"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

V-A Day: Victory in America Day

A contemporary account of the Surrender at Yorktown, by Dr. James Thatcher, a surgeon in the Continental Army:
October 19th.-

This is to us a most glorious day; but to the English, one of bitter chagrin and disappointment. Preparations are now making to receive as captives that vindictive, haughty commander, and that victorious army, who, by their robberies and murders, have so long been a scourge to our brethren of the Southern states. Being on horseback, I anticipate a full share of satisfaction in viewing the various movements in the interesting scene...

At about twelve o'clock, the combined army was arranged and drawn up in two lines extending more than a mile in length. The Americans were drawn up in a line on the right side of the road, and the French occupied the left. At the head of the former, the great American commander, mounted on his noble courser, took his station; attended by his aids. At the head of the latter was posted the excellent Count Rochambeau and his suite.

The French troops, in complete uniform, displayed a martial and noble appearance, their band of music, of which the timbrel formed a part, is a delightful novelty, and produced while marching to the ground a most enchanting effect. The Americans, though not all in uniform, nor their dress so neat, yet exhibited an erect, soldierly air, and every countenance beamed with satisfaction and joy. The concourse of spectators from the country was prodigious, in point of numbers was probably equal to the military, but universal silence and order prevailed.

It was about two o'clock when the captive army advanced through the line formed for their reception. Every eye was prepared to gaze on Lord Cornwallis, the object of peculiar interest and solicitude; but he disappointed our anxious expectations; pretending indisposition, he made General O'Hara his substitute as the leader of his army. This officer was followed by the conquered troops in a slow and solemn step, with shouldered arms, colors cased, and drums beating a British march.

Having arrived at the head of the line, General O'Hara, elegantly mounted, advanced to his excellency the commander-in-chief, taking off his hat, and apologized for the non-appearance of Earl Cornwallis. With his usual dignity and politeness, his excellency pointed to Major-General Lincoln for directions, by whom the British army was conducted into a spacious field, where it was intended they should ground their arms.

The royal troops, while marching through the line formed by the allied army, exhibited a decent and neat appearance, as respects arms and clothing, for their commander opened his store, and directed every soldier to be furnished with a new suit complete, prior to the capitulation. But in their line of march we remarked a disorderly and unsoldierly conduct, their step was irregular, and their ranks frequently broken.

But it was in the field, when they came to the last act of the drama, that the spirit and pride of the British soldier was put to the severest test: here their mortification could not be concealed. Some of the platoon officers appeared to be exceedingly chagrined when giving the word "ground arms," and I am a witness that they performed this duty in a very unofficer-like manner; and that many of the soldiers manifested a sullen temper, throwing their arms on the pile with violence, as if determined to render them useless. This irregularity, however, was checked by the authority of General Lincoln.

After having grounded their arms and divested themselves of their accoutrements, the captive troops were conducted back to Yorktown, and guarded by our troops till they could be removed to the place of their destination.

The British troops that were stationed at Gloucester, surrendered at the same time and in the same manner, to the command of the Duke de Luzerne.

This must be a very interesting and gratifying transaction to General Lincoln, who, having himself been obliged to surrender an army to a haughty foe the last year, has now assigned him the pleasing duty of giving laws to a conquered army in return, and of reflecting that the terms which were imposed on him are adopted as a basis of the surrender in the present instance.

It is a very gratifying circumstance that every degree of harmony, confidence and friendly intercourse subsisted between the American and French troops during the campaign - no contest, except an emulous spirit to excel in exploits and enterprise against the common enemy, and a desire to be celebrated in the annals of history for an ardent love of great and heroic actions.

We are not to be surprised that the pride of the British officers is humbled on this occasion, as they have always entertained an exalted opinion of their own military prowess, and affected to view the Americans as a contemptible, undisciplined rabble. But there is no display of magnanimity when a great commander shrinks from the inevitable misfortunes of war; and when it is considered that Lord Cornwallis has frequently appeared in splendid triumph at the head of his army, by which he is almost adored, we conceive it incumbent on him cheerfully to participate in their misfortunes and degradations, however humiliating; but it is said he gives himself up entirely to vexation and despair.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Prolong the Recovery"

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that, faced with a pre-election foreclosure crisis, the Obama Administration is considering a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures. You have to admire their chutzpah: rather than facing up to economic realities, the President and his advisors believe they can simply command the economy to improve. If only it were so easy! Even the Washington Post admits that the plan will likely backfire, in a roundabout way:

With foreclosed properties comprising one in every four homes sold in the United States, the spreading moratorium could disrupt real estate deals in progress, slow down the process of clearing the backlog of troubled home loans and prolong the economic recovery, analysts said.
Prolong the economic recovery indeed! When did the recovery begin? The unemployment rate has remained nearly constant over the past year at between 9-10% despite constant gaming of the system with over-reporting of census and election workers. The real unemployment rate is much higher if you consider that the private sector has continued to shed jobs for more than two years straight.  Worse still, just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, the suggestion of a foreclosure moratorium comes as yet another assault on the markets.

Part of the reason why there has not been a robust and broad-based recovery is that investors are terrified of just this sort of government involvement. The administration’s proposal would force banks to write off massive losses with no recourse to obtain payment from borrowers who bought homes without ever realistically having the ability to pay. The plan is somewhat reminiscent of a scene from Atlas Shrugged, summarized below by SparkNotes:

The Fair Share Law dictates that Rearden must supply metal to all who ask, but there is no way to meet all the orders. Men with influence manage to acquire much more than their “fair share,” while legitimate orders go unfilled...Rearden chooses to ignore an order from the State Science Institute for something called Project X. A week later, a man from the Institute comes to see Rearden...Rearden tells the representative to bring in trucks and steal as much metal as the Institute needs, but he will not help Washington pretend that he is a willing seller...
Meanwhile, in another article published today, the Washington Post profiles Barney Frank, the man at the controls when Fannie and Freddie melted down, which in turn lead to the largest destruction of wealth in the history of the world. Just as with the proposed foreclosure freeze, Democrats gambled on unsustainable short-term economic manipulation to appease their constituents, but ultimately brought about the global financial crisis. The Post is slightly more charitable though:

For all his efforts, Frank readily acknowledges that there are more people needing decent housing than there were when he started in Congress. And with millions of others losing their homes to foreclosure, Frank asks to be judged by how much worse things would have been without him.
It’s hard to expect very much of the Washington Post these days, but this is beyond incredible. Not only has Frank failed entirely in his mission to give more people a roof over their heads, but we’re supposed to believe that had he and fellow Democrats not rigged the system to create trillions of dollars in bad loans that the economy would be even worse today?

Instead of trying to force economic growth through government control, Democrats need to accept that the only way to create long-term sustainable economic growth is by vigorously protecting personal property rights and by preserving the rule of law. By thumbing the scales in favor of special interests, the Democrats have tipped the markets into chaos and upheaval. The last thing we need is for President Obama and Barney Frank to create more regulations that will “prolong” (i.e., delay) a lasting economic recovery.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Make Like a Car and Leaf

We've been down this road before.

The New York Times published an ecstatic review of the new Nissan Leaf today which claims the new zero-emissions production car is the "first all-electric car from a major auto company."  Apparently the Times didn't bother to check their facts.  The cute little coupe pictured above is the 1947 Tama which was built by Prince Motor Company in Japan.  In 1966, Prince Motor Company merged with...Nissan Motors.  So not only is the Leaf not the first all-electric car.  It's not even the first all-electric car made by Nissan.

Of course, the New York Times never lets the facts get in the way of a good story, but in this case, the facts are even more unbelievable:
“It just keeps getting better and better,” said Justin McNaughton, among the 20,000 people who have reserved a Leaf. “My wife thinks it’s funny because at the end of the day, we’re just buying a car.”

Since Mr. McNaughton, a lawyer in Nashville, paid his $99 deposit, he has been bombarded with government incentives — promises of a $7,500 federal tax credit, a $2,500 cash rebate from the state of Tennessee, and a $3,000 home-charging unit courtesy of the Energy Department.
That's right, the federal government and the state of Tennessee have promised Mr. McNaughton a combined $13,000 in government handouts to buy a car that only costs $32,000.  Best of all, the Times reports that the Nissan factory which will make new Leafs (Leaves?) hasn't even been built yet.  Thus, your taxpayer dollars are being given away to promote a car made in Japan.  When President Obama spoke of creating 5 million new "green" jobs making fluorescent lightbulbs and electric cars, who knew that his vision was to create those jobs overseas?

More importantly, how green is an electric car really?  According to the Department of Energy, fossil fuels accounted for more than 70% of electricity generation in 2008.  Coal alone accounts for roughly 50%.  Thus, Obama's pledge to create "green" electricity with windmill farms seems particularly quixotic when we consider that hydroelectric, wind, solar, and biomass (i.e., doo-doo) account for barely 8.5% of the total national output.  The Nissan Leaf might as well come with a bumper sticker already applied at the factory that says, "This Car Runs on COAL."

Aside from the outsourcing of American jobs and the negligible environmental benefits, the Leaf also has a major practical problem.  According to the Nissan website, the car only has a maximum range of 100 miles.  So if you want to drive the 99 miles from Baltimore to Philadelphia, you better hope there aren't any detours!  According to the manufacturer, a full charge takes 8 hours, so if you want to take a short road trip of a few hundred miles, you're going to need to make a lot of stops.

Bottom line, without massive investments in nuclear and renewable energy and major advances in battery technology, an electric car is neither environmentally sound or very practical.  Ironically, even Mr. Electricity himself, Thomas Edison, couldn't make an electric car that was commercially viable and despite more than 100 years of progress, the internal combustion engine still reigns supreme.