- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

A failure?

“No matter how widely he had been hailed as a hero 14 years before, by 1506, when he died, … Christopher Columbus was all washed up.

“Crowds from across Spain lined the streets of Seville in 1493 to welcome him home from his first voyage to the Americas, but he already hadn’t found what he was looking for, a seaway to India’s spice-trade ports. He never would, though the search consumed the rest of his life. A little genocide here, some slavery there, several mutinies and multiple executions of crew members later, and Columbus fell out of favor with the Spanish crown and the public. When he died he was surrounded by family and by the trappings of his substantial income. But he went to his grave with the gouging sense of injustice he couldn’t forgive and of failure he couldn’t explain.”

— Christine Gibson, writing on “Christopher Columbus, Failure,” May 20 in American Heritage Online at www.americanheritage.com

Bloody century

“Why was the 20th century so violent, and why did its worst excesses occur in the early 1940s and in Central and Eastern Europe, Manchuria and Korea? [Historian Niall] Ferguson’s answer is ethnic conflict, economics and empires in decline. On the face of it, nothing new, but he digs deep into the foundations of received notions and comes to rather different conclusions from the usual. German anti-Semitism, for instance, was an extreme case of a general (though not universal) phenomenon. ‘The principal distinguishing feature of the Holocaust was not its goal of annihilation but the fact that it was carried out by a regime which had at its disposal all the resources of an industrialized economy and an educated society.’

“It was the application of the nation-state model to Central and Eastern Europe, ‘a complex patchwork of pales and diasporas,’ that increased the potential for conflict, these regions becoming ‘the most lethal of the “killing spaces” of the 20th century.’ …

“But 20th-century violence, he maintains, is unintelligible if not seen in its imperial context: the decline and fall of large multi-ethnic empires dominated the world in 1900. Nearly all the principal combatants in both world wars were empires or would-be empires.”

— Allan Mallinson, writing on “The War of the World,” May 27 in the Times of London

Now he’s 64

“Paul McCartney [turns] 64 on Sunday. He wrote the song ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ nearly 40 years ago, when he was, in fact, 24. No doubt he never expected then that, on his own 64th birthday, he would be a billionaire. Nor that on that day he would be battling his difficult much-younger second wife, Heather Mills, over the custody of their 2-year-old daughter and several hundred million pounds of his fortune. (A second wife, by the way, who his old friends in Liverpool could have told him, after just a couple of conversations with her, was a ‘nasty bit of work,’ and definitely trouble.) …

“Heather Mills, according to her many critics, is an attention-seeking gold-digger obsessed with her causes, which include animal rights and especially the hunting of baby seals. No doubt it is Sir Paul, so misguided in his choice of a mate, who must feel at the moment rather like a lamb being taken to the slaughterhouse. … His best birthday present on his 64th will not be a ‘Valentine’ or ‘a bottle of wine,’ but an assurance from the lawyers that ‘We can work it out.’”

— Myrna Blyth, writing on “He’s 64,” Friday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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