Saturday, April 30, 2016

Looking For A Mobile Home?

Try Cullman Liquidation Center in Cullman, Alabama.  Or don't. We don't care.

"My wife's boyfriend broke my jaw with a fencepost, so if you don't buy a trailer from me, it ain't gonna hurt my feelings."'

Thursday, April 28, 2016

(I Wear My) Sunglasses At Night

Recently heard this for the first time in years and realized it musically encapsulated the early 1980s.  Written and recorded in 1982/3 by Canadian Corey Hart for his debut album, First Offense (released in April 1983), it features a synthesizer hook similar to that of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) recorded by Eurythmics in 1982 and released as a single in January 1983.  When he sings "while she's deceiving me, it cuts my security", the backing music sounds like something from producer Giorgio Moroder, the man behind many electro-pop hits of the late 70s and early 80s.  The guitar sounds like Eddie Van Halen on Beat It from Michael Jackson's Thriller, released in the fall of 1982 (the actual guitarist was Andy Barnett).  Topped off by a melody with multiple hooks and enigmatic lyrics and you've got a typical early 80s hit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Better Call Saul Wrap,21,2386,1600/20150129hoowen0206saul0208bmag-2.jpg
Better Call Saul just finished its second satisfying season.  The sort of prequel to Breaking Bad it features two of the subsidiary characters from that series, Saul Goodman, originally Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) and Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks).  Since we already know the ultimate disposition of both, Better Call Saul is about how they got to be the characters we met in Breaking Bad.  As it turns out, Better Call Saul is good enough to stand on its own and has now introduced us to new and interesting characters.

In an article in Slate, Julia Turner makes the case that, as the title says Better Call Saul Is Better Than Breaking Bad.  While THC will not yet go that far, she makes some interesting observations (no spoilers regarding either show):
Better Call Saul takes the style that made Breaking Bad distinctive—the astonishing cinematography, dark comedy, and brashly confident pacing—and elevates it by applying it with more beauty, subtlety, and moral sophistication.

Perversely, Better Call Saul aims higher than its progenitor by lowering the stakes. Through its first two seasons, the show has concerned itself not with murderers and kingpins but with the mundane dilemmas of Jimmy McGill, a silver-tongued man with a gift for conning people who is trying not to use it. The show’s emotional core lies in his relationship with his older brother, Chuck, a brilliant lawyer who doesn’t believe that no-good Jimmy can play it straight for long. Jimmy aspires to please Chuck and go legit even though his talents offer tempting shortcuts.

This is clear in Saul’s understated, methodical, and deliberate plotting, and the suspense the show creates with each subtle turn. Why is Mike Ehrmantraut, the beloved Breaking Bad heavy, drilling holes in a garden hose with his granddaughter? Why does Nacho, a savvy drug-world apparatchik, pause to check out the leather seats in that Hummer? Why does Kim Wexler (Jimmy’s friend, colleague, advocate, and love) rip a business card with his name on it in half? Every modest moment in the show builds to a fascinating payoff. It’s also notable that the characters the show has introduced—including meticulous Nacho (Michael Mando), loyal and ambitious Kim (Rhea Seehorn), and conniving Chuck (Michael McKean, who like Odenkirk is a comic actor giving an authoritative dramatic turn)—are as compelling as the two we’ve watched for years.
If you haven't watched it, check it out. 

(Spoilers included below)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Hollies

Better remembered for their last three U.S. hits (all of which THC disliked); He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (1969), Long Cool Woman With A Black Dress (1972) and Air That I Breathe (1974), The Hollies of the mid-1960s were a terrific pop band.  Though not as lyrically clever as two of THC's favorite 80s pop acts, Squeeze and Crowded House, The Hollies made up for it with catchy hooks and melodies along with soaring three-part harmonies.

The original band featured Tony Clarke on lead vocals and had a rhythm guitarist and high harmony singer named Graham Nash.  Like The Who, they were popular in their native Britain well before breaking through in the U.S.  From late 1963 to mid-1966, the band had eight Top Ten singles in the UK, all of which flopped in the US.  Looking back it's hard to figure out why the last two in that sequence were not hits in America.  Just listen to Look Through Any Window and I Can't Let Go.
You may recognize that chiming guitar sound.  Here's a similar one from that era, George Harrison (actually someone imitating him) on If I Needed Someone.

The US breakthrough came with the release of Bus Stop, the first time THC ever heard them (he still has the 45), and which reached #5 on the US Charts.  The song was bright, shimmering and innocently romantic.  A few years ago we had another song featuring an umbrella which was not quite as innocent - this time it was the girl with the umbrella.

Over the next year they followed up with three more Top Tens in the US; On A Carousel; Stop Stop Stop and Carrie Anne along with two less successful releases, which remain THC favorites, Pay You Back With Interest and King Midas In Reverse (Duran Duran borrowed the sound of the latter in the 80s).
In early 1968, The Hollies had a UK success and US flop with Jennifer Eccles, a trifling bubble gum tune.  Shortly thereafter Nash departed the group.  He'd wanted to take the band in a different musical direction, but the other members wanted to return to their pop roots.  Nash went off to Los Angeles to become a full time songwriter but ran into David Crosby and Stephen Stills and you know the rest of the story.

The Hollies went on to have two more Top Ten UK hits before He Ain't Heavy returned them to the US charts but the glory days were gone.  The final tally is impressive, 18 UK and 7 US Top Ten singles.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Bernie Problem

Donald Trump has taken a lot of mocking, denunciation, condemnation and outright hatred from large sections of the news and social media.  THC can understand that since he's also appalled by The Donald.

But what is puzzling him is why isn't Bernie Sanders getting the same type of reaction from these sources?  He's gotten as large a share of Democratic votes in the primaries as Trump has in the Republican contest.  Yet, most of what THC sees, even if mildly critical, is respectful, taking his ideas seriously and always careful to note that Bernie's "heart is in the right place".

Yet this is the real Bernie Sanders:
A man consumed by a lifetime of envy and bitterness which has led him to embrace some of most tyrannical and murderous regimes of the past century precisely because they have taken revenge against the people he considers his enemies.

A greedy man who wants more than a trillion dollars confiscated from his enemies so that he can spend it to gain other people's votes.

A man who does not believe in private charity, believing all charity should come from the state.

A not very intelligent man in thrall to old ideas demonstrated over and over again not to work.

A man confused by the very workings of the modern economy (if you don't believe THC read the transcript of his interview with the New York Daily News), yet confident enough to demand the right to order us all around.

A man for whom the very idea of individuals making the important choices in their lives is abhorrent.
When Trump and his followers are denounced for encouraging violence, THC asks where were those voices when Sanders supporters disrupted Trump rallies in Chicago and Phoenix?  THC has not seen Trump supporters disrupting Sanders rallies.

And don't let anyone fool you into thinking Bernie is a "European social democrat" instead of an outright Marxist who spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union.  Just listen to what he actually says, not the label he and others apply to him.  He is so out of touch that he doesn't even know what how his role model Sweden actually operates.  Does Sweden have higher individual taxes than the U.S.?  Yes, but corporate taxes are lower and big business is encouraged in Sweden.  Sweden has also privatized many government functions and allows school choice.  In Bernie Sanders' world, the state must control all the reins.

THC cannot resist adding one other note, which is important in any comparison involving the U.S. and another country.  Descendants of Swedes who immigrated to the U.S. earn more and live longer than their counterparts in Sweden.  The same can be said of every comparison between descendants of immigrants from any country and those who remained and their homeland.  If that's the case, then why does the U.S. not always come out favorably in overall comparisons.  For that, you need to read about Simpson's Paradox which is not the same as Homer Simpson's Paradox.

The real question is why those news and social voices see Bernie Sanders as someone with respectable views in a society that values freedom and has brought prosperity to so many unlike the societies that Bernie idolizes.  It is a signal of something desperately wrong with a large segment of American society and that is a problem way beyond just that of Bernie Sanders.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Just Another Day In Baseball

The White Sox pulled off a triple play against the Rangers yesterday.  It started with a fine catch in right field by Adam Eaton of Mitch Moreland's hard hit line drive.  From there it got weird or "preposterous" as SB Nation called it. It was also the first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play in baseball history.  You can watch it here.

SB Nation explains what you're watching:
That starts out as such a simple line drive by Mitch Moreland. Sure it was ripped and with a little more pull would have been in the corner. But, it hardly required a phenomenal catch. That's about the only normal part of the play.
The trouble began for the Rangers when Ian Desmond ventured too far off first base. He actually made it back to the bag in time, only to over run the bag coming back. He danced around a bit to no avail and was caught. Texas then proceeded to compound the problem when Adrian Beltre got stuck between second and third, apparently trying to advance while Desmond was in a bind. The only problem was Prince Fielder didn't budge off third.
With Beltre hung up, Fielder made a dash for it ... and well that didn't go well. Just like that it went from a fairly standard line out to right to a a very unique triple play.
Also yesterday was a magnificent throw, one of the best you'll ever see, by Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers to nab Trevor Story of the Rockies at third base.  You can watch it here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Sudbury Fight

On April 21, 1676, somewhere between 500 and 1,500 Indian warriors made their closest approach to Boston during what became known as the Sudbury Fight.  It happened during Kings Philip's War of 1675-6, the bloodiest settler-Indian conflict in American history, as measured by the percentage of the male population killed or wounded (THC wrote of the origin, course and memory of the war in the post Bloody Brook).  King Philip (native name Metcomet), lived near the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border and an incident involving him triggered the war.*.jpg
(Map from King Philip's War by George Ellis & John Morris (1906) via U of Chicago.)

By the late winter of 1675-6, Indian attacks had forced the abandonment of the towns of central Massachusetts.  Settlers in the Connecticut River Valley towns were huddled closely in several towns for protection and small settlements in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine had come under attack.

In March a meeting of Indian warriors at Mt Wachusetts (see map above) resulted in a decision to attack settlements to the east in the direction of Boston, with Sudbury being the immediate objective (reportedly after rejecting an attack on Concord).  Marlboro, Groton and Lancaster were quickly overrun and burned and by the evening of April 20, the warriors were on the outskirts of Sudbury.

At the time, the boundaries of Sudbury were different than they are today, also embracing current-day Wayland as well as Maynard to the northwest. Most of the town's populace was located on the east side of the Sudbury River, in what is now Wayland.  Eastern Massachusetts has been densely settled for more than two centuries, but in the latter part of the 17th century, it was on the frontier.  Beyond the new town of Marlboro, immediately to the west of Sudbury, there were only scattered settlements in the midst of the woodlands until you reached the Connecticut Valley towns.

All of the frontier towns like Sudbury and Marlboro depended upon local militia for protection against Indian raids from the western wilderness and also upon "garrison" houses; selected homesteads strengthened for protection, well-provisioned to withstand sieges and with guns and powder available to which families could flee in times of trouble.  There were six garrison houses in Sudbury.

On April 21, there were about 200 defenders of the Sudbury settlement.  About 80 local militia along with several columns of militia from other towns were in the area that day.

The action opened with an early morning attack by the Indians on the garrison houses as well as a crossing of the Sudbury River and the burning of some homes in the eastern part of town.  The primary target was the Haynes Garrison house, just west of the river, where the siege began at 6 am.

The Sudbury Fight         Cowell and Wadsworth• Wadsworth draws off the Indians from Cowell, but  is drawn further into Su...
(screenshot from slideshare; an excellent presentation on King Philip's War in Marlboro, worth looking at, it can be found here)

Stationed in Marlboro was a company of about 70 under the command of Captain Samuel Wadsworth.  While most of the settlement had already been burned, Wadsworth's company was stationed at one of the garrison houses to which he had march through Sudbury without being aware of the gathering force of Indians.  Upon hiring firing, Wadsworth took about 50 of his men and began marching towards Sudbury.  On another road between Sudbury and Marlboro, a company of 18 mounted men under Captain Edward Cowell was ambushed, with four of his men killed before the Indians withdrew and he cautiously made his way into Sudbury.

Meanwhile, another company of about 40 from Watertown under Captain Hugh Mason mustered and began marching west to Sudbury's relief upon getting the alarm.  As they pushed into Sudbury they found the Indians on their front withdrawing.

The siege at Haynes Garrison house continued into early afternoon, with constant shooting and unsuccessful attempts by the Indians to set the house afire.  At one point, those in the house watched in horror as 12 Concord men, moving south along the river to help those in Sudbury were ambushed, with only one escaping.  Early afternoon saw the end of the garrison house siege as the Indians withdrew.

It was only later in the day that the reasons for the Indian withdrawals became clear; Wadsworth's company had fallen into yet another ambush and his force was big enough that all of the Indians in the area were needed to annihilate it.  Taking up a position on Green Hill near the Sudbury/Marlboro border, Wadsworth's men waged a desperate struggle that afternoon.

Samuel Wadsworth was already an experienced combat captain in the war.  He came from a distinguished family, arriving in Boston, as a two-year old, with his father Christopher aboard The Lion in 1632.  Christopher's older brother, William Wadsworth, arrived on the same ship and went on to become one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut.  Young Samuel grew up in Duxbury, near Plymouth, before moving to Milton, southwest of Boston in 1656.  There, he and his wife Abagail raised eight children (five surviving into adulthood) on their 300 acre farm.  One of his sons, Benjamin, six years old in 1676, went on to become President of Harvard College from 1725 to 1737.  Wadsworth House at Harvard, built for Benjamin in 1726, still exists as the second oldest building at the University and served as George Washington's first headquarters when he arrived to take command of the Continental Army in July 1776.

Despite his experience, Wadsworth did not survive the battle - nor did 28 of his soldiers. The survivors were able to break out of the encirclement and seek refuge in the garrison houses.  Little is known of the details of the struggle on Green Hill.  This account is from the 1906 book by Ellis and Morris on the war:
In the evening the worst was confirmed. Captain Wadsworth had learned, soon after his already at Marlboro, of the storm gathering in the rear. Leaving the least efficient of his command in garrison, and taking with him Captain Brocklebank and the troops who had been relieved, he marched back without delay. He was expected. As he neared Sudbury by the south road, a few warriors appearing across the path ahead amid the trees, fled before him toward Green Hill. Experienced soldier though he was he believed that the main body of the foe had been seized with a panic on his approach, and, leaving the road, in eager pursuit rushed into the woods. The flitting of dusky forms and the roar of musketry from all sides soon undeceived him. The troops rallied and fought their way to the crest of the hill and, sheltering themselves behind the trees and rocks, held their own until the evening fell. Then the Indians fired the bushes and grass to windward, and as Wadsworth's weary men fell back in the dusk, blinded by the smoke, and their nerves shaken by the loss of many of their comrades, a panic seized them, the Indians closed in, there was a brief hand to hand conflict, and all was over. 
(Wadsworth monument on Green Hill from U of Chicago page on Ellis & Morris book)

[image ALT: On a flat clearing with a low rise behind it, a stone obelisk some 10 meters tall surrounded by a double row of well-kept fence. It is an early-20c photograph of the Sudbury monument near Green Hill, Massachusetts.]
That evening about 125 people - Sudbury families and surviving militia - huddled in the garrison houses on the west side of the river, anticipating a further Indian onslaught the next day.  But with dawn nothing happened.  The Indians had withdrawn to the west.

The Sudbury Fight was a tactical victory for King Philip's warriors.  They had successfully conducted three ambushes - on Cowell and Wadsworth's commands as well as on the Concord men, and destroyed much of Sudbury west of the river.  Fifty two militia were dead, while Indian losses may have been as few as four to six.  Why the withdrawal occurred remains unknown, but King Philip never resumed the offensive, the initiative quickly moved to the colonials, and the war was over by the end of the year. 

THC has always been interested in the events of the Sudbury Fight.  From 1973 to 1975 he lived in Sudbury and the foundations of the Haynes Garrison house were still visible along Water Row, adjacent to the river.  The Haynes Garrison House stood until 1876; this engraving is from a history of Sudbury (found via Along The King's Highway).  He and Mrs THC revisited the site earlier this year and took these photos:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sneak Preview Of New Jurassic Park Movie

Word is they decided to skimp on CGI to save on budget so came up with this alternative.   Pretty inventive!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The American Revolution Begins: 1774 bigcommerce)

Today is the 241st anniversary of the fighting at Lexington and Concord which we mark as the start of the American War for Independence.  But the uprising that ended the British Crown's authority in most of the Massachusetts colony actually took place in August and September 1774.  It was to reestablish Crown authority that General Gage, the British governor and military commander, sent his troops on their fateful march the night of April 18-19, 1775.

The series of blunders and miscalculations by the British leading to the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773 is well-told in Nicholas Bunker's book An Empire On The Edge of which THC has written.   In response to this colonial outrage the British Parliament passed the Massachusetts Government Act in the spring of 1774, suspending the century old tradition of local rule in the colony overseen by a royal appointed governor.  Although the closing of the port of Boston was a major economic blow the colonials considered the greater threat to liberty the granting of enormous powers to the royal governor (who was now a military officer), forbidding the holding of town meetings without permission from the governor and the power of that governor to appoint all judges, magistrates, marshals and justices of the peace.

The courts began to reopen in late summer with royal appointed officials in place of locals.  In late August, 1,500 militia showed up in Great Barrington to prevent the opening of the courts in Berkshire County.  Similar gatherings occurred in Springfield (Hampshire County) and Plymouth (Plymouth County).  The largest, and most dramatic, incident occurred in Worcester where nearly 5,000 militia from 37 towns in the county mustered on September 6, 1774, as described in the Journal of the American Revolution:
Lining both sides of Main Street for a quarter mile, the insurgents forced two dozen court officials to walk the gauntlet, hats in hand, reciting their recantations more than thirty times each so everyone could hear. The wording was strong: the officials would cede to the will of the people and promise never to execute “the unconstitutional act of the British parliament” (the Massachusetts Government Act) that would “reduce the inhabitants … to mere arbitrary power.” allthingsliberty)

The Worcester confrontation was not unexpected.  Ten days before, General Gage had written
In Worcester, they keep no Terms, openly threaten Resistance by Arms, preparing them, casting Ball, and providing Powder, and threaten to attack any Troops who dare to oppose them” and vowed to send troops from Boston to keep the courts open. in Worcester)

By that time the 36 members of the new Governor's Council had all been forced to renounce their appointments by enraged locals or flee to Boston for protection.  Those who made it to Boston, advised Gage to rethink sending British troops the forty miles to Worcester through hostile territory.

The wisdom of that advice was confirmed by the events of September 1-2.  On the first, Gage sent troops to seize powder stored by local militia in the nearby town of Charleston.  The colonists had Powder House, 1935)

already put in place an alarm system to spread news of any British action and along with hearing of the powder seizure, false rumors quickly spread that British troops had fired on locals and inflicted casualties.  Within 24 hours an estimated 20,000 militia men from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and southern New Hampshire were marching, with several thousand already assembled in Cambridge, across the back bay from Boston in what is known today as The Powder Alarm. When word reached them that there had not been a battle in Charleston, they dispersed back to their homes, but Gage now saw first hand the depth of opposition to royal authority.  He could not risk sending a small force all the way to Worcester to protect the courts.

With the eviction of royal officials from the courts, by early October British authority in Massachusetts had collapsed outside of Boston.  It was not until Gage received reinforcements and winter ended that he would undertake the Concord operation in April 1775; an operation designed to begin to reassert royal rule in Massachusetts.  They would be met by the MinuteMen, special companies of the militia organized to respond immediately to any British action, established at a meeting of Patriot leaders in Worcester on September 21, 1774 after they reviewed the events of The Powder Alarm.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Fictional Baseball Encyclopedia

Speech by Bill James, the man who led the way in creating a new way to look at baseball by asking questions no one had asked before, at a baseball fiction conference in Ottawa, Kansas.  Read the whole thing.

In the course of his speech, James makes an admission that resonated with THC:
At this point I have a confession to make.   Since I was twelve years old I have obsessively created what I think of as mythical careers for imaginary baseball players, which we will call for today’s purposes Fictional careers.    I create them every day; I am not saying that I never, ever miss a day, but there won’t be 15 days in a year that I don’t do it.  I have been doing this for more than a half a century.  I have invented hundreds of different ways to create fictional careers for baseball players. 
If you scroll down into the comments you'll see many wrote in to confess they did the same.  So did THC when he was younger.

James is talking about the story made-up numbers told by made up numbers like those below and Bill's ambition to create a fictional Baseball Encyclopedia full of the intertwined lives of baseball players who never existed.

This is why you can do it:
  This talk is about a dead dream of mine.   Since the 1970s, I have been fascinated by the notion that meaningful fiction could be created with numbers, or, to be more technically accurate, could be created in the form of a Baseball Encyclopedia.    Baseball statistics, more than the statistics attached to almost any other human activity, or entirely unlike other statistics, have the capacity to create stories.    The reason this is true is that the way that baseball statistics are processed by most people most of the time is as images of different skills and character traits.   
                Take, for example, the number "40" if it appears in the "Home Run" column.   This doesn’t refer to 40 of anything; well, it does, but it is not taken that way.   Forty in the home run column means POWER, great power.    Twenty in the home run column means "power"; 30 means "real power", and 40 means "great power".   A 50 means "historic power".  

                So it is with each number in each column of a player’s record; the number represents not an accounting of how many times an event has occurred as much as it represents the characteristics of the player which made those events possible.   A "50" in the stolen base column represents speed, outstanding speed.   A "30" in the stolen base column represents speed; an "80" represents historic speed.    A "15" in the triples column represents both speed and an ability to hit a slashing line drive.

Encyclopedia1It's an idea that will certainly appeal to anyone who loves baseball, but it is also about a something bigger. The ability to conjure up fictional realities out of scraps of information.  James uses a baseball template because that is what he knows best and all of us who've spent time with baseball statistics know they represent something more than the numbers themselves - they help paint a picture of a person.

The numbers above tell the poignant story of a potential Hall of Fame career derailed by injuries; of a hitter who painfully reconstructed a career over a period of years, capped by one spectacular season late in his career abetted by playing in a ballpark favoring pull hitters like himself, only to see age and a change in the strike zone catch up with him the following year.  He was probably an outfielder, not more than 6 feet tall and weighing, at most, 180 pounds.

James goes on to explain more about what these numbers mean:
Baseball statistics can be keys not merely to physical attributes, but to character and personality.   If a player is exactly the same year in and year out—that is, if he is CONSISTENT—like Gil Hodges, Henry Aaron, Luis Aparicio, Bobby Abreu or Tom Glavine—it may be assumed that he is a solid, stable, mature individual; I suppose this could be proven untrue, but I don’t know of any case in which it was untrue.   The consistency of the record can be seen as a psychological test of consistency, although we should note that there are in fact stable, consistent people who have highly inconsistent records because of injuries and other factors.   If a player controls the strike zone and maximizes his performance in other related ways, it may be assumed that he is probably an intelligent person, although I have certainly seen cases in which this did not seem to be true.
And it is here that Bill James reveals his dream to create an entire world with his Baseball Encyclopedia:
     Well, apply that to a fictional encyclopedia of 10,000 players.   Do you see the possibilities?   Suppose that there was a team that had two supremely talented players, like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, but suppose that something always went wrong for that team so that, despite having these two players together for ten years, they never are able to win the pennant.   You don’t TELL that story; you create that story and put it inside the Encyclopedia, so that the reader, if he spends enough time with the book, will eventually discover it.   Or suppose that there is the opposite; suppose there is a team of players of modest skills, a team that normally finished fifth or sixth in an eight-team league, but suppose that they have one really good player, and suppose that that one star player dies tragically early in the 1964 season, and then almost every player on the team has his best season in 1964 and they win 107 games and win the World Series as a kind of tribute to the teammate they have lost.   Suppose that there are two sets of twins, brothers, and that in one set of twins one is the shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers while the other is the second baseman for the Yankees, and in the other set one is the second baseman for the Dodgers and the other is the shortstop for the Yankees.    You don’t TELL that story; you create that story and put it inside the Encyclopedia, so that the reader, if he spends enough time with the book, will eventually discover it.  
The value in what I am talking about, I think, is not in what could be done, but that it pushes us to think about "What is fiction?"   Good fiction, great fiction has psychological depth, it has imagery, it has cultural resonance.   Good fiction creates a world and draws the reader into that world, where the reader may feel regret, terror, anxiety, hope, exhilaration and relief within the pages of words.   Bad fiction is simply made up stuff.   I am not arguing that fiction created with numbers could do ALL of those things that good fiction does; I am arguing that it could do some of those things very successfully.   It could create a world of imagination, in which certain stories, which I acknowledge are stories of limited depth and power but which are stories of almost infinite variety, can be told.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Link Madness

Here are some things of interest that THC has recently read about current events:

30 years ago when THC lived in Massachusetts, if you had told him that thirty years down the road Connecticut would be an economic and fiscal basket case and "Taxachusetts" would be thriving with lower taxes and sounder state finances than its neighbor to the south he would have said you were crazy.  Here is a fond remembrance of the person who helped make the Massachusetts turnaround possible - Barbara Anderson - who recently passed away.  Derided by the liberal state establishment of the time, she showed what can be accomplished by persistence, wit and civility.

What caused Haiti's recent cholera epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 and made more than three quarters of a million ill?   Answer:  The United Nations, which has been feverishly trying to cover up the facts with the assistance of the US Centers for Disease Control (don't ever think that the CDC is not a political organization), according to this article at Slate.  Wouldn't want to embarrass the UN, would we?

THC has usually been pessimistic about the prospects of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.  Here's at least a little bit of good news, involving Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia - a complicated deal which resulted in the Saudis making a written pledge to Israel that they would abide by the terms of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which the Saudis denounced at the time and have never formally recognized.  There have been a couple of other small events which also send some hopeful signals.  Read more about it in this article from Commentary.

On the other side of the ledger regarding the Saudis is the completely redacted 28-pages of the 911 Commission report touching on possible involvement of Saudi officials in 911.  This has been a point of contention in the US for many years.  In this article, Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online, takes to task both the Bush and Obama administrations for blocking the release of these pages with a devastating summary of what we already know about Saudi involvement.  McCarthy speaks with authority, as the lead prosecutor of the 1994 World Trade Center bombers, an experience which led him to immerse himself in the world of jihadism out of which he produced an outstanding account in his book Willful Blindness.

Another "non-partisan" DC watchdog group is infiltrated and taken over by progressives. Citizens for Responsibility for Ethics in Washington (CREW) had been much respected for its investigations and publicizing of unethical behavior by members of both parties.  However, a couple of years ago, David Brock, Hillary Clinton's pet poodle, took over the reins of the group and since then it has focused almost exclusively on the misdeeds of Republicans.  To find out how it was done read this article from Bloomberg Politics.  A reminder to listen and read carefully when the media describes public interest groups.  If they lean even the tiniest bit Right, they will be labeled as Conservative, but if they don't lean Right they won't be labeled.

And from Arnold Kling's askblog, we'll excerpt this observation:
Zac Townsend writes,
San Francisco’s policies are out-of-line with building almost anywhere else. For example, nowhere in San Francisco do you get density bonuses for affordability (like in New York City) and nowhere in San Francisco can you build as of right (like in almost every other municipality). And, perhaps most importantly, no where else is there a belief that you can solve a housing affordability crisis without encouraging the building of more housing.
Read the whole thing.

In my view, the way to look at public policy in food, health care, education, and housing is that it seeks to stimulate demand and restrict supply. It makes no sense from the standpoint of economic theory, but it makes perfect sense from the standpoint of public choice.
As background, "public choice" economists make the assumption that although people acting in the political marketplace have some concern for others, their main motive, whether they are voters, politicians, lobbyists, or bureaucrats, is self-interest.  You know what?  They're correct in that assumption.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Who Could Have Predicted This?

Well, actually anyone paying attention back in 2009 and 2010.  Anyone who realized the details of legislation are important and that it is not just about running around mouthing slogans designed to make the speaker feel better about themselves and send virtue signals to others; slogans like "health care is a right!" and "we need to do something!", as was pointed out in the BBC Show, Yes Minister:

From The Hill (the Washington DC paper focusing on Congress):

Insurers Warn Losses From Obamacare Are Unsustainable
Insurers say they are losing money on their ObamaCare plans at a rapid rate, and some have begun to talk about dropping out of the marketplaces altogether.

“Something has to give,” said Larry Levitt, an expert on the health law at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Either insurers will drop out or insurers will raise premiums.”

While analysts expect the market to stabilize once premiums rise and more young, healthy people sign up, some observers have not ruled out the possibility of a collapse of the market, known in insurance parlance as a “death spiral.”

In the short term, there is a growing likelihood that insurers will push for substantial premium increases, creating a political problem for Democrats in an election year.
Insurers have been pounding the drum about problems with ObamaCare pricing.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released a widely publicized report last month that said new enrollees under ObamaCare had 22 percent higher medical costs than people who received coverage from employers.
Let's review how we got to this point (more background on the statements below read THC's prior Healthcare posts):

Obamacare was passed accompanied by a bodyguard of lies:
That there were 40+ million uninsured when the real number of Americans without insurance and who were not already eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid or who had chosen not to purchase insurance was closer to one quarter of that number.

That health insurance was equated with healthcare and health outcomes when the research literature has been unable to clearly establish the linkage.

That you could keep your health insurance plan if you liked it and your doctors if you liked them when millions of Americans have lost their existing coverage because of Obamacare and up to 93 million are ultimately at risk of losing their existing coverage, according to Obama's own Department of Health & Human Services.

That the average family would save $2500 in insurance costs when, as Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber later admitted, there were no cost control measure built into the legislation.
A CEO of a company making statements this misleading would be guilty of consumer fraud.

Today, the country faces rising insurance premiums, higher deductibles, a narrowing of choice under many policies with 21 of the 22 Obamacare co-ops losing money (and several bankrupt), even after receiving billions in Federal subsidies.  And this is even with the Imperial Presidency of Barack Obama illegally and arbitrarily changing statutory deadlines to avoid having some of the worst provisions of the act kick in before the 2012 and 2014 elections.

It is becoming ever more clear in retrospect that improving access to healthcare was only a secondary goal of Obamacare.  The primary goal was to assert government control over 1/6 of the economy.

It's why Obamacare was designed as a top-down bureaucratic management system.

It's why Democrats refused to allow any hearings or amendments regarding Republican proposals which attempted to give consumers more choice in an effort to improve availability and control costs.

A top-down government run system allows faceless bureaucrats to make decisions, not individual citizens.   It allows the government to intercede in areas outside of the scope of the original bill, because once the government is spending its funds it has the justification to control individual actions.  An approach that would free up individuals to spend their own funds would not allow for such control.  It also helps progressives achieve their goal of destroying or bending to their will all of the voluntary and independent associations Americans spontaneously form.  Without Obamacare, progressives would not have the leverage to destroy the charitable religious organization, the Little Sisters of the Poor.

But those who proposed and enacted Obamacare knew they had two things in their favor.  The first, that it is much harder to undo a new government benefit once it has passed, because the new class of beneficiaries will lobby hard against change and second, with the hybrid insurance system of Obamacare, the politicians can turn around and blame the insurance companies for the costs of premiums.

The fundamental issue of philosophy dividing us is between those who think the marketplace is the best mechanism ever created for identifying the collective will through the decisions of millions of individuals and those who cannot abide undirected collective action and believe it must be harnessed to flow in narrow, defined channels as determined by people like themselves.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Freedman's Monument Speech

Emancipation Memorial.jpgPaid for by freed slaves, the Emancipation Memorial, more popularly known as the Freedmen's Monument, was dedicated in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill on April 14, 1876, the eleventh anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.  In attendance for the event was President Ulysses S Grant, along with a mixed audience of white and black.

The dedication speech was given by Frederick Douglass.  Douglass and Lincoln met three times during the Civil War and their relationship (a relationship THC has previously written about) was complex with the initial wariness of Douglass giving way to admiration.  In his speech, Douglass, a brilliant orator and a brilliant man, tried to honor Lincoln while at the same time attempting to explain white and black to each other, using Lincoln to do so.  He was also trying (unsuccessfully) to prompt stronger federal reaction to violence against the freed slaves in the South.

Below are some excerpts from the speech, along with THC's attempt to make some comments but the entire speech makes for rewarding reading because the complexity of its theme is hard to convey by excerpts.

To the extent the speech is still remembered today it is for these two passages:
He was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country . . . You are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.
Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.
These observations tie back to Douglass' starting point - the different worlds inhabited by blacks (even those free before the war) and whites.  Early in his speech he uses the occasion to comment on the changes since the war as well as noting the remaining dangers:
Harmless, beautiful, proper, and praiseworthy as this demonstration is, I cannot forget that no such demonstration would have been tolerated here twenty years ago. The spirit of slavery and barbarism, which still lingers to blight and destroy in some dark and distant parts of our country, would have made our assembling here the signal and excuse for opening upon us all the flood-gates of wrath and violence.  
He then goes on to praise the occasion with perhaps a note of false, but necessary optimism in light of the continued lack of acceptance of freed blacks:
I refer to the past not in malice, for this is no day for malice; but simply to place more distinctly in front the gratifying and glorious change which has come both to our white fellow-citizens and ourselves, and to congratulate all upon the contrast between now and then; the new dispensation of freedom with its thousand blessings to both races, and the old dispensation of slavery with its ten thousand evils to both races — white and black.
Douglass moves on to the purpose of the monument, that:
those of aftercoming generations may read, something of the exalted character and great works of Abraham Lincoln, the first martyr President of the United States.
It is then that he moves on to his startling proposition (at least to his white audience):
Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places, and it is never more proper and beautiful in any case than when speaking of a great public man whose example is likely to be commended for honor and imitation long after his departure to the solemn shades, the silent continents of eternity. . . Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man. 
After this assertion comes the portion from the first excerpt THC quotes above.  But between the ellipses inserted into the abridged remarks, Douglass lays down quite a damning indictment of Lincoln from the black perspective.  THC didn't quote it in full because he wants you to read the whole thing!

After filing his charges, Douglass evokes the patience that blacks demonstrated with the man despite the difficulties:
Our faith in him was often taxed and strained to the uttermost, but it never failed. When he tarried long in the mountain; when he strangely told us that we were the cause of the war; when he still more strangely told us that we were to leave the land in which we were born; when he refused to employ our arms in defense of the Union; when, after accepting our services as colored soldiers, he refused to retaliate our murder and torture as colored prisoners; when he told us he would save the Union if he could with slavery; when he revoked the Proclamation of Emancipation of General Fremont . . . Despite the mist and haze that surrounded him; despite the tumult, the hurry, and confusion of the hour, we were able to take a comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln, and to make reasonable allowance for the circumstances of his position. We saw him, measured him, and estimated him; not by stray utterances to injudicious and tedious delegations, who often tried his patience; not by isolated facts torn from their connection . . . we came to the conclusion that the hour and the man of our redemption had somehow met in the person of Abraham Lincoln.
Any man can say things that are true of Abraham Lincoln, but no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln. His personal traits and public acts are better known to the American people than are those of any other man of his age. He was a mystery to no man who saw him and heard him. Though high in position, the humblest could approach him and feel at home in his presence. Though deep, he was transparent; though strong, he was gentle; though decided and pronounced in his convictions, he was tolerant towards those who differed from him, and patient under reproaches.  
It is only then that Douglass turns to the realities faced by President Lincoln and his acknowledgement of the wisdom of his strategy:
I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. . . His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible
That is the point at which Douglass adds the second quote  regarding the view "from the general abolition ground".   He furthers adds a truthful and meaningful distinction in Lincoln's thoughts:
Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery. 
He returns again to the criticism faced by Lincoln from all sides:
Few great public men have ever been the victims of fiercer denunciation than Abraham Lincoln was during his administration. He was often wounded in the house of his friends. Reproaches came thick and fast upon him from within and from without, and from opposite quarters. He was assailed by Abolitionists; he was assailed by slave-holders; he was assailed by the men who were for peace at any price; he was assailed by those who were for a more vigorous prosecution of the war; he was assailed for not making the war an abolition war; and he was bitterly assailed for making the war an abolition war.
Douglass goes on to contrast Lincoln's predecessor, "the patrician" President Buchanan and his timid approach to the crisis of secession with the steady judgment of "the plebeian" Lincoln and ending the passage with these wonderful sentiments.
The trust that Abraham Lincoln had in himself and in the people was surprising and grand, but it was also enlightened and well founded. He knew the American people better than they knew themselves, and his truth was based upon this knowledge.
He closed with these words:
When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.
Douglass' hopes for a new day in race relations were to be dashed with the onslaught of Jim Crow laws in the South during the 1880s and 1890s, ensuring white supremacy for another three quarters of a century as well as the large scale refusal in the North to accept social equality with blacks and widespread, but more subtle, means of discrimination.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's Not About What You Think It's About"it should be illegal to criticize us")

THC ran across this piece at Hodak Values via Professor Stephen Bainbridge's blog, reporting on the Senate blocking a vote on President Obama's nominees to the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).  The twist is that it is Democrat Senators led by Chuck Schumer and The Cherokee Princess, Elizabeth Warren, who are doing the blocking which is, well . . . interesting, in light of the uproar over Republican Senators blocking another Obama nominee.
The nominal issue is the refusal of Obama's nominees to agree to require public corporations to disclose spending on non-profit groups that may also engage in political advocacy.  The Democrats have made the Koch Brothers the poster children for this effort which is insane since they run a private company, but that doesn't matter because their supporters are too ignorant to realize that.

This is all part of a larger effort by Democrats to limit free speech, both directly by law and indirectly by public intimidation.  Many of those railing against Citizens United think the case had something to do with political contributions by large corporations when it was actually about a group of private citizens who made a film critical of Hillary Clinton and wanted to show it.  Democrats don't think that should happen.  Let's state it very clearly - Hillary Clinton thinks people should be prohibited from criticizing her.  Many of those railing against Citizens United also don't realize that Senator Schumer's proposed legislation to overturn it would have only applied to corporations and exempted unions, even though Citizens United applied also to them.  Gee, I wonder why?  It's all gamesmanship - the Democrats want to shut down speech they disagree with.

But something else perked my interest in the article; a reminder that the whole campaign finance reform argument is phony and apart from the political rhetoric around it no one really takes it seriously.

What the article reminded us of was that in the 2008 election, Senator McCain accepted the spending restrictions of public financing, while Senator Obama opted out of those restrictions once he realized he could raise significantly more money than McCain, allowing him to outspend the McCain campaign by nearly 3 to 1.  THC believes Senator McCain was wrong as both a matter of policy and constitutional law regarding McCain-Feingold's free speech restrictions, but he respects the Senator as a man of principle; principles he abided by in 2008 though they placed him at a disadvantage.

On the other hand, Senator Obama, after professing his support of McCain-Feingold and announcing his intent to adhere to its limits, blithely changed his mind once he knew he could raise more funds outside those constraints.  Of all course, all those media and public interest types who feverishly preached of the need for such reform, ignored what Obama did because he was their guy.

That President Obama and his acolytes now campaign for overturning Citizens United and imposing restrictions on political speech is a tribute to their hypocrisy and bad faith.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Truman Fires MacArthur rarenewspapers)

On April 11, 1951, President Harry S Truman released a statement which shocked the American public:
With deep regret I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties. In view of the specific responsibilities imposed upon me by the Constitution of the United States and the added responsibility which has been entrusted to me by the United Nations, I have decided that I must make a change of command in the Far East. I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his commands and have designated Lt. Gen. Matthew B Ridgeway as his successor.

Full and vigorous debate on matters of national policy is a vital element in the constitutional system of our free democracy. It is fundamental, however, that military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them in the manner provided by our laws and Constitution. In time of crisis, this consideration is particularly compelling.

General MacArthur's place in history as one of our greatest commanders is fully established. The Nation owes him a debt of gratitude for the distinguished and exceptional service which he has rendered his country in posts of great responsibility. For that reason I repeat my regret at the necessity for the action I feel compelled to take in his case.
The origins of this controversial action go back many years.  The 71-year old MacArthur had a long and distinguished career also marked by a large ego and imperious behavior which put him in constant conflict with his peers and superiors.

Douglas MacArthur graduated at the top of his West Point class in 1903 and became a brigadier general while serving with the Army in France during World War I and receiving the Silver Star for bravery in action.  After the war he became Superintendent of West Point and by 1925 was the youngest major general in the US Army.  Promoted to Army Chief of Staff in 1930, he gained notoriety by forcibly expelling the Bonus Army protesters from the Washington Mall in 1932.  A vocal Republican, though he supported the initial aspects of the New Deal, his further promotion was stymied by President Franklin D Roosevelt, one of the few men capable of intimidating MacArthur, and who, quite rightly, viewed him as a potential political opponent in a future presidential election.

In 1937 he resigned from the Army to become Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines where he was responsible for building and training an Philippine Army (of which he became the Field Marshal) in anticipation of the island nation attaining its promised independence in 1945.  It also allowed him to indulge his taste for luxurious living and being deferred to as a major personage.

With the threat of Japanese expansion growing, on July 26, 1941, FDR federalized the Philippine Army and recalled MacArthur to active duty as Commander, US Army Forces in the Far East.   The President and the US Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Navy knew that in the event of a Japanese attack, the Philippines would fall but MacArthur never really accepted this.

On December 8, 1941, a Japanese air strike destroyed most of the American air force in the Philippines on the ground, despite MacArthur having warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor nine hours earlier and being urged to get his planes into the air in anticipation of an attack.  It was his worst mistake as a commander until nine years later.

After the American and Filipino forces retreated to the Bataan peninsula later the month, MacArthur was ordered by FDR to leave his command and go to Australia to organize Allied resistance in the region.

In late 1942, Allied forces under MacArthur's command began a campaign in New Guinea that would eventually take them back to the Philippines in late 1944.  Though initially opposing the island-hopping strategy, once embraced he executed it with great skill.  From a strategic perspective he always insisted on a dual path approach to defeating Japan in which he would lead a thrust towards the Philippines while Admiral Nimitz led a parallel approach through the Central Pacific.  He also felt it essential to redeem his personal pledge to return to liberate the Filipinos. There is still a debate among military historians as to whether the invasion of the Philippines was necessary and how much of MacArthur's insistence on it was due to his vanity, and his staff's focus on publicly promoting their boss by the media was a constant irritant to other military leaders like Marshall, Eisenhower and Bradley.  Throughout the war, FDR, conscious of the political implications, went out of his way to keep MacArthur on board with the overall war strategy and avoid his resignation and possible entry into politics.
(MacArthur in the Philippines from

At war's end, MacArthur was to command the invasion of Japan, scheduled for November 1, 1945 (for more on the what-ifs surrounding the invasion read Downfall).  With Japan's surrender, he was appointed Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan, where he functioned for the next four years as the virtual ruler of the defeated nation.  Operating in the mode of a Roman proconsul assigned to a distant province, MacArthur, with little interference from the Truman administration, set the course for modern Japan.  His staff drafted a new constitution, which still governs the country, renouncing war, enfranchising women, abolishing racial discrimination, weakening the Emperor and strengthening the Parliament.  He also enacted a sweeping land reform under which 38% of the nation's cultivated land was purchased from landlords and redistributed to tenant farmers.  It was an  accomplishment for which he received much well-deserved praise.  In 1949, when the US returned control to a civilian government, MacArthur remained in Japan in his military command. & Emperor Hirohito)

On June 25, 1950, North Korea, with the approval of Joseph Stalin and the new Chinese communist government, invaded the Republic of South Korea.  The United Nations Security Council (the Soviet Union had been boycotting the Council for some time and was unable to veto the resolution) quickly authorized a UN military response with an American commander and MacArthur was immediately named to the post.

The North Korean's surprise onslaught achieved initial success.  Seoul quickly fell and by the end of July the American dominated UN force along with the remnants of the South Korean army was confined to a small perimeter around the southeast Korea port of Pusan.  While the front stabilized in August, MacArthur came up with plans for a daring, and very risky, counterstroke.   His plan called for an amphibious attack on the heavily fortified port (abetted by tricky and fall rising and falling tides) of Inchon, near Seoul, far behind the enemy lines.  Overcoming doubts from other military leaders, MacArthur's plan was approved and the landings took place on September 15.  It proved to be his greatest military triumph, one for which he deserves full credit.

After a few days of fierce resistance the North Korean army collapsed everywhere and Seoul was soon reoccupied and the UN forces advanced beyond the 38th parallel, the previous dividing line between the two Koreas.  And it was at this point that the controversy begins and we enter the world of geopolitics.

Harry Truman came to the presidency with FDR's sudden death on April 12, 1945.  A senator from Missouri, he'd only been Vice-President for one month and was ill-prepared for the top office as FDR had not involved him in any strategy discussions about the war or his plans for the post-war world.  In contrast to MacArthur, Truman had been a lowly captain of an artillery battery in World War One.

Truman faced huge challenges in those years; the final decisions on how to end the war with Japan, including the decision to use the atomic bomb, America's return to a peacetime economy with fears of a return to the Depression of the pre-war years and, looming above all, the newly powerful and expansive communist regime of the Soviet Union under Stalin.  In the three years prior to the Korean War, Truman had decided that the US needed to take the lead in European reconstruction in order to counter communist inroads by launching the Marshall plan, announced the Truman Doctrine in which the US would undertake global commitments that the UK could no longer shoulder, confronted Stalin directly, defeating his effort to force the withdrawal of the Western powers from Berlin (an event that took place during the 1948 election campaign in which the Progressive Party candidate, Henry Wallace, FDR's former vice-president, called for our withdrawal) and finally created NATO in 1949.
(American plane landing in Berlin during the Soviet blockade)

While some degree of stability had been reached in Europe, the news was grim in Asia, where the Chinese communists took power in October 1949 (only five weeks after the Soviets tested their first atomic bomb, breaking the American monopoly) and the US anticipated that the fall of Tawian would shortly follow.  This was the situation when the North Korean attack occurred.

Another element played into what happened after Inchon - poor communications between Truman and MacArthur.  How, and in what form, MacArthur's advance beyond the 38th parallel was approved is still in dispute, though there is no doubt an approval in some form occurred.  Although a UN document recommended a policy that as the UN forces neared North Korea's border with China that only South Korean troops be deployed, MacArthur rejected the advice, while at the same time Truman was telling reporters that only Korean, and not American, forces woud occupy the border area.

Looming behind this was the threat of Chinese, and possibly Soviet intervention.  As the North Korean army crumbled and MacArthur's forces advanced further towards the Yalu River border, the Chinese were very vocal about threatening to intervene if the UN advance was not halted.  MacArthur discounted the likelihood of the Chinese intervening and believed it would be ineffective even if it happened.  When asked by the President whether we was concerned about intervention during their meeting at Wake Island on October 15, MacArthur responded:
Very little. Had they interfered in the first or second months it would have been decisive. We are no longer fearful of their intervention. We no longer stand hat in hand. The Chinese have 300,000 men in Manchuria.  Of these probably not more than 100–115,000 are distributed along the Yalu River.  Only 50–60,000 could be gotten across the Yalu River. They have no Air Force. Now that we have bases for our Air Force in Korea if the Chinese tried to get down to Pyongyang [North Korean capital] there would be the greatest slaughter.
In late October, the first clashes occurred between Chinese and Americans, but then the Chinese cut off further contact for three weeks.  It appears the initial Chinese attack was meant as a warning not to advance further towards the border.  The warning was ignored and the advance continued with American and South Korean forces becoming increasingly isolated from their ability to support each other in the heavily mountainous terrain.  It was to be MacArthur's worst military mistake and only two months after his greatest moment.

On November 24, MacArthur launched the Home by Christmas offensive to close out the war.  The next day, the Chinese began a massive counterattack.  Disaster followed.  Despite MacArthur's confidence the Chinese had been able to move large numbers of troops into Korea without Allied detection.  All across the peninsula, the UN troops were overwhelmed.  In the northwest, Pyongyang quickly fell to the communists, while in the northeast the Marines were only able to narrowly escape total destruction around the Chosin Reservoir through heroic efforts under harrowing arctic conditions. slidego)

By mid-December, the UN forces were back at the 38th parallel and a month later Seoul fell again, this time to the Chinese and there was talk of an evacuation of American forces from the entire peninsula. The American 8th Army was now under the command of General Matthew Ridgeway, who increasingly took the lead in battlefield initiatives.  After stabilizing the front, the Americans began to counterattack, retaking Seoul in March, 1951.  It was shortly after this that the final events took place leading to MacArthur's firing.

The tension between MacArthur and Truman went back to August 1950 when the general sent a statement to be read aloud at a Veteran of Foreign Wars convention in Chicago, in which he denounced "appeasement and defeatism" in the Pacific which Truman saw as a direct attack on his policies in the region and with "appeasement" being a particularly toxic term in the light of Munich and World War Two.  This was compounded by the poor communication and confusion over US policy north of the 38th parallel as well as by MacArthur's dismissal of warnings about Chinese intevention and the vulnerable placement of his forces when that event transpired.  Throughout this period, MacArthur was also making statements to the press without complying with White House directives to clear them with the State Department, statements that sometimes directly contradicted those of the administration.

Matters came to a head in late March.  McArthur was increasingly becoming vocal that the U.S. needed to militarily confront Red China everywhere, not just in Korea, while Truman, and other senior military leaders, had no interest in a broader conflict.  As the Americans were able to stabilize and then begin advancing again, the President began seeking a way to achieve a ceasefire.  MacArthur was opposed and on March 23 issued a communique that, after deprecating China's military capabilities, went on to say:
These military weaknesses have been clearly and definitely revealed since Red China entered upon its undeclared war in Korea. Even under the inhibitions which now restrict the activity of the United Nations forces and the corresponding military advantages which accrue to Red China, it has been shown its complete inability to accomplish by force of arms the conquest of Korea. The enemy, therefore must by now be painfully aware that a decision of the United Nations to depart from its tolerant effort to contain the war to the area of Korea, through an expansion of our military operations to its coastal areas and interior bases, would doom Red China to the risk of imminent military collapse. These basic facts being established, there should be no insuperable difficulty in arriving at decisions on the Korean problem if the issues are resolved on their own merits, without being burdened by extraneous matters not directly related to Korea, such as Formosa or China's seat in the United Nations.
Truman later wrote of this statement:
This was a most extraordinary statement for a military commander of the United Nations to issue on his own responsibility. It was an act totally disregarding all directives to abstain from any declarations on foreign policy. It was in open defiance of my orders as President and as Commander-in-Chief. This was a challenge to the authority of the President under the Constitution. It also flouted the policy of the United Nations. By this act MacArthur left me no choice - I could no longer tolerate his insubordination. 
On top of that, at the same time, Truman became aware through US espionage intercepts of conversations MacArthur had with Spanish and Portugese diplomats in Tokyo in which he expressed confidence that he would succeed in expanding the war to directly involve China.

The final straw came on April 5, when the Republican Minority Leader in the House, Joseph Martin, read on the floor a letter sent to him by MacArthur which included these words:
It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest, and that we have joined the issue thus raised on the battlefield; that here we fight Europe’s war with arms while the diplomatic there still fight it with words; that if we lose the war to communism in Asia the fall of Europe is inevitable; win it and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you pointed out, we must win. There is no substitute for victory.
Truman finally made the decision to relieve MacArthur.  After initial opposition, both Secretary of Defense George Marshall and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Omar Bradley concurred with the proposed action.  The resulting uproar left MacArthur more popular with the public than ever, particularly after his speech to a joint session of Congress just eight days after he was relieved, an address he ended with these poignant words:
The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barracks ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good-by. addresses Congress)

Faced with a stalemate and continuing war in Korea that lasted through the rest of his presidency, Truman became ever more unpopular, leaving office with the lowest favorability rating of any 20th century president.

Since then Truman's reputation has improved and he is now widely considered one of the best American presidents of the century.  While his own communication errors and indecision contributed to the MacArthur crisis, he was correct in the final analysis in asserting his authority to make the country's foreign policy.

MacArthur made great contributions to America but was in the wrong in this squabble.  From late 1942 when he began his counterattack in the South Pacific, through his administration of Japan after the war to his decision to undertake the Inchon invasion, General MacArthur had seen all of his judgements proven correct.  Perhaps that streak of success contributed to his overconfidence in predicting the reaction of China as he advanced north and to his continued and public provocations to the nation's civilian leadership.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Return Of The Dan

We did a post awhile ago on THC's favorite Steely Dan guitar solos with links to youtube videos.  Now, with the availability of Dragontape, we can indulge ourselves by editing a video consisting entirely of those favorite solos (for THC's other Dragontape adventures go here).

To get more background on each song, including which one is actually about the Munich Beer Hall Putsch and about Skunk Baxter's post-Dan career as a missile defense consultant to the Pentagon go here.

These are the Top 12 with the lead guitarist.

12.  Peg (Jay Graydon)
11.  King of the World (Denny Dias)
10.  Night by Night (variously attributed to Dean Parks or Skunk Baxter)
9.    Chain Lightning (Rick Derringer)
8.   Aja (Dias)
7.   Boston Rag (Baxter)
6.   Your Gold Teeth II (Dias)
5.   Reelin' In The Years (Elliot Randall - according to Baxter, Randall did this on the first take)
4.   Sign in Stranger (Randall)
3.   My Old School (Baxter)
2.   Kid Charlemagne (Larry Carleton)
1.   Boddhisattva (probably Dias for entire solo, Baxter is one ending solo which is not included)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Detour Tour

Last night, THC and Mrs THC caught Elvis Costello at the Ikeda Theater located in the Mesa Arts Center.  It is one of the best concert venues THC has been in.   Beautiful aesthetically, the acoustics are incredibly good.  By the time we found out about the show the only seats we could get were in the last row of the balcony but the sound was crystal clear even there.  This was the 8th time THC has seen Mr Costello since December 1977.
(from AZCentral)

This was a solo Elvis show (he's calling it The Detour Tour) consisting of him telling many stories and playing piano and guitar (many guitars, in fact) in the course of singing about 30 songs over 2 1/2 hours, all backed by entertaining videos, including one of his father, who Elvis resembles in looks and mannerisms, leading his band and singing If I Had A Hammer on an early 1960s British TV show.

(Ross McManus, Elvis' Dad)
Elvis opened with an eerie version of Lipstick Vogue, which THC thought could not be done well solo, but he was wrong.  He was joined for several songs by the Lovell sisters of Larkin Poe (the opening act) and then, for the last two songs, by a surprise guest, Nils Lofgren, who added some wonderful guitar work.

His back catalogue of top-notch songs is so large he could have done another two shows of equal quality with an entirely different set list.
 (from AZ Central)

This long review from AZCentral captures the spirit of the evening.  Some excerpts:
Detour, as the show was billed, featured Costello alone on assorted guitars and piano singing songs and telling stories that were frequently hilarious but also deeply moving on occasion
It’s a format that works for a number of reasons. One, he’s clearly got the voice to fill a room (or reach inside your chest and tear your heart out when required). Two, his catalog is rich with songs that lend themselves to that “unplugged” approach, aside from which the man has always had a knack for recasting familiar songs in unexpected lights.

But perhaps the main reason Costello is better at this kind of format than any performer I’ve seen is that he’s got the personality to keep you entertained from start to finish. He’s kind of a kook -- with a dry British wit and a well-honed sense of the absurd. Theater)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

There's Always Something New In Baseball

Last night THC (along with the THC Daughter and friend), attended his first Opening Day - the Colorado Rockies playing the home town Arizona Diamondbacks, at sold-out Chase Field in Phoenix. A beautiful evening for baseball - 91 degrees at game time but, like they say, it was a dry heat.

It was the Diamondbacks debut for free-agent pitcher Zach Greinke, who signed for a record $34 million a year during the off-season.  Zach did fine for two innings before getting hammered for six runs in the third and another in the fourth before exiting the game.  The seven earned runs he surrendered stands in contrast to the 41 he gave up in 32 starts during the entire 2015 season.  The Rockies won 10-5 in what turned out to be the longest 9-inning game in Diamondback history - 4:11.  It was a bit like watching every Red Sox-Yankees game a few years ago.
We also saw something that has never happened in major league history - a rookie making his debut on Opening Day and hitting two homers.  Trevor Story, the 23 year old shortstop for the Rockies, hit both off Greinke, the first to right-center and the second a 428-foot blast to left, the longest of the day in any game yesterday.  Last year, Trevor played at AAA in New Britain and Albuquerque, showing some power (70 extra base hits) and speed (10 triples and 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts).

Chase Field
Greinke throwing first pitch