Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Today In Wyoming's History: December 29 Updated

Today In Wyoming's History: December 29:

2014  The Special Master issues his report on Tongue River allocations in Montana v. Wyoming. Wyoming newspapers report this as a victory for Wyoming, but Montana papers report that both states won some points in the decision, which now goes to the Supreme Court for approval or rejection.

Je Ne Regrette Rien et Je Me Souviens: Resolutions and Regrets

This time of year, I'll frequently hear "I don't do New Year's Resolutions".  That's fine, and that's your business, but I do.

These two attitudes might best be summed up by the two French phrases, which sounds so much more poetic in French than in English, from two different sources.

The first phrase if from Édith Piaf's classic, and defiant, song by that title, which freely translates as "I don't regret anything".  It starts out:
Non... rien de rien
Non je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien... qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m'est bien égale..
That translates as:
No, nothing at all,
No, I regret nothing
Not the good things. . . they did to me
Nor the bad. . .may it's all the same to me!
I can see why this defiant song was sung by defiant French Legionairres as they went into captivity following their failued uprising in Algiers.

In contrast, there's the defiant motto of Quebec.  "Je me souviens", or "I remember".

To remember, and to remember accurately, is to have regrets, at least some minor regrets. And to have regrets requires us to attempt to adjust to avoid creating new regrets if we can. As a learning intelligent being, we must face our regrets and act where we can. And those are resolutions.

Of course, some regrets are unaddressable.  Things we regret from eons ago, or regrets about situations which are permanent. Those kind of regrets, we're told, can be disabling.  There's no point in crying over spilled milk, we're told as children, and there certainly isn't any point in crying over milk that's spilled and then spoiled.  But, as a person with a long memory, I'm sometimes conscious of those old regrets.

But I don't view that as a bad thing.  We are a species which weighs and measures things, including mistakes, and mistakes that stick with us do so for a reason.  We've no doubt always been that way, as in "I regret whacking that bison on the head. . . I shall not do so again."

And I do make resolutions.  I'm a work in progress for sure, and I know that.  As we all have a backdoor view of ourselves, which nobody else does, I"m sure that most people acknowledge that.  Indeed, a person who thinks that they're near perfection is a pain, and laboring under an illusion. Few do that, however.

Which doesn't mean the content should not be. Some do better than others at their lives and some also are blessed with fortune, opportunity, or a personal makeup that allows for them to be contented.  Indeed, I suspect all are.

Which is why regrets well chosen, and resolutions well made, are useful.  And January 1 is as good of time to make those as any other, whether they be large, as some people's are, or small, as most of our resolutions really are.

So, Happy New Year!

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel?

I've been bumping up this thread from time to time:
Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel?: A couple of weeks ago I posted this: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel? : Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel? :   Driven by Sau...
Related to this, in yesterday's Tribune there was an article about the county's plans for infrastructure, based upon the (frightening) estimate that the county will gain 30,000 residents over the next 25 years. Well, this brings to mind:
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Excerpt from Robert Burns,  To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough

I was amazed by the prediction, but in reading the article I found one of the knowledgeable folks in it noting that all the planning was done before the current crash in the price of oil.  In other words, the planning basically was done with $100/bbl oil in mind, in perpetuity.  Not oil that's dropping below half that price, and falling.  Indeed, planning aside, this state now faces a decline in oil that represents about 50% of this value six months ago, and its still falling.  Coal in the meantime has been steadily declining in production. Natural Gas prices collapsed some time ago.  And actual demographic information is that the state lost about 1.5 times the number of people that the county plans stated would come into the county each year for 25  years.  Wyoming's population slightly increased last year, but due to births by residents.

Now, I'm not getting after the planners nor the industry, but pointing out that all such planning has some inherent folly to it, as the assumptions that are made are frequently highly invalid.  Looking at the basic industries of the state, all extractive save for tourism and agriculture, what we actually have is an economy based upon the production of three things, gas, coal, and oil, and all three are may be, or might not be, in some long term trouble  Oil is the most stable, sort of, as the consumption of it will go on for some time, but even long term trends there are not comforting for those who would base an economy solely on it.  The old habits of the country which saw fuel consumption dramatically rise every time the price at the pump went down are really over.  People seem now fully committed to accepting rising CAFE standards and ever more fuel efficient cars, and turning away from petroleum entirely seems to be a widely shared goal. During this period, Saudi Arabia, whose economy entirely depends on the sale of petroleum, can afford to keep the price low and keep the money coming in, until it can hope to shift to something else in the future. They seem fully aware of that now and committed to that course.

The irony of that is that, but for the Saudi Arabian gambit, the oil economy did appear to have been fairly stable, which the planners no doubt noted, as consumption will go on, the cyclical nature of prices seemed over, and after the drilling was relatively complete, the infrastructure will of course remain and need to be serviced.  But nobody planned on Saudi Arabia essentially knowing the same thing, and also knowing that it could drop the price and crowed the domestic industry out.  That shows, I suppose, the inherent risks in any sort of long term planning.  You can never really fully account for such things.

Gas, which did create a booming economy in some Wyoming counties, sort of endured a price crash awhile back which was more predictable, but also seemed to take people off guard. The reason for that is that the new gas pockets were, in some areas, easy to exploit, but once the infrastructure came on line, which was regional in extent, it put a lot of gas on the market.  Gas used to be basically consumed here locally, as that's all the infrastructure that there was, and the thought, reasonable enough, was that once our gas was put into a national infrastructure, the price would rise.  It did, but then all the regional gas including the Canadian price came into the system too, and then the price at the wellhead fell.

Coal's problems are much deeper, but without going into them, here we can say that everyone has been pretty good in deducing that and essentially planning for decline.  That's a good thing in that while the decline is perhaps at least somewhat inevitable, it hasn't really caught anyone by surprise too much.  It's a huge problem for State government, however, in that much of the state's revenue comes from coal.

At any rate, what that now means is that all the local planning may be really out the window.  That would suggest, in my view, the planning was too early, and much too unimaginative in its nature.  The risk now is that we'll go on for some time with plans that have every appearance of being obsolete, and that perhaps we ought to plan for a period of decline, or perhaps we should have been planning for that possibility all along.  What if prices stay this low, or lower, for a decade?  That's something we better start planning for. The industry itself likely is, as it's good at planning for such things as a rule, and has learned from the shocks of the past.

Also, while it places me in the camp that some regard as radical, in doing the planning, there's nothing wrong with trying to keep a lid on some aspects and byproducts of growth as well, which isn't the planning we've always been doing.  We always seem to believe we can have everything we want, but we can't, or that everything is simply inevitable and capable only of some direction.  By this point in time, we should be aware of that and strive to keep the things that make any one place nice in some ways and control things in a planning sense to our advantage, when we can, which in part might build in an element of delay that would allow for a cushion should plans go awry..  Nearly every place that people seek to escape in the US today got that way as the only plan was to encourage things to come in, or just assume that was inevitable, and they did, until people weren't happy about what had developed but could do nothing about it.  Some forethought of that type should be made, even thought that means not building all those roads, etc., or at least not doing it right away  We can afford to be smarter than we usually are when times are good and plan accordingly, and when things go badly, the motivation for effective planning usually goes out the window with the economy.

Of course, the folly of planning is that its very difficult to really make a rational plan of this type more than ten years out, if event that long.  Early predictions for the state held that the population of the state would be double its current population early in the 20th Century, which obviously were incorrect, but which were built on the assumption that Wyoming's economy would mirror Pennsylvania's then industrial economy.  A plan made 25 years ago would still be somewhat valid, if wisely done now, as not that much has changed in spite of the fact that we think it has. But would a plan drafted in 1925 have been valid for 1950?  Probably not.  Or a plan in 1950, in 1975?  Planning is a must, but not accepting that generally most plans go out the window and planning itself is more valuable than the plan is something that should always be taken into account.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Movies in History: Stalingrad, Enemy At The Gates, and Stalingrad

By some accounts the battle of Stalingrad is the largest battle in human history, although that unfortunate status is not unchallenged, and therefore it isn't surprising that the battle would be the subject of a variety of films, not all of which I've seen by any means.

Stalingrad.  1993

The best of these movies is the 1993 German production, simply called Stalingrad.  This film follows a squad of German soldiers who are of a specialist, stormtrooper, variety, joining them just as they receive a new officer to replace an officer with a severe head injury. He joins the squad in Italy just as they receive orders to ship out to the Russian front.  From there, the squad is followed over a period of months as the situation in Stalingrad deteriorates.

This film is a surprising one in some ways as it is by far the best of the ones about this battle I've seen. A German film looking at the battle from a post war German prospective as a terrible German tragedy, the film doesn't shy away from depicting German actions as barbarous, although, as is typical for German films about World War Two, it concentrates that in a fashion limited to certain individuals and it distinguishes those individuals from average Germans, a distinction that is not fully warranted by any means.   The Russians, in contrast, are generally portrayed sympathetically.

Combat scenes are highly realistic and this film scores very high in terms of material details, something that's somewhat surprising as this film predates Saving Private Ryan, but it compares favorably with it in these regards.  Artillery and armor, as well as small arms, are accurate for the armies and period, something that is not often the case for pre Saving Private Ryan films.  As in at least one other German work, German soldiers are depicted using Soviet small arms, which must be at least based on some element of truth as it seems to show up fairly frequently.

The story, I'll note, is really grim and depressing, which isn't surprising given its topic.

Enemy At The Gates

In start contrast with Stalingrad, Enemy At The Gates is flat out awful.

This is a British production that uses the title of a fairly well respected straight history on the battle which is now little read.  That's all it shares, however, with the book. This film instead follows what is supposed to be a fictionalized story of real Soviet snipers who fought in the battle.

That's a bit of a problem in and of itself, as the Soviets fictionalized the stories of their own snipers during the war for propaganda purposes, so basing a fictionalized drama on them is basically basing a story on something that's somewhat fictionalized already.  Indeed, at the time this movie was released it started a bit of a boom amongst history fans on the topic of Soviet snipers, which in turn gave rise to some re-analysis of the love story angle between the male and female snipers, showing the extent to which the story of the snipers in general was exaggerated, which isn't to say that the Soviets didn't use snipers a great deal.

The further "sniper duel" aspect this is real Hollywood schlock, even if this isn't a Hollywood film.  The German sniper is even made to be an officer, who is a super sniper. Again, while the Germans used snipers, they were enlisted men.

Just about everything I can think of in regards to the story is bad, and makes this movie worth avoiding. What about the material details?

Well, the weapons are all correct, I'll give it that. And a scene that depicts a Luftwaffe bombing run is nicely done.

Stalingrad, 2013.

My suspicion is that there is more than one Russian movie about Stalingrad, but this is the only one I've seen.  Indeed, it's only the second full length Russian movie I've ever seen in full.  So, when I saw it the other day, I had somewhat high expectations for it.

Those expectations were somewhat let down, but perhaps I was expecting too much of the film.

This movie is centered around a drama involving the story of a 19 year old girl who is the sole remaining resident of a ruined apartment building in Stalingrad.  Everyone she's known before the war in her apartment, including her family, has died in the battle and she won't leave. Early in the film the German occupied apartment changes hands and we're introduced to five Soviet fighting men who strive (with other Soviet soldiers at first) to retain possession of the building from the German forces that have been pushed out. As the movie progresses, all five of the Soviet fighters develop strong attachments to the girl.

That may seem odd, and odder yet the film actually commences in modern Japan, where an elderly Russian man is a on a crew seeking to rescue stranded German girls from the rubble of a building brought down by the recent tsunami.  In this we learn that the Russian man has "five fathers", and as the story develops it becomes apparent that the five Russian fighting men, four soldiers and one sailor (the Soviets did use sailors as infantry on occasion, and the film is accurate in those regards) are his "fathers" (with one being his actual father).

Added into this mix, a subplot involves a German officer who pays his attention to a Russian woman, against her will, and then by force, with that subplot developing into a really odd love story.

None of this sounds, of course, like a war movie, but it is, and during the film the Russians fight desperately against the more numerous Germans.  Early in the film the fighting is in fact spectacular, with some special effects that are truly dramatic.

As a story, this tale is oddly Russian.  It's not a bad story, it's just sort of peculiar.  The subplot is extremely odd from our prospective, as the concept of physical force giving rise to a love story would be regarded as repellent by nearly any modern western audience.

Departing from there, in terms of material details, the film isn't too bad, although it falls in this are somewhere between the best materially accurate films of the 1970s and Saving Private Ryan. All the weapons are correct or nearly so. This movie also includes an offhand example of German troops using Russian equipment, so that shows up again. An effort to make replica Panzerkampfwagen IVs isn't too bad, if not entirely successful.  Use of the weapons, however, is highly exaggerated with some weapon performance being silly.  

In regards to historical accuracy and portrayal of the armies, a much poorer job was done.  On some things, the movie is surprisingly accurate.  The barbarity of the Soviet army is accurately and surprisingly portrayed.  In one scene, one of the "fathers" has a sailor shot simply because the sailor is indicating he's going to return to the rear.  That is pretty accurate.  In another, another "father" shoots the German officer's female love interest in the head, which again, is pretty indicative of how Soviet troops generally regarded things.  On the other hand, the Soviet soldiers are impossibly capable. The Germans are portrayed with varying degrees of evil intent, which isn't surprising, but the tolerance shown by a senior officer for his junior's dalliance is way off the mark in the way portrayed, and would probably have resulted in the junior's court martial.  Chances are the woman who that officer is interested in would have met with a bad end way before she did as well.

On a somewhat interesting note, the Russianess of the film is demonstrated not only in the story line, but in the way it is portrayed.  Less blood and gore is shown than in American films, even though the film is very violent.  In these regards, it is probably actually more accurate than American movies, which tend to be overboard in that aspect.  However, almost all of the male female contact is merely suggested.  There's some scenes in which this isn't entirely true, but only barely, and the film recalls American movies of the 50s and 60s in this fashion.  A little more, but not a lot more, is shown than was shown, for example, in From Here To Eternity.  This harkens back to Soviet production values, in which such portrayals just weren't done, but it also is refreshing in that it takes more skill to suggest something than to just exploit it.

Movies In History: The Cowboys

I love this film.

This 1972 John Wayne film is one of his absolute best, second only to The Searchers (a film I have not yet reviewed in this list).  It's a classic drama, and touches on a Romantic part of our history in a way few other films do.

This running thread, of course deals with movies in history, not movies as great cinema, and so we'll only really look at this film in this context, and looking at it that way, the film does remarkably well, particularly for one filmed when it was.

Set in Montana in the late 1870s or 1880s (the film isn't really clear, other than that it is post Little Big Horn), the film surrounds a cattle drive east across Montana to Belle Fourhe, South Dakota. As rancher Wil Anderson's cow hands have all quit to participate in a gold rush on the Ruby River, he's forced to use actual boys.

The plot device actually only exaggerates a custom that existed at the time, and it is not hard to find examples of very young teenage cowboys participating in drives.  Indeed, going to work and leaving home at that age was not uncommon at that time, and my own grandfather did so at age 13 in the early 1900s.  Anderson's cowboys are, in some instances, very young in this film, but I've seen middle school aged cowboys not much older participate in drives in present times.

In terms of details, the film does a very good job, and the ranching details are mostly correct.  A nice detail in the film depicts a large string of horses being gathered prior to the drives commencing, which is accurate for the era and even now.  The firearms shown for the period are surprisingly correct in an era when they rarely were, and some older arms are shown in use, including one cap and ball Colt revolver.  This is very unusual for a film of this period.

Of course, it isn't perfect.  The clothing is generally correct for the boys, but not for the adults in all cases, as both Anderson and cook Nightlinger are shown wearing cotton jeans and otherwise being dressed in the fashion that Wayne had made popular for cowboy films of this era, but which did not depict dress of the period accurately. Therefore, the film has an interesting mix of correct and incorrect clothing.

All in all, however, this film deserves its place as a classic and does pretty well in terms of historical detail.

Lex Anteinternet: Movies getting it right in time and place

I just bumped this up, and noted my reason for doing so in the second postscript:
Lex Anteinternet: Movies getting it right in time and place: Movies, for good or ill, shape our view of the past, so I thought it might be interesting to note those that seem to get a certain topic or...
Which brings up this question.

Are seeing movies part of your Christmas traditions?

Movies getting it right in time and place

Movies, for good or ill, shape our view of the past, so I thought it might be interesting to note those that seem to get a certain topic or era just right.  That is, in the historical and cultural context.

That's probably something that's not accomplished as much as it's accomplished.  Films frankly tend to reflect the era that they're made in more than any other era, so "modern" views and even styles of dress and behavior are projected back as having existed on earlier ones.  That is probably generally the rule, and up until recently, at least for the most part, movies made very little effort to actually get detailed material and cultural items correct.  Generations, for example, of Western movie goers watched movies that almost universally failed in terms of correctness to material and cultural details, with rare exception.

Anyhow, given that, it might be interesting to note films here that get it right.  They're not all great films, I'd note, but rather films whose portrayals of an era are well done.


Over time, I decided to change this topic so that the films discussed, rather than be listed here, have been individually listed.  Therefore, the list that once appeared here, no longer does. As the films were separated out, I generally just posted them to the last updated date, August 2, 2014, where they now appear.

Postscript II

It is, of course, Christmas Season and for some weird reason, that's associated with movies, both big screen, and on the small screen.

Even though I really hate to spend any free time I have indoors, I've caught a few films on the small screen over the holidays, and so I intend to note them in this context.  Given the change in this thread over time, I thought I'd note that here, particularly as some of these films are old, not new, and otherwise my reasons for noting them might seem odd.  

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Cheyenne Wyoming

Churches of the West: St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Cheyenne Wyoming

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel?

A couple of weeks ago I posted this:
Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel?: Lex Anteinternet: $40/barrel? :   Driven by Saudi Arabian efforts, the price of petroleum oil is falling through the floor.  When I las...
West Texas Light is at $54.73 this morning.  Wyoming's crude, which was at $80/bbl in September is likely below that now.  Rigs are being stacked.

And 2,000 more people left the state this past year than moved in. That's a clear sign. We're in a slump right now, in spite of denial of that by people who are hoping that booms are endless.  Anyone who has lived here for awhile knows this to be the cycle of the industry, and should not be surprised, but no doubt many are.

Of course, this may be a slump, not a crash.  But the local oil economy is just a service economy for existing production if oil is in the $50s.  There's no sign of that changing any time in the near future.

Inaccurate headlines, and the NCHS Swimming Pool

As anyone who occasionally reads this blog already knows, a bond issue that would have funded a new pool at NCHS failed by 400 votes earlier this year, even though other tax issues passed in the general election.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems pretty clear that if the pool bond issue had been in the general election, it would have passed.  People just don't get out for special elections unless motivated, and the bond issue election came up at a time when Tea Party elements in the state appeared to be ascendant, but prior to their dramatic decline in the general election.  It seems reasonable to deduce that the actual population would have supported the bond issue.

Now we have to live with the consequences of that, which for now seemingly means no pool at NCHS in spite of having a massive new structure under construction which could house it.  The paper this morning, in one of its series of end of the year articles, briefly gave me hope as it featured a photograph of the inside of the now demolished pool in an article that stated early on that the district was saving money to pay for what the bond would have paid for.

That's accurate to a small extent, but that small extent concerns equipment for the new facility focusing on trades and sciences the district is building, not for the pools.  That is sort of, badly, cleared up late in the article, but not enough, I'm quite sure, to cure the confusion that the article creates.  The Tribune gets a D here on this one.

But still, why not get the pool built?  Yes, the money isn't there, but the huge structure is, and without trying to do something now, it'll never happen. We have a newly elected school board, and they should address this.  The last board backed the pools, and this one would seem to.  Let's try to get it built somehow.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Random Snippets: Bad Christmas music

It is truly difficult to determine which is worse, "modern" (say post 1900) Christmas music, or traditional Christmas music rendered by current performers.


It's clear that most post 1900 Christmas music is just flat out bad, and beyond that it often has nothing to do with Christmas.  Just because it gets repeated again and again doesn't make it good. For example, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer may be played in grocery stores across the continent this time of year, and you may have learned it in grade school, but that doesn't make it good.

Generally, the more recent the music is, the worse it is too. There are, of course, some exceptions.  Perhaps Feliz Navidad, for example, is worthwhile.

But is this worse than old songs, sung by modern artists?  Hard to say.  The general approach most current artists have to Holiday music is to sing it about five times under speed and in a self indulgent manner. Stretching a vowel out over 15 bars, for example, doesn't make it good.  Have a Hooooooollllllyyyyyyyy Joooooooolllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy,  Christmas, for example, isn't really Christmasy.

Happy Boxing Day!

Today, December 26, is Boxing Day in most English speaking countries outside the United States.

Boxing Day is a legal holiday in most English speaking nations, even though its not observed in the United States and its largely unknown here.  It came about as it was the day that employers traditionally gave gifts, in boxes, to employees.  Or at least that's one version of how it came about.  At any rate, it's generally a day off, and often met with sports, including equine sports, in much of the English speaking world.

In the U.S., of course, it isn't observed.  But on a Christmas such as this, in which the holiday falls on a Thursday, many will receive the day off anyway.  And all the better for it. Returning to work the day after Christmas is tough, particularly for those with families.

Traditionally, I'd observe this day with a post Christmas goose hunt.  I should this year, but the snow over the past 24 hours has been so heavy, just digging out from the snow to the mail box may be a bit tough.

Combat over the 1914 Christmas Truce.

In 1914, as is now well known, British and German troops in many locations along No Man's Land stopped fighting and held an informal truce.  The lines were crossed, hats and gifts exchanged, and in some places football matches held.  News of the event was suppressed by all the combatants, but the operation of the American free press broke the story on December 31, 1914 and it was quickly followed up by English newspapers.  Suppressing the story in England, and in Germany, was impossible due to letters being written home anyway. The truce was better received in the free press than in others, and the story was criticized in Germany and pretty much fully suppressed in France, on whose territory the war was being fought in the west.  Still, the story broke and was very well known early in 1915.

 German soldiers behind the lines, 1914.

Less well known is that the event repeated to a small degree in 1915, but it was small, as the command structure was alive to the possibility of such events and acted to discourage them.  Indeed, an attempt by a German unit to hold one on Easter 1915 was not successful.

The entire Christmas Truce story became a historical footnote after the war and many people who had an understanding of World War One in the years that followed didn't really know of it, or if they did, not in any detail.  The bloody years of 1915 through 1918 drowned it out, as did the series of wars that followed the immediate aftermath of the Great War.  World War Two, which didn't feature many truces, likewise operated to make it seem like an ancient historical footnote, little studied for many years.  But, then starting within recent decades, people started looking at it again.   Quite a few people began writing about it.  In 2005 Joyeaux Noel, a French film, was released about the event. A popular song was also released a few years back. And this year British chocolate manufacturer Sainsbury made it the theme of a television advertisement, with the proceeds of the sales this year also having a charitable purpose.

Well, now the inevitable has happened.  There's been a reaction, with the reaction even including the assertion that the 1914 Christmas Truce "is a myth".  Some places historians, largely in the UK, are complaining about the attention given to the truce and its meaning, particularly this year where we are on the 100th anniversary of the event, and advertising campaign has featured it, and the British and German armies have chosen to honor the event with a couple of football matches between their troops.

It certainly isn't a myth.  It may be misunderstood, although if it is, it isn't much.  That it occurred and was widespread is a demonstrable historical fact, including the fact that in certain areas of the Front it took a few days for the killing to resume.  

So what's up?

Well, the ownership of history is what's up.

It may seem odd to people who don't write history, or study history, but history, like any academic field, becomes the territory of the people who work in it professionally, and often they really don't like it when a story becomes popular with average people, or even non professional serious historians.  History becomes their turf, and they protect it, often preferring that only other professionals discuss it  This tends to be very much the case with academic historians, who really dislike, in some instances, non academic historians and popular histories.  Indeed, non academic authors of popular histories sometimes note that they receive a real cold shoulder from academics if a book becomes popular, even while some academic historians write books of such narrow interest in such a dry fashion that only dedicated academics can stand to read them.

But this same phenomenon can pass on to the non academic historians as well, if the area of their interests is intense to them, but also one of public interest.  Some non academics become so heavily invested in an area of intense interest that they guard it as their own private turf and don't like popular interest in an aspect of it, even if that interest is fairly accurate.  So that we'd have this happen on this topic, isn't surprising.

The English are heavily invested, historically, in World War One.  The Great War lives on with the British in a way that it doesn't with any other nation anywhere, even nations that had men bleed and die with profusion in the war.  World War Two is the big war for most European nations that fought in it, and most of those nations fought in World War One as well.  But for the British, the Great War remains a topic of intense present interest.

Unfortunately with that, the British themselves have become heavily invested in a mythologized version of the war, or competing ones.  And what we're not seeing to an extent is a turf war between the heavily invested and the average citizen over World War One.

If you listen to average British historians, amateur and professional, discuss the Great War, what you'll hear is a version of the war in which the British effort loomed large, and American effort barely existed, the Russians hardly show up, and even the French seem to have a surprisingly minor role.  The British did indeed fight a very hard war, but now it almost seems as if the British believe they fought the war to a muddy unsatisfactory stalemate by themselves.

They certainly did not, and they didn't always view the war that way.  For one thing, in spite of the gloom about the war that set in during the 1950s amongst the British, after World War One they regarded it a fought well fought, and a war that was one.  They pall of gloom that started surrounding their view really says more about World War Two than it does World War One, and even the popularity of despondent trench poetry, such as that by Wilfred Owens, is a post World War Two, not post World War One, phenomenon.   To the current crop of British historians of all types, the Great War has taken on the atmosphere of a great romantic tragedy.  It's nearly a type of doomed love story, and its appeal exists to many in the same way that fans of Swedish movies love them, as the tragically doomed lives of the protagonist are swept towards an inevitable romantic destruction, carried by events beyond their control.

And that's not too surprising, really.

After World War One the British remained a world power, and the "pink" on the globe expanded, as the British Empire expanded. Sure, the seeds of the dissolution of the Empire were there, and the departure of Ireland form the United Kingdom was a certain sign of times to come, but truth be known, the British came out of the Great War stronger than they went in it. Indeed, in spite of the popular myth to the contrary, even early in World War Two British industrial might was so significant that British industrial production exceeded that of Germany's.  The entire "nation alone on the edge of defeat" view that the British took in 1940 was really exaggerated, and partially the product of British propaganda aimed at a sympathetic United States, although they certainly were in a tough spot at the time.

But during World War Two the economy of the UK was wrecked, the Imperial era came to an end with the results of the war, and the nation had to readjust to a new status in Europe and the world.  The United States, which had been sort of an odd cousin of the UK, was clearly the world's most dominant free country, and it had little admiration for Empire.  Soviet Russia loomed up in the East, a new power which had been feared for decades but now had a freakish global reach.  The US worried about France and worked to rebuild German industry.  A thing like that goes hard, and creates a new introspective focus.  And with that focus came on the British view that they bleed uniquely in World War One, which was somehow a greater tragedy that World War Two.  The great romance omitted the Americans and Russians, and almost did the French, and placed the tragic, in their new view, British effort in the sun as the central event of the bloody 20th Century.

A Christmas Truce doesn't really fit into that view very well,  But neither does the fact that the French fought at least as hard as the British, and that Russia suffered an irreparable tragedy whose aftermath lives on today.  Nor does the fact that but for the United States, the Germans probably would have won the war in 1918.  Nor even does the fact that the British, like other armies, generally rotated their troops back off the front lines every few days, rather than the endless days in the trenches so often portrayed.

None of this is to belittle the massive, and valiant, British (and Canadian, and Australian, and New Zealand, etc) effort in World War One.  The British effort really was great, and indeed, their officer corps was much, much better than British historians will credit today.  But it is to criticize those having a bit of a fit over a group of men in their twenties and thirties, in 1914, who saw their own lives as their own, and who were happy to return to the Christian roots of their societies for a day.  People who are having a fit over that, need to get over it. And the average British citizen, or American, or Canadian, or German, is actually more in tune with those men in 1914 than those critics would allow.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas dear readers, and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Everything old could be new again: Letters of Marque and Reprisal

In the old days, when a nation went to war, it issued piracy licenses.  I.e., letters of marque and reprisal.

Letters of marque and reprisal were just that.  In times of declared belligerency, nations licensed individuals to outfit their own vessel for the purpose of raiding enemy shipping, by which we mean commercial shipping.  It was legal, and it was lucrative, as the raiders claimed the enemy ship and its content as a prize and divided it up amongst themselves.  Indeed, the practice was so lucrative that navies occasionally had trouble recruiting men to their national navies during wartime, as signing up for a privateer was a better economic bet.

Letters of marque and reprisal are provided for in the same section of the Constitution; that the never used and nearly forgotten section providing for Declarations of War, are.  Specifically, it states that Congress has the power to:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
Congress is too chicken to declare war anymore, and hasn't since 1941.  The Korean War, the Vietnam War, both Gulf Wars, etc., were all without declaration.  This has been addressed here a couple of times before, and clearly some of the non declared wars shouldn't have been declared, and we've always experienced that to some degree.  So, while I suppose its only musing, I left wondering why Congress can't issue letters of marque and reprisal in situations of near war.

For example, I wonder what issuing them following 9/11 would have been like?  Piracy licenses to that new type of pirate, the Cyber Pirate, might have cleaned out Al Qaeda's bank account in about a week.  And now that we've been raided by pirates ourselves, in the form of oversensitive North Korean Clown College pirates, and as we've seen what private hackers can do to a country like North Korea's internet just for entertainment, I have to wonder what they'd do if they feared that Congress might debate letters of marque and reprisal?

Train crew size


An interesting article in the Tribune today relates that railroads are petitioning to allow trains to have a single crewman.

It also related that at the end of World War Two, trains (by which I think they meant freight trains) had a crew of seven, which was down to five by the 1970s, and which is now down to two.  Pretty remarkable change.

I guess in the fwiw category, while I don't doubt that a train could be manned by a single man, I think it a poor idea really, given the safety concerns that might give rise to in certain situations.

UW Foundation intent on cashing-in gift of Y Cross ranch

UW Foundation intent on cashing-in gift of Y Cross ranch

We've commented on this before, but an ongoing "boo hiss" is in order for the University of Wyoming on this one.

A Christmas Dinner for horses.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lex Anteinternet: Shaving

I posted this item this last April:
Lex Anteinternet: Shaving:
West Point Cadet shaving with a straight razor in the field. The
first thing I do every weekday, or at least every weekday that I work
Bleh. . . I have to admit that recently shaving has been one of those daily tasks I'd gladly give up.  I actually will skip it at least one day of the weekend, Saturday, and frequently I'll skip it on Sunday too.  If I have a few days off, which I hardly ever do, I'll generally skip it then as well.  I just don't like doing it first thing in the morning, and if I were retired, which I'm nowhere near being, and for which there's a fair chance I'll never be, I might just grow a short beard.  This is particularly in mind this morning as I shaved on both days of the weekend, which I rarely do.

Having said this, I'm increasingly surprised by the number of men who find it acceptable to pack a couple of days stubble during the workweek.  It's really common.  I was at a deposition the other day in which, for instances, one of the lawyers had on a suit and tie and about two days of beard growth.

An odd thing about that is how thin a lot of those beards are too.  They're scraggly, in many instances.  For a guy like me, with a really heavy beard, it's weird to see guys skipping a couple of days shaving to grow such thin beards, when if I did that, I'd look like a bear in short order.  Looking back on photos of the hairy 19th Century, it makes me wonder where those guys were then, as it seems like everyone in that era could either grown a titanic beard or mustache.

At any rate, it's probably a sign of my age, but either grow a beard or don't. The scraggly two or three days of thin beard growth look just doesn't work.

Christmas in the Trenches: A unit Christmas Card from World War One.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Today In Wyoming's History: December 18 Updated.

Today In Wyoming's History: December 18:

2014.  Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court seeking to have leave to sue Colorado on a Constitutional basis.regarding Colorado's state legalization of marijuana.  The basis of their argument is that Colorado's action violates the United States Constitution by ignoring the supremacy nature of Federal provisions banning marijuana.

While an interesting argument, my guess is that this will fail, as the Colorado action, while flying in the face of Federal law, does exist in an atmosphere in which the Federal government has ceased enforcing the law itself.

Kill and eat. The deeply unnatural, and rather odd, nature of vegetarianism.

I suppose its indicative or our general desire to be polite, even in print while commenting, but rarely does anyone bother to take on the topic of vegetarianism, how rare it is in the historic examples in the true sense, and how unnatural it is.

 Bean field, New Jersey.  Only in a society with highly developed row crop agriculture is an unnatural diet like vegetarianism possible.

But every now and then, it's worth noting something like this, particularly when those advocating a certain position have become so irrational and aggressive about their position, as vegetarians and their extremist adherents, vegans, have become.  Indeed, I suppose it might be further indicative that we have arrived at this point in that not only I'm now commenting on it, but Stephen Pastis, who previously limited his satiric wit in a class sense to fanatic bicyclist, has now added an equally fanatic irritating character to poke fun at, that being a vegan.

So, let's start with a simple set of truths.

First of all, vegetarianism in any form is a deeply unnatural diet. Human beings aren't designed to eat a strictly vegetable diet, and those who do are engaging in a deeply unnatural act.

Secondly, only in very advanced societies where a human's protein requirements can be made up in other ways, with considerable effort on the part of the eater, or on the part of society at large, can such a diet even be contemplated.

Thirdly, there aren't any well established religions of any antiquity, anywhere, which hold to the concept that a vegetarian diet is somehow morally superior to a diet featuring meat.  And to suggest it comports with Christianity is just fooling yourself in the extreme.

Oh, I know that vegetarians are now rolling in their tofu in anger, but these are the simple facts. And, if arguments work the way they usually do, anyone contesting these simple facts is busy building a straw man to argue against, raising arguments to defeat that I haven't brought up.

No, I'm going with history and nature on this one, and frankly any rational eater ought to as well.

And before I go on to state those facts in greater detail, let me add one more thing.

Everything, and everybody, dies.  You will dear reader, and so will I.  That's obvious, but as with much in contemporary Western society, we're busy ignoring that, and that figures into this topic. In our contemporary society, much effort is expended by many trying to fool ourselves that death is unnatural and can be wholly avoided.  It can't be, and for each of us, it won't be.

The diet a human being is evolved to eat is phenomenally well established.  Indeed, a recent National Geographic article detailed it well.  In a state of nature, human's eat meat, and crave it.

Now, in a state of nature, they also hunt it.  Before any person tries to qualify this by noting that they restrict their meat intake to fish alone, and they are therefore somehow superior, fishing is merely fish hunting.  The only distinction between fishing and hunting is that we've named it differently if it regards fish.  Not that this is wholly unique to fishing, students of language will note that taking frogs is sometimes referred to frogging or frog gigging, and hunters of waterfowl are sometimes claimed to engage in waterfowling, or just fowling.

 Antelope hunter, 19th Century Wyoming. Antelope hunting, including what amounts to a type of subsistence hunting, is very common in Wyoming to this day and very lean antelope makes a dinner entry on a lot of regional tables.  In  terms of what you're evolved to eat, this is it.

And in a state of nature, that's what people eat, and how they get it.  Animals, birds and fish.

 Trout hunters, i.e., trout fisherman, Colorado high country 1946. With such an nice looking stream such as this, why does every single Colorado fisherman seem to be fishing in Wyoming?  Also, given as trout fishing is trout hunting, isn't there something a little weird about "catch and release". We fish to eat, after all.

Now, for the most part, in any such society, people still eat more vegetable matter than meat, and for some simple reasons. One is that we're evolved to eat that as well, not exclusively, but in addition. Secondly, getting meat is pretty tough work, even where its plentiful, and even today when hunted.  Calories are expended getting it, as well as time. So, it's quite true that even in hunting societies, of any type, more vegetative matter is eaten than meat.  It's also true that in such societies meat is strongly craved, and vegetative food often disdained, but they are both consumed, with considerably more plant life consumed than meat.

Elk hunters, 19th Century. This hunters work has only just begun, given that he has a bull in the woods.

That's the basic human diet and the only natural one.  A person can try to theorize their way around it, but that is it. That's the scientific, biologic, and historic fact. And that's what your body wants to eat.

Now, the only reason that anyone eats in any different fashion is due to agriculture, and agriculture alone. The irony of that is that it really take fairly advanced, if not fully modern, production agriculture to eat in any other fashion, and its of note that generally farmers, who are pretty attuned to nature, aren't vegetarians.  Only the very modern production agriculture we have in the Western world can allow something like veganism to exist.

 Farmer, late 1930s.  This farmer, engaged in a pretty natural act with animal assistance, is doing something that early agriculturalist would have recognized.  With this heavy labor, he also was certainly not a vegetarian.

The reason for that is that is is only through production agriculture can sufficient protein supplying crops be grown in order to allow for such diets to exist in society. And because of that, ironically, vegetarianism in any form actually cuts not only against the natural order, but it actually destroys it.

Now, I don't mean to dump on farmers here, and indeed I'm a species of farmer myself. But the plant life that has sufficient protein in order to substitute for animal life is crop agriculture, not grass, and that means that it has to be put in, and it supplants, more natural crops. That's neither good nor bad, in a moral sense, it just is. But as something that is, a person should be aware of it. And the irony of any type of crop farming is that when it becomes intensive, like row crop agriculture of any kind, it involves the killing of animals, which farmers well know and accept.  It isn't possible to plow, plant or harvest without killing something, and it further isn't possible to get any crop to market without something also being killed occasionally in the process.  And it involves the supplanting of animals from their preexisting habitat.  Deer and elk don't naturally occur in soybean fields. So, vegans, you're killing, by proxy, and driving things off their habitat. And that is just as true if you go all organic and free trade as if you do not.  And, as you are basing your entire diet on crop agriculture, you are actually more destructive in a way, as people who obtain protein from meat at least can obtain that from meat that came from an animal that lived in a fairly natural way, and which didn't destroy its econiche.  Indeed, some forms of meat, which come in for frequent attacks form those who are ignorant of the realities, comes from animals that can live and usually do live pretty close to their natural state. Beef is the best example, in domestic animals, as they're a large ungulate and large ungulates usually just hand around eating grass, which is what beef cattle pretty much do for most of their lives.

Of course, you can also hunt for your mean, in part or whole, which not only doesn't impact wildlands, but which has been demonstrated to be their most effective protector.  Its hunters who have been the main drivers for the protection of any type of wildland, followed, in the United States, by ranchers who require what most people would regard as wiildlands, even if they don't, large acreages for grazing.

Moreover, the natural diet is the one that's best for you.  That's the one you are evolved to eat.

Now, note here I didn't say that the contemporary fast food American diet is best for you. That wouldn't be true at all. And I'm not saying any diet that incorporates meat is ipso facto a good one for you.  Any diet that departs from a natural one, and that includes the one you get at the burger joint and the one you get at the vegan cafe, can be harmful.  So, a person who is sitting there eating the all meat and cheese pizza or the Double Triple Burger Supreme can't take comfort at this either.  Ideally, you ought to be eating meat that's pretty lean in proportion to a reasonable percentage of vegetables. Better yet, you ought to participate in getting that meat yourself in some fashion, in part if not in whole.

But let's bring up another point here before its missed, which is the simple one that either way look at it, you're going to die anyway.  Oh yes, that again.

There seems to be a general belief in western society now that if you eat the correct odd diet, no matter how far from nature it may be, get the same holistic philosophy that some actor advances, or take the right pills, you're going to live on forever. Well, you aren't.

Eating a sane diet may extend your life, that's for sure, just as eating an unhealthy one may shorten it.  Or more accurately, a sane diet may help keep you from dieing prematurely, maybe. Getting exercise, not smoking, not drinking too much, proper medicine, and avoiding excessive stress also all contribute to that. But anyway you look at it, you are going to pass on, and imagining that if you pass up on the roast beef, or even the hamburger, avoid the offered glass of beer, and just suck down some concoction called a "smoothie" that has the consistency of pooh will make you live forever is delusional.  Just something people should keep in mind, before going whole hog into some peculiar philosophy of diet.  Make yourself miserable if you want to, but the grim reaper is going to stop by anyhow.  Of course, don't invite him early by your conduct either.

On this, by the way, as the boosters of vegetarianism are fond of citing examples of somebody they claim to be vegetarians (although those examples aren't always so clear, and omit some interesting examples of clearly vegetarian historic figures, like Adolf Hitler*) consider that Chief Washakie, the most significant figure of the Shoshone in the 19th Century, lived to be 101 years old, and he definitely wasn't a vegetarian.  He's not the only Native American figure of that period to live to that age either.  That would suggest an outdoor life, getting plenty of exercise, might be the real key to having a long life, outside of course of fortunate genetics.

Monument to famous centenarian and meat eater, Chief Washakie, in Laramie Wyoming.

Now, having already noted that if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you're participating whole scale in killing animals, let's also note that vegetarians have no claim to moral or religious superiority, and these positions are not in keeping with any accepted religious or moral position of antiquity.  We've already basically disposed of the moral superiority claim, but to restate it, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you're relying whole scale on a row crop system of agriculture that depends on fairly destructive farming practices combined with international transportation, both of which kill things right and left.  Relying on killing by proxy is, if anything, dishonest and less philosophically sound than accepting that the killing occurs.  The only intellectually honest approach is to do some of it  yourself for your diet.

And no pre modern religion every held to vegetarianism.

Hinduism, which is sometimes cited in these regards, does not, or at least the majority of Hindus are not in sects which require vegetarianism. We've already addressed this in the thread on myths, but the vast majority of Hindus do in fact eat meat. The Dali Lama eats meat.  And while I'm not an expert on Hinduism, as with Christianity, we need to be careful to distinguish a discipline from a religious tenant.  Now, it is true that a minority of Hindus, for some reason, are vegetarians, but the percentage of them that are is a minority percentage, and I don't know the origin of their practice. That most Hindus do eat meat, but have dietary practices that restrict the intake of some forms of meat, seems to be wholly lost in the west. But then the nature of Central Asian religions, such as Hinduism and its reform, Buddhism, seem to be nearly completely lost on westerns in general, including those who claim to embrace those religions.**

Indeed, while I can already sense the hackles on this being raised, let's be blunt about the major Monotheistic religions. None of them, none whatsoever, have any religious tenant that supports even vaguely vegetarianism.***  Indeed, the contrary would be quite true.

Judaism certainly does not.  Indeed, we learn from the Old Testament that Issac sent Esau "out into the field to hunt game for me and make me savory meat."  Genesis Chapter 27.  And we know further that God instructed Moses to have lambs slaughtered for the first Passover, with the blood placed on the door mantels so that the Angel of Death would pass those house holds over.  I have no doubt that there are vegetarian Jews today, but there's no support for that practice in the texts of the religion itself.

Indeed Jesus, who of course was a Jew, also wasn't a vegetarian (as indeed nobody in that region of the world would have been, and indeed hardly anyone on earth would have been).  Jesus called more than one fisherman to his discipleship and, as already explored, the fish they were taking were killed and eaten.  And Jesus undoubtedly ate more than one Passover meal, a feature of which, from the very first Passover, is lamb.  At the Last Supper, lamb was undoubtedly consumed.

Indeed, given this, it's really odd that some contemporary Christians will cite their Christianity as a basis for their vegetarianism. When they do so, they're largely just flat out rationalizing a practice that has no basis in Christian theology at all. Some will point towards certain historic Christian figures or communities, but when they do so, they fail to understand that its largely the case that those examples had that practice as a discipline, rather than a doctrine. That is, these examples largely gave up eating meat as a sacrifice for their Faith, and therefore they didn't give it up because God had implicitly prohibited eating meat, but rather he'd allowed.  In this sense, this example is not only poorly understood by those who cited it, but if the example of the same people is to be followed, there's a lot of other things that would likewise be given up, one of which is the blaring headline on nearly every magazine a person has the misfortune to observe in the grocery store line.  Funny, indeed, that a practice that was one of discipline by select groups who abstained from other things that our society loudly proclaims as necessary would be cited here, or that a practice which every Catholic and Orthodox faithful still practices at least during the Friday's of lent would be so misunderstood.

 Orthodox monk.  Some, but certainly not all, monks in various monastic orders observe meatless regulations.  Of course, they also fast as well, and fasting and abstaining from meat on certain days are features of Catholic and Orthodox faiths for reasons that have nothing to do with diet whatsoever.

And misunderstood indeed is the Christian relationship to food in this context.  Not only is there no proclamation in the New Testament against eating meat, Christians were given license in the New Testament to eat meats that Jews had heretofore not been allowed to.
On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!”
Kill and eat.  Not even close to what those who imagine themselves to be following in terms of Christianity in the context of vegetarianism, like to cite.

And of course Moslems also  have a history of eating meat.  I'm much less familiar with the tenants of Islam in this context, but basically Islamic practices and laws concerning diet are fairly similar to Jewish ones, with the addition that Moslems are not supposed to drink alcohol.  Like the Jews, Moslems have a least one yearly observance with requires the slaughtering of a lamb, so the religion doesn't square with vegetarianism at all. However, being a faith that's much more centered in the non Westernized regions of the globe up until very recently, I also do not think I've ever heard anyone claim to be a Moslem vegetarian either.

Okay, so where does this take us, where, to here.

Well for one thing, the fact that there are so many vegetarians and even vegans says something about our society and the the times we live in, and not in a good way, for the most part. Societies that live close to nature live close to reality, and that a lot of people are electing for this deeply unnatural, and even anti-natural, diet shows how far from a sense of reality we now live. That a lot of these same people are very well meaning and also deeply believe that their acting in accordance with nature, or in accordance with some species of philosophical high mindedness, shows how badly we now fail to understand basic nature and have even a remote grasp on philosophical matters.  This doesn't mean that these people are "bad" people, but it does mean that a huge number of these people are acting in accordance with a set of beliefs that can only exist if a person has very little exposure to the natural order and even a misconstruction of it, with some certain exceptions existing for people who have taken this up for other thought out reasons.

Additionally, a set of summations about this can be made, those being:

1. Be a vegetarian if you wish, but don't fool yourself that its an ethically superior choice, or an environmentally benign one.  It's neither, save for the sole example of somebody giving up meat as a species of intentional moral self sacrifice, which is very rare in this day and age. But even at that, unless that sacrifice is based in religion, it isn't really going towards any point.

2.  Don't fool yourself that its the healthiest choice going.  Reason would stand to dictate that the diet you should eat is the one you are evolved to eat, and that's not a vegetarian diet by any stretch of the imagination. Don't make false comparisons here either, and note that a diet of Big Macs isn't good for you.  Of course it isn't, but two unnatural choices doesn't mean that those are the only choices that exist.

3.  Let's not pretend that its the "natural" diet, that's a western world hallucination only capable of being believed in a highly industrialized society that can supply protein in some other fashion.  Nowhere else is that fantasy believed and its scientifically invalid.

4.  Don't argue that its religiously mandated by religions of antiquity, that just isn't so and any argument to that effect is demonstrably false.

Does this mean you shouldn't be a vegetarian? Well, frankly it does.  As a diet its not supported by our evolution and that pretty much means you're having to make huge adjustments somewhere. Does that mean you ought to eat bacon burgers three times a day?  Of course not, that's not supported by our evolution either.  It does mean that the folks in the western world who take some of their own meat in the field or streams, and there are those who take all of their meat that way, are dieting closest to what nature would have for us, but it otherwise means that a person ought to simply use their heads a bit and not buy into dietary fantasy, something that's particularly common in our flighty and overweight society.  Perhaps it would be simply best if people bought a fly rod or a shotgun and headed out to the field every now and then.


*One of the most amusing, or maddening, arguments made by vegetarians is that every single historical figure of consequence was a vegetarian.  This sort of argument is actually common for any sort of social movement, which is what vegetarianism really is, and they all tend to go back towards figures of antiquity on occasion as the further back you go, the more difficult any assertion you might make is to disprove.  Rarely are the claims for any one person analyzed in depth.  For example, I've seen it cited for Benjamin Franklin, but its rarely noted that he switched back and forth on his diet over time making him inconsistent in these regards, and as brilliant of man as he was, he also had other practices most of us wouldn't feel that we were compelled to take up.  And in this instance, the most famous of all modern vegetarians, the gassy murderous Adolph Hitler, is always omitted, which he should not be as, after all, he's a really well known example whose habits are very well known.

**Most westerners have real misunderstanding of religions of the East and frequently misunderstand their basic tenants. For one thing, a lot of westerners don't grasp that monotheistic religions are as common in the East as any others and that a person can't really discuss Eastern religions without including them. For example, there are Catholic populations in Indian that date to the Apostolic age and Christians are quite numerous in South Korea and China, and of course the Philippines, where they are the majority.  Islam is a major Asian religion in China, Central Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines and parts of Southeast Asia.  Animist religions, based on the worship of departed souls, is common in much of China and Korea, and retains a following in Japan.  In Korea, Japan and China, that type of devotion far exceeds the number of people who adhere to Buddhism and none of those countries can be regarded as "Buddhist".  Buddhism itself, being sort of a philosophy in certain ways, sometimes accommodates itself to other native religions so that there are people who combine an animist religion with it.   The mainland Southeast Asian countries are, or were, Buddhist, but all of them have had significant Christian or Moslem minorities for a very long time.  The nature and practice of Buddhism itself is often quite misunderstood in the west, and its rarely grasped that it was a reform of Hinduism.

***I do realize in typing this out that there are some contemporary Monotheistic religions that hold to vegetarianism as part of their beliefs, but none of them date to antiquity.  Some that are sometimes cited as being vegetarians are, additionally, not although some of their members may be as a form of observance, which is once again different from the practice being a tenant of their Faith.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hollywood lets North Korea win.

Boo hiss Sony, and boo hiss chain movie theaters.

We know know that the childish Stalinist theme park, the North Korean Clown College Republic, was responsible for the recent hack of Sony

I haven' frankly followed this much, as I don't care about Hollywood's secrets.  But I do agree its bad that a government is targeting an American business, although if you have to be targeted by anyone, a government that's clearly not long for this world and which will fall relatively soon, leaving a reluctant South Korea to fix things, is the one you want to be targetd by.

Anyhow, for all it likes to pretend to be on the forfront of everythign, the movie industry proved to be real chickens here.  The hack turns out to be because North Korea can't stand to be the target of a joke, even though, it should realize, the country itself is a pathetic international joke.  Mad at the Dear Leader being the target of satire, it went after Sony, who made the film.  Sony's now pulled the film, after certain chain theaters indicated that they wouldn't show it out of fear that North Korea would target them.

Well, so North Korea wins and looks like a serious international pirate.

Some day soon I'm fairly certain that China will make a Godfather like deal with South Korea.  That deal will basically be something like this. China will suggest to South Korea that if it invites the U.S. military to go home, China will take care of the North Korean government, which will then go into retirement, and the border will open.  My guess is that this will happen in less than five years, and certainly no more than ten. An advancing China doesn't want an embarrassing Stalinist reminder next door, Russia doesn't want a reminder of what Communism in its infancy was really like, South Korea doesn't want a dangerous neighbor constantly threatening it, and truth be know the U.S. would just as soon go home.

In the meantime, the cutting edge movie industry has thrown North Korea a bone.  It shouldn't have.

Restoring Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

We have diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

And with the People's Republic of China.

Shoot, up until just after Pearl Harbor, we also did with Nazi Germany.

And we had them with the USSR from 1933 until the USSR collapsed in 1990.

So, it's about time we had renewed relations with Cuba.

Not because we think Cuba's government is nifty, but rather because we don't like it.

We broke relations with Cuba when Fidel Castro, whom we edged up on liking beforehand, declared himself and Cuba to be Communist. At the same time, we imposed a trade embargo on the country.  The thought was that isolating the country like that might bring it back around.

Well, it hasn't worked and there's no sign that its going to.  But it has made dealing with our little Communist neighbor difficult and its brought about a lot of misery for people who have cross border affairs between our nations.

Time that the relations be reestablished.  And for that matter, the trade embargo should go as well.  Chances are a lot better that an increased stream of American tourists and money will operate to undercut the isolated nation's Communist government a lot better than the ongoing shunning has been.

Now, I know that this will upset some, but these appear to be the incontestable facts of the matter.  And continuing to lack diplomatic relations only serves to hurt U.S. interests on the island and to boost the respective interests of other nations.

And lifting the trade embargo would allow free trade between the US and Cuba to the benefit of both nations's people.  That would seem to benefit the Cuban government as well, but chances are it really would not.  If we seek to have Cuba change its government and liberalize, the best way to do that is increase U.S. tourism and trade to the island, which will boost the economic fortunes of the average Cuban.  Once that occurs, they're going to want to exercise some freedom and will pressure their government into reform  The reasons would be fairly simple, and while such arguments are not fool proof, the increased money in the hands of average Cubans, and the increased exposure to a society that lives with rights that benefit the citizens, will lead to the means and increased desire on the part of Cubans to have their own government reform.

That desire is already there, but the iron fist to the Castroist regime keeps the country from opening up.  The general example from Communist countries is that the support for Communism is nearly always remarkably thin, and once the population has some means and independence, it begins to desire more.  That hasn't worked, yet, everywhere.  China doesn't have a democratic government yet, and neither does Vietnam, but they seem to be getting dragged by their populations that way.  Cuba, which never really had a Communist movement comparable to that of Vietnam or China has a western population that's been constantly exposed to the United States by way of its close proximity to us, and to other western nations by way of tourism.  Chances are high that progress would occur there much more rapidly.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Air Transportation

I really like aircraft.

My son, the pilot

But I hate flying.

So, here I'm dealing with a modern means of transpiration that I use a lot, dread taking, have a lot of familiarity with, have written about a lot here, and I find interesting.

I take airplanes all the time.  I've logged in more air miles than any member of my immediate family, and far more than my father, who was in the United States Air Force during the early 1950s.  As a kid, my fascination with aircraft lead me into the Civil Air Patrol, at which time I could imagine flying airplanes, prior to having to ride in them much.  But, while I like airplanes, and travel on them a lot, I really don't like flying.  Oh well.

Anyhow, as anyone who has ever stopped in this blog at all knows, I'm apparently interested in transportation topics, as they show up a lot. Recently I've been summarizing changes in transportation over the past century or so, and have discussed walking, water transportation, equine transportation and rail.  Here we'll look at one of the most revolutionary changes in how we get around.  It's one I've discussed here frequently, but its certainly worth taking another look at.

Trains were the fast transportation, and the basic means of interstate transportation, for most Americans after some point in the late 19th Century up in to the 1950s.  Now we wouldn't think of trains as fast, but they're a lot faster than equine transportation and water transportation, and prior to the Interstate Highway system, they were a lot more convenient and even more practical than automotive transportation, which tended to be local as a rule.  Now, as we know, for long distance transportation, aircraft are the default means of transportation for most people, with automobiles being a close second.  In much of the country, you couldn't board a passenger train if you wanted to.  And, with FeEx and the like also shipping by air, what the U.S. Postal Service started with air mail has become a major factor in mail and packages, paying a bit of a premium for shipping by air, of course.

FedEx Cessna at Natrona County International Airport.

How did this huge change come about?

Flight rose amazingly quickly. Faster, really, than any other means of transportation. And it evolved much quicker than any other as well.

Powered flight, i.e., the aircraft, only came about in 1903, as is well known.  Even prior to that, however, there were some who pondered the possibilities of air transportation on a grand scale.  Even prior to the American Civil War, one visionary took subscriptions for the construction of a dirigible to be powered by steam engines which would cross the Western prairies and mountains by air, safely (hopefully) delivering its passengers on the Pacific coast.  Of course, it was never built, but such a craft in fact did make a flight in Europe in 1852.

Dirigible patent, 1874.

In spite of their seemingly somewhat goofy nature, airships showed a lot of promise, which is why its somewhat surprising that in spite of a 50 year head start on the airplane, they really didn't get launched as a commercially successful means of transportation until After World War One.  There's undoubtedly a variety of reasons for that, with the weight and horsepower of available power plants being one, but they just didn't manage to really get started as a commercial endeavor by the time the Wrights flew in 1903.  They did get started as a military implement by 1900, however.

Given that airships had a big head start, you'd think the really primitive and scary nature of early aircraft would have still given them a big advantage, but aircraft evolved at such a rapid pace, it's stunning.

Early Air Transportation

The first attempt at an airliner was made by Igor Sikorsky, an early Russian aircraft designer who born in Ukraine and who later immigrated to the United States following the Russian Revolution.  He's most famously recalled today for being the founder of an American company that pioneered and dominated large helicopters for decades, but early on he designed large aircraft.  His airplanes were amazingly large for their era.  Sikorsky was a visionary, and he designed the Ilya Muromets to be an airliner in 1913, although World War One's arrival meant that it made but a single, fourteen hour, flight prior to his heavy designs being used for bombing during the Great War.  The early airliner was a luxury craft to a degree, even featuring a bathroom.

Multi engined 1913 design, the Ilya Muromets, the worlds first airliner, which made but a single flight in that role.  This airplane was designed only a decade after the Wrights first flight.

While the Ilya Muromet was a massive purpose designed aircraft, it would fall to the underpowered and utilitarian Curtis Jenny, the JN4, to be the first commercially used airliner, even though it isn't a big craft, and it wasn't designed for that. Elliot Air Service gets the credit for being the first commercial enterprise that moved people and items by air, using that craft.

The utilitarian Curtis Jenny, the United States first real military aircraft.  Built in large numbers during World War One, the airplane was really too underpowered for a combat role but is sparked the real dawn of American civil aviation.

The Curtis JN4 was an underpowered weak, but durable, aircraft whose real combat role would peak during the Punitive Expedition, where it was sued by the First Aero Squadron, an Army units whose trucks proved to be of nearly equal utility to this planes. But the Jenny would go on to become the first really popular civilian airplane in the world, being sold in large numbers in the United States and being pressed into every conceivable role by private pilots.  Jennys were used as trainers in the US during the  Great War but were pressed into the first really significant parcel delivery by air service in the US, by the Post Office, before World War One was over, with the Signal Corps Jennys being used to deliver mail starting in May, 1918.  Regular air mail would be a fully governmental service for the first eight years of its existence, with the air mail pilots being looked upon as glamorous, as individuals in dangerous occupations often are, but after that, the US went to commercial air carriers for the air mail, thereby encouraging private enterprise in this area.

Delivery of mail by air would seem to be a separate topic from passenger service, but in many ways it is not, as the early history of commercial air transportation dovetails the two, just as the late story of rail transportation also does. Passenger trains carried mail and people, and indeed mail hooks for railroads were set up along the rail lines so that trains didn't have to stop to pick up mail.  A video of that taking place, as a demonstration with a modern train, has just been posted on this site.  Moving mail by plane therefore was a natural extension of what was occurring by train, with a new means of transportation that began to compete with the train nearly immediately, or at least soon after World War One.

In order to make that competition realistic, of course, planes larger than the Jenny, and less scary than the Sikorsky, had to be developed, but they very soon were. Even late war aircraft had sufficiently evolved so that their conversion into airliners wasn't wholly unrealistic. The Farman Goliath, for example, was designed as a bomber but with a closed cockpit and fuselage, it made it possible to be converted into an airliner, a role which it was occupying by the early 1920s and still occupying at the end of that decade, a pretty amazing service life for an aircraft in the early history of commercial aviation.  In the 1920s, or even starting in the late teens just after World War One, some surprisingly modern monoplane passenger aircraft were introduced, however, and the future for some time was pretty set, with large biplane airliners, descendants of World War One bombers, yielding to more efficient monoplanes.

Starting in the mid 1920s, some really serious purpose built airliners started to be introduced.  Ford Motor Company introduced one of the earliest and best with the Ford Trimoter, relying on design lessons learned by its German born designer.  The Ford Trimotor almost immediately saw its twin spring up in Europe in the Fokker Trimotor, which is darned near the same aircraft as it was designed b the same people.  The Fokker and the Ford were amazingly reliable aircraft and they carried on in some locations for decades, with the last ones being retired only relatively recently.  In Europe, the type went on to be the basic cargo aircraft of the Luftwaffe during World War Two, although the military expression of the aircraft was hardly limited to the Germans, as variants were used by Switzerland, Spain, and the United States, amongst others.

United States Army Air Corps Fokker.

As good as the Trimotors were, a crash of one in 1931 would bring about a revolution in aircraft and the next great series of air liner.  TWA's Flight 599 crashed in a Kansas prairie on March 15, 1931, killing all eight occupants including legendary football figure Knute Rockne. Subsequent investigation revealed that structural failure of the wooden structured wings was the cause of the crash and the strict restrictions on such construction followed.  Taking that up as a challenge, Douglas Aircraft Company introduced the all metal DC-1 in 1933. The DC-1 soon yielded to the DC-2, after a single DC-1 was built, which came out in 1934.  Proving the type, DC-2 yielded to the most successful commercial aircraft of all time, the DC-3, of which a vast number were built.

The DC-3 itself was only constructed from 1936 to 1942, under that name, but the start of World War Two meant that the military version, the C-47, was built until 1945.  Production of a larger version of the airplane was commenced in 1949, but so many DC-3s and C-47s were in the air, with over 16,000 of the type having been built, that the new version wasn't really needed.

The impact of the DC-3 can hardly be overstated.  The aircraft remained in service all the way into the 21st Century and chances are that a few are still flying commercial short hops somewhere.  The DC-3, a sturdy, reliable aircraft, was the airplane that really brought regular commercial air service to the United States and the world, or at least interstate and somewhat international air transportation.  If you were going to your local airport in the late 1930s, the 1940s, or the early 1950s, your chances of boarding a DC-3 were good. And if you were shipping parts of something by air from the mid 1930s to the 1950s, chances are it was going by DC-3. For that matter, this would also be true in much of the Third World well into the 1970s or later.

 C-47s being built during World War Two.  The last U.S. Air Force use of the C-47 would come during the Vietnam War, during which some were changed from air transport aircraft into air assault aircraft by being equipped with automatic cannons.  Nicknamed "spooky", they were later transferred to the Central Intelligence Agency and used over Angola in support of SWAPO during the 1980s.

Which isn't to say that the DC-3 did or could do everything.  For transoceanic travel in the 1930s a person was likely to board a Pan American Clipper, or a similar aircraft owned by British Overseas Airways, but only if they were rich.  Planes like this were "flying boats", a type that acknowledged the lack of runways and the need for larger passenger compartments in an era prior to World War Two expanding airfields absolutely everywhere.

 Flying boat, 1930s.

In the United States, it was Pan American that exploited this market and dominated.  Started in 1927 to deliver mail (that again) and passengers between the United States and Cuba, Pan American very early saw the practicality of expanding into near shore routes and it accordingly set the market for flying boats.  Buying the products of Sikorsky, Boeing and Martin in the 1920s and 1930s, its air fleet was actually surprisingly small, with any one run of aircraft being also fairly small. At the same time, however, if a person was going to engage in international air travel from the United States, Pan American was by default the airline that a person took.  With a captive market, and high operating expenses due to the unique limited run aircraft and very long routes, it was a luxury airline, with travel being expensive by its very nature.  In that era, for example the luxury of taking Pan American to Hawaii is something that we can hardly imagine now, and which was only dreamed of by most people then.

During this entire period, it should be noted, the first device that was thought of in terms of commercial air travel wasn't idle.  Air ships, like aircraft, had received a big boost during World War One, and just as big aircraft were used for the first time as bombers, so were airships. The Germans in particular developed and dominated this technology, with Zeppelins, giant airships filled with explosive hydrogen, being used, as dangerous as they were, as bombers.  Zeppelins were even used to bomb London, although the Germans did that with Gotha bombers as well.

 Early (1908) Zeppelin passenger airship.

Following the war, Zeppelins kept on keeping on and were being sued for trans Atlantic air travel out of Germany.  Serious thought was given to switching the craft to Helium, which doesn't explode, but this proved impossible after the Nazis took over Germany, as the U.S., which controls the globes Helium market, wouldn't allow export to Germany.  Hence the airships continued on full of explosive gas.

Aircraft, coming on strong, would have taken out airships as a means of trans Atlantic air travel anyhow, but the explosion of the Hindenburg on May 6, 1937, ended airships day as a commercial carrier forever.  Occasionally revived in concept, airships have never gone away, but their lasts really major world role came on during World War Two, when U.S. Navy blimps patrolled for submarines off of the Atlantic.  Even at that, however, light private aircraft used by the Civil Air Patrol had a pretty major role.

And then came World War Two.

But before going there, let's summarize the first 45 years of air travel.  Basically, what the story is, is as follows"

1.  Airships got really rolling around 1900, but they didn't expand into passenger or commercial service right away.

2.  The airplane was invented in 1903.

3.  Visionaries could see commercial air travel as being viable by 1913.

4.  By the 1910s militaries around the globe were developing military aircraft.

5.  The first passenger, and mail, service started in 1915.

6. It isn't really possible to separate mail service from passenger service early on, and mail service got really rolling in 1918.

7.  Passenger service got rolling in the 1920s as World War One vintage bombers were redesigned for passenger service, and then real passenger planes were introduce in the 1920s.

8. Air disaster lead to air innovation, and the Douglas DC 3 came in during the mid 1930s.

9.  Over water air flight opportunities were picked up by Pan American who soon expanded into luxury transoceanic flight.

10.  Elsewhere, such as in Europe, the story is largely the same, but with the market for aircraft already being international.

Transcontinental air mail route, 1924.

And, while this was going on, private pilots flying really risky odd aircraft in the teens bought various World War One surplus aircraft immediately after the war and the age of private pilot civil aviation was really on.light dangerous war surplus airplanes soon gave way to relatively inexpensive single engine airplanes, and by the start of World War Two the United States and Canada had a pretty big private pilot fleet.

And then World War Two happened.

World War Two

C-47, rebuilt after World War Two as a D.C. 3, being rebuilt.

We've noted here before that Holscher's Fourth Law of History is that "War Changes Everything".  And so it does. And so it was for civil aviation.

Aviation was advanced incredibly rapidly from 1903 to 1939, but it can't help but be noted that during 1914 to 1918, World War One, it received a big boost.  In a lot of ways, however, that boost kept on keeping on following the war.  The top of the line fighter aircraft of 1918 were already obsolete by the early 1920s, hopeless relics of an earlier era.  By the early 1930s, the military aircraft of 1920 were obsolete, and by 1939 the military aircraft of 1930 were largely obsolete.  The best civil aircraft of the 1930s made those of the 1920s look pretty inadequate, although commercial designs, such as the Fokker and Ford Trimotors that came in during the 1920s were still serving.  Commercial aircraft made or designed by Marin, Fokker, Boeing and Douglas that saw service in the 1920s and 1930s would all see military service during World War Two.

United States Army Air Corps C-47, an airplane that hauled equipment, men and even mules everywhere, during World War Two, and which saw service in about every Allied air force, including the U.S., Canadian, Royal New Zealand, Australian, British and Soviet air forces.  Perhaps the greatest single airplane ever made.

But the war would change certain things about air travel in a way that would soon revolutionize it, in spite of the production of so many airplanes that it could have rationally been assumed that the post war manufacture of them would have collapsed.

Post War Aviation

During the war, U.S., British, German, Canadian, and Australian engineers put in airfields absolutely everywhere.  Locations in the United States that had been served by only a tiny airport, if at all, suddenly had massive airfields designed for bombers, as the US had put them in for training.  Casper Wyoming is a good example. Served by a small airport prior to the war, that airfield wasn't even really flat.  But during the war, the U.S. Army built a massive air training facility just outside of town, with runways so long that they remain long enough for the biggest aircraft today.

C-17 Globemaster at the Natrona County International Airport, an airport that was built as an air base during World War Two.

In addition to this, however, in spite of the superb serviceability the pre war airliners gave as military cargo planes, the technological leap that aircraft had taken during the war not only meant that the prewar designs were implicitly obsolete, but also that people and nations that had become acclimated to advances in air power would expect the civilian employment of them.

When the war started, an airplane like the DC3 was a big serviceable and modern airliner.  The really big aircraft just prior to the war were military bombers, but none of them were suitable for airliners and only a few nations had them.  Going into World War Two, in fact, only the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and Japan had really large strategic bombers, and the USSR's were not all that nifty.  It's notable that all of the powers that had really significant bombers were naval powers with oceanic concerns, which had a lot to do with the development of that type of aircraft.  Of those nations, arguably the United Kingdom's bombers were the best going into the war.

By the wars end, strategic bombing had caused the development of successive models or even generations of bombers, and the United States come out of the war with the best, if most problematic, bomber, the B-29.  The B-29 was generations ahead of the B-17 with which the US had entered the war, and the B-17 is indeed downright primitive in comparison to it.  The significant thing here is that during the war, four engined large aircraft had been completely proven and had developed considerably. And, additionally, new generations of air transport aircraft were also coming in.

At the same time, during the war, piston engines had become better and bigger.  More significantly, however, jet engines had also been proven. Introduced first by the British, in a plane that turned out to be significant but lackluster, it was the German ME262 that demonstrated that all future combat aircraft would be jets, at some point. And the introduction of jet engines meant, in spite of what might have been expected, that pretty soon every air fore, and every air line, would soon want fleets of jets.

That didn't happen right away. What happened at first is that the transport, and even the bomber, aircraft of World War Two came in right after the war as new, faster, and longer ranged, civilian aircraft.

Boeing Stratocruiser.  The Stratocruiser was one of two airliner versions of the B-29 which went into production in the late 1930s and which were retired in the early 1960s.  A luxury long distance airliner, they only carried a little over 30 people.  They were the replacement in the Pan American fleet for the flying boats.

These were soon followed by aircraft specifically designed as four engine commercial aircraft, such as the Lockheed Constellation.  The day of the flying boat ended nearly immediately, with the type relegated to odd search and rescue aircraft in various coast guards and navies.

 The four engined Lockheed Constellation started off as a military cargo plane in an era with the C-47 was the standard.  With modifications after the war, it would be the standard for airliners for a time.  A retired fleet of Constellations was parked at the end of a runway at our local airport for decades after they were no longer used in this role, and after that set had been briefly used as firefighting bombers.  One of them was the plane used by General MacArthur during the Korean War.

As new airplanes came in, competition between airlines increased.  Air travel seemingly came in everywhere.  And then, starting in the 1950s, jet airliners began to arrive.

Before we look at that, however, we have to look at two other areas, private and light air transportation, and a brand new aircraft, the helicopter.

As already noted, light aircraft had become big in the United States starting with the Curits Jenny. The US had a well developed private aviation community prior to World War Two, and indeed the country harnessed that population for anti submarine efforts during the war, in the form of the Civil Air Patrol.

Light airplane in Civil Air Patrol use during World War Two.

After the war light aviation took back off.  Cessna introduced the Cessna 120 and Cessna 140 right after World War Two, which introduced a basic type that it still makes today, although the 120 and 140 were tail draggers.  In 1956 it introduced the 172, which is the greatest light plane in aviation history.Still made today, with updates, the plane set the standard for light private aircraft.  With planes being affordable, at first, civil aviation really took off, so to speak.

The Jet Age

Introduced first by the British in the early 1950s, the U.S. introduced its first jet airliners by the late 1950s.  New fleets of piston engined airliners were obsolete nearly overnight.  By the 1960s they were rapidly on the way out, and by the 1970s only regional flights, if any, used piston engined aircraft.  By the late 1960s, jet airliners were the rule.

Still relatively expensiveness, jet air travel none the less totally supplanted long range train travel in the United States by the early 1970s, a process that had started off with big piston engined airliners like the Constellation.  Railroads discontinued passenger service most places, save for those places where local commuter rail continued to be viable.  Intrastate air travel and regional air travel also became more common, with turboprop aircraft being common there.  In most states local air travel became an option for at least business travelers.

Deregulation of the 1980s really ramped up air competition and the market became unstable but highly competitive.  Air prices steadily dropped and left us with the situation we have today, in which air travel has never been cheaper, or more uncomfortable.

Also in this age, but for a different set of reasons, the helicopter really came into its own.  An oddity in some ways when first developed, it proved itself during the Korean War and became an indispensable military tool by the Vietnam War.  Soon after the Vietnam War, one of the primary uses of the Army helicopter was carried over to civilian life, and the medical "dustoff" which sent in the Medivac UH-1 "Huey"  became a familiar site, with other helicopters, in the United States.  Now medical helicopters are in almost every town, and helicopters in all sorts of local uses, from traffic reporting to pipeline flying, are quite common.

Bell 206 helicopter flying a pipeline.

Private aviation, however, has taken a pounding since its glory days of the 50s and 60s.  By the 1970s law suits had taken their toll on the industry and Cessna even ceased offering light planes for awhile.  Federal intervention through statutory relief allowed it to reenter the market, but there's no doubt that lawyers and lawsuits pose as great of threat to light aviation as flak guns did to Allied bombers during World War Two, I'm sorry to say.

So this is basically where we are today.  In less than a century, given that early aircraft were both dangerous and really not practical for much, we've developed a wholly new means of transportation. That means of transportation had an incredibly rapid evolution, much the way, I suppose, personal computers have in our own age.  They displaced the train for long distance travel to a large extent, rendering the massive US rail passenger fleet obsolete.  They've become, moreover, a common tool of our daily life, and had been a not uncommon avocation for many who just liked flight.  Costs of air travel, except for the cost of being a private pilot, have decreased enormously, while at the same time its become faster and more uncomfortable.