Friday, September 30, 2016

Rainy Night House

What a voice and melody!  Listen to the unexpected twist in the second verse. And the arrangement on this live 1974 version backed up by Tom Scott and the LA Express is far superior to the album version.  I thought the lyrics were ridiculous even back then, but the sound of the words and phrases is just right.   Joni Mitchell, Rainy Night House.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Life Of The Mind

Look upon me! I'll show you the life of the mind! I'll show you the life of the mind! - Barton Fink (1991).  An extremely weird film featuring memorable performances by Coen Brothers regulars John Goodman and John Turturro.  Here, have a lookWonder what's in the box?  "They say I'm a madman Bart, but I'm not mad at anyone."

gif from Tech Noir

‘I gotta tell you, the life of the mind… There’s no roadmap for that territory… And exploring it can be painful.’
Barton Fink (1991)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

You Haven't Seen This Before

There's always something you haven't seen before in baseball.

Sunday: Dustin Pedroia scores the winning run on a double by David Ortiz, giving the Red Sox their 11th straight victory.  Watch the play at the plate.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week mojo4music)

What was it like to be a Beatle during the height of Beatlemania?   For the answer, go see The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (1963-66) directed by Ron Howard (aka Opie and Richie Cunningham).  Being about to turn 13 when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, and only 15 in 1966, when The Beatles stopped touring, I'd never really understood that decision.  Watching this film, I finally realized why it had to end.

Eight Days A Week captures the craziness of their lives from late 1963 through August 1966 and the hysteria and tumult that surrounded them.  The film footage includes a lot I'd never seen before as well as new interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (who looks pretty good for a 76 year old) along with reflections on those years by George and John taken from old interviews.

The primitive state of touring and concert technology and organization is staggering.  Even by the late 1960s it was immensely improved, but that was to be too late for the Fab Four.  The Beatles had only three roadies on their first U.S tours!  In one scene from a show in Washington DC, we watch Ringo, without assistance at first, trying to turn the platform on which his drum kit is sitting.

The sound equipment was miserable.  For their 1965 U.S. tour, Vox made special 100-watt(!) amps for the band, which were no match for the wall of sound emitted by their fans.  They had no special sound equipment for vocals. At Shea Stadium, with 56,000 screaming fans, their vocals were played through the public address system.  Amidst the din of the screams, their fans could not hear them and The Beatles could not hear themselves.  Ringo could only try to tell where the other three were in a song by watching their movements and the shaking of their heads.

One of the joys of the film is that Giles Martin, son of George Martin (1926-2016) reengineered and remastered the concert footage so we can hear what the band actually sounded like even with all the surrounding noise.  They sound like a very tight rock n roll band.  The irony is that the clarity of the movie soundtrack is not anything like what the audience and the band heard at the time.

The camaraderie of the four also comes through.  They looked out for, and relied upon, each other, knowing no one else could understand what they were going through.  In those days they shared rooms while touring; John and Paul wrote many of the one hundred songs they composed together between mid-1963 and the end of the recording for Revolver in June 1966, while on the road and in hotel rooms.  The petty resentments, conflicting visions and desires that broke the band up only came to the fore after the touring ended.

Watching them is also a reminder of just how witty and quick they could be, with humor and cheekiness that stands up fifty years later.  There are quite a few funny moments, along with stories even some of us who've been fans for many decades, had not heard.

So enjoy yourselves and look for the movie.  It's only in limited release (only three theaters in CT are showing it), but it's worth driving a bit.  It can also be found on Hulu, but you won't get the full impact of the sound track and visuals if you miss it on the big screen. And, if you see it in a theater, you might get lucky like we did - following the movie, they showed a remastered version of The Beatles concert at Shea Stadium (they only played for 30 minutes!).

Even if you are not old enough to remember them from the 60s, Eight Days A Week will give you a feel for why The Beatles were such a big deal at the time.  And stick around to watch the credits until the end.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Kid From Cubaville Gordon of the Miami Marlins, at the memorial for Jose Fernandez at Marlins Park, yesterday, from pbs)

Yesterday, Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident, only seven weeks after his 24th birthday.  A shocking and sad day for many people.  For his family; the mother and sister who defected from Cuba with him, the grandmother with whom he was reunited; his pregnant girlfriend about whom he'd been excited about becoming a father.  For his teammates (watch manager Don Mattingly at the Marlins press conference).  For long-suffering Marlins fans -though Giancarlo Stanton had the big contract, Jose was the most popular member of the team.  For the Cuban-American community for whom he was an icon (here's Dan Le Batard on Jose).  For anyone who appreciated the joy, enthusiasm and attitude, along with the brilliant set of skills, that he brought to the game.

For those of us who are fans of baseball, not just of a team, enjoying the here and now of the game, but also relishing its the lore and history, there is also a selfish aspect to our sadness.  When a young player enters the majors, showing great promise, we sit back and wonder. Will we be watching him for the next 15-20 years?  Will he create moments and memories for us that we will treasure?  Will he join the ranks of the greatest that ever played the game, creating his own unique legacy?  It is that sense of excitement, possibility and hope that fills us at the start of each season.  Jose Fernandez held out that possibility to us.
mlb animated GIF
The story of Jose Fernandez was already the stuff of legend.  Three unsuccessful attempts to escape from the prison-state of Cuba, finally succeeding on his fourth try at the age of 15, along with his sister and mother.  On that small boat crossing the Gulf of Mexico in the blackness of night, diving in after hearing someone go overboard, to discover he was saving his own mother.  Robbed on the bus by bandits as the family traveled through Mexico to a new life in the United States.  Not speaking a word of English upon arrival, becoming comfortably fluent in his new language.  Signed by the Marlins and leaping from Single A minor league ball to the majors, becoming Rookie of the Year in 2013.  The reunion with the grandmother he'd left behind in Cuba.

His career interrupted by Tommy John surgery in 2014, he rebounded, returning mid-way through the 2015 season, picking up where he left off, and was having an outstanding 2016 campaign, among the league leaders in most categories and #1 in strikeouts per nine innings.  A career record of 38-17, including an astonishing 29-2 on his home field (some thought his efforts to restrain his natural exuberance when on the road, reduced his effectiveness). 

Young Jose had duende.  Ben Lindbergh, the excellent baseball writer at The Ringer, put it this way:
Fernández belonged to that rare breed of athlete who gloried in being great without alienating anyone (well, anyone but Brian McCann). He seemed so delighted, so grateful for his gifts and his chance to use them, that no one could begrudge him his brilliance.
Most of those who show such promise at the start of their careers, don't fulfill it.  Injuries, lack of maturity, inability to adapt, deficiencies in temperament that become more evident over time; all these and a thousand other reasons can derail a career.  Who knows what the future would have held for Jose Fernandez?  Our sadness is accentuated by knowing we will never find out.  Our joy was in watching what he did in the time given him, and that will have to be enough.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Zulu: The Washing Of The Spears

I first came across the tale of Rorke's Drift in a long-forgotten collection of stirring deeds written for children.  I could not have been more than ten years old at the time . . . 

- Donald R Morris from the Introduction to The Washing Of The Spears: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation (1965)'s_Drift_1879_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg(The Defense of Rorke's Drift, Alphonse de Neuville, 1880, from wikpedia) 

Donald Morris (1924-2002) began research for The Washing of the Spears in 1956, completing the bulk of it between 1958 and 1962 when, according to the 1965 introduction to his book, he was "a naval officer stationed in Berlin".  Fascinated by the Battle of Rorke's Drift, which occurred on January 22-3, 1879, and the stunning defeat of the British Army by the Zulus at Isandhlwana, earlier that same day, he planned to write a magazine article on the battles, until persuaded by Ernest Hemingway to compose an account of the entire Zulu War of 1879, as none had ever been published in the United States., 1879, from lowres cabinet)

The mention of Hemingway, alerted me that Morris might be an interesting person in his own right.  I originally read the book in the mid-1970s on the recommendation of an acquaintance who had been enthralled by it.  At that time, there was very little information available on the author.  More recently I've read the 1998 edition (the book has gone through several printings over the years), as well as Morris' 2002 obituary and found that, indeed, he was quite an interesting character.

Educated at the Horace Mann School for Boys in New York City, he entered the navy in 1942 and then went on to the Naval Academy, graduating in 1948, remaining on active service until 1956, and retiring as a Lieutenant Commander.  It turns out that his assignment as a naval officer in Berlin was a cover; from 1956 through 1972 he was a CIA officer in Soviet counterespionage, serving in Berlin, Paris, the Congo and Vietnam.  From 1972 through 1989 he was foreign affairs columnist for the Houston Post.  Morris spoke German, French, Afrikaans, Russian and Chinese, held a commercial pilot's license and was a certified flight instructor.
Once Morris took up Hemingway's suggestion and began research on the Zulu War, he realized he needed to find out more about its origins.  It was a process that ended up taking him all the way back to the early 17th century, when both the Dutch and the Bantus (of whom the Zulu were a subgroup) first entered the lands that later became the Republic of South Africa, the Dutch in the southwest via the Capetown settlement and the cattle-herding Bantus migrating from the north.  The result is a 603 page epic (excluding footnotes), encompassing almost 300 years of history, and all of it accomplished without visiting South Africa.

Morris tells us of the fate of the Bushmen and Hottentots, most of whom were destroyed, caught between the advancing Dutch settlers (who came to call themselves Boers) and Bantus.  We learn of the coming of the English in the late 18th century, which accelerated the migration of Boer farmers, north, northeast and east of Capetown in order to escape British control.  We learn of the emergence of the Zulu nation in the 1820s under Shaka, and of his brilliant in leadership, tactics and strategy as well as his erratic behavior and brutality. impi) The innovative military system he developed and the incredible endurance and bravery of the Zulu warriors, made Shaka's kingdom feared across the land, among both natives, Boer (who had also come to consider themselves natives) and English. Under Shaka and his successors, the Zulu controlled most of the coastal strip of southern Africa, eventually coming up against the Boers, who began their Great Trek in the 1830s to escape the encroaching English; a journey which took them to what was to become the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and Natal.
(from british empire)

As the British consolidate their control we learn of the confinement of the Zulu Kingdom to a smaller area and then of the manipulations that led to the 1879 war.  It culminates in Morris' thrilling narrative of the events of January 1879.  First, at Isandlhwana, where a British and native force of 1,800 was overwhelmed by the Zulu impis (the equivalent of a division in a western army), resulting in the worst defeat Britain ever suffered in Africa at the hands of a native force.  Of 960 Europeans only 55 survived (every one of the 602 soldiers and officers of the British infantry perished), along with only 300 of the 850 native troops.  Then came Rorke's Drift, the mission station that had been converted into a supply station to support the British invasion of Zululand, where 140 soldiers (of whom more than 20 were incapacitated with sickness or wounds) faced 4,000 Zulus, who had crossed into Natal despite Zulu King Cetshwayo's order that they not enter British territory.  In fighting that was hand to hand at times, and went from 4 in the afternoon until after 2 the following morning, the Zulu were repulsed.  Seventeen of the British soldiers were killed, eight severely wounded and almost all of the remainder were injured in some manner.  Eleven Victoria Crosses, Britain's highest military honor, were awarded to participants. It was the most awarded to one regiment in a single action up to that time. Among the recipients was a cook, Private Henry Hook, who took up arms and enabled the evacuation of the patients from the mission hospital while he battled Zulu warriors from room to room as the building burned down around him. by Lt Chard, co-commander at Rorke's Drift)

Morris takes us through the conclusion of the war in which the British regrouped and reinvaded, finally conquering the Zulu, and of the sad decline of Zululand over the next decades.

The book is a rousing narrative and highly informative.  My only criticism is that it does become bogged down at one point in the minutiae of the formation of the Natal Colony and the very confusing religious disputes among its European settlers.  About 50 pages could have been edited out.

The author treats the Zulu, as well as the Boers and British, fairly, portraying both admirable behaviors and the foibles of all parties.  Given the times it was written in, my guess is it would not meet with the full approval of today's social justice crowd, despite its evenhanded approach.

I've read a bit about more recent historiography of the Zulu and this general period in South African history to get a sense of how the book is regarded today.  In the decades since its publication much new information about the Zulu kingdom has become available that provides a more complete explanation of their thinking in the run up to the 1879 war and their strategy in conducting it.  Some different takes on the campaign and battles have also become available.  Nonetheless, the book remains highly regarded.

The 1988 edition of the book contains an unusual introduction from Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Chief Minister of kwaZulu, and descendant of King Shaka.  In it, Buthelezi gives tribute to Morris' efforts,  placing it in the context of its time:
Forced to use the only sources available in the vast amount of research he undertook in order to write the book, he nevertheless could not entirely escape the clutches of a very biased recording of the past.  It is, however, not the extent to which some of his observations could be questioned that is important, for at the time of its publication in 1966, The Washing of the Spears was the least biased of all accounts ever published about kwaZulu.
He traces the process of colonial domination over the Zulu people and step by step shows how the British occupation of Natal led to the formation of what the world now knows as an apartheid society. He writes with indignant awareness of how today's apartheid society was made possible by brutal conquest and subjugation during British colonial times, and he had attributed historically important roles to the Zulu kings in his awareness of the Black man's struggle against oppression.

He undertook a mammoth task and acquitted himself brilliantly.  The Zulu people owe a debt of gratitude to Donald Morris.  He saw the world through our eyes and he was at his brilliant best in writing about the major White actors who shaped events in South Africa during the nineteenth century.  He stands with us as we revere the memory of people such as Bishop Colenso; he stands with us in the knowledge of what Sir Bartle Frere did; and he stands with us in an intense awareness of how people like Sir Theophilus Shepstone turned traitor to the people who had befriended him and about whom he talked as his friends. Buthelezi)

Of course no account of the Zulu War, or at least no account at THC, would be complete without mention of the 1964 film Zulu, about the fight at Rorke's Drift.  Starring as the two young officers in charge of the defense were Stanley Baker as Lt. John Chard and newcomer Michael Caine as Lt Gonville Bromhead.  King Cetshwayo was played by his great-grandson Chief Buthelezi!  I quite enjoyed the movie as a teenager.  Here's a nice piece on the film from an historical perspective.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Crash & Smash

We reviewed the latest Mad Max movie, Fury Road, when it came out.  This is a fantastic clip on the film's pre-production work showing all the special effects and stunt work that went into the movie and was not enhanced with CGI in any way.  Once you start watching, you can't stop.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I WIsh

What have I been thinking?  Just realized that in over four years of THC music posts, only one has featured Stevie Wonder.  A gross oversight for which THC apologizes.  We need to start making amends.  This is I Wish from Songs In The Key of Life (1976). Cool lyric and awesome rhythm section.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The 28 Pages: Part Two

You can find Part One here.

In addition to its lengthy discussion regarding connections between Bayoumi and Bassnan (discussed in Part One) with two of the hijackers, the Joint Inquiry also reported on a number on other suspicious activities:

Potential Official Saudi / Terrorist Connections

A Saudi national "with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family" was reportedly checking border security in the southwest U.S with an eye to infiltrating individuals into the country,

When senior Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida was captured, he had the unlisted phone number of a Saudi company that managed Ambassador Bandar's residence in Aspen, Colorado.

Another number found at a Pakistan safe house used by Bin Laden, was that of a Saudi who provided services to personal assistants of Ambassador Bandar.

Two Saudi nationals were suspected, in retrospect after 9-11, of making a hijacking "dry run" and acting very suspiciously on an America West flight in 1999, using tickets they claimed were paid by the Saudi Embassy.  One of the nationals was suspected by the FBI to be a Saudi intelligence agent and both were found to have connections with terrorists.

Several Saudi naval officers were in frequent contact with hijackers Mihdhar and Hazmi.

According to the FBI, there was also evidence that two other hijackers, Mohammed Atta (the leader of the group) and Marwan al-Shehhi, had contact, while in the U.S., with an individual known to be a close associate of Abdullah Bin Laden, Osama's half-brother, who worked as an administrative officer at the Saudi embassy in Washington and had known terrorist connections.

Saudi Involvement in Extremist Religious and Charitable Institutions

According to CIA, FBI and Treasury officials, the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation HIF) had ties to the Saudi Government and was providing financial and logistical support to Al Qaeda.  Bayoumi (see Part One) also corresponded with HIF.  Treasury's General Counsel testified to the Joint Inquiry:
It is, of course, the largest, I think the largest Islamic charity in the world . . . Its direct overseers re members of the [Saudi] Royal Family; significant contributors are members of the Royal Family  . . . but in significant branch offices yet to be designated and under current investigation, we have ample evidence that large cash amounts are being couriered to those branch offices, that large wire transfers of money are being sent to those offices, that a great deal of the money is being dissipated through misspending, unaccounted for, and finally, that those offices have significant contact with extremists, Islamic extremists.
[NOTE: In 2004 the founder of HIF was listed by Interpol - United Nations Security Council Special Notice as being associated with Al Qaeda and in September, 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department alleged a direct link between HIF and Bin Laden.]
The Saudi based Umm al-Qura Islamic Charitable Foundation (UQ) was also linked to terrorist support activities.  The Joint Inquiry reported that UQ couriers transmitted large amounts of cash from Saudi Embassies.

The report notes that the construction of the King Fahad mosque, built in 1998 in Culver City, California, was funded by Saudi Crown Prince Abdulaziz and the mosque "is attended by members of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles and is widely known for its anti-Western views".  One of the imans at the mosque may have been an associate of the two hijackers, H and M (see Part One), and the two did attend the mosque.

There is also reference to the Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA), the mission of which, according to the FBI, is to spread Islamic fundamentalism and Salafist doctrine and was, at the time, the subject of a counterterrorist investigation.  IANA had wealthy Saudi benefactors and had solicited money from Prince Bandar but it was unclear whether he had contributed.

Lack of Saudi Government Cooperation

The Joint Inquiry notes that in testimony and interviews, FBI agents and CIA officers complained about a lack of Saudi cooperation in terrorism investigations before and after 9-11.  As an example it was noted that in May 2001 the U.S. notified the Saudis that it had become aware of an individual in Saudi Arabia who was in contact with Abu Zubaida, a key lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, and was most likely aware of an upcoming Al Qaeda operation.  The Saudis refused to try to locate him.  The Saudis were also uncooperative in providing access to Madani al-Tayyib, who managed Bin Ladin's finances when he was in the Sudan.

As further evidence of this lack of cooperation, the report mentions the case of bin Ladin's brother in law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, an important Al Qaeda figure, arrested by the U.S. in 1994.  Sentenced to death in Jordan for a bombing, the U.S. extradited him to that country.  The Jordanians then returned him to the Saudis (the CIA believed they'd been bought off by them) who set him free.  As of the time of the report Khalifa, worked for a Riyadh based NGO and traveled freely.

According to the former chief of the CIA Counterterrorist Center, "it was clear from about 1996 that the Saudi Government would not cooperate with the United States on matters relating to Usama Bin Ladin".  The Joint Inquiry references a 1996 CIA memo stating that the Saudis stopped providing any assistance on Bin Ladin because he had "too much information about official Saudi dealing with Islamic extremists in the 1980s for Riyadh to deliver him into U.S. hands".

The Joint Inquiry was also concerned about the lack of coordination between U.S. intelligence agencies, noting in one instance:
The Committees are particularly concerned about the serious nature of allegations contained in a CIA memorandum found within the files of the FBI's San Diego Field Office.  That memorandum, which discussed alleged financial connections between the September 11 hijackers, Saudi Government officials, and members of the Saudi Royal Family, was drafted by a CIA officer [REDACTED], relying primarily on information from FBI files.
The CIA Officer provided the memo to the FBI agent responsible for investigation of one of the individuals named in the document.  The FBI agent filed it in the individual case file, but did not forward it to FBI headquarters "despite the clear national implications", and thus HQ remained unaware of the memo until the Joint Inquiry brought it to the attention of the FBI Director.

In 2016, the big questions are (1) whether the Saudi government is now cooperating fully with the U.S. on intelligence; (2) whether there are still suspected points of contact between Saudi officials and terrorist groups; and (3) whether the flow of Saudi funds in support of Wahhabi and Salafi Islam has been staunched.  On the last point, I am unaware of any evidence this funding has been stopped. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The 28 Pages

Part One . . .,%202001%20[full%20censored%20report].jpg
In January 2003, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report on their Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.  The public version of the report (dated December 2002) omitted a 28-page section titled "Part Four - Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters", regarding potential connections between Al-Qaeda and the Saudi government.  The pages were classified secret at the request of the Bush Administration and despite repeated requests to make them public had continued to be withheld by both that administration and during the first 6 years of the Obama administration.  This year, the Administration made the right decision, dropping its objections and the 28 pages were released publicly in July 2016 (although there remain security-related redacted passages in the public version).

I recently read the 28 pages (you can find them here) and this is my summary of what they contain.  As a general matter, there is nothing particularly surprising for those who have closely followed various unofficial revelations over the years.  Though carefully phrased with numerous caveats regarding the quality and verifiability of the information, the report raises intriguing questions about Saudi involvement.  The Joint Inquiry does not resolve any of those questions but raise a number of issues:
  • To what extent were elements within the Saudi government sympathetic to Al Qaeda?
  • How high in the government did support for terrorism go?
  • To what extent did Al Qaeda use double agents to provide support to its members in the US and make Saudi intelligence an unwitting tool?
Beyond the immediate issue of relations with Al Qaeda, reading the 28 pages reminds one of the poisonous effect that Saudi Wahhabi and Salafist interpretations of Islam have had on the Moslem world, the widespread, and continued, efforts by the House of Saud to propagate this doctrine globally by the funding of mosques, organizations and imans and its impact on providing fruitful soil for the growth of terrorism.

Excerpts from The Joint Inquiry's summary findings:
While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government.  There is information, primarily from FBI sources, that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.  The Joint Inquiry's review confirmed that the Intelligence Community also had information, much of which has yet to be independently verified, indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi Government in the United States may have other ties to al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups.  In their testimony, neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United States and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature. . .

Prior to September 11, the FBI apparently did not focus investigative resources on [REDACTED] Saudi nationals in the United States due to Saudi Arabia's status as an American "ally". . . prior to September 11, 2001, the FBI received "no reporting from any member of the Intelligence Community" that there was a [REDACTED] presence in the United States.
It should be clear that this Joint Inquiry has made no final determinations as to the reliability or sufficiency of the information regarding these issues that we found contained in FBI and CIA documents.

The Hijackers

Before discussing the specifics of the report, some background on the two hijackers front and center in the 28 pages would be helpful.  Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi were both Saudi nationals and part of the crew that crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11.  For the post 9-11 whereabouts of all the hijackers, you can read this well-informed report from the September 26, 2001 issue of The Onion. from global (Hazmi from wikipedia)

Friends from childhood, Mihdhar and Hazmi traveled to Bosnia to fight on behalf of Muslims during the wars of the mid-1990s.  Both became radicalized and members of Al Qaeda shortly thereafter, and went to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against its opponents.  Both came under CIA suspicion in connection with the 1998 US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the CIA also tracked Mihdhar's father-in-law, who was also connected with Al Qaeda.

At some point in 1999, Osama Bin Laden anointed both as pilots in the upcoming airliner plot.  In early January 2000 they left Saudi Arabia.  Stopping overnight in Dubai, the CIA, which had identified Mihdhar as a possible terrorist, broke into his hotel room and photocopied his passport allowing them to specifically identify and track him.  The next day, Mihdhar and Hazmi flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where they held a meeting with several other hijack plotters.  The CIA was aware of the meeting, though not of its significance, which in retrospect was about details of the 9-11 plot, and asked Malaysian intelligence to observe it.  As a result, the agency was provided with photos of the plotters.  One of the operatives they met with was later implicated in the October 2000 bombing of the U.S. Cole.  From there, Mihdhar and Hazmi flew to the U.S. and went to San Diego where they lived together.  Although both were suspected terrorists and the CIA knew they had entered the United States, the agency never informed the FBI, which had primary responsibility for domestic counter-terrorism.

While in California, Mihdhar and Hazmi held several closed door meetings with a local Muslim cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who, for a period immediately after 9-11 was considered by the U.S. government a "moderate" Muslim, before he left for Yemen and revealed himself to be a key Al Qaeda operative.  In 2011, he was incinerated by an Obama Administration drone strike.*

Mihdhar and Hazmi did not do well in their pilot training and ended up being assigned as part of the 15-member "muscle" team for the hijackings.  In June 2000, Midhar left the U.S. for Yemen, later traveling on to Afghanistan.  In July 2001, he returned to the U.S., staying in New Jersey.

Hazmi stayed behind and was joined in late 2000 by Hani Hanjour, later to be the pilot who crashed Flight 77 into the Pentagon.  They moved to Mesa, Arizona before relocating in 2001 to suburban Virginia.

On August 21, 2001, Mihdhar and Hazmi were put on a CIA watchlist.  On August 28, the FBI NY office requested a criminal case be opened to determine if Mihdhar was still in the US.  The request was denied, meaning the matter would be treated as an intelligence case on which criminal investigators were forbidden to work.  Responding to the denial, an agent in NY sent an email to FBI HQ complaining that: 
Whatever has happened to this, someday someone will die, and the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain problems.
HQ responded saying:
. . . we are all frustrated with this issue . . . these are the rules. [We do] not make them up.**

The Bayoumi/Bassnan Connection

There were two individuals of concern to the Joint Inquiry who had extensive contact with Mihdhar (M) and Hazmi (H) during their time in San Diego.

The first was Omar al-Bayoumi, alleged by several FBI informants to be working for Saudi intelligence.  The Joint Inquiry found Bayoumi had ties to the Saudi government, the most incriminating of which was that:
While in San Diego, al-Bayoumi was receiving money from the Saudi ministry of Defense through a Saudi company called "Erean". [REDACTED] for that company informed the FBI after September 11, 2001 that, although al-Bayoumi only showed up at the company on one occasion, he received a monthly salary and allowances. [REDACTED] stated that, at first, he attempted to refuse to pay al-Bayoumi a monthly salary, but he was told that his company would lose their contract if he did not pay him.
Bayoumi's pay increased while M and H were in the U.S.  Prior to their arrival he was receiving $465 a month in allowances. A month after they arrived in San Diego, Bayoumi's allowance was increased to $3700 a month.  After H left San Diego, his allowance was reduced to $3200, an amount paid until he left the U.S., a month before the September 11 attacks. from history commons)

Bayoumi called Saudi government locations in the U.S. almost 100 times between January and May 2000 and was in contact with at least three people at the Saudi embassy in Washington and three at the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.  He was also known to have access to large amounts of money without appearing to have a job.  Prior to 9-11, the FBI was informed Bayoumi received $400,000 from Saudi to establish a mosque in San Diego.  The agency conducted a counter-terrorism investigation of him in 1998 and 1999, but closed it without findings.

Further investigation after 9-11 led the FBI to conclude:
. . . after an exhaustive translation of Bayoumi's documents, it is clear that in Bayoumi's correspondence he is providing guidance to young Muslims and some of his writings can be interpreted as jihadist.
The second was Osama Bassnan, a close associate of Bayoumi, with whom he spoke several times a day while they were together in San Diego.  In the 1990s, while in Washington DC, he listed his employment as the Saudi Arabian Education Mission.  The FBI developed information that Bassnan was a supporter of Osama Bin Laden. In 1992 he had hosted a party for the Blind Sheik (the man behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and had praised Bin Laden on many occasions to FBI informants.  The CIA reported that Bassnan had traveled to Houston and met with a member of the Saudi Royal Family who provided him with "a significant amount of cash". from history commons)

When M and H arrived in San Diego, Bayoumi provided them with "considerable assistance".  They stayed with him for several days before he found them an apartment (which was across the street from Bassnan's apartment), co-signed their lease and may have paid their first month's rent and security deposit.  He threw a party to welcome them to the community and assigned someone from the Islamic Center of San Diego to serve as their translator and help them obtain drivers licenses and locate flight schools.

Bassnan made comments to at least two FBI assets that he knew M and H and helped them.  The FBI found evidence that M and H contacted Khaled al-Kayed, a commercial airline pilot, certified flight instructor, and close friend of Bassnan, who also lived in San Diego. Kayed later admitted that M and H contacted him about learning to fly Boeing jet aircraft.

The most surprising revelation to me in in the 28 pages resulted from a post 9-11 search of Bassnan's residence which found copies of 31 cashier checks totalling $74,000 made out to Bassnan's wife from Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the wife of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a member of the House of Saud, who served as the Saudi Ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005.  According to the FBI, the wife provided no services to the princess. The FBI also determined that Prince Bandar sent a check for $15,000 to Bassnan and one for $10,000 to his wife.  In a further weird twist, the FBI confirmed that Bayoumi's wife attempted to deposit three of the checks from Princess Haifa to Bassnan's wife.
(Prince Bandar with President George HW Bush from the daily beast)

Bandar was a well known and well-respected fixture in America, appearing on many news shows, a friend to many politicians, including the Bush family, and seemed to have pro-Western views.  His mother was an Ethiopian slave and consort in a royal Saudi house.  Later acknowledged by his father, he became a fighter pilot and then received a Master's in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins.  From 2005 until his retirement last year, Bandar was secretary general of Saudi Arabia's National Security Council.

The revelations in the newly released pages raises several different possibilities about Bandar:
  • It may have been completely innocent; just part of the labyrinth of connections among Saudis
  • They may have been indirect payments to Bassnan for what Bandar thought were his services as a Saudi intelligence agent, including infiltrating Al Qaeda
  • Bassnan may have been a double agent actually working for Al Qaeda
  • Bandar may not have been what he seemed 
The ambiguity around all of the payments between individuals, beyond just those of Bandar, is  best summarized by the comments of an official whose name is still redacted in the 28 pages:
We've had a lot of suspicions before September 11 which we documented in a number of different papers, and again it's a lot of smoke and the issues that come up are who knows about the payments, on whose behalf are payments being made, are they being made on behalf of the central government or are they being made by a local official or a person.  Do the people who are making the payments know what's happening to the money?  If they do know what's happening, why are they making the payments?  Is it a form of blackmail?  Do they recognize the terrorist support?

 Part Two about other Saudi contacts with Al-Qaeda coming up . . . .

* I've been shocked at how many people described in the years following 9-11 as moderate Moslems turned out to be radicals who supported terrorism, were anti-American and anti-Semitic.  Even with that, I still have the capacity to be surprised.  During the recent Olympics, the U.S. press was filled with glowing stories about Ibtihag Muhammed, a female fencer, and the first American Olympian to wear a hijab.  None of that coverage mentioned that the keynote speaker at her major fundraiser in Newark was an iman who was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, a follower of the Blind Sheik who inspired the plot, and an advocate of death for homosexuals.  I did not believe this when first reading about it, but have since tracked down the online invitation for the event.

** The reference is to the "wall of separation", designed to keep U.S. intelligence gathering separate from law enforcement.  Although these efforts began in the 1980s, they were codified in the mid-90s by the #2 at the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, in a manner that, in her words ,“go beyond what is legally required,” in order to avoid “any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance” that the Justice Department was using Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, instead of ordinary criminal investigative procedures, in an effort to undermine the civil liberties of terrorism suspects. While Gorelick was not solely responsible for taking this position, it was her memo that set in motion a foreseeable series of events that ended up with the bureaucracy "covering its ass" by extending the reach of the memo even further.  

In 1997, after her stint at Justice, President Clinton appointed Gorelick as Vice-Chairman of Fannie Mae, the private/public mortgage finance corporation.  In 2003, Gorelick resigned after auditors discovered massive financial fraud at the company.  From 1998 through 2002 she received more than $26 million in compensation from Fannie Mae. 

Despite being involved in two of the largest public policy debacles of the past quarter-century, Ms Gorelick paid no price.  Upon leaving Fannie Mae, she became a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, one of the nation's largest law firms, a member of the Board of Directors at United Technologies and Schlumberger, and is currently a Board member at Amazon and VeriSign along with serving on the Government Advisory Board for Alcatel-Lucent.  She is also on the boards of the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In an astounding turn of events, Gorelick was installed on the 9-11 Commission by Senate Democrats, despite her involvement in the wall of separation!  She was one of two brilliant choices by the Democrats; the other being Richard Ben-Veniste, a former prosecutor, Democratic party hack and attack dog, who led the charge in making the commission a public assault on the Bush Administration.  Gorelick's role was to help deflect attention from the Clinton Administration's failures (both administrations had actions worth scrutinizing).  In one of the innumerable political failures of the Bush Administration it appointed nice, polite Republican moderates with a history of bipartisanship to the commission who, in deference to Gorelick's presence, decided the inquiry would not address events she had been involved with. How convenient.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Mukden Incident

On the evening of Sept 18, 1931, a small cache of dynamite exploded near a railroad line operated by Japan's South Manchuria Railway.  The explosion damaged a 5-foot stretch of one rail, but the damage was so limited that a train passed safely over the area shortly thereafter.  Japan's Kwantung army, based in Manchuria, announced that the dynamite had been planted by the Chinese.  It was a world-changing event.
(Japanese troops entering Manchurian city, from wikimedia)

The location of the explosion was near the Chinese city of Mukden (now known as Shenyang) in Manchuria, the home of the Manchu dynasty which had ruled the country from 1644 to 1912.  As the weakened China became the prey of Western powers and a resurgent Japan in the 19th century (which defeated China in a war during 1894-5 over control of Korea), Manchuria became the focus of ambition by the rapidly expanding Russian Empire and Japan.

Their competition led to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, which began with a surprise attack by Japan on the Russian Far East Fleet based at Port Arthur (now Dalian) in Manchuria.  Just as with the attack on Pearl Harbor 37 years later, the Japanese Declaration of War was delivered after the attack was underway.  The war was a humiliating defeat for Russia.  Japan received recognition that Korea was within its sphere of influence (and it annexed the country in 1910), took over the Port Arthur naval base and was ceded the authority to operate railroads throughout Manchuria.  As part of the settlement, Japan had a large and growing military presence in the province.

For Japan, World War One was a good war.  It joined the Allied side and ended up obtaining the previously German occupied Shantung peninsula in China, as well as several island chains in the central Pacific.  Following the war, the navy sought parity with the fleets of the United States and Britain, but was thwarted in its efforts.  Internally, the civilian governments lost political control of the country to the military factions which were increasingly determined to embark on accelerated expansion in Asia, with China as the prime target, and Manchuria as the first step. wikimedia)

The explosion on September 18, was set by the Japanese military, allegedly by Lt Suemori Kawamoto, to create a provocation to take over the province.  The specific origins of the plot remain murky.  It is known that elements in the Kwantung Army were plotting to create an incident that could be used to justify a complete takeover of Manchuria, but the extent to which the army's commander, military chiefs back in Tokyo and the civilian government were aware in advance remain a source of controversy. Honjo, commander, Kwantung Army)

The following day, the Kwantung Army attacked the Chinese garrison at Mukden and quickly seized the city.  By January 1932, all of Manchuria was under Japanese control.  China's Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-Shek, distracted by rebellions, including by the communists, and hampered by its poorly equipped and trained forces was ineffective in putting up resistance.

Relations between the United States and Japan also suffered.  On January 7, 1932 Secretary of State Henry Stimson issued the Stimson Doctrine under which the United States would not recognize any government established by the Japanese in Manchuria.  In March a defiant Japan established the puppet state of Manchukuo, with the last emperor of China, Puyi, as its head of state. withdraws from the League, from pinterest)

In late 1932, the League of Nations condemned Japan's actions, prompting Japan to resign from the League in March 1933.  Japan had begun its march to full scale war with China in 1937, the 1940 alliance with Germany and Italy and it's ill-fated decision to attack America.  It was also the start of 14 years of horror for the population of Manchuria under the brutal Japanese occupation, which extended to testing biological weapons on the local populace.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


The intellectual disaster of those who today are working ceaselessly to erase 2,000+ years of Western thought and reducing what is left to Comedy Central snark.  Read the subject line and then the comment.  From the DNC emails released by Wikileaks.

Wiki 1 copy

Friday, September 16, 2016

Game Of The Year Papi hugs Hanley Ramirez last night)

At least for Red Sox fans.

THC and the THC Son watched this unfold last night.  Red Sox down to the Yankees at Fenway 5-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning.  The Sox offense has been pitiful all night, with Tanaka pitching well for the Yanks. Then, Big Papi hits a 442 foot home run #537 into the centerfield bleachers, passing Mickey Mantle on the career list, and making it 5-2.

In the top of the 9th, Sox reliever Joe Kelly manages to load the bases and then retires the Yankees when he accidentally has his glove in the right position to catch a screaming line drive that looks like a sure single.

On to the bottom of the 9th.  Aaron Hill strikes out.  Chris Young is hit by a pitch and Joe Girardi brings the big gun, Dellin Betances, in to pitch.  Betances walks Pedroia and gets Xander Bogaerts to hit into a fielder's choice.  The Red Sox are down to their last out.  Big Papi strokes a single which plates Pedroia.  At that point, Ortiz has driven in all three Red Sox runs.

Mookie Betts then hits a single past a diving Didi Gregorius, driving in Bogaerts.  Hanley Ramirez, who's been on a tear for the past 20 games, steps to the plate and on a 3-1 count crushes one to the center field bleachers for a walk-off 7-5 Boston win!  Watch in the clip below as Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez flinches when Ramirez connects, something I've not seen before.
Watch the game highlights.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Book Store

When I was growing up book stores were a rarity outside of the big cities.  We relied on libraries which, back then, actually contained books and were not multi-media centers.  Towns like mine, with a population of about 70,000, usually contained one small store containing hard cover books, tucked away on a side street and run by a knowledgeable owner who made you feel like a member of a special cult when you entered the store.
(Sherman's Book Store, Bar Harbor, Maine)

My favorite thing to do, both in libraries and book stores, was to browse, searching for titles previously unknown to me, that seemed intriguing and worth closer inspection. Fortunately, I had another option.  My father and uncle operated a large variety store in a neighboring town, selling newspapers, magazines, toys, candy, greeting cards, wrapping paper, records, household items and some clothing.  The store also contained two or three racks of inexpensive paperback books. I devoured the science fiction I found there - books by Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Clifford Simak, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clark, Ray Bradbury, AE van Vogt, along with  "one-hit wonders" like A Canticle For Liebowitz by Walter Miller. (from bookfever)

(from amazon)

Since those days much has changed.  The 1980s and early 1990s saw the rise of bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble, Borders and Walden.  They brought large inventories of books to the smaller cities and suburbs, often at better prices than the old book stores.  The availability and ease of going to these stores and the enjoyment of browsing along with often having a coffee shop to sit down and read at, was all terrific for readers.  The downside was the devastation it brought to the small, independent stores.  While some have survived and prospered, many have gone out of business.

In the last few years it has been the turn of the big chains to be destroyed, primarily by Amazon.  Borders and Walden are out of business and the remaining Barnes & Noble stores have reduced their book inventories by half, filling the empty space with music and nick-knacks.  Amazon has been a boon for the reader; you can find anything you are looking for, usually at a reasonable price, and have it delivered.  The problem for the browser is that Amazon is most effective when you already know what you want.  Even its algorithms for suggesting books you might be interested in has limited viability for the dedicated browser.

The Atlantic recently carried an article, A Golden Age of Books?, by Alexis Madrigal, reminding us that these changes were not the first in the bookselling industry.  Madrigal's article is about Kenneth C Davis' 1984 book Two Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, which is about:
"the Paperback Revolution" that "enabled American writers to find American readers by the millions" among the "Paperback Generation." Mass-market paperbacks, we're told, "made an enormous contribution to our social, cultural, educational, and literary life." 
I can certainly attest to my own experience as a youngster.  You could buy a paperback for 35, 50, 75 or 95 cents, rather than the much more expensive hard cover books.  They were smaller and easier to carry.

But what really caught Madrigal's attention was this description of the book selling world of America in 1931, before the paperback avalanche:
"In the entire country, there were only some four thousand places where a book could be purchased, and most of these were gift shops and stationary stores that carried only a few popular novels," Davis writes. "In reality, there were but five hundred or so legitimate bookstores that warranted regular visits from publishers' salesmen (and in 1931 they were all men). Of these five hundred, most were refined, old-fashioned 'carriage trade' stores catering to an elite clientele in the nation's twelve largest cities."
Two thirds of American counties had no bookstores.  Most of America was literate but was not reading books, though newspapers had huge circulation.  For those interested in the latest in novels or non-fiction and living outside the major cities, they had to resort to the same means as George Washington did when he built his book collection in the second half of the 18th century - hear from friends and acquaintances about books, in person or by letter, or via newspaper and then order them for delivery.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Miss Otis Regrets

Miss Otis regrets
She's unable to lunch today
A very odd little song.  Composed by Cole Porter in 1934; this version, by Ella Fitzgerald, is from the 1950s.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


500,000 people were evacuated from lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 in an improvised boat lift.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Share The Wealth

If this guy had been running in 2016, he'd have gotten the Democratic nomination.  Apart from the odd arm gestures, he blows away Bernie Sanders in the demagogue category and even the manipulations of the Clintons and the DNC would not have stopped him.  Give it a listen.

Huey Long was governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932, and then became U.S. Senator.  His Share The Wealth platform was thought by many, including FDR, to be the foundation for a challenge to the President's renomination in 1936 (Long initially supported FDR, but broke with him in late 1933, saying, "Whenever this administration has gone to the left I have voted with it, and whenever it has gone to the right I have voted against it.".  The video below carries the legend, December 11, 1935 but it is incorrect.  By that time Long was dead, gunned down in the Louisiana state capitol in September 1935, by the son-in-law of a political opponent, though it is also possible the mortal wound may have come from his own bodyguards who may have hit him while they shot down the assassin in a hail of bullets.  This excerpt is from a December 1934 speech.

Huey is one of the most astonishing, compelling, and repellent characters in American political history.  Brilliant, a spellbinding orator, corrupt, ruthless and lawless, it's incredible what he got away with, once remarking "A perfect democracy can come close to looking like a dictatorship, a democracy in which the people are so satisfied they have no complaint".  His antics inspired Robert Penn Warren to write one of the greatest American novels, All The King's Men.

Friday, September 9, 2016

I Feel Stupid & Contagious

I first heard it on my car radio. The musical landscape was grim at the time.  A solo guitar, then the pounding drums crashing in along with the full bore electric guitar assault, which then subsided into a subtle guitar and bass line. Who is this?  What is this?  This is incredible, this is exciting, whatever it is!  All I felt was a sensation starting in my spine and moving up into my brain.  It was only a few days later when I saw the video and found out who'd done the song and its title (FM radio was too cool to reveal those essentials).

Smells Like Teen Spirit was released 25 years ago tomorrow, placing it on the midpoint between the release of Revolver by The Beatles and today.  Nevermind, the Nirvana album containing the song was released two weeks later.

It's still a great song; it gets the same reaction from me it did all those years ago.  Nirvana was a talented band.  Kurt Cobain could actually compose melodies and the group had a sense of sound dynamics so they weren't always just bashing away.  But it was still difficult to listen to a lot of their music at one time - Kurt was also a sick puppy, and it was just too depressing except in small doses.

Anyway, here's Smells Like Teen Spirit, followed by an outstanding cover by The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain (on which you can actually understand the lyrics).  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Got My Vote

Finally, a candidate I can get behind.

And how about this ad for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, featuring Christopher Waltz?  How come I can't imagine an American tech company like Google, Apple or Amazon making this?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Hottest Streak?

As any regular reader of THC knows, we are a bit obsessed with hot streaks by major league baseball teams and players so we did a little research to try and find the hottest sustained individual batting performance.

A hot streak is different than a hitting streak.  During Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak he batted only .408.  THC is looking for absolute barrages of hits over a period of at least 20 games.* Sisler)

We took a look at some seasons when great hitters hit for very high averages and it was while researching George Sisler's 1920 and 1922 seasons that we found what we were looking for.  In 1922, the St Louis Browns star, hit .420, while batting .407 in 1920.

Although he averaged over .400 both years, Sisler's hitting pattern was different.  In 1922, his average was relatively consistent throughout the season, with no big slumps or hot streaks (although hitting .420 might itself be considered a year long hot streak).  He even had a 41 game hitting streak that season, during which he hit only .355.  Things were different in 1920 with Sisler batting .474 at home, compared to .341 on the road, indicating he must have had some real hot streaks (in 1922, George's home/road differential was only .052).  The Browns star went hitless in only 8 of 78 home games, failing to get a hit only once in his last 40 games at friendly Sportsman's Park.

Sure enough, that's what we found.  In fact, George had two torrential downpours of hits during 1920.  The first stretched over 27 games from May 31 (starting in the second game of a doubleheader) through June 28, in which Sisler hit .565! **  Here's the breakdown:

G        27
AB    108
H        61
2B      10
3B       3
HR      4
RBI    27
BB     11
SO       0
BA    .565
OBP  .597
SLG  .824
OPS   1.423
NOTES:  23 of 27 games at home.  Did not strike out in 119 plate appearances. Had four 4-hit games and nine 3-hit games, averaging over 2 hits a game, and went hitless on three occasions.  Liked hitting against Sox, averaging .667 (8 for 12) against the White Sox and .632 against the Red Sox (12 for 19).  Batting average was .333 at start and .434 at end.
Sisler wasn't done yet as he ended the season with a 25 game burst during which he hit .486:

G       25
AB   109
H       53
2B       9
3B       7
HR      3
RBI    29
BB     12
SO       4
BA    .486
OBP  .537
SLG  .753
OPS   1.290
NOTES: 22 of 25 games at home, batting .500 in the home games.  One 4-hit game, ten 3-hit games and held hitless twice. Averaged more than two hits a game.  Average was .391 at beginning of streak and .407 at end.
Sisler's 257 hits in 1920 set a record that remained unbroken until Ichiro Suzuki's 262 in 2004***.  In the 54 games of his two streaks, George accumulated 114 hits, batting .525.  In his remaining 110 games he had 143 hits, with a .346 average. gets his 261st hit)

George Sisler was also considered a top-notch fielder at first base and a good baserunner, leading the league three times in stolen bases (1918, 21 and 22).  He was the 10th player elected to the Hall of Fame, with a lifetime BA of .340, but might very well have had an even greater career.  Following the 1922 season, a sinus infection caused him severe eye problems and he missed the entire 1923 season.  Upon his return in 1924, he was good, but not great, retiring after the 1930 season.  As of the end of the 1922 season, he was 29 years old, averaging 240 hits a year, with a .400 average over the prior three seasons, and career average of .361.  In the high offense context of the 1920s and early 1930s, it's very possible he would have ended up with a final career average in the .355-.360 range and over 3,500 hits.

* For a shorter hot streak, how about this one from Rogers Hornsby's 1924 season with the St Louis Cardinals, in which he went 34-for-51 (.667), over 14 games from August 20 through 29? The streak may have been stopped by what looks like an injury in the August 29 game, as Hornsby only had two plate appearances and then did not play again until September 7.  He also put on quite a power display during those 14 games, whacking 10 doubles, a triple and 6 home runs - 64 total bases! While looking at Hornsby's season (he hit .424), I also saw what can happen when a batter and pitcher meet at the peak of their careers.  In the game prior to Rogers streak, he'd whiffed twice, one of only three occasions on which that happened all season.  In fact, Hornsby fanned only 32 times in 642 PAs.  But he struck out three times in one game on June 14 against the Brooklyn Robins.  The box score revealed the pitcher was Dazzy Vance, who went 28-6 with 262 K's that year (twice as many as the next highest total in the league).  In 1924, Dazzy went 4-0 against the Cards, and in three of the games, Hornsby only gathered 2 hits (both singles) and struck out five times in 14 at bats facing Vance.  It was probably even worse.  One of the victories was a 4-inning relief stint, in which Dazzy gave up only one hit and fanned six, before picking up the win in the 12th.  There is no play by play available, but he might have rung Hornsby up at least once more.  Vance may have always given Rogers trouble.  Though we don't have full pitcher/batter matchup information prior to 1930, from 1930-37 Hornsby went only 1-for-10 against Dazzy.  For more on Dazzy's career, read Dazzy Koufax.

** A Note on Methodology.  Searches for highest batting average over X games cannot be done on Baseball-Reference.  You can do a search to find the highest batting averages during hitting streaks, but, as I found with Sisler and others, these high average spurts over long periods always had one or more hitless games.  What I did, however, was run the hitting streak data on BR, and then looked before and after the start of each streak to see if I could find a cumulative average exceeding Sisler's and did not.  I also randomly looked at high average seasons by many great players (limiting my search to seasons since 1900).  My conclusion is therefore only tentative.  And I'm sure someone has done more exhaustive research on this topic.

My methodology does not take into account season and park context.  Sisler's barrage occurred in the very high offense context of the 1920s.  Was his .565 in 27 games better than Ichiro's .514 in 32 games in 2004 (for more, see below), or George Brett's .500 over 28 games in 1980, when he hit .390 for the season (and .432 over his final 85 games)?

*** During his record-setting 2004 season, Ichiro went on a 32 game rampage from July 19 through August 21 during which he batted .514 with 76 hits, raising his average from .319 to .372.  Nine 3-hit games, four 4-hit games and two games with 5 hits.

Friday, September 2, 2016

End Of Summer

This perfectly captures how THC felt as a kid.  When he worked he felt that way year round.

Calvin and Hobbes

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Miserable Men In Shopping Hell

Been there myself. 

I was alerted by Not Meh, that instagram user @miserable_men, posts photos of miserable men trapped in shopping malls as their girlfriends and wives shop.  Here's a sampling.

Thank God for Amazon and other online shopping outlets!