Monthly Archives: April 2011

Why does Pearl Harbor still matter so much?

The answer is in several parts.

At a political level we had an American president who just could not print enough money, quickly enough, to allow the mighty engine of American capitalism to overcome the inertia of a depression caused by tariffs and perpetuated by regulations and social programs. He needed the war to activate our industrial base and restore prosperity. His greatest “ally” was as tangled as tar baby with the interests of the empire that supported his island kingdom that was about to be cut off and forced to a negotiated peace that would have reduced it to third rate status fifty years before it actually happened.

At a military level you may call it the fog of war but a far more accurate description in that poor planning, poor surveillance, poor communications and a systemic inability to respond quickly and decisively hamstrung command in its efforts to prevent the attack, minimize the consequences of any attack that occurred and launch either pre-emptive or retaliatory strikes of our own. Costello does not give adequate weight to facts like MacArthur not even being an officer in the United States Army at the time of the attack – he had been retired from active duty and was field marshal [sic] of the Filipino Army.

Of course for the western democracies, where war is far too important to be left to the generals, we never seem to be adequately protected against foreign dictators or our own politicians. If you want to know why Pearl Harbor still matters so much look at the 70 years following and try to find 12 months where we were not actively engaged in either direct military intervention or clandestine operations to support allies or deter aggressors. I begin to believe that war is far too important to be left to the politicians.

Days of infamy : MacArthur, Roosevelt, Churchill, the shocking truth revealed : how their secret deals and strategic blunders caused disasters at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines  John Costello New York : Pocket Books, c 1994  World War, 1939-1945 Diplomatic history Hardcover. 1st ed., and printing. xi, 448 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 424-434) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Drawing on declassified American and British top-secret documents,  John Costello reveals how major strategic and diplomatic miscalculations by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston S. Churchill together with the military blunders committed by General MacArthur set the stage for Japan’s successful attacks on Pearl Harbor and Clark Field. For the first time, he documents how it was the devastating loss of air power in the Philippines – and not the battleships lost at Pearl – which permitted Japan’s lightning conquest of the Far East in 1942.

For 50 years, Adm. Husband Kimmel and Gen. Walter Short have been blamed for the unpreparedness that led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Costello  reveals that the two Hawaii commanders were denied information that could have saved the Pacific Fleet battleships and the lives of thousands of U.S. servicemen. A far more heinous command failure, in his view, was that Gen. Douglas MacArthur allowed his air force in the Philippines to be destroyed on the ground 10 hours after the Pearl Harbor debacle; his refusal to launch a preemptive strike against Japanese airbases as ordered doomed the defense of the Philippines before it could begin. MacArthur’s inaction also contributed, the author contends, to the loss of Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies to the Japanese, because his bombers were the linchpin of a secret U.S. pact to defend British and Dutch territories in the Far East. Unlike Kimmel and Short, who had to retire in disgrace, MacArthur was never the subject of a formal inquiry. Although Costello clearly defines MacArthur’s mistakes, his treatment of “the secret deals and strategic blunders” of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill is less forthcoming.

Costello’s  investigation into the advance warnings of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor rivals the investigation of the JFK murder for devising conspiracy theories to account for what happened. In its most sinister permutation, the “plot” has FDR deliberately withholding intelligence from the commanders in Hawaii so the country would go into war united. Actual responsibility for the disaster may be more prosaic and varied, involving bureaucratic turf wars, the substitution of the Philippines for Hawaii (at MacArthur’s behest, as a strategic bastion for B-17 bombers), and numerous intelligence lapses. The chronicle of the latter, according to Costello’s research, was contained in a 1946 navy report kept secret until 1993. Entitled “Pre-Pearl Harbor Japanese Naval Dispatches”, it concluded that the U.S. Navy had all the coded messages it needed to deduce the time and places of Japan’s commencement of hostilities–but they were not decrypted. This is not the last word on the run-up to the Pacific war, but these densely packed facts should arrest readers’ interest until the next secrets come out–said to concern Churchill’s advance knowledge of Japan’s war plans. Did the old bulldog conceal his information from the Americans? The British won’t tell us “that” .

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The difference between a creation story and a creation myth is of paramount importance.

For instance for Christians the need to believe in the Garden and in the Sin is a necessary first step towards believing in Christ and His death and resurection as the triumph over that Sin. Learning from Abraham, Moses and the prophets is important – turning them into characters in a costume drama is deleterious of the entire thrust of revealed truth and embellishing that drama with dragons, spaceships or any of the delusions of fantasy leads only to the loss of the fundamental truth of the teaching. The angel staying the hand of Abraham or God speaking to Moses from a burning bush are examples of direct revelation complete with the auspices of authority. The picture of Quixote as Christ or the advice of Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Luke not to go over to the dark side are finally both parts of an entertainment that serve more to confuse than convince. Taken to its horrific conclusion we wind up with Wagner being corrupted by the Nazis in their quest for Aryan supremacy with all of its consequences. Consider if you will the discipline of the Muslim world and their treatment of the Koran opposed to the Western “incorporation” of Christian scripture with the insights of Buddha, the first people of the Navajo, the wisdom of the witches and the charity of Santa Claus. Is it any wonder that your grandchildren may be named Mohammed and Miriam rather than John and Mary?

The Holy Grail : imagination and belief Richard Barber Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2004  Grail Legends History and criticism Hardcover. xiv, 463 p. : col. ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 381-411) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

The elusive image of the Holy Grail has haunted the Western imagination for eight centuries. It represents the ideal of an unattainable yet infinitely desirable goal, the possibility of perfection. Initially conceived in literature, it became a Christian icon which has been re-created in a multitude of forms over time even though the Grail has no specific material attributes or true religious significance.

Richard Barber traces the history of the legends surrounding the Holy Grail, beginning with Chrétien de Troyes’s great romances of the twelfth century and the medieval Church’s religious version of the secular ideal. He pursues the myths through Victorian obsessions and enthusiasms to the popular bestsellers of the late twentieth century that have embraced its mysteries. Crisscrossing the borders of fiction and spirituality, the quest for the Holy Grail has long attracted writers, artists, and admirers of the esoteric. It has been a recurrent theme in tales of imagination and belief which have laid claim to the highest religious and secular ideals and experiences. From Lancelot to Parsifal, chivalric romances to Wagner’s Ring, T. S. Eliot to Monty Python, the Grail has fascinated and lured the Western imagination from beyond the reach of the ordinary world.

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The subtitle says it all…………..

……….just as Elanor Roosevelt used to begin her columns with, “I don’t think……” [causing one wit to suggest that she should stop there] this is a book that has been prepared for a need for newsprint rather than a need for reflection. It presumes that seniors should tell freshmen what the purpose of their education is and how to pursue it. It is remarkably like the idea of lunatics being discharged from an asylum telling the incoming how they will be cured or hardened convicts giving advice to new prisoners on how to bend over in the shower and maintain their virtue. There is a tremendous body of literature, from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius to the Idea of the University by John Henry Newman, that would better serve any intelligent person than this drivel but most high school teachers, and we suspect ALL high school college counsellors, have never heard of either and probably couldn’t appreciate their arguments if they had. If you wonder why colleges are taking functional illiterates and turning them into professional parasites you need look no further.

Making the most of college : students speak their minds  Richard J. Light Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001  College seniors Attitudes Longitudinal studies Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. 242 p. ; 22 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. 231-235) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Why do some students in the United States make the most of college, while others struggle and look back on years of missed opportunities? What choices can students make, and what can teachers and university leaders do to improve more students’ experiences and help them make the most of their time and monetary investment? And how is greater diversity on campus–cultural, racial, and religious–affecting education? How can students and faculty benefit from differences and learn from the inevitable moments of misunderstanding and awkwardness?

Two Harvard University Presidents invited Richard Light and his colleagues to explore these questions, resulting in ten years of interviews with 1,600 Harvard students. Making the Most of College offers concrete advice on choosing classes, talking productively with advisors, improving writing and study skills, maximizing the value of research assignments, and connecting learning inside the classroom with the rest of life.

The stories that students shared with Light and his colleagues about their experiences of inspiration, frustration, and discovery fill the book with spirit. Some of the anecdotes are funny, some are moving, and some are surprising. Many are wise–especially about the ways of getting the best, in classroom and dormitory, from the new racial and ethnic diversity.

Filled with practical advice, illuminated with stories of real students’ self-doubts, failures, discoveries, and hopes, Making the Most of College presents strategies for academic success.

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A unique blend of horse racing, history, and good old-fashioned storytelling, The Great Match Race provides a telling glimpse of a nation dividing, a fascinating look at the early heritage of the American thoroughbred,and the first example of the sports spectacle as we know it.

It may be a difference of opinions that makes horse races but there is a fundamental cultural difference between industrial and agrarian, between town and country and between urban and frontier that divided the north from the south then and divides the east from the west today. This is very good anecdotal history but the message is far deeper than who feeds their horse on hay and beans.

The Great Match Race : When North Met South in America’s First Sports Spectacle  Eisenberg, John Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006  Horse racing United States History Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xii, 258 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 244-247) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In the early 1800s, the notion of sport was still quite new to America – that is, until a horse race changed everything. In 1823 an astonishing sixty thousand people gathered on Long Island to watch two thoroughbreds battle it out in three grueling heats, the equivalent of nine Kentucky Derbys, in the space of only a couple of hours. And the whole thing was based on an outrageous dare.

In a fast-paced narrative – colorful, rich, and full of record-setting performances and towering personalities – John Eisenberg chronicles the tremendous story of the year in which two horses would come to embody a nation galloping inevitably toward civil war. Eclipse was the majestic champion representing the North’s evolving industrial machine, and Henry was an equine arriviste embodying Southern perceptions of superiority. Their thrilling match race would come to represent a watershed moment in American history, crystallizing the differences that so fundamentally divided North and South.

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Set against the waning days of the British Empire and taking us right up to the present, this sweeping history examines the quest to understand one of the most forbidding phenomena in the universe, as well as the passions that fueled that quest over the course of a century.

Empire of the stars : obsession, friendship, and betrayal in the quest for black holes  Arthur I. MillerBoston : Houghton Mifflin, 2005  Astrophysics History 20th century Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xx, 364 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In August 1930, on a voyage from Madras to London, a young Indian looked up at the stars and contemplated their fate. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar – Chandra, as he was called – calculated that certain stars would suffer a strange and violent death, collapsing to virtually nothing. This extraordinary claim, the first mathematical description of black holes, brought Chandra into direct conflict with Sir Arthur Eddington, one of the greatest astrophysicists of the day. Eddington ridiculed the young man’s idea at a meeting of the Royal Astronomy Society in 1935, sending Chandra into an intellectual and emotional tailspin – and hindering the progress of astrophysics for nearly forty years.

Empire of the Stars is the dramatic story of this intellectual debate and its implications for twentieth-century science. Arthur I. Miller traces the idea of black holes from early notions of “dark stars” to the modern concepts of wormholes, quantum foam, and baby universes. In the process, he follows the rise of two great theories – relativity and quantum mechanics – that meet head on in black holes. Empire of the Stars provides a unique window into the remarkable quest to understand how stars are born, how they live, and, most portentously (for their fate is ultimately our own), how they die.

It is also the moving tale of one man’s struggle against the establishment – an episode that sheds light on what science is, how it works, and where it can go wrong. Miller exposes the deep-seated prejudices that plague even the most rational minds. Indeed, it took the nuclear arms race to persuade scientists to revisit Chandra’s work from the 1930s, for the core of a hydrogen bomb resembles nothing so much as an exploding star. Only then did physicists realize the relevance, truth, and importance of Chandra’s work, which was finally awarded a Nobel Prize in 1983.

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