John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: June, 2018

The Land of Fruit and Nuts Re-visited

When I last reported on the popular sentiment in Golden State on March 8, 2017, #Calexit was all the rage. To hell with the remaining 49 states, the beautiful were cutting loose and moving out. Oh dear, it appears that something bad happened somewhere along the line. It seems that Louise Marinelli, the president of the prime movers, Yes California, shut the effort down on April 17, 2017. A report read that…” Marinelli’s connection to Russia was hurting their funding.” And so, it goes.


Do not despair, boys and girls, the good folks in the Land of F & N never leave good things alone. Denied the opportunity for a messy divorce from Uncle, what a better notion than to blow up your own neighborhood? Truth be told, these good folks have too much good weather and too much time on their hands. I recall the proverb, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.”


Their latest devil is Timothy Draper, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The New York Times reported on June 13th, that Mr. Draper is leading a coalition…”to break up California, citing its unwieldy size. In November, California residents will get their chance to vote on his latest proposal: to divide the world’s fifth-largest economy into three separate states.”


Draper’s proposals would establish three entities, Northern CA, Southern CA and plain old California. (I wonder what their Zip Codes would be? NC and SC are already taken. I predict CN and CS.)


Northern California would run south from the Oregon border through Silicon Valley. Plain old California would be a super-sized Gaza strip occupying a coastal preserve about fifty-miles wide to just south of LA. Southern California would be land-locked until it reached the Pacific south of LA. From there it would enjoy a coast to the Mexican border including San Diego.


Insanity, you betcha! Still, Draper’s initiative will be on the ballot this November. Draper garnered enough signatures to put it on the ballot. Such is the current state of the State of California in this day and age.




As God is my witness, only a day after The Times published this piece, the following headline ran in the paper of record: At Risk in a Big Quake:39 of San Francisco’s Top High Rises.


Where can you go

when there aint no

San Francisco?


Better get ready to

tie up de boat in Idaho!


This is serious. Thomas Fuller reported about a U.S. Geological Survey that lists 39 downtown skyscrapers, hotels and office buildings potentially vulnerable to a large quake. Mr. Fuller noted:


“Engineers have known about defects in certain steel-framed buildings since 1984, when shaking from the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles fractured critical joints in more than 60 buildings, bringing one very close to collapse.”


Oh dear, oh dear, but the F&N crowd could care less. They live the good life and make up their own rules as they live the life they love and love the life they lead.


Sorry to ruin your day, those of you who live and / or work in San Francisco but here’s a partial list of vulnerable buildings:


The Hartford at 650 California Street and no name buildings at 425-555-201-101&345. On my, oh my, oh my; the list includes the heart of San Francisco’s elite business addresses, One, Two and Three Embarcadero Center. Major corporations are not exempt including, Pacific Gas & Electric, Chevron Tower, Citicorp Center and the iconic Transamerica Tower. The list also included hotels like the Hilton San Francisco, the San Francisco Marriott and the Hyatt at Union Square.


Mr. Fuller subsequently reported his own “come to Jesus moment” on the Monday before his piece ran in Tuesday’s Science Times. “It was around 7:30 p.m. I was sitting in my 12th-floor office. Then the building jolted and rattled like a train lurching out of a station.


“It was a mini earthquake, a 3.7 magnitude centered across the San Francisco Bay.”


What bothered Mr. Fuller was his workplace was on the list! How do you say, “Too close to home?”


Fuller decided that he owed his colleagues a note of warning about his forthcoming piece. “I sent a note to 20 or so reporters and editors in the bureau to alert them both to the issue and the story about it.


“What came back from them was an escalating series of bad puns.


‘I’m shaken. I hope it doesn’t fracture our community.’


‘What a jolt. I’m sure this story will create quite a stir.’


‘I’ll be working from home for the next, oh, seven years.”


Do you know the swim?

you better learn quick, Jim.

If you don’t know that swim,

better sing thee hymn.   


Two for the Show

One: Adrift in a Sea of Doctors


There is little question that modern medicine allows us, the aging of America, to live longer and live better. This includes new wonder drugs, better procedures, more thorough examinations and those machines that lead to more accurate diagnosis.


The bad news is those same machines have incentivized doctors to rely on them not only for their results but also for the added revenue they generate from Medicare. Not only does each test generate a separate charge, the results open the door for more and more tests and prescriptions. This is especially true for those of us on Medicare. The Feds created Medicare and, like any government program, it is subject to stringent rules and regulations. Uncle guarantees payment but only so much. Uncle never pays doctors or hospitals what they want but enough to make tests profitable. Therefore, more tests equal more profits.


Once we enter into the system, we are off and running going from one test to another. Last spring / summer, my medical adventures centered around my prostate. This year doctor’s concerns were aimed a bit further north covering cardio and pulmonary issues. Along the way I was introduced to a bevy of machines and examinations some more than once. I have had PSAs, 4Ks, MRIs, Ultra Sounds, Cardiograms, Echo Cardiograms regular and nuclear stress tests, MRIs, CTEs and more blood tests than an Olympic Athlete.


Now I have been told I need a controlled overnight test for sleep apnea. WTF! This is so far off the mark that enough is enough. Senor y senora doctors, no mas!


Two: Living on a Glacier’s Edge


Granted, this happened 2.6 million years ago but I finally gained insight into the last great ice age. Thanks to the Science Times Section of The New York Times I now understand how the topography of Long Island was formed by the Laurentide Ice Sheet, the last great glacier to cover North America. I grew up in Ridgewood, Queens a rather hilly neighborhood. The good Dominican Nuns at St. Aloysius grammar school insisted we lived on a coastal plain. But we knew differently. All we had to do was look around to see this assertion was nonsense. However, nuns being nuns, we had little choice but to accept their version of the truth or face their draconian reaction to our perceived insuborbination.


William J. Broad’s piece finally explained this incongruity. “Much of North America once lay under a thick sheet of ice. Its final retreat left the city with a singular geological legacy. The ridge of rubble deposited by…the glacier shaped the later development of New York City. The Laurentide ice sheet ended in a sheer cliff across… (the city.) The ridge, called a terminal moraine, is visible today as a band of hills, parks, golf clubs and cemeteries across these boroughs.”


By Jove, it appears the ice sheet did almost as much to affect Long Island as Robert Moses!


One of the places we visited when I was a kid was Highland Park. I marveled that the southern end of the park ended with a rather large cliff. Sometime in my youth an adult pointed out that this cliff was formed by the ice age an explanation I accepted that without further details. Now I have those details thanks to Mr. Bond.


Ridgewood is not alone. This is a list of the communities the terminal moraine passes through beginning with Staten Island: Richmond Valley, Arden Heights, Lighthouse Hill, Dongan Hills and Clifton. The ridge crossed The Narrows until this defacto dam was destroyed in a great flood by water cascading down the Hudson Valley. The ridge enters Brooklyn at Bay Ridge, heads north east through Sunset Park, Green-wood Cemetery, Park Slope and Crown Heights.


From there it turns east and crosses into Queens at Cypress Hills. Today the Jackie Robinson Parkway travels along the terminal moraine and through the Cemetery of the Evergreens, Highland Park, Cypress Hills Cemetery, Forest Park and it’s golf course. The route continues through Ridgewood, Glendale, Richmond Hills, Forest Hills and Kew Garden Hills. Further east, the ridge passes through Jamaica Hills, Hillcrest and Hollis Hills before passing into Nassau.


Eventually, it formed the cliffs at Montauk Point.


“The ice over Manhattan would have buried even the tallest skyscraper and was so heavy that it depressed the underlying bedrock. As it melted, giant boulders embedded deep within its flanks landed throughout what became the city. Many are still visible in Central Park, unlikely obelisks scored by time…the hilly ridge around NYC tends to be quite prominent. Its maximum height is roughly 200 feet, about that of a tall apartment building.”


All the land south of the terminal moraine was formed by the outwash of sand and sediment carried by thousands of streams from the melting ice. This outwash created the great Hempstead Plaines the home of potato farms, early aviation and multiple post World War II subdivisions. “Without this sediment most of Long Island would be under water.”


Bottom line: Those Dominicans were correct after all but with one big asterisk.


When America Saved Europe

It was called the Marshall Plan, and if not for a small group of forward thinking American statesmen who are now mostly forgotten, Western Europe as we know it would have disintegrated. Generalissimo Joe Stalin and his Soviets successors would have been the masters of a new European order while the United States retreated to the other side of the Atlantic.


This happened in 1947 and, trust me, it was far from easy. America had little interest in becoming involved in European affairs. Dragged into World War I, the post war Senate rejected joining the League of Nations and America returned to our natural state of isolation.


Isolation was in our DNA, placed there by George Washington in his farewell address when he chose to preserve our Republic by not accepting an un-apposed third term.  He admonished us “to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, above all Europe.”           “Europe,” he said, “has a set of primary interests which to us have a remote relation.”


When Hitler came to power, we hid behind the ocean that protected us refusing to consider much less confront the growing menace. Once the shooting started in 1939, America First, Father Coughlin and the American Bund attacked FDR for his short of war policy. They stood fast hoping to prevent a repeat of Wilson taking us into World War I.


The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 instantaneously erased any isolationist thoughts as America flipped a switch and declared total war in Europe and the Pacific. That National will combined with our wealth, economic capacity, manpower and those two oceans produced the arsenal for democracy; a safe place to build an army, air force and navy and produce enough material not only for the USA, but sufficient for our allies, especially England and the USSR to achieve total victory.


VE-Day, (Victory in Europe) arrived on May 8, 1945 and VJ-Day (Victory over Japan) on September 2, 1945. Once the celebrations ended, America de-mobilized. By 1947, only 1.5 million men remained under arms from the 12.2 million at war’s the end. However, our troops occupied US zones in Austria, Germany and Berlin (as we did in Japan.) The USSR, British and French occupied the other three zones.


The Soviets had no intention of going home deploying their army throughout Eastern Europe. To be fair, Stalin, despite his growing paranoia, established a buffer between Germany and his Motherland to prevent a repeat of Hitler’s 1941 invasion. It is estimated that the USSR lost ten million soldiers and eleven million civilians in the war against the Nazis. The generalissimo established a militarized buffer as the rights and aspirations of the citizens of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungry, Rumania and Bulgaria were of no concern to Stalin.


Western Europe, on the other hand, was near collapse. Currencies were worthless, their infrastructures lay in ruins while coal and other fuel sources were scarce Hunger and deprivation ruled the day. The continent was covered by armies of displaced people fleeing the Communists or just trying to return to homes and families that no longer existed. The rule of law had ceased to have meaning. An organized black-market ruled the distribution of food and goods, an outgrowth of years of brutal German occupation. These black-market operators prospered as great shortages and busted economies couldn’t offer alternatives.


Great Britain fared little better. The economy at home was in shambles, the nation close to bankruptcy while its empire disintegrated.


Harry Truman, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, William Clayton, George Kennan and Lucius Clay were the architects of the Marshall Plan. Truman decided on the name explaining that his secretary of state and former five-star general’s name was a better choice than his own: “If I send a plan to a Republican congress calling on America to spend billions in Europe and call it the Truman Plan, it will D.O.A.”


And it came to pass that despite so many reasons for the plan to fail, congress authorized this most generous and unprecedented expenditure for a period of five years. Between 1948 and 1952 the United States Treasury transferred $14.3 billion to Western Europe ($143 billion in today’s dollars.)


Success though didn’t happen because our nation and the congress compassionately embraced a starving Europe. The architects realized early on that in the realm of American politics and popular opinion, altruism wasn’t high on our agenda. National security was, and, because of his paranoia, Stalin misplayed the cards he was dealt so badly, almost everything he did, backfired. His disruptions and pig headedness only made the Soviets the bad guys and the people of Western Europe saw the writing on the wall.


The failure of Stalin’s Berlin blockade to starve the city into submission and lay low the USA was his Waterloo. For sure, it may not have been the beginning of the end of the USSR, but it was the end of their European expansion. (The Berlin wall was a monument to failure.)


The Marshall Plan gave birth to West Germany, and resurrected Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey and the UK. It committed America to defend Europe and NATO quickly followed! Once America committed to treating and attack on a member’s homeland as an attack on our homeland, including nuclear retaliation, Western Europe stabilized under America’s nuclear umbrella knowing a return to isolation was dead.


Our terms for European participation insisted on a united Europe thereby intentionally providing the groundwork for the EEC and the EEU.


The wall came down in 1989 and freedom for those enslaved nations soon followed. Not too shabby a legacy!


(If you are interested in reading the complete story, I highly recommend: The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War, by Benn Steil.)

Gettysburg’s Forgotten Hero

Students of America’s Civil War battles know that Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was the hero of the struggle for Little Round Top fought on the second day of this momentous battle. Chamberlain led his 20th Maine Infantry out of their lines and down eastern slope routing the charging 15th Alabama infantry to save the day. Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, he went on to survive the war, become governor of Maine, president of Bowdoin College and lived a full and public life passing in 1914 at the age of 85. Chamberlain’s fame was revived thanks to his portrayal by Ken Burns in his Civil War documentary.


Fate didn’t serve Patrick Henry O’Rorke nearly as well. O’Rorke wasn’t awarded the Medal of Honor and Ken Burns found no reason to include him in his documentary. Worse yet, he was cut down at his moment of triumph by a bullet through his throat. His widowed bride of less than a year, the former Clara Wadsworth Bishop, joined the Sisters of Charity in Providence, Rhode Island where she remained until her death in 1893.


Born in 1837 in the ancient town of Brefini, County Cavan, Ireland, O’Rorke’s parents brought him to America settling in Rochester, NY in 1842. In 1853 he was offered a full scholarship to the University of Rochester when only 16 but declined and took a job as a marble cutter to support his family when his father died. Four years later he was appointed to West Point and graduated first in his class in June of 1861.


Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineering, he served at the First Battle of Bull Run where his horse was killed from under him. That autumn he provided vital engineering service for the construction of the batteries on Jones and Tybee Islands, Georgia for the siege and bombardment of Fort Pulaski guarding Savannah harbor. O’Rorke was selected as one of the officers who received the Confederates surrender following the fort’s capture.


He returned to Rochester in the spring of 1862 where he married Clara on July 9th.


In September he offered his services to New York State and was commissioned as a colonel and commander of the 140th New York Infantry Regiment a unit comprised of Irishman and other volunteers from the Rochester area. “Although Colonel O’Rorke believed in strict discipline,’ one of his soldiers wrote that every man in the regiment ‘knew that in his colonel, as long as he did his duty, he had a friend.’ Another soldier described O’Rorke as the ‘ideal of a soldier and a gentleman.”


The 140th was present at the battles of Fredericksburg in December of 1862 and Chancellorsville in May of 1863 but they were held in reserve and didn’t see action.


O’Rorke’s regiment was part of the 3rd Brigade under the command of Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Weed which arrived at Gettysburg on the second day of fighting on July 2, 1863. Weed was ordered to bring his brigade up to the front and join General Daniel Sickles’ III Corps. As they approached the front lines the 140th last in formation encountered Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren who was desperately searching for units to prop up the meager forces holding Little Round Top. Wikipedia romantically states that Warren implored O’Rorke to disregard his instructions and said, “Never mind that, Paddy, bring them up double-quick and don’t stop for aligning. I’ll take responsibility.” Wikipedia’s version goes on to note that “O’Rorke caught up to his regimental colors and mounting a rock to urge on his men, was struck in the neck and fell dead.”


Both notations of what really transpired appear to be false. (Never trust Wikipedia!)


Warren did instruct O’Rorke to send his 526 strong regiment in the direction of the 16th Michigan that was failing under the intense pressure from the 4th and 5th Texas then preparing their third assault of the day. O’Rorke sent a messenger telling Weeks of his change in plans and “…ordered his men to move double-quick to the summit. Upon reaching the summit, the men did not have time to fix bayonets but rushed to support the 16th Michigan.”


This action was unorthodox and not to be found in any drill manual. Accomplishing this feat demonstrated the skill and discipline O’Rorke had instilled in his regiment. His men fired individually as they crested the summit. The Texans returned fire and O’Rorke fell dead. Several New Yorkers fired at this soldier and his body was found to have 17 bullet wounds.


Hand to hand fighting ensued as the Texans were driven from the western side of the hill at the same time Chamberlain was clearing the eastern side. Faced with these failures, Robert E. Lee ordered a general withdrawal and so ended the day’s battle.


“Patrick O’Rorke and the men of the 140th arrived at a critical moment to shore up the crumbling (Union) flank. Colonel O’Rorke may not deserve the title of the hero of Little Round Top, but his actions should earn him the recognition on a par with Chamberlain.”


In 1889, the state of New York erected a monument to the 140th on the western face of the hill featuring a brass relief bust of Patrick O’Rorke.


If you visit the battlefield be sure to make a stop on the western ridge of Little Round Top. O’Rorke’s aquiline nose is the most prominent feature on the monument and, in a curious twist of human irony, rubbing it is considered a good luck charm. As a result, his nose looks as if it had been polished that morning even though the rest of his bust and the stone is weathered and worn.


Perhaps fame comes in different disguises?