“Unbroken” – A Book Review

Interestingly enough this was a difficult book for me to read. Next month will be the five year anniversary of my father’s death. He was a bombardier (First Lieutenant) in WWII and flew over Germany in support of Patton’s Army. Their B17 suffered from structural problems, not unlike the B24.

Part of a passage from my father’s diary reminds me how dangerous their mission was:

Al and I were looking up records of previous missions of the Group. Since they started B-17’s they have had three times as many “major aircraft damage” in half as many missions. Ratio-six to one. That isn’t good.

A couple of years ago I received a copy of a letter my father wrote to one of his buddies after arriving in Europe that never reached his friend. He went down with the plane and the pilot during a terrible fire on the plane, originating in the bomb bay, while most of the crew was able to abandon ship. His nephew tracked me down and I sent him a copy of my dad’s diary and he sent me a copy of the letter my father wrote to his uncle.

My father was also raised in Southern California, not far from Torrance, and graduated from USC. He attended college after the war however, taking advantage of the GI Bill. Reading Louie’s story occupied my time with a lot of reflection and comparing and contrasting stories. It was very strange for me. I kept wishing I could ask my dad what he knew about Louie, if anything.

My father was also an athlete, although not in the same league as Louie (football and swimming), and always stressed participation in athletics as a character building exercise and that the discipline needed to succeed in sports would be useful in fighting life’s adversities. It’s one of the lessons I tried to pass on to our children. Reading Unbroken, I couldn’t help but believe that Louie’s passion for, and commitment to running taught him how to survive in some of the worst circumstances we can imagine.

Anyway, it was an odd experience for me reading the book, even down to the description of the crew flying the Enola Gay and dropping the bomb over Hiroshima. One of my father’s best friends, Rick Nelson, was the radio man on that flight. Reading how the pilot desperately tried to maneuver the plane away from the blast and how the fillings in his teeth tingled gave me chills. I sat around a dining room table on many occasions listening to that story and more.

Luckily my father had a much different experience than Louie. Even though there were bomb bay door fires, feathered engines, blown tires, damaged landing gear, hot flak breaking through the skin of the airplane, and even one emergency landing in Belgium, he flew his 36 missions and came home without suffering the terrible conditions many of these young men did, if they were lucky enough to survive at all.

Another reason I had trouble reading the book was because of the awful conditions the POW’s suffered from. It was a very vivid reminder of why we used to be so careful in our treatment of enemy combatants, at least I thought we were. That kind of brutality and suffering is difficult for me to read about.

This passage from the book really resonated with me.

Few societies treasured dignity, and feared humiliation, as did the Japanese, for whom a loss of honor could merit suicide. This is likely one of the reasons why Japanese soldiers in World War II debased their prisoners with such zeal, seeking to take from them that which was most painful and destructive to lose. On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler’s death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.

I’ll be curious to hear what the rest of you thought of the book.

The AL MVP Debate

It’s Friday, so how about something on the light side?

We’ve discussed some weighty topics here at ATiM and, with the exceptions of Scott and QB, we’ve all managed to be right once or twice. But we have yet to tackle a topic as important or divisive as: Who should win this year’s American League Most Valuable Player award?

Like the Presidential race, there are two candidates: Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.

As in the Presidential race, the sides have dug in and the mud-slinging has begun. There are many other similarities as well, but let’s just get to the arguments.

Mike Trout:

.326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, 10.4 WAR (via Fangraphs)

Pros:He’s one of the best center fielders in baseball and is a rookie! He’s having one of the best rookie seasons in the history of baseball.

Cons: His team didn’t make the playoffs and he faded the last month of the season.

Miguel Cabrera:

.330 BA, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 4 SB, 7.2 WAR (via Fangraphs)

Pros: He just won the Triple Crown, meaning he led the American League in Batting Average, RBIs and Home Runs. He is the first player to do so since 1967. He played his best in August and September with the Tigers trying to make the Playoffs.

Cons: He’s not a good defender and he is not a good runner. His team had a worse record than Mike Trout’s team.

Some of you may be asking…what in the world is WAR? WAR is a “new” statistic that stands for Wins Above Replacement and has become somewhat of a dividing line between the Pro-Cabrera and Pro-Trout camps. From Fangraphs: WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?”

So, according to WAR, if Cabrera was replaced with a minor league player, the Tigers would win 7 fewer games while the Angels would win 10 fewer games. Now I could go on and on about these arguments and am happy to do so in the comments, but the bottom line is I’d be voting for Trout. He’s nearly as good of a hitter as Cabrera and he adds a lot more value with his running ability and defense. Who’s got your vote?

Debate Night

This will be an open thread, live blogging the first Presidential debate.

From a variety of sources this is what we know:

The first presidential debate of 2012 will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the University of Denver in Denver, Colo. The moderator is Jim Lehrer, executive editor of the PBS NewsHour.

The Commission on Presidential Debates said the 2012 presidential debates will be moderated by a single individual and take place from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Neither of the candidates will be permitted to give opening statements, but will be allowed 2 minutes for closing statements.

The first debate will focus on domestic policy. The specific topics will be announced several weeks beforehand, and the debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments focusing on each. The moderator will ask a question, and each candidate will have 2 minutes to respond.

It should go something like this:

A debate that will consist of a total of six time segments of approximately fifteen minutes each in length. The issues to be discussed by the candidates have been agreed to in advance of the debate. Lehrer said on September 19, as he announced the issues that would be debated on Wednesday, that the first three segments would focus on “the economy”, while the final three would discuss “health care, the role of government, and governing”.

Each candidate will be asked a question by the moderator, and the candidate will respond with his answer, representing his personal view on the question. Some new proposals may be introduced during the debate, and while the debate will have few direct interactions between the candidates, both candidates are expected to question the proposals of their opponent.

And then a little hopeful thinking from one of Nova’s links:

Who knows? Maybe one day there will be candidates who will see it as politically advantageous to reveal themselves in this way. In the meantime, take note of a meaningful rule change announced this year by the presidential debate commission. For the first time, in the first and third events, the candidates will each get two minutes to respond to the opening question for each 15-minute segment, and then “the moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion.” That could mean up to 11 minutes of free-wheeling talk between the candidates. In a 90-minute debate, that could happen six times.

That is not insignificant. And if the candidates use that time not to make speeches or repeat talking points, or to ignore an important question that was just asked, but instead to listen, engage and think in a way the audience can witness, we just might get a presidential debate that deserves the label.

What are you looking for in the debate? Do debates ever change the trajectory of an election? Why are there so few chances for third party candidates to participate? Will we hear any surprises, policy-wise, from what we’ve heard on the campaign trail?

And lastly, here are some body language tells we can all watch for…………hahahahahaha

1. An itchy nose could be a sign that someone isn’t telling the truth. If someone is scratching their nose, there could be an issue

2. Hands in pockets are a sign of insecurity

3. Crossed arms don’t necessarily mean a person is angry or protective: They could just be cold in the studio where the debates are taking place!

4. Touching the neck could be a sign that someone is threatened or feels insecure

5. Finger pointing is a sign of aggression and it can make the audience mistrust the speaker

Another telltale sign, experts say, is frequent blinking by a speaker. It might indicate that person is uncomfortable with the words they are saying.

Open Thread – Monday (Edited)

I’m still working but took a break this afternoon to do a little reading. I’m trying to finish Unbroken but I’m not there yet. Next weekend is the book review………..hint, hint. I’ve also been working on our taxes, that’s right we filed an extension (just like the Romneys), but I have even less money now than I did in April to pay what we still owe……………yikes. And we finally got the rest of the parts we needed to finish our big export order to Taiwan, which we’re trying to get out the door (that’s money in the bank). Anyway, I did read a couple of interesting pieces during my breaks this weekend that might spark a little conversation.

Last week Nova linked this piece from the Atlantic about why liberals shouldn’t vote for Obama. It was interesting but didn’t sway me. I’d already explored all of the issues and decided I’m going to vote for him anyway. The most important issue for me is health care reform and even though he didn’t get the bill I wanted I’ve decided repealing the ACA is too big of a threat for me to not support him.

One of the issues discussed was our drone policy, particularly in Pakistan.

Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.

Then today I saw these charts and thought what the hell? I haven’t had the time to look into where exactly the information came from but according to them there have been exactly zero civilian deaths in Pakistan due to drone strikes this year. Can that be true?

This piece, “Is Karl Rove Losing It?”, is a pretty interesting take on Karl Rove and the author wonders if he really has as much power as he thinks he does. It’s probably just wishful thinking, those of us on the left aren’t too fond of the guy.

Karl Rove is back as GOP party boss, but this time it’s clear that even the best-laid plans of the savviest political strategists often go awry.

That became obvious earlier this week, on Sept. 25, when Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin reaffirmed that he was staying in the race in defiance of Rove, who had demanded Akin’s withdrawal and yanked American Crossroads’ millions from his campaign after Akin touted the prophylactic character of “legitimate rape.”

When pulling the super PAC dough didn’t faze the stubborn Missouri Tea Partyer, Rove went ballistic. “We should sink Todd Akin,” he declared , according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”

Rove’s remarks did more than just reopen the schism between the GOP establishment he embodies and the Tea Party, which has begun to see him as a ruthless party boss. It also showed that the Republicans have another serious problem in addition to Mitt Romney’s disastrous candidacy: Karl Christian Rove.

And lastly this one suggests three reasons why Romney isn’t doing better than he is. I do realize it’s not over though…..believe me.

1. His stand on the auto bailout “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” has hurt him in states like Ohio.

2. He probably lost Florida when he chose Ryan as his running mate as the majority of seniors apparently don’t like their plans for Medicare…………even if they were excluded from the cuts.

3. His lack of connection with ordinary Americans exemplified by his 47% comments.

Flip Flopper in Chief?

I just don’t see how someone with so many different opinions or statements on one subject can realistically believe he can or even should be President.

A quote from Romney’s book “No Apology”;

After about a year of looking at data — and not making much progress — we had a collective epiphany of sorts, an obvious one, as important observations often are: the people in Massachusetts who didn’t have health insurance were, in fact, already receiving health care. Under federal law, hospitals had to stabilize and treat people who arrived at their emergency rooms with acute conditions. And our state’s hospitals were offering even more assistance than the federal government required. That meant that someone was already paying for the cost of treating people who didn’t have health insurance. If we could get our hands on that money, and therefore redirect it to help the uninsured buy insurance instead and obtain treatment in the way that the vast majority of individuals did — before acute conditions developed — the cost of insuring everyone in the state might not be as expensive as I had feared.

It’s not as if this interview with Glenn Beck was while he was in college, it was in 2007.

When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is,” he said at the time. “So my plan did something quite different. It said, you know what? If people can afford to buy insurance … or if they can pay their own way, then they either buy that insurance or pay their own way, but they no longer look to government to hand out free care. And that, in my opinion, is ultimate conservativism.

And in a 2010 interview on Morning Joe he was asked if he believed in universal health coverage and said;

Oh sure. Look, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way.

And then surprise of surprises last night on 60 Minutes he reversed course.

“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance,” he said in an interview with Scott Pelley of CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night. “If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

h/t Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel

My oldest daughter finally convinced one of her friends to apply for the CA PCIP enacted as part of the ACA. Her friend Sara completely lost the ability to speak and also lost control of many motor skills while in graduate school about three years ago. Her medical insurance expired as she was forced to quit school and was also unemployable. Luckily, her partner was able to support the two of them, but just barely. Sara was unable to purchase health insurance and had no medical diagnosis so was also denied disability.

She has spent the last three years in emergency rooms and trying to get care and a diagnosis through the health department but most tests were denied and no one seemed able to make a diagnosis even though she has gone down hill dramatically in the past three years. At one point the state sent her to a mental health expert as they thought she was making herself sick or something. She now walks with the help of a walker, can no longer drive and barely leaves the house as it’s too much effort.

About a month ago she received her insurance through PCIP and was finally able to see both a GP and the neurologist he sent her to and now has a likely diagnosis and even medication to improve her condition. Her tests were ordered on an emergency status and she was diagnosed with PLS a very rare (only 500 cases in the US) and degenerative form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s) that is not as deadly or rapidly progressive. There are treatments and while it is debilitating it isn’t a death sentence and can be mitigated while improving her quality of life.

We had a similar experience with our niece who died in 2008. We waited a very long time for her insurance company to approve the tests she needed but the approval never came. Instead she received a notice that her insurance had been terminated. We couldn’t get in to see a neurologist until we could prove we had the money to pay for whatever tests and treatment she might need. We converted our IRA’s to cash and put our rental house on the market but we were too late. While I was on the way to bring her home from Albuquerque to see the neurologist I’d found to treat her she had a seizure and died.

Mitt Romney can’t even seem to figure out if we have an obligation to help people in these circumstances or not.

Money, money, money, money……………MONEY

I read this yesterday and thought it was depressing.  I learned that Riverside County (my county) sits at just under 17% poverty, median income is down another $3,000 since last year  and 3 times as many residents need food stamps now than needed them in 2007.  These are some of the people who don’t pay federal income taxes I guess.  I’ve never understood why, when people need the safety net the most it is always under the biggest threat.  It’s almost as if we blame the victims of the recession for the recession.  I’m sure it all comes down to money and we know it didn’t just disappear so where is it?

I read this in TomDispatch:

Here’s what the latest census data tell us: in 2011, the middle class shrank to “an all-time low” (as the Washington Post headline had it), while the income of the wealthiest Americans continued to climb.  The poverty rate leveled off at a still shuddering 15%, with more than one of every five Americans under eighteen living in poverty.  The Gini Index, a measure of income inequality, rose by 1.6%, the “biggest one-year increase in almost two decades.”

In a way, of course, this should be no news at all.  Middle-class wealth has taken a staggering hit since the economic meltdown of 2007 (and African American and Hispanic wealth has gone through the floor). This disaster, linked to the Great Recession, has had a sideline effect.  On the theory that what goes up must come down, money flooding out of American households and into the coffers of the incredibly wealthy and their corporate cronies has also been flowing back down in tidal amounts.  It’s been pouring biblically into this season’s political campaign.

The news out of the dog days of August, for example, was that the Obama and Romney campaigns had raised a total of more than $225 million dollars that month alone.  (In the 1984 presidential campaign between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, the two candidates raised a “mere” $202 million during that whole election season!)  And, of course, those figures don’t even include the dollars filling Super PACs to the bursting point and the “dark money” going into the 501(c)(4)s that don’t have to disclose where their contributions even come from.  (Eight of the top 10 Super PACs are “conservative,” reports the Daily Beast, and 77% of all contributions this campaign season will come from “business interests,” according to the invaluable Open Secrets website.)

Tom went on to publish parts of an essay by Lewis Lapham that I thought was well worth the read.  It’s the same link, the essay is under Tom’s comments which I quoted above.

Thomas Paine in the opening chapter of Common Sense finds “the strength of government and the happiness of the governed” in the freedom of the common people to “mutually and naturally support each other.” He envisions a bringing together of representatives from every quarter of society — carpenters and shipwrights as well as lawyers and saloonkeepers — and his thinking about the mongrel splendors of democracy echoes that of Plato in The Republic: “Like a coat embroidered with every kind of ornament, this city, embroidered with every kind of character, would seem to be the most beautiful.”

Published in January 1776, Paine’s pamphlet ran through printings of 500,000 copies in a few months and served as the founding document of the American Revolution, its line of reasoning implicit in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. The wealthy and well-educated gentlemen who gathered 11 years later in Philadelphia to frame the Constitution shared Paine’s distrust of monarchy but not his faith in the abilities of the common people, whom they were inclined to look upon as the clear and present danger seen by the delegate Gouverneur Morris as an ignorant rabble and a “riotous mob.”

From Aristotle the founders borrowed the theorem that all government, no matter what its name or form, incorporates the means by which the privileged few arrange the distribution of law and property for the less-fortunate many. Recognizing in themselves the sort of people to whom James Madison assigned “the most wisdom to discern, and the most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society,” they undertook to draft a constitution that employed an aristocratic means to achieve a democratic end.

Accepting of the fact that whereas a democratic society puts a premium on equality, a capitalist economy does not, the contrivance was designed to nurture both the private and the public good, accommodate the motions of the heart as well as the movement of the market, the institutions of government meant to support the liberties of the people, not the ambitions of the state. By combining the elements of an organism with those of a mechanism, the Constitution offered as warranty for the meeting of its objectives the character of the men charged with its conduct and deportment, i.e., the enlightened tinkering of what both Jefferson and Hamilton conceived as a class of patrician landlords presumably relieved of the necessity to cheat and steal and lie.

Good intentions, like mother’s milk, are a perishable commodity. As wealth accumulates, men decay, and sooner or later an aristocracy that once might have aspired to an ideal of wisdom and virtue goes rancid in the sun, becomes an oligarchy distinguished by a character that Aristotle likened to that of “the prosperous fool” — its members so besotted by their faith in money that “they therefore imagine there is nothing that it cannot buy.”

Who are the 47%?

You’ll all be glad to know I’m done with my brief obsession with the people who produced, filmed and promoted the crappy video that turned the ME on it’s head.  I was more interested in the psychological profiles of the characters involved than the political ones anyway.  Now I’m stuck on Romney.

Here are his comments again, the ones I had a truly visceral reaction to.

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

Romney went on: “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Earlier I challenged Scott to say what he meant.

I think the elephant in this room is that you agree with him. Just say so.

jnc replied first,

I’ll own this. I definitely agree with him. I mean it when I say I’m a libertarian. It’s the most persuasive argument he’s made in my view thus far in the campaign. Note also that the 53% vs 47% meme isn’t original to Romney. The first I saw of it was from Erik at Red State in the Facebook posts in response to the “We are the 99%” meme as part of Occupy Wall Street. The “divide the country” approach didn’t start with Romney, he just draws the line differently than OWS

then went on to talk about the “Life of Julia” and his ideas on the flat tax.  Just a reminder, I ridiculed the “Life of Julia” and said it reminded me of the dopey sex ed material the girls watched in the 60’s and btw, a lot of us are intrigued by jnc’s tax proposals.  Too bad Romney didn’t mention either of those.  He was too busy embarrassing the 47% of the population that don’t pay Federal Income Tax or the 47% of Obama’s base, and brought out the tried but true euphemism that Brigade (of PL fame) always trots out……………..liberals are on the dole and only vote for Democrats so they can continue to get “free stuff”.

Romney seems to be confusing the 47% of people who don’t pay Federal income tax with 47% of the population at large who are Obama’s base who will naturally vote for Obama.  A large number of the 47% who don’t pay income tax are seniors, vets, people living in the poorer states in the south etc., many of whom also generally vote for Republicans.  It’s a little confusing who he’s actually insulting here but it seems to be just about everyone who isn’t in an exclusive group of wealthy Republicans.

And then after challenging me on what he considered my mis-representation of Romney’s words and taking something out of context, Scott said this,

I thought I did, but if I need to be I can be more clear. I agree with him.

I have said this many times, but if the way in which we fund our government is through income taxes, then everyone should pay income taxes, and the tax rate should be flat with no exemptions.

I think this is interesting because none of the quotes I was objecting to had to do with a flat tax or even Romney, Scott or Jnc’s tax solutions which are all slightly different if I understand them correctly.  Romney/Ryan don’t like to get into the same kind of specifics that Scott or Jnc do, so I know less about them than I’d like to.

Political differences and tax solutions aside, I wanted to know whether they agreed with the Romney comments I quoted above.

And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax”.

Here are a couple of maps showing counties that voted for Obama and the richest vs poorest counties in the country.

Matt Welch over at Reason.com:

I should theoretically be the target audience for this stuff. I never took out a federally guaranteed student loan, never enjoyed the mortgage-interest deduction; I worry all the time about government spending and entitlements, and I am not unfamiliar with the looter/moocher formulation. But this kind of reductionism does not reflect individualism (as David Brooks charges), it rejects individualism, by insisting that income tax is destiny. It judges U.S. residents not as humans but as productive (or unproductive) units.

There are to my mind many more important things to consider in this presidential race than Mitt Romney’s reductive parroting of plausible-but-wrong GOP tropes. But the reason this controversy will have legs is ultimately because many Republicans think Romney’s comments were just fine They are about to learn what the rest of the country thinks about that.

That piece above from “The Corner” (linked in the Reason piece) should please Scott and Jnc.  We’ll see who’s right…………….but I think Romney just screwed his chances of ever becoming President of the United States.  Personally, I don’t think he deserves it.

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