Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The forgotten man of Pearl Harbor

Not the USS J.O. Richardson
In 1940, Commander-in-Chief Franklin Roosevelt ordered the Pacific Fleet to base itself at Pearl Harbor. He also poured money into a crash program of fortifications in Hawaii, Guam, Wake Island, the Philippines, the Canal Zone and elsewhere in the Pacific.

Earlier, starting in 1937, he had begun the buildup to a two-ocean navy, against the squeals of both rightwingers (who liked Germany and didn't like to spend money on the military) and leftwingers (who liked to spend money at home and thought the world had learned a lesson in 1914-18). He was abetted by Georgia congressman Carl Vinson.

At this date, few people are aware of the political pressure on Roosevelt who was widely and wildly condemned as a warmonger. His policy counts, we now see, as among the very greatest acts of wise leadership in our history, equaled only by Lincoln's nurturing of national goals just before and during the Civil War.

It is a good thing FDR started when he did, because it takes a long time to build warships. It wasn't until mid-1943 that the aircraft carrier Essex, first of the modern carriers of the new fleet, sailed for the Pacific (with my father and about 1,500 other new ensigns aboard, catching a lift to their first ships; in Dad's example the destroyer Case).

The president is not only commander-in-chief, he is also he director of foreign policy; and, as Clauswitz told us, the military exists only to further foreign policy, not the other way round. Roosevelt's policy was to try to restrain Japan so that armed force could be directed at Germany, the more dangerous state.  This policy failed (See Book Review 375: "Bankrupting the Enemy"). But it was never certain to fail.

Basing the Pacific Fleet forward was intended to reinforce the commodity and financial sanctions, and diplomatic pressure, on Japan to deter it from wider war. As the Japanese now know, that was a lesson they should have taken seriously.

It was a risk. J.O. Richardson, commander of the Pacific Fleet, warned Roosevelt that the Hawaii base was underdeveloped, inconvenient and easier to attack than West Coast bases, mainly around San Diego. All this was true but irrelevant. Richardson should have said, "Aye, aye, sir," and gotten on with the assignment. (Dad admired Ray Spruance most of all wartime commanders, because unlike all the rest he didn't complain about the forces he was allotted; he went ahead with what he had and always won; the only great commander America produced in the war.)

Instead, Richardson wouldn't shut up, so Roosevelt fired him.

Richardson was right; if the fleet had been in San Diego, it couldn't have been attacked. But he was wrong, because an unbuilt fleet couldn't have been attacked either.

And that is why today's Navy has a carrier named USS Carl Vinson and not even a garbage scow named USS J.O. Richardson.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Galatians 6:7

"God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform"
-- William Cowper

For all my life Bible-thumpers have been warning me that God would punish America for its sins, usually with hurricanes, communist invasions, tornadoes or whatnot. We have had plenty of all except the commie takeover but the message from the Lord has been unfortunately garbled.  The outwardly good perish and the defiers of Baptist morality flourish.

So it is a pleasure to report that -- just as St. Paul cautioned the Galatians -- we have a clear example of what happens when God is mocked.

Recall that the currently most popular sin for which God is going to punish America is gay marriage. Many Christians have warned us about this, for example one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee:

Sure enough God has tagged Gatlinburg, the marriage capital of the eastern United States, for the Sodom and Gomorrah treatment; and has struck down one of the most vocal persons in the gay marriage controversy. In fact, he smote the guy who put up that sign.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pray you do not get sick, Deplorables II

So the nominee for secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Tom Price, thinks Obamacare interferes in a bad way with the doctor-patient relationship. Price is a surgeon.

I wonder what he thinks about the current system.  Earlier this month I had to make 3 time-consuming and costly trips downtown to pick up and return a recording oxygen meter for my wife. Her doctor thinks she needs oxygen; she thinks she needs oxygen.

Their opinion counts for nothing. The decision whether her insurance (not Obamacare) will pay for it is made by a clerk with no medical training.

1. The Republican Party does not support a minimum wage of $15; it is not clear whether the tea party wing (of which Price is an ornament) believes in a minimum wage law at all.

2. Price's alternative to Obamacare is tax credits for purchasing private medical insurance.

3. As Mitt Romney famously complained, close to half of Americans make so little money (see point 1 in this summary) that they owe little or no tax.

4. A tax credit for a person not subject to tax is worth $0.00. (For people like Price it will be worth anything up to $1.00 per $1.00; a pattern emerges.)

Enjoy paying all your medical bills out of current income or savings, Trumpeters.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Is an itch a tickle?

Humor is hard to do. Consider the 2016 Ignobel Prize in Medicine, which went to German scientists who discovered (in 2013) that if an itch is induced in one forearm, having the sufferer watch himself in a mirror while scratching the like spot on the other arm will bring substantial relief.

While the idea is amusing the implications seem serious enough. Really, the only funny part was the speculation as to the mechanism:

This effect might be due to a transient illusionary intersensory perceptual congruency of visual, tactile and pruriceptive signals.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


In 1985 I was in Manhattan for a convention. The people I was with were anxious to look at Trump Tower, which was fairly new. They also wanted to see Bijan, a shop in the tower that sold $250 neckties.  I had no interest in either but went along with my group.

If I had any expectations, they were for, at least, an impressive interior space like the ones John Portman had introduced in the '70s in Atlanta. I was surprised to find that the entrance room to the tower was so dinky. Other than that, I have had no contact with Trump taste in building.

Now it cannot be avoided. news photographs of Trump's meeting with Prime Minister Abe show us his living room.

Garish doesn't begin to describe it. I thought, where have I seen the like for a political leader? Oh, yeah, Saddam Hussein.

However, when I looked up a photograph of Saddam's living room it was, comparatively, a model of taste and restraint.

I feign no hypotheses, but it is surprising.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

'Transparent flapdoodle'

I regret I never used that phrase in any of the stories I wrote in my newspaper days. Bravo, Michael
Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times.

He is exactly right about the 'Spirit-ualization' of the airlines, especially United.  Fortunately for me, my travel patterns have changed and I won't have to fly United any more. Not such good news for Hawaii tourism, however, which still depends a lot on United.

It makes you wonder whether American business managers understand who gives their businesses money.

Although I believe that good ol' 'Murican racism accounts for about 98% of Trump's electoral success, I also believe that a part of his personal -- as opposed to his policy -- appeal came from his habit of stiffing people who he hired. Democrats, who believe in an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, thought those stories would hurt him.

What they didns't get was the boiling rage of the American consumer who has a choice of buying crap from China or other crap from China, and if it breaks on the second use, there's no one to complain to. Or, if it's a service business (like his cable provider), he has to endure the humiliation of complaining to a brown person in India who speaks 'Murican with a lilting accent and reads from a script and is prevented form actually doing anything for him.

What the individualistic 'Murican wants to do is to tell all those businesses that don't give a hoot about him or his satisfaction to stuff it, he ain't payin'. Of corse, he's afraid to do it. Credit rating and all.

But he likes to watch Trump do it.

But he loves to see Trump do it.