"No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."

—Sir Winston Spencer Churchill (The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Finally a truce in the war over AP history......

History is, of course, a subject near and dear to my heart...much like bacon but without the artery clogging side affects.

Therefore, like many historians, lovers of history, and plain old common sense Americans, I was more than a little concerned about the rollout of the latest AP history course last year.

In fact, I was very concerned about it and wrote a number of blog posts expressing my dismay not at the format and concept of how AP History would be taught, but the relentless march of political correctness and Social Justice Warrior nonsense for America and how it was formed.

Fired up and ready to go--the History Wars come around again.
Needless to say, my fears were shared:

So it appears the AP History has been revised and the SJW has been turned down a little.

Now I have no doubt it PAINED the New York Slimes to write this article since to liberals, EVERYTHING is about race, gender, or sexual orientation, but it seems like a decent middle ground has been reached.

"College Board officials reached out to critics, held meetings, attended hearings and listened. They rewrote and reorganized the curriculum, ridding it of partisan sentiment, real or imagined.
What emerged was a framework praised for achieving “an impressive middle ground,” says Jeremy A. Stern, a historian who had criticized the 2014 framework"
So, since liberals hate to compromise, since, of course they are righteous about everything, the fact that liberals allowed even some changes to this highly slanted version of American history meant the course was pretty FUBAR.

Of course, being the Grouchy Historian, I did have to laugh at one comment:
"The hardest hurdle for critics may be accepting that the teaching of history has evolved, as has the sophistication of the high school students who are eager to take on a college-level course."
Really?  Evolved?  More sophisticated?  I have some doubts, believe me.  I don't disagree the AP is a good preparation for college level work, but I wonder how much these students are prepared.  

I know the idea of "rote" memorization makes modern educators cringe, but how do you discuss the context and racial implications (cuz you know they will) of a bunch of white slave holding males writing the Declaration of Independence, if you don't know it was approved on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, after being drafted by Thomas Jefferson, who was from Virginia.  Oh, and that whole Revolutionary War that brought it about was pretty important too.  

Or that the Civil War started on April 12, 1861.  Or that D-Day happened on June 6, 1944.

These are not trivial issues.  It's hard to evaluate primary source material and debate the implications of different points of view of an event if you don't know the basic WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE of history.  

Time will tell, I guess...but as for me, I am sticking to buying books by reputable historians and not depending on some amalgamated textbook.  

AND...there have been many, many excellent history books so far this year...coming soon...

Friday, April 1, 2016

Why didn't they see this coming?

History is full of seemingly "out of nowhere" events that are termed Black Swan events.  This is a fairly new term coined after 9/11 to try and explain things that defy rational thinking or prediction and change how people think forever.

This election cycle is likely to be the most significant political Black Swan event of a generation, and it amuses me to see so many political pundits twist themselves into a lather over Donald Trump.

NOW, I have not decided yet which way I am going to vote...although it's a PRETTY safe bet that I will never, ever vote for Hillary.

My utter contempt for this woman know no bounds, so that is not likely to happen...ever...I think I would eat turkey bacon before voting for her.

Nonetheless as a lifelong and proud Reagan Republican, I have been watching the weird and destructive  behavior of the Republican party with...well...not a little bit of Schadenfreude.  I mean it amazes me how tone deaf ALL of our politicians are this year and really, how completely immune to their own BS they have become.

Let's take a look at two topics to see how this works:  the economy/immigration and national security/terrorism.

Ok, the economy.  What was the old joke about the guy whose wife caught him in bed with another woman--"Who you gonna believe, me or your eyes?"  Does anyone really believe the relentless nonsense peddled by this Administration that the economy is getting better, the stock market is up, Obamacare has been a huge success...blah, blah, blah...SEE GOOSE above.

Let's ask Reagan's most famous debate line- "Do you feel better off than you did eight years ago?"  That is really the only question any Republican candidate should be asking..do you feel more economically secure?  Has your home recovered it's value?  Is your health insurance more or less expensive?  How much has your family medical insurance deductible gone up or down?  AND>>>>here's the ultimate knockdown question-Do you feel your children will have more opportunity than you did?

These questions are in turn directly related to the question of immigration.  In some strange merger of convenience the powerbrokers of both established parties think this is a winner issue- the Democrats to get lots of new voters and welfare recipients (more or less the same thing) and the Republicans cheap labor for their Chamber of Commerce buddies.  

If this seems like a strange merger...well it isn't to millions of American CITIZENS who now have to compete for blue collar/entry/minimum wage jobs with floods of illegals that not only take these jobs, but still qualify for billions in welfare subsidies.  

This incongruity of welcoming millions of unskilled workers that take jobs and welfare is obvious to most of those Americans affected by these policies, but of course to the millionaires in Congress and their billionaire patrons, they just seem like xenophobic rubes clinging to their guns and religion.  Now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that yes, the immigration system is broken, but NO, that doesn't mean that an imperial President gets to ignore it.  

Yet Republicans in Congress have taken no real action to stop this flood and the major Presidential candidates seem to be lecturing those folks most affected that they are just MEAN and unChristian to keep millions of illegals from getting free education and benefits their own children can't get.  Not smart, as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio learned.  

People are scared for their jobs and their children's future, and dismissing or even mocking their fears as some unenlightened racist xenophobia is clearly not going to win votes.  Dismissing legitimate concerns about trade agreements that appear to bring no benefits to average people is not a good idea either.  

Could it be because the ultimate result of the age of Obama has been the ultimate emergence of Crony Capitalism?  Yes, not Free Enterprise, but Crony Capitalism...that near socialist merge of huge corporations buying politicians and rigging the game to the detriment of the once sacred middle class?  

WHOA, no Marxism alert here...but seriously...this is why Reagan was SO brilliant is his approach of keeping government small, regulation limited and letting free enterprise drive economic growth...the emergence of a big spending, big regulating, all encroaching government NEVER affects millionaires and billionaires...they just hire more tax attorneys and buy another Congressmen.  The rest of us...as Bernie Sanders would say, will feel the BERN of huge tax increases to pay for EVEN MORE big government and big corporation Crony Capitalism.

Enter Donald Trump.  Fundamentally, although he is a blowhard, narcissistic, and probably more than a bit full of his own crap, he is no fool.  He understands that there is a huge swath of the old "Reagan Democrats" that have been written off by a Democratic party increasingly dominated by Black Lives Matter, Feminists, and LGBT groups.  Combined with a huge swath of traditional Republicans unconcerned about a flood of unchecked illegal immigrants that includes gangs, thugs, and probably terrorists and is it really so hard to understand why the Make America Great Again! slogan has become a mantra of his supporters?

Then there's national security and terrorism.  Again, does anyone believe the BS peddled by this Administration that we are safe and secure?  Turn on the news and you can see this lie 24/7.  This Administration is determined to run out the clock before any real questions can be asked about the utter failure of their foreign policy in Iraq, Syria, Libya...ah, hell, most of the Middle East, as well as ignoring the virtual rebirth of Russia and China as well armed, aggressive adversaries just waiting to pounce at a real sign of perceived opportunity.

Make no mistake...all it takes is one Mumbai or Paris or Brussels style attack here in America and Donald Trump will be our next President.  The usual PC platitudes about Islmaphobia that CAIR and their fellow travelers continue to push will pale in comparison to Joe Six Pack and the legions of security moms rushing to the polls to stop the ridiculous notion that importing thousands of Syrian refugees with minimal scrutiny into America is a good idea.

So, when you watch the Republican talking heads complain about Trump as a narcissist, misogynist, liar, cheat, fraud, etc, etc...ask yourself this basic question...why is they guy doing so well with the majority of Republican voters?  

Now your usual Progressive Liberal will tell you every Republican is a homophobic, xenophobic, woman hating knuckle-dragger, so forget those morons...hell they want to elect a lying, woman-hating (if they sleep with Bill), money grubbing establishment politician who's just as much bought by Wall Street as any Republican.  

But really...ask yourself why can't the Republican Party muster someone to answer Trump's legitimate questions about trade deals, immigration, defense, jobs, the economy, unemployment?  

When they can, maybe he will fade back into the world of reality TV...otherwise...they Trump show will go on.....and the Black Swans will fly....

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Finally, the history of the U-boat war I have been waiting for....

Finding a readable, yet comprehensive book on the Allied struggle against the U-boat menace in World War 2 has proven challenging.  

Although I really enjoyed my mentor's book on the American Navy in the European war, I really didn't want to struggle through Samuel Eliot Morisons majestic tomes on the Battle of the Atlantic.  

Fortunately, I found this volume at my local Barnes and Noble, used one of my many coupons and off I went.  I can honestly say I had a hard time putting it down and actually postponed a book or two to finish it.

Mr. Dimbleby combines a sweeping narrative history with participant recollections and some pretty searing analysis to write a very readable account of the most critical battle of World War 2.  

What makes this book notable is that enough time has now passed that a truly unbiased, no-holds bared look can be made at the decisions of politicians, generals, and ordinary commanders from both sides and how they affected the outcome of the battle.  

No one is spared from Dimbleby's criticism, including Winston Churchill.  The near-run victory of the Allies, like much of World War 2, was much closer than most people think...at least those that bother to critically study history, and the inevitable triumph of the Allied navies was anything but. A couple of different and more strategically sound decisions by Hitler and his high command and Britain may have indeed been starved into submission before Pearl Harbor, with all the dreadful consequences which would have ensued....think Man in the High Castle.  

Only a combination of technology, industrial might, political will to break down bureaucratic barriers, and shear desperation to try nearly anything to win allowed the Allies to fight and eventually win a bitter battle of attrition with the most formidable U-boat force the Third Reich could muster.  

The book moves at a marvelous pace and fortunately doesn't get bogged down in too many details, especially after the Allies achieved virtual maritime dominance of the Atlantic seaplanes after the fall of 1943, allowing the D-Day landings to occur with absolutely no attacks by German U-boats on the vast armada of Allied ships plying the sea between southern England and the Normandy coast.

This is really marvelous naval history and a wonderful addition to the story of naval combat in World War 2.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Spies, Counterspies, and Deception

The D-Day invasion was literally won before the first paratrooper jumped out of a plane or the first landing craft bumped up against the beach.

The absolute supremacy of intelligence work of the Allies, usually thought of by the Ultra program decrypting German signals, was even more dominant than most people think.

Between 1940-1945, British counter-intelligence, better known to most people as MI-5, ran EVERY single German agent in England as a double agent. ALL OF THEM. This is a stunning achievement to consider in wartime.

This book reads like, well, a spy novel. It seems unbelievable, but is absolutely true. The ability of British MI-5 to control what intelligence the Germans received about the planning and buildup to D-Day no doubt provided a critical margin in the early days of the invasion when the Allied forces were at their most vulnerable.

Moreover, the spies England employed were not what one would see as the cloak and dagger types. A Yugoslav playboy, a French lesbian, a Polish triple agent, a Spanish pathological liar--about the only thing these double agents had in common is they formed the Island of Misfit Spies, all under the brilliant direction of a small team of British officers that were equally as eclectic and totally dedicated to helping the Allies land in France.

History has made the D-Day landings seem an inevitable success, but the view from the Allies was far different in early 1944. Previous Allied landings had been near disasters, as a vigorous German counterattack nearly threw the Allies into the sea at Salerno, and the Allied landing at Anzio had been bottled up on the beach head and remained stranded until a land offensive forced the Germans to withdraw.

The Germans knew the Allies were landing in France, so the inevitable choices became a landing in Normandy or the closer area of the Pas De Calais. The Allies launched a massive campaign to make the Germans think the landing was coming in Calais...and it was wildly successful beyond even the most optimistic hope of the Allied spy masters weaving an elaborate deception involving spies, radio deception, dummy armies, and a host of lies and half-truths.

The story of these spies is fascinating. Each of them had their own motivation and foibles, and many were far from likable. But under the steady hand of MI-5, they kept an entire German Army in the wrong place for over a month, allowing the Allies to buildup their forces and eventually break out of the Normandy beach heads and race across France.

This is an important part of the D-Day story that needs to be told...the Allies totally defeated the Germans in the intelligence war, and it did have a decisive effect at the most crucial moment of the European War. All of these folks are now dead, but it's great that their story is finally being told.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Excellent books to start the new year.....

I love good military science fiction.  Starship Troopers remains one of my favorite books, the horrible movie notwithstanding, and it was required reading in my plebe leadership course at ol' Canoe U.  I also immensely enjoyed Ian Douglas's early series on the Space Marines.  Futuristic military fiction like an early anthology by Stephen Coontz and the early books of Harold Coyle are also some of my favorite fiction.

However, good military sci-fi is very tricky to write as you have to seamlessly blend in futuristic technology without forgetting the essential human element of war.

I heard about these books right before Christmas, got all three so I didn't have to wait between volumes, which I really hate, and set out to finish them about two weeks ago.

The series is, in a word, magnificent.  I consumed these books like a bag of Fritos and enjoyed every bite, until the last page and then I wanted...another trilogy.

Ms. Nagata hits all the right buttons in terms of military sci-fi--cool technology, interesting and sympathetic and at times really FUBAR characters, a plot line that races along at Mach 3 and a nearly seamless transition between books that is really impressive.

These are fun and serious, and at the end you wonder...wow, how long before something like this really happens...I won't give any spoilers, but needless to say, much of the technology in these books exists, is being developed, and could be fielded by US troops in the next 10-20 years. 

Short and too the point--if you like Tom Clancy, David Webber, Ian Douglas, Stephen Coontz, or even Vince Flynn or Brad Thor..yes I love them all...go buy these books...ALL of them and sit back and enjoy them.  I promise you won't be disappointed.