Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Crossing, 1776

Christmas Day marks an anniversary in our great American experiment, one that was a true turning point in our national fight for independence and self government, launched nearly 6 months after the Continental Congress had cast the final die for liberty in Philadelphia, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

A mere 235 years ago today, on Christmas Day night, December 25, 1776, in the face of a howling nor'easter snowstorm, the Virginia commander of a largely defeated and demoralized New England-based army, General George Washington, and his able officers led the consolidated remnants of the Continental Army -- 2,400 troops, 18 cannons, a number of horses, and other supplies -- in an audacious and surprise fording of the ice-swollen Delaware River at McKonkey's Ferry in Pennsylvania, a little over 8 miles north of the British cantonment at Trenton, a fortified encampment occupied at the time by widely-hated Hessian mercenaries.

The British occupiers had settled into several in a loose chain of strategic defensive locations across New Jersey for the winter, including at New Brunswick, Princeton, Trenton, as well as down in Bordentown and Mount Holly. The eventual target of the British forces, of course, was the American Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Having succeeded in making that improbable Christmas crossing (the only successful one of three that were planned for that night), the cold and exhausted Americans, many of them without adequate footwear, marched south over night, and surprised the Hessian troops right in their Trenton encampment, decisively won the day, and then retreated back to the Pennsylvania side with critical captured stores, and as many as 1,000 prisoners.

At Trenton, following that quick and decisive action, General Washington reputedly remarked to one of his top aides:
"Major Wilkinson, this is a glorious day for our country."
It was the first field victory for the Continental Army after a string of stinging defeats in and around New York City, following the massive British troop occupation of New York in the summer of 1776. That string of setbacks had eventually precipitated a full-fledged retreat of the dwindling remainder of the American army across New Jersey on the heels of their defeat at Fort Lee.

They escaped into Pennsylvania via the Delaware River at Trenton in very early December. The British meanwhile had secured full control of New York City and the immediate environs, which they would hold throughout the remainder of the Revolutionary War.

Less than one week following his surprise victory at Trenton, and mindful that he was about to lose the lions' share of his American enlistments -- they were running out as of the beginning of January -- Washington and the Americans repeated their audacious crossing, this time at a few points along the freezing river on December 29th and 30th, after which they eventually set up defensive positions behind a stone bridge that crossed the Assunpink Creek, including heavy earthworks, all of which they knew would inevitably draw in a heavy British response from the New Brunswick and Princeton garrisons.

On the 31st of December, it was there in Trenton that first Gen'l Thomas Mifflin, and then Gen'l Washington himself, made strong personal appeals to the various regiments of enlistees who were about to head home, pleading with them to reenlist in the cause, and giving out generous bonuses. At first hesitating, most eventually responded positively.

Alerted to the renewed presence of the of American troops and artillary back in Trenton, Lord Charles Cornwallis had marched a massive force from New Brunswick down to Princeton, arriving there on New Year's Day. And then he moved onto to Trenton, where eventually a large force of 5,000 men under his command was to attempt to engage Washington's army in their defensive positions in the "Battle of the Assunpink Creek," or, "The Second Battle of Trenton.

That Christmas victory in Trenton had changed the mood, not only in the confidence of the American troops, but also of the various militia units, and even of the people in the countryside. The British force under Cornwallis was constantly attacked and harassed during their march to Trenton, by both Continental Army forces under Col. Edward Hand, and others near what is today Lawrenceville.

The British force eventually arrived in Trenton, above the bridge across the Assunpink on the afternoon of January 2nd. And after undertaking a series of unsuccessful attempts to cross, during which they took considerable casualties, they disengaged from that late afternoon attack for the remainder of the night. The determination was made to attack and cross the contested bridge at first light, mistakenly thinking that they would thereupon finally force the surrender of the trapped rebel army.

But stoking their fires and encampment late into the night as a diversion, Washington's Army held a council of war, and instead quietly mustered in the very early morning hours, and they took a back road out of the supposed "trap," a route that was unknown to the British forces. Aided by ground that had frozen hard, the American forces crept right around those massed British forces, including those Cornwallis had left as a rear guard along the main road north. Gen'l Washington's army marched north, even building a quick bridge over a stream for their artillery along the way through Quakerbridge, and on they marched the several miles to eventually engage and achieve victory in a surprise attack on the skeletal British forces remaining in the Princeton area the next morning.

At one point, Gen'l Washington had to take personal command of the battle action in the fields south of Princeton, during an engagement in which Gen'l Hugh Mercer, a close friend of Washington, was mortally wounded. At great personal risk, Washington rallied the faltering American troops, who finally succeeded in routing the British. Gen'l Sullivan, meanwhile, entered Princeton and forced the surrender of a small British force at Nassau Hall. The Americans had achieved a face to face field victory over British troops. The American forces gathered up more stores and supplies in Princeton, and then they all headed north, up through Rocky Hill, and out toward Morristown, while Cornwallis withdrew toward New Brunswick.

In a matter of a little more than a week, Gen'l Washington and his troops had defeated the British in three engagements, along or near the Delaware.

The big picture was that the Howe brothers' military strategy of patiently ending the "rebellion," by defeating the American force through attrition, and thereby reestablishing colonial control - essentially by default, had been exposed and defeated by Washington's Army. The British withdrew back toward New York, where they would subsequently mount an offensive by sea against Philadelphia the following year.

Eventually, of course, it would be the British forces who would be defeated by attrition, though it took several years.

Seven years later, in 1781, just following the Battle of Yorktown down on the Chesapeake, Lord Cornwallis was reputed to have honored the victorious General Washington at an officers event, held a few days following his surrender, with a toast in the following words:
"[T]he brightest garlands for your excellency will be gathered not from the shores of the Chesapeake but from the banks of the Delaware."

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Monday, December 19, 2011

"Inherent Difficulties" in Tax Gimmick Backed By Obama & Senate

12/19/2011 -- Ooooops, according to ABC News (ht Drudge), reported by Jake Tapper.

Here's the opener from Jake's ABC "Political Punch" posting:
"Two-Month Payroll Tax Holiday Passed By Senate, Pushed By President, Cannot Be Implemented Properly, Experts Say"

Officials from the policy-neutral National Payroll Reporting Consortium, Inc. have expressed concern to members of Congress that the two-month payroll tax holiday passed by the Senate and supported by President Obama cannot be implemented properly.

Pete Isberg, president of the NPRC today wrote to the key leaders of the relevant committees of the House and Senate, telling them that "insufficient lead time" to implement the complicated change mandated by the legislation means the two-month payroll tax holiday "could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees."
. . . .

And here is the ABC-linked letter from Peter Isberg of the "National Payroll Reporting Consortium." a politically neutral "non-profit trade association that does not take positions on policy."

UPDATE: Concurrence from the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors -- NAW, who have now written a letter (ht: Andrew Stiles at NRO here) to both the Speaker John Boehner and Senate President Harry Reid concurring with the conclusion of the National Payroll Reporting Consortium.
. . .
We are aware of the letter sent today to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees by the National Payroll Reporting Consortium, advising the Committee leaders of the “substantial problems, confusion and costs” that the proposed two-month extension of the reduced payroll tax rate would cause. In fact, the NPRC states that many payroll systems would simply not be able to make the programming changes that H.R. 3630 would require.

We concur with the conclusion of the NPRC on the logistical difficulties and costs that would result from enactment of H.R. 3630 as written.
. . . .
And, unlike the NPRC which does not comment on matters of policy, the NRW commented further on what they see as the undesirable policy aspects of the 2-month extension.
. . .
Moreover, the type of temporary and changing tax provisions that H.R. 3630 would impose would have an economic as well as a practical impact. A two-month extension of the current reduced payroll tax rate, with the implicit rise in that rate in the first quarter of 2011, would exacerbate and escalate the uncertainty about fiscal policies that has inhibited business activity and slowed economic recovery and job creation for the last several years.
. . . .
As just reported earlier today by The Hill, Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) and two other Republican Senators (Richard Lugar, R-IN, and Dean Heller, R-NV) -- all three of whom who are up for reelection in 2012 -- are publicly urging the House to go along with the two-month Senate provision. This may now come as an embarrassment to them for precipitously jumping on their House colleagues.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

What Didn't You Know and When?

2/16/2011 -- The old lawyer's joke about avoiding a perjury rap while testifying under oath, is that one might well safely say something like this:

"I have no current recollection . . . [e.g., of ever having said or done any such thing.]"

The presumption, of course, is that there is a tiny possibility "it" happened, but that right now . . . well, you know, I just do not remember.

With respect to the demonstrably spotty memory of Jon Corzine, the former head of MF Global Holdings Ltd, from which $1.2 billion "mysteriously "disappeared, the Wall Street Journal sardonically suggests that perhaps the question investigators or others might more appropriately ask is:

"What didn't you know, and when didn't you know it?"

Here is a video mash-up of Jon Corzine's December 8th House Committee testimony (the full clip is posted here) which seems to underscore the point:

Ed Morrissey at HotAir notes how Jon Corzine, the former Democrat Governor of New Jersey -- and, as Ed helpfully reminded the also curiously forgetful Washington Post -- an announced and widely-touted mega-fundraising bundler for the 2012 Obama Presidential campaign is now ensnared in doubling down and re-testifying before Congress.

In doing so, Jon was, so to speak, taking a second bite of the apple, offering his "explanation" for what Terrence A. Duffy, the chief executive of CME Group, and the firm assigned to auditing MF Global, may have been thinking about when Duffy testified about what, to his knowledge, Jon was aware of and ordered in his role as the former head of the recently bankrupt MF Global Holdings Ltd.
. . .
"While the last few days of MF Global were chaotic, I did not instruct anyone to lend customer funds to MF Global for any of its affiliates, nor was I told that anyone had done so," he said.

Corzine said Duffy might have been referring to problems Corzine encountered days before MF Global sought bankruptcy protection, when he was trying to raise cash by selling billions of dollars of securities.

He said J.P. Morgan Chase told him that it would not engage in those transactions until overdrafts in London were cleaned up. Corzine said he asked the firm's back office in Chicago to resolve the problem.

Later that day, J.P. Morgan Chase contacted Corzine again and said it needed assurances that the transfer of funds did not violate federal rules, Corzine said. Corzine said MF Global’s Chicago staff "explicitly confirmed to me that the funds were properly transferred, and I understood that J.P. Morgan Chase was satisfied, since they executed . . . billions of dollars of trades with MF Global."

"I do know that I never authorized anyone to use customer funds to make a loan or a transfer of funds, I never intended to, nor do I think I said anything that could have been construed to do that," the former chairman and chief executive of MF Global testified.
. . . .

You see, the actions Duffy testified about would comprise what Ed Morrissey succinctly summarized in his post as "the transfer of customer funds to cover his big bets on European sovereign debt." Jon had just previously testified under oath that, regardless of the many things he simply could not recall, that he certainly did not do that! And, Corzine further insisted that he was not made aware of anyone else at the firm ordering that transfer at the time.

Because of his unique position as the head of MF Global at the time, doing the one or "condoning" the other, would have been illegal on his part.

So, in summary, Jon clearly remembers what didn't happen. It's just part about what did take place that seems to be giving the guy fits.

Hmmmm . . . maybe the Wall Street Journal has the right questions after all!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Voice: "Literally" Slip-Slidin' Away!

Ahhhh, yes! Remember? That "ONE VOICE" thingy?

"I need ya! Jon needs ya! . . . Are ya fired up? Are you ready to go?"

And now there is this one from the RNC, below . . . featuring a frenzied Sheriff Joe, telling us how, right at the beginning, Jon Corzine was "literally" the "first guy I called!"

Sez Joe:
"He's the smartest guy that I know, in terms of the economy and on finance. I really mean this!"

And how about Joe's priceless closer, huh?
"Jon was right ... C'mon, I could start a mantra ... Jon was right! Jon WAS RIGHT!"

(ht: Tina Korbe at HotAir here.)

And then, you'll want to go here, starting at 928 to hear the "one recent voice" of Jon Corzine:

" . . . Obviously, on the forefront of everyone's mind, including mine, are the varying reports that customer accounts have not been reconciled. I was stunned when I was told on Sunday October 30th, two-thousand and eleven, that MF could not -- MF Global could not account for many hundreds of millions of dollars of client money. I remain deeply concerned about the impact of the unreconciled frozen funds have on MF Global's customers, and others. I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date. As the chief executive officer of the MF Global holding company, I ultimately had overall responsibility for the firm. . . ."

" . . . literally . . . ?"

Makes you kind of wonder what these guys know that he didn't know.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Campaign 2012: Mike Kelly, PA 3rd

Who would have guessed that a car dealer, hailing from the hills of western Pennsylvania, would be the right guy to talk some real common sense into Members of the United States Congress?

Well, it just so happens that the car dealer I'm talking about -- who has indeed been making a whole lot of sense -- is a guy named Mike Kelly, just now half way through his first term representing Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District, a sprawling district comprised of large chunks of several rural counties, all located in the northwestern corner of the Commonwealth, north of the City of Pittsburgh.

Mike was born in the "Steel City" back in 1948, but he hails from Butler, a modest town of 15 thousand residents or so, set along the Connoquenessing Creek, north of Pittsburgh. Butler is where Mike grew up and where he played high school football, before attending Notre Dame.

Butler is just over 33 miles, and about a little less than an hour's drive up Rt. 8, north of Pittsburgh. It is also located about 100 miles (give or take a few depending on your route) due south of the largest town in the 3rd District, the City of Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie, the 4th largest municipality in Pennsylvania, with a population of just over 100,000 residents, is the only Pennsylvania port on the Great Lakes, located in the northernmost section of the state.

Just listen to these comments of Mike's during a recent committee hearing in Congress, talking about the need for a balance budget.

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