Tag Archives: history

The life of Robert Mitchum

An evening pause: While a little long for an evening pause, this half-hour documentary does a nice job of telling the surprisingly normal story of actor Robert Mitchum. What struck me most about it was how ordinary Mitchum’s life was. I’ve also seen the same thing with almost every Apollo astronaut that I have interviewed. Like most very famous people from the mid-twentieth century, they do not see themselves as particularly special. In fact, they led life with a certain humbleness, something that is hard to find today, especially among modern actors.

Hat tip Willi Kusche.

Pan Am Boeing 707 – 1965 Emergency Landing

An evening pause: This television news report about a 1965 near disaster where a Pan American passenger jet’s engine and wing fall off and the captain brings everything down safely is fascinating to watch, partly because of the live action footage taken by one passenger, but also at how television news has evolved since then, for the worse. This 1965 report has no shots a newsperson standing in front of the camera telling us what happened, as is typical today. Instead, the filming focuses on the events and the witnesses themselves, and lets them tell the story in as straight-forward a manner as possible.

Hat tip Mike Nelson.

How past fascist dictators took power

Link here. The process as described in this quote should sound very frightfully familiar:

Under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, the Fascist Party of Italy seized control of the country in 1922 with the “March on Rome.” Before marching on the nation’s capital, Italian fascists committed violent acts across most of northern Italy. The king of Italy, fearing more bloodshed, appointed Mussolini Prime Minister of Italy. No election took place, and the Italian fascists used violent tactics to achieve power.

Spanish fascists came to power through a military coup, after the military leadership did not like the results of the most recent election, and the coup resulted in a civil war lasting from 1936 to 1939.

In Germany the fascist path to power was longer and more complicated for the National Socialists, or Nazis. Hitler attempted to mimic Mussolini in 1923 with the Beer Hall putsch, an attempt to overthrow local authorities. It did not succeed and resulted in a few deaths and the arrest of several Nazis, including Hitler. After the failed coup, the Nazis decided to use the democratic process to take over Germany. Yet not until the election of July 1932 did the Nazis become the largest party in the German Parliament. Despite winning a plurality of votes (37 percent), the Nazis did not receive a majority of the votes needed to form a government. The Nazis refused to join any coalition, which resulted in another election in November 1932. In that election the Nazis again won a plurality but not as large as before (only 33 percent). Despite the loss, the Nazis refused to form a coalition until Hitler was made chancellor, which occurred in January 1933. Once Hitler was chancellor, he ordered another parliamentary election.

In March 1933, the election was held and the Nazis again received only a plurality of the votes (43 percent). This would be the last open election until after World War II, because Hitler decided it would be easier to consolidate power through terror, fear, and even political murders, rather than trying to work with other parties.

So, what’s the pattern? How do fascists take power? First, they are angry with election results or how the country is being run. Then fascists use militant tactics to force the population into supporting, or acquiescing in, their cause, even though most citizens don’t actually support the fascist agenda. [emphasis mine]

This is a detailed educated illustration why I use the term fascist to describe the behavior of much of the most militant wings of the left and the Democratic Party. It is what they have become, and what they are doing.

I pray that in America we will not do what was done in Italy, Spain, and Germany, and acquiesce to the use of violence and terror to make us bow to the will of dictators.

Fifty years ago today: the Apollo 1 launchpad fire

Link here.

Fifty years ago Friday, the first – but sadly not the last – fatal spaceflight accident struck NASA when a fire claimed the lives of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White during a training exercise at Launch Complex 34. The accident, a major setback for the struggling Apollo program, ushered in the first understanding of the “bad day” effects of schedule pressure for spaceflight and brought with it words and reminders that still echo today.

The article provides a very detailed and accurate look at the history and causes of the accident, as well as its consequences, which even today influence American space engineering.

A 1960 Soviet-era vision of the U.S.S.R. in 2017

Link here. As noted at the link:

In 1960, V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko wrote a story, illustrated by L. Smekhov, about the Soviet Union in 2017. The date was not fortuitously chosen– it marked the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution that brought the Communists to power. The authors believed that people in 2017 would be fortunate to live in a world liberated by Soviet science, where the climate could be controlled, the flow of the northern rivers could be controlled, and Alpha Centauri was a flight destination. The Moscow-based newspaper The Moscow Times described as follows Strukova and Shevchenkos’s story: “A hundred years ago, the men and women who brought Communism to the Tsarist Empire had big plans. Decades into that experiment, the U.S.S.R. was leading the world’s ‘Space Race’ and it seemed there was nothing the country couldn’t do. In 1960, the Soviet movie studio ‘Diafilm’ released a filmstrip titled ‘In the Year 2017,’ by V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko, depicting a vision of the U.S.S.R. set 57 years in the future.

While the story, with illustrations, is essentially a pro-Soviet science fiction tale written for school children, it still expresses the boundless hope for the future that filled the cultures of both the Soviet Union and the United States at that time. All dreams were possible, and given time all would come true.

This historical piece however does illustrate again the tragic but consistent failure of communism and socialist thought, wherever it has been tried. The Soviet culture of Russia dreamed big, and did accomplish much, but they were crippled by a political and economic system that guaranteed bankruptcy, leading to the collapse of that system well before its 100th anniversary.

It is a continuing tragedy that so many people today continue to believe in that system, even after so many failures.

Gene Cernan, 82, has passed away

Gene Cernan, the last Apollo astronaut to walk on the Moon, passed away today.

His words as he stepped off the lunar surface still resonate to me.

This is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.

At the time, I firmly believed that we would return relatively soon. It has now been almost a half century, and no human since has left Earth orbit.

“We have waited for you for a very long time.”

Link here.

Who said this, and why they said it, puts the lie to every left wing anti-American cliche expressed for the past half century. The people who know what oppression is, and where it comes from, also know who has consistently defended their freedom the most, in the past.

My only fear is whether the United States that these Eastern European nations remember and love still exists. I am sadly no longer sure.

The fall of the USSR, as seen by a witness

Link here. The witness, Oleg Atbashian, is also the founder of The People’s Cube, one of the best websites for clever satire making fun of the left. His insights and review of the break-up of the Soviet Union twenty-five years ago is definitely worth reading. It is even more important to read it because of his thoughts on today’s America:

In 1994 I emigrated to America, hoping to raise a family in a country ruled by reason and common sense. But lately I’ve been noticing a shortage of these commodities in the U.S. as well. While the ratio of reasonable people in this country may still be greater than elsewhere in the world, the ignorant passion for Soviet-style politics is very alarming.

Just as it was in the USSR, American media now publishes articles that read like Pravda’s updates on this week’s current truth. American entertainers and moviemakers are consistently pushing the politically correct party line. Social media giants are seriously considering political censorship. Indoctrination in American schools and colleges is worse than what I’ve seen in the Soviet Union, where getting a real education was actually important. And finally, just as it was in the USSR, more and more people begin to resent the “progressive” establishment and mock the lying media.

He is justly worried by the large number of Americans who, for reasons that are inexplicable, have bought into the fantasy that communism and government rule is the best way to get things done, when all of history proves otherwise.

George Washington University drops American history requirement

The coming dark age: George Washington University has eliminated the requirement that its history majors take American history.

The department eliminated requirements in U.S., North American and European history, as well as the foreign language requirement. Thus, it is possible that a student can major in history at GWU without taking a survey course on United States history.

The new requirements mandate at least one introductory course, of which American history, World History and European civilization are options. Yet, like at many elite universities, the introductory course requirement may be fulfilled by scoring a 4 or a 5 on the Advanced Placement exams for either U.S. History AP, European History AP or World History AP.

As a result, it will be possible for a graduate of this university’s history department to earn a degree and not even know who the university is named after.

What happened at SpaceX the first time they landed a first stage

Cool image time! The National Geographic Mars series is combining fiction with high quality documentary footage of real events. The clip below shows the first ever vertical landing of a used rocket first stage in December 2015, and includes footage taken of SpaceX engineers and Elon Musk during that launch and landing. The landing ranks as one of the most important events in space history. And it still gives me goosebumps. Seeing that it also caused goosebumps to those who made it happen only emphasizes the significance of the moment.

John Glenn and Charles Lindbergh

A bit of history not generally known. Hat tip to reader Peter Fenstermacher.

When I wrote Genesis, the Story of Apollo 8, I learned that Lindbergh was a big fan of the 1960s space program. He and his wife Anne, who in the 1960s was an established writer of note, visited the Apollo 8 astronauts just before launch. They were both amazed at the amount of fuel the Saturn 5 rocket burned. Lindbergh calculated that in the first second of flight it would burn “ten times more fuel than I did all the way to Paris.”

Judge: NASA cannot confiscate an Apollo 11 artifact that was sold by mistake

A federal judge has ruled that NASA has no right to confiscate an Apollo 11 lunar rock sample bag that had been purchased legally, even though the sale itself had been in error.

udge J. Thomas Marten ruled in the U.S. District Court for Kansas that Nancy Carlson of Inverness, Illinois, obtained the title to the historic artifact as “a good faith purchaser, in a sale conducted according to law.” The government had petitioned the court to reverse the sale and return the lunar sample bag to NASA. “She is entitled to possession of the bag,” Marten wrote in his order.

This court case will hopefully give some legal standing to the private owners of other artifacts or lunar samples that NASA had given away and then demanded their return, decades later.

STAR WARS Stormtrooper VS. Fort Worth Police Officer!

An evening pause: While this Fort Worth police department recruitment video isn’t directly related to the historical events at Pearl Harbor that occurred on December 7 in 1941, I think it illustrates how a free people, with gun rights, are going to always be better prepared for war than those raised under tyranny. And it’s funny too!

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Altitude sickness caused Buzz Aldrin’s Antarctic health problems

According to Buzz Aldrin his health problems in Antarctica last week was caused by altitude sickness.

Because of the thick ice that blankets Antarctica, the South Pole sits at an elevation of 2,835 meters (9,300 feet). Aldrin said in a statement he still has some congestion in his lungs and so has been advised to rest in New Zealand until it clears up and to avoid the long flight back to the U.S. for now. Aldrin, his son Andrew and manager Christina Korp had been visiting Antarctica as tourists on a trip organized by the White Desert tour company. They left last Tuesday from South Africa. “South Pole here I come!” Aldrin wrote on Twitter at the time.

He said the trip began well, and that he’d been planning to spend time with scientists who were studying what it would be like to live on Mars because the conditions in Antarctica were similar. “I had been having a great time with the group at White Desert’s camp before we ventured further south,” he said. “I started to feel a bit short of breath so the staff decided to check my vitals. After some examination they noticed congestion in my lungs and that my oxygen levels were low, which indicated symptoms of altitude sickness.” Aldrin said he was put on the next flight, a ski-equipped LC-130 cargo plane that took him to McMurdo Station, a U.S. research center on the Antarctic coast. “Once I was at sea level I began to feel much better,” he said.

Buzz Aldrin evacuated from South Pole due to health issue

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was today evacuated from U.S. South Pole station due to a worsening health condition.

Aldrin, 86, is in stable condition after “his condition deteriorated” while visiting Antarctica, according to White Desert, which organizes luxury tourism trips to the icy continent. The group said Aldrin was evacuated on the first available flight out of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to the McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast under the care of a doctor with the U.S. Antarctic Program. He then was flown to Christchurch, New Zealand, and arrived at about 4:25 a.m. local time Friday (10:25 a.m. Thursday ET), according to the National Science Foundation, which provided the flight for Aldrin.

They have not released much information about his condition, other than saying that Aldrin is in good spirits.

The Star-Spangled Banner

An evening pause: During the 2015 Kentucky Music Educators convention in Louisville, the 500 high students in attendance would gather each night just before curfew on the balconies of the Hyatt Regency’s vast interior lobby and sing the national anthem.

I think it fitting to show this tonight, on election day. The United States will always hold the honor of being the first nation on Earth to attempt the great experiment of self-government, established by conscious choice with the creation of founding documents. For this, we will forever I think be remembered in human history, a fact for which Americans should always be proud.

Hat tip Peter Fenstermacher.

The Origins of Slavery in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century

During the thread of comments on Behind the Black in response to the recent story about how modern college students ignorantly think that slavery was invented in America, the subject of the origins of slavery in America came up.

This subject happened to be the entire focus of the thesis for my master of arts degree at New York University in 1995. The research I did produced a 338 page thesis, far larger than what professors usually see, and containing a gigantic amount of original research about the specific individuals who ran the Virginia colony during its first seventy years. The abstract sums up my conclusions somewhat succinctly:

Throughout Virginia’s first hundred years, moral issues and the establishment of community always took a subordinate place to the acquisition of wealth and profit. Unlike the religious colonies in New England, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, Virginia had been founded for purely financial reasons. In the pursuit of that financial gain, the leadership of the colony, formed from British Royalist refugees from the English Civil War as well as an uneducated Virginia-bred elite, took advantage of their position of power to create a system of institutionalized racism.

British political ideas, specifically the Royalist positions from the English Civil War, directly influenced the institutionalization of this race-based slave system. These ideas included a strong belief in birthright and caste combined with deference to leaders and an expectation that all social customs, including religious belief, should be dictated by the aristocracy wielding power. According to Royalist doctrine, the common folk of society should have no say in how society should be ruled.

These ideas became corrupted into outright racism by the unnatural and incomplete nature of Virginian society. Family life was generally disrupted by disease, with at least one in nine immigrants dying within a year of arrival. This disruption was magnified by the colony’s unbalanced sex ratio due to immigrant patterns that had three men arriving for every woman. And because the colony’s economy was so completely centered on the growth of a single money crop (tobacco), settlement patterns were widely dispersed. Virginia’s settlers lived isolated on scattered large farms, lacking towns or villages of any kind.

Furthermore, Royalist ideas of rule from above and birthright became distorted because Virginia lacked religious institutions as well as schools for providing moral instruction to the colony’s children. The focus on profit meant that the establishment of functioning churches or schools never took priority within the colony. And when dissenting religious practitioners attempted to preach within the colony, Virginia’s leadership outlawed such dissent under the Royalist doctrine of church government and rule from above.

The colony’s leaders, more and more of whom had been raised in this unhealthy and incomplete society, increasingly perverted Royalist doctrines for their own personal benefit. By the 1660s, these leaders had no reluctance about passing laws to enslave the few blacks in the colony, especially if such laws directly increased their wealth, power, and status.

Essentially, Virginia’s isolated culture of broken homes and poor education, based initially on Royalist concepts of caste and rule-from-above, were slowly corrupted as the colony’s population evolved through several generations from its founding in 1608 to the 1670s. This, combined with the corruption of the practice of indentured servitude (which in England was generally used as a tool to educate the young but in Virginia became a tool by which wealthy landowners could get seven years of free labor from poor immigrants) resulted in an acceptance by the culture of the idea that some humans had the right to own other humans. From this, it was an easy step to enslaving blacks, so that by the Revolutionary War, half the population of Virginia were black slaves.

Meanwhile, the northern colonies, mostly founded by the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Quakers, followed a very different path, focused on family, education, religion, and a rule-from-below approach to government. This different path remained much more closely connected to its British roots, which abhorred slavery. Thus, though some tried to introduce slavery into the northern colonies, the practice never took hold, and by the 1700s had just about completely disappeared. In fact, slavery was not only rejected in the north, it was here, in the Quaker communities in Pennsylvania, that the abolitionist movement was first born, an idea that was entirely new to human history.

In digging out my thesis to upload this post, I rediscovered it, and have decided that it needs to be published. Right now it is only gathering dust in the thesis archives of New York University, where no one can read it. I am going to put it together as an ebook, and have it out for purchase, hopefully by the end of the year.

Modern college students think America invented slavery

The coming dark age: Modern college students not only think America invented slavery, they know even less about American history.

Before even distributing the syllabus for his courses, Pesta administered his short quizzes with basic questions about American history, economics and Western culture. For instance, the questions asked students to circle which of three historical figures was a president of the United States, or to name three slave-holding countries over the last 2,000 years, or define “capitalism” and “socialism” in one sentence each.

Often, more students connected Thomas Jefferson to slavery then could identify him as president, according to Pesta. On one quiz, 29 out of 32 students responding knew that Jefferson owned slaves, but only three out of the 32 correctly identified him as president. Interestingly, more students— six of 32—actually believed Ben Franklin had been president.

The biggest irony of all is that it was in the United States that the abolition movement was born. Until that happened, the idea of slavery had been considered morally acceptable by all nations in all previous human history.

The first Arab space program

It happened in Lebanon, beginning in 1960, led by college students at a small college who were interested in rockets and space, and could have made that country prosperous and successful.

Instead, the program was co-opted by the military, and the students all ended up leaving the country to flee its endless wars, with most becoming successful academics here in the U.S.

Read the whole article. It is quite fascinating, and if you are at all familiar with the story of Wernher von Braun and his rocket club, you will immediately recognize the similarities. The one difference is that while von Braun and his rocket friends almost all accepted doing military work to continue to build their rockets, the students in Lebanon did not, abandoning their research to go elsewhere. In fact, it is very likely that they were aware of von Braun’s history, and decided to make a different choice based on what they knew. In the 1960s von Braun was very public about what had happened to him, and often noted that he made a mistake working for the Nazis.

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