Bretton Woods Is No Mystery and The Nixon Shock

Breaking the Breton Woods agreements, the American president said that the dollar would have no reference to reality, and that its value would henceforth be decided by an act of language, not by correspondence to a standard or to an economic referent.

That’s from The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance, by Italian communist Franco “Bifo” Berardi, published by semiotext(e). That book is full of interesting ideas.

Everywhere I turn these days, from the new Adam Curtis documentary to the Bitcoin-heads on Twitter, I hear about Sunday, August 15, 1971. On that evening, Richard Nixon, after conferring with his advisors in a weird weekend at Camp David, went on TV and announced he was taking the US dollar off the gold standard, ending the “Bretton Woods system.”

I’ve always had an interest in the Bretton Woods system, because it was worked out at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods*, New Hampshire. My dad and I used to go cross-country skiing up there.

rickpilot_2000 for Wikipedia. It doesn’t look like that in winter.

The hotel shut up for winter had a grand, imposing, and spooky quality.

President Franklin Roosevelt proposed the conference site, the Mount Washington Hotel, as a ploy (successful, as it turned out) to win over a likely opponent of the pact, New Hampshire senator Charles Tobey.

That’s from Michael A. Martorelli’s review of Benn Steil’s book about the conference, The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order.

The conference happened in July 1944. The Allied forces were still stalled in the bocage of Normandy, but the leadership was already planning for the postwar order. The famed economist John Maynard Keynes, who’d studied the disaster of the last postwar peace, was trying to avoid some of the same mistakes while also attempting to save the status and dignity of the UK Keynes suggested the world switch to a new global currency called Bancor. The US, represented by Harry Dexter White, militarily and financially dominant, had the strongest position. The US proposed a system that would ultimately leave the US dollar, pegged to gold, as the world’s reserve currency.

Deeply indebted to the United States after the long, costly ordeal of World War II, the United Kingdom inevitably lost the battle. To secure one key victory, however, White had to resort to stealth. In the waning hours of the conference, he and his assistants replaced the phrase “gold” with “gold and US dollars” in the agreement, thereby enshrining the US currency as the international medium of exchange. Keynes confessed that he did not read the final version of the document he signed.

You think there aren’t thrills in a book about a 1944 economic conference whose results have mostly been overturned? Guess again:

In one noteworthy coup, [Steil] disproves Keynes biographer Robert Skidelsky’s claim that Keynes was assigned Room 129 in the Mount Washington Hotel.

The summit does sound kind of exciting. The Soviets brought a bunch of beautiful female “typists” to seduce everyone.

One committee of delegates took a 15-minute recess in the bar each night at 1:30 to watch the “titillating gyrations of Conchita the Peruvian Bombshell.” Afterward, reinvigorated, they would negotiate for another hour or so. The long arguments left White increasingly short-­tempered on less than five hours of sleep a night. Keynes, already weakened by the heart disease that would kill him within two years, was soon holding court from his bed, tended (and guarded) by Lydia, his eccentric Russian ballerina wife. At one point, a rumor spread that he was near death; when he then appeared at dinner, the delegates spontaneously stood and sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” 

from a different review of a different book about the conference:

I’ve now taken a look at both Steil and Conway’s books. The Summit by Conway is a lot more fun and easy to read, and focuses more on the wild details – what he calls the “noises off” stuff – from the conference. The drunken songs, the parody newspaper about the “International Ballyhoo Fun,” the pleasure the delegates from wartorn countries took in huge plates of “chicken Maryland” and enormous bowls of ice cream, the South Africans chilling and playing golf once it was clear gold wouldn’t be replaced by silver, the results of the Soviet vs USA volleyball game (USSR won), that’s in Conway.

The details of the conference are interesting, but in a way the outcome was inevitable. The US was more or less the last power standing as World War II wound down. The UK was tremendously in our debt (literally). What we ended up with was the system we more or less devised, that left the dollar as the default world currency.

The true significance of the conference was noted by Keynes in a speech at the farewell dinner:

We have shown that a concourse of 44 nations are actually able to work together at a constructive task in amity and unbroken concord. Few believed it possible. If we can continue in a larger task as we have begun in this limited task, there is hope for the world.

If you read one review of one book about the conference, I recommend James Grant’s review of Steil in the Wall Street J (behind a paywall I suspect, they’re no fools about money at the WSJ):

Gold figures largely in these pages. The ancient metal was deeply rooted in the psyche of Keynes’s contemporaries, including that of Lt. Col. Sir Thomas Moore, a British Conservative member of Parliament. In parliamentary debate, Sir Thomas said that he had “the impression, not being an economist, that currency had to be tied to or based on something; whether it was gold, or marbles, or shrimps, did not seem to matter very much, except that as marbles are easy to make, and shrimps are easy to catch, gold for many reasons possessed a more stable quality.” For the soundest doctrine expressed in the fewest words, Sir Thomas was hard to beat.

Grant, if you can’t read it, isn’t too boosterish on the Bretton Woods system:

Rare among nations, America pays its overseas debts in money that it alone may lawfully print. Naturally, being human, we Americans have printed to excess. Not since 1975 has the United States exported more goods and services than it has imported. There is no institutional check to square up accounts. We buy Chinese merchandise with dollars. The Chinese, in turn, invest those dollars in U.S. government securities (the better to suppress the value of the Chinese currency). It’s as if the money never left the 50 states. In possession of the “reserve currency” franchise—White’s dream fulfilled—America has become the world’s leading debtor nation. At Bretton Woods, it was the world’s top creditor.

I mentioned the Nixon Shock to a bud who works at a hedge fund, and he put me on to WTF Happened in 1971, which takes a darker view. I love the idea that this is the moment everything went wrong and reality broke, but I’m not totally convinced. What about the Triffin dilemma? Was Nixon changing reality, or acknowledging it?

Consider how things worked before Bretton Woods. Both Conway and Stiel note that FDR would sometimes dictate the dollar price of gold from bed in the morning, once suggesting raising the price by twenty-one cents because that was a lucky number. This was hardly more “real.”

A crazy element of the conference is that the leader of the US delegation, Harry Dexter White, was secretly communicating with the Soviets. To what extent he was a traitor, a spy, vs kind of backchannel communicating with our wartime ally is unclear. But declassified transcripts make clear he was a Soviet asset known at “Jurist” or “Richard.” That’s if you trust our own NSA. Who knows?

White testified in front of HUAC that he was not a Communist, then had a heart attack. He went up to his home in New Hampshire and died four days later.

Is it possible White sabotaged the US team in the Bretton Woods volleyball game? Perhaps to provide a propaganda win for his Soviet masters? The Russians got a lot of concessions at Bretton Woods to induce them to sign on to the agreements, but I don’t see in Steil or Conway any strong case that White’s possible connection helped them unduly. Conway is more of a skeptic on the spy stuff, suggesting that yes, it looks pretty fishy, but it’s impossible to prove White “betrayed his country.”

One person who would’ve known White had been a spy? President Richard Nixon.

Following Alger Hiss’s perjury conviction in 1950, Representative Richard M. Nixon revealed a handwritten memo of White’s given to him by Chambers, apparently showing that White had passed classified information for transmission to the Soviets. Yet his guilt would only be firmly established after publication of Soviet intelligence cables in the late 1990s.

The IMF and World Bank still linger as Bretton Woods legacies. Conway in his epilogue notes how even after the demise of the Bretton Woods system, the IMF is still imposing the “Washington Consensus” on the developing world in return for loans, with mixed results. Maybe someone should activate the Coconut Clause:

Conway also notes that after the demise of the system, US and British banks became vastly more profitable.

In the United States, by the turn of the millennium banks now accounted for around 8 per cent of the country’s total economic output – more than double their zie when the Bretton Woods system ended… Until 1970, an investor in a UK bank could expect to make about 7 per cent a year on his investment. After 1970, the return on equity roughly trebled to 20 per cent, a figure maintained without a break until the financial crisis of 2008.

There is no single, simple explanation for this astonishing rise of the financial sector; however, there is no doubt that one important element is the sudden change in the international monetary architecture following the collapse of Bretton Woods. Almost immediately after the demise of Keynes and White’s system in the early 1970s, every single measure of the size, profitability, and leverage of the banking industry has begun to increase at unprecedented rates.

The big banks in the USA tried to stop Bretton Woods at the time,

After the Bretton Woods conference, the countries involved still had to sell it to a confused public. One method the USA used was to produce a pamphlet called Bretton Woods Is No Mystery, illustrated by the New Yorker cartoonist Syd Hoff. I’m on the trail of a copy, I can only find a few images online.

It’s heartbreaking to hear the names bandied about for the world currency, and think what might’ve been. From Conway:

among the suggestions were Fint, Proudof, Unibanks, Bit, Pondol, and Keynes’ favorite, Orb. Months later, Keynes sent round a note to his Treasury colleagues asking: “Do you think it is any use to try unicorn on Harry?”

What do you guys think will be the world’s reserve currency in 2031? Dogecoin?

*an archaic name for what’s now part of Carroll, New Hampshire.


Carlyle and Alcott have breakfast

This is Amos Alcott, Louisa May’s father, fictionalized as Bob Odenkirk in the latest Little Women film:

from The Flowering of New England by Van Wyck Brooks, a vivid read. Imagine this man chowing down on strawberry potatoes:


change / the same

That’s Van Wyck Brooks, going off in The Flowering of New England about the generation of the 1840s.

aspirational mustache. source.


Latitudes and attitudes

somehow this map of Dublin swam into my ken, maybe on Twitter or something. I was struck by how the shape of Dublin’s harbor is similar to that of Boston’s. I’ve had three chances to visit Dublin, and I never put this together:

Tried to get those at roughly the same scale, with help from Zaia Design’s Two Maps:

Both east-facing harbors. Dublin’s a little smoother, makes sense, it’s older*, more time to smooth it down.

Dalkey, in vibe, is kind of like Hingham, too. Is Winthrop like Howth? I don’t know enough about the vibes of either Winthrop or Howth to report. There was a girl from Winthrop at a nerd camp I attended one summer. I remember her talking about the difficulty of going back and forth to the school she attended in Cambridge, but that’s about it, it’s neither here nor there when it comes to comparative geography, although maybe there was some girl in Howth at the exact same time with the exact same problem.

If there’s a Dublin equivalent of Hull, I bet that’s interesting, but it looks like in the south portion of Dublin harbor there are no crooked fingers of that nature.

Boston is at a latitude about 42.36 N. Dublin’s at 53,74, farther north, even north of Montreal (45.50) and even north of St. Johns, Newfoundland (47.56). The reason why Dublin’s climate is more temperate than that of Montreal has to do with, I believe, the gulf stream bringing warm air across the Atlantic. In very southern Ireland I visited a town that had some palm trees, I forget which town that was, it was over twenty years ago. I could probably find out but I’m not going to bother.

As for latitudes, Los Angeles is at 34.05, comparable to Baghdad (33.31). You might think weather-wise it might be aligned with Mediterranean cities, Barcelona for example, but Barca is further north (41.38). Paris is at 48.85 N. Tokyo is a close latitude cousin to LA, at 35.68 N. Interestingly, in the southern hemisphere, several major cities with attractive weather are in a similar range:

Melbourne: 37.85 S

Sydney: 33.86 S

Cape Town: 33.92 S

Buenos Aires 34.06 S.

In that same band N:

San Francisco: 37 N

Athens: 37 N

Las Vegas: 36 N

Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto: 35 N

“Somebody out there must’ve compared cities by latitude before me,” I thought, and sure enough, here is “174 World Cities by latitude: Things Line Up In Surprising Ways” from a website about the business of travel.

Crazy that Chicago and Barcelona are at the same latitude. Both great, but quite different vibes (and climates. And food tastes).

* kidding?


April 19

We can never let a Patriots’ Day go by without reflecting on the events of April 19, 1775.  How did this happen?

The people of countryside Massachusetts at that time were probably the freest and the least taxed people in the British Empire.  What were they so mad about?

From my hometown of Needham, MA, almost every able bodied man went out.  What motivated people that morning to grab guns and shoot at their own army?

Lately I’ve been reading Rick Atkinson’s book on the first years of the American Revolution.  It’s interesting that Atkinson titled his book this, because as he himself notes:

Popular lore later credited him with a stirring battle cry – “The British are coming!” – but a witness quoted him as warning, more prosaically, “the regulars are coming out.”

The word would’ve gotten out anyway, because of information sent by light in binary code: one if by land, two if by sea.  (it was two).

Atkinson does a great job of laying out how tensions and feelings and fears and resentments escalated to this point.  George III and his Prime Minister Lord North (they’d grown up together, it’s possible they were half-brothers) miscalculated,  misunderstood, overreacted.

North held a constituency in Banbury with fewer than two dozen eligible voters, who routinely reelected him after being plied with punch and cheese, and who were then rewarded with a haunch of venison.

The image of a stern father disciplining a disobedient child seemed to guide George III/North government thinking.  Violently putting down rebellions was nothing new, even within the island of Britain.  Crushing Scottish revolt had been a big part of George III’s uncle’s career, for example.

From the British side, the disobedience did seem pretty flagrant, the Boston Tea Party being a particularly outrageous and inciting example, from a city known to be full of criminals and assholes.  The London government responded with the “Coercive Acts.”

With this disobedient child, the punishment didn’t go over well.  The mood had gotten very, very tense in Boston when the April 19 expedition was launched.

Everything about it went wrong.  Everybody was late, troops were reorganized under new commanders.  Orders were screwed up, the mission was unclear.  It was a show of force?  A search and destroy?  Both?  The experience for the soldiers in on it was awful: started out cold and wet, ended up lucky if you were alive and unmangled.

What the Lexington militia was up to when they formed up opposite the arriving Redcoats is unclear.  Did they intend to have a battle?  Doesn’t seem like it, why would they line up in the middle of a field?  There’d already been an alarm, and then a weird break where a lot of the guys went to the next door tavern and had a few.

Were they intending just kind of an armed protest and demonstration (as is common in the United States to this day)?

A lot of the guys in the Massachusetts militias had fought alongside the British army in the wars against the French and Indians.  Captain Parker of Lexington had been at Louisburg and Quebec.  How much was old simmering resentment of the colonial experience serving with professional British military officers a part of all this?

One way or another, a shot went off, and then it got out of hand very fast.  When it was over eight Lexington guys were dead.

The painting above is by William Barnes Wollen, he painted it in 1910.  Wollen was a painter of military and battle scenes.  He’d been in South Africa during the Boer War, so maybe he knew what an invading army getting shot at by locals was like.

Amos Doolittle was on the scene a few days after the events, interviewed participants, walked the grounds, and rendered the scene like this.

But Doolittle had propaganda motives.

After the massacre at Lexington the British got back into formation and kept moving.

They ran into another fight at Concord Bridge.

Information and misinformation and rumor became a part of the day.  The story spread that the British were burning Concord, maybe murdering people.

By now minutemen from all over were blasting away.  It must’ve been horrific.  Atkinson tells us that the British “Brown Bess” musket fired a lead slug that was nearly .75 of an inch in diameter (compare to, say, a Magnum .45, .45 of an inch).

How would history have been different if the British column had been completely wiped out, like Custer’s last stand?  It almost happened.  The expedition was saved by the timely arrival of reinforcements with two cannons.

The column avoided an ambush at Harvard Square, but several soldiers died in another gunfight near the future Beech and Elm Streets while three rebels who had built a redoubt at Watson’s Corner were encircled and bayoneted.  William Marcy, described as “A simple-minded youth” who thought he was watching a parade, was shot dead while sitting on a wall, cheering.

They were able to get back across the river and into Boston, minus 73 killed, 53 missing, 174 wounded.  A bad day in Massachusetts.

This event looms large in the American imagination: the gun-totin’ freedom lovers fighting off the government intrusion.  But the more you read about it the more it sounds like just a catastrophe for everyone involved.

Back in Needham the Rev. West reported:

In the evening we had intelligence that several of the Needham inhabitants were among the slain, and in the morning it was confirmed that five had fallen in the action and several others had been wounded. It is remarkable that the five who fell all of them had families, and several of them very numerous families so that there were about forty widows and fatherless children made in consequence of their death. I visited these families immediately, and with a sympathetic sense of their affliction I gave to some the first intelligence they had of the dreadful event, the death of a Husband and a Parent.
How about this footnote Clarke’s History Of Needham?

The details.

 

 


Daniel Vickers

source

Happened to turn on the TV the other day and Good Will Hunting was on.  What a great movie.  It’s a superhero movie.

We were right in the scene where Will backs up Ben Affleck and destroys a jerk who’s showing off his education.

One moment in this scene I’ve thought about more than necessary is when Will identifies the jerk (he’s listed as “Clark” on IMDb, played with precision by Scott William Winters) as “a first year grad student.”  Given how much Clark knows about history, and his reading list, should we infer that Scott William Winters is a first year grad student in history?

WILL: See the sad thing about a guy like you is in about 50 years you’re gonna start doing some thinking on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin’ education you coulda got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.

CLARK: Yeah, but I will have a degree, and you’ll be serving my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.

WILL: [smiles] Yeah, maybe. But at least I won’t be unoriginal.

It’s interesting that Clark’s brag is that Will will be “serving my kids fries on their way to a ski trip.”  There are no doubt history professors living this way, but I do feel if that were your goal, becoming a grad student in academic history would be a harder way to go than like, business school or something?

Maybe that is part of the point Will is making about what a dope this guy is.

In their exchange, Will cites “Vickers, Work In Essex County.”

Had to look this one up, and boy, did I profit.  I learned about Daniel Vickers, who sounds like an amazing man.  From a Globe & Mail “I Remember” by Don Lepan:

Dr. Vickers went to Princeton for his PhD. It was there that he began what became his life’s work academically, but he found Princeton itself stiflingly elitist, and escaped as often as he could to Toronto or to New England towns such as Salem or Nantucket, Mass., where he would spend long hours poring over local records.

God that’s beautiful.  Can you imagine sitting in Nantucket, poring over the records?  (Yes).

This was followed in 2005 by Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail, in which Dr. Vickers challenged the long tradition of treating a young man’s decision to go to sea as an inherently momentous one, and the life of a seafarer as inherently exceptional; again through painstaking archival research, he demonstrated that that most young men who went to sea did so with a sense of inevitability – and that not until the late 19th century did seafaring life begin to seem exceptional. Maritime history was somewhat out of fashion with the general public when the book appeared and it sold less well than its publishers had hoped, but reviews of Dr. Vickers’s work by historians were again extraordinarily enthusiastic; the book was praised as “a masterly work” and “the most original American maritime history ever published.”

As with his first book, Dr. Vickers was aided greatly in his research by his wife, Christine.

Vickers taught at UCSD for awhile, but

the family found the suburban lifestyle and sunny consumerism of San Diego less congenial than the rocky insularity and dour humour of Newfoundland.

If you prefer Newfoundland to San Diego, come sit near me.

Wanted to share that with the Helytimes family.  Have a good weekend everyone! I bet the picture of Daniel Vickers here will give you some cheer.

 

 


Maine and Texas

This one came up on Succession, a fave show. (Had to look it up because I wondered if they were doing a double joke where the guy was attributing Emerson to Thoreau)

Usually I’ll approach with tentative openness the pastoralist, simpler times, “trad” adjacent arguments of weirdbeards but Thoreau here WAY off.  Maine and Texas had TONS to communicate!  Who isn’t happy Maine and Texas can check in?  (Saying this as a Maine fan whose wife is from Texas, fond of both states and happy for their commerce and exchange).  Plus, if Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough, I WANT to hear that, that’s interesting goss!

The “broad flapping American ear” there — a snooty New England/aristocrat attitude we haven’t heard the last of.  These guys are the original elites.  There’s really two classes in America: Americans, and The People Who Think They’re Better Than Americans.  Though they’re a tiny minority the second group wields outside power and influence over the first group.  I’m a proud member of the first group though I admit I have second group tendencies due to my youthful indoctrination in the headquarters of these Concord Extremist Radicals, in fact at their head madrassa.

When you hear America assessed by Better Thans / eggheads, wait for the feint toward fatshaming.  It’s always in there somewhere.  American Better Thans adopted this from Europeans, whom they slavishly ape.  It’s a twisted attitude, designed to take blame away from the Better Thans and their friends in the ownership.

As if it’s Americans fault that they’ve been raised associating corn-based treats with love and goodness!  Or that corn-fatted meat is the easiest accessed protein on offer!  You think that’s more the Americans fault, or the fault of the Better Thans, who manipulate our food system with their only goal creating shareholder value?

Is it the fault of the American that a cold soda is the best cheap pleasure in the hot and dusty interior where they don’t all have Walden Pond as a personal spa?

Thoreau.  Guy makes me sick.

In researching this article I learn about Maine-ly Sandwiches, of Houston.

 

 


Spinning Ice Disk

Nothing to worry about, we’re told.


message

sent by Rhode Island desk


Turnip pride

in Westport, MA.

 


Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas, and The Pow Wow Chow Cookbook

What is the deal here when Trump calls Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas?

At Helytimes, we like to go back to the source.

Sometime between 1987 and 1992 Elizabeth Warren put down on a faculty directory that she was Native American.  Says Snopes:

it is true that while Warren was at U. Penn. Law School she put herself on the “Minority Law Teacher” list as Native American) in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools

This became a story in 2012, when Elizabeth Warren was running for Senate against Scott Brown.  In late April of that year, The Boston Herald, a NY Post style tabloid, dug up a 1996 article in the Harvard Crimson by Theresa J. Chung that says this:

Of 71 current Law School professors and assistant professors, 11 are women, five are black, one is Native American and one is Hispanic, said Mike Chmura, spokesperson for the Law School.

Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.

Asked about it, here’s what Elizabeth Warren said:

From there the story kinda spun out of control.  It came up in the Senate debate, and there were ads about it on both sides.

A genealogist looked into it, and determined that Warren was 1/32nd Cherokee, or about as Cherokee as Helytimes is West African.  But then even that was disputed.

Her inability to name any specific Native American ancestor has kept the story alive, though, as pundits left and right have argued the case. Supporters touted her as part Cherokee after genealogist Christopher Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society said he’d found a marriage certificate that described her great-great-great-grandmother, who was born in the late 18th century, as a Cherokee. But that story fell apart once people looked at it more closely. The Society, it turned out, was referencing a quote by an amateur genealogist in the March 2006 Buracker & Boraker Family History Research Newsletters about an application for a marriage certificate.

Well, Elizabeth Warren won.  Now Scott Brown is Donald Trump’s Ambassador to New Zealand, where he’s doing an amazing job.

source: The Guardian

The part of the story that lit me up was this:

The best argument she’s got in her defense is that, based on the public evidence so far, she doesn’t appear to have used her claim of Native American ancestry to gain access to anything much more significant than a cookbook; in 1984 she contributed five recipes to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, signing the items, “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee.”

OK let’s find an Elizabeth Warren one:
Damn that does not sound good!
Lady loves crab!
It’s claimed here that the book was edited by Elizabeth Warren’s cousin?
If this is the worst thing you can come up with on Elizabeth Warren, pretty weak.   It was a family story.  The cookbook suggests she believed it.  All families have odd stories that may or may not be true.  Maybe she got too enthusiastic?
Btw by far the worst recipe in the Pow Wow Chow cookbook is :

“I like my corn with olives!” source

What is the best way to handle it, the best strategy, when the President is treating you like a third grade bully, repeatedly and publicly calling you a mean name?

Best advice to someone getting bullied?  I googled:

We would amend “don’t show your feelings” to stay calm.  We would urge any kid to put “tell an adult” as a last resort. 

A suggestion:

  • if the problem persists, hit back as hard as possible, calmly but forcefully, at the bully’s weakest, tenderest points.

Such a Lisa Simpson / Nelson vibe to Warren / Trump.  Are all our elections gonna be Lisa vs. Nelson for awhile?

 

from this 2003 episode:

Lisa easily wins the election. Worried by her determination and popularity, the faculty discusses how to control her.

 

 

 


Witch Hunts

In 1693 Cotton Mather wrote a book called Wonders Of The Invisible Worlddefending the Salem Witch Trials.

A few years later a guy named Robert Calef wrote More Wonders Of The Invisible World, which was kind of a sarcastic slam on Cotton Mather.

Calef objected to proceedings that lead to “a Biggotted Zeal, stirring up a Blind and most Bloody rage, not against Enemies, or Irreligious Proffligate Persons, But (in Judgment of Charity, and to view) against as Vertuous and Religious as any they have left behind them in this Country, which have suffered as Evil doers with the utmost extent of rigour.”

Can’t say I got a ton out of the book, but I did get some good stuff from the introduction, by Chadwick Hansen.

If a witch is attacking you boil a pin in urine:

Even Chadwick Hansen appears ultimately baffled by what Robert Calef was up to, since much of his book is lies about how Cotton Mather fondled up a girl named Margaret Rule while curing her of bewitchment.

Hansen attempts to provide the context to a baffling historical period. 

Later Mather would write a book called The Right Way To Shake Off A Viper:

Wild times in old Massachusetts.  Few people who were taken to the Salem Witch Museum in childhood ever forgot it.

Previous coverage of witch hunts.

 


Boston (England)

There’s a lot of crime fiction about Boston, America, but is there any about Boston, UK?  I went looking and was directed to the works of Colin Watson, who writes about a fictional town, Flaxborough, which is based on Boston (UK version)?

I can’t say it was totally compelling to me but cheers to Colin Watson.

Watson was the first person to successfully sue Private Eye for libel, for an article in issue 25 when he objected to being described as: “the little-known author who . . . was writing a novel, very Wodehouse but without the jokes”. He was awarded £750.


New Hampshire

Remember The Old Man Of The Mountain?


WARNING TO MASSACHUSETTS DRIVERS!

Discovered a serious error in my DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer

You can’t actually drive from Moon Island to Long Island!  There’s a road on the map that’s just not there!

Be careful out there guys and ALWAYS double check visual clues before attempting to drive from one island to another.


Bob Marley in Boston

Because people were talking about Baby Driver, I started singing it in my head to the tune of Bob Marley’s Slave Driver.

What a song.  So then I went looking for Slave Driver on Spotify. I found a recording of Bob Marley and The Wailers, Live At The Music Hall, Boston, 1978.  “Easy Skanking In Boston ’78” is the title, which I don’t love saying.  “Bob Marley and The Wailers Live At The Music Hall – Boston – 1978” seems like it gives you what you need?

The Music Hall is now the Wang Theatre. Photo from Wikipedia by Tim Pierce.

Somehow shocking that Boston would be the scene of a legendary Marley concert.  Who was in the crowd?!

Steve Morse wrote about this recording for The Boston Globe when the album was released in 2015:

My one meeting with Bob Marley was memorable. I was sent by the Globe to interview him at the Essex Hotel in New York before his show at Boston’s Music Hall in 1978. I walked in to Marley’s room, which looked out over Central Park, at 11 a.m. It was a chaotic scene. Four or five members of his entourage were kicking a soccer ball that banged off the picture windows. Two king-size joints were being passed around. Bob sat on a couch, reading aloud from the Book of Revelation.

Realizing I was in over my head, I waited a while before daring to ask Marley about his music. He agreed to talk, shut the Bible, quelled the soccer noise, and stated his worldview: “Everything is going to be united now. Everything is going to be cool. Forget the past and unite.”

Marley’s response to a country politically divided and stricken with gun violence was notably cooler and more Christian than the NRA’s response.

Two months later he’d be in Boston.

(Minute 34-38 or so a good sample)

June 8, 1978 was a Thursday, a hot night,  89 degrees.  The Red Sox had an off day, but that weekend they’d start a ten game win streak on the road in the West Coast.

The Sox would win 99 games that year, but lose a one game playoff to the Yankees at home in Fenway Park.

Ned Martin would call the game for WITS radio.

Years later he’d die of a heart attack in a shuttle bus at the Raleigh airport on his way home from Ted Williams’ memorial.


April 19. Patriots Day.

Worth remembering that the American Revolution started when the federal government sent troops to take away people’s guns and ammunition.

More men from Needham died on April 19, 1775, I believe, than from any other town except Lexington:

The detail in that footnote!  What she remembers, the old blind woman: how many of the soldiers had thrown away their coats!  It was under the will of this venerable lady that he first received a legacy!

History gets so much more interesting when you get into how do we know this?  what is the source?  who claims this?  who saw it happen?

The Needham Public Library.

Amos Doolittle wasn’t there but he showed up a few weeks later:

My favorite book on this topic is:

Tourtellot is really kind of funny when he rips into his least favorite patriot, vain old John Hancock:

that illustration up top from:

a British book – is there a pro-Redcoat bias?


Edelman learns Super Bowl has ended

seen on Inside The NFL on Showtime.


Coaches for Super Bowl LI

MORE ON public lands under Trump to come, but first we have to address a reader email:

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Dear Helytimes,

Will you continue your tradition of discussing the Super Bowl coaches, in anticipation of Big Game LI?

So writes reader Abigail J. in Wellesley, Mass.

Thanks for writing Abigail!  Last year, we profiled the somewhat dim personalities of Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Rivera’s Panther’s may have controlled their APE but it wasn’t enough.

This year we have a return for Bill Belichick, whom we investigated to the edge of known facts before the epic XLIX game.  In that battle he squared off against Pete Carroll, the most compelling coaching figure in the NFL and subject of an in-depth Helytimes profile.

This year comes Dan Quinn.

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He won a Super Bowl under Pete Carroll in 2014, and seems more Carroll than Belichick for sure.  Here’s an article about him from the AJC by Jeff Schultz.  Bumper stickers are a theme:

Quinnisms: Iron sharpens iron. Do right longer. Do what we do. It’s about the ball. It’s about the process (Former coach Mike Smith left that one behind.)

Quinn also has had a dozen T-shirts or hats with punchy thoughts made up during the season, the latest being, “Ready to Ride, Dog.” The week of the first playoff win over Seattle, players wore shirts reading: “Arrive violently.” Those words were referenced by Neal after the game.

Don’t have much more to add.  In light of Belichick’s Trump support perhaps this a revealing moment, from Inside the NFL:

We’ll see what happens in Houston.

At the moment, who can fail to find NBA coaches more compelling?:


Impressive thing about Manchester By The Sea

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The entire film takes place in Massachusetts, yet no one is seen going to Dunkin Donuts or holding a Dunkin Donuts cup.

A short examination of New England and Massachusetts psychology is at the beginning of this book:

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available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  You’ll enjoy it.