God Bless America

 

Something for the weekend.  God Bless America sung by the imperishable Kate Smith.  This song became the rallying song for the United States during World War II.  Witten by Irving Berlin in 1918 while he was serving in the Army and revised by him in 1938, it was performed by Kate Smith on her radio show in 1938 and became an immediate hit, reaching unbelievable heights of popularity during World War II.  The song is a prayer to God, as the first stanza, rarely performed today, makes clear:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,

Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,

Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,

As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God bless America,

Land that I love.

Stand beside her, and guide her

Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the oceans, white with foam

God bless America, My home sweet home

God bless America, My home sweet home.

Few entertainers became so connected with one song as Kate Smith did with God Bless America.  A Protestant, Kate Smith attended Mass for years prior to her conversion to Catholicism.  So we have a hymn asking God to bless America, written by a Jew, sung by a Catholic and loved by a largely Protestant country.  What a wondeful place America truly is! (more…)

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Published in: on June 30, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Benjamin Franklin

That Being, who gave me existence, and through almost threescore years has been continually showering his favors upon me, whose very chastisements have been blessings to me ; can I doubt that he loves me? And, if he loves me, can I doubt that he will go on to take care of me, not only here but hereafter? This to some may seem presumption ; to me it appears the best grounded hope ; hope of the future built on experience of the past.

Benjamin Franklin, June 19, 1764

 

Published in: on June 29, 2018 at 4:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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A New Nationality

“We’ve spawned a new race here Mr. Dickenson, rougher, simpler, more violent, more enterprising, less refined. We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.”

Benjamin Franklin, 1776

 

 

 

 

He started off in a low voice, though you could hear every word. They say he could call on the harps of the blessed when he chose. And this was-just as simple and easy as a man could talk.
But he didn’t start out by condemning or reviling.

He was talking about the things that make a country a country, and a man a man.  And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt-the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those en-slaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

 

Published in: on June 28, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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No Peace With an Undefeated Germany

 

Looking at World War I a century later we know how it turned out, and perhaps it seems to us that it was destined to turn out that way.  People living through it of course and had no such certainty, the issue of the War remaining in doubt throughout most of 1918.  In the pages of the Kansas City Star on May 12, 1918, former President Roosevelt warned against the dangers of a premature peace.  in that article he took a look at what the world might be like if a premature peace, before the German army had been defeated on the battlefield was made.  The Nazis of course would play to the hilt that the German Army had not been beaten and that Germany had been stabbed in the back by disloyal elements.

 

As now seems likely, if the great German drive fails, it is at least possible that, directly or indirectly, the Germans will then start a peace drive. In such case they will probably endeavor to make such seeming concessions as to put a premium upon pacifist agita tion for peace in the free countries of the West against which they are fighting. To yield to such peace proposals would be fraught with the greatest danger to the Allies, and especially to our own country in the future.

Let us never forget that no promise Germany makes can be trusted. The kultur developed under the Hohenzollerns rests upon shameless treachery and duplicity no less than upon ruthless violence and barbarity.

For example, there are strong indications that Germany may be prepared, if she now fails on the western front, to abandon all that for which she has fought on her western front, provided that in Middle Europe and in the East there is no interference with her. In other words, she would be prepared to give back Alsace and Lorraine to France, to give Italian Austria to Italy, to give Luxemburg to Belgium, and to let the Allies keep the colonies they have conquered, on condition that her dominance in Russia and in the Balkans, her dominance of the subject peoples of Austria through the Austrian Hapsburgs, and her dominance of Western Asia through her vassal state, Turkey, should be left undisturbed. To the average American, and probably to the average Englishman and Frenchman, there is much that is alluring in such a programme. It might be urged as a method of stopping the frightful slaughter of war, while securing every purpose for which the free peoples who still fight are fighting. Yet it would be infinitely better that this war were carried on to the point of exhaustion than that we yield to such terms.

Such terms would mean the definite establishment of Germany s military ascendancy on a scale never hitherto approached in the civilized world. It would mean that perhaps within a dozen years, certainly within the lifetime of the very men now fighting this war, this country and the other free countries would have to choose between bowing their necks to the German yoke or else going into another war under conditions far more disadvantageous to them.

A premature and inconclusive peace now would spell ruin for the world, just as in 1864 a premature and inconclusive peace would have spelled ruin to the United States, and in the present instance the United States would share the ruin of the rest of the free peoples of mankind.

On the face of it Germany would not become a giant empire. Just exactly as on the face of it at present Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria call themselves simply four allied nations, standing
on equal terms. But in reality those four powers are merely Germany and her three vassal states, whose military and economic and political powers are all disposed of by the Hohenzollerns. A peace such as that above outlined would leave these as really one huge empire. The population of these four countries, plus the populations of Russian regions recently annexed by Germany, is over two hundred millions. This population would be directed and dominated by the able, powerful, and utterly brutal and unscrupulous German governing class, which the very fact of the peace would put in the saddle, and the huge empire thus dominated and directed would become a greater menace to the free peoples than anything known for the last thousand years.

Short-sighted people will say that this power would only menace Asia, and therefore that we need feel no concern about it. There could be no error greater or more lamentable. Twenty years hence by mere mass and growth Germany would dominate the Western European powers that have now fought her. This would mean that the United States would be left as her victim.

In the first place, she would at once trample the Monroe Doctrine under foot, and treat tropical and south temperate America as her fields for exploitation, domination, and conquest. In the next place, she would surely trample this country under foot and bleed us white, doing to us on a gigantic scale what she has done to Belgium. If such a peace as is above described were at this time made, the United States could by no possibility escape the fate of Belgium and of the Russian territories taken by Germany unless we ourselves became a powerful militarist state with every democratic principle subordinated to the one necessity of turning this Nation into a huge armed camp I do not mean an armed nation, as Switzerland is armed, and as I believe this country ought to be armed. I mean a nation whose sons, every one of them, would have to serve from three to five years in the army, and whose whole activities, external and internal, would be conditioned by the one fact of the necessity of making head, single-handed, against Germany.

I very strongly believe that never again should we be caught unprepared as we have been caught unprepared this time. I believe that all our young men should be trained to arms as the Swiss are
trained. But I would regard it as an unspeakable calamity for this Nation to have to turn its whole energies into the kind of exaggerated militarism which under such circumstances would alone avail for self-defense.

The military power of Germany must be brought low. The subject nations of Austria, the Balkans, and Western Asia must be freed. We ought not to refrain an hour longer from going to war with
Turkey and Bulgaria. They are part of Germany’s military strength. They represent some of the most cruel tyrannies over subject peoples for which Ger many stands. It is idle for us to pretend sympathy with the Armenians unless we war on Turkey, which, with Germany’s assent, has well-nigh crushed the Armenians out of existence.

When President Wilson stated that this war was waged to make democracy safe throughout the world, he properly and definitely committed the American people to the principles above enunciated, and for the American people to accept less than their President has thus announced that he would insist upon would be unworthy. The President has also said that “there is therefore but one response possi ble for us.  Force force to the utmost force with out stint or limit the righteous and triumphant force which shall make right the law of the world and cast every selfish dominion down in the dust.”

The American people must support President Wilson unflinchingly in the stand to which he is committed and must resolutely refuse to accept any other position. We must guard against any slackening of effort. We must refuse to accept any pre mature peace or any peace other than the peace of overwhelming victory.

We must secure such complete freedom for the peoples of Central Europe and Western Asia as will shatter forever the threat of German world domina tion. Our honorable obligations to our allies, our loyalty to our own national principles, the need to protect our American neighbors, the need to defend our own land and people, and our hopes for the peace and happiness of our children s children all forbid us to accept an ignoble and inconclusive peace.

Published in: on June 27, 2018 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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June 26, 1863: First Confederate Occupation of Gettysburg

 

Doubtless none of the men of Major General Jubal Early’s division felt any twinges of foreboding as they marched through Gettysburg on their way to York, Pennsylvania on June 26, 1863.  Why should they have?  They had swatted aside some Pennsylvania militia who quickly decided that discretion was definitely the better part of valor against veteran Confederate infantry and taken to their heels.  The War for the Confederates had turned into a summer time lark where they were living off the produce of Pennsylvania and having a fun time giving the population of the Keystone State a small taste of what Virginia was enduring as a combat theater of operations.  Part of the fun was no doubt the arrest of John Burns, 69 year old veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, who was briefly jailed by the Confederates for his insistence of upholding the authority of the Union.  Brown was released as the Confederates marched out, and he promptly began arresting Confederate stragglers.  An innocent prelude to the bloodiest battle of a very bloody war.

Published in: on June 26, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Groucho Marx Interviewing Rod Serling

The things you find on the internet:

Broadcast on Tell it To Groucho, the short-lived successor to You Bet Your Life, on April 2, 1962.  Marx was a born interviewer.  A seventh grade drop out, not unusual at all in his time and place, Marx made up for it by being a compulsive reader and, aided by his lightning wit, could hold his own with the most brilliant of his guests.

Published in: on June 25, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Charles Krauthammer: Resquiescat in Pace

I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.

In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications — which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health.

However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.

I wish to thank my doctors and caregivers, whose efforts have been magnificent. My dear friends, who have given me a lifetime of memories and whose support has sustained me through these difficult months. And all of my partners at The Washington Post, Fox News, and Crown Publishing.

Lastly, I thank my colleagues, my readers, and my viewers, who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work. I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

Charles Krauthammer, June 8, 2018

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the public affairs mavens of Almost Chosen People might wish to read it.

 

 

Charles Krauthammer has died at age 68.  He met his death from cancer with the courage that one would expect from someone confined to a wheel chair from the age of 22 by a diving accident, and who went on to live a life full enough for ten able bodied men.  A psychiatrist by training, for decades he was a public intellectual in the best sense:  a man of endless intellectual curiosity who came to his opinions based upon a dispassionate analysis of the evidence.  I often disagreed with his opinions, but I recognized that he brought a powerful intellect to the issues of the day and a profound sense of fairness.  He made a slow trajectory from the political left to the political right, but he always retained a sense of humor and a desire to understand the positions of his adversaries.

In a time of ranters and frauds, Krauthammer was a true gentleman and a true scholar, and I will miss him.  He defined himself religiously as a skeptical Jew, but he also had this to say of atheism:

“Atheism is the least plausible of all theologies. I mean, there are a lot of wild ones out there, but the one that clearly runs so contrary to what is possible, is atheism”. 

 

May God have been gentle with him when he came to his particular judgment.  Prayers for him, for his one and only wife, and his son, and for the world which is poorer by his passing.  Although he spent his adult life in a wheel cheer, when the Grim Reaper came for him I am sure that Mr. Krauthammer met him standing on his feet.

 

 

Published in: on June 24, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Yankee Doodle

Something for the weekend:  Yankee Doodle.

 Originally sung by British officers to disparage American troops who fought beside them in the French and Indian War, it was seized upon by Patriots, given endless lyrics, and cheered the patriot troops and civilians during the eight long years of the Revolution.  After Lexington and Concord it was reported by Massachusetts newspapers that the British were suddenly not as fond of the song:

“Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — ‘Dang them,’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired’ — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears.”

James Cagney did an immortal riff on Yankee Doodle in the musical biopic of composer and actor George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):

Yankee Doodle plays in the background as Cagney at the end of the film, entirely impromptu, dances down the White House staircase:

(more…)

Published in: on June 23, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Newspapers and Time

(I posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the internet mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

How quickly new technology can radically alter societies.  In three decades newspapers have gone from being an essential part of daily life, to being an industry on life support, kept alive by the inertia of a rapidly aging readership.  My father would pore over our local daily paper each day, and usually work the crossword puzzle and the cryptogram contained in each paper.  After I grew up I subscribed to The Chicago Tribune.  After the Trib endorsed Obama in 2008 I cancelled my subscription.  However, I realized at the time that I hadn’t been reading much of it in years, the paper usually arriving after I went to the law mines.  Almost all of my daily reading of the news was being done over the internet.  When my partner retired from the law mines in 2010, I immediately cancelled the firm’s subscription to the local regional paper that the firm subscribed to, and which I hadn’t been reading in several years.  I still get the local town paper, which is a weekly freebie, and where I place my legal notices, but it is usually my secretaries who bring any local story of note to my attention.  In some ways it is sad seeing an enterprise with such a long pedigree being one with Nineveh and Tyre, and in some ways I think most of the ink-stained wretches richly deserve their fate, but like it or not, we can do many things with time in this Vale of Tears, but we cannot freeze it.

Published in: on June 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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June 21-23 1864: First Battle of Weldon Railroad

Petersburg_June21-22

With the War in the East now centering on the siege of Petersburg, Lee faced the daunting problem of protecting the rail lines that kept Petersburg, Richmond and his army supplied.  It took no military genius to realize that if the Union captured those rail lines, Lee’s position would be rendered untenable.  So that is what Grant promptly commenced to do.  The II and VI Corps were tasked with seizing, and destroying as much of the Weldon Railroad as they could take.

Skirmishing occurred on June 21 as the II Corps probed toward the rail line.   On June 22 both the II and the VI corps advanced towards the railroad, with rugged terrain causing a gap to open up between the corps.  Confederate Brigadier General William Mahone concealed his division in a ravine and launched an attack on the rear of the II Corps which wreaked havoc until the lines stabilized by nightfall. (more…)

Published in: on June 21, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 21-23 1864: First Battle of Weldon Railroad  
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