Oh, Christmas Tree!


With completion of the Splendid Catio, we can have a fully-decorated Christmas tree once more. We haven’t done this in several years; the indoors cats cut a swath through the Christmas ornaments, and the tree itself, and what with the heavy market schedule and all … we haven’t done the Full Griswald in three or four years. Maybe for the outside, not for the inside. But we have three deep tubs of Christmas tree ornaments, and a tall artificial (but generally real-looking at a distance) pine tree out in the garage, and this year, my daughter insisted absolutely on having a decorated tree. In addition to the lighted garlands, tabletop displays, and assorted other seasonal doo-dads, she wanted the Christmas tree brought in and decorated to the full, at least with those ornaments which would not shatter irreparably when hitting the painted concrete floor from the height of at least eighteen inches or so.
Reader, I acquiesced – and so we brought in the tree, and assembled it, with lights and ornaments and all, although we could not find the nice brocade and tassel-and-beadwork ornamented Christmas tree skirt which I am certain that I purchased from Tuesday Morning some years ago. It’s probably still out in the garage somewhere. It may turn up eventually.
Going through the existing boxes of ornaments for the tree became a memory-venture along the maps to our family past. Not very far long it, only as far as me purchasing or contriving ornaments for my little barracks tree when I was stationed in Japan as a baby airman in the late 1970s. The Christmas ornaments that I knew as a kid were all burned in the fire that took Mom and Dad’s retirement house in 2003. Of those things, the one collection I most regret were the stockings that Granny Jessie knit for us as the first two of us kids appeared, with our names worked into the top, and a half-dozen lighted glass Santa Claus ornaments from the 1930s, still in their original box. But as I said – all those are gone, ashes swept away long since. I made an attempt to replace the stockings – but in felt, with our names worked into the top: I suppose that my sister has the lot now, since having to sell Mom and Dad’s house after Mom fell and fractured her spine and was no longer able to live without extensive nursing assistance.

The oldest ornaments I do have – they came from Great Aunt Nan; a pair of small yarn and fabric ladies. They came from Denmark, I dimly recall Nan saying. The one with the tiny bag is a newspaper vendor for the most popular daily; the initials BT must stand for Berlingske Tidende. After that – the oldest are a collection of tiny embroidered fabric animals from India. I probably bought them at the NCO Wives Christmas bazaar early on. The second-oldest I made myself; a wide selection of Styrofoam balls covered with fabric, lace, braid and other trims. Some look a bit battered now, having gone through almost four decades of Christmases and the same years of being hauled here and there in my hold baggage, and being stored in all kinds of odd closets and garage spaces. They have the advantage of being durable, cat-and fall-proof, though – which is why they still endure.
Kind of hard to say which are the next ornaments in order of seniority. In Greece in the early 1980s, I took up the habit of yearly purchasing a box or two of appealing ornaments from some high-end catalog outlet – which I can no longer recall the name of but are probably now out of business entirely. The small vintage airplanes and the papier-mâché globes are from that period. In Greece, I had a small star-pine in a pot which lived on the balcony of the apartment building I lived in. That little live tree served for a couple of Christmases; when we transferred to Spain, I left it to Kyria Penny, the Englishwoman who lived in the next-door apartment building. She and her husband, Kyrie George, used it for their holiday tree until it became too large to move in and out of doors. I don’t know what happened to it after that, although the little airplanes and the globes moved with us to Spain in our hold baggage. Passing through Rome, I bought half a dozen Anri angels.

For a good few years during that period in Spain, my job there favored me with a January TDY to Ramstein, Germany, for a broadcasting squadron confab. The post exchange there had a concession there offering a vast array of traditional wooden Christmas ornaments: I brought home a good collection of them for several years running, and they still adorn the tree, being nearly as indestructible as the home-made ornaments. The NCO Wives Club sponsored a shopping trip to Turkey during one of those years; that fall, they had a booth at a craft fair offering stuff from Turkey. That’s where I bought four tiny brass and glass lamps. Miniatures of the full-sized lamps from there which were popular souvenirs.

In 1991, we rotated back to the States, after twelve years of straight overseas assignments, and celebrated a white snowfall Christmas in Ogden, Utah. In the Hill AFB BX, I had the good luck to buy a starship Enterprise Christmas ornament. I understand they were insanely popular that year, and now are rather rare as these things go. I have two more Star Trek ornaments; the Voyager and the Galileo shuttle, which weren’t quite so rare, and consequently now are available for about the same as I originally paid for them. During another TDY — to New Mexico, this time — I visited Santa Fe and bought a folk-art carved winged leopard in a shop there. By this point, the accumulation of ornaments was sufficient to make a good showing on a full-sized tree. I didn’t have to purchase them by a dozen or so at a whack. We – my daughter was earning her own spending money with regular employment by then – turned to purchasing ornaments one or two at a time. The year that we were both working at a department store, my daughter bought the little Christmas angel-mouse carrying a dove. I bought a couple of ornaments at the Hallmark store around the corner from our neighborhood, when they were on sale after Christmas. Such is our thrifty habit now – we pick up whatever has taken our fancy after Christmas, when they are marked down for quick sale. The tree, after all, is now hung thick with ornaments, most of which have a vivid memory of time and place attached.

(For the rest of December, the first three volumes of the Luna City Chronicles are available on Kindle, for a mere pittance of .99 cents each! Put up your feet, and spend the holiday in the prettiest and most eccentric small town in Texas!)

I was skimming through the various stories about the late President Bush the First this week, especially one about how he and Barbara were so considerate of and beloved by the Security Service agents who guarded them. It was kind of sweet, the account of a peckish agent going through the White House kitchen in the wee hours, looking for the cookies that he knew that the stewards of the kitchen had baked for the next day … and being joined by Bush the First, in ransacking the kitchen in search of the elusive cookies. That Bush the First and Barbara were loved and respected by the agents whose mission I can attest to at second hand. One of the Air Force security service NCOs I served with in Korea had just come off an assignment at the White House protection detachment. He adored Barbara, BTW – to hear him tell it, he was one of her favorite agents. She called him “Timmy”, which was kind of cute, as he was one of these six-foot-something guys and built like a concrete traffic bollard; probably Barbara was the only one aside from his mother who called him by that name.

The Bushes – the first and second – made a point of staying in Washington over Christmas Eve, so that their staff and security teams could spend Christmas with their families. Think on that – as I have. More than times I have to count, I spent holidays on duty – many of them having to listen to news and feature stories about how the day was a time to celebrate with family and loved ones, enjoying a lavish meal and relaxing; this when I was alone at midnight in a dark building, ripping teletype copy off the machine, re-shelving records in the library, and wondering if I would have time to eat a ham sandwich while I typed up spots for the reader book with one hand. That the Bushes held off on traveling out of town in order that their staffs could have a nice Christmas at home with their families, instead of jetting off for two or three weeks over the holidays, bag, baggage, staff and security to … someplace else; that was considerate, above and beyond.

I saw this as an acknowledgement that other people, especially those lower on the power totem pole – their private lives, their families and all, had purpose and value, to which decent folk in a position of power, ought to acknowledge. It was very old-school of the senior Bushes; and quite a contrast to the Obamas, who went swanning off to Hawaii for their Christmas holidays, and having a meet-n-greet for Marines and their families on Christmas morning. I suppose that the Marines and their families may have been flattered and thrilled to be so honored … but still. Christmas morning, having to be on hand hours before, the active duty troops likely having been up to all hours ensuring that everything was ship-shape. Spouses and small children taken from their family time and space on a holiday morning. My daughter still wonders how many of those appearing in the pictures taken of those various events were “volentold” : Their presence was required. For the photo-op. On Christmas morning.

I suppose that some of those present would have been OK, would have been there; because, President of the USA! Personal appearance, deigning to appear among the working stiffs, at the pointy end of the spear … but still. Christmas morning. Military – but can’t there be private time with the family carved out? So, I felt kind of sorry for the troops and their families, put on the spot during what should have been private, family, at-home time.

That led tangentially to another thought – about how certain politicians and activists, who make a big show about how much they care for humanity, or the downtrodden minorities, or women – or whomever – are in their personal sphere rude and abusive to their families, employees, or even just those casually encountered. Ted Kennedy, after all – was the darling of Establishment Feminists. In real life he was a drunken an abusive pig towards say, ordinary working-class women like waitresses. Yet someone like Mitt Romney – who likely hasn’t been impolite to a woman of any class in his entire adult life – had the same Feminists raining scorn and outright hatred down upon him. Even though these very same Establishment Feminists have been insisting for decades that the personal is political. How very fortunate that those who talk a good talk and garner credit for having the correct opinions and political stances in the abstract seem to be allowed all kinds of latitude in their real-life conduct … while those who are the epitome of grace and good manners in personal conduct are damned as racists and misogynist haters for not toeing the politically-correct line. Are we, at this late date, effectively calling out any of these hypocrites? Discuss as you will.

You just know, as surely as the sun rises in the east, that when Thanksgiving Day rolls around (and Columbus Day as well) the usual malignant scolds will be hard at work, planting turds in the harvest-festival punchbowl. They have become pinch-faced, joyless neo-Puritans, ruthlessly seeking out any hint of happy celebration and thankfulness for bounty of harvest and generous fortune, jumping on any display of human fellow-feeling – even just having a pleasant time doing things that make the heart glad – insisting that such occasions and people are to be condemned as earnestly as Savonarola ever did, piling up works of art to be burnt in the public square. As HL Menken observed, it’s the haunting fear of such people, that “someone, somewhere, may be happy.” It is their grim, chosen, killjoy duty to stamp out such emotions and celebrations, wherever they may be found. So sayeth the current crop of student activists, as reported here: Thanksgiving is “a celebration of the ongoing genocide against native peoples and cultures across the globe.”

Which is a breathlessly sweeping condemnation. Let’s just pound it in relentlessly, with trip-hammer insistence: we actual or spiritual descendants of Pilgrims are “Bad, Bad People, Who Stole Everything From the Indians, and Celebrating Thanksgiving is As Bad as the Holocaust, Almost!” The 20th century practice of allowing elementary school children to dress up as Indians or Pilgrims these days, reenacting a peaceful feast and celebration of a bountiful harvest together seems in the eyes of the censorious to be about on par with dressing up as SS officers and concentration camp inmates. Never mind that dumping on the poor Pilgrims for three hundred years and a bit of warfare with various Indian rather misses the point of – you know, celebrating a bountiful harvest – as well as grandly oversimplifying history. Never mind the fact that Indians in North America warred on each other with keen enjoyment and no little inventive brutality for centuries. Never mind that according to some accounts, the Wampanoag village and fields adjacent to the Plymouth colony was abandoned, as an epidemic of some kind had depopulated the place two or three years previously. And never mind …

Oh, never mind. Isn’t it more nuanced – or is nuance out of style among the ill-educated inhabitants of the educational-industrial complex – to consider that on that long ago Thanksgiving, two very different peoples, whose descendants would be at each other’s throats for three hundred years, were yet able to join together for a great feast, to be courteous and friendly with each other, for at least a little while? Can we not settle at table with friends and relations, and simply enjoy a good meal, and appreciate those blessings which we have received, deserved or no? At the very least, can we just smile gently at the censorious scolds and ask them to pass the cranberry relish?
Have a happy Thanksgiving Day. Tell the scolds to get bent. Be happy and have another slice of pumpkin pie – that will annoy them more than anything.

We’ve known for at least a decade or so that the so-called “ruling class” here in the US (and possibly in formerly great Britain and Western Europe as well, look down snobbishly on the middle and working class, the regular joes, the residents of flyover country. Those who roost in the higher levels in academia, the media, in the entertainment and intellectual world, in the national bureaucracy, those who are part of the upper caste – have made their contempt for the ordinary citizen pretty darned obvious by their words and actions, to the point where it’s no secret to most of us who have been paying attention. That this contempt is returned is not immediately obvious; after all, the media (with a few honorable exceptions) has little interest in the opinions of the ruled class, or in reporting them with any degree of understanding or sympathy. Still, we in the ruled class have made our displeasure known in small ways – eschewing shopping at Target, watching NFL games, dropping ESPN, and skipping over award shows like the Oscars – which likely the ruling class feels as mere irritating pin-pricks. (They are TWANLOC, in Subotai Bahadur’s elegant phrase.) And if they are being seriously inconvenienced by recalcitrance on the part of the ruled class – we won’t know for certain, for a good while. Possibly in the history books, if we in the ruled class get a chance to write them. More »

I’ll confess to always having had a bit of cynicism about the professional national media orgs; this dating from my several turns in military public affairs and being one of those in-house media entertainment/news providers for the military broadcasting system. From the latter experience, I learned just how the sausage-news is created, expeditiously and on-schedule for the daily-dish-up. The former served up endless stories of media personalities acting badly from peers who had been there when they happened; checkbook offers for tips, tantrums on the flight-line as the media flight was about to depart, disgustingly snobbish behavior towards military media-relations staff … yep, darned few modern-day embedded reporters earned anything like the affection and respect earned by Ernie Pyle during WWII. Those who flew in to cover Gulf War I did not manage to conceal a tone of gratification and happy surprise in their coverage upon observing that the troops in that war were neat, polite, professional; the very farthest from the bunch of murderous, drug-addled psychotics which the aftermath of the Vietnam War had obviously led them to expect. And yes, we all noticed this at the time.
(Pro tip when it comes to producing local news? The calendar is your friend. A good half of your stories are ruled by the predictable. A significant or insignificant holiday – a story or two or three predicated on that holiday. The bigger the holiday, the more stories which can be milked out of it. Significant local event – a scheduled road closure, or a grand opening? Oh, yeah – another couple of stories to fill the required minutes in the regular broadcast. Even something semi-scheduled, like a rain/hurricane season? At least a story or two about preparations… And so it goes.)
Back to my main point – mainstream national news media: I presume that someone still watches CNN.

Although the last time I went down to the troop clinic at Fort Sam and to the new Wilford Hall establishment, the station on the TV screens in waiting areas seemed to be tuned to the Home and Garden channel. The predilection of CNN personalities for madly, deeply, irrationally anti-Trump materiel is a wonder to behold. If this report in the Spectator is anything to go by, CNN is paying the same price that the Dixie Chicks did, when making their appeal more selective. And so it may be going with other establishment news outlets, the alphabet news networks, which once bestrode the earth like giants in their day. The death spiral of weekly news magazines like Time and Newsweek is well-established. Other people – interested bloggers seem to be doing the heavy lifting these days, as well as outlier publications like this one, with an examination of the steamy romance novels written by a candidate for the office of Georgia governor. (Well, it’s an honest living, scribbling for a living, and a nice change from being a lawyer, I guess). As for newspapers; my local newspaper (which subscription I finally cancelled altogether after a particularly offensive editorial cartoon a decade ago) is now shrunken almost to the size of the old Stars and Stripes military newspaper – which was the size of a small-circulation tabloid when I knew it best, and usually featured reiterated AP/UPI content anyway, leavened with a few stories of specific military interest generated by their own staff.

Are the national broadcast networks and the internet spawn they do possess now in the same death spiral, having gone all out for material which they apparently see as damaging to Trump? I know that there still are people who believe what they see on the evening news, and disdain as irrelevant anything that the major national news outlets prefer to ignore. For myself – if it’s in screaming headlines, I’ll assume that they are at least 75% wrong. Discuss, as you will, and with examples.

(PS – speaking of scribbling for a living, the seventh Luna City Chronicle – Luna City Lucky Seven is now available on Kindle! The print version just now appeared, too! I can truthfully promise that there is nothing like the explicit sexual content in Stacey Abrams’ oeuvre … but then, I am not running for political office.)

19. October 2018 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.