by Ted on June 13, 2005

I don’t think much of most conspiracy theories which require that an improbably large number of people to keep a lid on some explosive piece of information forever. However, I could just be the victim of availability bias. Obviously, in the event of a successful conspiracy, I’d never hear about it.

I point this out, not to rip anything from today’s headlines, but as an excuse to quote this jewel from a book full of jewels, David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace. Lord Kitchener, the general beloved by the British people for his successes in extending the empire in Egypt and India, had done a poor job directing British military strategy in World War I. Since his popularity made him impossible to fire, he had been sent on a trip to Russia. Kitchener was among the casualties when the ship hit a German mine. It shouldn’t have happened:

The departure route of the Hampshire had already been plotted, but should have been changed. Naval Intelligence, which earlier had broken the German radio code, intercepted a message to the German minelaying submarine U75 in late May. It indicated the the submarine was to mine the passage that the Hampshire intended to follow. Two further intercepts confirmed the information, as did signtings of the submarine. In the confusion at British headquarters at Scapa Flow, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, the British naval commander, and his staff somehow failed to read or to understand the warnings that Naval Intelligence sent to their flagship. (At a court of inquiry that convened later in 1916 to look into the matter, Admiral Jellicoe succeeded in hiding the existence of these intelligence warnings, which were revealed only in 1985.)

Oh, of course

by Ted on June 13, 2005

The Poor Man has produced the finest PowerLine parody this side of paradise.[1] However, as Brad R. notes in the comments, there’s no beating the masters at their own game:

The Senate is poised to apologize for its failure to enact anti-lynching legislation between 1890 and 1952. Why didn’t the Senate act?

In the past, efforts to pass such legislation fell victim to Senate filibusters despite pleas for its passage by seven presidents, among others, between 1890 and 1952.

I suppose Senator Robert Byrd, widely known then as a former Kleagle, better known today as the “conscience of the Senate,” participated in some of those filibusters. Do you suppose he will oppose the current resolution, and explain that the filibuster is a pillar of democracy? No, probably not. I suspect the Senate Democrats will keep their “conscience” under wraps for this one.

UPDATE: As several readers have pointed out, Byrd isn’t quite that old–he was first elected to the Senate in 1958. So his personal involvement with the filibuster didn’t begin until the Civil Rights era. The point, of course, remains valid nevertheless.

[1] This is awfully good, too.


by Chris Bertram on June 13, 2005

I arrived at work today to find that my PC wouldn’t start: a corrupted registry. The guy from tech support quickly reached the conclusion that he’d have to do a complete reinstall of the system. Luckily, most of my work files are stored on the departmental server (which gets backed up daily) and all incoming emails are automatically forwarded to a gmail account (so I have copies). Still, a lot of software had gone and, crucially, my setups for Firefox and Thunderbird. Luckily, I had read about “MozBackup”: on the “Lifehacker”: site and had backups of all my settings. Download it now: it has saved me hours of hassle.

Still boondoggling, Irish style

by Maria on June 13, 2005

EU Foreign ministers decided today in Luxembourg to recognise Irish as an official language of the European Union. Why, oh why? I won’t rehearse last year’s arguments for how pathetic and grasping this makes us look. But I will ask; how many of our MEPs now plan to change from using English to Irish in the European Parliament?

The only sensible part of the Fine Gael press release – which mostly gloated that a concession made by Fianna Fail in 1972 had been won back – was the following; “We must not be deflected from the challenges and difficulties facing the Irish language, as indicated by recent surveys and reports, and regardless of its status at EU level, preserving the language has to begin at home.”

Pity they didn’t think of that before chomping rudely into this piece of overdone pork.