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Friday, 24 January 2020


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We just aren't good at choosing presidents, are we? This wasn't actually written by John Cleese, but it should have been:

To the citizens of the United States of America,

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II resumes monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.8% of you who have, until now, been unaware there's a world outside your borders) will appoint a Minister for America. Congress and the Senate are disbanded. A questionnaire circulated next year will determine whether any of you noticed. To aid your transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. Look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Check "aluminium" in the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you pronounce it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour'. Likewise you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary." Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed." There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you should not have chat shows.

2. There is no such thing as "U.S. English." We'll let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u'.

3. You should learn to distinguish English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). Scottish dramas such as 'Taggart' will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. You must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon." If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1.

5. You should stop playing American "football." There's only one kind of football. What you call American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.1% of you aware there is a world outside your borders may have noticed no one else plays "American" football. You should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). You should stop playing baseball. It's not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders," which is baseball without fancy team stripe, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

6. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns, or anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because you are not sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you need a permit to carry a vegetable peeler.

7. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday. It will be called "Indecisive Day."

8. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left. At the same time, you will go metric without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

9. Learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't French, they're Belgian though 97.8% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you call beer is actually lager. Only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer." Substances once known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," except for the product of the American Budweiser company which will be called "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine." This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

11. The UK will harmonise petrol prices (or "Gasoline," as you will be permitted to keep calling it) for those of the former USA, adopting UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon, get used to it).

12. Learn to resolve personal issues without guns, lawyers or therapists. That you need many lawyers and therapists shows you're not adult enough to be independent. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

13. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

14. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation,

John Cleese
(Basil Fawlty)
Fawlty Towers, Torquay, Devon, England]

Well, that has to be the longest non sequitur reply on record. American "journalists" are not likely to investigate certain people too deeply, especially political dynasties. With FDR, it is not so much dynasty but a Deity they would be dealing with. So nothing much will happen other than speculating around the edges. The damning thing that might anger most would not be any failure regarding a Japanese attack, but the detailed evidence of Communists that had infested the American government during FDRs years and then most damnably, many decades after. Too many on the Right would be even more vindicated than the Left and Academia could tolerate.

I'm reasonable certain Bob that when your letter was written Clinton was President.

Not that one the one that actually was President.

But on the other hand, a friend visiting today is of the strong belief "a version of that" appeared in 'our paper of record' during our bicentennial. I'm unable to knowledgeably comment toward that as in 1976 I was 'shade gray and underway'.

But it's like having a whole load of a stopped clocks, isn't it?

Not matter what X is, there is always *someone* predicting that X is going to happen.

With the benefit of hindsight, some of them will be proved right. Most will be proved wrong.

Without the benefit of hindsight, it's a lot harder to know which ones you should believe.

'Nerdie', you are entirely right to make that point, HOWEVER, Kilsoo Haan's forecast was not the only indication Roosevelt received warning him of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, even his own Admirals were warning him! Even so, he left the entire Pacific Fleet at anchor as sitting targets!

Not the entire Pacific Fleet - the carriers were at sea.

Only by a stroke of good fortune, BOE, and 2,400 men died for Roosevelt's inaction!


Yes and no. The letter was a hoax circulated during the irregularly decided 2000 election.

The problem for intelligence is not that there's too little information but there's too much. They have to sieve through huge volumes of it. Much of it anecdotal or indicative. There's no clear "attack the fleet at dawn on 7th Dec" message. Indeed David, in the review you cite they mention that a key indicator was that Japanese embassy staff were selling off their cars dirt cheap. With hindsight that's obvious.

The Americans did expect something to happen but they weren't sure what. The consensus was that they would strike south against the British, Dutch and Vichy French colonies. The idea that they would attack the American Fleet 1000s of miles away was regarded as ridiculous. In much the same way that the Germans dismissed all intelligence that the Allies would land in Normandy. There was too much evidence that the Pas de Calais was the obvious landing. They also dismissed misinformation that suggested the invasion would take place in Southern France (which in fact was partly true albeit postponed) or Norway.

In the case of Pearl Harbour the local commanders were forewarned of the increased risk of conflict with Japan. That was enacted rather badly. In the case of air forces, planes were moved to be easier to guard rather that distributed. The result was planes could not quickly get airborne and consequently were destroyed on the ground. Radar was not on for 24 hours a day even after the warning. Short's motivation was fear of 5th columnists.

Much is made of the fact that the Aircraft carriers were out of Pearl Harbour. Once again the benefit of hindsight tells us that Battleships were obsolete. That wasn't a common view at the time in either the Japanese or American navies. The Japanese expected a big fleet action - battleship versus battleship.

I wonder if the intelligence mentioned in the book was really presented to Roosevelt. We return to the volume question. He will have seen an intelligence summary. He already knew that conflict was coming. What did this add?

TDK, check out Adm.James Richardson and his warnings to Roosevelt that Pearl Harbour was vulnerable and that with the Pacific fleet stationed there it was a tempting target. A brief summary at:

With respect any military installation is a tempting target, so let's dismiss that right away.

As to vulnerability, hindsight proves that to be the case.

There was an enquiry at the time and it is online. So here is the section dealing with possibility of a Taranto scenario occurring. You can see that it was considered. That they didn't do the right thing is self evident

More here

I'm no fan of Roosevelt. He gets the credit for ending the depression when on every indicator he extended it. He gets credit for anti-racism but in fact the policies he enacted hit blacks harder.

Having said that I find Hubris a much better explanation. What explains the Americans poor performance at say Kasserine. Or at Schweinfurt and Regensburg. They thought they knew it all and couldn't learn lessons from anyone else with the result they had to learn it all again themselves. Sea's a bit choppy. Let's launch these tanks further out to sea than we planned or the conditions warrant.

TDK, thanks for those links. I am a bit pushed for time so I will have to read them later. And, yes, you are right to say "any military installation is a tempting target", so why was Roosevelt dumb enough to leave the Pacific fleet sitting there? He could have moved it to the West Coast. And what an unbelievable stroke of luck that the carriers were not there.

I guess for the same reason we sent the Prince of Wales and the Repulse to Singapore. Battleships deter aggression, or at least that was the theory.

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