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Public Domain Images from the British Library

Image taken from page 36 of 'Kenneth McAlpine: a tale of mountain, moorland, and sea'

I almost titled this post – “Not a job I’d want to have.” but that would be missing the point.

This is one of about 1,000,000 public domain images from books published between the 17th and 19th Century put on Flickr by the British Library. According to Boing Boing the point of this project is to put more material in the hands of researchers and the public to remix and reuse.

A quick glance of the images shows maps, animals, plants, advertisements, cartoons, portraits, landscapes and more. There are both color and black and white images. If you know someone who is a history researcher or just wants to put some retro elements into their work, point them to this image stream. Looks like there is more to come.


NASA at 50… Plus 5 (Government Book Talk)

NASA at 50… Plus 5 (Government Book Talk)

The helpful folks at Government Book Talk do a roundup of books relating to the history of NASA, which celebrated its 55th anniversary on July 29, 2013.

Martin Luther King, Jr on Lunch Counter Sit Ins


This is a 1960 “Meet the Press” interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The interview focuses on the lunch counter sit in campaigns. This was a targeted campaign where a specific group of people performed a particular nonviolent action that opened them up to arrest.  Think of it as a very focused and disciplined version of the Occupy movement.

The interview touched on a number of issues. Here are some approximate timestamps of topics I think will be of interest to readers:

8:30 – Voter registration and the then current “mass of red tape” needed to register.

11:30 – An appeal to moral law as superseding unjust manmade law

14:30 – The inevitable accusation of communism.

15:30 – Discussion of interracial marriage and of Southern fears that integration would lead to more of it. King calls it an individual matter.

If there’s parts of the video that you find interesting or useful in today’s climate, please leave a comment with an approximate time stamp.

MLK: Love Your Enemies (Now more than Ever)

Today, January 17th is Martin Luther King, Jr Day in the United States. Three years ago I posted the item below. Although the link to the sermon below has changed to http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/loving_your_enemies/, the words seem even more relevant today in light of the tragic events in Tuscon than they did in 2008.

I can’t think a better way to commemorate MLK’s day this year or to point the way to a better political discourse than to share the wise words (his, not mine) below.


Today, January 21st, is Martin Luther King, Jr. day in the United States.

Just over a half century ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a sermon on Loving Your Enemies at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on November 17, 1957.

I just discovered this sermon a few days ago, but I think it is the best preaching on the subject that I’ve found. I also think his words ring truer today than ever, both on the personal and political levels. The sermon is seven pages long, but I wanted to share a few quotes.

First I want to share MLK’s thoughts on the conception that I’ve heard that Jesus’ command to love your enemies isn’t intended for the “real world.”:

So I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.

Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.

After offering some tips on HOW to love your enemies, which is a topic I almost never see covered in books or sermons, Dr. King suggests a number of reasons why it is only practical to love our enemies. The reason below is one I see in too many public figures, regardless of party:

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.

Towards the end of the sermon, Dr. King ties in the theme of loving your enemies to dealing with oppression. And in doing so, I think he makes a good contrast between nonviolence and submission:

History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.

Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.

Not only did Jesus discover it, even great military leaders discover that. One day as Napoleon came toward the end of his career and looked back across the years—the great Napoleon that at a very early age had all but conquered the world. He was not stopped until he became, till he moved out to the battle of Leipzig and then to Waterloo. But that same Napoleon one day stood back and looked across the years, and said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended upon force. But long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.”

I hope I’ve given you enough highlights that you will go and read the full sermon. Then that you will share the sermon or at least this blog post with your friends. Or maybe with your favorite Presidential candidate. This is the sort of discourse we could use from the schoolhouse to the White House.

Too often we are told that loving your enemies is naive, unrealistic and unsuited to life here. But Jesus first spoke these words under a murderous and extorting Roman occupation. He well knew what real enemies were like. Dr. King endorsed Jesus’ command in a time of brutal racial discrimination. Dr. King knew about lynchings, he knew about the segregated restrooms and crumbling schools forced on his people by legal force. He wasn’t coddled growing up and yet he could endorse the words of his Master to love his enemies. Isn’t this something we should consider doing in our far more comfortable lives?

Thanks to the Stanford MLK Papers Project and the King family for making this sermon transcript available.

US Army Air Corps Recruiting Film: Observations

This video is a compilation of several newsreel recruitment commercials shown in movie theaters during World War II. It comes to us courtesy of the FedFlix project.

Watching these commercials, I noticed four things. Half of these surprised me:

  1. Combat flying was portrayed as perfectly safe. In the recruitment films, it’s always day, the skies are clear and there is never any antiaircraft fire.
  2. Flying for the Army Air Corps was a man’s job.
  3. Teenagers as young as 17 were being actively recruited, although the 17 year olds had to join a special cadet corps and couldn’t be formally trained till after their 18th birthday.
  4. Movie box offices doubled as recruitment centers.

1&2 were no surprise to me. Recruitment films are supposed to put the best face on service. And in the 1940s, women weren’t supposed to be in combat. At least not as military combatants.

I was surprised to see 17 year olds recruited. I wonder how long the Army Air Corps worried WWII could last.

While logical, the newsreel’s instruction to “see the box office on your way out for complete information” was perfectly logical during the preTV years of our country, I was still surprised.

If you watch the videos, I’d be interested in what you notice about the 1940s from it.

Book Review: Interrogation: World War II, Vietnam and Iraq

I just finished reading:

Stone, James A., David P. Shoemaker, and Nicholas R. Dotti. 2008. Interrogation World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq. Washington, DC: National Defense Intelligence College.  Available online at http://www.ndic.edu/press/12010.htm

on my iPhone. It was a 263 page book but I was comfortable reading it on my small screen. It did not give me appreciation for the photographs, but it that was a small price to pay for having a book in my pocket.

It is well documented with over 450 footnotes. The sources consulted by the three authors included military files from the National Archives,other government documents, memoirs of former interrogators, newspapers and academic journals, and interviews with military officials, former interrogators and Special Forces officers. The result is a readable and engaging book that should be of interest to anyone concerned about how we get our intelligence.

Based on a review of documentation concerning fanatical Japanese and VC soldiers, the authors come to conclusions which will probably shock most people in this country. The most important factors in gaining useful intelligence were deep knowledge of the language and culture of the adversary. Torture and other harsh methods used by the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese tended to elicit false confessions and information.

According to this book, one of the most successful Nazi interrogators, Hanns Scharf, understood that language, culture, and unexpected good treatment paid dividends. Here’s his introduction from the book:

From 1943 to 1945 Scharff was responsible for interrogating U.S. and British airmen captured during combat missions over German-occupied Europe. Scharff collaborated with author Raymond F. Tolliver to recount his interrogation
exploits in a book titled The Interrogator: The Story of Hanns Scharff , Luftwaffe’s Master Interrogator.

For those who rightly wonder whether a former Nazi can be relied on to be truthful about the avoidance of torture, his story is collaborated by some of his former prisoners. So how did he get his intel? Author James Stone explains:

“Poker Face” Scharff was revered for his ability to convince enemy flyers that he possessed encyclopedic information about them and their units. Therefore, he would request prisoners simply “confirm” information he ostensibly possessed in order to verify that they were legitimate POWs, not spies. Indeed, Scharff did know a good deal about the flyers and their units because he was aided by an extensive intelligence apparatus that methodically exploited flyers’ captured documents, intercepted radio transmissions, analyzed crash sites, combed Allied news publications, employed prison “stool pigeons,” and coordinated with German intelligence agents.

With flyers’ identities and truthfulness now “proven” through their disclosure of additional intelligence, Scharff would tell prisoners their interrogations were concluded. Scharff would then disarm and entertain his prisoners by sharing jokes, meals, cigarettes, and outdoor recreation with them. On one occasion, Scharff even arranged for an enemy flyer to pilot a German ME-109 fighter (albeit with little fuel and no armament). With their defenses lowered, flyers would reveal information about themselves and their units that Scharff would use as leverage during later interrogations of future prisoners. So convincing was Scharff ’s ruse of “knowing all” that many prisoners mistakenly believed their units in England were thoroughly infiltrated by German spies.

I’m not saying Scharff was a typical German interrogator, but he did get results.

Our of our World War II interrogators was Sergeant Grant Hirabayashi. How effective was he (emphasis mine)?

Armed with his firsthand knowledge of the Japanese language and culture, along with the intense training he received at MISLS, Hirabayashi served General Merrill as a Military Intelligence Service interrogator responsible for collecting enemy information crucial to the successful prosecution of the Burma campaign.

How did he get this information? By treating his prisoners as human beings and not as the fanatic yellow thugs as portrayed in the press of the day:

Throughout the campaign, Hirabayashi interrogated dozens of enemy prisoners. His approach was simple; he always treated POWs with kindness and dignity. First, he made sure prisoners received proper medical care. He frequently offered them cigarettes and asked if they had heard from their families and been able to communicate with them. Many wept because of this unexpected treatment. Hirabayashi explained that prisoners truly believed that U.S. soldiers were going to kill them and noted that the POWs were completely unaware of the rights afforded to them under the rules of international law, codified in the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 27 July 1929 (the Geneva Convention of 1929).

Remember, the Japanese soldier of the 1930s and 1940s had pretty much the same rep as the jihadist of today. Here’s a WWII poster that shows the popular perception:

The Vietnam stories are similar. The best results came when the brass knuckles, stress positions and mock executions were put away.

In addition to the historical case studies, this book has a number of interesting features including a chronology of interrogation-related events from 11 September 2001 through the fielding of FM 2-22.3 (Army Interrogation Manual) in the fall of 2006 on pages 154 – 166 of the PDF file; The US military’s assessment of the seriousness of the detainee abuse (torture) problem on pages 167-168 and an extensive bibliography on pages 237 – 248. The book also carries an index.

I hope you’ll consider reading this book. Not only is it engaging and well documented, it demonstrates from past battles with fierce enemies that we don’t need to make a choice between upholding our values and getting actionable intelligence. The Cheney way is ahistorical and ineffective.

Happy Independence Day

Note: I originally posted this entry on July 4, 2008, but it seems as relevant now as it did then. I’m grateful to live in the United States and if you’re a citizen, I hope you are too.


232 years ago today, a group of men signed a remarkable document whose principles continued to be honored today. It is a sample of America at its finest and was signed by a group of people whose patriotism was beyond question.

That document was the Declaration of Independence and I strongly suggest you spend some time reading it today at http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html or some other site you trust for an authentic text.

I think we can all agree that each and everyone of the signers was patriotic beyond question. After all, merely signing the Declaration earned them a death sentence for treason. And yet, I wonder whether America would recognize these men if they were brought forth from the 18th Century. After all, they didn’t:

  1. Wear a flag pin – These didn’t come into fashion until after World War Two
  2. Say the Pledge of Allegiance at the signing ceremony – It wasn’t written until 1892, and not recognized by Congress until 1945.
  3. Sing the National Anthem, which wasn’t adopted by Congress until 1931, more than a century after it was written.
  4. Believe that liberty comes from a large, strong, centralized military. As a group, the founding fathers considered standing armies to be a threat to liberty.

Maybe the country could do with a broader view of patriotism. One that could take in our founders.

May the light of America’s founding values be stoked higher and burn for at least another 236 years. Happy Independence Day!


1 – A brief history of the flag lapel pin, Time, July 3, 2008 – http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1820023,00.html

2 – Baker, Richard A. The New Members’ Guide to Traditions of the United States Senate. (Washington, GPO, 2006. S.Pub. 109-25), 15. Found on US Senate web site at http://www.senate.gov/reference/Sessions/Traditions/Pledge_Allegiance.htm

3 – Lyrics and Music page of NIEHS kids page at http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/lyrics/spangle.htm#history

4 –  Historical Background On The Reserves (Official Website for 4th Marine Aircraft Wing) at http://www.mfr.usmc.mil/4thmaw/hq/reserveHistory.htm

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