All posts by Rand Simberg

Going Down On History

Sounds like Bill’s legacy polishing isn’t going all that well. According to Gallup:

About 4 out of 10 Americans currently say that Bill Clinton will go down in history as an outstanding or above average president [emphasis mine].

Interesting way of putting it (even ignoring the probably-unintentional double entendre). I wonder if they’d say it that way if it were Reagan with the same data?

I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that it would say, “About 6 out of 10 Americans currently say that Ronald Reagan will go down in history as an average or below-average president.” Which, of course, would be an exactly equivalent statement, logically, but it wouldn’t have the right spin factor…

Naming Names

I feel compelled to comment on the little back-and-forth between Ken Layne and Tim Blair on Aussie and American Western naming conventions. They actually are quite similar, except we don’t tend to use the girlie-type diminutives that they do in Oz. They’re a combination, in both cases, as Ken points out, of either a straightforward description in English, or the native word. The American West was mostly populated by rednecks, particularly after the War of Northern Aggression, and they brought their naming conventions with them.

My current legal residence is a place called Jackson Hole (some of you may have heard of it, particularly if you ski…). It was named by trappers. In the argot of that time, a “hole” was a valley in the mountains, and this particular one was discovered by a man named, of all things, Jackson (a well-known presbyterian name–we had a redneck president of similar stock). It was originally called Jackson’s Hole; I’m not sure when the possessive was dropped.

Anyway, in Albion’s Seed, Fischer noted that the people who settled Appalachia were quite earthy, and tended to name their places for either the way they looked, or events or activities that took place there. A couple examples he gives (I believe from West Virginia) of places that had to be renamed in the nineteenth century by more genteel types were “Tickle-C!!t Branch” and “F!!cking Creek.” Which reminds me of a riff that late folk-singer/story teller Gamble Rogers used to do on the subject that went something like:

“It just goes to show what happens when you let rednecks name a place. When we use native words, we get beautiful, euphonious names, like Shenandoah, or Mississauga, or…Winnebago. When you let a redneck name them, what do you get? French Lick, Indiana. Toad Suck, Arkansas.”

Now, my question is this: Is there any equivalent book to Albion’s Seed for Oz, that describes in detail which parts of the British Isles the immigrants came from, correlated with the various regions of Australia? I know that many of them were of the same stock as the border people who later populated the American south and west, including a healthy dollop from Ulster (where many of them came to from the border lands, prior to emigrating to America). This is not based on any research whatsoever, but I recall from The Thorn Birds that the family ranch was called Drogheda, just as the plantation was called Tara in Gone With The Wind (call it the popular-fiction theory). That would indicate a northern Ireland heritage, obviously. If they did come from the same part of the British Isles, it makes sense that the naming conventions would be similar.

[Update at 1:25 PM PST]

UPI Columnist and King of the Anglosphere Jim Bennett weighs in:

Australia differs from the US largely in having a stronger London component (the “Aussie” dialect has East End roots, and they like rhyming slang; the diminuitive endings are common all over England as well. Karen [his Yorkshire wife] says “brekkie” for breakfast, etc.) and fewer Northern English proportionally, lots of Catholic Irish from both North and South, fewer Ulstermen in proportion, but those that did, because they emigrated later, retained stronger actual and continuous links to Ulster–e.g., they organized Orange Order lodges, which the hillbillies never did, because the Orange Order was founded after the hillbilly emigration ceased.

Canada and New Zealand differ from the US in having more Scots from Scotland proper, rather than British Borderers.

Oh, yeah? Then why don’t they (the Canadians) know the proper preparation of haggis (beef and venison, me grrrandfather’s kilt…[shaking head sadly])?

Somebody should do a book entitled “Albion’s Other Seeds” to look at these issues for the whole Anglosphere.

It would be interesting.

The Media And The Military

The Instapundit points to a piece in Slate by Scott Shuger on how NORAD supposedly let us down on 911.

(By the way, thanks to whichever blogger pointed out that it actually is possible to point to an individual post, as opposed to the whole weekly archive in a blogspot post, but you have to edit in the tag yourself for some reason. My links, like the one to Glenn above, should be a little more precise in the future, now that I understand that.)

Well, maybe, but his command of basic facts in the situation does not provide confidence in his reporting.

At one point, Shuger asks:

But note that the F-15 fighters took 18 minutes to cover those 153 miles, which comes out to more like 510 mph. Yet, according to the Air Force, the F-15 has a top speed of 1,875 mph. So, you have to wonder, why were they flying at less than a third of what they’re capable of?

Well, maybe he has to wonder, but I don’t–it’s probably so they wouldn’t run out of fuel before they got there.

Non-aviation reporters apparently aren’t familiar with the fact that “supersonic” fighters are capable of this only for brief periods of time (e.g., dogfights). Drag goes waaaaay up when you’re supersonic, and you can only maintain top speed with full afterburners, which create something akin to Niagara Falls in the intake manifold of the engines…

One of the reasons that the Air Force wanted the F-22 Raptor was that, unlike an F-15, it was designed to be capable of supersonic cruise.

But if he’d bothered to ask somebody, they might have told him that–instead, he’d rather just slam NORAD and the Air Force as incompetents.

Which raises a more general problem that’s really been brought to the forefront in the past four months–the general ignorance of a press corps that, for the most part, hasn’t served in the military, and to whom it is an alien culture. There is an excellent article in this month’s Reason on exactly this subject, by Chris Bray, titled The Media and GI Joe (How the press gets the military wrong–and why it matters). Unfortunately, it’s only in the print edition, so I can’t provide a link, though it should become available on line next month. Pick it up at the newstand if you don’t have a subscription, or can’t wait–it’s the cover story.

Because of this problem, for the most part, when the media report on matters military, they fall into the trap of either being awestruck at routine things, or overly skeptical of very valid things, often within the same piece–they don’t have the experience or knowledge needed to provide accurate reporting. One frightening example from the article:

“I always like to tell the story of a colleague at the Wall Street Journal who asked me one day not long ago if the Marines had served in World War II. Indeed they had, I responded, and in the Revolutionary War, too. He went on to cover the Pentagon.”

So while I didn’t read the whole thing, I did see that one little nugget in the Shuger article, which makes me think that it suffers from the same lack of knowledge, and discourages me from even bothering to read the whole thing.

I have no reason to think that NORAD fell down on the job. On September 10, (unlike the former Soviet Union) shooting down civilian airliners was not their job, and if it has become that, then the terrorists win.

[Update 6:20 PM PST]

I see that the Flit web site has an even more detailed takedown of this article.

When Cow Guts Fly

I know that this is the kind of hard-hitting story that people come to this site for.

An Alberta man is going to fling a haggis across the Bow River, in Calgary. He’s developed a special launcher just for the purpose.

I have no other comment, but I’ll let the other bloggers have at it, particularly those from the Great White North. And you’re not allowed any comments about not being able to stomach it–the Sun already used that one…