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Friday, December 23, 2016

Why "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Almost Wasn’t


A Charlie Brown Christmas begins it's 51st year this year. It's on everyone's Christmas classics list. 

It almost never happened.

In today’s entertainment culture, no one would ever make a prime time TV cartoon where the highlight of the program is having a main character recite the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. One might guess that 50 years ago, this would be no big deal. It was a big deal and A Charlie Brown Christmas almost wasn't.

By 1965, Charles Schulz had turned down offers to make Peanuts into animated movies or TV programs. Schulz finally consented to do A Charlie Brown Christmas, but he maintained strict control over the content. It was to have a message about how Christmas was being commercialized that would play on commercial television. In an era when all cartoons used a laugh track, he insisted on no laugh track. He decided that he would use real children to do the voices, not adults imitating children’s voices.

Most importantly, Schulz wrote a script where Linus spent one whole minute reciting St. Luke’s Christmas story. CBS executives were not pleased. One said, “The Bible thing scares us.” Another thought the show was too slow and too innocent . Schulz was adamant that the Gospel story would stay in.

The program first aired on Thursday night, December 9, 1965. Half the people watching television in America tuned in.

The next day reviews across the nation recognized it as an instant Yule classic. Audiences loved Linus’s touching speech which brought tears to many. The next year A Charlie Brown Christmas won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Programming.

We can thank Charles Schulz for sticking to his values and giving us a Christmas special that is actually about the real meaning of Christmas. When his co-producer tried one last time to get him to drop the St. Luke section, Schulz told him, “If we don’t do it, who will?”

For a comprehensive biography of Charles Schulz, read Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis.


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

3 Books Reveal the Pearl Harbor Attack You Don't Know


The Pearl Harbor attack was 75 years ago today.

First of all here are three books that will give you the basic story of the Pearl Harbor attack:
  • At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor by Gordon W. Prange
  • Infamy by John Toland
  • Day of Infamy by Walter Lord 
I think Lord's book is the easiest to read, with more you-were-there type stories, but all three do a great job of telling the familiar Pearl Harbor story.

Here are three books that will give you more insights than the average armchair student of history.
  • God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor by Gordon W. Prange
This is a biography of Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who lead the attack on Pearl Harbor. He gave the order to drop the bombs that started the war. His story would be far fetched if presented as a novel. The many times he avoided death are a regular occurrence throughout the book. After the war he became a well-known Christian evangelist.

  • Operation Snow: How a Soviet Mole in FDR's White House Triggered Pearl Harbor by John Koster
When 80% of America wanted to stay out of the war and Japan was willing to make concessions to scale back their war efforts in China and Indochina, Harry Dexter White, a senior treasury official, Asian expert and Soviet mole took steps to move American's position against Japan to an extreme hard line position that he knew Japan would not be able to accept (including turning over most of their navy to America). Japan felt they had no choice but to make war with the U.S. This was to Russia's advantage because once Japan was at war with America they could not fight Russia.

  • Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor by Robert B. Stinnett
According to Stinnett's book, perhaps the biggest surprise of the Second World War is that there is strong evidence Franklin Roosevelt and his most senior military and political aides knew the Japanese attack was coming and purposefully looked the other way, knowing Japan's "surprise" attack would turn a reluctant America into a nation fully supportive of joining the world war.

In the 1930s, as the world became more and more engaged in wars, the people of the United States remained isolationist. Roosevelt was a dedicated Anglophile who took active steps to aid England fight against Nazi Germany. He also took steps to ramp up preparations of the army and navy. Despite these steps, even with Roosevelt's superior persuasive powers, there was no way he could convince American citizens to join England in its war against Germany.

If you are looking for a smoking gun, you won't find it. The historical records have been destroyed or kept from public view. What you can find is a pattern of missing records that point to advanced knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack by President Roosevelt that was not passed on to local army and navy leaders in Hawaii.
  1. Most students of WWII history are aware that the US had broken the Japanese naval communication codes prior to the battle of Midway, and it helped contribute to the victory. What is not well known is that the various Japanese communication codes were broken as early as the 1920's. Intercepted communication codes in 1941 were forwarded to the English base in Singapore and the American base in the Philippines. The same communication intercepts were supposed to go to Hawaii, but the transportation was delayed until after December 7. Had they arrived in time, the Hawaii cryptographers would have learned of the pending attack in advance. An explanation for the delay is missing from the historical record.
  2. Early in 1941 a known Japanese spy, Tadashi Morimura, arrived at the Japanese consulate in Honolulu and was allowed to spend months casing out the Pearl Harbor facilities. The FBI had planned to track and deal with Morimura, but the Navy Intelligence told them to stand aside. Why this unusual action? It resulted in Morimura sending key intelligence that the Japanese used in planning the Pearl Harbor attack, even to the extent of plotting the bombing runs. The reason this was allowed remains unknown. An explanation is missing from the historical record. Navy Intelligence was intercepting Morimura’s reports on a regular basis. The information was sent to Washington, but not to Admiral Husband Kimmel, the top navy admiral in Hawaii.
  3. In the later half of November 1941, Admiral Kimmel ordered a practice mission for his fast carriers in the ocean northwest of Hawaii. The carriers were actually in the vicinity of where the Japanese would launch their planes on December 7. Washington ordered the ships back to Pearl Harbor early. Washington also ordered all vessels to vacate the ocean in the area that would be crossed by the Japanese attack fleet. They even diverted two Russian merchantmen -- one was rerouted on a southern route and the other was made to stop in Portland until there was no risk it would run into the Japanese navy.
  4. FDR was provided with regular reports with details of the Japanese naval movements running up to 15 pages per report. The navy maintained a log, so we know how many messages there were. Of the 70+ messages, only five remain. The others are all “lost,” The National Archives has no explanation for the missing documents. 
  5. On November 15, General George Marshall, the top general of the army, called a secret press conference with key journalists. He told them that the United States could read Japan’s encrypted messages. He told them that war would break out during the first 10 days of December. He provided no such message to his top general in Hawaii, Walter Short.
  6. At the end of on November 1941, Roosevelt and his war cabinet drafted a message to Emperor Hirohito asking that he take steps to avoid war. The message was not delivered to the Imperial Palace until the night before the Pearl Harbor attack, three hours before the attack planes launched. It was a nice cover to show Americans wanted peace, but delivery was delayed until it was too late to matter.
  7. During the first week of December, the SS Lurline, a merchant ship, sailed from San Francisco to Honolulu. The assistant radio operator Leslie Gorgan was surprised to hear Japanese radio signals coming from the direction northwest of Hawaii. Normally, this would not have been possible, because they were broadcast at a frequency that usually had a short range. However, a sun storm had interfered and made it possible to receive the transmission from farther away. These short range messages were sent by the Japanese fleet because they had just gone through a storm that dispersed their ships and they needed to send the signal to regroup. Grogan gave the radio messages to Lieutenant Commander George Peace of the navy when he got to Hawaii. Admiral Kimmel never heard about it. When the Lurline returned to San Francisco, its radio logs were confiscated by the Twelfth Naval District intelligence unit.. A search by the author for the log in the 1990’s had found that it had been checked out and not returned. The checkout slip had no name or date.
  8. Intelligence reports usually included a section for radio direction finder (RDF) reports. The copies that were sent to Kimmel have been mutilated and the RDF sections are missing.
  9. Days before the attack was to occur, Kimmel received an order to sortie the carriers and all the newer ships to deliver planes to outlying bases. The orders made sure only the older, more obsolete ships remained in Pearl Harbor for the attack.
  10. The final diplomatic orders from Tokyo, sent in four parts to its outlying embassies, were received and read by President Roosevelt and his told aides 15 hours before the attack. Japanese orders to destroy all codes and cryptography equipment were a clear sign that war was imminent. This revelation, which would have allowed the army and navy in Hawaii to go on full alert, was not sent to General Short or Admiral Kimmel in time for them to take action.
The results of the Pearl Harbor attack are well know. Americans rallied behind President and Congress supported a declaration of war with only one No vote. While it is disappointing that these actions have been lost to history after 75 years, it was probably a good thing that America joined the war when it did. Without America’s help, Germany may have won the war. And if they lost, the Soviet Union could have dominated western Europe.


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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wolfe Mauls Darwin


Tom Wolfe's latest book, The Kingdom of Speech, is going to upset a lot of people.

Wolfe is generally in good standing with the liberal defenders of evolution who are for the most part all for his criticism of investment bankers (The Bonfire of the Vanities) or big business (A Man in Full). When he decided to tear down liberal icons Charles Darwin and Noam Chomsky, the reaction has been less than kind.

When I learned about this book, I was eager to read it, although Wolfe's tendency to write massive tomes meant a big time commitment. It was a pleasant surprise to find it was only 169 pages long. Maybe when you are 86 years old, you write shorter books.

Wolfe's conclusions will be applauded by those like myself who advocate for Intelligent Design. The reaction from Darwiniacs is, as can be expected: wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Any Darwin worshipers, be forewarned; Wolfe portrays him as overrated and none-too-bright -- also a borderline plagiarist. 

One of the objections to Darwin's theory of evolution raised during his lifetime was the inability for evolution to account for the development of language. Darwin claimed it evolved, but had no persuasive evidence; he spun fables a la Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. Jump 100 years and Noam Chomsky took up the fight that language evolved due to 'universal grammar' made possible by some unidentified part of the brain. Another 50 years and no such organ has been found. If fact, field research by Daniel Everett in the Amazon jungle leads many to concede that Chomsky was all wrong and Darwin all was wrong. 

We don't know how man developed language, but we do know it was not a product of evolution. 

To most people this is no big deal. Those who consider man is made in the image of God find it natural that language is God given. To atheists and die-hard Darwiniacs, this is a big deal. They don't like cracks that undermine their faith in their religious-like devotion to Darwin.

Quotes I enjoyed from the book:

Regarding Darwin position when he put forth his theory of evolution: "There was no scientific way to test it. Like every other cosmogony, it was serious and sincere story meant to satisfy man's endless curiosity about where he came from and how he came to be so different from the animals around him. But it was still a story. It was not evidence. It short, it was sincere, but sheer, literature." (27)

In Germany, on the other hand, The Origin of Species was an immediate sensation. By 1874 Nietzsche had paid Darwin and his theory the highest praise with the most famous declaration in modern philosophy: "God is dead." Without mentioning Darwin by name, he said the "doctrine that there is no cardinal distinction between man and animal" will demoralize humanity throughout the West; it will lead to the rise of "barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods" -- he all but called them by name: Nazism, Communism, and Fascism -- and result within one generation in "wars such as never have been fought before." If we take one generation to be thirty years, that would have meant by 1904. In fact, the First Word War broke out in 1914. This latter-day barbarism, he went on to say, will in the twenty-first century lead to something worse than the great wars: the total eclipse of all values. (51)

Max Muller: "The Science of Language will yet enable us to withstand the extreme theories of evolutionists and to draw a hard and fast line between man and brute." (54)

The power of the human brain was so far beyond the boundaries of natural selection that the term became meaningless in explaining the origins of man. (61)

Language in all its forms advanced man far beyond the boundaries of natural selection, allowing him to think abstractly and plan ahead (no animal was capable of it); measure things and record measurements for later (no animal was capable of it); comprehend space and time, God, freedom, and immortality; and remove items from Nature to create artifacts, whether axes or algebra. No animal could even begin to do any such thing. Darwin's doctrine of natural selection couldn't deal with artifacts, which were by definition unnatural, or with the month of all artifacts, which was the Word -- speech, language -- was driving him crazy ... (64)

Kipling's intention from the outset was to entertain children. Darwin's intention, on the other hand, was dead serious and absolutely sincere in the name of science and his cosmogony. Neither had any evidence to back up his tale. Kipling, of course, never pretended to. But Darwin did. (70)

Language was the crux of it all. If language sealed off man from animal, then the Theory of Evolution applied only to animal studies and reached no higher than the hairy apes. (75)

Mendelian genetics overshadowed the Theory of Evolution from the very beginning. This new field had come straight out of purely scientific experiments that agronomists and biologists everywhere were able to replicate. The Theory of Evolution, on the other hand, had come out of cerebrations of two immobile thinkers, ... thinking about things no man had ever seen and couldn't even hope to replicate in much less than a few million years. (80)

Language had not evolved from anything. It was an artifact. Just as man had taken natural materials, namely wood and metal, and combined them to create the ax, he had taken natural sounds and put them together in the form of codes representing objects, actions, and ultimately, thoughts and calculations -- and called the codes words. (141)

"I have no time for Chomskyan theorizing and its associated dogmas of 'universal grammar.' This stuff is so much half-baked twaddle, more akin to a religious movement than to a scholarly enterprise. I am confident that our successors will look back on UG as a huge waste of time. I deeply regret the fact that this sludge attracts so much attention outside linguistics, so much so that many non-linguistics believe that Chomskyan theory simply is linguistics ... and that UG is now an established piece of truth beyond criticism or discussion. The truth is entirely otherwise." Larry Trask, linguist at England's University of Sussex (144)

"The evolution of the faculty of language largely remains an enigma." (Chomsky)
An enigma! A century and a half's worth of certified wise men, if we make Darwin the starting point -- or of bearers of doctoral degrees, in any case -- six generations of them had devoted their careers to explaining exactly what language is. After all that time and cerebration they had arrived at a conclusion: language is ... an enigma? Chomsky all by himself had spent sixty years on the subject. He had convinced not only academia but also an awed public that he had the answer. And now he was a signatory of a declaration that language remains... an enigma? (150)

"In the last 40 years there has been an explosion of research on this problem as well as a sense that considerable progress has been made. We argue instead that the richness of ideas is accompanied by a poverty of evidence, with essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved." (Chomsky) (156)



As I have noted before, I recognize that I have higher than normal interest in this subject. As a student of history, I see the rise of acceptance of evolution has coincided with a lowering of cultural standards. After all, if evolution proves that there is no God and no scriptural right and wrong, then you are excused to create your own morals, or lack of them. I wrote my play Inherit the Wind Overturned by Design back in 2009 as a vehicle to contrast the positions of ID and evolution in an entertaining format so people can consider the argument for the ID position. Those interested in the ID subject should enjoy the contrast to the popular 1950's era play it satires.


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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Top 10 All Time Prager U Videos

If you are not already a fan of Prager University videos, why not?

They are less than 5 minutes long. They are presented by experts in their fields. They present a rational, conservative perspective on many of the most important issues of the day.

Here are the top ten Prager U videos as of today:


TitleViewsPresenterTopicLink
1Do You Understand the Electoral College49,841,474Tara RossPolitical Sciencehttps://www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/do-you-understand-electoral-college
2Was the CIvil War About Slavery8,592,312Ty SelduleHistoryhttps://www.prageru.com/courses/history/was-civil-war-about-slavery
3Who NOT to Vote For7,678,125Adam CarollaPolitical Sciencehttps://www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/who-not-vote
4Every High School Principal Should Say This7,458,743Dennis PragerLife Studieshttps://www.prageru.com/courses/life-studies/every-high-school-principal-should-say
5Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists?6,107,249Haroon UllahForeign Affairshttps://www.prageru.com/courses/foreign-affairs/why-do-people-become-islamic-extremists
6Are the Police Racist?5,183,331Heather Mac DonaldRace Relationshttps://www.prageru.com/courses/race-relations/are-police-racist
7The Middle East Problem5,154,425Dennis PragerForeign Affairshttps://www.prageru.com/courses/foreign-affairs/middle-east-problem
8Don't Judge Blacks Differently5,084,090Chloe ValdaryRace Relationshttps://www.prageru.com/courses/race-relations/dont-judge-blacks-differently
9War on Boys4,753,118Christina SommersPolitical Sciencehttps://www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/war-boys
10Why is Modern Art so Bad?4,073,899Robert FlorczakHistoryhttps://www.prageru.com/courses/history/why-modern-art-so-bad

Do you have a favorite Prager U video from this list or any of the nearly 200 videos that have been created so far?


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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fiddlin' - Sing Along "Fidel in Hell"


The recent death of the dictator Fidel Castro is cause to celebrate. Many leftists have been giving him a pass, but Castro is an evil-doer on par with Stalin and Mao. The only reason that fewer people were killed or imprisoned by Castro is because Cuba is a lot smaller country than Russia or China.

A song to recognize his belated death...

Fidel

(sing to the tune Michelle Ma Belle by Paul McCartney)

Fidel, in hell
These are words that go together well
Fidel in hell

Fidel, in hell
Era un hombre muy horrible
Muy horrible

I loathe you, I loathe you, I loathe you
That's all I want to say
Until I find a way
I will say the only words I know that
You'll understand

Fidel, in hell
Era un hombre muy horrible
Muy horrible

I need to, I need to, I need to
I need to make you see
That Cuba still ain’t free
Until it is I'm hoping you will
Know what I mean

I loathe you

I loathe you, I loathe you, I loathe you
I think you know by now
You’ll burn in hell I’ll vow
Until you do I'm telling you so
You'll understand

Fidel, in hell
Era un hombre muy horrible
Muy horrible

I will say the only words I know
That you'll understand, Fidel in hell


For an index of all Fiddling Ant parody songs, click here.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beer and the Five Miracles of Thanksgiving


The Five Miracles of Thanksgiving

For the average American, images of the first Thanksgiving are dour Englishmen with drab clothing and funny hats and shoes. The truth is more colorful and in fact miraculous.

A group of Bible readers (known as Separatists and not pilgrims), having recognized that the Church of England showed no similarities to the church of the New Testament, were forced to leave England for Holland or suffer fines and imprisonment. Life was hard for the exiles in Holland, so they decided they would be better off moving to America.

  1. The first miracle was the loss of the Speedwell, the Mayflower's smaller sister ship. Twice the two ships left England only to turn back because the Speedwell was not seaworthy. They decided that there was no hope to repair the smaller vessel so those least committed to the enterprise stayed behind. Had those who stayed behind joined the company it may have changed the composition of the first community and lessened its chances for success.
  2. The original plan was to find a site somewhere up the Hudson River. However, after their first landfall in Cape Cod, their attempt to continue on to the Hudson was halted by stormy weather. The Separatists took this as a sign to not continue and they landed at New Plymouth instead. Had they tried to settle in the Hudson region, they would have had to deal with natives already living in the area who would not take kindly to accommodating these European strangers.
  3. The Patuxet tribe, who had lived in the area, had all recently died off from diseases. The neighboring tribes stayed away from this empty land, afraid that moving in would result in death. This small band of a hundred Englishmen had found what was likely the only unclaimed land along the entire Atlantic seaboard.
  4. After surviving a brutal winter where death claimed half their numbers, the Separatists were not in a good condition to thrive in their new land. They had no knowledge of what crops were best for the region, or how to plant them. They had proved totally inept as fishermen, despite the reputation of the region as a rich fishery. In the early spring they were contacted for the first time by two English speaking natives. How surprising must it have been to see a native warrior walk into their compound speaking these words in English: "Welcome! Have you any beer?" This first native, Samoset, had learned English from fishermen visiting the area, but the second one, Squanto, had actually lived in England for many years. Squanto taught the separatists how to farm and fish.
  5. The neighboring tribes could have wiped out the Separatists at anytime. Squanto served as their main contact with the closest native tribes and helped the Separatists negotiate a peace that lasted for more than forty years.
It would be easy for the skeptic to claim that all these "miracles" are only fortuitous coincidences. The Separatists did not think these were coincidences. They chose to thank God for these miracles that allowed them to establish a God fearing community. Without these miracles, their experience would have ended in disastrous failure.

A coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.


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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Taking the Axe to Darwinism


Douglas Axe is a heretic. He's a molecular biologist who did his doctoral work at Caltech and went on to postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge. As such, he can't be dismissed as some uneducated Bible thumping Luddite.

In his book Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life is Designed, Axe is arguing that evolutionary science is closed to any other explanations for the origin and development of life despite the inadequacies of natural selection to explain how life began and how natural selection is able to result in entirely new life forms.

Advocates of Intelligent Design are like the ugly step child. On the one hand the pro-evolution community dismisses them as creationists. On the other hand there are many people that believe the Bible says the earth is 6,000 years old, so that is good enough for them. They don't like ID'ers either because they seem to reject the correctness of the literal Bible. Axe can expect poor reviews from both these camps, but for those who are not already set in their beliefs, the book is a great read.

Axe's main theme is that when something appears to be designed, it is likely to be designed. He gives examples of how we can view small segments of written pages vs jumbled letters or photos vs jumbled pixels and from these small segments it is easy to see which is designed and which is not. Because life at the basic building blocks level also displays elements of design, it follows that a designer is involved.

Axe's position is that the biological sciences community is adamant to defend Darwinism even when advances in science prove Darwin to be more wrong than ever. He points out that others who make the same criticism of Darwinism as he does are still welcome in the church of evolution because they propose new ideas that also build on undirected evolution.

Critics of Axe are upset because he openly professes to be a believer in the Christian God. As if that were a bad thing. I guess it is a bad thing, at least if you are an evangelizing atheist with a mission to tear down religion and replace it with Godless science. Axe even gives an example of a scientist who used the "G" word in an article and the publication received complaints and had to withdraw its approval, even though there was no criticism of the contents of the article itself.

Axe's belief system should not discredit his science. A scientist who wants to cure cancer would not be criticized for his position or have his views questioned. Axe should be given the same level of recognition.

Critics of ID are fond of saying that it is not science because it doesn't get published in peer reviewed papers. This can largely be explained by the wall put up by the defenders of Darwiniac dogma. Nobody is allowed to criticize the establishment viewpoint. It would be easier to believe that the New York Times would hire Rush Limbaugh as their editor. Don't expect that to happen.

In the meantime, readers can consider Axe's well argued pro-design book and come away with a logical understanding of why design is a more likely explanation for our existence than the blind chance that evolution is build on.

I recognize that I have higher than normal interest in this subject. As a student of history, I see the rise of acceptance of evolution has coincided with a lowering of cultural standards. After all, if evolution proves that there is no God and no scriptural right and wrong then you are excused to create your own morals, or lack of them. I wrote my play Inherit the Wind Overturned by Design back in 2009 as a vehicle to contrast the positions of ID and evolution in an entertaining format so people can consider the argument for the ID position. Those interested in the ID subject should enjoy the contrast to the popular 1950's era play it satires.

Quotes I liked from Undeniable:

Evolution seems to be an inadequate replacement for knowledge. Indeed, if our design intuition holds true, nothing is an adequate replacement for knowledge.

Dan Tawfik hit the nail on the head: Nothing evolves unless it already exists. (p 97)

With respect to the invention of living things, then, a commitment to materialism is a commitment to accidental explanation, and a commitment to accidental explanation is a commitment to coincidence, and a commitment to coincidence is a commitment to the power of repetition. (p 103)

Blind causes are so fundamentally unlike insight that any instance of them looking insightful would be coincidental. Coincidences do happen, of course, but we know from experience that major ones are much more rare and therefore more surprising than minor ones. (p 152)

The implications for invention are clear. If the invention of a working X is a whole project requiring extensive new functional coherence, then the invention of X by accidents of any kind is physically impossible. Why? Because for accidental causes to match insight on this scale would be a fantastically improbable coincidence and our universe simply can't deliver fantastically improbable coincidences. (153)

Natural selection happens only after cells are arranged in ways that work to keep the organism alive, so selection can hardly be the cause of these remarkable arrangements. Darwin's simplistic explanation has failed, and the millions who have followed him have nothing but his outdated assumption to stand on. (192)

Dutch botanist Hugo De Vries "Natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest." (220)


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