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Who Are the Real Savages? A Review of “The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice


Mark Twain once wrote that “There are many humorous things in the world; among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than other savages.”

Throughout the history many races, peoples and civilizations have labored under the belief that they are superior to races that they have conquered or “liberated” and then placed on display for their own amusement. The Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, Japanese and a host of European powers have done such things, as have we Americans. Sadly, in many cases the motives are evil, but sometimes there are shades of gray where one civilization, or certain representatives of it act in a manner of benevolent paternalism, while at the same time seeking to profit off of their superior place in life, whether they believe it is a mandate from God or the right of being biologically superior through the evolutionary process, and sometime a bit of both.

Award winning journalist Claire Prentice writes in her new book The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century (New Harvest, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York October 2014) of the story of American physician, soldier, treasure seeker, colonial administrator and showman Dr. Truman Knight Hunt and his exploitation of a group of forty-nine members of the Igorrote tribe who it brought to the United States in 1905.

Prentice’s telling of this story is a highly readable yet sobering account of the morality, economics, racism, colonialism and belief in the superiority of the white man above the “non-Christian savage” of that time. Her ability to weave the complex humanity of Hunt, a man who went to the Philippines out of a sense of patriotism, stayed in search of fortune, put his life on the line for the healthcare of the Igorrote, gained their trust, became a colonial administrator and then, seeking profit attempted to use the people who trusted him for his own gain after seeing another American reap the spoils of creating a human zoo of Igorrote and other Filipino tribesmen at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

The story of how Hunt initially pulled this off amid the controversy evoked by the American war and occupation of the Philippines following the expulsion of the Spanish in 1898 is well told by Prentice. She is able to weave a story of complex motives, competing business interests to exploit people for the profit and entertainment of others into a highly readable tale.

The little known fact is that after evicting the Spanish from the Philippines the United States turned on the Filipino people and leaders who had helped us during the military campaign against the Spanish. The result was the 1899-1902 Philippine War, a brutal counter-insurgency campaign that was successfully concluded in a military sense, unlike most of the other counter-insurgency campaigns of he twentieth century, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The aftermath was a colonial administration of the new American Philippine Territory which only ended when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941, after the liberation of the Philippines and following the Second World War, that country was finally granted its independence.

Hunt brought these forty-nine people to Luna Park on Coney Island, Hunt’s Igorrotes were basically, as other supposedly “savage” peoples had been before housed in what was little more than human zoo, for the amusement of Americans and the profit of Hunt and his partners. Prentice traces the roots of Hunt’s quest, the culture and history of the Igorrotes, and the greed, duplicity and the government quest that eventually brought Hunt to Justice and ended this spectacle.




If Hunt had abided by his deal with the Igorrote to allow them to be paid and to keep money they made from the sale of various items, the situation might have gone on without incident, but Hunt lied to his charges, he kept them in padlocked cages or “villages,” sometimes going days without food, Hunt attempted to keep their money from them claiming that he was “ordered by the government to do so.” Eventually, the man hired by Hunt as his interpreter turned evidence against him, and the charade fell apart. Confronted by a government agent, Hunt’s Igorrote contradicted Hunt’s claim that the were happy and wanted to remain a part of his show, which he moved from Coney Island, to Chicago and on to Milwaukee.

Hunt was finally arrested for embezzlement in 1906, his faithful Igorrote interpreter Julio had filed the complaint with federal authorities. Hunt had without over ten-thousand dollars from his Igorrote tribesmen. A judge allowed most of the Igorrote to return to be released from their “contract” with Hunt while some remained to testify against him. Despite the overwhelming evidence against him a judge in Memphis declared a mistrial and despite attempts by the investigator to bring Hunt to justice, Hunt eluded it and with the great cost of the investigation, trial, the care of the Igorrote, and the massive and controversial costs of administering the Philippines, the government eventually dropped the case. Hunt lived what seemed to be an accursed life, continuing his less than honest living selling sham cures to diseases and leading a bigamous life after his release from jail.  Misfortune followed misfortune and Hunt died, ten years later and was buried in an unmarked grave in Cedar Rapids Iowa.

Despite the end of the relationship with Truman Hunt, other Igorrote remained on display and toured the United States and world for a number of years, though they appear to have fared better than those who Hunt defrauded and mistreated.

The story told by Prentice is remarkable because it shows us that despite the mythology of supposedly beneficent American masters, that American colonialism and profiting by what we would now call human trafficking was not as benevolent. It makes one wonder just who the real savages are, but then it appears that Mark Twain was right.


This is an outstanding and well written account by Prentice that humanizes a forgotten and shameful part of our American colonial past.


Padre Steve+




Filed under books and literature, History, Loose thoughts and musings

Modern Baseball Magic: Chin Music by Lee Edelstein Padre Steve’s Review for TLC Book Tours



Chin Music, Lee Edelstein Sela House Publishers Boca Raton Florida 2012

“I’ll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They’re too much fun.” Babe Ruth

I don’t read much in the way of fiction but when I do there is a good chance it has something to do with baseball. In fact someday I hope to publish my own baseball fiction fantasy novel someday but I digress….

I guess that it is fitting that I am watching the Semi-Final game of the World Baseball Classic between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic on television and that my brother Jeff and nephew Nate are in attendance at AT&T Park as I write this tonight. Baseball is a big part of my life as anyone that is a regular reader of this site knows.

Chin Music by Lee Edelstein is actually the first work of fiction of any genre that I have reviewed. Thus I found that reviewing it was a different task than biographic, historic or policy books that I have done in the past.  I write about baseball a lot and do a lot of reading regarding baseball history. To me baseball is something of a religion. To quote the irrepressible Annie Savoy (Susan Saradon) in Bull Durham “the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.”

It is hard to compare this book to other great works of baseball fiction such as W P Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe Comes to Iowa, which became the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams or his less known but perhaps more metaphysically interesting The Iowa Baseball Confederacy; Bernard Malamud’s The Natural or Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Perfect Game which became the Kevin Costner film For the Love of the Game.

Those books are all classics in their own right; Edelstein’s work has the potential to become a classic in its own right. Now days a book becoming a baseball classic may be harder than in previous times. It is sad to sad but Baseball is no longer America’s game. Baseball is timeless but somehow it seems that for many Americans the sport is neither violent or “fast” enough to warrant their attention. The long season and intricacies of the game seem beyond a society addicted to speed, violence and instant gratification. To me that is sad, but this book though a modern look at baseball fiction and fantasy reaches back to a time when it was the dream of almost every American boy to be a professional Baseball player.

Edelstein weaves together the stories of the legendary Babe Ruth, a notorious drunk and womanizer and the Buck family over a period of 85 years.

It is a story that begins in St Petersburg Florida in 1926 when a young woman becomes a barber and ends up with one of the most famous men in America as a customer. The relationship, without concludes in a hotel room, the only records of which are the young woman’s diary, a couple of pictures of her with the Babe in the barber shop and a fair amount of unique and highly valuable baseball memorabilia.

The woman, turns out to be the great grandmother of a gifted but underperforming young high school baseball player named Ryan Buck. The book begins with a motor vehicle accident in which Ryan’s father dies, his brother loses a leg and he suffers what we understand as a Traumatic Brain Injury. Ryan suffers from survivor’s guilt and does not live up to his full potential. His mother, now a working mom and widow embarks to sell her grandmother’s Babe Ruth memorabilia at a baseball card show to help pay the bills and to pay for the costs of Ryan’s brother Michael’s prosthetic leg replacements.

Now I am well acquainted with baseball card shows and memorabilia. My house, much to the chagrin of my wife Judy is filled with objects, none as valuable as original Babe Ruth merchandise portrayed in the book, but for me just as valuable if for nothing else because of my love for the game.

The story that Edelstein paints is fascinating and I do not want to give away too many spoilers because unlike the biographical and historical works I have previously reviewed my audience does not know the ending. As such I will limit the discussion of the plot. I will simply note that it deals with a young man’s miraculous climb from high school to the Major Leagues and reconnection with his late father, the healing of the soul of a woman who has lost her husband who has seen the struggles of her children and held on to the hopes of her late grandmother; a woman considered by her mother a tramp and whore. It includes their interaction with an elderly widower who saves the mother from a bad deal at the card show which leads to the discovery of her grandmother’s diary and other items that lead to an interesting search, not just for memorabilia but also for a family heritage. If you don’t get my drift look back at the Babe Ruth quote that begins this review.

Edelstein did what I did not think possible. He got me interested in a fictional work about baseball that was not already a classic. It grew on me as I read it and even though I began to anticipate the ending about three quarters of the way through I had to keep reading and in doing so was captivated by the story.  No it is not Shoeless Joe, The Perfect Game, or The Natural. Those books stand on their own as classics, but Chin Music has the potential to become a baseball classic for a new generation. It is a story of redemption, healing and hope, something that among all sports that baseball seems to embody. As Walt Whitman said:

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”


I hope that it does and hope that in reading it people will regain their love for what is rightly called “America’s game.” I highly recommend Chin Music by Lee Edelstein to my readers.


Padre Steve+


Filed under Baseball, books and literature

St Patrick’s Sunday Night Musing: So Many Topics So Little Time


Well, here we are the end of St Patrick’s Day and I have to say that I have basically took the weekend off. I slept more than I was awake and did as little as possible. I read a book, a baseball novel called Chin Music by Lee Edelstein which I will review tomorrow Monday night for TLC Book Tours. I also spent a good amount of time with my dog Molly, giving her walks and enjoying her joyfulness.

I did go over to the Emerald Isle St Patrick’s Festival, braving the crowds, which some say might have been 20,000 or more to take my place at Rucker John’s. What amazed me was the manner of how many people celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I am not a tea-totaler by any means and do enjoy my time at the bar with friends. By I go for the fellowship, the friendship and the relationships. I enjoy good beer, wine or the occasional whiskey, brandy or Jaegermeister, but cannot understand why people would come out with the sole purpose of getting drunk and acting like fools. There were very few of us that were regulars there last night as the festivities commenced and I was embarrassed to watch Marines from our local bases act completely foolish, being vulgar, rude and causing the management of have to cut them off.


Last week was difficult, very busy and dealing with the effects of yet another suicide of a young sailor. I will be working in the early part of the week to conduct the memorial service for the young man, a veteran of Afghanistan whose demons were evidently more than he could bear, and to care for his shipmates. That suicide angered me. Not that I am angry with that young man and his choice to kill himself, but it angered me that so many young men and women, active duty, reserve, national guard as well as retirees and veterans who have left the service die every day.

The fact is that I don’t think that we as individuals, the military, the veterans administration or society are doing enough. I am tired of it and have resolved to do whatever I can to do what I can do to as an individual, a Chaplain and military officer to stem this tide. I may be pissing into the wind, but having been to the brink and stared into the abyss of hopelessness after I returned from Iraq I cannot just stand by and lament the situation anymore.


I have also been thinking about Iraq and all of the lives lost or destroyed, American, Iraqi and others, the treasure spent and the promises broken. As a veteran of that war I hope and pray that all the lives lost and treasure wasted will not be a complete waste. I pray that some good will still come from our misbegotten invasion of Iraq. Iraq remains a part of my thoughts and my dreams, and rarely a night goes by that my mid does not go back to Iraq, the men that I served with and the Iraqis that I got to know.


In the midst of Iraq I was reminded that yesterday was the anniversary of the My Lai Massacre and my distant connection to it. Of course that massacre was one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of the US Army. I remember when the news broke about it and then remember what my first class advisor in Army ROTC at UCLA had to say about it. He was there after the massacre, his unit providing protection for those investigating it. His words about it and how bad it was remained with me.

In 1997 I was serving as the Chaplain at Fort Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania when I was requested to conduct the funeral for Colonel Oran Henderson, the man who commanded the brigade to which the men that conducted the massacre belonged. Henderson was tried and acquitted of a cover up at the longest running court-martial in US history. However, his career, which before My Lai appeared that he was destined to be a general. That destiny died at My Lai.


The tragic thing is, a that Henderson, who was a hero in many ways, a man who in World War II, Korea and Vietnam was wounded and conducted himself honor, failed in this crisis. At the time a thorough  investigation conducted by him that sought justice rather than a whitewash may have helped the county and changed his legacy. When I think of him I know that what we do matters, especially as military officers. Ethics is and has to be a central part of our life and faith. When we forget that, when we allow the utilitarian necessities of careerism and defend the institution even when it is wrong we like Henderson fail. That may be one of the lessons that we did not learn in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan which will continue to haunt us. I’ll probably write something about My Lai and its relation to current conflicts and the necessity of military professionals to always seek the higher level of ethics in how they approach war.

Like I said, there is so much to write about and to discuss. I want to write some on the upcoming NCAA Basketball Tournament, a bit about baseball as well as some of the things happening in regard to North Korea, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan and the first days of the new Papacy of Pope Francis, which may turn out to be as surprising papacy as we have seen in decades, at least since Pope John XXIII.

Well, that is enough for tonight. Tomorrow I will post the review of Chin Music and we’ll see what the rest of the week portends.

Peace and blessings

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, Military

Doing the Gospel: “Beyond the Possible” by Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani A TLC Book Tour Review


Beyond the Possible, 50 Years of Creating Radical Change at a Community Called Glide, Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani Harper One Books, New  York 2013 

“You never know when the Spirit will knock at your door…” 

I seldom read books by American pastors of any denomination. I have gotten over the cult of celebrity associated with most of our most esteemed preachers. Likewise, when I read a story about a church, be it a local church or denomination I am generally filled with skepticism and wonder when I am going get hit on for a financial contribution or political favor. I guess that I have seen the light in regard to how many church leaders run their business. Or maybe I am just a bit cynical having spent many years in the Mega-Church world and worked for a nationally recognized and now very politically active “evangelist” about 20 years ago.

When I received the note from the good people at TLC Book Tours to do a review on this book I almost turned it down but then thought well “what the hell? If I think it’s bullshit I can rip it apart.”

However I cannot do that, even after reading it. I had remembered the name of Cecil Williams from growing up east of San Francisco in the 1970s. At the time I thought Williams a bit too radical and not “Christian” enough. Of course I knew little of him or of Glide only what I saw on television news reports, many of which were not always the most complimentary of him. Since I knew little of Glide that impression was what I had for many years. However, over the years I would occasionally see Pastor Williams on different interviews and was impressed with him and what I heard. I didn’t necessarily always agree but he was impressive, not the liberal monster I thought him to be.

Of course the book is a memoir of Williams and his wife Janice Mirikitani and how their lives intersected with a dying church in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, a place ridden with drugs, crime and poverty. It was a place that most of the church members had departed from. It was a church, like so many that had seen better days. It was a church like the one that I was baptized in as a baby which as the neighborhood that it was located slid into poverty and change in ethnic composition saw the majority of its membership move away. Eventually, that Methodist church died and was closed. It was a fate that Glide Memorial Methodist Church was heading to when the last 35 members welcomed their new pastor, Cecil Williams in 1963. It was a moment of change. It was a moment when a fresh breeze blew through the church.

The book chronicles the stories of Williams, the son of a church janitor and his wife in Jim Crow San Angelo Texas and his early life under those laws. It tells of his struggles as a pioneer African American student at SMU’s Perkin’s Seminary and his part in the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s, including time in a Birmingham jail.

It also tells the story of a young Japanese American woman, Janice Miritikani who with her family had endured the pain and humiliation of being incarcerated after the attack on Pearl Harbor simply because they were Japanese. It is her story as well, a story that was not only about the prejudice that she experienced the dehumanizing experience of rape and incest covered up by family and cultural pressures, the story of a woman who prayed for God’s presence and struggled as God remained silent.

It is a story of love, faith hope, purpose and the endless possibilities that exist when one sees that which is considered “beyond the possible.” It is a book that tells of struggle of a community which many people did not consider redeemable. It is the story of a church and of people, not just Williams and Miritikani but the people who in turbulent times launched a church that has become a bastion of living the Social Gospel, speaking prophetically to those in power and working for the benefit of the least, the lost and the lonely.

Glide, the community is a place of acceptance and love, a place which serves and empowers those without power, without a voice. Providing care to the homeless, the jobless, the needy, the HIV infected and those suffering from AIDS, those battling drug and alcohol abuse, those rejected for their lifestyles and a host of others. The Glide foundation, which Williams has headed since his “official” retirement from the church is one of the top philanthropic organizations in the nation.

Now there are some that would not agree with Williams and the message of Glide. It is a church that welcomes people of all walks of life and faith. It is a church with a door open to all, even those who would come to the church intentionally to cause trouble as did a number of White Supremacists attired in  White Power, Neo-Nazi and Neo-Confederate images, who ended up staying when their hate was met by love. It is a church where the rich and the poor worship together in a service called a “celebration.”

Glide is a strange animal. It is a by all definitions a politically and socially active Mega-Church with about 11,000 members. Those that know me well and read this site regularly know that I am not a fan of most Mega-Churches. To me most, regardless of their theological or political views seem to exist for themselves.  However, Glide is a place that thanks to Williams, Miritikani and those that over the past 50 years have sacrificed to build reaches out to redeem the community where it resides and does not exist for itself. It may not speak the same language as the contemporary Evangelical Mega-Churches but it is reaching those who quite often would be unwelcome in those churches. It is the embodiment of the love of God, an incarnation of the love of Jesus to those that would be, and were in fact the same kind of people that Jesus himself went to in his earthly ministry.

This book is inspirational to read for anyone who has a heart for those disenfranchised and uncared for by the church or the world. I found it hard to put down. The message “you never know when the Spirit will knock at your door” was real to me as I read this book during the Season of Lent. Indeed it is possible for God and the people of God to go Beyond the Possible.


I highly recommend it to anyone and plan to visit Glide the next time that I go to San Francisco and hope that should I be involved in parish ministry after my Navy career is over that I can emulate the spirit and love that I saw described in this book.


Padre Steve+


Filed under christian life, faith, leadership, Pastoral Care, Religion

Thoughts after Springing Forward: A Symposia, Time with Family and Miscellaneous Thoughts


Sprung forward

Last night most of us that observe Daylight Savings Time “sprang forward” losing an our of sleep but gaining added daylight with which to enjoy life. As usual I was “one of us” and though it was my last night home following a week at a Navy Medicine Chaplain Training Symposia, which happened to be where my wife is, I did get some sleep.

The week was interesting because for the past two and a half years I have been stationed in Camp LeJeune North Carolina while my wife has been in Virginia Beach Virginia. So the week was kind of like one of those weird make up baseball games where the visiting team, which I was got to be the home time, or more fitting the home team playing as the visiting team.

A Symposia

The training was well worth it and featured speakers from both the Pastoral Care and Psychological disciplines who spoke on how Chaplains work as part of the interdisciplinary team in health care, mental health and other aspects of caring for wounded warriors. One thing that was nice to see that the Navy Hospital that I serve at is on the cutting edge of much of what was discussed and that what the speakers discussed was not really news to me. Most of that is because I work with a wonderful team of Physicians, Chaplains, Mental Health Professionals and Pastoral Counselors who are not threatened by each other and who work together for the good of those that we serve. We are not perfect, we are all still learning; I guess that is why they call it “practicing” medicine but we are constantly moving forward. For me it was nice to see just how far along we are compared to other military, VA and civilian health care and mental health care services.


The week also allowed me to spend time with Judy and both of our dogs. For those that have not experienced military life, it is not only deployments where you are apart but quite often due to health, family or professional concerns military personnel are forced to serve in locations away from their families, sometimes after deployments and injury that affect their family relationships.

Like many, if not most returning veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD or TBI injuries our relationship suffered and there were times that we wondered if our marriage would survive. I can say now that despite the fact that we are still apart that we are enjoying our life together again. Our times together, mostly limited to long weekend or unusual situations like the past week are becoming sweet again, times that we both look forward to whenever they are possible. It will be about two and a half weeks before we are together again when I take a bit of leave in conjunction with the Easter Holiday to celebrate my birthday with her.

While we were together we were able to spend a lot of time together and saw the new film The Great and Powerful Oz and take Judy to her first hockey game watching the Norfolk Admirals defeat the Hershey Bears by a score of 4-1 in an American Hockey League game at Norfolk’s Scope Arena. The sad thing was there were no fights in the hockey game and I missed the bench cleaning brawl between Canada and Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.


Miscellaneous Thoughts on Krazy Karzai, North Korea Nukes, Sequester, a Papal Conclave, NASCAR and the World Baseball Classic

Kim and Karzai


I have been watching with mixed feelings as I have caught bits and pieces of the news. First in my mind has been the continued nutty rantings of Hamid Karzai, President and First Buffoon of Afghanistan. I wonder how long before someone in his own government does away with him.


Then there was Kim Jun Number One and his new nuclear threats against the US and South Korea mixed in with a You-Tube video combining nuclear explosions going off to the tune of We are the World. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK8zQIsMmnk But who can blame him for wanting to destroy us after spend a weekend with Dennis Rodman?



Amid this the continued Sequester nonsense continues to amaze me. First of all because I thought the series Seaquest DSV was positive stupid but especially when I realize that if it happens that I won’t be getting much time off. This is because my civilian Pastoral Counselors will not be able to keep their place in our on call chaplain duty rotation. The limitations on hours that they can work, overtime and comp time will keep them from doing this, not to  mention that we will have to do what we can to make up for the 32 hours per pay period that they cannot work. If it happens as planned it looks like I will have the after hours and weekend duty pager 15-16 days a month and still work 5 days a week. The same will be true for my other Navy Chaplain. Yes sequester will be a pain in the ass. I challenge anyone in the civilian world to work 50 plus hours a week and be on call 24 hours a day 15-16 days a month dealing with life and death issues on a base heavily impacted by the war with suicides, murders, drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness. So if you are one of those “I hate the government types” please don’t tell me how overpaid I am, or for that matter anyone else dealing with this working for the Federal Government. If you think that then you can blow it out your ass. With all due respect.

Papal Conclave



The Cardinals arrive

Of course I have written about the upcoming Conclave to elect the next Pope in Rome so I won’t say much more about it now except to say that if elected I will turn down the job, I have such a hard time keeping white uniforms clean. My money is on one the the old European guys dressed in red to be elected as the next Pope.



Then there are sports. Living in North Carolina is starting to wear me down. I am getting interested in NASCAR and am now doing strange things like read about the technical specs of the cars and the types of tracks. I think that part of this is because I think that Danica Patrick is hot, something that I can’t say about any of the men racing the other cars.



I have also gotten a chance to follow more baseball this week with Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic going on. What is nice is finally to have baseball on TV again. Tonight I am watching Puerto Rico play the Dominican Republic following the victory of the United States over Canada in their elimination game. The really cool thing about the game I am watching now is to see how much energy the fans of the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans bring to the game. It makes it a joy to watch.

Site Notes 

I have done some updates to a number of the pages on this site and added pages titled Baseball and Life, Shipmates Veterans and Friends and TLC Book Tour Reviews as well as the addition of several new links. 

Coming this Week

This week, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise I expect to do some baseball writing, and write about the Conclave and the new Pope. whoever he may be. Tomorrow I will publish a book review for TLC Book Tours on Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani’s memoir Beyond the Possible about Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. Of course I will also write about other events as they break or others as I inspired.

Have a great week.


Padre Steve+


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Filed under Baseball, healthcare, laws and legislation, Military, News and current events

Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations: A TLC Book Tour Review

Capital of the World200

Professor Charlene Mires’ Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations, NYU Press 4 March 2013 is the fascinating story of the competition by numerous cities in the United States to become the host of the United Nations.

Professor Mires’ account of the story of how the UN came to be located in New York City, over the objections of many members is highly informative, readable and enjoyable. It is about an America that once welcomed engagement with the world in the heady days following the Second World War before signs sponsored by the John Birth Society and others popped up across the country demanding “Get us out of the United Nations.”

Mires traces the stories of a number of major cities including San Francisco, Chicago, St Louis, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Detroit as well as the Rapid City South Dakota, Sault Ste. Marie Michigan, Niagara Falls New York, Stillwater Oklahoma and a host of other cities and towns that sought to host the UN.


The story which includes the attempts of various individuals, politicians and civic groups to lobby the UN to become its headquarters and thus the storied “Capital of the World” is fascinating. Though the campaign to host the UN happened over 60 years ago and we know the history of its location in New York the back story to how it came to located there is worth the read. Professor Mires tells the story of how the United States became the chosen nation of the location of the UN based on the history of Europe and questions of the emerging Cold War.


What I found interesting was how the members of the UN finally settled on New York, despite the fact that many did not wish the UN to be in the United States and if it was not to be in a major city. The story of how San Francisco, a city close to my heart which hosted the inaugural meeting of the UN in 1945 was cut out of the running when a UN committee decided that no locations in the western part of the United States would be considered. That decision, which was based more on European objections to the geographic location was difficult to read. I cannot think of a better city and thankfully the mistake was rectified by the late Gene Roddenberry in Star Trek when the United Federation of Planets located Starfleet Headquarters and Starfleet Academy in San Francisco.


That aside the story that Professor Mires paints of how the committee and the UN decided on New York is compelling. The process which included geographic, political and social concerns. Politically the influence of the American government should the location be too close to Washington DC prompted conferees to seek a location at least 300 miles from Washington. The real effects of Racism and Jim Crow laws eliminated all Southern cities and towns south of the Mason Dixon Line from the competition. Issues regarding crime, graft and corruption eliminated Philadelphia as well as other cities leading to the eventual selection of New York as the location for the nascent United Nations.

Overall I enjoyed the book. It was a quick, informative and enjoyable read. As a person who genuinely appreciates the work and promise of the UN, despite its shortcomings and failures I found it a story that caught my imagination and made me wonder the “what if” scenarios and what might have been if…

To me those are fascinating questions. What would have happened had the UN been located in San Francisco? Could it have led to the emergence of a stronger and move toward the Pacific Rim becoming the economic and political center of the world? Could the location of the UN in a place like Rapid City brought Middle America more global perspective and perhaps a larger population and economy? Could the selection of a Southern city led to a quicker end to Jim Crow and beginning of equal rights?

Those are questions for those that write alternative histories. They are speculation. Professor Mires work made me think of all of the possibilities that did not happen.


I recommend this book for those interested in the development of the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s as well as those that like to have their eyes opened to possibilities that they never before had imagined. Perhaps in an alternate timeline San Francisco not only has the Giants, but the United Nations. I would like to visit that city.

tlc tour host


Padre Steve+


Filed under History

Comings and Goings on a Sunday Night

It has been a few days since I have published and for those that are regular readers I do apologize. It has been a busy week which included a not to be repeated for more 10 years medical exam that comes with being over 50. I will let the reader defer to their imagination but it was a real pain in the ass. That aside, no pun  intended…the week has included a change of command at the Naval Hospital that I serve at o Friday and a celebration of the 114th anniversary of the Navy Hospital Corps rating last night as well as the normal load of pastoral counseling cases and inpatient groups.

I have also when not otherwise occupied I have been catching up on reading as well as reading for a purpose.  The purpose of the purposeful reading will be a review of the book “Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat” by Max Holland for the folks at TLC Book Tours that I will publish here on Tuesday.

Since I have either been too tired or not feeling well after the aforementioned procedure or busy I have been outlining a number of articles that I will post this week. Subjects will include the epidemic of suicide in the military which has exploded in 2012; an article on the Hospital Corps of the US Navy; thoughts on the state of the Church and despicable actions of some of those that claim to be “Christian leaders” in the past few weeks and months; some thoughts about how hateful language and the deliberate dehumanization of certain people based on their race, religion or sexual preference frequently leads to actual violence and even genocide.  I expect also to write one or more articles on specific topics dealing with the Holocaust and the subject of Crimes against Humanity over the next few weeks. Regarding baseball I expect to be doing an article about Washington Nationals rookie sensation Bryce Harper and why he should be in the All-Star Game at the behest of a reader. I may also play around a bit and do a short story in the historical-fiction genre.  I have some ideas for the short story but haven’t decided on a specific topic, but it will deal with something interesting with a current application.

I did enjoy writing about D-Day and Midway last week. Those are subjects that I have studied or read about since childhood and which I always find something interesting enough to write about. I’ll probably do some more articles on Navy ships in the near future. I haven’t completed my series on the Super-Battleships of World War II so maybe I will do some work on those. Fore the readers unfamiliar with the series I have done a lot of articles on specific classes of the Washington Treaty Battleships of the US, Britain, France, Italy and Germany which are available under the “Warship and Naval Battles” tab at the top of the site.

I have had a good number of people suggest writing a book or possibly doing a compilation of essays from this site and turn them into a book. I expect that I will actually begin spending more of my writing time doing this and hope that I can shop around and find a publisher and literary agent. I wouldn’t mind doing a book tour of my own someday.

As for today it has been a day of celebrating a home Eucharist, doing laundry, reading and hanging out with my little dog Molly.  We went through a Hardee’s drive through this afternoon following a drive around the local area. When I ordered she had to start barking, like she’s not going to get anything. She is an entitled little dog. But then why should she not be?


Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve Reviews “The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity” by Michael O’Hanlon

The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity (An eSpecial from The Penguin Press)

• Format: Kindle Edition
• File Size: 1685 KB
• Publisher: The Penguin Press (November 15, 2011)

I was recently asked to do a review of Michael O’Hanlon’s new book The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity by the folks at TLC Book Tours http://tlcbooktours.com/ I am a historian and have served 30 years in the United States Army and United States Navy. As such I try to look at the nuances of Defense policy from a historical as well as current point of view.

O’Hanlon’s book deals with a topic that is receiving much attention and debate in the wake of the 2011 Congressional Budget impasse and deal and the recently release of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the FY 2013 Department of Defense Budget request. O’Halon’s book was published in the midst of the budget impasse in which could bind Congress into cuts well in the excess of the proposed $500 Billion in cuts proposed by the Pentagon and the Obama Administration. Cuts that could total over a trillion dollars over the next decade.

O’Hanlon deals with the economic necessity of Defense budget cuts laying out his thesis in the first two chapters dealing with the history of US military budgets since the Second World War with particular attention to the post-Cold War cuts under the Bush and Clinton administrations. In the following chapters O’Hanlon argues for what I would call a strategy of calculated risk in which Defense budgets and the necessary force cuts are balanced with the economic realities of our present time. He does not argue for massive cuts and disengagement from the world that some argue for, at the same time he realizes that defense cuts are necessary but cannot be too great.

He then goes on to discuss the potential reductions for ground forces as well as air and naval forces within the context of potential threats, especially those posed by Iran as well as the potential threat from China.  He argues for a leaner military but also acknowledges the danger of cutting too much.

His conclusions regarding force size and composition will be attacked by some and defended by others.  I think that his arguments regarding ground forces which support going back to the approximate numbers in the Army and Marine Corps in 2001 are reasonable presuming that there is a substantial reduction of US forces in Afghanistan and no other major ground campaigns arise.  The current personnel authorizations were only made reluctantly after years of war by the Bush administration whose first Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was no advocate of large ground forces.

O’Hanlon also discusses the possibility of savings through some base closure as well as reductions in some Air Force and Naval capabilities while attempting to minimize the effects of the reductions by crew rotations of forward based warships and more use of drone aircraft. He also discusses the US capabilities in intelligence and Homeland Security in the context of the overall defense structure.

One thing that I find lacking in O’Hanlon’s treatment of the defense strategy and budget is the lack of attention paid to the overall industrial base required to support the replacement or modernization of our current forces. He argues in favor of keeping production lines open but neglects the fact that most of the US defense industrial base is now the property of about five major corporations. At one time we had more shipyards  and other facilities that made the rapid production of war materials in times of national emergency which at the end of hostilities could revert to civilian industrial production. Much of that capability is now gone, outsourced to China and South Korea.

O’Hanlon has some good proposals and his numbers are not much different than those proposed by the Pentagon. His analysis does included what is called the DIME, the diplomatic, intelligence, military and economic aspects of national security strategy. He describes his vision for a military that despite cuts can still be mission capable. One may argue with his overall strategic thinking and his detailed proposals and many will. I have issues with some of the proposals.  Likewise anyone attempting to project a vision of a national security strategy and military force structure is always fraught with the ever present reality that no one can predict the future. However history tells us time and time again that we seldom are right and that threats yet unimagined can shred the most well thought out and detailed plans.  Making such decisions in an election year makes them all the more prone to being wrong because the political establishments of both parties

It is a good read for anyone seriously interested in national security strategy.It is not perfect by any means but worth the read.  It it is published in paperback as well as the Amazon Kindle edition.

The Author: Dr. Michael O’Hanlon is is director of research and a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in U.S. defense strategy, the use of military force, homeland security and American foreign policy. He is a visiting lecturer at Princeton University and adjunct professor at John Hopkins University. O’Hanlon is the author of several books, most recently A Skeptic’s Case for Nuclear Disarmament. His writing has been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, among other publications, and he has appeared on TV or radio almost 2,000 times since 9/11. Before joining Brookings, O’Hanlon worked as a national security analyst at the Congressional Budget Office and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Congo/Kinshasa (the former Zaire). He received his bachelor, masters, and doctoral degrees from Princeton, where he studied public and international affairs.


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