Archives: November 2005

Fri 25 Nov 2005

Book: The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: Volume I

image Author: Jefferson Davis
Started: 25 Jun 2005
Finished: 22 Nov 2005
604p / 151d
4 p/d

This is the first half of a two volume explaination and justification of the Confederacy by the first and only President of the Confederate States of America written a number of years after the end of the Civil War. A long time ago now... I think when I was still in New Jesey, not even Pennsylvania, definately not in Florida... I saw this at a book store and made one of my fairly rare book purchases NOT from Amazon. They had both volumes, but I thought I would start with one.

I'd always been facinated by the idea of history from the view of the losers, and also with first hand perceptions rather than historical analysis. I saw it on the shelf and I just instantly wanted it. It had lots of pages. Lost of pages with dense type. Lots of pages with dense type consisting of verbose 19th century prose. Lots of pages with dense type consisting of verbose 19th century prose by a historical figure I knew suprisingly little about. I wanted it.

So I bought it. Years later it finally came to the front of my shelf pof books to read. (Of course, that was partially because many books that had been on that shelf are still in boxes). So I started it.

It was indeed dense. Some portions you really had to slog through, but from the very first chapters I was absolutely facinated. He starts with a recap of the adoption of the original articles of confederation and then the replacement of them by the constitution. With some detail on the ratification process, and the fact that most of the states in their retifications included specific language about how adopting the constitution did NOT imply a loss of sovereignty on the part of the states, but rather was a voluntary delegation of certain powers.

If you have known me long, or read certain of my posts here, you know that I am very retro in my views of federalism in general. I think that the change to the popular election of Senators rather than having them appointed by state legislators that happened ealry last century was a mistake. I think that the electoral college should operate as originally intended and be a deliberative body where the electors are elected (or appointed) before any candidates for president even exist (let alone having electors commit in advance to a specific candidate) and then having the electors actually decide on the spot when they vote in January who they will be voting for. I think that the 10th amendment is by far the most important of the bill of rights and should not be the completely ignored step-child that it is these days. I believe that we would be better off if the states really did live up to their name and act as essentially independant sovereign entities rather than essentially provinces of a strong central government... and as such almost all domestic issues should be decided on the state level and not the federal level... and I am also very literalist in interpretation of the constituation and various laws. I'm not big on the idea of "interpreting" beyond the actual text, aside from perhaps being knowledgeable of the changes in linguistic usage between when whatever it was was written and the current day... I almost always think that following the correct process is more important than acheiving the correct results... and I've always thought it a very strange thing the notion that states did NOT have the right to exit the union if they ever decided to.

Having said all that, I found myself VERY sympathetic to most of the arguments made by Mr. Davis in the first half or so of the book. (The part covering the events before the actual start of the Civil War.) He makes a very strong case for the legality of sucession given the constitution, the nature of the situation surrounding the original creation of the constitution, etc. And I tend to agree with him. I must admit, I have not read or examined beyond skimming, Texas v. White the 1869 post-Civil War Supreme Court Decision that officially decided that states indeed did not have the right to leave the Union, essentially ratifying the actions of the Lincoln administration after the fact. There may be some compelling arguments there, and I do look forward to eventually doing more reading on the other side of the question.

This of course does NOT mean I favor the South's opinion on slavery of course. I found it very interesting the lengths Mr. Davis went through to avoid that issue in his writings. (Although more explicit references were made in some of his speeches quoted in the Appendices.) He dispenses with it in the very early chapters essentially saying while it was the trigger issue that exposed the sectional differences leading up to the war, what issue it was was essentially irrelevent, and that the fundamental issues were the larger ones of Federalism. Now... to some extent that still seems disingenous. If slavery hadn't been the issue, then there might not have been an issue. In legal terms, the war was about the right of states to leave the union. But in practical terms, slavery was the real issue. The way in which Mr. Davis time after time refered to the rights of sothern people to move to the territories with "their property" was disturbing and really in and of itself provided a glimpse into the mindset.

Of course, one argument could be made that even if the states had the right to leave the union, because the slaves were not represented in the state governments or conventions that decided to leave, the actions were null and void because they were not made by a legitimate representation of the people of those states. Of course, by that argument, none of the other states or the US federal government was legitimate either since women were not allowed the vote, not to mention other disenfranchised groups. I don't think that argument goes.

One could argue that whatever the constitutional legalities, the north had a MORAL obligation higher than the legal obligations to bring the south inline and end the institution of slavery. But by those rights, would not that obligation extend outside the boundaries of the US too? To me it seems clear that the course of action that would have done the right thing legally, but still addressed the moral concerns would have been to acknoledge the right of states to leave the union. Let the south go and become an independant country... and THEN declare war on them. War could be justified because of the moral slavery issue, and also because a large slave holding country controlling access to the Mississippi River would be a threat to security of the country.

So give them their independance, then declare war, then invade and take over, hold as a protectorate or whatnot, then eventually if the north felt like it, allow them to be readmitted as states again. In terms of actual results, this is essentially what happened anyway, but just describing it and wording it a bit differently, and doing things in such a way that you would not have to put strange warped glasses on in order to try to read the constitution in such a way that would not allow the South to leave. And also without in the process of the war allowing other violations of constitutional rights and in general a huge expansion of Federal power and the dramatic destruction of many of the most important concepts of Federalism. (Many of the rest were eroded over the many years since... we have very little of it left at this point... I constantly listen to the news and wonder if ANY of the people involved in any of the three federal branches ever paid attention in civics class when the reasoning behind the development of the US Constitution was covered...)

Or, another possibility, with an admitedly modern flair... let them go, do not declare war, but use tools such as economic sanctions and international pressure. Just due to the way the world economy was developing, slavery most likely would have collasped as an instituation within a few generations anyway... add a little covert action to support underground railroad type missions, support slave insurrections, etc, and you just accelerate that. Once again, without blatantly ignoring the Constitution and Federalist principals.

Anyway... I found that whole part about the detailed events surrounding the year or two immediately before the start of hostilities in the Civil War increadibly facinating. I just had never really studied it before, and this was a very detailed and well written chronology of what happened. (Admittedly from a VERY biased and one-sdied point of view.) And it actually gave some interesting information I just didn't know about the time between the Article of Confederation and the Constitution as well. For instance, that after the last government under the Confederation and even after the first government under the new Consitution, North Carolina and Rhode Island were both fully independant because the Confederation was no more, but they had not yet ratified the new Constitution? The length of time was not hugely long, but it wasn't mere days or weeks either. In the interum both states sent Ambassadors to the new Government of the US as foreign entities. I find that kind of thing facinating.

Anyway... the part after the war started was a lot less interesting to me. It started to be about supply chain management and battles and Mr. Davis basically explaining why all the military mistakes made by the South and the deficiencies in their ability to fend off the North were not his fault. Yawn!

The book was slow going. I averaged only 4 pages a day. Because unlike a nice lightweight novel, I had to really be in a nice quiet place where I could concentrate for more than a couple minutes at a time to read it. This was not a book I could read while other things were going on around me. I really had to concentrate on reading. So I'd read a few pages or a chapter, but then it might be a week or more until I picked up the book again. It was even more the one time I left the book at a hotel and after calling their lost and found for awhile unsuccessfully had to order a new one.

Anyway, the war stuff is less interesting, but I still very much want to get Volume II and read it too. Not so much for the rest of the military events leading up to the defeat of the South, but to hear some of what Davis has to say about reconstruction, another time period about which I know a lot less than I wish I knew.

I'd also like to put on my reading list some contemporanous accounts of this whole period from the perspective of prominant Northern politicians... obviously Lincoln didn't live long enough to write up his perspectives, but I'm sure there are more than a few things that were written at the time by folks on the Union side that would be equally as facinating as this volume by Jefferson Davis. Again, not looking for military stuff, couldn't care less about the battles and such, and I'm not looking for historical overviews written in the 20th and 21st centuries, but rather writings by the people who actually lived it, most particularly from the political side of things.

Love this stuff.

And I loved this book. It was just very facinating, instructive, and thought provoking. The best combination!

Anyway... I'm guessing this is long enough and nobody has actually read this far, so I guess I will stop now. :-)


Abulsme - Fri, 25 Nov 2005, 10:36:44 PST
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Tue 22 Nov 2005

Treos STILL Don't Swim

Um, so, well, I was walking down the hall last night and I heard a splashing noise. I turned around. Brandy was about 5 steps behind me. About one step behind me was a bucket and mop which had recently been being used to mop the floor.

Sam: "What was that?"
Brandy: "You kicked the bucket!"
Sam: "Are you sure you didn't throw anything in there? It sounded like you threw something in there."
Brandy: "No, I didn't throw anything, you kicked it."
Sam: "OK"

Then I thought nothing of it for the next half hour or so while I walked the dog.

Then I needed to make a phone call.

I could not find my phone.

We started calling my phone from Brandy's, cause we always do that when I put it some random place in the house. Nothing.

We start retracing my steps following where I had walked the dog. But it was cold and I had no jacket on, so I decided to make one last sweep of the house before looking outside.

As I am looking around in the bedroom I hear from the other room...

Brandy: "O! Sam!"
Sam: "You found it?!?"
Brandy: "Yes."
Sam: "Where was it?"
Brandy: "I don't think you want to know."

And yes, indeed, it was in the bucket of dirty mop water, where it had been soaking for over half an hour. And yes, I had managed while simply walking through the house, to have the Treo fall off my belt clip over the one square foot out of thousands of square feet in the house where there was water to fall into. Yes, that is me.

My sister says I need to take better care of my cell phones, cause she has had one for over four years and is on the same phone. Me on the other hand, I think my lifetime record was a cellphone that lasted a year. And that one after six months I had smashed the screen in my car door, and for the second six months I couldn't read the screen, but kept it because the phone calling part still worked.

Good thing we bought the $4 a month replacement insurance thing.

So at the moment I am using Brandy's phone and Brandy is using Amy's phone and Amy is using no phone, while the phone sits on a counter drying to dry off. The last one though I rescued after mere seconds, removed the battery right away, etc. This one soaked for half an hour.

I didn't think the odds were good when I dropped it in the pool a couple months ago, but it eventually fully recovered. I am thinking my odds this time are very very slim.

I may give in and just pay the $50 deductable and get a new phone. But then I would have to give up on the old phone and mail it back to them. I kinda want to give the phone a fighting chance before I give up on it! So maybe I'll let it dry awhile.

Of course the whole everybody trying to call me going straight to voicemail and everyone trying to call Brandy getting me and everyone trying to call Amy getting Brandy probably won't work for all that long...

Sigh.


Abulsme - Tue, 22 Nov 2005, 19:55:44 PST
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Sat 19 Nov 2005

DVD: Fantasia

imageSo, thanks very much to Ron, who answered my appeal, I had a copy of Fantasia to watch as part of my slow (very slow) effort to watch the AFI 100 Years 100 Movies list. I started at #100 back in around 1998 or 1999 or so. I've now reached Fantasia, which is #58 on the list.

This week I had to take a trip to the West Coast and this seemed like a perfect thing to watch on the plane. (And I wanted to watch it pretty quickly so that I could get it back to Ron.) So after the food service (small crappy turkey sandwich) came through, I pulled out the laptop and started the movie.

Soon after I started, the man in the seat next to me leaned over and said "I am old enough to have seen this at the movies when it first came out!". It came out in 1940. So to remember it the first time arond he would have to be over 70... maybe over 75 depending on how well he remembered his early childhood. He didn't look quite that old. So if he really was, good for him. But he may have been remembering one of the rereleases.

In any case, at various points he leaned over to make comments about it, and once I told him this was the first time I was ever seeing it, he seemed very concerned that I was watching it on a laptop with cheap headphones in a noisy plane. He thought I really should watch it for the first time on a high quality large screen TV with a high quality sound system. I assured him that I am sure I will eventually watch it in such a way.

In any case, it was a good movie to watch. These are stressful times for me for a variety of reasons, and just sitting back and listening to the classical music while watching the animated imagry of various sorts during the movie... nice and relaxing. A very different kind of movie. More just a wash of music and experience than a normal movie. (And of course that is what I expected.) I think I liked the Nutcracker part the best. And yes, although I'm not sure I would have noticed if I had not read about it in advance, the part where they edited out the politically incorrect character who was there in the original release was QUITE obvious.

My battery died about 10 minutes before the end of the movie, which was frustrating.

I finished it this morning, and am writing this up right before heading to the airport to come home.

Anyway, Fantasia nice and relaxing.


Abulsme - Sat, 19 Nov 2005, 10:13:40 PST
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Sat 12 Nov 2005

Brentwood Garrett

image

Brandy's father passed away in his sleep early Friday morning.

It would not be my place to say much more at this time, but suffice it to say that he will be greatly missed. Brandy will be flying up to Rhode Island in the next couple of days to coordinate the needed arrangements.


Abulsme - Sat, 12 Nov 2005, 21:40:22 PST
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DVD: Doctor Who: The Mind Robber

imageIt has been a while since we watched one of these. Weekends have been busy and other things always came up. But last weekend we finally got back to it over the course of two days. This episode was actually aired before the last one we watched, but it was just released on DVD since we got that episode, so we went backwards and watched it. The story summary is here.

I was having some difficulty getting into the second Doctor's style here. This was a kind of abstract story set in a place outside of normal space, where fictional characteres became real. It had some moments, but out of the 2nd Doctor stories we have watched (this was the 3rd and currently last 2nd Doctor story available on DVD), I think I'd rank this one lowest. Even though it was 5 full episodes, it seemed like a transitional "filler" story that would have done just fine a bit shorter. Wasn't aweful or anything, just not as much fun as the other two.

Next Doctor Who DVD on the agenda will be a 3rd Doctor story, in fact the first 3rd Doctor story. And it will be in color!


Abulsme - Sat, 12 Nov 2005, 16:50:45 PST
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Sun 06 Nov 2005

Hoobeelukin

Last weekend I was poking around and noticed that SiteMeter had added a new "By World Map" view. I was entranced. It is even animated so if you just leave it up it will update as you get new visits.

Here are the last 20 visits to this site as of right now:

The most recent is the red dot, then the green dots, then the white. You can mouse over the dots to get more info.

I added a page to my site that will show it all the time here. Also linked on my left nav of course. It is all SiteMeter functionality though. I'm just reshowing it here.

There are of course limits to the accuracy of the geolocation, and your milage may vary... for instance all AOL dialup users show up as bieng from the same place in the midwest somewhere and when I hit the site myself from home in Palm Bay, FL it lists the visit as being from Sanford, FL which is a 90 minute drive away. And of course, it is only showing visits to actual pages where the user loads images and I have added the sitemeter badge (some old pages still don't have it). But hey, close enough, and it is still fun.

Enjoy! I can just watch it for hours myself. :-)

Edit: (PS, It is Flash based, so if you don't already have it you need to get Flash. Ivan also notes that it may take a little bit to load. Be patient.)


Abulsme - Sun, 6 Nov 2005, 14:23:40 PST
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Sat 05 Nov 2005

Googlefied Trip Tool

I actually did this last weekend, but didn't have the chance to post. I took the random trip tool that I've had up for several years, and modified it to use Google Maps rather than MapQuest. Since depending on what exactly you are doing, one or the other may still be better, I have kept both available:

If you are looking to just see the cool satellite pictures and such, the Google Maps one is the way to go. Or in general if you are just looking at US locations. If you are looking internationally and actually want to identify what cities and towns your spot is near, the MapQuest version is the way to go, because their actual maps have more information than Google in most countries. MapQuest seems to be a bit faster too. But their latest redesign doesn't fit in the window size I'd defined when I first set up the tool. That size was predicated on having both the tool window and the MapQuest window fit side by side on my laptop screen, and it is as big as I can make it. Maybe I'll make it larger when I get a new laptop. :-)

Have fun!


Abulsme - Sat, 5 Nov 2005, 06:26:39 PST
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Tue 01 Nov 2005

Screenies

The screen people finally showed up to start working on the screen the day after Wilma went by. They said it would be done in two days. They did indeed start, but each evening they would leave the place a mess with all their tools out and in one case an open beer can still sitting on the table. And a bunch of scraps and stuff. On Friday they promised it would be done by the end of the day. It was not, although they did take their stuff.

We find out today that appearantly the crew got their check Friday, then hasn't been seen since. So the company has sent out a different crew today. I pointed the camera out the back sliding door so we can see what they are up to. I have it saving a time lapse movie.

I really wish I had thought of this last week when they were building the bulk of it. At this point the whole frame and everything has been up for awhile (although there is some finishing work that needs to be done which they had better do) and they are just finishing putting up the actual screen part. So probably not much to see.

Unless they start having a beer party on the lanai while they are working like they did last week. So wacth the camera today! It will be updating every 5 minutes if there is no significant motion, but if it senses people moving and such it will be updated once a minute. I think the main place visible today that they will be working will be the corner of the screen to the right in the picture.


Abulsme - Tue, 1 Nov 2005, 06:45:24 PST
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