Quotes Suitable for Framing: Theodore Roosevelt


It is these men at the front who are now making all Americans, born and unborn, forever their debtors. They are the men who have paid with 
their bodies for their soul's desire. Let no one pity them, whatever their fate, for they have seen the mighty days and have risen level to the need of the 
mighty days. And let no one pity the wives and mothers and fathers whose husbands and lovers and sons now face death in battle for the mightiest of 
all high causes. Our hearts are wrung with sorrow and anxiety, but our heads are held aloft with pride. It is a terrible thing that our loved ones should face 
the great danger, but it would be a far more terrible thing if, whatever the danger, they were not treading the hard path of duty and honor. 

Theodore Roosevelt, April 2, 1918

Published in: on March 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

The Birthday of Saint Patrick

In a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: “The Voice of the Irish”, and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and the were crying as if with one voice: “‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.” And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many ears the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.

Saint Patrick




Something for the weekend.  The Birthday of Saint Patrick.  The Irish have a talent of joking about those things most dear to them, including Ireland’s greatest Saint.  My family belongs to Saint Pat’s Parish in Dwight.  After 5:00 PM Mass my family will be joining the rest of the parish for an Irish dinner, no it will not be an Irish seven course meal of a six pack and a potato, and some Irish music.  It is a grand day to be Irish!

Published in: on March 17, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  

The Children


“But who shall return us the children?”

Rudyard Kipling



 The thirty-fourth in my on-going series on the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here , here , here , here , herehere, here , here here here  and here.  Kipling wrote many poems during his career.  This poem is manifestly not one of them.  The poem is a lament by a man who lost his only son in the Great War.  From first to last Kipling believed that Germany was a menace and had to be beaten.  After the War he called for a harsh peace to make certain that German could not wage a world war again.  Up to his death in 1936 Kipling warned that Germany was still a danger to the world.  This should be clearly understood since there has been an attempt to misinterpret, willfully or not, some of Kipling’s war poems as a turn towards pacifism, an interpretation that Kipling would have rejected with a snort of contempt.  No, in his poems Kipling blamed British governments for allowing Germany to grow strong enough to bring about the Great War and that his son, and a million other British and Empire men, had to die to correct the folly of British statesmanship.  When I read this poem I think of future generations and the price they will pay for the fashionable lies and follies of our day.  The heartbreaking question of “But who shall return us the children?” should be remembered by all who aspire to rule nations.
(“The Honours of War”—A Diversity of Creatures)
These were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight.
    We have only the memory left of their home-treasured sayings and laughter.
    The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter.
Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it.    That is our right.
        But who shall return us the children?
At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences,
    And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us,
    The first felon-stroke of the sword he had long-time prepared for us—
Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences.
They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us,
Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment o’ercame us.
They believed us and perished for it.    Our statecraft, our learning
Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning
Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour—
Nor since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her.
Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them.
    The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption:
    Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption,
Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marveling, closed on them.
That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given
To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven—
By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled in the wires—
To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes— to be cindered by fires—
To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation
From crater to crater.    For that we shall take expiation.
        But who shall return us our children?


Published in: on March 16, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Ides of March: Julius Caesar

Fate has a way of picking unlikely material,
Greasy-haired second lieutenants of French artillery,
And bald-headed, dubious, Roman rake-politicians.

Stephen Vincent Benet


I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded. It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

The shade of Caesar probably would have objected to his portrayal by Shakespeare.  Caesar comes off as a stuffy dodo, almost reduced to a plot device, his assassination setting the play in motion.  To his contemporaries Caesar was a prodigy of nature.  Coming from a largely impoverished aristocratic family of no special note, Caesar rose to the front rank of the Roman political scene largely due to his political daring and his mastery of the intricate Roman political machinations of his time.  His military genius, which so fascinates us, he was able to exercise because of his political ability and intrigues, his political career in no way resting upon his military career.  His military genius did allow him to seize power and to begin the funeral ceremonies for the Republic which had been manifestly dying since the time of the Gracchi brothers decades before the birth of Caesar.  Caesar was a great destroyer in historical terms, but it would be up to his nephew Octavian, who lacked all of Caesar’s military skill but who was a greater political genius, to erect on the ruins of the Republic the Principate, that would morph in time into the Roman Empire, all while Octavian/Augustus protested that he was a Republican and that he was merely restoring the Republic.

The Ides of March deserve to be carefully marked in our contemporary time, because it demonstrates how swiftly a political system of great antiquity could be swept away, and one man rule installed.  Republics tend to be fragile things, and tend to die unless carefully tended and guarded.



Be patient till the last.
Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and
awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his
ambition. Who is here so base that would be a
bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If
any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love his country? If any, speak;
for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.


None, Brutus, none.


Then none have I offended. I have done no more to
Caesar than you shall do to Brutus. The question of
his death is enrolled in the Capitol; his glory not
extenuated, wherein he was worthy, nor his offences
enforced, for which he suffered death.

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2


Published in: on March 15, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Roosevelt and Churchill: Parallel Lives

“I dislike the father and dislike the son, so I may be prejudiced.  Still, I feel that, while the biographer and his subject possess some real farsightedness…both possess or possessed such levity, lack of sobriety, lack of permanent principle, and an inordinate thirst for that cheap form of admiration which is given to notoriety, as to make them poor public servants.”

Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 commenting privately on Winston Churchill’s biography of his father Lord Randolph Churchill.





Gary Oldman has just received a well-earned Oscar as best actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017):


I wish we had a modern day Plutarch to write parallel lives of Churchill and his closest American analogue, Theodore Roosevelt.

Both Churchill and Roosevelt came from families of great wealth and influence, and idolized their fathers, although in the case of Winston Churchill that idolatry was misplaced due to the fact that in many ways his father was a self-absorbed cad who had almost no time for his son.  Both fathers died relatively young.

Churchill and Roosevelt both enjoyed political success at early ages and both were national figures for most of their adult lives.

Both would break with the political parties that they started with, and both would return to their early political allegiances.  Both were looked at askance by the establishments of their political parties.

Both men were champions of the development of the early welfare states, while also ferocious opponents of socialism.

Churchill and Roosevelt both fought in wars for their countries and achieved fame as a result.

Both were serious historians, wrote many volumes on various subjects and also wrote for the newspapers and journals of their day.

Larger than life figures, they both had huge public images that hid the private men within the images.

Both had large families and dearly loved their wives and children.

Orators of the first rank, both Roosevelt and Churchill were masters of the spoken and written English tongue.

Both were essentially conservative reformers.

Of course there are also important differences.  Two come to mind immediately.  Roosevelt never confronted the great challenge of war as a statesman as Churchill did.  He was President at a time of peace.  The second is that Churchill lived for 90 years to Roosevelt’s 60.  If Churchill had lived to Roosevelt’s age, he would never have been Prime Minister of England and lesser men might well have led the British to make a squalid temporary peace with Hitler.  If Roosevelt had lived to Churchill’s age he would almost certainly have been elected President in 1920 and would have died in 1948.

The essential similarity of Roosevelt and Churchill is that they viewed life as a wonderful adventure and history as a great heroic epic in which their nations were destined to play great roles.  Statesman like them are rare indeed and happy the nations which have them.


Published in: on March 14, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

March 13, 1865: Confederate Congress Authorizes Black Troops




Perhaps a war winning measure if the year had been 1861, by 1865 the action of the Confederate Congress authorizing the enlistment of black troops could only be regarded as a just before midnight measure of a dying nation. The measure is interesting for two reasons:  the black troops were to be treated precisely the same as white troops in regard to pay and rations, and the measure explicitly did not provide for enlisted slaves to be granted their freedom.  A historical curiosity now, the whole issue of black troops might have been one of the few paths to victory for the Confederacy if it had been undertaken prior to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  However, if the leaders of the Confederacy had been willing to consider such a measure at the onset of the struggle, it is likely that secession would never have occurred, since the preservation of slavery was the core reason for the creation of the Confederacy.  Here is the text of the statute: (more…)

Published in: on March 13, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Seven Samurai

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




This is the nature of war. By protecting others, you save yourselves.

Kambei, leader of the Seven Samurai



Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts takes a look at Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, The Seven Samurai.


I finally did it.  My entire life, I’ve heard of the almost mythical movie The Seven Samurai.  Considered one of the greatest foreign language films by American critics and universally praised by critics around the world, I just never got around to watching it.  When I did look for it, it was difficult to find.  And when you could find it, it was always expensive.

Finally, this last Christmas, The Seven Samurai ended up under the tree.  Because of its length of 3 1/2 hours, we couldn’t find time to see it.  Since the two oldest have moved on with college, they’re not around to watch things like they used to, but they wanted to watch it with us for the first time.  So it wasn’t until Tuesday night that we could get everyone together for the first viewing.

It was worth the wait.  Long and short, it lived up to the hype and then some.  Everyone knows of its influence.  We all know The Magnificent Seven was just an American version of the film.  We know that from Guns of Navarone to A Bug’s Life, the movie has been considered one of the most influential and copied movies of all time.

Despite this high expectation, and I can’t put my finger on why, it lived up to all I had heard and more.  I think, when the dust settles, it was the interaction between the players.  Oddly, in the end (without giving away too much), the seven Samurai do little of the fighting, instead funneling the fight over to the village farmers and letting them do most of the heavy lifting.  The movie is mostly about the relationships between the villagers and the Samurai, and the Samurai (technically mostly Ronin) and each other. 

But here’s what dawned on me.  In America, there is this notion that only in America, and all because of that infamous ‘Code’ of the 1930s, our films were repressed and unable to express themselves openly.  We have this notion that the sex and drugs culture, with explicit and open and unrestrained sexuality and hedonism, accompanied by increasingly gory and bloody violence shown graphically in film and on television, were all just the logical result of the ‘Code’ finally crumbling and true artistic expression emerging.

Furthermore, we are now just getting back to how it always was, when sex and sex and graphic sex and gore and graphic violence were just the way it should have been or always was or both.  Without saying it directly, we have this notion that we’re finally getting things back to the rest of the world, where gay sex, group sex, graphic violence, drugs and all the explicit ‘invite the camera in the bedroom’ movies were common around the world.

Except, it wasn’t.  The Seven Samurai, a movie where hired guns come in to save a village from rampaging bandits, is violent.  There are dozens of deaths.  And yet, you never really see much.  No blood.  No gore.  No guts hanging out.  You see a few fights at the end.  You see some duels.  But no explicit violence.  You see a case where a village girl and a young Samurai get together in a barn, much to the father’s dismay.  Later, the head Samurai chuckles that they’ll expect more from the youngster now that he has ‘become a man.’  We all know what that means, just as I’m sure audiences did back then.  But they didn’t show it.  And all that restraint without the evil Hollywood Code, driven by the nefarious Catholic Church.

And that got me to thinking, as I am wont to do.  The fact is, there was no real ‘Hollywood Code’, at least any different than anywhere else in the world.  Oh, there was a code.  And it had its demands and its expectations from films, just like today.  If you think on it, there isn’t a lack of movies coming out of Hollywood that question homosexual normality, or challenge abortion rights, or reflect on the failures of the Civil Rights movement over the last quarter of a century, because there is nobody out there imagining these things.  They simply aren’t allowed.  If they were made, they would be boycotted, banned, attacked and even sued.  Codes have always been around.  I’m sure they always will be.

And not just in America.  Being a fan of old, silent movies, I’ve seen my share from around the world before there was this mythical Hollywood Code. Heck, a few predate Hollywood.  Sometimes you get a little more than you would in 1930s or 1940s Hollywood fare.  Sometimes you might catch a bit of skin in some old, silent Italian film, or see some more direct examples of innocents dying in an old Soviet propaganda film.  If there was any nudity at all, it came off as more artsy than anything sexual, and that’s stretching it since I don’t recall anything, but I’m willing to allow for the possibility.  Yes, you could get a little more nitty-gritty at times, like the original King Kong, but like 1954’s The Seven Samurai, there just isn’t a case of flagrant, porn like sex and graphic blood and gore violence that I have found.  There just isn’t.  Anywhere.  Around the world.

This is something that has arisen only over the last fifty years or so of film making and other visual entertainment.  Sure, the ‘themes’ were there.  Samurai was about the real, down in the trenches lives of these legendary warriors as much as it was anything.  It was taking the chivalrous knight down a notch, by showing warts and all.  But it didn’t show it with the camera.  It showed it with the dialogue and the mind of the viewers.

Somewhere, however, filmmakers in America, Europe and around the world began showing us, rather than pointing our minds to think it through.  By the fifties, violence was starting to creep into the explicit levels.  By the sixties, sex was getting more open as violence became more graphic.  No longer did a mixture of camera angles and convenient barricades mixed with clever dialogue point the audience to what happened.  Nope.  By the late sixties, the cameras were going into the bedroom or showing the gunshots and saying ‘here you go, this is what happened.’ 

It was about then that the same began happening around the world, to a greater or lesser extent. By the late seventies, everything was on the table.  Explicit sex (not counting the porn film industry that had been developing apace for a couple decades by then) and graphic violence were the name of the game.

And it was right around that time, if memory serves, that the mass killings began, at least as we  know them today.  And not just here in the old US of A.  Of course movies and entertainment around the world have become pretty graphic – including in Japan.  And it seems that mass killings are quite the global phenomenon.  Oh, not the shootings like we have.  But mass knifings, mass bombings, basically attempts to kill as many innocent people you might or might not know as possible.

Could it be connected?  Based on the film record, there simply was no culture at the dawn of the film industry that threw all manner of graphic sex, violence, gore and smut out there for public consumption.  Even outside of the Hollywood ‘Code’, there seemed to be pretty strict codes around the world.  But all of that changed by the mid to late 20th century.

Could there be a connection with this relatively new phenomenon of people seeking to slaughter as many innocents as possible for no other reason than to slaughter them, and the rather graphic level that entertainment has risen to?  We already elevate celebrity and entertainment to the place that religion and national identity enjoyed in ages past.  Could there be a connection?

It turns out that this whole ‘Code’ thing wasn’t reserved for America, just like this phenomenon of mass killing of innocents isn’t confined to America. Because the breakdown of barriers in cultural output, and the rise of mass killings through terrorism and personal crime seem linked in the timeline, could there be a connection worth examining?

Just curious and sort of thinking out loud after watching one fine romp of a film. 


Go here to comment.  In his capacity for endless violence Man reveals himself as lower than the beasts.  In his capacity for self-sacrificial violence in defense of others Man stands above the angels.  Once upon a time, film makers understood that central truth of the human condition.


Published in: on March 12, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Daylight Savings Time A Century Ago

Daylight time, a monstrosity in timekeeping.

Harry Truman





As you “lose” an hour of sleep today, please recall the history of this bad idea.  Daylight Savings Time in the US was ushered in by Congress on March 19, 1918 with the Standard Time Act of 1918 as a temporary war measure, and, son of a gun, Daylight Savings Time was repealed by Congress in 1919, over the veto of President Wilson.  Daylight Savings Time came back with World War II.  From 1945-1966 local communities were left to determine whether to observe Daylight Savings Time which normally ran from April to September.  Congress made Daylight Savings Time national with the Uniform Time Act with Daylight Savings Time running from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.  In response to the Energy Crisis on 1973, Congress started Daylight Savings Time in 1974 on January 6 and in 1975 on February 23.  Congress in 2005 tinkered with Daylight Savings Time again, setting it from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

It is arguable that Daylight Savings Time has never made sense, but it certainly does not today in a global economy and e-commerce 24-7.  Time to do away with this annoying anachronism.

Published in: on March 11, 2018 at 1:30 am  Leave a Comment  

O God Beyond All Praising

Something for the weekend.  O God Beyond All Praising.  Written by Michael Perry in 1982, it served as the recessional hymn at the funeral of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 20, 2016.  The tune is Thaxted, the hymn tune written by Gustav Holst from the middle section of the Jupiter movement of Holst’s The Planets.

Published in: on March 10, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

World War I Medical Care


An interesting video on World War I medical care.  Primitive by our current standards, the troops who fought in World War I received, in general, much better medical care than any of their predecessors had received.  Like most sciences, medicine made huge advances during the course of the Great War.

Published in: on March 9, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment