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?

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!”

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.

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.

I am distracted this week, through having to oversee and assist with a spot of home renovation, and the launch of Book Six of the Luna City Chronicles – One Half Dozen of Luna City, which is available as of today in print, Kindle and other ebook formats – although by no means have I not paid attention to various news hiccups which caught my fleeting attention as they went past.

As a parent, I can’t help but be sympathetic and supportive of little Alfie Evans’ parents, whose’ medical situation was as heartbreaking as it was mysterious and likely terminal. Just as I cannot help being viciously cynical regarding the decision by hospital and National Health Service administrators to set the poor tot on the so-called Liverpool Care pathway. Over the strenuous objections of his parents, the church which his parents apparently belonged to, any number of advocates for the rights of parents – all life support cut off, including oxygen, nourishment and water, with the powers of the State and its police minions standing by to enforce the dictates of the state. More »

I always had rather a soft spot in me for Barbara Bush; the exemplary old-school upper-middle-class good wife, with her triple strand of pearls, and the way that she didn’t give a damn about going prematurely white. That was the way she was, and she didn’t give two pins. Class – that’s what she had, the class of a previous generation; a class now belatedly appreciated and mourned, now that the upholders and exemplars of it are almost now gone from between us. Among my transitory friends in Korea was a security policeman who had come off the White House protection squad at the end of the senior Bush administration: he adored Barbara, who called him Timmy – possibly the only person on earth besides his mother who did so, as he was one of these six-and-a-half foot tall human hazards in traffic, who looked rather like an Irish-Anglo version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
So – I took brief note of her passing; yes, good to die at home, refusing anything but palliative care, among family, and those whom hold you in affection. I am certain that Timmy – wherever he is now – is riffling through his fond memories of his particular First Lady and drinking a toast to her. A good long life, well lived, a loving marriage, well-adjusted and successful children, and grandchildren; what more could a brief life on this earth offer? I also drink a toast to Barbara Bush, and convey my sincerest condolences to those who loved her, a circle which extends far beyond those of her blood family. (I wish, though, that she had not been so catty about Sarah Palin, but I guess she was just going along with the old-line Establishment GOP crowd.)

This appears to be a simple social courtesy too much for a certain professor of … something or other at a California State University. Oh – it’s the one in Fresno. Fresno – like Bakersfield, it’s own punishment. (Yes, I am letting my latent California snobbishness show. Yes, there are places in California too infra dig for words. Fresno is one of them, although it did feature in a hilarious and all-star parody of 1980s dramas like Dynasty and Dallas. I continue.) The tweets posted by this so-called professor (of what, pray tell? Oh, dear – of English.) Couldn’t prove it through the content of her tweets, which largely appear barely literate speak for themselves – mostly a narrative of vicious ignorance and malice.

Her name is Randa Jarrar, which must be 21st century speak for Two Ton Tessie, the epitome of a certain kind of female academic social justice warrior, like Trigglypuff. If her now-notorious tweets are what she puts on her social media feed, god only knows what she says to her students in the classroom – at a public and state-funded university, I might add. MS Jarrar is apparently a promising author of the kind of socially-aware preciosity that most of us wouldn’t read on a bet, unless it was to make riotous fun of. She appears to be a lukewarm American Muslim of part-Palestinian extraction, raised in Kuwait and Egypt, returning to the United States for good and all after the First Gulf War in 1991; her previous claim to fame was to have authored a widely-circulated essay on Salon about how she couldn’t stand white belly-dancers. On the grounds of cultural appropriation, apparently.

Among the items of cultural appropriation that MS Jarrar seems to have refused to partake of is the classically Latin truism about ‘speaking no ill of the dead’ – and the other, more American bog-standard, about ‘if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.’ Tragic, since she seemed to have graced UT-Austin with her presence, for a degree in Middle Eastern studies. Oh, well – Austin, what can I say? I would venture a supposition that her very personal animus towards the Bush family has roots in the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein’s brief occupation of Kuwait. If I recall (and I do, for I followed events, being on active duty at the time), elements of the Palestinians in Kuwait and in the Middle East generally were enthusiastically backers of Saddam Hussein. When Saddam Hussein was chased out of Kuwait – well, those Poor, Poor, Pitiful Palestinians were considered as collaborators, and treated in Kuwait rather as French Nazi collaborators were treated after Liberation. While not quite having their heads shaved and marched naked through the streets, they were definitely made unwelcome by the Kuwaitis. I recall that many self-identifying Palestinians did leave Kuwait in a hurry. Being a logical person, I suspect that MS. Jarrar’s family were among them.

And so MS Jarrar found herself, after many academic adventures, comfortably in a well-paid sinecure at a small-town public university in California. Tenure, baby – it’s where you can find it. Alas, she seems to be addicted to the drug of “Calling Attention to Yourself”, and in this case, not thoughtful of how she went about getting that required fix or considering the wisdom of what she would say to get it. Now she has that attention – and having done so on her personal Twitter account (I swear, Twitter exists for the sole purpose of revealing morons in 140 characters or less) she has reflected nothing good on her employer, and from reports of her other social media appearances, she has nothing good to say about the local Fresno community, either. She may very well prove toxic to the university itself, tenure or no – having also demonstrated that she has no firm hold on the axiom regarding not bringing discredit or public opprobrium on one’s employer. Discuss this latest social media/academic dumpster fire; will she be sacked, or retained? Place your bets, gentlemen, place your bets.

Damned if I know, as my educated guess as a long-time milblogger is probably about as good as yours. I never had a Myspace account – too busy with the original milblog, I guess, to be aware of or want to participate in any of the original or prototype Facebook iterations. Never got into Twitter, although I do have a barely-used, and all but neglected account, which I am camping on, since there is another author Celia Hayes out there, who likely would scoop it up, as soon as I vacated that account. (Yes, I am, spiteful that way. That other Celia apparently never did a google-search, upon deciding to publish her contemporary rom-coms. There is such a thing as due diligence…)

See – I am a long-form blogger. There are those of us whose skill is witty epigrams, or slashingly vicious put-downs on a daily basis. Mine is not; I prefer to open up a document, meander at my own pace, and then hit “publish.” Tedious, I know, for those readers with the attention-span of a gnat, but my most intense literary influences where those of the Victorians, who wrote complicated sentences, some of them lasting for at least a quarter of a page, if not for longer. My sense of humor (as well as my tastes in architecture) was set in stone by the influence of a book in the parental collection: Osbert Lancaster’s Here of All Places, who was at least as good as a cartoonist as he was a wordsmith, if slightly ponderous and wonderfully dry.

When I began seriously scribbling on more than a weblog around 2008, I began connecting with other independent writers; the largest congeries of us assembled at first through an Amazon discussion group, swapping experiences, opportunities, and advice on marketing our books. A good many in the group had been on the fringes of traditional publishing in various editorial or technical capacities. Their experiences and insights into the dark heart of what I took to calling the Literary-Industrial Complex were invaluable to the rest of us.

In the light of recent events, one of those pieces of marketing advice has proven to be quite prescient: that is, utilize social media as you must – but don’t bet the farm on it. One should not put all of one’s hard-written content into a basket controlled by others; suck up the expense of your own website, mirror-post your content – because, if for some reason, the social media platform goes under, or takes against you, all your work can and will be lost. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter – all easy, popular, convenient … but when – when, and not if – the politicized and mostly left-of-center providers of the service decide to shadow-ban, demonetize or close your account, you will be stuck. I had a good three or four years’ worth of archive posts on Open Salon, which evaporated into the ether, when Open Salon had their plug pulled by management. Didn’t lose much, save for some of the connections, when that platform went down. I do have a Facebook account for myself as an author, and for several other of my enterprises – not that I post, connect to, or repost anything but the most neutral and anodyne materiel on them. I came into this internet game with a sense of probity already hard-learned, having as a military broadcaster to always consider what I said, wrote, and posted, from the public affairs point of view. Once what you have said on air – it’s out there. No reconsideration can draw it back or erase any line of it.

The social media oligarchs who control such venues have decided – for whatever reasons – to get in touch with their militantly liberal side, consigning better than half the country to perdition and obscurity. I have no idea why, although I can guess at a few possible motivations. Are they so thickly insulated in their bubble of the like-minded that they are genuinely baffled at the existence of conservatives of any stripe? Are they frightened; scared out of their wits at that straw-other built up in their own minds, and hysterically lashing out at the perceived threat by calling it hate speech, or terming conservatives a threat to the community? Or are the social media lords and the media nobility vengefully blaming half the country for not obediently falling into line and voting for Hillary, and punishing the outspoken for our lack of faith in Her Inevitableness?
And what action can we take in response? Can we switch to gab.ai from Twitter, MeWe from Facebook, post to Vimeo instead of YouTube, or explore other alternatives? Will a substantial shift to alternate social media platforms have any effect on oligarchs like Zuckerberg? Discuss.

(The historic WWI Battle of Belleau Wood is a part of the background in A Half Dozen of Luna City … and for your edification – an essay on it, which will feature in the latest Luna City chronicle.)

1918 was not the year that the 19th century died; died in all of its boundless optimisms and earnest faith in advancement of the human condition. For Europe – cynical, cultured, hyper-superior old Europe – that could be said to happened two years earlier, along the Somme, at Verdun, in the tangled hell of barbed wire, poisoned gas and toxic, clay-like mud, the burnt ruins of the centuries-old Louvain university and it’s priceless library, destroyed by German ‘frightfulness’ tactics in the heat of their first offensive. Perhaps the 19th century died as early as 1915. It depended on which front, of course, and the combatants involved, still standing on their feet, but wavering like punch-drunken, exhausted pugilists. One may readily theorize that only blood-drenched enmity kept them propped up, swinging futilely at each other, while the lists of casualties from this or that offensive filled page after page of newsprint; all in miniscule typeface, each single name – so small in print, yet a horrific, tragic loss for a family and community hundreds of miles from the Front.
All this was different for Americans, of course; sitting on the sidelines, gravely concerned, yet publicly dedicated to neutrality, and firmly at first of the conviction that Europe’s affairs were not much of Americas’ business. But softly, slowly, slowly, softly – American sympathies swung towards the Allies, even though there were enough first- and second-generation Americans among German and Irish immigrants to have swung American public opinion among non-Anglo or Francophile elements towards maintaining a continued neutrality. After all, it was a war far, far, away, and nothing much to do with us … at first. But events conspired; the brutality of the Huns in Belgium (documented by American newspapers), unrestricted submarine warfare which extended to American shipping (and, inevitably, American casualties), and finally, the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram – and in the spring of 1917, President Wilson formally requested of Congress that a declaration of war on Imperial Germany be considered and voted upon. Said declaration was passed by an overwhelming margin, and by summer of that year, American troops were arriving in France – first in a trickle, then a flood.
The Belleau Wood was a forested tract thirty or so miles northeast of Paris; a hunting preserve in a stand of old-growth European forest, the refuge of wildlife, and for those whose favored recreation was hunting them. At the northern edge of the forest was two-story octagonal hunting lodge; built of stone, it was a place to shelter hunters for a night, during momentary bad weather, or a hearty meal, mid-hunt. Until the spring of 1918, it had been relatively untouched by a war which had turned acres and acres of French and Belgian farmland into muddy, barbed-wire entangled wastelands – many of which are still poisoned and unsafe, a hundred years after the end of that war. That forest tranquility ended when the expected German spring offensive slammed into the Allied lines – lines which now included the Americans – and punched through to the Marne River. The Germans had hoped to break through before the sufficient of the American Expeditionary Force arrived to make a difference in the wars’ outcome.
Late in May, German forces reached the Paris-Metz main road – and if they managed to break across the Marne and reach Paris, that one last throw of the dice would pay off for Germany; perhaps in victory, or perhaps in a negotiated and face-saving settlement with the equally exhausted and embittered French and British.

An experienced career soldier, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing commanded the US. Expeditionary Force. He had rejected British and French demands that the Americans be parceled out piecemeal among Allied units, and essentially fight under the command of French and British officers. This would not do – likely Black Jack was polite yet forceful about it. (His nic came from him having commanded a troop of black cavalry early in his career as a young officer.) The AEF’s 3rd Division went into the line to counter the German advance at Chateau Thierry – the 3rd Division, which included a brigade of Marines, had initially been held in reserve – was brought forward in a hurry. The Marines were pretty much seen as a second-class by the Army brass, according to some accounts: good enough to do rear-guard and support duty, and only thrown into what was expected to be a quiet sector because every able-bodied American serviceman was needed, in the face of the German spring offensive. Checked by stiff resistance at Chateau Thierry, the German advance poured into the woods, where the 3rd Division had just arrived. Retreating French troops, exhausted from the fight to keep from being overrun, urged the Americans to do likewise, whereupon one of their officers is supposed to have riposted, “Retreat, Hell – we just got here!”
Of course, the newly-arrived American troops were keen as mustard; champing at the bit, as it were – especially the Marines, few of whom were of the career old breed. Many were recent volunteers. Up until that moment, the Marines had been a rather small, and somewhat specialized service; more inclined to security on board naval ships and at US embassies abroad, perhaps a small punitive expedition where American interests were concerned in South America and the Caribbean; a military constabulary, rather than hard-charging infantry. Still, it was a service that took pride in having been founded by an act of the Continental Congress in 1775, recruiting at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, beating the official establishment of the US Army by more than a decade. (Yes, there was a Continental Army during the Revolution, but it was more like state militias seconded for service in the colonies’ united cause. The US Army wasn’t quote-unquote officially established until the 1780s. Upon this kind of minutia are friendly service rivalries built.)

Throughout the month of June 1918, the Marines fought with bitter tenacity through the deathly woods; sharpshooting at first, with deadly effect, and eventually to point-blank, then with bayonet, knives, and hand-to-hand. They kept the Germans from moving out of the wood, and then fought them back, yard by yard, trench by trench. The trees in the forest, the boulders at their feet were shattered by artillery and machine-gun fire. The stench from the bodies of the dead – too many to bury, under the existing conditions in the early summer heat – revolted the living to an unimaginable degree. And still – they went on, clawing back the wood to Allied control. More Marines were killed in that single month than had been killed in action since their founding in 1775. The Corps would not face another butcher’s bill to equal it until the taking of Tarawa, a quarter of a century later, and half the world away. It was a special kind of hell, this fight in a 200-acre French woodland, fought by relatively untried young troops, motivated by pride in service, by devotion to comrades, and by the leadership – which in many instances devolved onto NCOs, and even individual Marines, like Sergeant Dan Daly, a scrappy Irish-American career Marine (who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – twice, for actions in the Boxer Rebellion, and then again in Haiti). In legend he is said to have rallied the troops with a shout of “For Chrissake, men, come on; do you want to live forever?!” (Or similar phrasing. The war correspondent Floyd Gibbons later wrote that he had heard a similar expression shouted by a senior NCO, and the legend attached itself to Dan Daly.)
In the end, the Germans were driven from the woods, at a horrific cost; 10,000 casualties among the Marines, including nearly 2,000 dead. There is no definitive record of German dead, although there were around 1,600 Germans taken prisoner. But the Marines had clawed back the deathly woods, blunted the last-ditch German offensive … and in November of that year, Germany threw in the towel. By agreement, it all came to a temporary end on the eleventh hour, the eleventh day, the eleventh month. Such were the enmities and resulting bitterness that the armistice held only for the time that it took for a baby boy born in that year to grow up and serve in his turn. The shattered forest was christened anew after the battle; since then it is called the Wood of the Marine Brigade and an adjunct to a American war cemetery. The American 4th Brigade was recognized by the French government by the award of a military honor, the Croix de Guerre. To this day, active-duty Marines serving in the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments are authorized to wear the French fourragere – an elaborate garnishment of looped and braided cords – on their left shoulder as part of their dress uniform, in honor of that unit’s service in the Deathly Wood, a hundred years ago. And to this day, successfully completing Marine Corps basic training means completing the “Crucible” – a 54-hour marathon march on short rations and little sleep, featuring grueling marches, obstacle course and team-driven combat-problem-solving exercise – some of which was drawn on the experience of the fighting in the deathly woods, a hundred years ago.

For me, the very first – although not the most momentous disappointment in the accumulated collection racked up throughout the Obama administration – was the realization that there would be no line drawn under the old bug-bear of racism with regard to those of us – as a friend of mine during my assignment to Greenland in the early 1980s put it – with the year-round dark tan. Yes, said friend was black, Afro-American, a person of color, or whatever the approved term is these days. (You kids, get off my lawn! Oh … I don’t have a lawn.) My friend was a totally middle-class young woman, the daughter of professionals, who like me, had grown up without ever personally observing much in-your-face unmistakable racial antagonism or prejudice. It was merely something that had happened to other people, a fair number of decades ago; at worst howlingly illegal, at best, rude. We were in the habit of walking together every Saturday, around the end of the Sondrestrom AB runway to the Danish side of the base, there to enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry in the SAS air terminal cafeteria.

North of the Arctic Circle, you take your diversions where you can find them; in this case, the air terminal cafeteria was A) away from the base, and B) actually had rather good food, since it was entirely run by Danes; masters of pastry and good solid comfort food. One Saturday, the cafeteria was empty save for a large party at another table, who stared at the pair of us in a manner most disconcerting. It freaked both of us out, as soon as we noticed. Had we each suddenly grown another head? Were we trailing toilet paper stuck to our mukluks? It wasn’t an American uniform – both of us were clad in the customary Sondy winter mufti, of jeans and plaid shirts, with the addition of dull-green issue parkas and mukluks – why were they staring at us? Finally, I ventured – “Is it because you’re black and I’m white, and they’re from South Africa or something, where it’s illegal to sit at the same table?”

She agreed that it must be something like that; it must have been the only explanation, and we returned to enjoying our tea and pastries, marveling at how things had changed so much for the better, from the times of violent civil rights demonstrations twenty years before.
At that point – and especially in the military – systemic racial prejudice appeared to be something from the bad old days. It was so far off the table, it wasn’t even in the same room. No one turned so much as a hair over a commander, supervisor, NCOIC being of another race, and if racial prejudice were a factor in the dating and marriage scene, it was one of the best-kept secrets since the Enigma coding device. So, twenty-some years after that tea-time in the airport terminal, I had some thin and comforting hope that the election of B. Obama to the highest office in the land would at the least put a dagger in the heart of the myth of the USA being Teh Most Racist Nation Evah! – even if he delivered on nothing else of note. And this, even after the “G*d Damn America” sermon stylings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright came to light among the conservative side of the blogosphere. I’m at heart an optimist … surely the chances of a light-weight Chicago machine pol, with not much going for him other than a mellifluous voice (when reading from a teleprompter) and a slightly unusual personal background couldn’t do all that much damage … could he?

Ten years later, that answer is along the lines of ‘oh, hell, yes!’ Between the crazed indifference to the actual facts of the various ‘police on black thug’ shootings on the part of BLM (and the statistics on crime by black vs white perps generally), the curious rise of the ‘knock-out game’, an anti-Semitic race-mongering sleaze-ball opportunist like Al Sharpton achieving a comfortable sinecure and apparent social respect among Dems as a media commenter, American institutions of higher learning piously condemning ‘whiteness’, an earnest and involved group of citizens like the Tea Party partisans being routinely condemned by the establishment news and entertainment media as racist … all that is bad enough. But now it seems that Nation of Islam honcho, Louis Farrakhan – vicious, anti-Semitic, poisonously-hateful of whites in general, and all-around nut-bar – was on closer acquaintance with our former President than previously thought. Yes, presidents and rising pols need to rub elbows with those from whom a normal private citizen would otherwise run screaming, or at least murmuring polite apologies as they edge towards the door – but what are we to make of this? Trump is expected to apologize endlessly for having attracted the support of David Duke – but the support of a malignant hater like Calypso Louie is just – oh, well, one of those political things?

Sharpton, at least, gives off the vibe of being a particular sort of crass racial opportunist (aside from the anti-Semitic thing). Stoking racial animosity been berry, berry good to him over the years – but Louis Farrakhan? He comes off as a fanatic, and of a dangerous sort. Discuss, if you can bear it.

And why – in the wake of the latest horrific school massacre. What I mean is the banning of gun ownership in the US, or the abrogation of the second amendment, or the passing of so-called “sensible” new gun restrictions (which will be as little-enforced as the last set of so-called “sensible” restrictions). Not going to happen, no matter how emotional the demands by the ban-gun advocates scream, weep, stomp their feet and accuse gun-owners and organizations like the NRA of having blood on their hands. And no, we don’t much care how they do it in Europe, or Britain, or Australia. Weirdly enough, in the United States, the most violent cities are the ones with the most restrictions on personal firearms. Violent crime is generally the preserve of a distinctly urban racial sub-culture, which if omitted from the statistics, presents a very different picture when it comes to violent criminal activity in the US as a whole. That’s an anomaly and discussion for another time, although it does have slight bit of bearing on this one.

I’ve rather lost track of how many times we have been to the gun-violence rodeo since the Columbine school shooting. Now it seems like we go through this hyperventilating over gun control every six months or so. I do recall, though, the reaction being extraordinarily muted when Republican members of Congress and their staffs were shot up at baseball practice by James Hodgkinson last June. But muted, or loud and foot-stompy, the results are about the same. It comes down to demanding that innocent, law-abiding citizens, exercising their rights under the Constitution, must be punished for the deeds of a single criminal, or for the deeds of a small number of criminals; collective punishment, in other words. The realization comes – or a sensible person should realize – that screaming grief to the skies and demanding collective punishment is the easy, cheap, facile response. It’s a reflexive reaction – understandable in the case of the grief of the bereaved, people with normal feelings of empathy, or the demand of a media personality under pressure, dammit, to say something before the cameras and microphones. Easy, and pointless – which is why it happens every damn time. Actually going ahead, full-steam ahead on repealing the 2nd Amendment would not only be hard work, even enforcing a total gun ban might prove ultimately impossible, as discussed here.
Effective efforts at preventing mass shootings that come out of the blue at schools, nightclubs, office Christmas parties, midnight movie showings and at concerts and malls is hard work, hard, complicated, and not a one-fits-all solution – made harder when a law enforcement agency like the FBI totally blows off tips concerning worrisome behavior by individuals, as in the current case – or an organization like the military not passing the word about a violence-prone individual, as was the case of the Sutherland Springs church shooter.

A common element in the last two decades is – besides a member of the Religion of Peace going all jihadi with guns, knives, and homemade bombs – is the element of crazy. A young male, as is the sad case last week in Florida, possibly not wrapped terribly tightly, over-or-under medicated, whose’ behavior in real life or on social media increasingly gives those around cause for extreme worry. Sometimes local police have long been aware of erratic and dangerous behavior; at the very least, friends, neighbors, employers all have reason for serious concern. But at present – how do we, or should we go about containing the crazy before the point where the crazy flips out for good and all and leaves a trail of bleeding bodies? Safeguarding the community and the crazy for their own good is another one of those difficult projects; running straight into the conundrum of accommodating the civil rights of the crazy-accused … and who gets to decide, anyway. There are pitfalls down that route; namely the danger of it being too damn easy to declare someone a danger on account of their words or beliefs and lock them up. Shades of the Soviet system, anyone?

Yet another element, discussed last night at Conservative Treehouse – the policy of schools to keep law enforcement away from problem students in the interests of protecting racial minorities. And a final element, related to the above – the problem of boys growing up without a father in the picture, or even a suitable, authoritative father-figure, compounded with the professional feminists blathering on and on about toxic masculinity. Too many professional and elite toes would be trodden heavily on, in the process of ameliorating those situations. Not that it would be impossible, just a very long job, the work of decades and small advances by individuals in reversing the policies that lead us to this point.
The short-term solution may be to follow the Israeli example, as is being done in some school districts in Texas, to arm selected teachers. But that will also be a long and bitterly-contested process. Discuss, and contribute your own thoughts.

In Iowahawk’s deathless phrase regarding the establishment press, “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.” Here it is a weekend and a couple of working days after the release of the notorious and long-awaited FISA memo, and the relatively conservative side of the blogosphere is still happily chewing it over. Doubtless the professional national media wishes the whole matter would just go away already, just because. Frankly, the whole matter reminds me of the swiftboat veterans and the matter of John Kerry’s service in Vietnam.

For weeks before the mainstream establishment media deigned to notice the whole kerfuffle, the blogosphere was a-bubble with discussions of how Kerry had gamed his tour in Vietnam and made his political bones afterwards by being prominent anti-war protestor – to the disgust of those who had served with him. (As an officer and gentleman, Kerry looks to have been an unlovely combination of Frank Burns and a grown-up Eddie Haskell.) And the establishment national media desperately put their fingers in their ears and sang la-la-la-la, no doubt wishing passionately that the whole thing would go away … but it didn’t. Eventually, they had to come to grips with the fact John Kerry’s comrades during his truncated tour of duty felt they had been maligned and insulted by his subsequent antics. The media did manage to twist the phrase ‘swiftboating’ into having another meaning entirely, but it didn’t win Kerry the White House, so we got off lucky in that event.

The corrupting of the FBI is a hundred times worse than John Kerry’s cynical attempts at burnishing his military service for higher office, in my opinion. He was, is, and remains a tone-deaf, clueless fool, notable for charmless ineptitude, a legend in his own mind. The weaponizing of a national crime-investigating agency against a political opponent is a far more serious affair. Here we have a shady oppo-research outfit, working up a bespoke but unproven suit of slime, paid for by partisan political interests, passing it surreptitiously to friends in the establishment media … and to the FBI, to use as justification for spying on a political opponent’s campaign. This is the kind of scummy political shenanigans which distinguishes Third World banana republics, where the president-for-life’s cousin owns the biggest newspaper/television station in the country, and his brother-in-law runs the national police force, and no one, by god, had better get in the way of the president-for-life’s stranglehold on the body politic. The parties who enabled this whole sordid farrago have got to be brought to account – and brought to account in a manner that stings, and demonstrates to the public that there are penalties to be paid for reducing this proud republic to the level of some third world hellhole.

As long as we are still talking about this, blogging about it, commenting on the mainstream media’s comment threads, passing around the word on social media, the issue is still on the table. The national establishment media may wish like hell that it would all go away, but as long as we still have the soap-box, the ballot box and the other boxes … we cannot let this matter pass. Discuss.

A discussion at According to Hoyt this last week developed from a long look the recent so-called “woman’s march”; an event which appeared to really be an open-air scream therapy session for a certain subset of the human population. They had the opportunity to mingle with others of their ilk, dress up in pink hats and vagina costumes and inform the rest of the world (yet again) of their acute unhappiness that Hillary, the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua, formerly known as Her Inevitableness had not been able to win an election rigged in her favor, and that Donald Trump was currently the President of the United States. MS Hoyt speculated on what, exactly, the protesters were on about; what rights were imperiled, exactly? What did all the feel-good, content-free slogans have to do with anything in the lives of real, live women and men working for a living? And how did dressing up as an anatomically sort-of-correct vagina have to do with anything, in the real world. And in the long run, weren’t such pointless demonstrations of hysteria actually counter-productive, in that genuine misogynists would point to them as proof positive that women were too flighty, too emotional, to damn silly to manage anything, let alone their own lives.

Following on these ruminations, the comment thread wandered this way and that, as threads with three or four hundred comments (or even more) tend to do, until a regular commenter who goes by the nickname of “Kirk” posted:

“Go back and look at all the really base things which used to be said, and then compare that to the actual things going on today, and the behaviors endemic to many of the so-called minority groups. I swear to God, it’s like someone has sat down with a list, and said to their people “OK, we’re gonna make things look like those old-time racists and misogynists were absolutely right.”

In this bright, shiny, barely driven-off-the-car-lot new century, women are seen by the professional feminist class as easily-offended, fragile, put-upon delicate snowflakes, too fine, pure and noble to endure the rough and tumble of academia and the working world, and certainly too fragile to administer a withering rebuke when offended. Taking instant offense and cherishing grudges as if they were delicate orchids have been raised to a high art. This, if the women perpetuating this kind of thing stopped to consider the implications and possible outcome – will lead to nowhere good. (It likely already has led to nowhere good as far as the dating scene goes, for the girls who treat guys like dirt … and then complain there are no good men out there.) What intelligent person, male or female, will want to have anything beyond the bare minimum required to do with a hysterical, vengeful, grudge-nurturing woman in an academic or a business setting? Hire one of these women, or promote to a position of authority? Not if you are a sane business owner. As Kirk put it in another comment, “The feminists are trying to persuade the rest of us that women truly are too fragile and flighty to be out in public, and they can’t even grasp the final implications of their acts and goals.”

The professional feminist class mucking it up for women in general is bad enough, damaging enough, but the other part of what Kirk mentioned is something that I have wondered about for years; the racism angle. How damaging can it be for the African-American minority, that the black urban culture is everything that the most virulent 19th century racists accused Negroes of being; hyper-violent, sex-obsessed, ignorant, brutal, and incapable of being civilized. And here the same elements of violence, sex-obsession, willful ignorance, and brute force, are all glorified in contemporary black urban culture, in the name of ‘keeping it real.’ The KKK, or what is left of them, hardly have to bother with burning crosses or organizing lynch mobs any more, not when the urban black population has taken over donning their own chains. Your thoughts?

So, there has always been a tension existing between city folks and country folks; the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse being an example. Then there are all those jokes about the city slicker and the country bumpkin, the effete city dweller and the down-to-earth country folk, the books, movies and television series painting the city as a glamorous yet spiritually and physically unhealthy place, the country being dull, desperately boring, backwards, even a bit dangerous … all in the spirit of good fun, mostly. But now we have a new and malignant version, and there is nothing at all fun about it. Here we have the bicoastal enclaves, all drawn as the glamorous and fabulously wealthy, sensitive and with-it woke folks … and then you have the flyover country in between, filled with – as the bicoastal see it – with those hateful, stupid looser deplorables, clinging to their guns, and religion, and hating on all those with darker skins.

The example linked early this week by everyone from Rantburg to Instapundit is perhaps sadly illustrative, even though it does date from a year ago: Tech Founder: Middle America Is Too ‘Violent, Stupid And Racist’ For New Jobs. (As it turns out, the referenced tech founder is one Melinda Byerley, whose company seems to consist of a rather pleasant-looking yet cookie-cutter website, and her business may be just one of those one- or -two person consulting agencies.) Still, the hatred is rather jolting, especially when combined with the sheer bigoted ignorance on previous display. It looks like her original post has been memory-holed, which belatedly says something for Ms Byerley’s business sense, or at least her awareness that there have been a lot of enterprises and individuals who have, in fact, legged it from the cultured, cosmopolitan and tolerant bicoastal regions for the supposedly violent, ill-educated and bigoted hinterlands.

This is not a good development, this mutual loathing – and it has just gotten worse over the last year. It’s not in the spirit of the city cousin and the country cousin having a friendly joshing of each other; it’s outright hatred and condescension from the bicoastal, from their higher perches in management, government, the media and the educational edifices – sentiments heartily returned by the residents of Flyoverlandia. The despising by Flyoverlandites was not heard quite as strongly, perhaps because those sentiments were – with a single exception – broadcast at somewhat lower decibels; on blogs, and in comment sections, and reported only by those media experts sympathetic to their woes and grievances. The exception of course, was the unseen groundswell popularity of Donald Trump in the last presidential campaign, and his election to the highest office in the land – to the absolute horror of people like Ms Byerley and other bicoastal elites. In addition to being hated for all our other shortcomings, we are despised for having elected him – and for that, we likely will never be forgiven.
Just for fun – a pair of graphics – Trumpland and the Clinton Archipelago. Whither Trumpland, and the Clinton Archipelago, now? Discuss.

Well, this has been a festival of tantrums, has it not? What with ISIS/ISIL/Whatever is now huffing and puffing, threatening to blow our Christmas cottage down, and to execute President Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. Might have some luck with some sub-normally-intelligent specimen of Muslim humanity with delusions of adequacy walking into a public place with a badly-constructed pipe-bomb, but looking on the most recent fearless lone-wolf jihadi warrior, who only managed to semi-eviscerate himself in trying to blow up … which reminds me, have the usual suspects begun winging on about the anti-Muslim backlash which, miraculously, never seems to descend? I’ve been sick as a dog all week with a seasonal cold, so it might have actually happened, and I never noticed. Meanwhile, the Palestinians and their fellow-traveler-symps in the Western world have declared another day of rage with regard to President Trump following through on the ever-so-tentative concept agreed upon by how many previous administrations – that the US embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Cue the day of pique, anger, rage, frenzy, furor, indignation, and bluster … any day which ends in ‘y’ will suit for the pathetic Palestinians, exploited by other Arab nations for seventy years. Look, Pallies, this is what happens when you and your badly-chosen Arab allies loose wars repeatedly, persistently and without fail pick the wrong side in a conflict, choose thuggish leaders who take the sweet, sweet internationally-donated lolly and stash it in a Swiss bank account… and then turn around and blame your self-inflicted woes on the nearest handy target. Nope, sorry – the well of sympathy in me towards the Poor Prosecuted Palestinians went dry sometime around 9/11, or possibly when in the depths of one or another of the intifadas – committing, enabling, excusing all sorts of terrorist atrocities – their spokes-feeb took a breath and whined that everyone in the West regarded the Pallies as terrorists. There is that concept concerning cause and effect, ya know. Gaza could have been a garden and beach-leisure spot, cheerfully raking in Israeli tourist dollars over the last seventy years, but no … better to marinate in poisonous resentment. Again – this is what happens when you a) pick bad allies, b) lose wars, and c) blame everyone else but yourselves.

Meanwhile, the Pervnado churns on and on and on, with the latest accused MCP being Russell Simmons. Has any powerful male figure in the national news media, music, the movies, or any other establishment not been a complete pig when it comes to conduct, professional or otherwise with women; women he worked with, interviewed, or who had careers which they hoped he would enable through being nice to him, or at least not slapping him into the next county for demanding sexual services? Boundaries, ladies and gentlemen – are nice things to have, loudly to publicize and faithfully to observe. Note that no one has been snickering at VP Mike Pence lately, for being a woman-hating prude, in never yet being alone with a woman not his wife.

And finally, kudos to Sarah Huckabee Saunders, she of the thankless job of daily wrangling the White House press corps – a body which for the most part increasingly resembles a class of bitchy middle-school mean girls, with her as their homeroom teacher. Looks like a darned nice pecan pie too. A note to April Ryan, and Rosie O’Donnell, too – a pecan pie is not that hard to make, even if you make the crust from scratch.

(Note: A Fifth of Luna City is now up in both paperback and Kindle ebook. Lone Star Glory is, as of yet, only available in Kindle – the paperback version won’t be up until around the end of the year.)

Seriously, I am stuck for a reaction to the news this week that both Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor have both been let go, with appropriate force, by their employers for sexual conduct unbecoming and unprofessional in the extreme with women in their respective workplaces. Earlier in the week it was howls for the heads of John Conyers and Al Franken, giving the impression of those gentlemen holding on to their congressional seats by their bare fingertips, while Cokie Roberts confesses that ‘everyone’ knew not to get into an elevator with Congressman Conyers. Jeez Louise, is there anyone in the higher levels of show business, the media and the government who isn’t a total woman-mauling pig? Anyone? And is there anyone in the media specifically charged with covering show biz and politics who isn’t complicit in covering these matters – with a pillow, until they stop moving, in the deathless phrase of Iowahawk? Can we afford to wait until our fearless media fifth-column representatives are cornered like a rat and forced to ‘fess up to deliberately looking the other way? Oh, and thanks, Cokie – for sitting on that bit of intelligence regarding sexual abuse on Capitol Hill. Just couldn’t bear to tear yourself away from the sweet, sweet source of social power in Capitol City, and face the prospect of never being invited to the good cocktail parties again, could you? Between you and Garrison Keillor, I feel like demanding a refund of every single dollar in pledges I ever made to public radio and television. I will keep the Blake’s 7 tee shirt and the La Madelaine cookbook, though. (The tee shirt is trashed, and the cookbook is pretty well-worn.)

Granted, the accusations – so fair – aimed at the lugubrious king of live variety show public radio seem rather thin, but the roundelay of accusation is still young as far as Garrison K. is concerned. I ought not to be taking such unseemly and unchristian satisfaction out of his embarrassment, since there seem to be less than half-a-dozen accusers on record in his case, but he has been so ugly regarding Republicans, conservatives, citizens of Flyoverlandia, and small rural towns in general over the last twenty years (or more), that I am more than happy to point, laugh, and privately make scurrilous jokes regarding the size of his gut and his genitalia. But the print intifada regarding Mr. Lauer and his workplace practices seems to be exhaustively documented … again, I say, “Oh, my.” Between those who played along, those who ran silently screaming – and those who knew but preferred not to share with the general public … is there anyone at the topmost levels of the media, show business or the government whose hands are not dripping with …ahem, certain bodily fluids?

Of course, this whole farrago can rightly be compared to the Salem witch trials, or even the great 1980s Satanic Day Care Scare, in that public hysteria mounted up and up, and the whole thing took on a ghastly life of it’s own – never mind that most, if not all of the accused in those cases were innocent, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Public hysteria is never a pretty sight; even – and especially – if those involved in the whipping-up eventually express remorse and regret later, over having been carried away. Likely it will prove the same with this current round of national public hysteria. But I must confess that I find the spectacle of national establishments and industries who have spent the last twenty years (or more) lecturing ordinary Americans about our various failings (political, social, sexual and racial) being so thoroughly shamed. Discuss, if you can stop snickering long enough.

Frankly, the kerfuffle regarding Roy Moore’s alleged dalliances with just barely legal teenage girls four decades ago smacks to this observer as a put-up job by out of-state media and out-of-state politicians of both parties who apparently regard his candidacy for national office as an affront to the Ruling Class. Suspect scribbles in an old school annual and Gloria Allred in full-throated accusatory mode are, as in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan’s character Pooh-Bah, “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.”

Mind you, he might well have displayed, as a young thirty-ish male, a liking for female company somewhat more than ten years younger; such female company being somewhat easier to impress than those closer to his age at the time. (In previous centuries, such an age gap would hardly have raised an eyebrow. This was pretty much the ideal for much of history: thirty-year old man, well-established in a good trade, able to provide for a young wife of prime child-bearing age.) Frankly, though – the man has been in local politics for thirty years. If this is the worst that can be said about him, and the good people of Alabama don’t appear to have any problems repeatedly voting him into local office … then why does the national Republican party leadership feel obliged to intervene? It’s as if they (and others) are simply outraged at the concept of people actually choosing a candidate who is not totally Ruling Party-compliant. “We’ll make the important decisions for you, you poor deluded peasants.”

And if he as a much younger man made persistent romantic overtures to very much younger women, it’s still a vast improvement on doing a Weinstein – that is, whacking off and depositing the results on an innocent potted plant on a regular basis.

Which brings me around to the great Hollywood Sexual Assault meltdown … I’m almost afraid to look at the headlines first thing every morning of late; someone else whose movies I never watched is going to accuse or be accused of sexual harassment; that is anything from being a rude and abusive a-hole, all the way up to assault or rape, involving the same sex, the opposite sex, under-age sex of either or however many genders there are these days, or of any convenient plant life. The up side to this is that too many of them are consulting with their lawyers (the guilty), or their supportive “Me-too” group (the offended against) to take time to lecture the rest of us about our disappointing shortcomings – our failure to vote for Hillary, our global-climate-change skepticism, our unashamed racism, our failure to surrender our personal weaponry, and to separate the glass from the tin cans and the paper when putting out the recyclables. The next Academy Awards is going to be a real hoot, I’m telling you.

Any bets on where it is going to be broadcast from? San Quentin, Folsom, or Pelican Bay? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

Unchristian though it is to confess to such a feeling, I have been taking a very mean-minded satisfaction in the ongoing meltdown of both the NFL, the mainstream Hollywood establishment, and now the Democratic National Committee has come due for their share. Paraphrasing P.J. O’Rourke – just desserts, just hors de oeuvres, a just main course of crow! So, the NFL is continuing to go down the road to hell paved with social justice warrior good intentions, the list of male power-brokers among the Hollywood glitterati accused of sexually-exploiting women, other men, teenagers of both sexes and ornamental potted plants is expanding geometrically, and now it seems as if Hillary Clinton and her campaign advisers did quite the number on her own political party during the campaign which ended exactly a year ago. Even as Hillary Clinton toured the country, explaining “What Happened”, it seems that the former chair of the DNC, Donna Brazile has penned her own memoir of the campaign. I suppose that in the wake of a political upset of the magnitude we experienced last election day, everyone involved at the highest level is obligated to sing some version of the old song “If only they had listened to me.”

In the linked story,

“Brazile writes that she inherited a national party in disarray, in part because President Obama, Clinton and Wasserman Schultz were “three titanic egos” who had “stripped the party to a shell for their own purposes.””

So, if I am understanding this whole imbroglio correctly, Hillary’s people took over the national Democrat establishment after Little Debbie ran it into the ground, and diverted most all of the funds raised jointly by the DNC and Hillary into Hillary’s campaign coffers, thereby cutting out Bernie Sanders. I am not the least surprised at Sanders’ lack of fiduciary sense – the man barely scraped a living until he went into politics – still, I thought he had been in politics long enough to have learned something – like how not to get blindsided by avaricious scumbags. Well, at least he got a vacation house out of it all, so perhaps he did learn something.

The real surprise is that Donna Brazile is coming out swinging at Hillary – and even landing the crushing blow or two. Does this signify a fracture in Party unity? Is Hillary and the Clinton Machine being thrown out of the window and under the bus, and not a moment too soon? What have the fracture-lines been drawn, who has control of the Party now, and who among the Party faithful will be rewarded? Discuss. I’ll make popcorn – lightly salted and with real butter, not that orange-oil gack that they put on popcorn in the movie theaters.

(Sorry for the lack of posting – I am trying to finalize A Fifth of Luna City, and Lone Star Glory — the follow-up to Lone Star Sons, and the days are just all too short. Herewith a rant about certain recent developments in pop culture for your weekend edification.)

Just to make it clear, I do not think that the NFL, or the So-Cal based movie-TV-media production industry usually described by the simple designation of ‘Hollywood’ are going to wither up and disappear in a puff of smoke and a puddle of goo like the Wicked Witch when Dorothy threw a bucket of water on her. No, likely the first will be diminished to relative insignificance over the insistence of many players to ‘take a knee’ during the national anthem, after a long train of other actions which increasingly put the well-reimbursed celebrity athletes of the NFL at loggerheads with the audiences in Flyoverlandia who watched games from the stand, or on TV, purchased season tickets, merchandise and premium cable service with the big daddy sports channel, ESPN.

By all the reports that I see, attendance at games is dropping at present, viewers are cutting the cable cord, and discovering other fun things to do on a Sunday, or even just other sports to take an interest in. Football hasn’t always been the most popular spectator sport in the US, not by a long shot; baseball, boxing, horse-racing all had their day, and may very well again at this rate. Patience with professional football players, and the management thereof, especially when they choose to play the race card, has run out among working-class whites, most of whom have frankly not seen much in the way of privilege accruing to their color, no matter how may academics specializing in ‘something’ studies yammer on about it. At this rate, the next Superbowl may be played for an audience of fifteen in the stands, not counting player entourages, and so few watching the half-time show that a sixty-second spot might be had for the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee.

And as for Hollywood and the growing sexual-harassment accusations, first against Harvey Weinstein, now against James Toback, and the murmurs of child and younger teen actors victimized by pedophiles in positions of power are growing louder. Mind you, the casting couch thing has been around since there was a movie industry in Hollywood, and frankly, if aspiring starlets want to get down in the mud and wrestle with a pig like Weinstein of their own will and ambition … just have the decency not to lecture and accuse the rest of us regarding abusive male patriarchy afterwards, ‘kay?
But it seems like Hollywood movie releases have had as lackluster a showing this season as has the NFL, as increasingly, people with an entertainment dollar to spend are not spending it at the multiplex on opening weekend. Do those movies generally just suck increasingly of late, is it the expensive multiplex experience which just sucks, or are audiences just fed to the back teeth with political correctitude and being condescended to by their inferiors and choosing to spend their time and money on another form of entertainment?

Those matters are being hotly discussed hotly behind closed doors in the expensive management offices of those enterprises most deeply concerned, in the media, across the blogosphere, and may as well be discussed here, too. Whither the NFL, and establishment Hollywood?

Of course, it’s a given that the cries for tighter gun control would become ever louder and more intense after the Mandalay Bay massacre of attendees at an outdoor country music festival. It happens after every such event … although I’m under the impression that such cries were fairly muted after the attempted assassination of Republican baseball team members two months ago by a disaffected Bernie Bro named … what was his name, anyway? Oh, yeah – James Hodgkinson. I had to look it up. Funny way that he went down the memory hole, wasn’t it? It was almost as if it never happened, and James Hodgkinson became an un-person in the eyes of the Establishment News Media. There are just some crises that just aren’t worth wheeling out the big anti-guns for, it would appear.

But I don’t have any problem bringing to mind Jared Lee Loughner. After he shot Representative Gabby Giffords, killed six people and wounded a dozen others, the great storm of protest about gun control arose, coeval with a twin great storm accusing eeeevil and irresponsible partisan rhetoric on the part of conservatives generally and Sarah Palin in particular of having inspired him. Well, it eventually developed that J.L. Loughner was inspired by nothing more than the voices in his head, being diagnosed by mental health professionals as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Us non-professionals just call it “bug-nutz crazy” and move on. Frankly, I’d rather have the discussion be about crazy control rather than gun control, but that is a much more difficult, complicated, and nuanced situation – the control of the bug-nutz crazy among us. Easier just to hyperventilate about gun control, and how gun owners are compensating for having small pee-pees or some such pseudo-scientific twaddle. It’s nothing more than a means of easy virtue-signaling for the ostentatiously virtuous members of the Bi-Coastal Ruling Class and their coterie of sycophants.
Returning to my original thought; the newly-energized voices of celebrities, celebrated anti-gunners, publicity-whoring politicians and freelance media likely will have no better luck this time around in demanding tighter and more controls, or even outright confiscation of privately-owned firearms. Riding rough-shod over the Second Amendment would take more juice than they have at present, or are likely to get.
Because … the example that springs to mind, out of one of many is the reaction of a now-ex top employee of the CBS legal department, one Hayley Geftman-Gold, who posted in a Facebook discussion thread that she was “not even sympathetic.’”

“If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing, “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”

Hayley Geftman-Gold, who is of such a nose-bleedingly privileged strata of the Bi-Coastal Ruling Elite that her wedding was noted in the social pages of the NY Times (the supreme chronicler of the doings of the Bi-Coastal Ruling Elite) basically felt OK with registering her dislike of a whole class of people and her indifference to their mass murder; a people of whom she ostentatiously knows nothing, and cares even less. The only surprise in this otherwise tawdry and routine spectacle is that she was fired by CBS before the end of the day. Well, obviously CBS had realized (belatedly) that writing off a good portion of the country as irredeemable deplorables, or bigoted, racist untermenschen is perhaps a bad business plan. After all, they want our money/viewership.
Alas, MS Geftman-Gold is not singular in her dismissive bigotry. She is only a minor voice in a mighty chorus, pouring disdain, contempt, and outright hatred on the working class of flyover country in general, and those who had the temerity to vote for Trump in particular and other conservatives in general. Which is a pity, since I would think that one whose nuptials were celebrated by a rabbi would be a leeeetle more aware of what results when a group of people are systematically “othered” by the ruling classes. We know now that we are hated, despised, marked out for … whatever fate dictated by the Ruling Class. And that is why the gun control that they urge will likely not go anywhere. Because we know that they hate us.
Discuss, if you can bear it.

The mass freak-out following upon the election of The Donald to the highest office in the land continues unabated to this very day and hour. It’s been a little more than ten months; you’d have thought that the Hillary fans and the Bernie bros would have gained a bit of perspective, even a soupçon of philosophical acceptance. All contests, except for those held for elementary school-aged children where everyone gets a participation trophy, have winners and losers. But the political loss of the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua to Donald Trump would appear to be the very first time that her loyal courtiers have ever experienced a tragedy of that magnitude, and so animus against Donald Trump and the people who voted for him continues unabated; loud, proud, 24-7 and ever more unhinged. (I’ve written before about this, at Chicagoboyz and here at NCO Brief.) It’s kind of hard to tell who the Hillary-adoring glitterati, entertainers, intellectuals and bureaucrats hate more; Donald Trump or the regular Joes and Josies who voted for him. And it’s not just the Trump-hate, but the continuing, relentless social justice warrior posturing about everything from gay marriage, transsexual privilege, to members of the black urban underclass having an unfortunately terminal encounter with the forces of law’n’order. It’s all become quite exhausting, even keeping track of who is supposed to be outraged by what.

This kind of hate and uncertainty can’t be good for a person, you know, but I’ll leave those people consumed by such feelings to worry about the condition of their own souls. Nothing I can do, write or say about the unwise and rampant politicization of practically everything will likely have any long effect on them … but there is one manner in which my actions, and the actions of others may already be having noticeable effects – and that is via the pocketbook.

Yes, we do not have to watch their movies, TV shows, or football games, or listen to their radio shows. We do not have to purchase comic books, regular books without illustrations, their magazines or newspapers. We do not have to purchase the cable package with ESPN or any other specialty channel, pay tuition to certain universities, attend their concerts or sign up for science fiction conventions which have been consumed from the inside by such politicization. Increasingly over the last months, and likely, the last few years – ordinary consumers of the right-of-center political and social persuasion are doing just that; turning off and dropping out. Look at the drop-off in movie attendance. The push for comic books to be trendily ‘woke’ and diverse – that looks to be affecting the market and not in a good way. The long-established and once-respected Worldcon science fiction convention looks to be spiraling the drain after the Sad Puppies fiasco. And now with the whole NFL ‘taking the knee’ during the national anthem, which has opened a new front in the cold civil war, and may very well take down the NFL into irrelevance. The usual perpetrators of jamming political correctness into every possible smidgeon of an opening may go on insisting that it is just, right and salutary to do so, and that they aren’t taking a hit from the audience because of it.

But the point of the matter is – the large part of an audience for a sports event, a movie, a book, a tv series or a comic – just want a bit of amusement, an enjoyable escape from the mundane and are resenting the heck out of getting a lecture instead. Ordinary people do not live, eat and breath social justice or political causes twenty-four hours in a day. By these stories linked and others too numerous to mention, I suspect they are tired beyond toleration of being hectored, lectured and beat about the head by those who do, and are voting with pocketbook. Your thoughts?

Tattle tale tit,
Your tongue shall be slit,
And all the dogs in the town
Shall have a little bit! – trad. schoolyard taunt

How bizarre it is to come to a time in these sort-of-United States where certain people who might otherwise have been mistaken for grownups appear to take great pleasure in channeling their inner selves; that of a malicious, sneaky tattle-tale, running to the teacher to inform on their fellow students at every opportunity. We do not — yet — have the equivalent of the East German ‘Stasi’, where half the population eagerly and voluminously informed on the other half. I would have assumed that Americans, young and old, despised tattletales – the adult version every bit as much as the juvenile variety. But we have moved on, it seems. A certain kind of mentality seems bound and determined to sign up as informers even before such volunteers are requested by the authorities in various venues.
More »

Just when I had begun to think that those who hate conservatives generally could not possible become any more irrational and deranged; that they had dug them so very deeply into the pit of despair, loathing and frustrated fury – along comes the twin scourge of “pro-Trump Republicans are Nazis!” united with the push to remove monuments with anything to do with the Confederacy from public spaces on the grounds that the historical figures so honored were supporting, defending or enabling the institution of chattel slavery. Some of the more creatively deranged or misinformed parties demanding the removal of such monuments have also expanded their monumental loathing to include Christopher Columbus, Fr. Junipero Serra, and Joan of Arc – although it is a puzzle as to why a French saint burned at the stake two centuries before the beginning of European settlement of North and South America should be slated for demolition or removal. Deep confusion on the part of the person who demanded its removal cannot be ruled out, although as my daughter has pointed out (rather snidely) chances are that they are a graduate of one of New Orleans’ finer public schools.

Still, I admit to being rather blindsided by the sudden storm of demands to remove these statues and monuments on the part of the current ‘red guards’ of the American left, remove them from the places where many of them had been installed for at least a hundred years and often longer. As an amateur historian, I find this horribly depressing; the monuments for both Confederate and Union heroes and events were put up within human memory as ghastly and savage a blood-letting as we ever inflicted on each other to this date. The question of chattel slavery and states’ rights sundered families, friends, communities, established churches, military academy classes; for four blood-soaked years, North and South tore at each other without pity or remorse … and at the end of it all, the country was painfully stitched together by millions of grave markers and the grief and regret of survivors. Indeed, the dedication of monuments was seen often as an honoring of former foes, an acknowledgement of courage and conviction, and of deep sorrow that it ever came to such a slaughter – a gesture of reconciliation. This kind of purpose is perhaps too subtle for the BLM/AntiFa/Red Guards faction to grasp, raised as they have been in relative security and plenty, suckling the teat of carefully fomented racial resentment, informed by a Zinnified view of history, and enraged beyond coherent dialog by the fact that better than half the voters in the country do not agree with them … on anything and everything. The Confederate memorials are a handy symbol, something which the rage of the BLM/AntiFa/Red Guards faction has seized upon as the heights from which to make a proxy war on the rest of us. Useless to point out to them that there is a danger of sparking a very real war, as bloody and desperate as the war that the statues commemorate.

It is a kind of madness, I have come to think over the past nine months since the election of Donald Trump; an irrational madness very much like the Great Satanic Day-Care Abuse madness of the 1980s and 1990s. This was a panic which grew and grew, sparked by the fears and uncertainties of parents, fanned to a wildfire by unscrupulous child welfare professionals, ambitious public prosecutors, and a very credulous media. Even at the time, soberer commenters were likening it to the Salem witchcraft trials. The Great Satanic Day-Care Abuse madness took longer to burn out, although at the end of it, the accused and convicted were mostly dead, not just locked up in prison. But in all three cases – there is a purpose behind the madness, and a whole group of interested parties hoping to make something for themselves out of encouraging it. In the case of the destruction of the monuments, memorials and establishments which most ordinary Americans cherish and honor – I cannot see how the campaign to destroy them will burn out of itself.
Discuss.

There is an oft-quoted maxim generally credited to the late William F. Buckley to the effect that “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”  So it also appears to be the case with the corporate and academic diversity-mongers; who are all about diversity when it a matter of race, nationality, sex, sex-orientation, background and education level, but react like a bunch of screaming howler monkeys when what they have established as ‘conventional-think’ is transgressed upon or critiqued, even in a manner most thoughtful, The most current demonstration of this has been the Google-Diversity imbroglio, which was set off by a rather thoughtful memo (linked here) which ruminated on unconscious corporate assumptions, and suggested that there were other reasons than bias for a dearth of women in highly technical programming activities, and that Google’s own diversity culture was preventing discussion of effective means of remedying that lack. Oh, my … did that set off the Lords of Diversity at Google, as well as a number of female staff at Google and other tech industries … a reaction which I can only describe as ‘hysteria.’ The Google engineer who generated the memo has become the focus of one of those internet lynch mobs, thus fulfilling his own prophetic warning that there are some questions which are like the third rail in that one cannot touch them without being vaporized. Or as in his case, fired summarily. It is altogether likely that he will not be unemployed for long, or the recipient of a large settlement as the result of a suit filed for unjust termination by Google – very likely both. (More here at Ace of Spades, who thoughtfully posted the link to the infamous memo.

It is also likely that Google may feel a bit of pain from this; if not from pissed-off consumers choosing another search engine and email service, then from ideologically straight-jacketing those in-house techies thinking creatively about solving problems. If savvy thinkers know that that voicing speculative wrong-think about hard questions will impact them professionally … well, then, there will not be answers to those hard questions, and the Lords of Diversity will never know why.

Another takeaway from all of this is a powerful reinforcement of the notion that being conservative in a generally liberal workplace is a perilous professional situation – a situation that has become even more unstable since the election of Donald Trump. Yes, sensible conservative/libertarians are going to go on keeping their mouths shut and their heads down, unless among friends or in a safe space like this one. Even those of us who are self-employed, have their mortgage and cars paid for, or nearly paid for, and topped-up bank accounts are still vulnerable to a determined and malicious internet lynch mob … or even someone like the odious Lena Dunham, maliciously going to an employer, with a tattle-tale of a supposedly overheard conversation in a public place.

 

Discuss, if you can bear it.

Here we are, a couple of days past the middle of the year, and almost eight months after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency … and I swear that the lunacy has not died down in the slightest, but is now ratcheted up to eleven, or even twelve. (Gratuitous Spinal Tap reference.) The classical five stages of grief are supposed to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but it’s clear at this point that the Hillary and Bernie partisans are stuck fast at the ‘anger’ stage – and appear to be egging each other into higher, farther, deeper and more intense demonstrations of denial and anger. It’s almost … well, operatic. Like a spectacular ten-car pile-up on the interstate, one can’t even look away from the spectacle – especially the spectacle of establishment news media personalities and institutions losing their freaking minds over Donald Trump.

The reason for this insensate anger is another source of bewilderment for me. I mean – I thought he was one of them, a big-city, big-money and flamboyant-with-it guy, pretty much a moderate Democrat, sort of liberal socially, someone that establishment media figures in New York had palled around socially with for decades. Is it because he is an apostate in their eyes now? Or were they so invested in Hillary, so convinced that she had it in the bag, and that CNNMSNBCBS would carry her over the finish-line, and when it turned out that they couldn’t – this is the tantrum of a very sore loser? Is the media hatred caused frustration over having lost, by excessive and undeniable partisanship, all authoritative credibility with the flyover-country citizens? All that old black political magic that used to work so well – favorable press, celeb endorsements, polling, media appearances, a constant stream of paid political ads, huuge spending – couldn’t get Hillary into the White House, or budge the needle in a Democrat-friendly direction since. I don’t even want to get into the flat-out hatred boiling over on social media and in comment threads in various places, the hatred of liberals for conservatives of just about any stripe.

Is it as a commenter at Samizdata suggested, when one of the regulars there linked to a recent Sarah Hoyt post?

I have often considered that there are a lot more people who have degrees of mental illness out there than we generally realise. Most of the time they can function relatively OK, if surrounded by good people who try and keep them on the path of sanity, however if they are steered in the wrong direction … their inherent bias towards fantasy thinking will mean they go down the wormhole when a more sane person who stop and think ‘Hang on a minute here!’ I think the reason we are seeing more of the misdirection now is the internet – its all there on everyone’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, and 100% accessible to all, whereas in the past such people would probably never have been exposed to such twisted thinking. Now they are, and they lack the critical faculties to determine what is true and what is false.

Discuss, if you can bear it.

26. June 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Navy, History, Old West

Edward Fitzgerald “Ned” Beale was a prominent 19th century hero, a celebrity, almost; a military officer, war hero, notable horseman and explorer, hero of the western frontier, good friend of several other notable frontiersmen, friend of one president, and appointed to offices of responsibility by four others – and those offices varied quite widely in scope. He was also a champion of the Native American tribes, prominent in Washington high society for decades, and seemed to lurk meaningfully in the background of key historical events at mid-19th century. Curiously, his name doesn’t readily spring to mind more than a hundred years after his death; the most prominent places bearing his name being Beale Street in San Francisco, and Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville in north-central California. One would think for all his various services to the nation and for his vast array of prominent and still-famous friends that he would be more of a household name. Perhaps he was for a while – but four decades or more of politically-correct restructuring of American history have elevated some, and reduced others to mere footnotes in dusty journals.

Beale as a young midshipman

Beale as a young midshipman

Ned Beale was born in 1822, in Washington D.C. – the capitol of a nation barely half-a-century old, to parents with connections to the American Navy. His father was a paymaster for the service, his mother the daughter of one of the first six commanders appointed by President Washington to head the new US Navy. So, it was only natural, when after the death of his father, Ned Beale was appointed to the Naval School in Philadelphia, a precursor to Annapolis. Upon graduation from the school in 1842, he was commissioned as a midshipman, and made voyages to the Indies, South America, and Russia. Three years later he was assigned to the Pacific Squadron, the command of Robert Stockton; an able and trusted officer, who had – as Beale himself would later have in his own career – the trust of presidents, and the friendship of the influential. Beale served as Stockton’s aide and private secretary; they were part of the American delegation to Texas when the Texas Congress formally accepted annexation to the United States.

Beale’s next assignment for Stockton was – not to put too fine a point on it – a spy, ordered to conceal his nationality and sail on a Danish ship to England, to suss out British feelings and possible war preparations over the contentious matter of the Oregon boundary. Barely having completed that assignment and reported his findings to President Polk, Beale was sent off hotfoot with dispatches to rejoin Captain Stockton, whose flagship happened to be in Peru at that moment. This necessitated that Beale make the journey by sea to Panama, cross the Isthmus and make his way to Peru – all this a kind of 19th century precursor to Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Stocktons’ ship detoured to Hawaii, and arrived in harbor at Monterey, California in July, 1846. War between the United States and Mexico had already begun. The Pacific Squadron’s orders, in that eventuality, were to seize those ports along the Pacific coast – especially those in California. Stockton set about doing so with zeal and efficiency. Ned Beale was detached to serve with a US Army column which had come at speed overland from Fort Scott on the Missouri-Mississippi under the command of General Stephen Kearny. Briefly pausing to take Santa Fe, and New Mexico for the US, Kearney’s advanced column – guided by Kit Carson — arrived in California out of breath and weakened after a marathon march of 2,000 miles across country. Kearney’s advance party, augmented with sailors and Marines from the Pacific Squadron clashed with Californio-Mexican volunteers and Mexican presidial cavalry at San Pasqual, near San Diego. Both sides claimed a victory – although Kearney’s force suffered the heavier losses, they eventually took San Diego, and Ned Beale was one of the heroes. Two months after the San Pasqual fight, he was sent east with dispatches. Over the next two years, he made six cross-continental journeys on official business; one of them in disguise to make a short-cut through Mexico to bring irrefutable proof of the tremendous gold strike in the California foothills at Coloma to the federal government. Amid these expeditions, he found the time and energy to marry; the daughter of a politician from Pennsylvania, Mary Edwards, and sire three children with her.

Beale resigned his naval commission in 1851, but in no way was he done with the far west, or assignments of great import to the federal government. He returned briefly to California, to manage properties owned there by his mentor, Commodore Stockton. On his way west, he squeezed in a spot of surveying for a transcontinental rail line through present-day Colorado to Los Angeles. Two years later, he was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs in California and Nevada. Thereafter Ned Beale spent a hectic decade exploring and surveying the west, establishing a wagon road between Fort Defiance, New Mexico to a point on the Colorado River between Arizona and California – the initial phase of this project involved another project of interest to the Army – the Camel Corps. He proved to be a champion of camels in the far west; when the Camel Corps was formally disbanded at the end of the Civil War, Beale purchased some of the surplus camels and kept them at his vast California ranch property. The camels also served in a later Beale expedition to extend the road from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the Colorado River. That same route was later followed by the Santa Fe railway, US Route 66 and the present day I-40.

In 1871, Ned Beale purchased a mansion in Washington, DC – Decatur House, notable for being almost next-door to the White House, and entertained a wide variety of guests there over the following years – guests including U. S. Grant, and prominent members of his administration. He spent one year as ambassador to Austria-Hungary, and made as much of a social splash in Vienna as he had in Washington. Doubt less his experiences on the far-west frontier – which by that point was almost legendary – coupled with his considerable diplomatic skills and ability to earn the trust of important people had a lot to do with that success.

His final years were spent between Decatur House, the California ranch, and a horse farm called Ash Hill, close to Washington. He died at Decatur House in 1893, a few years shy of the twentieth century. Sailor, soldier, spy, surveyor, explorer, diplomat, rancher, man about town – and a fine judge of horseflesh. Not many men of his time could quite equal that resume in every particular.
(Ned Beale is set to appear as a character in the next Lone Star Sons book – Lone Star Glory, which I hope to bring out by November, 2017.)

Along about the time that I started blogging … no, even well before that point, I was well-aware that there were personalities who could say and do flamingly stupid and insulting things on the public stage, and some would take no permanent career harm from having done so. Jane Fonda, for example, went on having a career for decades after getting the nick “Hanoi Jane” for her anti-war antics in the 1960s. Other personalities – equally prominent, having said and done things just as injudicious – appeared to walk away unscathed. It seemed to be a given that some public personalities were basically Teflon; as it would become even more obvious in the last decade, they had something that I call – for lack of a better term – douchbag privilege. Generally speaking, the lefty-intellectual-media lot – like the Kennedys, the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton brand of racial activists, and jerks like Michael Moore had douchbag privilege, whereas those of the other persuasion didn’t. More »