Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The moving finger wags, and having wagged, moves on ...

The enduring image of the Obama presidency is that wagging index finger, as the president does his best to explain a difficult concept to his dim-witted audience, whether it be the U.S. Congress, the Supreme Court, or the world at large. The British seem to have noticed it, as Reuters reports today:

British support for staying in the European Union has fallen by two percentage points to 51 percent according to a poll, a decline that may suggest U.S. President Barack Obama's words in favor of UK membership had yet to have an impact.
Yet to have an impact? Well, perhaps. Or perhaps there's another and simpler explanation: that Mr Obama's words have indeed sunk in. It may be that Brits are like everyone else and don't appreciate having foreigners tell them what to think.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Goodbye, Andy; hello, Harriet!

The Wall Street Journal is having fun with the notion that Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, given that Ms Tubman was a devout Christian who was guided by visions from God, who voted Republican, and who carried a gun. Her Wikipedia portrait shows her with a rifle of uncertain provenance, but actually she favored a revolver. By her own account, she once had occasion to point the weapon at the head of a fugitive slave who wanted to quit and return to the plantation. "You go on or die," she said, and in time she delivered him safe to Canada.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Three "unknowns" may be Flying Tigers


On Monday, four graves at the Punchbowl national cemetery outside Honolulu were exhumed and the remains taken away for DNA testing. The bodies came from the former St. Luke's graveyard in Toungoo, Burma, and three of them very likely were the pilots killing in training accidents in September and October of 1941, as they prepared for combat with the Japanese air forces in China. The relatives of Pete Atkinson, John Armstrong, and Maax Hammer have tried for years to repatriate the graves, but it turned out that all along they had been on American soil. They were exhumed after the war, temporarily buried in India, and then moved to Honolulu, where they were listed as "unknown." That may cease to be the case in a month or two, when testing is concluded.

Atkinson and Hammer joined the American Volunteer Group from the U.S. Army, while Armstrong was a former Navy aviator. Not often noted is that the Flying Tigers lost only four pilots to enemy action in air-to-air combat. That almost as many were killed in training accidents is testimony to the hazards of flying a 1940s warplane.

It's a puzzle whose remains are in the fourth casket, but most likely a civilian or British military resident of Toungoo, included by error in the postwar repatriation.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Something less than a full-throated defense


I'm sure Bernie Sanders and perhaps even Donald Trump would agree with that!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Eagerly awaiting Cleveland

It now seems unlikely that Donald Trump will have enough votes to win on the first ballot in Cleveland, which should bring joy to the heart of every student of government. The delegates will decide! Good for them, and may they do their job well.

I fear they will nominate Ted Cruz, for he is after all a Republican, who has reaped a lot of votes in the primaries and in the caucuses. (I am more impressed by the caucuses. Most primaries are open now, and open primaries mean very little. I have a left-leaning friend who boasts about voting in the Republican primary when there's no excitement on the other side, just in hopes of spoiling the outcome. I suspect this is fairly common, on both sides.) Personally, I would rather see John Kasich get the nod, or Mitt Romney, or Paul Ryan. Still, Cruz v. Clinton would not be the worst choice we've ever had, though God knows it's pretty bad.

It's still a great system, though, isn't it? Donald Trump hijacked the Republican primaries with his bullying and his bluster, but we still have a firewall to stop him: it's not the voters who get to choose the nominee, but the delegates. The national parties are not public institution, controlled by the government, at least not yet. Each is a private club. It has its rules, and within those rules the delegates can do whatever they think best for the country. Let's hope they do.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

President Whom?

From the Wall Street Journal online:


Well, I could probably vote for the guy on the lower left, but I agree: not since 1972 has America seen such dispiriting choices. (On that occasion, I voted for the woman on what I thought was the Farmer-Labor ticket, but what Wikipedia tells me was formally known as the Socialist Workers Party. Either way, that was fairly radical for me. Or was it merely prescient?)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

President Wilson survives impeachment

Three cheers for Woodrow Wilson, and one cheer for Princeton University, the eleemosynary institution he once headed.

It seems that the former Princeton president (and later president of the United States) was a racist like virtually every American of 100 years ago. For that reason, the pampered and privileged students of today's Princeton -- students who, had they matriculated in 1916, would for the most part have shared Mr Wilson's convictions -- want to strip his name from the campus. Princeton to its credit has finally declined, while at the same time trying to buy the protesters off with promises of ever more diversity. This at a campus that is already minority-white at 45.4 percent, and where the gender balance is just about equal at 51.2 percent male, 48.8 percent female.