Category Archives: History

Happy Berth Day To Dragon

It was launched on Good Friday, and now the Dragon has berthed with the ISS early in the morning on Easter Sunday, over the region of the world in which Christ was reportedly born, died, and resurrected. That wasn’t planned, though. They’d have preferred to have it up weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, no word from SpaceX about recovering the first stage. I’m going to interpret that as bad news, for now.

John Houboult

Rest in peace:

In November 1961, Houbolt took the bold step of skipping proper channels and writing a 9-page private letter directly to incoming Associate Administrator Dr. Robert C. Seamans. Describing himself somewhat melodramatically “as a voice in the wilderness,” Houbolt protested LOR’s exclusion from the NASA debate on the Apollo mission profile. “Do we want to go to the moon or not?” the Langley engineer asked. “Why is Nova, with its ponderous size simply just accepted, and why is a much less grandiose scheme involving rendezvous ostracized or put on the defensive? I fully realize that contacting you in this manner is somewhat unorthodox,” Houbolt admitted, “but the issues at stake are crucial enough to us all that an unusual course is warranted.” Houbolt clearly saw that the giant Nova rocket and the expensive and complex Earth orbit rendezvous plan were clearly not a realistic option–especially if the mission was to be accomplished anywhere close to President Kennedy’s timetable. While conducting a rendezvous in orbit around the Moon was going to be a challenge, the weight, cost and savings of using LOR were obvious once one realized that LOR was not fundamentally much more difficult than Earth orbit rendezvous. This insights, and Houbolt’s brave and energetic advocacy of it, made all the difference.

It’s just a shame that they didn’t do earth-orbit rendezvous as well with smaller vehicles. We could have avoided the Saturn V and the Apollo Cargo Cult.

A Rudderless NASA

More thoughts from Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t have time for a detailed critique right now, but I find it amusing that he thinks Neil Tyson is a reliable source about the history of exploration:

“In the history of civilisation, private enterprise has never led a) large, b) expensive, c) dangerous projects, with unknown risks,” said astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, during a talk for Big Think. “That has never happened.”

That is just nonsense on stilts, based on apparently a grade-school understanding. Columbus himself had already raised half the money privately. Cabot’s expedition was privately funded, based on a patent from Henry VII. Hudson’s expeditions were funded by British merchants who were seeking the Northwest Passage. The mouth of the Columbia was discovered by a seal trader. The vast majority of exploration of the Americas and the West was privately funded.

[Update at noon]

I’d forgotten about this post from last year. There is no evidence that Columbus got any money from the government.

Tortoise Ranching In The Old West

A brief history:

Back in the old West a lot of the toughest codgers tried tortoise ranching, but it died out because it took years to drive the herds up to Kansas City or Chicago. On a good day they might cover a mile and a half, but most days they could only drive them about a mile because a herd has to graze. There was no use bringing skinny turtles to market. In frontier towns along the drive it was a always big week when the boys brought a herd through, and people would grab their kids out of the streets in case there was a stampede as the torts got a whiff of the salad bar at the Golden Corral and Saloon.

A lot of people don’t realize it, but Westerners learned to say little and talk slowly so they didn’t run out of things to say during the big tortoise drives. Now that’s part of our Western culture. But then came the barbed wire fences, and the last of the free-grazing tortoise drives stopped because the tortoises didn’t give a s**t about the barbed wire, but the cowboys would have to carry their beer coolers and lawn chairs the long way round and try to catch back up to the stock, and that was just too much work for the world’s laziest f**king ranchers.

The only ones left are the ones who run mixed herds of cattle and tortoises, like Cliven Bundy’s family. If the BLM wins, an historic and traditional American way of life will come to a final, bitter end, and this nation will close a fascinating chapter of its history.

I did not know that.

Nazi Gun Control

Clayton Cramer reviews what looks to be an interesting scholarly new work:

There are many parallels between the laws passed in the Weimar Republic and by the Nazis, and current gun control laws and proposals. For example: the nature and duration of the records that gun manufacturers and dealers were required to keep (p. 135); issuance of gun carry licenses “only to persons considered reliable and only if a need is proven” (p. 107); the use of relatively rare incidents to justify widespread disarmament of “enemies of the state” (p. 155); and the prohibition of firearms with features not generally used “for hunting or sporting purposes” (p. 134).

This is not to say that gun control advocates in America today are planning a police state, concentration camps, and mass extermination. As Halbrook points out, when the Weimar Republic pursued its campaign of strict licensing and registration, they were genuinely trying to deal with a serious violence problem. They picked a solution that did not work, as some police officials of the time pointed out, causing some German states to refuse to go along with the Weimar Republic’s mandatory registration regulations in 1931 (pp. 34-38).

The problem was that, as some pointed out when mandatory registration was under discussion in 1931, “in chaotic times, the lists of firearms owners would fall into the wrong hands, allowing unauthorized persons to seize arms and use them to commit unlawful acts” (p. 29). The lists did fall into the wrong hands — the Nazi government, after the 1933 elections. And they did use them to seize arms, especially from Jews and other “enemies of the state.”

You don’t say.

Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Historical Knowledge

No, not about Bruno, but about the history of exploration:

There is no nice, clean line between private “buck making” and high-minded government exploration just for the sake of it. From the Wright Brothers making the key advances in aviation to IBM funded Nobel Prize winning basic research, innumerable breakthroughs in science and technology have been led by private non-governmental ventures.

Yes. It’s the post-war government funding that’s been an anomaly, historically. Fortunately, when it comes to spaceflight, that era is ending.

Venezuela

Chavez’s legacy and deadly end game:

As the economy has deteriorated, the government has resorted to dubious stopgaps such as price controls. The price controls have produced more shortages, leading to more stopgaps … and more political repression to control complaints about the shortages and stopgaps. People made much of the fact that Chavez won elections — but less of the fact that he won them in the context of government policies that required television stations to broadcast hours of his speeches every week. And that he silenced stations that opposed him.

This has only continued to get worse under President Nicolas Maduro. Having shrunk the space for legitimate opposition so far, its only outlet seems to be the streets.

They’re streets that the murderous Maduro should be dragged through. But the White House, and much of the media, remains silent.

Ukraine

Let it vote for partition.

I’ve never heard a good explanation of why we should hold this artificial “nation” together. Let the Europeans go with Europe, let the Russians go with Russia.

[Update a few minutes later]

Fascism, Russia and Ukraine:

The populist media campaign for the Eurasian Union is now in the hands of Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the most important talk show in Russia, and since December also the director of the state-run Russian media conglomerate designed to form national public opinion. Best known for saying that gays who die in car accidents should have their hearts cut from their bodies and incinerated, Kiselyov has taken Putin’s campaign against gay rights and transformed it into a weapon against European integration. Thus when the then German foreign minister, who is gay, visited Kiev in December and met with Vitali Klitschko, the heavyweight champion and opposition politician, Kiselyov dismissed Klitschko as a gay icon. According to the Russian foreign minister, the exploitation of sexual politics is now to be an open weapon in the struggle against the “decadence” of the European Union.

Following the same strategy, Yanukovych’s government claimed, entirely falsely, that the price of closer relations with the European Union was the recognition of gay marriage in Ukraine. Kiselyov is quite open about the Russian media strategy toward the Maidan: to “apply the correct political technology,” then “bring it to the point of overheating” and bring to bear “the magnifying glass of TV and the Internet.”

Why exactly do people with such views think they can call other people fascists? And why does anyone on the Western left take them seriously? One line of reasoning seems to run like this: the Russians won World War II, and therefore can be trusted to spot Nazis. Much is wrong with this. World War II on the eastern front was fought chiefly in what was then Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus, not in Soviet Russia. Five percent of Russia was occupied by the Germans; all of Ukraine was occupied by the Germans. Apart from the Jews, whose suffering was by far the worst, the main victims of Nazi policies were not Russians but Ukrainians and Belarusians. There was no Russian army fighting in World War II, but rather a Soviet Red Army. Its soldiers were disproportionately Ukrainian, since it took so many losses in Ukraine and recruited from the local population. The army group that liberated Auschwitz was called the First Ukrainian Front.

The other source of purported Eurasian moral legitimacy seems to be this: since the representatives of the Putin regime only very selectively distanced themselves from Stalinism, they are therefore reliable inheritors of Soviet history, and should be seen as the automatic opposite of Nazis, and therefore to be trusted to oppose the far right.

Again, much is wrong about this. World War II began with an alliance between Hitler and Stalin in 1939. It ended with the Soviet Union expelling surviving Jews across its own border into Poland. After the founding of the State of Israel, Stalin began associating Soviet Jews with a world capitalist conspiracy, and undertook a campaign of arrests, deportations, and murders of leading Jewish writers. When he died in 1953 he was preparing a larger campaign against Jews.

This all points out the meaninglessness of “right” and “left” in Eurasia, and the nonsense of the notion (as Jonah Goldberg is always quick to point out) that fascism is “right wing.” Both Nazism and Stalinism are perversions of Marxism (not to imply that Marxism can ever be applied in the real world unperverted). Their differences are trivial relative to their similarities.

[Update a while later]

This seems sort of peripherally related: “Time travelers, don’t kill Hitler.”

I disagree with the notion that the Holocaust was the Worst Thing Ever, or even uniquely evil. The notion that it is is largely squid ink to distract us from the much greater crimes of Stalin, Mao, and other communist monsters, whom much of academia either wants to downplay as unrepresentative of “true” Marxism, or actually admire.

[Update late morning]

No, fascism and socialism still aren’t opposites.

John Kerry And Climate Change

Why he’s flat wrong:

While none of these inconsistencies refutes the fundamental concern about greenhouse-gas-enhanced climate change, it is disturbing that “consensus science” will not acknowledge that such discrepancies are major problems. From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s beginning, that largely self-selected panel of scientists has embraced the notion that consensus on climate change is the necessary path to taking action and reducing man-made carbon emissions around the world. The consensus community uses this to push the view that “the science is settled” and hold up skeptics to ridicule, as John Kerry did on Sunday.

We are reminded of the dangers of consensus science in the past. For example, in the 18th century, more British sailors died of scurvy than died in battle. In this disease, brought on by a lack of vitamin C, the body loses its ability to manufacture collagen, and gums and other tissues bleed and disintegrate. These deaths were especially tragic because many sea captains and some ships’ doctors knew, based on observations early in the century, that fresh vegetables and citrus cured scurvy.

Nonetheless, the British Admiralty’s onshore Sick and Health Board of scientists and physicians (somewhat akin to the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) dismissed this evidence for more than 50 years because it did not fit their consensus theory that putrefaction (or internal decay) caused scurvy, which they felt could be cured by fresh air, exercise and laxatives.

“Consensus” science that ignores reality can have tragic consequences if cures are ignored or promising research is abandoned. The climate-change consensus is not endangering lives, but the way it imperils economic growth and warps government policy making has made the future considerably bleaker. The recent Obama administration announcement that it would not provide aid for fossil-fuel energy in developing countries, thereby consigning millions of people to energy poverty, is all too reminiscent of the Sick and Health Board denying fresh fruit to dying British sailors.

Idiots. Murderous idiots in the name of an ideology.

Hillary’s Past

Of course it’s relevant. Democrats who say that the voters won’t be interested in it are just expressing a desperate hope. They got away with that “it’s old news” nonsense in the nineties, but it’s not the nineties any more. Hillary enabled Bill’s sexual predation and corruption and participated in it, including targeting inconvenient women who were his victims. Speaking of which, three cheers for Kathleen Willey for not letting the Clintons’ thugs intimidate her.

Hillary should, finally, be held accountable, even if all that means is that she doesn’t get to rule over us.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Byron York has it right:

Of course Clinton’s recent experiences are relevant to a presidential run. But so are her actions in the 90s, the 80s and even the 70s. It’s not ancient history; it reveals something about who Clinton was and still is. And re-examining her past is entirely consistent with practices in recent campaigns.

In the 2012 presidential race, for example, many in the press were very interested in business deals Mitt Romney made in the 1980s. In the 2004 race, many journalists were even more interested in what George W. Bush did with the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, as well as what John Kerry did in Vietnam that same year. And in 2000, a lot of journalists invested a lot of time trying to find proof that Bush had used cocaine three decades earlier.

So by the standards set in coverage of other candidates, Clinton’s past is not too far past.

That’s especially true because there will be millions of young voters in 2016 who know little about the Clinton White House. Americans who had not even been born when Bill Clinton first took the oath of office in 1993 will be eligible to vote two years from now. They need to know that Hillary Clinton has been more than Secretary of State.

Yes. There is a new generation that needs to learn just what kind of people these people are.

[Another update]

More from Wes Pruden:

The “bimbo eruptions” that Bill and Hillary thought were well behind them are coming back with a vengeance, and it’s only 2014. Bimbos have been a menace to ambitious men since Eve treated Adam to his first apple tart, Delilah gave Samson his first haircut, and Anthony Weiner tweeted his first crotch shot to the bimbos of the cyberworld.

The invention of politics raised the ante. The cultivation of the libido at taxpayer expense, together with the explosion of media, makes official indiscretion unsustainable.

The fact that Bubba’s bimbos were leftovers from an earlier century means that the recollection of them won’t be old news to the millions of voters who grew up after the Clintons left the White House. Fourteen years and two presidents later, a lot has been swallowed by the memory hole.

Bubba’s bimbos and Hillary’s enabling and manipulation of scandal will be new and titillating stuff. Sex sells, even the creepy sex attributed to old fogies over 30. The modern American culture is built on the cultivation of sexual titillation.

Yup.

And Monica was the least of Bill’s predatory conquests, because unlike Juanita Broaddrick, whom he forcibly raped, Paula Jones, whom he had delivered to his hotel room by an armed police officer, and Kathleen Willey, whom he assaulted in the White House after she came seeking a job, she threw herself at him.

From Russia, With Euphemisms

@JonahNRO on the historical ignorance of the Olympics coverage:

In America, we constantly, almost obsessively, wrestle with the “legacy of slavery.” That speaks well of us. But what does it say that so few care that the Soviet Union was built — literally — on the legacy of slavery? The founding fathers of the Russian Revolution — Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky — started “small,” merely throwing hundreds of thousands of people into kontslagerya (concentration camps).

By the time Western intellectuals and youthful folksingers like Pete Seeger were lavishing praise on the Soviet Union as the greatest experiment in the world, Joseph Stalin was corralling millions of his own people into slavery. Not metaphorical slavery, but real slavery complete with systematized torture, rape, and starvation. Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to, literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union — the supposed epitome of modernity and “scientific socialism” — was built on a mountain of broken lives and unremembered corpses.

As he points out, imagine the outrage if similar language were used to describe the Nazi regime, complete with Swastikas. In a sane world, the hammer and sickle would draw just as much, if not more opprobrium.

Was Lincoln A Liberal?

Actually, he was. Conservatives are missing a great opportunity here, by pointing out that while Lincoln was a genuine liberal (and the first Republican president), the people who aren’t liberals are the leftists who call themselves that today. They stole the label decades ago to try to dress up their politics of envy and redistribution in prettier clothes.

Left Versus Right

A review of Yuval Levin’s new book, that shows the origins of the fight that goes back over two centuries. Neither Burke nor Paine were Founders, but their ideas strongly influenced the Founding. Fortunately, Burke’s mostly won out in the drafting of the Constitution, but the modern left continues to try to warp it more a Paine direction.