Anasazi Ruins, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Satillo Mexico by Edward Hopper. Copied from a reproduction of an oil painting

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Pesident's Speech on the Occupy Movement

The Occupy movements across the country have received the attention of every adult American by breaking the law. One of the sparks for their action is the failure of colleges in American to provide useful educations to their students, coupled with the overhanging debt from loans for education that cannot be eliminated by legal bankruptcy in front of a judge. These loans are too often done under Federal programs, and it was a Federal law that, by exempting students loans from bankruptcy laws, encouraged the banks to make unrealistically high loans.

The Federal government shares the blame for this situation together with that of the student who took advantage of this opportunity for larger loans than they could reasonably hope to repay, along with their parents, and the schools, which took advantage of this easy money with skyrocketing tuition rates.

As President I propose several laws which I am sending to Congress as soon as one action is taken by the rioters.

First, I will propose legislation to allow student debt to be discharged in bankruptcy by the court in those cases where it is reasonable to do so under laws guiding similar debt problems.

Second, I will propose legislation to congress to eliminate all Federal lending programs for higher education.

Third, I will propose legislation to provide relief to those same Wall Street institutions that that the rioters vilify which, encouraged by the loan guarantee programs, made the existing student loans. More details on that legislation will be provided in the next few days.

But now I go back to that “one action”. These occupy riots around the country stop. They stop today. If the rioters go home I will present these proposed laws to congress. If they do not, I will not.

When they go home the students and their parents should approach their congressional representatives to support the legislation I will propose. At the same time they should apologize to their younger brothers and sisters because they will not have the same educational opportunity they had through educational loans, and for their bad behavior in taking on excessive debt even if it that action was encouraged by the government. You students and your parents have hurt future generations of Americans.

In closing I repeat, these “occupy” riots must stop. They stop today. You have made a case for yourselves in an illegal manner which everyone in the country is going to be punished for financially. You won and everyone lost. It is over. If you do not disperse immediately, which will lead to you being rewarded for illegal actions, I will call the US military to clear the streets if local governments do not.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East by Tumur Kuran

I have read many books on Islam. I read them to understand why Islam conquered so much so quickly, and why it failed both politically and economically over the last 500 years. The relative economic decline is of interest because around 1000 CE, the Muslim world was as wealthy as Europe. This is the first book that provided understanding that I could use. Not on conquest directly, but on the economics.

In "The Long Divergence", the author emphasizes two themes around Muslim law of inheritance. Islamic law mandated distribution of wealth after death amongst multiple heirs. This had two results. First, it forced partnerships to be short lived: Death followed by demands for their part of the inheritance by heirs required liquidation of a partnership. Knowing that any death would end the partnership, Muslims tended to favor two person partnerships of short duration. In contrast, after 1000 CE Europeans developed forms of partnership and corporations that could survive the death of a single participant. Partly this was adoption of primogeniture, under which a single descendant could inherit the whole on one person's assets in a property, business or partnership. At the same time Europeans were becoming innovative about the types of business arrangements used to accumulate wealth. Something like modern corporations developed to manage guilds, monasteries, and even cities. European rulers, desperate for money, and often only weakly in power, were willing to allow independent groups take local power, in exchange for stability and the right to tax revenues or profits. These independent institutions were allowed to change their internal rules and general goals as circumstances changes.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Copied from an Edward Hopper oil painting. The isolation of a lighthouse and the keepers cabin somewhere on the coast of New England.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tree looming over house and fence going off into the distance. Again, correct proportions were hard but necessary. Also doing the foliage used a technique the teacher suggested since I could not do it the way the original artist did it with the tools and time I had to work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exploiting Ethnic Divisions in the Middle East

Recent photograph of Berber fighters in Libya

On,August 9. 2011, The NY Times had an online article on how the Berbers of Libya are using the civil war in that country to seize local power in their homelands of western Libya. They are now in conflict with local Arabs. This is a good thing. Where the Times sees trouble, I see opportunity.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Review of "A Moment in the Sun" by John Sayles

I am less than one fourth the way though this book set starting in 1897 and continuing through the the end of the Spanish American war. Already the author, through his charters, has taken me to Alaska for the Yukon gold rush, to Havana to witness the sinking of the USS Maine, to Manila to witness the brutal execution of a Filipino rebel against Spanish rule, and somewhere in the American South to a prison camp where convicts are being used to tap resin from trees. Later he takes the reader back to Manila to see the American fleet destroy the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. I am confused.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

S-day a Memoir of the Invasion of England

This is an alternative history novel with novel twist to it. It addresses an important issue of social and geopolitical importance, which is not what happens in most counterfactual history books.

The most widely read counterfactual histories wander off into an unrecognizable future which no thinking person can believe, given the contingent nature of historical events.

The more common variety stop short to give a new ending to a historical event, without exploring the extended ramifications.

Think Turtledove's series of book on an alternative outcome to the American Civil War for an example of the first option, where the whole history of the world is explored though the end of World War II with a divided United States taking different sides in both World War I and World War II.

But as I said, S-Day is different. It starts by imagining that Nazi Germany had avoided war with the Soviet Union in 1941 The reason is not given, is not important, and is within the range of possibility. Simply imagine some new arrangement between Hitler and Stalin that keeps the Nazi-peace in Europe

Drawing Based on an Oil Painting of a Muslim Man

Done today in 3 hours. First time I did arms, hands and fingers seriously.

As usual I had difficulty with the eyes. Teacher had me turn the painting and the drawing upside down so I would concentrate on what was really there, instead on drawing what I wanted to see.

Still the teacher had to help me with the eyes starting with the eyes brows, which are angular rather than nicely curved like I want to draw then.

Also, more practice with geometry to get the proportions correct. Note that the man with his book forms a triangle. I am getting better at seeing geometry in art.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drawing from a Painting by Joseph de Camp, "Portrait of Peggy Wood"

Done in one three hour class. For about 15 minutes it was a drawing of a young man. The teacher suggested changing the face outline and adding more hair. She was right. Although it took me several iterations to get it close to it.

Also, the eyes and lips needed much attention. This was my first use of color. I used a pastel white pencil to touch up the eyes, and a pastel skin tone pencil to add highlights to the face.

Norway, the Media and European leaders. Crazy

The press in the United States and Europe is suddenly writing about the threat of "Right Wing, Fundamentalist Christian Terrorism". Today, the NY Times and Der Speigel are the two online sources today which have articles or opinion pieces on the topic, under headlines "Norway Will Never Be the Same" and "Norway Killings Shift Debate on Islam in Europe" in the NY Times, and "EU Declares Fight Against Right-Wing Extremism" in Spiegel Online.

The Spiegel article managed to find two man it describes as leaders of second tier - but are at best third tier - political movements in England and Italy who expressed concerns about Islamic influence in Europe,and the path of demographics and political discourse in Europe.

A quote from the Spiegel article from the Italian is, "As if to confirm such fears, members of both a British right-wing group and an increasingly populist Italian party bucked the initial trend of rejecting Breivik's ideology, expressed their understanding for certain sentiments. Stephen Lennon, leader of the English Defense League, a far-right British group to which Breivik has claimed ties, said the attacks proved the desperation of those with populist leanings in Europe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drawings Based on Two Paintings by Winslow Homer

The first drawing took two separate 3 hour classes and the second just one 3 hour class. I learned how to use simple drafting techniques to get the right placement and proportions. Also how to do waves, at least to approximate what Winslow Homer did. Start with squiggly lines.... Also, bury the boat in the water by matching the shading the boat to the waves.

Fog Warning

Lost in the Fog

The original paintings were done in the 1880s. They part of Winslow Homer's study of fishing off the Great Banks. From a online description of the first painting:

"Fog at sea can be very dangerous. If it were to surround the fisherman pictured in Fog Warning, his life might be lost. He must quickly return to his schooner, the sailboat seen to the right on the horizon, if he is to be able to get back to shore safely.

"We see a full view of the fisherman and the inside of his dory. A dory is a heavy, flat-bottomed high-sided rowboat designed especially to ride on the high seas. His catch of halibut lies in the stern of the dory. He pauses for a moment to look over his shoulder at the fog bank. He is gauging his distance to the schooner. The sea is rough and he is tired. He has spent the day out on the water fishing alone."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bust of a Veiled Woman

Bust of a Veiled Woman (Puritas) 1717 - 1725
Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca' Rezzonico, Venice, Italy
Sculpture, Marble
Done by Antonio Corradini
Born 1668, Padova, Italy - died about 1752, Napoli, Italy
School: Italian

I saw this in Venice. Amazing that anyone could do this...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Review of "Taranto: the Raid, the Observers, the Aftermath" by Christopher O'Conner, 2011

This short book provides an extraordinary detailed look at the British navy's raid with aircraft from the British carrier Illustrious on the Italian navy in its harbor at Taranto in November 1940. A successful attack that sank or crippled one half of the available Italian battleships. The attack improved British morale both in the Mediterranean and in Britain. It may have provided ideas for the later Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Unfortunately there are some problems with facts and organization of the book. More on these later.

Although there have been several previous books on this single topic, none of them provide the degree of details on background planning and the movement of British task forces in the Mediterranean which greatly confused the Italians. None give as much information about the attacks delivered by individual aircraft.

FAA Swordfish that carried out the attack on Taranto

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Review of the Movie "Command Decision", 1948

About one-fourth of the way through watching Command Decision I remarked to Margaret that the movie was obviously based on the script for a play, only slightly re-written for the cinema. I pointed out that there were few sets in the movie, that individual scenes were often shot from a fixed camera angle, and that there was a lot of careful choreographing of the multiple characters in the camera’s view. Margaret responded that "It obviously was based on a play or a book, because it was about ideas.” I shut up and sat back to watch the rest of the movie in silence.

Command Decision is about ideas and it is based on a play. It examines high level decision making in the American WWII 8th Air Force during the early period of the American strategic bombing campaign, when fighter cover was not available for bombing raids over Germany. The movie’s primary star is Clark Gable, but is very much a group effort, dependent on a wonderful cast in supporting roles, including Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson, Brian Donlevy, Charles Bickford, and John Hodiak. The ideas lead to professional and person ambitions and sacrifice at the highest level, without ignoring the fact that high level decisions lead to anonymous men dying in combat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Review of “I Had Seen Castles” by Cynthia Rylant, 1995

Young men – and young women – are intended to go into the world and do things. In a time of a popular, modern war, they go to war as soldiers, or as workers. Unless they have extraordinary courage. In this coming of age novel, written from the viewpoint of a 68 year old man, this is the experience of one such young man during World War II. A young man without that courage. And one young girl with exactly that courage.

Only as serving as a soldier in Europe during World War II does the young man understand the young girl. It is the old man who remembers and tells the story.

The story starts in the industrial city of Pittsburgh in 1939. The pollution and dirt of this city are carefully evoked in a few sentences.

Abstract Painting of Pittsburgh in the 1930s

The first hint of crises is an announcement by the then 15 year old protagonist’s father, who is a university physicist. He reports that German scientists have split the atom. This news, which will mean so much to the future, is a small event that will start unraveling our protagonist’s life. At the time, at the tail end of the depression, the feared announcement would have been that the father was out of work.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Future of Libya; Historical Evidence and Guesses, 2011

For someone who has read much about World War II in North Africa, the geography of the Libyan revolution brings back memories. What is today written in English as Tobruq, a port in eastern Libya, was known as Tobruk when it was a Italian fortress nearest Egypt which fell quickly to an Australian attack in early 1941. And later it was still named Tobruk when it was famously besieged by the Germans and Italians between May 1941 and November 1941. Early in the current revolt it fell to Libyan rebels, apparently without opposition.

A major concern during World War II in North Africa was logistics, as both sides pushed along the seacoast of Libya, only to run short of supplies as they went beyond Benghazi for the British, coming from the east, and the borders of Egypt for the Germans and Italians, coming from the west. Benghazi, today the leading city of the Libyan rebels, was taken by the British three times and by the Germans two times. Shortages of water, fuel, food, and ammunition were always a constraint for the advancing army, and increasing supplies the basis for recovery for the retreating army as it fell back towards its base. Today both sides of the Libyan conflict seem to operate mostly along the coastal highway. Although both the British and the Axis forces would maneuver in the desert, the coastal highway was their lifeline for supplies of food, fuel, and ammunition. Some things change little over generations.

German artillery in North Africa

During World War II neither the Germans nor British paid much attention to the local populations. Sometimes they were a source of guides and intelligence. Sometimes they rescued allied servicemen cut off in the desert. Reading any war history written over the last 60 years, they appear only as bit players. Today they take the important roles.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Review of "The Camp Grant Massacre" by Elliott Arnold, 1976

In 1871 a band of Apache Indians surrendered to the lieutenant in temporary command of Camp Grant in the Territory of Arizona. The officer's name was Royal Emerson Whitman. The name of the leader of the Apaches was rendered by white men as Eskiminzin. Eskiminzin was chief of the Aravaipas Apaches. Camp Grant was a days ride from the small Arizona town of Tuscon. Disarmed, the Aravaipas settled for a time in a new village near Camp Grant. What followed was a brief interlude of peace between a small number of Apaches and Mexicans and Americans in Arizona.

The peace ended in disaster when Mexicans and Pima Indians, plus a handful of white man, attacked the Aravaipas village killing many Apache women and children and a few men. The period between surrendered and massacre was less than one year. The whole episode had an element of inevitability in it, which is exposed in this fine novel by Elliot Arnold. There were problems from the very beginning, since the idea accepting the surrender of an Apache band without sending them to one of the Southwest Apache reservations was unheard of. The decisions to accept the surrendered was lieutenant Whitman's alone, and in the novel he is shown to be a man very much alone. Besides resistance from his subordinates, Whitman and Eskiminzin had to deal with opposition from Eskiminzin's own subordinate leaders, and open hostility from the majority of Mexicans and Americans in Arizona, and especially the important leaders of the community of Tuscon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Review of the Movie "Mediterraneo", 1991

Yesterday Margaret and I watched the movie Mediterraneo. It is an Italian movie released in 1991 about a tiny, fictional incident during World War II. A squad of 8 misfit Italian soldiers is sent to garrison a Greek island. Their arrival is strange. There are no people in the single island village, or in the surrounding mountains. For the movie the absence of villagers is convenient. It allows the viewers to become familiar with the Italian soldiers, whose radio is broken so they can not communicate with the outside world.

The lieutenant in charge is a peace-time school teacher, quiet and patient. The sergeant is a blustering veteran of Italy's campaigns in Spain and North Africa. The other men each have their own unique characters, including the guy in charge of the squad's donkey who has more affection for his donkey than for the other men. There are two brothers terrified of the water, one married man desperate to return to his family, and the lieutenant's orderly who will be the soldier most transformed by this small island.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Review of “Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918", by Roger Chickering,1998

The subject of this book is the internal tensions of the German state that fought World War I. I found much information about inter-group tensions that I had not know about. Imperial Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II was divided along religious, regional, class and political lines that were deep, and were of constant concern before the war started and continued until it ended. These divisions help to explain many German policies before and during that war. Some of the solutions adapted by Imperial Germany hint at the extreme solutions implemented during the Nazi era and so led to the many tragedies of World War II. At the same time, solutions such as placating unions by giving their leaders a roll in setting wages and manpower allocation in partnership with the economic leaders and businessmen, hint at the post-World War II power sharing between workers and businessmen that have characterize German industrialization and trade into the 21st century.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Review of "The First World War an Agrarian Interpretation" by Avner Offer, 1991

The author of this book has a wandering mind with a lot to say. He gives the reader much to think about, even if the books sometimes lacks focus. In fact, it reads like several books in one. Still, I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of World War I or in the general economic issues of globalization and international trade. The main focus is on the international trade in bread grains between Great Britain and the wider "Atlantic Economies", primarily Canada, the United States, and Australia, but also Russia, Argentina and India. A second focus, carefully explored, is the impact on the war of the trade global and internal of grains and potatoes of Germany. A third focus is on how this globalization and the opportunities of the lower classes in Britain to better themselves by migration while remaining connected to the British economy defused social friction at home while maintaining the immigrant's social ties to Britain.

Wheat Farming in Ontario, Canada at the End of the 19th Century

The primary message of the book is that the globally integrated British economy - industry in the metropolis of Great Britain and grain growing in an overseas hinterland - enabled Britain to wage war against Germany with much greater strength than appeared possible from simply measuring the population and industrial output of that island nation.

The integration started when the Corn Laws freed British grain markets from protective tariffs in the 1840s. Afterward Britain came to depend on overseas sources of food, including grain, fats and meat. By 1900 the country was especially dependent on bread grain, of which 80% was imported. Towards the end of the British harvest season the amount of bread grain in Britain could be less than seven weeks. The cargo ships carrying grain to Britain were moving silos. This was an obvious target for an enemy with a navy. At the same time it was an economically efficient specialization of resources, which benefited both the metropolis where industry flourished and the grain producing countries that grew rich off agricultural exports. The cost to Britain was borne by the need to maintain a large navy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Review of "Hostages to Fortune" by Arthur Nicholson, 2005

This is a good book on an old topic, the sinking of a British battleship and battlecruiser off Malaya on the 10th of December 1941. There have been many books written on this one topic, and it is covered in detail in many general books on the war in the Pacific. This book continues the tradition of adding new information and drawing new conclusions, based on new research or adding new interpretation of old research and old documents.

The basic story continues to fascinate. In late 1941 the British decided to send two battleship-class ships to Singapore as a deterrent to the Japanese threat to British and Dutch colonies in the Far East. The two ships sent were the modern battleship Prince of Wales and the older battlecruiser Repulse. Together they operated as Force Z. Both ships were sunk in the first few days of the war, an outcome several senior politicians and military leaders in Britain were worried might happen. Although that they would be sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers operating from Indo-China was not foreseen, except by the two British Admirals commanding in the Mediterranean who had often experienced the dangers of air attacks on surface ships.

After the war British leaders, especially Churchill, avoided taking responsibility. Who was responsible is one of the ongoing questions. Another question is whether loss of the ships could have been avoided, even after the they arrived in Singapore.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Review of "Cairo to Damascus", by John Roy Carlson, 1951

In the late 1930s and early 1940s an Armenian refugee from Bulgaria, now a US citizen living in the United States, began the self-appointed task of exposing pro-Fascist organizations in the United States. Organizations like the German-American Bund that hoped for a German victory in that war. His work was done undercover, originally for Fortune magazine. He used the pseudonym John Roy Carlson. In 1943 his complete research was published in a book titled “Under Cover”.

In 1948 Carlson was concerned about continued anti-Semitism in the US, Britain and in the Arab world. So he traveled to the British Mandate in Palestine to cover the war between Jews and Muslims over the fate of that land. On the way to Palestine, he visited Britain and Egypt. In Britain anti-Semitic political groups were easy to contact. From them he got introductions to anti-Semitic leaders in Egypt. Of course, almost everyone he met in the Middle East who was not Jewish or Christian was a Jew hater.

After entering Palestine and witnessing the war from both the Arab and Jewish sides, he traveled to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and then went back to a now independent Israel. The information he gather during his 1948 travels was published in “Cairo to Damascus”. I own an autographed, first edition copy, dedicated to my maternal grandmother who had important contacts in the Jewish community in Los Angeles in the early 1950s.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Review of "The Adelita", by Oakley Hall, 1975

This is the best single book about the Mexican Revolution and its consequences. It is a novel, but integrates seamlessly with the historic storyline. Periodic asides by the narrator provide background on Mexico and that county's tribulations between 1914 and 1970. These comments supply the reader with an understanding of the brutal history of Mexico during much of the 20th century.

The narrator in this novel is Michael MacBean Palacio, son of an American father and a Mexican mother, raised until 10 in the northwest Mexican hacienda of his mother's family, and, after the death of his mother, growing up in the mansion of his father's second wife in Pasadena, California. A child of privilege, graduate of Andover, graduate of Harvard, and leader of a band of guerrilla cavalry during the war to overthrow the Mexican dictator Huerta. He is also, the lover of Adelita, the woman of the title, the living symbol of the revolution, whose name is also that of the Mexican soldier's wife in a famous and very real ballad of the Mexican Revolution.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Arab Prosperity, is that Possible?

Tahrir Square Cairo early 2011

The path to prosperity worked for Japan when that country industrialized. It is working for many Asian nations today. Starting over 200 years ago it worked during the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the United States. It is a path closed to Islamic countries that insist on segregating men and women (and keeping women at home). This suggests that the promised move toward democracy in Arab countries will not solve the problem of general poverty, and will lead only to continued misery and resentment. (Except for those corrupt Arabs with their hands on oil money.) The resentment will be directed against the West, which gets blamed for everything wrong in the Arab world.

Historically, the path to prosperity starts with cheap stuff made to simple specifications using female labor recruited from the countryside. Reaching back in time, when water and steam powered textile looms were introduced, first in Britain and later in the United States, it was women from the countryside who did the hard work at the looms. In Massachusetts during the 19th century, recruiting women to work in the textile factories were easy and inexpensive. They lived in company sponsored boarding houses, 4 in each room, 2 in each bed. Textile factories in Britain had similar dormitory-like housing near the factories. Often, in both Britain and the United States, the women employed were less than 18 years old.

A Review of “The Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions”, by Alan Zimm. 2011

A bad idea and terrible planning from beginning to end.

This book uses modern operations research techniques to analyze the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the levels of strategy, operations and tactics. In the process the reader learns the difference between deterministic and stochastic models of the results of hits by bombs, torpedoes and shells on warships. The author provides many useful tables showing facts like torpedo hit probabilities and ship damage possibilities under different attack scenarios. These tables are based on pre and post-war US and Japanese war college studies or on results of other naval battles during World War II. There are many good maps and many good photographs.

The conclusion of the author is that the Pearl Harbor attack was poorly planned and executed at the strategic, operational and tactical levels. At an operational level the plan worked, but only by chance. The Japanese carriers reached their launch point north of Oahu without being detected, and their first attack wave achieved surprise. But this operational success resulted from luck and poor American reconnaissance. Toward the end of the book the author points out that any reasonable American precautions such as dawn fighter patrols off Oahu, or a properly manned control room able to react to the radar contact with the incoming Japanese strike would have led to a massacre of the Japanese aircraft.