Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spring Training

All the players have reported and the games start next week.  To kick us off here is some old footage featuring Ty Cobb of whom THC has written before (see Take Me Out Of The Ballgame).  It's taken from both his playing years (1905-28) and in retirement.

The first seconds show Cobb and Honus Wagner together - it's hard to think of two more vastly different temperaments in great ball players.  Cobb was all temper, mostly bad.  Wagner a gracious competitor and, by all accounts, a kind man.

Most of the film shows Cobb in his Detroit years (1905-26) but at one point he's wearing an uniform with an elephant on it - that's from his last two years with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.

At 1:58 is Cobb at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY.  Before the camera pans to him you can see Babe Ruth and Grover Cleveland Alexander.  One of the last scenes is of Ruth and Cobb in retirement playing a charity golf match.  They may be smiling but during their playing days Cobb hated Ruth and the changes he brought to baseball.  THC's guess is Ruth ignored Cobb in return, that is if he could remember his name - the Babe was notorious for forgetting names, including of his teammates.

Friday, February 27, 2015

That's A Really Big Foot

Just two days ago THC wrote in Barriers To Entry:
You can see this process going on right now with the FCC's announced decision, at the behest of the White House, to extend its authority to regulate the Internet as a government utility in the name of "net neutrality".  They've promised it'll be just the right amount of regulation and not too much regulation but the important thing from a progressive prospective is the ability of the government to claim the right to regulate as much as it deems appropriate.  And, if the FCC is successful with its power grab, we all know what that little bit of regulation will ultimately become. 
And what do we have pop up on YouTube today?  Confirmation of THC's thesis from an authoritative source.  This is Hilary Clinton's endorsement of net neutrality and the FCC action.  Apart from the fact that her knowledge about the issue seems rather shaky the most interesting justification she gives in support of the FCC is that "it's a foot in the door" because "we need to do more" after this initial regulatory foray.   Yes, indeed there is always "more to do" when it comes to regulation.  Always keep in mind that it is not the details of the regulation that are most important for these folks; it is the successful assertion of the right to regulate.  They can always figure out what they want to do later.If you are interested in another take on net neutrality you can read this from Nick Gillespie.

And speaking of feet here's one possible future envisioned by George Orwell in 1984:
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

Second Thoughts From The New York Times On Cuba Slim Yacht) refugee yacht)

Attentive THC readers may remember his December 2014 post, Top 5 Reasons We Ended The Cuba Embargo.

The first four were:

- Retro look of Havana appeals to hipsters.

- Travel to U.S. mostly by boat which is more environmentally-friendly than air travel.

- Fairness Doctrine implemented on more progressive basis grounded in concept that anything not approved by Government is unfair.

- Fertile ground for new Cash for Clunkers program.

The fifth was:

- Income inequality solved by maximum monthly wage of $20.

It's this last one which is now giving the New York Times second thoughts about the wisdom of ending the embargo as you can see in its recent article bemoaning the advent of capitalism on the island:

Inequality Becomes More Visible in Cuba as the Economy Shifts

This is causing the Times, which has advocated strongly for reducing income inequality in both its editorial and news sections, anguish.  It is better for everyone to remain poor together according to the Times.  Well, almost everyone.  In Cuba, the ruling elite is exempt from many of the restrictions imposed on the rest of the population because, well, just because.  In the U.S. the Times pushes the issue though it would exempt the members of its Editorial Board, the family owners of the paper (the Sulzbergers) and its largest non-family shareowner (currently 17%) the well-connected Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim who controls 80% of the landlines and 70% of cell phone service in his native country (see this NPR piece on his monopolistic practices; no mention of his large ownership interest in the Times; does anyone doubt that if Slim were a major shareholder in Fox that NPR would have mentioned it at least in passing?).
All of which brings to mind Margaret Thatcher's response on income inequality from 1990: "They'd rather have the poor poorer".

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lose Yourself

Seize the day.  Work hard and grab your opportunities.  Aspire to excellence.  Utilize internal rhyme patterns if rapping.  But dress a bit better and use less profanity.  Eminem from 2000.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Barriers To Entry

Why is this man grinning?
 I'm Lloyd Blankfein and I love Dodd-Frank!  Please sir, may I have another?

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein's remarks at an investor conference:
"More intense regulatory and technology requirements have raised the barrier to entry higher than at any other time in modern history", said Mr Blankfein. "This is an expensive business to be in, if you don't have the market share in scale.  Consider the numerous business exists that have been announced by our peers as they reassessed their competitive positioning and relative returns."

While the Goldman boss wasn't endorsing all of the added directives from Washington, he said his bank is "prepared to have this relationship with our regulators" - and the regulators are prepared to have a deep relationship with Goldman - "for a long time".
Blankfein's remarks provide direct confirmation of what THC has said for quite some time (see, Surely, You Must Be Joking)- the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation may have been sold to the public as ending "too big to fail" but instead it codified "too big to fail" as a government policy and in the course of doing so strengthened the hand of the biggest players in financial services.  Even as THC was writing this he came across a recently released study from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government finding that community banks have been losing market share to the largest financial institutions at an accelerated rate since the passage of Dodd-Frank.

Why did so many legislators vote for a bill with results the opposite of what was rhetorically claimed as its purpose?  THC believes their are two conflicting factors at play here.

The first is ignorance or perhaps to be more charitable, a lack of sophistication.  Ignorance by many lawmakers of what Dodd-Frank actually contained beyond the sloganeering used to pass it.  And ignorance of how financial services really work and the law of unintended consequences.

We have such an example of unintended consequences foisted upon us by Congress in the early 1990s.  At the time there was an outcry over what was seen as exorbitant executive compensation.  The cry from the critics was that executives needed their pay tied more directly to performance.  The bright idea in Congress was to encourage this by limiting the ability of businesses to deduct salaries as a business expense to those salaries of less than $1 million a year.  What was the business response?  The explosion in the increase in options tied directly to performance of company stock.  You may recall how that played out in the runaway stock market of the late 1990s.  Executive compensation soared in comparison to the days when salaries were deductible as business expenses with limitations.  Today, of course the complaint is about bloated executive compensation because of stock options and restricted stock even though Congress got the performance based pay it wanted with its legislation.

The second reason is that progressive political theory leads to their promoting government actions encouraging the consolidation of businesses into bigger operations and less competition. 

Progressives like to frame the issue as one of excessive venal individuality in contrast to virtuous collectivity as expressed by government action but that's wrong.  The greatest example of collectivity is the millions of individual decisions made by the daily decisions of people in a free marketplace. What progressives really dislike is the unpredictability of that collective action.  They are constantly concerned that the collective is making a "wrong" decision because of what they see as the disorder and chaos of the marketplace.  The marketplace is collectivity but uncontrolled and uncoordinated.  Progressivism is centrally controlled and coordinated collective action.  The degree of control can vary; sometimes it can be direct, sometimes it can merely be "nudging" but the decision about the degree of control needs to be the government's.

You can see this process going on right now with the FCC's announced decision, at the behest of the White House, to extend its authority to regulate the Internet as a government utility in the name of "net neutrality".  They've promised it'll be just the right amount of regulation and not too much regulation but the important thing from a progressive prospective is the ability of the government to claim the right to regulate as much as it deems appropriate.  And, if the FCC is successful with its power grab, we all know what that little bit of regulation will ultimately become.  This should also not come as a surprise but if the internet becomes subject to regulation similar to utilities and other telecommunication companies it also becomes subject to a bevy of federal and state excise taxes (for more on the tax angle read this).  What is particularly remarkable about this power grab is that it is not in response to any crisis.  The dangers of not having net neutrality are all hypothetical because problems have not arisen from the current non-regulated environment.  Just to drive home the point, the FCC, dominated by appointees of an Administration pledged to "transparency", is voting tomorrow on the 300+ page proposal without the public having an opportunity to see it.

In the case of business, progressives would find it much easier to reduce disorder and chaos and increase bureaucratic control if there were fewer businesses and if they were larger so they could afford the substantial costs imposed by government requirements.  Having one hundred large businesses control the entire economy would make the government's task much simpler, and the lucky hundred businesses would do just fine economically, at least in the short term.

Larger businesses, particularly in the financial sector, favored by this approach are an easier touch for political fundraising and are also cooperative in providing financing for the careers of aspiring politicians and bureaucrats, see, for instance, the former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd (D- Countrywide Financial Services) as well as providing lucrative landing spots for those seeking to replenish their bank accounts between stints in "public service".  Our current Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, took a break from government to make millions at Citigroup.  He even had a clause in his contract that guaranteed his bonus if he left Citigroup to take a high-level position in government, the exact opposite of how such arrangements are usually structured which is that a senior employee leaving before the set bonus time period forfeits their payment!  Peter Orszag, the former head of OMB, is currently at Citigroup getting his lucre before he undoubtedly returns to haunt us with another round of public service.

By the way, the constant expansion of legislative and regulatory activity is used by politicians of both parties to raise funds.  After all, it was Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who in 2000 publicly told Microsoft and other big players in technology that they needed to build up a Washington presence so they could "participate" in government so that Senator Hatch could "wet his beak".
Don fanucci gf2 .jpeg (Sen. Hatch)
And let's not forget Rahm Emanuel.  He took a break from his political career and work in the Clinton Administration to spend two and a half years with a large investment banking company before returning to Congress, serving as President Obama's first Chief of Staff and then becoming Mayor of Chicago.  As Wikipedia notes, Rahm did not have an MBA nor prior banking experience before his stint in investment banking but he did manage to earn $16.2 million during his brief stint.  We'll just note in passing that if you make an average of $100,000 a year over a 40-year period your total earnings will be $4 million.

Now there are elements on the left who have been very vocal about this trade back and forth with the financial services sector.  But what they want is direct government control across the board and all that means is that someone else will end up with a bundle of money.  As the renowned philosopher Peter Townsend wrote "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Holland Or The Netherlands?

Like many of his readers, THC has occasionally wondered "Hey, what's the difference between Holland and The Netherlands; or is there a difference at all?"  And now, here is your answer courtesy of CGP Grey who has developed a YouTube specialty designing entertaining videos that quickly explain most of the big questions you have about the world.  Here, see for yourself.

In this 4 minute video CGP explains the differences between Holland and The Netherlands.  Along the way you'll learn about some Caribbean islands that are also countries and part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and other Caribbean islands that are not countries themselves but are part of the Country of the Netherlands.

As an added bonus, you'll also learn how the Germans emigrating to America in the 18th century ended up being called the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Double Torture

No, this post is not about interrogation policy.  It is simply a piece of advice for anyone in the Western States who stops at Dutch Bros. to have some of their delicious coffee.  No matter how tempting their Double Torture coffee sounds you should decline the opportunity to indulge.  THC is currently recovering from several hours of frenzied activity and his heart rate is now only moderately elevated.  He hopes to be able to catch a little sleep sometime later this week.

That is all.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Boots Of Chinese Plastic

And by the way you look fantastic
In your boots of Chinese plastic
Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders still rockin' in 2010.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Victory was never in doubt . .  . What was in doubt, in all our minds, was whether there would be any of us left to dedicate our cemetery at the end, or whether the last Marine would die knocking out the last Japanese gun and gunner.
- General Graves Erskine at dedication of 3rd Marine Division cemetery on Iwo Jima history war
Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the United State Marine Corps landing on the small 8-square mile island of Iwo Jima (half the size of the Connecticut town THC lives in).  When the battle ended five weeks later 6,821 Americans were dead and 19,217 wounded; of the Japanese garrison of 22,600 only 216 had been captured - the rest were dead or lurking in the 18 mile network of tunnels constructed before the attack.  The last of the Japanese in hiding did not give themselves up until January 6, 1949 more than three years after the end of the war.  The battle is best known for the famous photograph of the planting of the American flag on Mount Suribachi but that was on the fifth day of fighting; of the six flag raisers, three were to die before the battle ended, a story told well in the book Flags Of Our Fathers.  Of the 82 Medals of Honor awarded to Marines during the war in the Pacific, 22 were for actions during the battle of Iwo Jima (for the story of one of the Marine honorees from an earlier Pacific campaign and the only serviceman in American history photographed during the action for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor see Tarawa).  Their sacrifice allowed thousands of American lives to be saved as Iwo became a mid-point emergency landing station for American bombers flying to and from Japan from bases in the Marianas as well as allowing escort fighters to be stationed there.

The high ratio of American to Japanese casualties here and at Okinawa (April-June 1945) led to the frighteningly heavy casualty estimates for the anticipated invasion of Japan in the fall and winter of 1945-6 where we would face more than a million Japanese soldiers, 10,000 kamikaze planes and an armed civilian populace prepared to fight to the death (for more on that story read Downfall).
(from bravo devil dog graphix)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What ISIS Wants

From this month's edition of The Atlantic, a must read article by Graeme Wood in which he explains the differences between Al-Qaeda and ISIS, the doctrinal significance of the ISIS proclamation establishing a Caliphate, the theological underpinnings of the Islamic State and what it means for us.  THC adds his own thoughts at the end, along with some movie clips.

(From The Atlantic)

Wood believes we have misunderstood the nature of ISIS in two ways:
First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it.
We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.  
In other words the inane stylings of State Department spokesperson Marie Harf (and kudos to Chris Matthews for taking on this nonsense) are just not going to cut it, or as Dave Burge summarized the Administration's view:
Them: God willing, we will restore the Califate and hasten the holy apocalypse as written in scripture.
Us: So you're saying you want jobs.
It is baffling to see the poverty "root cause" explanation for jihadism persist after all these years.  If we look at the 911 plotters, the originator of the plot and its operational mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, obtained a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and a master's in Islamic Culture and History from Punjab University in Pakistan, Mohammed Atta, the operational leader of the 911 group in the U.S., came from a wealthy, well-educated family, had an undergraduate degree in architecture and did graduate level studies in urban planning in Germany and, according to most accounts, it was during their time abroad that both became radicalized.  The same is true for the well-educated and professionally successful English Muslims who carried out the July 7, 2005 suicide bombings in London.

UPDATE:  It turns out that "Jihadi John", the ISIS dude who has done several video beheadings is a Londoner from a prosperous Kuwaiti family and received a degree in computer programming from the University of Westminster.  Better face it Marie, they're just not that into you.

Just because beliefs and ideas seem crazy to us does not mean that the comfortable Western academic economically deterministic framework some people like to impose makes any sense as an alternative.  It seems culturally myopic of us to insist that we cannot take the self-professed views of these "violent extremists" seriously or, as Wood writes of the Western bias:
that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul.
Wood's lengthy article is in four sections.  The first, Devotion, is on the difference between Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which is much more focused on the purification of Islam:
Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.
His point is that ISIS is primarily focused on Muslim apostates whom it will kill.  Non-Muslims are subject to slavery, special taxes and random, not the systematic killing which apostates are subject to (by the way, by ISIS definitions, President Obama, the son of a Muslim, is an apostate) .  Where the recent ISIS beheadings of more than 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians along the Libyan shore fits into this schema who knows?

The second is Territory, in which Wood discusses the significance of the reestablishment of the Caliphate.  He quotes Anjem Choudary:
Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate—“and now we have one.” Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens.
Next, Wood tells us of The Apocalypse, where ISIS differs from Al-Qaeda.
In broad strokes, al-Qaeda acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. 
Belief in the apocalypse:
appear all over the Islamic State’s propaganda. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.
The final section is called The Fight, about how the Caliphate cannot ideologically co-exist with the modern system of states in the world.  Wood writes:
It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State will be by its radicalism. The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide.  
Or, as an ISIS spokesperson said in 2013:
“Our goal is to establish an Islamic state that doesn’t recognize borders, on the Prophetic methodology.”
To accomplish this goal tactically ISIS options are limited:
Choudary’s colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.
As a side note, the idea of the temporary peace or truce is echoed in Hamas and Palestinian statements about peace with Israel.  You need to read their statements very carefully because when you unpack them and look at the context it turns out that when we in the West hear the word "peace" what they invariably mean is "temporary truce".

What to do?

Wood chastises the U.S. and other governments for being slow to recognize the significance of ISIS:
If we had identified the Islamic State’s intentions early, and realized that the vacuum in Syria and Iraq would give it ample space to carry them out, we might, at a minimum, have pushed Iraq to harden its border with Syria and preemptively make deals with its Sunnis. That would at least have avoided the electrifying propaganda effect created by the declaration of a caliphate just after the conquest of Iraq’s third-largest city. Yet, just over a year ago, Obama told The New Yorker that he considered ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s weaker partner. “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.
One option is to eradicate the Caliphate:
One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding.
Yet Wood believes the risks of this are enormous (and anyone who has reflected on America's experience over past fifteen years would share this view):
The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. 
On balance he favors a containment strategy:
Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq—they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people.
Though he acknowledges such a strategy could go badly wrong, particularly if ISIS and Al-Qaeda reconcile, he views ISIS as less of a direct threat to the West than Al-Qaeda.

Wood also sees some hope with what he sees as "quietest Salafis" who:
agree with the Islamic State that God’s law is the only law, and they eschew practices like voting and the creation of political parties. But they interpret the Koran’s hatred of discord and chaos as requiring them to fall into line with just about any leader, including some manifestly sinful ones. 
The entire article is well worth reading.

Some thoughts from THC:

Like most Americans THC is thoroughly sick of dealing with the Muslim world and is not anxious for any more interventions.  Since WWII we've employed just about every type of strategy ranging from military intervention (Iraq I and II) to supporting military regimes and then supporting the Arab spring uprisings against those military regimes.  We've also actively decided not to intervene, as in 1973 when the Arab oil embargo was declared and the U.S. could have easily occupied the oil fields in response.  It chose not to and as of that moment Western oil companies lost any leverage and became the tools of the Muslim states in which they operated.  We tried supporting Arab nationalists, like Nasser, joining with the Soviet Union to force our allies Britain and France to abandon the Suez Canal in 1956.  We tried appeasement, ignoring Israel diplomatically and militarily for its first two decades (forcing the Israelis to evacuate the Sinai in 1956, avoiding having an Israeli prime minister make an official visit until 1964 and not becoming a major arms supplier to Israel till after the Six Day War in 1967).  We've tried humanitarian missions like Somalia in 1993 and ended up with the bodies of American soldiers being dragged through the streets in front of celebrating crowds.  In Iran we joined with the Ayatollah Khomeini in advocating the overthrow of Mossadeq in the 1950s and after the Shah was overthrown in 1979 we offered to restore diplomatic relations with the new regime and deliver all the armaments ordered by the Shah to the Ayatollahs; not to mention the attempts of Reagan and Clinton to reach out to Iran all of which backfired. None of it has worked out well.

So there are days when confronted by what to do about ISIS that he just feels like following Ripley's advice:
Once his fever passes he moves on to some other thoughts.

One of the strategies used by the West to contain ISIS is to prevent the travel of jihadis from their countries to the Caliphate and several of the ISIS supporters interviewed by Wood are among those affected by the ban, including confiscation of passports.  Reading the article raises the question in THC's mind - is that the right approach?  Are we better off letting them go to ISIS and preventing their return?  Once they are within the Caliphate we are free to kill them, which we cannot do while they reside in the West under the protection of our laws. 

THC is not comforted by Wood's belief that quietest Salafis may be our best allies against ISIS.  Salafism is the brand of Islam sponsored by our erstwhile allies, the Saudis, and as Wood acknowledges, is intolerant of non-Islamic believers.  The best that can be said about quietest Salafis is that they are, indeed, quiet.  But in in the Muslim world it always makes sense to bet on the strong horse, whether it is ISIS, Al-Qaeda or the Shiite Ayatollahs in Iran.  Those who are the most unflinchingly violent win.  It is often forgotten that in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Shah it was an open question as to who would triumph; the merchants in the bazaars who triggered the original uprising, the communist Tudeh Party or the mullahs (Newsweek magazine bet on the commies).  The merchants just wanted peace and quiet, the communists hesitated to seize the day for a little too long and it was the mullahs who won by quickly and ruthlessly exterminating their opposition.

Finally, as a Jew, there is very little comfort THC can derive from whomever might succeed ISIS or Al Queda or the Saudi regime no matter how nominally "moderate" they may be.  Last fall, THC wrote about seeing Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the spiritual leader of Tunisia's Islamist party.  Ghannouchi has supported democratic reform in Tunisia and broad based non-Islamist coalitions.  In the elections that occurred after THC saw him speak, his party kept to its pledge of non-interference and today Tunisia is the only Arab state where some form of democracy may take hold.  He's the best the Arab world has to offer, yet he regards Jews as a "bacillus", supports Hamas and believes Israel must be destroyed.

This type of thinking is in the mainstream of the Muslim world.  In October 2003, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed, speaking at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Kuala Lumpur, an event attended by leaders of 57 nations, (THC pointed out the puzzling lack of response to such an organization by the rest of the world in this post), denounced terrorist violence in the name of Islam but then went on speak of the competition between the Christian and Muslim worlds.  In Mahatir's telling behind the Christians were their puppeteers - the Jews:
1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategize and then to counter-attack. 

We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them. 
Mahatir was warmly applauded.

The idea that there are some objective actions the West can do to change this is also mistaken.  THC was particularly struck by this when reading The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright's excellent account of the founding and growth of Al-Qaeda.  He relates that one of the formative moments in the radicalization of Mohammed Atta was when he learned of the Jewish conspiracy to kill Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.  Now, not only was there no such conspiracy but in the case of Bosnia and Kosovo, Jewish organizations took the lead in urging Western intervention specifically to save the lives of Moslems! 

In the Islamic calendar it is now the year 1392.  1392 was in the midst of a pretty bad time for the Jews of Christian Europe (though come to think of it 1939-45 wasn't so good either and recent events there remind me of someone's quip that "the Europeans will never forgive the Jews for the Holocaust").  In any event, it is useful to think of today's Muslim world as being in the 14th century except with the benefits of 21st century weapons and technology.  And by the way, this is not just about Jews.  Christians have been fleeing the Middle East for two decades, bringing to an end communities that existed for two thousand years and but while Christian and Jews have some, albeit very limited, standing in the Koran, Hindus and Buddhists find themselves completely beyond the pale.

While THC is with Rodney King in asking "can't we all just get along?" he fears that may not be in the cards.   On the worst days, THC thinks this may be the most accurate forecast:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


The Apache leader Geronimo died on this date in 1909 at the age of approximately 80.  THC came across the story of how Geronimo became the U.S. paratrooper yell when jumping out of aircraft.   According to b-westerns (found via VA Viper), it originated spontaneously in 1940, possibly inspired when Private Aubrey Eberhardt and three other paratroopers in training saw the film Geronimo:
After the movie and a drink at the nearby beer garden, the foursome began their walk back to their lowly tents on the airfield. During that fateful mile they would stumble into a conversation that would ultimately bring Geronimo into a whole new genre. One of the group asked Eberhardt if he thought he could jump out of the plane the next day without fear. Eberhardt, not used to having his confidence questioned, responded that he would not be scared and to prove it, he would let his fellow paratroopers know that he could keep his presence of mind by yelling something to them right after he jumped out. Although the group would be separated by hundreds of feet, with some in the air and some on the ground, Eberhardt insisted he could yell loud enough to be heard by all. When asked what he would yell, he thought for a few moments for a good word to choose - one that was distinctive enough that no one else would be using it. It is probable that he dismissed common salutations such as, "Hey!" or "It's me!" because he would take no chance that anyone would think his shout could be someone else. In the few moments it took him to think of such a unique word, his mind must have gone back to the movie and the inspiring sight of Chief Thunder Cloud. "Geronimo" was the word he chose.

The next day he fulfilled his promise. Eberhardt's fellow paratroopers heard the word, "Geronimo" repeatedly fill the air from the moment he jumped out until his feet touched the ground! Others in the platoon picked up on the idea in their subsequent parachute jumps and the beginnings of a tradition formed in the skies above Lawson Army Airfield as more of the platoon mimicked Private Eberhardt's bold, mid-air yell. 
The most interesting part to THC was how the use of Geronimo became more formal and widespread with the permission of his family:
Major William Miley, [commander 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion], gave the Geronimo tradition an important endorsement by choosing "Geronimo" as the motto on the 501st PIB unit insignia, a device worn on the dress uniform of every soldier in the unit. Maj. Miley even had sergeant major locate relatives of the real chief Geronimo to ask their permission for use of the chief's name in the unit insignia. He located them with the help of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they granted permission with pride.
Since WWII, the name of Geronimo has been used to signify bravery in the military services and the U.S. even has an Apache helicopter.  For this reason it raised some understandable consternation within the Apache nation when it was learned that Geronimo was the U.S. government code name used for Osama bin Laden during the 2011 raid in which he was killed.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I Want You

THC was going to post this for Valentines Day but decided it would be a little too intense, scaring off a lot of potential valentines and you'd be advised to be extremely wary about any who chose to stick around.  Deranged and obsessive, the scariest love song you will ever hear.  Composed by Elvis Costello.  Sung, or performed if you will, by Fiona Apple (one of the Youtube comments accurately describes her as "like Sissy Spacek in Carrie"; check out the look at 6:53) with Elvis on guitar and Steve Naive on keyboards . . .  there's a strange chill hanging in the air.
Oh my baby, baby, I love you more than I can tell
I don't think I can live without you and I know that I never will
Oh my baby, baby, I want you so it scares me to death
I can't say anymore than I love you, everything else is a waste of breath

I want you, you've had your fun, you don't get well no more
I want you, your fingernails go dragging down the wall
Be careful, darling, you might fall

I want you, I woke up and one of us was crying
I want you, you said, "Young man, I do believe you're dying"
I want you, if you need a second opinion as you seem to do these days
I want you, you can look in my eyes and you can count the ways

I want you, did you mean to tell me but seem to forget?
I want you, since when were you so generous and inarticulate?
I want you, it's the stupid details that my heart is breaking for
It's the way your shoulders shake and what they're shaking for

I want you, it's knowing that he knows you now after only guessing
It's the thought of him undressing you or you undressing
I want you, he tossed some tattered compliment your way
I want you and you were fool enough to love it when he said, "I want you"

I want you, the truth can't hurt you, it's just like the dark
It scares you witless but in time you see things clear and stark
I want you, go on and hurt me then we'll let it drop
I want you, I'm afraid I won't know where to stop

I want you, I'm not ashamed to say, "I cried for you"
I want you, I want to know the things you did that we do too
I want you, I want to hear he pleases you more than I do
I want you, I might as well be useless for all it means to you

I want you, did you call his name out as he held you down?
I want you, oh no, my darling, not with that clown, I want you
I want you, you've had your fun, you don't get well no more

I want you
I want you

I want you, every night when I go off to bed and when I wake up
I want you, I'm going to say it once again 'til I instill it
I am goin', goin' feel this way until you kill it

I want you
I want you
I want you

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Live At Leeds
Forty five years ago today, the best live rock album ever made was recorded; Live At Leeds by The Who.  (And boy does writing that sentence makes me feel old).  By February 14, 1970 The Who had been touring almost non-stop for ten months with its show featuring songs from the Tommy album, released in the spring of 1969.  The band was at its peak with the original lineup, Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon (for more on Keith see Not To Be Taken Away).  Their prior studio recordings had been good but most failed to capture the power, excitement and chaos of their live performance.  THC was fortunate to see The Who twice in this period (May and August 1969) and Live At Leeds is the real deal.

During its long tour, the band followed a set format, starting each show with several non-Tommy songs.  They then plunged into a non-stop rendition of the entire album and closed with a few more pre-Tommy tunes including an extended version of My Generation.  The entire show was overwhelming except for Magic Bus which was a lousy single and it's still lousy on Live At Leeds.

The original Live At Leeds, released in the U.S. on May 16, 1970 contained only six tracks, omitting the entire Tommy portion of the show:
Young Man Blues
Summertime Blues
Shakin' All Over
My Generation (14 minutes long version)
Magic Bus (8 minutes).
Starting in the late 1990s, longer versions of Live At Leeds became available and today the entire concert is available.

The Tommy portion of the concert is entertaining but three tunes really stand out:  Pinball Wizard, with that monstrous bass intro by Entwhistle, Amazing Journey/Sparks with Moon tossing around triplets and adding syncopation on Sparks and We're Not Gonna Take It, the last song of the Rock Opera with its majestic closing chords and inspiring, yet nonsensical, lyrics; that's one of the great things about rock anthems - the lyrics don't have to make sense.

But it is on the non-Tommy songs where the band shines brightest.  Some of THC's favorites:

Heaven & Hell.  The opening song of the set.  Written by Entwhistle: 
Up above is a place where you go if you've done nothing wrong
If you've done nothing wrong
And down in the ground is a place where you go, if you've been a bad boy
If you've been a bad boy
Why can't we have eternal life
And never die?
The music sounds jet-propelled and it is.

For a close-up glimpse of Moon-style drumming this is a YouTube video by a guy called babyshambler who does a fine job recreating Keith's performance.  As you watch think about the sheer amount of energy needed to pull this off.
Young Man Blues.  Written by Mose Allison (a "jazz sage" as Townsend refers to him).  For those interested in rock history he also wrote I'm Not Talkin' (and that's what I've got to say) covered in a terrific version by The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck.  The Who also recorded his Eyesight To The Blind for Tommy.  Here's the Mose original of Young Man Blues.  Now listen to The Who, particularly the middle section.  This is a hard and heavy rock band but they create a pulsating sound, nimbly dancing around the beat (except for a brief and awkward Townsend solo).  Led Zeppelin they were not.

Tattoo.  Very sedate on the studio album, Moon's drums punch up the live version.  A typical oddball Townsend creation with a very funny lyric.
Me and my brother were talkin' to each other
'Bout what makes a man, a man
Was it brain or brawn, or the month you were born
We just couldn't understand

Our old man didn't like our appearance
He said that only women wear long hair
So me and my brother borrowed money from mother
We knew what we had to do
We went downstairs, past the barber and gymnasium
And got our arms tattooed

Welcome to my life, tattoo
I'm a man now, thanks to you
I expect, I'll regret you
But the skin graft man won't get you
You'll be there when I die, tattoo

My dad beat me 'cause mine said "Mother"
But my mother naturally liked it and beat my brother
'Cause his tattoo was of a lady in the nude
And she thought that was extremely rude
Summertime Blues.  A remake of the 1958 original co-written and recorded by Eddie Cochran.  Thundering bass by Entwhistle.  You can watch a live performance at the Isle of Wight festival from August 1970 here.

Substitute.  The Who wrote very few traditional boy/girl songs instead writing songs of alienation (My Generation), of mothers dressing their little boys as little girls (I'm A Boy) and of teenage boys fantasizing about long dead vaudeville stars (Pictures Of Lilly).  Substitute has another unusual theme:
You think we look pretty good together
You think my shoes are made of leather

But I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I'm just back-dated, yeah

Substitute your lies for fact
I can see right through your plastic mac
I look all white, but my dad was black
My fine-looking suit is really made out of sack

Substitute me for him
Substitute my coke for gin
Substitute you for my mum
At least I'll get my washing done
A Quick One, While He's Away.  The whole package.  Tight harmonies.  Several different melodic sections.  Raucous but somehow still in control instrumentation.  The highlight of the entire show.  The song had been a staple of Who concerts since 1967 and in December 1968 the band performed it as part of The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus.  The Stones originally planned to show the concert on the BBC but reportedly were so dissatisfied with their own performance and embarrassed that The Who blew everyone away that the footage was not released until 1996.  Here is The Who's performance of A Quick One from the Roll And Roll Circus.  And You Are Forgiven.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Legal Immigration

Some data that may give context to current discussions regarding immigration reform.

Top Ten Year Periods for Legal Immigration in American History

2003-12:   10,473,000
1905-14:   10,120,000

THC had not realized the 21st century figures were so high.

Source:  Downloadable Data Table, Legal Immigration to the United States, 1820 - Present

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Business Cycle

Growth, creation, decay and change are all part of the business cycle.  Companies that THC thought were indestructible when he was a kid are gone today or radically transformed - AT&T, U.S. Steel, Gulf & Western, Sears among others and new giants appeared like Microsoft, Walmart, Cisco and Apple.  At least THC had the excuse of being a kid when he was thinking that the world would not change unlike Franklin Roosevelt who in 1932 announced that all the basics of industry were in place and thus it was the "day of  enlightened administration" or John Kenneth Galbraith in the 1960s who posited that the large companies of that era would be around forever (for more on their mistaken assumptions see My Senator).
THC was reminded of this in the past few days by the news that WR Grace, the company he worked at for seventeen years, is splitting up into two businesses.  It is particularly apt reminder of the life cycle of companies because the two components, a construction products and sealants business and a silica cracking catalyst businesses were the key building block acquisitions made by Grace in 1953 and 1954 when it decided to enter the specialty chemicals business.  The break up restores the separate businesses from sixty years ago.  You can read more about the split in the Wall Street Journal.

Grace began in 1854 as a family business.  Its first venture was importing guano (bird poop) from islands off the west coast of South America for use as fertilizer in the United States, and WR Grace went on to become a reform mayor of New York City in the late 1800s.
The company operated as a trading house for many years buying and selling businesses (at one point it operated the Grace Lines and partnered with Pan Am to create Panagra which pioneered regularly scheduled air travel between the U.S. and Latin America starting in the 1930s) and by the 1980s was a Fortune 100 Company.  It was a
decentralized conglomerate of the type that was a popular trend in the business world for about a quarter century starting in the 1960s.  The company's jumble of businesses at that time included specialty chemicals, agricultural chemicals, a chocolate company, the largest provider of bull semen in the U.S., book distributors, including the largest distributors of educational textbooks in the country, retail stores like Herman's World of Sporting Goods, around 1,000 restaurants including Houlihan's and three of the four bars at the corners of Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the leasing of oil drilling rigs and the nation's largest provider of dialysis services.

Starting in 1986 Grace sold off many of these businesses and by the late 1990s was a much smaller specialty chemicals company.  It survived the longest bankruptcy proceeding in American history and has done well in recent years.  But nothing stays the same in business.

THC enjoyed his years with Grace and, in this time of uncertainty, wishes the best for his former colleagues who remain with the company.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Don't Leave Connecticut, Mr Richman!

THC is sorry about what he wrote about you!  He's just read this AP story

Connecticut to super-rich residents: Please don't leave us

in which our state commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services, Kevin Sullivan, is quoted as saying "There are probably a handful of people, five to seven people, who if they just picked up and went, you would see that in the revenue stream.

According to the article,

Two years ago, tax officials were alarmed that a super-rich hedge fund owner might leave and reduce the state's income tax revenue. They set up a meeting and urged the unidentified taxpayer to stay. The effort was partly successful, with the taxpayer leaving Connecticut but agreeing to keep the hedge fund here.

Sullivan goes on to observe:

The more the government relies on the super-wealthy, the more volatile that revenue is, said Sullivan, a former Democratic lawmaker. And raising taxes on the wealthy to attack income inequality has its limits, he said.
Tax policy, he said, should not make the state dependent on the very rich.
"You don't want a system that doesn't ask them to do their fair share," he said, "but you don't want a system that makes you so reliant on their fair share that if they all picked up and left tomorrow or died tomorrow you'd be screwed, as they say in the tax business."
Connecticut's dependency on a small number of high-income taxpayers is a severe problem because those taxpayers are much more subject to wide income swings than others and because they are so few of them their wealth is easily portable outside the state.  And all this comes at a time when Connecticut has faced a quarter century of economic stagnation.

One way to quantify this dependency is to look at the state's income tax revenue by town.  The most recent figures THC found are from 2007.  The town of Greenwich, home of many hedge funds, had 1.7% of all income tax filers and paid 14.2% of the entire state's income taxes.  Four towns (of the 169 in the state) in lower Fairfield County (Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and Westport) had 3.5% of filers and paid 22% of the income tax revenues of the state.  Add in another six Fairfield County commuter towns (Easton, Fairfield, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton) and you have 10 towns with 7% of the state's taxpayers paying 32% of the income taxes.  Although THC has not been able to find updated figures, every analysis of state economic conditions concludes that the state's dependency on taxpayers in those towns has only grown since 2007.  Emblematic of the critical financial role of Fairfield County was the election of Congressman Jim Himes (D-Goldman Sachs) to represent the District.

As mentioned above, Connecticut has become more dependent on a small number of taxpayers as its economy has declined.  There are many factors contributing to the state's sad economic plight but one factor all agree on - the imposition of a "temporary" state income tax in 1991 which has since become, to no one's surprise, permanent and growing.  Prior to 1991, Connecticut had no income tax which gave it a competitive advantage versus other Northeastern industrial states.  In the quarter century since the income tax was imposed Connecticut has added NO net new jobs while the cost of government has gone through the roof - increasing 250% (see this New Haven Register editorial), its cities have gotten poorer and its educational system has declined.  There are a number of analyses on the lack of job growth - you can find one here and another here.  In summary there has been some growth in government jobs offset by a decline in private sector employment.

THC experienced the impact first hand.  In 1991 the company he worked for at the time was about to sign a lease to move its corporate headquarters from New York City to Stamford.  When the income tax passed, the company chose instead to move to Florida which has no such tax.

The result is a marked decline in the vitality of Connecticut and rough prospects for the future.  The dire situation can be summarize in many ways.  Here's one from the Yankee Institute for Public Policy:

Connecticut’s List of Lasts
  • Barron’s rated Connecticut’s debt situation as the worst in the country in 2012 (Bary, Andrew. “State of the States” Barron’s. August 27, 2012)
  • ranked Connecticut as the 2012 worst state for retirement (Murphy, Eamon. “The 10 Worst States to Retire In: They’re Frosty and Costly” January 13, 2012.
  • The Institute for Truth in Accounting ranked Connecticut’s financial status as the worst in the nation with a debt burden of $49,000 per taxpayer (The Institute for Truth in Accounting, “The Financial State of the States”)
  • Connecticut’s credit quality was ranked 50th in the nation by Conning Inc’s State of the States Municipal Credit Research Report in 2012 (Sturdevant, M. “Connecticut Ranks Last Among 50 States in Credit Analysis by Conning” Courant Blogs. November 27, 2012.)
  • Connecticut’s Tax Freedom Day of May 5, 2012 was the latest in the nation according to the Tax Foundation (Tax Foundation Tax Freedom Day Study 2012)
  • Connecticut’s Achievement Gap is the worst in the nation according to the Connecticut Council for Education Reform
Depressing, isn't it?  Well, THC is not through yet with depressing you.  From a 2013 article in Forbes, How Did Rich Connecticut Morph Into One Of America's Worst Performing Economies?:
  • Connecticut ranks #50 – the worst — in annual economic growth.  According to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, Connecticut’s economy contracted for the second year in a row.  “Connecticut is the laggard,” reported Connecticut Department of Labor economist Daniel Kennedy.
  • Between 1996 and 2006 – before the financial meltdown and recession — the number of Connecticut small businesses declined by 2.2 percent, while the average experience of all 50 states was a 10 percent increase.  Only Ohio and West Virginia did worse than Connecticut.  Its small businesses account for about half of the state’s private sector jobs.
  • Government spending is out of control.  Two years ago, Connecticut Governor Dannell P. Malloy signed a $1.8 billion tax hike, the biggest in the state’s history, that supposedly would generate enough.  But it wasn’t enough for the next budget, enacted this year.  It was balanced mainly with gimmicks like shifting some $6 billion of Medicaid spending off-budget.
  • State Budget Solutions, a think tank monitoring state finances, reported that among the 50 states Connecticut has run up the fourth largest pile of debts per capita — $27,540. This includes unfunded liabilities for government employee pension funds.  The total is almost double the per capita debts of financially-strapped California.  Higher debts imply higher taxes in the future.
  • Barron’s considered Connecticut to be in the worst financial shape – with debt and pension liabilities a higher percentage of GDP (17.1) than any other state.  The financially strongest state: South Dakota where debt and pension liabilities are only 1 percent of GDP.
  • Connecticut has one of the worst business climates in the country.  Factors affecting a state’s business climate include the individual income tax, corporate income tax, sales tax, property tax, unemployment insurance tax and security of private property.  For example, as the Tax Foundation reported, “Connecticut imposed a temporary 20 percent surtax on top of its flat 7.5 percent corporate income tax, in effect raising its rate to 9 percent. This 20 percent surcharge is an increase on a supposedly temporary 10 percent surcharge that has been in place since 2009.”
  • The American Legislative Council, in its annual Rich States, Poor States study, ranks states two ways – economic performance and economic outlook.  The economic performance ranking is based on a state’s GDP trend, migration trend (in or out) and non-farm payroll enrollment trend.   The economic outlook ranking is based on 15 factors including the top marginal personal income tax rate, the top marginal corporate income tax rate, property tax burden, estate tax burden, public employees per 100,000 population, state liability system survey and whether a state has a right-to-work law.  Connecticut is ranked #46 for economic performance and #43 for economic outlook.
The entire Forbes article, by Jim Powell, is worth reading for its historical perspective on how this all happened.   That piece led to a long lament by a fellow Connecticut resident over at one of THC's favorite blogs, Maggie's Farm.

If that isn't enough take a look at the Zombie Index at  The Zombie Index originated in the 1980s to measure the economic health of financial institutions.  At State Data Lab they decided to extend the concept to state government since many "find themselves cornered by long-unrecognized, massive off-balance sheet obligations.  In turn, some of them may be taking higher risks in their investments or derivatives activities.  Such risk-taking may also end up increasing eventual costs to taxpayers to resolve the situation, much like the endgame of the S&L crisis.  Guess what, Connecticut finished #1!

So, please Mr Richman stick around and pay your taxes.  At least till THC leaves the state.




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Beep Beep

A couple of days ago THC was walking Koji (the dog, not the Red Sox pitcher; see below for help on distinguishing the two)

                 Koji Dog                                                                  Koji Pitcher                                             we saw a coyote cross our path and then walk along a parallel track about one hundred feet from us.

Typical Coyote couple of hours later while driving in the hills near Cave Creek with Mrs THC a Roadrunner dashed across the road in front of our car.
Typical Roadrunner: have been disappointed not to see any representatives of the Acme Company so far., upon further investigation it appears unlikely that the Acme Company will put in an appearance.  It seems that Wile E Coyote (pictured above, and undoubtedly the very same coyote THC and Koji observed) has filed a lawsuit against Acme in the nearby District Court of Tempe, Arizona (Civil Action No. B19294).  Mr Coyote seeks damages related to Acme's shipment of eighty five products to him over a number of years which he alleges were defective, leading to personal injury, pain and suffering.  You can find more information on his shocking allegations here along with further relevant data compiled by Mr Ian Frazier at this location.

Read for yourself the alleged lamentable shortcomings of one Acme product:
Mr. Coyote states that on December 13th, he received of Defendant via parcel post one Acme Rocket Sled. The intention of Mr. Coyote was to use the Rocket sled to aid him in pursuit of his prey. Upon receipt of the Rocket Sled, Mr. Coyote removed it from its wooden shipping crate and sighting his prey in the distance, activated the ignition. As Mr. Coyote gripped the handlebars, the Rocket Sled accelerated with such sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote's forelimbs to a length of fifteen feet. Subsequently, the rest of Mr. Coyote's body shot forward with a violent jolt, causing severe strain to his back and neck and placing him unexpectedly astride the Rocket Sled. Disappearing over the horizon at such speed as to leave a diminishing jet trail along its path, the Rocket Sled soon brought Mr. Coyote abreast of his prey. At that moment, the animal he was pursuing veered sharply to the right. Mr. Coyote vigorously attempted to follow this maneuver but was unable to, due to poor design and engineering on the Rocket Sled and a faulty or non-existent steering system. Shortly thereafter, the unchecked progress of the Rocket Sled led it and Mr. Coyote into collision with the side of a mesa. 
From another source, we have obtained information on the specific Acme products in question, an example of which can be found below:
ACME_blog2For those skeptical of the accuracy of reports about this litigation because of doubts as to whether animals can avail themselves of the legal system, THC refers you his post on Law Of The Jungle (or the lex biologica as it is more commonly known) for enlightenment on the well developed corpus of law regarding the animal kingdom.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Better Call Saul

Since devoted readers are aware of THC's obsession with Breaking Bad, it should come as no surprise that he is eagerly awaiting the premiere of Better Call Saul on AMC this Sunday evening.  That's struggling lawyer Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk) on the right above.  Actually, Saul's real name is Jimmy McGill but he changed it for business reasons. It's a prequel, set several years before the time of Breaking Bad so there'll be no Walter White or Jesse Pinkman.  However, there is the marvelous Mike Ehrmantraut (left, above) played by Jonathan Banks who you may also remember from his many 1980s appearances in film and TV, including Beverly Hills Cop.

THC was a little dubious about the prospects for this spinoff but is encouraged by this review at Grantland.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Paradise Valley Burger

If you're looking for a good burger in North Phoenix, THC recommends Paradise Valley Burger Company, a little hole in the wall place.   We found it last fall (with the help of the THC Daughter) and love the burgers.  On returning there this week THC had the Brulee Burger which comes with bacon, havarti, onion, fried egg and burnt sugar.  One of the Top Five burgers THC has ever tasted.  Plus outstanding slaw.

Paradise Valley will be featured on tonight's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on the Food Network.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Sounds like a good, uplifting family movie.  And no redrum!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mr Madison Gets Elected

James Madison is known to us as one of the key figures at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and later as Secretary of State for eight years under President Thomas Jefferson and as a two-term President (1809-17).  What is less well-known is his fight to become a member of the first Congress after the Constitution was ratified, and in which he triumphed acting like a real politician.

Once the Constitution was ratified in June 1788, the states began setting up procedures for the election of the first Congress and Presidential electors.  It was a foregone conclusion that George Washington would be the first President; it was the only thing the Federalists and anti-Federalists could agree on.  Washington very much desired that Madison become one of Virginia's new senators.  It was not to be.

Virginia saw a long and close contest over whether to ratify the Constitution; a contest only won narrowly by the Federalists.  The anti-Federalist forces were led by Patrick Henry and George Mason and once they lost the ratification battle they were determined not to lose the fight over representation in the new Congress.  The selection for the two senators was by the Virginia legislature, not by popular election and Madison lost to two anti-Federalists, Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson.

This left Madison with only one alternative, running for the House in his newly created Congressional District.  However, Patrick Henry and his allies in the legislature plotted to thwart Madison's ambitions and the district he resided in was designed to include large areas of anti-Federalist voter sentiment.  If Gerrymandering existed as a term in 1788 that's the word that we'd use to describe how the district boundaries were decided.

Madison now had an uphill struggle and the man he was running against was an old friend, James Monroe.  Monroe, who would later follow Madison as the fifth president of the United States after serving as his Secretary of State for two terms, voted against ratification by Virginia. (left) and Monroe from The Atlantic)

Let's pause for a minute to clarify what anti-Federalists believed.  Most of them supported a stronger central government believing the Articles of Confederation to be ineffective.  Their concerns about the proposed Constitution were that it lacked a bill of rights and gave too much power to the new central government.  With those amendments Virginians like Monroe and George Mason would have been satisfied.
The election was set for February 2, 1789 with a month of campaigning before the balloting.  On his return to Virginia from the last session of the Continental Congress in New York, Madison stopped at Mt Vernon and stayed with Washington from December 19 to 25.  Undoubtedly they discussed Madison's campaign strategy which proved to be very creative.

During the campaign, in which Monro and Madison traveled together, debated and even, on occassion shared a bed at inns (a common practice at the time), Madison for the first time publicly called for a bill of rights arguing that as a leading Federalist in what was to be a Federalist dominated Congress he would be more effective than Monroe in ensuring that such amendments would be approved.  He went further implicitly suggesting he was an unsuccessful advocate for a bill of rights at the Constitutional Convention.  In making such claims Madison had a distinct advantage since the  proceedings of the Convention were held secret and his authorship of many of the essays that later became known as The Federalist was not known to the public (nor to Monroe who had not been at the Convention) helping obscure the reality that he had opposed the need for a bill of rights in both forums.

Madison's change of heart along with support from Baptist and Lutheran ministers prompted by his leading role in drafting and enacting Virginia's Statute for Religious Freedom was enough for him to win, receiving 1308 votes to 972 for Monroe.  Based on the number of voters Congressional campaigning was a very intimate experience in 1789.

Madison and Monroe remained friends and in the first Congress it was Madison who led the successful effort to draft and pass the amendments which later became known as the Bill of Rights. During that first session of Congress he remained a confidante of Washington, drafting his first inaugural address.  Though they later parted ways over disagreements about the scope of the powers of the new Federal government the work they did together from 1786 through 1789 served America well.