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I posted earlier today about the “Blame America for Pearl Harbor” crowd.  Allow me to bookend the day by reprinting a piece of real historickal analysis by the superb Victor Davis Hanson:

Why did Japan attack us 70 years ago today, other than the usually cited existential reasons and the fact that they thought they could and get away with it?

We sometimes forget that their expansionism in Manchuria quickly put them in collision with the Soviet Union, and for much of the summer of 1939 they waged a vicious and costly border war against the Soviets — one that they eventually lost and which led to their signing a non-aggression pact with Russia by spring 1941.

The Japanese had bitterly complained that, in the midst of their ordeal, their supposedly anti-Communist ally Nazi Germany had without warning agreed to a duplicitous non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. Indeed, the Ribbentrop-Molotov deal was signed on August 23, 1939, amid some of the worst fighting for the Japanese on the Russian eastern front. If Hitler thought that he had a green light to go into Poland, Stalin was equally relieved that he too had only a one-front war and no worries about the Japanese as he gobbled up his share of Poland.

The irony was, of course, that when Hitler invaded Russia the next year in June 1941, Stalin was freed up by Japanese neutrality to send critical divisions from the east; in tit-for-tat fashion, the Japanese had done to Germany what Germany had just earlier done to it. After the stall at Moscow, it is strange to read of growing Germany exasperation with the Japanese, given prior Nazi unconcern with Japan’s war with Russia.

As for the Japanese in spring 1941, with their own rear largely freed from worries over the Soviets and the army somewhat in disrepute after the costly and losing conventional border war and the humiliation of being loud proponents of the now dubious alliance with Hitler, the navy was able to make the argument that a one-front, primarily carrier war against the Americans made some sense, and a simultaneous one against the naturally rich colonies of the weaker European Pacific powers even more sense given their losses in Europe to Hitler.

Indeed, until August 1945, it was the United States, not Japan, that had a traditional two-front war. We rarely talk of Stalin’s duplicity in this regard: While we were suffering terrible casualties from the Japanese, supplying Russia, conducting bloody campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and over the skies of Europe, and being hectored by the Soviets to open a second front in Europe, the Soviets honored their non-aggression pact with Japan, freeing up hundreds of thousands of veteran troops to be used against us on the islands. I never understood why history books focus on Stalin’s exasperation with our supposedly tardy invasion of Normandy, when he was completely unwilling to open a second front against Japan — until it was utterly wrecked in August 1945 and there were easy pickings to be had in the region.

Go read the rest for some further thoughts on the supposed genius and enlightenment of Admiral Yamamoto, as well as the Hobbesian lesson about international politics every bit as applicable today as it was back then.

The Times runs an article about the newest fad in wine marketing.  As you might guess from the barbarous age in which we live, the key words are “vulgar” and “edgy”:

IT’S peppery and full of fight. The tannins have grip. The nose takes no prisoners. This shiraz is a bitch.

It says so on the label. Royal Bitch is the name of the wine, one of a teeming sisterhood of cabernets and chardonnays from a variety of producers with labels like Sassy Bitch, Jealous Bitch, Tasty Bitch and Sweet Bitch. They’re reinforcements for a growing army of rude, budget-priced wines that have shoved their way into wine stores and supermarkets in the past few years — most recently Happy Bitch, a Hudson Valley rosé that made its debut last month.

Other labels such as “Fat Bastard” and “Ball Buster” are mentioned as well.  Let the frolic begin!

Like a slap across the face, Bitch grabbed the attention of a certain type of consumer, primarily young women en route to a bachelorette or divorce party, or looking for a special way to say, “I love you” on Mother’s Day.

“They can buy it and say, ‘Here, bitch, I bought you a present,’ ” said John F. Umbach, the owner of Joseph Victori Wines, which distributes Royal Bitch and Sweet Bitch.

My fellow port swillers, I have rarely seen (apart from the two words “Lady Gaga”) such a succinct summation of the wretched state to which our so-called culture has descended.  Remember that these people don’t inhabit the fringes, they’re what passes as the norm these days.

Winemakers have some way to go before equaling the shock value of Jersey’s Toxic Waste, a specialty spirit. But the bitch category may yield dividends. Take Rae-Jean Beach, a blended white wine. (The name needs to be said aloud.) She’s got a husband, a zinfandel. Sorry, but the name is not printable here.

Not yet, anyway.  Sigh.

UPDATE:  Well, dum spiro, spero, I suppose, so let’s end with a little fun on the subject:


Why not label a wine “Osmin’s Delight” or something like that?    Then you could say, “Here, comic Turkish overseer buffoon person, I bought you a present.  And I won’t tell Allah!”

This is cool stuff: Nasa’s Voyager 1 in ‘cosmic purgatory’ on verge of entering Milky Way.

The spacecraft is close to leaving the Solar System and into the uncharted territory of the Milky Way after more than three decades in space.

Voyager 1 was launched with its twin, Voyager 2, by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in 1977.

Voyager 1 is travelling at just under 11 miles per second and sending information from nearly 11 billion miles away from the sun.

It is about to become the first man-made object to leave the Solar System, although Nasa expects it to take between several months and years before it completely enters interstellar space. Voyager 2 will follow later.

Ed Stone, the Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: “Voyager tells us now that we’re in a stagnation region in the outermost layer of the bubble around our solar system. Voyager is showing that what is outside is pushing back.

“We shouldn’t have long to wait to find out what the space between stars is really like.”

Not to be pedantic, but the Sun and the Solar System are every bit a part of the Milky Way as any other system or the bits in between, but I know what they’re getting at – something akin to the difference between in-shore and blue water navigation.  Also, I’m not sure the author understands what “Purgatory” actually is.  (And if Deep Space is “Heaven”, does that make Earth…….?)

At any rate, pausing to consider the vast distances involved in this biznay always gives me a pleasant sense of vertigo.

I’m also reminded of the Medieval idea of the Heavens not being a vast, empty void, but instead being filled with, well, celestial matter of various sorts.  The best “modern” description of this idea that I know about comes in C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, especially the first one, Out of the Silent Planet.

(*Not to spoil the joke, but for the benefit of those, like the Mothe, who have no reason to know, this is a reference to the awful 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the plot of which hinges on what happens in the 23rd Century when Voyager comes back.)

UPDATE:  Ha! Ol’ Robbo scoops the Puppy Blender!  (Either that or else he’s sneaking sips out of the decanter without telling me.)


“Hi, Robbo.  You know, everyone I’ve talked to says that we ought to try and get the insurance company to pay to get the chimney rebuilt, or at least pay part of it.  Nobody can say for sure the earthquake was to blame for its condition.  And any rate, the worst they could do is say no.”

“Right.  I agree.  But haven’t we had this conversation before?”

“Yes, but you haven’t called them yet.”

“Oh, I see.  So this is, in fact, nagging.”

“Yes.  Yes it is.”

“Okay.  Just so we’re clear on that.”

As Father M reminds me over at Facebook, today is the Feast of St. Ambrose,  one of the four original Doctors of the Church, converter of St. Augustine and patron of (among other things) bees and bee-keeping.  I always usually make a point of saying the Prayer of St. Ambrose conveniently placed at the front of our missal prior to Mass in order to get into the proper frame of mind.

At any rate, noodling on this, I said to myself, “Self, perhaps this is a hint at the direction your studies should go.  Why not nip over to the devil’s website and see what writings of St. Ambrose might be on offer?”

Well, the answer to that question, as it turns out, is mostly a choice between Kindle downloads and cheap reproductions of books originally published around 1900, neither of which is particularly acceptable to me.

Of course, I don’t call it “the devil’s website” idly, as temptation is ever present there.  While scrolling through the search results for “Ambrose”, I also stumbled across Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers:  E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.  Since I happen to be watching the HBO dramatization of this, it occurred to me that I ought to pick up the original, especially as I know Ambrose to be a good writer of popular history.

Resisting the mighty urge to go on to the works of Ambrose Bierce, I also remembered that the Mothe, ever since reading True Grit, has been on something of a Charles Portis tear and has been nagging me to do the same.  Thus, I also picked up The Dog of the South, Gringos and Masters of Atlantis.

You see how easily ol’ Robbo falls?  Hence the need to go back to St. Ambrose. 

Actually, I have not given up on my original Ambrosial intent, but I will obviously need to go elsewhere to find his writings.  And hopefully the trip down this particular literary cul-de-sac will be worth it, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Remember Pearl Harbor today, and remember further that it was your own damned fault:

The conflict is generally understood to have started with the Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, on the morning of December 7. But the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact is marking the 70th anniversary of the raid in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss America’s “responsibility” for the war.

“The ultimate goal of the association is to explain the true facts of history, especially when it comes to major events, such as the causes of the Pacific War,” Hiromichi Moteki, secretary general of the society, told The Daily Telegraph.

“For this event, the main point is to show that the responsibility for the war was not Japan’s, but America’s,” he said.

The society’s primary aims are to promote its own understanding of history, with its scholars claiming the Nanjing Masacre is a fabrication of the Chinese government, that no women were forced into sexual slavery as “comfort women” for Japan’s troops in the 1930s and 1940s and that the violent subjugation of the Korean peninsula was in the best interests of the local population.

“The US started the war by imposing an economic blockade on Japan, working with Britain and Holland,” Moteki said, adding that documents signed by Franklin Roosevelt in July 1941 – five months before Pearl Harbor – authorising the creation of the Flying Tigers fighter unit in China will be presented at the conference as proof of Washington’s aggression.

So there.

I have seen this sort of argument before, about how Japan had no choice but to lash out if it wished to avoid strangulation by Anglo-American hegemony.  One book I read, called Flyboys if I am not mistaken, opened with an argument that the Japanese simply wished to assert their position as a Power.  Looking about at the other world Powers (i.e., us), they saw a pattern of imperial conquest, so, logically, decided to adopt the same scheme.  Thus, they were shocked, shocked, when we reacted so violently to their expansionism.  Couldn’t we all just be friendly elites?

Of course, there will always be those on the fringe who think such things.  What worries me is that, as our Civilization collapses ever further in moral and intellectual decay, we will lose the will and the wits to argue them down or, perhaps more appropriately, laugh them off.



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December 2011