Monday, March 13, 2017

The Prince

“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” Niccolò Machiavelli, “The Prince”
 Niccolo Machiavelli

In the first season of “The Tudors,” a Showtime series that ran between 2007 and 2010, a young King Henry VIII becomes intimate with several of Queen Catherine of Aragon’s ladies-in-waiting, including (with their father’s encouragement) Mary and Anne Boleyn, who ultimately charms him into divorcing Catherine and thereby breaking with the Roman Catholic Church.  There are frequent references to such contemporary events as Martin Luther’s so-called Protestant heresies, Spanish conquests in the New World, and mention of the Niccolò Machiavelli quote from “The Prince” (1532), that “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”  Sam Neil is excellent as the worldly, ambitious Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, brought down by unworthy schemers led by Anne Boleyn’s father and uncle.
 Jacksons in 2015

“King of Pop” Michael Jackson named his first son Michael, Jr., but nicknamed his Prince.  Then came daughter Paris-Michael and finally Prince Michael, nicknamed Blanket, who was 7 when his dad died almost 8 years ago and now called Bigi by family and friends.  It remains to be seen whether he inherited any of his dad’s talents.

In his history of Rock and Roll, Ed Ward’s chapter covering the year 1963 mentions how folk singer Bob Dylan’s appearance on Ed Sullivan got cancelled when he announced he’d sing “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues” and Pete Seeger was forbidden to appear on “Hootenanny” after he refused to sign a loyalty oath.  Surf music and girl groups dominated the charts, but Trini Lopez’s cover of “If I Had a Hammer” was a hit, as was Peter, Paul, and Mary’s recording of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”  Johnny Cash put out “Ring of Fire” while Stevie Wonder launched his career with “Fingertips.”
 Chet Baker

In “Born to Be Blue” (2015) Ethan Hawke, superb as always, plays jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, whose heroin habit caused him to get beaten so badly in 1966 that he lost his teeth and seemingly his career until he made a successful comeback several years later.  In the climactic scene, Jane (Carmen Ejogo), who had nursed him back to health and weaned him from heroin, realizes that Chet had shot up prior to the crucial performance and leaves him. Chet Baker died at age 59 after falling from a hotel window in Amsterdam while high on cocaine and heroin.
above, Pete Trgovich; below, "the flop," NWI Times photo by Jonathan Miano

East Chicago Central lost a double-overtime Regional contest on questionable calls, par for the course in basketball tournament history.  The refs called almost twice as many fouls on East Chicago, including 3 on star player Jermaine Couisnard in the first 5 minutes, forcing him to spend much of the contest on the bench.  With seconds remaining, the referees ignored a double dribble by a Warsaw player and then claimed Kyle Mangas got fouled with 2.1 seconds left after he caught a length-of-the-court pass and, according to Coach Pete Trgovich, flopped.  Trgovich told Times reporter Steve Hanlon, “It’s hard to beat eight guys.”  Deontay Bonaparte, whistled for the infraction, said: “I never touched him.  They gave them the game.  We couldn’t do anything the whole game.  Those refs crushed our heart.”  Mangas, who scored 49 points, shot a total of 23 free throws while the entire Cardinal team only attempted 9. Trgovich questioned why there were no African-American referees assigned to the game, then resigned as E.C. coach when the IHSAA threatened repercussions against him.

At bridge, hosted by Tom Eaton, Toni came in first thanks in part to making a small slam as Dick Hagelberg’s partner and two four-Heart contracts as my partner for a 700 rubber.  A gourmet cook, Eaton served a delicious cake with walnuts and apricot filling for dessert.  Brian Barnes has been reading Michel J. Klarman’s “The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution” (2016), which claims that the Founding Fathers pulled off a conservative counterrevolution in order to curb the excesses of democracy and block state legislatures from passing laws for debt and tax relief. During the Philadelphia Convention Edmund Randolph of Virginia argued that if events continued on their present course, “The union will be dissolved, the dogs of war will break loose, and anarchy and discord will complete the ruin of this country.”

William Doyle’s “PT 109: An American Epic of War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy” (2005) describes the future president as a voracious reader (Winston Churchill being his favorite author) frequently ill and bullied by older brother Joe, who once repeatedly banged his head against a wall.  Of the mission in the Solomon Islands that resulted in his PT boat being smashed in two by the destroyer Amagiri shortly after midnight on August 2, 1943, Kennedy himself categorized it as a “fucked up” series of events exacerbated by its arsenal consisting of defective torpedoes. PT 105 skipper Richard Keresey later summarized what happened:
Fifteen PT boats ventured out into the Blackett Strait to attack four Japanese destroyers, the best odds PT boats ever had.  We fired 32 torpedoes, including four from my 105.  We hit nothing!  The destroyers kept right on going straight down Blackett Strait and then straight back a couple of hours later.  When the PT 109 got in the way, they ran over it.
In treacherous water Kennedy rescued a badly burned crewman and, towing him by a strap gripped in his teeth, swam three and a half miles to a small island while nine others clung to two wooden planks and paddled their way to the same destination.  They survived on coconuts for six days until finally rescued.  
Jeff Manes profiled IUN Biologist Spencer Cartwright (above) in his Sunday SALT column.  Asked how he got into the field, Cortwright explained:
              One day, while working at a summer camp in Michigan, I was walking on the dunes. It was bloody hot. My feet were burning. I saw flowers in bloom. I thought, “How do those plants thrive with almost no water in this hot sand?” I started thinking plants, animals and the environment. I went back to college, talked to my professors, took some ecology classes and found out there's another realm of biology besides medical biology, which I started out in and hated. That was in 1978, and I've been doing it ever since.
For over a quarter of a century, I studied amphibians like Alan does. If you study amphibians, you have to work a lot of rainy nights. When do frogs breed? On cold, rainy nights. As you get older, that gets tiring. I got burned out on it.  But when I got here, people started telling me about the problems with non-native species and I started thinking that's pretty interesting. Now I get to work on sunny days, not rainy nights.
Samuel A. Love combined his photo of the snow that fell at Eighth and Harrison with one taken at the same Gary intersection a hundred year ago. 

Ray Smock commented on Trump’s latest outlandish claims about his predecessor and Obama holdovers:
When you are as paranoid as Donald Trump, belief in conspiracy theories is par for the course. The fraud that launched his presidency was the theory that President Obama was an illegal alien without a birth certificate. He accused Hillary Clinton of conspiring for decades to cover up major crimes that should have placed her behind bars. He said Ted Cruz’s father was part of the JFK assassination. He called for an investigation into the three to five million people who voted illegally, presumably for Hillary. And most recently President Trump accused Barack Obama of tapping his phones. Add all this up and we get very close to a description of someone with extreme paranoia, like the ones who believe the government has implanted tiny transmitters in their brains to control their actions. 
The engine driving mass paranoia and hysteria in the White House is the idea of a Deep State: that there is a secret cabal, composed of holdovers from the Obama Administration, who are doing everything in their power to undermine Trump’s presidency. It has all the ingredients necessary to explain every failure of the Trump Administration. And it gives the Trump White House another excuse to keep alive the president’s unhealthy hatred of Barack Obama.

This nation could survive an inept novice and mentally troubled individual like President Trump if such a president was surrounded by competent practitioners of governance. But the Trump Administration has a cabinet of incompetents. He selected as his top advisers a band of ideologues from the far reaches of the far-right wing of the Republican Party. His cabinet is composed of billionaires like himself because he thinks successful businesspeople are going to make America a success.  This is one of the greatest American myths of all time. Government is not a business. To pretend that government and the art of governance is no different than a for-profit business is a formula for total failure.

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