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Happy Birthday!

Today is the birthday of an Original Gangster American Badass, Samuel Whittemore.  This fine gentleman, at the ripe age of 80, proceeded to take on the British army armed only with the weapons he had in his home, gave better than he got, and survived to tell the tale.

Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols and killed a grenadier and mortally wounded a second. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was shot in the face, bayoneted thirteen times, and left for dead in a pool of blood. He was found alive, trying to load his musket to fight again. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore lived another 18 years until dying of natural causes at the age of 98.

Today, please raise a toast to the man who typifies my beliefs about Americans:  We’re a peaceful people, but raise a hand to harm us, and we’ll take your whole gorram arm off.

Thought for the Day

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Look Around You

Imagine this scene –

It’s the middle of the night.  You’re asleep at home with your family.   The house is as quiet as it can get.  You all sleep under a nice, quiet sky, and the only thing on your mind when you go to bed is wondering which kind of coffee you’ll make in the morning.

Suddenly, the civil-defense alarms outside start going off, and police start banging on your door to wake people up and get them out of their houses and out of the area immediately.  You barely have time to put on clothes, grab a couple of things, and get out.  In a matter of hours, your well-developed city is a ghost town, never to be inhabited again.  Your belongings, pets, and life remain behind, never to be retrieved.

Sounds far-fetched, like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie, doesn’t it?

Except that this happened, to a small city in the Ukraine, on this date in 1986, when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, showering the countryside around it with radioactive material, harming thousands in a wide swath of Europe.

So what will you grab if you have to run?  Not in a “The hurricane will be here in three days, so pack up and get out at your earliest convenience” kind of run, but rather the “If you’re not out of here in five minutes, you and your children are dead” kind of run?   There are no nuclear power plants in Louisville, but we have our own set of things that could cause thousands of people to have to evacuate on little to no notice.  How far is your home from the nearest interstate or railway?  Are there any light industrial areas near your home?  Any pipelines?  I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that there is probably something near any of our homes or businesses that could cause us to have to run for safety at a moment’s notice if the worst case scenario happens.

So, look around you.  Learn about what lies near where your children sleep.  Having a go-bag isn’t just in case the Golden Horde sweeps through your neighborhood and you have to E&E to the Walmart to fend them off with an impromptu squad of misfits.  It’s also there so that if you only have 5 minutes to get out you don’t have to dither on how many diapers you will need for a few days or try to figure out where you put that spare set of batteries for your tacticool flashlight.

Have a plan, have a go-kit, and have a better outcome.

An Interesting Historical Coincidence

Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the treaty that created the United Nations.  This international body was created at the end of World War II in effort to give the nations of the world somewhere to come together to work out differences peacefully.  It also had a mandate to prevent genocide and oppose aggressive war.  The UN started out with noble proclamations, such as a declaration of human rights. 
But it hasn’t stopped aggressive war, or genocide, or protected human rights.  Yes, it made a good start when the UN was used as an umbrella for forces fighting against Communist invasion on the Korean peninsula, but since then it’s been woefully ineffective in stopping those who want to take from their neighbors what they want.  As for genocide, one need only look at the graveyards of Cambodia, Sudan, Bosnia, or Rwanda to see how that went.  Even in Bosnia, where UN personnel in blue helmets dotted the landscape, and Rwanda, where UN observers were in the areas hardest hit by the genocide, the UN did next to nothing to stop the carnage.  In Bosnia, NATO finally stepped in to enforce separation between the warring factions, and in Rwanda, the slaughter pretty much burned itself out before anyone did anything to protect the innocent.   As for human rights, I don’t see the UN doing much to stop the international trade in human beings other than to cluck their tongues and make lurid Internet videos.  In a lot of cases, UN observers or peacekeepers are at least as bad as the warlords they have been charged with policing.
So what is the purpose of the UN if it doesn’t oppose aggressive war, stop genocide, or try to protect the rights of the defenseless?  To me, it has become a prestige organization for every tinpot dictator.  It is a place for those who oppose peace and freedom to have a bully pulpit to espouse their doctrine of post-colonial hate and grievance.  While turning its back on the abuses of China, Pakistan, and other “developing” worlds, it actively tries to meddle in the affairs of the United States.  What little good is done by the UN in its efforts to help refugees and to encourage health and education for children is overshadowed by the cover it gives bad actors.  Its headquarters in New York  is not much more than a money pit and debating club for criminals.
Coincidentally, today is also the anniversary of the signing of the last of the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648.  These treaties ended the 30 Years War, and were the beginning of what we consider the modern, autonomous nation state.  The sovereign of a country was guaranteed the right to choose the religion of his nation, but the rights of religious dissenters were supposed to be respected.  Other than that, it set about redressing some of the grievances that had either caused the war or sprung up during the conflict, and it set the national boundaries and forms of government for the European states.

Did the Treaty stop war in Europe?  Obviously not.  The past four centuries are soaked in blood, with each war more horrific than the last.  But it did set a precedent of the right of a nation to exist, and our own identity as a sovereign nation springs from that.  We are not a loose association of independent duchies, we are the United States, or Great Britain, or Australia.  Our rights are not based on the whim of a distant prince who has a tenuous geneological connection to our power structure. They are guaranteed with our blood, our spirit, and our stubborn refusal to allow anyone else to dictate to us what we will and will not do. 
I find it ironic that the treaty that created the idea that a nation is to be responsible for itself, without interference from an overarching imperium, would have been signed almost 300 years to the day before a treaty that created the body that is actively working to erode sovereignty of the great nations of the world.  Maybe the high potentates of the UN should attend a symposium on the Treaty of Westphalia.  It couldn’t hurt, and at least then we could say they have no excuse for not knowing what they are trying to destroy.

And Now, A Poem

Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.


Edgar Allen Poe, January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849

Today in History

The Battle of Borodino occurred on this date in 1812.  It was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for Napoleon, but if he had followed up on it more vigorously, the course of European history would have been radically different.  Destruction of the Russian army would have meant that even if Napoleon had still been forced to retreat from Moscow, his columns wouldn’t have been as harshly pursued and gutted.   A strong or even victorious Napoleon after the Russian campaigns might have been in a better position to stand up against the British and Austrians, and wouldn’t have been as weakened in the politics of Paris.

Lessons from the Napoleonic wars were learned a bit too well.  Rigid compliance with their tactics in the face of improved technology turned our own Civil War into a meat grinder, a mistake that was repeated  years later on the fields of Sevastopol, Flanders, and Verdun.  There’s a cliché that armies train for the last war, but European and American armies prepared for the War of 1812 for over a century, and only gave it up when the success of the machine gun, tank, and airplane made even the densest of marshalls see that following Napoleon led only to bleeding entire nations white.

I guess the question is whether we’ve learned that lesson.   We spent the second half of the 20th century waiting to refight World War II, while the reality was that we had to be prepared to not only do that, but also to fight brush fire wars in the third world.  Training for conventional war while fighting an unconventional war hollowed out our military, and it took a decade and billions of dollars to bring it back. 10 years of stagnation and preparation to refight Desert Storm gave us a force supremely capable of winning the opening phases of Afghanistan and the Iraq wars, but then the leaders of our forces struggled to switch gears into occupation and counter-insurgency.  It is only through the dedication of our troops and the technology they have been fed that they have done as well as they have, and if they had been better led at the general officer and civilian leadership levels, I believe they might have done better.

Cold Calculus

On August 6, 1945, a lone B-29 of the American Army Air Force dropped a uranium fueled atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  Thousands of people died both in the immediate bombing and in the months to follow.  President Truman hoped to use the destruction of Hiroshima to convince the Japanese government that continued resistance would only lead to untold suffering by the Japanese people, as well as the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen in the inevitable invasion of the Japanese main islands.

The first attempt failed in that regard, so a second bombing happened at Nagasaki on August 8.  Another city was annhilated and its population was decimated, which led to the surrender of Japanese forces on August 15.

Ever since, we have been debating the decision to kill so many people using such a terrible weapon.  The cold calculus of millions of dead and wounded in an invasion versus the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands may make sense, but it only brings home to me that in a total war, there are few truly moral options open to leaders.  Every decision leads to someone suffering; the trick is to choose the one with the least amount of death and pain.

Those who want to cast the bombing of Japan as an evil act by immoral men need to study their own history.  Truman was given no good options, a situation every leader faces at one time or another.  Few decisions are as momentous as whether or not to utilize the most destructive weapons in history, but they are all important.  A leader who refuses to take the best of a set of bad options is not a leader, he is a pretender.

Today in History

July 20, 1969


Historical Coincidence?

I noted during my lunchtime Internet reading that today is the anniversary of the Boston Massacre.  Since I’m interested in history, I read the linked article.

Something stood out:

Boston’s chief customs officer, Charles Paxton, wrote to Hillsborough, asking for military support because “the Government is as much in the hands of the people as it was in the time of the Stamp Act.” Commodore Samuel Hood responded by sending the fifty-gun warship HMS Romney, which arrived in Boston Harbor in May 1768.

Emphasis mine.

You don’t suppose…..  Nah, couldn’t be.  Even my tinfoil hat isn’t that thick or shiny.

To the Shores of Tripoli

The Burning of the U.S.S. Philadelphia

Details here.

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