Samuel Levinger

Posted by: on Dec 18, 2005 | 7 Comments

My great uncle, Samuel Levinger, fought and died in the Spanish Civil War with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. He was a machine gunner in the Tom Mooney Battalion, and died at the battle of Belchité in late August 1937.

The son of a rabbi and an author, Sam was an adventuresome child. At the age of eight he ran away from his home in Delaware to re-enact the story of Huckleberry Finn, floating south on the Mississippi. He didn’t get very far. His family were active liberals and anti-fascists, not Communists. His parents supported both Franklin Delanor Roosevelt & Norman Thomas, a socialist candidate for president in 1936. They were proud defenders of striking workers. When Sam was fourteen, he ran away to join a coal workers strike in Kentucky. He was the sole person to be arrested for “talking back” to the sheriff.

At a May Day Parade in New York City in 1936, he carried on his shoulders a young child named Staughton Lynd, who grew up to be a prominent social and labor activist, and professor at Yale University. In a 1998 address to the Friends of Kent State University Libraries, Lynd said the following about his memory of Sam:

“When I was five or six years old, a young man named Sam Levinger carried me on his shoulders in a May Day parade in New York City. Later that year Sam Levinger went to Spain as a volunteer for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. As a child I was told that he was wounded in the groin by machine gun fire, and died because medical supplies were inadequate.

Recently I was asked to review a book on the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and learned more facts about Sam Levinger. He came from Columbus, and attended Ohio State. His father was a rabbi. For the last sixty years I have assumed that Sam Levinger was a Communist, as were most of the volunteers for the Lincoln Brigade. Now I learn that he was a member of the Young Peoples Socialist League, as I might have been had I been fifteen years older. I learned the date and place that he was fatally wounded: in August 1937, at Belchite. These facts are all new to me, but the inward, essential meaning of Sam Levinger’s life and death became part of me as a child. I do not even actually remember being carried on his shoulders. Like so much of oral history, it was told to me, and I accepted it as true, and it was true. Levinger touched my life, teaching me without words that one should be prepared to give one’s all for an ideal.”

Sam wanted to use his experience in Spain to further his writing. He was collecting material for his future career as a professional writer; the talents for which he certainly had. Here is an article published in The Nation under the pseudonym “RP.” I have been told by my mother that it was actually written by Sam. Reproducing this article is probably in violation of copyright law, but given that the date of publication is 1937, I doubt anyone will care. Sam’s war journal was published posthumously in the now-defunct Columbia Dispatch. Rabbi Mark Samuel Hurvitz, whose middle name comes (partly) from my great-Uncle’s, tracked down a copy and transcribed and posted it.

Sitting down with Mother and searching through her collection of family papers, we found a half finished manuscript of a book my great-grandmother had started to write about her son. Elma Ehrlich Levinger was a well published author of children’s and Jewish stories, and she intended to memorialize Sam by telling his story. Her book was never published, but my mother or I may resume the task in the future.

I wrote a research paper on the Spanish Civil War when I was in high school, for which I received second place in the annual American History Essay Contest. (I was bested by the inimitable Jared Malsin, the kind of person who, had he been born 75 years ago, might also have joined the International Brigades to fight fascism.) Given that I wrote this as a sophomore in high school, it doesn’t comport to my current standards of research or writing, but it’s worth posting for the sake of completeness.

Here is a copy of his last letter home, informing his parents that he was going back to the front from a hospital in Madrid. It is a truly stoic piece of writing, almost to the point of being glib. Without ever having known Sam, I have no reference point to compare it with. But it does compare with the standard Levinger humor: always biting, revealing the truth of a situation, even in the worst of times.

Sam’s idealism and courage were far above that of the average 20 year old, and I am honored by the knowledge that some of the same blood flows in my veins. I am inspired by his sacrifice in the face of evil, and I dedicate myself to the pursuit of social justice in his memory. ¡No Pasaran!

Sam at 18
Samuel Harold Levinger (1917-1937)

Freedom Flies

Posted by: on Oct 31, 2005 | One Comment

Flew the Freedom Flies experimental vehicle on a dried lake bed in Arizona. Not quite the technical success we had hoped, but it’s an amazing landscape, and playing hooky for a week was fun. Watch me dive for my life in this movie.

Our heroes

Our heroes

Off the beaten path

Off the beaten path

There be monsters

There be monsters

Matisse profile

Matisse profile

Evening fun

Evening fun

Ramblin' Man

Ramblin’ Man

Roberts’ Confirmation

Posted by: on Sep 20, 2005 | No Comments

In case you missed last week’s CSPAN-3 coverage of Judge Roberts’ nomination hearings, let me recount them for you here:

> Sen Specter (R-PA, Chairman): I’m a moderate Republican, and am slowly being edged out of my party. Will you respect the constitution right to privacy that underlies the Roe vs. Wade decision?

> Judge Roberts: I’m cold, logical and calculating. A legal machine, devoid of any feeling, despite my all-American looks and picturesque family. If the words “right to privacy” aren’t in the Constitution, they’re dead to me.

> Sen Durbin (D-IL): I’m running for President, and have a big neck.
> Judge Roberts: As that question regards issues that may come before the court, I don’t believe it would be proper for me to answer.

> Sen Kennedy (D-MA): I’m an elder statesman, and still haunted by the ghost of Chappaquiddick. Will you defend the civil rights I fought for half a century ago?

> Judge Roberts: I have no respect for the march of time, and the progress of human values. If slavery were still legal, that would be the precedent I would uphold.

> Sen Feinstein (D-CA): As the only woman on this panel of old white windbags, will you answer my questions?

> Judge Roberts: Not a chance.

> Sen Brownback (R-KS): I’m also running for President. May I kiss you?

> Judge Roberts: On the cheek only; the mouth would cross the line between adoration and Satanism.

> Sen Hatch (R-UT): Will you answer my sycophantic questions?

> Judge Roberts: With pleasure.

> Sen Biden (D-DE): I’m also running for President, I also co-authored the Violence Against
Women Act, which is unconstitutional. Do you feel that men and women deserve equal protection under the law?

> Judge Roberts: I think women should be barefoot and pregnant, just as God intended.

> Sen Graham (R-SC): I think we can all agree to that.

> All, sans Feinstein: (laughter)

Now that the panel has adjourned, Roberts has returned to his squirming children and doting wife, Bush has returned to ignoring the plight of the poor, Congress can get back to their tense partisan standoff, and the nation can return its attention to things that really matter, like football, Renee Zellweger’s divorice, and missing blonde teenagers.

As a card-carrying pinko-Commie-Liberal, I’m supposed to hate Roberts. But try as I might, no matter how many hours of hearings I forced myself to sit through, I couldn’t. He’s got a calm, strong persona, without the craziness or malice of Bork. Although he is a Harvard grad, he is clearly an intellectual of the highest level. Anyone who puts their faith in two hundred year old words instead of human experience deserves the respect of this school.

In all seriousness, it looks like Roberts will be easily confirmed, and it was wise that the Democrats didn’t put up too strong of a fight. Enough resistance to show that they have a spine, but not enough to actually make a difference. They saved their right to filibuster for a truly divisive candidate, like the one that Bush will most likely nominate for the position vacated by O’Connor. To keep the gender ratio at a sensible 2/9, he will likely put forward a woman with real conservative credentials like Priscilla Owen, the Wicked Witch of Texas. Will the circle be unbroken Lord, by and by?

Published in the September 20th Tech. The following letter, and my response ran in the next issue.

Instead of starting off with “In case you missed last week’s C-SPAN3 coverage…”, Josh Levinger might have said “In case you missed last week’s David Brooks Op-Ed in The New York Times.” [“Card-Carrying, Pinko-Commie-Liberal Can’t Force Self to Hate John Roberts,” The Tech, Tuesday, Sept. 20.] It seems that Brooks had the exact same idea as Levinger, namely to provide a bitingly satirical “transcript” of the Roberts confirmation hearings. Not only did the Brooks piece outshine Levinger’s stylistically, it was published on Sept. 15, three days before the submission deadline on the September 20 Tech.
*Ian Z. Jacobi ’06*

Author’s Response: While I acknowledge the similarity between David Brooks’ column and my own, the truth is that I had not read his before I submitted my own. I assure the readers that I was unaware of either the topic or the text of Brooks’ column. *Josh Levinger*

Ballistic Missile Simulation

Posted by: on Sep 1, 2005 | One Comment

I worked at GlobalSecurity.org as an intern this summer, and in addition to website maintenance and research, wrote a program to estimate the trajectories of ICBMs. It’s possible use is quite limited, because it assumes a knowledge of the technical details of the missile (booster and reentry vehicle characteristics, as well as fuel masses and specific impulse), however it includes estimates for this data by Charles Vick for the main Iranian, Pakistani and North Korean missiles. Interestingly, these missiles are all closely related, as a formal paper I edited indicates.

The program was written in Python, and requires wxPython for windowing and Numpy for plotting. I have compiled all these dependencies together for binaries for Windows and Mac OS X 10.4. The source is also available, and will be of interest to the discerning user. The Read Me has more information on the specifics of the simulation, and is required reading if you’re going to do anything serious with this data.

Disclaimer: I wrote this software as a sophomore engineering student, and I make no guarantee as to the accuracy of the output. It gives me correct values for my test cases, but don’t make policy (or go to war), on my say so.


Update, October 29, 2013:

This code is now on GitHub, with a few gui and packaging changes from Karsten Wolf. github.com/jlev/ballistic-missile-range

The compiled binaries are quite old, and may not work well on more recent operating systems.

DC Photos

Posted by: on Jun 26, 2005 | No Comments
Hannah Reflecting

Hannah Reflecting

In front of the Constitution

In front of the Constitution

Me and the Shuttle Enterprise

Me and the Shuttle Enterprise

Weinermobile!

Weinermobile!