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Open Thread!


The Fourth Stanza

The Defense of Fort McHenry

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

–F.S. Key

For those who never go to baseball games, this poem is now known as The Star Spangled Banner, is sung before baseball games and other events, and has a new line after the first stanza: “Play Ball!”

But that’s not why I put the whole thing in this post. You can follow Key’s thoughts that morning as he tried to see if Ft. McHenry had survived the night’s assault by the British. The first stanza questions his fellow prisoners as to what they can see. The second sees the flag flying over the fort in the early light of the dawn, and the third stanza trash talks the English over their defeat.

But the fourth stanza is the one we ought to memorize, because it is Key’s ideas of what we stand for as a nation; then, now and forever. “Thus be it ever” is not only how it starts but it is how long we need to follow its clarion call. Brave men must stand between their homes and war’s desolation in every generation, not just when it seems politically correct or when we have a “good” war. The war we are in now is the first war we have fought against a foreign foe that has inflicted casualities within our borders since Key’s time almost 200 years ago. We were blessed with victory in Iraq against their armed forces, and are now mopping up the desperate efforts of those who have been displaced from the power that Saddam had given them, and their allies in the radical Moslem terrorist movement. Despite the fact that we are in a war, most of the nation’s people live in peace, depending on our brave soldiers and Marines to keep the armed conflict away from us. We are maintained in that peace by the preventative actions of a President who has the guts to do whatever he can, including wiretapping foreign phone calls, to keep us safe. It is not by accident that we have not have another attack within our borders, it is the result of a lot of hard work and a lot hard decisions. Our cause is just, and our trust is well placed, no matter how hard the liberals try to remove Him from our country. “And the Star Spangled Banner forever shall wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Happy New Year! –Capt Bogs

2005, the year in review

These are the stories and events that I see were important in 2005. By all means correct me in the comments section if you think I missed something.

The biggest news story of the year was the death of John Paul II and the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope. JPII was perhaps the greatest of the recent leaders of the Catholic church. He was one of the key defenders of Vatican II, while maintaining Church tradition. His leadership of oppressed Catholics behind the Soviet Bloc and his travels across the world, including Israel and Cuba added to his greatness. JPII was the third longest serving Pope in the history of the church.

Cardinal Ratzinger was the “enforcer” for JPII and his election to Pope was no surprise, but it was a disappointment to all the non-Catholics who desperately wanted an atheist Pope.

Among other important stories of the year were from natural disasters. The aftermath of the Tsunami in Southeast Asia, the Katrina hurricane and the destruction of New Orleans, and the earthquake in Kashmir and Pakistan were the disasters. These natural occurrences weren’t the real news, the real news was how these events were handled. In Pakistan, American soldiers led rescue efforts that saved thousands of people’s lives. After the Tsunami the American Navy was key in rescue and relief efforts. The world poured money into Southeast Asia to help, and the UN decided to keep a lot of that money for itself. The American response to Katrina has been criticized for its ineffectiveness. However, the more information that is released the more it is clear that people died in New Orleans not because of lack of government response, but because of misplaced stubbornness. Death estimates immediately after Katrina hit were in the 10,000 range,the actual death toll was less than 1000, many were residents drown with their cars still in the garage.

Among man-made problems, the terrorist attack on London ranks high on my list. This needs to be balanced with some good news, the historic Iraq vote. Of course, the Iraq vote has been followed up by escalating violence over its results.

Terry Schiavo was denied food and water until she died. This was done by the courts despite the condemnation of the action by the Florida State Legislature, the Florida Governor, and the U.S. legislature. “Checks and balances,” heh. An autopsy revealed Schiavo had large portions of her frontal lobe destroyed, but it did show undamaged areas as well. In my mind it is the first step in legalising euthanasia for mentally handicapped people who also have damaged brains and reduced EEG readings. It was also a major confrontation between the Judiciary and the other two branches of government, and the Judiciary won.

This article on innovative ideas is a must read. Must important in my mind of the great new ideas of 2005 was the adoption of restaurant models for maintaining customer base through community by the retail market. Supermarkets have gone from places you go only to buy stuff into places to spend free time. Just walk around a Walmart and notice the droves of teenagers that go there at night just to hang out.

Podcasting and Blogging continue to grow in the new media as people live out their dreams of being in radio thanks to new technology.

The big science story of the year had nothing to do with science and everything to do with the defeat in court of “Intelligent Design.” You think the ACLU could have spent all that money giving to victims of Katrina or in donating to researchers trying to find the cure for cancer or AIDs or something. I wanted to write more about the ID case but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I don’t really care about the science behind ID, I do care that the courts stepped on the rights of the voters in that district to keep local control over their curriculum. I don’t a school district suggesting a book on ID is a violation of the establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution.

The death of Justice William Rehnquist was another important story, as one of the longest unchanged courts in history has now been “refreshed” a bit. Rehnquist was a great man, and it’s certain no one will be able to fill his shoes for a long time.

In fact, this year has been a series of great and long serving leaders dying or retiring. William Rehnquist led the Supreme Court for decades. JPII was the 3rd longest serving Pope and one of the greatest. Another one is the coming retirement of Alan Greenspan, perhaps the most succesful fed chairmen ever.

Other notable deaths:

Peter Jennings (TV Journalist)
Don Adams (“Get Smart” star and former Marine)
Johnny Carson (TV Personality)
Johnnie Cochran (Lawyer Personality)
William Westmoreland (Military General, Vietnam War)
Rosa Parks (Civil Rights Activist)
Richard Pryor (Comedian)
James Doohan (Actor and wounded WWII veteran)
Arthur Miller (“Death of a Salesmen” and “The Crucible” playwright)
Anne Bancroft (Actress and wife of Mel Brooks)
Judith Rossner (Author of “Looking for Mr. Goodbar”)
Simon Wiesenthal (Nazi Hunter)
Jack Anderson (Columnist and Nixon agitator)
Pat Morita (Actor “Karate Kid”)

Notable Movie:

Batman Begins
Four Brothers
Chronicles of Narnia
Cinderella Man
The Excorcism of Emily Rose
The Producers
King Kong
Brokeback Mountain

I can’t name ten, and I saw a lot of movies this year.


Unpublished Column

I wrote a short column in reply to this article I read in one of the local papers, but the editors at the Echo Press felt it didn’t deserve space, So I’m going to post it here. There’s going to be a push to expand the prep level school year, and it’s based on bad science and bad comparisons. I’m going to re-write the column so I can submit it to numerous newspapers as this becomes a bigger issue in the coming years.

We all have fond memories of our childhood summers. Swimming, baseball, biking, some valuable TV time all mixed in with the relief that there wasn’t any school work to be done. It was wonderful, and those memories of mine are quite cherished now that I have entered the real world, where obligations don’t end in summer. It was nice to be a kid.

This is probably why the article from December 14th (Longer School Year Debated) had such an immediate impact on me. “They’re declaring war on summer,” I thought. In reality, that’s not true. But such reactions have to be expected from people like me who thought of schools as prisons more than learning environments. However, the idea intrigued me, as Superintendent Ric Dressen seams convinced that a longer school year will be necessary for young people “to compete in the global workforce.”

Because of my personal experiences in public schools, I look at such pronouncements with a skeptic’s eye. Understand, I am the eternal optimist. I believe in the goodness of people. I try to control the cynic within. For this reason, I won’t judge any other motives Ric Dressen and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators [MASA] might have in lobbying for a longer school year. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. So I’ll ignore the fact that a longer school year would mean more pay and more benefits to Mr. Dressen and other school administrators.

I’ll just relay some facts to Mr. Dressen which will show an extended school year to be superfluous. The United States, according to an article in The Economist, has more engineers per 10,000 employees than either Australia or Britain. Despite the outdated “agrarian economy” based education year, the United States produces more effective and highly educated people than Australia and Britain.

The outdated agrarian school year has also had the strange effect of giving the United States a higher per capita GDP and a higher score on the University of Michigan’s World Value Survey composite well being scale than either Great Britain or Australia.

There is another myth here that needs to be exposed. It is the idea that more schooling will make a smarter and more successful student. It is untrue; in countless studies throughout the last hundred years psychological researchers have shown that social intervention (by schooling or early start programs) fails to raise IQ. Most studies show temporary gains in IQ from students receiving extra education, but those gains disappear in adulthood.

Psychology researchers aren’t the only ones who have noticed this. In his book “Freakonomics,” economist Steven Levitt looked at how much a prep school matters in predicting future academic and economic successes of their students. What Levitt found will dishearten many of you. The school doesn’t matter. Bright and motivated students are just as likely to succeed fighting their way through a failed inner city school as they were in a wealthier suburban school.

It seems silly then to think a longer school year will really make that large of an impact on our economy and students. It hasn’t and it won’t. It will simply cost a lot of money. It seems like it would just be easier to let the kids have their summer breaks.

2005 in review from around the horn


For the troops

Big News Stories

Deaths II

Little known science discoveries

Lists of 2005 lists

h/t Mister Snitch for some of the above.