Dunkirk on Thursday, May 16, 1940

Normally talk of individuals saving civilization is correctly limited to summer sci-fi movies. But in those very movies nowadays, it seems that the Germans of WWII are the only universally acceptable symbols of evil. [The unwillingness to identify other evils in mass appeals a likely product of multiculturalism run amuck.] It is useful to recall the moments in history when their evil was not cartoonish, but real.

William Manchester begins his biography of Winston Churhill as follows:

The French had collapsed. The Dutch had been overwhelmed. The Belgians had surrendered. The British army, trapped, fought free and fell back toward the Channel ports, converging on a fishing town whose name was then spelled Dunkerque.

Behind them lay the sea.

It was England’s greatest crisis since the Norman conquest, vaster than those precipitated by Philip II’s Spanish Armada, Louis XIV’s triumphant armies, or Napoleon’s invasion barges massed at Boulogne. This time Britain stood alone. If the Germans crossed the Channel and established uncontested beachheads, all would be lost, for it is a peculiarity of England’s island that its southern weald is indefensible against disciplined troops. In A.D. 61, Queen Boudicca of the Iceni rallied the tribes of East Anglia and routed the Romans at Colchester, Saint Albans, and London (then Londinium), cutting the Ninth Legion to pieces and killing seventy thousand. But because the nature of the southern terrain was unsuitable for the construction of strongpoints, new legions under Paulinus, arriving from Gaul, crushed the revolt, leaving the grief-stricken queen to die by her own hand.

Now the 220,000 Tommies at Dunkirk, Britain’s only hope, seemed doomed. On the Flanders beaches they stood around in angular, existential attitudes, like dim purgatorial souls awaiting disposition. There appeared to be no way to bring more than a handful of them home. The Royal Navy’s vessels were inadequate. King George VI has been told that they would be lucky to save 17,000. The House of Commons was warned to prepare for “hard and heavy tidings.” Then, from the streams and estuaries of Kent and Dover, a strange fleet appeared: trawlers and tugs, scows and fishing sloops, lifeboats and pleasure craft, smacks and coasters; the island ferry Gracie Fields; Tom Sopwith’s America’s Cup challenger Endeavour; even the London fire brigade’s fire-float Massey Shaw—all of them manned by civilian volunteers: English fathers, sailing to rescue England’s exhausted, bleeding sons.

Even today what followed seems miraculous. Not only were Britain’s soldiers delivered; so were French support troops: a total of 338,682 men. But wars are not won by fleeing from the enemy. And British morale was still unequal to the imminent challenge. These were the same people who, less than a year earlier, had rejoiced in the fake peace bought by the betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich. Most of their leaders and most of the press remained craven. It had been over a thousand years since Alfred the Great had made himself and his countrymen one and sent them into battle transformed. Now in this new exigency, confronted by the mightiest conqueror Europe had ever known, England looked for another Alfred, a figure cast in a mold which, by the time of the Dunkirk deliverance, seemed to have been forever lost.

England’s new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England’s decent, civilized Establishment had rejected. They viewed Adolf Hitler as the product of complex social and historical forces. Their successor would have to be a passionate Manichaean who saw the world as a medieval struggle to the death between the powers of good and the powers of evil, who held that individuals are responsible for their actions and that the German dictator was therefore wicked. A believer in martial glory was required, one who saw splendor in the ancient parades of victorious legions through Persepolis and could rally the nation to brave the coming German fury. An embodiment of fading Victorian standards was wanted: a tribune for honor, loyalty, duty, and the supreme virtue of action; one who would never compromise with iniquity, who could create a sublime mood and thus give men heroic visions of what they were and might become. Like Adolf Hitler he would have to be a leader of intuitive genius, a born demagogue in the original sense of the word, a believer in the supremacy of his race and his national destiny, an artist who knew how to gather the blazing light of history into his prism and then distort it to his ends, an embodiment of inflexible resolution who could impose his will and his imagination on his people—a great tragedian who understood the appeal of martyrdom and could tell his followers the worst, hurling it to them like great hunks of bleeding meat, persuading them that the year of Dunkirk would be one in which it was “equally good to live or to die”—who could if necessary be just as cruel, just as cunning, and just as ruthless as Hitler but who could win victories without enslaving populations, or preaching supernaturalism, or foisting off myths of his infallibility, or destroying, or even warping, the libertarian institutions he had sworn to preserve. Such a man, if he existed, would be England’s last chance.

In London there was such a man.

Walter Lord describes why Churchill flew to Paris the very next day following his early morning call from French Premier Paul Reynaud on May 15th:

The crisis was so grave—and so little could be grasped over the phone—that on the 16th Churchill flew to Paris to see things for himself. At the [Foreign Ministry office] Quai d’Orsay he found “utter dejection” on every face; in the garden elderly clerks were already burning the files.

There was a potentially disastrous delay in the military hierarchy’s grasping the changes on the ground vs standing orders to the troops. One man who grasped the implications immediately was General the Viscount Gort, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. Walter Lord describes Gort:

A big burly man of 53, Lord Gort was no strategist, but he had certain soldierly virtues that came in handy at a time like this. He was a great fighter—had won the Victoria Cross storming the Hindenburg Line in 1918—and he was completely unflappable.

General Alphonse-Joseph Georges, his French superior, might be in tears by now, but never Gort. He methodically turned to the job of protecting his exposed flank and pulling his army back. His trained combat divisions were tied up fighting the Germans to the east. To meet the new threat to the south and the west, he improvised a series of scratch forces, composed of miscellaneous units borrowed from here and there.

Meanwhile, using a timetable worked out by the French, on the evening of May 16 he began pulling his front-line troops back from the Dyle. The new line was to be the River Escaut, 60 miles to the rear, the retreat to be carried out in three stages. Crack units carried out their orders meticulously [… but there was much confusion for most]. Dispatch riders carrying the orders couldn’t always find the right headquarters. Some regiments started late. Others lost their way in the dark. Others made the wrong turn. Others ran into hopeless traffic jams. Still others never got the orders at all.

The 32nd Field Regiment [part of the British artillery] was [advancing] toward the Dyle, unaware of any retreat, when word came to take position in a field some miles short of the river. Gunner R. Shattock was told to take one of the unit’s trucks and get some rations. This he did, but by the time he got back, the whole regiment had vanished. After a night of worry, he set out for the main road, hoping to find at least a trace of somebody he knew.

He was immediately swamped by a wave of running men. “Come on, get going,” they shouted; “the Jerries have broken through, and it’s every man for himself.” They swarmed over the truck, piling on the roof, the hood, the fenders.

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Dunkirk on Wednesday, May 15, 1940

From Walter Lord’s book, The Miracle of Dunkirk, the moment that Winston Churchill realized that the Allied forces situation was worse than imagined:

At 7:30 a.m. on May 15, Churchill was asleep in his quarters at Admiralty House, London. The bedside phone rang; it was French Premier Paul Reynaud. “We have been defeated,” Reynaud blurted in English.

A nonplussed silence, as Churchill tried to collect himself.

“We are beaten”; Reynaud went on, “we have lost the battle.”

“Surely it can’t have happened so soon?” Churchill finally managed to say.

“The front is broken near Sedan; they are pouring through in great numbers with tanks and armored cars.”

Churchill did his best to soothe the man—reminded him of the dark days in 1918 when all turned out well in the end—but Reynaud remained distraught. He ended as he had begun: “We are defeated; we have lost the battle.”

Bombardier Watkin went from thinking the Allied forces were on the verge of a victory the previous day, to making the following entry in his diary:

What a day! We are due to retreat at 10:30 p.m., and as we do, we get heavy shellfire, and we thank God we are all safe. … Except for the shock I am o.k.

May 15th was Winston Churchill’s 6th day as Prime Minister.

Walter Lord summaries why all were so shocked:

It seemed incredible. Since 1918 the French Army had been generally regarded as the finest in the world. With the rearmament of Germany under Adolf Hitler, there was obviously a new military power in Europe, but still, her leaders were untested and her weapons smacked of gimmickry. When the Third Reich swallowed one Central European country after another, this was attributed to bluff and bluster. When war finally did break out in 1939 and Poland fell in three weeks, this was written off as something that could happen to Poles—but not to the West. When Denmark and Norway went in April 1940, this seemed just an underhanded trick; it could be rectified later.

Then after eight months of quiet—“the phony war”—on the 10th of May, Hitler suddenly struck at Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Convinced that the attack was a replay of 1914, the Supreme Allied Commander, General Maurice Gamelin, rushed his northern armies—including the British Expeditionary Force—to the rescue.

But Gamelin had miscalculated. It was not 1914 all over again. Instead of a great sweep through Flanders, the main German thrust was farther south, through the “impenetrable” Ardennes Forest. This was said to be poor tank country, and the French hadn’t even bothered to extend the supposedly impenetrable Maginot Line to cover it.

Another miscalculation. While General Colonel Fedor von Bock’s Army Group B tied up the Allies in Belgium, General Colonel Gerd von Rundstedt’s Army Group A came crashing through the Ardennes. Spearheaded by 1,806 tanks and supported by 325 Stuka dive bombers, Rundstedt’s columns stormed across the River Meuse and now were knifing through the French countryside.

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Dunkirk on Tuesday, May 14, 1940

Walter Lord’s book, The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo, begins as follows:

Every man had his own special moment when he first knew that something was wrong. For Royal Air Force [RAF] Group Captain Collard, it was the evening of May 14, 1940, in the market town of Vervins in NE France. Five days had passed since “the balloon went up,” as the British liked to refer to the sudden German assault in the west. The situation was obscure, and Collard had come down from British General Headquarters in Arras to confer with the staff of General Corap, whose French Ninth Army was holding the River Meuse to the south. Such meetings were perfectly normal between the two Allies, but there was nothing normal about the scene tonight. Corap’s headquarters had simply vanished. No sign of the General or his staff. Only two exhausted French officers were in the building, crouched over a hurricane lamp … waiting, they said, to be captured.

Elsewhere Lance Bombardier Noel Watkin, with the artillery arm of the British Army, heard rumors of a great Allied victory. That night he had nothing but good news for the diary he surreptitiously kept:

Enemy retreat 6 ½ miles. Very little doing till the evening. We fire on S.O.S. lines and prevent the Huns crossing the River Dyle. Many Germans are killed [27,000 was the official count] and taken prisoner.

In Britain, a BBC broadcast called on “all owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30 and 100 feet in length to send all particulars to the Admiralty within 14 days.” The call had been prompted not by recent events in Flanders [battle in Belgium], but by the ongoing magnetic [sea] mine threat from the Germans. To counter this, the country’s boatyards were absorbed in turning out wooden minesweepers. Finding its normal sources dried up, the Small Vessels Pool was requisitioning private yachts and power boats to meet its own expanding needs.

That morning Hitler had issued the following report regarding the ongoing invasion of the Netherlands:

The resistance capability of the Dutch army has proved to be stronger than expected. Political as well as military reasons demand that this resistance is broken as soon as possible….

The Blitz of Rotterdam

Later in the day, the Dutch city of Rotterdam was the target of an aerial bombardment by the German air force, the Luftwaffe. This would result in Britain changing its policy of not bombing civilian industrial targets. The Germans objective was to support their troops fighting in the city, break Dutch resistance and force the Dutch to surrender.

The Dutch surrendered the next day under the threat of having another city, Utrecht, bombed next.

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Dunkirk on Friday, May 10, 1940

Some days in history kinda put other days in history to shame. Take for example May 10th, 1940:

On this day in 1940, Hitler begins his Western offensive with the radio code word “Danzig,” sending his forces into Holland and Belgium. On this same day, having lost the support of the Labour Party, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigns; Winston Churchill accedes to the office, becoming defense minister as well.

As British and French Allied forces attempted to meet the 136 German divisions breaking into Holland and Belgium on the ground, 2,500 German aircraft proceeded to bomb airfields in Belgium, Holland, France, and Luxembourg, and 16,000 German airborne troops parachuted into Rotterdam, Leiden, and The Hague. A hundred more German troops, employing air gliders, landed and seized the Belgian bridges across the Albert Canal. The Dutch army was defeated in five days. One day after the invasion of Belgium, the garrison at Fort Eben-Emael surrendered, outmanned and outgunned by the Germans.

The Dutch and Belgian governments immediately appealed to Britain for help. Neville Chamberlain pleaded to Parliament that a coalition government, of Liberals and Labour, would be necessary to generate support for a war effort, especially given the lethargy that infected Britain, still reeling from World War I. Labour demonstrated no support for Chamberlain, preferring Churchill, who they thought better able to prosecute a war. As one member of Parliament put it: “Winston—our hope—he may yet save civilization.” Great Britain had finally come to take the Nazi threat seriously.

Christopher Nolan’s new film, Dunkirk, opens on July 21st. The combination of a great filmmaker in his prime taking on a film about his country’s most perilous moment in their long history is more than enticing.

Nolan’s thoughts on the film’s subject:

It’s one of the great human stories, and it’s one of the most suspenseful situations that I had ever heard of in my life. You have 400,000 men – the entire British army – trapped on the beach at Dunkirk. Their backs to the sea, home is only 26 miles away and it’s impossible to get to. The enemy is closing in, and there’s a choice between annihilation and surrender. I just think it’s the more extraordinarily suspenseful situation. That, I think, speaks to a lot of things that I am interested in with film.

That really should be enough. But on top of that, we have the equivalent of a young Ali saying, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Nolan on his use of IMAX technology for the film:

The entire film is large-format film photography, and I’ve never done that before. Very few people have ever done that before, and no one has ever shot as much IMAX as we’re doing. Most of the film is IMAX. With every film we’ve learned more and more how to maximize our ability to use those cameras, and we found ways to get those cameras into very unusual places for a camera that size, but the image quality speaks for itself. I think it’s going to be an extremely exciting presentation, particularly in those IMAX theaters.

The flip side of a filmmaker giving us a “visceral experience,” is that there won’t be much, if any, efforts to give the historical context. For example, on the film’s IMDB page, there are no acting credits for historical characters, i.e. Churchill, General Gort, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, etc.

Bloggers often admit that they end up blogging about topics they would have enjoyed reading elsewhere, but couldn’t locate. In my case, using Walter Lord’s book, The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo, I will be blogging about how the history of Dunkirk unfolded from May 14th through June 5th, day by day. Should be done right around July 21st.

See the entire Nolan interview at end of blog post.

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Movie music review – Zodiac

I read recently about why one should pay closer attention to characters names in books, or the music choices in a movie, or the props in a scene, etc. Artists are always trying to signal. When I caught myself starting to rewatch a favorite film I had already watched frequently, I figured, at least try to pick up some of those other signals this time.

It’s not even a small list. The list of movies I can’t stop rewatching once I’ve been exposed for more than a few seconds. That’s more than enough time for dopamine and other neurotransmitters to signal the limbic system. At which point, my Dale Carnegied will power is as useless as a Bernie placard at a monster truck rally.

Like with most, cable television’s premium channels were my entry drug. Streaming video services now lay in wait behind multiple blue screens. The search feature robs me of the excuse of randomness that channel surfing provided the psyche in those wistfully innocent days of yore. Nowadays, the blue screens view my efforts at resistance like those Publix bakery employees who ignore my initial ‘just looking’ reply and patiently (and contemptuously?) await the order.

There is always help. IMDB is leading the way by offering a workaround method to get around the non-non-GMO snack-inducing replay binges. For example, say Zodiac (2007) is reaching for your gonads and just not watching is not a realistic option. Try this at home. Say to yourself, ‘I’m jusgonna stop and check out where I’ve seen that Vallejo police officer on IMDB, I’ll be right back …’

That’s him James LeGros.  Sure enough, he’s got 119 acting credits. Knew I knew that guy! Now when the heck did he climb into the vortex. Let’s see was it The Rapture (1991) with the always underappreciated Mimi Rodgers? More likely it was in Cameron Crowe’s Singles (1992) .

About that other Vallejo police officer, Elias Koteas (87 credits), just saw him in The Killing (2013). Oh, and that other guy with the key witness Cheney, named Sandy Panzarella, that’s Paul Schulze (84 credits). He was in Nurse Jackie [make your own jokes]. Was he a cop? If not, why was he part of the Cheney interview?

Classic pitfall. If careless, one can google oneself down a wormhole worse than just rewatching the movie. The one website which answered my question in effect answered every question about the movie, Zodiac Killer Facts. Holy Oliver Stone!, the movie made up a bunch of stuff about Arthur Leigh Allen. I didn’t go there for that. I was OK thinking the heavyset white guy did it [who isn’t]. In effect, that website represents vicodin for your can’t stop watching back pain. Just say no, or at least be prepared to make unflattering admissions like, ‘I’m OK with the white guy being framed,’ and move on. [But they made a great point about why the guy who called Melvin Belli’s housekeeper could not have been Leigh].

Back to the character actors, Chloë Sevigny is a worthy successor to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s mantle of having the most interesting and varied female roles.  Her character’s 1st date with the Graysmith character was great. I was pleasantly surprised to read that Ms. Sevigny is a practicing Catholic.

Which reminds me, I’ve been looking to begin and end an IMDB-based contest. What scene in movie history has the most IMDB acting credits totaled by actors appearing in one legitimate scene (it can’t be a stadium type deal)? Time’s up. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the answer. I’ll tabulate and offer the proof in a future blog post.

Man, I never got to the music.


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Good spirits

I just had my 1st Harvey Wallbanger.  I watched my attentive host, Santiago, go about the task of preparing it in a diligent manner. He began by pouring Grey Goose vodka into tall glasses from an upside down rack and pour bottle system.

As Santiago ensured the 3 drinks he was preparing had similar amounts of vodka, my sights pulled back to a full view of the corner of his living room. Numerous vacation memorabilia plates fastidiously lined the walls, past the curved bar and stools, behind the ‘Santi’s Bar’ sign, testaments to apparent trips taken.

It would be tempting to describe the setup as a man cave. But man caves evoke images of people who’d like some privacy, even if just for televised games. If I would have dared asked and the elderly Santiago would have been magically able to respond in the vernacular of the day, I feel certain the response would be, “Brother, privacy is overrated.”

As Santiago reached for the sweet herbal liqueur Galliano, which he assured me was the key ingredient, my sights wandered across the room. Pictures of weddings and family adorned the opposite walls. Most prominent was a large portrait of his lovely wife named Nora–Santiago and I have that in common. Although Nora was in the room, her Alzheimer’s prevented us from being able to enjoy her company. She sat silently staring ahead, her trademark makeup impeccably applied courtesy of Santiago that morning. To not have done so would have been unthinkable, given that company was expected.

While Nora is nine years into her illness, its the last four have been really bad Santiago confided. The company they were expecting was the surviving wife of his life-long friend who passed a couple of years ago. I brought her, along with her life-long friend, my Mom.

Soon after I was served the brightly-colored Harvey and imbibed, my ‘that’s polite enough’ internal clock went off in my head. I get up to leave. Santiago asks, “Do you have to leave so soon?” I do, I explain, due to work. While it was true that I had work to do, there was no urgency requiring me to leave that soon.

I wish I could say that I realized that only after I left. That the opportunity to alleviate someone’s loneliness only occurred to me when Harry Chapin’s ‘Cats in the Cradle’ began streaming in the car afterwards. Nope, I felt something right at the moment he asked me to stay, and then left.

The irony of one day facing a similar scenario as Santiago and wondering why people can’t just give a little more of their time in moments like that, that haunting thought did come later. At Mass tomorrow, the Penitential Act will get my full attention:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do …

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Moneyballing a PhD wannabe vs The Great Courses

Moneyballingˈmənē/bôl/ing – to buy what is undervalued and sell what is overvalued.

In the introduction to his recent book, The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis admits that reviewers of his Moneyball book made an important observation about his book’s subject that he hadn’t even considered, Lewis explains;

… a review by a pair of academics, then both at the University of Chicago— an economist named Richard Thaler and a law professor named Cass Sunstein. Thaler and Sunstein’s piece, which appeared on August 31, 2003, in the New Republic, managed to be at once both generous and damning. The reviewers agreed that it was interesting that any market for professional athletes might be so screwed-up that a poor team like the Oakland A’s could beat most rich teams simply by exploiting the inefficiencies. But— they went on to say— the author of Moneyball did not seem to realize the deeper reason for the inefficiencies in the market for baseball players: They sprang directly from the inner workings of the human mind. The ways in which some baseball expert might misjudge baseball players— the ways in which any expert’s judgments might be warped by the expert’s own mind— had been described, years ago, by a pair of Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. My book wasn’t original. It was simply an illustration of ideas that had been floating around for decades and had yet to be fully appreciated by, among others, me.

That was an understatement. Until that moment I don’t believe I’d ever heard of either Kahneman or Tversky, even though one of them had somehow managed to win a Nobel Prize in economics….

The Atlantic magazine’s hatred of the eminently hateable Donald Trump has warped its own expert judgement such that it just published a hit piece on Trump which failed to mention Trump. Where are those proofreaders!

The writer, Edward Simon, a PhD candidate at Lehigh University, attempts to paint us a picture of a Trumpian character, without actually resorting to that Cheeto hue, let alone his name. Convincing readers that the Lucifer character in Paradise Lost is a classically American character, despite the fact that the epic poem was written about a century before the founding of the nation, might have given pause to a lessor academic. Not our Eddie.

He goes on [and on] to compare the Lucifer character with cable television characters [non-pay TV types just don’t resonate with the typical Atlantic reader, discerning and never ostentatious].  A sample of what Simon says:

… there is something revealing in how the triumphalist values of American individualism are also the values held dear by Lucifer. Like Walter [Breaking Bad] or Don [Mad Men], Milton’s character is ruthless, innovative, creative, and dangerous—and also in many ways as American as apple pie.

What no Tony Soprano? Patience my fellow troglodytes, he’s in there. You know the old saying, Milton’s hell hath no fury like a PhD candidate who voted for Hillary in a state Trump carried.  Unchained from The Atlantic’s too clever by half tactic, it wasn’t hard to find Mr Simon’s politics on display:

… I have in mind the anarcho-capitalist, the libertarian, those who idolize the myth of the “self-made man” when the only Man who can make Himself is not of this world. These ethical pip-squeaks have erroneously imagined that anyone can pull himself up by his bootstraps, or by his jackboots as the case increasingly seems to be. Let us not pretend that there is anything “Christian” in a worldview that lets children without insurance die or that is fine with men and women starving to death in the richest nation in history.

Wow, Lehigh sounds like a rough place. And yet … yearly undergrad tuition and costs are in the $60K range. Worth every federal student loan dollar no doubt.

For a much more balanced take on Milton and Paradise Lost, I’d recommend The Great Courses Plus. Why Evil Exists, all 36 lectures taught by the mesmerizing Charles Mathewes, a real PhD [jus sayin] whose excellence is par for the Courses. The description of Lecture 18, Milton – Epic Evil:

Milton’s Paradise Lost is another deeply influential literary meditation on evil. Here, travel deeply into the psychic agony of Satan, in Milton’s complex portrait of temptation, choice, rebellion, and futility. Conclude with reflections on the distinction between satanic and human sin, and the Fall’s significance in God’s plan….

I’m through Lecture #21 and not a Game of Thrones reference to be heard, as of yet. How does Dr. Mathewes manage it?

The cost? Purchasing access to thousands of Great Courses for 3,000 months, is the equivalent of 1 year at Lehigh.

To paraphrase the legendary scouting report first issued by Cuban Mike González, sell Phd wannabes, buy Great Courses Plus.

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Marlins lead with their Chen

weiToday’s home opener for the Miami Marlins vs the Detroit Tigers will have in attendance a trio of international players and one Tiger coach [Omar Vizquel] who can easily be considered the greatest MLB players their countries ever produced.

  • The Great Ichiro Suzuki [OF] – Japan
  • Wei-Yin Chen [P] – Taiwan [Free China]
  • Omar Vizquel – Venezuela [Free]
  • Miguel Cabrera [1B] – Venezuela [Chavista]

The Marlins opening day starter Wei-Yin Chen is not just the best MLB player Taiwan has produced, he is likely their most accomplished male athlete ever. The qualifier is due to the fact that Yani Tseng is the Gaylord Perry of Women’s golf.

Below is a list of all the Asian players currently in MLB.

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Shane Battier, Vasily Alekseyev and the Cuban Embargo

asilvevAs the supposed death watch on the Cuban Embargo unfolds, fear not my fellow reactionary bitterly exiled heartless souls, all is not lost. In fact, given octogenarian and nonagenarian actuarial tables, the probabilities still favor the Embargo being in effect when the first of the Castro brothers pass on to Gehenna. To avoid favoritism, every effort should be made to keep it in place until both have passed.

To help us understand why the Embargo is healthier than recent headlines would suggest, recall the following:

  • Cuban Embargo is a law which Congress must overturn
  • Republicans have controlled the House since 2011 and the Senate since 2015
  • Shane Battier
  • Vasily Alekseyev

Vasily Ivanovich Alekseyev was a Soviet weightlifter. He set 80 world records beginning in 1970 through 1977. He received a bonus every time he set a world record, so he made it a point to gradually increase his world records by 0.5 kg.

Think of Vasily when the next choreographed corporate initiative promoted by the State Department comes over the transom. Does everyone recall the cleverly planned PR campaign associated with the fall of the Berlin Wall? I don’t either. Real change trumps PR departments. I fantasize that within the State Department they’ve nicknamed their Cuba strategy ‘Vasilando como Vasily.’

In what may be the beginning of a foreign policy version of the SI jinx, Starwood’s $14 billion Anbang deal fell apart a few days after announcing their Cuba venture. The EU recently abandoned efforts to change Cuba’s one-party system. Brexit anyone? Somewhere Amado FakhreCy Tokmakjian and Sarkis Yacoubian smile and nod. They get why business is lured. They were willing to assume risks too, until they weren’t.

When only appearing to take a shot is the point

Shane Battier is a now retired NBA player who spent the final 3 years of his 14-year career with the Miami Heat. One of my all-time favorite Heat moments involved Battier fake-rolling himself on top of a helpless and apoplectic Joakim Noah during a playoff game.

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Why and how to NeverTrump

I have a vague vision of how this ends. In about 30 years at the nicest KardashianCare facility that yuans can buy, I’ll make a note on my ever present napkin, crumple it, toss it on a fellow ‘resident’ and expire. Although I frequently would forget my friend’s name, I never let him forget who he supported in the 2016 GOP primaries. The note will read, “Trump you.”

For NeverTrumpians, this has been a frustrating time. Jonah Goldberg captures the bittersweet realization about our once respected GOP brethren:

I sometimes think I’m living in a weird remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers…. you know the pattern. Someone you know or love goes to sleep one night and appears the next day to be the exact same person you always knew.


Except they’re different, somehow. They talk funny. They don’t care about the same things they used to. It’s almost like they became Canadian overnight — seemingly normal, but off in some way. Even once-friendly dogs start barking at them. I live in constant fear that I will run into [friends] who start telling me that Donald Trump is a serious person because he’s tapping into this or he’s willing to say that. I imagine my dog suddenly barking at them uncontrollably. (I don’t worry about this with Ramesh Ponnuru because Vulcans are immune.)

In a useful twist of fate, the recent spate of Zombie-based entertainment has taught us not to expect change based on otherwise normal human appearance. They are gone and our chances in November went with them. We know how this unfolds. Trump will not be our nominee. GOP fractured. DOJ declines to indict. FBI investigators resign. HRC wins.

Here’s the therapy inducing aspect to that already depressing scenario; it might be our best case scenario! Michael Gerson explains the whole NeverTrump thing:

For Republicans, accommodation with Trump is not just a choice; it is a verdict. None will come away unstained. For evangelical Christians, it is the stain of hypocrisy — making their movement synonymous with exclusion and gullibility. For GOP job seekers, it is the stain of opportunism. (Consider the sad decline into sycophancy of Chris Christie.) For conservatives, it is the stain of betrayal — the equivalent of supporting George Wallace in 1968 as an authentic populist voice.

All this leaves completely horrible options: sitting the election out, supporting a third-party candidate, contemplating a difficult vote for Clinton. But these are the only honorable options. As one Republican friend wrote me of Trump: “He would destroy everything Hillary Clinton would destroy, plus one more thing: the Republican Party.”

Now for the fun part. How to make the coming months more bearable? Mercilessly exploit the following fact; Trump voters can’t understand how we could possibly take a position which helps elect a Clinton. They can’t believe … wait for it …. that we would throw away our votes … wait for it … in anger.

It’s true. Adding a sense of irony to their already impressive list of deficiencies, Trump voters will try to talk you out of your NeverTrump position. My initial instinctual response was to patiently explain why I despised their candidate. Unsurprisingly, in retrospect, this was not effective.

But my 2nd option, man, my 2nd [OK maybe 3rd] option is cruel and fun, i.e. genius. From now until the city of Cleveland is burned down [how will they be able to tell?] during the convention, my position will be expressed as follows to strangers not tattooed with swastikas or confederate flags [another infamous 47% GOP reference]: “I’m leaning towards Trump, but not there yet.” Depending on the mood, a what-to-do head shake might make an appearance.

Worst case scenario

GOP nominee Trump institutes Conservatism reeducation camps during fall campaign – I take a gander as to the questions which may arise:

Q – I thought the reason we hated Bill and Hillary Clinton is that they are pathological liars. How can we now support Trump?
A – It matters who does the lying and why. If Hillary pushes babies into the path of a careening bus and Trump pushes those same babies away from the careening bus, people like you are focused on the fact that both pushed the babies. Weak. Very weak. The Clinton’s lie for evil. Trump lies to put himself in position to make ‘merica great again.

Q – Why are people concerned about the details of a candidate’s plans really just tools of the establishment?
A – See, that’s why we don’t win anymore. Everyone making plans instead of just winning. Besides, the lack of specifics keeps the opposition off balance. I know this is complicated, but stick with it. Subjugating one’s normal thought process gets easier as we empty ourselves for the greater good.

Q – For tomorrow’s quiz, will we be responsible for both the truth and revisionism?
A – Just revisionism for now

Q – Will that Eastern European chick be the First Lady?
A – [Former Trump University instructor cues video]

NeverTrump resources

Ross Douthat – Why the GOP is much more than one presidential election
Bill Kristol – Decadence
WSJ Editorial being WSJ Editorial
Ben Shapiro saying no

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