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New Churchill Documents, Vol. 19, “Fateful Questions”

New Churchill Documents, Vol. 19, “Fateful Questions”

DocumentsThe longest biog­ra­phy in his­to­ry takes a long step to com­ple­tion with pub­li­ca­tion of  The Churchill Doc­u­ments, Vol. 19, Fate­ful Ques­tions, Sep­tem­ber 1943-April 1944. (Order your copy here). Fas­tid­i­ous­ly com­piled by the late Sir Mar­tin Gilbert and edit­ed by Dr. Lar­ry Arnn, these 2700 pages serve up anoth­er fresh con­tri­bu­tion of doc­u­ments cru­cial to our under­stand­ing of Churchill in World War II. It is a vast new con­tri­bu­tion to Churchill schol­ar­ship.

Win­ston S. Churchill, the offi­cial biog­ra­phy con­sists of eight nar­ra­tive vol­umes and now nine­teen com­pan­ion or doc­u­ment vol­umes, all kept in print and offered at mod­est prices as both hard­back and elec­tron­ic edi­tions.

There are four more to go and the “great work” will be com­plete, at thir­ty-one total vol­umes. Vol­ume 20 (lat­er this year), will take us through the 1945 elec­tion. Vol­umes 21-23 will cov­er the oppo­si­tion years 1945-51, the sec­ond pre­mier­ship 1951-55, and the finale 1955-65. The Great Work will be fin­ished by 2019. We will cel­e­brate in sev­er­al unique ways.

Documents 1943-44

The doc­u­ments take the read­er from the Allied inva­sion of Italy to the first Big Three con­fer­ence at Teheran, Russ­ian suc­cess­es on the East­ern Front, fraught argu­ments over tac­tics and strat­e­gy as the Allies began clos­ing in on Nazi Ger­many.  The third of four com­pan­ion vol­umes to Gilbert’s nar­ra­tive Vol­ume 7, Fate­ful Ques­tions takes us to the eve of  D-Day: the inva­sion of France in June 1944.

I played just a bit part as one of the edi­tors-perusers of this gigan­tic screed. The real thanks are owed to Soren Geiger and our Churchill stu­dent Asso­ciates, grad­u­ate and under­grad­u­ate, who start­ed with Mar­tin Gilbert’s “wodges” of documents–virtually one wodge for each day of Churchill’s life.

They sep­a­rat­ed the wheat from the chaff, labo­ri­ous­ly researched the exten­sive foot­notes iden­ti­fy­ing peo­ple, places and things, and put a smooth draft in front of us.
And then, over­all, a great debt is owed the edi­tor-in-chief, Hills­dale Pres­i­dent Lar­ry Arnn, for the deter­mi­na­tion and effort to fin­ish Mar­tin Gilbert’s mon­u­men­tal work, in the way Sir Mar­tin him­self would have–leaving out noth­ing of sub­stance. (And the elec­tron­ic edi­tion will be a huge assist to researchers.)
As Gilbert’s researcher back in the 1970s, Dr. Arnn heft­ed an enor­mous Doc­u­ment Vol­ume and joked, “You know, only about 20 peo­ple are going to read this cov­er to cov­er!” Mar­tin replied: “Makes no dif­fer­ence. The impor­tant thing is that the doc­u­ments are there—and nobody will be able to write author­i­ta­tive about these sub­jects in future with­out con­sult­ing them.” I always thought this cap­tured the true essence of the work. Actu­al­ly, quite a few read­ers tell me they do read it cov­er to cov­er!
Over the next few weeks sev­er­al schol­ars will post arti­cles focus­ing on inter­est­ing aspects of 1943-44 in the Churchill saga, brought out by the new vol­ume. Stay tuned and sub­scribe.
For a sam­pling of the ingre­di­ents, click here:
Tech Start-Ups: Dan Lyons’ Eye-Opener

Tech Start-Ups: Dan Lyons’ Eye-Opener

techBecause my son works in Sil­i­con Val­ley, and has start-up expe­ri­ence both as an employ­ee and a founder, I found this book of inter­est and devoured it in three nights. It’s the sto­ry of a jour­nal­ist who, at 52, tries his hand as a tech mar­keter, and is grave­ly shocked and dis­ap­point­ed with the cul­ture he dis­cov­ers in a start-up tech firm with hun­dreds of employ­ees and bazil­lions in ven­ture cap­i­tal.
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Dis­rupt­ed: My Mis­ad­ven­ture in the Start-Up Bub­ble, by Dan Lyons. Hachette Books, $15.16 from Ama­zon, Kin­dle $13.99. 
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Tech morphs con­stant­ly; human­i­ty nev­er changes. I book­marked descrip­tions which remind­ed me of peo­ple my son has described—and peo­ple I’ve met in my own career, which is as far away as it gets from the Sil­i­con Val­ley tech world.
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The author may come across to some as a whin­er who takes umbrage too eas­i­ly, imag­ines slights, some­times blows events out of pro­por­tion, and was very care­less about the opin­ions he expressed on Facebook. I am guilty of all but the last. But hey, we’re writ­ers, not techies; kvetch­ing is our busi­ness!
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Clear­ly Dan Lyons is deeply dis­grun­tled. This comes across ear­ly. He claims the only peo­ple who make real mon­ey in start-ups are investors and the founders (not the employ­ees, the grunts). One founder of his com­pa­ny invest­ed $500,000 at the begin­ning and is now worth $100 million—with a firm that has nev­er made a prof­it in ten years.
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Despite all the crit­i­cisms, how­ev­er, the firm is still alive, and in one sur­vey was vot­ed the fourth best tech place to work at, ahead of Facebook and Google. Go fig­ure.
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The epi­logue is inter­est­ing. He claims the firm went hack­ing for him after they got wind of his book, and he thinks his pri­va­cy is blown and sold to the dark web, which he admits sounds pret­ty para­noid. Maybe.
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This com­pa­ny was not just a wacky frat house with Cin­co de Mayo mar­gari­ta bash­es and sales bros puk­ing in the men’s room, a bunch of clue­less 20-some­thing managers….”You think you can make fun of us? Just look at what we can do to you.”
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Yet he is naive enough to believe the book was “just writ­ten to enter­tain.”

A Message for All, Tech or Otherwise

I’m from anoth­er gen­er­a­tion where you were hired to do a spe­cif­ic job, the para­me­ters of which were clear­ly laid out when you signed on, and reg­u­lar­ly empha­sized. The mea­sure­ment of suc­cess was how well you met those para­me­ters. So I don’t real­ly under­stand the cul­ture of tech start-ups. But one pas­sage nev­er­the­less should inter­est every­body:
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The thing is, we all do it. We all share our infor­ma­tion with com­pa­nies all the time. We send email through Google or Microsoft,. We store files on Drop­box. We shop on Ama­zon. We buy apps and music from Apple. We hire dri­vers through Uber, and rent apart­ments through Airbnb. Com­pa­nies used Work­day for HR, Zen­desk for cus­tomer ser­vice, Sales­force for cus­tomer track­ing, Slack for mes­sag­ing, and on and on. Most of these com­pa­nies don’t own their own data cen­ters. Instead they rent serv­er and stor­age space from a host­ing com­pa­ny like Ama­zon. Our infor­ma­tion gets dis­trib­uted around the globe, zipped between data cen­ters as the speed of light, stashed on hard dri­ves, backed up, dupli­cat­ed, repli­cat­ed, sliced and diced, sold and shared. Even the peo­ple who sup­pos­ed­ly man­age our data have no idea where all of it resides or who has access to it.
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And yet we go along. We con­vince our­selves that noth­ing bad will hap­pen. We tell our­selves we’re not impor­tant enough for any­one to spy on us, or that there must be safe­guards that pre­vent bad peo­ple from snooping….I used to believe that. I don’t any­more.
Justice Thomas on Antonin Scalia

Justice Thomas on Antonin Scalia

He spoke to us about Win­ston Churchill in San Fran­cis­co in 2009. Ever since, I have sought out the uncom­mon speech­es of Jus­tice Clarence Thomas. Invari­ably I find them mov­ing, elo­quent, and instruc­tive on things I haven’t con­sid­ered suf­fi­cient­ly.

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Jus­tice Clarence Thomas at the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, 17 Novem­ber 2016. (C-span)

Such was his Novem­ber 2016 trib­ute to Antonin Scalia, giv­en to the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety. He began with exam­ples of the late Justice’s wit (beloved alike by Jus­tice Thomas and Jus­tice Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg. Respec­tive­ly, they agreed with Scalia most of the time—and lit­tle of the time.):

In PGA Tour vs. Mar­tin [Scalia] wrote: “I am sure that the framers of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scot­land, pro­hibit­ing golf because it inter­fered with the prac­tice of archery, expect­ed that soon­er or lat­er the paths of golf and gov­ern­ment, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this August Court would some day have to wres­tle with the age-old jurispru­den­tial ques­tion for which their years of study in the law have so well pre­pared them: Is some­one rid­ing around a golf course from shot to shot real­ly a golfer?”

And we will not soon for­get Jus­tice Scalia’s rebuke of leg­isla­tive his­to­ry in Chisholm vs. Roe­mer. There the Court rea­soned that the absence of leg­isla­tive his­to­ry could be likened to the dog that didn’t bark. Jus­tice Scalia respond­ed: “Apart from the ques­tion­able wis­dom of assum­ing that dogs will bark when some­thing impor­tant is hap­pen­ing… In ascer­tain­ing the mean­ing of a statute, a court can­not in the man­ner of Sher­lock Holmes pur­sue the the­o­ry of the dog that didn’t bark. We are here to apply the statute, not the leg­isla­tive his­to­ry… Statutes are the law, though sleep­ing dogs lie.”

The Heart of Thomas’s Message

For decades in cas­es large and small, Jus­tice Thomas con­tin­ued, “Jus­tice Scalia delight­ed us with his with his com­mand of the Eng­lish lan­guage.” Then he got down to the more pro­found things he had come to say about his friend:

Much may be said about him, but lit­tle needs to be said for him…. I can hear his voice. “What do you think is the rea­son Amer­i­ca is such a free coun­try? If you think that what sets us apart is the Bill of Rights, you’re crazy…. The Bill of Rights for the for­mer evil empire, the USSR, was much bet­ter than ours.” He would then make his point. “With­out the struc­tur­al con­straints that the Con­sti­tu­tion places on gov­ern­ment pow­er, the Bill of Rights is just words on paper.”

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Jus­tices Scalia and Gins­burg. (thewayofimprovement.com)

The sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, Scalia wrote, “may pre­vent us from right­ing every wrong—but it does so to ensure that we do not lose lib­er­ty.” Thomas then quotes James Madi­son, from across the cen­turies:

“If angels were to gov­ern men, nei­ther exter­nal nor inter­nal con­trols on gov­ern­ment would be nec­es­sary. In fram­ing a gov­ern­ment which is to be admin­is­tered by men over men, the great dif­fi­cul­ty lies in this: you must first enable the gov­ern­ment to con­trol the gov­erned; and in the next place oblige it to con­trol itself.”  Fed­er­al­ist 51

C-Span’s five-minute pré­cis of Jus­tice Thomas’s speech can be heard, and a rough tran­script of his text, can be had by click­ing here.

For those will­ing to devote a lit­tle more time to this learned man, click here. (Scroll to minute 20 for the speech prop­er.)