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Alex Shrugged Meets the Joker

I thank Jack and others for filling in for me with the History segment. I had a health problem that put me in the hospital... and it's a story with a moral lesson, so I'll tell it.

Most Wednesdays I take the bus to the local jail to perform chaplain work. If I can, I'll stop by the library along the way as I did this time. As I waited for the doors to open, a man walked up. I'll call him "The Joker". He is the type of man you see on the streets at mid-day. He finds humor in everything and laughs when nothing is funny. He has a girl on his arm who laughs too, but I don't get the joke. Are they dangerous? Not in this setting. I'm OK.

After the library, it's a short walk across the parking lot and across the street to my bus stop. As I'm waiting, my heart begins to flutter. I felt this sensation a few days ago. I stand up and realize that I can't catch my breath. My bus comes by, and I step in.

I gasp, "I need a hospital. Any suggestions?"

"Take the 20," he replies. "That goes to a hospital."

The bus stop for "the 20" is next to the library where I came from. Can I make it? I cross the street and realize... no... I'm not going to make it. I flip out my phone and call my wife.

"Andrea. I can't breathe. I need help."

She calls an ambulance. Help is on the way and as you can see... it arrived in time, but while I'm bent over and sucking air, "The Joker" comes along with his girl, giggling all the way.

He asks me, "Do you know how I can get to the hospital?"

I look up and remember the bus driver's instructions, "Yes. Take the 20. It goes to a hospital."

"The Joker" thanks me and walks away. I notice that he is not walking to the bus stop. He is not going to the hospital. He has taken the trouble to let me know that he realizes that I am in trouble, and that he is leaving me to die. I feel sorry for him. He has made a bad mark on his soul... probably not the first, nor likely the worst. And later, I realize that I have erased a bad mark on my own soul. When "The Joker" had asked for help, I had tried to help. I've changed so much from the man I once was.

The ambulance shows up. A woman in the parking lot flags them down. Good for her. My heart is beating so fast they can't get my blood pressure. The count is 220 beats a minute. They are not sure they can get me to the hospital in time, so the paramedic injects me with... something he has only used twice in the 5 years he's been doing this. He warns me that it is going to feel very uncomfortable. It is always uncomfortable when your heart stops. Two seconds later, my heart pops back into rhythm.

It works. Good thing.

The hospital staff recommends a procedure to fix the problem. They say that the King of Muckity-Muck has flown to their hospital for this procedure. I say, "He's an idiot," and they laugh. They do the procedure.

Apparently, I'm OK now. I have to take it easy for a week or so. No problem. The history segment is not that taxing on my heart... except when there is a World War.

I will probably see "The Joker" again in my travels. He did me no harm. I forgive him his insult. God knows I deserve plenty of insults for my past misdeeds. This just balances the scales.

It's all good.

Korea and the Creation of a Super-Presidency

The Korean War is on. (I mean "United Nations police action.") UN forces led by General MacArthur have pushed the Chinese forces back, so the Chinese use "human wave tactics" meaning that soldiers walk into the line of fire to deplete UN ammunition. (I'm not kidding.) President Truman is fighting a limited war because he worries that the Taiwanese will jump across the Formosa Strait to retake China and spark World War 3. Despite orders that clearly limit MacArthur's options, he chooses to interpret them in the way most advantageous to his goals. He publicly praises the President for committing the USA to the defense of Korea. He also contacts European leaders informing them of his intentions. (FYI, Generals are not supposed to do this.) Legally speaking, MacArthur's authority is derived from the UN rather than the US Congress, so exactly who is controlling him is ambiguous... and he knows it. Politically speaking, he has embarrassed Truman, so the President must prove that he is in control of the military. General MacArthur is relieved of command. [1]

I fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.
-- President Harry S. Truman, recalling why General MacArthur was relieved of duty. [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The threat of a World War 3 was real in Korea. The previous year, Mao and Stalin had considered nuking the US fleet at sea as it approached Inchon. Truman could have fought a legitimate constitutional war in Korea, but it would have required approval from a Republican Congress. He circumvented the Constitutional requirement by winning a UN mandate. Thus he created a means to start a war without congressional approval. In a sense, he created a super-presidency with a new power and turned the UN into a political tool. Later, the War Powers Act was passed to reign in the President's power to start wars, but President Obama defied the Act, delivering its death blow... and Congress rolled over with barely a whimper. [3] [4] [5] [6]

The Rosenbergs and the Red Scare

A family that spies together, dies together. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are young, and loyal communists... and a dying breed in America. They are getting the electric chair for giving the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviets. Did they do it? Yes, they did, but enough doubt has been cast on their case that it seems as if they were framed. Additionally, their sensational trial and execution has led to worry about other communists lurking inside of government or under the bed. Senator Joseph McCarthy fans those flames. BURN THE WITCHES! Oh. Sorry. Actually, the laws in place to root out traitors have already done their work. The worst of the communist infiltrators (AND IT WAS REAL) were in the Treasury Department and at the Manhattan Project. That damage is already done, and the traitors are dead, in prison or sidelined. Next will come an endless parade of foolish followers of a fading communist dream being harassed and pilloried by the House Un-American Activities Committee (not the Senate). At this moment, Stalin is wandering through a dreamworld. His pay envelopes pile up on his desk, unopened. It's getting close to checkout time. I hope he doesn't forget to tip the bellboy on his way out. [7] [8] [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The name "Rosenberg" is a common German name. It means "Red Mountain". It is not particularly a Jewish name, but in the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, it is. As a Jew myself, (that is, Alex Shrugged) I find it embarrassing that the Rosenbergs were Jewish, but many Jews found communism appealing at the time. On its surface communism seems like the biblical promises come true: a way to help the unfortunate and care for the sick. Even today, I see socialism and communism being promoted as a biblical truth. Yet, while I see the Bible exhorting us to help our fellows in need, it is a call for the individual to do so... not the government. Voting to force someone else to do a good deed, does not earn me extra good-guy-points in Heaven, so to speak. Thus while God tells me that I should provide food for the hungry, I don't have to bring it to them unless they are sick. They can come get it, and do some minimal work for it, if only to sift through the chafe and carry away the seed. What government has to do with it, I have no idea... unless government is trying to take the place of God. [11]

The Twenty-Second Amendment, Ratified at Last

On February 27, Minnesota became the 36th state to ratify the Twenty-second Amendment, fulfilling the requirement of three-quarters of the states ratifying the amendment to legally making it a part of the US Constitution become a part of the law of the land. This Amendment, passed by Congress on March 21, 1947, set a term limit for the president of running for office for only 2 terms, or may run for a third term after having served less than 2 years of a remaining term where they had not been directly elected as president, such as a vice president taking over for an assassinated, or impeached, president. This amendment is most directly in response to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four term presidency, which was the only significant time that a president had deviated from the previous convention, established by George Washington, of voluntarily only running for president twice. In the past, only a few presidents, consisting of Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, had served two terms and had attempted to run for a third term, however they never got the nomination needed to get past the primaries. During a 1989 interview, Ronald Reagan stated he intended to fight for the repeal of this amendment, but this intention ended with his 1994 diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. [12]

My Take by Southpaw Ben

At the same time that the President is expanding his powers to include declaring war without first going through congress (See "My Take by Alex Shrugged" above for "Korea and the Creation of a Super-Presidency"), the Amendment intended to limit the president's power was ratified by the necessary number of states. Due to the extraordinary circumstances of the Great Depression and World War 2, FDR had served 4 terms, sparking the fear of a dictatorship in the US similar to how Hitler and Mussolini had both initially taken power as democratically elected leaders, and then declared themselves rulers for life. As a millennial currently attending college, I have heard many of my fellow students lamenting the fact that a "great president" (as if there were such a thing), such as Obama, was limited to only 2 terms, and this cry got louder following the election of Donald Trump. This fact is disturbing, as many of these same people are also calling for limits on speech when they disagree with the ideas of the speaker, and support the adoption of universal health care, that "is working so well for the rest of the world", and were all "feeling the Bern" during the primaries. I can only hope that my generation gets wiser as it ages; otherwise, I dread the future that I will grow old in and (hopefully) my future children will grow up in.

Notable Births

  • Rush Limbaugh: Conservative talk radio host who defines talk radio. [13]
  • Jim DeMint: US Senator (R) South Carolina and President of the Heritage Foundation. [13]
  • Al Franken: Saturday Night Live comedian and US Senator (D) Minnesota. [13]
  • Lisa Halaby: American-born Queen Noor of Jordan as wife of the late King Hussein. [13]
  • Sally Ride (died 2012, age 61): Physicist, astronaut and 1st American woman in space. [13]
  • Randy Shilts (died 1994, age 42): Reporter and author of "And the Band Played On", that brought attention to the AIDS epidemic. [13]
  • And in Entertainment...
  • -- Mark Hamill: Star War's Luke Skywalker, and thereafter plays and voice work because he is still LUKE SKYWALKER. [14]
  • -- Kirstie Alley: Star Trek's Lt. Saavik, in the Wrath of Khan, also Look Who's Talking, and TV's Cheers. [13]
  • -- Kurt Russell: Big Trouble in Little China, Overboard, Stargate, and more.... [13]
  • -- Robin Williams (died 2014, age 63): Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Hook, Jumanji and more... [13]

This Year in Film

  • Quo Vadis: Starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr. (Emperor Nero's reign ends badly. I don't want to give away the ending, but it's HOT!) [15]
  • Disney's Alice in Wonderland: She falls down a rabbit hole. [15]
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still: Remember the words: "Klaa-tu ba-ra-da nikt-o". Might come in handy some day. [15]

This Year in Music

  • Unforgettable: Nat King Cole. (Years later, his daughter, Natalie Cole, created a duet with her father using this song.) [16] [17]
  • Cry: Johnnie Ray. "Go ahead and... Cry...." [16] [18]
  • Hello Young Lovers: Perry Como, from The King and I. [16] [19]

In Other News

  • The True Believer by Eric Hoffer is published: A longshoreman offers his thoughts on Mass Movements (and he is spot on). [20] [21] [22]
  • British double agents Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean escape to the USSR: They are part of the Cambridge Spy Ring. [23] [24] [7]
  • I Love Lucy makes its debut: Starring Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz. "Lucy! You got some 'splainin to do." [25]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1951, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Manchester, William. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964. Dell. ISBN 9780440304241. “Among its sixteen possible courses of action, to be weighed if the UN army was driven off the mainland, were blockade, aerial reconnaissance of the China coast, and the use of Chiang's men. The Chiefs had "tentatively" approved laying these alternatives before the next meeting of the National Security Council, scheduled for January 17. Truman, Acheson, and Marshall hadn't been consulted, and, as it turned out, all three were opposed to them. MacArthur came to the extraordinary conclusion that they were now U.S. policy. He exultantly told his staff that the Chiefs had "finally overcome their illusions that fighting back against China would bring on global war." It was an incredible mistake, and characteristically he never acknowledged the error.” 
  2. Douglas MacArthur - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 12 February 2017. “I fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
  3. Battle of Inchon - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 12 February 2017. “The battle began on 15 September 1950 and ended on 19 September. Through a surprise amphibious assault far from the Pusan Perimeter that UN and South Korean forces were desperately defending, the largely undefended city of Incheon was secured after being bombed by UN forces. The battle ended a string of victories by the invading North Korean People's Army (NKPA). The subsequent UN recapture of Seoul partially severed the NKPA's supply lines in South Korea.”
  4. What Exactly Is the War Powers Act and Is Obama Really Violating It? - ProPublica (2017). Retrieved on 12 February 2017. “President Obama, in defending the legitimacy of the Libyan operation, hasn’t actually made that argument. On Wednesday, he submitted a report to Congress arguing that his administration isn’t in violation of the act at all, despite the fact that the 60-day deadline for congressional approval of Libya operations came and went in May. White House spokesman Jay Carney has argued that the United States’ 'constrained and limited operations' in Libya 'do not amount to hostilities' because the United States doesn’t have or intend to place soldiers on the ground and has not sustained the casualties typical of such hostilities.”
  5. Letter From The President-- War Powers Resolution Regarding Cameroon - whitehouse.gov (2017). Retrieved on 12 February 2017.
  6. Obama's war-powers farce: If you want to limit presidential power, don't start illegal wars. theweek.com (February 17, 2015). Retrieved on 12 February 2017. “President Obama is seeking a new Authorization for Use of Military Force, as the U.S. continues its bombing campaign against the Islamic State. It comes just a tad late: about three and half months after it was necessary, according to the War Powers Act. This raises the question: Why is he even bothering?”
  7. 7.0 7.1 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 532-533. “Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are sentenced to death for espionage against the US; their confederate, Morton Sobell, to 30 years imprisonment” 
  8. Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, The. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465003105. “President Truman's claim in 1951 that "the greatest asset that the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy" was, in the long run, to be proved right. McCarthy ultimately did more for the Soviet cause than any agent of influence the KGB ever had. His preposterous self-serving crusade against the "Red Menace" made liberal opinion around the world skeptical of the reality of Moscow's secret intelligence offensive against the Main Adversary-. Even Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed one after the other in the same electric chair at New York's Sing Sing Prison in 1953, were widely believed to have been framed. It took some years, however, for the Centre to grasp the enormous propaganda advantages of McCarthyism.” 
  9. Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 9780064334273. “In 1945 Elizabeth Bentley, a former Communist spy, told the FBI of two Soviet networks in the US, one headed by the Treasury economist Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, another by Victor Perlo of the War Production Board: classified information was also transmitted from the justice Department, the Foreign Economic Administration and the Board of Economic Warfare. FBI and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) raids also disclosed leakages from the Army and Navy departments, the Office of War Intelligence and the OSS itself. Then, from the State Department, there was Alger Hiss, who had sat at Roosevelt's elbow at Yalta and, more important, had been aide to Edward Stettinius, whom the British regarded as Stalin's biggest (if unconscious) asset in the Allied camp. In the atomic field Soviet agents included Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Morton Sobell, David Greenglass, Harry Gold, J. Peters (alias Alexander Stevens), to whom Whittaker Chambers acted as courier, and Jacob Golos, as well as Klaus Fuchs, who had been cleared by British security.” 
  10. House Un-American Activities Committee - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 12 February 2017. “The committee's anti-Communist investigations are often associated with those of Joseph McCarthy[2] who, as a U.S. Senator, had no direct involvement with this House committee. McCarthy was the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee and its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate, not the House.”
  11. Rosenberg (surname) - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 12 February 2017. “Rosenberg is a Germanic-language family name and toponym. Its principal meaning is 'mountain of roses', from Rose + Berg. However, as a toponym, in some locations it may have originally meant 'red mountain' or simply 'red hill', from rot + Berg. The terminal consonant of the /rot/-/roθ/-/roð/-/ros/ syllable has varied across regions and centuries; there are many variations of the name, including Rosenberg, Rotenberg, Rothenberg, Rodenberg, and Rozenberg. While sometimes inaccurately assumed to be exclusively Ashkenazi Jewish, it is a common surname among people of Baltic German, Sinti, and Swedish ancestry.”
  12. Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 12 February 2017.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 1951 Births - Wikipedia (2017).
  14. 1951 Births - Wikipedia (2017).
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 1951 in film - Wikipedia (2017).
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 1951 in music - Wikipedia (2017).
  17. Natalie Cole & Nat King Cole - Unforgettable (Live 1992) - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 7 February 2017. “'Unforgettable' is a popular song written by Irving Gordon. The song's original working title was 'Uncomparable'. The music publishing company asked Gordon to change it to 'Unforgettable'. The song was published in 1951.”
  18. Cry ~ Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads (1951) - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 7 February 2017. “'Cry' ~ Johnnie Ray w/ The Four Lads (1951) Okeh # 4-6840 - The flip side of, 'The Little White Cloud That Cried'”
  19. 1951 version: Perry Como - Hello Young Lovers (restored) - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 7 February 2017. “As opposed to his more commonly available medium-tempo remake, here is Perry's hit 1951 recording of the best-remembered Rodgers & Hammerstein ballad from 'The King And I.'”
  20. Hoffer, Eric. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. New York: Harper & Row. 1951. (BOOK)
  21. Eric Hoffer - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  22. Hoffer, Eric. True Believer:Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, The. Time-Life Books. ISBN 0809436027. 
  23. 1951 - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  24. Guy Burgess - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 13 February 2017. “In 1951 Burgess accompanied Donald Maclean in his escape to Moscow, after Maclean fell under suspicion of espionage, even though Burgess was not suspected. The escape was arranged by their controller, Yuri Modin. There is some debate as to why Burgess was asked to accompany Maclean and whether he was misled about the prospect for him returning to England. Much of his time in the Soviet Union was spent in sanitoria on the Black Sea. Unlike Maclean, who became a respected Soviet citizen in exile and lived until 1983, Burgess did not take to life in the Soviet Union. He could not pursue his homosexuality as he had become accustomed, though he lived openly with a lover. Unlike Maclean he never bothered to learn Russian, furnished his flat from London and continued to order his clothes from his Savile Row tailor. He died aged 52, having become ever more dependent on alcohol in his last years.”
  25. I Love Lucy - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 13 February 2017. “Love Lucy is a landmark American television sitcom starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. The black-and-white series originally ran from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957, on CBS. After the series ended in 1957, however, a modified version continued for three more seasons with 13 one-hour specials; it ran from 1957 to 1960. It was first known as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show and later in reruns as The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour.”

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