Wednesday, May 29, 2013

TFH 5/29: Hillary and Norgay

On April 10, 1802, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey as part of the larger Survey of India. The surveyors thought it would take five years to complete their work. It wound up taking over sixty.

During 1847, Kangchenjunga was considered the highest peak in the world (now known to be the third highest). In November of that year, Andrew Waugh, British Surveyor General of India, and one of his colleagues, John Armstrong, viewed another peak over 140 miles past Kangchenjunga between Nepal and Tibet, both of which was closed to foreigners at the time. The two used theodolites to determine trigonometrically the height of the "new" peak. They were pretty sure that they had found the world's highest mountain, but needed closer observations to verify.

Two years later, Waugh dispatched surveyor James Nicolson to get closer. He took thirty measurements and sightings on the peak from distances ranging from 108 to 120 miles away. The mountain was then designated simply as "Peak XV".

Finally in 1856, after further measurements and mathematical corrections to account for Earth curvature, atmospheric distortion, and the like - much by an Indian surveyor named Radhanath Sikdar - Waugh announced that the world's tallest mountain had been identified with an altitude of 29,002 feet (8,840 meters).

The British tried to name peaks preserving their local, native names, but as Nepal and Tibet were closed to them, the peak's traditional name of Chomolungma remained unknown for years. Waugh chose to name the peak for his predecessor as Surveyor General: George Everest.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

TFH 5/26: Private Joseph P. Martinez, USA

Just about everybody knows that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, thus embroiling the United States as an active combatant in World War II. Likewise, the Japanese occupation of American territories in the central and western Pacific is also well known. Many however, don't realize that part of what today is one of our fifty states was actually occupied by the Japanese in 1942: the Alaskan Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.

In 1943, the United States counter-attacked to reclaim the two Aleutians. Beginning on May 11, 1943, elements of the United States Army's 7th Infantry Division began landing on Attu to drive the Japanese out. Serving with the 7th's 32nd Infantry Regiment was Private Joe P. Martinez.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Solving the Anthem Problem

During the last week, I popped into a Twitter conversation lamenting our National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. In the end, one of the folks in the thread said our anthem should be changed to America the Beautiful. About the only song worse as a choice would probably be This Land is Your Land.

However, there is a problem with our anthem. No it's not that The Star-Spangled Banner is difficult to sing, or that celebrity anthem singers before major events frequently mangle it. The problem is simply that we're singing the wrong words.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The American Horror Next Door

"Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 
"Sec. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."...  
Now, therefore, be it known, that I, William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United hereby certify that the amendment aforesaid has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution of the United States. 
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the Department of State to be affixed. 
Done at the city of Washington, this eighteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the ninetieth. 
-- Proclamation of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, December 18, 1865.
Today, in the closing days of the two hundred and thirty-seventh year of American Independence, less than one hundred and fifty years since the constitutional abolition of slavery in the United States, we take that abolition completely for granted. That's a bold statement, I know, but I believe it completely justified.

"Slavery" brings up a definite mental image in the minds of Americans, which more likely than not is that of black slaves, predominately forced agricultural labor, prior to the end of the American Civil War that resulted ultimately in emancipation and abolition. The term gets thrown around a lot in different circles too. I've used it as a shock term in describing what I see as our overall decline in condition from citizens of a republic to subjects of a State. It's been used to describe conditions under which some aliens in the United States today exist because of their presence here in violation of immigration laws. Both are valid, but both also serve to perpetuate visions that keep a real slavery crisis in the shadows.

Just this past week, we heard the sensational story out of Cleveland, Ohio about the three women rescued from captivity at the hands of a sexual predator for a decade. The victims have been referred to, properly, as "slaves". The story is front page news on a large proportion of print and online media, and among the top stories on broadcast media.

Yesterday afternoon (May 10, 2013), there was another horrific story reported out of the Cleveland area. It hasn't been reported by CNN. Or Fox News. Or...well, hardly anywhere. I believe that this story isn't being widely reported because it's a societal problem so incredible in the breadth and depth of its horrors that many people just can't process or accept that it could happen here, in the United States.

This story is one of the real faces of slavery in America: young women, many still girls, children, forced into into sexual slavery as prostitutes. There are also cases simply involving forced labor, but I find coerced sex-for-service inflicted upon a victim of any age particularly barbaric. And want to know what's really scary? It's probably also going on right now, close to you, within minutes of travel time from where you're sitting and reading this.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

I Am a Conservatarian, Volume I: The Basics

A few weeks ago, I was tossed a "Follow Friday" on Twitter by Kevin Boyd, a blogger, social media director of the great new blog site Pocket Full of Liberty, and on my short list of great Twitterverse friends I really have to meet in real life someday. Kevin graciously tagged me as "Mr. Conservatarian", and when I've gotten in a rant-ish kind of mood over on Twitter recently, I've been shooting out pearls of wisdom with the heading and hashtag "I am a #Conservatarian".

The whole concept of "Conservatarian" probably could use some explanation, and I'm all too happy to oblige. And yes, I'm rather pretentiously labeling this "Volume I", as this is a topic area that I can drop dozens of posts into, and hope to do so.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Sleepers wake? Part One of a Different Take on Benghazi

Inquiries and investigations into the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012 that left four Americans dead, including US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, are picking up. Many are starting to ask about what I think is one of the key questions in the whole scandal, namely who was it that gave then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and others the talking points about the "YouTube" excuse; that it was the rather badly made anti-Muslim video that spurred on the whole attack and following debacle. Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post's "The Fact Checker" blog is on this angle, as is Ed Morrissey at Hot Air and in his new column for The Week.

Cover-ups rarely are spurred on by the events that directly precipitated the need to cover up, rather their genesis is to be found in keeping under wraps other things that an investigation will likely expose. This was true in both the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals, and it's almost certainly true about the aftermath of Benghazi.

I'm a fan of both history and fiction dealing with espionage and international intrigue. You may have read my recent post on the 70th anniversary of Operation Mincemeat, which except for date checks and verifying some minor details, I wrote pretty much from memory. Perhaps I've read too much history and fiction in that genre, as the tack I'm taking here is a bit off the wall, but I think it's the only explanation that begins to fit all the facts. It's also going to take several posts to flesh out the whole story as I see it. So, here goes...

Monday, May 06, 2013

Sergeant Robert M. Patterson, USA

Robert Martin Patterson was born on April 16, 1948 in Durham, North Carolina. As a 20-year old Specialist 4th Class in the United States Army, he was posted with Troop B of the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, fighting in Vietnam attached to the 101st Airborne Division.

Forty-five years ago today, May 6, 1968, Patterson was a fire team leader when his unit became pinned down by heavy fires from an enemy bunker complex while they were in the attack. Patterson charged the enemy positions, and was rewarded with both a promotion to Sergeant and the receipt of our Nation's highest honor for his courage.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Pig(ford)s at the trough

(Important blogger's note: the title of this post is in no means to be interpreted as disparaging or demeaning to Mr. Timothy Pigford, the original named lead plaintiff in the class action suit that led to this travesty.)

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

"With respect to the two words 'general welfare', I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."

Those two quotes are by James Madison, and on those topics, he'd be an authority as one of the principle authors of both the Constitution of the United States and the Federalist Papers written in support of the Constitution's ratification.

Last week, The New York Times came across a story of incredible fraud, waste, and graft coming out of the United States Department of Agriculture, generically known as "Pigford". Naturally, the Times was somewhat late to the game as the late Andrew Breitbart was on the story over two years before, and it has also been reported on by writer Lee Stranahan, as well as numerous other new media sources.

Today is "Blog about Pigford Day", and rather than rehash all the details of the scandal in total, I'm choosing instead to comment on the root cause of how we got there. Naturally, it all comes back to the Constitution, and willful departure from the limited enumerated powers of our government.

TFH 5/1: Sergeant Maynard H. Smith, USAAF

Maynard Harrison Smith was born on May 19, 1911 in Caro, Michigan. He didn't have a particularly accomplished youth or early adulthood, choosing instead to live off his parents' prosperity, particularly after his father's passing. Smith married shortly before the United States entered World War II, but he abandoned his wife and infant child.

In 1942, the law caught up with him and he was given a choice: enlist or go to jail. He chose the former. Smith joined the United States Army Air Forces, progenitor of today's United States Air Force. After basic training, he volunteered for aerial gunnery school, somewhat selfishly because it meant faster promotion and more money. He was disgusted, at age 31, from having to take orders from soldiers and airmen years his junior.

Reportedly, Smith was pretty much always in trouble during training. Regardless, he made it through gunnery school, got promoted to Sergeant (all aerial gunners were ranked as non-commissioned officers), and was assigned to the 423rd Bombardment Squadron of the 306th Bombardment Group at RAF Thurleigh in England.