I’m willing to bet a double-batch of our famous-quality gourmet Christmas gift fudge (which my daughter and I make only at Christmas to give to neighbors and friends) that Donald Trump’s secret superpower is the ability to make his enemies run mad and implode, all on their own. What other explanation is there for Elizabeth Warren’s triumphant announcement – that an analysis of her DNA proved that she was really part Native American, or what used to be called Indian – that is, part Cherokee as she has claimed for years! Take that, Trump-monster! seemed to be her attitude, as she flung the winning hand of cards on the table … and then the announcement crashed in flames, once everyone got a good look at the minuscule proportion of so-called Native American DNA involved … and hearty horselaughs resounded in the halls. So, one of her ancestors, six to ten generations in the past might have been from the North or South American aboriginal community. One teensy, teeny single drop … but apparently sufficient to be hired and described by a couple of her previous employers as a woman of color. White and blond of color and wouldn’t have been out of place on a Hitler Youth recruiting poster in her younger days. Kind of makes one wonder about the validity of the concept of “white privilege” – when all the trendy political figures are trying to trade on an identity as an ethnic minority. Is Senator Warren’s political career well and truly sunk? Probably not in Massachusetts; after all, they kept reelecting Teddy Kennedy for decades. But on the national level? Always possible, I’d concede, but having become a laughingstock all across the political spectrum would be a challenge to come back from.

Speaking of trading on an assumed ethnic identity other than “white” – I see eight to ten yard signs for Beto (AKA “Blotto”) O’Rourke in my neighborhood, as opposed to one or two for Ted Cruz, but I don’t think this means anything like a blue wave sweeping Blotto into office; it means mostly that those of a conservative ilk are increasingly wary of advertising any political affiliation on our lawns, vehicles or persons. Any number of recent news stories about the vandalization of property, cars, or attacks on people wearing MAGA hats or tee-shirts can be cited as reason for being damned discrete about one’s political inclinations and intentions. My two cents: Blotto is a handsome showboat, beloved of the bi-coastal Dems and the national media, the successor to Wendy Davis as the object of a mad, passionate lefty political crush, but Texas voters look at him with a mite more skepticism. Well, we’ll know for sure in three weeks and a bit.

Finally, I suppose Rosanne Barr is this weeks’ undisputed front runner in the “Celebrities Behaving Badly” sweepstakes … say, what on earth have mainstream female comics drinking over the past decade which rendered them so profoundly un-funny and hateful? Janeane Garofalo, Margaret Cho, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell … they all used to be at least mildly amusing. Ladies, being a bitter, shrieking, hate-filled harpy is not the least amusing … you have to admit that Rosanne Barr might have reason this week to feel at least a little bitter. Fired from the TV series which she helmed as the title character for a single tweet … and then having her character written out of the show in a way that pretty much lines out any return, and to add insult to injury, via opiate overdose? Could have been nastier, I guess: the show runners could have had her croaking in the middle of a turn in a Tijuana sex show involving a donkey, but still.

As for Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign saddling up and riding a political ad on the backs of woman who were or weren’t survivors of domestic abuse – damn, it’s like they think women in general are the property of the Dems, to be used as the ruling class judges suitable. Discuss, if y’all have the stomach for it.

So now Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to the Supreme Court, duly sworn in – after weeks of sturm, drang and drama such as a reasonable person can hardly credit, of unproven accusations of every kind of sexual misconduct on the part of Justice Kavanaugh by hysterical and/or malicious people. Seriously, have the Move On, MeToo, Pussy-Hat crowd gone so far off the rails as to believe that the presumption of innocence standard must be utterly disregarded, and the commandment against bearing false witness be revoked entirely? Apparently – and never mind that this single-minded attitude towards accusation and punishment leads straight back to the era of strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree, blood on the leaves and blood at the root. Only not black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, but the actual or metaphorical bodies of husbands, friends, sons and brothers. Requiring proof of an accusation against any male appears to be an utterly outré notion to the vicious brigade of professional 21st century feminists – and the fact that ordinary women of every color and inclination are not merrily following the tumbrils as our uteri are supposed to direct us, appears to be cause for volcanic outrage among the vicious brigade.
Well, life is full of these little tragedies, kids. Better luck next time. Go louder, more obnoxious, and double down on the personal threats – that will so convince us and win overwhelming support to your side! More »

Oh, wow – is the first week of October already done? Guess it is; the pension got paid, and all the bills are lined up like dominoes. The biggest one is for the roof replacement, and the Magnificent Catio, which will not be completely paid for until after the end of the year. Still, I don’t regret the expense. The roof was about three or four years past it’s ‘best if used by’ date, and the Magnificent Catio, now houses full-time those cats taken on by my daughter whose careless toilet habits render them unsuitable for indoor residence. Seriously, they are the feline equivalent of guys who cannot hit the urinal, prompting the lament, “Couldn’t you just stand in it and aim out?” The Catio makes it easier to keep the house clean and ready for visitors at a moment’s notice, and at some day in the next decade, given the fact that the oldest offender must be almost twenty years old already (he’s one of the cats we inherited from Mom), we will have a very pleasant covered screened-porch patio, although we might have to have it pressure-washed hard enough to take a layer off the concrete brick flooring materiel.

The oldest of the dogs, Connor the Malti-Poo is now twenty or even more (he was an older dog when we found him, dumped in the next neighborhood over, and that was some years ago), and beginning to fail, so that is another sorrow to face, in the very near future. I have already determined that I will not coax out another few months of existence for him through heroic medical measures. He is already half-blind, mostly deaf, sprinkled with excessive moles, getting senile and with a slightly diminished appetite for food or walkies … Sometime in the next few months, I think, while he still has a little joy in his doggie life, rather than torment him with endless and futile trips to the vet. I wish that I have – as Dad did – those means of doing it relatively painlessly at home, but Connor has always been a very social little dog, and he will likely take considerable enjoyment out of that last trip to the vet, and we will stay with him to the very last. But enough of that.

Luna City Lucky Seven is done – out to the volunteer alpha-readers. And I had an impulse, once I was done with my work for the Teeny Publishing Bidness today, to scribble a bit on one of the proposed next books, the one set in the lead up to and in the Civil War … but here it is, almost time to start fixing supper. The Teeny Publishing Bidness client is coming tomorrow, to collect the most recent installment of his manuscript, now with even more pictures which he judges worthy of inclusion, and the first version of the cover design, which was the Daughter Unit’s artistic inspiration. The Daughter Unit has also taken on – with insane thoroughness – a paid research job for a mutual friend who has real estate property interests in what amounts to an underdeveloped portion of the city. The Daughter Unit describes this as administering a community-based colonoscopy – sorting out the things that would work, and what real estate development would best work, plus a myriad other interesting stats, like the registered sex offenders per square mile. This actually involves going and talking to people in the targeted neighborhood and drafting a prospectus for potential investors. This is a job that came out of the blue – and the Daughter Unit is making the most of it. So far, the client is pleased. It’s a short-term assignment, but we hope that it will lead to other assignments of this kind, for this client and others.

For myself, I am now onto the second chapter of the Civil War novel – with a fortyish heroine who becomes an abolitionist lecturer before the war and a nurse during it. (Great-Aunt Minnie Vining, who appears briefly in Sunset and Steel Rails.) Overall plot is still a little unfocused, but I am starting to be drawn into the world of mid-19th century feminist activism, possibly as a strong reaction to the current version. There were so many strong, passionate, nonconformist women involved in the abolition movement – and other social movements – who did not seem to be the least constrained by Victorian conventionalities; Julia Ward Howe and Clara Barton were not singular curiosities. They had plenty of company.

I am done with officially-sanctioned, automatically-expected-full-throated solidarity with other women no matter what the issue or complaint. I am done with the whole reproductive-health-motte-and-bailey-abortion-sacrament. I am more than done with women who think that the crusade for political, legal, and educational equality is merely an excuse to be viciously-manipulative bitches to those men unfortunate enough to be involved with them personally. I am also so done with women who are of an inter-connected social class sufficiently well-to-do to have had damn-near everything handed to them on a silver platter, complaining at an ear-splitting level about being downtrodden and oppressed; this when women in the Middle East must wear burkas out in public, have to be escorted when out in public by a male relative … and oh, yes – sold as sex slaves in Daesh/ISIL markets, or routinely have their clitorises excised. I am also done, by the way, with female protesters done up in cheap red-cloak and white bonnet costumes drawn from a bad dystrophic novel by a Canadian who knows f**k-all about the American Protestant tradition. (I’d respect Margaret Atwood ever so much more if she had done her Handmaids’ Tale schtick in an Islamic setting, but I guess she isn’t all that brave about having a fatwah declared on her. Pity.) I am extra-so-done with Hollywood personalities screaming about the century-old existence of the casting couch, when I am certain that for most of them, the experience thereof was a carefully-considered quid-pro-quo career move – and they had their benefit delivered from the bargain. I am also done with Triggly-puffesque screamers having spectacular conniption fits at any suggestion that men and women have different yet complementary strengths, talents and values. Finally, I am done with certain so-called feminist mean girls of the academic ilk patrolling the thinking of others with all the sadistic enthusiasm of concentration camp guards pouncing on the slightest gesture of defiance from prisoners. Consider this my final kiss-off to current establishment feminism; nice to have known ya and believe me when I say that a female-ruled society would pure bloody hell, if it ever was or would be enabled. It would be somewhat akin to the hell of last week’s hearing for a new Supreme Court nominee – which for me was the very last straw.

I have come to this breaking point after six decades and a little more on this dirtball, urged along by experience and observations made of the world around me, plus a lot of reading of history and other materials. Let there be absolutely no shred of a doubt about this – I like men. Have always liked men; as kin, co-workers, bosses, friends and lovers. Men are strong, considerate, they know how to fix things, many have tool-boxes and all of them have dicks, generally they can wield both with some skill, and they are the other half of the universal sky, the other half of our human race. Admittedly, some of them are a bit crude, a very few are beyond all help. For some, it takes a couple of years past their teenage years to be at their best – but I also know of the male of our species at their best and most noble, and they are glorious to behold. Strong, yet gentle, gallant enough to bring tears to your eyes, courteous, even chivalrous in the old Victorian sense, but still generally accepting and supportive of female input and choices … unless they have been unlucky to victimized by one of those mean-girl drama-queens and in consequence are justifiably bitter. Feminism wasn’t supposed to be all-misandry, all the time. It was supposed to be, I thought – and I was not alone in this – about having a vote, and having the opportunity to make the same choices that men did; to get the same kind of education and have the chance to work at the same jobs, and if you and your significant-other want to split the housework in some non-traditional way, then that was a private matter and none of anyone elses’ business. Not only is the personal not political, it’s mostly a dead bore, even in pretty pictures on Instagram.
As I said before – I like men. I have brothers, friends, have had clients, co-workers, bosses who are men, of whom I think the world, and who honor me in turn with their respect and friendship. That any of them could have been treated as Judge Kavanaugh was over this past week – a full load of calumny, false witness, and pure shrieking harpy vindictiveness – would have sent me into – well, not murderous berserker rage (I don’t do berserker, for one) – but into cold and calculated fury. I’m in the cold and vengeful fury mode anyway, having followed the whole disgusting charade all last week. Here is a perfectly decent man, from all appearances (from my experience a guy who has been a chivalrous and responsible Boy Scout all his adult life, who has treated his female friends, peers, and employees with consideration for decades, and likely all that even as a clumsy teenager) smeared as a rapist in the national news and entertainment media. And even worse, courtesy of USA Today – accused as a potential pedophile, in a perfectly vile editorial which upon mature consideration, the editors walked back … but not until the disgusting accusation had been out there for hours. OK, thanks, USA Today and other mainstream national outlets; your propensity for going all Salem Witch Trials has been noted. Y’all turned so gradually into Der Stürmer that I barely noticed until now.

Strong, independent and able women of the previous century, and the century before that would barely recognize the world which sprouted like ugly weeds in their simple demands for a vote and respectful consideration of their skills and capabilities. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lizzie Johnson Williamson, Madame C.J. Walker, Clara Barton. Nancy Wake, Margaret Bourke White … I can now imagine these able, confident, successful women revolving in their graves like Black & Decker Drills at how the cause of “feminism” has been degraded. They lived their lives, every one of them, as women of talent, ambition, and skill in their chosen professions, and I do not think that the affection and support of men in their lives and careers was in abeyance, for they all did great things, in what is now supposed to have been a man’s world. And they did it without tearing down men or bringing false witness against them.

The Kavanaugh-Ford-Feinstein kerfuffle appears to be this weeks’ progressive-tantrum du-jour, just as the Kavanaugh hearing was of last week, and John McClain’s funeral and epic post-mortem diss of his former running mate was that of the week before. The whole thing – a hazily recalled teenage memory of a clumsy grope at a booze-fueled suburban bacchanal – reminds me nothing so much as Great Aunt Ada Doom in Cold Comfort Farm and her incessant insistence on having “seen something nasty in the woodshed” which sight so traumatized her that she was able to ride roughshod over the rest of the clan at Cold Comfort for decades. What the ‘something nasty in the woodshed’ was is never actually described in the story – but Great Aunt Ada wields her hysterical claim of having suffered from it with the expertise of a master in conducting guided guilt trips through most of the book, until she is talked down from her room by the clever heroine.

I can only assume that Christine Ford somehow hoped that lobbing such a vague, unsubstantiated accusation in the direction of Brett Kavanaugh would have had the same paralyzing effect as Ada Doom having seen ‘something nasty in the woodshed’ decades previously. I assume that since she went as far as sanitizing her social media, she anticipated some personal scrutiny, yet hoped to avoid the uncomfortable questions asked by those interested in actually discovering the truth, if any, in her accusation. Not being able to pin down a firm date, an exact place, and having those people specifically named as having been involved at Dr. Ford’s unpleasant teenage experience deny categorically ever having been present, and that none of her one-time friends and contemporaries can say that she confided in them at the time, ought to strike a fair-minded observer as cause for doubting that Christine Ford ever encountered Brett Kavanaugh, drunk or sober, at anyone’s house. He seems to have been a man of restraint and probity when it comes to social and professional relations with women. Personal experience with the male of our species suggests to me that a total Boy Scout/Little Lord Fauntleroy as an adult has usually been that since before his testicles dropped, and during all the years between.

Frankly, I am too old to credit vague, unsubstantiated accusations like this. Christine Ford may have been quite the at-large juvenile party animal as a teenager, so I would accept the possibility of an unfortunate, drunken sexual experience being part of her past, as well as a good reason to seek relationship counseling as an adult. Yet I also remember the ‘recovered memory’ phenomenon, the day-care Satanic abuse bruhaha, as well as the more recent Duke stripper rape and the U of V fraternity/Rolling Stone fantasy rape-that-never-was. Yes, there are fads and follies when it comes to mental health and investigating sexual violence, or the possibility thereof. Yes, women are capable of lying, every bit as much as men, and of being vengeful, backbiting witches, completely capable of displacing blame for their own personal dysfunction on any handy target. Christine Ford’s target of blame for her personal woes seems to have landed on a male target of choice, because of his prominence in the news cycle. Would it be too much to ask of women such as herself and her allies in Capital F-feminism that they work out their traumas in privacy, and refrain from inflicting them on the rest of us? Seriously, I would like that. It’s gotten to the point where sensible women are fleeing any association with strident Capital F feminism, and some men are wondering sourly if it was really a good idea to give us a vote at all.
Discuss, as you will.

The indy-author scene is not the only thing which has radically changed over the last decade; just the one that I know the best, though having the great good fortune to start as an indy author just when it was economically and technologically possible. It used to be that there were two means of being a published author. There was the traditional and most-respected way, through submission to a publishing house – which, if you were fortunate enough to catch the eye and favor of an editor, meant a contract and an advance, maybe a spot on the much-vaunted New York Times best-seller list. This was a method which – according to the old-timers – worked fairly well, up until a certain point. Some writers who have been around in the game for a long time say that when publishing houses began viewing books as commodities like cereal brands and ‘pushing’ certain brands with favored places on the aisles and endcaps, and treating authors as interchangeable widgets – that’s when the traditional model began to falter. Other experts say that it began when tax law changed to make it expensive to retain inventory in a warehouse. It was no longer profitable to maintain a goodly stock of mid-list authors with regular, if modest sales. Mainstream publishing shifted to pretty much the mindset of Hollywood movie producers, putting all their bets on a straight diet of blockbusters and nothing but blockbusters.

The other means of getting a book out there was what used to be called the “vanity press”, wherein someone with more literary ambition and money than sense and patience paid for a print run of their book, and usually wound up with a garage full of copies. Strictly speaking, this was not such a bad way to get a book in circulation, especially if it was an obscure topic, such as local history or an impatient, new author. Quite a few of the 19th century greats actually kick-started their writing careers by paying for a print run of their own works. My own Tiny Publishing Bidness was launched nearly forty years ago, and some of the local histories which we published, of interest to researchers in the field since they were mostly based on original research go for quite astounding sums on the rare book market.

Three elements have it possible to route around mainstream establishment publishing over the past decade and for independent authors to make a modest living from writing, or at least have a regular income stream. The first was the shift to digital printing from traditional lithographic press; once those big industrial presses begin rolling, there’s a thousand, ten thousand copies of a book printed in a matter of hours, and at a minimal per-item cost, but at a substantial overall expense for whoever was paying for the print run. Digital printing offered an alternative; a slightly higher per-unit cost but producing only as few copies as were required at a time. Almost at once, industrial printers began offering the digital option. New boutique publishers made their services available, for relatively modest sums: format the text to print specs, generate a nice cover, print only as many copies as required, and make the book available to distributors … like Amazon. Amazon’s development of an e-book reader, the Kindle (followed by other reader systems like Barnes & Noble’s Nook) was the third development which upended the traditional publishing industry, eliminating printing, storage and distribution costs in one go. (Although not editing, formatting and marketing expenses.) It doesn’t help that mainstream publishing, or what I’ve been calling “the literary-industrial complex” has been concentrating itself into fewer and larger houses, just about all of them international when they aren’t based in New York and throwing their energies into mass-marketing a diminishing stable of established authors, and through retail channels such as Barnes & Noble.

Curiously, this all has had the effect of leaving the field wide-open for independents like me, to small regional and specialist publishers – like the authors I spend three days with last week at the Word Wrangler Book Festival in Giddings, Texas. The book festival was started thirteen years ago, to benefit the public library in that town. Book submissions are juried by the committee – and the requirement is that the books have a Texas setting or interest. That’s pretty much it – although if they might be of interest to junior readers, that’s a bonus, as the Festival is the focus of school field trips on one of those days. Picture books, self-help, travel, gothic, romance, mystery, thriller, historical fiction – our books ran the whole gamut of interests. Just about every book on display was a quality production, the equal or better of anything produced by the publishing establishment. Indy authors have now been at it long enough to have developed considerable professional skills, either on their own or through networking with freelance talent, and professional organizations like the Texas Association of Authors. This is a paradigm shift that the mainstream publishing establishment wish would go away, if they even admit the existence of it, beyond some snotty remarks about the bad self-published stuff. (Of which there is quite a lot, admittedly. There is also an equal quantity of awful books published through the mainstream, although the copy-editing tends to be a little better.)

The towers of the Literary Industrial Complex are still standing, however cracked the foundations might be. One of the other writers at Word Wrangler has a lovely series of educational picture books. A couple of years ago, she explored the possibilities of the Texas-local HEB grocery chain stocking them, and regretfully decided against it. Accustomed to the good old ways of doing business with established big publishing, retail corporations like HEB have requirements for quantities, returnability, and pricing that simply can’t be met by indy authors and tiny regional publishers. Alan Bourgeois, who founded the Association, has been working with HEB and other companies to adjust their requirements. He has met with some success in this, although a recent meeting with the CEO of Barnes & Noble proved disappointing. The last big box book store chain still standing is still wedded to their old model, of preferring a policy of top-down management, rather than allowing local store managers latitude when it comes to hosting book events with local indy writers and prominently stocking indy-published books. The late lamented Borders and Hastings were much more receptive and responsive, generally. As a footnote and perhaps a harbinger of things to come; a French author, whose latest book was rejected by publishers, apparently because of the subject matter – went to publish it through Amazon … and that book subsequently won a national literary prize. But the French bookstores won’t stock it, because – Amazon has cooties, or something. When establishment publishers and bookstores reject authors whose books are embraced by readers, this does not portend well for doing business in the same old way. In any case, I believe there is not a better time than now for readers and for independent authors.

When it first became politically trendy to back passage of ‘hate-crime’ legislation, I privately thought it a bad idea, while understanding completely why it was an appealing notion, especially for political and social entities which presumed to act on behalf of those threatened by weaponized hate. The fear in such communities was real, every bit as real as the threats, the vandalism, the lynch mobs, and disenfranchisement. It would take a politician with balls of brass to stand up before a group who justifiably were frightened by all that, and discount those fears. It was the easy way out for politicians, the media and social organizations to portray hate crime legislation as a good and discount those doubts held by those of us with inclinations toward the philosophical. A crime was a crime: there were already laws on the books dealing with vandalism, murder, arson and so on. A motivation for committing a crime ought to be of interest only in establishing the guilt of the perpetrator, not for piling on additional penalties. We do not have windows to peer accurately into the souls of others. Essentially, classifying a crime as a ‘hate crime’ was punishing the thought, over and above the actual crime itself. I didn’t think it was a good idea then, and still don’t think so – especially given the overwhelming numbers of so-called “hate crimes” which turn out to be either deliberate hoaxes, or the deeply imaginative letting their imaginations run away from them.

I feel the same way about hate crime’s dubious cousin – so-called hate speech, which of late seems to be classified lately as anything which the bien-pensant in academia, the media, or politics don’t wish to hear. Early on, the concept seemed to be that hate speech was the stuff of the KKK and the Nazis campaign against racial and religious minorities and encouraging the excision and/or destruction of those minorities from the human race by whatever means. Which was not just bad, it was also – in the words of my mother, one of the most militantly tolerant women on the face of the earth – rude. However, of late, the definition of hate-speech has become so loose as to be useless; a pity, as it once was a shorthand for the genuinely unacceptable in public discourse.

And that is not the worst, although the double standard when it comes to defining what is acceptable is galling to conservatives and moderates: why should nasty, bigoted racists like David Duke be un-personed, when a nasty, bigoted racist like Louis Farrakhan be an honored guest in the halls of the bien-pensant? Why is conservative speech on college campuses condemned as “violence” while violence perpetuated by far-leftists is excused as “free speech”? At this point, we know damned well why – and that is one of the reasons that the media, political, and academic members of the Ruling Class are hemorrhaging trust and credit with at least half the country.

The most troubling recent development on the hate-crime/hate speech front, though, is the concerted and organized effort to cut off organizations accused of having committed so-called “hate speech” (often on very thin grounds) not just from the popular social media outlets, but to pressure credit card and payment processing companies into denying their services. We’ve already seen this done to individuals – now it is an open campaign to economically punish the speech that the current Ruling Class doesn’t want to hear. Discuss our options for routing around this new insult to common sense and decency.

There was a bit of excitement a couple of weeks ago in the suburb where I have lived since the spring of 1995. I should make it clear that this is a working-class to middle-class suburb on the north-eastern fringe of San Antonio, a city which has pretensions to being Democrat-run and a smidge on the libby-lefty side. After all, this place did spawn Julian Castro, of whom I am convinced there is a picture in that Great Universal Dictionary in the sky next to the definition of that German word which means “a face in need of a good punching”. San Antonio may be well stocked with representatives of the lunatic left, but we are pretty far from being Austin, and the fact that one cannot throw a rock in this place without hitting at least four retired colonels and a dozen retired senior NCOs (Army and Air Force, primarily) – well, that keeps a ration of sanity in play. I’ve only spotted two signs for Beto “Blotto” O’Rourke lately, for whatever that counts for.

The houses in the development tend to be small, and relatively affordable for people with moderately-paid jobs or a retirement income; I’d guess, from observing the various lawn signs over the years, that just about all are lived in by owners. Most of the houses are well-cared cared for; a few have spectacular gardens. The trees planted by the original developers are all well-grown, now. There are only a handful of rentals. The talk among the neighbors is that the neighborhood is desirable, in a quiet, unspectacular way, being close to various bases, good public schools, and shopping centers. I’d guess that the racial makeup of the neighborhood tracks very closely with the national average, with a tilt towards slightly more Hispanics; this is Texas, after all.
We have pretty much the same kind of petty crime that happens everywhere, or so I suspect; teenagers egging cars, theft of packages from mailboxes and doorsteps, drunk driving, and speeding; for a time six or seven years ago there were rumors of a peeping tom. The most spectacular crime was a double murder almost six years ago … and then there was last week’s ruckus. A deeply substance-addled moron took it into his head to work his way along the street (a well-traveled and well-lit street which traverses the subdivision), breaking into cars parked in driveways, looking for items of small value to steal. We suspect one of the rental houses is tenanted by a free-lance entrepreneur dealing in illicit recreational substances. Just about everyone on the street adjacent suspects this as well. No one will be the least surprised when they are busted by the police, except possibly the absentee owner of the house; likely this home-based enterprise was what drew said moron into the neighborhood to start with. Although the guy did think far enough ahead to station is equally substance-addled girlfriend act as lookout, he began this burglarious project at an hour when people were beginning to get up, go through their early morning routine, and depart for work. One of the vehicles broken into was the work truck of a guy who installs cable TV, from which he grabbed a bunch of tools and gear. And then, he went to the front door of the house where the truck was parked – and tried to steal the doorbell camera! Which resulted in a lovely picture of our Suburban Criminal Mastermind, with a stack of stolen items in his other hand. He didn’t get the doorbell camera, BTW, but the picture was posted on the Next Door Neighborhood app almost at once, so most of the neighbors were following this saga with appreciative interest.

The owner of the work truck, and another neighbor whose vehicle had also been broken into, gave chase almost immediately, the aspiring Criminal Mastermind vanished down a side street, outdistancing the pursuers for a time. They eventually found him, passed out on a lawn, hog-tied him with an extension cord, and called the police – who when they arrived were generally appreciative to find their job of apprehending a suspect already accomplished. This interlude was the talk of the neighborhood, naturally; we even had a television news crew visiting again. I’m fairly certain that if word has gotten around, it will be a while before another free-lance, substance-addled moron sees breaking into vehicles as the solution to his cash-flow problem.
And the reason that I am ruminating on this small incident? By coincidence, it was the very week that Victor Davis Hanson wrote,

“I live on a farm beside a rural avenue in central California, the fifth generation to reside in the same house. And after years of thefts, home break-ins, and dangerous encounters, I have concluded that it is no longer safe to live where I was born. I stay for a while longer because I am sixty-five years old and either too old to move or too worried about selling the final family parcel of what was homesteaded in the 1870s.”

The rest of his post outlined some of the awful, unchecked and unpunished criminality over the past twenty years which has led him to that sad conclusion: vandalism, destructive trespass, rampant looting of practically everything not nailed down … everything. And local law enforcement seems unwilling or incapable of remediating the situation. VDH’s community has reverted to a lawless jungle. It is no longer a self-organizing, functional place, where neighbors can look to each other, and to local authorities for defense and redress. When the lawless element can intimidate and overwhelm the law-abiding – indeed, when the authorities appear to take the side of the criminals – the law abiding will leave. With sadness and regret, but they will leave. My community still functions – and for that I am grateful.

This week, the month-long mystery of the missing college student, Mollie Tibbits, was sadly resolved, with the discovery of her body in a local cornfield. Developments in the search for her were updated frequently over the last few weeks, and always featured at the top, or near to the top of headlines on the English tabloid, the Daily Mail. Which, for all its’ eccentricities, abuse of grammar, spelling, penchant for the flamingly obvious, providing Piers Morgan with a salary, extreme Kardashian-worship, and light-to-moderate Trump disdain, does cover the American news scene without much fear or favor.
The longer the mystery of her disappearance went on, though – the greater the chance of a less than happy ending. And as it turns out that the chief suspect in her kidnapping and murder is a man with a distinctly dodgy background – an illegal alien of Mexican background, whose’ identity papers are something of a mystery. His American employers seemed to believe that everything was hunky-dory; this lends the cynical among us to assume that such paperwork must have been better forgeries than the usual run.

Political shining star Senator Elizabeth Warren, when asked for a reaction to the Tibbits murder, immediately pivoted to opine indignantly on the matter of children separated from their mothers at the US border, apparently seeing that as a matter of higher priority than of crimes committed by illegal aliens after they cross the border – a remarkably tone-deaf reaction. Or maybe not, considering that Senator Warren speaks from a position ‘ex cathedra’ reflecting, “the set of values and beliefs that justify the existing order of society and, not coincidentally, the privileged place of the managerial aristocracy in that order.” In other words, as a member of the American ruling class, to whom uncounted numbers of illegal immigrants to the country mean restaurants with exotic new international cuisines, very cheap labor, and well-cultivated vote-plantations – an in-the-pocket electorate so much more obedient than stiff-necked members of the middle and working class. Such citizens have, of late, been much less biddable than their betters would wish; witness such indicators of deep dissatisfaction as the Tea Party, the election of Donald Trump, and the Just Walk Away movement.

To the ruling class, an affection for, the sheltering of, and the unstinting support for undocumented immigrants is an unmitigated good. All the benefits listed in the previous paragraph, along with being able to conspicuously virtue-signal, accrue to the ruling class, secure in their wealth, their gated communities, social clubs and private schools. All the disadvantages, hazards, and expenses both social and actual land like a ton of bricks on everyone else – and have been doing so for at least two decades, possibly more. It’s not just the criminal element; incidents of rape, robbery, murder, drunk driving, uninsured driving, and identity theft which victimize ordinary Americans, native and legalized at the hands of the illegal. All over Texas, the Southwest and California – stories of auto accidents caused by uninsured and probably illegal drivers abound, also spectacular drunk driving incidents committed by the same demographic.

A few years ago, another blogger drilled down through the comments appended to Yahoo news story of the woman who was arrested at her OB-gyn’s office – an illegal with such badly-forged picture ID that the office staff called the authorities. As far down as the blogger (and I) explored the comments on the story – which was posted as ‘oh, pity the poor pregnant woman, busted at the doctor’s office’ none of those commenting on the story were sympathetic. Without exception, they were infuriated; outraged over how someone elses’ SSAN had been stolen to facilitate the woman’s residence in the US. Multiply this by a thousand, a million times over the last twenty years and more – and you have ordinary Americans almost lethally angry and with cause over the abuse of our trust, our social cohesion, and our pocketbooks. Illegal aliens willing to work under the table at unskilled labor in construction, agriculture, in factories, and at domestic work for much less than minimum wage undermine native American workers. It’s not that there are jobs that Americans won’t do – they won’t do them for a pittance. The ruling class, and their handmaidens in the established press also prefer to downplay the burden placed on public schools; yes, for every Dreamer who is their high school graduating valedictorian and bound for college to be a doctor or an astronaut or something like that, I’d bet there are ten or twenty who have never adequately learned English, are illiterate in any language, and headed for a lifetime of petty criminality intermixed with welfare poverty. At taxpayers’ expense, coming and going, to our mounting exasperation – an exasperation equally fueled by the insistence of the ruling class that this exasperation and mounting anger is just proof of our own racism.

The establishment press, and the ruling class wish to disappear these incidents and issues, of course. But the murders of Kate Steinle, and now of Mollie Tibbits may be precipitating a preference cascade. Your thoughts?

I should think that Omarosa Manigault Newman must be weeping bitter tears and sticking little pins into a voodoo doll of John Brennan all this weekend, for he has stolen just about all of her publicity thunder in the end-of-week headlines and newscast coverage. A good few things are now obvious about her to that apparently small portion of the public (including myself) who didn’t watch reality TV series. One of those things is that she is a back-biting, vicious witch who blithely assumed that playing one for the cameras on a TV reality show would of course translate perfectly into a job at the White House, and another that taping conversations right and left to produce a tell-all inside book on the Trump administration would be just like secretly taping conversations for a tell-all book on the behind the scenes maneuvering on The Apprentice. Why on earth was she hired in the first place? Aside from being an old pal, for whom the President presumably felt at least a smidgen of loyalty and trust, it may also have been that he was channeling LBJ, who is supposed to have said of J. Edgar Hoover, “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” General Kelly never did a job so well as that of giving her the official sack, as is proved in her own tape of the matter: polite, professional and implacable. Of all the people in the world I’d not like to have professionally pissed off at me, General Kelly is in the top five. And as it has now developed – Ms. Manigault Newman’s credibility is pretty much in shreds among those who otherwise might have been inclined to lend an ear to her tales of Trumpindysfunction. When Piers Morgan (Piers Morgan of all personalities!) calls you a “…relentlessly loathsome … a vicious, duplicitous, lying, conniving, backstabbing piece of work,” there is nothing much left to do except for counting up the advance (and hopefully investing it well) from your publisher and gibbering about your geometric logic and steel marbles. And sticking pins in the voodoo doll of John Brennan.

Ah, yes – speaking of another good job, well done; the mass pulling of security clearances from Mr. Brennan and a handful of others, whose political animus against the current administration is so marked as to have become a regular news feature. A security clearance is not a civil right. When you are no longer performing those duties which required such – either through retirement, career change, or getting the sack (see above) than the security clearance goes buh-bye. No exceptions for the inside-the-Beltway elite. Discuss, if you can bear it. There is some discussion in this thread at NeoNeocon’s new place.

 

It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
(From the musical South Pacific)

Or not taught at all. Last week as I sat in my cosy home office contemplating things, the ebb and flow of the internet brought to me the woebegone maunderings of a (presumably) white and (arguably) somewhat credentialed Millennial, who in her search for meaning and purpose in her life wound up involved in those anti-pipeline protests near the Sioux reservation. The ukase of her lament seemed to be that she had no native culture, not in comparison with those charming and dignified tribal elders. She appeared to view them as benign, terribly exotic, definitely ‘other’ – pretty much the same lens with which the old National Geographic viewed and photographed those interesting aboriginal peoples in far distant foreign lands all these decades ago.

And it was terribly sad to read, because the poor child does in fact, have a culture of her own – just that she has been deprived of it; deprived by intent or by cultivated sloth on the part of those who should have taught it to her; the unimaginably rich canon knowledge of western culture – our history, art, literature, music, technology, folkways. Homer and Cervantes, Shakespeare, da Vinci, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner and Rossini, Dickens and Twain, Michelangelo and Machiavelli, Brunel and Bruneschelli, the Brothers Grimm, the Brothers Wright, Don Juan of Austria and Ulysses S. Grant, the Duke of Wellington and whoever it was invented the toilet flush valve and the first working sewing machine. Likely all this and more were never taught to her, or what is worse – badly taught and as examples of western racism or whatever. To live without a sense of history is to be adrift in a kind of cultural sensory-deprivation tank, as exhibited by that child.

I can’t make up my mind which is the bigger crime against the minds of the young these days: the sin of omission in neglecting to teach them anything but the most anodyne little bits and bobs … or the deliberate commission involved in teaching them that western culture is one long sodden exercise in violence, racism, sexism and other -isms yet to be discovered by the tireless exploration of social justice scholars. (I have been told that we have socialist subversion on the part of malignant fools like Antonio Gramsci to blame for this sad state of affairs.) That second alternative has produced bitter, self-involved credentialed idiots like Sarah Jeong, who as of this week still has a prestigious position at our so-called national newspaper of record, the New York Times.

It is a good thing that many responsible parents are turning to home schooling, I suppose – and that many more miseducated adults are embarking on a belated program of independent self-education. Nature does abhor a vacuum, but shouldn’t our society offer a little more of substance to fill that vacuum? Discuss what can and might be done, if you can bear to contemplate the disaster that is education in the western world these days.

(Bonus – meme appropriated from the internet)
Sarah Jeung - Ask Your Grandma

The title of this post is the punchline to an old, old story about the limits of advertising; a story which may or may not be based on fact. The story goes that a big food-manufacturing conglomerate came up with a brand new formulation for dog food, and advertised it with a huge, costly campaign: print ads, TV commercials, product placement in movies, TV shows, county fairs, giveaways and sponsorships; the whole ball of wax … and the product cratered. The CEO of the company is irate and demands answers from anyone who can give him a reason why. Didn’t they do everything possible to make their dog food brand the market leader? Image everyone at that meeting looking nervously at each other at this point – because they have done everything possible … except for one small thing. Finally, someone gets up sufficient nerve to answer. “But the dogs don’t like it.” More »

29. July 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, World

My childhood and growing-up years were haunted by fire – a thing which I have been reminded about, on reading the horrific accounts of the fast-moving fire that swept a resort town eastern shore of Greece’s Attic Peninsula earlier this week, and on reading about the massive Carr Fire just now threatening whole tracts of northern California. I grew up in Southern California, living there until I enlisted after college, went away and never really returned for more than a couple of weeks. (Less a single year to the day at Mather AFB in 1981-82.) My parents loved living in the hills, preferably at the end of a dirt road; if not out of sight of a neighbor’s fireplace sending up a little plume of smoke – then on at least half an acre and that far distant from their rooftop. Dad was a research biologist. He gave the most wonderful nature walks imaginable, and would have been – as he once confessed, being happy as a desert rat, living in a hut in the Mojave. This meant that we were usually living in, or within sight of California chaparral-covered hills – hills which nature has designed expressly for the purposes of burning over, every twenty or thirty years.

There is no escaping that unadorned fact. Fire governs the wilderness. Certain of the native plant seeds do not even properly germinate until heated to so-many degrees. The plants themselves are resinous and burn readily, when the hot wind desert wind blows. This I knew, early on. The standing old-growth forests, and even the newer pine-woods other parts of California and the west – they are governed, bound, ruthlessly maintained by cycles of naturally-occurring fire and renewal. Fire thins the new seedlings, eliminates disease-weakened trees, clears away the mast and muddle – the broom that ruthlessly sweeps away, and renews. This my father taught us. A lesson which certain environmental groups seem to refuse, with the energy of a small child refusing a spoonful of delicious creamed spinach. No! Don’t cut down those pine-bark-infested pine trees! No, don’t clear-cut that brush! It’s icky interference with nature! And don’t do controlled burns, which endanger the spotted lizard-owl something! So the burnable load increases, increases and increases again, and when it finally all goes up, it burns so hot that the earth turns clean and barren, like a kiln transforming clay into pottery. Nature deferred will extract her penalty. More »

I cannot say how much the ditching of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name for a yearly award for the best in published books for children and young adults distresses and disappoints me. I am one of those millions of readers who read and adored the Little House books early on, which various volumes my parents presented to me for Christmas and my birthday from the time that I could read – basically from the age of eight on. I would sit down and read the latest gift from cover to cover almost at once, so much did I love the books. After so many decades of honor, respect, and dedicated fanship, after having basically created (along with her daughter) a whole YA genre – historical adventure novels set on the 19th century frontier – LIW is now writer-non-grata, in the eyes of a segment of the American Library Association which deals primarily with library services to kids. Henceforward, sayeth the Association for Library Service to Children, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be called The Children’s Literature Legacy Award, or something equally forgettable. The public reason given for this are two-fold, as nearly as I can deduce.

In certain brief passages of her nine-volume retelling of her childhood on the post-Civil War American frontier, LIW reflected the attitude of wary dislike with regard to the presence of American Indians common to those 19th century Americans, especially those who lived in close proximity to them. In the eyes of tireless social justice warriors, which appear in oversupply in today’s hypersensitive age, this is practically the same as preaching genocide on every page. And in one single chapter, her father and several men of the town put on black-face makeup and performed a minstrel show to entertain their friends. Such a form of entertainment was as popular then as it is considered disgracefully racist today.

So, rather than look honestly at the mores of the past – and perhaps entertain the thought that many of those notions which today we accept merely as conventional wisdom will, in a hundred years or so be held in as much, or greater disfavor than those attitudes held by LIW’s family and neighbors. I wonder though, if the motivations of the members of the Association aren’t just a little more complicated than polishing their social justice credentials. The Little House series presents – more than anything else – the quiet, intimate epic of a strong traditional family; a hard-working, resourceful, loving family, equal to every imaginable hardship going, from frontier isolation, to plagues of insects, bad weather, and grinding poverty. The Ingalls do not lament their lot, as LIW presented them; they make the most of it, and eventually achieve a quiet and modest degree of prosperity.

The Little House series, originally written and published a little short of a hundred years ago, remain overwhelmingly popular. Thousands visit the places which LIW immortalized in her books – the places where she and her sisters lived and grew up, the farm which she and her husband eventually established in Missouri. The TV series very loosely based on the series continued for years. I cannot help wondering if the kind of family and community life thus portrayed in the book series runs counter to everything in those young adult novels currently being pushed upon the younger generation by teachers and the child librarians; books which revel in gloom, despair, dysfunction and nihilism, a kind of literary filboid studge, in which in every grim trope embraced on the page discourages kids from reading. So – a burnishing of social justice credentials or sabotaging a classic series to advantage of contemporary but unreadable books intended for the juvenile consumer? Discuss.

San Antonio, the town that I am pleased to say is my place of residence, made the national and international news this week – and not in a good way. My particular quadrant of suburban San Antonio was the scene of the now-notorious MAGA-hat-stealing-and-drink-throwing-incident. (A good selection of the resulting headlines are here )
The Whattaburger outlet where this took place is about two and a half miles from my house, adjacent to a brand-new Walmart, and the bank branch I used to do business with, and around the corner from the bank branch that I now do business with. The arrested-and-released-on-bail Kino Jimenez lives in another outlaying suburb – apparently with his mother. He also seems to have committed a series of prior offenses; not exactly an upright citizen, it appears, and one with extraordinarily poor impulse control. Looking at the video of this incident – and keeping in mind that nothing good happens at 2 AM – I see a rather thuggish Hispanic guy getting his jollies picking on a couple of weedy Anglo teenagers in an all-but-empty-restaurant in the wee hours. I’d venture a guess that if it hadn’t been the MAGA hat, it would likely have been something else. Bullies always find an easy target, and a ready justification for their thuggish impulses.

Ah, the MAGA hat, which apparently serves as a rage-trigger for leftists everywhere. The very curious thing is that I have never seen a person wearing one in real life, real time, in my town. Not around where I live, work, do business. I brought this up with the Daughter Unit – and she couldn’t ever remember seeing any person wearing a MAGA hat either. Not any time in the last two years; The kid with a MAGA hat in the Whattaburger may have been the only person in the neighborhood choosing to wear one – although I very much doubt he was the only Trump fan. In the last two and a half years, we’ve noted pro-Trump bumper stickers on only a handful of cars, too. There were no Trump yard signs in the election run-up, either – and it’s not hard to figure out why. No one really wants to provoke a confrontation with a self-important, loose-cannon loudmouth like Kino Jimenez. No one really wants to have their drink thrown in their face at a restaurant, or make an unscheduled trip to the emergency room, or have their car keyed – or worse. As my daughter says; we’ve been schooled in the fine art of not attracting bad attention to ourselves.

Out there in your world, are there many people that you have observed, wearing MAGA hats and clothing, to anything other than a political rally? Is a lot of Trump support still flying under the radar – not attracting hostile attention in public? Discuss.

So it seems like the ‘screaming children snatched away at the border by the heartless minions of the Trumpenfuhrer’ narrative of last week is kind of collapsing in one direction – because just about all the most egregious examples of minor children being separated from the adults accompanying them in their illegal passage across a national boundary and subsequently held in durance vile, date from the previous administration … and secondly, because the usual screaming hair-on-fire activists are using the matter as an excuse to harass and threaten members of Trump’s cabinet, Republican holders of public offices, employees of national law enforcement agencies such as ICE, and conservatives generally. So the Social Justice Warriors, who never rest nor sleep have opened another front, it appears – a front of ostracism and harassment, most plainly led by the intellectual shining jewel of the Congressional Black Caucus, Generalissimo “Mad Maxine” Walters. Mad Maxine, (possibly the homeliest woman in national public life today), has enthusiastically urged her followers to hound conservatives (not all of whom are Republicans, let me note) from all public venues; restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, grocery stores and the like. Apparently, to Mad Maxine, such as we are not worthy, and pollute the righteous by our very presence. Enough members of the public appear to agree with her and have joined in enthusiastically in this enterprise. Gee, I wonder if we should now ask for separate facilities. You know – conservative-only drinking fountains, bathrooms and movie theaters. Maybe conservatives ought to be forced to wear armbands with a brightly-colored and distinctive shape on it, and live in specific neighborhoods, as well. Somehow, I think Mad Maxine would be perfectly OK with that.

Even more alarming than the harassing of certain members of Trump’s cabinet or prominent and recognizable associates at their homes and places of business, are the threats against and harassment of law enforcement personnel employed by ICE as well as other agencies – to include threats against families. There have also been threats against the operators of a non-profit network of shelters in Texas where many of the illegal alien minor children are being housed; employees of the shelters have had their license plates photographed at work and reported being called and threatened at their homes.
This kind of harassment, if continued and intensified – which seems to be a given – is absolutely not guaranteed to end well. We already have had the example of Congressman Steve Scalise and members of the Republican congressional baseball team being deliberately gunned down by one James Hodgkinson, a Bernie Saunders partisan and apparently motivated by more than the usual amount of partisan anger. In 2012, one Floyd Lee Corkins II brought a gun and a bag of Chic-fil-A sandwiches to the headquarters of the Family Research Council with the object to shooting as many employees as possible and rubbing the sandwiches in the faces of the dying. His motivation for mass murder appears to be tangle of resentment over the FRC’s support of traditional marriage, and severe butt-hurt over an otherwise innocuous fast-food sandwich chain not feeling any particular pain over their owner’s support of the same. Rather obviously, young Mr. Corkins was not wrapped all that tightly. Still, he conceived a plan to mass-murder, and but for his own ineptitude and the courage of the FRC’s security guard, would have carried it out. The shooter at the Capitol Gazette yesterday turns out to be an obsessive freak of a related kind, motivated by personal animus against the newspaper itself, which is what I thought upon first hearing news about the shooting – that or a very bitter ex of a newspaper employee.)
I’d venture a guess that among the not-tightly-wrapped, the mis-educated, resentful and longing-to-belong-to-the-heroic-Trump-Resistance-eleventy!!! – there are many more Floyd Corkins. They wait their opportunity for action in the manner in which the voices in their heads urge, and the various deranged media voices suggest. Some – indeed, I fear that many of these not-to-tightly-wrapped – will act in the coming months, either in public in a black mask and armed with a bike lock, a club, a Molotov cocktail, an amateur-constructed but brutally-effective bomb, or a gun. And when that happens … it will be what some among the conservative side have taken to calling a Rubicon moment.
When that Rubicon event happens, I wonder if the establishment national media will take any responsibility for having set the whole bloody pageant in motion; I think not. In their way, they have been playing their part in whipping up the mob outrage – in part to assuage their own outrage that Trump and not Hillary is president, and because they want, more than anything else, to be the one blaring the blood-soaked headlines. Outrage is what the national media loves, dirty laundry is what they live for. “You know the boys in the newsroom, Got a running bet, Get the widow on the set, We need dirty laundry.” A larger and larger segment of the news-consuming public has become wise to this and correspondingly resentful; witness how CNN’s obnoxious Jim Acosta was heckled by attendees at a recent Trump rally. Comment and discuss, as you will.

By the Mystic Marbles of Matagorda, I thought that last week’s bout of Trump derangement was the far frozen limit, but here it is only Wednesday and the establishment media is already running around in hair-on-fire fits of hysteria, the distributed radical insurgency known as Antifa has declared bloody war on the employees of the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, a writer employed by the New Yorker magazine as a fact-checker has singlehandedly undermined the intellectual coinage working for that magazine, having been a Fulbright scholar and a graduate of Harvard … and after a nearly fifty year hiatus from public consciousness, Peter Fonda has hove once again into sight. Like a groundhog, only hairier and on a longer rotation.

Being the cynical person that I have become over the last two administrations, I’d bet that something like Journolist is still in operation among those media reps still desirous of seeing conservatives in general and Donald Trump in particular driven from participation in the body politic. How else for the plight of the poor, pitiful illegal immigrant children to suddenly sprout in the headlines like some dreadful kind of kudzu between one day and the next? Especially since the … urm … custody situation has been a thing since the previous administration. Especially since the previous administration exacerbated the situation vis-à-vis minor children crossing the border illegally by seeming to suggest that having the kiddy-winks with you was a kind of get-out-of-detention-free card. Having the situation of minor children separated from adults who might be their parents, or a ‘coyote’ – a trafficker transporting them over an international border for shady purposes – after being detained upon illegally entering the United States is not something that just happened this week. No, this has been going on for a while, and of course it is just now being deliberately blown up. I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. Discuss: what is this attempting to distract us from? Is it working so far, or is it blowing up like something from Acme in the hands of the hapless Coyote?

I freely confess to having initially thought that when Donald Trump threw his hat into the political ring and began campaigning for election to the highest office in our fair land – it was a colossal joke and not one in particularly good taste. But I was never an adamant never-Trumper, and eventually came to think that hey – a wheeler-dealer Noo Yawk property developer (who after all HAD run a good-sized business enterprise for years) couldn’t possibly stuff up the job any more disastrously than He Who Dances With Teleprompters and his merry band of faculty lounge theorizers, career bureaucrats and second-gen beneficiaries of elite parental, fraternal or marital connections. In any case – I’d vote for practically anyone than Her Inevitableness the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, even if I had to pin my nostrils shut with C-clamp. So – what the hell. Reader, I voted for him. I have to admit that when it sends rabid lefty celebs like Robert De Niro into a spittle-flecked rant on live television, I am tempted to rub my hands together and cackle with evil glee like Mr. Burns in the Simpsons, watching them come unglued with their hate for flyover country and those denizens of it which also voted for him. A man is known in a large part by the character and quantity of his enemies; Trumps’ are as numerous and as varied as any collection of grotesqueries in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

So I started this post as yet another meditation on how ever-flipping-out-of-their minds the current iteration of Trump-haters are … and then the meeting in Singapore happened, and actually promises … maybe, if all goes well, a resolution to a war which started just before I was born, in a country to which my father was stationed as an Army draftee when I was born, in which I served for a year (three and a half decades later) and in which my daughter might very well have drawn duty in her turn. The Korean War – bloody and vicious, as we are reminded through M*A*S*H reruns – ended in an armistice and a heavily-armed border which slices the Korean peninsula into halves. Not anywhere equal halves, other than geographical.

Back at the start of it all, the northern part of that peninsula was the industrially-developed part. The inhabited part, whereas the southern bits were the rural and primitive parts. The whole of the place, as I came to understand in the year that I lived there, emerged as a feisty and independent kingdom, with a very distinct culture, identity, and language; a language with its’ own phonetic alphabet – the notion of one of their genius kings. Not Chinese, definitely not Japanese, in spite of seventy years of heavy-handed Japanese occupation, which only ended after WWII. I liked Korea enormously, for all that my taste of it was relatively brief. Seoul was a hectic, spectacular, modern city. I think that I went across it in every direction, via the subway, bus, or by taxi, innumerable times on my way to do an English-language voice-job, and never felt the least bit threatened or in danger because of being a foreigner. I was not much taller than the average Korean woman, or all that much more fair-skinned, and with my hair bundled up under a beret, not all that much darker of hair color. Unless people looked directly at me … I didn’t stand out all that much and I worked at not attracting attention to myself anyway. (But with one of my comrades in doing voice-work, who was about six and a half-foot tall … yeah, then we got noticed on public transportation.)

The Korean nationals that I worked with, on my various voice and broadcasting jobs were a relatively cosmopolitan lot, and we talked now and again about the North, and the threat intermittently posed, most notably to Seoul, well within artillery range of North Korean big guns. Indeed, about every six months or so, the Norks indulged in what another blogger termed the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken – a regularly-scheduled theatrical bit of sabre-rattling, to which the old Korea hands (and possibly most ordinary Koreans) eventually became pretty blasé. (More here from The Daily Brief) Is there now a possible end in sight to a situation which has existed slightly longer than I have been alive, through Donald Trump’s surprisingly cordial summit with Little Fat Kim? Speculation on the imminent collapse of the North floats around at about the same frequency as the Korean Motherland Unity Game of Repeated Chicken. But this time, I do wonder if the Reign of Kim really is on very shaky ground – and Little Fat Kim knows it and is nervous about survival – his personal survival and that of his circle. Bits and dribbles of dismaying information keep trickling out of the hermetically-sealed kingdom; that the soldiers forage for food in the cultivated fields, that the Nork soldier who defected across the DMZ was riddled with intestinal parasites, that the underground nuclear test site collapsed the whole side of the mountain where it was located, that whole districts are stripped bare of vegetation … and perhaps at long last, the Chinese are not quite so blindly supportive of their favorite client state. Is North Korea circling the drain of history, and the Kim regime is trying one last desperate throw of the dice while North Korea still has the appearance of a viable state? Discuss.

06. June 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff, Luna

Or, half of one, anyway. Titled Memorial Day. (I’m easing back on writing for the moment, being taken up with some other projects, including research for the next couple of historicals. And the household stuff, of course.)

Memorial Day

Jess Abernathy-Vaughn, being of that pale tint of skin which burned and freckled rather than tanned, lounged under the shade of a dark and ultra-violet-ray protective umbrella, planted at a rakish angle, deep into the beach sand at the Gulf-shore side of Galveston Island. She was also slathered with the highest SPF-level sunscreen available over the counter. In spite of not being a fan of sunbathing until one looked more like a leather saddlebag, she was truly enjoying this holiday. A second honeymoon, everyone called it, now that she and Joe had been legally wed for more than a year, and their son was now almost ten months old, and well-able to withstand the baby-sitting ministrations of his great-grandparents, living in the high-ceilinged apartment on the second floor of the ancestral hardware store on Main Square. She watched Joe – as fit and muscular as a classical Greek bronze of an athlete – mastering the use of a boogie-board in the indifferent surf with the same single-minded attention that he brought to every enterprise which took his interest. It killed Joe to not be the best at anything, so he applied himself relentlessly; football, soldiering, law enforcement – and of late, to dedicated fatherhood.

“We’ll be happy to have a baby in the house, once again!” Martha Abernathy exclaimed, even before Jess had ventured the casual boat of her suggestion – that she and Joe spend a luxurious weekend at a Galveston resort destination – onto the tranquil sea of familial relations over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. “Do make the reservations, Jess – you need to take a break now and again! It’s good for a marriage, to make a little time for yourself and your man. Don’t trouble yourself in the least, worrying about Little Joe!”

“Your grandmother has been longing to get her hands on our boy,” Joe grinned when Jess had first tentatively broached the question of a holiday in the sun, surf and sand. That was the evening in Spring Break week, and he had just come home from a tedious day of upholding the law in Luna City, and on the stretch of Route 123 which adjoined the municipality. “Let’s do it, Babe – go back for a weekend, and try and recall the people that we were before becoming a life-support-system for the rug-rat. I’m trying my best to be patient until the day that we can throw the ol’ pigskin around, but I need a break, too.”

Jess sighed. “I can hardly wait until he can cook … Richard swears that he will start teaching him to make a lovely proper mayonnaise as soon as he knows how to handle a whisk…”

“When will that be?” Joe spun his white work Stetson onto the old-fashioned coat-and-hat-rack which stood by the front door of the old cottage on Oak Street and collapsed with a sigh onto the overstuffed sectional sofa – an overstuffed and sprawling thing which took up altogether too much space in the old-fashioned front room, but which was too comfortable to give up entirely. Jess dropped their cooing offspring onto Joe’s mid-section and he yelped, “Ooof! What have you been feeding him, Babe – bricks?”

“Growing boy,” Jess replied, with a remarkable lack of feeling. “You entertain the Soup-Monster for a while I fix supper – tell him mad tales of all the dirtbags you have arrested, and all the speeders you have ticketed … I’ve been talking to him all day about the necessity for retaining receipts for cash business expenses. Among other topics of note.” (Soup-Monster was her nickname for her son, taken from Marsupial Monster, from the early days when she carried him in a baby-sling across her chest.)

“Sounds deathly dull,” Joe replied. Jess sighed with heavy sarcasm as she opened the deep-freeze unit in a corner of the kitchen.

“Attention to such minutia pays the bills for our incredibly lavish life-style,” she called in reply and Joe responded with a hearty horse-laugh. Jess smiled. It pleased and satisfied her to know that she could make Joe laugh. He was wrapped too tight, sometimes – too earnest, too serious entirely. Now, Jamie – she had always been able to make Jamie laugh.

Yes, that pan of frozen lasagna … and a mixed salad to go with, once the lasagna was warmed and bubbling in the oven. Say an hour or so; Jess was also tired; a full day of seeing to her various clients in Luna City, Karnesville and Beeville, driving hither and yon, with Little Joe uncomplaining in his car seat. He was a good baby, for all that. But now and again she really missed the days when she and Joe went out for burgers or pizza as impulse took them, or drove into San Antonio for a meal at one of the Riverwalk restaurants, a table on one of the outside terraces, overlooking the river, the lights that twinkled like fireflies in those monumental cypress trees lining the artfully-channelized river, while live music spilled from one of the other places, and she and Joe people-watch in the twilight, as swifts and grackles swooped into their night roosts. All that without the labor of hauling the Soup-Monster and the heavy freight of his impedimenta – the diaper bag, the stroller, the baby-car-seat and all that along with them.

No – a weekend of leisure in Galveston would be just the ticket. Jess covered the lasagna with tinfoil, turned the oven to 350 and went to join her menfolk, just as Little Joe grinned at his father, an open and uninhibited grin which revealed all of two new baby teeth in his lower jaw. Jess’s heart turned over in her chest – the child looked so like Joe, it was uncanny, even to his tiny nose, which gave a hint of the ancestral Vaughn beakiness, even now. A miracle, the blending of her blood, flesh and bones with Joe’s – and yet, Little Joe was his own person, even at the age of eight months! A whole, new, original, and miraculous little person … again, Jess thanked with her whole heart for Miss Letty’s wise advice.

“Supper in about fifty minutes,” she said, as he settled onto the sectional next to Joe. “Give me twenty minutes, I’ll feed the Soup-Monster and put him down to sleep, so that we can have supper in peace.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Joe replied. “And the weekend thing, too. Let’s go for it, Babe. We need a break, some R-and-R, you know. Be good for the Monster to learn how to wind the grands around his little finger.”

“Share the blessings,” Jess leaned her head against Joe’s substantial shoulder, the one with the uniform patch embroidered with the city logo of the Luna City Police Department sewn upon it. Another brief moment of pure contentment; Gram and Grumpy had insisted that such in retrospect would be considered the happiest times of their lives. Jess had of late begun to see that her grandparents were right about that.

Now she watched Joe abandon the mild surf, the boogie-board under his arm, striding up through the receding surf, which cast a brief swath of lacy bubbles across the white sand. He collapsed with a brief grunt onto the spread beach towel at her side. Jess spared a covert and concerned glance at him. She’d bet anything his knees were giving him hell again. Good thing she had packed a bottle of extra-strength Motrin. She would mildly suggest that he take a few before they went out for dinner, and hope that he would take the suggestion.

“How’s the water?” She asked. Joe chuckled.

“Salty and wet, Babe.”

“It’s the ocean, it goes without saying.”

Joe lay back in the shade with a sigh. “Thought about where to go for dinner? I’ve an appetite for fish tacos. That place on Seawall with the two big-ass balconies overlooking the Gulf would suit me fine. OK with you?”

“Perfect,” Jess agreed. “A bit noisy, but we can go early… it’s an anniversary for us, you know. We can celebrate.”

“Oh?” Joe raised an eyebrow, and Jess grinned.

“The first time we seriously kissed … and umm. Other stuff.”

“Oh, that.” Now Joe grinned, reminiscently. “After the Memorial Day pig-roast at the V, you had too much to think, and I walked you home? Yeah, I remember.” The grin widened into an expression of outright lewd reminiscence. “Hoo, boy – do I remember, Babe! I was so damned glad you didn’t punch me in the nuts when I made the first move…”

“Joseph P. Vaughn, you are no gentleman!” Jess exclaimed with an attempt at a Scarlett O’Hara exaggerated Southern accent and swatted at her husband with her discarded tee-shirt top. Which launched a good quantity of sand at him – but he just chuckled again and lay back on his spread beach towel.

“No regrets though, Babe?” he said, and Jess shook her head.

“No regrets, Joe.”

Ah yes, a rousing round of storm and stress this week in our own very dear so-called entertainment media, starting with Rosanne Barr’s self-titled and relaunched sitcom being cancelled with such alacrity that security probably left scorch-marks on the carpet, escorting her off the premises at speed, although I am pretty sure that in Hollywierdland, it doesn’t work quite that way when terminating an unsatisfactory employee. Especially a star player in a recently-revived, highly-rated, and yet – controversial sit-com. Still – it is curious how quick off the mark the sacking was. So Rosanne has always been a bit of a loose cannon … no, reconsider that; a completely unsecured cannon, impulsively driven to fire in all directions on the slightest provocation, up to and acquiring her own foot as target. Calculated or inadvertent – at this point it makes no difference to anyone, really, save perhaps for her costars, now left high, dry and living on residuals.

In any case, I never watched the re-boot, and have only hazy memories of seeing the original show now and again. Meh. As far as a family-oriented sitcom set in blue-collar, flyover country America went, we much preferred The Middle, and Last Man Standing. If anything, the cast of characters, and the actors playing them seemed … well, nicer. More grounded, even.
But I cannot even work myself up into the required lather of fury over Ms. Barr’s allegedly uber-offensive tweet. Is Val-Jar truly a Muslim Brotherhood creature? Who knows for certain; likely those in the business of national security whose business it was to vet those appointed or hired to serve the highest offices in the land spent most of decade working very hard to not know any definitive answer to that question. Embarrassing to the Obama Administration, y’know. Best not to look too searchingly at Val-Jar’s connections and associations, such as they are. Does she strongly resemble the female character, Zira, from the first Planet of the Apes movie, and Ari, from the 2001 remake? Well … honesty compels an answer in the affirmative, mostly because of the hairstyle. Rude to make the comparison; yes, although such delicacy of feeling didn’t stop many with making the same unflattering comparison with regard to George W. Bush and driving in the point with a sledgehammer for nearly two decades. (Don’t even get started on the disgusting manner in which Condoleezza Rice was caricatured over the term of her office in the Bush administration. Some of the nastier examples are captured here, at Powerline.)

Politics, as we are often reminded, is not beanball. But a single standard as to what is acceptable, and what is beyond the Pale with regard comment, comedy, commentary, and caricature would be much appreciated by those of us tending to the conservative side of the political scale, or even those of us who appreciate civility, and even-handed humorous needling of prominent personalities. Alleged comic, Samantha Bee, who came out with a truly vile comedic suggestion involving Ivanka Trump vamping her father to reverse certain policies of his and topped it by applying a degrading term – on a cable television show – to applause and cheers.
Well. Nice job of demonstrating the double standard in show business, when it comes to liberal and conservative personalities. At this moment, Samantha Bee still has a job, although I understand that she is down a couple of corporate sponsors. Well-done, national establishment media; showing your unmistakable contempt for at least half the public! What next, I wonder; Who among the lefty-inclined icons of entertainment is now saying, either literally or metaphorically, “Hold my beer/mineral water/trendy beverage-of-choice and watch this!”

27. May 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: History

This week, I happened on a movie – Woman in Gold from a couple of years back. The movie starred Helen Mirren, who vanished so utterly into the part of an elderly Viennese Jewish refugee, Maria Altmann, that there was no trace of Helen Mirren visible – the way that good acting should be, but rarely is. Briefly, the movie concerned Maria Altmann’s epic legal quest to have a famous and insanely valuable portrait of her Aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer painted in by Gustav Klimt in the early years of the twentieth century – a painting which had been looted by the Nazis – returned to her. The painting gravitated into the possession of the Austrian government, from which it was eventually pried by dint of persistent and effective legal action. A decent movie overall, BTW. But what struck me in watching it was how much the mannerisms, the accent, the character of Maria Altmann reminded me of a certain family friend, a woman of the same vintage, and similar background; Viennese, of a prosperous family who also ran afoul of the Nazis, and finished up living in Southern California. I wonder if Lainie and Maria Altmann knew each other, back in the day? Lainie lived in the right part of town and had the kind of income and background to have patronized Maria Altmann’s upscale boutique. Never know now, I guess. But I sought out the text of an early post on Sgt. Stryker that I wrote about Lainie’s rescuing angel. More »

So help me dog, I was never able to figure the appeal of B. Obama, either when he first hove onto the political scene, or when he was elected, and reelected. He seemed to me, from the first and at a distance to be just a pleasantly and superficially-cultured nullity, with the not-uncommon ability to deliver inspiring, soaring speeches from words put in front of him, just like any A- or B-list actor I could name. He looked good, sounded good … and that was all there was to him, as far as concrete accomplishments went. Again, like any good actor – he looked the part that he was supposed to play, no matter that the actual legislative resume was vanishingly thin of substantive accomplishments.
Perhaps that was all that was required of him, that he look and sound the part. And what does that make of the sense and sensibility of those who voted for him, cheered him on enthusiastically, the establishment media who rolled his Juggernaut over the finish line, and supported him in eight years of trying his best to turn the United States into some nasty South American socialist dump, ruled in turns by a coterie of the elite, and their ambitious throne-sniffers? David Brooks, the token conservative at the National Paper of Record, got all thrilled and man-crushy, adoring the perfect crease of Obama’s trousers. This may live in infamy as the shallowest, stupidest thing that our Miss Brooksie has ever written, against considerable competition.

Frankly, no wonder the credibility of the national establishment media has gone down the tubes. Anyone paying attention knew that we were being snowed – gaslighted, even – over the interminable years of the Obama administration. As a minor and perhaps superficial example, look at how we were all told – insistently, through the cover stories on all the establishment fashion mags – that Michelle Obama was the most beautiful, tasteful, and stylish First Lady since Jackie Kennedy. And we had before us the evidence of our own eyes … talk about killing the credibility of the fashion papers. Something of the same diminution of credibility happened with the mainstream press, I believe.

A neighbor of ours is a recent transplant from an annoyingly liberal state, who has confessed in an unbuttoned moment to having worked the phones for his campaign in her original home. Why? I asked. This woman is elderly, but in possession of most of her original issue of marbles, an animal lover and a good neighbor. Pretty shrewd in most aspects of life, come to think of it. And her reply? “Because it was time for a black man to be president,” at which point I dropped the discussion and changed the subject to something a trifle less incendiary.

“Because it was time.” I could hardly think of a lamer reason for electing any mortal into the highest office in this blessed land. And I thought so, even when the Fresh Prince of Chicago first took to the hustings against the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua, or as I termed her then, “Her Inevitableness.” “Because it was time.” Which may well be, but if it is so, then couldn’t the nominated candidate of “It’s Time” be someone of more substance? Was all they wanted – the establishment political parties, the national press, even a good part of the federal bureaucracy – and god save us, the so-called intellectual elite – a shallow, attractive man of no particular accomplishment or record? I guess so, watching the subsequent melt-down over the last year. I suspect that a substantial portion of the outrage, frenzied justification and rationalization after the fact are to cover up their own bad judgement in having cast all their chips and credibility on the bet of a candidate so shallow … a man of cotton candy: a few shreds of sweet sugar, blown up through the application of hot air, into something substantial in appearance. And now, the Cotton Candy Man appears to have signed a deal with Netflix to write and produce … well, something. I really wish that if being a reality TV star was his ambition, he could have done so without involving the rest of us.

14. May 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Good Stuff

So … even as I am starting research on the American Revolution-era novel, I am moved to start on another — about Minnie Templeton Vining, who was a peripheral character in Daughter of Texas, and in Sunset and Steel Rails.

A blue-stocking and a crusader, and … stuff. At mid-century, where there were a lot of things going on.

Enjoy. I don’t quite know where this will finish out … but Minnie is a ferocious abolitionist. And perhaps has other involvement in the Underground Railroad. It all depends…

Chapter 1 – A Lady of Leisure

A week after the reading of her father’s will, Minnie Templeton Vining sat in the old-fashioned parlor of her father’s tall house on Beacon Street with her sister-in-law Annabelle, while an errant spring breeze stirred the curtains … as well as the festoons of black crepe which adorned the façade of the Vining mansion. Narrow windows of the austere classical style that had been the height of architectural fashion early in the century now overlooked the broad avenue and leafy avenues and meadows of the Common and the public gardens beyond. The room within was furnished in the old manner; chairs, tables and shelves made in the austere style of two generations past, of polished wood sparingly ornamented, for the late Lycurgus Agrippa Vining resisted any change in the mansion in which he had ruled over as absolute dictator for half a century. The paintings and portraits, blue and white China trade porcelain, ranks of books in solid leather bindings, somber dark-red brocade upholstery, and very old-fashioned crewel-embroidered curtains – all testified at least as much to the wealth and pride of the family as to their magnificent disinclination to follow mere fashion … and thereby waste any portion of that wealth on transiently popular fripperies.

“So the house and a substantial income are yours to control absolutely!” Annabelle marveled, as she added sugar to the cup of tea which Minnie had poured from a silver pot which was one of the Vining’s treasured possessions, coming as it had from the workshop of the great Boston silver artisan, Paul Revere. In one of the account books in the old Judge’s study and library was preserved a bill made out in Revere’s own spidery handwriting, for that very teapot and a dozen silver spoons to be adorned with acorns and oak leaves.

“Indeed,” Minnie set down the teapot with a gentle clinking sound and took up her own refreshed cup. She was a confirmed spinster, being something somewhere in her fourth decade; a woman of decidedly firm opinions – and yet attractive to the eye for all of that, at least to those who entertained a taste for fine-boned features, and arresting blue-grey eyes, animated by a formidable and unsparing intelligence. “Cousin Peter is to be my trustee – but he is too sensible a man to attempt any thought of treating with me as if I were a silly child in need of correction and protection.”

“I should say not!” Annabelle chuckled. “One might very well try to rope and ride one of those wild bison creatures of the plains. Your dear brother – my late husband – told me such a tale of the President of Texas shooting one of those dreadful beasts in the streets of the capitol of that benighted place!” The humor briefly departed from Annabelle’s pleasant countenance. She was a slender woman of about forty years, the same age as Minnie – and like Minnie, garbed in the darkest black of mourning for father and father-in-law. They had been friends since their earliest childhood, indulged by their parents, friends of the heart, as well as of marital and distant blood connections. And Annabelle was a Saltinstall connection, which counted for something in Boston.

“My brother had many tales to tell of his travels,” Minnie acknowledged, although she held deep in her heart the one which she would never distress Annabelle by telling – of that low-bred woman in farthest Texas, the one who had cohabitated with her youngest brother, and bred four nasty brats with him, or perhaps some other man, no matter what her brother claimed was a proper marriage in that benighted place. That was a deathbed secret and confession she would take to her own grave, rather than distress Annabelle with revealing it. Annabelle was his wife in the eyes of the law and of Boston. That woman in Texas was a nobody and of no character at all. Annabelle – dear, innocent Annabelle – deserved a measure of peace of mind, if not happiness, in the wake of a marriage-not-marriage to a husband who was never present in Boston but always gone on interminable ocean voyages and travels in a vain attempt to recover his health.

“Telling the absolute truth can often be a brutal cruelty,” her father, Judge Vining was wont to say. “Consider well the costs of relieving your own conscience, Minerva, if that cost comes at the expense of another’s peace of mind and happiness.”

“He did, indeed,” Annabelle smiled, ruefully. Her husband – Minnie’s youngest brother – was dead some eight years past, in this very house. The consumption took him, painfully, on his final return. Minnie did not like to think of that even now, or the embarrassing situation which had brought him home for that one last time. “You were such an angel, Minnie – nursing him through those last awful days. Need I say again how grateful I was for that? It was all such a tangle – Sophia having just married, and in such difficulty with her first child. It was all that I could do to attend on my dearest little girl, night and day … I feared so much for her! Richard was a treasure in her travails, of course – but a husband is not so attentive as a mother – or a sister would be!”

“It is what we do, my dear – for those whom we love,” Minnie replied, whereupon her sister-in-law sighed.

“So we do, Minnie,” and her expression brightened with genuine curiosity. “Now – that you are a spinster of independent means, and your dear father is enjoying his heavenly reward; what will you do with yourself, and this establishment?”

Minnie set down her teacup and regarded the parlor; hers and hers alone, to do with as she thought fit. This was a heady feeling, and Minnie longed to stretch her wings and soar, soar on the pleasant updraft of a generous income and control over it, after two decades and more of being bound by obligation to family. Truth to tell, she had not minded all that very much. Papa-the-Judge (for so she always thought of him) may have been a magisterial and terrifying parent to his sons, employees, and those brought before him at the Bar, but his only daughter had always had an especially affectionate bond with her father. Her mother – dead in childbirth with her – had been the Judges’ second wife for a brief time.

“A clever woman,” Papa-the-Judge had often said, on those rare occasions when he had been moved to speak of such personal things. “Bold as brass, fearless – she was a spy in the late war, Minnie – did I tell you of that?”

“Yes, you did, Papa – often,” Minnie had replied.

During his last days on this earth, Papa-the-Judge had often patted her hand, at the conclusion of maundering about in his reminiscences, and promised, “Well, then, Minnie – you are to be well-provided for, my girl, since you aren’t inclined to matrimony. I’ll have Peter as your advisor, but he’s a sensible man. Have seen too it, y’see. The only intelligent female child of my blood … the image of your mother. She was a spy, you know. Carried messages for Doctor Warren’s network, back in the day when the bloody Lobsterbacks. Bold as brass, although she was only a bit of a child when I first lay eyes on her … she would want to see you holding to your own independency”

“I know, Papa,” Minnie would answer. She knew very well that she was the image of her mother. There was a small framed portrait painted on ivory in Papa-the-Judge’s monumental desk, secreted in one of the small drawers, which Minnie knew the secret to opening. When she was younger, she had often compared the painted features to her own, reflected in the small elaborate glass mirror which hung opposite the window in Papa-the-Judge’s study. And in any case – Cousin Peter, and others who had known her mother had often commented on the likeness.

No, she would not change the parlor, or Papa-the-Judge’s library, or even all that much about the house. All too dear and familiar, and now it was all to be hers, to order as she liked … but Minnie felt a restlessness in her. It was, she thought, like one of Annabelle’s songbirds, looking out from an elaborate silver cage, to which the door was open, wanting to spread her wings … yet wondering if she yet dared.

Yes. She did. Minnie sipped from her own teacup, and then set it down again with a tiny, decisive clink against the saucer.

“I have decided to go traveling,” she announced. “Oh, not terribly far, Annabelle – just as far as Charleston, and then for a stay in Richmond in Virginia. Cousin Peter has kin by marriage in Charleston. His daughter and her husband ministers – he is in orders, you know – to a very respectable parish in Richmond. They have written, extending their hospitality. I am of a mind to accept. Would you like to accompany me? I would welcome your companionship.”

“For how long, do you plan to remain abroad from Boston?” Annabelle regarded Minnie with an anxious expression, and Minnie smiled in a manner calculated to reassure.

“Not terribly long – for the length of the summer, and return in time to celebrate Little Richie’s birthday, of course. It is …” and Minnie sighed. “My dear, I long to escape these walls for a time, and refresh my soul by gazing on new vistas. I beg you to accompany me, for the sake of respectability. And …” she shot her sister-in-law a severe glance. “It would be energizing for the both of us. We are both allowed a certain considerable degree of freedom by our status as widow and spinster? Why not explore, as far as we are allowed by the strictures of decent society? Why should we be kept mewed up in our little tiny parlors, like falcons wearing blinding hoods, when we might soar?”

“Because …” Annabelle began, irresolutely, and Minnie couldn’t keep herself from snorting.

“Because, fiddlesticks. I have a purse and the inclination, and I want to do something other than sit in my parlor, see that the maids dust the furniture properly and take calls on my at-home day. There is a larger world and great causes to fight for, Annabelle – shouldn’t we begin claiming parts of it for our own, rather than just live as silly simpering angels in the house?” She fixed her sister-in-law with her most ferociously-determined expression, and – as Minnie had been certain that she would – Annabelle crumbled.

“Of course, I will accompany you,” her sister-in-law yielded with a sigh. “But … have you set a date for commencing this … this project of yours. And … I suppose I shall not require any winter things in my trunks…”

“Next month, I think,” Minnie replied, in secret relief. “I shall have to see to the arrangements, and consult with Cousin Peter, of course. But oh!” she smiled and took Annabelle’s hand in her joyful embrace. “It will be such fun!”

The absolute nadir of bad days at work was sketched briefly in a recent book about the Revolutionary War battle of Saratoga – a decisive turning point in that war. There is nothing much new in Dean Snow’s 1777: Tipping Point at Saratoga, save that the author has gone through just about every set of archives, memoirs, and reminisces existing, along with an exhaustive survey of the site itself, and produced an hour by hour account. No mean feat, especially since keeping track of time was an inexact science. (And would be for at least another eighty years, when the developing railways, with requirements for exact timetables over long distances, and necessary scheduling of use on single track routes made it mandatory that scrupulous attention be paid to these matters.)

Briefly, that campaign was series of battles, skirmishes, and clashes on the banks of the Hudson River where it passes through upstate New York; the culmination of a grand plan to slice the rebellious colonies in – if not half – at least thirds. The supreme British commander, General William Howe (rumored to be a backstairs cousin to George III, his granny having had a productive affair with George I), was pleasantly ensconced in New York, where he was assisted in his revolution-suppression duties by General Henry Clinton. The British forces had chased the rebellious colonials out of New York some months previously. All the notable cities of the Colonies were ocean ports; Boston, New York, Charleston, Savannah. Only Philadelphia was an exception – and it sat on the inland reaches of the Delaware River. Still a port – but far inland from the Atlantic Ocean. In any case, the grand scheme was to split off New England from the other rebellious colonies by coming down from Canada with an overwhelming force of British regular troops and hired German mercenaries.

This grand plan was the brainchild of a handsome, raffish adventurer of some military talent and high connections in the British aristocracy, one John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne. The son-in-law of an influential politician of the time, Burgoyne possessed the favor of influential friends, the reputation of an outspoken military innovator, a mildly distinguished record of active service in the Seven Years War, some talent as a playwright, and membership in the House of Commons. In 1776, upon the lower Colonies in North America becoming quite irredeemably rebellious, Burgoyne was given command of a force charged with recovering British control over Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley. Burgoyne’s grand theatrical plan was for three forces – one coming down the Mohawk River from the west, another coming upriver from New York – and a third, commanded by himself advancing south down the Hudson River, all converging near Albany at a date mutually convenient for all three – and that would put an end to this silly revolution nonsense. Against sober consideration of the odds, the territory to be covered and a sincere ignorance of the complications which this plan would fall heir to, Burgoyne was given authority to proceed. Which he did, with full enthusiasm, and an enormous baggage trail, a company which included the wife and daughters of the professional soldier commanding the German element, Colonel Friedrich Reidesel. (Who as a professional, thought rather ill of Burgoyne and Howe, and Mrs. Colonel Reidesel’s opinion was even blunter.) General Burgoyne was so confident of this plan that legend has it that he wagered ten pounds with Charles James Fox that he would return in a year, triumphant, with the rebellion utterly quashed.

The long and the short of it is that Burgoyne’s grand plan came to a grief which would have been – and was – predicted by soberer heads. Loaded down with heavy baggage both real and cultural, Burgoyne and his scheme crashed head-on into brutal reality. Their Indian allies bailed early on, the American Loyalists which he had counted on to report in substantive numbers did not oblige, the force sent along the Mohawk Rover was defeated in a fight at Fort Stanwix, and the large British force moving up from New York never materialized; General Howe went to take Philadelphia instead, leaving General Sir Henry Clinton in charge of New York. The sheer difficulty of moving his enormous baggage and supply train utterly crumbled his grand offensive plan once he met stiff resistance, a little way south from Saratoga.

A month-long series of bitter skirmishes, culminating in battles at Freeman’s Farm, Bemis Heights and the Balcarres Redoubt burned through supplies, horses, ammunition, men, and German/British morale. Gentleman Johnny’s best chance would have been to pack up what was left of his supplies, soldiers, artillery-train and beat a strategic retreat north. But he still held out a hope that General Clinton would send a relief force of 2,000 men to his aid, as General Clinton had promised. Messages between Clinton and Burgoyne were carried by an American Loyalist soldier, a man named Daniel Taylor, who carried them in a hollow silver ball, the size of a bullet as he stealthed his way in ordinary civilian clothing up and down the Hudson. On October 9, Taylor and another Loyalist were just returning from New York, with a message for Burgoyne. Upon approaching New Windsor, Taylor and his companion began seeing heavily armed men – but were they Rebels or Loyalists?

At this point in the fighting, not very many Rebels or Loyalists wore distinguishing uniforms. Taylor and his companion were challenged almost at once. Who were they, and what were they doing? Well, said Taylor, who are you and what are you doing? We’re guards for General Clinton, replied the men. Why – Taylor had just departed from Clinton’s camp, the day before! Hurrah, for Clinton making swift work of the distance. Much relieved, Taylor asked to be taken to the General, obviously assuming General Clinton might have additional messages for Burgoyne. The guardsmen obliged by escorting Taylor into the august presence of the general … and that was the point where the day became The Very Worst Day At Work Ever for Daniel Taylor.

Because this was not the British General Sir Henry Clinton … but the American rebel, George Clinton; a commander of militia, governor of New York (who would be re-elected to that office five times), brigadier general in the New York volunteer militia – and also a dear personal friend and supporter of George Washington. Taylor – whom one might assume was frozen in horrified realization for a brief moment and whose interior monologue might be imagined with some accuracy – grabbed the silver ball containing the message to Burgoyne from where he had it concealed on his person and swallowed it.

Too late. Orders were given, Taylor was separated from his companion (nothing is said of what happened to that man) a doctor was sent for, and an emetic administered – likely by force – and nature took its course. He vomited up the silver ball containing the message, and when it was opened, and the message read, there was no hope at all for him, save for dictating a confession to an obliging militia officer, and composing his soul; an enemy courier, carrying theater-commander-level messages, and out of uniform – such as they were at the time. He was hanged the following Sunday morning, from the branch of an apple tree near the church in Kingston, north of New Windsor, as the Rebels evacuated the area, in anticipation of the British advance. When Sir Henry Clinton’s troops did briefly reoccupy Kingston, they found Taylor’s body, and burnt the town in reprisal.

All to no purpose, as it turned out. Burgoyne surrendered within days – a precursor to the larger surrender at Yorktown, four years later, when the world turned upside down and Britain relinquished control of thirteen rebellious colonies in the New World.

11. May 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, History, Wild Blue Yonder

OK, so it was linked on Insty, but this was an incredible read: of the Pan-Am commercial flight which got caught on the wrong side of the world after Pearl Harbor, and had to go around the long way to get home again, with pluck, luck and sheer stubborn inventiveness.
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Enjoy!
I particularly liked the part where they visited a public library, searching for relevant information.

09. May 2018 · 1 comment · Categories: Domestic

Well, a project progress report, seeing that one of the semi-big projects on my list of home-improvement items has been accomplished – and bountifully, at that. Well, it did run to about $300 more in labor and $200 more in stuff – specifically a wall-mounted mirror, a faucet set, and a glass shelf – than I had initially anticipated. But the small bathroom renovation is complete and gorgeous! Well, once the glass shelf arrives, courtesy of Amazon and UPS, it will be complete. I began working on the bathroom after I got back from Houston, at the middle of April – scraping disgusting wads of soluble plaster and popcorn texture off the ceiling, and alternately, those last bits of paint from off the concrete floor, while awaiting the convenience of Neighborhood Handy Guy. Neighborhood Handy Guy boogies to the beat of a different drummer, when it comes to a schedule, I’m afraid. When he says, “I’ll be over first thing!” it could mean anywhere between 8:30 and noon. When he says, “I’ll be over today!” it could be any time from mid-morning to late afternoon. This charming eccentricity is forgiven by neighborhood clients because he does amazingly good work (carpentry, tile-work, fixture-installation, painting, etc.) being a perfectionist at heart, and that his charges for labor are … well, let’s just say they are reasonable. Especially if you do some of the work, assist him, and purchase the necessary. So reasonable that he is in constant demand – another reason for being patient. So – two weeks of work from Neighborhood Handy Guy, including trips to the local Lowe’s outlet, first to pick up the pedestal sink and the new toilet, the paint, tile for floor and sink surround, good sturdy planks for a shelving unit, baseboards and trim, subsequently to collect other items as required … and now the bathroom is finished. Yay! (Pictures below. The room is so small that it’s impossible to back up far enough to take pictures encompassing the whole … and the paint color is more of a white with a pink tinge than the sort of Pepto Bismol shade that it looks under flash.)

It’s amazing how much roomier it seems, now with a nice pedestal sink, and with a custom, if simple and unadorned shelving unit installed. The original vanity was contractor-grade, and so shoddy that I bashed it apart myself with an ordinary hammer and consigned it to the gargantuan wheelie-trash-bin without any untoward exertion. And my place was built by a reputable company: homes built by the really fly-by-night builders must be equipped with cabinets built with heavy cardboard, and fixtures constructed from soda straws and heavy tinfoil.
It’s only the very first item on my Five-Year To-Do, though. I am awaiting the call from the roofing and remodeling company, in service to the second item – initial construction of the Catio and in association with that project, a new roof. Sometime in late May, early June, I think. Then the garage door – and that is dependent on sorting out all the crap in the garage, much of which is the Daughter Unit’s. She came home from her last station at Cherry Point and when her hold baggage arrived, it was all unloaded into the garage. The master bath reno must wait until after Christmas. Sigh. Another week of scraping popcorn gunk off the ceiling awaits me at that point. And likely at least three weeks of waiting every day for Neighborhood Handy Guy to appear and work his home-renovation magic. Until then, I solace myself by going down the hall, opening the door, and basking in the retro-charm of the finished small bathroom.

So, I meant to write something sarcastic and slashing about … whatever over the last weekend, but I got distracted by life, and by a couple of different news reports – one of them being that Kanye West apparently has gotten in touch with his inner conservative and decided – for the moment – to come out enthusiastically for Trump. While not a particular fan of his brand of pop music and acknowledging that his judgement may not be all that – the man married a Kardashian, for g*d’s sake – I have never heard of anyone calling him a stupid man. Talented – yes, fabulously successful, and financially well-rewarded for exercising those talents; there must be more to him than pure dumb luck. Lamentable as it is to me that present-day celebrities wield more social influence than is good for them, and for us … that someone with that much influence in the black community is pointing out some self-evident truths must count for something.

I cannot decide if Kanye West initiated a preference cascade, or he was sharp enough to see that Trump’s policies were benefiting urban black communities in a substantial way a way that Obama promised but never delivered, and made a rational decision to speak his mind and get out in front of it all. It has been suggested that this is all a gigantic trolling of conservatives anyway; still seems like going a bit too over the edge, in ginning up publicity for an album or something. In any case, Kanye West certainly has provoked a backlash of his own, with Mad Maxine Walters spouting inane and condemnatory gibberish in the manner which we have come to expect of her, Ta-Ne-Hissy Fit Coates spouting likewise in a somewhat more literate manner.

The other matter which drew my attention, are reports that terminally-ill John McCain now is saying that he never wanted Sarah Palin as his VP in the 2008 presidential campaign. And he doesn’t want President Trump coming to his funeral. That first sentiment strikes me as spiteful, the second as ungracious, although Senator McCain will be in no position to complain in the eventuality. Spiteful, because it was clear to me at the time that adding her to the ticket was about the only thing that energized his campaign at all; having her on board was the one thing that energized me and a lot of others about what was a spiritless and by-rote campaign. Spiteful again, the way that his inner circle basically threw her to the dogs, blaming her for the failure. Looking back now on how it all played out, I wonder if McCain was ever really serious about pursuing the presidency in 2008 – was he always intended to lose? He did suspend campaigning, which seemed like an inexplicable decision then. Was the fix in for Hillary the Inevitable, and then for Obama, the Fresh Prince of Chicago; John McCain was just there to make a show for the establishment GOP and then gallantly concede? Supposing that was the plan, and everyone but Sarah Palin was playing along with it? Five years ago, fifteen, even – I would have thought that was political paranoia talking but considering the recently-revealed shenanigans of the Clinton-Trump campaign – I can’t quite be so dismissive. Was Sarah Palin just picked as convincing window-dressing for a deliberately self-sabotaged campaign, at the cost of her own formerly quite promising political career?
Discuss, if you can bear it.