Thursday, August 31, 2017

Put The Blame On Mame

From the film Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford.  Rita sings a soulful version of Put The Blame on Mame.  Hubba hubba!  Below the embed you can find a link to another version of the song from the same film (which also played a role in The Shawshank Redemption).

Cabaret version of Put The Blame On Mame.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Firth Of Fifth

There was a lot of bad progressive rock in the 1970s.  It got so bad that punk and new wave arose in reaction, so it was worth it.  There was some prog rock that was good amidst all the bombast and dreck.  I was a fan of early Genesis, before Peter Gabriel led them into the pretentious Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, then left the group, and Phil Collins took over.

This is Firth of Fifth from Selling England By The Pound.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Houston Flooding

Interesting tweets on Houston flood control from some random dude.

Some excerpts:

I read it on the internet so I know it must be true.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Mahatma Speaks

"Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink."

- Martin Michael Lomasney (aka "The Mahatma"), 1859-1933
Martin Michael Lomasney.png

Ward boss, alderman, state representative, and state senator, Martin Lomasney had a long career as a Boston politician.  The son of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine, Lomasney worked as a lamplighter and health inspector before entering politics.  He survived a 1894 assassination attempt which wounded him in the leg.

His cautionary advice was well suited to the world of Boston politics.  He was never indicted.

In 2012 Boston's West End Museum held an exhibit on Lomasney.  From its website:

When Lincoln Steffens, a New York journalist known for investigating corruption in municipal government, came to Boston to spend time with Lomasney, he found a man who was an exception to the rule. Steffens said Lomasney was probably the best public servant he had ever met, that he was scrupulously honest and wholly committed to his constituents. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote of Lomasney, "He lived a simple, low-key life, renting a small apartment and wearing the same old battered straw hat year round, but to the people of the West End he was a god. Arriving early each morning at his headquarters, Lomasney worked 365 days a year, caring for his people in all phases of their lives".

A lifelong bachelor, Lomasney dedicated his life to building his political machine through a base of unwaveringly loyal aides and constituents. According Suffolk University History Professor Robert Allison, "Lomasney would walk the city every night, often greeting immigrants as they arrived on Boston docks. He was very bright and invested a lot in real estate. In fact, he's responsible for the Boston Garden being built".

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Viewers Guide To Ken Burns' Vietnam

The latest in Ken Burns' series of PBS documentaries premieres on September 17.   The subject is the Vietnam War.

I participated in protests against the war, including the Washington DC event in November 1969, which drew an estimated 500,000 people, and at the University of Wisconsin in May 1970 in the wake of the invasion of Cambodia.

Burns' co-producer Lynn Nozick says of the documentary:

"I think the country is ready to have the conversation we never really had about the war . . . "
I find that a puzzling statement since we had an exhausting, more than decade long conversation about the war.  Does it really mean the film makers are dissatisfied with the outcome of that conversation?  Which, in turn, raises the question of whether the intent of the documentary is to generate what normal people would consider to be a conversation, or whether it is intended to meet the current progressive definition of a conversation which is "a one-sided dialogue in which you are instructed on what to think and say".

There actually is a rich opportunity to examine and re-examine all facets of the American experience in Vietnam and it can be done in a way that does not lead a viewer to any specific conclusion, whether they were, or are, pro or anti-war.  Here are some things to look for in judging whether the documentary intends to generate a real and open conversation:

Compare the documentary's comparative use of adjectives and adverbs regarding Americans, the South Vietnam government and its supporters, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnam government and its supporters.

In describing origins of the war, how are Viet Cong (VC), National Liberation Front (NLF), and the North Vietnam government portrayed?  Are they predominantly communist or nationalist?  Are the VC and NLF portrayed as independent actors or creatures of the North Vietnam government?

How is the interplay between LBJ's domestic and Vietnam policy in 1964-5 portrayed?  (For more on this and the point below see Dereliction of Duty).

Is there a distinction made between issues on which the Johnson administration misled or lied to Congress and the American public in 1964-5 (Gulf of Tonkin, costs of the war, whether Americans were in combat) and those on which it was telling the truth (the extent of North Vietnam communist infiltration into the South and its control of the VC and NLF)?

How are anti-war demonstrators portrayed?  Is the ideological component driving many of the leaders adequately explained?  My observation is that there were three main groups of protestors.  The first, and most numerous, were those who thought it the wrong war for America; the second actually thought the communists were the good guys and wanted them to win (John Kerry was in this group); and the third, and by far smallest, thought the communist revolution needed to be brought back to America (Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn fit in this category).

How is the role of African-Americans in Vietnam portrayed, and what statistics are used?

Regarding the Tet Offensive, how are the military, psychological and media aspects portrayed?

How are temporal aspects of the war portrayed?  Are distinctions made between the different strategic situations and options open to decision-makers in the mid-1950s, 1964-65, 1968, 1972 and 1975?

How is the aftermath of the war in Southeast Asia treated; Cambodia Year Zero, the boat people, South Vietnamese reeduction camps?

Who are the main talking heads for the series and what is their background?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Failure Of Politics

I'm feeling pretty grumpy.

Trump needs to go.  He is unfit for office.  I think he knows it too - why else would he have set himself on fire over the last week?

GOP leaders are incompetent, ineffectual, and scared of their own shadows.

And the Democratic party of the 21st century is increasingly irrational and authoritarian.  Progressives, pose the greatest long term threat to the Republic because of their totalizing vision of the role of politics in society and their intolerance of opposing viewpoints.

I'm grumpy because of the across the board failure with no sense of a path to repairing the damage.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Seeing Loving

I finally saw Loving, the film about the interracial marriage in Virginia of Mildred and Richard Loving, which led to a landmark Supreme Court case in 1967.  I wrote about a review of the film by my friend Titus, back in February.  It is a touching, understated, not preachy, and well acted film, definitely worth your time.  Some quotes from the Titus review which capture the film's spirit.

This is a story about Americans and respects their desire to have lives apart from the great motions and actors of politics . . . The movie is everything popular movies these days are not: slow, black & white, tender and protective of private life, cautious and serious about public things, interested in and respectful of American lives.

The rights they claim have to do primarily with the privates lives they prefer to live and they incline therefore to preserve as much privacy as possible, when it comes to public things and legal quarrels. Within these boundaries, the movie makes the effort to bring out the suffering of the Lovings and the quiet dignity with which they withstood it. The danger that bitterness or resignation could corrupt their family life, that it could poison their love or the minds of their children is real, but it is never treated as more important than they are. Their normality, if we can call normal that to which people aspire, is luminous for that reason.

To the largest extent now possible to American cinema, this is a movie about what human beings embody and not what they stand up for, or what they believe they stand up for.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

All Alike Possess Liberty Of Conscience

227 years ago on this date . . .
(a reworking of a previous THC post)   

Moses Seixas was a man with a plan in the summer of 1790. Forty six years old, the son of Portugese Jews who emigrated to Rhode Island, Moses was warden of Newport’s Tauro Synagogue. President George Washington was making his first visit to Rhode Island, and Moses was determined to use the occasion to obtain express acknowledgement of the enfranchisement of American Jews under the new Constitution.

Washington’s visit also had a plan behind it. The prior year, he had undertaken a lengthy visit to the northern states, as part of his strategy of drawing the new nation together and creating more popular acceptance of the new Federal government (he would tour the southern states in 1791). Rhode Island was not part of that tour, because it had yet to ratify the Constitution. The recalcitrant state, under pressure from the new federal government and neighboring states, along with the promise of a visit from Washington and Vice-President Thomas Jefferson, became the last of the original 13 states to ratify on May 29, 1790.

Sexias was to get what he wanted from his letter, but the President’s response expressed additional thoughts that are worth reflecting upon today.

On August 17, Moses sent a letter to the President, welcoming him to Newport on behalf of “the children of the stock of Abraham“, expressing their happiness in having the “invaluable rights of free Citizens“, and adding:
“we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People – a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance – but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship.”
The President’s responded the following day, echoing the warden’s phrasing but adds its own distinctive sentiments:
“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United states, which give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
Much commentary on the letter, particularly by liberal historians, focuses on the passage that the Government “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance“, but its importance is deeper in its link to America’s founding principles. It is found in two sentences which do not have a counterpart in the Sexias letter. The first:
“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”
The passage expresses two concepts:

First, the American version of “tolerance” is not something bestowed by a dominant group, or individual, upon other groups, because that kind of tolerance is revocable upon the discretion of the dominant group or individual. Bestowed “tolerance” was the concept used in most other societies in that age (and still used in many countries) but in Washington’s sense “tolerance” is that which we owe to each other as equals. In other “tolerant” societies of the time, the Jewish Community would be considered supplicants; in Washington’s they are equals.

Second, the source of what we owe to each other as equals are our “inherent natural rights“. These rights are not created by the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. It’s the other way around – these rights predate those documents and are a source for the text and ideas behind them. Specifically, the Constitution is not a document describing the rights of citizens – those inherent natural rights are so broad as to exceed any attempt to catalogue them in a document. Rather, the Constitution is a delineation of the specific powers delegated by the citizens, who hold those inherent rights, to the government in order for it to perform certain designated functions.

It was 25 year old James Madison who first pointed out how these concepts worked together in May 1776, during the debate on Virginia’s new state constitution. The draft constitution contained a Declaration of Rights, including a clause on religious liberty drafted by George Mason, providing that “all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion“. Madison objected to the use of the word “toleration” because it implied toleration was a gift from government rather than an inherent natural right. Mason agreed and the draft was amended to read “all men are entitled to the full and free exercise” of religion. This approach is now embodied in our Constitution.

As for Washington, his views were not something newly formulated in 1790. In 1775, shortly after the Continental Congress named him commander of its military forces, he approved a plan to invade Canada. The civilian population of Canada, which the British had taken from France only twelve years prior, was almost exclusively Catholic, a religion detested by most American Protestants at that time. On September 14, 1775, Washington sent instructions to Benedict Arnold, commanding the American expedition about to start its epic campaign through the backwoods of Maine to Quebec. He directed Arnold to respect the religious beliefs of the Canadians. This, in and of itself, was not remarkable – doing so was wise strategy when the Americans were trying to get the Canadians to join them in the revolt against Britain. It was the way Washington expresses himself that is striking:
“While we are Contending for own own Liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the Rights of Conscience in others; ever considering that God alone is the Judge of the Hearts of Men and to him only in this Case they are answerable”
The second significant sentence:
For happily the Government of the United states, which give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
In this passage, the President emphasizes the duty of every American is to be a good citizen by supporting the new Constitution. Thought Washington does not refer specifically to the Constitution, he had freely expressed that this was the underlying purpose of his visits (eventually to all 13 states), and he seized every opportunity to promote it. The Constitution, not a common religion, nor anything else, was to be bind all citizens together.

Both letters are worth a full read as they express their sentiments using the wonderful phrasing characteristic of that time, a writing style that only a generation later had fallen out of favor. I particularly like Washington’s closing lines:
” . . . while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
Moses’ closing words aren’t too bad either:
 “And, when, like Joshua full of days and full of honour, you are gathered to your Fathers, may you be admitted into the Heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life, and the tree of immortality.”
You can find the full text of the Seixas letter here, and Washington’s full response here.

As a final note, it is often overlooked that Moses Seixas wrote a second letter to President Washington on August 17, 1790. This letter was on behalf of King David’s Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, of which Seixas was Grand Master, and contained greetings from one member of a fraternal order to another member.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lunch At The Google Cafeteria

Via Rod Dreher

The clip below is from The Lives of Others (2006), an unforgettable film.  Please see it if you have not already done so.  Set in communist East Germany during the 1980s it documents how the regime effectively imposed itself on the way its subjects not only acted, but on how they thought. This scene take place in the cafeteria for the Stasi, the country's secret police organization.

Since the controversial memo on Google's diversity program that resulted in the author's firing was actually solicited by the company as part of its internal discussion, and only became public when circulated externally by those who were offended by it, one is also put in mind of the Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom Campaign of 1956, run by Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese Communist Party.  That campaign solicited critiques of the country and the regime's programs, supposedly as a way to guide improvements.  Instead it was used encourage dissidents to expose themselves so they could be punished with prison or execution.

What is happening at Google is tied in with some large societal trends.  In a recent Wall St Journal article Mark Lilla, a Columbia professor, and well-known liberal Democrat, wrote about this change:

As a teacher, I am increasingly struck by a difference between my conservative and progressive students. Contrary to the stereotype, the conservatives are far more likely to connect their engagements to a set of political ideas and principles. Young people on the left are much more inclined to say that they are engaged in politics as an X, concerned about other Xs and those issues touching on X-ness. And they are less and less comfortable with debate.

Over the past decade a new, and very revealing, locution has drifted from our universities into the media mainstream: Speaking as an X…This is not an anodyne phrase. It sets up a wall against any questions that come from a non-X perspective. Classroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. What replaces argument, then, are taboos against unfamiliar ideas and contrary opinions.
In a New York Times piece shortly after the presidential election (which I wrote about), Lilla first made his argument against identity politics, and its increasingly repressive and authoritarian nature, and was attacked by many progressives, including a professor at Columbia Law School who likened him to David Duke.  His critique is perceptive but I doubt it will gain much traction with 21st century progressives.

Who are the brain police?  I think I know.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I'm Not Going Back To Woodstock

I'm not going back to Woodstock for awhile
Though I long to hear that lonesome hippie smile
I'm a million miles away
From that helicopter day
No I don't believe I'll be going back that way
Neil Young at his most disheveled and dissolute.
The opening lines:
It's too dark to put the keys in my ignition
And the morning sun has yet to climb my hood ornament
And I also haven't been back to Woodstock for awhile, and don't believe I'll be going back that way.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

You Be The Judge

Even for someone who doesn't like the Yankees, it's been fun watching Aaron Judge this year.  And this year's Home Run Derby, which he won, was my favorite.

It's going to be interesting to see how Judge does over the rest of the season.  Here are two sets of numbers:

Plate Appearances  95/118

At Bats  89/93 

Hits  15/15

Doubles  2/1

Triples  0/0

HR  4/5

RBI  10/12

BB  9/24

SO  42/43

Batting Average  .179/.161

On Base %  .263/.339

Slugging %  .345/.333

The first set is from Judge's abbreviated 2016 rookie season, when he looked overmatched against major league pitching.  The second set is Judge's performance since the All-Star break.  The numbers are very close.

Before the All-Star game Judge was hitting .329 with an on base % of .448, and slugging .691.  Is he in a temporary slump and can he make the adjustments to get back to his form of earlier in the season?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Right Response

Senator Ted Cruz on the white supremacist march and violence in Charlottesville:

“It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed. Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society.

The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.

These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail. America is far better than this. Our Nation was built on fundamental truths, none more central than the proposition ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.'”
This guy gets it right too:

I Must Go, My Planet Needs Me

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Road Trip!

Turns out that Carhenge is located precisely on the line of the full solar eclipse on August 21.  Coincidence? I think not!  Located just outside the bucolic Nebraska Panhandle town of Alliance, Carhenge has been the subject of a previous THC post.  Special events are planned for the occasion.  Take a drive and join the fun.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wichita Lineman

Glenn Campbell passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 81.  I've written about Wichita Lineman before as part of my Songs I Didn't Like To Admit I Liked Series.  Originally released in 1968, this version is from a 1988 collaboration between Campbell and Jimmy Webb (the composer).  Lyric, melody, vocal and arrangement come together in an impeccable form.

Extra added bonus!

Here's Glenn doing an instrumental version of Ain't No Sunshine.  The whole thing is marvelous but the solo, beginning around 47 seconds in, is something else.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Continue With Style

Useful advice when facing a desperate situation.  From The Eiger Sanction,  a 1975 film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.  Unfortunately the guy who offers up this wisdom does not make it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

McDowell Mountains

The McDowell Mountains are along the northeast edge of the Phoenix metro area and top off around 4,000 feet.  You are looking at the northern end of the range in this photo taken by Mrs THC a couple of days ago.  We'd just left the place where we'd had dinner, came over a little rise and saw this view.  It's about a 20 minute drive from our home.

We took the first photo in the Arizona monsoon post while in front of the mountain on the far left, looking in a northeasterly direction.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Proposed 13th Amendments

Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in the Senate on April 8, 1864, the House on January 31, 1865 (Steven Spielberg's Lincoln centered on the House vote), and ratified by the required number of states on December 6, 1865.

But before the successful 13th Amendment, there were two failed 13th Amendments, the first of which is an historical curiosity, the second of historical impact and interest.

The first attempt at a 13th Amendment was passed by overwhelming majorities in the Senate and House in April and May of 1810, and submitted to the states for ratification.  The proposed amendment, referred to as Titles of Nobility, would have stripped American citizenship from anyone accepting a title of nobility, pension, present, office, or emolument from "any emperor, king, prince or foreign power".

We have no written record of any debate in Congress over the amendment, so the reasons for its proposal and passage remain debated.  There was a long history, dating back to the 1780s of state suspicion of foreign powers and of those beholden to them who might seek to reimpose monarchical rule.  Soon after ratification of the Constitution, some states did propose amendments along these lines but no action was taken by Congress.

The 1810 revival of the subject was likely due to continued wariness of Britain, as well as suspicion of Emperor Napoleon, then at the height of his power, compounded by the presence in the U.S. several years earlier of Jerome Bonaparte, the Emperor's younger brother, who married an American with whom he had a son.  Jerome later returned to Europe where his brother installed him as King of Westphalia, while at the same time ordering him to divorce his wife. 

Ratification was required by 13 states at the time in order for adoption of the amendment.  By early 1812, eleven states had ratified.  In December of that year, New Hampshire approved the amendment but in the intervening months Louisiana had been admitted to the Union, raising the threshold to 14 states.  No additional state ratified, and with the preservation of the U.S. under the terms of the 1815 Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812 with Britain, and the fall of Napoleon later that year, the motivation behind the amendment had disappeared.

The second proposed 13th Amendment to pass Congress arose from attempts to stop secession and avoid a civil war.   The 36th Congress, which reconvened in December 1860, had frantically searched for a resolution to the secession crisis.  More than 200 resolutions on slavery and 57 Constitutional amendments were introduced before the proposed amendment passed.  Known as the Corwin Amendment because it was introduced in the House, which narrowly passed it with the required two-thirds vote on February 28, 1861, by Republican Congressman Thomas Corwin, it was designed to reassure the slave states regarding the status of slavery.  Corwin is little remembered today, but at the time was very well known, having previously served as governor of Ohio, a U.S. senator, and Secretary of the Treasury (and later named by President Lincoln as Ambassador to Mexico, a nomination well received by Mexico since, Corwin, like Lincoln, opposed the Mexican-American War).  Its text:
No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
The language tracks that of the Constitution in avoiding direct mention of "slavery" and protects slavery in perpetuity in those states where it was already established by state law.
 TCorwin.jpg(Thomas Corwin)

Introduced in the Senate by the fiercely anti-slavery senator from New York, William Seward, Lincoln's rival for the Republican presidential nomination, and later his Secretary of State, it was passed with no votes to spare on March 2. 

By the time the Amendment passed Congress, the seven states of the Deep South had seceded; South Carolina (December 20, 1860), Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10), Alabama (January 11), Georgia (January 19), Louisiana (January 26), and Texas (February 1).

Two days after the Senate vote President Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated.  In his address he spoke to the Corwin Amendment:
I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service ... holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.
For Lincoln the Corwin Amendment merely stated what he already believed; the Constitution did not provide any authority to the Federal Government to interfere with slavery in the states where it already existed.  That is why he did not object to it and what he meant by "holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law".

Three states quickly ratified the amendment; Kentucky (April 4); Ohio (May 13); and Rhode Island (May 31), but events on the ground made it irrelevant.

On April 12, Confederate forces at Charleston, SC opened fire on the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter.  President Lincoln's willingness to respond with force to suppress the rebellion prompted the four states of the Upper South to secede; Virginia (April 17), Arkansas (May 6), North Carolina (May 20), and Tennessee (June 8).

As a legal matter, the effectiveness of the Corwin Amendment, if it had been ratified, remains a source of contention for scholars, with some maintaining it could never be altered while others argue a subsequent Constitutional amendment could revoke the Corwin Amendment, as was done with the Prohibition Amendment regarding alcohol.

It could also never have persuaded the states that had already seceded to rejoin the Union.  There could not be completely confident a subsequent Constitutional amendment could not override Corwin; they already had a complete guarantee now that they had seceded and adopted a Constitution explicitly recognizing slavery as a founding principle of the new nation; and the proposed amendment did not address their overriding fear that if they remained in the Union but slavery could not be extended to new territories, its continued existence could not be guaranteed - and they were very aware that this last concern was the explicit strategy of the Republican Party - contain and then slowly strangle slavery.  For example, there is nothing in the Corwin Amendment that would have prevented Congress from repealing the Fugitive Slave Act.

The Corwin Amendment would also have posed a problem for Republicans if it had prompted the seceding states to rejoin the Union.  The Dred Scott decision (1857) had upset the Constitution's delicate balancing act by declaring that blacks, slave and free, could not be citizens of the United States, free states could not prevent slaves from accompanying their masters, and that Congress had no power to forbid slavery in the territories. Overturning Dred Scott was at the heart of the Republican Party platform, and President Lincoln ignored the decision when he took office, ordering the issuance of passports to free blacks who had been denied them by the State Department on the ground they were not citizens.  It is difficult to see how the turmoil over slavery could have been quelled with both the Corwin Amendment and Dred Scott in place.

As often happened, Lincoln got to the heart of the matter in a letter he wrote to his friend Alexander Stephens of Georgia while he was still President-elect.  Lincoln and Stephens became friends when they both served in Congress during the late 1840s.  After Lincoln's election they initiated a conversation by letter in an attempt to find some way to head off secession.  Thought Stephens opposed secession, when Georgia left the Union he agreed to become Vice President of the Confederacy.  Lincoln wrote
Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.  The South would be in no more danger in this respect than it was in the days of Washington. I suppose, however, this does not meet the case. You think slavery is right and should be extended; while we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hardy As Churchill

Further to my post of a couple of days ago about the passing of British actor Robert Hardy, some more interesting aspects of his life and career:

His tutors at Magdalene College, Oxford were CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien!

Entering the Royal Air Force late in World War II, he was sent to Texas to train as a fighter pilot.  The war ended before he was deployed.

He never had any training as an actor.

I ran across this edited clip of Hardy giving some of Churchill's famous speeches in the BBC series, The Wilderness Years, the period from the late 1920s to 1939 when Churchill was an outcast within his own Conservative Party, and mistrusted by the opposition.  I'd seen the series when it was broadcast in the U.S. (I think in the early 1980s) but had forgotten just how good Hardy was as Churchill.  It's the finest Churchill I've seen on screen.  Hardy captures everything about the man - his speech patterns, his gestures, the way he carried himself.

The clip is also interesting as a window onto Churchill.  His rhetoric was always formidable, but one of the reasons he ended up in the wilderness is that we could deploy recklessly, in forlorn and unworthy causes.  The first speech we see here is his opposition to any attempt by the British government to alter the existing arrangements under which India was part of the Empire.  On this issue, Churchill was simply wrong.

It was with the coming to power of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party in 1933, that the man and his rhetoric were matched to the perfect issue.   Listen to excerpts from speeches in 1933 and 1934.  The '34 speech is on Germany's growing strength in the air.  Along with his main point, the need for Britain to maintain air superiority, two other aspects struck me.  The first was his perceptive point on the use of deterrence; the second his, in retrospect, overestimate on the damage enemy bombers could cause Britain.  In this, Churchill represented the conventional wisdom that "the bomber always gets through" and would inflict unthinkable and catastrophic damage in very short time.  The reality in the early years of the war was that however horrific the physical destruction and loss of life was during the Battle of Britain, it was only a small fraction of what had been projected, and the effect was not to destroy morale, but rather to strengthen it.

The excerpts close with Churchill's 1936 speech in the wake of German reoccupation of the Rhineland and his magnificent speech after Britain and France sold out Czechoslovakia at the Munich conference in the fall of 1938.  If you do nothing else, listen to that speech which starts about 18 minutes in to the video.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Arizona Monsoon

Mrs THC snapped this photo on Monday afternoon.  We were driving (about 10 minutes from home) when we saw this storm to the northwest of edge of the Phoenix metro area.  It's typical of what happens in July, August, and September during the monsoon season here, when the wind switches around to the south and southwest and brings up moisture laden water from the Gulf of California where it collides with the heated summer air of Arizona.  Storms build up in the afternoon in the mountains surrounding Phoenix and then start moving through the area.

June saw endless cloudless days with temperatures as high as 122 downtown and 118 even where we live about 1000 feet above downtown, with afternoon humidity below 10% (and as low as 3%).  At its worst, it's like being inside a pizza oven.  On July 10 everything changed.  Humidity began to rise with afternoon lows between 30% and 50%, we saw more and more clouds, and average temperatures dropped by 10-15 degrees.  Then came more frequent downpours of rain, lighting, rainbows, and dramatic sunsets.

Yesterday afternoon was the worst the metro area has seen so far.  Huge 65,000 foot high thunderheads formed and moved through much of the area bringing rain, lightning and 60 mph winds.  And that wasn't all.  On the southern edge of the metro area we had a haboob; a several hundred high foot wall of wind blown sand moving across the land.  Real Biblical stuff.  Below is a photo of a haboob (not today's).
Below are some photos Mrs THC took from our place in the aftermath of yesterday's action.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

All Creatures End

Robert Hardy passed away yesterday at the age of 91.  He played crusty Yorkshire Downs veterinarian Siegfried Farnon in the BBC series (1978-80, 1988-90) based on the book All Creatures Great and Small.  I loved both the book and the TV show.   Hardy also frequently portrayed Winston Churchill, most famously in another BBC series, The Wilderness Years, and was also featured in the Harry Potter series.

This clip is from the All Creatures episode set on the day in 1939 Britain enter the Second World War, showing Siegfried with his son Tristan.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Turnaround And Hot Streaks

As of May 23, 2017 it certainly looked like Andrew McCutchen, the star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was trending down in his career performance.  From 2012 through 2015 McCutchen was considered one of the best players in baseball, accumulating a slash line (batting average/on base %/slugging % of .313/.404.523, winning one MVP award and finishing in the top five the other three seasons.

Andrew finished the 2015 season on a bit of a down note, hitting only .211 in his last 17 games, but it seemed like the typical funk any batter goes through in the course of a season.  Then came 2016 season.  It was a miserable year from start to finish.  McCutchen's slash line was .256/.336/.430 and his range in the outfield was diminished.

When he started 2017 it was even worse.  Through his first 45 games the slash was .200/.271/.359.  Going back to his slump at the end of 2015, McCutchen was hitting .242 in 822 at-bats.  This looked like something more than just a temporary slump.  It looked like he'd established a permanent, and lower, level of performance.

Since May 23 something has happened.  Over the past 57 games he's batted .389.  Where he had walked 17 times and struck out 34 in 187 plate appearances before that date, he's walked 37 times and struck out 36 in 227 plate appearances since then, with a Ted Williams-style on base percentage of .489.  The outfielder had 14 extra base hits in 170 at bats as of May 23; he's amassed 30 in 190 at bats since then, with a slugging percentage of .721.

Is the current McCutchen just someone on a hot streak who will revert to his performance of earlier in the season?  Has he made some adjustment at the plate?  What is going on here?  Or is it just one of those things?


And then we have Jose Altuve, Houston's diminutive second baseman, who is not recovering from a down period but simply getting hot..  Last year, Jose was batting .311 on May 27, before embarking on a 73 game span through August 20 during which he hit .402 (a streak I wrote about at the time). with Aaron Judge)

This year Jose was at .291 on May 26.  In the 53 games since he's hit at a .430 pace (with .485 on base and .655 slugging), including a 24 game streak where he average .510 (52 for 102).  Hitting safely in 49 of 53 games, Altuve's had 15 contests with 3 or 4 hits, and smacked two hits in another  15 games.  Let's see how long he can keep it up.