American Elephants

The USS Constitution Sails Again. Constitution Met Guerriere August 19, 1812. by The Elephant's Child

The USS Constitution sailed today to mark the 1812 battle that earned it the nickname ‘Old Ironsides.” She was launched in 1787, and the last time she went to sea was in 1997 on her 200th birthday.She was tugged today from her berth in Boston Harbor to the main deepwater channel into the harbor. She then set out for a 10 minute cruise on the open seas.

The short trip marks the day two centuries when the Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere in the War of I812.  She is the oldest commissioned warship in the American fleet.

In August, 1812, Captain Issac Hull was in command when she engaged the Guerriere off Nova Scotia on the 19th. The ships cannon fired at close range, even colliding at one point during the 35 minute engagement. The Constitution’s 24–lb cannonballs felled the Guerriere mast while the British ship’s 18-lb. cannonballs  had trouble penetrating the Constitution’s two-foot thick oak hull.

It wasn’t the navy’s first successful battle, but it set off celebrations around the country. It didn’t really do anything to change the course of the war, but it was a great morale boost for the American cause. The Constitution’s crew of about 65 will unfurl only four of her 36 sails. About 150 sailors were selected to go along. The crew needed some extensive training,  They’re not so skilled in running up and down the masts a s the sailors of 1812 were. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see her moving under sail once again.

If you have never read Patrick O’Brien’s series of novels of the Royal Navy beginning with Master and Commander and featuring Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in the period at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th you are missing something wonderful. Best novels ever written. There are 20 in the series, and you soon become accustomed to the seafaring language and custom. Everyone who has read them has read them over and over.  I’ve read all at least nine times, maybe more, and some historians have me beat. The battle between the Constitution and the Guerriere is in one of them.

The movie Master and Commander borrows bits from several of the books, but is great fun. Here’s the trailer:

Paul Ryan Went to Florida, and Seniors Liked What They Heard. by The Elephant's Child

Democrats have been sure that Seniors would regard Paul Ryan and his plans to reform Medicare as a terminal threat. They have been sure that with the announcement of Ryan’s candidacy, Florida was theirs. America’s seniors may have grown older, but they didn’t grow dumber. Older Americans vote more reliably, know what they are voting for, and care a lot about the nation they leave for their children and grandchildren. Democrats were sure that Paul Ryan wouldn’t even dare go to Florida.  Oops!

Here is what Mitt Romney and I will do,” he said. “We will end the raid of Medicare. We will restore the promise of this program and we will make sure that this board of bureaucrats will not mess with my mom’s health care or your mom’s health care.”

Then, as he’s done at dozens of town halls in his congressional district over the past two years, Ryan made the positive case for reforming Medicare for future generations of seniors. “Now, let me just see a show of hands, how many of you are 55 or over?” Ryan asked. Thousands of hands shot up. “Okay,” Ryan said with a laugh.

“Our solution to preserve, protect and save Medicare does not affect your benefits,” Ryan told the 55-and-older crowd. “Let me repeat that:  Our plan does not affect the benefits for people who are in or near retirement. It’s a promise that was made, and it’s a promise that must be kept.”

Ryan explained that “in order to make sure we can guarantee that promise for my mom’s generation for those baby boomers retiring every day, we must reform it for my generation. To save it for this generation, you have to reform it for my generation, so it doesn’t go bankrupt when we want to retire.”

Ryan pointed out that his plan for Americans 54 years old and younger is a bipartisan plan that “originated in the Clinton commission plan to save Medicare in the late 1990s.”

Huge, enthusiastic crowds have been welcoming Paul Ryan wherever he speaks. Seniors are worried about being unable to find a doctor, worried about having no choice about their own health. They like what they are hearing from Paul Ryan.

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