Book Review: Michoud Assembly Facility

“Michoud Assembly Facility” by Cindy Donze MantoIn March, 1763, King Louis XV of France made a land grant of 140 square kilometres to Gilbert Antoine St Maxent, the richest man in Louisiana Territory and commander of the militia. The grant required St Maxent to build a road across the swampy property, develop a plantation, and reserve all the trees in forested areas for the use of the French navy. When the Spanish took over the territory five years later, St Maxent changed his first names to “Gilberto Antonio” and retained title to the sprawling estate. In the decades that followed, the property changed hands and nations several times, eventually, now part of the United States, being purchased by another French immigrant, Antoine Michoud, who had left France after the fall of Napoleon, who his father had served as an official.

Michoud rapidly established himself as a prosperous businessman in bustling New Orleans, and after purchasing the large tract of land set about buying pieces which had been sold off by previous owners, re-assembling most of the original French land grant into one of the largest private land holdings in the United States. The property was mostly used as a sugar plantation, although territory and rights were ceded over the years for construction of a lighthouse, railroads, and telegraph and telephone lines. Much of the land remained undeveloped, and like other parts of southern Louisiana was a swamp or, as they now say, “wetlands”.

The land remained in the Michoud family until 1910, when it was sold in its entirety for US$410,000 in cash (around US$11 million today) to a developer who promptly defaulted, leading to another series of changes of ownership and dodgy plans for the land, which most people continued to refer to as the Michoud Tract. At the start of World War II, the U.S. government bought a large parcel, initially intended for construction of Liberty ships. Those plans quickly fell through, but eventually a huge plant was erected on the site which, starting in 1943, began to manufacture components for cargo aircraft, lifeboats, and components which were used in the Manhattan Project’s isotope separation plants in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

At the end of the war, the plant was declared surplus but, a few years later, with the outbreak of the Korean War, it was re-purposed to manufacture engines for Army tanks. It continued in that role until 1954 when it was placed on standby and, in 1958, once again declared surplus. There things stood until mid-1961 when NASA, charged by the new Kennedy administration to “put a man on the Moon” was faced with the need to build rockets in sizes and quantities never before imagined, and to do so on a tight schedule, racing against the Soviet Union.

In June, 1961, Wernher von Braun, director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, responsible for designing and building those giant boosters, visited the then-idle Michoud Ordnance Plant and declared it ideal for NASA’s requirements. It had 43 acres (17 hectares) under one roof, the air conditioning required for precision work in the Louisiana climate, and was ready to occupy. Most critically, it was located adjacent to navigable waters which would allow the enormous rocket stages, far too big to be shipped by road, rail, or air, to be transported on barges to and from Huntsville for testing and Cape Canaveral in Florida to be launched.

In September 1961 NASA officially took over the facility, renaming it “Michoud Operations”, to be managed by NASA Marshall as the manufacturing site for the rockets they designed. Work quickly got underway to set up manufacturing of the first stage of the Saturn I and 1B rockets and prepare to build the much larger first stage of the Saturn V Moon rocket. Before long, new buildings dedicated to assembly and test of the new rockets, occupied both by NASA and its contractors, began to spring up around the original plant. In 1965, the installation was renamed the Michoud Assembly Facility, which name it bears to this day.

With the end of the Apollo program, it looked like Michoud might once again be headed for white elephant status, but the design selected for the Space Shuttle included a very large External Tank comparable in size to the first stage of the Saturn V which would be discarded on every flight. Michoud’s fabrication and assembly facilities, and its access to shipping by barge were ideal for this component of the Shuttle, and a total of 135 tanks built at Michoud were launched on Shuttle missions between 1981 and 2011.

The retirement of the Space Shuttle once again put the future of Michoud in doubt. It was originally tapped to build the core stage of the Constellation program’s Ares V booster, which was similar in size and construction to the Shuttle External Tank. The cancellation of Constellation in 2010 brought that to a halt, but then Congress and NASA rode to the rescue with the absurd-as-a-rocket but excellent-as-a-jobs-program Space Launch System (SLS), whose centre core stage also resembles the External Tank and Ares V. SLS first stage fabrication is presently underway at Michoud. Perhaps when the schedule-slipping, bugget-busting SLS is retired after a few flights (if, in fact, it ever flies at all), bringing to a close the era of giant taxpayer-funded throwaway rockets, the Michoud facility can be repurposed to more productive endeavours.

This book is largely a history of Michoud in photos and captions, with text introducing chapters on each phase of the facility’s history. All of the photos are in black and white, and are well-reproduced. In the Kindle edition many can be expanded to show more detail. There are a number of copy-editing and factual errors in the text and captions, but not too many to distract or mislead the reader. The unidentified “visitors” shown touring the Michoud facility in July 1967 (chapter 3, Kindle location 392) are actually the Apollo 7 crew, Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, who would fly on a Michoud-built Saturn 1B in October 1968.

For a book of just 130 pages, most of which are black and white photographs, the hardcover is hideously expensive (US$29 at this writing). The Kindle edition is still pricey (US$13 list price), but may be read for free by Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Manto, Cindy Donze. Michoud Assembly Facility. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2014. ISBN 978-1-5316-6969-0.

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This Week’s Book Review – An Anxious Peace

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘An Anxious Peace’ looks at the Cold War

By MARK LARDAS

June 8, 2019

“An Anxious Peace: A Cold War Memoir,” by Hans Mark, Texas A&M University Press, 2019, 688 pages, $47

Hans Mark entered the United States as a refugee from Austria, immediately before the United States entered World War II. He went on to a career where he was a key player in technologies critical to the United States’ success during the rest of the century: atomic physics, aerospace engineering and space exploration.

In “An Anxious Peace: A Cold War Memoir,” by Hans Mark, he tells his story.

Mark’s family fled Austria after the German Anschluss. Mark’s father, a noted polymer chemist and professor, had been imprisoned by the Nazis, escaping with a former student’s assistance. The family spent time in Britain and Canada. In 1940, Mark’s family came to the United States after his father became a chemistry professor at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.

Hans grew up in New York attending Stuyvesant High School, a school focused on science and technology. Attending the University of California Berkeley, and MIT, he earned a Ph.D. in physics.

He spent his life showing his gratitude to the country that adopted him by protecting it from its enemies, especially the Soviet Union. Mark viewed communism as little different from the national socialism he had fled.

Mark’s next 50 years found him at the tip of the current hot technology battle of the Cold War. He designed helped nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. He led NASA-Ames Research Center, pioneering airborne astronomy, space exploration (including three Pioneer probes) and cutting-edge aeronautics. He served as an undersecretary and secretary of the Air Force, deputy administrator of NASA and chancellor of the University of Texas.

Along the way he influenced some of the technologies and tools critical to eventual U.S. victory in the Cold War: stealth technology, the B-1, orbital intelligence gathering, the space shuttle, the space station and parallel processing computers. He seemed to be at the right place at the right time.

The book is long, 650 7-by-10 inch pages. Yet it’s never dull. It’s a fascinating read, perhaps the most engaging memoir since “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.” Readers will be rewarded with an intimate yet comprehensive account of the Cold War.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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Recommended (or not) on Prime

I thought I’d do you the favor of listing some more quick Amazon Prime Video recommendations so you don’t have to waste your time wading through mediocre productions. This is assuming our tastes align, but have I gone wrong before?

You’re welcome.

I sifted through the mountain of Dickens productions to find these gems:

Dickensian– 10-Episode Series- Highly Recommended. I kept scrolling past this one, and then decided to try it. Dickensian, for me, was one of those transporting, elevating pieces of entertainment. It brings together a number of Dickens’ characters for an original story arc, a murder mystery, but so much more than that formulaic genre. It’s really about people, about human nature and what individuals will do to get what they want, at others’ expense. Some pursuits are petty, some are avaricious, and unfortunately all feel true to life. It’s also about sacrifices and the remarkable lengths that some will go to ensure that right wins in the end. And there is another truth explored: that real honesty–difficult reality brought to the light–is loving and cleansing, even to those who do not want to be reached.

Although sometimes dizzying with its carousel of plots and characters, and at times lacking subtlety in final resolutions, this is a beautifully filmed, scripted, and acted series. It is also great fun to recognize Dickens’ characters, made to live again in new stories that are nonetheless respectful of their original source material. And the men and women I don’t know–Jaggers, for instance, and Honoria–have sparked my curiosity so that I will have to look them up. Bucket of the Detective, who might be an original Dickensiancreation, is odd, clever, and warm-hearted enough to be one good reason I revisit the series every few years.

Oliver Twist-(1985) 12-Episode Series-Recommended. Because this is more than three decades old, I was skeptical about the production value. But while it does somewhat have the feel of being filmed on a stage, and costumes and sets are not always convincing, the acting and script are solid, and I found myself getting absorbed in spite of myself. I realized that this Oliver is one of my favorite Dickens TV adaptations to date.

David Copperfield (1999) 4-Episode Miniseries- Recommended. This is colorful, well-acted, and well produced, with funny and kind, evil and tragic characters. The actors are appealing, and the film sets beautiful. I would watch it again just for the wallpaper at the great aunt’s house–just splendid.

Our Mutual Friend 6-Episode Series- Recommended. Yet another Dickens adaptation, this production is a little hard to follow at the beginning, and actually more than a little creepy. Yet the story is not without hope, and the engaging, compelling actors won me over.

Movies with some real historical context that I enjoyed for their unusual settings and production values: Thousand Pieces of Gold and The War Bride. Both have their coarse, gritty details, but made me appreciate the predicaments of the characters.

Next, here are some that are okay picks if nothing else is on:

The Indian Doctor– This series, featuring an Indian couple in the 1960’s who took the doctor’s post in a small Welsh town, is a great concept, with charismatic main actors and beautiful filming. I got mostly through the third season, but have not yet returned to finish it due to over-the-top humor and obnoxious, cliched story arcs.

The Special Needs Hotel: This reality show about a hotel set up to train young people with autism, Down syndrome, and other special needs impresses the viewer with the effectiveness of the program and the kindness of the staff. There are some segments that are gems, such as one resident supported as he plans his big birthday party while practicing phone communication. But it is a reality show, so some awkward love scenes are clearly staged, to the detriment of the actors, perhaps, and for sure the discomfort of the viewers. In another big puzzler, the residents are offered alcohol at their dance parties. However, should a second season be offered, I would watch it.

Home Fires: This series about families left at home in an English village while World War II raged abroad had me electrified. I was delighted to discover a second season, to live again with characters who loved their families and struggled through physical and emotional challenges. Later, however, it felt like the stories burned less brightly, their moral core dampened by BBC writers once again. The series was then consumed in an abrupt blaze, a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers that was never resolved due to cancellation of the show. Watch at your own risk.

Aristocrats: Six episodes cover the lives of four sisters, English nobility from the 1700’s who make disappointing choices and still have to live with themselves. The series attempts to capture the long sweep of their lives, and so makes a jarring turn at the end, when main actors are replaced by older ones in order to more convincingly show these men and women in their dotage.

BBC’s Emma (2009 miniseries, currently offered through Britbox): I thought I would love this production, featuring Romola Garai. Every time I started watching it, it seemed superfluous given all the current Emma movies out there. It does have its charming, aesthetically pleasing, engaging side, good for dark winter evenings. However, I thought Garai came across too pouty and spoiled, making her Emma not likable enough to carry the scenes with Knightley.

Here are some to not bother with, in my opinion:

The Darling Buds of May: Cute concept, beautiful setting, and engaging acting, but the series celebrates excessive drinking and nontraditional living arrangements with lots of winks and merriment.

Lorna Doone: This was just meh for me. Two young people from opposing sides–one a daughter of a violent clan of outlaws–meet and carry on a dangerous connection. I stopped watching it, so I can’t tell you much else. It didn’t offer much depth to keep me watching.

Wild at Heart: Although some reviewers loved the series, I never finished the first episode. It sounds interesting: a family in England goes to South Africa and ends up staying to run a game reserve. But I thought the story details a little shallow and more suited to younger viewers.

What’s your list? Help us out and save us time by recommending your favorites and steering us away from less worthy material.

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Scaevola’s Cat Thought of the Week* (#8)


The Thought

Servus quaerit cur in siccatorio inesses?

Ut signo vestes, efficientius est.


The Meaning

My servant asks why were you in the dryer?

When I mark clothes, it is more efficient.


The Form

ˉ = Full beat
˘ = Half beat
° = Either a full or half beat may be used
ˉ ˘ ˘ = D = Dactyl (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˉ = S = Spondee (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˘ = T = Trochee (a metrical foot)
/ = Separator between metrical feet
|| = A hiatus – a pronounced pause
X = Either a dactyl or spondee may be used
Y = Either a spondee or a trochee may be used

Form = Elegiac Couplet
X / X / X / X / D / Y
X / X / ° || D / D / ˉ


The Scansion

Sērvūs / qu(āē)rīt / cūr īn / sīccā/tōrĭo*-ĭ/nēssēs?
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˉ )

Ūt sīg/nō vēs/tēs, || ēffĭcĭ/ēntĭŭs / ēst.
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ || ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ )

* A note on scansion: if a word ends in a vowel, am, em, or um, AND the next word begins with a vowel (or an h), then the ending vowel (or am, em, um) of the first word is dropped completely (beat value and all) and the two words are joined. This is known as elision.


The Recitation


The Vocabulary and Grammar

Servus = servus (servus, -i), noun, 2nd declension, singular, masculine, nominative, meaning = male servant.

quaerit = quaero (quaero, quaerere, quaesivi or quaesii, quaesitum), verb, 3rd conjugation, 3rd person, singular, present, active, indicative, meaning = he (servus) asks.

cur = interrogative, indeclinable, meaning = why.

in = preposition, indeclinable, modifies siccatorio, meaning = in.

siccatorio = siccatorium (siccatorium, -ii), noun, 2nd declension, singular, neuter, ablative, meaning = drying room (dryer).

inesses = insum (insum, inesse, infui, infuturum), verb, irregular, 2nd person, singular, imperfect, active only, subjubctive, meaning = you were in. (The construction “Servus quaerit cur…,” introduces and indirect question, “My servant asks why…” Verbs in indirect questions are subjunctive in mood.)

Ut = conjunction (temporal), indeclinable, meaning = when, as (just as, at the same time as).

signo = signo (signo, -are, -avi, -atum), verb, 1st conjugation, 1st person, singular, present, active, indicative, meaning = I mark, sign

vestes = vestis (vestis, -is), noun, 3rd declension, plural, feminine, accusative, meaning = clothes.

efficientius = efficientior (efficientior, -ius), adjective (comparative adjective derived from the present participle “efficiens” of the verb efficio, -ficere, -feci, -fectum), singular, neuter, nominative, modifies the impersonal “it” of the verb est, meaning = more efficient.

est = sum (sum, esse, fui, futurum), verb, irregular, 3rd person, singular, present, active only, indicative, meaning = it (impersonal) is.


*  “Week” is a used here as to specify an undefined length of time, possibly at times equal to an actual week.

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Book Review: Five Million Watts

“Five Million Watts” by Fenton WoodThis is the second short novel/novella (123 pages) in the author’s Yankee Republic series. I described the first, Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves, as “utterly charming”, and this sequel turns it all the way up to “enchanting”. As with the first book, you’re reading along thinking this is a somewhat nerdy young adult story, then something happens or is mentioned in passing and suddenly, “Whoa—I didn’t see that coming!”, and you realise the Yankee Republic is a strange and enchanted place, and that, as in the work of Philip K. Dick, there is a lot more going on than you suspected, and much more to be discovered in future adventures.

This tale begins several years after the events of the first book. Philo Hergenschmidt (the only character from Pirates to appear here) has grown up, graduated from Virginia Tech, and after a series of jobs keeping antiquated equipment at rural radio stations on the air, arrives in the Republic’s storied metropolis of Iburakon to seek opportunity, adventure, and who knows what else. (If you’re curious where the name of the city came from, here’s a hint, but be aware it may be a minor spoiler.) Things get weird from the very start when he stops at an information kiosk and encounters a disembodied mechanical head who says it has a message for him. The message is just an address, and when he goes there he meets a very curious character who goes by a variety of names ranging from Viridios to Mr Green, surrounded by a collection of keyboard instruments including electronic synthesisers with strange designs.

Viridios suggests Philo aim for the very top and seek employment at legendary AM station 2XG, a broadcasting pioneer that went on the air in 1921, before broadcasting was regulated, and which in 1936 increased its power to five million watts. When other stations’ maximum power was restricted to 50,000 watts, 2XG was grandfathered and allowed to continue to operate at 100 times more, enough to cover the continent far beyond the borders of the Yankee Republic into the mysterious lands of the West.

Not only does 2XG broadcast with enormous power, it was also permitted to retain its original 15 kHz bandwidth, allowing high-fidelity broadcasting and even, since the 1950s, stereo (for compatible receivers). However, in order to retain its rights to the frequency and power, the station was required to stay on the air continuously, with any outage longer than 24 hours forfeiting its rights to hungry competitors.

The engineers who maintained this unique equipment were a breed apart, the pinnacle of broadcast engineering. Philo manages to secure a job as a junior technician, which means he’ll never get near the high power RF gear or antenna (all of which are one-off custom), but sets to work on routine maintenance of studio gear and patching up ancient tube gear when it breaks down. Meanwhile, he continues to visit Viridios and imbibe his tales of 2XG and the legendary Zaros the Electromage who designed its transmitter, the operation of which nobody completely understands today.

As he hears tales of the Old Religion, the gods of the spring and grain, and the time of the last ice age, Philo concludes Viridios is either the most magnificent liar he has ever encountered or—something else again.

Climate change is inexorably closing in on Iburakon. Each year is colder than the last, the growing season is shrinking, and it seems inevitable that before long the glaciers will resume their march from the north. Viridios is convinced that the only hope lies in music, performing a work rooted in that (very) Old Time Religion which caused a riot in its only public performance decades before, broadcast with the power of 2XG and performed with breakthrough electronic music instruments of his own devising.

Viridios is very odd, but also persuasive, and he has a history with 2XG. The concert is scheduled, and Philo sets to work restoring long-forgotten equipment from the station’s basement and building new instruments to Viridios’ specifications. It is a race against time, as the worst winter storm in memory threatens 2XG and forces Philo to confront one of his deepest fears.

Working on a project on the side, Philo discovers what may be the salvation of 2XG, but also as he looks deeper, possibly the door to a new universe. Once again, we have a satisfying, heroic, and imaginative story, suitable for readers of all ages, that leaves you hungry for more.

At present, only a Kindle edition is available. The book is not available under the Kindle Unlimited free rental programme, but is inexpensive to buy. Those eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to visit the Yankee Republic will look forward to the publication of volume 3, The Tower of the Bear, in October, 2019.

Wood, Fenton. Five Million Watts. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2019. ASIN B07R6X973N.

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Where have all the viewers gone?

I read this over at Breitbart.

Primetime Viewership Compared to Same Week Last Year

Fox News: -4 percent

MSNBC: -4 percent

CNNLOL: -33 percent

Total Day Viewership Compared to Same Week Last Year

Fox News: -7 percent

MSNBC: -5 percent

CNNLOL: -21 percent

It looks like CNN is Tapped out. The Cuomo News Network may need to remember not all the bad news is about Trump. It can be closer to home. I haven’t been watching but is Rachel still smirking. I know I am. Are you? (This is unkind but turnabout is fair play.)

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One of the Best Ways to Engage with Data

Pen(cil) and Paper.

I just finished “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg and one of the points it made was people get into “Information Blindness”. They can’t see things because there is too much information. If one has too many choices one gives up and doesn’t make a choice. If that happens one needs to engage the data. Ask questions of it to get to the information one wants. It gave the example of choosing a wine. Red or white? What year? Cheap or expensive? Soon a long list can be manageable.

When it came to students, hand written notes were better than typed notes on a computer for better test results. Teachers at a low performing school were able to change the school by making cards for each student and seeing what the patterns were. They had the data on computers but they weren’t engaging it.

My opinion is paper and pen helps us because it is more like a picture. Our minds love pictures. And when we create pictures our minds connect with the information.

What has been your experience?

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Book Review: The Case for Trump

“The case for Trump” by Victor Davis HansonThe election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November 2016 was a singular event in the history of the country. Never before had anybody been elected to that office without any prior experience in either public office or the military. Trump, although running as a Republican, had no long-term affiliation with the party and had cultivated no support within its establishment, elected officials, or the traditional donors who support its candidates. He turned his back on the insider consultants and “experts” who had advised GOP candidate after candidate in their “defeat with dignity” at the hands of a ruthless Democrat party willing to burn any bridge to win. From well before he declared his candidacy he established a direct channel to a mass audience, bypassing media gatekeepers via Twitter and frequent appearances in all forms of media, who found him a reliable boost to their audience and clicks. He was willing to jettison the mumbling points of the cultured Beltway club and grab “third rail” issues of which they dared not speak such as mass immigration, predatory trade practices, futile foreign wars, and the exporting of jobs from the U.S. heartland to low-wage sweatshops overseas.

He entered a free-for-all primary campaign as one of seventeen major candidates, including present and former governors, senators, and other well-spoken and distinguished rivals and, one by one, knocked them out, despite resolute and sometimes dishonest bias by the media hosting debates, often through “verbal kill shots” which made his opponents the target of mockery and pinned sobriquets on them (“low energy Jeb”, “little Marco”, “lyin’ Ted”) they couldn’t shake. His campaign organisation, if one can dignify it with the term, was completely chaotic and his fund raising nothing like the finely-honed machines of establishment favourites like Jeb Bush, and yet his antics resulted in his getting billions of dollars worth of free media coverage even on outlets who detested and mocked him.

One by one, he picked off his primary opponents and handily won the Republican presidential nomination. This unleashed a phenomenon the likes of which had not been seen since the Goldwater insurgency of 1964, but far more virulent. Pillars of the Republican establishment and Conservatism, Inc. were on the verge of cardiac arrest, advancing fantasy scenarios to deny the nomination to its winner, publishing issues of their money-losing and subscription-shedding little magazines dedicated to opposing the choice of the party’s voters, and promoting insurgencies such as the candidacy of Egg McMuffin, whose bona fides as a man of the people were evidenced by his earlier stints with the CIA and Goldman Sachs.

Predictions that post-nomination, Trump would become “more presidential” were quickly falsified as the chaos compounded, the tweets came faster and funnier, and the mass rallies became ever more frequent and raucous. One thing that was obvious to anybody looking dispassionately at what was going on, without the boiling blood of hatred and disdain of the New York-Washington establishment, was that the candidate was having the time of his life and so were the people who attended the rallies. But still, all of the wise men of the coastal corridor knew what must happen. On the eve of the general election, polls put the probability of a Trump victory somewhere between 1 and 15 percent. The outlier was Nate Silver, who went out on a limb and went all the way up to 29% chance of Trump’s winning to the scorn of his fellow “progressives” and pollsters.

And yet, Trump won, and handily. Yes, he lost the popular vote, but that was simply due to the urban coastal vote for which he could not contend and wisely made no attempt to attract, knowing such an effort would be futile and a waste of his scarce resources (estimates are his campaign spent around half that of Clinton’s). This book by classicist, military historian, professor, and fifth-generation California farmer Victor Davis Hanson is an in-depth examination of, in the words of the defeated candidate, “what happened”. There is a great deal of wisdom here.

First of all, a warning to the prospective reader. If you read Dr Hanson’s columns regularly, you probably won’t find a lot here that’s new. This book is not one of those that’s obviously Frankenstitched together from previously published columns, but in assembling their content into chapters focussing on various themes, there’s been a lot of cut and paste, if not literally at the level of words, at least in terms of ideas. There is value in seeing it all presented in one package, but be prepared to say, from time to time, “Haven’t I’ve read this before?”

That caveat lector aside, this is a brilliant analysis of the Trump phenomenon. Hanson argues persuasively that it is very unlikely any of the other Republican contenders for the nomination could have won the general election. None of them were talking about the issues which resonated with the erstwhile “Reagan Democrat” voters who put Trump over the top in the so-called “blue wall” states, and it is doubtful any of them would have ignored their Beltway consultants and campaigned vigorously in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania which were key to Trump’s victory. Given that the Republican defeat which would likely have been the result of a Bush (again?), Rubio, or Cruz candidacy would have put the Clinton crime family back in power and likely tipped the Supreme Court toward the slaver agenda for a generation, that alone should give pause to “never Trump” Republicans.

How will it all end? Nobody knows, but Hanson provides a variety of perspectives drawn from everything from the Byzantine emperor Justinian’s battle against the deep state to the archetype of the rough-edged outsider brought in to do what the more civilised can’t or won’t—the tragic hero from Greek drama to Hollywood westerns. What is certain is that none of what Trump is attempting, whether it ends in success or failure, would be happening if any of his primary opponents or the Democrat in the general election had prevailed.

I believe that Victor Davis Hanson is one of those rare people who have what I call the “Orwell gift”. Like George Orwell, he has the ability to look at the facts, evaluate them, and draw conclusions without any preconceived notions or filtering through an ideology. What is certain is that with the election of Donald Trump in 2016 the U.S. dodged a bullet. Whether that election will be seen as a turning point which reversed the decades-long slide toward tyranny by the administrative state, destruction of the middle class, replacement of the electorate by imported voters dependent upon the state, erosion of political and economic sovereignty in favour of undemocratic global governance, and the eventual financial and moral bankruptcy which are the inevitable result of all of these, or just a pause before the deluge, is yet to be seen. Hanson’s book is an excellent, dispassionate, well-reasoned, and thoroughly documented view of where things stand today.

Hanson, Victor Davis. The Case for Trump. New York: Basic Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-5416-7354-0.

Here is an Uncommon Knowledge interview with the author discussing the book.

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Ramadan Bombathon report 2019

Ramadan ended last week.   Here is the tally.

No casualties in America this year.   A pretty big number overall.   911 killed and 1006 wounded.   Do you recall seeing any of this in the news?   Didn’t think so.

Continue reading “Ramadan Bombathon report 2019”

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Milo is Named Grand Marshal of the Straight Pride Parade in Boston

https://www.foxnews.com/us/milo-yiannopoulos-named-grand-marshal-of-bostons-straight-pride-parade

John Hugo, president of Super Happy Fun America, which argues that “straight people are an oppressed majority,” initially used the likeness of Brad Pitt to promote the parade before the award-winning actor made it clear he wanted no part of that.

“I really like his movies and his lawyers sent us a letter asking us to take his stuff down but, you know, you’re allowed to do satire,” Hugo told The Boston Herald.

Yiannopoulos was later chosen as the face of the parade.

I do like the name of the group,”Super Happy Fun America”. Stay tune things should get interesting.

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This Week’s Book Review – The Iron Orchard

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Iron Orchard’ accessible to new generation of readers

By MARK LARDAS

Jun 1,, 2019

“The Iron Orchard: A Novel,” by Tom Pendleton, Texas Christian University Press, 2019, 384 pages, $32.50

Jim McNeely is from the wrong side of the tracks. His father died when Jim was a child. Jim’s dark complexion leads classmates to nickname him a name matching that of Huck Finn’s raft companion.

“The Iron Orchard: A Novel,” by Tom Pendleton, follows Jim McNeely.

Jim is forced from his hometown after his high school graduation after daring to love a girl far above his status. The Depression is at its height. Possessing only his strength and native wit, Jim takes a job with Bison Oil, in barren Central Texas. The job is hard. Jim is a member of a drill crew. His team leader hates Jim, as does the gang’s top hand, a mountain of a man. The two are determined to drive Jim out of the company.

Jim has to succeed. Friends like Dent Paxton and Ort Cooley help Jim stick it out. Eventually, he becomes his gang’s top hand. A quick learner, he acquires skills to run a drilling outfit. He strikes out on his own, starting his own drilling company, becoming an independent wildcatter.

He acquires a wife, and a loyal team of employees. Through square dealing and hard work, he builds a reputation as a successful oilman, and achieves success undreamed of in youth. But his desire to succeed beyond his hometown’s imagining leads him on a pursuit of wealth causing him to betray his principles. Eventually, his empire collapses. Failure is followed by redemption, when Jim returns to his roots in drilling one final well.

“The Iron Orchard,” was originally published in 1966. “Tom Pendleton” is a pseudonym used by Edmund Pendleton Van Zandt Jr., an oilman. Van Zandt wrote about what he knew. Over his career he was a roughneck, a Marine officer (in World War II), a lawyer, banker, and longtime employee of Gulf Oil Company. He wrote “The Iron Orchard” after retirement.

The 2019 republication of this minor classic coincides with the release of a movie version of the novel. Almost forgotten today, republication makes “The Iron Orchard” accessible to a new generation of readers. It is a timeless classic.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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Dearborn Al-Quds Day Rally

Iranian Shiites held a rally to celebrate Al-Quds Day.

“Many people from across the community and across the Muslim world at large have been swept away by the tide of American patriotism. They are proud of America, its freedom, its democracy, free speech, freedom of religion… At the same time, they look down upon the Islamic countries from the high horse of American exceptionalism. How these countries are backwards, corrupt, unorganized, and you have heard more… For that I would like to call the attention of those individuals – however they might hear this – that the amenities and luxuries that they are enjoying in this country are attained at the expense of the rest of the world.

“American military campaigns, economic sanctions, and political arrogance are the only things that keep America where it is. it has been so since they first came to slaughter natives and enslave Africans.

“We don’t point our fingers at the current idiot in the White House, but at all of the criminals and terrorists who held his position before him.”

“And I would like to make it clear to those individuals who like to sing the national anthem and claim that America has given us so much opportunity that America has not given us anything that Allah did not intend on giving us. Just as the Pharaoh did not do Moses a favor by raising him in his corrupt palace. Because the only reason Moses was there in the first place was because of Pharaoh’s slaughtering and enslaving of Moses’ people.

“Likewise, America has not given us anything that we would not have gotten in our homelands, in the company of our own people – were our lands not invaded and colonized and were our people not slaughtered and exploited.

Just another day in America.

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Scaevola’s Cat Thought of the Week* (#7)


The Thought

Duplos annos regnavisset Roma quidem si

nutricati essent tigridibus gemini.


The Meaning

Rome would have indeed ruled twice the years if

the twins were reared by tigers.


The Form

ˉ = Full beat
˘ = Half beat
° = Either a full or half beat may be used
ˉ ˘ ˘ = D = Dactyl (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˉ = S = Spondee (a metrical foot)
ˉ ˘ = T = Trochee (a metrical foot)
/ = Separator between metrical feet
|| = A hiatus – a pronounced pause
X = Either a dactyl or spondee may be used
Y = Either a spondee or a trochee may be used

Form = Elegiac Couplet
X / X / X / X / D / Y
X / X / ° || D / D / ˉ


The Scansion

Dūplōs / ānnōs / rēgnā/vīssēt / Rōmă quĭ/dēm sī
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˉ )

nūtrī/cāti*-ēs/sēnt || tīgrĭdĭ/būs gĕmĭ/nī.
( ˉ ˉ / ˉ ˉ / ˉ || ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ ˘ ˘ / ˉ )

* A note on scansion: if a word ends in a vowel, am, em, or um, AND the next word begins with a vowel (or an h), then the ending vowel (or am, em, um) of the first word is dropped completely (beat value and all) and the two words are joined. This is known as elision.


The Recitation


The Vocabulary and Grammar

duplos = duplus (duplus, -a, -um), adjective, 1st & 2nd declension, plural, masculine, accusative, modifies annos, meaning = twice, twice as much

annos = annus (annus, -i), noun, 2nd declension, plural, masculine, accusative, meaning = years

regnavisset = regno (regno, -are, -avi, -atum), verb, 1st conjugation, 3rd person, singular, pluperfect, active, subjunctive, meaning = he/she/it would have ruled.

Roma = Roma (Roma, -ae), noun, 1st declension, singular, feminine, nominative, meaning = Rome.

quidem = adverb, indeclinable, modifies regnavisset, meaning = indeed.

si = conjunction, indeclinable, meaning = if – this little word often signifies, as it does here, a grammatical construction known as a conditional statement. The particular conditional in this poem is a Past Contrary to Fact conditional: if X would have happened (but didn’t), then Y would have happened (but didn’t). In the Past Contrary to Fact conditional, the verb in each clause is pluperfect in tense and subjunctive in mood.

nutricati = nutricatus (nutricatus, -a, -um), adjective (past participle of nutrico, -are, -avi, -atum), 1st & 2nd declension, plural, masculine, nominative, meaning = nursed, weaned, reared, raised. *1st part of the compound verb nutricati essent.

essent = sum (sum, esse, fui, futurum), verb, irregular, 3rd person, plural, pluperfect, active only, subjunctive, meaning = they would have been. *2nd part of the compound verb nutricati essent.

nutricati essent = nutrico (nutrico, -are, -avi, -atum), verb, 1st conjugation, 3rd person, plural, pluperfect, passive, subjunctive, meaning = they would have been nursed, weaned, reared, raised.

tigridibus = tigris (tigris, -idis), noun, 3rd declension, plural, masculine, ablative, meaning = by (means of) tigers

gemini = gemini (gemini, -orum), noun, 2nd declension, plural only, masculine, nominative, meaning = twins (in this particular case, Rome’s founders, twins who were raised by a she-wolf, Romulus and Remus).


*  “Week” is a used here as to specify an undefined length of time, possibly at times equal to an actual week.

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