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What I Am Watching Tonight, A Documentary on the Battle of the Bulge


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Battle Of The Bulge | Generals At War | Battlefield Documentary – YouTube

A good documentary, not great, but good.

I have always found the Battle of the Bulge one of the more interesting of the battles fought in the 20th century. An overconfident American army attacked and driven back in disorder, then rallies and drives the Germans back to their start lines in about thirty days. The Germans expend their last reserves  of men, tanks and supplies all in a doomed effort to reach Antwerp and split the English and American armies in two.

I didn’t really find out anything new. There was a demonstration of the shaped charge effect (bazookas and other hollow charged weapons) that was good. I thought the demonstration of the effect of the proximity fuse far less convincing. A casual watcher would not have realized what a dramatic change this made in warfare.

The documentary was too kind to General Montgomery. Now, you could argue that the film said very little about him. That’s my problem. Montgomery’s conduct after the battle in which he explained how he saved the American army should make him a target of ridicule, and I didn’t see that and wanted to.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Blog Project.


The Battle of the Bulge was the last
major Nazi offensive against the Allies during World War Two. It was
fought during the winter months of 1944-1945. The battle was Hitler’s
attempt to split the Allies into two, to destroy their ability to supply
 themselves. This battle started on December 16, 1944 and was done
because Hitler believed the Alliance between Britain, France, and
America in western Eurpoe was not strong enough to sustain a major
attack and if they defeated them here it would break up the alliance. He
ordered a massive attack against the American forces, and this attack
was know as the Ardennes Offensive but would later be renamed to Battle
of the Bulge. The Germans created a giant bulge in the Allied front
line, which is why this was called the Battle of the Bulge.

From the web site, Australian War Gamer, (A very nice site by the way!).


It’s been taken quite successfully on the big screen in 1965, in the eponym movie “Battle of the Bulge“, starring Henri Fonda and Robert Ryan.

There are also a variety of documentaries closely dealing with it:

From the web site, Peace and Freedom.


During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101rst Airborne Division made a
heroic stand at Bastogne from December 20-27 which helped turn the tide
of the battle.  On December 25, a packed midnight mass was held in
Bastogne, with Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, who commanded the
101rst troops at Bastogne, in attendance.  Afterwards the General
listened to German POWS singing Silent Night, and wished them a Merry

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Abraham Lincoln’s Legal Ethics

Abraham Lincoln’s Legal Ethics

Lincoln accepted fees that he regarded as fair, sometimes even refusing to accept fees. He was certainly not a “job creator,” not rich, by the standards of the time, and his wife tended to spend money freely. Certainly with a growing family and some political ambitions, he could have used more money but he was unwilling to treat his clients in what he regarded as an unfair manner whatever the professional customs of the time dictated. When confronted by an ethical dilemma, he went his own way. He did not appear to be concerned with the question, “What does everybody else do?”

James Pilant

Abraham Lincoln’s Legal Ethics


The lawyers on the circuit traveled by Lincoln got together one night and tried him on the charge of accepting fees which tended to lower the established rates. It was the understood rule that a lawyer should accept all the client could be induced to pay. The tribunal was known as “The Ogmathorial Court.”

Ward Lamon, his law partner at the time, tells about it:

“Lincoln was found guilty and fined for his awful crime against the pockets of his brethren of the bar. The fine he paid with great good humor, and then kept the crowd of lawyers in uproarious laughter until after midnight.

“He persisted in his revolt, however, declaring that with his consent his firm should never during its life, or after its dissolution, deserve the reputation enjoyed by those shining lights of the profession, ‘Catch ’em and Cheat ’em.'”

And another story –


A certain rich man in Springfield, Illinois, sued a poor attorney for $2.50, and Lincoln was asked to prosecute the case. Lincoln urged the creditor to let the matter drop, adding, “You can make nothing out of him, and it will cost you a good deal more than the debt to bring suit.” The creditor was still determined to have his way, and threatened to seek some other attorney. Lincoln then said, “Well, if you are determined that suit should be brought, I will bring it; but my charge will be $10.”

The money was paid him, and peremptory orders were given that the suit be brought that day. After the client’s departure Lincoln went out of the office, returning in about an hour with an amused look on his face.

Asked what pleased him, he replied, “I brought suit against ——, and then hunted him up, told him what I had done, handed him half of the $10, and we went over to the squire’s office. He confessed judgment and paid the bill.”

Lincoln added that he didn’t see any other way to make things satisfactory for his client as well as the other.

And another –


If a client did not pay, Lincoln did not believe in suing for the fee. When a fee was paid him his custom was to divide the money into two equal parts, put one part into his pocket, and the other into an envelope labeled “Herndon’s share.”

And still one more –


Ward Lamon, once Lincoln’s law partner, relates a story which places Lincoln’s high sense of honor in a prominent light. In a certain case, Lincoln and Lamon being retained by a gentleman named Scott, Lamon put the fee at $250, and Scott agreed to pay it. Says Lamon:

“Scott expected a contest, but, to his surprise, the case was tried inside of twenty minutes; our success was complete. Scott was satisfied, and cheerfully paid over the money to me inside the bar, Lincoln looking on. Scott then went out, and Lincoln asked, ‘What did you charge that man?’

“I told him $250. Said he: ‘Lamon, that is all wrong. The service was not worth that sum. Give him back at least half of it.’

“I protested that the fee was fixed in advance; that Scott was perfectly satisfied, and had so expressed himself. ‘That may be,’ retorted Lincoln, with a look of distress and of undisguised displeasure, ‘but I am not satisfied. This is positively wrong. Go, call him back and return half the money at least, or I will not receive one cent of it for my share.’

“I did go, and Scott was astonished when I handed back half the fee.

“This conversation had attracted the attention of the lawyers and the court. Judge David Davis, then on our circuit bench (afterwards Associate Justice on the United States Supreme bench), called Lincoln to him. The Judge never could whisper, but in this instance he probably did his best. At all events, in attempting to whisper to Lincoln he trumpeted his rebuke in about these words, and in rasping tones that could be heard all over the court-room: ‘Lincoln, I have been watching you and Lamon. You are impoverishing this bar by your picayune charges of fees, and the lawyers have reason to complain of you. You are now almost as poor as Lazarus, and if you don’t make people pay you more for your services you will die as poor as Job’s turkey!’

“Judge O. L. Davis, the leading lawyer in that part of the State, promptly applauded this malediction from the bench; but Lincoln was immovable.

“‘That money,’ said he, ‘comes out of the pocket of a poor, demented girl, and I would rather starve than swindle her in this manner.'”


A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes that made Abraham Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller With Introduction and Anecdotes

By Alexander K. McClure

(This material is in the public domain.)

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Abraham Lincoln and the Bottom 47%

Abraham Lincoln and the bottom 47%

Abraham Lincoln and the Bottom 47%

Recently, a presidential candidate referred to bottom 47% of the American population as self identified victims. Abraham Lincoln had a different view of the poor. He had a deep concern for the less fortunate in society as is illustrated by this story (below). Would we lived in such times that this kind of judgment (and the kind of man who would make it) were honored and esteemed. Instead we are told to worship and respect the “job creators,” the PR name for what are often little more than predators.

James Pilant




An Ohio Senator had an appointment with President Lincoln at six o’clock, and as he entered the vestibule of the White House his attention was attracted toward a poorly clad young woman, who was violently sobbing. He asked her the cause of her distress. She said she had been ordered away by the servants, after vainly waiting many hours to see the President about her only brother, who had been condemned to death. Her story was this:

 She and her brother were foreigners, and orphans. They had been in this country several years. Her brother enlisted in the army, but, through bad influences, was induced to desert. He was captured, tried and sentenced to be shot—the old story.

 The poor girl had obtained the signatures of some persons who had formerly known him, to a petition for a pardon, and alone had come to Washington to lay the case before the President. Thronged as the waiting-rooms always were, she had passed the long hours of two days trying in vain to get an audience, and had at length been ordered away.

 The gentleman’s feelings were touched. He said to her that he had come to see the President, but did not know as he should succeed. He told her, however, to follow him upstairs, and he would see what could be done for her.

 Just before reaching the door, Mr. Lincoln came out, and, meeting his friend, said good-humoredly, “Are you not ahead of time?” The gentleman showed him his watch, with the hand upon the hour of six.

 “Well,” returned Mr. Lincoln, “I have been so busy to-day that I have not had time to get a lunch. Go in and sit down; I will be back directly.”

 The gentleman made the young woman accompany him into the office, and when they were seated, said to her: “Now, my good girl, I want you to muster all the courage you have in the world. When the President comes back, he will sit down in that armchair. I shall get up to speak to him, and as I do so you must force yourself between us, and insist upon his examination of your papers, telling him it is a case of life and death, and admits of no delay.” These instructions were carried out to the letter. Mr. Lincoln was at first somewhat surprised at the apparent forwardness of the young woman, but observing her distressed appearance, he ceased conversation with his friend, and commenced an examination of the document she had placed in his hands.

 Glancing from it to the face of the petitioner, whose tears had broken forth afresh, he studied its expression for a moment, and then his eye fell upon her scanty but neat dress. Instantly his face lighted up.

 “My poor girl,” said he, “you have come here with no Governor, or Senator, or member of Congress to plead your cause. You seem honest and truthful; and you don’t wear hoopskirts—and I will be whipped but I will pardon your brother.” And he did.


A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes that made Abraham Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller With Introduction and Anecdotes

By Alexander K. McClure

(This material is in the public domain.)

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Abraham Lincoln’s Business Ethics

Abraham Lincoln’s business ethics

Abraham Lincoln’s Business Ethics

Abraham Lincoln on being presented with a moral conundrum chose to “bend” the rules. Generally speaking, it is wrong to break the rules but it is also wrong to unquestionably obey them under all circumstances. Lincoln knew when to bend the rules. 

James Pilant


When a surveyor, Mr. Lincoln first platted the town of Petersburg, Ill. Some twenty or thirty years afterward the property-owners along one of the outlying streets had trouble in fixing their boundaries. They consulted the official plat and got no relief. A committee was sent to Springfield to consult the distinguished surveyor, but he failed to recall anything that would give them aid, and could only refer them to the record. The dispute therefore went into the courts. While the trial was pending, an old Irishman named McGuire, who had worked for some farmer during the summer, returned to town for the winter. The case being mentioned in his presence, he promptly said: “I can tell you all about it. I helped carry the chain when Abe Lincoln laid out this town. Over there where they are quarreling about the lines, when he was locating the street, he straightened up from his instrument and said: ‘If I run that street right through, it will cut three or four feet off the end of ——’s house. It’s all he’s got in the world and he never could get another. I reckon it won’t hurt anything out here if I skew the line a little and miss him.”‘

The line was “skewed,” and hence the trouble, and more testimony furnished as to Lincoln’s abounding kindness of heart, that would not willingly harm any human being.


A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes that made Abraham Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller With Introduction and Anecdotes

By Alexander K. McClure

(This material is in the public domain.)


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Listen to the “Morality” of Laissez-faire.

Listen to the “Morality” of Laissez-faire.

The English government during the Irish Famine of 1845 – 1852 adhered strictly to a doctrine of Laissez-faire. I want you to listen to the cold blooded ramblings of a government in thrall to a cruel, vicious and irrational policy concept. This is where economic philosophy confronted tragedy and compounded it.

Watch the clip and see if you can avoid recoiling in horror at the voices of the decision makers mindlessly repeating the necessity of letting the market have its way.

James Pilant


When Ireland Starved Episode 3 Managing The Famine (Part 1 of 3) – YouTube

When Ireland Starved Episode 3 Managing The Famine (Part 1 of 3) – YouTube


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Acting in China Offers Political Insights

English: Margaret Thatcher, former UK PM. Fran...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I find writing so striking and delightful that I want to share it with you.

This is from Salon’s web site and is written by Melissa Rayworth. She wants to convey the political insights she gained while acting in China.

Please, please go to the link at the bottom of the page and read the whole thing.

Sometimes, here in the U.S. we get that the impression that the Chinese want or are becoming like us. I don’t think so. Read and see what you think.

James Pilant

Playing Margaret Thatcher in China – The Iron Lady –  from Salon.com

Finally, they began to realize I wasn’t bluffing. Furious, the director summoned an assistant, who appeared with a bulging black leather case. Unzipping it, he pulled out thick wads of Chinese currency and counted out the cash. With my pay sitting in my backpack under those same ill-fitting shoes I wore tumbling down the steps at the Great Hall, I played my last scene as Margaret Thatcher.

Between takes, no one spoke. I’d proven them right about me – and about her. I had forced their director to negotiate with me, just like the Iron Lady had forced Deng. Face had been lost. My hope that playing this role might humanize Thatcher for Chinese audiences had failed. I had fallen down those steps for nothing.

Playing Margaret Thatcher in China – The Iron Lady – Salon.com

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PBS is a Worthy Investment

paula kerger

Image by kthread via Flickr

Paula Kerger, PBS Chief, Calls For Views To Oppose Mitt Romney’s Stance Towards TV Funding

PBS chief Paula Kerger said Wednesday that she recognizes the United States has to make tough budget decisions but defended PBS as an effective public-private partnership.

Paula Kerger, PBS Chief, Calls For Views To Oppose Mitt Romney’s Stance Towards TV Funding

Watching regular television is a depressing experience. A constant barrage of ads designed to magnify every insecurity to sell products. I tend to believe modern television viewing exacerbates psychological problems.

But we in the United States have an alternative. We can watch public broadcasting. We can be enlightened. Our children can watch television without a constant barrage of sugar cereal ads and pleas to buy the latest toys.

I use some of their shows like Frontline for my classes. They deal with subjects with a great deal of documentary skill. I enjoy the History Channel and the like but sometimes their work is more a hash of history cliches than well assembled stories.

Some of the best viewing experiences of my life have been PBS programs. That’s where I learned about Kurosawa and Goddard. I absorbed a lot of history and learned to think outside the intellectual limits of rural Oklahoma.

There are those that believe that the free market produces the best possible outcome. They haven’t watched “Two and a Half Men,” a weekly half hour about a libertine whose impulses are out of control, a neurotic brother with a son so dumb, you wish the father has satisfied his fatherly urges by getting a pet. The show features discussion of unusual sex acts, fart jokes and a parade of easy women. Thus, the free market in action; a show aimed at a horny 14 year old.

Once this is published, someone is going to write me about the poor souls who do not watch public television and argue that they shouldn’t bear a burden of taxation for what interests me.

Yes, let’s excuse people from paying property taxes for schools because they don’t have any children. or pay for roads, police, firemen, soldiers they don’t use unless there’s war, etc.

Having a country in which there is a certain degree of belief in scientific beliefs, some investigative reporting and knowledge of common cultural and historical heritage is also a worthy goal.

That there are many people who have a philosophy of “if I can’t figure out how much money it’s worth, it’s a pointless activity,” is a sign of a declining civilization gradually descending into a third world status of ignorance.

While there is art, culture and literature, there is still some hope that the experiences of Americans will be respected, the we might be able to live lives of significance, and there might be a common cultural heritage of something more than fart jokes and quotations of corporate quarterly profits.

James Pilant

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Some You Tube Video’s You May Find Interesting in the Context of Business Law

Some You Tube Video’s You May Find Interesting in the Context of Business Law

Some You Tube Video’s You May Find Interesting in the Context of Business Law

This first selection is a documentary telling the story of how General Motors bought out the public transit systems particularly cable cars and replaced them with bus lines. It’s an older documentary but it’s a good one. You should watch it if only for the scene of the cable cars being put to the torch.

Documentary Film Video General Motors History = Taken for a Ride.flv

This documentary discusses whether faults in the design played a major role in the loss of the ship.

Titanic’s Achilles Heel (2007) History Channel

This one is about an unusual fire in a high rise building in Hong Kong. If you are interested in fire investigation, this one is fascinating.

Blueprint For Disaster – S02E05 – Hong Kong Inferno

Try these three on for size. Remember the rules on tort liability from your business law class and see if you can tell which ones apply.

James Pilant

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The Death of an English Soldier – What I am watching on You Tube.

The topography of Afghanistan: there are Hindu...

Image via Wikipedia

This film is a story about the death of an English soldier in Afghanistan in 2007. We meet his family and members of his unit. What was shocking and surprising was the fact that we go through the ambush in great detail with film from the incident. We hear what the soldiers say and can follow the tactical situation intelligently. Usually a documentary like this is good at one aspect or another, sometimes, maybe two. This one balanced the elements and was good at all of them. I was deeply impressed. This is superb film work. It could be used in a film class as well as for the military or history class room.

This is a new age of warfare. Individual soldier have video cameras and they use them often. For security purposes the British government holds onto it until it is considered safe to release. This material has just been released for use by the BBC.

I was saddened by the young man’s death and pleased that the soldiers’ felt that their work was important. It would be terrible if the death was considered pointless by his comrades.

All those willing to send young men off to war should have to watch this. Sometimes, military action is necessary but I have had contact with many who consider it to be a first resort. War is always a last resort, at least in my mind.

James Pilant

Click the link below to see the film.

Our War: Ambushed

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The Defining Moment of the Obama Presidency

The defining moment of the Obama Presidency occurred on August 14th, 2010.

On August 13th, the President made a ringing endorsement of the right of any religion to build a temple to their faith anywhere in the United States. I was very impressed. I had been developing doubts about the President and his willingness to perform those promises from the campaign. Here was a good reason, a very good reason: the defense of basic American rights, to take a second look and maybe come back around to backing the President. I began to think about what I should do.

But I didn’t have to think long.

On August 14th, the President walked it all back. He continued to back the right of believers to build their own places of worship as a general principle but he was not in charge of deciding individual cases – he was not judging the “wisdom” of the decision to build the mosque.

The President was unable to maintain a basic Constitutional principle for 24 hours. It was incredible.

As far as I am concerned the President probably believes what he says while he is saying it. After that he merely considers the political advantages of whether or not to continue believing. He deserves no support from any believer in anything but the most mundane theory of situational ethics.

I do not believe his recent call for jobs is anything but a temporary gambit to lure the foolish among the Progressives and Liberals to return for his election campaign.

I am not going to assist. I am done with the President.

James Pilant

Here are his words and a brief television news report. See if you see it differently.

August 13, 2010, from the BBC

“We must all recognise and respect the sensitivities surrounding the
development of lower Manhattan, Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground. But let
me be clear, as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the
same right to practise their religion as anyone else in this country.

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre
on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and
ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be
unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this
country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential
to who we are.”

August 14th, 2010 from Fox News

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the  decision to put a mosque there,” he said in response to a reporter’s question  after he spoke about efforts to aid the Gulf Coast region. “I was commenting  very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.  That’s what our country is about.”

Here you can see much the same material from CBS News.(Warning – you have to watch a thirty second commercial)

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