“Peace For Our Time” N. Chamberlain September 30, 1938

Mr. Trump has just declared that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. This appears to be based solely on his belief that he can trust Kim Jong Un since nothing else has changed except that the United States is leaving South Korea while North Korea’s nuclear weapons are still there ready to be used. This reminds me of Neville Chamberlain’s claim following his meeting with Adolph Hitler at Munich in 1938 that we have “peace for our time”. That “peace” lasted less than one year.

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Posted in History, military, North Korea, Politics | 1 Comment

The Latest Presidential “Pardon”

The news is filled with speculation about the “historic” meeting of Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. The “historic” characterization is based upon the fact that a US president has never before found it necessary or even advantageous to meet with the leader of this particular small country. The credit for this goes to Kim and North Korea’s persistent pursuit and the final success of its nuclear ambitions. There are many other small countries that have yet to meet a US president. I have written about this earlier on this blog (North Korea and the Repeating of History. Posted on April 22, 2018) and I still think Kim’s goal is not financial aid, but the removal US support for South Korea and its eventual reunification with the North. I am fearful that Mr. Trump is prepared to reduce both troop commitments and support for South Korea in order to make this meeting appear to be successful, just as Kim is hoping he will.
There is another darker event that is being overshadowed here however. Mr. Trump proposed that Russia be readmitted to the G7. In 2014 Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimea from Ukraine, a violation of its sovereignty and international law. Mr. Trump would prefer to blame Barak Obama for “letting” this happen, but to allow Mr. Putin’s government to rejoin the G7, making it G8 again, is tantamount to “pardoning” Putin. He committed a violation of international law, has not made any attempt to rectify his action or even admitted that what he did was wrong. Further there was no requirement that any rectifying action accompany the offer to rejoin the G7. This amounts to a full pardon with no justice being done, no restoring of the stolen property and perhaps most significant, no assurance that this behavior will not continue. Here the similarity with North Korea is apparent: Kim is being rewarded by Mr. Trump for developing nuclear weapons and threatening the world and the United States in particular, with nuclear attack. Other nations, notably Iran, may take this lesson seriously.

Posted in military, North Korea, Politics, Putin, Writer of mysteries | Leave a comment

The War We Are Fighting and Ignoring Now

There is rising concern about the cyber war we are now engaged in. Russia is a serious threat and now we are realizing that China is a threat as well. I have always wondered if the recent ship collisions involving US Naval vessels are “accidents” or sabotage. Has one of our enemies penitrated the computer systems that control our vessels?

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North Korea and the Repeating of History

North Korea and Kim Jong Un are much in the news of late and rightly so, but not for the reason most put forth. I, like many others, have followed the recent events, but I would like to propose a historical perspective that I believe will offer a better understanding of the current situation on the Korean peninsula. When we consider the history of Korea and its domination by other counties, both Asian (China and Japan) and Europe and the United States, the current misrepresentation is obvious and largely the result of misinterpretation of the goals of Mr. Kim. The major goal of Korea has been to assert its independence and sovereignty and that of North Korea is an extension of this. The reunification of Korea has been the principle goal since the creation of a divided Korea. This was the genesis of the Korean War. In this regard the situation seems very similar to Vietnam, Ireland and even Germany, all nations which were artificially divided and who set out to reunite themselves. In spite of the fact that Vietnam was seen in the United States as a war of global politics, of communist expansion, it was in fact a local war of reunification. When that goal was achieved, military hostility toward the United States largely evaporated.
Similarly the move toward unification of Ireland brought relative calm between the two antagonists. The British and Irish are no longer killing each other. This is true with North Korea as well. While the current administration chooses to think of Kim as our enemy, I believe that North Korea views the United States more as an obstacle than as an enemy. They want to have the United States cease to support South Korea as a means of facilitating the unification of their country. There may even be sentiment for this in South Korea.
The current administration is greatly facilitating this process by advocating an “America First” policy which is seen by the rest of the world, including South Korea, as a statement that the United States will only protect other nations like South Korea if it is consistent with protecting “America”. There is also a policy of increasing demands that foreign nations must pay for the military forces stationed by the United States in their countries. This is a departure from previous administration and adds to the unease of our allies. To further exacerbate this, our trade policies in Asia seem designed to convince China, the major regional power, that there is little to be gained by supporting the United States. It is little wonder that South Korea is no longer depending on the United States for protection and is opening talks with its Northern half. The United States is rapidly becoming a minor player in Asia. One can perceive a similar situation developing in Europe and the Middle East where our involvement is sporadic at best and whimsical at worst.
It is unfortunately these wars are not only being fought on the battlefield and the seas, but in cyberspace too. The people of Korea, Europe and the Middle East are being convinced by our enemies in the cyber war, that the United States is not committed to supporting or protecting them. This message is being propagated on social media channels about the recent bombing in Syria. The preparation for that attack should have included a social media campaign as well.
Will North Korea surrender its nuclear weapons? Perhaps, but I personally doubt it. They are achieving the goals they were built for, but the very success of the program makes maintaining it seem more logical. Indeed exporting the technology to other nations would seem the most logical move. North Korea has stated that they are now committed to economic growth and the nuclear and missile technology is their most saleable item. They have demonstrated that it works. A country with nuclear weapons can accomplish its long term goals.

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A Question

I will be writing again soon, but right now I have a question which I hope someone can answer. I was brought up Catholic, and I am familiar with the food laws in their general sense. Particularly with “meatless” Fridays, which were the rule when I was young. Lately I have been reading about this practice and the changes over years. One source suggested that “meat” referred to RED meat, not fish or fowl, birds that is. Can anyone offer clarify or refute this?

Posted in History, religion | 2 Comments

The History of Plumbing in the White House or Where does the Presidential Poop Go Anyway?

It seems a simple question and one that hardly should be asked even about the chief executive of the most powerful country on Earth and yet … it has some reason to be foremost in my mind during the current administration. It is also a medical issue as we shall see. According to the official White House web site (https://www.whitehousehistory.org/questions/when-did-the-white-house-first-get-plumbing) the first “plumbing” was not actually “in” the White House. It seems that John Quincy Adams, president from 1825 to 1829, was an enthusiastic gardener and had a garden pump with nine spouts attached to a well at the Treasury Building next door. It was used to provide water for the White House grounds however, not for its inhabitants. John Quincy is one of my favorite presidents because he almost singlehandedly insured that the Smithsonian Institute was established, but that is another story and one that took place after his tenure in the White House (https://siarchives.si.edu/history/general-history).
John Quincy’s replacement in the White House was his sworn adversary, Andrew Jackson, president from 1829 to 1837, and it was he who advanced the plumbing into the White House. At the time many hotels and some homes of the wealthy had indoor plumbing so the White House was somewhat behind the curve. Andrew was a man of the people and criticized by many, but he brought the pipes into at least the first floor and was probably the resident when the first “bathing” room was installed around 1833. How much he was personally responsible for the innovations is less clear and whether he used them is not recorded, but plumbing and bathing in the second floor residential rooms where the president slept did not arrive until 1853 under the administration of Millard Fillmore, 1850 to 1853. Franklin Pierce who succeeded Millard in 1853, had a bathing room on the second floor that was luxurious indeed having both hot and cold running water. Before that time bathing required that a portable tub and kettles of hot water be carried upstairs. Bathing was apparently an infrequent occurrence at the time. (https://www.whitehousehistory.org/questions/when-did-the-white-house-first-get-plumbing )
Franklin’s wife never lived in the White House, another story to be explored elsewhere, and it is suggested that the first woman to bathe in that august home was James Buchannan’s niece, Harriet Lane, who acted as James’ hostess ad was probably the first such hostess to be called “the first lady”. She was far more popular than her uncle the president. James was a lifelong bachelor and is often felt to have been the first gay president. Unlike today, he was disliked for his lack of political ability, not his sexual orientation. He served from 1857 to 1861, and his failure to act decisively when South Carolina seceded in response to Abe Lincoln’s election is often cited as causing the Civil War. (https://prezi.com/3gee4mmduaf6/james-buchananthe-cause-of-the-civil-war/). In justice to James, most historians feel that an armed conflict was inevitable.
The most famous bathtub in the White House was that installed for Willian Howard Taft. He weighed 340 pounds standing only 5 feet 11 inches tall and the tub was 50% larger than the usual tub and weighed a ton. Four men could sit in his tub and this is verified by a photograph of – well four workmen sitting in it, fully clothed. There is a persistent story that he was once stuck in that tub, this story according to Irwin “Ike” Hoover, the chief White House usher during the Taft presidency. His book, titled: 42 Years in the White House, (ISBN-13: 978-1530072378) was published in 1932 and is the only verifiable source for the story (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/06/fact-or-fiction-taft-got-stuck-in-a-tub/). Bathing was apparently a risky business at the time. It was banned in Boston in 1845, and some residents still obey that statute (https://twitter.com/ericlach/status/575681271982080001?lang=en).
Whether the story about Taft is true or not, the press subjected Mr. Taft to intense and malicious stories about his bathtubs. He did have a large tub installed on the USS North Carolina in 1909, and it was probably the one that ended up at the White House. It was made by Mott Manufacturing and they claimed that it was the largest ever made. It was probably their workmen pictured sitting in it. Taft was an antitrust progressive, busting several trusts during his presidency. The trust Taft busted in his final year as President was — you guessed it: the bathtub trust. I’m not sure if this is more surprising than the fact that there was a bathtub trust. (https://triviahappy.com/articles/the-truth-about-william-howard-tafts-bathtub). An act of revenge? Probably not.
But I have digressed into the dirty water of White House bathtubs long enough and must return to the other plumbing in the executive mansion and to medicine — and to public health. Of the nine presidents who served between 1861 and 1901 three were assassinated, a risky occupation it seems, but none died in the White House. Lincoln of course died in a room across the street from Ford Theater after being shot by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. He never returned to the White House until after he died. William McKinley was shot by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, on September 1, 1901 while in Buffalo New York and only a few feet from one of the first x-ray machines which was on display at the Pan-American Exposition. (https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/IF-ONLY…-President-McKinley-Assassination ) He too never returned to the White House. James Garfield was shot on by Charles J. Guiteau, on July 2,1881, and was agonizingly treated in the White House before being moved to the New Jersey shore where he died. Incidentally, Guiteau entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, arguing that the assassination had been “God’s act and not mine.” He even claimed that the true cause of Garfield’s death was malpractice at the hands of his doctors. “I deny the killing, if your honor please,” he announced at one point. “We admit the shooting.” His autopsy suggested a diagnosis of neurosyphillis. (http://www.history.com/news/the-assassination-of-president-james-a-garfield) Garfield was brought back to the White House after he was shot where he lingered in considerable pain for 79 days between his shooting and death. He died of infection in his wound and septicemia shortly after he was moved to the New Jersey shore and his death was in fact probably attributable to the care rendered by his physicians. Anti-sepsis/asepsis was still a novel idea and several of his physicians, there were probably more than twenty in total, probed his wounds with ungloved fingers searching for the bullet. One actually punctured his liver. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, even attempted to locate the bullet using an induction coil. He failed because of interference, not from the physicians overseeing Garfield’s care, but the metal bed springs beneath the president. But while his medical care likely contributed to his death, some said it was the plumbing that was to blame. While the actual pipes were not brought into question, the elaborate toilets with their wooden features were notoriously unsanitary. They were essentially “outhouses” brought inside. More easily cleaned porcelain fixtures soon replaced them possibly hastened by the president death (https://www.oldhouseonline.com/articles/the-history-of-the-toilet ). Ironically Mr. Garfield was the last president to be born in a log cabin and undoubtedly grew up using an outhouse. (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/1600/presidents/jamesgarfield )
Of course this is not the end of the story and I will apologize preemptively for bringing the most famous plumbers of the White House into this treatise. No mention of “plumbers” in the White House could be complete without “water” — as in Watergate. Watergate, of course, is a commercial/residential complex which just happens to be near some “water” and a “gate”. The Democratic National Committee had an office there, and – well “Watergate” became etched into our national history and gave birth to all sorts of other “gates’, my favorite being “Deflategate” involving my hometown team, the New England Patriots and the footballs used by them (http://www.espn.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4782561/timeline-of-events-for-deflategate-tom-brady). But for purposes of this writing we will confine our discussion to the “plumbers” of Watergate fame and how they came by that name. On Thanksgiving evening of 1972, David Young arrived home from his planning session at the Special Investigative Unit, when his grandmother asked him, “What do you do at the White House?” He replied, “I am helping the president (Richard Nixon) stop some leaks.” “Oh,” she exclaimed, “you’re a plumber!” Young, Liddy, and Hunt apparently thought this was amusing and put up a sign on their office door with the title “The Plumbers”, but it was taken down since their covert operations were supposed to be top secret. Still, the name stuck for the group. (Dean, John W. The Nixon Defense, p. 663n. Penguin Group, 2014. ISBN 978-0-670-02536-7)
And so we see that the White House plumbing reaches far beyond the dirty water that flows through our government. It has been blamed for killing president as well as bathing them; imprisoning them in its tubs, and threatening to impeach them, — well sort of anyway. Someone should look into the possibility of an ongoing conspiracy in the rusty pipes within our national landmark.

Posted in History, humor, medicine, Politics | 2 Comments

The Politics of Military Service

I do not understand how anyone who insulted John McCain, one of the truly great military veterans in this country, can have the audacity to criticize anyone. I cannot understand how anyone can have anything except contempt for such a man after he said that John McCain was not a hero. Where is the respect for our veterans and service members in our country that people will tolerate this?

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