Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nice Work If You Can Get It

According to the Independent (UK), two Spanish workers were fired by their town council after it was discovered they'd been absent from work for 15 years!!
Concerns were initially raised among human resources officials after it was found the pair had collected their pay but had not worked from January 2015 until May 31, 2016. Further investigation of records revealed neither had done a day’s work in 15 years.
The CGT union is appealing the dismissals.

In more from the "you can't make this stuff up department", the Independent also reports:
Earlier this year, Spanish civil servant Joaquín García was fined €27,000 by a court in Cádiz after skipping work for six years. His absence was noticed only when he was due to collect an award for long service.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Should We Care About Democracy?

A provocative post from the always interesting Coyote Blog, which also contains very informative posts on the author's experience running a small business amongst the rising sea of federal and state regulations, as well as the best, and most understandable for the layman, summary of the lukewarmers case on climate change (perhaps it's the cause of the rising tide of regulation).

The full title of the post is The Problem Is That We Should Not Care About "Democracy", We Should Care About Protection of Individual Rights.  His thesis:
. . . all "democracy" really means in practice (at least today) is that the country has some sort of nominal election process.  Elections are fine, they are less bad than most other ways of selecting government officials, but what we really should care about is that a country protects individuals rights, has free markets, and a rule of law.  If a county has those things, I am not sure I care particularly if they vote or pick leaders by randomly selecting folks from the phone book.
He goes on to quote from a piece by Ilya Somin of The Volokh Conspiracy, on the meaning of democracy in the context of Turkey and the recent coup survivor, President Erdogan, who, according to King Abdullah II of Jordan, once confided that, "democracy for him is a bus ride. 'Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off'."

Turning the idea around, a "democracy" that does not protect individual rights, free markets and operates within the rule of law is not consistent with the principles of the American Founding, nor with the type of country I want to live in.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Seeing China's Past

(from Historical Photographs of China)

A fascinating story from the BBC . . .

Until recently, few photographs of pre-1970s China were available for public viewing anywhere and were even more difficult to find in China.  Many photo archives and personal collections were lost in the war, revolution and repression that engulfed China from the 1910s into the 1960s, with the crowning blow of the Cultural Revolution, launched in 1966 by Mao Tse Tung, with his youthful Red Guards purging archives, books and libraries in an effort to erase China's pre-communist past and open the way to perfecting a true communist society.  Their fanaticism and violence led Chinese descended from pre-revolutionary bourgeois families to fear for the safety of themselves and their families prompting them to destroy "Holiday snapshots, studio portraits of weddings and babies" as they were "dangerously incriminating. So people destroyed their own family collections, rubbing out over 150 years of photographic history in the process."  For more on the Cultural Revolution, read "We Thought Mao Was Doing A Wonderful Thing".

The BBC story recounts the efforts of Professor Robert Bickers, a specialist in Sino-British relations at the University of Bristol in the UK, to reassemble a photo archive of China from the mid-19th through mid-20 centuries.  Professor Bickers' effort began twelve years ago with a visit from a student from Peking University seeking old photographs of the school since the university had none.  It is exciting to see how many old photographs have been uncovered since that time.

You can hear more about how the project started, how it has grown with the discovery of archives held in private hands outside of China by watching below and view the archive here.   The project has had a very positive reception in China.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ten Years After: 1519-29 (Part 2) - Martin & Anne Raise A Ruckus

This is the second installment in the Ten Years After series, about six events in the early 16th century, which changed the direction of history in Europe and the Americas. You can find the first chapter, discussing the entrance of Hernando Cortez into Tenochtitlan (November 1519), and the arrival of smallpox on the American mainland (April 1520), here.

 January 3, 1521: Martin Luther excommunicated 

On this date, Pope Leo X issued a papal bull, Decet Romanum Pontificem, excommunicating Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk in Germany.  On June 15 of the prior year, the Pope had issued Exsurge Domine, threatening Luther's with excommunication unless the monk recanted 41 sentences from his writings, including the Ninety-Five Theses.  Luther responded on December10, 1520 by publicly burning his copy of Exsurge at Wittenberg.  The dramatic confrontation with Luther had been four years in the making.(Decet Romanum from Wikipedia)

Since the time of Constantine the Great in the early 4th century AD, the Catholic Church had reigned supreme in Western Europe, surviving threats from Islam and Norse pagans.  It had done battle with heretics like the Bogomils of Croatia and Albigensian of Southern France, but in the wake of the Black Death (1347-53), which led to a period of social turmoil, it faced a more insidious threat to papal authority; that of the reformers who sought to end what they saw as the Church's corruption.

Two of the most prominent reformers were England's John Wycliffe (1320-84) and Jan Hus (1372-1415) of Bohemia, of whom the later was considered a more fundamental threat.  At the Council of Constance (1414-18), Hus was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake, triggering revolts by his followers which took a series of crusades lasting until 1431 to suppress.  For good measure, Wycliffe was also condemned as a heretic, his corpse exhumed, burned, and the ashes tossed into a river.
(Jan Hus Monument, Prague)

While undercurrents of dissatisfaction remained, it took Luther to ignite them.  In 1512, Luther obtained a Doctorate of Theology and joined the faculty at the University of Wittenberg.  Questioning by nature, Luther probed and challenged himself regarding core Catholic beliefs and began to focus on the importance of the inner struggle with sin rather than sacramental confession.  The turning point was in 1516, when the Pope sent Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar, to Germany to sell indulges to help rebuild St Peter's Basilica in Rome.  Purchase of an indulgence provided temporal satisfaction for sins, allowing the purchaser to avoid purgatory.,_1528_(Veste_Coburg)_(cropped).jpg(Luther, from wikipedia)

In response to Tetzel's mission, on October 31, 1517, Luther sent a document to the Bishop of Mainz, protesting the sale of indulgences.  Titled "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences", it is better known as the Ninety-Five Theses.  In the opening theses, Luther wrote of the importance of the internal struggle with sin and stated that the pope could not release a person from the guilt of sin.  Although Luther, as a professor, apparently intended the document to be a series of propositions to be argued by scholars, he was quite provocative in some of the theses.  Thesis 86 asks:
Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus [reputed to be the wealthiest citizen of Rome in the first century BC], build the basilica of St Peter with the money of the poor believers rather than with his own money?
But even Thesis 86 is presented, among a series of similar theses, as objections Luther's congregants are raising rather than his own, to which he asks how should he answer?
(1517 Nuremburg printing of Ninety Five Theses as placard, from Wikipedia)

It is also popularly believed that Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, sometime in November 1517, though this is much disputed by historians.  In 1518, friends of Luther, had the theses translated from Latin into German and they reached England, France and Italy by the following year (thanks to the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the prior century), circulating among those dissatisfied with the Church.

The Church initially proceeded cautiously against Luther.  Rather than prosecuting him as a heretic, as some urged, in October 1518, Luther was examined by a papal legate at Augsburg, Germany in a debate that became a shouting match.  A meeting with a papal nuncio in January 1519 seemed to smooth things over somewhat and raised hopes of a compromise.  The prospects of a peaceful resolution came undone in the summer of 1519 at Leipzig, where Luther engaged in a disputation with Johann Eck, a noted theologian and staunch supporter of Catholic doctrine. In the course of that debate, Luther questioned the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope and Church councils, prompting Eck to brand him a new Jan Hus, and leading to the papal bull of June 1520.
Eck, Johann, 13.11.1486 - 15.2.1543, German theologian, half length, disputation with Martin Luther, - Stock Image(Luther and Eck, from alamy)

After his excommunication, Luther was given an opportunity to recant at the Diet of Worms, the general assembly of the states of the Holy Roman Empire, presided over by Emperor Charles V.  On April 18, Luther, appearing under a guarantee of safe conduct, refused to renounce his beliefs and five weeks later the Emperor issued the Edict of Worms condemning Luther as a heretic and outlaw, banning his books, requiring his arrest and permitting anyone to kill him.

Luther was given protection by Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (the Elector's motives are still a source of historian arguments), and permitted to continue with his work, including translation of the New Testament from Greek into German.  Luther's works and the reaction of the Church also inspired other reformers like Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland and resulted in more unrest as his tracts received a wider audience.  Lutheranism, as it came to be called, also played into the centuries old struggle for supremacy between the temporal rulers of Europe and the Pope, as well as tensions between local and Roman clergy (of which more below).  Its impact was felt almost immediately in Scandinavia, where Christian II, King of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, summoned Lutheran theologians to Copenhagen in 1520 and decreed the establishment of a state church in Denmark. At times the unrest broke into violence as with the German Peasant's War of 1524-5, in which reformers murdered Catholics (Luther opposed the actions done in his name).  It was the start of more than a century of religious violence and warfare in Europe.

February 1526: Henry VIII decides to pursue Anne Boleyn 

Henry VIII, King of England since 1509, had a problem.  Actually, a couple of problems. The first was that his wife, Catherine of Aragon, a daughter of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille (now Spain), had been unable to provide him with a male heir.  The second was Anne Boleyn, a daughter of nobility and maid of honor to Catherine.  Henry, who'd had many mistresses became infatuated with Anne but she, in turn, was very canny and refused his overtures, making it clear that nuptials were required before consummation, which only made him more desirous of her.
Anne Boleyn(Anne from thefamouspeople)

Henry decided the best course of action was to solve both problems at the same time.  Divorce Catherine, and marry Anne, which would get him some nooky as well as undoubtedly produce the long awaited male heir.

This strategy created yet another problem; the Catholic Church, in the form of the pope, would have to grant the divorce or, more properly, an annulment.  The clerical advisors of Henry dutifully came up with suitable, though dubious, grounds for an annulment and petitioned Pope Clement VII.

Clement VII, who became pope in 1523, had his own problems or more specifically, problem; Charles V, a member of the Hapsburg family .  Charles was ruler of both the Holy Roman and Spanish Empires as well as The Netherlands, the most powerful man in Europe (and the man who declared Martin Luther an outlaw in 1521).  And Catherine of Aragon was his aunt.
Elderly Karl V.jpg(Charles V, from wikipedia)

Clement, wary of the growing papal dependency on the powerful Hapsburg, supported the King of France in an effort to change the balance of power in Europe.  Clement's hopes were dashed when the Holy Roman army defeated the French and captured their king.  Things went further awry, when Charles V proved unable to control his own army which marched on Rome, capturing on May 6, 1527.  The events thereafter, known as The Sack of Rome, shocked Europe.  For the next month the out of control Imperial troops looted and pillaged homes, churches and monasteries, while murdering and raping in the process.  On June 6, Clement surrendered from his place of refuge, paying a huge ransom and ceding Papal territories to the Charles.  From this time on, Clement did all he could to stay in the good graces of Charles V, who was unalterably opposed to his aunt losing her position as Queen of England.
Sebastiano del Piombo (Italian) - Pope Clement VII - Google Art Project.jpg(Clement VII, from wikipedia)

For several years there was a back and forth on annulment between the increasingly irritated and impatient Henry and the Pope, who did not want to displease Charles V, but also wanted to avoid a rupture with England.  As it became clear we would not obtain the annulment, Henry began to contemplate a course of action he had never intended back when he began his pursuit of Anne - ending the power of the Catholic Church in England and establishing his own state church, something that would never have occurred to him without the rise of Martin Luther and the actions of King Christian II. He was also encouraged by several at his Court who were sympathetic to Luther.

In 1533, Henry's hand-picked Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer (the subject of Hilary Mantel's excellent novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies), declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine to be invalid and the King and Anne were wed.  The following year, the Acts of Supremacy declared the King to be head of the Church of England, with no appeal allowed to Rome, triggering Henry's excommunication.  Though Henry followed an ambiguous path between the Catholic Church and the new Protestant churches, and there would even be one last Catholic Queen of England, his daughter Mary (1553-8), his actions ultimately added a powerful weight on the side of the anti-Catholic forces in the upcoming religious conflicts.  As for Anne Boleyn, she failed to produce a male heir and lost her head three years later.

A king's carnal desires added a valuable ally to the Protestant side and, in the short term, the fire set by Luther spread rapidly across Europe, with only a feeble response by the Church.  A decade after England's Acts of Supremacy, the Catholic response began with the Council of Trent (1545-63) which gave birth to the Counter Reformation.  Wars, massacres and judicial murders occupied Europe, killing millions along the way, until the Treaty of Westphalia brought an end to the Wars of Religion in 1648.  Much of the funds needed to finance the Catholic armies and religious orders during this period came from the Hapsburg Emperors, their treasuries filled by the flood of silver from the New World, a flood created by the audacity of Cortes and the devastating effect of Old World illnesses on the Americas, as described in Part 1 of this series.
(from ablongman)

The new Protestant sects survived the Counter Reformation, but much was recovered or saved by the Church.  France remained Catholic, despite an strong initial Protestant presence and Bohemia, Croatia and Hungary were recovered for the Church.  In the process, however, the financial and political mismanagement of Spain resulted in little benefit to that country from the wealth of the Americas and by the end of the 17th century it had become a political backwater.

Next in Part Three: The Ottomans Come A' Knocking

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Garage Door Covers

You learn something new every day.  This is from Maggie's Farm, alerting us to the existence of entertaining posters which you can install on your garage doors.  Here are some samples:

And this is from one of the websites selling posters.

Bella Italia

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Decider

Vladimir Putin thinks he can decide who is the next President of the United States. Decider, from CBS News)

That's my takeaway from the release of the Democratic National Committee emails via Wikileaks (which is an affiliate of Russian intelligence, which hacked into the DNC servers).  In the short term it's created chaos and friction in the Democratic ranks as their convention grows near, as well as forcing the resignation of the incredibly irritating DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

But this was really just a message, and it must have the Clinton camp quaking.  It's long been suspected by American intelligence experts that the Russians have Hillary Clinton's emails as her result of her criminal negligence while Secretary of State.  This email dump by the Russians must be heightening their anxiety that Putin really does have the Hillary emails and is preparing an October Surprise, in which they are released, including the deleted emails and the redacted portions of the emails publicly released by the State Department.

Just another day in the debacle of the 2016 elections.  It's what you get when:

The Democrats nominate a felonious grifter who, faced with deciding whether, as a high-ranking government official privy to critical security information, to comply with the law and run the risk that the American public might one day see her emails or avoid complying and run the risk that America's enemy would see them, concludes "that's easy, I'll take our enemies any day over my fellow citizens!"

And the Republicans nominate an ignorant blowhard who appears entranced the Russian leader has said "nice things" about him, whose campaign manager worked for a Putin stooge in the Ukraine, and whose advisor on Russian policy is a Putin supporter who loves doing deals with Gazprom, the state-owned Russian gas company.

And this is only going to get worse as election day draws closer.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

News You Can Use

Fulfilling our commitment to provide useful information to our devoted readers . . . .

Want to know the #1 song on the day you were born?  There's a website for that!

Mine was The Tennessee Waltz, sung by Patti Page and composed by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart.  It was a massive hit, covered by others many times since.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Pete Alexander Loses His Fastball Baseball Hall of Fame)

Others have noted that Grover Cleveland ("Pete") Alexander (1887-1950) is the only ballplayer named after an American President, and to be portrayed in a movie by a future American President; Ronald Reagan who played Pete in the 1952 film "The Winning Team" (a terrible film, co-starring Doris Day; you can watch the trailer at the end of this post).

Considered one of the game's best pitchers, Pete won 373 games between 1911 and 1930, including a three year stretch (1915-17), when he won at least 30 games each season and tossed 36 shutouts.  The 24-year old Alexander reached the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he pitched through 1917, compiling a 190-88 record.

In December 1917, the Phillies traded Alexander to the Chicago Cubs.  Pete won two of three decisions early in the 1918 season, before being drafted into the army and eventually serving as an artilleryman in France.  Some sources report that it was while he was in the army that Pete became a heavy drinker and eventually an alcoholic, which would plague him for the rest of his career and lead to a troubled and impoverished retirement, all of which was compounded by his epilepsy. baseball fever)

Rejoining the Cubs for the 1919 season, Alexander started slowly, going 0-4 with an ERA of 4.24 by the end of May, and showing uncharacteristic control problems, walking 15 in 34 innings while striking out 20 batsmen.  Regaining his form in June, Pete went 16-7 the rest of the season, walking only 23 in 201 innings, striking out 101 with an ERA of only 1.30, bringing his overall ERA down to 1.72, his fifth consecutive season below 2.00.

In 1920, Pete was the best pitcher in the league, winning 27 against 14 losses and leading the league in ERA (1.91), wins, games started (40) and completed (33), innings (363) and strikeouts (173).  It was to be his last dominant year, though he was to have some good seasons thereafter, including winning 20 games in 1923 and 1927.  In looking at his record, what is noticeable is the drop in strikeouts after the 1920 season.

While Alexander was not noted for having a blazing fastball of the Walter Johnson-type, he topped the strikeout totals in six seasons and twice had the highest K to innings ratio in the league.  From 1911 through 1920, he averaged between 4.3 and 5.8 K's per nine innings, except for 1916 when his ratio dropped to 3.9.

However, from 1921 through 1928, he averaged only 1.6 to 2.8 K's per nine.  Looking more closely at his game logs on reveals the change came quickly.  On September 9, 1920, after a complete game win against the New York Giants, Alexander had fanned 160 in 321 innings, or 4.5 per nine innings, directly within his historical range. Then, in his next five appearances (three starts and two in relief), he struck out only 5 in 25 innings.

He recovered in his last start of the season on October 1, whiffing eight.  The only problem was it was in the course of a 17-inning complete game win against the St Louis Cardinals.  It was a meaningless game at the end of the season, with the Cubs 16 games behind the pennant winning Dodgers, but Pete was left in to pitch the entire game.  And, it wasn't just the innings.  He gave up 16 hits and three walks, facing 69 batters.  Baseball-reference has game logs back through 1913 and, over that period, Pete faced more than 50 batters in a game on only four occasions, topping out at 57 in games during the 1913 and 1917 seasons.  [UPDATE: Since first posting this, Baseball Reference has added game logs for Alexander's first two seasons and the most batters he faced in any game in 1911 or 1912 was 51] His highest total in any game in 1920 had been 49.  Using batters faced as a rough proxy for pitches thrown, Pete threw about 40% more pitches on October 1 than in any previous appearance in 1920, and possibly 20% more than at any time in his career up till that point.

Whether he was starting to feel the accumulated strain on his 33-year old arm late in the season and then completely overdid it with the 17 innings marathon can't be known for certain, but the 1921 season begins with an interesting pattern.

On April 13, Alexander started the Cubs season opener against the Cardinals.  Entering the seventh, Pete had a 5-0 lead and was pitching a one-hitter.  With two outs in the seventh, he gave up three quick hits; a single to Rogers Hornsby, double by Jack Fournier and a single by Doc Lavan, plating both runners.  Alexander got the third out but did not return to the mound for the eighth.  In fact, Pete didn't make another appearance until May 10, tossing six effective innings and then sat until making his next start on May 27, the Cubs thirtieth game.  He then made two starts on a week's rest and followed that with two starts on four days rest, including a 13 innings complete game victory on June 16.  After a start on June 21, Pete had 30 strikeouts in 57 innings, or 4.7 per nine, consistent with his 1911-20 performance.

On June 26, Alexander pitched a bizarre complete game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Holding a 3-2 lead going into the seventh, he yielded five runs in that inning and four more in the ninth to lose 11-3, pitching the entire game despite giving up 19 hits and having zero strikeouts.  That started a new phase of the season, in which over his next 100 innings, Pete had only 2.7 K's per nine.  The third, and final, phase of decline began with a start on August 7 and lasted until the end of the season, during which he struck out only 17 batters over 95 innings, or a rate of 1.6 per nine innings.  He never recovered his old form as his strikeout rates for the next three seasons were 1.8, 2.1 and 1.8.

Alexander compensated for the lack of strikeouts by improving his already impressive control.  In the five seasons ending in 1920, he typically walked a batter every six to seven innings.  Over the five seasons beginning in 1921 he walked a batter every eight innings, hitting a peak of pinpoint control during a 79 inning span at the end of the '22 season and beginning of the '23 campaign in which he did not walk a batter.  For the entire 1923 season, Pete walked only 30 in 305 innings.  Apart from an 11 inning spurt over three appearances in September when he gave out eight passes, he issued only 22 bases on balls during the other 294 innings, or one walk every 13 innings.

There was one potential confounding factor that we checked, since there were two major changes in the game affecting pitchers between the 1920 and 1921 seasons.  The first, prompted by the death of Ray Chapman late in the 1920 season, was the decision to immediately replace any dirty, marked or scuffed baseballs and the second, the banning of spitballs and other "trick" pitches involving altering the surface of the ball.  These changes accelerated baseball's offensive explosion that was already underway.  We looked to see if the changes had affected league strikeout rates in order to understand the context in which Alexander was pitching in 1920 and 1921.  While there was a decrease in strikeouts between the two years of 6.5%, this was substantially less than the more than 50% decline in Pete's strikeout rate between late 1920 and late 1921.  Looking further out to 1922 and 1923, strikeout rates remain stable with 1921 so the changes were a very minor factor in what happened with Alexander.

Overall, what the data seems to show is a workhorse pitcher, suffering a sudden decline in strikeouts near the end of the 1920 season, capped by a 17 inning performance in which he faces a dozen more batters than in any game of his career, followed by infrequent usage in the early part of the next season and a steady decline in strikeouts per nine throughout the years, despite pitching on longer rest than usual, capped by remaining at the lower strikeout level for the rest of his career.

Declines in strikeout ratios happen to almost every pitcher as they get older, but it is rare to be able to pinpoint such a dramatic falloff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mmm Mmm Mmm

The mysterious musings of the Crash Test Dummies from 1993.  A lot to ponder in those lyrics.  Always liked the unresolved musical ending.  The THC Wife strongly dissents from THC's positive view of the song.

Also used in the soundtrack of Dumb and Dumber, one of the best movies of that era.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Renewable Energy Increases Greenhouse Gases

It may be years late, but the New York Times finally features an article admitting "How Renewable Energy Is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course", something that has been clear for quite some time for anyone acquainted with the technological and economic aspects of renewables and other sources of energy, regardless of your views about the science around climate change.  For more on the basic math of global greenhouse emissions read this THC post, including the embedded link.

What's happened is that government subsidies for solar and wind power have created a perfect trifecta; (1) significantly increasing electricity costs for consumers; (2) pushing the main source of zero-carbon baseline electricity supply, nuclear power, into uneconomic operation and (3) causing instability in the electrical grid because of the power surges from its variable power generation.

The article quotes an analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, estimating that in the United States:
nuclear reactors that produce 56 percent of the country’s nuclear power would be unprofitable over the next three years. If they were all to go under and be replaced with gas-fired generators, an additional 200 million tons of carbon dioxide would be spewed into the atmosphere every year.
The article goes on to note that "In Germany, where renewables have mostly replaced nuclear power, carbon emissions are rising, even as Germans pay the most expensive electricity rates in Europe."

You can also learn about the "duck curve" which explains the long term problem places like California are creating for themselves with high renewable mandates.  You can read a detailed description here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Social Justice Is Not Justice LA Times, OJ in center, F Lee Bailey, left, Johnny Cochran, right, Robert Shapiro, rear in profile)

THC recently saw the fine ESPN documentary OJ: Made In America, which he had not intended to watch, but happened to tune in just as the first of the five two-hour episodes began and found unexpectedly interesting.  The film starts with OJ Simpson's college and pro football career, takes us through the racial tensions in Los Angeles during the 1960s, when OJ starred at the University of Southern California and then covers us through his successful broadcast and pitchman career after retirement from the NFL, his marriage and separation from Nicole Brown, the murders, the trial and its aftermath.  While worth watching it is also appalling and depressing, as we relived the miscues and errors of the prosecution and LAPD and exposing the cynical strategy of the race hustlers, a strategy eerily similar to what we see being played out in America right now, and, on that, THC stands with Michael Jordan.

Last week, THC watched the debut of Bill Simmons' new HBO show, Any Given Wednesday (you can watch a segment with Ben Affleck's epic Deflategate rant here).  THC has always enjoyed Simmons' loony mixture of fandom and sportswriting and The Book of Basketball is on his list of Ten Most Enjoyable Books You'll Ever Read.  After last year's bitter breakup with ESPN, which shut down Grantland, his terrific sports and pop culture site, Bill is relaunching himself with the HBO show and a new website, The Ringer (which, so far, falls far short of the standard of excellence he set with Grantland).

At the close of the show, Simmons remarked that the OJ documentary, "helped Caucasians finally understand the OJ verdict", which helped crystallize THC's thinking about the documentary as a perfect illustration of the difference between "social justice" and "justice".  They are not related terms; in fact, they lead to opposite results.

As Simmons points out, the documentary does an excellent job placing OJ's career and the trial in the context of America's, and more specifically, Southern California's, history of race relations from the 1960s through Rodney King and the LA riots of 1992, only two years before OJ was charged with murder.  It follows OJ through his deliberate strategy of "deracializing" himself and becoming popular with white America and then his transformation, as part of his defense in the murder trial, into the face of black America, abetted by the taped racist remarks of LA detective, Mark Fuhrman (who is interviewed and treated fairly); a transformation which proved successful in gaining his acquittal.

At the same time, the documentary leaves the viewer in no doubt that OJ Simpson murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.  The word "slaughtered" is probably more apt than "murdered", as we are shown photographs of the bodies and taken blow by blow through the killings.

Readers of Bill Simmons realize he likes to opine on race and politics, but the glib, engaging, and sometimes overwrought, fun he has when it comes to sports and athletes, ill-suits him when it comes to more serious issues.  Bill got it half right with his statement, but to capture the full message of the documentary, he should have added, "and it should help African-Americans understand why others were so upset with the OJ verdict".

As Made In America illustrates, OJ's acquittal was an example of social justice; a means by African American jurors to get back for all the historic wrongs of the Los Angeles Police Department.  The acquittal was also an example of failure, when it came to justice for the two murdered people.

Putting "social" in front of "justice" is not just a way of modifying or, in some views, perfecting justice. It is a means of subtracting from the traditional American concept of justice, as a term meant to describe what is owed to each individual, regardless of their standing in society.  Social justice is about, to use a term increasingly common today, privileging groups based upon race, ethnicity, gender, class or any other category favored by advocacy groups (the neutral term applied to Leftist activists) and academia, to the exclusion of justice as it applies to non-privileged individuals.

Historically, it is a reversal of what might have been called social justice in earlier periods of American history.  The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, can be fairly characterized as acts of social justice, designed to undo the denial of individual rights to African-Americans by virtue of their race.  In doing so, they did not lead to new acts of individual injustice, in contrast to the "social justice" as it is understood today (perhaps a better word for the modern use of the term is "payback").  Many of those who supported the social justice legislation of the 1960s did so because of their belief in remedying injustice, but now see what is happening in modern America as merely an opportunity for groups to assert social and legal dominance using the rubric of social justice.

We've seen in the past century the fruits of social justice taken to its extremes.  In an early example in the 1920s and 1930s Soviet Union saw millions of kulaks, small rural landowners, denounced as class enemies and robbed, exiled, starved and/or murdered.  Under Soviet theory it did not matter what any individual kulak did or believed; their very inclusion in the designated group made them enemies of the state.  We've seen the pattern repeated over and over again under socialism, communism, and fascism, and it is why social justice is so dangerous a term when it is used, as it is by its advocates today, as a means to deprive individuals of liberty and justice.  If we lose sight of justice, the deluge will follow.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Negotiating Strategy

THC is thinking about toughening up his approach to negotiations.  How's this sound?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

West End Blues

Recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five on June 28, 1928, it's considered the first modern jazz recording.  What was particularly revolutionary was Armstrong's horn solo at the beginning.  Until this time, most jazz bands would play a melody and then improvise together in a middle section.  West End Blues was the birth of the jazz soloist.  Also innovative is Armstrong's scat singing in the middle of the song.

Composed a few weeks earlier by King Oliver, the song was named for New Orleans' West End, a picnic and entertainment area.  Early in his career Armstrong had played in Oliver's band and King was a great influence on him.

The Hot Five consisted of Fred Robinson (trombone), Jimmy Strong (clarinet), Earl Hines (piano), Mancy Cara (banjo) and Zutty Singleton (drums).

For more on the wonderful Louis Armstrong read Pops.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Duncan Quietly Retires bleacherreport)

One of the greatest, and most admired (including by THC), players in NBA history, Tim Duncan, just quietly announced his retirement via a San Antonio Spurs press release.  Just what you would expect from the low-profile and unassuming Duncan; no farewell tour for him ala Kobe.  Generally considered one of the top ten players in league history, Duncan played 19 years with the Spurs, leading them to five NBA titles and during which they won over 70% of their regular season games.

The only time you knew Tim got excited on the court, was when he got upset with a ref and his eyes bulged out.  That was as demonstrative as it got. His level temperament was played for laughs in this 2014 Footlocker commercial. And since we're on the subject, we can't leave without a compilation of Spurs commercials for H-E-B Grocery Stores, the largest chain in Texas.  They are classics, featuring Duncan along with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book

Cleaning out our attic has been an experience and a trip down memory lane for Mr and Mrs THC.  Yesterday, we came across a book we did not remember seeing before, containing an inscription from an aunt of THC's mother, entitled Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book, published in 1923 by "the Roycrofters, at their shops, in East Aurora, Erie County, New York State".  East Aurora is outside of Buffalo, NY and until last Thursday, when he drove through it on the way to see a Blue Jays game in Toronto, he'd never been there.  Small world.

The book's title page tells us it contains, "the inspired and inspiring selections, gathered during a life time of discriminating reading for his own use", and the book itself contains 228 pages of uplifting guidance and aspirational advice by eminences such as (to pick one page at random), Percy Bysshe Shelley, Rousseau, Madame De Stael, John Galsworthy, Charles W Eliot, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens and Ambrose Bierce.

Intrigued, THC embarked on a research journey to find out who Elbert Hubbard was.  It turns out Hubbard was one of those self-made men of late 19th and early 20th century America who embraced many of the new social movements and sought to transform society, though the direction he favored changed over time.

Born in Illinois in 1856, Hubbard first achieved success as the first salesman for the Larkin Soap Company, a Buffalo firm founded in 1875.  The company founder, John D Larkin, and Hubbard were marketing genuises and they transformed the company into a mail order and direct consumer sale operation, bypassing commercial middlemen, which resulted in skyrocketing growth into the early 20th century.  By 1893, the company catalogue was sent to 1.5 million customers and expanded beyond just selling soaps.  According to Wikipedia, by 1905:
By 1905, the catalog was offering over 115 products, including soaps, toiletries, shampoo, coffee and teas, extracts, cocoa, spices, chocolate, soups, perfumes. By 1912, the Larkin Catalogue was second only to the Sears Catalog in variety of products being offered.
Elbert Hubbard made enough to retire from Larkin in the mid-1890s.  Describing himself as a socialist and anarchist who believed in social, economic, domestic, political, mental and spiritual freedom, he founded the arts and craft community of Roycroft in East Aurora.  By 1910, Roycroft was a community of 500 artisans, primarily printers, furniture makers, metalsmiths, leathersmiths, and bookbinders.

Hubbard wrote 11 books, the best known of which was Message To Garcia.  Other titles included Jesus Was An Anarchist, Love, Life & Work, and No Enemy But Himself.  Explaining his message, he wrote:
I believe John Ruskin, William Morris, Henry Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Leo Tolstoy to be Prophets of God, and they should rank in mental reach and spiritual insight with Elijah, Hosea, Ezekiel and Isaiah.
Over time he became more critical of socialism and an advocate for the American "can-do" spirit, saying prison was "An example of a Socialist's Paradise, where equality prevails, everything is supplied and competition is eliminated".

Hubbar's second wife, Alicia Moore Hubbard, whom he married after a scandalous affair in which she bore his child before marriage, was also an interesting character, an active suffragette and author.

In a bizarre episode in late 1912, Hubbard pleaded guilty to violating US Postal Service laws banning the sending of indecent material by mail, because one of his publications contained some jokes that, by today's standards, are very tame.  He paid a $100 fine and, as a result, lost his right to a US passport.  This became significant when World War One broke out a year later and Hubbard came up with the idea of going to Germany to interview Kaiser Wilhelm (at the time the US was neutral).

Unable to obtain a passport, Hubbard applied to President Wilson for a pardon.  Initially rejected, he traveled to Washington, went to the White House and spoke with the President's secretary, Josephy Tumulty.   Tumulty interrupted a cabinet meeting and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan and Attorney General Thomas Gregory heard Hubbard's plea and upon their recommendation, Wilson granted the pardon.

Wilson's pardon allowed the Hubbards to book passage across the Atlantic.  They chose to sail to Britain on the RMS Lusitania.   On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland.  The end of their story can be found at The Lusitania Resource:
On Friday, 7 May, Elbert and Alice Hubbard were by the port side saloon class entrance, chatting with Charles Lauriat.  Earlier in the voyage, Elbert Hubbard had lent Charles a copy of “Who Lifted the Lid Off Hell?”  Hubbard asked, “Do you really think I’ll be a welcome visitor in Germany?

Hubbard had barely finished speaking when they felt a muffled impact, and “the good ship trembled for a moment under the force of the blow.”  They turned to see where the sound was coming from and saw a “smoke and cinders flying up in the air on the starboard side.”  A second explosion soon followed.

Lauriat suggested to the Hubbards that they go back to their portside B Deck cabin and retrieve their lifebelts.  Alice Hubbard could not swim and seemed to be too stunned at what had happened to move.  To Lauriat’s surprise, the Hubbards did nothing.  Elbert “stayed by the rail affectionately holding his arm around his wife’s waist.”

Stay here if you wish,” Lauriat told them, “I’ll fetch some life-jackets for you.”
Lauriat went below to fetch lifebelts for the Hubbards and himself, but when he came back he found that the Hubbards were gone.  Lauriat searched for the couple over a dozen times and could not believe that they had just vanished into thin air.  Archie Donald saw the Hubbards refuse a place in the lifeboats.  Elbert remarked, “What is to be, is to be.”

Ernest Cowper, on his way to save 6-year-old Helen Smith, passed Elbert and Alice Hubbard.  Elbert said, “Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were.
Cowper asked, “What are you going to do?

Elbert shook his head.  Alice just smiled and replied, “There does not seem to be anything to do.

Cowper was then taken by surprise when he saw Elbert and Alice retreat into a room on the Boat Deck and close the door behind them.  Cowper surmised that the Hubbards planned to die together and did not want to be parted in the water.  In his writings, Elbert had once philosophized, “We are here now, some day we shall go.  And when we go we would like to go gracefully.”

True to his word, Elbert Hubbard and his wife became regular heroes and went down with the Lusitania.  Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified.
Three thousand people attended the Hubbard funeral in East Aurora.

Eight years later, the Roycrofters published Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book.  Fourteen of the original Roycrofter builders were designated as National Historical Landmarks in 1986.  This is the Roycroft Campus Corporation website on which you can find many Hubbard epigrams.

(from inspirationboost) rugusavay)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven

. . . but nobody wants to die

Ain't it the truth.

From Ellen McIlwaine.   (For more on the back story around this song please read the comment below).

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Reverse Watergate: Hillary Walks!
THC had been working on a piece explaining why Hillary Clinton would not be indicted, but FBI Director James Comey beat him to it.  Of course, predicting she would not be indicted is different than whether she should be indicted, or at least whether the matter should have been referred to a grand jury.  So let's talk about that instead.

Let's start by reviewing what Director Comey said today, using a summary from Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post:
Here’s the good news for Hillary Clinton: The FBI has recommended no charges be brought following its investigation of the former secretary of state’s private email server.

Here’s the bad news: Just about everything else.

FBI director James Comey dismantled large portions of Clinton’s long-told story about her private server and what she sent or received on it during a stirring 15-minute press conference following which he took no questions. While Comey exonerated Clinton legally speaking, he provided huge amounts of fodder that could badly hamstring her in the court of public opinion
Most importantly, Comey said that the FBI found 110 emails on Clinton’s server that were classified at the time they were sent or received. That stands in direct contradiction to Clinton’s repeated insistence she never sent or received any classified emails. And, it even stands in contrast to her amended statement that she never knowingly sent or received any classified information. . .

Comey said that Clinton had used not one but multiple private email servers during her time at State. He said that Clinton used multiple emails devices during that time. (She had offered her desire to use a single device for “convenience” as the main reason she set up the private server.) He noted that the lawyers tasked by Clinton with sorting her private emails from her professional ones never actually read all of the emails (as the FBI did in the course of its investigation). . .

It’s hard to read Comey’s statement as anything other than a wholesale rebuke of the story Clinton and her campaign team have been telling ever since the existence of her private email server came to light in the spring of 2015. She did send and receive classified emails.  The setup did leave her — and the classified information on the server — subject to a possible foreign hack. She and her team did delete emails as personal that contained professional information.
We understand Hillary's new campaign slogan is:
Hillary's the one! She may be incredibly sloppy handling our Nation's secrets, but she's not facing criminal charges!
Here's another look at Hillary's deliberately misleading statements:

If you don't like that summary, look at this AP article: Clinton email claims collapse under FBI probe, which walks through the various lies she's told.  Everything she claimed about the email system and the emails themselves has proven to be incorrect.

Lest you think any of this is cherry picking, let's go to the actual Federal statute in question: Title 18, Section 793(f):
Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
As you can see from the highlighted text, criminal violation of the statute can occur with gross negligence; intent is not required.

Near the beginning of his statement, Comey talks of the purpose of the criminal investigation:
Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities. 
Director Comey's statement makes clear that the documents in question related to national defense, with some of them being classified and he goes on to say:
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
He then goes on to give several examples of Secretary Clinton's negligence of in the mishandling of this information and about the potential consequences of said mishandling.  You can read the statement in full here.  This is what he said about the potential for the information ending up in hostile hands:
With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.
But, in the end, he declines recommending prosecution because he did not find "clear evidence" of intent, a legal requirement that does not exist in the relevant statute.  He's invented an exception out of whole cloth. It's logically puzzling, but perhaps not politically so.

So, let's sum up where we are, based on Director Comey's statement:
Hillary Clinton violated a statute that contains felony penalties.
All her operative statements made to the public during the course of investigation were inaccurate.
But, she will not face prosecution because there is not "clear evidence' of intent to violate the statute, even though intent is not a legal requirement to establish such violation.
Despite that, Director Comey tells us that other folks might in the same circumstances might face consequences unlike Hillary:
To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now. 
Got that?

Now there are some who believe that Secretary Clinton's insistence on operating her own private email account outside the government's security system was to hide corrupt dealing involving the Clinton Foundation.  THC believes there is a simpler, and more likely true, explanation.  Ever since the early days of her husband's administration, Hillary Clinton has been obsessed with keeping her activities shielded from public disclosure.  Whether it was the "off the books" way her heath care reform initiative was put together, the missing Rose Law Firm files, the cover up regarding the firing of the staffers in the White House Travel Office, she is resistant to any public disclosure.  Her actions as Secretary of State are consistent with her long-standing practice.  The difference here is that as a high ranking government official, routinely handling sensitive government information, she was willing to exchange the possible leak of that information to enemies of the United States, in order to shield everything from the citizens of her own country.  The legal processes that apply to "regular" people do not apply to Secretary Clinton, in her mind. [UPDATE: Now that more emails have been released it is apparent, despite my previous doubts, that Clinton's email system was set up, at least in part, to shield dealings with the Clinton Foundation, a clear conflict of interest and in violation of promises she made at the time she became Secretary of State].

Her contempt for the legal process is shown in one aspect of this matter which has never received the public attention it deserves - the deliberate destruction of evidence.  After the Benghazi Committee discovered evidence of Clinton's secret private server and email account, both the committee and the State Department asked for the emails to be returned.  Clinton handed over 30,000 emails, while announcing she had destroyed another 30,000 that were personal and not work related.  In fact, Clinton's claim was inaccurate.  Today, Director Comey informs us:
The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014. We found those additional e-mails in a variety of ways. Some had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private e-mail domain. Others we found by reviewing the archived government e-mail accounts of people who had been government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton, including high-ranking officials at other agencies, people with whom a Secretary of State might naturally correspond.
It should be added that the 30,000 emails, Secretary Clinton turned over were in hard copy, not in electronic form.  She could have easily given them to the State Department in electronic form, but instead went to the time and expense to print them out separately.  Why?  To make them impossible to do word searches on them electronically, hampering investigators and making the Department's effort to review and release them much more lengthy.

The deliberation destruction of evidence is a sore point with THC, who has been involved in much litigation over his career, in which every effort is made to preserve documents, including those deemed irrelevant.  And specifically, he has been involved up close and personal (to his personal discomfort) in two criminal cases in which the United States Department of Justice has been on the other side.  He can assure our faithful readers, that if he and his cohorts had waltzed into DOJ and announced they'd decided to unilaterally destroy documents they felt were irrelevant, they would quickly be facing obstruction of justice charges.  It is unfathomable to THC that a high-ranking government official gets away with this blatant behavior.

This episode is just another example of the rot in our public institutions, which have declined steadily from the days when a President was held accountable for his actions in the Watergate scandal to today when Secretary Clinton escapes accountability for prioritizing her personal desires over the security of the United States.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

KD Leaves OKC For GS

That is, Kevin Durant leaves the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors.  As a Durant/Westbrook/OKC fan, THC was disappointed with the decision, but listening to Frank Caliendo reading Durant's announcement in the voice of Morgan Freeman, with music from The Shawshank Redemption in the background, almost makes it worthwhile.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Coming To America

On this date in 1905, my grandfather Louis, fleeing Czarist Russia, landed in Boston.  Six weeks later he enlisted in the US Army, serving for six years.  You can read more about him at RMS Republic & Our Grandfather Louis.

God bless America!

And once you reach America, you need to learn what it's like Living In America.  Here's Mr James Brown to help you with that:

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Becoming The United States Of America

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to his wife, Abigail, in Braintree, Massachusetts, about the epochal events of the previous day:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
He was referring to the vote of the states in Congress on July 2, to declare themselves independent of Great Britain and creating a new entity, the United States of America.  The vote, by state delegations, was 12-0, with New York abstaining because it had not received instructions from its state assembly.

It turns out that Adams was right about how Independence Day was to be celebrated, but wrong about the date.

On July 4, 1776, the Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, the document publicly explaining the reasons for its decision of July 2.  The Declaration was drafted by Thomas Jefferson over a 3 to 5 day period in late June and edited by his fellow committee members, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.  To Adams' chagrin, and frequent complaint over the next fifty years, it was the fourth that became the day of celebration "from this Time forward forever more".

Adams closed his letter to Abigail, who was a formidable letter-writer herself (see Abigail Writes Thomas), with these hopeful, but sobering, sentiments:
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. -- I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. -- Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Big Papi Watch

Time for our monthly update on the last season of David Ortiz.  His full season projection has come down a bit from the end of May, but is still impressive: 64 doubles, 2 triples, 37 home runs, 131 RBI, a .336 batting average and an OPS of 1.103.  It's still projects as the best final season for any batsman.

Here are the projections so far as of the first day of each month:

May 1
June 1
July 1