Combs Spouts Off

"It's my opinion and it's very true."

  • Calendar

    May 2024
    S M T W T F S
  • Recent Posts

  • Tag Cloud

  • Archives

Posts Tagged ‘history’

“Freedom Fighters”: Douglass, Tubman, and guns

Posted by Richard on February 14, 2016

For Black History Month, the NRA magazine America’s 1st Freedom published “Freedom Fighters,” a wonderful essay by Dave Kopel profiling Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, with an emphasis on their strong connection with the right to keep and bear arms.

Did you know that Frederick Douglass was the most photographed man of the 19th century, and that after the Civil War he served in three Republican administrations?

Did you know that Gen. Ambrose Burnside, the founding president of the NRA, was a leading advocate of armed black soldiers in the Union Army, and that Harriet Tubman was the first woman to lead an armed force in the war?

This is a marvelous read, and pulling a quote or two would be an injustice. You simply must read the whole thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The KKK pyramid scheme

Posted by Richard on December 31, 2015

Fascinating article at Priceonomics about the history of the Klu Klux Klan, focusing on its explosive membership growth and subsequent collapse in the 1920s. It seems that the KKK’s primary purpose was to milk as many racist rubes as possible in order to enrich those at the top:

Today, the Ku Klux Klan is one of the most extreme and reviled symbols of American racism. But there was once a time when the fringe hate group verged on “mainstream.” In the 1920s, its members numbered in the millions and made up a significant percentage of the US population. This is the KKK that claimed to control elections and counted U.S. presidents among its members. And it’s the predecessor to the group that, in fiction, threatened Atticus Finch in front of the steps of the Maycomb County courthouse for defending a black man.

But in 2011, Roland G. Fryer and Steven D. Levitt, the economist co-author of Freakonomics, looked into historical statistics about KKK membership and demographic, criminal and political trends at the time. And they found something surprising: a seldom-seen side of the KKK.

“Rather than a terrorist organization,” they wrote, “the 1920s Klan is best described as a social organization with a wildly successful multi-level marketing structure.” According to Fryer and Levitt, in its heyday, the KKK was a giant, perverse pyramid scheme. Instead of perpetrating a racist agenda, the KKK’s leaders exploited pre-existing, popular racism to make money.

They were very, very, very successful. …

RTWT. HT: David Aitken, who may someday post again instead of just emailing friends (but who am I to talk?).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Fiction passed off as history

Posted by Richard on November 15, 2012

NBC Nightly News had an interview tonight with Doris Kearns-Goodwin, author of the Lincoln biography on which the Spielberg film is based. Here’s all you need to know about Kearns-Goodwin: in the interview she drew parallels between a brave Lincoln, shortly after his re-election, fighting to get the 13th Amendment through Congress and Obama, shortly after his re-election, fighting to “save us from the fiscal cliff.”

Actually, Thomas DiLorenzo thinks that’s not all you need to know about Kearns-Goodwin. He has more, starting with a reminder that she’s an admitted plagiarist:

… Goodwin the court historian has devoted her life to writing hagiographies of the worst of the worst political bullies – FDR, Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedys, and Lincoln. (It was her book on the Kennedys that got her in trouble and forced her to admit plagiarizing dozens of paragraphs, and paying a six-figure sum to the victim of her plagiarism. That got her kicked off the Pulitzer prize committee and PBS, but only for a very short while).

DiLorenzo thinks there’s also more you need to know about her book, Team of Rivals, the film Lincoln, and President Lincoln. I’ll give you a hint. He’s not a fan of any of them. Item one: the story that Lincoln fought to get the 13th Amendment passed (a centerpiece of Kearns-Goodwin’s book and the Spielberg film) is utterly false, according to David H. Donald, “a longtime Harvard University historian, Pulitzer prize-winning Lincoln biographer, and the preeminent mainstream Lincoln scholar of our time.” RTWT.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” silver anniversary

Posted by Richard on June 12, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, President Reagan stood at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and gave one of the most important speeches of the 20th century. If you’re too young to remember the world before the fall of the Soviet Union, know this: for the four decades before Reagan called on Gorbachev to open that gate and tear down that wall, East German border guards had been shooting down men, women, and children trying to escape from the gigantic prison camp known as the Soviet empire. Little more than two years later, the wall came down and what Reagan called the Evil Empire fell.

The speech is a beautiful, stirring thing delivered with strength and conviction. I still get chills listening to it. I urge you youngsters who’ve never heard it and you oldsters who’ve forgotten it to listen to it in its entirety (26 minutes). Here’s the complete video and an excerpt from the transcript (PDF available here).

[YouTube link]

Our gathering today is being broadcast throughout Western Europe and North America. I understand that it is being seen and heard as well in the East. To those listening throughout Eastern Europe, a special word: Although I cannot be with you, I address my remarks to you just as surely as to those standing here before me. For I join you, as I join your fellow countrymen in the West, in this firm, this unalterable belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin. [There is only one Berlin.]

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same–still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.

In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty–that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind–too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.

Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Remembering Amalie Noether

Posted by Richard on March 27, 2012

The New York Times isn’t totally bereft of value (only in politics and economics). For instance, there’s Natalie Angier’s article about a largely forgotten math genius admired by Albert Einstein and largely forgotten today:

Noether (pronounced NER-ter) was born in Erlangen, Germany, 130 years ago this month. So it’s a fine time to counter the chronic neglect and celebrate the life and work of a brilliant theorist whose unshakable number love and irrationally robust sense of humor helped her overcome severe handicaps — first, being female in Germany at a time when most German universities didn’t accept female students or hire female professors, and then being a Jewish pacifist in the midst of the Nazis’ rise to power.

Through it all, Noether was a highly prolific mathematician, publishing groundbreaking papers, sometimes under a man’s name, in rarefied fields of abstract algebra and ring theory. And when she applied her equations to the universe around her, she discovered some of its basic rules, like how time and energy are related, and why it is, as the physicist Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute put it, “that riding a bicycle is safe.”

Ransom Stephens, a physicist and novelist who has lectured widely on Noether, said, “You can make a strong case that her theorem is the backbone on which all of modern physics is built.”

Interesting, even if you’re not a math nut. And it’s a shame she died too soon. RTWT.

(HT: Fred Lapides, whose blog, including its name, is definitely NSFW, but which often has fascinating links and info.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

“You betcha she was right”

Posted by Richard on June 8, 2011

I'd be remiss not to point this out, even though it's pretty much a "dog bites man" story. Sarah Palin's off-the-cuff remarks in Boston the other day about Paul Revere were met with peals of derisive laughter by the left-wing intelligentsia and mumblings about what an embarrassment she is by establishment conservatives like David Brooks. But historians (reluctantly) agree she was right:

Palin insisted yesterday on Fox News Sunday she was right: “Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there. That, hey, you’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms.”

In fact, Revere’s own account of the ride in a 1798 letter seems to back up Palin’s claim. Revere describes how after his capture by British officers, he warned them “there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time for I had alarmed the Country all the way up.”

Boston University history professor Brendan McConville said, “Basically when Paul Revere was stopped by the British, he did say to them, ‘Look, there is a mobilization going on that you’ll be confronting,’ and the British are aware as they’re marching down the countryside, they hear church bells ringing — she was right about that — and warning shots being fired. That’s accurate.”

Patrick Leehey of the Paul Revere House said Revere was probably bluffing his British captors, but reluctantly conceded that it could be construed as Revere warning the British.

“I suppose you could say that,” Leehey said. “But I don’t know if that’s really what Mrs. Palin was referring to.”

McConville said he also is not convinced that Palin’s remarks reflect scholarship.

“I would call her lucky in her comments,” McConville said.

McConville's remarks reveal perfectly the mind-set of the Palin haters. He concedes she was correct, even about the details (church bells ringing and shots being fired). But he just knows she's not smart or educated enough for her statement to "reflect scholarship." So it must be pure dumb luck. 

You'd think after the Palin critics thoroughly embarrassed themselves over the "party like it's 1773" incident, they'd at least pause long enough to be sure of their facts before sneering yet again at her supposed ignorance. But they're far too arrogant and smugly superior to even entertain the thought that Palin could know more about anything than they do. 

Byron York last week pointed out that, contrary to what her critics say, Palin has been seriously addressing important policy issues in a variety of forums, some non-traditional:

For those interested in her positions on issues, Palin's Facebook page is filled with notes and commentary. Recent entries include titles like "New Afghanistan Development Dangerous to NATO," "Obama's Strange Strategy: Borrow Foreign Money to Give to Foreign Countries," "Barack Obama's Disregard for [Israel's] Security Begs Clarity," "Obama's Failed Energy Policy," and "Removing the Boot from the Throat of American Businesses." They're not think-tank white papers, but they are substantive statements on key issues.

To critics, publishing statements on Facebook seems less serious than releasing them from an office. But Palin has three million followers on the social media website. That's an important forum, especially when combined with Palin's books and television commentary.

Like York, I suspect she's not going to run for President, but instead wants to promote her ideas and viewpoint, and those of the Tea Party movement she champions, within the Republican Party. More power to her!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The first American

Posted by Richard on January 18, 2011

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706. Marsha Enright and Gen LaGreca wrote a most fitting tribute to this quintessential self-made man often described as "the first American." And they reveal the one terrible mistake Franklin made. Check it out.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Shattering the myth of the New Deal

Posted by Richard on June 18, 2010

Dr. Thomas Sowell:

Sometimes you can read a book that will change your mind on some fundamental issue.

Rarely, however, is there just one page that can undermine or destroy a widely held belief. But there is such a page — Page 77 of the book "Out of Work" by Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway.

The widespread belief is that government intervention is the key to getting the country out of a serious economic downturn.

Read. The. Whole. Thing. The page to which Sowell refers contains a table of month-by-month unemployment rates for the 1930s. As Sowell explains, that table irrefutably demonstrates that it was massive government intervention in the market, first under Hoover and then under Roosevelt, that aborted the recovery after the 1929 market crash and led to a decade of double-digit unemployment. 

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
— George Santayana, The Life of Reason

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Erasing history in North Carolina

Posted by Richard on February 10, 2010

I've mentioned the "critical pedagogy" educational theory before. Geoffrey Britain recently posted an excellent two-part discussion of critical pedagogy and cultural Marxism at Verum Serum (part 1; part 2). The application of these radical theories leads to outrageous attempts to indoctrinate children and crudely shape their world view. Case in point, the effort to erase most of American history from the curriculum in North Carolina, as reported by ALG's Bill Wilson (emphasis added):

In perhaps the most glaring example to date of our government’s descent into socialist madness, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is attempting to remove all American history prior to 1877 from its textbooks, replacing it with a “global studies” curriculum.

Rather than learning about George Washington crossing the Delaware or Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves (while studying from documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation), high school students in North Carolina would instead be indoctrinated with more multicultural rhetoric and the fuzzy science of climate change (while studying form the Koran and the “Copenhagen Accord”).

By removing the entire first century of American history from our children’s textbooks, these radicals are doing more than just putting a “liberal spin” on things – they are trying to fundamentally alter the world view of future generations of U.S. citizens. They are trying to rip out American democracy by its roots and replace it with what Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer has dubbed the “New Socialism,” the exploitation of climate-based fear-mongering as a means to facilitate a massive wealth transfer from American taxpayers to third-world governments, many of which are hostile to the United States.

Joseph Goebbels would no doubt be proud of such a curriculum – and the objective behind it.

My first impulse was to say, "Unbelievable!" But then I realized the sad thing is that it's entirely believable. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Celebrating the triumph of liberty

Posted by Richard on November 9, 2009

Twenty years ago today, residents of the slave state known as the Democratic Republic of Germany danced atop the Berlin Wall with their West German brethren and rushed through the suddenly open gates to freedom — a freedom that thousands had been killed for attempting to reach. It was the beginning of the end for the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Empire, and the subjugation of hundreds of millions under brutal collectivist regimes. It was arguably the most momentous event since the end of World War II.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who herself walked from East Germany to freedom that day, is leading the appropriately massive celebrations taking place all day today in Berlin. Joining her are Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, and the leaders of all 27 European Union countries.

Absent is the leader of the country most responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall, the country that made possible the survival of West Berlin to see that glorious day. President Obama declined Chancellor Merkel's invitation to attend, saying he was too busy. So let's see what his schedule for today looks like: 

Office of the Press Secretary
November 8, 2009


In the morning, the President will receive the Presidential Daily Briefing, the Economic Daily Briefing, and meet with senior advisors in the Oval Office. These meetings are closed press.

In the evening, the President will sign an Executive Order on the employment of veterans in the federal government in the Oval Office. Through this Executive Order, the President will make the Federal Government the model employer of Veterans. The Executive Order establishes a Council on Veterans Employment and a Veterans Employment Program office within most Federal agencies. The signing is closed press.

The President will then meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office. This meeting is closed press.

In-Town Travel Pool
Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg
Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP
TV Corr & Crew: CNN
Print: CQ
Radio: VOA
Travel Photo: TIME


9:00AM Pool Call Time

10:00AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press

10:30AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Economic Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press

11:00AM THE PRESIDENT meets with senior advisors
Oval Office
Closed Press

6:45PM THE PRESIDENT signs the Veterans Employment Initiative Executive Order
Oval Office
Closed Press

7:00PM THE PRESIDENT meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel
Oval Office
Closed Press

Briefing Schedule

12:30PM Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs


The Office of the Press Secretary doesn't disclose with whom the President is playing golf in the afternoon. 

When I learned that Mikhail Gorbachev was attending the ceremonies today in Berlin, I felt a bit of a lump in my throat. The man who should really be there, but who's no longer with us — the man who, more than any other, brought about that day of liberation in 1989 — is the man who issued this challenge to Gorbachev in 1987: 

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

To watch, listen to, or read President Reagan's address at the Brandenburg Gate, go here.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Posted by Richard on November 5, 2009

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.

On this day in 1605, Guy Fawkes attempted (and failed) to blow up the British Houses of Parliament. He's been toasted ever since (in some circles, at least) as "The last man to enter Parliament with honourable intentions." 

Courtesy of the Moving Picture Institute, here's a short clip from V for Vendetta honoring the day. 

[YouTube link]

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Time for Choosing

Posted by Richard on October 29, 2009

Yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the TV broadcast "Rendezvous with Destiny," a 30-minute campaign commercial for Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, delivered by Ronald Reagan. It was a variation of a speech called "A Time for Choosing," padded with some "vote for Goldwater because…" stuff.

Reagan delivered this speech many times in 1964, including when he nominated Sen. Goldwater at the Republican National Convention. Reagan fans of a sufficient age have always just called it "The Speech." It is as meaningful today as it was in 1964. These excerpts are (despite what the intro at this site says) from his nominating speech at the convention:

It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government."

This idea — that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power — is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream–the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits."

The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. …

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Hat tip to Rush Limbaugh for reminding me (albeit a day late) and for these quotes

"In holding up Reagan, we're not holding up a man, a cult of personality figure. We're holding up principles. We're reminding people of how the country was founded." — Rush

 "If you think that the era of Reagan is over simply because the external threat of the Soviet Union was beaten down, you have missed the whole point. Reagan was talking about tyranny, liberty, and freedom, and freedom is always threatened, always has to be fought for." — Rush

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gandhi and Groucho

Posted by Richard on October 2, 2009

Today is the birthday of both Mohandas Gandhi and Julius “Groucho” Marx. In their honor, here is my favorite quote from each (but I’m not going to tell you which is which).

Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.
Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Apollo 8

Posted by Richard on December 24, 2008

Forty years ago today, Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit:

The SPS ignited at 69 hours, 8 minutes, and 16 seconds after launch and burned for 4 minutes and 13 seconds, placing the Apollo 8 spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. The crew described the burn as being the longest four minutes of their lives. If the burn had not lasted exactly the correct amount of time, the spacecraft could have ended up in a highly elliptical lunar orbit or even flung off into space. If it lasted too long they could have impacted the Moon. After making sure the spacecraft was working, they finally had a chance to look at the Moon, which they would orbit for the next 20 hours.

Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were the first humans to escape Earth's gravitational field and the first to look directly upon the far side of the moon.

Apollo 8 was only the second manned Apollo flight. It was the first manned flight atop the Saturn V rocket. The mission was originally planned as a low-Earth orbit test of the combined command module (CM) and lunar module (LM). Depending on whom you believe, NASA gave Apollo 8 a lunar-orbit mission either because production of the LM was behind schedule or because the Soviets were suspected of planning a manned lunar-orbit mission for late 1968.

The Soviets, of course, never made that flight. NASA repeated the lunar orbit mission five months later with Apollo 10. Two months after that, Apollo 11 landed men on the moon. That should be a big anniversary celebration next July!

Maybe then someone can explain to me why, 40 years later, we don't have a thriving lunar colony, a large orbiting colony at L5, and reasonably priced space tourism — all the stuff Heinlein envisioned back in the 50s.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

This day in history

Posted by Richard on July 14, 2008

If you listen to Little Steven's Underground Garage, you not only get to hear some really cool music (including the weekly "coolest song in the world"), but you also learn some interesting trivia. For instance, you probably know that July 14 is Bastille Day, but did you know it's also Harry Dean Stanton's birthday and the anniversary of the U.S. premier of Easy Rider?

So in honor of the day, take your Harley out for a ride (or your Vespa, if that's all you've got). Listen to Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild. Have a nice Beaujolais with dinner. And then watch Paris, Texas, Escape from New York, Alien, or just about any David Lynch film. (Remember, "the owls are not what they seem.")

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »