Natural Born

They were originally Siberian nomads. Some 8 thousand years ago, they  crossed the Bering Strait into North America. The Nemeruh – “the people” – came to live a primitive hunting and gathering life in eastern Wyoming .  They had no pottery, no farming, no priests.  They were Stone Age hunters.

In the early 1600’s, Spaniards from Mexico brought Arabian-bred desert horses to the Americas. . . Mustangs.  Some of them got away.  Within a few decades there were . . .millions. . . wild, roaming the plains and canyons of western North America, all the way into Canada.

In those times, on the Great Plains, buffalo herds as large as 4 million strong grazed the rolling fields of grass, in groups as large as 50 miles long and 25 miles wide.

The Nemeruh became highly skilled horsemen.  Horses greatly empowered hunting, but also war, territorial war between the native peoples.  The Nemeruh relentlessly fought their way south, displacing the Apache’s, the Ute’s and others, and conquered the greatest buffalo country of all, the Llano Estanto – the lands of northern Texas and Oklahoma.

They became known as the Comanches, so named by the Ute’s as “those who are always against us”.

“A Comanche brave who captured a live Ute would torture him to death without question.  A Comanche captured by a Ute would expect to receive exactly the same treatment.

The Nemeruh, and all the Plains peoples, lived ”immersed in the elemental world” of the “endless, trackless, and mostly waterless expanse of undulating grass” – the “oceanic” plains that were filled with natural fires, sudden storms, blizzards, venomous snakes, and ravenous predator beasts.

Their life was “ceaseless toil, hunger, constant war, and early death”, but also PURE MAGIC, with “spirits everywhere, in rocks, trees, and in animals” and nights filled with dancing and singing.  The raw liver of a freshly killed buffalo was a delicacy, as was the curdled milk form the stomach of a still nursing bison calf.  They never ate the buffalo heart.  They lived intensely alive.

”virtually all the Indian tribes waged war against their neighbors and practiced deeply sickening torture. Prisoners who weren’t tomahawked on the spot could expect to be disemboweled and tied to a tree with their own intestines, roasted to death over a slow fire, or simply hacked to pieces and fed alive to the dogs.”

Once, they captured and adopted Daniel Boone’s grand daughter. but after a raid against them by settlers, they tied her high in a tree, alive, and shot her full of  arrows.

The Comanches . . . ‘stopped cold’  . . . the northern advance of the Spaniards and the western advance of the Americans. . .  for 150 years.  They were the very last holdout of native people against the tide of settlers in North America.  Only the deliberate slaughter of the buffalo could bring them to submission.

The strength of their attachment to each other, and the demonstration they gave of the same, even to the dividing of the last morsel with each other upon the point of starvation, might put any professed Christians to blush!  But they were just the reverse of all this to all the world outside.”

Denouement

November 22, 1963

In the morning, LBJ tried to talk JFK into having Ralph Yarborough, his political adversary, in the Presidential car on the motorcade, rather than John Connolly,  his political ally.  JFK said no.  Jackie heard their heated exchange.

Later in the morning, Richard Nixon boarded a plane, in Dallas, to fly home.  As he embarked, he told reporters of rumors that JFK would remove LBJ from the upcoming re-election ticket.

In Washington, D.C., Dan Reynolds, who sold a life insurance policy to LBJ, began testifying to Congress about LBJ’s demands for kickback payments – purchasing advertisements on LBJ’s radio station and a stereo set for Lady Bird.

Carlos Marcello, New Orleans mafia boss, was in district court in New Orleans, fighting deportation by Attorney General RFK for falsifying his passport.

At 12:35 PM, shots rang out in Dealey Plaza.

As Mr. Reynolds was about to present incriminating documents, it was announced that JFK had been killed.  “I guess you won’t need these.  Giving testimony involving the Vice President is one thing, but when it involves the President, that is something else.”

While the Judge in the Marcello trial was instructing the jury, he was interrupted by news of JFK’s death.  The verdict later that day was NOT GUILTY.

In Cuba, a French journalist, Jean Daniels, sat with Fidel Castro in a seaside villa at Varadero, Cuba.  Some weeks prior,  JFK learned of Daniel’s planned visit to see Castro, and asked Daniels to give Castro a message: “If you want peace, you must break with Moscow”.  Daniels was to made to wait to see Castro . . .for 3 weeks.  Then, on 11/21/63, they finally met.  They talked until 4AM.  Castro invited him to lunch the next day.  During lunch, Castro received a call, and was told of JFK’s murder.  “This is very bad news”.  His fear was that he would be blamed.

In Paris, Rolando Cubela, a Cuban physician and leader in Fidel’s government, and a neighbor of Castro in Varadero, met with a CIA representative.  He had secretly met with the CIA, before, stating that he wanted to defect.  In Brazil, in September 1963, he had met with Desmond Fitzgerald of the CIA, who asked him to assassinate Castro.  Rubella had conditions.  He wanted a high powered rifle, and he wanted personal orders, directly from RFK.  Many in the CIA suspected ‘a set up’. Fitzgerald gave RFK’s go-ahead anyway.

As Cubela was given a poison pen to use on Castro, news of JFK’s assassination arrived.  He didn’t take the pen.

Two years later, in Cuba, Cubela was found guilty of espionage and was given a death sentence.  Castro commuted the sentence, and sent him books while he was in prison.  Cubela was released in 1979 and moved to Spain, where lives to this day.

Desmond Fitzgerald died of a heart attack, playing tennis, in 1967, as doubts of the Warren Report were in the news.

In Los Angeles, Aldous Huxley died of laryngeal cancer. His wife gave him IV LSD, as he requested, in his final minutes.

In Oxford, England, twelve minutes later, C. S. Lewis died of kidney failure. He spoke his last words:  “We have no right to happiness

 

No Such Thing

Sir John Cowperthwaite was financial secretary of Hong Kong from 1961 – 1971.

His administration did not collect any economic data during his tenure.”  Jairaj Devadiga

“if I let them compute theses statistics, they’ll want to use them for planning.”

During Cowperthwaite’s administration, Hong Kong grew “ from being only one fourth as rich as the United Kingdom in 1961, to being 40% richer by 1996′.

What should poor countries do?  His advice:  “Abolish their office of natural statistics”.

When management is driven by statistics. it leads to what is called. . . Surrogation.  Metrics get misinterpreted as goals.

Measurement, contrary to all conventional wisdom, leads to mismanagement.  

Case in point:  Soviet Russia

Fifty years ago, 180,000 whales disappeared from the oceans”.  Charles Homans.

This was due to Soviet fishing. “In one season alone, from 1950 to 1951, Soviet ships killed nearly 13,000 hump back whales.”

But Russia didn’t need whale fishing product.

The Soviet whalers . . . were motivated by an obligation to satisfy obscure line items in the five year plans that drove the Soviet economy.  In the grand calculus of the country’s planned economy – the dictates of the State Planning Committee of the Council of Ministeries – whaling was considered a satellite of the fishing industry

Gross fish tonnage was the metric goal.  Harvesting whales was the easiest way to tonnage.

No matter what, the plan must be met.”

We tend to think of society as a unitary whole with unitary motivations, which needs central control, top-down and machine-like, to achieve focused goals, driven by the statistics of outcomes.  Mussolini made the trains run on time.

“. . .when [one party autocracy] is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as china is today, it can also have great advantages.  That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.”   Thomas Friedman

And yet societies in history that have flourished have been more biologicwith bottom-up, ecological networks of distributed motivations, interests, and initiatives.

Milton Friedman:

”[Enlightenment]liberalism takes freedom of the individual – really, of the family – as its ultimate value.”

The major problem of modern society is the achievement of liberty and individual responsibility in a world that requires co-ordination of many of millions of people in production to make full use of modern knowledge and technology.”

”Society is a collection of individuals and the whole is no greater than the sum of its parts.”

“The challenge is to reconcile individual freedom with wide-spread interdependence.”

”Voluntary exchange is a way to get cooperation among individuals without coercion.  The reliance on voluntary exchange, which means on a free market mechanism, is thus central to the liberal creed.”

”Both sides to an economic transaction can benefit from it, if the transaction is voluntary and informed”.

Margaret Thatcher:

”. . .  they are casting their problems on society, and who is society? There is NO SUCH THING as Society.   There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except thru people and people look to themselves first.”   

 

 

 

 

 

General Lee

General Robert E. Lee married Mary Custis, grand step-daughter of George Washington.  Thru this marriage he acquired slaves.  He freed them by 1862, following the instructions of his father-in-law’s will.

Lee did not find slavery completely without justification.  [it was] “a greater evil to the white man than to the black race. . . blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially and physically.  The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, and I hope will prepare and lead them to better things.”

Loyal to Virginia, he sided with the Confederates.  “How can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?”

He fought for the confederate cause. . . relentlessly. . . and. . . with relish . . .to the very end.

At Mule Shoe,  when all was nearly hopeless, he tried to break out of Grant’s encirclement, to try to hold out in the hills of Tennessee or Georgia.  In these last days of the war, he sacrificed many thousands of his men.  Few of those men  owned slaves.

“. . he rode Traveller hastily toward the fighting.  He encountered terrified soldiers, streaking back in chaotic flight [from counterattacking union forces], “Hold on!” Lee shouted, seeking to stem the rout,  “Your comrades need your services,” The terrified men refused to heed his admonition, “Shame on you men, shame on you!”  Ron Chernow.

He would not negotiate release of captured Negro Union soldiers who had been southern slaves.

Lee was West Point and studied Napoleon. He was successful on defense, on his home turf – at Bull Run, at Fredericksburg, at Chancellorsville – but not so effective on offense, on unfamiliar ground, outside of Virginia, such as at Antietam or Gettysburg.

Strong on tactics, not so much on strategy.

While Lee attacked the front porch, Grant would attack the kitchen and bedroom“.  William T. Sherman.

He had Grant’s respect, but not his awe.  “After I crossed the James, the holding of Richmond was a mistake. . if he left Richmond when Sherman invaded Georgia, it would have given us another year of war“.

At Appomattox, Lee dressed. . .  like a victor . . . in his very finest silver grey.

I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”  Ulysses S. Grant

Following Lincoln, and ‘malice toward none‘, Grant refused Lee’s sword, and sent him freely off .  Only five days later, Lincoln was assassinated.

Lee’s stature in the South has been mythic, both then and. . . to this day.  His equestrian statue in Lee Park, Charlottesville, is . . .26 feet . . .high.  For Robert E. Lee, and for most southerners. . . to this day, something northerners don’t understand. . . to this day . . .is that homeland freedom, not slavery, was the great issue of the Civil War.  As in all eons past, when your land is all you have, you defend it with your life.

The best Union General, General Lee?  ” McClellan, by all odds“. . .!!

 

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