Reading for the Day: SEAPOWER, The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans, by Admiral James Stavridis

The Mediterranean:

No other body of water can lay claim to such a central place in early global history — at least when it comes to war. If the remains of long-dead Mariners were suddenly to float unencumbered to the surface, you could easily walk the length of the Mediterranean over the bones of warriors who died at sea.

The Mediterranean is close to a million square miles in area, more than 2,400 miles from east to west, and is spread out along 23,000 long miles of coastline. Yet the opening strait, the only part that links the Med to the vast Atlantic Ocean, is less than 10 miles wide at the highly strategic Strait of Gibraltar — which was known to the Greeks and Romans as the Pillars of Hercules.

The Politics of Accusation

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 . . . a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” It wasn’t the first occasion where this senator had whipped up the specter of an enemy within, nor was he the first to try. But this time he grasped something earlier treason-shouters hadn’t: that counting and naming the actual traitors had a frontier justice allure. No matter that the paper he was clutching didn’t justify his numbers or fill in his list . . . When fellow lawmakers denounced his anti-Communist crusade as a hoax, and him as a charlatan, he brazenly doubled down in the broadsides. Abe Lincoln was surely turning somersaults in his tomb . . .

(btw, Abe Lincoln is surely turning somersaults AGAIN, poor man)

” . . . but Joe McCarthy had the issue he needed to snatch the limelight he craved.”

Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Sen. Joe McCarthy, p. 115

Regarding Juan Sebastian Elcano, Basque

Rick Barot’s collection The Galleons is on the National Book Award’s longlist for poetry! Kudos, sir!

Self finds it interesting: she is writing about the galleons, too! Her book invents a character and puts him in the Philippines at the close of the 16th century.

Today, in her leisurely read of The Economist of 12 September 2020 (She’s fairly sure they skipped an issue; the 19 September issue should have arrived last week. What gives, USPS?), there is a letter about Magellan. Truly, self has entered a zone! A zone where everyone else is also thinking about Magellan! Galleons! The 16th century!

Letter to The Economist from Marques de Tamaron, Madrid:

Ferdinand Magellan was not “the first known circumnavigator (Obituary for Marvin Creamer, August 29th). He commanded the flotilla of five ships and 239 sailors that sailed in 1519 from Spain but he died in combat in the Philippines in 1521 before completing the round-the-world voyage. Juan Sebastian Elcano was then elected leader for the rest of it, reaching Spain in the only remaining ship, Victoria, in 1522. He and the emaciated survivors who dragged themselves ashore were indeed the first true circumnavigators.

Prompted by curiosity (mebbe she should have written about Elcano instead of making up a fictional character for her novel! Oh well, too late now!), self does some google research. Elcano died only four years after his return from that epic voyage. And there is a Spanish thinktank named after him that addresses such topics as climate change, cybersecurity, and international migration. Here is a link to their very interesting blog.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

More from the Preface to DEMAGOGUE: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

It’s not often that a man’s name becomes an ism, in this case a synonym for reckless accusation, guilt by association, fear-mongering, and political double-dealing. In the early 1950s, the senator from Wisconsin promised America a holy war against a Communist “conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dward any previous such venture in the history of man.” While the conspiracy and infamy claims were a stretch, the body count was measurable: a TV broadcaster, a government engineer, current and former US senators, and incalculable others who committed suicide to escape McCarthy and his warriors; hundreds more whose careers he crushed; and the hundreds of thousands he browbeat into a tongue-tied silence.

DEMAGOGUE: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, by Larry Tye

from the Preface:

This is a book about America’s love affair with bullies.

Battle is Joined, Woo Hoo!

Still Chapter Three, The Charterhouse of Parma:

It might have been two o’clock in the afternoon . . . when a group of generals, followed by some twenty hussars, galloped past a corner of the vast field, on the edge of which he was still standing; his horse whinnied, reared two or three times, then pulled violently at the bit. “So be it, go!” Fabrizio decided.

Left to himself, the horse galloped off to join the escort following the generals. Fabrizio counted four gold-braided hats. Fifteen minutes later, Fabrizio understood from a few words spoken by a hussar near him that one of these generals was the famous Marshal Ney. His happiness was complete . . .

HOOOLY Cow, Stendhal!

Self has spent one whole day — today — reading and re-reading Chapter One of The Charterhouse of Parma. Since she’s already quoted from the chapter several times, she will, in the interest of efficiency, summarize. Otherwise, she’ll still be here tomorrow.

Napoleon’s army marches into Lombardy, expecting to be met with surly peasants. Instead they are greeted with wide open arms and love. Crazy, right? It turns out the Italians are very superstitious, and there is a prophecy that Napoleon’s troops will leave of their own accord, in thirteen weeks exactly. So why worry, be happy!

After thirteen weeks, when the French do not leave, the people realize that the prophecy actually meant thirteen months.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Pugad Lawin, August 1896

No one knows the exact date when the Philippine Revolution began (Because it was a secret rebellion!). But the place has never been in doubt.

At some point in the last week of August 1896, Andres Bonifacio (a self-educated warehouse clerk, she posted some of his poetry a week or so ago) gathered his followers and led them in tearing up their cedulas. A cedula is a form of identification, issued by the Spanish colonial government. It was a document that formed the basis of tax collection.

Pugad Lawin was deep woods when Andres Bonifacio and a thousand followers (which is quite a large number, for a secret society, but was no match against the Spanish, who in the city of Manila alone numbered at least 10,000) gathered there. The rough translation of pugad lawin is ‘hawk’s nest.’ Today, it has been swallowed up by Metro-Manila, and lies in one of the most densely populated cities in Asia.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Who Was Colonel Chabert?

From Andrew Brown’s Introduction to Colonel Chabert

The Battle of Eylau, fought under a heavy fall of snow on February 1807 between two rows of frozen lakes, set 80,000 Russians against 60,000 French. The French infantry, subjected to heavy Russian cannonades, fell back in disarray . . . What saved the Grande Armée from complete defeat … were the French cavalry charges repeatedly launched straight at the centre of the Russian and Prussian lines. One of these charges was led by Colonel Chabert: the troops under his command broke through the Russian lines, but . . . Chabert himself was cut down from his horse by a Russian sabre, and disappeared under the hooves of the 1500-strong cavalry charge led by Murat.

Colonel Chabert is a fictional character. But — what a point of view!

(Fighting for the other side: Prince Andrei Bolkonsky of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Literature is amazing.)

Today the skies are smoky from wildfires. Wind is blowing from the east. (California just can’t seem to catch a break) Governor declared a state of emergency.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

We Have Been Here Before

First: Sandra Day O’Connor, p. 261

  • The crowds kept getting larger. On January 22, 1989, the sixteenth anniversary of Roe v Wade, more than sixty-thousand demonstrators assembled on the Mall to protest the Court’s famous abortion decision. Over loudspeakers, they heard the newly inaugurated President George H. W. Bush tell them — and send a not-so-subtle signal to the Supreme Court — that the time had come to overrule Roe.

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