Gunpowder Treason, Guy Fawkes, Patriot Act, Bill of Rights and V for Vendetta

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 13th, 2013

Politics 101

Robert Catesby, Guy Fawkes and other Catholic Conspirators conspired to Blow up Parliament

King Henry VIII had a problem with Rome.  He didn’t like that the Pope wouldn’t annul his marriage to Catherine.  And he did not like the Pope interfering with his absolute rule of England.  So he told the Pope to mind his own beeswax.  The Pope then excommunicated Henry from the Catholic Church.  Henry said fine.  And established himself as the head of the Church of England.  And turned England Protestant around the 1530s.  Causing all English men and women to live happily ever after.

Well, not quite.  There were a lot of people who wanted to remain Catholic.  And they were pretty adamant.  Just as the Protestants were pretty adamant about remaining Protestant.  Which led them to, of course, hate each other.  A white-hot hatred at that.  For they wanted to kill each other.  And often did.  The Catholics were cautiously optimistic about King James VI of Scotland moving south to sit on the English throne as King James I of England.  Who promised to relax the anti-Catholic laws.  But, alas, he did not.  The brutal Catholic persecution continued.  So some Catholics got together to do something about that in 1605.  And the rest is, as they say, history.

“Remember, remember the fifth of November.
The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Robert Catesby and some fellow Catholic conspirators conspired to blow up Parliament.  To teach those Protestants a lesson by killing them.  The lesson being that it was wrong to kill Catholics.  Well, the plan was so long in the making it gave the conspirators time to think.  And some began to think that what they were going to do might be bad.  So someone feeling overly anxious about what they were about to do leaked information of the plot.  And they caught poor old Guy Fawkes in the cellar with all of the gunpowder they were going to use to blow up Parliament.  Long story short the gunpowder treason and plot failed.  And most of the conspirators were killed resisting arrest.  Or executed.  But the conspirators were on to something.  As England would be consumed by civil war from 1642 to 1651.  To settle the question whether England would be Catholic.  Or Protestant.  The Protestants won.  But some time later some Protestants, the Calvinists, thought they weren’t Protestant enough.  And for speaking up they were persecuted.  So they hopped a boat and ultimately came to a place we call the United States today.

George W. Bush was the Brilliant Mastermind behind the Treason and Plot to Transform the U.S. into a Dictatorship

Ah, the United States.  The land of the free.  And the home of the brave.  After winning our independence from Great Britain the United States became that shining city on a hill.  Where people came to escape persecution.  Where Catholic and Protestant can live harmoniously together.  And where there is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.  And the Bill of Rights.  Which provided strong safeguards to our liberty.  Protecting ourselves from a tyrannical government.  Like that we just won our independence from.  So we can have our freedom of religion.  Even for the Catholics.  A free press.  The right to peacefully assemble.  The right to speak our minds without fear of governmental retribution.  And protection from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause and a warrant narrowly specifying the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.

But then came along George W. Bush.  And his Patriot Act.  A conservative Christian.  And the next thing we knew they were warrantless wiretaps on international calls to terrorists.  There was rendition.  Secret CIA prisons in foreign countries to hold and interrogate terrorists.  Guantanamo Bay.  Where we held enemy combatants captured on the field of battle.  Who fought under no national flag.  And who were not signatory to the Geneva Convention.  The United States held these international outlaws in Guantanamo Bay outside the American legal justice system.  And we even water-boarded three terrorists.  The Bush administration even went so far as to use drones to kill terrorists in foreign countries without due process.

According to those on the left George W. Bush tore up the Bill of Rights.  The brilliant mastermind behind the treason and plot to transform the United States into a dictatorship.  This same man they belittled relentlessly for being an idiot and a fool.  This was the guy that was so shrewd and conniving that he was going to become the next Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Adam Sutler.  This devout Christian who lived by the Golden Rule.  Who used the powers of the Constitution to protect the people of the United States from further terrorist attacks.  Which he did.  The American homeland did not suffer another terrorist attack following 9/11 during his 8 years in office.

Despite winning the War on Terror President Obama increased the Domestic Spying of U.S. Citizens

But the left hated him.  They attacked him relentlessly.  On television.  And in the movies.  Even making movies on how to kill him.  The political opposition tried to shut him down.  And basically did when the Democrats won both houses of Congress in the 2006 midterm election.  Taking obstructionism to new heights.  And the mainstream media didn’t even hide their liberal bias.  Because the assault on our civil rights was so great.  They saw parallels between the Orwellian future of Adam Sutler’s England in the movie V for Vendetta and the Bush presidency.  Helped along with a lot of imagery of the Bush presidency nuanced throughout the movie.  V’s speech to London was not only an indictment of the Sutler chancellorship.  It was an indictment of the Bush presidency.

But really, now, which presidency does this speech ring more true?  The Bush presidency?  Or the Obama presidency?  Which presidency has been more active in preventing the political opposition from speaking?  It wasn’t the Bush presidency that used the power of the IRS to shut down free speech.  It was the IRS under the Obama presidency that shut down the free speech of the Tea Party.  Guantanamo Bay is still open.  Though President Obama is not adding more prisoners there.  For he has stepped up drone strikes.  Killing terrorists overseas instead of bringing them back to the U.S. for interrogation.  As well as a few civilians who were unfortunately standing near a terrorist during a drone strike.  Even killing Americans on foreign soil without first reading them their Miranda rights.  Something George W. Bush didn’t do.

And then there’s the collecting of metadata from all our phone calls.  Without a warrant narrowly specifying the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.  And project PRISM.  The monitoring and storing of Internet activity.  Some of this domestic spying under the Obama presidency may even exceed the authority of the hated Patriot Act.  President Obama has increased the domestic spying from what the Bush administration did.  Despite President Obama winning the War on Terror with the killing of Osama bin Laden.  Which was a campaign theme of the 2012 election.  The president had delivered a knockout blow to al Qaeda who was now on the ropes and in retreat.  Yet with this victory in the War on Terror President Obama increased the domestic spying the government was doing on its citizens.  Why?  For the same reason the IRS harassed the Tea Party?  To suppress the political opposition?  All of this domestic spying failed to stop the Boston Marathon bombing.  And these guys were all over the Internet.  So if they’ve increased this domestic spying but are not using it to stop terrorists like the Boston Marathon bombers (or the Foot Hood terrorist, the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, etc.) what are they using this data for?

So I ask again.  Which presidency does V’s speech ring more true?  The God-fearing George W. Bush who tried to protect the people?  Or the ‘consolidate power by any means necessary’ President Obama?  The president that gave us Obamacare against the will of the people.  A program to be enforced by the hated IRS.  Who have their own armed enforcement officers.  Obamacare also forces Catholics to provide birth control and abortion pills to their employees.  Against their conscience.  Making Obamacare anti-Catholic legislation.  Similar to the kind that inspired the gunpowder treason and plot.  Of which Guy Fawkes participated in.  And who was the inspiration of V.  Giving us the answer to our question.

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Smooth-Bore Musket, Napoleonic Tactics, Rifling, Minié Ball, Percussion Cap, Breech-Loading, Brass Cartridge, Machine Gun and Indirect Fire

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 14th, 2012

Technology 101

A Muzzle-Loading Smooth-Bore Musket had an Effective Range of about 50-70 Yards and was Slow to Reload

Why do quarterbacks spin the football when throwing a pass?  Because a good spiral will make the football act like a gyroscope.  Stabilizing the ball in the air.  Giving it better aerodynamic stability.  Allowing the quarterback to throw it farther.  Faster.  And more accurately.  In tight traffic.   Threading the needle between defenders.  And into the hands of his receiver.  The quarterback’s target.

But we didn’t confine spinning things to hit targets to only football.  We use it someplace else, too.  And have for quite awhile.  In rifles.  And guns.  Which had a profound impact on the battlefield.  Rifling dates back to the fifteenth century.  But it didn’t really enter the battlefield until the 19th century.  But before we started cutting grooves in rifle barrels to spin projectiles smooth-bore weapons ruled the battlefield.  And shaped the tactics of the day.  What we generally call Napoleonic tactics.  Mastered by Napoleon Bonaparte.  But used before him.  When we used large formations of soldiers on the battlefield.  That we moved in formation thanks to intense drilling and discipline.

A smooth-bore musket had an effective range of about 50-70 yards.  Or little longer than an NFL quarterback could throw a football.  They weren’t extremely accurate because the ball they fired was smaller than the barrel.  Which let the ball bounce off the walls of the barrels before exiting.  So they didn’t always fly perfectly straight.  Also, because the ball was smaller than the barrel there was blow-by of the expanding gasses that forced the ball out of the barrel.  Reducing the muzzle velocity of the weapon.  These muzzle-loading weapons were also slow to reload.  They required many steps to reload after firing.  Taking some 15 to seconds for a good infantryman to reload.  While standing up in the middle of the field of battle.  This short effective range and slow reloading time led to the Napoleonic tactics.  Maneuvering large formations of infantry into long lines.  Where they stood shoulder-to-shoulder to concentrate their fire.  They moved in formation to within effective range of the enemy and fired on command to hit the opposing line of soldiers with a large volley of fire.  When they reloaded opposing cavalry tried to charge their line to break up their formation before they could fire again.  If the infantry brought down effective fire on the opposing line of infantry they might break the enemy’s ranks.  If so, cavalry would charge to route them off the battlefield.  If not, the infantry would close ranks with the enemy after a few volleys and charge with fixed bayonets.  If a wall of approaching gleaming steel bayonets did not break the enemy’s ranks the lines came to gather and they engaged in hand to hand combat.

A Rifled Musket firing the Minié Ball increased the Effective Range of the Infantryman to about 300 Yards

Smooth-bore muskets gave way to rifled muskets.  Which helped with accuracy.  But didn’t make much difference on the battlefield.  Until Claude-Étienne Minié developed a new conical shaped bullet with a hollow base.  The Minié ball.  Made from soft lead it expanded when fired.  The expanding gases pressing the base of the Minié ball into the grooved barrel of a rifle.  Preventing the gas blow-by.  And imparting a spin on the bullet.  Greatly increasing the effective range of an infantryman’s rifle.  Approximately 4 times the range of the smooth-bore musket.  Which meant you could be 4 times as far away from the enemy and still be able to hit your target.  So instead of about a half of a football field you could hit an enemy reliably from 3 football fields away.  Also, they delivered these new bullets to the infantryman wrapped in a paper cartridge that also included gunpowder.  The soldier bit off the end of the cartridge, poured the premeasured amount of powder into the muzzle, followed by the Minié ball, rammed it home and placed a percussion cap (a small metal cap with a shock-sensitive explosive in it) on a hollow nipple above the packed powder.  When the infantryman pulled the trigger the hammer fell on the percussion cap.  This ignition source then spread through the nipple to the packed powder in the barrel.  Igniting the powder.  Expanding the soft lead of the base.  Pushing it and spinning it out of the barrel.  A soft, fat projectile.  That when it found its mark made big holes.  Tore through muscle.  And shattered bone.  Most wounds in the chest or abdomen were fatal.  Wounds in arm or a leg usually resulted with the amputation of that limb.

These were great advancements in weaponry.  Making the infantryman a much more powerful and lethal force on the battlefield.  If used in battle with the proper tactics.  Unfortunately, when armies first used the new Minié ball rifle they still used Napoleonic tactics.  Europeans in the Crimean War (1853 –1856).  And the Americans in the Civil War (1861–1865).  The first modern wars.  That killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers.  About 600,000 each.  And maimed more.  Because they still fought shoulder to shoulder.  Marching forward under a hail of long-range and accurate enemy fire.  Of soft, fat projectiles.  That just decimated their ranks.  Soon the Americans learned to build fortified defensive positions.  On the high ground.  And let the enemy attack them.  Because an offensive attack against a fortified defensive position proved suicidal.  As Union soldiers learned.  So before some of the later battles these soldiers invented something that became standard issue in following wars.  The dog tag.  So someone could identify them after they died in combat.  So their families could bury them at home.  These fortified defensive positions evolved into trenches.  Such as used during the Siege of Petersburg.  A siege because offensive attacks against infantry in a trench proved suicidal.  A lesson, sadly, that few learned.

By the end of the Civil War the tactics finally caught up to the technology.  Napoleonic tactics were out.  And modern war was in.  Infantry didn’t mass on the field of battle.  Resplendent in their uniform behind their colors.  Instead they were filthy and firing from behind cover.  And battles weren’t a Sunday afternoon in the park.  But lasted days.  Where soldiers often went hungry.  Endured constant shelling.   And kept their heads down for fear of snipers.  Also, it was now total war.  War against the soldiers in the field.  And the resources that kept them in the field.  Rail lines.  Telegraph lines.  Factories.  Ports and harbors.  Food supplies.  And even the morale of the enemy combatant’s citizens.  Because attacks against all of these made it difficult to continue to wage war.  Which ultimately shortened war.  But making war truly hell.  And most cruel.  But hopefully ending it quicker and saving lives in the long run.

The Brass Cartridge with Bullet and Percussion Cap allowed Breech-Loading and much higher Rates of Fire 

There are a lot of lessons to learn from the Crimean War.  And the American Civil War.  Which they quickly forgot by 1914.  With the outbreak of World War I.  Where combatants went off in the spirit of a Napoleonic war.  Resplendent in their colors.  Full of patriotic fervor.  But not for long.  For in this most modern of all wars to date they still foolishly massed infantry on the field of battle.  And attacked fortified defensive positions.  A war that still used horses for cavalry charges.  Despite massive advancements in technology.  Like breech-loading rifles that fired ammunition consisting of a bullet pressed into a brass cartridge full of gunpowder.  Also pressed into this cartridge was a percussion cap.  Making a self-contained round.  That they could press into a clip or a magazine.  Which could be loaded into a rifle while lying down behind cover.  Greatly increasing the rate of fire.  Without having to expose the rifleman to enemy fire.  These new cartridges could also be loaded into canvas belts.  And fed into a new weapon.  The machine gun.  A horrific killing machine in WWI.  Where a gun crew could maintain a rate of fire great enough to wipe out companies of infantry at a time.  Who were foolishly advancing over open ground against an entrenched defensive position.  As if the Crimean and American Civil War never happened.

Artillery was bigger and more accurate, too.  And unlike their Civil War ancestors, you didn’t have to see what you were firing at.  Artillery batteries could be miles from the battlefield.  Out of sight of the enemy.  Instead aiming at them with geometry and maps.  By calculating azimuth (left and right) and elevation angles (up and down) to adjust the gun for an accurate but indirect fire.  Forward observers used new electronic communication to adjust this indirect fire onto target.  Breech-loading and recoil dampening devices (also unlike their civil war ancestors where the recoil threw the cannon backwards) made these not only rapid firing but accurate.  Raining hell down on that advancing line of infantry advancing into a hail of machine gun fire.  Meaning that when the order was given to go over the top of their safe (but miserable) trenches to assault the enemy’s trenches many would die.  Giving the huge death toll of World War I.  Where some 10 million combatants died.

WWI is perhaps the greatest man-made disaster in history.  And not just for the horrific death toll.  But what that death toll did.  WWI changed the world.  Not just the lines on the map.  But the very nature of nations.  The size of governments.  And economics.  Not because of the advancing technology.  But for the misunderstanding, and misuse of, that technology.  Because for some fifty years their tactics played catch up to the technology of the day.  Which, sadly, is more of the rule than the exception.  Because it’s senior military personnel that make policy.  And these generals are still planning to fight the last war.  Instead of the next war.

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Chinese Trade, Constantinople, Compass, Stirrup, Gunpowder, Cannon, Renaissance, Enlightenment and Gunboat Diplomacy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 18th, 2012

Technology 101

The Ottoman Turks used the new Cannon to Breach the Great Stone Walls of Constantinople

China was a mysterious and distant place.  It was about as far away from Europe you could get.  But the things that came from there were intoxicating.  Caravans working the Silk Road brought things west.  To Constantinople.  And to northern Europe.  Silk.  Porcelain.  And those eastern spices.  If you were interested in having the finer things in life you bought them from China.

Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire.  The eastern part of the Roman Empire that survived through the Middle Ages.  Constantinople sat on the Bosporus.  The trade crossroads of the world.  Where Europe met Asia.  Where the Black Sea (and the rivers of Eastern Europe and Russia) met the Mediterranean Sea.  Where Christianity met Islam.  Where Catholicism met Christian Orthodoxy.  Not only a city of great wealth but of strategic importance.  And coveted by everyone who didn’t have it.

China also invented paper, the compass, the stirrup, the ship rudder and moveable-type printing.  And they were pretty good at map making, too.  Things that Europeans used to great success.  Including another Chinese invention.  Gunpowder.  But the Europeans weren’t the only ones using these inventions.  The Seljuk Turks made good use of the stirrup.  Riding out of central Asia.  Whose archers were able to stand in their stirrups while at full gallop and bring down a withering and accurate fire upon their enemies.  Who went on to conquer much of the Byzantine lands.  Except Constantinople.  Whose thick stone walls were impervious to the archer’s arrow.  But the Ottoman Turks were able to break down those thick walls with another Chinese invention.  Gunpowder.  Used in cannons to hurl great projectiles into the stone walls of Constantinople.  Breaching them.  Allowing them to finally conquer the great city in 1453.  When Constantinople became Istanbul.

The Renaissance and the Enlightenment bloomed in Italy

When the Western Roman Empire fell the Byzantine Empire retained some portions of it.  Including what grew into the Italian city-states.  Tied into the Byzantine economy they grew wealthy from that Asian trade.  Many of those coveted Chinese goods that made it to Europe went through them.  It was their wealth that led them out of the Dark Ages.  Kicked off the Italian Renaissance.  And rekindled an interest in the ancient Greek texts and the knowledge they contained.  The chancellor of Florence invited a scholar from Constantinople to Florence to teach their students Greek.  To help these students read the old Greek texts.  More scholars followed after the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople.

The flourishing trade helped to create the banking industry.  Aided by their development of double-entry bookkeeping that the Italians invented.  The Italian city-states were making money.  Which made good use of that Chinese paper.  To account for all the money they were making from those Chinese luxuries.  Made a lot of rich men.  Who indulged in the arts.  Renaissance art bloomed in Italy.  As did the Enlightenment.  From all that Greek learning the Italians gained from those Greek texts.  And it flowered from Italy throughout Europe.

But all was not good.  As these city-states grew great and wealthy they became targets for their rivals.  And plunged them into a series of wars that consumed more wealth than the city-states created.  Wars they fought with hired mercenaries.  Which Venice and Florence financed with some of the first government bonds.  But their days were numbered.  Because others wanted that wealth.  And they wanted to find a way to get to those Chinese goods without going through the Ottoman Turks.  And they soon found it.

It was the Europeans’ Turn to Build Empires Thanks to their Taste for Chinese Luxuries and Technology

With the Turks in Istanbul and the Italians in the Mediterranean, the Portuguese, the Spanish and the Dutch looked for a direct sea route to China.  With the English close behind.  With modern ocean-going ships.  Employing a lot of that Chinese technology.  Including the compass.  And that gunpowder.  Taking them to the source of those Chinese goods.  Soon the Europeans moved in.  And began to dictate their own terms.  Cutting out the Italians.  And the Turks.  It was the end of the great Italian city-states.  The days of the great warships had arrived.  Ships bristling with decks of cannon.  Introducing the era of gunboat diplomacy.

It was the Europeans’ turn to build empires.  Thanks to their taste for Chinese luxuries.  And an insatiable appetite to use the latest in technology to help them get what they wanted.  Their dominance would last centuries.  Until the latest in technology took warfare to such heights that it plunged continents into war.  The Great War was so devastating that it wiped out a generation of people.  Bankrupted those European empires.  Destroyed the Ottoman Empire.  And left the European nations impoverished.  But they would recover.  And then do it all over again.  Only worse.  For World War II demoted the Great War to World War I.  Which turned out not to be the war to end all wars after all.

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