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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Today is President James Garfield's birthday

For mere vengeance I would do nothing. This nation is too great to look for more revenge. But for security of the future, I would do everything. 

~ James A. Garfield (wiki) (speech, 15 April 1865, on the occasion of President Lincoln's assassination) 

Nobody but radicals have ever accomplished anything in a great crisis. Conservatives have their place in the piping times of peace, but in emergencies, only rugged issue men amount to much. 

~ Garfield (statement in his diary for 1876) 

I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not be a fool, which, if I may judge by the exhibitions around me, is a matter of no small difficulty. 

~ Garfield (letter to Burke A. Hinsdale, 11 January 1867) 

The divorce between the church and the state ought to be absolute; It ought to be so absolute that no church anywhere in any State or in the nation should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a church tax on the whole community.

~ Garfield (in the House of Representatives, 22 June 1874) 

Garfield died of a gunshot wound, from a disgruntled office-seeker, that today would probably not be life threatening. They just couldn't find the bullet and get it out. Alexander Graham Bell's attempt to locate it electronically, with the first metal-detector, failed, confused by the metal bed springs. Sadly, within ten years, the discovery of X-rays would provide a technology that could have made finding the bullet easy, even routine. With no antibiotics to control the infection, Garfield lingered painfully for more than two months.

~ Kelley L. Ross (b. 1949) (The Great Republic: Presidents and States of the United States) 

He did not flash forth as a meteor; he rose with measured and stately step over rough paths and through years of rugged work. He earned his passage to every preferment. He was tried and tested at every step in his pathway of progress. He produced his passport at every gateway to opportunity and glory. His broad and benevolent nature made him the friend of all mankind.

~ William McKinley (1843-1901)* (eulogy on the unveiling of a statue of President Garfield, 19 January 1896) 

Today is the anniversary of the birth of James A(bram) Garfield (1831-1881), 20th President of these United States, in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Born to a widowed farm wife, Garfield worked at a series of menial jobs but eventually attended Williams College, graduating in 1856. 

He entered politics as a Republican and served in the Ohio State Senate until the outbreak of the Civil War, in which he saw combat as a Union major general. In 1862 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served in that body until 1880, after 1876 as Republican Leader of the House. 

Noted as a skilled orator, Garfield supported the more radical aspects of Reconstruction, but later moderated his views and became known for his strong support in Congress for the gold standard and free trade. He narrowly escaped involvement in the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872, but his stature was such that the Republican party nominated him in 1880 as a compromise candidate for the Presidency, which he won handily. His four-month administration, characterized by party squabbles over federal jobs and political patronage, was cut short by his fatal wounding by a disappointed office-seeker in Washington in July 1881:

On July 2, 1881, at 9:20 a.m., James A. Garfield was shot in the back as he walked with Secretary of State Blaine in Washington's Baltimore and Potomac train station. The proud President was preparing to leave for Williams College—he planned to introduce his two sons to his alma mater. The shots came from a .44 British Bulldog, which the assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, had purchased specifically because he thought it would look impressive in a museum. Garfield's doctors were unable to remove the bullet, which was lodged in the President's pancreas. On September 19, 1881, the President died of blood poisoning and complications from the shooting in his hospital rooms at Elberon, a village on the New Jersey shore, where his wife lay ill with malaria.
The shot in the back was not fatal, not hitting any vital organs. The bullet lodged behind the pancreas.
"If they had just left him alone he almost certainly would have survived," Millard said. Within minutes, doctors converged on the fallen president, using their fingers to poke and prod his open wounds. "Twelve different doctors inserted unsterilized fingers and instruments in Garfield's back probing for this bullet," Millard recounted, "and the first examination took place on the train station floor. I mean, you can't imagine a more germ-infested environment." 
He died two and a half months later and was succeeded in office by Vice-President Chester A. Arthur. 

* N.B. Ironically, President McKinley was the next president to be assassinated - in September 1901. 

A brief documentary:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday links

The Suez Canal opened on November 17, 1869.



The Gettysburg Address was seven score and fourteen years ago tomorrow (November 18) - here's some history and an excellent brief video with contemporaneous photos and illustrations. Related: newspaper prints a retraction for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address "silly remarks"; retraction written in the style of Gettysburg Address.

The pigeon’s rump cure for childhood seizures.

My Surprising Career as an Amazon.com "Fake" Reviewer.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's birthday, are cats, technically, a liquid?, an X-ray murder trial, and how female turkeys choose their mates (and avoid the rejects).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Suez Canal opened opened on November 17, 1869

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) ("The Ballad of East and West," stanza 1)

If M. de Lesseps (wiki) had not been a man of the stuff and stamp of which all great inventors are made, if he had not toiled on to the attainment of his end in spite of every hindrance, the Suez Canal would now exist only on paper... The opening of the new water highway between the East and West will mark an era in the annals of humanity.

~ The Daily Telegraph, London, 26 August 1869

The Suez Canal (wiki) was the greatest feat of organization and engineering of its day, and it served, for a brief moment, as a symbol of all that was right in the world. It was created by dreams and by meticulous organization, by brilliant engineers and by workers looking for their next meal. And then, once the fireworks had faded, the canal began to fade as well. Traveling through Suez today, it is tempting to despair. Barbed wire, overpopulation, rusting ships, and dwindling business stand as rebukes to the vision of de Lesseps.

~Zachary Karabell Parting of the Desert - the Creation of the Suez Canal (2003)*, Epilogue)

Today is the anniversary of the opening in 1869 of the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, which offers the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The subject of speculation for millennia, the 100-mile long canal was finally realized due to the vision and perseverance of French entrepreneur and engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894), who convinced the French and Egyptian governments that such a canal was feasible, arranged ample financing, and supervised its construction over ten years, despite enormous engineering challenges. 

In 1875, Great Britain gained majority ownership of the canal to assure easy passage to India and seven years later essentially seized control of Egypt to protect it. Subsequently, de Lesseps attempted to repeat his success by building a similar canal across the Isthmus of Panama but ended in bankruptcy in 1888. 

Here's a brief vintage documentary on the Suez Canal:



And one on the Suez Canal Crisis, precipitated when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser seized and announced his intention to nationalize the canal. France, the United Kingdom, and Israel responded by bombing Cairo on 29 October 1956:


Coincidentally, November 19th will be the anniversary of the birth of de Lesseps in 1805: he's said to have claimed that he had always had "the privilege of being believed without having to prove what one affirms.")

* N.B. A concise and readable history of the conception and building of the Suez Canal.

The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Paper prints retraction for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address "silly remarks". Retraction written in the style of Gettysburg Address.

One of the two confirmed photos of Abraham Lincoln
(sepia highlight) at Gettysburg, taken about noon,
 just after Lincoln arrived and some three hours before the
 speech. To his right is his bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon.
Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives.

We write today in reconsideration of “The Gettysburg Address,” delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,”deserving “a veil of oblivion,” apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

In the fullness of time, we have come to a different conclusion. No mere utterance, then or now, could do justice to the soaring heights of language Mr. Lincoln reached that day. By today’s words alone, we cannot exalt, we cannot hallow, we cannot venerate this sacred text, for a grateful nation long ago came to view those words with reverence, without guidance from this chagrined member of the mainstream media.

The world will little note nor long remember our emendation of this institution’s record – but we must do as conscience demands:
In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.
The original editorial:

Patriot & Union | Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1863 | Editorial

A Voice from the Dead 

We have read the oration of Mr. Everett. We have read the little speeches of President Lincoln, as reported for and published in his party press, and we have read the remarks of the Hon. Secretary of State, Wm. H. Seward,all delivered on the occasion of dedicating the National Cemetery, a plot of ground set apart for the burial of the dead who fell at Gettysburg in the memorable strife which occurred there between the forces of the Federal Government and the troops of the Confederacy of seceded States.

To say of Mr. Everett's oration that it rose to the height which the occasion demanded, or to say of the President's remarks that they fell below our expectations, would be alike false. Neither the orator nor the jester surprised or deceived us. Whatever may be Mr. Everett's failings he does not lack sense - whatever may be the President's virtues, he does not possess sense. Mr. Everett failed as an orator, because the occasion was a mockery, and he knew it, and the President succeeded, because he acted naturally, without sense and without constraint, in a panorama which was gotten up more for his benefit and the benefit of his party than for the glory of the nation and the honor of the dead. 

We can readily conceive that the thousands who went there went as mourners, to view the burial place of their dead, to consecrate, so far as human agency could, the ground in which the slain heroes of the nation,standing in relationship to them of fathers, husbands, brothers, or connected by even remoter ties of marriage or consanguinity, were to be interred. To them the occasion was solemn; with them the motive was honest, earnest and honorable. But how was it with the chief actors in the pageant, who had no dead buried, or to be buried there; from none of whose loins had sprung a solitary hero, living or dead, of this war which was begotten of their fanaticism and has been ruled by their whims?

They stood there, upon that ground, not with hearts stricken with grief or elated by ideas of true glory, but coldly calculating the political advantages which might be derived from the solemn ceremonies of the dedication. 

We will not include in this category of heartless men the orator of the day; but evidently he was paralyzed by the knowledge that he was surrounded by unfeeling, mercenary men, ready to sacrifice their country and the liberties of their countrymen for the base purpose of retaining power and accumulating wealth. Hi oration was therefore cold, insipid, unworthy the occasion and the man. 

We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.

But the Secretary of State is a man of note. He it was who first fulminated the doctrine of the irrepressible conflict; and on the battle field and burial ground of Gettysburg he did not hesitate to re-open the bleeding wound,and proclaim anew the fearful doctrine that we are fighting all these bloody battles, which have drenched our land in gore, to upset the Constitution,emancipate the negro and bind the white man in the chains of despotism.

On that ground which should have been sacred from the pollution of politics, even the highest magnate in the land, next to the President himself, did not hesitate to proclaim the political policy and fixed purpose of the administration; a policy which if adhered to will require more ground than Gettysburg to hold our dead, and which must end in the ruin of the nation. The dead of Gettysburg will speak from their tombs; they will raise their voices against this great wickedness and implore our rulers to discard from their councils the folly which is destroying us, and return to the wise doctrines of the Fathers, to the pleadings of Christianity, to the compromises of the Constitution, which can alone save us. Let our rulers hearken to the dead, if they will not to the living - for from every tomb which covers a dead soldier, if they listen attentively they will hear a solemn sound invoking them to renounce partisanship for patriotism, and to save the country from the misery and desolation which, under their present policy, is inevitable.


From PennLive.

Wednesday links

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was born on November 15, 1891.

When The Photographer Asks You to Look Seductive…

Your house is a gigantic bug habitat, and there's nothing you can do about it.

A Scientific Look at How Female Turkeys Choose Their Mates (and how they avoid the rejects).

Death Rays: The X-Ray Murder Trial That Made International News.

Is a Cat a Liquid? A 2017 Ig Nobel Prize winner explains his work.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include making a 10-year malt whisky in weeks, self-help lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte, and some of the best newspaper corrections ever.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was born on November 15, 1891

In a man to man fight, the winner is he who has one more round in his magazine.

~ Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (wiki) (Infanterie greift an ("Infantry Attacks," 1937))

Courage which goes against military expediency is stupidity, or, if it is insisted upon by a commander, irresponsibility.

~ Rommel (letter, 9 November 1942)

Self-restraint, even chivalry... distinguished the combatants on both sides throughout the North Africa campaign... The leading exemplar of this code was Rommel himself. When orders from Hitler mandated the execution of captured British commandos, Rommel tossed the document in the trash. He insisted that the Allied prisoners receive the same rations he was given. He even wrote a book about the conflict called Krieg ohne Hass ("War Without Hate"). Memoirs of the North Africa campaign attest that, fierce and brutal as much of the fighting was, relations between individual enemies retained a quality of forbearance that seems, today, almost impossible to imagine.

~ Steven Pressfield, (Killing Rommel, 2009)

He was a splendid military gambler, dominating the problems of supply and scornful of opposition ... His ardor and daring inflicted grievous disasters upon us, but he deserves the salute which I made him - and not without some reproaches from the public - in the House of Commons in January 1942, when I said of him, "We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general." 

He also deserves our respect because, although a loyal German soldier, he came to hate Hitler and all his works, and took part in the conspiracy to rescue Germany by displacing the maniac and tyrant. For this, he paid the forfeit of his life. In the somber wars of modern democracy, chivalry finds no place ... Still, I do not regret or retract the tribute I paid to Rommel, unfashionable though it was judged.

~ Winston Churchill (1874-1965) (The Second World War, Vol. 3, The Grand Alliance)

November 15 is the anniversary of the birth of legendary German general Field Marshall Erwin (Johannes Eugen) Rommel (wiki) (1891-1944), who became known as Der Wüstenfuchs ("the Desert Fox") as commander of the Afrika Korps in World War II. Born in Württemberg the son of a schoolmaster, Rommel joined the Imperial German Army in 1910 and served in France, Italy, and Romania during World War I, receiving the highest decorations for bravery. 

Between the wars, he rose steadily in the army hierarchy, becoming well known as a military educator and writer of textbooks during the early Nazi years. At the time World War II began, he was serving as the commander of Hitler's headquarters troops but was assigned command of a panzer division during the invasion of France and established a reputation for aggressive and innovative leadership. 

In early 1941, after Italy's failed attempt to invade Egypt from Libya, Hitler sent him to retrieve the deteriorating situation as head of the Afrika Korps, and in a series of see-saw battles which only ended in March 1943, he alternately threatened Egypt and fought a series of defensive actions while retreating toward Tunisia. 
Related: It's the anniversary of the 20th of July plot, the unsuccessful bomb attempt to kill Hitler in 1944.
In November 1943, Rommel was placed in charge of defending the French coast against the anticipated Allied invasion, and he held that command until after D-day (4 June 1944). Increasingly disillusioned with Nazism, Rommel became peripherally involved with the 20 July 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, and when his connection was discovered, he was forced to commit suicide in October 1944, although for political reasons his death was attributed to war wounds and he was given a hero's funeral. The real cause of his death did not emerge until after Germany's defeat. 

A brief biography:



The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Tuesday links


Can you make a 10-year malt whisky in weeks? The chemistry says yes.


Some of the best newspaper corrections ever, including an excellent 2001 apology to Mark Steyn.

Frank Lloyd Wright had a plan to build a ‘city of the future’ on Ellis Island.


ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Veterans Day history, a keg of ranch dressing, a gallery of 48 wild hamsters, and the 1968 memo to Gene Roddenberry re William Shatner's disappearing wigs from the Star Trek set.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Most Popular Thanksgiving Foods in All 50 States, Mapped

via Mental Floss, Thanksgiving recipe requests by state:

To highlight regional Turkey Day tastes, General Mills collected data from top recipe searches on BettyCrocker.com, Pillsbury.com, and the cooking website Tablespoon.com from November 1, 2016 through Thanksgiving Day 2016. They compiled the state-by-state findings into a map so we could see what Americans like to chow down on during the holiday.

It turns out, home chefs in Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, and North Carolina largely searched for sweet potato dishes, while West Virginians, Ohioans, and Pennsylvanians wanted to make buffalo chicken dip. And oddly enough, the denizens of two landlocked states—Arizona and Wisconsin—sought out shrimp recipes.

Proving that some Thanksgiving desserts are relatively universal, however, residents of six states—including South Dakota, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Mexico, and New Hampshire—all looked for various types of pie.

Check out the full findings in the map below.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday links

Before it was Veterans Day it was Armistice Day, for the fallen of the First World War: here's some history.

The June 1940 'Lancastria' disaster - Britain's worst loss of life at sea: as many as 9,000 people were aboard the ship, but less than 2,500 survived. More here.

'Beast defeated': 130-ton 'fatberg' removed from London sewer after nine-week battle.

1968 memo to Gene Roddenberry re William Shatner's disappearing wigs from Star Trek set, bonus Monty Python


Having A bad day? Here’s a gallery of 48 wild hamsters.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include bionic eyes, Cinnabon origins, Guy Fawkes Day, and some Daylight Saving Time history.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Before it was Veterans Day it was Armistice Day, for the fallen of the First World War: here's some history

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

~ Lawrence Binyon (wiki), For The Fallen

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. 

In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day in the U.S. (and Remembrance Day in British Commonwealth nations), a holiday dedicated to veterans of all wars. 

So, the First World War was what Veteran's Day was once really about... 

When every autumn people said it could not last through the winter, and when every spring there was still no end in sight, only the hope that out of it all some good would accrue to mankind kept men and nations fighting. When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominant one transcending all others: disillusion. 

~ Barbara Tuchman (1912-1989) (of World War I, The Guns of August, "Afterward") 

Are these weeks... months... years going by? No, really only days. We see time passing us by in the colorless faces of the dead; we shovel in our food, we run, we throw, we shoot, we kill, we lie around. We are weak and apathetic, and we only endure because there are those who are weaker, more apathetic, and even more helpless, who look wide-eyed on us as Gods, because we have outrun death so many times.

~ Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970) (All's Quiet On The Western Front, Ch. 6)

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

~ A.E. Housman (1859-1936) ("Here Dead We Lie")

As a lover of truth, the national propaganda of all the belligerent nations sickened me. As a lover of civilization, the return to barbarism appalled me.

~ Bertrand Russell (wiki) (1872-1970) (of World War I, Autobiography, Vol. 2, Ch. 1)

Today is the anniversary of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, when at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, the First World War came to an end after more than four years of carnage. (Armistice Day became Veterans' Day in 1954.) Described by British historian Corelli Barnett as a war that had "causes but no objectives, "the "Great War" left a legacy of disillusionment in its wake and made a shambles of the rest of the 20th century. All told, there were ten million military dead and seven million civilians killed. 

The resulting economic collapse, the draconian terms of the Treaty of Versailles (wiki), and the conviction of many Germans that they had been "stabbed in the back" led to an even more destructive rematch only two decades later. One could argue - and I do - that World War I was the greatest misfortune that ever befell Western civilization.

It destroyed the West's belief in inevitable human progress. It brought down the Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian, and Ottoman empires, bankrupted France and England, and put the British Empire on the skids. It was the proximate cause of the triumph of Communism in Russia and the formation of the Soviet Union, drove the United States into two decades of international isolation, and instilled in Germany a thirst for revenge that led directly to the rise of the Nazis and World War II.

Moreover, in the Middle East, Britain's and France's cack-handed and self-serving division of the remains of the Ottoman Empire was largely responsible for all the turmoil we suffer there today. On hearing the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany's much-maligned Kaiser Wilhelm II noted from exile that, 
"The war to end war has resulted in a peace to end peace." 
Here's a casualty chart for World War 1:
Country/RegionMobilizedKilledWoundedTotal K and WCasualties
Africa 55,00010,000unknownunknown-
Australia330,00059,000152,000211,00064%
Austria-Hungary6,500,0001,200,0003,620,0004,820,00074%
Belgium207,00013,00044,00057,00028%
Bulgaria400,000101,000153,000254,00064%
Canada620,00067,000173,000241,00039%
The Caribbean21,0001,0003,0004,00019%
French Empire7,500,0001,385,0004,266,0005,651,00075%
Germany11,000,0001,718,0004,234,0005,952,00054%
Great Britain5,397,000703,0001,663,0002,367,00044%
Greece230,0005,00021,00026,00011%
India1,500,00043,00065,000108,0007%
Italy5,500,000460,000947,0001,407,00026%
Japan800,0002501,0001,2500.2%
Montenegro50,0003,00010,00013,00026%
New Zealand110,00018,00055,00073,00066%
Portugal100,0007,00015,00022,00022%
Romania750,000200,000120,000320,00043%
Russia12,000,0001,700,0004,950,0006,650,00055%
Serbia707,000128,000133,000261,00037%
South Africa149,0007,00012,00019,00013%
Turkey1,600,000336,000400,000736,00046%
USA4,272,500117,000204,000321,0008%

Here's a 6 minute overview of World War I:



A 3 minute time-lapse video of the changing front lines:



An 8 minute video on The Treaty of Versailles and its consequences:


And, on a broader scale, 1000 years of war in 5 minutes:



Related posts:
April 25th is ANZAC Day - the Battle of Gallipoli was 100 years ago.

100 years ago today Austria declared war on Serbia, the first declaration of World War 1.


Gorgeous set of WW1 posters.

June 6 is D-Day: quotes (Shakespeare, Eisenhower, Churchill), videos (footage, FDR's and Reagan's speeches), lots of links.

It's V.E. Day: 70 years ago today, World War 2 ended in Europe.


The assault on Iwo Jima started 70 years ago today: quotes, history, and a documentary.

If you're interested in further information on the subject on the First World War, there are hundreds of books and films - the best books I know of (although I'm no expert) are Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August (which won a Pulitzer back when they meant something) and John Keegan's The First World War