areas too hot or too small for human access. Third, they could base their firefighting choppers on a larger model.
Jay Manifold linked to this economics quiz that measures one's affinity to four major schools of economics: socialism, Keynesian-Neoclassical thought, and the Chicago and Austrian schools. I scored 98% Austrian, which is probably higher than Arnold Schwarzenegger's score. (Heck, it's higher than Jay's score.) Considering some minor issues with the Austrians, I'm probably closer to 95%.
I picked zero socialist and zero Keynesian answers. The one Chicago question I picked concerned war:
War reduces economic welfare by destroying real resources. It may benefit only a select few from military spending, but could also be important in terms of national goals. If diplomacy fails, the general welfare of society may increase as a result of attaining important national objectives via warfare. Defensive wars are always justified. Offensive wars may be good in some circumstances.
Both the Chi-towners and The Austrians recognize war as inherently destructive to the economy, while the others entertain some variant of the broken window fallacy. The Austrians support war for solely defensive purposes. So do I, but assuming a definition of "defensive" that pertains to both direct and indirect threats, the latter not being the sort of thing that Austrians support. Just geopolitical war must consider the degree of criminal threat to the US and/or allies and the weight of crimes already committed by the target nation's government to its own people and/or those of other nations.
Two of the questions deserve special notice. One asks, "Do markets create and sustain monopolies and what should be done about it?" This portion of the Chicago answer is right on target:
Monopoly regulation has caused more harm than good by protecting particular competitors, not competition. Some types of regulation against trusts are based on flawed models that fail to understand that some firms gain market share solely because of their products' desirability to consumers.
After that, two red flags arise. First, the Chicagoans support regulation against "predatory behavior" without offering a clear definition for "predatory." Second, and more important, is the assertion that "some goods lend themselves to being best provided by monopolies, e.g. courts and defense." The logical conclusion is that private arbitration and private arms ownership have no place in the marketplace. The sheer cost of military hardware causes many to consider that only the government can provide most national defense. The fallacy is in the assumption that if the government must actually operate the armies and navies its pays for. I don't generate the electricity I pay for - somebody else does that for me. Various aspects of military defense could be subcontracted out to firms.
The other question is, "What are the economic implications of national defense?" The Chicago answer is this:
National defense is neutral to the market. On the one hand, it cost taxpayers money, but, on the other, it provides a stable environment that permits peace to flourish and rights to be protected. By its very nature, government should maintain a monopoly over the use of force, and defending the nation against external and internal foes flows from this primary obligation. Before we can even talk about economic production, government-provided security and defense must be firmly in place. Otherwise, we are back to the Hobbesian jungle.
The Chicagoans understand that commerce cannot thrive in an atmosphere saturated with assault, murder, theft, and vandalism. The problem is their assumption that the State must provide all the deterrents. I have one bone to pick with the Austrians: as a "guarded geopoliticalist," I don't support their ideal that governments refrain from having any say at all in how the military is used, leaving those decisions to the subcontractors.
One more thing: on the issue of unions, I recognize that they're labor's counterparts to Kenneth Lay.
WorldNetDaily reports that classic rock stations are refusing to play Jethro Tull songs, all because of this:
"I hate to see the American flag hanging out of every bloody station wagon, out of every SUV, every little Midwestern house in some residential area. It's easy to confuse patriotism with nationalism," Ian Anderson said in an interview published in New Jersey's Asbury Park Press. "Flag waving ain't gonna do it."
He thinks the American flag proliferation is being overdone, and believes that this gives the impression of an air of "nationalism." Anderson, like many of his fellow Europeans, perceives the word in its jingoistic "our country is great, to hell with yours" sense. They're not used to seeing the mass proliferation of national symbols in free countries (except for the seas of Union Jacks at Who concerts). They see "nationalism" in the Balkans and fighting in the Balkans and assume there's a connection.
In many other instances, nationalism is synonymous with true patriotism. Ask anyone in the Baltics who remembers Soviet rule. Ask those who resist assimilation into the European Union collective. This sort of nationalism is rooted in the preservation of individual liberty and separation of powers.
Ian Anderson didn't make assumptions about anybody's intentions, and unlike Judy Davis he knows the real definition of "patriotism." He's concerned about appearances. I've got some news: the people who get bad impressions from those appearances were already ill-disposed toward Americans even before the flags stated popping up. They don't take the effort to try to get to know us.
Citizen Smash smashes the latest idiocy of Tom Tomorrow (hat tip: NZ Pundit), a perfect illustration of the "if you think it's such a good idea, why don't you do it" fallacy. The "chickenhawk" non-argument falls flat, ultimately because the moral necessity for a certain action is dependent on the objective nature of the situation which the proposed action is intended to address, not on the intentions of the arguers.
Smash objected to the stereotyping of warbloggers as warmongers who ever wore the uniform. In truth, some of them have been in the service, and some, including Smash, have toured Iraq. Tomorrow (see updates to Smash's post) claims he's only picking on a subset of warbloggers:
The cartoon is not about all bloggers, or even about all warbloggers and it was clearly not about that slim percentage of warbloggers in your situation. It is about that self-aggrandazing [sic] subset who think [sic] the war is a fine thing to fight, as long as others do the fighting. It draws a clear distinction between those who are in the field risking their lives, and those who seem to think they are fighting a war at home by maintaining a weblog. In short, the point of the cartoon, to me, is that the actual sacrifices of people who are fighting this war are cheapened by this "me too" attitude--"I'm fighting Islamofacism on my *blog*!"
This response raises two questions. First, does Tomorrow have any evidence that any warbloggers fit that profile, drawing some weird equivalency between shooting thugs in Mosul and writing posts about it? Where are the transcripts of blog posts recording such claims? Where are the videotaped sessions of Tomorrow performing Vulcan mind-melds on pundit bloggers, revealing their true intentions?
Second, is Tomorrow aware that there are plenty of sound reasons to passionately support a war without wanting to participate directly in one? Our military is not so desperately understaffed as it was at the oubreak of WWII that we need hundreds of thousands of troops in a few weeks to make sure the country still exists a couple of years from now. There's lots of interesting career fields out there, and if there's enough people to take care of a military operation, there's no reason why droves of people should abandon their avocational dreams to join a just war.
Some war hawks have no business enlisting in the military simply because they're too old, and some - like yours truly - have a disqualifying health or physiological issue. In 1993 I applied to enlist in the United States Navy. At my age - 32.5 years at the time - I was still young enough for the cryptography and intelligence officer programs. (The cutoff age was 35.) I failed the physical, ultimately because of hammertoes, or something like it. (The toes bend downward at the first joint, the left big toe only slightly, and all bend upward at the second joint.) The condition, abetted by mildly-higher-than-average arches, puts extra pressure on the foreward part of the foot. Standing still for long periods of time without considerable pain is an impossibility in normal shoes; athletic shoes improve the task somewhat, but unfortunately the contract for making combat boots does not go to Nike, Adidas, or Converse.
If the Navy ever changes its mind and decides it needs a 43-year-old junior officer, I have lots of character witnesses I can submit to the security clearance team. Some of them are even Americans :-)
Art Carney passed away today at the age of 85. Well known for his role on The Honeymooners (see Al Hirschfeld lithograph of the cast here), Carney won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1974 for the film Harry and Tonto. He also played opposite Walter Matthau in a Broadway run of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. Filmography and TV appearances are listed here.
Murder on the same scale in this country would be over 3.5 million people. Or 78,000 Israelis, a million Germans, or almost two million Russians. The Arabs, in other words, are much better at killing their own than they are at killing us decadent Westerners.
Let's do some more math. Assume that each grave represents a separate incident, and that all occurred under Saddam's regime, which lasted 30 years:
268 ÷ 30 = 8.93 mass killings annually (those associated with mass graves) **
300,000 ÷ 30 = 10,000 bodies interred in mass graves annually
10,000 ÷ 8.93 = 1,119 bodies (rounded down) per mass grave
**It's not likely that a mass killing will not be accompanied by a telltale mass grave, but I don't put it past genocidal regimes to find other ways of disposing of the evidence.
In a related story, the other night I heard radio talk show host Mike Gallagher report that certain lobbyists are pushing for health insurance coverage to extend to dietary products. (Anybody know where this story is on the Internet?) Gallagher remarked that maybe Atkins dieters could use their insurance to buy steak. Where's PETA when we need them?
Crooked Timber Group blog featuring mostly US bloggers ad at least one from the UK (Chris Bertram), Canada (Henry Farrell), and France (Maria Farrell). The Timberites expose the truth of The Meatrix and link to a chart showing how various bloggers rate on the Political Compass. Since CT tends toward "left-libertarianism," I doubt the Timberites recognize the test's inherent flaw in its assumption that the spectrum between laissez-faire and socialism has nothing to do with the spectrum between libertarianism and authoritarianism.
Today is also the first blogiversary of the Henderson Prize for the Advancement of Liberty. Inspired by the irrelevance of the Nobel Peace Prize, I aim to create a hall of fame honoring those whose efforts (both intentionally and unintentionally) furthered the cause of freedom. The project is barely begun; awards have been handed out on only two dates. Check out the site, and feel free to suggest any potential winners, preferably with historical source material.
1902 Strom Thurmond
1911 Roy Rogers
1912 Natalie Schaeffer (Lovee Howell, Gilligan's Island)
1912 Vivien Leigh
1942 Art Garfunkel
1942 Elke Sommer
1959 Bryan Adams
1963 Tatum O'Neal
1879James Clerk Maxwell (Scottish mathematician and physicist)
1960 Ward Bond
1977 Guy Lombardo
1979 Al Capp (creator of "Li'l Abner")
1989 Vladimir Horowitz
1991 Fred MacMurray
1992Jan Hendrik Oort (Dutch astronomer)
1605Gunpowder Plot exposed, leader Guy Fawkes hanged
1846 Premiere of Robert Schumann's 2nd Symphony
1930 Sinclair Lewis wins Nobel Prize in Literature 1935 Parker Brothers introduces the Monopoly board game
1955 Vienna's new Staatsoper (State Opera House) opens, with a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio 1964 Mars probe Mariner 3 launched
1967ATS-3 launched, takes first pictures of full Earth disk
1968 Richard Nixon wins US presidential election
1979 Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini declares US "The Great Satan;" Day 2 of the Hostage Crisis 1994 Ronald Reagan announces he has Alzheimer's 1996 Bill Clinton wins US presidential election
2024 The third presidential election falling on my birthday during my lifetime - I'll be 64
The brouhaha over the CBS series "The Reagans" raises a serious question: what's new about the TV and motion picture industries lying about history?
Historical drama often involves fictional events and dialogue. When done properly, the inserted fiction serves to illustrate known historical facts. For instance, in a movie set in post-Revolutionary America a hypothetical conversation between James Madison and George Mason could expound on the ideological differences later recorded in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, respectively. When done irresponsibility, the inserted fiction results in perverting known historical facts or leveling wild unsubstantiated accusations.
The king of cinematic historical revisionism is Oliver Stone. He made Jim Morrison more reckless than he was in real life. (Now that takes some doing.) JFK was far from objective, making Jim Garrison and his crackpot hotly contested claims the central focus. Stone commits several offenses when directing Nixon: taking sources out of context to portray Nixon as a pill-popping boozer, putting Nixon's words in other people's mouths, putting other people's words in Nixon's mouth, putting outrageous fictional statements in characters' mouths.
The sinking of the RMS Titanic has spawned a number of myths, one or more of which is portrayed as fact in every single film on the incident: that the ship was attempting a speed record, that attempts to block steerage passengers from the lifeboat deck were more than just isolated incidents, that J. Bruce Ismay boarded a lifeboat when other passengers were still on deck within his view. James Cameron did all three - and to secure his Oliver Stone status he even suggested that only one lifeboat returned to pick up passengers from the ocean. A Stephen Cox article busts many of these myths.
Sometimes the sin is one of omission. Pandering to some Japanese sentiments, Disney struck out a scene of espionage from the film release of Pearl Harbor. In Amistad, one of the characters cites the fact of African-run slave industry, a fact avoided by many other TV and film productions addressing slavery of that era.
What other historical inaccuracies can I think of off the top of my head? Well, there's Amistad, in which Cinque is captured by Americans - not sold to the Americans by African tribal captors who enslaved him due to a debt owed by Cinque. Pocahontas made Jamestown into a mere gold mining colony, exaggerated Powhatan's peacefulness (he had conquered several neighboring tribes), and turned the child Pocahontas into an adult.
Not all cinematic historical inaccuracy is motivated by delusions about history. Sometimes it's intended to make a film more interesting. Sometimes info on the subject matter is sketchy (as in the case of William Wallace), and the fleshing out of the portrayal strains with what is known. Sorry, Mel.
The miniseries "The Reagans" will not be showing on CBS. Parent company Viacom will instead air it on its Showtime cable movie network.
When the usual suspects will cry "censorship," three points should be raised. First, libel is not free speech. Second, censorship is properly defined as government force to suppress media content. Third, the usual suspects have long supported campaigns to remove programming from the air. Remember the campaign against Dr. Laura's TV show? Remember the reaction to Rush Limbaugh expressing an opinion on ESPN?
People from the left and right have always complained about TV shows. Too much skin. Too much violence. Allegations of racism. Complaints originate from orchestrated lobbies, grassroots outpourings, and public reactions from various media outlets, including blogs. It's called customer response. Live with it.
A reader sent Glenn Reynolds an image of a January 26, 1946 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. What catches their eye is the article title "How We Botched the German Occupation" in the upper right hand corner.
A search on the article brought me to an index of magazine articles from the FICTIONMAGS mailing list. (Sorry, no links to actual stories.) The author is Demaree Best. A Google search turns up no info on the author, but this chronological list of Best's articles turns up some interestig titles, such as "No Peace in Sight" (Oct 19, 1946) and "Our Chilly War with France" (May 21, 1949). Boy, those headlines do sound familiar.
Update: See update in Glenn's post - a reader has sent him an excerpt of the article!