JUNE 2020

JUNE   2020
He Has Dragged Us Back Forty Years.


Friday, February 10, 2012


I have always admired Alexander Hamilton. How could you not admire a man who could write, “A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous” That kind of self knowledge belies the life of a boy who was abandoned by his father at the age of ten, at twelve watched his mother die in the bed next to him, and was then adopted by a cousin who shortly thereafter committed suicide. Hamilton not only survived this horror show but within ten years became one of the most successful and powerful men in America, the man who invented the American economic system. But that childhood also goes a long way to explaining how such a smart man, a happily married man and a devoted father could fall for something as old and obvious as the Badger Game.
In 1791 in Philadelphia, twenty-three year old Maria Reynolds, a lovely and avaricious mental midget, approached Hamilton, who was then the Secretary of the Treasury. She told Hamilton that her husband, James Reynolds, had abandoned her and their daughter. Could the noble and handsome Secretary Hamilton provide her with the funds to return to New York? Smitten and horny, with his wife living in far off Connecticut, Hamilton agreed to deliver $30 to her rooms that evening. Let the games began.
The original badger game involved sticking a live badger in a box and then sending in a terrier. After a few seconds the owner would pull the dog out. If the dog held the badger in its jaws, it was marked as a plus. Then the badger would be returned to the box and the dog would be sent in again. This was repeated several times in front of a crowd of Neanderthals, with the shouting and betting building to a crescendo. The similarity between the original sport (outlawed in England in 1835) and the blackmail sting performed on Hamilton is that the dog could be counted on to grab the badger every time, even though the pooch was never allowed to actually eat the badger. The same goes for the "mark" in the human game.
Shortly after Hamilton’s first "liaison" with Mrs. Reynolds, Mr. Reynolds made his re-appearance, playing  the role of the wronged husband. He wrote to Hamilton, “You have deprived me of every thing that’s near and dear to me. … You have made a whole family miserable.” James was a born con-man, who had been one of Hamilton’s commissariats during the revolution, scrounging food, clothing and ammunition for the Continental Army despite the penury of Congress. But he was also a wife beater – if we believe Maria. Although why we should do that I have no idea.
Eventually James got to the point. “…give me the sum of (a) thousand dollars and I will leave town and take my daughter with me…”. Having no choice, Hamilton paid, and James then wrote, “I have not the least objections to your calling (on my wife), as a friend, to both of us”. The dog now had the taste of badger in his mouth, and Hamilton continued to visit Maria - and pay James -  regularly;  in April, he paid $135, in May and June he paid $50, in August, $200.
The game went on for two years, with Hamilton enjoying the nubile Maria in Philadelphia, while urging his wife to stay in Connecticut. Hamilton even borrowed from friends in order to keep James silent. But the end of the game was predictable, given James’ character.
James Reynolds and his partner Jacob Clingman were arrested for cheating revolutionary war veterans out of their back pay, which Congress had been cheating them out of for years. Naturally James expected his “friend” Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, to rescue him. Hamilton, however, was not willing to use his official office to cover up his personal peccadilloes. He refused to help the crook. Angry, James started singing to anybody who would listen that Hamilton had given him inside information on Government bond sales. In particular Jacob Clingman sang to Hamilton’s arch enemy, Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson thought it was Christmas. Hamilton was his political enemy. He gleefully dispatched Congressmen James Monroe and Fredrick Muhlenberg to confront Hamilton in person. And to their stunned surprise Hamilton admitted to the affair, but he denied everything else. He even provided proof in the form of letters between himself and both of the enterprising Reynolds’, James and Maria. Muhlenberg and Monroe were so nonplussed by this act of mea culpa they agreed to keep the affair secret. Needless to say, Jefferson was not happy that his foolish friends had cancelled Christmas.
Hamilton resigned from Washington’s cabinet in January of 1795. But Jefferson had made no promise of secrecy, and he filed the information away for use at some opportune future moment, which came in 1797, which is how we know of the entire sordid tale.
Shortly after Jefferson leaked the entire story, the lovely Maria divorced her imprisoned husband James, and immediately married his partner in crime, Mr. Clingman. The newlyweds then moved to Alexandria, Virginia and dropped out of history. Maria's divorce attorney back in New York was Aaron Burr, who would in a very few years shoot Alexander Hamilton down in a duel. And that, one way or another, is the way most badger games end.
In contrast there was William A.E. Moore, a “friend” of President McKinley who appointed him U.S. Counsel to Durban, South Africa. Mr. Moore was in route to Durban with his wife, Fayne Strahan, when, while spending the night in Paris, he surprised the lovely Fayne “flagrante delecto” with a Russian nobleman. Mr. Moore offered to swallow his insulted pride for a mere $2,000, but the Russian chose instead to call the police. Mr. Moore’s diplomatic appointment was revoked and he was forced to return to the United States.
Then in 1898 the pair tried the same gag on Mr. Martin Mahon, proprietor of the New Amsterdam Hotel, in New York City. (a bit of a comedown this, for Maria, from passion with a Russian nobleman to bedding a  mere hotel owner.) This time, when William burst into the room, he took the trouble to beat up the mark, poor Mr. Mahon, and steal $175 from his wallet. William then stuffed a cigar into Martin’s mouth and walked him up and down Fifth Avenue as if they were bosom buddies. Again, the mark went to the police and this time William Moore was sent to Sing Sing for several years, for assault and attempted blackmail. Fayne, meanwhile, went to South Dakota where she got a divorced from William. Some years later she moved to London where she took to the stage, as a chorus girl in the hit musical, “The Messenger Boy”. William was eventually released from jail and inherited $125,000 from an uncle. Last heard of, he was living in luxury. And thus were the wages of sin for what today would be called “Gifters".
And in case you are thinking that these are dusty distant historical footnotes, a couple of years ago, in San Antonio, Texas, Ted Roberts, attorney at law, was convicted of three counts of theft for a badger scam he ran with his wife and fellow attorney, Mary Roberts. She was convicted of 5 counts of fraud. Mary trolled the internet looking for married men who were seeking sex. She engaged them in chat rooms until they either revealed their fantasies or actually met her for sex. There upon Ted would knock on the door and quietly inform the marks that he was going to sue them for “alienation of affection”, unless they agreed to “settle” out of court.
The couple netted something around $160,000 from five marks that we know of,  before they were caught. Testifying for the defense, past president of the Texas Bar Association, Broadus A. Spivey (No, seriously, that was his name), said that the badger game as played by the legal couple was not illegal because it was not substantially different than a lawsuit. Under oath Broadus insisted, “Litigation is coercive.” Neither the judge nor the jury failed to see through that little fig leaf of judical logic, but...well, I will leave the story there, out of respect for anyone in America who still has respect for lawyers and/or polticians.
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Wednesday, February 08, 2012


I really think the world is a fairly rational, reasonable place... until you think about it. For instance, if I asked you what year it was, you would probably not have a problem coming up with a number. Does it really matter what that number is? Would your life be any different if it were 2012 or 5771 or 1434 or 1934? And would it really bother you if you suddenly realized that all four of those numbers are correct as of this very moment? They are, and yet all four of them are also wrong, for various reasons. Getting nervous yet? Starting to feel the world is a little less reasonable, a little less rational? Allow me to make things worse by suggesting we all synchronize our watches.
If you are a Christian you ought to remember there is a little problem with the notations B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. ( Anno Domini, or After Death) because Jesus Christ was probably not born in the year one. The person to blame for this screw up was a monk named Dionysius, which is Latin for Dennis. He was living where the Danube River dumps into the Black Sea, about the year 525 A.D., except there was no A.D. or B.C., unitl Dennis tried to figure out the future dates for Easter. Now, Christians had orignially defined Easter at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. - whenever that was - as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, which is usually dated as happening on March 22, except that it actually usually happens on March 21.And now you understand why Dennis wanted to nail down the correct dates for Easter.
Dennis was a pretty smart guy, and he did a really good job with the Easter thing. But in describing his fix for the Easter problem Dennis mentioned, just as an aside, that he was writing 525 years “ since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ”. And since Dennis did not show his work, nor did he define what he meant by incarnation, we have no idea how he came up with that number. But, since he was a smart guy, and was right about the Easter thing, everybody was willing to go along with his date for the birth of Jesus, even though, as I said, it was just an off-hand comment. This is one of the problems with being divinely inspired – just clearing your throat can cause confusion.
Using the date suppplied by Dennis, and modern historical methods , it seems likely that Jesus was born sometime between 2 B.C. and 1 A.D., which must have made it difficult reserving a Chuckie Cheese for his birthday party. Those not willing to simply trust the divine Dennis have come up with two different methods of setting a birthdate. The first uses the direct accounts about the nativity (the Nativity scriptures), which provides an estimate of between 7 and 2 B.C. The second method combines the Gospel of Mathew with the very secular writings of the Jewish survivor Josephus, which produces a birthdate for baby Jesus of sometime between 6 and 4 B.C., meaning Christ could have been six years old and still have been living “Before Christ”. So, most historians have renamed those B.C. years as B.C.E., or Before the Current Era, which is shorthand for “We have all agreed to an arbitrary date because it is easier to go along with a revered mistake that to argue about how to fix it”.  And Lord knows, it is.
If you are worried that Christians seemed to have have lost track of time, you can always turn to the Hebrews, who had already calculated the date for Passover, which  just happened to fall close to Easter, B.C. The Jews, of course, had no problem with Jesus Christ - they just ignored him. And by their calculations the world began on October 7, the year one, 5,771 years ago. The only problem is their days begin at sunset. But this implys that poor Yahwah had to create a second world so that he would have an October 6 to provide him with a sunset, when he then created this world. It seems redundant to me, and I have to wonder whatever happened to those folks whose world ended on October 6 of the year 1. I guess they were using the Mayan calendar.
More than that, today most people, at least since Hiroshima, Chernobyl and Fukushima, believe in atomic decay. And measuring the decay relationships between three different lead isotopes provides an age for our planet of about 4 ½ billion years, which is a lot older than 5,771 years. The nicest thing you can say about Moses' creation story is that it it appears to be a tad inaccurate.
Muslims are not so arrogant as to believe that they can count from the very beginning of time itself, so they just borrowed the Jewish version. In order to avoid admitting this, they created a working calendar, beginning when the Prophet Mohamed fled Mecca. The day he arrived in Medina became the year 1 A.H, or Anno Higerae - in english, “After the Flight”. In Western nomencature this happened in either the year 621 or 622 C.E., making 2012 C.E. either the year 1434  or 1433 A.H. Everything clear, far?
But telling time in the Islamic world gets complicated because their months are strickly lunar and thus have a tendency to wander with regard to the sun. Islam deals with this by migrating their holidays, such as Ramadan, through the year, but slowly, moving only about a week every 19 years. In the age of The Prophet, when an average human was lucky to live past 30, that was not a problem. But public sanitation and moden medicine have complicated things so that the religious beaurocracy have been forced to come up with a justification for their wandering holidays. They now tell the devoted that the calendar meanders because The Prophet wanted it that way. This approach should work as well for Islam as it worked for Catholiticism, right up to the Protestant Reformation.
Hindus begin their day with sunrise, which they call a tisthis. Each Hindu month is 30 tithis long. But an individual tithi is not an individual day, but a measure of when the angle between the sun and the moon reaches 12 degrees. So a specific tisthi could be anything from 20 to 27 hours long. And I guess a day with less than 20 hours in it would be the antithesis.
To a Hindu the universe really began when Prince Krishna was killed by a hunter who mistook his foot for a deer. This tragic mishap occurred at midnight on the first of Prabhava , 5,111 yeas ago, or Chaitra 1, 1879, of the Saka era, both also known as midnight February 18th, 3102 B.C.E. This date was fixed by the Indian government's national reform calendar, issued on March 22, 1957, and honestly, who would want to bother arguing about any of this.
There is then, and there is now, and any calendar is a successful calendar as long as it keeps those two seperate. And really, can't we all just get along?
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Sunday, February 05, 2012

ET TU Part Three A Bloody Drill

I know little about the soldier Crastinus, except that he died on June 7, 48 B.C.E. of a sword wound to the mouth. I know that on this day, as he was about to face the 45,000 men in Pompey's army, Crastinus swore an oath to his own general. “General, I will act in such a manner today that you will feel grateful to me, living or dead.” This is not to say that Crastinus was happy to be on the plain that day, just north of the central Greek town of Pharsalus (modern Farsala). But we can be certain he had already proven his bravery and his ability to inspire men, else he would not have achieved the rank of Centurion, entrusted this day with directing 80 of the men in a 22,000 man army. The men in his Century depended upon Crastinus. He was the second most important man in their lives, after Julius Caesar.
Caesar had crossed the Rubicon on January 11th  49 B.C. with just 5,000 men. His primary opponent, Pompey the Great, had more than twice that many men defending the walls of Rome. But less than a week later, without even offering battle, Pompey, most of his army and most of the Senate aristocrats fled Italy, sailing for Epirus, in north western Greece. That left the stage to Caesar. First he got his hands on the treasury. Then, what remained of the Senate voted him dictator for a year. Caesar ordered all government posts abandoned by the aristocrats to be filled by his allies. That gave him political control of Rome. Still, he was caught between Pompey's Spanish legions and Pompey himself, gathering legions and allies in Greece.
The Latin word for a Roman soldier, “legionnaire”, meant a military conscript, who was drafted under the Republic to serve for 6 years. The professionals, who were beginning to dominate the Roman Army, signed 25 year contracts. For non-Romans, such as the Gauls in Caesar's army, an honorable discharge meant Roman citizenship and a plot of farmland upon which they could retire. And most who signed up, made it to retirement - for every hour a legionary spent on a battlefield like Pharsalus he spent years drilling. It was said of Caesar (but could have been said of any good Roman general) that his drills were bloodless battles and that his battles were bloody drills.
In late March of 49 B.C.Caesar left Rome and crossed the Alps, where he met three of his legions from Gaul Without pausing, he now forced the passes through the Pyrenees mountains, and outside of the Spanish village of Illerda confronted Pompey's legions. Caesar had covered the 800 miles so quickly – just 27 days – that Pompey's troops were caught unprepared and were defeated. On August 2nd all five of Pompey's Spanish legions had surrendered, and rather than being disbanded were integrated into Caesar's forces.
The core formation of the Roman Army was always the squad of 8 men, called a contubernium, who shared a barracks room or a tent, and a mule to carry their supplies. Ten such groups, or 80 men, formed a century (a company) , six centuries formed a cohort (a battalion), and a legion (a division) was made up of 10 cohorts. Everything they did was a standardized drill. They even ended each day's march by building a standardized camp. A legionary could walk into any camp from Judea, to Britain, to Africa, and walk directly to the armory, the barracks, or the stables. The basic plan for European and American cities grew out of the standardized design of Roman Army camps.
By early 48 B.C. Caesar had gathered three legions in Brundisium, at the heel on the Italian boot. He still lacked enough ships to carry all his men across the Adriatic to Greece, but so eager was he to come to grips with Pompey, that Caesar sailed with just half his force. For once, Pompey moved quickly. His ships cut Caesar off from reinforcement, and his larger army forced Caesar’s men into battle at Dyrrhachium, in what is today Albania. Caesar lost 1,000 men and would have been destroyed, had Pompey not become cautious, and Mark Anthony not finally slipped the rest of Caesar’s legions through Pompey's blockade. The two Roman armies now began a dance, southwestward, down the Greek peninsula, until, by late May they had reached the plain of Pharsalus, where Caesar’s men grew so hungry, they could march no further.
At Pharsalus Caesar’s legionaries were facing fellow legionaries and neither side had a technological advantage. Pompey's larger army held the high ground. That meant that Caesar’s hungry men would have to attack uphill. Pompey formed each of his legions as usual, three ranks deep, with three feet between each man. But Caesar thinned out his men to add a fourth line. It was a minor alteration.
After throwing their spears, each Century battered into the enemy with their shields, strapped to their left forearm. The overlapping shield walls pushed and shoved the enemy, the enemy pushing and shoving back. A Roman battle was mostly a brutal shoving match, both sides looking for an opening to thrust in their 2 foot long gladius (sword) with their right arms. Every 90 seconds the Centurion would blow his whistle. The front rank would sidestep right and backward. The fresh second rank would surge forward, pushing and shoving. The exhausted rank would then fall back to the third line, to rest. As long as both armored sides maintained their discipline, the causalities in ancient battles were few. But the instant either side broke formation, showing their backs, the slaughter would begin
On Caesar’s right, Pompey's cavalry scattered their weaker opponents. But this uncovered Caesar’s fourth line of legionaries. Ceasar's incessant drilling allowed his men to smoothly swing to their right, and thrust at the enemy cavalry. And here Caesar displayed a new tactic, developed to deal with the Gaulic cavalry. Instead of throwing their spears, Caesar’s legionaries used them as five foot long spikes. The enemy's horses would not hold formation, and were scattered and driven off the field. Caesar’s fourth line swung through the opening and outflanked Pompey's troops. Now the fourth line pulled their gladius, and the slaughter began.
Pompey saw what was happening and panicked. He rode back to his camp, gathered up his wife and servents. urged his soldiers there to resist Caesar to the death, and then rode for the coast, some say dressed as a peddler. Meanwhile, on the battlefield, Caesar’s 22,000 man army lost just 200 legionnaires killed, and 30 Centurions – including the brave Crastinus. Another 800 legionaries were wounded. But from Pompey's army of 45,000, because their formation had been broken, the field was littered with 15,000 of their dead.
Once again, Caesar chose to be magnanimous. He separated the soldiers from their Centurions. He put his men in command of Pompey's legions, and he transferred Pompey's officers to positions in his loyal legions, where junior officers and superiors could keep watch over them. Pompey sailed for Egypt, intending on moving on to his allied forces in Tunisia and what is today Libya. He would never make it. But with each step Ceasar took to follow Pompey, he took one step closer to his own murder.
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