Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Misremembering History: NY Times Edition

THC ceased being a regular reader of the New York Times years ago.  He just couldn't take it anymore.  It wasn't the editorials, it was the news pages.  Between reporter bias, innumeracy and plain old ineptness it wasn't worth plowing through the paper each day to find the nuggets of value like the reports of John Burns from Iraq.

While looking at something else yesterday THC came across this link to a Times article, "5 Days That Left a Confederate Flag Wavering, and Likely to Fall" which reminded him why he no longer reads the paper.

Before THC tells you the problem with the article here's his position on the flying of the Confederate flag on the South Carolina capitol grounds - it shouldn't be.  Very simply it's the flag of secession and slavery and has no business flying on state grounds.  He does think that the actions by Apple and Amazon to ban selling games and other items with the flag are a really bad move.

What caught THC's eye in the Times article was this sentence:
But behind the scenes, powerful forces — capitalism, Christianity, social media, college sports and a Republican Party eager to extricate itself from the past — were converging. 
To drive home the point the article contains eight references to Republicans and one to Democrats.

This spin is typical of the Times in its role as house publication of the Democratic National Committee.

The Confederate flag was first raised by the Democrats who seceded from the Union in order to preserve slavery.  The Confederate flag was re-raised over the South Caroline State House under Democratic Governor Ernest Hollings in 1962 in support of segregation and as a symbol of defiance against court actions attacking the Jim Crow laws put into place by the Democratic party across the South.  You may be familiar with Ernest Hollings as he went on to become Democratic Senator from South Carolina from 1966 until 2005 and during that period his actions as governor seemed to be no problem for Democrats nationwide.

The governor who first proposed moving the Confederate flag from atop the Capitol was David Beasley, a Republican, in the mid-1990s.  In part because of his position on the flag he was defeated in his bid for reelection by a Democrat, Jim Hodges, who opposed the flag removal and was effusively congratulated after his victory by then-President Bill Clinton who, as Governor of Arkansas had signed a bill in 1987 approving a state flag commemorating the Confederacy.

Towards the end the article refers to "The state’s black United States senator, the Republican Tim Scott".  The Republican Tim Scott is the first African-American to be elected to the U.S. Senate from the South by either party since 1881 and the first African-American to ever be elected to both the House of Representatives and Senate.  In 2010, Senator Scott started his national career by gaining the Republican nomination for the congressional district centered on Charleston.  To do so he ran as the Tea Party backed insurgent to defeat Strom Thurmond's son in the Republican primary.

So in Times World we have a history making black Republican U.S. Senator and an Indian-American woman Republican Governor (Nikki Haley) who somehow managed to get elected statewide by South Carolina Republicans but it's the Republicans who are trying to extricate themselves from the past?  There's enough problematic past to go around for both parties but the Times reference is just nonsense.

THC suggests that it is the authors of the article, Michael Barbaro and Jonathan Martin, who need to extricate themselves from the bonds of ignorance.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Getting Your Next Job

If you haven't paid close attention to the great advice you've been getting from Things Have Changed Management Consulting LLC it is possible you may be faced with having to get another job (it is also conceivably possible you may be in the same situation if you have followed some of THC's advice).

Even if you have ignored our prior advice this blog remains committed to helping its hard working readers attain great success in their professional careers.  Therefore, we provide this handy kind to acing your next job interview which has been put together by the noted British human resources experts at The Poke.  You can find the entire guide here but below you can find some examples of their sage advice!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rhetorical Tricks & Tics: It's Always About America

President Obama recently employed a rhetorical trick he, and others, often utilize. When speaking of America’s ills, ignore the broader global context, so the audience remains focused on America’s sins but when confronted with the ills of another country, always be sure to refer to what you characterize as similar ills in America. That way, no matter what, the focus remains America’s ills. THC  also consider it a tic, since the President and the others who deploy it appear to believe what they are saying and instinctively resort to it whenever there is an opportunity.

Let’s see how it works taking two recent examples by the President:

Earlier this week the New York Times reported that President Obama made the following remarks during what it refers to as Mark Maron’s “WTF” podcast (THC has resisted the urge to insert several jokes here) :
The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on.
Reading the remainder of the Times article reveals no reference by the President to the rest of the world. Since my purpose is not to debate the accuracy of the President’s assertion (THC agrees the U.S. has a continuing legacy but disagrees with much of his analysis) but to discuss context, it would seem that in fairness, as well as enhancing our understanding, he should be mentioning the legacy of slavery that all of us carry.

Every country in the Western Hemisphere imported African slaves (imports into the colonies that became the U.S. and into the U.S. until 1808 are less than 4% of the total), Spain, Portugal, France and Britain prospered from the slave trade, the Arab world imported millions of African slaves and African rulers sold fellow Africans for that purpose.  For a more nuanced and sophisticated view we recommend reading The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law In The American Hemisphere by Robert J Cottrol (2013), a fascinating comparative study and here's a recent speech by someone else who's spoken more thoughtfully about the subject.  In other words, America does have problems in this area, but they are problems we share with much of the global community.  As Cottrol points out, in some instances we've dealt with them more successfully than others but in some respects have not, but it would seem that, in the President's phrase it's "still part of" much of the world's DNA.

[On a side note, THC has been given to understand in recent years that race is a social construct, not a biological one so he is confused by the President's remark which implies that race is not biological but racism is; perhaps he is a Lamarckian evolutionist.]

Now, let’s look at the flip side; the interview the President gave last month to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic on the nuclear deal with Iran. Goldberg, who is very sympathetic to the President, presses him on the Iranian regime’s anti-semitism because to Goldberg it indicates they are irrational in their decision making. To expand on Goldberg's point - he is saying that when a regime's leaders are fixated not just on the destruction of the State of Israel, but go around leading chants of "Death to the Jews!"; alternatively deny the Holocaust and then say that Hitler gave the Jews what they deserved; and seriously believe in a global Jewish conspiracy to rule the world they tend not to confine their irrational thought processes to that one issue; more importantly it may mean they just don't think using the same calculus about risk that we do.

The President airily rejects this, saying “Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival” and then goes on to point out that, after all:
"there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country"
In that remark the President equates the Iranian regime, with its bizarre core beliefs about Jews, with his own country which provided a refuge for more than 2 million Russian Jews fleeing Czarist oppression, including THC's paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents (my grandfather immediately after arriving enlisting in the U.S. Army and serving in the Philippines), and whose first President wrote the magnificent letter to the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.

It is very cleverly done. As with all these types of statements there is an element of truth. There was, and still is, some anti-semitism in America but to equate it with Iran you have to be incapable of making the type of distinctions that thoughtful individuals who know history and are capable of self-reflection do all the time.  THC doesn't think there is a deep calculation behind the President's statement to Goldberg; it's just an automatic reflex based on his natural thought process and the ideology in which he was marinated.

Whether you call it a trick or a tic what it does is turn the argument inward, always forcing examination of America and, for those who object, bogging them down in time-consuming arguments about why those employing the trick are wrong and diverting them from discussing the core proposition.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mr Tambourine Man

BB20 Coda(from Billboard)

Ann Althouse reminds us that 50 years ago today, Mr Tambourine Man hit #1 on the Billboard charts (also notice that Satisfaction, a song THC has written of previously, was rocketing up the charts and The Four Tops also have a big hit - it was a good time for AM radio).  The first single by The Byrds and the first hit single composed by Bob Dylan, it had a unique sound from the bass on the intro (Chris Hillman, later of the Flying Burrito Brothers played bass), to the jangly twelve-string guitar of Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, and the high harmonies provided by David Crosby (later of Crosby, Stills & Nash and, occasionally, Young.  Here they perform the song on TV.

This song blew THC away when he was 14, he got the album (which he still has) as soon as he could find it and remained a fan.  His favorite was Eight Miles High, released in 1966, with its astounding atonal, jumbled guitar.

This is a hypnotic live version from 1978 featuring McGuinn and Gene Clark (another original band member).

If you'd like to hear The Byrds at their Byrdiest listen to The World Turns All Around Her with its soaring harmonies and jangly guitar.

As for Dylan, this song unleashed a slew of singles by bands covering his songs (including Sonny & Cher) and later that summer he had his first hit single, Like A Rolling Stone.  You can listen and watch Dylan perform Mr Tambourine Man at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival (with an intro by the old commie Pete Seeger) right here.  It's an impressive performance, particularly for those who only know the craggy and croaking Dylan of more recent years.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Healthcare Wars

(J Gruber, we just live in his world)

Today, the GOP Congressional leadership is breathing a sigh of relief while Democrats and the White House wring their hands in frustration at having lost a chance to publicly torture Republicans in the lead up to the 2016 elections.

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in King v Burwell, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for a 6-3 majority, the Administration's interpretation of the Affordable Care Act providing subsidies for those using Federal exchanges in states where state exchanges have not been established.

If the Court ruled the other way, the White House had already announced it would do nothing since it was the responsibility of Congress to fix the problem and then would have been in a position to denounce Republicans for destroying the ACA, causing millions to lose their subsidies and successfully diverting attention and responsibility for the ongoing train wreck of Obamacare, as premiums begin to skyrocket despite the President's repeated claims that they would decrease (and let's not ever forget - "If you like your insurance plan you can keep it").

For the inept Republican leadership they would have panicked under pressure from both the media and their corporate contributors in the health care industry and undoubtedly come up with something that would further embed Obamacare as irreversible.

THC believes as a political matter, the decision was good.  Let the insanity continue to build and let the Democrats own it.

And speaking of insanity this was Ms Clinton's tweet in the wake of the decision:
"A great day! Add your name if you agree: Affordable health care is a basic human right"
Setting aside whether the care is affordable or whether the ACA actually provided a guarantee of care to everyone, it is the inanity of the use of the term "basic human right" in this context that is appalling.  There is a fundamental difference between a right a person has that the government is forbidden to interfere with, as embodied for instance in the Bill of Rights, and rights the government decides it must provide to you.  Our experience with the ACA already makes it evident that what is actually meant by the phrase is "you are entitled to health care in the amount and type we, the government, deem appropriate and for no more than the cost we, the government, are willing to pay."

However, as a matter of law it is a disaster for America and its future.

THC has read the decision and here is his summary for the non-lawyer of Justice Roberts' reasoning:
“Yes, the interpretation by the politicized IRS does not actually conform with the language of the statute making it technically illegal but by now many people and the big healthcare companies are so dependent on those subsidies, plus no one could have been so stupid as to have actually drafted the statute with that intended result so, just as in the Constitutional case, I need to step up to save the statute.”
Justice Scalia is pithy, as he often is, in dissent:
The Court interprets 36B to award tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges. It accepts that “the most natural sense” of the phrase “Exchange established by the State” is an Exchange established by a State. . . Yet the opinion continues, with no semblance of shame, that “it is also possible that phrase refers to all Exchanges, both State and Federal” . . . The Court claims that “the context and structure of the Act compel [it] to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase”.
The opinion of the Chief Justice illustrates the dangers when one moves beyond using the words in a statute to determine what they mean and substitutes trying to divine the intent behind those words. Roberts goes on at great length describing what he thinks the intent of the statute was. In reality, legislative intent is difficult to ascertain. In this case there was very little contemporaneous discussion about the provision. After the litigation started, proponents claimed it was just a drafting error but we also have Jonathan Gruber’s public statements made before the litigation that the language was intentional and for the purpose of incentivizing states to establish their own exchanges. It is simply impossible to accurately determine the intent and that is why this is a terrible legal decision.

UPDATE:  As is often the case Yuval Levin has an astute take on the case which THC urges you read.  He focuses on one passage in Roberts opinion, a passage that also caught THC's eye because of the surprising shallowness of the reasoning:
"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.  If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter."
SECOND UPDATE: If you take the passage cited by Levin and look at THC's paragraph above it, the problem with the Roberts approach is apparent.  Roberts states that the purpose of the ACA was "to improve health insurance markets".  As THC points out we actually don't know Congress' intent regarding the specific language in question but what if Gruber, who was intimately involved with the development of the ACA, is correct?  It means Congress intended to "improve health insurance markets" by cleverly incentivizing states to develop their own exchanges.  The fact that after passage the proponents of the bill realized they had miscalculated should not mean it is up to the Supreme Court to save them from their miscalculation when the language of the statute itself is clear.

The disastrous reasoning is compounded by the very nature of the Supreme Court.  A legislature can decide to do X but not Y.  It does not have to justify itself by logical reasoning.  It can decide A is okay but B is just too far and leave it at that.  Court's don't operate that way.  They apply (or at least are supposed to apply) logical reasoning around principles expressed in prior cases and with deference to previously decided cases.

The Core Four liberal justices (Kagan, who by the way, is a terrific writer and intellectually the best of the four, Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor) can work with this because they have no fixed judicial philosophy other than generally supporting the growth of the Administrative State.  If you read their decisions you'll see them deftly steer around legal precedents; they simply don't agonize over it.

To be fair to the Core Four, even they have been frequently appalled by the attempted power grab by the ideologues of the Obama administration and, around the edges, have been willing to say NO, resulting in an unprecedented number of 9-0 decisions against the President.

However there is a problem both with the current non-liberal justices as well as with most of conservative legal theory in general.  Of the non Core Four justices only Justice Thomas is willing to challenge precedent while the other three are, in THC's view, overly deferential.  When this is combined with the Borkian views of some of the justices, who are overly deferential to the legislature and not overly concerned with liberty it leads to a one-way ratchet in Supreme Court decisions.  While there may be stasis for awhile, every decision expanding government authority becomes extremely hard to ever roll back because it is now an issue which has been decided and the reasoning on which it was based will be, forever more, cited in support of further government expansion.

THIRD UPDATE This article by John McGinnis further expands the points above and lays out why "purposivism", the interpretive theory used by Justice Roberts inherently advantages Progressives.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

Two hours (minus a few meaningless minutes of talking while not moving) of vehicles chases and combat, with some of the best and creative (and mostly non-CGI) bizarre vehicles and amidst the stunning desolation of the Australian Outback.  Your attention will be riveted throughout.  Strictly from an action perspective, George Miller, who directed the previous Mad Max films, hits a home run.  The trailer gives a good flavor of the action sequences:

Fury Road contains the same themes as The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome; a reluctant Max, having failed to protect his own family, shepherding the vulnerable towards a safe home and then returning to the Wasteland in search of his own road home.

The story and dialogue are even more skeletal than the earlier films.  That's probably good because when the movement slows down and exposition and attempts at explaining motivation begin the movie comes thundering to a halt.

As much as THC enjoyed it one critical element was missing -  Mel Gibson as Max and he wishes this installment had been made 15 or 20 years ago with Mel.  Gibson brought a mixture of craziness (and for those who didn't realize he was crazy even before his off-screen blow ups you weren't paying attention to his films - Conspiracy Theory was autobiographical), heartache and spiritual desolation that allowed him an element of vulnerability and soulfulness amidst the chaos and brutality.  His replacement in Fury Road, Tom Hardy, has a fine reputation as a rising actor, but fails to convey the pathos behind the character as Gibson did so well.  As a result the ending lacks the emotional punch of the earlier films.  On the other hand Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa handles both the action and emotion quite well though the only character with an emotional arc is Nux, played by Nicholas Hoult who reminds THC of a younger Daniel Day-Lewis.
http://media2.fdncms.com/boiseweekly/imager/comic-con-george-miller-reboots-mad-max-w/u/magnum/3184389/1_max.png(Hardy & Theron from someplace)
http://www.radiotimes.com/namedimage/Mad_Max__Fury_Road_s_Nicholas_Hoult_reveals_it_s_not_all_that_great_being_tied_to_Tom_Hardy.jpg?quality=85&mode=crop&width=620&height=374&404=tv&url=/uploads/images/original/76858.jpg(Nicholas Hoult from radio times)

Miller also keeps the tradition of outrageous character names in Max films: Immortan Joe, The Splendid Angharad, Toast the Knowing, Rictus Erectus, The Bullet Farmer, Corpus Colossus.  But even with a great name the lead villain in Fury Road, Immortan Joe, does not have the evil gravitas of The Toecutter (Mad Max) or Lord Humungus (The Road Warrior) and as the main enforcer for the bad guys, Rictus Erectus pales next to Wez (The Road Warrior).
http://www.writeups.org/img/inset/Wez_MMRW_h2.jpg(Wez from writeups)

So where does Mad Max: Fury Road stand in the Mad Max pantheon?

Ranking them is harder than you might think because the three earlier films were very different from each other.  Mad Max (1979) was a tragedy and biker film set amidst the slow break down of society.  The Road Warrior (1981) is a post-apocalyptic horror film and Max Mad: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) a live-action cartoon, except for the scenes in the canyon with the Lost Children and its ending echoing the altered language of the novel Riddley Walker.

That said, The Road Warrior clearly stands above all the rest.  The action sequences are incredible, secondary characters well-drawn using very few words and you cared about them, a well constructed story and scenes that are both shocking but essential to that story, which is about what people are capable of, for good and evil, when societal constraints are gone.  It is Gibson at his best and also has my favorite closing scene from any movie.

After that you are free to pick 'em.  And if for some inexcusable reason you haven't seen the previous Mad Max movies you can watch this video and get up to speed on all of them in just seven minutes!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Explains A Lot

From Terry Teachout summarizing "Twitter; in four sentences" but it actually explains a lot about much of our discourse today:

argument5• How dare you talk about A when B is infinitely more important?

• If I disagree with you, you’re almost certainly arguing in bad faith and probably evil as well.

• You are personally responsible, in toto and in perpetuity, for everything that your friends, colleagues, and/or ancestors have ever said, done, or thought.

• Sentences #2 and #3 do not apply to me.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bonapartaroo Barbarossa

http://mkaumeyer.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/5/8/13585955/542567045.jpg(German troops, Operation Barbarossa from mkaumeyer)

On this date in 1941, Germany launched its surprise attack on the Soviet Union, codenamed Barbarossa (after Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor from 1152-90).  It was one of two crucial mistakes made by Adolph Hitler in 1941 (the other being his declaration of war on the United States four days after Pearl Harbor - for more see April 1945: Germany's End).  Barbarossa is often linked to the similar campaign by Napoleon Bonaparte which also resulted in a disaster for the attacker - the invasion of Russia beginning on June 24, 1812.  What is less recognized is that both  decisions were driven by the desire to defeat Great Britain.

For the national socialist Hitler, war with the Soviet communists was historically necessary since Germany's destiny was to rule and settle the agricultural lands of European Russia as he wrote in his 1920s manifesto, Mein Kampf.  For the Soviet Marxists making Europe's leading industrial economy with its biggest working class a communist state remained a goal. 

Throughout the 1930s, Hitler and Josef Stalin studied and learned from each other.  Of course, the German - Soviet relationship went back further.  In the 1920s, with Germany militarily restricted by the Versailles Treaty, it had a secret agreement with the Soviets under which it trained cadres of the new Red Army in exchange for Soviet factories making prototypes and testing new weapons banned under Versailles.  After Hitler took power in January 1933 the regimes embarked on a macabre dance:
  • On June 29-30, 1934 Hitler purged his oldest brown shirt comrades and supporters in the S.A. with the assistance of the newer S.S. (the guys in the blackshirts) in the Night of the Long Knives.  The move occurred because the S.A. was becoming a threat to Hitler's power and to his relationship with the German military leading to the Fuhrer even approving the killing of Ernest Rohm, S.A. Commander and his closest associate going back to the earliest days of the Nazi Party. http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/33d/33dWImages/HitlerRohmStanding1933Summer200pxw.png(Hitler & Rohm)
  • On December 1, 1934, Sergei Kirov, head of the Leningrad branch of the Soviet Communist Party was assassinated in his office.  Stalin claimed that anti-Soviet forces were behind the murder and he used the alleged conspiracy to justify his next steps in 1936.  As we know now, it was Stalin who orchestrated Kirov's murder in order to eliminate his strongest opponents within the Communist Party.http://www.sheilaomalley.com/archives/Stalin-Kirov.jpg(Stalin & Kirov from Sheila O'Malley)
  • Citing the threat from anti-Soviet elements supposedly involved in Kirov's murder as well as alleged incidents of sabotage of the Soviet economy, in the summer of 1936 Stalin began what later became known as the Great Purges or the Great Terror which lasted until 1939.  Stalin eliminated all of his real or potential rivals in the Old Bolshevik Party, which meant everyone senior in the party at the time of the 1917 Revolution, as Hitler had done with the S.A., as well as other non-Communist class enemies and finally the military leadership.
  • Following Stalin's lead, in November 1938 using a trumped up sexual scandal as a pretext, Hitler removed the top leaders of the German Army who had opposed his Czechoslovakia strategy, allowing the Fuhrer to take direct control of the Wehrmacht and have its soldiers swear a direct oath of allegiance to him.
There was one difference when it came to Hitler and Stalin's treatment of their former allies and the military.  If you were in those categories you stood a much better chance of living with Hitler (for those in other categories the balance would change dramatically).  About one hundred to two hundred of the S.A., along with a few other regime opponents, were murdered in the Night of the Long Knives while in 1938 the military leaders were allowed to resign.  In the case of Stalin we can document, because of that brief period in the 1990s when Soviet archives could be accessed, the execution of precisely 681,392 people in 1937 and 1938 though scholars believe the actual number may be as high as 1.2 million.  In the Soviet military the purge extended to imprisoning or executing 3 of 5 Marshals, 8 of 9 Admirals, 50 of 57 Corps Commanders and 154 of 186 Division Commanders.

All this happened while the two regimes were furiously denouncing each other, an activity which abruptly came to an end on August 23, 1939 when a startled world found out that the regimes had signed a Non-Aggression Pact.  The Pact also contained secret clauses providing for the division of Poland and the Baltic States as well as agreements for Soviet supply of food and raw materials to the Nazi regime clearing the way for Germany's September 1 attack on Poland which started World War II.  For the next 22 months the Soviets would be a Nazi ally and major supplier while Communists around the world were instructed to immediately switch from demanding a Popular Front against the Nazis to obstructing the efforts of England and France to defeat Germany and to demand that the United States stay out of the war.
https://www.awesomestories.com/images/user/661eb1688b.jpg(Signing the Pact in Moscow is German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop (executed after the war) with Stalin smiling behind him and Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov to his left; from awesome stories)

The Non-Aggression Pact did not change both Hitler and Stalin's beliefs that their countries remained fundamentally enemies and at some future time would be at war with each other.  The only question was when.

It was in the fall of 1940 that Hitler decided that the time had come to attack the Soviet Union.  By then Poland had been crushed, France defeated and Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands occupied.  England's army had been seriously damaged in France but the air campaign known as the Battle of Britain had been unsuccessful in bringing the English to the negotiating table and Churchill showed no signs of yielding. Unlike Poland and the Soviet Union, Hitler did not seek the destruction of the British Empire - his goal was British recognition of Germany's right to dominate mainland Europe and to accept a subsidiary position within the Third Reich's new world order.  Frustrated with Britain's senseless (in his view) intransigence, Hitler decided that the time had come to attack the Soviet Union and on December 18, 1940 issued the formal order for Operation Barbarossa.  Why did his frustration with Britain lead to an attack on the Soviet Union?

In Ian Kershaw's masterful two-part biography of Hitler: Nemesis (1889-1936) and Hubris (1936-45) he sets out Hitler's reasoning, based on recollections of participants and notes from the Fuhrer's discussions with military leaders on January 8-9, 1941:
On the reasons for deciding to attack the Soviet Union, Hitler reiterated arguments he had been deploying since the previous summer.  Partly, the argument rested on an understanding of Soviet intentions, sharpened since Molotov's visit.  Stalin was shrewd, said Hitler and would increasingly exploit Germany's difficulties.  But the crux of his case was, as ever, the need to pull away what he saw as a vital prop to British interests. 'The possibility of a Russian intervention in the war was sustaining the English' he went on. 'They would only give up the contest if this last continental hope were demolished'.  He did not think 'the English were crazy.  If they saw no further chance of winning the war, they would stop fighting, since losing it would mean they no longer had the power to hold together the Empire.  Were they able to hold out, could put together forty to fifty divisions, and the USA and Russia were to help them, a very difficult situation for Germany would arise.  That must not happen.  Up to now he had acted on the principle of always smashing the most important enemy positions to advance a step.  Therefore Russia must now be smashed.  Either the English would then give in, or Germany would continue the fight against England in more favorable circumstances.  The smashing of Russia would also allow Japan to turn with all its might against the USA' hindering American intervention.
Hitler's confidence was enhanced by knowing that Stalin had purged the Soviet army of its best commanders, a fact demonstrated by that army's terribly inept performance in its surprise assault on Finland and its tiny army in what was know as the Winter War (November 30,1939 - March 13, 1940).  The Finnish repulsed the initial attacks with heavy losses and it was only when the massive manpower and material superiority of the Red Army finally overwhelmed them that they agreed to Stalin's demand.

Despite multiple warnings from Churchill and Roosevelt among others and the efforts of Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy in Japan who provided the exact date for the start of Barbarossa, Stalin refused to believe it and accused those delivering the warnings of being provocateurs trying to start a war.  Tragically, even in the hours before the attack there are documented instances of German soldiers deserting to the Soviets with news of the impending assault and of Stalin ordering their execution.

What Hitler underestimated was the resiliency of the Soviet army and soldier - the ability to take an initial beating that would have, and did, cause every other European army to collapse, the sheer number of soldiers the country could mobilize and field, the utter ruthlessness of Soviet civilian and military leadership, the willingness to convert their economy (unlike Germany's) into a seven days a week total war production machine, the impact of the terrible state of Russian roads and transport multiplied by the vast distances involved and the effect of the Nazi's brutal treatment of the occupied peoples many of whom hated the Communists and would otherwise have provided support for the attackers.http://www.ohwy.com/history%20pictures/barbarossa.jpg(from ohwy)

The Nazis were stopped in front of Moscow in December 1941.  After restarting their advance in June 1942 they suffered massive losses at Stalingrad ending in the formal surrender of the 6th Army on February 2, 1943 (see Life And Fate).  Twenty seven months later Adolph Hitler committed suicide as Soviet soldiers advanced towards his underground bunker through the rubble filled streets of Berlin.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f3/Fireofmoscow.jpg(Moscow burning 1812; fires set as the French entered at order of the Russian governor of the city, from Wikipedia)
"I have no reason to be in Russia.  I do not want anything from her, as long as the Treaty of Tilsit is respected.  I want to leave here as my only quarrel is with England.  Ah, if I could only take London!  I would not leave that."
- Napoleon, September 20, 1812 in Moscow as quoted in Moscow 1812 by Adam Zamoyski  
On June 25, 1807, the Emperor Napoleon of France and Czar Alexander I of Russia met on in a tented pavilion on a barge anchored in the river Niemen near the town of Tilsit on the border between Prussia and Russia.

The past two years had seen the French emperor cement his domination of mainland Europe.  In December 1805 the armies of the Czar and of the Hapsburg Emperor of Austria had been routed at Austerlitz.  In October 1806 the Prussians were destroyed at Jena and Auerstadt and the Russians soundly defeated at Eylau (January 1807) and Friedland (June 1807).  From Madrid to Warsaw, from Naples to Copenhagen, Napoleon ruled directly or through his proxies.

Despite his success on the continent, the British would not bend to Napoleon's will and remained defiant.  Moreover, Admiral Nelson's destruction of the combined French-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar in October 1805 put an end to Bonaparte's dream of defeating the British at sea.  Instead, France was doomed to be blockaded as long as perfidious Albion remained a defiant and powerful opponent.

Napoleon's solution was to impose the Continental System on France and its willing and unwilling allies under which no British trade would be allowed with continental Europe.  The goal was to crush England's economy and bring the British to terms that would solidify French control of Europe and, with the formal recognition of Napoleon's reign as Emperor, provide a stable foundation for the establishment of his dynasty.

At Tilsit the young and impressionable Czar (he was only 29 at the time; Napoleon who had been the major figure on the European scene for almost a decade was still only 36) came under Bonaparte's spell as the Emperor spun a future in which France and Russia dominated Europe and might even take on England, perhaps joining together to liberate India.   The Czar agreed to terms which included Russian adherence to the Continental System, the loss by Prussia of extensive territories and half its population and the establishment of a French satellite, the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a partial resurrection of the Polish state eliminated in three partitions between Russia, Prussia and Austria in the late 18th century.

The agreement at Tilsit quickly began to unravel.  Much of the Russian nobility rejected it being particularly incensed by the new stub of a Polish state, Napoleon diplomatic touch proved to be much worse than his military abilities further alienating and insulting Russia and participating in the Continental System hurt Russia's economy more than Britain's.  And Alexander was beginning to believe that Bonaparte posed a threat to the stability of Europe.

Over the next few years Russian-French relations deteriorated with the Russians first quietly and then overtly defecting from the embargo on Britain.  The English themselves were becoming even more in a nuisance.  After the Spanish rose up against the French occupiers in 1808, the British sent troops to the Iberian peninsula to support them.

All this added to Napoleon's obsession with the English.  According to Zamoyski:
He had persuaded himself that Britain was suffering economically, and that a few more months would probably bring her to the negotiating table.  He therefore adopted a more aggressive attitude to the application of the Continental System.  His correspondence bristles with detailed instructions to the rulers and administrators of the coastal areas under his control on which ships and goods to impound and which to allow through.
By late 1811, Napoleon had determined that unless the Czar reaffirmed his commitment to the Continental System, military action by France would be required and preparations for the 1812 campaign began and by the time it was launched Bonaparte had assembled the largest army in European history, just under 600,000.

But there was a difference between the approaches of Hitler and Napoleon to their campaigns.  Hitler wanted to drive Britain to the negotiating table by defeating the Soviet Union but he also had a fundamental ideological hostility to the Soviets and so the goal of the German campaign was to annihilate the Communist state, permanently occupy much of it and ruthlessly exterminate millions of people.  Napoleon had no such underlying hostility regarding Russia.  As Zamoyski notes Napoleon's:
. . . unwillingness to damage Russia any more than was necessary.  He wanted to frighten her, but he did not want to destroy her as a power.  He wanted to co-opt her as an ally against Britain.  There was no other reason for France to go to war with Russia; there was nothing Russia had that France could have possibly wanted.
This difference played out in Napoleon's strategy for the campaign as Zamoyski writes:
He still refused to see Alexander as an enemy to be defeated, thinking of him rather as a wayward ally.  Had it not been so, he would have declared the restoration of the Kingdom of Poland with its 1772 frontiers, thereby launching a national insurrection  in the rear of the Russian armies.  He could also have proclaimed the liberation of the serfs in Russia, which would have ignited unrest all over the country . . . But he wanted to bring Alexander to back to heel with as little unpleasantness as possible and a minimum of damage.  'I will make war on Alexander in all courtesy, with two thousand guns and 500,000 soldiers, without starting an insurrection'.
Like Hitler, Napoleon underestimated the strategic depth afforded by the expanse of Russia, failed to adequately provide logistic support for his troops, misjudged the impact of winter weather but most of all the resolve of Czar Alexander and his conviction that the French emperor needed to be defeated.  In fact, before the French attack (which unlike Hitler's, was not a surprise) Russia had been building up its forces preparing to move west into Prussia and the Duchy of Warsaw.
http://napoleononline.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/prianishnikov_retreat_from_moscow_1812.jpg(The retreat from Moscow)

When Napoleon reached Moscow, just days after the Battle of Borodino, the bloodiest day in European history since the Rome, he anticipated that the Czar would follow the logical course and enter into negotiations.  Alexander refused to do so and ultimately Napoleon began his retreat in late October.  When the Grand Armee of Napoleon stumbled into Vilna in early December 1812 it contained barely 10,000 combat ready troops along with an emaciated, frozen and half-crazed rabble of those who used to be soldiers.  Sixteen months later Czar Alexander, accompanied by Russian cavalry, would triumphantly ride through the streets of Paris as Napoleon prepared to abdicate at his palace in Fountainbleau.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Climate Change: CO2 Emissions Trends

Your faithful bloggist would like to take this opportunity to acquaint his readers with the information on trends about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  This post is not about the underlying science as to whether human activities are having, or likely to have in the future, significant impact on global temperatures.  The emissions trend data is important because it bears on any potential policy responses to climate change.

Prompted by some projects at work before THC retired he began following annual data on global, regional and country-specific GHG emissions. Three primary sources of that data are the International Energy Agency, U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. While there are differences in methodology, the numbers are roughly similar and the trends identical. For purposes of the discussion below, except where otherwise noted, we'll use the Netherlands data (see also Footnote A, below).

1. Here are the actual GHG emissions from fuel combustion and cement production for major countries and regions since 1990. Units: 5.0 = 5,000 million tons CO2.

U.S. EU China Global
1990 5.0 4.3 2.5 22.7
1995 5.3 4.1 3.5 23.6
2000 5.9 4.1 3.6 25.4
2005 5.9 4.2 5.9 29.4
2010 5.5 3.9 8.7 33.0
2013 5.3 3.7 10.3 35.3


U.S emissions over this period have increased by about 6% but are 10% lower than they were in 2000.  The U.S. share of global emissions has shrunk from about 22% to 15%.

In 2013 US & EU emissions combined are lower than than they were in 1990 even as global emissions increased by more than 50%.  The US & EU accounted for 41% of global emissions in 1990 but less than 26% in 2013.

China’s emissions, which were only 60% of those of the U.S. in 2000, are today greater than those of the U.S. and EU combined with China accounting for about 60% of the growth in global emissions since 1990.  China now accounts for 29% of global emissions.

If THC had included the 2008 data you’d see that during the GW Bush years the U.S. and EU trended the same despite the latter being a signatory to Kyoto.

U.S GHG emissions plummeted in 2009 demonstrating that there is nothing like a massive recession to help reduce your emissions.  American reductions in the past few years are also driven by switches from coal to gas and the success of fracking.

The announced GHG reduction goal of the Obama administration is 28% by 2025 from a 2005 baseline which would require additional U.S. reductions of about 1,000 million metric tons. Under a business as usual case in which global emissions increased by 2% a year (substantially less than trend), the U.S. reductions would amount to less than 2.5% of what the projected global total would be in 2025 and by less than 1.5% if all GHG emissions are taken into account (see footnote A below).

According to climatologist Judith Curry, based upon the UN IPCC’s own modeling, if the U.S met the 28% goal it would reduce projected temperatures by only 0.03 degrees C in the year 2100. Further, if the U.S. reduced its emissions by 80% by 2050 temperatures would be lowered by 0.11 degrees C by 2100.

It is the world outside of the US and EU that will determine if total global emissions are reduced and, in particular, what China does.

2.  For all the recent talk of emissions reductions the single biggest factor in the largest GHG reductions in the past half-century is the work of the United States, and specifically of Ronald Reagan and allies like Margaret Thatcher, in bringing down the Soviet Union.

In 1990, GHG emissions from the Soviet Union, were 4,000 million tons or almost 18% of the global total. With the falling apart of the Soviet state the full wastage of its economic base was exposed – as we learned, in some instance, the value of the raw materials going into its products were actually higher than the value of the final products (not to mention that life expectancy was falling) ! Soviet production philosophies allowed for pollution of the environment on a scale not seen in the U.S. even at its worst. By 1998, GHG emissions from Russia and the former Soviet states were only 2,400 million tons, a reduction of 40% or 1,600 million tons (about a 6% global reduction), by far the biggest reduction ever (even in 2013 they were still only about 2,700 million tons).

It was the “hot air” produced by this collapse and the ability to sell it as carbon credits that enticed Russia to become a Kyoto signatory, putting that pact into legal effect. The related collapse of the East Germany’s industry and its subsequent absorption into a reunited Germany, reduced that country’s overall GHG emissions enough that it made compliance with the Kyoto goals relatively easy. It is no accident that Kyoto’s baseline was 1990 before the industrial collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

3. One of the other major changes in emissions profiles helping the EU meet its goals was Margaret Thatcher’s initiative to reduce coal mining in the U.K. and switch its economy to newly discovered natural gas found in the North Sea. U.K. emissions today are lower than they were in 1979, the year Ms Thatcher became Prime Minister. For that effort she was excoriated by the Left in Britain who lamented the closing of the coal pits. In the years since, the British film business has developed a cottage industry making movies glorifying the coal miners and denouncing Thatcherism (see, for instance, Billy Elliott) while at the same time demanding greenhouse gas reductions.

UPDATE (6/30/15):  This morning THC was watching BBC (yes, he actually does that occasionally) and one of their big stories was billed as China's dramatic announcement committing to reducing GHG emissions.  Many numbers were thrown around rather carelessly in the report so THC thought it would be a good opportunity to see how emissions data is used, misused and easily misunderstood.

The substance of the announcement was that China pledged to cap its emissions by 2030 and would make a 60-65% reduction in GHG intensity, essentially an efficiency measure, by that time (from a baseline in 2005), though THC noticed that the header running under the report characterized this as a 60-65% decrease in emissions, which it is not.

The piece featured an interview with BBC's Environmental Analyst, Roger Harribin, who stressed the significance of this commitment and also commented that until now the U.S. has resisted making commitments on the grounds that China was refusing to do so.

1.  The commitment is the same commitment made by China last November as reported at the time by The Washington Post.  It is not new news.

2.  At the same meeting last November, President Obama announced the U.S. reduction commitment, as discussed in the original post above.

3.  What does it mean for China to agree to cap its emissions by 2030?  From 2000 to 2013, China's GHG emissions grew at an average annual rate of a little more than 8% a year, though growth has slowed some in recent years.  If China were to reduce its average GHG growth rate to 2% annually its emissions would grow from 10,300 million tons to 14,500 million tons by 2030, the equivalent of adding more than the EU's 2013 emissions to the global total.

4.  But, you might protest, China emissions must surely go down in this period given they have pledged to reduce intensity by 60-65%?  Not necessarily.  Intensity is a relative measure which necessitates having a denominator.  In this case, China has said its denominator is GDP so the critical matter is the amount of GHGs emitted per unit of GDP.  So far in the 21st century, China's GDP has grown by 7-11% every year.

Let's assume that China's growth slows down through 2030 and is only 5% a year, well below the recent trend line.  If China's GHG emissions remain the same in 2030 as they were in 2013 the country would have reduced intensity by 60% from the 2005 baseline!  If China's growth remains at the low end of the recent trend (7%) emissions can increase and still hit the intensity target.

(Footnote A) A simplifying assumption has been used by THC as these numbers are only from fuel combustion and cement production. There are additional significant GHG emissions from other non-CO2 industrial gases, agriculture and forestry.  In some countries, such as Brazil and Indonesia, these sources are double those from fuel and cement.  In the U.S. and E.U. these sources add something like 20-25% to the figures about while in China they add perhaps 40%.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Charleston AME Church

This blog does not usually cover breaking news preferring to dwell in the past or at least take some time for reflection on current events before publishing.  Maybe at this point and age we should no longer be shocked at what people can do to each other or about the hate that leads to such terrible acts but when it happens we are still shocked and saddened.  Yet, in the midst of this horror, the statements by the families at today's bond hearing for the killer in giving witness to their faith and their expressions of forgiveness is inspiring in what it says about the good things we are capable of, though it is far more than THC could muster in the same circumstances.  May God bless them.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Downfall: Ending The War With Japan

This is a revised and expanded version of a post that first appeared on this date in 2012.

On June 18, 1945 at a White House meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of War and the Secretaries of the Army and Navy, President Harry Truman approved plans for the invasion of Japan.  Along with the President the other key participants were General George C Marshall and Admiral Ernest King.


Richard B. Frank's 1999 book, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire, using information that had only become available in the prior decade recasts our understanding of the events of the last few months of WWII and the endgame with Japan culminating in its surrender on August 14, 1945 (the formal ceremony took place on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2).  These sources include Russian archives which became available after the fall of the Soviet Union; the release, after Emperor Hirohito's death in 1989, of his lengthy account (dictated in early 1946) of those months; the completion of the Japanese War History Series and the release of additional American intelligence information, most importantly, of the Magic Diplomatic Summaries.  The Magic materials were a daily summary of intercepted Japanese diplomatic cables produced by U.S. intelligence analysts.  These summaries, distributed to senior American policy makers, provide us with a new window on the information they were receiving about Japanese intentions and the interpretations they placed on that information.

While in recent decades the end of the war has focused on the American decision to use the newly developed atomic bombs, Frank's book covers much broader ground, opening our eyes to a vision of a surprising counterfactual history in which the U.S. may not have invaded Japan even if the bombs had not been dropped and the war had continued beyond mid-August 1945.

What were Truman and the others thinking about as they entered the meeting room on June 18?

The night before, Truman had written in his diary that the decision whether to "invade Japan [or] bomb and blockade" would be his "hardest decision to date".

The men entering the meeting knew the American public was increasingly war-weary and shocked by the enormous casualties of the past year.  In the first 30 months of WWII, the U.S. suffered 91,000 battle deaths, an average of about 3,000 a month.  With the D-Day landings in France and the American assault on Saipan in the Pacific in June 1944, the toll accelerated.  During the next twelve months 196,000 Americans died in combat, an average of more than 16,000 a month(1).  With the end of the European war in May, public pressure to start bringing the troops home was increasing though a poll that month found the U.S. public still preferring unconditional surrender to a negotiated end to the war by a margin of 9 to 1.

In early 1945 the Pacific war grew even more horrendous as we approached Japan.  On the 8-square miles of Iwo Jima over five weeks in February and March 1945, 7,000 Americans died and 17,000 were wounded fighting 21,000 Japanese soldiers; the desperate nature of the fighting captured in the words of General Graves Erskine at the dedication of the 3rd Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo:
"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."
Iwo was followed on April 1 by the American landing on Okinawa.  In the next ten weeks another 50,000 American soldiers and sailors were killed or wounded in the course of eliminating a Japanese garrison of 92,000 in a struggle that came to resemble the trench warfare of WWI, the grinding and unrelenting nature of which had also resulted in thousands of additional psychiatric casualties.For a better idea of what the awful fighting conditions were like read one Marines account, With The Old Breed: From Peleliu To Okinawa by E.B. Sledge which contains an unforgettable account of combat on the hillsides under continuous shelling amidst the mud and broken bodies. Along with these campaigns significant fighting continued in the Philippines, at sea and in smaller operations on islands across the Pacific as well as by our British, Australian and New Zealand allies engaged across the Pacific and in Burma.

Along with the weariness, the increasing toll from these battles enraged American civilians and soldiers.  Many accounts by American soldier bitterly reflect the senselessness of what the Japanese army was doing - they had clearly lost the war by this point - why sacrifice themselves and why should they cause more Americans to die in the process?  There had been great anger against Japan since the start of the war, triggered by the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and increasing reports of atrocities against American prisoners (according to polling data public anger against the Germans was less until the discovery of the Nazi death camps at the end of the war).  Now it was being ratcheted up even further as thousands of Americans died needlessly because the Japanese could not recognize they had lost the war and inducing a high degree of fatalism among the U.S. soldiers who were told that summer they would be part of the invasion force.

They knew that the Allied policy was unconditional surrender for Japan as set by FDR and Churchill at the Casablanca Conference in 1943.

They knew that the Magic Summaries showed no Japanese government disposition for peace on these terms.

They knew that Japan still had 2 million military personnel stationed outside Japan, scattered across Pacific islands, New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies, China, Korea, Burma and Indochina and they wanted to force a formal surrender by the Japanese government to avoid years of piecemeal fighting with each of these isolated forces.

At the June 18 meeting the broad strategy for the invasion of Japan was set out.  The first landings would be on the island of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main Japanese homeland islands, on November 1.  Kyushu's seizure was necessary so that the Air Force could build the airfields needed for the fighter aircraft to provide air cover for the climactic landing on the Honshu plain near Tokyo planned for March 1, 1946. 

Truman was told that the military planners assumed that about 760,000 American troops would face 350,000 Japanese on Kyushu supported by about 2500-3000 aircraft.  Although the Joint Chiefs unanimously supported this decision, the President was not told that the Navy, unlike the Army, did not believe an invasion would ultimately be needed and that in Admiral King's view he was only supporting preparations for the landing on Kyushu.  King believed a blockade and aerial bombing would bring about surrender.  His Pacific commander, Admiral Nimitz, had recently told King he had changed his mind about supporting the invasion "after further experience in fighting against Japanese forces".

Six weeks later, American intelligence had assembled a completely different picture of what awaited us on Kyushu.  The Japanese Army had figured out that the American landing would be on the island and bet everything on a strategy of inflicting maximum casualties in order to achieve a negotiated settlement to the war, involving preservation of the Emperor, no Allied occupation of Japan and retaining at least some portions of Japan's overseas empire. What had changed in those few weeks?

  • Instead of 350,000 troops, American intelligence now estimated there would be 650,000 (and, it was discovered after the end of the war that the Japanese had actually packed 900,000 troops onto the island)

  • Instead of 2500-3000 aircraft, the Japanese had between 6,000 and 10,000 and were going to employ many of them in waves of kamikaze attacks against vulnerable transport ships packed with thousands of American troops (the Okinawa kamikaze attacks had been on warships)
  • The entire civilian population of the island had been mobilized, armed (in some cases just with hoes and spades) and trained to attack the American soldiers when they came ashore, creating a situation where the U.S. military would be unable to distinguish between soldiers and civilians, resulting in enormous casualties on both sides.
  • The Japanese military had issued orders to kill all Allied prisoners of war once the American invasion started.
During these weeks the Magic Diplomatic Summaries indicated no improvement in the prospects of a peace offer from Japan on Allied terms.  An enormous literature on this topic has been created over the past half-century.  For a time in the 1960s and 1970s revisionist historians held the high ground with claims that Truman and company ignored Japanese peace overtures because of concerns about the rising power of the Soviet Union which caused them to find a way to use the atom bomb.  As more documents and information have become available, along with revelations of how some revisionist historians distorted and cherry-picked existing data, the tide of revisionism has receded.  Without rehashing the entire sage, suffice it to say that Japan's foreign minister admitted after the war that the Cabinet never agreed on a specific route for terminating the war and the Magic intercepts revealed a series of communications between the government at home and its ambassadors that were confusing in many respects but always clear in one: unconditional surrender was unacceptable and future events (i.e, casualties inflicted on Americans during the anticipated invasion) might lead to termination of the war on more favorable terms. For those interested in knowing more about the rise and fall of revisionism read this scholarly paper.

According to Franks, the new intelligence would probably have led Admiral King to withdraw his support for the Kyushu landing, precipitating a new strategic review by President Truman in the second half of August, particularly in light of the President's concern over American casualties, if the war had not ended on August 14 after the bombing of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) and the entry of the Soviet Union into the war on August 8.

At the same time, the Air Force had come up with a new approach to strategic bombing that it planned to implement in September 1945.  Unlike the massive incendiary attacks which burned down large parts of Japan's biggest cities between March and June, the new campaign focused on a small number of key rail yards, bridges, tunnels and ferries.  The Air Force had finally realized that with Japan's poor road network (mostly still unpaved) the distribution of food supplies could be paralyzed by disrupting fewer than 100 rail and shipping locations.  With Japan's population already on the brink of starvation, the effect of this campaign would have been catastrophic.  It was already so bad that even with the war ending in August, as late as March 1946 the average daily ration for Tokyo civilians, nominally only 1,042 calories was, in reality, closer to 800 calories and starvation only avoided by massive U.S. food supplies.

This strategic review would have provoked intense controversy within the Administration since the U.S. Army was still committed to the invasion strategy.  There is no indication that Truman ever knew of the new intelligence on the Japanese military buildup on Kyushu or of the new Air Force bombing plan and with the end of the war it was not necessary to raise the issue to the Presidential level.

All of this creates a hypothetical future where no American invasion of Japan occurs even if the war went on beyond mid-August.  The likely results:
  • Continued American blockade of the Japan home islands and complete disruption of the food supply by the Air Force bombing campaign inducing famine in the civilian population.
  • The invasion of lightly defended Hokkaido (the northernmost home island of Japan) by the Soviets in September 1945 - one of the revelations from the opening of the Soviet archives in the 1990s.
  • The British proceeding with their planned amphibious landing in Malaya, scheduled for early September, and incurring heavy casualties against Japanese forces anticipating the operation.
  • Continued fighting in the Philippines, on smaller islands across the Pacific and in China.
  • Huge death tolls of Asian civilians under Japanese occupation (primarily in China and secondarily in Southeast Asia), estimated to be 100,000 to 250,000 a month from famine, disease, imprisonment and execution.
The question is how long could Japan have survived in this scenario and whether the ending would be an organized surrender of all Japanese military forces or a disorganized collapse in which scattered fighting continued across the Pacific and mainland Asia.
The end of the Pacific war, just as that of the European war, would have been grim under any scenario.  

This post only begins to touch on the issues impacting the end of the war and covered in detail in Downfall.  Frank discusses the Soviet attack on Japan in Manchuria and its impact on the Japanese government, the lead up to, and the impact of, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, Japanese cabinet deliberations and debates over peace terms, the controversy over American casualty estimates for the invasion (for an excellent summary of the complex history and methodology of the casualty estimates read "A Score of Bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas" by DM Giangreco in Hiroshima In History, edited by Robert James Maddox (2007)) and the nuts and bolts of U.S. and Japanese military operational planning.

The book is thought provoking, giving the reader a greater appreciation of the information decision makers had available, the different paths that could have been followed and the consequences that would have flowed from them.  It is particularly valuable in conveying what it is like to have to make decisions affecting the lives of millions with only the information you have available at the time and without the advantage of hindsight.

It strikes THC that these events would be a terrific instructional tool for students and others regarding real-life contingencies and decision-making.  A course where students were assigned roles in the American civilian and military hierarchy and then fed information as it became available and asked to make decisions based on the available information would make for a memorable learning experience and would probably be humbling and sobering to those who think everything looks as clear to the participants at the time as it does to others in hindsight.  It could be done in two parts - the first based upon what we know happened through the decisions to drop the atomic bombs and accept the continued role of Emperor Hirohito and a second based on a scenario where the bombs are not dropped and the war continues.  Most importantly, those participating should be challenged along the way by the instructor(s) but not led to any predetermined outcome.

(1)  196,000 is double the total number of American combat fatalities in the 70 years since 1945 including Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Waterloo: Bonny Meets The Duke & Terry Meets Julie

With the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo coming up tomorrow, THC thought he'd steal a march, just as Napoleon Bonaparte tried to steal a march on the Duke of Wellington (he was actually successful in that strategy causing Wellington to remark "Napoleon has humbugged me, by God!"; unfortunately his tactical execution once he encountered Wellington was not), and publish something a day earlier.

THC will keep it simple.  Napoleon lost though it was a "close run thing" as Wellington later said.

Which reminds him of a perhaps apocryphal remark by Margaret Thatcher (which he nonetheless attributes to Ms Thatcher in accordance with The Official Policy Of This Blog) in which she commented on the difference between the American and French revolutions:
"America ended up with George Washington and the Constitution.  France ended up with a tyrant and a pile of corpses."
Let's wrap up two Waterloo tunes; the first a tribute to all those who fought and suffered on that bloody field - and the winner of the 1974 Eurovision song contest, held on April 6 of that year, just two months short of the 159th anniversary of the battle, perhaps explaining why France did not compete that year:

The second, the glorious single from 1967 by The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset, after the classic 19th century London train station named in celebration of England's triumph over the dreaded Bonaparte.
Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

On The Outside

THC has never been a Sheryl Crow fan but came across On The Outside on a X-Files related album from 1996.  Crow has not released it on any of her records but THC really likes the X-Files vibe.  The version below is from a live performance.  How'd THC end up listening to an X-Files album?  His kids were devoted fans of the show and watching it became a weekly family ritual in the 90s.  THC even took his daughter to an X-Files Fan Convention.  Actually, it wasn't bad - he got to see Cigarette Smoking Man! http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/34/The_Smoking_Man_(X-Files).jpg(aka Cancer Man)  Then, in order to preserve family peace we went through convoluted planning to enable us to see the premiere of the X-Files Movie on its opening night in 1998 while in Alliance, Nebraska in the midst of a two week car trip (for more on Alliance see Carhenge).

Monday, June 15, 2015

Imaginary Gadgets

From Pantogram, a Japanese model making company (via Spoon & Tamago) specializing in making devices that someone should have invented:

A binary typewriter with keys for just ones and zeros:

Record player that plays vocals, guitar, bass and drums at the same time:

A smartphone containing binoculars:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rock Anthem Essentials: Baba O'Riley

The definitive THC three-step checklist:

Step 1: Composition & Recording

Does the song have lyrics that make no sense? 

You betcha, lots of 'em!

OK, but do some of the individual words and phrases sound cool and release emotions in the listener even if they make no sense? 

Of course you bozo! They are amazingly evocative, though evocative of precisely what is hard to say and generate strong feelings, though it is impossible to determine why. 

Is there a static opening that builds to a dramatic moment?


Does it contain a hypnotic repeating riff?

Yes, yes and yes.
Is it in a major key?


Does it use very few chords?


Is the guitar used to punctuate and accentuate the emotion?


Does it rhythmically build tension towards the end and provide a satisfying release for the listener? 

You be the judge.

Does it sound better the louder you play it?

I can't hear you, let's talk when it's finished.

Step 2:  Live Performance

Yeah, the recording sounds pretty good but is it just studio magic or does it work as a live performance? 

Oh, YES!!! (And for you students of rock anthems pay particular attention to the guitar intro at 1:50).

Step 3: Durability

Thirty years later will middle-aged guys and guys not even born when it was recorded still sing it at the top of their lungs in public? 

We hereby submit for your perusal Exhibit 1, recorded at the Concert For New York City, October 20, 2001.  Listen to the crowd starting at 9:15.  The entire four song set is an anthemic set for an anthemic time.
Listen and watch hereAnd they were still singing just last month, 44 years later.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


LeBron has been immense but still think the odds are against him and the Cavs.  To win every one of the remaining Cavs have to be at their absolute best while the Warriors can win if they're at 90%.  But it has been amazing to watch.

And how about Matthew Dellavedova?  Here are a couple of gifs from Grantland; the first that off- balance ugly shot with Stephen Currey hanging all over him that saved the game for the Cavs when they were collapsing; the second is the stuff that really annoys the opposition or, as Grantland put it:
Delly is the kind of guy that, if he’s on your team, you love him. If he’s not, you end up getting reconstructive knee surgery.
The shot:
The sneaky guy move.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ballpark Roadtrip 2015

Larry and THC just completed their fourth annual ballpark roadtrip.  This year it was the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Brooklyn, oops, Los Angeles Dodgers.  Though THC's made several business trips to Southern California they were of brief duration and he'd done very little sightseeing so this part of the excursion was mostly new territory for him. 

Ballparks Visited
Seating Capacity
Chase Field
San Diego
Petco Park
Angel Stadium
Los Angeles
Dodger Stadium
Game Results
June 1
Braves 8, D-backs 1
June 2
Padres 7, Mets 2
June 3
Rays 6, Angels 5 (10)
June 4
Cards 7, Dodgers 1

We've now been to 22 of the 30 major league ballparks.  You can read all about our prior jaunts here.

The average game time was about 20 minutes less than the 2014 marathons.  As you can see, three of the four games were not close and the Phoenix game was pretty poorly played.  In fact, Chip Hale, the D-backs manager, apologized afterwards for the "dead, sloppy" play of his team, blaming it on the 17 inning game they'd played in Milwaukee the day before and their 430 AM arrival back in Phoenix that morning.  Nonetheless we had a good time at each park witnessing bizarre plays and managerial choices, seeing something that had only happened once before in major league history (for more on that see below), having a line drive foul ball almost whack Larry in the noggin (Angel Stadium) and getting to watch games with the THC Daughter (Phoenix) and friend Kurt (Dodgers).

Let's review the venues followed by the Annual Ballpark Roadtrip Awards.

All four locales are good ballparks but THC's favorite was Petco.  Set in downtown San Diego with beautiful views of the harbor, spacious walking areas, interesting seating and architecture and an incredible variety of interesting food.  Only complaint was the loud speaker system - the noise was too much (and while we're being crotchety - get off my lawn!).  Our seats felt much closer to the field than similar seats at Chase the night before.

Chase Field is another domed stadium.  We've now been to three, Minute Maid in Houston and Miller Field in Milwaukee being the others and baseball is just a very different experience in a dome, even when it is open.  THC thinks Chase was the best of the three (though Miller definitely had the best tailgate area) with Minute Maid being the oddest.  The location is good, right in downtown Phoenix.

Angel Stadium though it opened in 1966 was extensively remodeled in the mid-1990s and we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it.  Great sight lines of the field from the seats, comfortable for walking around.  Very engaged fans.  The surrounding area of Anaheim was pretty boring.

Dodger Stadium is a classic.  Lovely setting in the hills above L.A.  The stadium itself has a very retro-60s feel but it is showing its age; it feels more crowded and cramped inside and food and facilities are much more limited than in the newer parks.  Best aspect: Vin Scully does the pre-game analysis on the scoreboard and his play by play is piped into the restrooms and other general areas.  That voice instantly brings me back to my childhood.  Now in his 66th season broadcasting Dodger games.

The Ballpark Roadtrip Awards

Best Food SelectionPetco Park

Best Food Actually Eaten: Chase Field.  Hot dog smothered in Mac n'cheese (Larry), Italian sausage with peppers & onions from Hungry Hill (THC), and, at the insistence of the THC Daughter, an ice cream churro dog shared by us all.  We were comatose by the end of game which, given the quality of play, was probably a good thing.

Honorable mention goes to the thick cut bacon & cheese sandwich at Angel Stadium.

Most Puzzling Managerial Decision:  In the bottom of the 6th inning, with the Dodgers trailing 5-0 and runners on 1st and 3rd, the L.A. pitcher, Carlos Frias, was scheduled to come to the plate.  Frias had not pitched well and this was a great opportunity to pinch hit and maybe get the team back in the game yet manager Don Mattingly decided to let him hit.  Frias laid down a sacrifice bunt moving the runner over to second, the next batter struck out and the opportunity was gone.  An account the next day said Cardinals broadcasters were stunned by the decision as were we sitting in the stands.  It was like saying "we surrender".

Most Puzzling Decision (Undetermined By Whom):  In the bottom of the 10th inning, with the Angels trailing 6-5 with one out and a man on first, Matt Joyce bunted, which we interpreted, given the circumstances, as a gesture of existential despair.  We were unable to find any mention in the newspaper coverage as to whether Joyce did it on his own or was directed to do so by manager Mike Scioscia.  With two out, Chris Iannetta, hitting just .179 came to the plate and dribbled a weaker grounder to short ending the game.

Best Game: Tampa Bay Rays 6, L.A. Angels 5 in ten innings.
Very well played game.  In the first, Mike Trout hit a 430 foot bomb onto the grassy knoll in centerfield.   Angels jumped out to a 4-0 lead and their pitcher, Hector Santiago was cruising giving up only two hits and a walk in five innings.  And then he completely lost it in the top of the 6th with the first five batters going Hit By Pitch, HR, Single, Walk, HR.  Five batters, five runs.

In the bottom of the 8th, with the Angels trailing 5-4, Albert Pujols led off with a single.  Kole Calhoun followed with a single to right with Pujols beating the throw to third but Calhoun got tagged out oversliding the bag at second. The next two batters struck out and Pujols was left stranded.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Angels got a lead off single but the pinch runner was thrown out attempting to steal second.  This was followed by a walk and a single and then Erick Aybar hit a sacrifice liner to right field scoring the tying run.   With a runner on second, Mike Trout was intentionally walked bringing Pujols to the plate but he grounded out sending the game to extra innings.

The Rays got a lead off home run in the 10th and we then had the puzzling decision discussed above and the game was over.  Plus, as mentioned Larry had a close call with the liner from Rene Rivera and we had two other pop fouls fall near us.

Best Bargain on Seats: Angel Stadium.  Seats just beyond third base about 15 rows from field for $25 with special AAA Member rate.

Worst Double Play ComboDodgers - Jimmy Rollins (SS), Enrique Hernandez (2B).  Looked like they were playing in molasses.  Slow and slower.

Best (And Only) Celebrity SpottingMr T at our gate in LAX!  Happily chatting and getting his picture taken with anyone who asked (and a lot of folks did). 

Weirdest Pitching LineNoah Syndergaard, Mets
4 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 0 BB, 10 K
Syndergaard threw as hard as 98 mph but if a Padre got their bat on a ball they got a hit.  Of the twelve batters he retired, 10 were by strikeout, one by sacrifice bunt and one (Matt Kemp) on a weak grounder so of 11 Padres who hit the ball while attempting to get a base hit, 10 were successful.  The last eight outs were all strikeouts.  It was the most dominant yet bad pitching performance THC has personally witnessed.

It was only the second time in major league history a pitcher struck out at least ten while giving up at least ten hits in less than five innings.  The first time was the night before in the same ballpark by Andrew Cashner of the Padres!

Best Workout Club in Stadium:  Chase Field.  Actually, it's the only one THC has ever seen in a ballpark.

Best Driving Experience.  Too many to choose from so THC didn't:
(1) Last 90 miles on I-8 into San Diego.  Leave the Imperial Valley and immediately climb to 4,000 feet elevation into picturesque country.
(2) Pacific Coast Highway from just north of San Diego to Laguna Beach.
(3) Pacific Coast Highway in the Malibu area and then driving around Santa Barbara.
                                                  (Santa Barbara from the pier)

(4) Route 150 from Carpinteria past Ogai to Santa Paula. 
(5) Laurel Canyon Rd and Mulholland Drive in L.A (too crazy to take any pictures).

Best Flashback To the 70s: The stores in Topanga Canyon.

Best Pitching Performance: Michael Wacha (Cardinals)
7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5K.  Made it look easy. 

Best Catches:
Yonder Alonso, first baseman of the Padres, and just off the disabled list, making a leaping catch of line drive by Lucas Duda of the Mets in top of the 6th.
Todd Cunningham, substitute center fielder for the Braves, making a diving catch to rob the D-backs Aaron Hill of an extra base hit in the bottom of the 7th.

Best Non-Ballpark Eating: The Brulee Burger at Paradise Valley Burger in Phoenix.

Tourist Spot To Skip Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood.  What a sleazy dump.  Like Times Square in the 1970s.

Tourist Spots Not To Skip:
Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix).  THC wrote of his previous visit here.  Just as good the second time around and they've added part of Keith Moon's drum kit from The Who's 1960s touring days.  You can spend hours listening to music from around the world and looking at the instruments.
                       (Inscription reads "Keith Moon Patent British Exploding Drummer")

Universal Studios (L.A.).  Probably helped that THC's friend Laura gave us a guided tour but the studios and the park are a lot of fun.  Larry and THC did notice that they have reached the age where they triggered three or four of the warning signs on several of the rides.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (Simi Valley).  Stunning location on a hilltop.  Well designed museum with interesting exhibits plus the Air Force One used by every President from Nixon to George W Bush.  Enjoyed it as much as the FDR Museum at Hyde Park.
                        Section from the Berlin Wall (for more read Tear Down This Wall)