9-11-2001+13

This year is not one of those significant anniversaries – the year-marks that end in zero or mark a quarter or a half of a century, but for a couple of reasons, this one seems to weigh more heavily on me than any of the others, save possibly the one-year-after mark. It had only been a year after a perfectly shattering, unimaginable event, quite the equal to me of what Pearl Harbor had been to my parents. Without a whisper of warning – oh, if you had an abiding interest in the matter, or were a particularly imaginative secret squirrel, you might have seen it coming – a fissure the size of the Grand Canyon suddenly split the normal, day-to-day world, and after it, everything was different. On September 12, 2001, the world looked superficially just as it had two days before, save for maybe a few more American flags, and having to get to the airport hours before your flight, not to mention the gaping hole in the skyline of lower Manhattan. But it was the new normal, and kids in middle-school or starting high school have never known anything else. What I recall from ‘before’ is as remote and faraway to them as the Dust Bowl, or the splendors of the Edwardian era. That was then, this is now.

This is the now, with ISIS, or ISIL or whatever they wish to call themselves, recruiting volunteers across Europe and the Middle East, to establish a new Caliphate in the Middle East. What our armed forces bought in blood in Iraq has been essentially given away by this administration as carelessly as if it were a no-longer-fashionable shirt put into a plastic bag and dropped off at Goodwill. The southern border is made of wet tissue paper – and this administration has essentially contrived to swamp working-class communities with illegal aliens … who at the very least are innocent of the ability to speak English, and at worst are unrepentant gangsters. It can also be assumed that just about all of them are unvaccinated against diseases both common and uncommon which are also extremely communicative. Yes, well done.

Those same borders are also open to Islamic terrorists of the same stripe as those responsible for 9-11. It is likely only a matter of time before an atrocity every bit as horrific strikes a major American city … just as it is only a matter of time before certain of our inner city black underclass breaks out in city-killing riots. The present of Detroit may very well be the tomorrow of certain other cities. The working and middle-class flee, and if the city is glamorous enough, the rich and the very poor remain behind. If it isn’t glamorous enough, only the very poor remain. Many of our cities seem to be hanging by a thread – especially the older, old-industry ones. It is only a matter of time …

And so, we wait for the other shoe to fall. And it will fall – there is no doubt on that, just as there is no doubt regarding this current administration’s ability or willingness to rise to the occasion.

Under the Radar

I guess it must matter to the elite class who seem to manage and report in our established American national main-line media – that no one notice the very ugly and violent racial war which is breaking out. Unless, of course, it is a case of a white, or nearly white, or almost-sort-of white in a confrontation with a member of the black thug class; there, I said it – the black thug class. This is a totally different class from the striving and generally hardworking and patriotic black middle and working class. And this I know very well, as a veteran, and through residence in a working-to-middle-class Texas suburb; a fellow military veteran once quoted to me something which one of his military comrades had said – “There is black and there is white, and then there is just trash.” The comrade was black, and he was quoting his grandmother, a lady of certain years – years sufficient to permit a degree of blunt honesty regarding matters racial. There is black, and there is white, and then there is trash.

The elite class appears to believe that anyone of Anglo pallor who points this out must therefore be a racist, especially if in reference to the unsavory, thuggish habits of the black variety of trash. As if looking away and keeping silent would make it all go away. But the trouble is, there is just too much of it, too many incidents before and after the Zimmerman case, the riots in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, flash mobs or small groups or individual black youths playing the knock-out game with random innocent citizens, elderly people attacked and robbed in their homes and cars … it all makes the local news for a day or to, websites and blogs for a day or two more, and then such reports and the racial makeup of the perpetrators and victims are dropped like a dirty Kleenex … until the next time.

The statistics of black-on-white, black-on-black and white-on-black crime paint are skewed to the complete opposite of how such occurrences are covered in the mainstream media. The relatively few incidents of white-on-black murder or rape are national headlines for weeks, whereas black-on-black and black-on-white violence is quickly shuffled away from the front pages and the lead story. It’s almost as if the national media is embarrassed by such occurrences, and considers them unseemly. As a commenter at Samizdata remarked, in relation to the Rotherham abuse scandal, it’s as if they don’t want to say anything for fear of setting off white riots, or something. Which is a pretty insulting assumption, and does no one – black or white or otherwise – any favors at all. Existing pathologies in the black culture which glorifies and rationalizes thug behavior cannot be dealt with, if it isn’t even open for discussion by anyone. The white victims of black criminals – or their next of kin – are left to simmer at being relegated to being non-persons, or insultingly lectured about white privilege. And the establishment press and media dribbles away a little more credibility, every time it tempers coverage of a story depending on the colors of the perpetrator and the victim. Discuss.

(Cross-posted at chicagoboyz.net)

One Thing After Another

As the garden looks on Labor Day weekend

As the garden looks on Labor Day weekend


It seems that Autumn, that taunty b*tch, is determined to delay her arrival in South Texas until the last possible moment. She might rightly collide with Winter in the very same weekend, but … well, this is the place that I have chosen to live, and anyway as long as it isn’t cold enough to kill the vegetables in pots, I am satisfied. I’d love to be able to shepherd the peppers, the eggplants, the okra into another season. But as always – I still desire to turn off the AC and open the windows to casual breezes and night-time temperatures in the 60s. Even if it does put nothing aurally between me and the basset hound next door, who can hear a mouse fart in a high breeze three houses away, on those nights when he is outdoors. And yes – his owner does know that Chester can be a noisy PIA … but the owner is a good neighbor to us, and Chester ensures that no perv will ever be able to climb over the fence into the backyards on our street without about half the neighborhood knowing … and considering that you could likely fit out the army of a small European country with the arms-related contents of this neighborhood alone… well, we are inclined to be indulgent about Chester. He is either an early-warning system or a discourager-of-pervs.
I’ve been sorting out the remains of heat-killed plants, and moving those things which have survived and thrived in pots to cluster around the steps of the shed, or the newly-reclaimed back porch. No, I will not have to get new pepper, okra or eggplant starts next spring. I swear that one of the things that the garden shops deliberately keep from backyard gardeners is the fact that pepper plants are multi-seasonal. If the darned things don’t get frozen, they will go on bearing, bearing and bearing, summer after summer. The garden presents a rather pleasing aspect, given that the pepper plants are doing very well with their second wind, and I will get a nice crop from them; banana peppers, hot red cherry peppers, cayenne and jalapenos … that is, if I can beat back that wretched rat who also has a taste for peppers and their leaves…
The Back Porch - Reclaimed

The Back Porch – Reclaimed


But enough about my garden and weather woes; I have about four projects for Watercress coming up, but not until late this month or into October, so I have taken the opportunity to finish off the book for this year – the YA collection of adventures which were inspired when I tried to figure out a way for the Lone Ranger franchise to recover itself. The more that I thought about it, the more fun that it seemed, especially as it seemed to me that what was key to a ripping good yarn depended on bagging the whole mask, silver bullets, noble white steed tropes, and the generic cardboard setting of the post-Civil War west. Just about everything to do with those is heavily copyright protected, of course. But wrenching the whole concept out of the standard and threadbare conventions, starting all over with the two characters – a young volunteer Texas Ranger and a Delaware Indian scout, setting it in the Republic of Texas years – which were stocked plenty with fresh and unused concepts and characters … I scribbled out the set-up adventure and five more episodes, leaving scope for a good few more, and that’s my book for this year, just in time for the Christmas marketing season. It’s a totally YA and male-friendly adventure, by the way; Blondie has pointed out that the middle-school-age male of our species has been left sadly underserved since the conclusion of the Harry Potter cycle. All that is left to them in popular literature are sparkly vampires in the forest and dystopian fantasies … why not go for something positive, affirming the cowboy way?
Why not, indeed? As soon as I have the cover near to final, I’ll be taking orders – and Blondie and I have been working at sorting out the calendar of our fall and Christmas marketing events.
New phone. Complicated. This is why she is my personal assistant.

Sunset Empire

Between my English and Scots-Irish-English grandparents, a deep and abiding love of English literature and history, a fair number of English friends, and two long-ago summers sojourns in Britain doing the youth hostel and Brit-Rail Pass, I’ve always looked on the place as my metaphorical second country. I know it about as well as any American could and not actually be in residence there, and I’ve always kept in touch – through English magazines, newspapers and yes, in recent years through websites. Yes, and I score sufficiently high on any number of those quizzes testing American knowledge of British slang to say, with perfect truth, that I speak fluent Brit. (Although I can’t place British regional accents … something to do with acquiring most of this knowledge from the printed page rather than the spoken word.)

So, ever since I happily discovered The Internet, and began following more news than was available in the local newspaper and mainstream print publications, I’d been reading English news sites – starting with, I think, The Times of London and The Spectator – before they put the good stuff behind a pay-wall, and moving on to the Telegraph. I had a print subscription to the Guardian Weekly, for years – and occasionally checked out their website before the burden of wading through waist to neck-deep oceans of political-correctitude got to be too much of a chore. Now my guilty tabloid pleasure is to scan the Daily Mail; I know, in the eyes of the grand and the good, this is about one step above the Star or the National Enquirer. But the Mail and the Enquirer have of late begun to commit regular acts of non-partisan journalism – especially when it comes to the American political scene, in contract to the supposedly more respectable publications.

So, I was already aware of the horrific and ongoing scandal of native English girls – many barely into their teens – being groomed, raped, gang-raped and sex-trafficked by British-born Pakistani men, in Rotherham and elsewhere. The release of an especially damning report on a formal inquiry into the matter has even rattled the cages of bloggers like Wretchard at Belmont Club – and no wonder. The most horrifying aspect isn’t just that girls were routinely raped on a wholesale basis, or that many were blackmailed by threats to their family into cooperating in their own exploitation. Even worse is that the police forces, social workers, and local politicians also knew – but refrained from doing anything about it because they did not want to be accused of racism. It seems that the national media outlets also looked away, for as long as they could. As commenter Andrew X, at this discussion thread explained: The media lying is due to a combination of fears – fear of being called racist, fear of Muslim fanatics, and above all a fear of the public. The establishment sees the working class as ignorant racist morons so they’re afraid to say anything that might give the mob an excuse to go on the rampage. It’s not just the rape gangs that see British people as “white trash”.

Wrap your mind around that, if you please – that those bureaucrats, politicians and investigators whose profession and mission is to protect and defend their fellow citizens, especially the most vulnerable among them – hesitated to act because they were afraid of being called racists, which would be a career-limiter, in these present days. They might get a letter of reprimand, or a tough question or two from local media and a certain degree of heat from the diversity-loving intellectual set. That many of the girls victimized were from working-class families or the English equivalent of trailer-trash, or from troubled backgrounds anyway just adds a dimension of particularly ugly snobbery. In order to maintain the benign mask of multicultural toleration and diversity in place, the ruling managerial and political class essentially sacrificed the children of the ruled class to a sexual Moloch … and kept quiet about it for years. How badly the ordinary British citizens are being served by their ruling class, these days! (Nearly as bad as as Americans are being served when it comes to black on white crime, but that’s a rant for another occasion.) My grandparents would be appalled, and horrified at what has become of the country that they immigrated from 100 years ago, but still held in affection.
Discuss.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

This and Data – August 2014

Another week at Chez Mom’s – here in Texas it’s been over a hundred every day for the past two or three weeks. Yes, August in Texas has been unfavorably compared to Hell by wits and commentators since Phil H. Sheridan. Probably before him as well, but in any case, I say a prayer of thanksgiving and blessings to the Jon Wayne HVAC folks, and to the nice lady who bought the California property a year ago next month. Her payment for the property meant that I could have the HVAC in this house done as it should have been by the original builder. Funny that my chronic cough let up round about that time; the deity only knows what kind of mold or crud was in a lot of those ducts and interchange boxes.

Moving right along … because of the heat and probably other things – the flea problem this year is pretty intense. This necessitated a bath with flea shampoo for all the dogs. No, we didn’t try and bathe the cats – what, do you think we are insane? Although it was a bit of a risk with Nemo, who hates water unless it’s in a bowl for him to drink; water from a hose, standing water that he needs to wade through? His detestation of the element is obvious and long-standing; one of the reasons that we think he might have been a cat in a previous life. Anyway – he got the bath with flea-killing shampoo, and although it did take both of us to administer it in the kitchen sink, he did not try to bite or nip. So – progress.

On the sad side – the cat-herd is diminishing. This is due to age, rather than accident, but we were never very certain how old that Wubbie, the fluffy confirmed escape artist was. He was an adult cat when he turned up, dripping wet one afternoon when the next-door neighbors’ grandsons were playing with their new super-soakers. They are good boys, really they are, but they were much younger then, and poor Wubbie was sitting on the hood of the car, stunned and drenched in ice-water. We took him inside, and he never left, save for brief excursions when he whipped between our ankles and ran out to a particular place in the next-door front yard to chase away any interlopers. We did briefly consider asking the neighbor if we could bury Wubbie there, since it was a place he was so fond of … but re-considered.

My newest new toy; a Cuisinart multi-griddler, which was one of the newer models, offered at a considerable discount on Amazon last week, along with a set of waffle plates – also at a considerable discount. We nearly bought a previous iteration a couple of months ago, seeing it for a marked down price at a local high-end HEB, but a total stranger, seeing that we had it in the cart, came up and freely told us what a total disappointing dog it was to her. She really unloaded about all the unfortunate features … most of which seemed to have been remedied in this version. The good thing is that this new toy allowed me to get rid of an electric grill (a nice one, but too hard to clean and never really got hot enough, even as it smoked out the kitchen), an electric griddle (which was a cheap model, heated erratically across the surface, a hand-me-down from a friend) and a George Foreman griddler which we got for nothing, but which was missing a griddle plate which proved to be impossible to replace. So – space cleared in the kitchen, one for three!

We’ve done waffles in it already, and grilled sausage patties on one side and fried eggs on the other, and so vary, everything has come out well; it heats thoroughly and evenly … and cleanup is a breeze.

And that’s my week? Yours>

Two White Comanches

(To make up for a slow posting week, this history post is extra-long! Yes, my refuge from current events this week is the 19th century. As far as I know, this is not illegal, yet. Incidentally, both these people are walk-on characters in the next book – excerpt here.)

As I have often noted before, the past is a vastly more complicated and more human place than the watered down history textbooks would have us believe. Yes, complicated and curious, and not nearly as bigoted as those who foment pop culture would think. Kipling might have been more right than he’s been given credit for in the late 20th century when he wrote, “…But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!”
A pair of men from 1840s Texas – the time of the Republic of Texas illustrates this point obliquely, although I don’t have any evidence that they ever met face to face. They possibly might have – Texas was a small place then – and practically everyone knew each other.

Late in October of 1837, a Comanche war party descended on a small farm near modern-day Schulenburg, Texas, owned by a recent arrival in Texas, one James Lyons, who worked the farm with the aid of his wife, four sons, a married daughter and her husband. The youngest son was Warren, then about eleven or twelve years old. James Lyons and Warren were milking cows in the early morning when the Comanches came; the other family members hastily barred the windows and doors and escaped harm. But the raiders killed and scalped James, snatched Warren and half a dozen horses and vanished with the boy and livestock into the vast hunting grounds to the north and west. His mother never gave up hope for her son, although the other members of the family sorrowfully resigned themselves that he was gone – since all efforts at locating and ransoming him were unsuccessful.

Warren was spotted at least twice over the next ten years, first by another captive who was later ransomed – he was at least thirteen or fourteen by then, and had already made his preference plain. He was, she said, in and out of the camp where she was held – participating in raids, although probably not as a full-fledged warrior, but rather as an auxiliary, minding the horses. An Indian agent met with a camp of Yamparika Apache on the upper Washita in 1846, and tried to convince Warren to return with him. But Warren did not want to return, apparently believing that the rest of his family had also been killed. The next year, a party of surveyors working near present-day Mason encountered a band of Comanche whom they were certain were about to kill them all. But one of the warriors was Warren, who overheard the surveyors discussing their apprehensions and told them they weren’t in danger. They would be let go the next day. The surveyors – one of whom was an acquaintance of Warren Lyons’ mother – tried to convince him to come with them. Again – he refused to leave the Comanche. But the next year, a party of Comanche came to either Fredericksburg or to San Antonio to do some peaceful trading. The story varies in several sources. Since this occurred during the period of a truce brokered by John Meusebach on behalf of the German settlers in the Hill Country, the Fredericksburg version sounds likelier – but San Antonio was a larger and more cosmopolitan place, the economic hub of the region and not on the edge of the far frontier at the time. By coincidence, two neighbors of the Lyon family were there, recognized Warren, and approached him, pleading that he should return – at least, visit his mother. The third time was the charm, apparently – even though he claimed that he had two wives among the Comanche and did not wish to leave them. But the friend of his mother presented him with a pair of fine red blankets, and Warren gave each wife a blanket, telling them that he would return.
If he did, the stay was brief, for upon returning to the Lyons farmstead, Warren was overcome with emotion on seeing his mother again, although she did not at first recognize him. His family and the little community which had grown up nearby – now called Lyonville – welcomed him back, joyful and generous.

One of his older brothers convinced him to stay in the white world, by talking him into serving as a Ranger, in the contentious borderlands between Texas and Mexico. Doubtless this served two purposes by allowing him to fight another party than the Comanche who had lately been his comrades, and to provide a substitute for the free-roving and untrammeled life he had become accustomed to. Some time later, though, Warren was in a Ranger company led by Edward Burleson and did participate in a bitter skirmish against the Comanche, so hard-fought that the Rangers were certain they were about to be overrun. No, said Warren – who had been listening to the Comanche warriors shouting to each other – the Comanche were giving it up, and withdrawing. Relieved, the Rangers packed up their dead and wounded. Doubtless, having gotten this out of his system, Warren Lyons resigned from the Rangers, and settled down in Johnson County. He married one Lucy Boatwright in 1848, raised a family of children and prospered quietly, although he did retain certain eccentricities of behavior – as in preferring moccasins to boots when it came to a fight, during his Ranger service. Warren Lyons died at a relatively young age in 1870.

As for the second of the white Comanche adoptees – he was never a captive, but came along willingly. Robert S. Neighbors was a native Virginian, born in 1815 and left as an orphan at the tender age of four months by the deaths of his parents. He was raised and educated by a guardian, and like many another restless youth of the time, sought adventure and fortune in Texas in the fateful spring of 1836, when he was just twenty-one. He found adventure, all right, serving in the Republic of Texas’ tiny professional army as quartermaster. When his hitch was done, he gravitated to San Antonio and another kind of military service as a member of Jack Hays’ volunteer Ranger company. When the Mexican Army under General Adrian Woll made a lighting-fast raid on San Antonio in September 1842, Bob Neighbors had the ill-luck not to be out on patrol. Instead, he and more than fifty other Anglo men – either local residents or in town for a session of the civil court – were taken captive and packed off into Mexico for a stint of imprisonment in the San Carlos Fortress – Perote Prison. There he spent two years, before being released and returned to Texas. Presumably a quiet life operating a hotel in Houston was a little too quiet; within a short time he was off again in another service to the Republic of Texas; as an Indian agent with primary responsibility for the peoples of two tribes noted for volunteering as guides and combatants with the Rangers – the Lipan Apache and the Tonkawa. Both these tribes were traditional enemies of the Comanche – peerless and brutal warriors who had swept down from the Rocky Mountains once they acquired mastery of the horse and made the Southern Plains their own. He developed one rather unusual practice as Indian agent – he went to the various tribal villages and dealt face to face with leaders there, rather than wait for them to come to him at the agency headquarters. Neighbors developed a fluency in the various languages, a grasp on the subtleties of tribal cultures – and more importantly, the friendship of many. It was said that no white man in Texas had more friends or a greater influence among the Tribes.

One of his field visits to a Tonkawa camp coincided with a visit by a Comanche war party on their way into Mexico to raid for horses. For once the Comanches were in a rather more friendly mood towards the Tonkawa than usual – demanding only hospitality in the form of food for themselves and their horses and some entertainment for the evening. Fearlessly, Bob Neighbors asked for an introduction to their leader, Mopechucope or Old Owl, which was granted. Old Owl admired Bob Neighbors’ fine coat, and knowing that was expected, Bob promptly took it off and gave it to Old Owl. Strangely enough, Old Owl took an immediate liking to Bob Neighbors; instead of Bob making a civilized man out of him, Old Owl suggested – he would make a good horse thief out of Bob and adopt him, if he came along with the war party. Bob Neighbors didn’t hesitate, this being an invitation that few Texans would ever be offered and even fewer would consider accepting. He went with the raiding party, returned safely and departed from Old Owl’s camp with gratitude and with his scalp intact – the only occasion where an official in the service of the Republic of Texas went on a raid with a Comanche war party.

The friendship with Old Owl and the Penateka paid off in the years immediately following. Bob Neighbors was one of the negotiators at the peace conference which led to a peace treaty between the Penateka Comanche and the German settlers who arrived on the Texas frontier through the auspices of the Mainzer Adelsverein.

When Texas was finally admitted as one of the United States, Bob Neighbors was one of those assisting in the negotiations between the US Indian commissioners and representatives of those tribes living in Texas – and received a federal appointment as an Indian agent. In the spring of 1849, he was tasked by Major General William Worth, commander of the 8th Military Department to explore, survey and establish a wagon route to El Paso from San Antonio. He led a mixed command of Rangers (including Robert Salmon “Rip” Ford) and US Army troops, as General Worth correctly figured that Bob Neighbors was about the only man in Texas who could venture into Comanche lands and return again to tell the tale. In fact, the expedition traveled with the good-will and for a time the presence of Buffalo Hump, a prominent Penateka war chief. The expedition was a success in mapping out a route eventually used by the Butterfield Stage lines in the following decade, and by the modern highway. In between these bouts of public service, Neighbors found the time and inclination to marry, and establish a home on the Salado Creek, for his wife and children.

The position as federal Indian agent was a political patronage job, and the election of a Whig administration late that year brought an end to that duty. But Neighbors served as a state commissioner and in the state legislature, and there he sponsored a resolution to establish – with the concurrence of the federal government – reservations for those Indian tribes with a presence in Texas: not just the Penateka Comanche, but the Caddo, Shawnee, Anadarko, Tonkawa and a handful of smaller divisions. With another national election in 1853, Bob Neighbors was back to work with a federal appointment as supervising agent for the Texas reservations; one on the Salt Fork of the Brazos River, the other on the Clear Fork. And one would have thought it would have been clear sailing for Neighbors, as a stout champion of his Indian friends and their welfare, as well as being respected in his own right as an explorer and Ranger. Alas, he had become hated by white settlers for his championship of the Indians. Those tribes which had settled on the Brazos reservations were often and vociferously blamed for continued raids on white settlements. Those Indians – especially Comanche who continued to range freely – held the reservation Indians in grand contempt, and often deliberately routed their own raids on white communities so as to implicate the Reservation Indians in the atrocities committed.

John Baylor, who had been one of Neighbors’ sub-agents in spite of his detestation of Indians, became one of Neighbors’ most bitter enemies on being dismissed from that position, and never missed the opportunity of inciting the anger of white settlers against the Reservation Indians. At one point, Bob Neighbors had to call on federal troops stationed at Camp Cooper and Fort Belknap, to protect the Reservation against a Baylor-led attack by white vigilantes. By late 1859, Neighbors came to realize that his Indian charges were no longer safe in Texas. He organized the evacuation of the Brazos reservations. With four troops of federal soldiers and Robert Neighbors himself as escorts, nearly 1,500 Reservation Indians were conveyed to a new federal reservation in present-day Oklahoma. He achieved this without any loss of life, but on his return to Fort Belknap to file his final report as the superintendent of Indian affairs, he was assassinated – shot down from behind, in retaliation for his friendship and championship of the Indians. He was buried in the Fort Belknap cemetery. In the space of the next year, Texas seceded, joined the Confederacy, and federal troops were withdrawn from the frontier – creating a whole new war along the frontier. But that is another story.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz and at my Celia Hayes website.)

Top of the Slide

Forty years after the fact is a fine time to wonder if maybe that murderous freak Charles Manson had a point, after all. This is a savage disappointment to me, having been carefully schooled in racial tolerance since about the time that my mother nearly kicked off an epic family fracture when she requested that my paternal grandfather please tone down his expressions of racial denigration in front of us kiddies. She might also have asked the same of Dad, back in the day – he was, after all, raised by Grandpa Al, who – by his talk – couldn’t abide Negro-Black-African-Americans, or whatever the current socially correct term is – and Grandma Dodie, who couldn’t stand Jews. That their favorite entertainer of all time was Sammy Davis, Jr., was just one of those amusing ironies – that and the fact that they were always perfectly cordial to those of my parent’s friends and mine who were Jewish, and/or not by any stretch of imagination white Anglo-Saxon protestants was another one.

I optimistically assumed that more than half a century of civil rights being the law of the land had put an end to Charlie Manson’s sweaty fantasies of racial war. I honestly did … in spite of knowing that there were neighborhoods in most large American cities where a person of Anglo pallor like myself did not want to be caught, alive or dead, in broad daylight or the dark of night. I also knew at a remove of the existence of a university sub-culture of grievance studies and residual pools of racial resentment lovingly maintained like rare orchids by professional race-mongers (yes, I am looking at YOU, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson). My generally optimistic assumptions regarding race relations were based on personal experience and first-hand observation in academia and the armed forces, despite the occasional lapse – say, after the OJ verdict and the riots after the Rodney King beating. I served with commanders and first sergeants who were black – and finer, more decent and patriotic people could hardly be found. I served alongside others, some who were close enough and good enough friends that we could speak honestly about black/white relations and the general history of race relations in America. I also had friends who were partners in interracial couples – in all possible combinations and variants. Indeed, some of my own daughter’s regular dates would have had Grandpa Al revolving in his grave like a Black and Decker drill. This is supposed to be the ne plus ultra when it comes to judging racial tolerance – in that “Would you want your daughter to marry one?” Content of character came way ahead of race for me, every time.

And then there came election of The First Black President Evah! Such was my happy state of innocence in 2008 that I assumed that a page had been turned; the one positive development leading from the election of a completely inexperienced local community organizer was that we might confidently expect to have heard the very last of the USA being the most raaaaacist nation ever! Alas, even that small hope has been cruelly squashed over the six years since – chiefly because this administration’s public affairs branch, or the traditional print and broadcast news outlets as we used to call them – mostly insist on attributing any objection or doubt regarding Obama’s legislative or administrative goals as being motivated by racism. This is as tiresome as it is untrue, but the absolute and unvarying insistence has taken a toll. What is even more dispiriting is the knowledge that black racism is more overt, more in-your-face and more threatening – witness the ongoing riots in St. Louis; it’s as if the election of Obama unleashed something malign, rather than putting it away like an outworn security object. Discuss.

(Cross-posted at chicagoboyz.net)

Schrecklichkeit

It’s a German word – it means “frightfulness“ – and it was used, if memory serves and a brief internet search conforms – it was a sort of shorthand for the reprisals exacted by the German Army against civilians during both wars. If not an actual German military field policy in WWI, it had certainly become one by WWII; brutally persecute, torture and execute civilians, and make certain that such horrors became well-known through extensive documentation within the theater of operations, and outside of it. To encourage the others, as the saying goes, but on a grand scale – to make war on a civilian population, once all effective military have departed the area – in hopes of cowing everyone who sees and hears of what brutality has been meted out on the helpless, and especially the helpless.
Was it an explicit policy of the German armies to apply the principle of schrecklichkeit – by that name or another – in the field in those wars?

Whether or not dictated from the highest levels, it did have the desired effect of discouraging armed resistance … at first, anyway. Acts of extreme cruelty against civilians were definitely committed, beginning in Belgium in 1914 – and had a short-term effect in that Belgian resistance to the German juggernaut was, to put it mildly, discouraged with Teutonic efficiency. However, the long-term result was a black mark against Germany, in its conduct of that war which resounded for years and was revived again with the record of Nazi atrocities in the second.

Which brings me to reports of the horrors being committed by the Islamic radicals of ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever they are calling themselves, as they sweep into Mosul and proclaim the establishment of a renewed caliphate. I have not seen much of this reflected in the mainstream media yet – but the worst excesses are seeping out, through minor publications, blogs and social media. Of course, without all those layers of editors and fact-checkers, such excesses could be really happening, or the work of propagandists of varying degrees of sophistication … but for the fact that ISIS/ISIL make no bones about boasting of what they are doing, and sharing the pictorial and video evidence. This link was posted on Samizdata by M. Simon – and if you have a low nausea threshold, don’t go any farther than a couple of pictures. I post the link only so that readers will have an idea of exactly how horrible this situation has become. I await for the inevitable lefty-luvvie comparison to Abu Ghraib, of course.

There are likely two rationales for practicing the 21st century Islamic version of schrecklichkeit in Northern Iraq; the ISIS/ISIL fighters are extreme sadists with the blessings of an ideology which encourages them to do what they enjoy most – torturing and murdering infidels – and bragging about it. And secondly, this demoralizes those unfortunate enough to be in their way, and discourages resistance. For a time, anyway. But schrechlichkeit has a short shelf life, once those whom it is practiced on realize that there is no way out, and only one way to fight back. Eventually, as the Allies discovered in the Pacific in WWII – there comes the understanding that those who have so relished inflicting cruelty on the helpless deserve no mercy at all, and will receive none, once the tables are turned upon them. Surrender is not an option at this point – and in future neither will mercy.
Discuss.
(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

Sum-Sum-Summertime

The Magnificent Shed

The Magnificent Shed

I’m in a bit of a lull at present – having wrapped up a couple of books for Watercress in the last week or so, and it will be another few weeks before some of the others come up to the point where I have to set aside everything else to work on them, full-tilt. There will actually be three and possibly four. Two of the four are … high-value clients, the other two returning clients, so … yes, I am doing the happy dance.
I have finished the first draft of the next book, which was inspired by a light-hearted blog post regarding the crash’n’burn of the recent Lone Ranger movie, the one with Johnny Depp and a dead crow on his head. Yeah, that one; I began kicking around ways that the franchise could be re-booted, first as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more fun it looked like – of course, not the Lone Ranger per se. That’s all under copyright, and I understand that the copyright holders are ferociously protective. But what about a narrative bearing a suitably distant likeness to the original premise – that is, a young Texas volunteer soldier-ranger in the time of the Republic of Texas, sole survivor of a massacre, with his good friend and buddy, an Indian scout, wandering around pre Civil War Texas on missions of goodness and niceness? Nix the mask, the silver bullets, the horse named Silver – indeed, just about every other telling detail – and make it more or less a historical, although with a looser grasp on the straight historical record than my other books. Believe me, there was enough strange stuff going on in Texas during that time, and certainly enough in the way of real historical characters and incidents to generate any number of adventures. I scribbled out six initial historical romps, my daughter suggested that I aim it toward the YA audience, especially boys who have nothing since the final Harry Potter tome and aren’t interested in the adventures of sparkly vampires … and there it is – gone to some alpha readers recruited through the Ace of Spades Sunday morning book thread for critique and analysis. I will incorporate their suggestions, plus any additional additional inspirations that their suggestions spark … and the book will be out in late October, likely. Just in time for Christmas shopping.
So – that’s done. Until I hear from the alpha readers (or really, anyone who wants to check out the adventures posted at my Celia Hayes website and drop me a line), that project is on the back burner.

As the garden looked earlier this year

As the garden looked earlier this year


August has descended on us – traditionally the hottest month of a Texas summer – it’s been over 100° every day for the last week or so. So, my enthusiasm for doing anything outdoors is pretty much under control. Walk the dogs, water the garden, that’s about it. This week, though – we finally got the antique Chambers stove moved off the back porch and into the shed. This chore had to wait until the shed was actually built, and we could round up two willing and strong neighbors to help us shift it the fifteen or twenty feet. Yes, the darned thing is heavy – when it was built in 1941, they made them to last. Eventually, we’ll have to remodel the kitchen to accommodate the Chambers. So – aside from starting the fall garden, I’ll also be revamping the back porch, once things cool off just a titch.. There was more than just the stove kept on the porch – and now it has all in the shed – so that I intend to reclaim the porch for when the cool weather returns.

Poppies

Supposedly the red corn poppies that grow all over fields in Europe grow particularly well in soil that has been plowed, dug up, or otherwise extensively disturbed. There were many small fields around the outskirts of Zaragoza, and the little village of Garrapinillos where poppies grew, in some seasons and fields so thickly as to show nothing but red.

Most experts are certain that the association between WWI and blood-red field poppies was established because of the poem by John McCrae, which begins, “In Flanders fields, the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row…” and which became almost immediately popular upon being first published in the second year of the war. Well before the end of the war, the visual of red poppies was inextricably bound to the notion of wartime service and sacrifice in Canada, Britain and the United States. At the end of the war, it was adopted by the American Legion as a symbol of remembrance, Frenchwomen sold silk poppies to raise money for war orphans, and the British Legion adopted the practice of wearing red poppies during the period leading up to Remembrance Day. To this day, the sale of artificial poppies benefits various programs to support veterans and active duty military in England, Canada and the United States.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that war, and one of the most eye-catching temporary memorials is an installation at the Tower of London, where the dry moat will be filled with 800,000 ceramic red poppies, spilling down from one of the outer tower windows – one poppy for every Commonwealth casualty over four bitter years of blood and sacrifice. There are only about an eighth of the total installed so far … but the pictures are riveting. The installation – called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red will be finished by Remembrance Day – November 11.

The Movie Narrative

I see, from a brief news release, and the subsequent minor bloggerly hyperventilating about it, that the story of the 60 Minutes-Dan Rather-faked TANG memo is going to be made into a movie, starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchette as Mary Mapes, his producer. If it were a cautionary tale about what happens when those who report our news content so desperately desire items of dubious provenance to be the genuine article and so skip merrily past every warning signal in their hurry to broadcast a nakedly partisan political hit piece on the eve of an election … well, I might be tempted to watch it. No, not in a theater – are you insane? I might opt to pay a couple of bucks to stream it through Amazon and watch it at home … but alas, likely I will give it a miss, altogether. It’s going to be based on Ms Mapes’ own account and defense of the indefensible, and frankly I am not all that interested in someone engaged in a lengthy justification of their own gullibility and/or willingness to wink at obvious forgery in service to a partisan political cause.
Continue reading

The Lady and the Cavalier of Valle de San Jose

(I have been sidelined this week, working on a chapter of The Golden Road, and discovering about the place where Fredi and the herd of Texas cattle would have finished in California. The current political situations, national and otherwise are so dire that … can you blame me for taking to my favorite refuge – the 19th century?)

California marked the high tide-line of the Spanish empire in the New World. The great wave of conquistadors washed out of the Iberian Peninsula in the fifteenth century looking for gold, honor, glory and land, roared across the Atlantic Ocean, sweeping Mexico and most of South America in consecutive mighty tides, before seeping into the trackless wastes of the American Southwest. Eventually that tide lapped gently at the far northern coast, where it dropped a chain of missions, a handful of military garrisons and small towns, and bestowed a number of property grants on the well-favored and well-connected. There has always been a dreamlike, evanescent quality to that time – as romantic as lost paradises always are. Before the discovery of gold in the millrace of a saw-mill built to further the entrepreneurial aims of a faintly shady Swiss expatriate named John Sutter, California seemed a magical place. It was temperate along the coast and perceived as a healthy place; there were no mosquito-born plagues like malaria and yellow fever, which devastated the lower Mississippi/Missouri regions in the 19th century. Certain parts were beautiful beyond all reasoning, and the rest was at the least attractive. The missions, dedicated primarily to the care of souls also had an eye towards self-sufficiency, and boasted great orchards of olives and citrus, and extensive vineyards. The climate was a temperate and kindly one in comparison with much of the rest of that continent; winters were mild, and summers fair.

It was a rural society of vast properties presided over by an aristocracy of landowners who had been granted their holdings by the king or civil government. Their names still mark the land in the names of towns, roads and natural features; Carrillo, Sepulveda, Verdugo, Vallejo, Dominguez, Pico, Castro, Figueroa, and Feliz, among many others. They ran cattle or sheep on their leagues – the hard work was mostly performed by native Californian Indians; those who had survived such epidemics as were brought inadvertently by Europeans and who were amenable to being trained in useful agricultural skills. These vast estates produced hides, wool and tallow; their owners lived lives of comfort, if no very great luxury. From all accounts they were openhandedly generous, amazingly hospitable, devout … a little touchy about personal insult and apt to fight duels over it, but that could said of most men of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Carrillo Ranch house - circa 1929

The Carrillo Ranch house – circa 1929


One of the notable estates was that which lay around the present-day hamlet of Warner Hot Springs. Besides being a very fine property, it was also located the southern emigrant trail – that which ran through south Texas and New Mexico territory to Yuma, at the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers, and terminated in Los Angeles. Eventually, the Butterfield stage line would follow this trail – and the ranch at the place where the road to San Diego diverted from it became a stage stop. The property also was the object of considerable legal wrangling – it was inadvertently granted to two different claimants; Silvestre de la Portila in 1836, and transplanted Yankee, John Joseph ‘Juan Jose’ Warner eight years later. Juan Joseph Warner built an adobe house on the property, and conducted ranching and trading operations until an uprising by local Indians drive him out in 1851. In the meantime, Silvestre de la Portila had deeded the property to Vincenta Sepulveda, the daughter of a long-established and important local family. Eventually, the powers that be decided in favor of Dona Vincenta, who at the age of 21 had married another scion of a well-to-do ranch family, Tomas Antonio Yorba, who was more than twice her age. Yorba and his wife set up first at his family property at Santa Ana, in present-day Orange County, where they ran cattle for their hides and tallow, and operated a small general store, trading all kinds of general goods, groceries and luxuries. Their house was a rather splendid one; they impressed many visitors with not only the generous nature of their hospitality, but order and luxury of their house – better adorned and furnished than the usual hacienda. After ten years of productive and apparently happy marriage Tomas Yorba died, leaving his wife the residence, large herds of sheep and cattle, considerable jewelry and the care of their four surviving children. She continued managing the property, her household and her business; a wealthy, attractive and able young woman. She did not remain a widow for very long; she married again, to Jose Ramon Carrillo, of San Diego, who had managed a large property in northern California. Romantically, they met at the wedding of Dona Vincenta’s niece to an office of the Mexican army. Jose Ramon Carrillo had a reputation for physical courage, which was not based solely on his experiences as a soldier. (He had engaged in several skirmishes between Californios and the Anglo members of the Bear Flag party, or during the Mexican War and in fighting with hostile local Indians, which was pretty much what had been expected of a man of his age and class.) But his most famous fighting exploit wasn’t with other men at all – it was with a bear.

When out riding with friends in the Sonoma foothills some time before his marriage, the party spotted a bear, at some distance. Carrillo proposed (and there is no evidence that liquor was involved in any) that he fight the bear … on foot and alone. He took a mochila from his saddle – a flap of leather used to attach saddle-bags and wrapped it around his left arm – and a large hunting knife with a keen blade in his right. When he advanced on the bear, it charged him; Carrillo shielded himself with his left arm, and thrust with the knife into the bear’s torso. Within a very short time, the bear lay dead before him. On another occasion, Carrillo attempted to lasso another bear, from horseback. In the heat of the chase, bear, horse and rider fell into a five or six foot deep chasm, hidden until that very moment by dense brush. The abruptness of the fall removed all fight from the bear – and it tried to scramble up the steep side of the pit. Realizing that there was no scope for fighting the bear in the ditch and that discretion might be the best part of valor, Carrillo braced himself under the bear’s hindquarters and gave a good push with all of his strength. The bear scrabbled at the edge of the pit, got over it and promptly ran away.

By the mid-1850s, Dona Vincenta had clear title to the former Warner property; she and her new husband moved there, built an even grander house – an establishment which also served as a stage station, and on the eve of the Civil War, Don Ramon Carrillo applied for the position of post-master … the rancho was also a post office. During the war itself, he also served as a spy and scout for the Union Army in the Sonora. There were shadows falling on him, however; a political and business rival was found dead, shot in the back by person or persons unknown late in 1862. He was interviewed under oath by a court in Los Angeles, and released – the court having found nothing to charge against him.

Dona Vincenta and her family in the 1890s (She is the elder lady in the center)

Dona Vincenta and her family in the 1890s (She is the elder lady in the center)

Two years later, Don Ramon also fell to an assassin’s ambush. The murderer – again – was never identified, and at the age of 51, Dona Vincenta was again a widow. She continued to manage the ranch, with the aid of her grown son for another five or six years, before moving to Anaheim, and to a long retirement in the house of her married daughter; Dona Vincenta lived to the age of 94. The ranch property was sold in the 1870s, continuing as a profitable sheep ranch for the remainder of the century and into the next. The site is now a museum, and open to the public.

The Rough Beast, Slouching Towards Destination Unknown

Adrift without a map, we are, in the sea of current events. Especially after this last week, which brought us a ground war in Gaza and the shoot-down of a passenger airliner over Ukraine; both situations a little out of the depth of the past experience of Chicago community organizer, even one who spent his grade school years in Indonesia. Quite a large number of the blogs and commenters that I follow have speculated over the last couple of months – at least since last year – have predicted disaster. They know not the day nor the hour, but they have read the various augurs according to their inclinations, suspicions and particular expertise, and gloomily speculate on the odds of various events occurring. There is something bad coming, the air is thick and heavy with signs and portents, never mind the cheery cast that the current administration and it’s public affairs division attempts to put on it. It’s like a makeup artist, plying the art on a six-months-dead corpse; it’s just not working.

The list of possible events speculated on begins with some kind of dirty nuke on a major (or even a relatively minor) American city, or other terrorist act, sustained racial riots in inner cities leading to violent resistance when the rioters spill out into the fringes, an epidemic caused by the recent accession of thousands of Central American illegal aliens and the administrations energetic dispersion of them everywhere, violent resistance to any number of ham-handed actions on the part of the federal government spiraling out of control as in the BLM-Bundy Ranch scenario, complete devaluing of the currency to the point of a ten-dollar bill having the value of a used bus ticket – I can come up with any number of issues which might potentially provide a flashpoint, and commentators likely can come up with as many more, even as we grimly acknowledge that the ignition point might be one which we won’t even see coming.

Today, Governor Perry of Texas announced plans to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border area – an area which has always been about as porous as a wet sponge, but which troubled no one much beyond those law enforcement in border counties, and residents whose ranch properties were essentially highways for the human traffic. The trickle of illegal immigrants (take THAT, PC Police, they’re illegal immigrants!) has become a gusher in the last year or so, and many on the conservative-libertarian spectrum suspect that it has been deliberately engineered, in an effort to Cloward-Piven our national borders. Darker prognostications have it that this is an attempt to stuff the ballot-boxes with sufficient voters to ensure a Democrat Party majority for the foreseeable future, to destroy the working- and middle-class – who have the ungrateful habit of independency and a disinclination to do as their so-called betters order them – and replace them with grateful serfs who will obediently do as they are told. How better to dissolve the people and replace them another?

There was a protest scheduled last Friday and Saturday – at the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio. It was a rather small one, when I passed by on Friday afternoon, and if the protest continued as scheduled on Saturday, I can find no evidence for it – but then, seeing how frequently the establishment media organs function as the public office of the Obama administration, I wouldn’t have been surprised to know that the protest was continued, and with more protesters – just that the local news coverage was of the “close your eyes, cover them with your hands and hope it will all go away” variety. One thing I did notice on Friday was that the protestors were raising the issue of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who inadvertently crossed over into Mexico at a particularly confusing San Diego freeway interchange earlier this summer. He had his personal weapons in the trunk of his car – and has been in a Mexican jail ever since, accused of smuggling guns into Mexico. I imagine that the Mexican authorities are feeling the schadenfreude, on account of Fast and Furious, but I haven’t seen much enthusiasm on the part of our State Department on getting him out of durance vile, Mexican-style … so every little bit of street theater may help.
Discuss.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net)

It Was One Of Those Days

We wanted a bit of a holiday, and to get away from the house and the usual jobs for a bit. My daughter wanted to hit up Herweck’s in downtown for some specialty paper for her origami projects. Herweck’s has a lovely stock of interesting papers; in large sheets, which may be cut to size for her origami art projects. I wanted to take some pictures downtown, and we both thought positively of a late lunch at Schilo’s Delicatessen and then … well, to whatever curiosity took us. We were tempted at the outset by a ere was a huge anime convention going on at the HBG convention center, which counted for the large numbers of … interestingly dressed people wandering around. As my daughter somewhat cuttingly remarked, after observing a herd of costumed anime fans, “Too many freaks, not enough circus.” Still, having acquired a taste for this sort of thing when we used to go to the science fiction convention in Salt Lake City when I was stationed in Utah, we thought we might check out the convention, if the price of entry was not too much out of budget. It was too much, as it eventually turned out, and neither of us was into anime sufficiently to properly appreciate the experience … But after walking back from Shilo’s along Market Street, we happened upon the Briscoe Western Art Museum, which was housed in what used to be – so we were assured by the young woman manning the desk – the old downtown public library building.

This was a wonderful construction of 1920s Moderne, newly spiffed up, and the foyer was marvelous. This was a two-story confection with a deeply coffered carved wood ceiling and a band of designs resembling the buffalo and Indian-head nickels around the walls just below the ceiling – all marvelous and detailed. A visit to a building like this once again reminded me of how much I detest and despise the horrid brutality of modern design for public buildings – lean and spare and square, with windows that can’t be opened, no ornamentation of any sort at all, save a stark open square with a concrete turd in a fountain in the middle of it. No, my detestation of modern architectural design of the Bauhaus steel-and-glass-box or concrete-n-glass variety remains undimmed and burns with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning suns … and as it turned out, the entry fee to the Briscoe was a relative pittance, and further reduced by a veteran discount. So – there was a far more economical use of funds and time.

The art on display is of course oriented to the west – lots of scenic vistas, longhorns, cowboys and the like, but leavened with a series of Curtis photographic portraits of Indians, some scenic vistas of border towns, and of the construction of Boulder Dam. As for big-name Western artists, the Briscoe has a small C. M. Russell bronze, and a couple of minor pieces by Frederick Remington, which to my mind is not very much at all, as far as the classic Western artists go. Most of what is there is in the way of art seems to be on loan from local donors and collectors – and it is a rather newish museum after all. Many exhibits are – not strictly speaking – art, but rather historical relics; a classic Concord stagecoach in one gallery – and a renovated chuck-wagon in another. The third-floor galleries had the most interesting items – antique saddles, including one adorned with silver rattlesnakes; once the property of Pancho Villa, and another which once belonged to the Spanish Viceroy in Mexico City. There is also a gallery dedicated to the Alamo – which is only to be expected. It is dominated by one of those elaborate models of the moment when the Alamo was overwhelmed by General Lopez de Santa Anna’s forces – about which I had a small quibble, and another item which raised more questions than the duty guard could answer. (The poor chap is probably curled up in a corner somewhere, quivering.)

This item is a Victorian hair brooch, one of those peculiarly Victorian things – a small lock of hair, made unto a piece of jewelry – usually woven into a pleasing pattern, and preserved under glass in a small setting. They were most often done in order to memorialize a deceased loved one … and this one was supposed to have been … well, the card next to it was singularly uninformative. OK, first of all – was it James Fannin’s hair? Several different alternatives; yes, his – a brooch left with a dear one, after his taking up the position of commander of the Goliad in late 1835. Likely. But his, post-mortem, after the massacre of his company and done after his body lying where it had been left for weeks and weeks? Ooooh – no, don’t think so.

Anyway, we had an interesting time discussing this with the duty guard; it’s true that docents and guards often know rather interesting things about the galleries where they are stationed, often because everyone is always asking them, and being able to give a good answer must be a kind of self-defense. Apparently, he and some of the other guards believe that the Alamo exhibit room is haunted. My daughter says that if any object in that room has the ability to haunt, it would be the gigantic iron 18th century cannon, which was supposed to have been in the Alamo, although if it had any part in the siege, no one knows. It looks like an 18-pounder, and was found buried on private property sometime in this century, so the guard says; the man whose property it was just set it up pointing at his mailbox. We speculated for a while on how it could have finished up buried in the ground, a thing which would have taken at least three ox-teams to move. At the time that the Alamo was the main Spanish presidio in Texas, it was supposed to have had the largest collection of artillery west of the Mississippi and north of the Rio Grande. After Santa Anna’s defeat at San Jacinto, likely the Mexican garrison left to hold the place bugged out with everything they could carry with them. We thought it likely that this particular cannon was dumped, either immediately or after a short distance. The information card at the exhibit offered very little detail – so we had our amusement from speculation.

And that was my bit of a summer holiday – yours?

Farewell, Riverdale

Can’t say that I ever really got into comic books – about the only time I ever really encountered them was at the shoe store, the venerable establishment where Mom used to take us to get our shoes, which was also the place where she and Uncle Jimmy had also been taken in the 1930s to get their shoes. Yes, it was that venerable – and one of the practices of this venerable establishment was to present very small children and babies who had gotten new shoes with a balloon on a string, and the older children with a comic book, each. Otherwise, the only regular graphic publication which really interested us as we grew was Mad Magazine – bought at the dime store news stand as issues appeared.

It was different for my daughter, who cut her teeth on Asterix and Obelix, and much later – when she learned to read – the Archie comic books. The adventures of Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead and the rest of the gang had been going on since the early 1940s – so talk about venerable establishments! They were timeless and gentle stories, perennially stuck in high school, and I believe Blondie was pretty well convinced that the Riverdale that we drove through between Hill AFB and South Ogden (an otherwise indistinguishable suburb) was the Riverdale of the Archie stories.

So, eventually one outgrows the comic books of youth – I know that Mad Magazine stopped being the last word in amusing to me about the time I finished high school, and Blondie experienced a similar evolution when she moved on to Dragonlance novels. But still – one retains a distant fondness for childish things, as well as distaste for seeing them changed out of all recognition. Indeed, one can almost see such changes as desecrating a shrine … so, reading about an adult Archie being gunned down by an assassin going after his gay friend – a politician – and having gun control worked into it was … well, the mood varied between horror and discombobulation. It was kind of like discovering that Laura Ingalls Wilder really grew up and became a lesbian chanteuse in Paris and dallied with radical politics.

Anyway – just thanks to the publisher for wrenching a mild and uncontroversial traditional set of characters, beloved by kids of a certain age for the last sixty years and more, into the trendy cause of the moment. I know the desecration will have been complete, if it turns out that the assassin was a Tea Party type.

TWANLOC

The inestimably acute and prolific blog-commenter Subotai Bahadur coined that acronym and has propagated it across the conservative-libertarian corner of the blogosphere ever since. It has achieved the status of an entry on Acronym Finder, for whatever that is worth. It is shorthand for “those who are no longer our countrymen” – itself an abbreviation for a slashing denunciation of those American colonists who were in sympathy with the wishes of Great Britain in a speech by Samuel Adams on American independence, delivered in a fiery stem-winder of a speech at the Philadelphia Statehouse in August of 1776 –

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Sam Adams was a bit of a fire-eater, and the speech must have been magnificent to listen to, for certain of the phrases sound like a tocsin, a war-alarm on the ear. “Ye love wealth better than liberty,” “The tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom,” and “Crouch down and lick the hands that feed you,” which reminds me irresistibly of the establishment media as represented currently. Not to speak of “May your chains set lightly upon you,” – and “forget that ye were our countrymen.”
Yes, that’s the phrase that slashes like an old-fashioned straight-edge razor; clear and cold and across a couple of veins. “Forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Me – I have now had the experience in several different theaters of realizing that certain people, politicians, media, intellectual and entertainment figures of note, or even the establishments they work for – are no longer our countrymen. In fact, those certain people and their establishments deeply despise us ordinary, moderately-conservative, content and hard-working middle class citizens. They hate us, indeed – with a passion that convulses their souls, and drips in their every word like corrosive acid. They hate that we are individual, un-biddable, independent and proud. They hate it even more ferociously that we are not humble in the manner of the 19th century lower class Europeans in the face of nobles and bureaucrats, and they despise everything that we honor and relish, from church membership, to where we choose to shop, to adorn our homes and what we do for hobbies. They hate it that we have the franchise and exercise it, too – and even assume that it is our right and duty to be politically-involved; most recently with movements like the Tea Party. (Which, inter alia, shook and is still shaking the current ruling class down to it’s bones – hence the viciousness of the reaction to it, from the media, to popular entertainment and to the long-established political parties.) Most of all, I think – they despise us for not giving a damn what they think particularly, and rejecting practically everything that they tell us to do – ride public transportation, move into urban stack-a-prole housing, give up eating meat (or much of anything else), and continuing to believe that we can raise our own children and sort out our own lives without self-elected nannies breathing down our necks 24-7. Very likely the well-manicured and delicate hands of the new ruling class itch for a whip to give us all a good thrashing for our temerity. Indeed – they are no longer our countrymen in spirit, any more than the Tory sympathizers who departed the American colonies two hundred years and more ago are.

The most galling quality of the TWANLOC ruling class is how they constantly preen themselves on being so cultured, so tolerant, intellectual, competent and so very, very non-racist … unlike the ordinary rest of us; the veteran, the blue-collar working stiff, the stay-at-home-mom, the cashier working at the local grocery store, the owners of companies large and small. Alas, nine out of ten, the TWANLOC ruling class is not particularly cultured, tolerant or intellectual. Nine out of ten, the most vicious bigotries and stereotypes drop from their lips and into their narratives … and yet they remain blissfully unaware of their own faults and shortcomings.

So the division has widened and deepened over the last decade or so. Now we stand at a point where our international standing has never been lower, we barely have any border security at all, a number of cities which once were manufacturing power-houses are all but ruined, federal bureaucracies have been corrupted and weaponized against generally-law abiding and tax-paying citizens, the economy – despite increasingly desperate-sounding news releases to the contrary – is seemingly on the verge of tanking entirely. The anger at the TWANLOC ruling class who appear responsible for bringing this about is building. When it will come to a full boil – in that the anger will be expressed in more than comments, editorials, blog-posts and radio-call in shows – and in response to what kind of provocation is anyone’s guess. The tinder is everywhere, and the gasoline is poured. All it lacks is the spark; something like the stand-off at the Bundy place earlier this year, someone responding with a weapon to being the almost-victim of a knock-out game, a spontaneous local protest blockading a place where illegal immigrants are being processed, as in California in the last few days … that will light the spark. Likely TWANLOCs will be surprised. Likely they will excuse themselves of any responsibility for creating the conflagration. But we won’t.

(Cross-posted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

Tending the Home Fires – And Stuff

This is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks – tending to home, and to the business, and wrapping up two of the three current book projects. The two authors involved are thrilled to bits with the work done for their books, and both of them – marvelously – have each a follow-on project which will come to me by the end of the month. Hopefully, the third follow-on project will be completed by then. The visual elements for that book are … well, the author is one of those who has to see the completed project before deciding if it is satisfactory, or not. Anyway, the business is paying nicely, and so I can afford some more home renovations and repairs.

Last month’s home renovation project was a complete revamp of the kitchen pantry – basically, a small closet, 25 inches wide, and about 27 deep. The original builders put in five or six wooden shelves, which ran the full width and depth of the closet … and basically made anything shoved to the back of the shelves unfindable and irretrievable. Unless you emptied everything out. Last month we hit Peak Exasperation with the whole thing – that is, the point where the hassle of doing anything constructive about about the problem is less than the hassle of continuing to put up with it. So – emptied everything into cardboard boxes, knocked out the shelves, repaired the various small dings in the drywall, repainted to cover the patches … and applied about $140 worth of wire shelving from Lowe’s, an assortment of square bulk storage containers from the Container Store, and mirabile dictu, now we can find everything easily.

This month, the project was – where to store Blondie’s inherited vintage Chambers stove, and all of the gear we need to do the various markets, especially around Christmas; the tables, the pop-up, the dolly, the chairs and all. The garage is packed pretty full with Blondie’s household goods already, and so … it came to us – a shed. A nice, tidy little shed in the back left corner of the yard; for the stove, and all the market gear, and various gardening tools, the home-brewing and canning things – which take up an incredible amount of space in a small house … any way, whatever we decided on would have to be fairly attractive, because the windows at the back of the house look out on that patch of garden. Function and beauty – as William Morris’ dictum has it, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

All the wooden sheds that I really, really liked the look of were way too expensive, even if we put them up ourselves – and I am just not interested in that kind of construction any more. The inexpensive ones – Rubbermaid makes them, and I seem them all over the place – do not age very well at all. We compromised on a metal version – temporary and portable – the salesman assured us, but built to order. It was a bit more than I had thought to spend at first – but we wanted one that had the appearance of a small porch with an overhang at the front, although the porch is really more of a wide step. It has one little window, and a door, rather like a kindergarten drawing of a house … and two carpenters from the company came to install it yesterday. It had to be assembled on site, but the four walls were already pre-fabbed, so they only had to build out the foundation, slide it into the most advantageous position, put the four walls on it and nail them together, and then do the roof. It only took half a day – Blondie thought it would be more than a day, but they were quite terribly efficient.

So – the project for the holiday weekend is to fit out the inside with shelves, move everything intended to be inside it to them, paint the bare wood of the support posts and balusters to match the color of the trim (dark green) and to re-accomplish the landscaping around it so that the shed itself presents an attractive appearance. We’ve promised a couple of pictures to the company, of course. And that was my chief concern – Blondie’s is how to go about moving the Chambers stove from the back porch into the shed. I think we’ll appeal to some neighbors for help on this.

Blondie’s Inheritance

It was delivered this afternoon, by a pair of muscular and sweating young men from a local moving company. No, not what you might think and get your mind out of the gutter – the main inheritance is a relatively lightly-used and mostly complete vintage Chambers stove, which item had occupied the kitchen of Blondie’s employer and my business partner likely since it was first installed and brand-new. A Chambers stove is apparently the American equal of a British Aga – and Blondie had always admired it. Alice didn’t cook – although her second husband did – and so the stove is the next thing to mint-condition, having the accessory pots for the thermo-well and just about all the accessories save the folding cover that went down over the stove-top when not in use. It has a built-in griddle – which I also had always admired, since the house where I lived in Ogden had a stove-top griddle and I have always wanted another like it. There don’t seem to be any big chips in the exterior enamel, or degradation of the chrome fittings, although the back and sides, and the various compartments are somewhat less than pristine. I foresee a lot of elbow-grease and de-greaser in Blondie’s immediate future.

Alice had no children, you see – although she had a living younger sister, and a number of fond nieces, and grand-nieces and nephews. In recent years, since she and I went into partnership in the Tiny Publishing Bidness, Blondie was her housekeeper, main home care-giver, chief Girl Friday and errand-runner. She did Alice’s grocery shopping, took her to routine appointments, sorted out all kinds of household and computer matters. They had a very comfortable relationship; Blondie observing on more than one occasion, that Alice was the grandmother that she wished she had. Alice, knowing this, was actually pretty chuffed at the compliment… and knowing that Blondie loved the Chambers stove, said that she could have it when she was gone. Her house is being cleared out by the family; I had already gotten all of the books and records necessary to carry on the business. Her library – including a comprehensive collection of Texiana – has been sold entire to a book dealer, the sister and nieces and other family have taken the furniture and memorabilia which was to be theirs – and Blondie has the stove. The gas to Alice’s house was turned off last week. I suppose that the house will be sold soon, although it was such a strange and eccentric concoction, added onto in such weird and awkward ways, without central air and heat – without any charm to the yard and plantings, and in a slightly marginal area – that any new owner would be best advised to demolish the whole thing and start again from scratch.

And the Chambers stove has been delivered – sitting now under the overhang of our back porch. We likely will have to redesign the entire kitchen to accommodate it, as it is very definitely an odd size, and I have no idea if there is a gas line in the kitchen anyway. I would have to scoot the present electric stove away from the wall to ascertain this, and right now that seems like too darned much trouble. And locate some kind of instruction manual for it on-line. Chambers stoves seem to be very popular items among aficionados of vintage kitchen appliances. Well, now we have one.

A Summer Day in Bosnia-Herzegovina 100 Years Ago

This weekend marks the hundredth anniversary of the incident which was the spark that set off the cataclysm of the First World War. Which wasn’t, strictly speaking, the first world-wide war; it could be argued that the Napoleonic Wars were, and the interminable European war between France and England which spilled over into those colonies in the North American continent could also be considered a world war.
The spark was seemingly a simple thing – almost a non-story as it appeared in the English and American newspapers; the assassination of an Austrian noble and his wife by a barely competent yet very lucky Serbian amateur terrorist. This was an appalling tragedy for the family of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his beloved spouse, Sophie, the Countess Hohenberg, who left three living children to be raised by the Archduke’s best friend. The assassination was perhaps an inconvenience more than a tragedy to the the court and administration of Franz-Ferdinand’s uncle, the Emperor Franz Joseph. The Archduke, who but for the accident of birth would have been a rather quiet and dutiful nonentity, devoted to gardening, architecture and the hunt – was not a particularly popular man at the time of his death, either with his uncle, his fellow aristocrats or the Viennese public. He replaced the popular but suicidal Crown Prince Rudolph as heir, and had insisted on marrying for love, instead of merely making Sophie his mistress. They were eventually permitted to marry with the assurance that Sophie and her children would not have the standing or rights of succession. Sophie – lovely and well-tempered, conventionally pious, and well-educated – was usually treated pretty shabbily by Viennese society and by the imperial establishment on those official occasions at which the Archduke was expected to be present. Franz Ferdinand did play his part dutifully in official ceremonies and events, without any particular appearance of enjoyment. What started as a personal tragedy, and a national crisis for Austria-Hungary was merely the first fall in a train of dominoes.

The war which raged between 1914 and 1918 unleashed a whole cornucopia of horrors, being that they were waged between powers that had been fully or almost fully industrialized. It came after a hundred years of relative peace, prosperity and progress in the Western world. With the exception of the Franco-Prussian War, and the American Civil War, such wars as there had been were colonial wars, fought by small professional Western armies against relatively primitive foes. Many, especially in the educated classes in the late 19th century firmly believed that total, all-out, balls-to-the-wall war was something that the advanced nations of the West had moved away from, that the economic consequences would be so dire that the powers-that-be just wouldn’t allow it to happen. Meanwhile, European military planners moved briskly ahead, paying little attention to the main lesson to have been drawn from the American Civil War – that technology had moved far ahead of established tactics. The pump had also been primed by a series of little-recollected international crises at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th, which flamed up regularly in a sort of international patch of eczema, usually involving France, or Germany, England, Russia or Austria-Hungary or any combination. The crisis would be soothed by the hastily-applied salve of diplomacy … until the next time.

The one thing in common was that the great powers were jockeying for position, sometimes straight out, and sometimes through proxies. The author of the War That Ended Peace outlined how England and Germany came to stand against each other, having been allies more often than not in their previous history. Great Britain, a navy/sea power if there ever was one, gradually began a policy of more engagement in Europe among the great powers. Germany, a quintessential army/land power (and only unified into a single nation within living memory) developed the intention of having a serious deep-water navy.

And so they drifted into enmity. Once that first domino toppled, then all the rest came as a matter of course over the next four blood-soaked years. Treaty obligations and mobilization of the reserves imposed an iron rule. When the dominoes finished falling in 1918, three noble ruling houses had been cast down and a whole generation of of German, French, British and Russian men were gutted. The unwieldy empire to which the archduke had been heir-presumptive broke into its’ constituent parts, and all the bright promise of the modern world as seen by Europeans at the turn of the century before the last was reduced to a nightmare … and left us with wreckage that we are still sorting out, even after a hundred years. The past isn’t dead. It’s not even over.

More Science Fiction Fan Follies

I don’t know if I can really claim to be a science fiction fan – I am not hard-core, at any rate. I have had my moments with particular authors in the genre, I’ve been to a couple of cons (Salt Lake City and Albuquerque – the con here in San Antonio costs too much at the door for my budget) – I have all of Blake’s 7 on VHS tape (taped from broadcast on Salt Lake City’s public TV station in the early 1990s), most of Babylon 5, and I have purchased every on of Lois McMaster Bujould’s Vorkosigan novels when and if they present themselves in paperback. Oh, and I really enjoy Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, but they’re not really science fiction – more fantasy with a wry twist. I watched Star Trek when it was originally broadcast – but who of the age that I am now didn’t, unless their parents were Luddites who wouldn’t have a TV in the house?

And Dad worked as a scientific sub-contractor for NASA, now and again. Something to do with circadian rhythms and space travel might possibly affect them, either positively or negatively, so –yes, science!

I guess I can say that I’m a kind of casual sympathizer; it’s not my own genre as a writer, but I dip into it now and again, and I have a writer friend or two of the online-variety who are a great deal more serious about science fiction. Because of this mild interest, I have been casually aware of the great SFWA bru-hah-hah of recent months, mentally crossing myself and thanking the deity that at least those who scribble historical fiction seem to be much less prone to epic fits of politically correctness and inclined to go off on witch hunts directed against those who offend. Or maybe they do – and I just don’t know; the only professional writer’s association that I belong to is the Texas Association of Authors – and they seem to be more about … well, promoting books, authors and local events. Whatever the current active leadership of the SFWA are epically pearl-clutching about, the TAA doesn’t seem to give a damn. But it’s a state organization, in a state which seems lately to be more focused on economic and societal realities, not every politically-correct momentary interest that appears, dancing across the intellectual horizon.

Anyway – (Yes, I do have a point and I am getting to it) following on the latest round of Savonarola-like fiery cleansing of those determined to be unclean from the holy halls of SWFA membership, there is a new and rather painful issue arising. Of course, I can appreciate the double or perhaps triple-strength irony of an organization which raised the holy banner of anti-sexual harassment and feminine empowerment on high, and whose members went on what amounted to a kind of Stalinist internet show-trial against those held to offend the most mightily … now discovering that Marion Zimmer Bradley – one of the most respected and feminist science fiction authors in their pantheon was complicit in child sexual abuse – by her husband at best interpretation, and herself at worst.

And that it was one of those weird open secrets among insiders and common knowledge among the inner circle – apparently – but just now breaking into the wider world of fans and readers. The freak-out is epic, and to me, rather personal. I very much enjoyed the Darkover novels, when I first discovered them in the early 80s, after coming off a tour in Greenland; cold, dark and very, very isolated – yes, I could relate to that. I even scribbled some fan-fic and submitted it for one of her anthologies. (Without any luck, I might add – she had stopped accepting fan-fic by the time I got around to it.) There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance here, you would understand; a writer whose books I rather enjoyed and who had a good reputation for mentoring younger writers is revealed as having conducted herself in a manner quite the antithesis of the public persona. I am pretty certain that if I went back and re-read those books of hers which are still on my shelf that I would not enjoy them now nearly as much. Mind you, I don’t demand that writers whose books I enjoy have a perfectly blameless personal life and innocuous political opinions – but I do draw the line at child abuse.

Finally, there is the element of hypocrisy involved, one which I watch with a certain amount of glee – schadenfreude, even. The Social Justice Warrior element within SWFA, who went all Savonarola on Larry Correia, Vox Day, Orson Scott Card, and Sarah Hoyt, among others, for politically incorrect thought-crimes, ought to be just as righteously steamed about reverencing and/or enabling a pedophile and sexual abuser of their own child. Correct? No? Well, then – please explain why it’s bad when someone who disagrees with you on certain social or political fundamentals, but perfectly okey-dokey or at least excusable when someone whom you do agree with commits serious crimes. Ah, yes – another spectacular SWFA melt-down, resulting from the violent collision between reverencing a past honored member of the in-group, and application of their own rule-book.

I still haven’t made up my mind, though – if I ought to get rid of the Bradley books entirely. Maybe I should just put them in a box in the garage until I do make up my mind.

War on Women – And Other Hillary Clinton Musings

I believe now that the battle royal has been joined, between Her Inevitableness and the forces of … well, not darkness, exactly – but sort of café au lait darkness, in the person of the current resident of the presidential mansion … which I hesitate to call the White House, seeing that the current resident and his spouse seem to maintain a certain resentment-level regarding those citizens of these somewhat united states who are of a Caucasian pallor.
No, the current resident of the presidential mansion does not much care for those of us of pallor, or those of us of the working middle class, those of us who maintain small businesses – those who are not profitable enough to afford lavish donations to his eternal campaign and who take the principles of a traditional Judeo-Christian upbringing fairly seriously. I am also pretty certain now – especially after a scan of recent political headlines – that Her Inevitableness and the Current Resident do not care much for each other, either. In fact, I am convinced that they hate each other with the white-hot passion of a thousand burning suns, and we would observe open proof of this enmity at some point. I had supposed that the dirty laundry each had on the other would be aired later rather than sooner. Like, closer to the 2016 primaries.

That each party has dirt on the other goes without saying – and I always thought that Hillary was the ice-cold and manipulative intellect of the Clinton partnership; a Lady MacBeth as it were; Bill Clinton was the one with the charm, the gift for schmoozing, of being personally likeable and liking others in return – and if not, then of being able to mount a convincing facsimile thereof. There have always been grumblings from the military staffers, the Secret Service and those who worked in various low level staff positions in the Clinton White House of how horrible she was to … indeed, back in the dark ages of blogging (say around 2001-2003) the original founder of this blog was a humble AF maintenance tech for the Presidential aircraft at Andrews AFB. He once remarked that the only two members of the Clinton administration who rated flights on AF-1 or AF-2 who appeared to be genuinely nice people, and respectful of the staff who served on them were Louis Freeh and Tipper Gore. Just about everyone else they regularly flew were … well, apparently non-disclosure agreements were in force.

So is Hillary becoming less and less Her Inevitableness? Damned if I know how the low information voters see her – but I was pretty revolted by the revelation of how she defended a pedophile rapist by painting the victim as an unbalanced fantasist, and chuckling in self-satisfaction over her own skill as a defender. Look, every accused has the right to competent legal representation in a court of law, and the lawyer involved has a right to be proud of a good job well-done, but doing it by trashing the reputation of a barely teen-aged girl, and chortling about it in a video interview? That’s nauseating. Way to go about being the righteous defender of all womankind, Your Inevitableness. As a die-hard Tea Partier and libertarian-conservative, I eagerly await the upcoming revelations of horribleness – from both parties.
I’ll fetch some more popcorn in the interval. Something tells me I should see if Sam’s Club carries it in 25-lb bags.

Dense Pack Incoming

I honestly do not know if all of last weeks’ horrific headlines and those of the week before are a cunning plot to serially distract the body politic and public by dropping everything on us all at once, without a chance to analyze or begin fighting back, or if it indicates that the wheels are coming off the Obama administration once and for all. Either way … there is a lot to write about, just at the time that I don’t have the time or inclination to muse upon it all at leisure in a way which would give my venom full justice; all in good time, my one or two regular remaining readers. Among other things, I am fighting a god-awful summer cold and cough, a return of the chronic cough I had last year, which took about eight months to throw and on several occasions had me coughing so hard that I threw up. And another thing of a personal nature; Alice, whom I bought the Tiny Publishing Bidness from early this spring, passed away early in June. She was tended by her family and Blondie, and a series of very professional and compassionate home-hospice-care nurses for the last three weeks before that. She had been given six months last October when she was proscribed aggressive chemotherapy … but she detested chemo and refused it after two rounds, and lasted for three months longer than forecast at the time. She actually did pretty well, with Blondie doing her housekeeping and errands … until the last three weeks.

Just as all this was happening, of course I had two books projects to juggle, and Alice’s last book for an old friend of hers, a local poet who brings out a small chapbook of his writings every year or so. She kept his most recent book back from the sale, intending to work on it herself, but her memory and her health was failing catastropically, and so I inherited it as well. So – three books to juggle at a time; isn’t commerce grand? And I still have two books of my own to work on (The Golden Road and Lone Star Sons), plus reviews, four websites (three of them being my own) and little chores like the garden, housekeeping, walking the dogs and cooking regular meals.

By the way – we found another dog this week; a small boxer-colored female, who may be part lab, possibly boxer with a bit of small pit and Wiemeraner, as she has rather lovely golden-green eyes. She looks, if anything, like a quarter-sized version of Calla-puppy, my daughter’s Boxer mix. We are resisting the allure of keeping her, but caved on turning her into the county shelter. She is very people-oriented and very, very affectionate. Onward with the chore of finding her a permanent home and not with us; anyone in the South Texas area want a new dog; 25 pounds, about half-grown that we can tell, just having cut her permanent teeth, still catching on to that house-breaking and obedience thing, but tolerant and affectionate, and OK with other dogs and cats. Let me know in comments – we can provide pictures and delivery within reason.

I did a book event in Sisterdale, the first weekend in June – and it was born upon us that we need a shed in the backyard, first for the garden tools and supplies, and second for the various items that we have acquired for doing events … like the pop-up pavilion. You may say, as Mom did, ‘But you have a garage!?’ Alas, it is full of Blondie’s furniture and various other gleanings from yard sales, against the day when she has an establishment of her own, or I have my Hill Country retreat/country cottage. We can not fit another blessed thing into the garage, or find it if we did … so. Shed; for the storage of items of professional gear in – the pavilion, the tables, the weights, the display racks, et cetera; likely we will go with a local small enterprise which does bespoke tin sheds for a price competitive with the big box places. The backyard being so small, the shed must and will be attractive, since we will be seeing it from the back porch and two of the three windows at the back of the house.

And that’s what I’ve been working on, these last two weeks, but I promise that regular vicious commentary will resume as soon as the bile reservoir has replenished itself.

Mosul Musings

I always thought that overthrowing Saddam Hussein and assisting the Iraqis in setting up something that kinda-sorta-resembled a western-style democracy was a gamble, but one worth taking. Taking out the Saddam trash – especially a gangster régime which had gleefully made regional and international trouble for decades – and replacing it with a strategically-located sort-of-ally … better than allowing him to remain in place, anyway. His sons were even viler; if possible, than he was, and after ten years of air patrols in the no-fly zones, protecting the Kurds in the north … we were very close to being worn thin. The situation couldn’t last much longer … anyway; I thought Iraq had a good chance of eventually turning out like a kind of Middle East South Korea. After a few decades, they’d be able to handle themselves. We’d keep the odd base or two, lurk meaningfully in the vicinity.

Only, our Fearless Leader, the Golfer in Chief, decided to bag any kind of SOFA (status of forces agreement) declared that Afghanistan was more important, and then that Gitmo should be closed and that everybody would like us then.

So, it is most depressing to look at the headlines this week – especially the decapitated motorists, the lines of refugees streaming south out of Mosul and Tikrit. Thanks, Obama – thanks for throwing it all away.