The Breakfast Club (Wellesley)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgWithout too much in preliminaries, the British Coalition’s position at Waterloo was very strong.  The rolling farmland provided plenty of opportunities for protection from direct fire in the line of sight, which is what the French had, while Coalition indirect fire (Howitzers and Mortars) was relatively unimpeded despite the fact they had fewer Artillery pieces overall.

The Coalition was in fortified defensive positions awaiting relief from the Prussians who despite their defeat at Ligny the previous day were well enough organized to field a force about half the size of the entire French army by the late evening.

For his part Napoleon had been able to interpose his army between the divided forces as he had often in the past and planned to use his interior lines of communication to defeat his enemies piecemeal.  It almost worked.

Napoleon did beat Blucher handily but was unable to inflict the level of disorganization necessary to cause his retreat.  Still, he turned his army to face Wellington and the Coalition.  The forces were evenly matched which is a disadvantage for the attacker that can only be overcome by producing uncertainty and command paralysis in the defender and exploiting the weak points that develop.

Unfortunately for Napoleon, Wellington was a General not much given to introspection and he himself was not at the top of his game.  Suffering from dehydration and cramps he had to retire from the field during a critical point in the battle and turn over direction of his army to Marshal Ney, his cavalry commander and a person of dubious loyalty and appallingly bad judgement.

Ney promptly mistook a normal rotation to reorganize damaged units as a general retreat and sent his calvalry charging in where they were predictably (and not to the credit of the same genius mentality in World Wars 1 & 2) slaughtered.

After recovering a bit personally Napoleon was left without many reserves except his Imperial Guard who had never suffered defeat in battle though that was mostly due to the fact they’d seldom been committed before the outcome was decided.  After their assault was beaten back like Pickett’s Charge and Blucher’s units came up in relief the fight was over and the fate of Europe decided.

Kind of.  I won’t dwell today on how the playing fields of Eaton led to the Poppies of Flanders and the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau because I want to talk about music.

Never get involved in a land war in Asia

You fool!  You fell victim to one of the classic blunders!  Inconceivable!

 photo 480px-Minard_zps5wvgznpd.jpg

This famous, and public domain, infograph illustrates what happened to Napoleon in Russia in 1812 where he took the most powerful army in the history of the world to that point and basically pissed it away.  Not that capturing Moscow would have mattered much to the Romanovs who ruled from St. Petersburg anyway.  You may ask why the U.S. Army has 9 support troops for every Infantryman.  This is why.  Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.

The Russians counted it a great victory though it was entirely inevitable, and it is a touchstone of patriotism (for Russians).  The most iconic (we get to irony later) expession of it in the West is The Year 1812.

It only took 6 weeks to write which is kind of unsurprising given that it’s an aggregation of national anthems and folk tunes that perfectly encapsulates the Romantic Nationalist vision.  Among oddities it is in fact scored for carillons and cannons which gives modern orchestrators some problems reproducing.  It’s ironic given the current social climate in Russia that it was written by one of the most clearly homosexual composers, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who personally conducted it at the dedication of Carnegie Hall.

It’s hard to imagine that history is so recent and accessible, that the things you read about in dry dusty old books happened to real people.

My Grandfather knew War of Southern Rebellion veterans who served in the Michigan Brigade (Custer was an idiot).  Tchaikovsky knew people who had served in the First Great Patriotic War (not that they called it that).  I have watched conductors who studied under Tchaikovsky, lots of them.

Many things we think of as contemporary have roots in the past, but in comparison to deep time, the 4.5 Billion year history of the Earth or the 14 Billion year history of the Universe, they are bare blips.  How far have we evolved?

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.


Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

This Day in History


E.C.B. Agrees to Extend Lifeline to Athens


JUNE 19, 2015

The European Central Bank has been topping up its emergency funding to Greek banks regularly since the beginning of this year. According to figures from the Greek central bank, Greek bank deposits fell in April to €133 billion, the lowest level in a decade. More than €30 billion was withdrawn between the end of last November and the end of April.

“There’s no problem with the funding of Greek banks,” said a Greek banking official with knowledge of the European Central Bank’s funding decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We all expect a positive outcome on Monday.”

But the funding appears to be draining out of the banks as fast as the central bank can pour it in. When it meets Monday, the central bank’s governing council is expected to discuss more support for Greece’s banks, which suggests that it is considering daily assessments of funding, according to people familiar with the moves.

On Friday, the bank decided to increase emergency funding by about €2 billion, according to people with knowledge of the figures. Outflows from deposits totaled €1.2 billion to €1.5 billion on Friday, the people said.

Black Church Is Target Again for Deadly Strike at the Heart


JUNE 19, 2015

After the Civil War, African-Americans abandoned the white congregations where they had been forced to pray as slaves and created their own centers of worship, remaking the religious map of the South.

What emerged in those years after Emancipation is what the African-American scholar W. E. B. Du Bois and others have described as the “first social institution fully controlled by black men in America.” Black churches ran schools, offered burial assistance and served as clearinghouses for information about jobs, social happenings and politics. More than just spiritual homes, they embodied their communities’ growing political aspirations.

And before long, they became targets.

In the fall of 1870, as the Ku Klux Klan battled to return African-Americans to subservience, nearly every black church in Tuskegee, Ala., was engulfed in flames. Ninety-three years later, as the civil rights movement gained momentum, a bomb blast killed four young girls in a black church in Birmingham, Ala., that was a well-known meeting place for movement leaders.

Afghan Parliament’s Term Is Extended After Squabbles Delay Elections

By MUJIB MASHAL, The New York Times

JUNE 19, 2015

With Afghanistan’s fractious coalition government already struggling, a new deadline looms that could further hurt its credibility: The Afghan Parliament’s term is set to expire on Sunday, with no elections scheduled and no agreement on how to hold them.

As a last-ditch measure, President Ashraf Ghani’s office issued a decree on Friday to extend Parliament’s term. In a statement, his office said Parliament “will continue its work” until elections could be held, and that a date for those elections would be announced within a month. But some critics said the move was unconstitutional.

It was unclear whether the extension decree would satisfy international donors, who had earlier said they would withhold financing for new elections because of the impasse.

An overhaul of the electoral process in time to elect a new Parliament was a central element of the power-sharing deal, brokered by the United States, between Mr. Ghani and his rival in last year’s disputed presidential vote, Abdullah Abdullah.

The agreement nominally ended a political crisis that some feared could devolve into factional conflict, and Mr. Abdullah joined the government with the largely undefined title of chief executive. But in the 10 months since the government took office, conciliation between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah has been hard to find, officials say. The government has struggled even to permanently fill key positions like defense minister, attorney general and chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Even with Parliament now extended temporarily, there is still no branch of the Afghan government whose legitimacy has not been clouded in some way.

Putin says Fifa’s granting of World Cup to Russia ‘should not be questioned’

The Guardian

Friday 19 June 2015 22.02 EDT

Russia fought honestly for the right to host the 2018 World Cup and the decision should not be called into question, Vladimir Putin has declared.

Swiss judicial authorities are investigating the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar as part of a far-reaching corruption scandal that has also raised questions about the 2010 event in South Africa.

“We fought in an honest manner [for the tournament] and we won. We do not think the decision should be questioned,” Putin told journalists on the sidelines of an investment forum in Saint Petersburg.

“We were ready and that’s what convinced Fifa. The stadium construction has already started.

The head of Fifa’s auditing and compliance committee, Domenico Scala, this month warned Russia and Qatar could lose the right to host the the 2018 and 2022 World Cups if evidence was found of corruption in the bidding process.

Putin said Russia supported the corruption inquiry currently unfolding at world football’s governing body but said it was “up to a court to decide if someone was guilty”.

The president said no evidence had been found of any corruption.

“If anyone has evidence, let them present it,” he said. “We won in a fair fight and are going to host the World Cup.”

Inside the mind of Bernie Sanders: unbowed, unchanged, and unafraid of a good fight

by Paul Lewis, The Guardian

Friday 19 June 2015 09.10 EDT

“Like an unconscious and uncontrollable force, our planet appears to be drifting toward self-destruction,” the newly installed socialist leader of somewhere called Burlington wrote. He urged them “in the strongest possible way” to disarm militarily and begin immediate negotiations with other world leaders.

The correspondence, unearthed by the Guardian, confirms what has long been said of America’s longest-serving independent member of Congress who, at the age of 73, recently launched a bid for the Democratic nomination for president. Bernie Sanders is unafraid of punching above his weight.

Never has that been more the case than now. Six weeks into his campaign, Sanders has gained the kind of momentum few expected from the Vermont senator, establishing himself as the primary obstacle between Hillary Clinton and the Democratic ticket for the White House.

His national poll rating has more than doubled, to over 10%, in little over a month. His rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire have been attracting crowds larger than any other candidate, Democrat or Republican. Hard copies of his memoir – mostly a dry recitation of a 1996 congressional race – are suddenly selling for more than $250 on Amazon.

The race for the 2016 presidential nomination is in its infancy, and Clinton remains the clear frontrunner by a margin most political analysts believe is all but unassailable. But Sanders is changing the contours of the race: the rise of a hard-left politician, long battling to to be heard from the sidelines, is now the first unexpected twist in the Democratic primary contest.

Man killed by officer was shot in the back, Atlanta medical examiner says

Associated Press

Friday 19 June 2015 13.57 EDT

A man who was killed by a police officer’s bullet was shot in the back, a metro-Atlanta medical examiner’s report says, adding a new twist to a case in which police say the man was driving a car toward officers when the incident happened.

An autopsy on the body of 23-year-old Nicholas Thomas was conducted by the Cobb County medical examiner’s office on 25 March, the day after Thomas was killed while at the wheel of a customer’s Maserati outside the Goodyear tire store where he worked, according to the report that was certified by the medical examiner on Tuesday.

Police have said Sergeant Kenneth Owens of Smyrna police shot Thomas because the officer feared for his life. Police have said Thomas was driving toward officers as they tried to serve him with a warrant for a parole violation, though his family says other witnesses dispute that.

But he was Black.  I felt threatened.

America’s drone policy is all exceptions and no rules

by Trevor Timm, The Guardian

Saturday 20 June 2015 07.00 EDT

The Obama administration is again allowing the CIA to use drone strikes to secretly kill people that the spy agency does not know the identities of in multiple countries – despite repeated statements to the contrary.

That’s what we learned this week, when Nasir ­al-Wuhayshi, an alleged leader of al-Qaida, died in a strike in Yemen. While this time the CIA seems to have guessed right, apparently the drone operators didn’t even know at the time who they were aiming at – only that they thought the target was possibly a terrorist hideout. It’s what’s known as a “signature” strike, where the CIA is not clear who its drone strikes are killing, only that the targets seem like they are terrorists from the sky.

Signature strikes has led to scores of civilians being killed over the past decade, including two completely innocent hostages less than two months ago. It’s a way of killing that’s been roundly condemned by human rights organizations and that some members of Congress have tried to outlaw.

It was so controversial that, in 2013, President Obama announced new “rules” for drone strikes that tightened requirements for when the CIA or any government agency could attempt to kill someone and were, in theory, meant to be the end of signature strikes. One of the rules was that a drone target had to be an “imminent threat” to the US and there had to be a near certainty that civilians would not be killed. (One would assume it’s close to impossible to call someone an “imminent threat” when you don’t even know who that person is.)

But it has become increasingly clear that the “rules” are virtually meaningless and the Obama administration is setting a terrifying precedent for the next president who can change or expand them on a whim.

After the “rules” were announced in 2013, the Associated Press reported that the US was going to stop signature strikes everywhere, including in Pakistan. Then we found out, through the Wall Street Journal, that actually, no, the president issued a secret waiver for Pakistan and part of the rules didn’t apply there. Now just this week, we’ve learned from the Washington Post that Obama, at some point, issued another waiver on the “imminent” rule for Yemen, allowing the CIA to continue signature strikes there unabated. According to their report: “US officials insisted that there was never a comprehensive ban on the use of signature strikes in that country” to begin with.

In other words, a key part of the drone “rules” Obama laid out in public don’t apply in the two countries where the CIA conducts virtually all of its drone strikes. Oh, and the “imminent threat” rule doesn’t apply in Afghanistan either, the only other country where the US military is regularly conducting its strikes.

As is typical with the US government’s extrajudicial killing policy, there was no public debate about any of the changes to the supposed rules, or even announcement that they ever changed – only an unofficial leak to a journalist after the latest killing.

Japan plans unilateral restart to Antarctic whaling in 2015, says official

Associated Press

Saturday 20 June 2015 01.12 EDT

Japan says it plans to resume whale hunts in the Antarctic later in 2015 even though the International Whaling Commission says Tokyo has not proven the mammals need to be killed for research.

“We have not changed any policies and our goal,” Joji Morishita, Japan’s representative to the IWC, told reporters. He said Japan would respond sincerely to “scientifically backed comments” in the report but criticised it as lacking consensus.

Under Tokyo’s revised proposal for the upcoming whaling season it plans to catch 333 minke whales each year between 2015 and 2027, about one-third of what it has previously targeted.

Japan’s actual catch has fallen in recent years in part because of declining domestic demand for whale meat. Protests by the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd also contributed to the lower catch.

The Japanese government has spent large amounts of tax money to sustain whaling operations.

The impossible world of MC Escher

by Steven Poole, The Guardian

Saturday 20 June 2015 07.12 EDT

The artist who created some of the most memorable images of the 20th century was never fully embraced by the art world. There is just one work by Maurits Cornelis Escher in all of Britain’s galleries and museums, and it was not until his 70th birthday that the first full retrospective exhibition took place in his native Netherlands. Escher was admired mainly by mathematicians and scientists, and found global fame only when he came to be considered a pioneer of psychedelic art by the hippy counterculture of the 1960s. His prints adorn albums by Mott the Hoople and the Scaffold, and he was courted unsuccessfully by Mick Jagger for an album cover and by Stanley Kubrick for help transforming what became 2001: A Space Odyssey into a “fourth-dimensional film”.

The mathematical trickery in Ascending and Descending’s staircase is not the subject of the image. Escher was never a surrealist. But in this picture, it becomes clear that he was a kind of existentialist. He had long admired Dostoyevsky and Camus, and in a letter to a friend while he was working on Ascending and Descending he explained: “That staircase is a rather sad, pessimistic subject, as well as being very profound and absurd. With similar questions on his lips, our own Albert Camus has just smashed into a tree in his friend’s car and killed himself. An absurd death, which had rather an effect on me. Yes, yes, we climb up and up, we imagine we are ascending; every step is about 10 inches high, terribly tiring – and where does it all get us? Nowhere.”

This dreamscape of futility is perfected by the two figures who are not on the eternal staircase. One gazes up at his condemned fellows from a side terrace; one sits glumly on the lower stairs. “Two recalcitrant individuals refuse, for the time being, to take any part in this exercise,” Escher commented. “They have no use for it at all but no doubt sooner or later they will be brought to see the error of their nonconformity.” Escher’s art at its best, then, is not just surprising but also surprisingly readable, putting him in the company of the great allegorical printmakers such as Albrecht Dürer.

In a 1963 lecture on “the impossible”, Escher declared: “If you want to express something impossible, you must keep to certain rules. The element of mystery to which you want to draw attention should be surrounded and veiled by a quite obvious, readily recognisable commonness.” This is arguably as true of fiction or music as it is of Escher’s brand of geometric sorcery. And it also, in a way, sums up the genius of Escher himself, an orderly man who made inexhaustibly extraordinary things.

A child born today may live to see humanity’s end, unless…

By David Auerbach, Reuters

June 18, 2015

Humans will be extinct in 100 years because the planet will be uninhabitable, according to Australian microbiologist Frank Fenner, one of the leaders of the effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. He blames overcrowding, denuded resources and climate change.

Fenner’s prediction is not a sure bet, but he is correct that there is no way emissions reductions will be enough to save us from our trend toward doom. And there doesn’t seem to be any big global rush to reduce emissions, anyway. When the G7 called on Monday for all countries to reduce carbon emissions to zero in the next 85 years, the scientific reaction was unanimous: That’s far too late.

And no possible treaty that emerges from the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany, in preparation for November’s United Nations climate conference in Paris, will be sufficient. At this point, lowering emissions is just half the story – the easy half. The harder half will be an aggressive effort to find the technologies needed to reverse the climate apocalypse that has already begun.

And on that optimistic bombshell we end todays episode of why am I so depressed.

Hardly worth anyone’s while to help a menial robot, is it ?… I mean, where’s the percentage in being kind or helpful to a robot if it doesn’t have any gratitude circuits?


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