01 September, 2011

September 1, 1939

The German Luftwaffe bomb Wieluri (left, click to view full size), Poland. This is the first battle in the German invasion of Poland and the official start of World War II.

Following several German-staged incidents (like the Gleiwitz incident, a part of Operation Himmler), which German propaganda used as an excuse to claim that German forces were acting in self-defence, the first regular act of war took place on 1 September 1939, at 04:40, when the Luftwaffe attacked the Polish town of Wieluń, destroying 75% of the city and killing close to 1,200 people, most of them civilians. This invasion subsequently began World War II. Five minutes later, the old German pre-dreadnought battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. At 08:00, German troops—still without a formal declaration of war issued—attacked near the Polish town of Mokra. The Battle of the Border had begun. Later that day, the Germans attacked on Poland's western, southern and northern borders, while German aircraft began raids on Polish cities. The main axis of attack led eastwards from Germany proper through the western Polish border. Supporting attacks came from East Prussia in the north, and a co-operative German-Slovak tertiary attack by units (Field Army "Bernolák") from German-allied Slovakia in the south. All three assaults converged on the Polish capital of Warsaw.

The Soviet Union will soon ally with Germany (yes, you read that right), and also invade Poland from the east. Germany and the U.S.S.R. will divide Poland among themselves on October 6.

September, 2001

Lots of short selling of airline and related stocks begins. American and United Airlines in particular are affected. On September 10, 2001, United Airlines is trading at 25 times its normal volume on the Pacific Exchange.

These two stocks will drop about 40% when the market reopens in late September after the attack.

31 August, 2011

August 31, 1803

The “unofficial” beginning of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Meriwether Lewis sets out from Pittsburgh, PA and journeys to Louisville, KY where he will meet up with William Clark. Together, they will head to Camp DuBois, where they will train with the rest of their team for six months, before continuing their journey to the Pacific.

Polling The President–August 2011 Edition

I’ve moved this somewhat monthly post to the end of the month, so I can do it after the consumer confidence index is released.

It’s only been three weeks since I last looked at things, so there shouldn’t be much change.

As always, we’ll start with the RealClearPolitics averages. His post-Osama bin Laden raid peak on May 25th had the President’s approval numbers at 52.6/42.5. Three weeks ago, he was at 43.5/51.2. Today, as I write this, he’s at 43.0/53.2. This represents a 20.3 point change from May 25. And in the wrong direction for the President. The current numbers are all records for his Presidency. And not the kind of records the President wants. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that he appears to have found a floor in approval in the low 40s. For now. Until something pushes him through the floor, his disapproval can’t get above the mid 50s.

Right Track/Wrong Track is at 18.6/74.4, 4.8 points worse than just 3 weeks ago, and a –55.8 spread. These are astoundingly bad numbers for President Barack Obama (D-USA). For reference, on the day he took office, that was 23.1/69.3, a spread of –46.2. Election day in 2008 saw these numbers at 9.9/84.9, which is a –75 point spread. He still clears that hurdle easily, but the mere fact that we can even bring that up for comparison scares the living daylights out of his campaign manager.

The last thing I look at is the Consumer Confidence Index. There are several companies that produce these, and they use different methodologies. Therefore the numbers mean different things, So, I stick with the index released by The Conference Board. I’m not convinced they’re any better or any more reliable than anyone else. But the important thing is to stick with just one index, so we know we’re comparing apples and apples.

So, how are the apples? In a word, rotten.  The latest release has the index at 44.5. It was at 59.2 in July, a fall of 14.7 points. That’s a huge drop for just one month. Recall that 90 is the number indicating a “healthy” economy. It was 84.9 in November, 2001, the low point in the 9/11 recession. Again, the President can take some solace in the fact that this number was 25.3 in February, 2009, but it’s closer to that than the peak of of his administration a 70.4 rating that occurred just six months ago in February, 2011.

In other words, people are becoming more and more frustrated with this President, and have a dimmer and dimmer outlook on the future.

The words from The Conference Board are even more discouraging than the numbers:

Consumers' appraisal of present-day conditions weakened further in August. Consumers claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 40.6 percent from 38.7 percent, while those claiming business conditions are "good" inched up to 13.7 percent from 13.5 percent. Consumers' assessment of employment conditions was more pessimistic than last month. Those claiming jobs are "hard to get" increased to 49.1 percent from 44.8 percent, while those stating jobs are "plentiful" declined to 4.7 percent from 5.1 percent.

Consumers' short-term outlook deteriorated sharply in August. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 11.8 percent from 17.9 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen surged to 24.6 percent from 16.1 percent. Consumers were also more pessimistic about the outlook for the job market. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased to 11.4 percent from 16.9 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs increased to 31.5 percent from 22.2 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 14.3 percent from 15.9 percent.

If these numbers don’t show many signs of improvement by next November, you won’t have to stay up very late on election night to find out who will be in the White House the next four years.

30 August, 2011

August 30, 1963

“Hi Nicky, this is Jack.”

The Moscow-Washington hotline, informally known as the “red telephone” goes online.

After the Cuban Missile Crisis a year earlier, the two superpowers decided that some sort of direct communication link was necessary between the White House and the Kremlin.

Interestingly, the first version of the hot line wasn’t a telephone at all, but a direct telegraph link. It was felt that verbal communication at a time of crisis might lead to further misunderstandings, so a written form was deemed more appropriate.

The first President to use the hotline was President Lyndon Johnson (D-USA), in 1967’s six-day Egypt-Israel War.

Candidate Walter Mondale (D) used the phone famously in an ad during the Democrat primary in 1984, stating that Gary Hart didn’t have the experience necessary to pick up the phone.


It’s also the inspiration behind several “3 am phone call” ads from various candidates over the years, most recently Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) when running against then Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in the 2008 Democrat primary for President.

29 August, 2011

August 29, 2005

Katrina makes landfall in Louisiana. She will end up being the costliest hurricane in American history, having done some damage to Florida over the last week before wreaking havoc from Alabama to Texas.

Although Hurricane Katrina later travelled mainly through Mississippi, it began as a Category 1 hurricane on August 25, crossing the southern tip of Florida (raining 14 inches (360 mm) [36 cm][3]) into the Gulf, where it weakened, then strengthened into a massive Category 5 with 175 mph (280 km/h) sustained winds. Slowly turning north along the eastern coast of Louisiana, at 4 a.m. August 29, sustained winds were 132 mph (211 km/h), 90 miles (114 km) SSE of New Orleans.[3] As Katrina came ashore near Buras, LA at 6:10 CDT, with reported 125 mph (201 km/h) winds (Category 3),[3] it passed 40 miles (64 km) east[25] of New Orleans and headed to the Mississippi state line (mouth of Pearl River, 10 a.m. CDT),[26] with hurricane-force winds travelling up central Mississippi until weakening at Meridian,[27] and entering Tennessee as a tropical storm. Despite the hurricane force centered on Mississippi, neighboring areas were also affected: when New Orleans began slowly flooding with high east/north winds, a 28-foot (9 m) storm surge eastward from Bay St. Louis devastated coastal areas with 30–55 foot (17 m) sea waves,[28] flooding 12 miles (19 km) inland. The waves pushed barges, oil rigs, ships, and debris into submerged towns to flatten many coastal buildings across to Pascagoula with 20-foot (6 m) surge,[28] and into Alabama with 15-foot (5 m) surge[28] and 24-foot (7 m) waves battering beach houses inside Mobile Bay and tilting the battleship USS Alabama. (See extensive details below).

In particular, New Orleans, Louisiana will be mostly destroyed, with 80% or more underwater. Most of the levees protecting the city will break. Media will report unsubstantiated rumors as fact over the next several days. In fact, the Wikipedia article still presents some of the questionable information about evacuees in the Superdome (emphasis mine):

Despite increasingly squalid conditions, the population inside continued to grow. The situation inside the building was described as chaotic; reports of rampant drug use, fights, rape, and filthy living conditions were widespread. At the time, as many as 100 were reported to have died in the Superdome, with most deaths resulting from heat exhaustion, but other reported incidents included an accused rapist who was beaten to death by a crowd and an apparent suicide.[48] Despite these reports, though, the final official death toll was significantly less: six people inside (4 of natural causes, one overdose, and an apparent suicide) and a few more in the general area outside the stadium.

The truth of the matter is that these people should never have been housed in the Superdome, at least not in the significant numbers seen. This problem can be laid entirely at the feet of Mayor Ray Nagin (D-New Orleans). Nagin waited far too long to issue a mandatory evacuation order, and then did not deploy city buses to assist in the evacuation. The situation was exacerbated by Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-LA). Blanco, for her part, was thoroughly unprepared for the strength of the storm (she was hardly alone in that, though), and refused to allow the American Red Cross to enter New Orleans.

The long term effects of Katrina are devastating to New Orleans. The population of New Orleans in 2005 is approximately 455,000. In 2006 it will be 223,000. In 2009, it will be 355,000, still 100,000 short of pre-Katrina levels.

But the effects of Katrina were not limited to New Orleans. Mississippi was also incredibly hard hit.

The Gulf Coast of Mississippi suffered near total devastation[11][12][1] from Hurricane Katrina on August 28–29, with hurricane winds, 28-foot (9 m) storm surge, and 55-foot (17 m) sea waves[13] pushing casino barges, boats and debris into towns, and leaving 236 people dead, 67 missing, and an estimated US$125 billion in damages.[14] Since Katrina made landfall below central Mississippi, 30 miles (48 km) east of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m.,[3] the storm's powerful, right, front quadrant covered coastal Mississippi and southern Alabama, increasing wind and flood damage. After making initial landfall in Louisiana, four hours later Katrina made another landfall north at the state line (near the mouth of the Pearl River)[3] and passed over submerged towns around Bay St. Louis as a Category 3 hurricane with winds over 120 mph (192 km/h) and 28-foot (9 m) surge.[13] Battered by wind, rain and storm surges, some beachfront neighborhoods were leveled entirely, with flooding 6–12 miles (10–19 km) inland, crossing Interstate-10 (I-10) in some places.[15]

28 August, 2011

August 28, 1963

I have a dream.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his famous speech before 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The 17 minute speech is presented here in its entirety.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sadly, today his dream remains unfulfilled. But today, it’s the people who cheered King on that day that have forsaken his dream. Today, we live in a world where racism is promoted under the guise of “affirmative action”. Today, we live in a world where racism is promoted under the guise of “ethnic diversity” and “celebration of ethnic heritage”. Today, the very people who once claimed to desire never to be judged by the color of their skin instead seek to do so at every opportunity, and also seek to judge others. Yes, I’m generalizing. No, it’s not everyone. But it wasn’t everyone in King’s day either. If King were alive today, I just don’t see how he’d be happy with our so-called “progress” over the last 38 years. I think he’d be disappointed in all of us. Hopefully the next 38 years will be better.