Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


I commented a while back on the NSA and GCHQ naming their most secret programs of spying on their fellow citizens after battles of their civil wars (American and English respectively). I didn’t remark at the time, but this clearly shows the dominance of the NSA, since it is striking how little memory there is of the English Civil War, in comparison to the omnipresent shadow cast by the American Civil War over US politics. It’s hard to imagine a British nerd making a playful reference to battles of the English Civil War, except in an attempt to anglicise a prior US nerd reference to the American Civil War.

A minor example of the latter is the comment by a Republican congressman, enthusiastic that his party was steering the country toward a government shutdown, and responding to a skeptical question about the (Democratic controlled) Senate’s response by saying

Ulysses S. Grant said, ‘Quit worrying about what Bobby Lee’s doing and let’s focus on what we are doing,’ ” Culberson added. “We are focusing on what we need to do and not worrying about what the other guy is going to do. . . . That’s how Ulysses S. Grant won the war.

It is a telling statement about the current state of US politics that one party is portraying the other as their opponents in a civil war. (And, in return, they are being compared to terrorists and hostage-takers.)

I see this as an improvement over Republicans invoking the spirit of the Confederacy. Oddly, Representative Culberson is from Texas. Even more oddly, he preceded this invocation of Civil War strategy by saying “We’re 100 percent united!” I guess that’s the effect of civil war, to make the residue seem more unified.

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