Archive for the ‘Capt Midknight’ Category

Politics from the Pulpit

March 13, 2008

Politics from the pulpit in America has a long history going back to the earliest times of our country – Bill Clinton and Jessie Jackson and Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell to mention only a couple of recent examples on each side.

I’ve learned my lesson (for now, at least) and have no intention of offering an opinion, but surely some of you have some thoughts on the current dust up over Barack Obama’s pastor’s recent statements. Videos of him have been all over the news.

My personal favorite quote is:

“Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.”

Oh Geraldine, Where Art Thou

March 12, 2008

Ms. Ferraro’s original comment:

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position, and, if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Geraldine Ferraro responds to criticism of her comments about Barak Obama:

“I was talking about historic candidacies and what I started off by saying (was that) if you go back to 1984 and look at my historic candidacy, which I had just talked about all these things, in 1984 if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would have never been chosen as a vice presidential candidate,” Ferraro said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” ”It had nothing to do with my qualification.”

Is Ms. Ferraro a closet racist, or is it possible that there was a certain amount of truth in what she said, however politically incorrect and insensitive it was of her to bring it up?

Earlier in the campaign, there was some discussion by Black journalists as to whether Obama was a legitimate representative of the African American community – whether he was really Black enough. I remember one black writer saying, in a column or editorial, something to the effect that Obama was having the success he was with white voters because he represented white people’s version of a “Good Negro,” and therefore questioned whether Barak was really “down with the struggle.”

ISTM that Ms. Ferraro was simply stating the obvious, both in regard to her own situation in 1984 and to Obama’s – and everyone else’s – in the current race. Would Hillary be where she is in the race if she weren’t a female, a former First Lady, and the wife of a former President? Would McCain be where he is if he weren’t a white male long serving senator and war hero? Would Mitt Romney have ever been a factor if he wasn’t a successful business man, former governor, and a gizillionare?

It isn’t racist to say that, if Barak Obama was a white male first term senator from Illinois he, in all probability, wouldn’t even be on the presidential radar screen, but it also isn’t particularly helpful. He is who he is, just like the other candidates, and the reality that who he is has been partly responsible for him taking away some of the Clinton’s previous core constituency is just a fact of life they have to live with.

Is there too much knee jerk political correctness in the press? Are we too quick to shout “racist, sexist, liberal, conservative,” etc.? Have we become more interested in labeling the speaker than fairly examining the statement?

Questions from the right lunatic fringe.

Who’s the Greatest?

February 17, 2008

In preparation for President’s Day tomorrow, the Harris Polling organization conducted the following survey;

“The online survey posed this question to 2,302 adults in the U.S.: Which one of the following presidents do you think was the best overall president in our history?
The list of options people could choose from included all presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, along with some of the more famous from earlier in American history – George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge.”

It should be no big surprise that Abraham Lincoln came in first. Given the same choices, how would you rank them – lets say the top three?

Also, what does it say about the poll – and maybe, about ourselves – that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made the top ten?

Happy Birthday

February 12, 2008

Today is the 199th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. He was one of the youngest men elected to the presidency up to that time; was the first president born west of the Alleghenies, the first president elected from the Republican Party, and the first president assassinated while in office. With his only military experience being a short stint as a militia captain in an obscure frontier Indian uprising, he directed and won the largest military conflict in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

Although largely self educated and considered a coarse backwoods hick by many of the his political opponents and eastern intelligentsia, he produced some of the most eloquent passages in American history. At the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg in November 1863, Edward Everett, one of the nation’s greatest orator, spoke for two hours. Nobody remembers what he said. Lincoln, who was only invited seventeen days before the ceremony as a courtesy, and to “formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks,” spoke for just over two minutes, and, over the following 100 years, millions of school children have committed his words to memory.

Rarely has the old quote from Shakespear better applied than to Lincoln:

“Some men are born with greatness, some men achieve greatness, and some men have greatness thrust upon them.”

Happy Birthday Abe

Wild Blue Yonder

December 17, 2007

104 years ago today, two bicycle mechanics from Dayton Ohio made the first series of heaver than air flights at Kitty hawk, N.C.  Travel hasn’t been the same since.  Four years ago, at the Centennial, I had the honor of standing at the place where it was done.

When you’re stranded in Dallas by American Airlines this holiday season (as I may be before the week is up) you can address your colorful vocabulary towards Orville and Wilbur.  It’s all their fault.

Fill ‘er up with H2

December 14, 2007

For the environmentally aware among us, I just saw on AOL News that Honda is going to offer for lease ($600/mo) next year a car that is powered by fuel cells, requiring only hydrogen as a fuel. They recently test drove it from Santa Monica out to Malibu, but said that, since there are so many sports cars and high dollar foreign jobs on the PCH that the Fuel Cell car didn’t get a second look. It’s supposed to get 68 miles/kg, which is about three times better than the gasoline model – if you don’t mind the idea of sitting just ahead of a tank of hydrogen stored under 5,000 psi.

Any thoughts on alternative fuel cars, green house gasses, Global Warming (pro or con), melting glaciers, drowning Polar Bears, submerging cities, or any other current gloom and doom predictions?

Next Year in Jerusalem

November 29, 2007

Sixty years ago today, the new international organization called the United Nations voted to partition the land of Palestine, creating separate Jewish and Arab states.

Having spent some time in modern Israel in 2000 and again this past May, I can tell you that it is a fascinating, if potentially dangerous, place; full of historical, political, racial, religious, and cultural tension. It is also a land of huge contradictions – the ultra modern beside the ancient.

Any thoughts on modern Israel – it’s history up to now and how things might play out in the future?

The World Turned Upside Down

October 19, 2007


I don’t mean to kill off the current thread or hijack the subject with another post so soon. There is probably a lot more that folks would like to say about the subject of torture and whether Bush and his administration are weak and/or stupid, so please feel free to continue there as well. It’s just that today is a very historically significant day and it only comes around once a year, so I didn’t want to let it pass without mentioning it.


Two hundred and twenty-six years ago today, Charles O’Hara, the illegitimate son of an Anglo-Irish nobleman, and Benjamin Lincoln, a small time Massachusetts politician, met in a field outside a small tobacco port in Virginia and formalized one of the most important events in American history. If you don’t recognize these men, you’re not alone. I wouldn’t have either before I recently began reading a book by Thomas Fleming titled The Perils of Peace.

Brigadier General Charles O’Hara was the second in command of a 7,700 man British army led by General Lord Charles Cornwallis who were, at the time, trapped in a small village on the Virginia peninsula called Yorktown by the combined forces of the Continental Army under George Washington, , French troops under Lt. General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, and a French Fleet under Admiral Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse – a little over 29,000 Frenchmen and about 9,000 Americans.

After agreeing to the surrender terms, Cornwallis was unwilling to appear in person, and so sent out his subordinate to do the humiliating deed. On arriving at the appointed place, O’Hara ask for Comte Rochambeau – an act recognized by everyone present as an attempt to snub the Americans, even in defeat. The Frenchman, to his credit, immediately pointed to Washington – who was difficult to miss since at 6’2″, he towered over most of the Europeans, especially on his large white horse – as the overall commander. O’Hara rode over and explained that Lord Cornwallis was “indisposed.” Washington, neatly sidestepping the insult, replied that, in that case, it would be only proper for O’Hara to surrender to Washington’s own 2nd in command, General Lincoln. So it came about that one of the most import victory in the history of American arms was officially presided over by two valiant but essentially unknown soldiers, while the more famous ones watched.

In many history books, this event is presented as the end of the war, and they then go on to other things like the Constitution and such, assuming that, after Yorktown, American independence was a foregone conclusion. The fact is that Yorktown, as important as it was, settled nothing. The British still had 16,000 men and a fleet in New York, also occupied the ports of Charleston and Savannah, and King George III who controlled the British Parliament through his political cronies and appointees, was still adamantly opposed to any suggestion of independence for his North American “Colonies.”

As for those “Colonies,” they were almost at the end of their tether, and the victory at Yorktown came just in time. The individual “States” were at odds over all sorts of things; the Continental Army hadn’t been paid since anyone could remember, and was marching in rags; the Congress under the new Articles of Confederation was virtually powerless and often even lacked a quorum to conduct business; it’s money was more valuable as toilet paper; and the Treasury was deeply in debt and essentially bankrupt.

The following story illustrates the fiscal situation in the country:

The courier General Washington sent to Congress in Philadelphia with the official news of Cornwallis’ surrender arrived at the capitol at 3:00am on October 24th, after traveling almost constantly for four days. After hearing his report, the President of Congress and several delegates found him a room nearby, since he was worn out, sick, and almost asleep on his feet. Unfortunately, the courier, Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman, one of Washington’s military aides, had no money, having not been paid like the rest of the army. Since he was on official business, the government should have picked up the bill, but there was – literally – not enough money in the National Treasury to cover a night or two in a Philadelphia boarding house. In the end, several of the delegates covered the expense out of their own pockets.

After Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, it actually took several months of diplomatic and political intrigue on both sides of the Atlantic, and finally, the fall of King George’s party from power in Parliament and the rise of a government actually willing to talk about American independence before anything like peace talks began. Meanwhile, the New American nation held on by it’s political, financial, and military fingernails.

The more I read about those times, the more miraculous I find it that we aren’t all today still speaking British and driving on the wrong side of the road.

…To see ourselves as others see us

October 10, 2007

Having just spent a little time in Ireland, I found it very interesting to come across an article in last Sunday’s Washington Post about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign written by a British journalist. Unlike most of the pundits here, on both sides, who analyze every nuance of the current primary candidates’ campaigns in terms of everything from policy positions to campaign style to finances, and who knows what else, this British guy suggests that many in what he terms “other advanced democracies” see her candidacy more in terms of qualifications (or lack of them) nepotism, and dynasty building. He also wonders out loud why the American public seems to have little or no concern about these things. I’m not a Hillary fan, but this isn’t really intended as a political post. I just thought it was interesting to get a view from somebody outside the current American political madhouse.

Hillary is certainly singled out for this guy’s scrutiny because of her unique situation – the 1st First Lady to run for president as well as the first serious female candidate – and he does discuss several female politicians who have had impressive careers like Margret Thacher and Goldia Meir, probably to show that he’s not just a male chauvinist pig. I Just wondered what the group might think about this Brit’s view of our election process.

Since I’m not sure I can link to the article, I’ve included some selected bits below. There is at least a page more. If you can get to the Washington Post web site, it was in last Sunday’s (October 7th) edition. Sorry in advance that it made for such a long post.

Who Made Hillary Queen?By Geoffrey Wheatcroft Sunday, October 7, 2007; Page B01

Among so much about American politics that can impress or depress a friendly transatlantic observer, there’s nothing more astonishing than this: Why on Earth should Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton be the front-runner for the presidency?

She has now pulled well ahead of Sen. Barack Obama, both in polls and in fundraising. If the Democrats can’t win next year, they should give up for good, so she must be considered the clear favorite for the White House. But in all seriousness: What has she ever done to deserve this eminence? How could a country that prides itself on its spirit of equality and opportunity possibly be led by someone whose ascent owes more to her marriage than to her merits?

We all, nations as well as individuals, have difficulty seeing ourselves as others see us. In this case, I doubt that Americans realize how extraordinary their country appears from the outside. In Europe, the supposed home of class privilege and heritable status, we have abandoned the hereditary principle (apart from the rather useful institution of constitutional monarchy), and the days are gone when Pitt the Elder was prime minister and then Pitt the Younger. But Americans find nothing untoward in Bush the Elder being followed by Bush the Younger.

At a time when Americans seem to contemplate with equanimity up to 28 solid years of uninterrupted Bush-Clinton rule, please note that there are almost no political dynasties left in British politics, at least on the Tory side. Admittedly, Hilary Benn, the environmental secretary, is the fourth generation of his family to sit in Parliament and the third to serve in a Labor party cabinet. But England otherwise has nothing now to match the noble houses of Kennedy, Gore and Bush.

… And in no other advanced democracy today could someone with Clinton’s resume even be considered a candidate for national leadership.

What a contrast Hillary Clinton presents! Everyone recognizes the nepotism or favoritism she has enjoyed: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has written that without her marriage, Clinton might be a candidate for president of Vassar, but not of the United States. And yet the truly astonishing nature of her career still doesn’t seem to have impinged on Americans.

All in all, “Democracy in America,” not to mention equality or feminism in America, can sometimes look very odd from the outside. We’ve seen Jean Kennedy Smith made ambassador to to Dublin (and a disastrous one) because she was famous for being a sister, then Pamela Digby Harriman made ambassador to Paris (and rather a good one) because she was famous for being a socialite. Now Hillary Rodham Clinton has become a potential president because she is famous for being a wife (and a wronged wife at that). Europe has long since accepted the great 19th-century liberal principle of “the career open to the talents.” In the 21st century, isn’t it time that the republic founded on the proposition that all men are created equal — and women, too, one hopes — also caught up with it?


And finally, a trivia question:

If Hillary wins the nomination and the 2008 election, she will, of course, be the first woman and the first former First Lady to do so, but she will also be only the third sitting Senator to be elected president. Who were the other two?

Hail the Conquering Heroes!

November 9, 2006

I’ve been absent for a while, but some of you may remember me. I’m the grouchy old retired guy who dabbles in history and long convoluted sentences.

I ‘d just like to echo Juvenal in sending out Congrats and Condolences to all concerned. Our election process has gotten so brutal that anyone who is willing to enter the public arena, whatever their motivation, deserves a little respect. Politicians being what they are, however, I’m sure that some of those on the short side will see their defeat as the final straw that ushers in a new “Dark Ages” of chaos and tyranny, while some of the winners will see their victory as the well deserved vindication of their morally and rationally superior character and philosophy. As usual, both will be mistaken.

More than anything, however, I’d like to congratulate us, the American electorate, for having peacefully completed the 109th election cycle under our present Constitution. The first assembly of Senators and Representatives convened in New York City on March 4, 1789, and it’s been pretty much business as usual ever since – except for two cycles during the Civil War (or, as some of my un-reconstructed friends call it “The War of Northern Aggression”). During that time, there were actually two congresses sitting – one in Washington and one in Richmond – resulting, I’m sure, in twice the bickering, back stabbing, name calling, and general all around “politicking” we’ve all come to know and love. Some of those election cycles were calm and uneventful, and some would make even our modern mud slinging contests look like church socials. Through it all, our country has survived and prospered beyond the wildest dreams of those men who first took office back in 1789. Hurray for the average American!

So much for the good news. For those of us who are sick to death of political hog wash from either side, the bad news is that the 110th election cycle has already started.

In 2008, it will have been 56 years since we’ve had a presidential election without either an incumbent president or vice-president on the ticket for either party. The last time this happened, we were in the middle of a confusing and not very popular war with American boys dying every day in some far off place; there were accusations of scandal; and the party in power’s approval ratings had sunk like a stone. The opposition nominated a very popular figure who ran on the platform of cleaning up the government, ending the war, and bringing the troops home. Does any of this sound familiar?

Fifty-six years ago, the opposition party candidate won 55.2% of the popular vote and 83% of the electoral vote. Running as an incumbent four years later, he received 57.5% of the popular vote and 86% of the electoral vote. History doesn’t always repeat itself, but, in this case, it has to make the current party holding the White House very nervous. Two years from now, it may be a different lady ordering new drapes for the Oval Office – again. For those of us who enjoyed watching the “Bill and Hil” show in the ‘90s, we might wake up some morning now long from now and hear some TV pundit saying

They’re Baaaaaaaaaack!

Fasten your seat belts.