So here, we go, all around the mulberry bush, now that the all-in-one hardbound version of the Adelsverein Trilogy is about to be launched. I had intended this as a first step . . . no, actually this was the second step in having my books come out through Watercress Press in second editions. (The first step was Watercress publishing Daughter of Texas early this spring.) I had planned to transition Truckee’s Trail, followed by the single-volume paperback versions of the Trilogy gradually over the coming months, but as it turns out, I can’t be with two publishers at once. Never mind that the Trilogy was originally done by two of them – one micro-house edited and marketed, and another, a slightly larger establishment did print and distribution . . . but anyway, the result is that Truckee and the single volumes of the Trilogy are from today only available as Nook and Kindle editions for the next month or two. Which is not that much of a hassle, since the all-in-one print edition will be available after Thursday on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the Kindle edition of Truckee has been downloaded like hotcakes for the last couple of months. Since it was my first adventure in historical fiction, it was also top on my priority list to do a second edition. There were things that desperately needed to be fixed, and the senior editor at Watercress has been just itching to get her hands on it anyway. It’s my first priority to get the second edition of it out there in print, as soon as absolutely possible, so nobody panic at not being able to get a copy, unless from one of those venders who have gotten them second-hand and have it actually in their physical inventory.

So, that’s where that stands – and, hey, all the readers who have Kindles and Nooks? Carry on – tell your friends and pass the good word.

So there we were last Monday evening , sharpening up our awareness of odd things one might pick up at a yard sale or a thrift store for fifty cents or a dollar and which might later turn out to be worth a small or medium-sized fortune, by watching Antiques Road Show (US version) when this particular item was spotlighted for an appraisal. (Go ahead, take a look, you won’t regret it. I’ll wait.)
This episode was a repeat from 2009, actually – our local PBS station depends heavily on repeats, which is one reason I have never pledged to them. (The other being that they would never hire me, although as a retired AFRTS type, I was perfectly qualified for any job they had on offer. Deal with that, KLRN!)
And my daughter took one look at it: having picked up a considerable vocabulary of Brit-speak, through hanging out at various on-line fora, (as well as reading the Daily Mail Online every morning) she exclaimed,


It’s a family curse – an unexpectly ribald sense of humor, which I blame on my father — or the fact that both of us were some years in the military — not a place you go for refined comedy … because the pictured item immediatly called this novelty item to mind. I began to sing,

“Do your balls hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot?
Can you tie them in a bow?
Can you throw them o’er your shoulder
like a Continental Soldier?”

I swear, we laughed, hysterically and uncontrollably all the way through the segment featuring this pot. We even laughed through the following segment, about a pretty piece of custom-made early 19th century jewelry.

One of my daughter’s career ambitions is to buy something at a yard sale, estate sale, thrift store, or even to pick it up from the curb, take it to the next Antiques Road Show and discover it’s worth . . . well, a whole lot.

A pot like that isn’t one of them, though. Although in this current economy, we could certainly make use of the amusement value.

(Cross-posted last week at Chicago Boyz)

From: Sgt. Mom
To: The Hon. Maxine Waters,
Re: Telling the Tea Party to Go to Hell
1.Dear Maxine, when I call into memory the particulars regarding your district, I can only assume that you are already well acquainted with Hell, and the audience you were addressing with your recent inflammatory and insulting diatribe are a pretty fair assembly of your constituents. So nice to see that you are upholding the new civility in our political discourse.

2. Allow me to enlighten you – or bring it to your own awareness – that the so-called Tea Party are a leaderless and distributed insurgency of involved and patriotic citizens united by three basic concerns: fiscal responsibility, strict dedication to the precepts for self-government outlined in the Constitution, and an affection for free markets – which is not anything like crony capitalism, as is currently practiced among the current corruptocracy. A limited federal establishment, state and local control, a high degree of personal responsibility also come into it.

3. I can also see why this Tea Party political tendency would greatly concern a certain kind of long-established political parasite; that kind of machine-based, racial-grievance charlatan who battens onto the American body politic like a tick, exploiting the life-blood of the Republic no less than the woes and miseries of their constituencies for decades. A new political class imbued with devotion to Tea Party principles is very likely viewed by such a politician as akin to the approach of someone with a pair of tweezers and a hot match . . . I only draw the parallel. You may take that simile as far as you like.

4. Finally, I expect that within my lifetime, there will be another person of color – man or woman elected to the Presidency of this country. He – or she – will definitely not be a product of the corrupt special interest, racial-grievance chasing, big-city machine-oligarchy. They will most likely come out of the larger business world or the military . . . and very likely will be Tea Partiers. This will probably not please you, but life is just full of these little tragedies.

5. Bless your heart, Maxine – you have a nice day, you hear?

I remain, most sincerely,
Sgt Mom

(cross-posted at Chicago Boyz)

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter drew my attention to this story in the UK Daily Mail, with considerable amusement; both for the breathless sense of excitement about the headline – about something that was very, very old news to students of Texas history – and the matchless idiocy reflected in some of the resulting comments – the kind of crystalline pure idiocy that one can only gain from learned every darned thing they know about the aboriginal inhabitants of North America from having watched Dances With Wolves. I’ve always given handsome credit to that bit of cinema as excellent and almost anthropologically detailed peep into the world of the Northern plains Sioux in the mid-1860s . . . did anyone else ever notice how all the tribes-folk are always doing something, while carrying on a conversation in the side? Almost without exception, they are working at something. Pay no attention to the plot, just watch the people. Anyway, this bit of Brit excitement seems have been inspired by this book – which came out over a year ago, and is pretty fascinating on it’s own. Reading the story and the comments exasperated me yet again, reminding me of my own particular exasperations with the popular culture version of the American frontier. As far as movies and television go, pretty much the whole 19th century west of the Mississippi is a big-one-size-one-location-just-post-Civil-War generic blur. And all the Indians in these generic Western adventures were also pretty much generic, too . . . which means that historical knowledge gleaned from TV and movie westerns is – to be kind – not to be relied upon.

Because the tribes varied enormously as to culture and capabilities, as any anthropologist will tell you. I’m not one myself, but I have had to read pretty thoroughly in the course of writing about the American west – and that is one of the things that emerges almost at once; the various Tribes fell into a wide range of cultural and technological levels. This range went all the way from the hunting/gathering peoples, like the various divisions in California (who being in a temperate and generous land did very well) and in the deserts of the Great Basin (the Utes and Paiutes did rather less well) to the Cherokee of the southeast who farmed, traded, and swiftly adopted an alphabet for their language, and embraced printing presses and higher education. In between these two extremes were those tribal divisions who farmed, like the Mandan and others of the Ohio-Mississippi-Missouri River basin, and the sedentary tribes of the Southwest; the Hopi and Navaho – farmers, weavers, potters and basket-weavers . . . all of whom, at somewhat of a squint, were not all that remote, technology-wise, from the white settlers, although one thing they did have in common was a lack of resistance to the diseases which Europeans brought with them.

And then there were the hunter/gatherer tribes of the high plains, those who were the first to take full advantage of the horse . . . the horse, which ironically, had been brought into North America by the Spanish. The various Sioux divisions, the Kiowa, and most especially the Comanche – became peerless horsemen and hunters. They took the plains as their own, hunting the vast herds of buffalo who made their home there – all the land between the mountains and forests to the north and west, the Mississippi on the east, and nearly as far as the Gulf Coast to the south. For nearly two hundred years, the horse-tribes of the plains took it all for theirs, and lived for the hunt . . . and for war.

No, war did not come with the white settlers – it had been there all along, for the various tribes warred vigorously, frequently and with every evidence of keen enjoyment upon each other; for the rights to camp and hunt on certain tracts, for booty and slaves, for vengeance and sometimes just for the pure enjoyment. The Comanche warred with such brutal efficiency on the Apache, that the eastern Lipan Apache were nearly wiped out, and pushed them, along with the Tonkawa, into alliance with the new-come Texian settlers. But for about fifteen years, the Penateka Comanches held a peace treaty with Texas German settlers – as allies against other enemies – a peace treaty which held for a lot longer than anyone might have expected, which goes to show that reality is almost always stranger than fiction. From the mid-1830s on, the Comanche’s enemies in Texas, Lipan and Tonkawa warriors served with the Texas Rangers on various battlefields against the Comanche. In the Northern plains, the Sioux likewise warred with the Crow – with the result that the Crows were very pleased to serve with the US Army in the west, as scouts, guides and fighters. During the Civil War itself, the Cherokee split into Union and Confederate factions. Indeed, one soon gains the impression from the accounts of early explorers encountering various tribes and peoples, that those peoples were most interested in enlisting the European and American explorers – with their strange new gunpowder technology – as allies against their traditional tribal enemy. This all made a very much more complicated and nuanced picture. Individuals and tribal groups reacted in practically as many different ways that there were individuals and groups; the whole spectrum of adaptation, resistance, and acquiescence, or even in combination and in sequence. The stories are endlessly varied, with heroes and villains, triumph and heartbreak aplenty . . . on all sides.

(Crossposted at my book blog)

Oh, lord, I thought on Monday afternoon, when I ripped opened the industrially-strong sticky tape that held the cardboard mailer closed around a hardbound book the weight and dimension of two bricks – did I really write all that? The UPS guy had just brought it, and left it on the porch after ringing the doorbell, and departing as swift as the wind . . . or as swift as one can be, working a delivery job at the height of the summer inSouth Texas. I wouldn’t want to linger on a doorstep either, when it’s over 100 degrees in the shade and towards the end of a working day.

But the “OMG – did I write all that?” moment – It’s the same thing I thought, when I opened up my writer’s copy of Book Three of the Trilogy: all five hundred pages. Well, the story did kinda carry me away: the saga of the Germans in the Texas Hill Country. The research and writing of it I had nailed down within the space of two years, but I measured out the resulting books into three separate stories, all published through Booklocker, three years ago. Let’s just say that it has sold very well, as these things go when one’s nom du plume is not Philippa Gregory, Dan Brown or Larry McMurtry. The Trilogy continues to sell, in paperback and e-book categories . . . but one of my biggest fans and I decided to bring out a hard-bound with dust-jacket version of all three books in one. As I said, it is the size and weight of a couple of bricks, a solid 1040 pages (including historical notes) . . . and although a bit pricy, the retail price will be much less than the cost of all three volumes in paperback, and will probably last a titch longer, under the weight of constant re-reading. And did you see the dust-jacket cover? My little brother, the graphic artist, did that – and from a picture I took on the grounds of old Fort Martin Scott, just outside ofFredericksburg . . . where a lot of the action and drama took place.

Alas, have to tweak a couple of pages of content; namely the family trees. My own late dear Dad asked me to include family tree/trees, so that he could keep all of the main characters and their children straight. I did this with a mind fairly split: yes, it would be good to keep casual readers appraised of who was related to whom, especially as the story began to focus on the second and third generation, but I hated, hated, hated to give away plot developments: Readers could go to the family tree and plainly see who was going to marry whom, and who was going to eventually drop off their perch in the branches, and when, and given significant dates and events, probably from what cause . . . ugh. I hated to telegraph future developments, especially after taking such care in setting up plot and characters, and making people care and invest their interest in them, and all, and then hitting them with the surprise twist. It’s like – oh, she’s/he’s toast in Chapter Umpteen-whatever, don’t emotionally invest her/him at all. Or; he and she are going to marry anyway, so why bother with building up any suspense and wonderment about it all. So, I compromised and put the family tree in the last volume. One more thing to tweak . . . and anyway, here it is. The hardbound all-in-one publication of the Trilogy will be available on or about the first of September, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the usual on-line and big box store outlets. Enjoy . . . just as I have finished this one last tweak.

And I’ve been asked about pre-release orders: I’ve set up a page at my website to take pre-orders of the hardbound Complete Adelsverein Trilogy – to be autographed and mailed on 1 September, 2011 at a price slightly reduced from the official selling price (which Amazon will probably discount slightly anyway) but your copy will be autographed – personal message and all that. And I am extending the drawing for the Adelsverein tee-shirt to 1 September. Anyone ordering a copy of the Complete Adelsverein will have their name put into a drawing for one of two very nice customized tee shirts from

The hardbound version has all three volumes of the Trilogy, and the historic notes – and although it makes a … er … rather hefty volume (suitable for having a small child sit upon, at the Thanksgiving supper table in lieu of a telephone book) the retail price of it is about 2/3rds of what it would be to get all three separate volumes in paperback. And with luck, it will hold up to being read and re-read a little better than the paperback versions will. And you will be able to work on your hand and forearm strength in holding it up to read for hours at a time! Such a deal!

(In light of the current ruckus over President’s Obama’s very personal wet smooch from Hollywood regarding the proposed “get Osama” movie, I am reissuing my historic memo, from 2004 or so. Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette has the whole depressing, infuriating saga of the world’s longest proposed political advertisement, here.)
To: Providers of our Movie & TV Entertainment
From: Sgt Mom
Re: Lack of Spine and Relevant Movies

1. So here it has been nearly three years since 9/11, two years since the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a year since the thunder run from the Kuwait border to Baghdad, and all we get from you is a TV movie, a couple of episodes from those few TV serials that do touch on matters military, and a two-hour partisan hack job creatively edited together from other people’s footage. Ummm … thanks, ever so much. Three years worth of drama, tragedy, duty, honor, sacrifice, courage and accomplishment, and all we get is our very own Lumpy Riefenstahl being drooled over by the French. Where is the Casablanca, So Proudly We Hail, Wake Island, They Were Expendable? My god, people, the dust had barely settled over the Bataan surrender, before the movie was in the theaters. You people live to tell stories— where are ours? What are we fighting for and why, who are our heroes and villains, our epics and victories?

2. And it’s not like other media people have been laying down on the job: writers, reporters, bloggers have been churning out stories by the cubic foot: the brave passengers taking back Flight 93, the stories of people who escaped the towers, and those who helped others escape, as well as those who ran in, the epic unbuilding of the Trade Center ruins. What about the exploits of the Special Forces in Afghanistan, on horseback in the mountains with a GPS, directing pinpoint raids on Taliban positions, the women who ran Afghanistans’ underground girls’ schools? What about Sgt Donald Walters, Lt. Brian Chontosh, the 3rd ID’s fight for the strong points at Larry, Curley and Moe and a dozen others. There’s enough materiel for the lighter side, too: Chief Wiggles, Major Pain’s pet turkey, the woman Marine who deployed pregnant and delivered her baby in a war zone, the various units who have managed to bring their adopted unit mascots back from the theater. (Do a google search, for heaven’s sake. If you can’t handle that, ask one of the interns to help.) The shelves at my local bookstore are pretty well stocked with current writings on the subject, memoirs, reports, thrillers and all. Some stories even have yet to be written; they are still ongoing, and even classified, but I note that did not stop the movie producers back then: they just consulted with experts and made something up, something inspiring and convincing.

3. Of course, actually dealing with a contemporary drama in the fight against Islamic fascism would mean you would have to actually come down out of Hollywood’s enchanted world, and actually, you know … speak to them. Ordinary people, ordinary, everyday people, who don’t have agents and personal trainers and nannies, and god help them, they don’t even vote for the right people, or take the correct political line. Some of them (gasp) are even military, and do for real what movies only pretend to do … and besides, they have hold to all these archaic ideals like honor, duty, and country. (Ohhh, cooties!)

4. And since even mentioning the Religion of Peace (TM) in connection with things like terrorism, mass-murder, and international plots for a new caliphate is a guarantee to bring CAIR and other fellow travelers seething and whining in your outer office … ohh, best not. Drag out those old villainous standby Nazis, or South American drug lords, even the odd far-right survivalist for your theatrical punch-up, secure in the knowledge that even if you piss off what few remains of them, at least they won’t be unleashing a fatwa on your lazy ass, or sending a suicide bomber into Mortens’. Just ignore the three large smoking holes in the ground; cover your eyes and pretend it away. Never happened, religion of peace, all about oil, la-la-lah, fingers in my ears, I can’t hear you.

5.To make movies about it all, is to have to come to grips with certain concepts; among them being the fact that we are all potential targets for the forces of aggressive Islamo-fascism, that it is not anything in particular which we have done to draw such animus, and that we are in this all together, and that we must win, for the consequences of not winning are not only unbearable for us all — but they would be very likely to adversely affect you, too. I would expect an industry dependent on the moods and fashions amongst the public at large to have a better feel for what would sell … but I guess denial is more comfortable, familiar space, Sept. 10th is what you know best.

6. Still, if you could pass a word to Lumpy Riefenstahl, about getting signed releases, for footage, interviews and newsprint. It would be the courteous gesture towards all the little people for whom he professes to care, and save a bit of trouble in the long run.

Sgt Mom

Me:  Looking at calendar.  “Why?”

Them:  “You watched the finale of “So You Think You Can Dance?” instead didn’t you?”

Me:  Holding up my fist.  “Melanie RULES!  Michele Bachmann’s got nothing on her.”

Another night, another night of riots, arson and casual lootery, relatively untrammeled by the efforts of law enforcement, and perhaps slightly slowed down by the efforts of massed local residents and business owners. After three or four nights of this destruction, which leaves the internet plastered with pictures that look like the aftermath of the WWII Blitz, I would have hoped that the local residents were beginning to assemble and barricade their streets, rather than leave them open for the ‘hoodies’ to do their worst. I’d have also hoped that the police were starting to think about responding to the mob hoodlum element with more than sandbags and rubber bullets, but hey – I’m just one of those terroristic Tea partiers, presently resident in the state of Texas. Of which many and sometimes justifiable criticisms might be made, and usually are, by superior Euroweenies having a fit of lefty vapors over the relative déclassé-ness of it all – but one of the good points about living here is that the incidents of home-invasion robberies are refreshingly few in number.

Not a claim that can be made in once-Great Britain for the past few years, alas – where those who uphold Her Majesty’s laws of late seem to be more inclined to prosecute those who use any kind of weapon at hand to defend themselves in a robbery or home-invasion situation. Nope – not the case around these parts: it’s very likely that a canvass of my immediate neighborhood might turn up more weapons than the standing army of many small-to-micro European states. Law-enforcement is also rather refreshingly understanding with regard to the plight of those citizens who – under fairly strictly defined circumstances and in legitimate fear of their lives or the lives of their family – have defended their homes and castles with deadly force and dropped a miscreant stone cold on the hearth-rug, or as was the case a couple of years ago, on the doormat. (Elderly woman, living alone, local scumbag energetically trying to force open her front door. She warned him three times that she had a gun, local scumbag ignored the warning, and she drilled him straight through the front door.) Usually in these cases, the homeowner has the subdued congratulations of the local police for taking out the trash. To your average superior Euroweenie this is just the same exactly as Old West gunfights in the street practically, and an excuse for a bit of hyperventilating. Eh – whatever. It might also be the case that – depending on the year and location – communities in the Old West could just have been a good bit safer than certain of the big cities in the Old East, but that’s a discussion for another day.

No, I started on London. Ancient. Historic. The cynosure of an Empire, the great queen city of the Anglosphere. I knew it before I even set foot in it, so marinated in it for having read two thousand years worth of history and literature, in which it was the center – or near to the center – of all things. Built and rebuilt again, from Roman to Anglo-Saxon, to Norman, Elizabethan, Georgian, re-engineered by the great Victorian builders, rebuilt after the Great Fire, and again after the Blitz, and so many other relatively minor disasters . . . eternal, grand, sometimes scruffy around the edges, but comfortable and welcoming to my younger brother and sister and I, when we arrived in the early summer of 1970. We stayed in a tiny B & B in Clapham Common, one of those miniscule late Victorian brick row houses, just wide enough for a single room and a hallway alongside, and a walled garden out in back. The owner who confirmed our reservation included in his letter exhaustive, detailed and step-by-step instructions for reaching his place from the airport where our student charter flight landed. We were to take a certain train, which we would find upon walking out the front of the airport, get off at a particular stop, then walk down so many feet on a certain street to a bus stop, which we would find opposite a certain shop (he included a detailed street map for this) take a specific bus, which we would exit on Clapham High Street at another stop (which he instructed us to tell the bus conductor that we were to exit the bus at, and this part included another segment of street map), thereupon to walk so many feet on a particular direction, before turning left . . . and his establishment would be so many houses down that street on the right.

And so we did – and we stayed for three days, before relocating to the Youth Hostel just around the corner from St. Pauls’ on Ludgate Hill. In the six days of our wandering summer, we saw all the sights, to include the Tower of London, I bought books at Foyles, and explored Westminster Abbey . . . and one of the ancient established street markets – was it Golder’s Green? – where I bought a length of wool for Mom to make a bespoke pair of pants for Dad – which I don’t think she ever did. Fleet Street, and Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and Regent’s Park, and all these little hidden-away neighborhoods; we met nothing but nice people. And now that town is burning again. Is this the way that civilization ends, at the hands of insolent and brutal looters, while the populace and the government stands helpless against them? Is that little side street in Clapham one of those threatened? Are the little, old-fashioned Victorian store fronts along Clapham High Street among those smashed and looted, while the owners of those small businesses wait for a sure defense, or perhaps take matters into their own hands at last?

Interesting times. Interesting times.

(cross-posted at Chicago Boyz)

Well, it looks like the accusations of Tea Partiers being terrorists may be falling a little flat, or maybe the usual media tools and pols have gotten some blow-back for jumping on that particular bandwagon. Me, I’m beyond outrage. Anyone mouthing that poisonous little meme –– is someone that I will cheerfully boycott, vote against, disregard and shun – and that even includes John McCain. I took his description of Tea Partiers as hobbits as meaning to be demeaning. Once, I had expected better of him. Now – just another bitter establishment RINO, one of a number of old-line Republicans, seeing the writing on the wall: Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin and not liking it a single bit. You have been tried and found wanting, and your kingdom will be divided between the strict constitutionalists and the fiscal conservatives. Rage, rage against the dying of the light of things in Washington as they have been for lo these many years.

Frankly, to me – for a professional politician of either party to have been happily ensconced within the Beltway for more than a term or two or three is now a positive dis-recommendation, and I shouldn’t be the least surprised to find out that my attitude is shared, and will be demonstrated in November, 2012. It is to laugh, though – to see the established political elite twist and squirm over the last two years since the first Tea Party rallies, and the conventional wisdom morph. Let’s see – first, just bitter clingers having a tantrum, and if there were more than a dozen or a couple of hundred, the protests would peter out for lack of continuing enthusiasm. I think this attitude among established pols and the mainstream media began to change after the humongously large gathering in Washington, late in 2009. I could almost hear the grinding of the gears inside the political and media Leviathans: Oh krep-we’d better start paying attention to those freaks with the Gadsden flags, there’s a whole lotta them out there! And then when Senator Bennett of Utah was given the bum’s rush by the Utah GOP caucus – packed full of Tea Partier sympathizers, who were only following up on the same earnest intention of the Tea Partiers I knew in Texas – to take over the local GOP caucus from the inside . . . well, it was to laugh.

Really, at first the local establishment Repubs were all enthusiastic about the Tea Party; some of them were naturally in sympathy anyway, but I am sure the higher-ups were seeing it as a new source of money, and volunteer enthusiasm, all ready to be bridled, saddled and ridden. It was sweet and kinda pathetic – they heard what they wanted to hear, and disregarded the rest. I distinctly remember a strategy meeting about this, sometime in the summer of ’09 or so; third party was out, no future in that. Taking over the Dems from inside – we did kick around the idea, but concluded that – given our various backgrounds and inclinations, probably the GOP was a better fit. And such was the genius of the self-organizing Tea Party, all of the leaders and local enthusiasts were talking to each other, emailing and sharing information on a grand scale; what one local party came up with swiftly spread by internet osmosis to others. It was a demonstration of the principle of the wisdom of crowds, or if you like – a number of minds tackling the same problem from many different angles and coming up spontaneously with pretty much the same answer.

And now the old-line, established Republican politicians and strategists – among others – are belatedly discovering that many of the Tea Party candidates meant exactly what they said, having said what they meant. Good luck with trying to marginalize them – that feline has already exited the fabric containment field.

2012 is shaping up to be a really fun election year, I must say. (Note to self – buy some more popcorn, before the price of it goes up. And note to everyone – last week was invited to be one of the contributors to the Chicago Boyz blog. I had been commenting there since forever, in blog-years time, and so Lex and Johnathan very kindly invited me. I’ll try and cross-post as much as possible.)

An Open Question [1] [2] for the 2012 candidates for President.

This letter has been sent – or will be sent – to most of the candidates for the presidency in the Democratic and Republican parties in 2012. Some won’t get it – their web site utterly lacks ‘contact me’ email or a web form.

I have no pretension that I’ll get anything but a form letter back. If that.

It would be instructive if they would answer the question. But that will have to wait until a person with more umph asks the question at a debate, or a member of the press with some brass ones pitches it to them. Or, possibly, if a lucky member of the public finds themselves face-to-face with the candidate.

Or maybe you could re-blog, pass it along, send it to the candidates, put a bug in the ear of a reporter.

Sir / Ma’am,

I am asking this question of the announced candidates for President.

The answer will be very instructive, will tell the voters a great deal about your philosophy, how you will perform in office.

I will publish the results on my blog, Space For Commerce, and a mil-blog that I contribute to, The Daily Brief.

Amartya Sen wrote in ‘The Idea of Justice’ this thought experiment;

Take three kids and a flute. Anne says the flute should be given to her because she is the only one who knows how to play it. Bob says the flute should be handed to him as he is so poor he has no toys to play with. Carla says the flute is hers because she made it.

Sen argues that who gets the flute depends on your concept of justice.

Bob will have the support of the economic egalitarian.

The libertarian would opt for Carla.

The utilitarian will argue for Anne because she will get the maximum pleasure, as she can play the instrument.

Who gets the flute?


Brian Dunbar
Neenah, Wisconsin

[1] On review I see the summary owes a great deal to – if not an outright theft from – Eric Falkenstein at Falkenblog.

Sorry about that.

[2] Tip o’ the hat to SouthBend7 for sparking the idea.

I’m up at Stephanie Barko’s blog with some thoughts on book marketing – here.
And I posted a guide for the perplexed with regard to Tea Party and Terrorism here at Open Salon.
Snowed under with paying work and trying to finish Deep in the Heart. I’ll post another chapter at the end of the week. Promise.

. . . in the words of Strother Martin, from the old Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke, “is failure to communicate.” Although, in the case of one Private Nasser Jason Abdo, one really does wonder how much of that deliberate non-receptivity is on the part of the receiver; firstly – being eighteen years of age. Most eighteen year olds are idiots. I was one, and I remember thinking that yes, most of my peers were drooling morons. (Most of them did grow out of it, so there is hope.) Secondly – he willfully and with aforethought enlisted in the Army. Enable routine, inter-service slam here: oh, yeah, he enlisted in the Army. Any brains, you’d pick the Air Force or Navy, any balls, you’d go for the Marines. Disable routine, inter-service slam, and for the record I have known many brainy and ballsy Army troops, it’s just that . . . hey, opportunity presents and custom demands.

Anyway, our young hero decides to join the Army, go through Basic and probably tech school, and oh, wow – suddenly discovers that he has enlisted in a wartime military, where . . . umm . . . they kinda expect you to go out there and kill the enemy and blow up their stuff, routinely and regularly, in exchange for a paycheck, PX privileges and the burden of not having to decide to wear what to work each morning. This war thing, in Afghanistan – it’s a thing which has been going on since 2003. I know it doesn’t make the headlines every damn day, but really . . . if you were deciding to join the military in late 2009 or early 2010, it’s one of those things that I would have hoped that a bright young enlistee would have noticed, even if his recruiter failed to point that out. And if his recruiter had not made it relatively clear, I’d have thought Army basic training would have. So, anyway, upon receipt of notice that he is bound for deployment to Afghanistan, our your hero suddenly gets in touch with his inner Muslim and discovers that he is, in fact, a contentious objector, and the requirements of religion forbid him to kill other Muslims. Note; historically and in current events this particular stricture would come as rather a surprise to . . . say, participants in strife between Sunni and Shia, between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s . . . and in Afghanistan itself, where the local Muslims seem to kill each other, frequently, bloodily and with every evidence of keen enjoyment. And also – past times in the US military, declaring yourself to be a conscientious objector in the US military did not automatically relieve one from an obligation to serve in uniform. During WWII many conscientious objectors served as combat medics, and in fact, there were two Medals of Honor awarded for having performed heroically in that role.

So, on the basis of his suddenly-discovered pacifistic inclination, our young Private Abdo is made much the pet and prize of the anti-war movement, such as it exists in these strange days, but just as the Army is about to wash its hands of him metaphorically speaking, investigators find kiddy porn on his government computer . . . which is either very convenient for the investigators, or the abyss of stupidity on Private Abdos. I’m kind of torn on this one, but our young hero doesn’t exactly strike me as Mensa material – note above, regarding joining the Army in time of war and then being horrified to discover that participation in said war is obligatory.

And to crown the whole farrago of self-serving stupidity to go AWOL and be captured in Killeen, Texas . . . for trying to purchase guns and bomb-making materials, with the apparent intent of setting off explosions in an off-post eatery popular with the local troops. Okay, then . . . Private Abdos apparently does not grasp that whole conscientious objector concept, as we in the wonderful world of the military – and possibly even most of those on planet Earth – understand it , and in a fairly comprehensive way. This is an irony so dense that it threatens to drop through the earth’s crust, all the way through the molten core and come out the other side, and having a particularly dark and ironic sense of humor, I am getting at least a few chuckles out of this from watching the anti-war organizations dropping him as if he were made of plutonium, nearly as much as I did from the unmasking of Jesse McBeth.

(re-edited to permit comments)