Thursday, January 31, 2013

"In Like Flynn"

Errol Flynn, 1909 - 1959

Errol Flynn was the greatest film action hero of his day.  He played swashbuckling heroes in many films, most of which have been largely forgotten.  In his posthumously published biography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, (First Cooper Square edition 2003,, he relates the highlights of a life filled with real adventures.  He was born in Tasmania and his father was a distinguished biologist.  He had a troubled relationship with his mother and, subsequently, all the many women in his life.  He was kicked out of every school that he attended.  As a young man he went off to New Guinea to make his fortune.  There he managed a tobacco plantation and even became a slave runner.  He was an accomplished sailor.

He went to Hollywood and was signed to a contract by Jack Warner.  Captain Blood ( was one of his first real hit movies.  The Adventures of Robin Hood (see below, made in 1938 was one of his finest performances and he did all of his own stunts.  He played the role of George Armstrong Custer (see earlier post, Custer and Little Bighorn, 1/1/13) in They Died with their Boots on (

Lili Damita, Flynn's 1st wife of Three
Errol married the beautiful French actress Lili Damita.  The couple was not destined for marital felicity.  Arrivng an hour late to an anniversary (of the beginning of their romance, not their wedding) party with about fifty of their friends Flynn was in for a surprise...

"I entered the room after the whole party arrived.  I began to mingle when I suddenly heard someone scream, "Look out, Errol!
"Champagne de la belle France"
Simultaneously there was Lili's voice behind me. "Happy Anniversary, darling."  At the same instant down on my head came a full bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne.  Consistently French, my wife -- it was a fine vintage.

Dazed and blinded by blood pouring our of my head, I rallied for a moment, then pulled back my fist to swing.  Knowing I had only one punch in me, I swing hard.  Just before blacking out I felt my knuckles connect with a jawbone, breaking a tooth."

After moving out, Errol roomed with David Niven (see earlier post, The Moon is a Balloon, 11/26/12) in a wild bachelor pad in Hollywood.

After the Spanish Civil War broke out Flynn took a break from acting and went to Spain hoping to report on the war.  Flynn writes, "Spain was being used was a testing ground for the weapons to be used later in World War II.  Hitler and Mussolini helped Franco.  Russia helped the Loyalists.  America was playing it neutral.

In the human sense I was for everybody.  Why the hell did brother have to fight brother?  I knew there were idealists, fanatics, nuts on the Loyalist side.  I understood that big money was sentimental to the Franco cause, or outrightly sympathetic.  As to my own sympathies, I decide that since the split was a revolution by Franco against the legally elected Republican government, then I leaned toward the Left.  There might be a little more idealism and humanity on that side."*

The Loyalist side attempted to recruit Errol to their side in the conflict.  Errol relates, "A commissar wondered whether I could do real fighting of the cause.  They gave me a machine gun and said I must go to a certain point and begin shooting...I couldn't do it.  I simply couldn't shoot people down.  Maybe this wasn't my war after all.  I don't want to kill anyone.  Not for political reasons.  I didn't want to fire any guns for uncertain ideas.  I had handled weapons galore in pictures, but there was a vast gap between the make-believe of films and the reality here."  Flynn beat a hasty retreat from Spain.

Later when the Second World War began in September 1939 Flynn's pal, David Niven, joined the British Army and participated in the Normandy campaign.  Flynn, a naturalized US citizen from 1942, attempted to join every branch of the American armed forces but was turned down as 4F; he had an enlarged heart, suffered from TB and was sometimes symptomatic from malaria he had contracted while in New Guinea.

Errol at Sea
During the war he became embroiled in a messy case of alleged statutory rape that involved two underage girls in Southern California.  Flynn loved to sail.  "My only real happiness is when I am near the sea."  Naked young women would sometimes swim up to his yacht and offer themselves to him.  He did not bother to check their IDs.  William F. Buckley organised a group to support Flynn during the trial that was called the American Boys Club for the Defence of Errol Flynn (ABCDEF).  Flynn was acquitted of the charges though his spirit was largely broken and he was, briefly, suicidal.

The expression "In Like Flynn" means to have achieved a goal, or to have gained access as desired.  Flynn himself explains, "A GI or Marine or sailor went out at night sparking and the next day he reported to his cronies, whom asked how how he made out and the fellow said, with a sly grin, 'I'm in like Flynn.'"

Things went rapidly downhill for Flynn after his acquittal.  He became an alcoholic who would often consume a fifth of vodka each day.  He married twice more and divorced twice.  Late in life he took up with a teenage (underage) girlfriend/actress named Beverly Aadland.  They even wanted to audition for the role of Humbert Humbert and Lolita in the film based on Nabokov's novel!

He supported Fidel Castro at the onset of the Cuban Revolution making a movie called Cuban Rebel Girls with Aadland in the lead.

At age 50 he died of a heart attack in Vancouver, Canada where he had gone to attempt to sell or lease his beloved yacht, Zaca.


Errol Flynn was, in some ways, the prototypical Hollywood liberal.  He sympathised with the left during the Spanish Civil War without joining the fight like Orwell and others.  Errol saw himself as a Robin Hood-like figure robbing "big money" studio chieftains like Jack Warner to pay...for his extravagant uninhibited lifestyle.  He supported Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution.  He lived a hedonistic life and defied conventional morality.  Errol burnt the candle at both ends -- whirling through life like a Tasmanian devil.

He was also a surprisingly decent father.  He was largely truthful in his posthumously published memoir.  Errol Flynn lived life on his own terms.

Errol Flynn was, as Coleridge wrote of Byron, "A wicked lord who, from morbid and restless vanity, pretended to be ten times more wicked than he was."

* For an interesting counterpoint to Flynn's perspective consider the way in which the Spanish Loyalist government foolishly trusted Stalin to keep their gold reserves safe during the civl war...

Monday, January 28, 2013

1942 Rose Bowl

Rose Bowl, Pasadena Ca
In his account of Pearl Harbor historian Gordon Prange wrote, "Japan's devastating air strike against Pearl Harbor aroused the people of the United States as no other event in their history ever had.  From coast to coast, from north to south, the tragic words rasped over American tongues, burned into American minds.  For most Pearl Harbor was a deep emotional experience, indeed, a traumatic shock."  At Dawn We Slept, Gordon W. Prange, 1981 (

During the attack "Eight battleships, three light cruisers, three destroyers and four auxiliary craft either sunk, capsized or (were) heavily damaged."  2,403 (including 68 civilians) were killed and 1,178 were wounded in the attack. At Dawn We Slept, Gordon W. Prange, 1981 (

After the attack, Admiral Nagumo ordered his fleet to return to the safety of Japan.  He left, however, a picket of Japanese submarines patrolling the West coast of the USA and Canada to prey on Allied shipping.  There were at least nine Japanese submarine cruising the West coast of the USA in December 1941.

America was shocked by the Japanese strike against Pearl Harbor; the West coast was positively apoplectic.  There was a tremendous fear that the West Coast could be invaded at any moment.  These fears manifested themselves in the form of FDR's Executive Order 9066 (See earlier post, Executive Order 9066 -- The Internment, 2/25/12) -- the Internment of Japanese-Americans and those of Japanese descent.

This widespread fear even had an impact on College football.  The Rose Bowl is always played on January 1st in Pasadena, California.  The face-off between the best Pac-10 and Big 10 team is preceded by pageantry including the Rose parade.  With the Pearl Harbor attack only 25 days prior to the scheduled kick-off of the 1942 Rose Bowl, the War department cancelled the game which had been scheduled to by played between Duke and Oregon State.

On learning this news, Duke University graciously invited the Oregon State Beavers to play the game in Durham, NC.  The visiting OSU Beavers beat the Duke Blue Devils 20 to 16 in the 1942 Rose Bowl.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Robert Burns Night

Robert Burns 1759 - 1796, Gavin McNicoll
Burns Night Dinner (1/24/13), White Horse, Parsons's Green

Commander Kelly had the good fortune to attend his first Robert Burns Night celebration last week in London at the excellent White Horse Tavern pub in Parson's Green (  January 25th marks the official Burns night commemorating his birthday and is celebrated around the globe.

Robert Burns, Poet, Ploughman, Scot
Robert Burns ( was the Shakespeare of Scotland.  He was a  ploughman who turned to poetry.  He was a passionate man who loved women and fathered 12 children with at least five different women.  He is said to have over 600 direct descendants alive today!  Though he tragically only lived to age 37, he enjoyed great fame and honor in his own lifetime and is now widely acclaimed as the greatest Scot of all time.

It was Burns that wrote Auld Lang Syne, the song that ushers in every new year around the world.  The magnificently restored Cutty Sark in Greenwich (see earlier post, Cutty Sark, 5/4/12) is named after a Burns poem as well.

Burns has had numerous American admirers over the years.  President Abraham Lincoln is said to have committed his works to memory.  John Steinbeck borrowed the title Of Mice and Men's from a Burns poem titled To A Mouse.  The title of JD Salinger's famous novel Catcher in the Rye is from a Burns love poem.  Bob Dylan claims that Burns' song/poem Red, Red Rose had the biggest effect on his life.

Burns has had admirers on the left who were attracted to his egalitarianism and support for Republican ideals.  The Soviet Union used his image in a postage stamp in 1956.  His most famous political poem is A Man's a Man for A' That....

Is there for honest Poverty 
That hings his head, an' a' that; 
The coward slave-we pass him by, 
We dare be poor for a' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that. 
Our toils obscure an' a' that, 
The rank is but the guinea's stamp, 
The Man's the gowd for a' that. 

What though on hamely fare we dine, 
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that; 
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; 
A Man's a Man for a' that: 
For a' that, and a' that, 
Their tinsel show, an' a' that; 
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor, 
Is king o' men for a' that. 

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord, 
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that; 
Tho' hundreds worship at his word, 
He's but a coof for a' that: 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
His ribband, star, an' a' that: 
The man o' independent mind 
He looks an' laughs at a' that. 

A prince can mak a belted knight, 
A marquis, duke, an' a' that; 
But an honest man's abon his might, 
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that! 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
Their dignities an' a' that; 
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth, 
Are higher rank than a' that. 

Then let us pray that come it may, 
(As come it will for a' that,) 
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, 
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
It's coming yet for a' that, 
That Man to Man, the world o'er, 
Shall brothers be for a' that.

While those enamoured of Burke's peerage may have an issue with the ideals expressed by Burns, few American Conservatives, however, would object to Burns' advocacy for a brotherhood of man where "all men are created equal."
Haggis Presentation, White Horse, London
Burns wrote a poem Ode to a Haggis ("Great chieftain o' the puddin-race") which is traditionally recited at every Burns night celebration (see video below).  In an anecdote from the 19th century, the famous French chef Escoffier was preparing an encyclopedia of the world's cooking and had occasion to try the Scottish delicacy, Haggis.  He is reported to have said, "When I first saw Haggis, I thought it looked like s__t.  After I tasted it I wished that it were s__t."  Take a mud-soaked American football and put in the microwave for an hour on high and, presto, -- you have something very like Haggis!  Commander Kelly, however, enjoys a wee Haggis now and then.

On Burns night 2013 Commander Kelly was joined by my good friend Willam Funk (USMC Ret.) who is a poet too.  Here is a slightly scatological poem honouring the Scottish Bard that he composed the day after Burns night...

Burns Night

Ay' winna to the Burns Night
'twas three fella Studs 'n me.
The Scottish ale was flowin'
'N good as it cud be.

Laytuh Robbie verses
Read for all to hear
Thar wa' pipe 'n fiddle, food 'n drink
W' plenty 'o Scottish beer.

We 'ha scallops as a starter
Trailed by haigiss ravioli
Next the Scottish beef 'n haigiss
Made w'bits o'mystery

Well 'twas haigiss this 'n haigiss that
'N haigiss spirits all around
But the sheep today spared no mercy
When my feet hit the ground.

Everythin' was delightful
I enjoyed it quite a lot
That is to s'ay til mornin' came
'N I gave birth to a Scot!

M'landlord called to inquire
What was that loud explosion
I s'a it was nothin' more
Than Scottish haigiss in motion.

So 'eres to Robbie Burns
'N his fine poetry
I hope he heard in heaven
A cannon salute from me.

William Funk, 2013

Commander Kelly says, "Come all laddies and lassies, take a 'cup of kindness' and toast Rabbie Burns!"

Special thanks to Gavin McNicoll, William Funk, Ken Curtis, Ian Doleman and the staff of the White Horse pub.  Thanks also to Toby Knowles and Stuart Cail of Harviestoun Brewery ( who provided the excellent beers.

You can purchase signed copies of America Invades
or copies on Amazon...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cats, Oysters and Dr. Johnson

Commander K., Hodge and Oyster
The American Conservative tour of London continues with a stop at the 300 year old Dr Johnson House ( in London near Gunpowder square.  It was Dr Johnson who famously said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’.  Johnson was a committed Tory and a bit of a curmudgeon.  Like all conservatives, he believed that words have definite meanings and should be used with care.

During the English Civil War
Parliament kept its powder dry here 
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784) wrote a celebrated dictionary of the English language.  In it he defined "Lexicographer" meaning himself, as "A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words," but he did more than any man, with the exception of Shakespeare, to shape the English language.

Dr. Johnson also told his biographer James Boswell, "There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn."

Here is Johnson's definition the word "oats": "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people."

Johnson's definition of "Politician":  "1One versed in the arts of government; one skilled in politicks. 2. A man of artifice; one of deep contrivance."

Compare his definitions of Tory and Whig...

"Tory" ("Conservative" in USA, CK): "One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a Whig."

"Whig" ("Liberal" in USA, CK): "The name of a faction."

Samuel Johnson had a cat named Hodge (  Johnson loved his cat and oysters were as cheap in 18th century London as French Fries are today; Hodge lived on a diet of oysters (see photo above).  Samuel Boswell wrote this about Johnson and his fondness for his cat Hodge...

"Nor would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature. I am, unluckily, one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, 'Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;' and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, 'but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.'

This reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. 'Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.' And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, 'But Hodge shan't be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.'"

James Boswell, Life of

Vladimir Nabokov, the brilliant novelist, lepidopterist and chess player, used this second quote as an epigraph in his novel Pale Fire (  Nabokov thereby saluted his fellow curmudgeon and sesquipedalian.

Do you, dear reader, like cats?  You might be surprised to know that cats are under attack today by lefty environmentalists in New Zealand  Gareth Morgan says "That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer."  He is proposing that his fellow Kiwis neuter and not replace their cats in order to protect the native bird population.  Mr. Gareth Morgan is also presumably a "Gentleman of good family," but Hodge shall not be shot, no, no!

Commander K and Oyster / Pearl Diving Friend
SeaWorld, Orlando, FL
Do you, dear reader, enjoy oysters?  Here are three of Commander Kelly's favourite haunts in London for a repast of tasty bivalves.  Not as cheap as French fries, but still delicious...

Sweetings in the City of London only for weekday lunch:

Scotts in Mayfair:

The Cow pub and restaturant in Notting Hill:

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Strategic Thoughts on Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook Victims, 12/14/12

No reasonable person anywhere on the political spectrum can fail to be appalled by the horrendous shootings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14 of last year.  This insane crime strikes against the conservatives first principle -- the sanctity of human life.  Nor should it really be a partisan issue.  All voices across the political spectrum are demanding that something must be done.  The slaughter of the innocents cannot go on.  This tragedy represents a spiritual crisis for American civilization.  Our response to his tragedy demands that we approach this topic with compassion, seriousness and prayerfulness.

There are gun control extremists on the left who favor a repeal of the second amendment.  There are NRA extremists on the right who apparently think that our schools should be turned into shooting galleries with armed janitors and teachers.

Social media now allows millions to advertize their compassion for the Sandy Hook victims with the click of a mouse.  They can sign a petition to limit assault weapons or, alternatively, re-affirm their faith in the second amendment.  President Obama has recently signed executive orders limiting gun ownership and more gun control bills will soon be headed for congress.  The only certain effect of this legislation has been unpredcedented demand for guns in the stores.

Commander K.'s favorite gun
Holland and Holland
Where does the Commander stand on these highly-charged emotional issues?  First off, let me declare that I am not an NRA member or even a gun owner.  I do have a rusty sword which I once used to chase off some raccoons that were attacking our garbage cans, but that is the extent of my personal armoury!


Guns, it must be acknowledged, have had a privileged place in American history.  It was not a "strongly worded letter to the Times" that kicked off the American Revolution, but rather a group of Massachusetts farmers and merchants who grabbed their muskets in opposition to King George III at Lexington and Concord ("the shot heard round the world").  Guns allowed settlers to defend themselves from the depredations of Indians on the frontier -- quite often subsidized by foreign governments such as that of King George III (see Cherry Valley massacre  Guns allowed the pioneers to tame the West and to defend their property rights.  It was the 2nd amendment that gave black Americans the ability to arm themselves to protect their homes and families from the KKK and enjoy the benefits of the 13th amendment (the passage of which was justly celebrated in Spielberg's Lincoln) that abolished slavery.

King John: Sword-control advocate?
Paul Giamatti / Ironclad
During the Second World War the OSS and the SOE sent masses of guns to French civilians in occupied France hoping to subvert the Nazi occupation.  Hitler, on the other hand, explicitly forbade ownership of guns by Jews in legislation from 1938  This made the work of the SS in liquidating the Warsaw Jews considerably easier (see Schindler's List,  Tyrants have always opposed gun ownership fearing a restive armed populace.  England's Bad King John would, no doubt, have preferred to have introduced rigid sword-control regulations rather than being bludgeoned by the Barons into signing the Magna Carta which limited his powers.

Founding father Thomas Jefferson was explicit in articulating the case for the second amendment...

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms."

"When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

"For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security."

This is why conservatives are so touchy about the Second amendment.  They ask regarding gun control, "Are we really safer because we have restricted the rights of our law abiding fellow citizens to exercise their constitutional rights?"

The Economist, on the other hand, takes the pro gun-control position which is held widely in Europe and now in much of the USA.  In their 12/22/12 edition they wrote with all the subtlety of Piers Morgan...

"If America is ever to confront its obsession with guns, that time is now.  America's murder rate is four times higher than Britain's and six times higher than Germany's.  Only an idiot, or an anti-American bigot prepared ti maintain that Americans are four times more murderous than Britons, could possibly pretend that no connection exists between those figures and the fact that 300m guns are "out there" in the United States, more than one for every adult."

Sounds scary, but is it really true?  According to a 1999 reported in the Daily Mail, "3.6 per cent of the population of England and Wales were victims of violent crime in 1999 - second only to Australia, where the figure was 4.1 per cent.  Scotland had a slightly lower rate of violence, at 3.4 per cent.
In the U.S., only 2 per cent of the population suffered an assault or robbery."

According to a 2009 article titled "UK in Violent Capital of Europe" by the Daily Telegraph, "It means there are over 2,000 crimes recorded per 100,000 population in the UK, making it the most violent place in Europe.  By comparison, America has an estimated rate of 466 violent crimes per 100,000 population." (  Yet we do not read in The Economist about Britons being 4X more violent than their American cousins?  Could it be that the presence of guns in the USA and an armed police force has a deterrent value with regard to violent crime?

London, for example, may not be as safe as it first appears.  In 2011 actor Sean Bean was "shanked" by an attacker with broken glass outside a pub in Camden.

Meanwhile, a decorated SAS officer, Danny Nightingale, who had committed no other crime was courtmartialed and sentenced to 18 months merely for possession of a trophy pistol given to him by his Iraqi colleagues.

Strict Gun Control in Norway did not prevent psychopath Anders Breivik (see earlier post, Breivik Tortured in Norway, 4/28/12) from murdering 77 people (about 3X more than Sandy Hook) with an Oslo bomb attack and shooting spree on Utoya Island in Norway in 2011.  In fact, the unarmed status of Norwegian law enforcement led to reduced response time and undoubtedly contributed to raising the body count on Utoya.   According to a BBC report, "a two-man local police team reached the lake shore at Utvika first, but chose to wait for better-trained colleagues rather than find a boat and cross to Utoya themselves."

In the USA you are now more likely to be killed by a baseball bat, knife or someone's bare hands than with an assault rifle

Statewide assault weapons bans had been in place since 1993 in CT prior to Sandy Hook.  According to the AP, "Connecticut passed its own law in 1993. It defined assault weapons and listed semiautomatic firearms that were illegal to sell, transport or possess in the state. It banned future sales of 63 types of military style weapons."  These laws on the books written with the best of intents did nothing to stop Adam Lanza that fateful day in Newtown.

Adam Lanza


The Old Testament tells us that "Cain slew Abel".  Common sense tells us that while few individuals would commit a Sandy Hook atrocity, almost all humans are capable of murder in the right circumstances.  The potential for evil that was in Adam Lanza lies in all our hearts.  Empirical observation tells us that young males are the source of most trouble in this world.

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described life as Bellum omnium contra omens -- a war of all against all.

Sigmund Freud, 1865 -1939
In his work Civilization and its Discontents Freud writes...

"The existence of this inclination to aggression, which we can detect in ourselves and justly assume to be present in others, is the factor which disturbs our relations with our neighbor and which forces civilization into such a high expenditure (of energy).  In consequence of this primary mutual hostility of human beings, civilized society is perpetually threatened with disintegration.  The interest of work in common would not hold it together; instinctual passions are stronger than reasonable interests.  Civilization has to use its utmost efforts in order to set limits to man's aggressive instincts and to hod the manifestations of them in check by psychical reaction-formations.  Hence...the restrictions upon sexual life, and hence, too the...commandment to love one's neighbour as oneself -- a commandment which is really justified by the fact that nothing runs so strongly counter to the original nature of man.  Civilization is a process in the service of Eros, whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of mankind.  Why this has to happen, we do not know; the work of Eros is precisely this...Men are to be libidinally bound to one another...But man's aggressive instinct, the hostility of each against all and of all against each, opposes this programme of civilization.  This aggressive instinct which we have found alongside of Eros and which shares world-dominion with it.  and now, I think, the meaning of evolution of civilisation is no longer obscure to us.  It must present the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction, as it works out in the human species.  This struggle is what all life essentially consists of."  Quoted from  Civilization: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson, 2011.

War represents, of course, the institutionalisation of the Aggressive/Death instinct in young males.  This is why statesmen must be so circumspect with regard to its use.  In the global fervor for competitive sports we see the sublimation of these same instincts.

In his book Civilization: The West and the Rest the historian Niall Ferguson writes, "For the West's most compelling critics today (not least radical Islamists), the Sixties opened the door to a post Freudian anti-civilization, characterized by a hedonistic celebration of the pleasures of the self, a rejection of theology in favour of pornography and renunciation of the Prince of Peace for grotesquely violent films and video games that are best characterised as 'warnography'. Civilization: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson,

Adam Lanza was a child of divorced parents who played violent video games; he destroyed his hard drive before going to Sandy Hook elementary

New School Design?

Given that we as a nation are presently constituted, in part, by the Second amendment, and given the reality of the Aggressive/Death instincts of man and young males in particular, what can be done to keep our kids safe?

Regardless, dear reader, of your personal convictions about gun control (here is one take from the right:, we can, I hope, agree that tangible measures can and must be taken to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

I wrote in an earlier post on George Armstrong Custer (see earlier post, Custer and Little Big Horn, 1/1/13) as follows...

"Over and over again, we Americans are "surprised" by events.  Lincoln and the Northern states were caught off guard by the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter and hopelessly unprepared at the start of the US Civil war.  In 1876, Americans were astonished to learn that Custer and all his men had been slaughtered in Montana by a group of 'savage' Indians.  On February 15, 1898 the USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbor killing over 250 crewmen, probably due to Spanish action, (see earlier post, Remember the Maine, but Forget the War Lovers, 2/20/12) providing the spark that would ignite the Spanish-American War.  We were unprepared for war in 1917 when Wilson led the nation into the First World War in spite of the fact that the war had been raging in Europe for nearly three years..  On December 7, 1941 the Japanese achieved operational and strategic surprise in their attack on Pearl Harbor (see earlier post, FDR in London and Pearl Harbor, 12/10/12).  The Honolulu Star-Bulletin had faithfully reported US naval fleet movements and intelligence operatives in the Japanese consulate in Honolulu duly passed the information along to Tokyo (source: At Dawn We Slept, Gordon W. Prange, 1981,  On 9/11 2001, Al Qaeda managed to bring down the twin towers in New York City and to attack the Pentagon in Washington DC.  On December 14, 2012 we were all "surprised" to learn about the horrific events of Newtown, CT.

Over and over again, we Americans disdain the vital importance of military intelligence and preparedness and underestimate the dangers which confront us."

Custer underestimated his Native American opposition and refused to bring along Gatling guns as these would slow him down.  Custer, dead let in his class at West Point, had admirable qualities, but high intelligence was not among them.

America has had a fundamental mistrust of the function of the Intelligence services.  All too often we just want to stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best.  Just two months after the end of World War II President Truman dissolved our primary Intelligence service -- the OSS (see earlier post Julia and Paul Child and the Cold War, 8/29/12).  Last summer Mitt Romney said, "I just met with the head of MI-6" after meeting with the head of MI-6.

Commander K. and Trajan, Tower Hill, London
Be Vigilant, Be Prepared!
The Roman historian Vegetius wrote, "Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum"--"If you want peace prepare for war."

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook this could be updated to "If you want safe schools, prepare to defend them against attack."  There are so many measures which could be taken to make schools safer that have nothing to do with gun control -- creating choke points, instituting picture ID for parents, installing metal detectors, taking lunatics off the streets and, of course, the presence of trained security guards.  Ask yourself honestly, "As a parent do you feel safe on the days that "Officer Friendly" visits your kids' schools or less safe?"

CCTV should be installed in all school entrances with live monitoring by local law enforcement.

The frightful experience of Breivik on Utoya Island (cited above) suggests that response time matters and armed response is the only decisive counter-measure.  In an under-reported incident that occurred at Clackamas, OR this December, a shooting spree in a mall crowded with holiday shoppers ended with only two fatalities because the shooter was confronted by a citizen carrying a licensed concealed weapon  Let's also not forget that the Sandy Hook incident was finally brought to a conclusion by the intervention of armed police.  All of this suggests 1) that there should be panic buttons placed in the administration offices of schools and 2) that properly trained armed guards or police (not armed janitors, etc.) can make our schools safer.

Others have suggested the issuance of tasers and ballistic blankets to schools  All reasonable suggestions should be on the table.

To those who argue that such measures are "too expensive," I would suggest that parsimony with regard to our children, our most treasured possessions, is profoundly misplaced.


The lessons of Custer, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 etc. as applied to Sandy Hook, mean that internal as well as external threats must be accurately identified; those who are mentally disturbed and dangerous must be removed from our streets.  We are experiencing a crisis in terms of mental health and a spiritual well-being in our nation exacerbated by the destruction of family values.  Our debased popular culture is making us spiritually ill.  Making our children safer while maintaining our precious hard won freedoms will be a challenge that our civilization cannot shirk.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

Monday, January 21, 2013

Three Thoughts for Inauguration Day 2013

H.L. Menken, 1880 - 1956

1) H.L. Menken wrote, "Every decent man is ashamed of his government."

Commander Kelly says, "Today more than ever."

Stendhal, 1783 - 1842
2) Stendhal, a stout defender of the Bonapartes, wrote of Napoleon: "He made the mistake of being too surprised by his success...He drank great gulps of the poison of flattery.  He believed that there was nothing personally impossible for him.  He could no longer stand contradiction and soon the slightest remark appeared to him an impertinence and what was more, stupid.  As a result of his bad choice of men he was used to seeing only those things succeed which he did himself.  Very soon his ministers appeared to do no more than set down his ideas slavishly.  It is impossible, in this age, for genuine ability not to be allied to fairly liberal ideas."

Life of Napoleon, Stendhal, 1818 (

Commander Kelly says, "Remember when President Obama said, "This Nation, Me" during the third Presidential debate with Mitt Romney?  We have re-elected Napo-Bama."

3) Finally, Commander Kelly says, "The second term of EVERY re-elected American President has been worse that the first.  Obama's is highly unlikely to be an exception".

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hyde Park on the Hudson

Hyde Park on the Hudson

Hyde Park on the Hudson, featuring comedian Bill Murray as FDR, opened in theatres in the US this fall.  This is not a grandiose epic historical film like Lincoln, but has a narrower focus on the significance of interpersonal relationships.  This film was greeted by modest box office receipts and no Academy award nominations.  While not a great film by any means, it does not lack historical interest or charm.

The film is set in the summer of 1939, before the start of World War II in Europe and before Pearl Harbor.  It chronicles the relationship between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret "Daisy" Suckley, played by Laura Linney, and the relationship between FDR and King George VI (of The King's Speech   The film concludes with King George VI, played by Samuel West, bravely sacrificing his dignity and eating a hot dog in front of the world press at a summertime picnic in update NY.

Commander K. with FDR + WSC
Bond Street, London
FDR was a vain man, a complicated man and an unfaithful husband.  His devastating bout with polio crippled him physically while strengthening his capacity for empathy and his indomitable will; it also, however, increased his need to deceive the public about the nature and extent of his disability.  He was surrounded by powerful opinionated women like his domineering mother and his proto-feminist wife Eleanor.  He escaped their clutches in the company of willing ladies such as Lucy Mercer, Marguerite LeHand, "Daisy" Suckley and, perhaps, even Princess Martha of Sweden who found refuge living in the White House during World War II!  Who would have suspected that a man disabled by polio could get around so much?  FDR was a philandering philatelist -- "don't you want to come over here and admire my beautiful stamps?"  Both Lucy Mercer and "Daisy" Suckley were with FDR in Warm Springs, GA on the day that he died.

In Hyde Park on the Hudson we see a fragile President of the United States being carried around his house by his handlers in order to receive his royal visitors.  In a memorable scene FDR, played, by Bill Murray is able to drive a specially designed hand-operated automobile (a 1936 Ford Phaeton).  FDR sheds his secret service detail and puts the car in park in a lovely country meadow while Laura Linney, for her part, displays her own talents for digital manipulation of POTUS.

This is not a fairy tale romance.  Linney's Daisy is accommodated and learns to accept a position in the Presidential harem.

In 1939 King George VI, Elizabeth II's father, was a young monarch with a stuttering problem who had unexpectedly become King on his brother's unexpected abdication.  He initially lacked confidence in his kingship and he sensed, correctly, that his Empire was on the verge of a devastating war for which it was unprepared and would require American assistance.   King George VI's visit in 1939 marked the first time that an English monarch had ever visited the United States of America  (

FDR strikes up a warm fatherly relationship with young King George VI over their country weekend in upstate New York.  America will support Britain in the war to come in spite of the isolationism espoused by so many Americans.

Would Edward VIII have been such a sport?
The course of history is often shaped by chance and the success or failure of interpersonal relationships.  Imagine a counter factual history without Wallis Simpson where King Edward VIII had visited FDR at Hyde Park.  Would he have eaten a hot dog at a picnic or bonded with FDR?  How might this have affected the course of the Second World War?  The friendship between FDR and George VI marked the beginning of the "special relationship" between Britain and the USA and prefigured the close but uneasy relationship between FDR and Churchill in the war.  It is ironic to note that this relationship was launched with the consumption of a German snack food -- the Frankfurter.

Olivia Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor had six children with FDR
One mild casting complaint/observation is that the British actress who plays Eleanor, Olivia Williams, is much more attractive than the historical first lady.  Much of Hyde Park on Hudson was filmed on location at FDR's New York home (

Commander Kelly says, "Stamp collecting can be a very rewarding hobby and be sure to check out Hyde Park on the Hudson!"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Spying on the Spies

Commander K. Spying on the Spies
Spying Room, Morpeth Arms, Pimlico
Photo: Courtesy David Michaelson

If you enjoy espionage stories and are partial to a pint, you may wish to visit the Morpeth Arms in Pimlico (  Here you will find a good pub lunch. a selection of Youngs ales and an espionage setting.

The Cambridge Four
Go upstairs at the Morpeth Arms and you will find the "Spying room".  The stairs are lined with photographs of famous British spies including the infamous Cambridge Four: Burgess, Philby, Maclean and Blunt were moles that infiltrated British intelligence services and spied for the Soviets during the Second World War and the Cold war.  You will also find a picture of Sir Dick White who headed up the D-Day spy ring that fooled the Germans in World War II (see earlier post, Double Cross: the D-Day Spies, 7/1/12).

The Morpeth arms is situated in Pimlico and looks out on the Thames.  Directly across the river you will see MI-6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) in Vauxhall.  You will also be near the site of the helicopter crash (1/16/13) that killed pilot Pete Barnes who had flown in various films including the James Bond movie Die Another Day ( or

Commander Kelly says, "Watch out for moles!"

Special thanks to David "smoke 'em if you got 'em" Michaelson for the above photograph.

America espionage...

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Museum of Military History, Kissimmee, FL

Commander K. with Billy Yank and Johnny Reb
Museum of Military History, Kissimmee, FL
If you happen to vacation in Orlando you may need to take a break from Theme Park overload syndrome.  If visit or live in central Florida and you have any interest in military history, I would highly recommend a soothing hour spent visiting the new Museum of Military History in Kissimmee (  You won't be sickened by a roller coaster here and admission is just $7.  Moreover, unlike the fantasy world of the theme parks, this museum is grounded in historical reality.

US Army Cavalryman
Here you will find displays documenting all branches of the military who have served out country from US civil war to the contemporary conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The museum just opened last year (2012).  Most of the collection has been donated by veterans.

There is a wide selection of World War II vehicles...

German Kugelwagen
And uniforms as well...

German Africa Corps soldier
The staff is friendly and helpful.  They will make custom made dog tags for $5 each.  They have  handy research library as well.

British Armored Car
You will find a model of the USS Missouri -- "The Mighty Mo"-- an Iowa class battleship launched in 1944.  It was on board this ship that representatives from Imperial Japan and the Allied forces, led by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, signed the surrender documents to end World War II on September 2, 1945.  Even after two atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan (see earlier post, Truman's Decision to Use Atomic Bombs on Japan, 9/23/12) many US sailors still suspected a trap and were prepared to fire that day on Tokyo's Imperial Palace.  This ship later provided shore bombardment during the Gulf War in 1991.  You can find the ship today in Pearl Harbor near the USS Arizona.

Commander Kellys says, "Thank you veterans for your service.  Go check out the Museum of Military History ( in Kissimmee, FL and tell them the Commander sent you!"

Special thanks to Sergeant Richard McCloud US Army (Ret.) for his kind assistance with the above photographs and dog tags.