Monday, October 31, 2016

The Chinaman Is Not The Issue

"Also, Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature, Asian-American, please."

The key scene from The Big Lebowski, which sets up the entire rest of the movie.  Watch The Dude, Walter and Donnie decide to seek redress for the Dude's peed upon rug (after all, it tied the room together).  As a bonus, the beginning of the clip features a song by a recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Before I'm done, faithful readers will have watched the entire movie in snippets.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Explaining The Holy Roman Empire

Well, I sure can't, but it lasted from the 10th century until 1806 so glad someone can.  And it's entertaining along the way.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Life Of St Severinus Edition of Life of St Severinus)

The Roman Empire in the West did not end with a sudden bang in 476 AD, when the last emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed and pensioned off to a villa near Naples.  Instead, it withered away, sometimes with convulsive fits and starts, over the entire fifth century.  In some instances by direct conquest, as with the Vandal assault on Africa (modern-day Tunisia), while in others it was the slow disappearance of the emblems of the state, the withdrawal of soldiers, or the end for maintaining roads and aqueducts, the hallmarks of Roman civilization.

Our knowledge of what it was like for the inhabitants of Roman provinces is limited but one source I've run across in several recent books is the Life of St Severinus (Vita Sancti Severini), which provides us with glimpses of the slow collapse of the Roman way of life in the remote frontier province of Noricum along the Danube River in modern-day Austria.  I recently read a translation of the full original text.
The biography of St Severinus was written by the priest Eugippius, a follower of the saint, towards the beginning of the 6th century.  It is in the form of a draft, accompanied by a letter sent in 511 by Eugippius to the Deacon Paschasius seeking editorial assistance which, in those times, meant adorning the account with flowery classical rhetoric:
The testimonies concerning his marvellous life accompany this letter, arranged as a memoir, with a table of chapters prefixed.  Grant my request, and let them gain greater fame through thy editorial care.  It remains to ask that thou cease not to associate thy prayers with his for the pardon of my sins.
At the end of the memoir, is attached Paschasius' response, declining the request:
Thou hast sent me a memoir to which the eloquence of the trained writer can add nothing, and in a short compendium hast produced a work which the whole church can read.
Let's take a look at what we can learn about life in Noricum from the work of Eugippius and then discuss the historical setting in which Vita Severini was written.


The lands between the northern Alps and the Danube River were incorporated into the Roman Empire in 16 BC, during the reign of Augustus.  Along the Danube, the province boundaries ran from a few miles west of Vienna to a point just across the current German/Austrian border at Passau. Though the province supplied minerals, including iron and gold, it primarily served as a communications, military and trade route, connecting more prosperous provinces, like Pannonia, further downstream on the Danube, with the headwaters of the Rhine and Rome's German and Gaulish provinces to the west, as well as being situated along the Amber Road running from Italy to the Baltic.

For much of its first two centuries in the Empire, Noricum was a quiet backwater, with only auxiliary military units stationed there.  It was only with the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-80) and the outbreak of the Marcommanic War that a Roman legion was stationed in Noricum.  Though Noricum remained more peaceful than Pannonia and the Balkan provinces to its east, the province's prosperity waned over the course of the 3rd and 4th centuries.  Worse was to come.
(from The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, Ward-Perkins)

While much of the Western Empire wrestled with the Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians and other tribes (see Adrianople for more), it was in the 430s that swarms of Hunnish horsemen under Attila entered central Europe and crossed the Danube, making Pannonia their home and raiding adjacent provinces.  After invading Gaul in 451 and Italy the following year, Attila suddenly died in 453, triggering chaos in his realm, a revolt of subject tribes, and the defeat of his sons two years later.  It is at this point that Severinus enters the picture in Noricum, or as Eugippius tells us:
At the time of the death of Attila, king of the Huns, confusion reigned in the two Pannonias and the other borderlands of the Danube.  Then Severinus, most holy servant of God, came from the parts of the East to the marches of Riverside Noricum and the Pannonias . . . 
Although his birth date is traditionally given as 410, we know little of his life before his appearanceon the Danube.  Telling us he "came from the parts of the East", the letter accompanying the memoir informs Pachasius:
It may perhaps be asked, and with justice, from what country Severinus sprang . . . I confess I have no clear evidence.  For many priests and clerics, and lords temporal and spiritual, natives of the country or drawn together to him from afar, often debated the nationality of this man of such great and resplendent virtue.  And they were at a lost, but no one ventured to question him directly.
Eugippius adds, "Yet his speech revealed a man of purest Latin stock; and it is understood that he first departed into some desert place of the East because of his fervid desire for a more perfect life", but left to come to Noricum after a divine revelation.

Modern scholarship believes Severinus was of southern Italian or Sicilian origin and spent time in the Roman East (Syria or Egypt) as a monk or hermit, possibly as an adherent of cenobitic monasticism (see Gometz, 2008).

When he came to Noricum, Severinus found a land "harassed by frequent incursions of the barbarians".  The townspeople were still Roman, but on both sides of the Danube barbarians roamed through the countryside, and anyone was in danger once beyond town walls.  We hear of many tribes in the Vita, some wandering through, some settling in the area; Rugi, Alemanni, Heruli, Goths, Thoringi. The Vita contains a long litany of their depredations.  Some examples:
"barbarian robbers made an unexpected plundering incursion, and led away captive all the men and cattle they found without the walls"

"the constant incursions of the Alamanni"

"a few barbarians attacked the town of Batavis . . . put to death forty men of the town"

"the Heruli made a sudden, unexpected onslaught, sacked the town, and led most of the people into captivity"

"a vast multitude of Alamanni, minions of Death, laid everything waste"
The new arrival had no official position in the church hierarchy - the Roman inhabitants were already Christian and many of the barbarians Arian Catholics, but the force of his personality, devotion, and personal sacrifice, made a memorable impact:
He subdued his flesh by innumerable fasts, teaching that the body, if nourished with too abundant food, will straightway bring destruction upon the soul.  He wore no shoes whatever.  So at midwinter, which in those regions is a time of cruel, numbing cold, he gave a remarkable proof of endurance by always being willing to walk barefoot . . . Thus we taught men humility by his wondrous example.
A demonstrated ability to negotiate and work with the barbarians while providing practical advice to the Romans, bestowed upon Severinus an authority he would exercise for many years.  As James J O'Donnell writes in The Ruin Of The Roman Empire:
In this world of fading power, Severinus became the new figure of authority - an authority that earthly disasters could not undermine.  He encouraged people and they were cured; he chastised people and they changed their ways; he knew things at a distance and people were in awe.
Although the Vita is intended as a compilation of saintly deeds and provides no strict chronological accounting, a picture emerges of life in Noricum.

Amidst cold and snow (Europe entered a cooling period in the 4th century), privation and insecurity, the Romanized urban population tried to maintain itself.  Trade and import of goods from Italy and distant provinces had virtually ceased and there is no mention of any functional Roman administration in the province.  The legions are long gone, with only one town, Batavis (Passau, Germany) still having an army garrison of any type.  Eugippius tells of the sad demise of this unit:
So long as the Roman dominion lasted, soldiers were maintained in many towns at the public expense to guard the boundary wall [frontier].  When this custom ceased, the squadrons of soldiers and the boundary wall were blotted out together.  The troops at Batavis, however, held out.  Some soldiers of this troop had gone to Italy to [Ravenna] fetch the final pay to their comrades, and no one knew that the barbarians had slain them on the way.
The townspeople only discovered what happened when the bodies of the dead soldiers floated down the river.  With no more pay coming, the surviving members of the garrison disbanded.
(Roman era relief found in Lauriacum)

Along with the workings of miracles and preaching, the account presents Severinus as constantly working to maintain the peace between the dwindling Roman population and the barbarian tribes amidst continuous tensions and occasional outbreaks of violence.  He negotiates the return of hostages from raiders and advises the towns on the strategies they need to employ to survive.  To help address the growing impoverishment of the populace he institutes a system of tithing to provide for the needy.

He also managed to become a trusted advisor to some of the tribes, particularly the Rugi, the strongest and most settled in the area.  Asked to intervene in quarrels with the towns and among the ruling families, he remained a figure respected by all.  Eugippius recounts one such example:
The King of the Rugi, Flaccitheus, felt unsafe in his power at the very beginning of his reign because the Goths from Lower Pannonia were violently hostile to him, and he was alarmed by their huge numbers.  In this dangerous situation, he consulted the blessed Severinus as a divine oracle . . .
He was not only a man of peace.  After the people of Quintanis fled their town for Batavis because of constant Alemanni attacks, the barbarians followed them.  Severinus encouraged the Romans to resist, predicting victory:
Therefore, the Romans in a body, strengthened by the prediction of the saint, and in the  hope of the promised victory, drew up against the Alemanni in order of battle, fortified less with material arms than by the prayers of the saint.  The Alemanni were overthrown in the conflict and fled.
The notion of a religious figure like Severinus as an inspirational war leader was not an aberration in those times.  In 429 St Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre in Gaul led a delegation to Britain.  The Romano-British had thrown out the last Roman officials in 410 but tried to maintain a Roman cultural life in the absence of a imperial governing structure and taxation system.  The purpose of the visit was to combat the Pelagian heresy, a Christian variant at odds with the teachings of the Roman Church.  After defeating the Pelagian leader in a debate, Germanus was asked to lead the local inhabitants in a campaign against raiding Picts and Scots, which he accomplished, vanquishing the foes.

But even after the victory of Severinus, the saint provided the local inhabitants with sober, practical, advice:
"Children, do not attribute the glory of the present conflict to your own strength.  Know that ye are now set free through the protection of God to the end that ye may depart hence within a little space of time, granted you as a kind of armistice.  So gather together and go down with me to the town of Lauriacum".
And so it went over the years, as one by one the towns of Noricum fell to the barbarians, until only Lauriacum (Lorch, Austria) was left.  In one of his final acts, Severinus negotiated the surrender of that town to the Rugi king under terms that allowed its inhabitants to be "amicably established in the towns, and live in friendly alliance with the Rugi".

Severinus may have been in his early seventies when he died on January 8, 482, near Lauriacum.  Eugippius reports his last words as "Praise ye the Lord in his sanctuary; let everything that hath breath praise the Lord".  Disinterred six years later, his body was brought by his followers, probably including Eugippius,  accompanied by much of the remaining Roman population of Noricum, over the Alps and into Italy.  Sometime between 492 and 496, the saint's remains found a permanent home near Naples.

The Time Of Eugippius

Eugippius is thought to have been born around 460 and died circa 535. He wrote amidst the last flickering of classical civilization. Theodoric the Great (an Ostrogoth) ruled Italy, but still followed many of the forms of Roman law and culture.  Boethius, Theodoric's magister officiorum until executed in 524, authored the Consolation of Philosophy and his successor, Cassiodorus, oversaw the copying of many of the classical manuscripts for whose existence today we can give our thanks. Rome's populations was much smaller than at its peak, but the palaces and monuments still existed, though not as well maintained as in the past.  The Roman Senate and its membership of wealthy landowners had survived the formal end of empire with minimal disruption.

At the time he wrote Vita Sancti Severini, Eugippius was abbot of the Castellum Lucullanum monastery near Naples, dedicated to the memory of the entombed saint.

(Modern view of the area of the Castellum Lucullanum)

All this ended shortly after Eugippius' death with the outbreak of the long Gothic Wars and, by century's end, the last remnants of classical world had disappeared (for more on this transition read Belisarius Enters Rome), and by the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) we have entered a different land.

The remains of St Severinus remained at Castellum Lucullanum until 904, when they were removed to protect them from Saracen raiders from Sicily (for more on this period of history see The Song of Jan Sobieski).  They were returned several centuries later.

We look back today on these events with the full knowledge of what was to come, as well as an appreciation of what the Roman world was like at its peak  What was it like for those who lived through these disturbing and unpredictable times? 

Vita Sancti Severini, Eugippius (511)
The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, Bryan Ward-Perkins (2005)
The Reach of Rome, Derek Williams (1996)
The Inheritance of Rome, Chris Wickham (2009)
The Fall of the Roman Empire, Peter Heather (2006)
The Ruin of the Roman Empire, James J O'Donnell (2008) 
Eugippius of Lucullanum: A Biography, Abigail Kathleen Gometz, Doctoral Thesis, University of Leeds, Institute for Medieval Studies (2008)
Eugippius and the Closing Years of the Province of Noricum Ripense, Charles Christopher Mierow (1915) 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Time For Choosing

It was the fall of 1964 and I'd ridden my bike the mile from home to the hamburger stand in Broad River.  I remember it one of those beautiful late fall afternoons, when the low humidity and absence of wind makes everything look startling clear, but it's not yet stinging cold.  The burger stand was in a small wooden building.  There was a counter with a grill behind it.  You stood at the counter to order.  There was also a counter opposite where you could sit and eat.  No tables.  The entire open area couldn't have been bigger than 80 square feet, and might have been quite a bit smaller.  I think they served burgers, dogs, fries, soda and yoo-hoo and that was it.   The owner's first name was Hy.  My parents were friendly with him and we were frequent customers.  He was also the only non-Democrat adult I remember knowing at that time.  I think I knew he was one of those strange "conservative" creatures.

We were in the midst of the LBJ - Goldwater presidential campaign.  Like my parents, I was all in for LBJ - not that I could vote - I was only 13.  When I walked in to order, there were no other customers in the place, but someone was talking on the radio that Hy usually had playing.  Hy said to me, "you need to listen to this".  So I did.  The speaker was compelling.  It was something about his voice and cadence.  The words and images were vivid and strong.  It was all very different from what I was used to hearing.  At times the speaker sounded almost biblical, at other moments strident and a bit scary.  I didn't know quite what to make of it, though I knew enough to know I shouldn't approve of it.  I didn't, but it made a lasting impression on me.  I couldn't stop listening and remained until the end. Hy told me the speaker was Ronald Reagan. Years later, I realized it was the Time For Choosing speech that he gave on October 27, 1964 which launched his political career, leading to his election as governor of California in 1966.

This 2014 article from the Washington Post by Steven Hayward explains the significance of the speech.  Here's Hayward's opening:
There are perhaps four speeches in American history that so electrified the public that they propelled their orators to the front rank of presidential politics overnight: Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address of 1860, William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech at the 1896 Democratic convention, Barack Obama’s keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention and Ronald Reagan’s "A Time For Choosing“ speech 50 years ago.
I don't remember hearing Ronald Reagan speak again until the mid-1970s when I was commuting back and forth from a house in Maynard, Massachusetts to job in Worcester.  It was about a 45 minute drive so had plenty of time to listen to the radio.  Reagan had completed his second term as governor and had a 5-minute radio spot in the late afternoon or early evening in which he gave his views on issues of the day.  I was still a committed Democrat, voting for McGovern in '72 and Carter in '76, but I liked listening to Reagan.  His style was more avuncular than in A Time For Choosing, and his voice was so relaxing and pleasant.  I often found myself nodding in at least partial agreement with his points (I later discovered he wrote every one of those pieces).  He remains my favorite President during my lifetime.

A Nice Moment

From the Cubs-Dodgers playoff series.  In his prior at bat, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had gotten angry with umpire Angel Hernandez over a called strike.Rizzo ball four  Here's what happened next time Rizzo came to the plate:

Rizzo:   "My fault on that, my fault on that, sorry"
Hernandez: "Your fault for what, brother? Come on, you're good, bro. You're awesome with us. No, no worries. You're competing. I understand. Don't worry. You know what's best of it? You come back and tell me that. That's how good of a guy you are; ya kidding me?"

This was Rizzo's comment when asked about the incident after the game:
"Yeah, well, the umpires, all of the umpires they're out here at the highest level doing their best, and we're competing at our best and they're competing. So on a pitch that I disagreed with and to think it was a ball and then him call a strike, I don't like showing up the umpires. They're out here working their tails off 162 like we are. There is no home for them. They're on the road the entire season. So just to let him know that, hey, my fault there. I probably should have waited a little longer to not just assume it was a ball. That's just the way I am. They're working as hard as we're working, and it's just different perspectives."

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Your Media At Work

Here are Norah O'Donnell, Charlie Rose and Gayle King putting on their shocked faces over the huge hikes in Obamacare premiums.  So invested in protecting Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they pretend this is unexpected and unprecedented, ignore that Obamacare opponents predicted this in 2010, and the reasons behind it are a mystery.  We get the media we deserve.

On the other hand, Charlie Rose may have been playing it a bit coy here.  Below is Charlie in May 2016 on his PBS show, sharing a laugh with Obama's young speechwriters about the big joke they played with the "if you like your insurance, you can keep it" line - the big lie used to help pass Obamacare.  Glad they find it funny.  The millions who lost their coverage didn't.

Remember - this is the 21st century's signature domestic policy initiative of the Democratic party.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britain

The UOOGB began performing in the 1980s but it was only with the 20th century that it saw its popularity peak.  We've featured their funny takes on music a couple of times before (see, The Truth About the Davey Safety Lamp in which they play Shaft, and Smells Like Teen Spirit).  Even when their version start out sounding fairly normal, they eventually add a unique take. Here are some more favorites:

Theme From The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Sex Pistols' Anarchy In The U.K.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? from The Clash

David Bowie's Life On Mars (with bits of My Way, For Once In My Life, Substitute and Born Free thrown in the mix)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Does The Shoe Fit?

 (Shoes from

Favorable soil conditions along Hadrian's Wall in northern England which preserved artifacts of the Roman occupation from the first through fourth centuries AD have led to some remarkable findings, including of personal letters written by Roman army officers.

This summer's excavations at the Roman fort of Vindolanda uncovered 421 shoes from the Roman era, which leads to the question, who ended up with the last shoe in the 211th pair?  The condition of the shoes is quite astounding and includes baby boots, children's shoes, ladies and men's boots, bath clogs and indoor and outdoor footwear, some of them quite stylish.
Family footwear find shows new side to Roman military(from

The fort at Vindolanda from realm of history.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Headline You Might Have Missed

From David Deeble:

"Vegas Oddsmakers Give America Little Chance Of Winning Election"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Message In A Bottle

This popped up in my iPod Shuffle today.  What a perfect piece of pop music by The Police from 1979.  The lyrics are not what makes it work for me.  It's the blend of melodic hooks and the musical interplay between Sting (bass), Stewart Copeland (drums) and Andy Summers (guitar).  Pay close attention to the musical structure, particularly the rhythmic patterns and accents by Summers, the changing drum patterns, and how the bass twists itself around the guitar.  And ignore watching the stupid video; just listen.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dream Bigger Dreams

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
(Image from Astronomy Picture of Day)

Scientists have announced that the universe contains about two trillion galaxies, more than ten times the number previously estimated.

According to Scientific American, improvements made in 2009 to the Hubble Deep Field telescope enabled scientists to count galaxies as far as 13 billion light years away.  Researchers can still only directly observe about 10% of the galaxies but in two years, when the new James Webb Space Telescope is launched they will be able to peer much further back in time.

There is a caveat, however.  Because these observations are looks back in time, the current number of galaxies is considerably less than two trillion, because many will have merged into larger galaxy clusters over the billions of years.

It's a big place, isn't it?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

At The Car Show

Spent a nice fall afternoon with my buddy GB at the Orange Car Show, held each year at the town fairgrounds.  About 100 vehicles - muscle cars, sports cars, old cars - to look at.  I tend to like the older cars from the 30s, 40s and 50s (Ford, Chevy, Mercury; Dodge, Nash);  some of the original dashboards are works of art.  There was even an original 1910 Ford.

Here's a 1954 Nash station wagon (a two-door!).
1958 Bonneville:

1910 Ford

Some others:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is Dean Baquet Dumb?

I'm serious.  Dean Baquet is the editor of the New York Times.  I've often been critical of the Times because of the paper's bias, as well as the general incompetence and credulous nature of its reporters.   But I've just read an interview with Baquet by Ken Doctor of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard that's left me wondering if Baquet is ignorant or whether he just lives in a bubble where people say the same nonsense to each other over and over again until it becomes accepted as the truth.  I was alerted to the interview by an article at Powerline but found their summary so startling that I was unwilling to accept it as accurate until reading the interview myself.

("Stop me if you've heard this before", Dean Baquet from Nieman Lab

Two factual assertions Baquet references in the course of the interview raise the question of how smart he actually is.  The first is this comment:
The dirty secret of news organizations — and I think this is part of a story of what happened with Bush and the Iraq war — [is that] newspaper reporters and newspapers describe the world we live in. We really can be a little bit patriotic without knowing it. We actually tend to believe what politicians tell us — which is a flaw, by the way. I’m not saying that with pride. The lesson of the Iraq war, which I think started us down this track, was that I don’t think people really believed that the administration would actually lie about the WMDs, or that they would say the stuff so forcefully.
Who really believed that Colin Powell would get up in front of the United Nations, a guy who was known for integrity? I think that was a shock to the system.
Ah, the old Bush lied gambit!  Except we now know that is not true, as every investigation, even by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, concluded President Bush did not lie about the intelligence.  The question of lying is separate and distinct from whether Bush's decision on going to war was correct and about the competency of his plans for its conduct and the aftermath.  On those issues, I think him a failure and he deserves plenty of blame, though also some credit for ultimately deciding to proceed with the Surge, which President Obama cited in 2011 for bringing the security and stability to Iraq that enabled him to withdraw American forces.  What Baquet repeats is simply a Progressive talking point without a shred of actual factual support.  It's a myth.  This is from a journalist?

Here's some analysis by some other political leaders who had access to the same intelligence:

And remember Joe Wilson, of the "missing 16 words" and Valerie Plame fame, who became a Democratic hero for claiming the Bush Administration lied about Saddam's pursuit of nuclear weapons (the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Wilson was the one lying)?  Less well known is that Wilson gave a talk in 2002, opposing the planned invasion, in part on the grounds that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons that would inflict enormous casualties on American soldiers (Al Gore took the same position).  I guess everyone lied.

The second is this passage:
I was either editor or managing editor of the L.A. Times during the Swift Boat Incident.  Newspapers did not know — we did not quite know how to do it. I remember struggling with the reporter,  Jim Rainey, who covers the media now, trying to get him to write the paragraph that laid out why the Swift Boat allegation was false…We didn’t know how to write the paragraph that said, “This is just false.”
For those of you who may not remember, the "Swift Boat Incident" or Swiftboating as Democrats liked to call it, was in their version the slandering of Presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam War record during the 2004 campaign.  If you notice, Baquet refers to its as an "allegation".  In the preferred liberal summary, the Incident was about mischaracterization of Kerry's record as a Swiftboat commander during the war and the awarding of his combat medals.  In reality, the television ads by Swift Boat Veterans For Truth focused primarily on Kerry's alleged treasonous actions in carrying out secret negotiations with the communist government of North Vietnam and in denouncing his fellow soldiers for atrocities in front of the U.S. Congress, a denunciation used by the communists as justification for torturing American POWs.  All of this is completely true.

A secondary theme was an attack on Kerry's claim, made on the floor of the Senate, that he spent Christmas on his Swift Boat in Cambodia, in what would have been an illegal incursion at the time, a demonstrably false claim.  The final claim was that his actions in combat were not deserving of his medals and that he had manipulated the system to obtain them.  This claim is controversial and the only one of by the Veteran's group which may not be accurate (unfortunately the Wikipedia entry on this topic focuses almost exclusively on this last point and is very one-sided).

When YouTube first became available several years ago, I went back and found the original Swiftboat ads.  Unfortunately, they are not all still available but my fragmentary notes indicate that six of them focused on Kerry's post service actions - negotiating with the enemy, his Congressional testimony and throwing the ribbons from his medals away in a protest.  Two others and part of a third dealt with his Christmas in Cambodia fabrication and one part of one raised the question of the validity of his medals.  I view all except the last as fair game.  Here are the ads that I have been able to relocate here, here, here, here, here and here.

The Swift Boat Veterans were a coalition of two groups.  The first were POWs, held in North Vietnam under brutal conditions, who deeply resented John Kerry's support for the enemy.  The second were members of the Swift Boat unit who had served with, before or after Kerry.  The leader of the second group was John E O'Neill, who had debated Kerry on the Vietnam War back in 1971 on the Dick Cavett show.  I happened to see O'Neill on C-Span during the 2004 campaign.  In response to a question he referred to President Bush as "an empty suit".  This was always about John Kerry, not Bush.

By mischaracterizing the substance of the Swiftboat attacks and turning them into merely a dirty political tactic, Democrats and their media accomplices sought to avoid dealing with the substance raised by the ads; Kerry's statements after his service disparaging the U.S and his fellow servicemen and the question of why so many people disliked the man.  I was still reading the Times back then and the Swift Boat ads were out there for weeks before it wrote a word about them.  It was as if it was awaiting instructions from the Kerry campaign about what to do.  Finally, the Kerry campaign responded and the Times printed a front page story but as it was mostly an attack by Kerry without a full explanation of what the controversy was about it must have been very baffling for most readers.  In any event, Baquet appears to have fallen for this hook, line and sinker.

Strangely enough, during the 2004 campaign there was an incident that really was what Democrats call Swifboating; the attempted smear of George W Bush by 60 Minutes and Dan Rather over his service in the Texas Air National Guard (TANG) during the Vietnam War.  You want to know how bad TANG was?  Let's do a thought experiment.
Brett Hume at Fox News reports a story a few weeks before the 2004 election, claiming John Kerry got his Vietnam War medals under false pretenses as a way to get sent home early from the war and avoid further combat because he was a coward.

Hume's main source for the story is a Republican politician in Massachusetts who is also a Vice-Chair for the Bush reelection committee, a fact not disclosed in the story.

The politician's daughter has denounced his story about Kerry as a lie, but this does not appear in the story.
No one who actually served with Kerry confirms the story.
Brett Hume's son has been working on fundraisers for the Republican party in Massachusetts.

The Fox News producer of the segment knows beforehand that the charges of cowardice were false and that Kerry volunteered to remain in Vietnam.

Before the segment aired, the Fox News producer calls the Bush campaign to give them a heads up that it would be running.

And, most importantly of all, it turns out the key document, supposedly created in 1973, is of doubtful provenance, with the person providing it to Fox giving three different stories of how he obtained it and then turns out it was created with the 2003 version of Microsoft Word!
Everything I've just outlined is accurate except for substituting Fox for CBS, Kerry for Bush, and changing the circumstances slightly to match Kerry's history.  How do you think the New York Times would have covered this story?   We would have never heard the end of it and TANGing would now be a common term for disreputable political smear campaigns.

I've come to expect "Bush lied" and accusations of "Swiftboating" from people who don't know much.  I didn't expect the editor of the New York Times would be one of them.  He seems like someone with very little intellectual curiousity.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Affordable Care Act Is No Longer Affordable

That's not me (or at least, not just me).  It's the solidly progressive Democratic governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, echoing the recent remarks of Bill Clinton, declaring, “The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people.”  His comments were prompted by the news that Minnesota ACA policyholders are facing premium increases of 50 to 67 per cent next year.

Of course, Dayton's instinct, along with other progressives, is to double down on the academic theories that gave us the ACA, or "Obamacare", as Democrats liked to call it before it became clear it was a fiasco; more top down regulation in an attempt to control 1/6th of the American economy.   On the other hand, as Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy (D-Callow Youth) observed while talking about the moral imperative behind the passage of the ACA, "s**t happens" (okay, I'm paraphrasing; you can read his original quote here).

Speaking of those theories, The Health Care Blog just ran the fifth in a series by Kip Sullivan on the faulty analytical approach of the ACA, which was based on the theory that America's major problem in health care was overuse, and that ratcheting back on that would cure health care inflation.  Particularly enamored of this was Peter Orszag, President Obama's Director of the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), and point man during the legislative process, constantly assuring Congress and the public that the ACA would be the "magic bullet" for cost control.  In his series, Sullivan dissects the problems with the research supporting this thesis, as well as the failure of the mechanisms of the ACA as implemented to achieve it goals.  It's worth reading all five pieces, as well as the comments.

And, by the way, don't worry about Peter Orszag, he's doing just fine.  After leaving OMB, he became a senior executive at Citigroup, raking in the bucks, and is now Vice Chairman of Investment Banking and Managing Director at Lazard, where he continues to be highly compensated.  I'm sure he has a very nice health insurance policy.

("I'm Peter Orszag and I'm doing just fine!"; photo from New York Times)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Last Goodbye

After the Red Sox were eliminated from the playoffs by the Cleveland Indians last night the players were in the clubhouse when Sox officials came to David Ortiz and told him most of the fans were still in the stadium, waiting to say goodbye to him.   He went back on the field.  Afterwards he said:

"I definitely always want to show love to the fans. I started thinking, I have my moment once I walk onto the mound, start looking around. And that moment, that hits you. You know you're never going to be able to be performing in the baseball world in front of all this. No disrespect to anyone, but I think we have the best fans worldwide. It's something that, it kind of hit me a little bit -- I'm not going to lie to you."

"I give everything I have, do something special while I play. And the fans respect that. The fans love that. The fans, they live through it. And that's all that matters to me."

"And everywhere I go, everywhere I bump into our fans, it doesn't matter if you bump into two of them or you bump into a thousand of them. They show the same love. And that's why I got better, that's why I got the opportunity to have the career that I had."
You can watch the moment here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The House Of Caecilius Iucundus

The folks at Lund University in Sweden have developed this 3D recreation of the villa of Mr Iucundus, a prosperous citizen of the city of Pompeii, whose home has been partially preserved since the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD.  Join us for a tour.
Reconstruction of the House of Caecilius Iucundus in Pompeii from Livius Drusus on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

No More "I Love You's"

Annie Lennox from the 1990s.  A remake of the 1986 original by The Lover Speaks.

The video below was done by a Hispanic fan.  I didn't use Annie's video because it's just too creepy.  Always found her persona in videos, whether with the Eurythmics or in her solo career, to be quite chilly and odd, but when I saw her in concert (with the Eurythmics) her stage presence was very warm and personal.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Kit Carson Meets General Kearny

October 6, 1846.  It was early autumn and cooler weather had finally arrived as three hundred cavalry troopers rode south for eleven days along the Rio Grande, crossing fields and stands of cottonwoods with the arid mountains looming above them, farther away from the river's banks.  They were camped near the deserted town of Valverde, abandoned by its frightened inhabitants because of constant Navajo and Apache raids. During the morning, clouds of dust began rising to the west, the direction to which they'd eventually be turning.  Making out about a dozen mounted men riding towards them, they went on alert, thinking they might be Indians, only relaxing once they realized Americans were among the riders.

As the riders entered the camp, a small (5'5''), thin (less than 140 lbs), sunburnt man with lanky blond hair down to his shoulders, dismounted, informing the troopers he was carrying important messages from California to be delivered to Washington DC.  When asked his name, the man replied, "I''m Kit Carson".

Kit Carson wearing a beaver hat(Kit Carson)

It was General Stephen Kearny's introduction to the scout who had already gained a national reputation.

We've told part of the story of how they came to meet in Forgotten Americans: Henry Lafayette Dodge.  At the start of the Mexican-American war, Kearny led an army across the Great Plains, capturing Santa Fe in August 1846, after Mexican government officials fled without a fight.  Once the territory was secured, Kearny had orders to proceed to California to capture that Mexican state for America.  Selecting three hundred of his best cavalry, Kearny left Santa Fe on September 25 (one of his guides being Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagewea, born during the Lewis & Clark expedition).  He knew it would be an arduous journey; first south along the Rio Grande, then west across the little known high plains, mountains and Sonoran Desert for 800 miles to San Diego and then fighting the Mexican army.

A New Jersey native, born in 1794, Stephen Kearny enlisted in the army at the start of the War of 1812.  Staying in the service after the war, by 1833 he was a Lieutenant Colonel, having, by that time, been a member of expeditions across the Great Plains and into the Rockies.  In that year, the well-thought of Kearny became second in command of the newly formed 1st Dragoons Regiment, the regular army's first cavalry unit.  Kearny developed the army's initial mounted fighting tactics and is considered the father of the American cavalry.  Promoted to brigadier general at the outset of the Mexican-American War, Kearny planned the complex and logistically complicated march of the Army of the West from Ft Leavenworth, Missouri to Santa Fe.  He was known as a man of iron will with "a resolute countenance and cold blue eyes which there was no evading".

Carson's journey to Valverde was a little more roundabout.  A resident of Taos, New Mexico and married to a Mexican (after two earlier marriages to Arapaho and Cheyenne women), the former mountain man and renowned scout was the best known person in the territory.  Born in Missouri in 1809, Kit had moved to Nuevo Mexico, settling in Taos in 1826.  Over the next years he trapped, hunted and traded all over the west, from Wyoming and Montana to California.  One journey, that would play a role in the events of 1846, was an 1829 trip as a member of a trapping party led by Ewing Young which became one of the first groups to travel cross country from Nuevo Mexico to California.
Josefa Carson (Josefa Carson and their son)

His national renown came about from a chance meeting with John C Fremont on a Missouri River steamboat in the summer of 1842.  Fremont, an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers was preparing an expedition to map the Oregon Trail as far west as South Pass in Wyoming.  Fremont, an ambitious self-promoter, recently married to the daughter of Senate Democratic leader Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri (who, before becoming an ally of President Andrew Jackson, had, in 1813, engaged the future president in a pistol gunfight at a Nashville tavern), immediately hit it off with Carson and asked him to join the expedition as a scout.

Carson would serve as scout on each of Fremont's three journeys of exploration.  The first was the successful five month trip to South Pass.  The second made both Fremont and Carson famous.  They traversed the Oregon Trail to the Columbia River with a side trip to the Great Salt Lake.  They then made an illegal trek to California and were saved from suffering from the bad weather in the Sierra Nevada mountains by Carson's wilderness acumen.  Expelled from California by the Mexican Governor they returned to the U.S.  Fremont's well publicized report on their travels gave Carson copious credit but one event he recounted gained particular notoriety.  At one point they came across two Mexicans (a man and boy) in the Mojave Desert who were survivors of a groups ambushed by Indians who had killed the men as well as women (after raping them) and stealing all their horses.  Carson and one other man went after the killers, tracking down and killing two of them, recovering the horses and returning them to their owners.  Although the first dime novel portraying Carson was not published until 1847 (see below, depicting the incident in the Mojave), it was Fremont's report in 1844 that made Kit famous and earned Fremont the nickname "The Pathfinder".,_or_Kit_Carson_to_the_Rescue.jpg(from wikimedia)
The third expedition began in the summer of 1845, initially taking Fremont and Kit back to Oregon.  They then proceeded into California, still under Mexican rule and possibly in accordance with secret orders from the Polk administration which sought to annex the area.  Expelled once again, they returned to Oregon, returning to the state with the onset of war and organizing a revolt of American settlers which soon took control of the state.  Fremont, eager to get the news to Washington, asked Kit to carry dispatches across the country, which Carson promised to do in sixty days.  Twenty-eight days out he met Kearny. 

Carson's news was startling.  California was already under American control.  Kearny pondered the news and quickly reached a decision.  His orders were to proceed to California and he would fulfill them.  However, since he was increasingly worried about reports of the unruly Navajo and anticipated no military action on the west coast, he sent most of his three hundred dragoons back to Santa Fe, only retaining one hundred for the next stage of his expedition.

He sent a note to back to Santa Fe notifying them of the change of plan:
I this morning met an Express from Upper California to Washington city, sent by Lieut.Col. Fremont, reporting that the Americans had taken possession of that department, in consequence of which I have re-organized the Party to accompany me to that country as well be seen by Order No. 34, herewith enclosed.
And what better use could he make of the surprising appearance of the best known guide in the southwest?  Kearny ordered Carson to lead his men back to California, while he would arrange for someone else to get the dispatches to Washington.  Carson briefly thought of disobeying.  He'd not seen his wife and family in nearly two years and hoped to spend one night with them in Taos on the way to the east coast and he felt an obligation to keep his word to Fremont and Stockton.  He later described his feelings (according to Hampton Sides in Blood and Thunder; the book to read about this era in the southwest):
I was pledged to them and could not disappoint them, and besides that I was under more obligations to Captain Fremont than any man alive.
He finally agreed to accompany Kearny, or as Kit later put it, "Kearny ordered me to join him as his guide. I done so."  His decision gained the admiration of Kearny's officers, one writing:
He turned his face to the west again, just as he was on the eve of entering the settlements, after his arduous trip and when he had set his hopes on seeing his family.  It requires a brave man to give up his private feelings thus for the public good; but Carson is one such!  Honor to him for it.
(Kearny's route, from The West Point Atlas of American Wars)

Kearny, Carson and the dragoons proceeded south, turning west on October 15, near the modern-day town of Truth Or Consequences.  Reaching the headwaters of the Gila River in western New Mexico five days later, they followed it through Arizona (through the present day towns of Safford and Florence, and south of Globe and the Phoenix area, none of which were settled at the time), finally reaching the Colorado River, south of present day Yuma, on November 22.  I've visited the pass over which Kearny's men struggled southeast of Globe (photo below).

Four days out of Valverde, Kearny agreed with Carson that his supply wagons were slowing the column down and sent them back to Santa Fe, packing everything on mules, except for two howitzers the general insisted on taking.  Even without the wagons it was tough going.  One officer wrote of a day on the route in Arizona:
I shall not attempt to describe the route we have passed over today.  I have no language to convey even a faint idea of it.  Could we have foreseen so much difficulty it would have been better to have retraced our steps 20 miles, to have taken another and more practicable route.  From the moment of starting until we dismounted at our present camp, our poor animals were stepping over and among rock of great size - some fixed, but most of them loose, and then the steep hills and gullies were very frequent.
Their horses and many mules died.  Most of the time the men walked.  Both animals and men grew short of food.  One officer wrote: "Twere better for it to be blotted out from the face of the earth.  It is the veriest wilderness in the world. . . ", and later observing that "Invalids may live here when they might die in any other part of the world, but really the country is so forbidding that no one would scarcely be willing to secure a long life at the cost of living in it."

The starving troopers found some succor when they entered the irrigated lands of the friendly Pima Indians, near present day Phoenix and were able to obtain fresh food.

One of Kearny's assignments was to find a viable passage for road and railroad to California and in his official report of December 12, 1846, written after reaching San Diego, he noted:
This River (the Gila) more particularly the Northern side, is bounded nearly the whole distance by a range of lofty Mountains, & if a tolerable waggin Road to its mouth from the Del Norte is ever discovered, it must be on the South side & therefor the boundary line between the U. States & Mexico should certainly not be North of the 32°of lat. the country is destitute of timber, producing but few cotton wood & mesquite trees, & tho' the soil on the bottom lands is generally good, yet we found but very little grass or vegetation in consequence of the dryness of the climate & the little rain which falls here - The Pimo Indians who make good crops of wheat, corn, vegetables & irrigate the land by water from the Gila, as did the Aztecs (the former inhabitants of the Country) the remains of whose sequias or little canals were seen by us, as well as the position of many of their dwellings, & a large quantity of broken pottery & earthen ware used by them -
Elsewhere Kearny wrote of the lands he'd traversed, "It surprised me to see so much land that can never be of any use to man or beast".

Crossing the Colorado, Kearny and Carson entered California, but as tough and exhausting as their march had been so far, their difficulties were only beginning, as they situation was much different than what they expected; California was in chaos.  Between contention over American military leadership between Fremont and Navy Commodore Stockton, overconfidence and ineptness in their occupation, they enabled the Mexican population to regroup and, with some military reinforcements, to retake much of the state.  Kearny could have used those 200 troopers he sent back to Santa Fe.

After climbing 3,000 feet out of the Imperial Valley and into the hills as they approached the California coast, the weary men were confronted by well-trained Mexican lancers on horses.  On December 6, Kearny and his men were battered by the lancers, losing 18 dead and seven severely wounded (Kearny being one of them), ending up surrounded on a hilltop.  It was Kit Carson to the rescue as he made a daring nighttime escape through the Mexican lines, making his way to San Diego and Commodore Stockton after walking barefoot for thirty hours without food or water.  A relief force was sent which rescued Kearny.  Kit stayed behind, unable to walk for a week because of the condition of his feet.

On December 12, 1846, General Kearny entered San Diego, completing the 1,900 mile march of the Army of the West, one of the greatest accomplishments in American military history.

Kearny, Stockton and Fremont were able to cooperate in defeating the Mexican forces and reoccupying the entire state but thereafter fell out in a long and dreary dispute which ended up in Kearny sending Fremont back to Washington to be court-martialed, from which he was saved by his political connections.

Kearny served as military governor of California, returning to Washington in 1847 to a hero's welcome and then serving as governor of Veracruz and Mexico City before the signing of the final peace treaty.  Unfortunately he contracted yellow fever in Veracruz and returned to St Louis, dying in 1848.

Fremont recovered from his tumultuous adventure in California to become a leading abolitionist and, in 1856, the first Republican Party candidate for President.

Kit Carson went on to have many more adventures.  He was a well-respected Indian agent in New Mexico and continued to do tracking.  A Union man when the Civil War started, he became commander of 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry and helped to defeat the Confederate invasion of New Mexico in 1862.  He also led his troops in the 1864 Battle of Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle, fighting Commanche, Kiowa and Apache, one of the largest conflicts between American troops and Indians on the Great Plains.

He also, with misgivings, led the campaign to force the surrender of the Navajo and their transport from their sacred lands to a reservation on the eastern border of New Mexico.  Kit then became one of the important voices for allowing them to return to their lands along the New Mexico/Arizona border, which finally occurred in 1868, the same year Carson died.

He always remained a quiet, soft spoken man, embarrassed by his illiteracy.  William Tecumseh Sherman met him while in California during 1847:
"His fame was then at its height, ... and I was very anxious to see a man who had achieved such feats of daring among the wild animals of the Rocky Mountains, and still wilder Indians of the plains ... I cannot express my surprise at beholding such a small, stoop-shouldered man, with reddish hair, freckled face, soft blue eyes, and nothing to indicate extraordinary courage or daring. He spoke but little and answered questions in monosyllables."
How odd it must have felt for such a man to become a dime novel hero.  In 1849 he tracked a woman (Ann White) and her infant daughter, kidnapped by the Apaches who had murdered her husband and others in a wagon train. He found the horribly abused woman dead, with an arrow in her heart and daughter gone, never to be seen again (it was later learned the Indians killed the baby shortly thereafter).  In the Indian camp he also discovered a dime novel featuring him on the cover; the first time he'd ever seen himself in print.  Carson remained haunted that the woman "had read the same ... [and prayed] for my appearance that she might be saved", feeling always that he let her down.,cs_srgb,dpr_1.0,h_1200,q_80,w_1200/MTE4MDAzNDEwNDcyOTYxNTUw.jpg(Kit Carson, 1868)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Reality Bites

For the Obama Administration, that is . . .

Bill Clinton, campaigning in Michigan, calls President Obama's signature domestic initiative, the Affordable Care Act, "the craziest thing in the world".   He goes on to point out:
“You’ve got this crazy system where all the sudden 25 million more people have healthcare and then the people are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half,”
“We gotta figure out what to do now on healthcare,” he said, adding that the current system only “works fine” if people are receiving the ObamaCare subsidies or are enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid.
“The people who are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little bit too much to get any of these subsidies,” he said, arguing that the law does not give any new bargaining power for people struggling to pay their healthcare costs.
As we have pointed out on multiple occasions, Obamacare was passed by the President and his allies employing a bodyguard of lies (aka "incorrect promises" in New York Timespeak) and built on upon a complicated top-down strategy, ill-suited for a modern economy, as even the Times is being forced to admit.

Prediction:  Progressives will try to fix this by making Obamacare even more of a top-down bureaucratic exercise and throwing even more money at it.

William Russell Mead, an old-line Democrat and professor at Bard College, laments the latest Obama foreign policy fiasco involving Russia and Syria, concluding by comparing him with James Buchanan, considered one of the worst presidents in American history:
The press does its best to avert its eyes from this dispiriting spectacle, but Obama’s foreign policy legacy is withering away before our very eyes, even as the clock runs down on the most disastrous American foreign policy presidency since World War II. One hopes that he’ll take some stands; even now, President Obama could help his successor by reversing course on some of his key decisions and laying the foundation for a revival of American power and prestige. But it seems more likely that, much like President James Buchanan who dithered in the White House as the Confederacy rose in the South, Obama just wants to run out the clock, and is hoping that nothing catastrophic happens on the world stage before he can get back to the more congenial realm of thought leading and oratory.
And, of course, our exit note:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Big Papi's Big Day

Yesterday afternoon the Missus and I were at Fenway Park for the last regular season game of David Ortiz, the most popular player in the history of the franchise.  In the hour long farewell ceremony:
The Mayor of Boston named a street after Big Papi
Not to be outdone, the Governor of Massachusetts named a bridge after Big Papi
The President of the Dominican Republic (Danilo Medina) showed up to throw the first pitch to - - - Big Papi, who was born in the Dominican and became a U.S. Citizen in 2011  
Big Papi took a selfie with the President$large.jpg
Kevin Spacey recited Rudyard Kipling's If
Three National Anthems were played (Canada, Dominican Republic, U.S.)
Mary J Blige (Papi's favorite singer) sang The Star Spangled Banner, as well as One by U2.
The Red Sox and team owners donated $1 million to Big Papi's charity which funds life saving operations for kids in the Dominican and New England (563 so far)
Former teammates from the 2004, 2007 and 2013 champion teams walked out of the center field pavilion carrying the World Series trophies to join Big Papi
Manny Ramirez managed to remember to show up & Papi hug, Pedro Martinez on left, Jason Varitek on right)
It was emotionally exhausting (video of his speech is here).  And there was a game afterwards.  Turned out to be a pretty good one.  Now, on to the playoffs.

All through the year, I feared Papi would tail off from his amazing start.  While it did to a minor degree, he never plunged into the lengthy slump many of us anticipated.  He led the American League in doubles, RBI, slugging, on base + slugging, intentional walks and extra base hits, along with finishing 6th in batting average, 3rd in on-base percentage and 8th in homers and walks.  It was his best season since 2007 and the best final season over the natural career arc of any major league ballplayer (Ted Williams had an incredible final season at age 42, but was only a part-time players, starting only 87 games with 390 plate appearances compared to 626 for Papi; another recent, and often forgotten, outstanding finale was for 39 year old Mike Mussina, who went 20-9 for the 2008 New York Yankees).  The only comparable final years were in careers cut short, Sandy Koufax's 1966 campaign, ended at age 30 by an arthritic elbow, and Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1920, terminated at age 32 by the Black Sox Scandal.

Recently watching a lengthy interview with Ortiz broadcast on NESN we learned several things:
He hated playing for the Minnesota Twins who, he complained, tried to make him into a singles hitter and didn't want him taking big swings.  The Twins apparently didn't think much of him, releasing Ortiz in December 2002 at the age of 27, an incredible mistake in retrospect.

He gives Pedro Martinez credit for getting him to Boston (and gave him special mention in his farewell speech yesterday).  When Pedro learned Ortiz was released he called the Red Sox front office urging them to sign him, which they did despite misgivings.

The two people he singled out for helping him become a better hitter were Jason Varitek and Manny Ramirez.  In his first season with the Red Sox, Tek persuaded him to switch to a heavier bat which he said would make Papi use his wrists more and body less and give him more power.  Ortiz said it made an immediate difference.

From Manny, he learned how to have a plan for each at bat.  Despite his well-known eccentricities (like letting uncashed $50,000 pay checks sit in his locker), Manny has always had the reputation as a very smart hitter.

His major adjustment as he got older was to stop looking for inside pitches and concentrate on the outer half of the plate, feeling he could always handle the inside pitch.  He was right.
Along those lines, one of the things that jumps out is his recovery from what looked like a terminal decline in 2008 through 2010, to finish with such a strong kick over his final six seasons.  It looks like a key factor was his approach to controlling the strike zone.  In most cases, a batter's strikeouts increase as they get older and can't get around on the fastball anymore.  During 2009 and 2010 Papi was striking out in almost 24% of his plate appearances (PA), and during the early part of 2010, in 33% of his PA.  He clearly made some type of adjustment, and in 2011 struck out in less than 14% of his PA, maintaining that pace right through this year.

Papi from The Players' Tribune:
Boston is not just my team. Boston is my city. I consider myself a Bostonian, and it’s the thing I’m most proud of in the world.
For some wonderful pictures from throughout the career of David Ortiz go here.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thoughts For The Day

"It turns out that the future is not “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”* The future is a conference call on which a cheery 30-something says things like “progressively coordinate functional strategic theme areas” – forever."

From the z man blog

* From George Orwell

“It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice — there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.” Zappa


Why Does Time Go Forward Instead Of Backward? (Popular Mechanics)

Just another example of bad science.  In the U.S., time goes backward every fall.  That is, except for Arizona.  Or perhaps it is the only scientifically literate state?  (THC)

Saturday, October 1, 2016


The small town of Atrani is wedged in between the sea and the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast of Italy, just east of the town of Amalfi.  We've visited the area three times.  The road carried on the viaduct and around the building on the right is the Amalfi Coast Drive, the only road that goes from start to finish on the coast.  It's barely wide enough for two small cars to pass each other.  To be helpful, they've put mirrors on the corners (you can see one in the picture) as you drive around that big building so you can try to see what's coming at you.  Photo is from Conde Nast Traveler.
Atrani (Campania)