AUGUST 2017

AUGUST  2017
FACING DOWN THE RULERS OF WALL STREET A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. THEY ARE BACK.

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Friday, October 02, 2015

A GREAT GAME FOR FUN, HONOR AND PROFIT

I hate to break it to you, but America's founding fathers were the most argumentative bunch of back stabbing duplictious ego maniacs on the North American continent. Just look at what they thought of each other. Thomas Jefferson called President John Adams a senile fool and a hideous hermaphroditic. Adams called his fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton, “That bastard brat of a Scottish peddler!”, accusing him of possessing  "a superabundance of secretions, which he couldn't find enough whores to absorb!” And Adams described Thomas Jefferson, leader and founder of opposition Democratic- Republicans, as a man whose “soul is poisoned with ambition.” Hamilton called Jefferson a “howling atheist”. And then there was New York's Aaron Burr. Nobody trusted Burr.
Politics is a great game for fun, honor, and profit.”
Aaron Burr
The always charming Aaron Burr (above) was urbane and witty, with a healthy disrespect for his own legal profession, asserting “Law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.” He loved politics so much he converted the Tammany Hall social club into the bulwark of New York State Democratic politics for the next 200 years, while still maintaining alliances with moderate Federalists. Aaron's only child, Theodosia, paid him probably the greatest compliment I have ever heard, when she said, “I had rather not live than not to be the daughter of such a man.” The only problem was Aaron Burr kept out smarting the smartest men in America.
As to Burr...he is a man of extreme and irregular ambition; that he is selfish to a degree which excludes all social affections, and that he is decidedly profligate. “
Alexander Hamilton
In early 1799 the Democrat Aaron Burr offered a plan to bring water into Manhattan, and convinced the impulsive and arrogant Federalist leader Alexander Hamilton (above)  to support the bill  But buried in the minutia was authorization to charter the Bank of Manhattan. And once the bill passed the water project was quickly dropped, and what would one day be Chase Manhattan Bank started moving money for Democratic politicians. Hamilton, “the little lion”, never forgave Burr for fooling him. But the belligerent Hamilton would never admit his grudge with Burr was anything but a matter of principle  Federalists like Hamilton favored an active government, and Thomas Jefferson's Democrats preferred a government small enough not to threaten slavery or the bankers.
It has been a source of great pain to me to have met with so many among [my] opponents who... transferred at once to the person, the hatred they bore to his political opinions.”
Thomas Jefferson
"Mad Tom" Thomas Jefferson didn't trust Burrr either. But he needed New York's electoral votes. Under the new constitution each “Presidental Elector” was required to vote for two candidates - at least one from outside his home state - with the second highest vote getter becoming Vice-President. Four years earlier, in 1796, Democrat Jefferson got 60 electoral votes and became Vice President. He then spent the next four years undermining the Federalist Adams administration from the inside. This time the two parties tried to coordinate their votes to ensure the “P” and the “VP” would both be from the same party. But as the secret ballots trickled in to Washington during December of 1800, it “leaked” that the Democrats in South Carolina – the last state in which electors were chosen - had screwed up. Both Jefferson and Burr ended up with 73 votes for President – both one vote short of the required 74 vote majority. It was presumed that most Democrats wanted Jefferson to take the top office. Jefferson certainly thought so.
Slander has slain more than the sword.”
Aaron Burr
As designed just 12 years earlier (Article II, Section 1, clause 3 of the Constitution), if two candidates were tied for Presidency, “then the House of Representatives shall immediately chose by ballot one of them for President...each state having one vote.” So, having trudged to the capital through heavy snow on Wednesday 11 February, 1801, the Electoral votes were officially counted. They confirmed the Democrat's worst nightmare. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr were tied, with 73 votes each for the Presidency. The lame duck House of Representatives (56 Federalists to 49 Democrats), voting by state, could only choose between those two Democrats. And most all of the Federalists voted for the New Yorker, just to spit in Thomas Jefferson's eye.
Men of energy of character must have enemies”
Thomas Jefferson
Everybody knew "Mad Tom" Jefferson would have to swallow a deal.  Burr expected it. In December, Burr had written to a supporter in Philadelphia that he would not compete .with Jefferson. “Be assured that the Federal party can entertain no such wish...”  Hamilton had offered a deal to the sage of Monticello in January, saying that if Jefferson would promise to preserve Hamilton's First National Bank and to not to fire every Federalist working for the government, then a few Federalists would vote for Jefferson. The principled Jefferson refused. So the process would have to play itself out.
The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure and pleasure my business.”
Aaron Burr
It would only take nine votes to choose a President, with Congress meeting in the dome-less capital (above). But on the first ballot Thomas Jefferson received just eight votes, with the Federalists giving Burr six.  The Vermont and Maryland delegations were split and handed in blank ballots. Immediately the House began a second vote, with the same result. After 19 duplicate votes, at 3 a..m the next morning, Thursday 12 February, the exhausted House decided to adjourn until daylight. But nothing changed, not on Thursday, not on Friday the 13th and not on Saturday. Saturday night, Federalist James Asheton Bayard, the single congressman from Delaware, decided somebody had to do something. So he did it.
Never do today what you can do tomorrow. Something may occur to make you regret your premature action.”
Aaron Burr
Congressman Bayard (above) offered Jefferson the same deal Hamilton had offered a month earlier – keep the National Bank – forerunner of the Federal Reserve system – and don't replace the Federalist custom officials in Philadelphia and Wilmington.  If Jefferson would promise that, then Bayard (and Delaware) would abstain on the next vote. That would still leave Jefferson with just eight votes, but that would now be a majority "of those states voting".  On Sunday, 15 February, while the offer was transmitted to Jefferson in Monticello, Bayard broke the news of his offer to the Federalist caucus. According to Bayard, the resulting cries of “traitor” were loud and “prodigious, the reproaches vehement.” Bayard finally agreed to wait until Burr could respond to the same deal.
Great souls have little use for small morals.”
Aaron Burr
Jefferson's response arrived Monday morning, 16 February – a quite impressive less than 24 hour turn around, given that Monticello (above)  was ninety miles each way by terrible roads from the new “Federal District.” Jefferson would later claim to have turned down the deal   But once in the White House he kept the National bank, despite his campaign promises to dismantle it. And he kept most of the Federalists officials in Baltimore, Maryland and Wilmington, Delaware. And when Aaron Burr's response arrived later that same morning, the deal was sealed. Someone destroyed Burr's letter, but Congressman Bayard wrote later, “Burr has acted a miserable paltry part. The election was in his power.” Whatever Aaron Burr's sentiments, there is no evidence he had lifted a finger to challenge Jefferson for the Presidency. And for that, Thomas Jefferson never forgave him.
I fear Mr. Burr is unprincipled, both as a public and a private man. In fact, I take it he is for or against nothing but as it suits his interest and ambition.”
Alexander Hamilton

At noon on Monday, 17 February 1801, the House cast its 36th ballot. Delaware abstained, and Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States. Aaron Burr (above) became Vice President. Federalist leader Alexander Hamilton had been writing his allies for two months that they should be accept Jefferson, telling one, “Mr. Jefferson, though too revolutionary...is yet a lover of liberty...Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself.” It seems that the Secretary of the Treasury hated Burr more than he loved his own politics.
A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired.”
Alexander Hamilton
And where was “the most restless, impatient, artful...and unprincipled intriguer in the United  States” (according to Hamilton) during the week that he could have become the third President of the United States? During the first half of February, 1801, Aaron Burr was in Albany, New York, supervising and attending the wedding of his daughter, Theodosia Burr (above) , to Mr. Joseph Alston, a plantation owner from South Carolina. The newlyweds were the first couple known to have honeymooned at Niagara Falls. The proud father of the bride did not leave Albany until well after the election was settled. It seems that most of the intrigue and duplicity attributed to Aaron Burr, existed mostly in the imaginations of his political opponents..
Hamilton was indeed a singular character. Of acute understanding...honest, and honorable in all private transactions...yet so bewitched and perverted...as to be... (convinced) that corruption was essential to the government of a nation.”
Thomas Jefferson
Distrusted by Jefferson, Aaron Burr served only one term as Vice President. Instead, in 1804 he ran for Governor of New York but fell victim to a nasty smear campaign directed by Alexander Hamilton. On Wednesday, 11 July, 1804,  the two old enemies met on the same field in Weehawken, New Jersey,  where Hamilton's son had been killed in a duel ten years earlier. (above)  Hamilton's shot missed. Burr's shot hit Hamilton in the abdomen and the Federalist leader died the next day. And that was the end of Aaron Burr's political life. He exiled himself to Europe for two years.
A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable.”
Thomas Jefferson
In 1807, on the direct orders of President Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr was arrested and charged with treason. With Theodosia at his side, and after a month long trial (above),  Aaron Burr was acquitted, after no wittiness could testify to any act of treason on his part. Burr then returned to New York City , where, in December of 1812, he was expecting Theodosia to arrive for a visit. Her ship, The Patriot, was assumed to have sunk in a hurricane off Cape Hatteras, with all hands lost. Burr continued to wait on piers in New York City, never fully recovering from her death. In 1834 Aaron Burr suffered a stroke and died two years later.
Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
John Adams
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Sunday, September 27, 2015

MAKING PEACE - Two - Fantasy

I find it ironic that on 1 August, 1945, Harry Truman (above), leader of the world's only superpower, found himself pressured to make peace as quickly as possible. He had been President of the Untied States for only 110 days (since Thursday, 12 April). It had only been 92 days since Nazi Germany had surrendered (Tuesday, 8 May), and in response to long standing American pleas, Soviet Dictator and ally Joseph Stalin had promised in February to join the war against Japan 90 days after Germany's defeat , which would be Wednesday 8 August. Truman had also recently learned that Operation Olympic, the American invasion of the Japanese home island of Kyushu, had been pushed forward. It would now be launched in 92 days (Thursday, 1 November) , and that it would likely result in 100,000 American dead and another half a million wounded. But 15 days ago, on Monday, 16 July, Truman had learned that America's $2 billion gamble to build a workable atomic bomb had paid off . So on this day, Wednesday, 1 August, 1945, Truman sent Stalin a note suggesting they “talk” about the impending Soviet intervention. Truman wanted the Russians to hold off.  But it was too late.
In the sea's off Japan's most southern island, the United States had amassed 42 large aircraft carriers, 70 “escort” carriers, 24 battleships, 72 cruisers, 400 destroyers, 230 submarines and 1400 transports and landing craft. 
This massive fleet was to support and deliver 14 divisions in the first wave onto 35 landing beaches in southern Kyushu.
In preparation for the assault (above) the battle group built around the carrier U.S..S. Yorktown had been launching air strikes on harbors and naval targets up and down the coasts of both Kyushu and the main island of Honshu. 
Battleships USS South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts (above)  and supporting cruisers had been blasting industrial targets with naval artillery fire. 
Beyond the almost daily assaults by growing fleets of B-29 Superfort (above),  heavy and medium bombers, based on recently captured Okinawa and Iwo Jima had been destroying road and rail lines behind the beaches. 
And long range P-38 and P-51 fighter/bombers were daily ranging at will across Kyushu, destroying targets of opportunity, from airfields to single trucks to individual fishing boats (above).
The Japanese military leadership, however, remained confident, because at every step across the Pacific they had correctly anticipated the Americans next move. And they were now so certain that Kyushu (above) would be the next invasion target that by 1 August there were 900,000 soldiers in 14 divisions on Japan's southernmost island, with 40% of all the available ammunition left in the home islands. 
And Japan had been hoarding their 12, 700 aircraft, intending to use half of them in kamikaze strikes against the American invasion fleet. At the same time they were redefining the definition of “victory”. The Journal of the Japanese Imperial Headquarters admitted, “The only course left is for Japan's one hundred million people to sacrifice their lives by charging the enemy to make them lose the will to fight.”
Most American commanders were aware of this threat. The U.S. Navy had crunched the numbers and predicted that only 14% of all kamikaze missions survived to reach the fleet, less than 20% of attacks actually made hit their target, and less than 10% of all ships hit, actually sank. Still, at least 47 U.S. ships had already been sunk by suicide planes. And with 6,000 kamikaze planes committed to the defense of the Kyushu, that meant 1 November would be the greatest bloodbath in U.S. Naval history.
General Douglas MacArthur's long suffering intelligence chief, Major General Charles Willoughby, warned on 29 July that it appeared there were almost as many Japanese soldiers on Kyushu as Americans about to invade (above), and an attack ratio of “one to one...is not the recipe for victory.” At least in the traditional American definition of that term. 
But MacArthur (above), who was to command the invasion forces, could sell glory ahead. His Chief of Staff, General Sutherland, had begun organizing a campaign for the Presidency against Roosevelt in 1943-44, and only the promise of a glorious return to the Philippians had kept the corn pipe ego maniac in the Pacific. And now, with the path to the White House seemingly leading across the volcanic beaches of Japan, "Dugout Doug"  called Willoughby's depressingly accurate estimates “greatly exaggerated”, insisting he did "not, repeat not, credit the heavy strengths reported...in southern Kyushu."  McArthur pompously added, “In my opinion there should not be the slightest thought of changing the...operation.”
But MacArthur was alone in believing in McArthur's destiny. Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of all U.S. Naval forces in the Central Pacific, was so worried he now wanted to delay the Olympic landings. And he was supported by Admiral Ernst King, Chief of Naval Operations, and General George Marshal, General of the Army. Marshal offered a list of military alternatives to Olympic. MacArthur rejected them all..
There was also division inside Japan. A senior civil servant, Yutaka Akabane, remembered, “It was the raids on the medium and smaller cities which had the worst effect and really brought...a demoralization of faith... the morale of the people sank terrifically...there was no longer hope of victory...but merely desire for ending the war.” 
Even Hirohito (above), the 124th Emperor of Japan, was forced to admit that after he was told shrapnel from American bombs was being used to make shovels, he realized “we were no longer in a position to continue the war”.
But the Emperor did not rule Japan. The real power was held by the “Big Six”, the council under Prime Minister and retired Admiral Kantaro Suzuki (above, center): Army Minister, and "2nd most powerful person in Japan,  General Korechika Anami,  Naval Minister Admiral Misumasa Yonai, Army Chief of Staff General Yoshijiro Umezu, Naval Chief of Staff Admiral Soemu Toyoda, and the only civilian in the cabinet, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo. The Emperor and his Keeper of the Privy Seal Koichi Kido also occasionally attended Big Six meetings but by tradition they only voted when asked to. As of 1 August, 1945, only Admiral Yonai was on record as favoring ending the war as soon as possible.
The Emperor was shifting slowly. In late June he insisted Japan seek the assistance of the Soviet Union, the Swiss and even the Vatican in brokering a peace agreement. But in exchange for a Japanese surrender, the military insisted they offer no disarmament, no occupation of Japan, no war crimes trials outside of Japanese courts, and, of course, the military and the Emperor must remain in power. 
There was never a chance the Americans would accept those terms. Even as late as 1 August, the supreme council was still insisting on yet another decisive battle, this time on Kyushu, to so bloody the Americans they would accept the Japanese terms. And until the military agreed to move off that position, peace would remain but a hope.
Early on the morning of Thursday, 2 August, 387 American, British and Australian Prisoners of War, were driven into the shafts of the Mitsubitsu mine on Sardo Island, 20 miles off the west coast of Japan. But instead of yet another day digging in Japan's only domestic coal mine, they were sent 400 feet down to hack at a supposed gold seam. At 9:10 that morning, the guards slipped back up the elevators, and explosives were set off at the 200 foot level, sealing the mine, and eventually suffocating the prisoners in the blackness of the mine. The POW's were shortly joined by 1,000 Korean forced laborers who died in another corporate mine, also sealed into the mass grave they had been forced to dig.
That night American bombers ranged across Japan, blasting half a dozen separate targets,  dropping some 6,000 tons, the largest single day bomb total of the war  Hardest hit was the west coast fishing port and agricultural center of Toyama, on the Jinzu river. Some 180 B-29's dropped 1,465 tons of explosive and incendiary bombs on the sleepy community of 30,000 (above). By dawn the tallest structures left were the trolley tracks down the center of main street. So intense were the flames that every building was reduced to white ash, leaving behind “an empty and white world”, and blackened corpses.
The next day, Friday 3 August, the B-29's completed deploying mines off the last major port in Japan.
Economically Japan was now totally isolated. And none of this had convinced the Supreme Council to let of of the fantasy that they could still change the outcome of the war.
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