Category: Hubris (page 1 of 1)

What a Tangled Tweet We Weave When First We Practice to Get Outraged

I ran across a «Twitter thread» that really ground my gears. So I wrote a response, but it’s too long for Twitter. It’s just much ado about nothing. But here is my response; since I haven’t written much in a long time here, this will give me some new content.



I am reading this bandwagon fallacy-laden thread through the lenses of being an English major, a former newspaper reporter/editor, a school public information director, a published author, and an elementary teacher with a master’s degree with 32 years of experience. Also, I get really tired of these old hasty generalizations, equivocation, and causal fallacies on social media. Also, we’re very much fellow-travelers in the political sense, so, especially if you’re humor-impaired, take the following as if it were a grain of salt on the tip of my tongue firmly in my cheek. I love everyone.

“U.S. schools are not doing a good job in that regard. And it’s been going on for a long time. I shouldn’t be hearing so many basic grammatical errors from politicians, teachers, newscasters, authors, and pundits or see so many in published materials.”

A “good job” according to whom? May I ask when exactly was the last time you were in an elementary school and sat through an entire school day with first graders? I ask because my mother makes this same argument frequently, yet has not been in an actual elementary school building since 1976. Her grandchildren were taught at home so she, therefore, has no experience either visiting a school or evaluating a public school education since 1976. This makes it difficult to accept this line of argument from either of you. I do indeed see many errors in oral and written discourse and when it occurs, it is irritating. However, I tend to hold the individual responsible for the errors rather than their elementary school teacher in 1989. Any errors I have made in these replies are my own and have multiple sources, including exhaustion from teaching during this epidemic, the speed of my written response, distraction, etc. They are not the fault of Clovis NM Public Schools, Lockwood Elementary School, and/or Mary Beth Wright, my fourth-grade teacher. I was afforded the instruction and supporting materials, which have sustained me for decades. My use or disuse or those is my responsibility, not theirs.

‘Stinginess toward investing in education.”

“Towards” is the preferred form. And, strictly speaking, you don’t “invest in education.” You invest in the systems created by adults to educate students. Systems and humans are very imperfect. Teachers like me know that more investment is needed, but how much? Where should it go? Who was stingy?

“Half of the country is nuts. How did this fucking happen???”

“Nuts” is slang and not used in persuasive discourse. Do you perhaps mean “insane” or the less hyperbolic “uneducated” or “misinformed”? “Fucking” is not used in polite, civil discourse. Its use on social media is a separate debate. But we are not discussing social media discourse here. We are discussing grammar and spelling in other forums. Finally, ending an interrogative sentence with three question marks is improper punctuation. One question mark will do.

“[Some sort of logo with “100” on it] rarely do people talk about the education system being off the rails for decades. My niece is a teacher. They no longer teach grammar or spelling because of spellcheckers, and I can only imagine what is happening in math.”

A sentence properly begins with a capital letter. Avoid dying metaphors such as “off the rails” which is, as Orwell pointed out, a “worn-out metaphor[s] which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves.” How can an educational system be like a derailing train? We still teach Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” in U.S. public schools. It’s unfortunate that your niece is a teacher, yet makes no effort to supplant the required curriculum with grammar and spelling lessons of her own. I do this every school day.

The fact that you can “only imagine what is happening in math,” is indicative that you haven’t been in a public school in decades. We are currently teaching pre-Algebraic concepts to kindergarteners; I taught fourth graders two weeks ago how to solve “x + 100 = 120”, an equation I was not taught to solve until ninth grade in the 1980s.

Our students are indeed taught grammar and spelling (one first/second grade class I had last week had a spelling test on Tuesday). Our students use notebooks and pencils and have no access to spellcheckers.

Your anecdote suggests your local school is deficient in curriculum and appears to be unable to ban the use of spellcheckers, but please don’t over-generalize all of this into an attack on the entire American education system.

“As if spelling and grammar checkers are correct 100% of the time…”

“As if” is trendy slang a few years out of date and diminishes the point you are trying to make. Your sentence should end with a period, not with an improperly spaced ellipsis. If you are using spelling and grammar checkers, perhaps your improper use of an ellipsis does indeed prove your point that you should not rely on them. I suggest either adding a punctuation checker or referring to Strunk and White or the AP Stylebook if you need a reference for proper use.

“Yeah, we know”

Persuasive discourse shuns slang words like “Yeah.” A sentence is properly ended with a period. And what are we supposed to know? If you are referring to the comment above implying students improperly rely on spell checkers, I know no such thing. During my experience in 32 years of education in five U.S. states, my colleagues and I have taught students to refrain from relying on spell checkers for grammar or Google for research. How did you come by your knowledge that you agree with teachers that spell checkers are unreliable?

“The grammar, for one thing, is amazing. Even professors say things like, “There’s two reasons.” I’ve heard Noam Chomsky make errors in basic grammar. In math, Chinese teens make us all look like morons.”

How can grammar be amazing? Oral discourse is often incorrect and filled with slang. If you have heard professors write sentences with improper subject-verb agreement, are you referring to professors in English or education departments? If so, then they should be more correct. If you are referring to professors of higher mathematics or physics, perhaps their first consideration is the content of their discipline, not proper subject-verb agreement. Perhaps these professors were instructors at Trump University, but without more information, your readers are not precisely informed. I would also be curious to read or hear Professor Chomsky’s use of “there’s two reasons.” Can you point me to those instances?

As for math, there are many levels and many sub-disciplines. What authoritative sources are you using to suggest “Chinese teens make us all look like morons”? I’m almost 57. What “Chinese teen” would make me “look like a moron” in elementary mathematics, which I teach? I will be the first to attest that a 16-year-old “Chinese teen” would make me look uneducated in calculus, a course I’ve never taken. As for “moron”, see Orwell’s comment above on worn-out metaphors. Also, “moron” formerly referred to a person of “mild mental retardation” and is now considered offensive.

“My husband’s cousin is an elementary school teacher in Park City. Every year, without fail, her Christmas card grammar is horrendous. She encloses an entire letter that makes me cringe.”

This is known as the “appeal to authority” logical fallacy. “Person (or people) P makes claim X. Therefore, X is true.” What is “Christmas card grammar”? That would be a discipline with which I am unfamiliar. In which school does your husband’s cousin teach? Perhaps that school should be alerted to her shocking offenses against the English language. Is she a first-grade teacher or a high school English teacher? It makes a difference. Perhaps you should circle her errors in red and return the card to her and suggest she avail herself of the education system’s multiple access points for remedial grammar and spelling.

“It took learning a foreign language for me to really learn grammar.”

You imply that you learned a foreign language that uses English grammar. Perhaps Professor Chomsky could enlighten me, but I am unaware of another language that uses English grammar and syntax. I am curious: Why did you not learn English grammar until you learned a foreign language? If you went to an American school for grades K-12 and did not learn English grammar, why? We do not know which language you learned, but how did learning Spanish or Japanese or Swahili, etc., teach you English grammar? This is intriguing.

“It’s unbelievable. The entire education system is a joke now. The last book I read, I found in excess of 400 errors. There were many more, but I stopped marking the ones that were the same error repeated numerous times.”

Would you mind specifically defining “joke” as it applies to “the entire education system”? Are you including charter schools, private schools, home schools, libraries, museums, educational programming on television, government departments, the state education boards, the local boards, the superintendents, custodians, maintenance, clerks? How are millions of people who dedicated their lives to educating young Americans “jokes”? I would ask you to remember that systems are made of imperfect people.

“The last book I read, I found in excess of 400 errrors.” The sentence is improperly formed and wordy. “I found over 400 errors in the last book I read” is the proper formation. I am curious: Do you often make notes of errors in books you read and enumerate them? As an elementary teacher, i would tell you that if you are not enjoying a text for any reason, you are justified in abandoning that text long before you did to find a more enjoyable one. I’m curious: “in excess of 400” means how many errors? 410? 1,526? I share Orwell’s irritation with the imprecise use of the English language. If you mean 425, write “425”, not “in excess of 420”. Also, you have two spaces between “were” and “the same”. One space between words and after periods is the currently proper usage.

“Years ago I wrote to complain about the numerous errors in the Web pages of Webster’s Dictionary. Their one-sentence response, claiming to be from the dictionary’s editorial department, had four errors. It’s like reporting chicken theft to the fox.”

“Years ago” needs a comma after it. Would you care to share the errors committed by Webster’s dictionary with us? It would add to the credibility of your discourse. Do you have any contrary information that the response was not from the editorial department? Would you care to share that response and point out the four errors? And again I refer you to Orwell’s worn-out metaphors quote above. The metaphor is actually “the fox guarding the henhouse,” so you have mangled it a bit, which at first confused me, the reader. Your discourse should be clear, concise, and free of worn-out, hackneyed language.

“LOL
Why does that not surprise me at all?”


Perhaps the social media milieu makes not only slang but also acronyms acceptable, but many of your readers will not know what “LOL” means. It also has varied meanings: “Laugh out loud” or “lots of laughs” or “laughing out loud” or “lots of love”. Here is how “LOL” is noted on the Urban Dictionary. This is not an “appeal to authority” on my part, since the Urban Dictionary is not an authority and does not claim to be one. I am pointing out how “LOL” is often seen by those engaging in social media discourse:

“Depending on the chatter, its definition may vary. The list of its meanings includes, but is not limited to:
“1) ‘I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this conversation.’
“2) ‘I’m too lazy to read what you just wrote so I’m typing something useless in hopes that you’ll think I’m still paying attention.’
“3) ‘Your statement lacks even the vaguest trace of humor but I’ll pretend I’m amused.’
“4) ‘This is a pointless acronym I’m sticking in my sentence just because it’s become so engraved into my mind that when chatting, I MUST use the meaningless sentence-filler “lol”.'”
As for “Why does that not surprise me at all?” What exactly doesn’t surprise you and why not? Again, imprecise written language causes the reader to devalue your writing.

Urban Dictionary

And let’s not even discuss the final reply:

“Sounds like Webster’s needed better websters.”

I have to go to bed so I can get up in the morning and give first graders (virtually) their new weekly spelling list to learn. I don’t have time to deal with that one or waste any more time on this.


Sigh, double sigh, triple sigh.

#EmptyThePews

I posted this elsewhere and on Twitter first, but it also belongs here on the Anon-a-Blog.

Why my pew has been empty since 1982: A long thread for anyone who may be interested, et al. Perhaps someone may relate or need to hear. Inspired by @C_Stroop and #EmptyThePews on Twitter.

It starts in 1975. I’m 12. A budding little gay boy. At the C. of the Naz., we get a spiffy little sermon, which runs like this: “Speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession!!!” Amens, claps, whistles, “Kill the Devil!”

Fast forward a week later. Someone in charge of our family’s spiritual development decides to follow info bestowed by the Holy Spirit
Fairy, an entity which seems to act rather … impetuously. Or at least that was my experience with Him.

The Spirit has moved someone that we must immediately abandon the C. of the Naz., where, remember, I’ve just been told on the authority of the church into which I was born and raised that speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession.

[An aside: 12-year-old me had memorized the 1960 Church Manual so I could know how to perform weddings and funerals because … get this … I thought I would become a C. of the Naz. preacher.]

Given a choice about which church to attend would have been lovely. Alas, it was not to be. I was the young, stupid child who couldn’t possibly be trusted to know what was good for him, spiritually speaking. At best, a “baby Christian.” (These buzzwords sound familiar?)

Actually, after just one hour of being exposed to the new church’s … shall we say, bizarreness and cultish overtones … I’m confident I would have scurried back underneath the skirts of the mother church (of the Naz.) if I had a driver’s license and a car. But I didn’t.

So I wasn’t given a choice. Remember the previous sermon, supposedly delivered by a stern God to CotN Leaders possessed of “Utter Sanctification” and who are therefore qualified to speak on subjects Most Weighty: “Speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession!”

Again, I was 12 years old. Puberty was dawning. Teenage outrage, hatred of hypocrisy, self-righteousness, inflated sense of injustice, and general all-around questioning and boundary-pushing are imminent. I needed constancy. But the Spirit had spoken and must be obeyed.

The next Sunday, we don’t drive over to be with the sanctified who hate devilish tongue-speaking. Instead, we head straight for the new church, an Assembly of God knockoff/alleged “non-denominational.” “We’re going here from now on,” says Parental Dearest.

What happened the first Sunday at the new church to which we had been led by the Holy Spirit? Well, I’ll set the scene one more time: The previous week, the church of my birth told me speaking in tongues is evidence of demonic possession.

This week? FRICKIN’ HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD! JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH! POPE PAUL VI AND ALL THE SAINTS! AND DEAR GOD WHY ARE ALL THESE WOMEN IN EXPENSIVE ULTRASUEDE DRESSES RUNNING UP AND DOWN THE AISLES SCREAMING THEIR FOOL HEADS OFF???!!!!!

Then: The kicker. If I am to understand the main belief point through hours of gibberish, a complete lack of any catechism, no orderly service of any kind, no regular communion, and a multitude of other things, a central belief is this:

“If you do NOT speak in tongues, God is withholding His greatest blessing from you and therefore there is something wrong with you if you don’t immediately babble in tongues in ‘the presence of the Lord.'”

In other words, NOT speaking in tongues was evidence of God withholding his greatest gift from you & you were opening yourself up to … you guessed it, demonic possession. As soon as I hit 16, my pew began to be empty. By 18, only bribery could get me in it. So…bye!

It would take a long thread to describe coming out (yeah, the Spirit got involved there, too), getting away & being an adult in charge of myself & the joys of life since I got myself to #EmptyThePews. Thanks for the inspiration, @C_Stroop and thanks to everyone who read!

Movie Night: Born Yesterday


Four.5.Stars

From 1950, it’s the wonderful Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden gem, Born Yesterday. (No, not that 1993 crapfest of the same name … how dare they try to “improve” on Judy and Broderick with —gasp— Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, and Don Johnson!)

The « synopsis » of the original, best Born Yesterday, is, per The Movie Database (TMDb):

“Uncouth, loud-mouth junkyard tycoon Harry Brock descends upon Washington D.C. to buy himself a congressman or two, bringing with him his mistress, ex-showgirl Billie Dawn.”

TMDb

IMDb has a « a shorter and poorer way of putting it »:

“A tycoon hires a tutor to teach his lover proper etiquette, with unexpected results.”

IMDb

Born Yesterday is pretty fabulous and much, much more that those paltry synopses reveal. Or it is at least until it sinks in to today’s audience that it’s just as fresh and applicable today (especially today!) as it was in 1950. In that year, the movie warned against the unAmerican activiteis of the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which ultimately wrecked many lives, but failed, while today it pointedly shows that Broderick Crawford’s Harry Brock is in charge of the country, the Senate, and the judiciary and is sitting in the White House rage-tweeting.

In fact, the current ugly age of our country is the alternate ending to Born Yesterday with Judy Holliday silenced, threatened with death and manblamed and William Holden dead or emasculated while Harry Brock gleefully and dementedly flies around destroying the country.

Just as an aside: How much influence did the flying circus that was HUAC have over the 50s? Here’s some tidbits from the era, because what was going on with HUAC deserves some attention:

“TEACHER FIRED
“San Mateo, Nov. 17—Thomas D. Hardwick, Burlingame high school journalism teacher, has been fired from his job for refusing to sign the state’s new loyalty oath.”

San Mateo Times, Nov. 17, 1950

And still this stuff was going on 7 years later. This time, the human toll of stamping out ghostly “un-American activities” is more fully highlighted, especially the ordeal of teacher Hardwick, who had to become a factory worker to survive:

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Cameras continued to focus today on the House un-American activities committee hearing despite House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s flat announcement in Washington there would be no more television broadcasts. Chairman Francis Walter (D.-Penn.) of the subcommittee shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands when asked about Rayburn’s announcement. And the TV cameras continued to grind away.

San Mateo Times

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Congressmen turned from teachers to other professions today in an un-American activities inquiry already marked by the suicide of a subpoenaed Stanford Scientist and suspension of a radio broadcaster from his job for refusing to testify. A Richmond factory worker who taught in Burlingame High school seven years ago was a reluctant witness yesterday before the House sub-committee on Un-American activities.
“But he had a quick reply when asked about the testimony of another witness that he had been a Communist. Thomas Hardwick, 49, declined to answer when asked if he was aware from 1946 up to the present day of a secret Communist group in San Francisco and elsewhere known as the “Professional Cell.” Hardwick said he believed the question was “in an area where Congress is forbidden to legislate” under the First (free press and speech) and the Fifth (self-incrimination) amendments.
“Hardwick was dismissed m 1950 from the Burlingame High school faculty for refusing to sign a loyalty oath.
“Yesterday’s reluctant witnesses included a San Francisco radio broadcaster, Louis Hartman, 42, also known as Jim Grady, and a television and radio engineer. Hartman, a free lance man on radio station KCBS, refused to answer when asked whether there was a Communist Party professional cell active at Berkeley.

San Mateo Times | Thursday, June 20, 1957

But I digress (but only a little bit): New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther « loved Judy Holliday and the movie, and used Broderick Crawford’s performance to sound a warning that is incredibly prescient about our current political predicament »:

“Just in time to make itself evident as one of the best pictures of this fading year is Columbia’s trenchant screen version of the stage play, “Born Yesterday.” More firm in its social implications than ever it was on the stage and blessed with a priceless performance by rocketing Judy Holliday, this beautifully integrated compound of character study and farce made a resounding entry at the Victoria yesterday.

“On the strength of this one appearance, there is no doubt that Miss Holliday will leap into popularity as a leading American movie star—a spot to which she was predestined by her previous minor triumph in “Adam’s Rib” as the tender young lady from Brooklyn who shot her husband (and stole the show). For there isn’t the slightest question that Miss Holiday brings to the screen a talent for characterization that is as sweetly refreshing as it is rare.

“Playing the wondrous ignoramus that she created on the stage—the lady to whom her crude companion rather lightly refers as a “dumb broad” this marvelously clever young actress so richly conveys the attitudes and the vocal intonations of a native of the sidewalks of New York that it is art. More than that, she illuminates so brightly the elemental wit and honesty of her blankly unlettered young lady that she puts pathos and respect into the role.

“But it must be said in the next breath that Miss Holliday doesn’t steal this show—at least, not without a major tussle—for there is a lot of show here to steal. Not only has the original stage play of Garson Kanin been preserved by Screenwriter Albert Mannheimer in all of its flavorsome detail—and that, we might add, is a triumph of candor and real adapting skill—but George Cukor has directed with regard for both the humor and the moral. And Broderick Crawford has contributed a performance as the merchant of junk who would build himself up as a tycoon that fairly makes the hair stand on end.

“Where this role was given some humor and even sympathy on the stage, in the memorable performance of Paul Douglas, Mr. Crawford endows it with such sting—such evident evil, corruption, cruelty and arrogance—that there is nothing amusing or appealing about this willful, brutish man. He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert. And that’s why his thorough comeuppance, contrived by his newly enlightened “broad” amid the monuments of serene and beautiful Washington, is so winning and wonderful. In short, a more serious connotation has been given the role on the screen and Mr. Crawford plays it in a brilliantly cold and forceful style.”

The New York Times

“He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert.” A perfect description of Born Yesterday‘s villain … and Donald Trump both.

At any rate, I highly recommend this one. I took off half a star for the flag-waving, O Beautiful, misty-eyed crap here and there; but it actually doesn’t detract much, it just points out how much we’ve lost.

The Associated Press review « isn’t much of a review, but notes the movie’s success »::

“Born Yesterday,” another Academy entry, was previewed before the usual starstudded audience this week. It is a faithful adaptation of the Garson Kanin play about the junk dealer’s babe who gets educated by a newspaperman. The story should be familiar to a large segment of the public by now and it is enhanced by some scenes of Washington landmarks. The show comes off as one of the best comedies in recent seasons. This is largely due to a sparkling portrayal of Judy Holliday as the dumb blonde. She is wonderfully funny. Only drawback is that her lines are sometimes inaudible. Broderick Crawford plays the junk man with full voice all the way and William Holden is a quietly competent view of the newspaperman.”

Bob Thomas, the Associated Press

Born Yesterday Lobby Card
Another Lobby Card

Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford and William Holden … stickin’ it to the Man.

Best quotes:

Paul: A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in.

Born Yesterday

Billie Dawn: He always used to say, “Never do nothing you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of The New York Times.”

Ibid

Harry Brock: What’s a peninsula?
Billie Dawn: Shhhh.
Harry Brock: Don’t gimme that “shush.” You think you’re so smart, huh – what’s a peninsula?
Paul Verrall: It’s a…
Harry Brock: Not you, her.
Billie Dawn: It’s that new medicine…

Ibid

Billie: Because when ya steal from the government, you’re stealing from yourself, ya dumb ox.

Ibid

Congressman Norval Hedges: I said to Sam only last week this country will soon to have to decide if the people are going to run the government, or the government is going to run the people.

Ibid

Harry Brock: WHAT’S GOIN’ ON AROUND HERE?
Jim Devery: A revolution.

Ibid

Harry Brock: How d’ya like that! He could’ve had a hundred grand. She could’ve had me. Both wind up with nothin’… Dumb chump!… Crazy broad!
Jim Devery: [raises a glass as a toast] To all the dumb chumps and all the crazy broads, past, present, and future, who thirst for knowledge and search for truth… who fight for justice and civilize each other… and make it so tough for crooks like you…
[Harry stares at him angrily]
Jim Devery: …and me.

Ibid

Harry Brock: Shut up! You ain’t gonna be tellin’ nobody nothin’ pretty soon!
Billie Dawn: DOUBLE NEGATIVE! Right?
Paul Verrall: Right.

Ibid

Billie: Would you do me a favor, Harry?
Harry Brock: What?
Billie: Drop dead!

Ibid

Four.5.Stars

Born Yesterday. 1950. TCM. English. George Cukor (d). Garson Kanin, Albert Mannheimer (w). Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden, Howard St. John, Frank Otto, Larry Oliver, Barbara Brown, Grandon Rhodes, Claire Carleton. (p). Friedrich Hollaender (m). Joseph Walker (c).


The Indictment

Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) is an attorney and the former director (9-Jan-13 to 19-Jul-17) of the U.S. Office Government Ethics, which exists to “Provid[e] leadership in the executive branch to prevent conflicts of interest.” That’s a mission which, since January 2017, is going completely unfulfilled and, in fact, is being subverted beyond all belief.

After leaving the USOGE in the summer of 2017, Shaub “joined the Washington D.C.-based election law organization the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) as Senior Director, Ethics. At CLC he has focused on protecting what he calls the erosion of democratic norms that the country has witnessed in his time,” according to Wikipedia. The last six months of his tenure at USOGE were also the first six months of the Godfather’s tenure and therefore was when he witnessed the complete takeover of the democracy and its renovation into a kleptocracy headed by a old, narcissistic, lunatic, mob boss. So he’s seen some things and knows whereof he speaks.

Shaub wrote today a concise listing of the multiple points of illegality, theft, unConstitutionality, incompetence, petulance, and general assholery committed by this mobster and his cronies, supported fully and without reservation by the God and Guns evangelical crowd, of which I’m proud to say I’m an EX member, who was in that cultish atmosphere from birth, not by choice and left as soon as I gracefully could. But I digress.

Here’s « Shaub’s full indictment » and it includes the Republican party, especially those in the Senate:

“Senate Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the republic itself. I’m not naive enough to think they would hold Democratic presidents to the low standard they’ve applied to Trump, but all future presidents will be able to point to Trump to justify:

“a. Soliciting foreign attacks on our elections;
b. Using federal appropriations or other resources to pressure foreign governments to help them win reelection;
c. Implementing an across-the-board refusal to comply with any congressional oversight at all;
d. Firing the heads of the government’s top law enforcement agencies for allowing investigations of the president;
e. Retaliating against whistleblowers and witnesses who testify before Congress;
f. Investigating investigators who investigate the president;
g. Attempting to retaliate against American companies perceived as insufficiently supportive of the president;
h. Attempting to award the president’s own company federal contracts;
i. Using personal devices, servers or applications for official communications;
j. Communicating secretly with foreign leaders, with foreign governments knowing things about White House communications that our own government doesn’t know;
k. Abandoning steadfast allies abruptly without prior warning to Congress to cede territory to Russian influence;
l. Destroying or concealing records containing politically damaging information;
m. Employing white nationalists and expressing empathy for white nationalists after an armed rally in which one of them murdered a counter protester and another shot a gun into a crowd;
n. Disseminating Russian disinformation;
o. Covering for the murder of a journalist working for an American news outlet by a foreign government that is a major customer of the president’s private business;
p. Violating human rights and international law at our border;
q. Operating a supposed charity that was forced to shut down over its unlawful activities;
r. Lying incessantly to the American people;
s. Relentlessly attacking the free press;
t. Spending 1/4 of days in office visiting his own golf courses and 1/3 of them visiting his private businesses;
u. Violating the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution;
w. Misusing the security clearance process to benefit his children and target perceived enemies;
x. Drawing down on government efforts to combat domestic terrorism in order to appease a segment of his base;
y. Refusing to aggressively investigate and build defenses against interference in our election by Russia, after the country helped him win an election;
z. Engaging in a documented campaign of obstruction of a Special Counsel’s investigation.
aa. Lying about a hush money payoff and omitting his debt to his attorney for that payoff from his financial disclosure report (which is a crime if done knowingly and willfully);
bb. Coordinating with his attorney in connection with activities that got the attorney convicted of criminal campaign finance violations;
cc. Interfering in career personnel actions, which are required by law to be conducted free of political influence;
dd. Refusing to fire a repeat Hatch Act offender after receiving a recommendation of termination from the president’s own Senate-confirmed appointee based on dozens of violations;
ee. Calling members of Congress names and accusing them of treason for conducting oversight;
ff. Attacking states and private citizens frequently and in terms that demean the presidency (see Johnson impeachment);
gg. Using the presidency to tout his private businesses and effectively encouraging a party, candidates, businesses and others to patronize his business;
hh. Causing the federal government to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at his businesses and costing the American taxpayers well over $100 million on boondoggle trips to visit his properties;
ii. Hosting foreign leaders at his private businesses;
jj. Calling on the Justice Department to investigate political rivals;
kk. Using the presidency to endorse private businesses and the books of various authors as a reward for supporting the president;
ll. Engaging in nepotism based on a flawed OLC opinion;
mm. Possible misuse of appropriated funds by reallocating them in ways that may be illegal;
nn. Repeatedly criticizing American allies, supporting authoritarian leaders around the world, and undermining NATO; and
oo. etc.
“None of the Republican Senators defending Trump could say with a straight face that they would tolerate a Democratic president doing the same thing. But, given this dangerous precedent, they may have no choice if they ever lose control of the Senate. Is that what they want?
“And this is only what Trump did while the remote threat of Congressional oversight existed. If the Senate acquits him, he will know for certain there is nothing that could ever lead to Congress removing him from office. And what he does next will similarly set precedents.
At this point, I would remind these unpatriotic Senators of the line “you have a republic if you can keep it,” but a variation on this line may soon be more apt when Trump redoubles his attack on our election: You have a republic, if you can call this a republic.”

Walter Shaub via Twitter

We cannot indeed call this a republic; it is a shambolic kleptocratic theocracy. And our last one, remote chance of restoration will come next November. If we’re not out there with the numbers just posted today in Hong Kong’s election (72% or so), then our democratic republic will fall and, given what is likely to be a similarly shambolic kleptocracy in Great Britain, democracy, decency and the rule of law will be largely at an end on the planet, ending the final, very slim chance we have of mitigating accelerating climate catastrophe.

A “cancer on the presidency” has metastasized “hugely.”

« Read the rest of his tweets ». Fascinating.

What We Hath Wrought

The Beeb is reporting that « Turkey and its allies are (“allegedly”) committing war crimes, especially against Kurdish women » in Syria:

“Turkish-backed forces fighting Kurdish militias in north-east Syria have been accused of committing war crimes, with acts of brutality surfacing on mobile phone footage.

“The UN has warned that Turkey could be held responsible for the actions of its allies, while Turkey has promised to investigate.

“Bearded men shout ‘Allahu Akbar [God is the Greatest]’. One captures the scene on his smartphone and says: ‘We are mujahedeen [holy warriors] from Faylaq Al-Majd [Glory Corps] battalion.’ In the background are the corpses of Kurdish fighters.

“Further away, a group of men plant their feet on a woman’s bloodied body. One says she is a ‘whore’.

‘The gruesome footage is much like that produced by the ultra-violent Islamic State (IS) group.

“Yet the men in this video are not IS militants, but rather fighters for a rebel alliance known as the Syrian National Army, trained, equipped and paid for by a Nato member, Turkey. They are under the command of the Turkish army.

‘The video was filmed on 21 October in northern Syria. The woman beneath the fighters’ feet is Amara Renas, a member of an all-woman unit of Kurdish fighters, the YPJ, a force that played a significant role in defeating IS in Syria.

BBC

Notice how the BBC calls the video “brutal” and “gruesome,” words which are not in quotes or alleged. The video is not allegedly brutal and gruesome, it IS brutal and gruesome, says the BBC. Yet they get nervous about calling Turkish jihadist allies war criminals, even though the crimes are very much graphically shown in the brutal, gruesome video.

More importantly than all this, these war crimes are being committed against Kurdish women fighters specifically, and against our Kurdish allies generally. After the mobster-in-chief in the White House unleashed all this.

Not only should he and his administration be impeached and removed for high crimes and misdemeanors, he should also be held personally responsible for these war crimes. Impeachment is certain, but removal is unlikely, and seeing him tried for war crimes is a fantasy.

After all, the last time we had a chief executive who unleashed war crimes (remember Abu Graib anyone?), nothing happened. That president is just sitting around painting pictures of hot dogs while lolling in his bathtub.

Still, there is value in keeping a chronicle of crimes and never forgetting them. This current stain on a house that is never free of stains in some form needs to be remembered and prevented. And we should all start using quotes when referring to executive mansion: The “White” House has been various shades of blood red from its inception.

RIP Amara Renas and all the other unknown women and men and children who fought on our behalf as well as their own. May you haunt our collective memory forever.

Normandy 2019

«One of the most brilliant things I’ve seen in a long time». Steve Bell and The Guardian continue to hit these out of the park. Go there and read, donate, support. They cover the U.S. as, if not more, effectively than the Times and Post or any other American news organization. Not that those exist anymore, but still.

Far more importantly, RIP Kurds. From you stretching back all the way to Columbus is a long, unbroken trail of genocide. Perhaps things will be just a tiny, marginally bit better in 2021. Knowing other Americans as I do, I’m not holding my breath. I am sincerely sorry that you will not have breath to hold until 2021. What a treasonous betrayal.

Impeach. Remove.

Movie Night: The Big Clock


Five Stars!

From 1948: That fabulous film noir, The Big Clock with Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Harry Morgan.

The « synopsis »:

“Stroud, a crime magazine’s crusading editor, has to postpone a vacation with his wife (again) when a glamorous blonde is murdered and he is assigned by his publishing boss Janoth to find the killer. As the investigation proceeds to its conclusion, Stroud must try to disrupt his ordinarily brilliant investigative team as they increasingly build evidence (albeit wrong) that he is the killer.”

TMDb

IMDb, (which is, as I always say, one of the many tentacles of the suffocating Amazonia totalitarian state in which we live), has «a slightly different way of putting it»:

“When powerful publishing tycoon Earl Janoth commits an act of murder at the height of passion, he cleverly begins to cover his tracks and frame an innocent man whose identity he doesn’t know but who just happens to have contact with the murder victim. That man is a close associate on his magazine whom he enlists to trap this ‘killer’ — George Stroud. It’s up to George to continue to ‘help’ Janoth, to elude the police and to find proof of his innocence and Janoth’s guilt.”

IMDb

The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther was « impressed and urged people to see it and pay close attention »:

“… For this is a dandy clue-chaser of the modern chromium-plated type, but it is also an entertainment which requires close attention from the start.

“Actually, in the manner of the best detective fiction these days, it isn’t a stiff and stark whodunit activated around some stalking cop. Nary a wise-guy policeman clutters up the death-room or the clues. As a matter of fact, the policemen are not called in until the end. And the fellow who does the murder is known by the audience all along.

“He’s a dynamic publishing magnate, ruler of a realm of magazines and a double-dyed rogue who runs his business on the split-tick of a huge electric clock. In a mad, jealous moment, he kills his sweetie, a not very temperate young thing, and then calls upon the cagey editor of his crime magazine to find the man. Two circumstances make this ticklish. The clues have been rigged to make it look as though the murderer were another fellow. And the other fellow is—the editor.

“Out of this cozy situation of a guy trying to square himself, even though he is thoroughly innocent and knows perfectly who the murderer is, Scriptwriter Jonathan Latimer and Director John Farrow have fetched a film which is fast-moving, humorous, atmospheric and cumulative of suspense. No doubt there are holes in the fabric—even a rip or two, perhaps—and the really precision-minded are likely to spot them the first time around. But the plot moves so rapidly over them and provides such absorbing by-play that this not-too-gullible observer can’t precisely put his finger upon one. (That’s why we urge your close attention—just to see if there is anything to catch.)

“As the self-protection clue-collector, Ray Milland does a beautiful job of being a well-tailored smoothie and a desperate hunted man at the same time. Charles Laughton is characteristically odious as the sadistic publisher and George Macready is sleek as his henchman, while Maureen O’Sullivan is sweet as Ray’s nice wife. Exceptional, however, are several people who play small but electric character roles: Elsa Lanchester as a crack-pot painter and Douglas Spencer as a barman, best of all. Miss Lanchester is truly delicious with her mad pace and her wild, eccentric laugh.”

The New York Times

It is, indeed, a wonderful picture and Charles Laughton and his wife Elsa Lanchester are fabulous.


The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card
The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card

The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt's Place
The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt’s Place

Best quotes:

Earl Janoth: [talking on intercom to Steve Hagen] “On the fourth floor – in the broom closet – a bulb has been burning for several days. Find the man responsible, dock his pay.”

The Big Clock

Louise Patterson: [after George Stroud outbids her for a picture] “Isn’t it a pity… the wrong people always have money.”

Don Klausmeyer: “I’m Don Klausmeyer, from Artways magazine.”
Louise Patterson: “Yes. [giggles] Oh, yes. Didn’t you review my show in ’41?”
Don Klausmeyer: “I think I did.”
Louise Patterson: “Oh, come in, Mr. Klausmann.”
Don Klausmeyer: “KlausMEYER.”
Louise Patterson: [laughs gleefully] “I’ve been planning to kill you for years.”
Don Klausmeyer: “Our organization, the Janoth Publications, is trying to find someone, possibly a collector of your pictures.”
Louise Patterson: “So have I for fifteen years.”

IBID

Pauline York: “You know, Earl has a passion for obscurity. He won’t even have his biography in ‘Who’s Who’.”
George Stroud: “Sure. He doesn’t want to let his left hand know whose pocket the right one is picking.”

IBID

George Stroud: “You’re the only blonde in my life.”
Georgette Stroud: “I’m a brunette.”
George Stroud: “And you’re the only brunette too.”

IBID

Five Stars!

The Big Clock. 1948. TCM. English. John Farrow (d). Kenneth Fearing, Jonathan Latimer, Harold Goldman (w). Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson, Elsa Lanchester, Harold Vermilyea, Dan Tobin, Harry Morgan, Richard Webb, Elaine Riley, Frank Orth, Lloyd Corrigan, Theresa Harris. (p). Victor Young (m). Daniel L. Fapp, John F. Seitz (c).


Movie Night: An American Tragedy

[Phillips Holmes in An American Tragedy, realizing he really does hate that grasping little factory girl and would be much happier drowning her.]

FourStars

From 1931: «An American Tragedy» with Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sidney and Frances Dee. The first cinematic adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s novel of the same name, it was eventually remade as a more famous film in 1951 starring Montgomery Clift, Shirley Winters and Elizabeth Taylor: A Place in the Sun.

But this version has much to recommend it. Except the sound. The sound is like what Singin’ in the Rain was parodying. Sound in motion pictures wasn’t yet refined, so everything in the pic, especially background noise, is loud and excruciating. In the courtroom scene when the D.A. pounds his fist on the bannister in front of the accused, the resounding thuds shook the walls. Meanwhile, whole sections of dialogue were hard to pick up. Just a quibble.

The synopsis:

“A social climber charms a debutante, seduces a factory worker and commits murder.”

TMDb

It’s hard to find reviews for films of this age, but fortunately «Richard Cross of 20/20 Movie Reviews» came through, writing in 2013 and comparing the two film versions:

“An American Tragedy was remade in 1951 with Montgomery Clift in the role played here by Holmes but, while this version isn’t without its faults (which are due more to its age rather than any inherent flaws). it’s far superior to the Clift version, even though Griffith (or Eastman, as he was called in the later version), is a much more sympathetic character in the second movie. Holmes’s version is selfish and manipulative, and yet we never entirely lose some level of sympathy for him. Deep down he’s not a bad person, but he falls victim—like Roberta—to his own cowardice and weakness of character. These character flaws are gradually and painfully exposed during the trial, a lengthy sequence which was once one of the film’s strengths but which appears a little far-fetched and overacted today. The grandstanding acting style of Charles Middleton (Flash Gordon’s nemesis, Ming the Merciless) and Irving Pichel is a real drawback which isn’t helped by the way Samuel Hoffenstein’s screenplay call upon them to almost engage in fisticuffs. Overall though, An American Tragedy stands up well for its age.”

Richard Cross

Dreiser’s work, and therefore the two films, was based on the real life murder of «Grace Brown by Chester Gillette» in an upper New York lake on 11-Jul-1906. Basically, amoral social climber from poor background seduces poor factory girl, gets her pregnant, wants to marry a rich socialite and so kills poor factory girl by smashing her in the head with his tennis racket and dumping her body in a lake, fakes a canoe accident, trips self up by being basically an idiot, dies in electric chair after mercy is refused by Governor Charles Evans Hughes.

Both movie versions were faithful to the book and real life, as far as these things go. The real life event could stand the Erik Larson deep dive nonfiction treatment, to see how and where Dreiser departed from events. For the 1931 film, Holmes manages to make you want to both hug him and strangle him. Sadly, Holmes’ extensive career, including an appearance in the Our Gange feature General Spanky, came to an end thanks to World War II. He had just completed flight training in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was being transferred from Winnipeg to Ottawa, when the transport he was riding in collided in mid air with another aircraft over Ontario. He was only 35.

An American Tragedy Poster
[Including this poster from An American Tragedy because it’s too awesome and Art Deco for words. Now THAT’S a movie poster!]

Best quotes:

Well, there’s not any from the movie, really. These are from the book:

“Clyde had a soul that was not destined to grow up. He lacked decidedly that mental clarity and inner directing application that in so many permits them to sort out from the facts and avenues of life the particular thing or things that make for their direct advancement.” “

An American Tragedy (book)

“And they were always testifying as to how God or Christ or Divine Grace had rescued them from this or that predicament—never how they had rescued any one else.”

Ibid

“For in some blind, dualistic way both she and Asa insisted, as do all religionists, in disassociating God from harm and error and misery, while granting Him nevertheless supreme control. They would seek for something else—some malign, treacherous, deceiving power which, in the face of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, still beguiles and betrays—and find it eventually in the error and perverseness of the human heart, which God has made, yet which He does not control, because He does not want to control it.”

Ibid

4 Stars! (Because sound. Ow.)

An American Tragedy. 1931. TCM. English. Josef von Sternberg, Hans Dreier (d). Phillips Holmes, Sylvia Sidney, Frances Dee, Irving Pichel, Frederick Burton, Clair McDowell, Charles Middleton, Arnold Korff. (p). John Leipold, Ralph Rainger (m). Lee Garmes (c).


Movie Night: Thieves’ Highway

["Let me smoke your butt, Nick!" Valentina Cortese and Richard Conte in Thieves' Highway. Take that Bogie and Bacall!]
4 3/4 Stars!

From 1949: «Thieves’ Highway». We weren’t really planning to watch, but were drawn in immediately. I think we had seen it before, but it’s been a long while. Glad we watched. Ironically, Valentina Cortese just passed away on 10-Jul of this year. Watching her performance here was fitting, and showed just how big of a loss was her passing.

Thieves’ Highway is a classic Noir tale of truckers and apples and greed and sex and San Francisco and California and highways and death. Besides the fabulous Valentina Cortese and Richard Conte, it features Lee J. Cobb in a dress rehearsal for his role in On the Waterfront, Jack Oakie and Millard Mitchell, who would be seen six years later in the classic Singin’ in the Rain, as the movie producer R.F. Simpson.

The synopsis:

“Nick Garcos comes back from his tour of duty in World War II planning to settle down with his girlfriend, Polly Faber. He learns, however, that his father was recently beaten and burglarized by mob-connected trucker Mike Figlia, and Nick resolves to get even. He partners with prostitute Rica, and together they go after Mike, all the while getting pulled further into the local crime underworld.”

TMDb

Michael Sragow, writing in an essay for the Criterion Collection «Thieves’ Highway: Dangerous Fruit» has some nice observations:

“Like the movie’s rattletrap trucks lurching down the highway as they carry way-too-heavy loads, the characters in Jules Dassin’s brilliantly volatile Thieves’ Highway struggle under psychological and moral baggage until they can lay their burdens down. Working from a novel and script by A.I. Bezzerides, Dassin made this swift, fluid melodrama in 1949, after Brute Force and The Naked City. … it has a rich sensuality all its own.


“All the symbols in this movie are rock-hard and understated. The white military star on Nick’s truck makes a mute, omnipresent comment on postwar disillusion. And each time you hear “Golden Delicious,” the image it conjures of Olympian delight contrasts sardonically with the perils of the road and the savage competition of the San Francisco marketplace.”

Michael Sragow, The Criterion Collection

(I love how Sragow introduces Nico: “Garcos … has sailed around the world without ever getting worldly.” HA!)

He then notes the inner workings of the film and places it in context:

“Dassin … is just as deft as Kazan in Boomerang! (1947) or Panic in the Streets (1950) at using real locations for knifelike verisimilitude, then catching their most far-out and surprising emotional repercussions.”

“Dassin begins scenes with compositions that border on cliché–whether of a cheerful Fresno suburb or the bustling streets and crowded pier-side haunts of San Francisco’s marketplace. But each time, he punctures the cliché with cascades of complex details emerging spontaneously from the conflicted drives of the characters and the life-or-death stakes of their situations.”

IBID

Sragow, writing 1-Feb-05, then notes something that is culturally a hot button right now: toxic masculinity:

“Under Dassin’s direction, Conte here minted a fresh leading-man archetype-a rough-edged, virile naïf, containing equal amounts of violent distrust and gallantry. And Mitchell brings deep-grained orneriness to Ed, a summa cum laude from the school of hard knocks, willing to rook others to satisfy his sense of justice. What gives this movie its charge isn’t just the physical danger of the road and the injustice perpetrated when fixers like Figlia use dirty tricks on truckers and buyers—it’s the psychological drama of men tossed off balance by want and need as they strive to achieve equilibrium.”

“Ed pulls Nick out from under his truck after Nick botches a tire change and gets his face buried in sand. When the older man bandages his neck, and these two finally forge a bond, Nick mutters that passersby might get the wrong idea.”

IBID

Pretty advanced for 1949, but like the ending, it gets set right: Nothin’ but manly man hetero stuff … 1949’s equivalent of “No Homo.”

And just so we’re clear that Conte/Mitchell and Oakie/Pevney are just no homo bros, in comes Rico to keep the men manly. Curiously, she’s rather butch, both in her toughness and her physical, trenchcoat-wearing appearance. In fact she’s sporting a short Italian haircut (which would be the focus of an I Love Lucy episode in a few years), which accentuates her Italian “earthiness,” (also the focus of an I Love Lucy episode in a few years). AND her character was originally named “Tex.” (See the paragraph about Hope Emerson below for more on this stuff.) Sragow sums it up:

“Played by Valentina Cortese with dazzling emotional clarity and erotic warmth, she’s at once this film’s beating heart and the center of its existential concerns–she dares Nick to trust his instincts and trust her, despite her shady deal-making and background.”

IBID

The review is also interesting because it delves into the writing:

“Bezzerides’ writing at its peak boasts a dynamic blend of iconoclasm and bitterness–an ideal combination for the intersection of kinetics and moodiness that is film noir.

“Bezzerides objected to several alterations to his book and deplored the casting of Dassin’s then-girlfriend Cortese in a role originally called “Tex.” But in movie terms, he was incorrect on every count–to use his phrase, the only truly “chickenshit change” was a studio-inserted scene in which cops berate Nick for taking the law into his own hands. Cortese’s sometimes comical, sometimes poignant, always live-wire oomph makes this proletariat adventure unique and gives it the ravaged soul and earthy glamour of a demimonde romance. No gal in movies has ever looked sexier or more good-humored drying her hair after a shower. When Nick says Rica has “soft hands,” she says she has “sharp claws.” She uses them only to play tic-tac-toe on his chest–a fitting game for a film in which one false move can turn ethical and commercial triumph into disaster.”

IBID

In a shorter review, «John Chard» agrees with Sragow, and adds that the chicken shit ending, tacked on to appease the Production Code’s moralists, is ridiculous:

“Revenge, hope and desperation drives Dassin’s intelligently constructed noir forward. It’s a film very much interested in its characterisations as it doles out a deconstruction of the American dream. … Dassin and Bezzerides push a revenge theme to the forefront whilst deftly inserting from the sides the devils of greed and corruption of the California produce business.
“The trucks’ journey is brilliantly captured by the makers, both exciting and exuding the menace of the hard slog for truckers. … [once in San Francisco] underhand tactics come seeping out and the appearance of prostitute Rica (Cortese) into Nico’s life adds a morally grey area that pings with sharp dialogue exchanges. Real location photography adds to the authentic feel of the story, and cast performances are quite simply excellent across the board.
“The code appeasing ending hurts the film a touch, inserted against Dassin’s wishes, and there’s a feeling that it should have been more damning with the economic tropes; while the fact that Nico’s father is more concerned about being robbed of money than losing the use of his legs – is a bit strange to say the least. However, from a graveyard of tumbling apples to the fact that more than money is stolen here, Thieves’ Highway is sharp, smart and engrossing stuff.”

John Chard, TMDb

Sharp, smart, engrossing … and for us LGBTQ+ viewers, chock full of forbidden fruit.

We loved this one. Having spent many years in the Bay Area, we could relate to much of the scenery and sensibilities and subtext.

And speaking of subtext again, worth noting is the appearance of the wonderful Hope Emerson, a career character actor with a long list of credits, including Adam’s Rib in the same year as Thieves’ Highway. In Adam’s Rib, she played a very talented gymnast in a courtroom, in a role that noted both how big and butch she was, in an era when that kind of thing was invisible. She is somewhat the same in Thieves’ Highway, minus the gymnastics, as a very tough female fruit buyer. Dassin pretty much broke the Code in multiple ways throughout the movie; although the Code had the last say with its smarmy cop platitudinal lecturing about not taking the law in your own hands, the weight of his film said, “Nuts to you!” to the Code.

A good pairing for this would be The Grapes of Wrath, which starts with starving Okies hitting Route 66 in search of fruit picking work. Follow that with Thieves’ Highway and you get a clear picture of what it takes to get an apple off a tree into the teeth of someone wanting to cheat a doctor a day.

Sadly, much is unchanged in this process, except the grower, the picker, the trucker and the distributor-to-grocery-stores are all corporate behemoths and conditions may, if anything, be worse than 1940’s Grapes of Wrath and 1949’s Thieves’ Highway. We’ve let much slide since Reagan, who married anti-New Deal propaganda with our generation’s laziness and produced massive rollbacks of workers’ rights (and the current occupant of the White House), and our grandchildren will have to fight three times as hard as their ancestors between 1870 and 1950 did for decency, living wages, respect, clean air, clean water, and safe working conditions. Whether they will do it remains to be seen.


Best quotes:

Nico ‘Nick’ Garcos: [to Rica] “You look like chipped glass.”

Thieves’ Highway

Nick: “Hey, do you like apples?”
Rica: “Everybody likes apples, except doctors.”
Nick: “Do you know what it takes to get an apple so you can sink your beautiful teeth in it? You gotta stuff rags up tailpipes, farmers gotta get gypped, you jack up trucks with the back of your neck, universals conk out.”
Rica: “I don’t know what are you talking about, but I have a new respect for apples.”

Thieves’ Highway

My rating: Four 3/4 stars; Not a full five because of the Code-appeasing ending, tacked on against the director’s protests.

Thieves Highway. 1949. TCM. English. Jules Dassin (d); A.I. Bezzerides (w); Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie, Millard Mitchell, Joseph Pevney, Morris Carnovsky, Tamara Shayne, Kasia Orzazewski, Norbert Schiller, Hope Emerson (p). Alfred Newman (m). Norbert Brodine (c).


Movie Night: Hot Millions


[How veddy British! Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith in Hot Millions. Also, how veddy Sixties!]

4 1/2 Stars!

From 1968: «Hot Millions». Some fun British fun from Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith.

True story. The very first time I ever went to a theater and saw a movie was in February 1968 at the Plains Theater in Roswell, NM. Which is sadly now the “International UFO Museum and Research Center” 1947 alien landing tourist trap and that’s upsetting and rather terrifying. But upsetting and terrifying is what my first movie experience was; my four-year-old self bawled all the way through it and I think my sister had to take me to the lobby.

The list of things that scared me was long in those days; well into my teens, I was pretty much scared of everything. No reason; I had a good childhood, wasn’t abused or anything. But movie theaters, especially high ceilings and balconies, terrified me. So did fire engines, police cars, motorcycles, Walt Disney, sirens, fireworks, Carlsbad Caverns, roller coasters, teachers and teenagers.

But what was the most terrifying of all was the first movie in a theater: Blackbeard’s Ghost, starring Peter Ustinov. It was a funny kid’s Disney movie, typical of the time, with Dean Jones, Suzanne Pleshette, Elsa Lanchester, Elliot Reid, Richard Deacon and Michael Conrad, in his pre-Hill Street Blues days.

And the worst scene was Ustinov as Blackbeard, riding a police motorcycle with siren blaring, invisible to everyone except Dean Jones. I really bawled at that. Even if it was about the funniest one in the movie. Sirens, invisible pirates, a huge theater, yeesh.

At any rate, Hot Millions is what we’re actually talking about here.

The synopsis:

“A con-artist (Peter Ustinov) gains employment at an insurance company in order to embezzle money by re-programming their “new” wonder computer.”

TMDb

It’s a lot more fun than it sounds, although «Roger Ebert’s impression» is probably spot on as usual:

“Today I would like to bow to another critic for my opening thought. Writing about Hot Millions in the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann observed that it didn’t make him laugh out loud, but at the end of the film he realized he’d been smiling for nearly two hours. That says it very well: Hot Millions, which is not a hilarious comedy, is a pleasant, warm one.

“The warmth comes because the characters are developed rather more than is usually the case in movies about (a) embezzlers or (b) eccentrics. The British comedy tradition accounts for these two genres quite completely; eccentrics are usually Terry-Thomas whistling through the gap in his teeth, and embezzlers usually try for a sort of efficient anonymity.

“This is not, I suppose, a great comedy. But Ustinov and Miss Smith act with a sort of natural appeal, and there are moments you will enjoy very much. Especially recommended for computer programmers, their accomplices and their molls.”

Roger Ebert

I personally don’t need my sides to split when I watch a “comedy,” but that’s just me. There’s a lot more than just smiles to recommend this one–ts droll English humor, its glimpse at fashions and designs and trends of 1968, the fantastic acting of everyone, including the performance of Bob Newhart, whose movie outings are often forgotten, the sarcastic wit and the satire–it’s a long list and will need a second viewing to get it all.


Best quotes:

Carlton J. Klemper [talking about his corporation taking over the whole world]: “Yes sir! When the time comes, I may even put in a bid for all of England.”

Marcus Pendleton: }Hadn’t you better wait till it’s solvent?”

Hot Millions

Prison Governor: “You should be in politics, not in prison.”

Marcus Pendleton: “Well, in a way, I was, wasn’t I? When they caught me embezzling at the Conservative Central Office.”

Prison Governor: “Yes, I could never understand why you chose that of all places.”

Marcus Pendleton: [after a pause, says sternly] “I’m a Liberal.”

Prison Governor: “Oh.”

Elderly Gentleman card player: [Irritated by all the talk] “If this keeps up, I shall violate a lifetime principle and play bridge with women.”

Patty: “What does he want?”

Marcus: “Assets.”

Patty: “What are they?”

Marcus: “Young female donkeys.”


4 1/2 Stars!

Hot Millions. 1968. TCM. English. Eric Till (d). Peter Ustinov, Ira Wallach (w). Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, Karl Malden, Bob Newhart, Robert Morley, Cesar Romero, Peter Jones, Ann Lancaster, Patsy Crowther. (p). Laurie Johnson (m). Kenneth Higgins (c).


On Crime and Punishment This Fourth of July

As the gigantic Fascist Cult of Nationalistic Personality Display takes over formerly democratic, non-partisan American space/time in Washington DC tomorrow, it’s worth looking back at some of the (quickly forgotten) roots of the democracy. « This one is about Marquis Cesare Beccaria radical ideas on crime and punishmen».

“‘On Crimes and Punishments‘ was the first attempt to apply principles of political economy to the practice of punishment so as to humanise and rationalise the use of coercion by the state. After all, arbitrary and cruel punishment was the most immediate instrument that the state had to terrorise the people into submission, so as to avoid rebellion against the hierarchical structure of the society. The problem that Beccaria faced, then, was the simple fact that the elite had complete control of the law, which was a family business and a highly esoteric language that only the initiated could master. The path leading to the rational reform of penal law required a fundamental philosophical rethinking of the role and place of law in society.”

Aeon

«The full treatise has been translated for English and is available here». It’s well worth a challenging read-and-think on everyone’s part at this particular moment in the country and society.

[Image: «Ben Jennings in the Guardian» He’s fabulous! So is the Guardian! Go read them (and donate if you can) now!]

Beginning of the End Day


[Yes, the pics are graphic. Look at them. Own them. Be glad they’re in black and white.]


Dead horses on a French street. Above: Dead American on a French Beach.| National Archives
Dead Americans on a Belgian street. | National Archives
Dead Germans on a French Street. | National Archives
Dead humans at K.L. Mulhausen. | National Archives
Dead US Coast Guard sailor on the USS Menges. Every thing suffers in war. | National Archives

As the 75th anniversary of the launch of Overlord arrives, it’s important to remember that it was just part of a very big picture, the beginning of the end of World War II. Up until that point, it had been a very long, very hard slog. But afterwards you could practically see directly from the beaches of Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold on 6-Jun-1944 to the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2-Sep-1945. The war now had its expiration date.

No one cheered harder for the faint glimpse of the end than P.o.W.s in Japan, Korea and China. A few of those had survived four years of torture, starvation, beatings, illnesses such as beri-beri and even being bombarded by their own Army Air Force; they were the survivors of Wake Island, which resisted overwhelming Japanese invasion forces between 8-Dec and 23-Dec-1941. Had it not been for Overlord and Manhattan, those men would have died. Instead, they beat the odds thanks to Truman and Ike, Normandy and Trinity. (To quote directly: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank God for the atom bomb!”)

I always think back to 1989, when as a newspaper reporter, I was privileged to meet just 11 of the Wake Island survivors, who gathered fairly often for small-scale reunions. That year, while working as a reporter who occasionally wrote some features about WWII vets, I got a call from a friend of mine, Marie Smith, (who had kept me sane during my cursed four months while we worked at <shudder> Wal-Mart), to tell me about an upcoming gathering of Wake Island survivors and their wives at the house of her and her husband John. These people were at that point closer than family, bound forever by what happened on a tiny atoll in the middle of a vast ocean.

The article below is what I wrote at the time, but there are two caveats: First, I apparently misspelled some names. I’ve corrected this at the bottom of this post with their bios. And second, this represents nowhere near everything I was told that day. I felt like an eavesdropper, someone who could watch and hear them, but who was so far removed from their time and experience that comprehension was impossible.

In 2016, the daughter of Tony Schawang of Falls City, NE, the man into whose soybeans Braniff 250 fell in 1966, told me an anecdote about her father, who landed on Omaha Beach 75 years ago. She said she once asked him about that day and he said, “Girlie, you don’t need to know anything about that kind of thing.” He was right.

A photographer took Tony’s picture the morning after the Braniff crash. He looks shell-shocked. I could only imagine the horror of seeing 42 dead people and a crashed airliner fall to earth in front of you. But after finding out that Tony had already seen way worse in 1944 made that picture clearer, more understandable. That’s a thousand-yard stare he has in that 1966 photo. I will now always wonder if he was seeing the wreckage of Braniff 250 … or the wreckage of Omaha Beach. Or a bloody mashing together of both. (As much as I respect Mr. Schawang, as the photos above attest, I disagree. We should always know, and see, the consequences of war.)

Now that we’re older, we can understand, and value, more of the meaning and reality of all this, but those Marines and their wives (and Tony Schawang) are now gone. We can’t have conversations with them just because we’re older and wiser and can now listen to them. They’re lost to history … and we’re much the poorer for it.

What do I now know? Don’t put D-Day in service to American (or British) exceptionalism or nationalism or patriotism, and don’t “thank” a veteran for his/her “service.” Man up, grow up and face up to the reality that no one wanted to “serve” us on the cold Normandy sand. They wanted to simply survive. The hard truth is that D-Day (and Wake Island) represented a failure. A failure to confront, contain and eliminate human anger, violence, and hatred in service to nationalistic ideologies in Japan, Germany and Italy. The failure to do that consumed, between 1914 and 1945 upwards of 150 million lives around the world. WWII soldiers HAD to “serve” at Omaha Beach because WE failed to protect THEM.

Instead of “Thank you for your service,” try, “We’re sorry you had to expend your blood, sweat, tears and toil to clean up our monumental failings.” Every time you meet one of the dwindling numbers of WWII veterans (and those of all the other magnificent little American wars we’ve fallen into), keep your mouth shut and your brain focused on peace. These “Greatest Generation” folks answered the bell and won the fight. We might not be as blessed next time.


Here are the original two Wake Island articles:

Memory Of WWII Still Vivid For Vets
(Part I of the Wake Island Story)

‘Considering the power accumulated for the invastion of Wake Island and the meager forces of the defenders, it was one of the most humiliating defeats the Japanese Navy ever suffered.’
—Masatake Okumiya, commander, Japanese Imperial Navy

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner)
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – the stark terror of facing death while kneeling naked on a sandy beach the stinking hold of the prison ship; the brutality of the Japanese; the obliteration of youthful innocence.

They fought and bled for a two-and-a-half-square-mile horseshoe of an atoll in the midPacific called Wake Island. They were United States Marines and they did their duty.

There were 10 [sic] men of that Wake Island garrison at the Marlow home of John Smith this weekend. With Smith, they talked, drank and smoked their way through the weekend, laughter masking deeper emotions of brotherhood, camaraderie and painful memories.

In the Smith kitchen, their wives continued the latest of an ongoing series of therapy sessions, attempting to exorcise some of the demons of the last 44 years of their lives with the hometown heroes.


In 1941, with war inevitable, the U.S. government began construction of a series of defensive Pacific Ocean outposts, including Wake, designed to protect against Japanese aggression. They were a little late.

Little Wake atoll, with some 1,616 Marines and civilians huddled on its three islands, was attacked at noon, Dec. 8, 1941, several hours after Pearl Harbor.

The Marines knew war was possible, but “didn’t think the little brown guys had the guts to hit us,” one of them said.


Jess Nowlin’s hearing aid battery is getting a little weak as the afternoon wears on, but his memory and sense of humor are still sharp.

He said the Marines were going about their business when they heard the drone of approaching aircraft.

“We thought they were B- 17’s out of Pearl coming in to refuel. They weren’t. They broke out of a cloud bank at about 1,800 feet, bomb bay doors open. They tore us up,” Nowlin said.

The Japanese attacked from sea and air, but the Marines held out until Dec. 23; only 400 remained to defend 21 miles of shoreline from 25 warships and a fleet of aircraft. Surrender was inevitable.

Through a haze of cigarette smoke, Robert Mac Brown, a veteran not only of World War II, but of Korea and three tours of duty in Vietnam, remembers the post-surrender scene on the beach.

“We were stripped naked and they hog-tied us with our own telephone wire. A squall came through, but lasted only about 10 to 15 minutes. One of my clearest memories of the whole operation is of watching the water run down the bare back of the guy in front of me,” Brown said.

Japanese soldiers lay on the sand in front of the prisoners, swinging machine guns back and forth. The click of rounds being loaded into chambers was ominous. Fingers tightened on triggers.

“There was an argument between the landing force commander and a guy with the fleet. They screamed at each other in Japanese, arguing about whether to kill us or not,” Brown said.

The Marines made their peace and prepared to die.

The argument to make prisoners of the Marines and civilians won the day. The prisoners were allowed to grab what clothing they could to cover themselves.

And then a living hell began which would only be ended by the birth of atomic stars over southern Japan nearly four years later.


Taken off the island on small ships, the prisoners were forced to climb up the side of the Nittamaru, a former cruise ship pitching about on rough seas.

As the men walked back through the ship and down to the hold, the crew beat them with bamboo sticks, in a gauntlet of brutality.

Packed in the stinking hold, several hundred Marines and civilians had only one five-gallon bucket per deck to hold human waste. For the 14 days of the Nittamaru’s passage from Wake to Shanghai, they could barely move.

The cold of Shanghai was felt through their thin tropical khaki. It was January 1942. Robert Brown was to have married his girl on January 12. She married someone else.

“I thought you were dead,” she later told him.


From Shanghai, through Nanking, Peking, Manchuria and Pusan, Korea, the group journeyed in packed cattle cars to their eventual destination, a coal mine on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where they dug in the shafts alongside third-generation Korean slave labor.

They were slaves themselves until August 1945.

“Thank God for Harry S. Truman and the atomic bomb,” several survivors said, as the others echoed that prayer.

They went home to heroes’ welcomes, but the public ”’never fully appreciated or understood what we did,” Nowlin said.


They’re much older now — in their 60’s and 70’s — and it was a family reunion of sorts; they claim to be closer than brothers. They don’t miss their “get-togethers” for anything in the world; Robert Haidinger traveled from San Diego with a long chest incision after recently undergoing a major operation.

As they gazed through the Oklahoma sunshine, they didn’t see the cow bam beyond the lovegrass rippling in the August breeze; it was a Japanese destroyer was steaming close in to end their lives all over again.

“It was awful, terrible; I wouldn’t have missed it for anything; you couldn’t get me to do it again for a billion dollars,” Nowlin summed it up.


The men: Tony Obre [sic], Fallbrook, Calif; Robert Haidinger, San Diego, Calif.; Robert Murphy, Thermopolis, Wyo.; Dale Milburn [sic], Santa Rosa, Calif.; George McDaniels [sic], Dallas, Texas; Jess Nowlin, Bonham, Texas; Jack Cook, Golden, Colo.; Robert Mac Brown, Phoenix, Ariz.; Jack Williamson, Lawton; Paul Cooper, Marlow, and John Smith, Marlow.

The cost of the defense of Wake Island, from Dec. 8 to 23, 1941: Americans: 46 Marines, 47 civilians, three sailors and 11 airplanes; Japanese: 5,700 men, 11 ships and 29 airplanes.


Wives Cope With Husband’s Memories
(Part II of the Wake Island Story)

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – fists lashing out during nightmares, the traumatic memories, the attempts to catch up on lost time.

The wives of 10 Wake Island survivors met in Marlow with their husbands this weekend for reasons of their own.

“We go through therapy every time we get together. We help each other with problems,” they said.

The wives: Florence Haidinger, Maxine Murphy, Opal Milburn [sic], Irene McDaniels [sic], Sarah Nowlin, Betty Cook, Millie Brown, Jo Williamson, Juanita Cooper and Marie Smith.


They did their own bit during World War II: The Red Cross, an airplane factory in Detroit, North American Aviation in El Segundo, Calif, Douglas in Los Angeles, the Kress dime store.

They married their men after the long national nightmare was finished, and their lives became entwined by one event: the Japanese attack on Wake Island Dec. 8-23,1941.

Since the first reunion of Wake survivors and their spouses in 1953, these women have been like sisters.

“We love each other, we’re closer than family,” Jo Williamson said.

In Marie Smith’s kitchen, therapy was doled out in a catharsis of talk little different from that of the men gathered on the patio. Talk is said to be good for the soul; these women heal great tears in theirs every time they see each other.

According to the wives, the men came home from the war, married, had children and tried to pick up where they left off.

They wanted to take care of their families and try to catch up. They were robbed of the fun times of their late teens and early 20’s, the women unanimously agree.

“They have also lived every day as if it were their last,” Sarah Nowlin said.


The men needed some help after their harrowing battle and brutal three -and-a-half-year captivity.

According to the women, doctors never realized therapy was in order: “They never got anything.”

One man lashed out with his fists during nightmares; after a few pops, his wife learned to leave the room. Another would slide out of bed and assume a rigid posture on the floor, arms and legs folded. Yet they have all been gentle men.

“I’ve never seen my husband harm or even verbally abuse anyone,” a wife said Reunions such as this help the men and women deal with life as they age. The youths of 16-22 are now grandfathers and grandmothers in their 60’s and 70’s.


Life today is a bit baffling to them.

Extremely proud of their men, the women have no patience with draft dodgers, flag burners, Japanese cars or foreign ownership of America.

They didn’t agree with the Vietnam war policy, but duty to country should have come first, they said.

“I didn’t want my son to go to Vietnam, but I would have been ashamed of him if he hadn’t,” one said.

The issue of flag burning stirs violent protest and emotion in the group: “Made in America”’ labels are on everything they buy.

And the younger generation does not enjoy the women’s confidence: “I don’t think they could do what we were all called on to do,” they agreed.

And as Marlow afternoon shadows grew longer, the women of Wake continued to cleanse their souls.


Updated bios (confirmed via findagrave.com):

• Cpl. Robert Mac Brown, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 1-Feb-1918.
Death: 21-Sep-2002 (age 84).
Buried: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.

• Sgt. Jack Beasom Cook, USMC, Golden, CO.
Birth: 18-Jun-1918, Okmulgee, OK.
Death: 20-Nov-1999 (age 81).
Buried: Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO.

• Sgt. Paul Carlton Cooper, USMC, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 30-Oct-1918, Richardson, TX.
Death: 18-Sep-1994 (age 75), Marlow, OK.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Cpl. Robert Fernand Haidinger, USMC, San Diego, CA.
Birth: 24-Nov-1918, Chicago, IL.
Death: 7-Mar-2014 (age 95).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• PFC Robert Bruce “Bob” Murphy, USMC, Thermopolis, WY.
Birth: 5-Oct-1920, Thermopolis, WY.
Death: 5-Feb-2007 (age 86), Hot Springs County, WY.
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Pvt. Ival Dale Milbourn, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 23-Jul-1922, Saint Joseph, MO.
Death: 18-Dec-2001 (age 79), Mesa, AZ.
Buried: Skylawn Memorial Park, San Mateo, CA.

• PFC George Washington “Dub” McDaniel, Dallas, TX.
Birth: 23-Dec-1915, Stigler, OK.
Death: 14-Jul-1993 (age 77).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• PFC Jesse Elmer Nowlin, USMC, Bonham, TX.
Birth: 9-Dec-1915, Leonard, TX.
Death: 13-Sep-1990 (age 74), Bonham, TX.
Buried: Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham, TX.

• MSgt. Tony Theodule Oubre, USMC (ret.), Fallbrook, CA.
Birth: 17-Aug-1919, Loreauville, Iberia Parish, LA.
Death: 7-Feb-2005 (age 85).
Buried: Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, CA.

• Pvt. John Clarence Smith, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 11-Mar-1918.
Death: 19-Jan-1994 (age 75).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Sgt. Jack Russell “Rusty” Williamson, Jr., USMC, Lawton, OK.
Birth: 26-Jul-1919, Lawton, OK.
Death: 12-Jul-1996 (age 76).
Buried: Highland Cemetery, Lawton, OK.


The wives (I couldn’t confirm the details for all of them):

• Juanita Belle Sehested Cooper
Birth: 5-Dec-1920, Marlow, OK.
Death: 28-Jul-2001 (age 80), Beaverton, OR.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Florence A Haidinger
Birth: 31-Dec-1934.
Death: 26-Sep-2014 (age 79).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• Irene McDaniel
Birth: 24-Nov-1918.
Death: 7-Mar-2004 (age 85).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• Maxine Gertrude Gwynn Murphy
Birth: 10-Nov-1923.
Death: 4-Mar-1996 (age 72).
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Marie A. Smith
Birth: 11-Feb-1929.
Death: 16-Nov-1997 (age 68).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Emily Jo Lane Williamson
Birth: 30-Mar-1924, Texas.
Death: 3-Jun-2007 (age 83), Comanche County, OK.
Buried: Sunset Memorial Gardens, Lawton, OK.

Paranoia, Fear, Terror and Facebook, et al.

Insane levels of fear and control and succumbing to terror. We are a nation which is perhaps the most fearful of all countries. And someone warned us about giving in to terror, especially that orchestrated by demagogues and news media personalities. Hmmmmmm.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers. It’s a vast expansion of the Trump administration’s enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

In a move that’s just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including “social media identifiers,” from almost all U.S. applicants.

The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.

Associated Press

Yes, we’re so scared we’re insisting on a lot more:

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

Associated Press
Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt

Just a few years ago, our leadership was saying:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 4-Mar-33

How refreshing. And he had Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, polio and the imminent deaths of 100 million human beings to worry about. We are no longer made of sterner stuff. We freak out over Twits (and their Twitterings) and have palpitations over words and clutch our pearls if someone is transgressive about … well anything.

Grow a spine Democrats! Listen to the dead man and stop fearing! Send tis administration packing by using the ballot box or Articles of Impeachment! Now!

Corporate Power

Is corporate power absolute yet? Or just overwhelming? Maybe … it’s just … mestastizing? There’s a fascinating documentary over at Deutsche Welle:

“The Wallonia region in Belgium triggered a Europe-wide crisis in the fall of 2016 by refusing to sign the CETA free trade agreement with Canada, as millions of EU citizens took to the streets to protest against the agreement. The CETA negotiations had turned the spotlight on the system of private arbitration courts. … Many states whose sovereignty is threatened are now finally waking up to the danger. But is it perhaps already too late to do anything about the seemingly over-mighty corporations?”

Deutsche Welle

Where Are the Bodies? We Have an App for That.

Find the human (not migrants, not immigrants, not aliens, certainly not illegals. Just human. Human.) bodies. There are plenty to look for all over the Arizona Open GIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants map:

“Since January of 2001, over 3,000 undocumented migrants have died within the Pima County OME jurisdiction. The information presented is stark and perhaps unsettling. However, both Humane Borders and the Pima County OME believe that the availability of this information will contribute to fulfilling our common vision.”

AOGISIDM

No Slope, No False Equivalency. Just the Same. Damn. Thing.

Immoral, indecent, inhumane. There is no slippery slope; this country is on a well-trodden path dating back at least to 1492. There is also no false equivalency. We are running concentration camps and human beings are dying. [Full Stop]

Details are in the OIG report to DHS. Full report is here.

The Wages of Sin, America, is …

And then Primo Levi pegged the inevitable results of such greed, hypocrisy, selfishness … and our addiction to those three destructive forces:

“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”

Primo Levi

And the college students of the White Rose in Munich, 1942, in a pamphlet that would lead to their executions, also outlined how it’s impossible to have rational, intellectual discourse with those who have devoted themselves to irrational, anti-intellectual rot:

“It is impossible to engage in intellectual discourse with National Socialist Philosophy. For if there were such an entity, one would have to try by means of analysis and discussion either to prove its validity or to combat it. In actuality we face a [different] situation. At its very inception this movement depended on the deception and betrayal of one’s fellow man.”

The White Rose Society, 1942

No. You cannot argue with Fascists or Nazis or ignorant nationalists. Rational arguments won’t win over irrational people.

Random American Notes

Another in a series of random notes of things I want to remember:

Charles Dickens had this country pegged from the beginning—our addictions (tobacco and greed, hypocrisy and selfishness):

“Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars.

“Schools may be erected, East, West, North, and South; pupils be taught, and masters reared, by scores upon scores of thousands; colleges may thrive, churches may be crammed, temperance may be diffused, and advancing knowledge in all other forms walk through the land with giant strides: but while the newspaper press of America is in, or near, its present abject state, high moral improvement in that country is hopeless.

“As Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise, that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable, and soon became most offensive and sickening. In all the public places of America, this filthy custom is recognised. In the courts of law, the judge has his spittoon, the crier his, the witness his, and the prisoner his; while the jurymen and spectators are provided for, as so many men who in the course of nature must desire to spit incessantly.

“An American gentleman . . . likewise stuck his hands deep into his pockets, and walked the deck with his nostrils dilated, as already inhaling the air of Freedom which carries death to all tyrants, and can never (under any circumstances worth mentioning) be breathed by slaves.

“Here’s the rule for bargains. ‘Do other men, for they would do you.’ That’s the true business precept.”

Charles Dickens, American Notes

Movie Night: Conquest


4 3/4 Stars!

From 1937: «Conquest», which pairs Greta Garbo with Charles Boyer and achieves something sublime (Garbo) and ridiculous (the script). Boyer is convincing at least as Napoleon. It’s based on the true story of Napoleon’s advances, on the field and off, and his retreats, on the field and off, and the Polish countess who he conquers, as well as his illegitimate son.

The synopsis:

“A [P]olish countess becomes Napoleon Bonaparte’s mistress at the urging of Polish leaders, who feel she might influence him to make Poland independent.”

TMDb

In the context of what would happen to Poland just two years after this was filmed, it was timely stuff. And anything about Napoleon is pretty much guaranteed to be pass-the-popcorn high entertainment.

Emanuel Levy «writing in 2010» had this to say;

“The project had been in development for years, based on MGM’s dream casting on Garbo, as the Polish countess Marie Walewska, Napoleon’s mistress. But they could not find the right leading man, within and without MGM. That changed after the Gallic actor Charles Boyer became an international star, thus deemed proper to play Napoleon.

“Tale, co-penned by Samuel Hoffenstein, Salka Viertel, and S.N. Behrman is too melodramatic to qualify as a genuine tragic romance and too fake to allow Garbo render a fully realized performance.

But it did not matter, as Garbo was then at the peak of her career, and MGM didn’t spare any money in making a lavish production, casting the film with numerous extras.

The scenes between Napoleon and his son (cute child) are fake and sentimental, and last farewell, when Maria fails to convince the emperor to escape with her, is ridiculous.”

Emanuel Levy, Cinema 24/7

He’s right, that ending is completely ridiculous, although «the boy, Alexandre Colonna Walewski, actually did exist», living until 58 years old and having an illustrious career in Polish and French politics, escaping Daddy’s continental conquest ambitions and confining himself to French legislative affairs.

The film itself is fairly representative of the period and shows how far ahead of her time Garbo was … that she could shine in spite of rather stilted dialogue, in a non-native language shows just how great an actor she was at the height of her career. It wasn’t bad, and I might have another look under certain conditions, but I probably wouldn’t buy it for the DVD collection, unless Criterion gets hold of it.


Best quotes:

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “I shall send it up to you, invite you to my quarters.”

Countess Marie Walewska: “I have a husband, sire.”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “He’s four times your age!”

Countess Marie Walewska: “He has his dignity. He has his honored name. He has his pride. And so have I, sire.”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Now I understand. So, it is pride you have in common!”

Countess Marie Walewska: “That does not become a conqueror, sire.”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “When you have conquered, Madame, you may instruct me. “

Conquest

“When you have conquered, Madame …” is mee-rowr fabulous! (I said above some dialogue is stilted, and so it is, but these quotes are pretty damn good, especially the following exchange with the Countess’ dotty, skeptical old mother

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Who are you?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “I am Napoleon!”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Napoleon? Napoleon who?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Hmm? Bonaparte!”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: ‘Napoleon Bonaparte? What kind of name is that? What nationality are you?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Corsican by birth. French by adoption. Emperor by achievement.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “So, you are an Emperor, are you? What are you Emperor of?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Emperor of France, madame.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Hee, hee, hee. So you are Emperor of France. And my very good friend, His Majesty, King Louis Sixteenth abdicated in your honor, I suppose?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Well, he didn’t know it at the time but in a sense he did, madame.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “This house is getting to be a lunatic asylum.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “What were you before you became an Emperor?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “A corporal.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “That’s what I thought. A soldier. Why do you say you were an Emperor?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “One can be both, Madame. Alexander was.”

Countess Pelagia Walewska: “Everybody who goes crazy thinks he is Alexander. Now, if Alexander went crazy, who would he think he was?”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: “Napoleon.”

Ibid

Brilliant.



My rating: 4 ¾ Stars for some dialogue, which is mostly, but just not quite, excellent.
Conquest. 1937. TCM. English. Clarence Brown, Gustav Machaty (d); Waclaw Gasiorowski, S.N. Behrman, Samuel Hoffenstein, Talbot Jennings, Helen Jerome, Salka Viertel, Carey Wilson (w) Greta Garbo, Charles Boyer, Reginald Owen, Alan Marshal, Hentry Stephenson, Leif Erickson, May Whitty, Maria Ouspenskaya, C. Henry Gordon, Claude Gillingwater, Vladimir Sokoloff, George Houston, Scotty Beckett, Dennis O'Keefe, (p). Herbert Stothart (m). Karl Freund (c).


Sieg …

John Fugelsang on Twitter

Amen to John Fugelsang’s tweet. Also, it could have been written: “DEEPLY OFFENDED that black football players refuse to stand for the National Anthem bc freedom is all about mandatory loyalty posturing.”

This has been a problem for decades in this country, Jeebus knows.

Plus … this response is fabulous:

As an aside, here’s a great photo of the way students were forced to salute the American flag back in the days when America was great:

[Wikipedia Commons]

It’s worth noting some text from the decision written by Justice Robert H. Jackson (who would go on to prosecute Nazis at the Nuremberg trials—irony!) in West Virginia v. Barnette, the 1943 decision in which the Supreme Court said, quelle surprise, we cannot be forced to “pledge” “allegiance” to the U.S. flag:

“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections. …

“The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

Justice Robert H. Jackson

I would never presume to improve on anything Justice Jackson wrote, so …

—30—

[ Photo at top by Alex Martinez on Unsplash ]

11:00 | 11-November-1918

A preface: I became interested in World War One history about 40 years ago, reading Elleston Trevor’s “Bury Him Among Kings,” a novel (undoubtedly my favorite of all time) with a title which referenced an epitaph mentioned below. From around high school on, I’ve read and studied and absorbed (and suffered through college courses) all I could about German history from 1815 to 1945. It’s endlessly fascinating (and disturbingly prophetic) study.

But it’s never really packed a personal punch. While many in our extended families fought in the Civil War, most were too young or too old for the world wars. One exception was our Uncle Louie Webb, who served in World War Two (and how I wish I could ask him about it!) and our Grandpa Pollock’s oldest brother Mearon Edgar, who was born in 1894 and is our father’s namesake. Edgar (as Dad called him) was a World War One veteran and he placed a small ad in the American Legion Magazine of August, 1937: “800th Aero Repair Squadron—Proposed reunion, Los Angeles, Calif., late summer or fall. Mearon E. Pollock, 306 N. Maple dr., Beverly Hills, Calif.” He was apparently the principal organizer of such squadron reunions up until World War Two. After the first war, he and his wife moved to Beverly Hills from Oklahoma. He was a barber with a shop on Wilshire Boulevard; she was a Beverly Hills public school teacher. They later farmed in Oregon and California, where he died around 1977. Interesting stuff, albeit a bit dry. The history of war should never be dry and dusty and divorced from our emotions. It should be as war itself: visceral, devastating, obscene to sight, offensive to smell, deafening to hearing. Hence the following post.

100 years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns along the 440-mile line stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea fell silent. The war started 1 August 1914 just as German Chancellor Otto von Bismark once famously predicted around 1884, by “some damned fool thing in the Balkans;” in this case, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, a city of agony in the 20th century). But on 11 November 1918, it was finally “all quiet on the Western Front.”

We remember all this today because as Polish poet Czesław Miłosz wrote, “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

But sometimes, the living forget those who can no longer speak and instead harness them in service of the political or the feel-good, using their severed limbs to pat ourselves on our collective backs. This rather florid inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, London, is an example of how remembrance can often be lofty, nebulous, nameless and faceless and sanitized and ultimately divorced from the nightmare reality of the war and how it was experienced by the men and women caught in it:

“Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day, 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V, his Ministers of State, the Chiefs of his forces and a vast concourse of the nation. Thus are commemorated the many multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give, life itself; for God, for King and country, for loved ones, home and empire, for the sacred cause of justice and the freedom of the world. They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

That was the official, sanitized, God-and-Country pablum version of the war. It’s fine as it goes, but the soldiers of the line saw things quite differently, and epitaphs like these tend to mute them, hide them from sight, rob them of existence.

So what’s a better way to remember then? How about starting with accounts left to us such as the prose and poetry of two British officers and a German soldier. It is their raw experiences which we should remember today, not “George V and his Ministers of State and the Chiefs of his forces” (who botched the entire affair so badly that it became an unprecedented slaughter), nor leaders gathered today at Compiegne, site of the signing of Armistice, nor the American leader shamefully cowering in his hotel in Paris, apparently afraid of rain.

Wrote British Captain Siegfried Sassoon in one of his best, sharpest, brightest harpooning poems of the “Chiefs of His Majesty’s forces”:

The General

“‘Good-morning, good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

“But he did for them both by his plan of attack.”

Siegfried Sassoon

British Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action just one week before the Armistice was signed, summed up his generation’s experience and wondered who would mourn them in extremely powerful poems:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

“What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.”

Wilfrid Owen

The German Erich Maria Remarque, in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a book which was later burned by Hitler, added his own voice in prose:

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

“A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.”

Erich Maria Remarque

Finally, it’s worth reading what is probably Owens’ finest poem:

Dulce et Decorum Est

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

“In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

“If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.'”

Wilfrid Owen

The old lie: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” roughly translates to “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.” As Owen wrote, dying like cattle in warfare conducted in the cause of nationalism or patriotism is never sweet. It is an obscenity. Just see the attached photos. You should not be squeamish; stare at them and memorize them. If you vote for war, support its waging or cheer for capital punishment, you should be able to look unflinchingly at the black and white images of the consequences of bloodthirst.)

As violent forces of chauvinistic nationalism rise around us, we would do well to remember not Kings and generals, but the experience and judgement of the many Owens, Sassoons and Remarques as the central lesson of this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018.

[Photo: First World War infantrymen whose faces had been mutilated in trench warfare. They were known as the “gueules cassées”.]

9 November: Schicksalstag

In the next few days, there will be much remembrance of the events of 100 years ago—the end of World War I. Not as much in the U.S., where World War I is like the Korean War, a largely forgotten conflict, even though 115,516 Americans died between 1917-1918, along with over 320,000 sickened, most in the influenza epidemic of 1918.

But for Europe and the world including the U.S. in spite of our isolationism, the end of World War One is momentous, remembered, and memorialized.

From the German perspective, several 9 Novembers during the 20th century were extremely fateful; in fact, today is known in Germany as the Schicksalstag, or Day of Fate.

100 years ago today, after German sailors began to revolt against orders by the Imperial High Command to sail out for a final, climatic battle with the British Royal Navy (which the sailors considered suicidal), Chancellor Prince Max von Baden somewhat prematurely published news that Kaiser Wilhelm II had abdicated. Also prematurely, State Secretary Phlipp Scheidemann, part of the leadership of SPD, announced the formation of a new German republic: “The old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. The new may live. Long live the German Republic!” Events afterwards gathered speed; revolution toppled all the monarchical regimes of the German Reich, and the Germans sued for peace on the western front.

These events gave rise to a rightwing article of faith in future years: the Dolchstoßlegende, or the Stab in the Back legend, which the National Socialists would use as a foundational belief. According to the German right, the German army was still in its positions on the Western Front, undefeated, until (mainly Jewish and Socialist) politicians back in Berlin, such as Scheidemann, overthrew the Kaiser and declared the Republic, thus “stabbing in the back” the German army and navy. In spite of the fact that the Navy had mutinied and was no longer a fighting force and the German army was actually disintegrating in France and Belgium, the Dolchstoßlegende helped the German right delegitimize the Republic and prepare the way for its destruction.

An attempt at that destruction was made 95 years ago today when National Socialists and members of other nationalist parties attempted a coup in Munich. In what is now known as the Beer Hall Putsch, NSDAP leader Adolf Hitler declared himself leader in Bavaria, but the march through Munich originating in several beer halls was stopped by Bavarian police. Sixteen nationalists and four policemen were killed, the NSDAP was disbanded and Hitler was jailed. After the party’s ascent to power in 1933, 9 November was celebrated as a national holiday to remember the fallen of the putsch; any mention of the 9 November of 1918 was forbidden, unless it was a repetition of the Dolchstoßlegende.

The Dolchstoßlegende and years of similar lies and antisemitism were part of what ignited Reichskristallnacht on this day 80 years ago in 1938. Jewish synagogues and property were burned and destroyed throughout the Reich; more than 400 Jews were killed or committed suicide. About 30,000 Jews and other “undesirables” were arrested. Many later died in concentration camps. “Crystal Night” was named for the large amount of shattered glass that littered streets around the country. A final humiliation came when Jews were made responsible for the damage and those who collected on insured damages were forced to sign over insurance payments to the Reich.

And finally, on this day in 1989 29 years ago, after decades of war, destruction, the Holocaust, the Cold War and much lost territory, the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall) was breached and East and West Germany were reunited. Because the actual reunification occurred on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the more formal date of 3 October 1990 is now celebrated as the official holiday.

Given that 100-150 million lives were lost around the world between roughly 1912 and 1989, 9 November is an appropriate day for a worldwide mourning.

German Roofer Finds Message from Grandfather

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12129102
German roofer discovers message in a bottle – written by his grandfather

A message in a bottle on the roof of a Goslar, Germany, cathedral was found by the grandson of the writer. An authentic lesson from history:

“On March 26, 1930, four roofers in this small west German town inscribed a message to the future. “Difficult times of war lie behind us,” they wrote. After describing the soaring inflation and unemployment that followed the First World War, they concluded, “We hope for better times soon to come.”

“The roofers rolled up the message, slid it into a clear glass bottle and hid it in the roof of the town’s 12th-century cathedral. Then they patched up the roof’s only opening.

“Eighty-eight years later, while doing maintenance work, 52-year-old roofer Peter Brandt happened upon the bottle. He recognised the letterhead of the receipt paper on which the note was written, as well as the name of one of the signatories: Willi Brandt – a shy, 18-year old roofing apprentice at the time of the note’s creation – was Peter’s grandfather.

“‘It was an exciting find,’ Peter Brandt said, given the improbability of discovering the bottle in the same roof his grandfather had repaired almost a century earlier. The letter, Brandt said, is from a dark chapter of Germany’s past. But its discovery offered an opportunity to reflect on the relative peace and prosperity of the present.

“Just a few years after his grandfather – who is not related to former West German chancellor Willy Brandt – signed the note, he enlisted as a soldier during World War II. He was later captured and imprisoned by the Russians. After returning to Goslar, Willi resumed his profession as a roofer but never talked about the war.”

New Zealand Herald

That the message survived the war shows that even amidst great destruction and degradation, something always survives. Humans press on, even if they have to leave their homes and try to find peace in hostile lands. Goslar’s mayor understands:

“The unemployment problems that Willi Brandt described have largely disappeared, according to Goslar Mayor Oliver Junk.

“Still, Goslar residents are moving to larger places to attend university or find work, said Ulrich Albers, head of the local archives. Stores and entire housing blocks stand empty in some parts of town.

“Three years ago, during the height of Germany’s refugee crisis, Junk made headlines when he proposed that Goslar take in additional refugees, citing the housing shortage in bigger cities. ‘It’s mad that in Göttingen they are having to build new accommodations, and are tearing their hair out as to where to put everyone, while we have empty properties and employers who are desperate for skilled workers,’ Junk told the Guardian newspaper in August 2015, referring to a nearby more populous city.

“Junk said he doesn’t regret that decision – and that the contents of Willi Brandt’s letter put it in a new perspective. ‘Every day, we’re discussing the many problems we have as a city that are allegedly very, very difficult. But with this letter from 1930, we can see that the many problems that we perceive aren’t really problems,’ he said.”

Ibid

As the line immortalized in Casablanca goes, “… it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Maybe not in the grand scheme of things perhaps, but I’m sure the problems Willi Brandt experienced on the Ostfront mattered to him … a great deal. And the problems he and others created on the Ostfront mattered to those they impacted even more.

Squeezed to Death

If you have to evacuate an airliner in a hurry, can you get out of your extremely cramped seat and row fast enough? Probably not. And then you have to dodge all the idiots trying to save all their luggage and personal electronic devices at glacial paces.

But it’s the ever-shrinking seat and row size that will probably be the deadliest problem if there’s a problem with the over-stuffed aluminum tube in which you’re squeezed because most of the country is too damn cheap to pay more than $29 to get from Dubuque to Miami. « At least one editorial » (which was probably ignored and forgotten faster than that flight took to get from Dubuque to Miami) sounded an alarm:

“Given how passengers have grown in inverse proportion to the spaciousness of airliner seats, anything like ‘expeditious’ evacuation of an entire airliner seems doubtful. … Under such constraints, can today’s jets be evacuated in the 90 seconds mandated by the F.A.A.? Not according to passenger advocacy groups like Flyers Rights, which has repeatedly and unsuccessfully petitioned the F.A.A. to use its rule-making authority to stop airlines from shrinking seats and passenger space. Not according to Representatives Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, and Rick Larsen, Democrat of Washington, who have asked the Transportation Department’s inspector general to investigate F.A.A. safety standards that haven’t been updated in decades. Incredibly, it will require an act of Congress to ensure that the F.A.A. does something, because the agency has denied that seat sizes and body mass index are factors in emergencies. The agency has even denied that it has the authority to regulate airliner seat size.”

The New York Times

As always in this country, it will take a massive tragedy and lots of unnecessarily burned/maimed/dead people before we do something about this. Pity.

Of Manifestoes and Buildings and Truman and Stuff

[Edited two days later to fix some typos and unclear, stream-of-consciousness-type unclear phrases.]

During the recent effort to rename the Russell Senate Office Building, it would have been nice to remember that both Richard Russell, the building’s current namesake, and John McCain, the proposed replacement namesake, (while useful tools to poke the likes of President Orange Poopy Pants and the Supreme Court), weren’t total paragons of virtue all the time.

Where McCain is concerned, his virtues are many and have been told rather exhaustively this past week. As for his vices, well, two words should be highlighted when his legacy is recounted: “Sarah” and “Palin.”

As for the namesake guy, Richard Brevard Russell Jr., United States Senator from the Peach State of Georgia, well, his legacy needs a few more words than just two (although if you want to stick to just two, how about “white” and “supremacist”?). Let’s just look on the ol’ internettubesweb, shall we and see what we can see about ol’ RBR?

“Russell supported racial segregation and co-authored the Southern Manifesto with Strom Thurmond. Russell and 17 fellow Democratic and one Republican senators blocked the passage of civil rights legislation via the filibuster. After Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell led a Southern boycott of the 1964 Democratic National Convention.”

Wikipedia (ugh; sorry, lazy reference)

The “Southern Manifesto” was, what, exactly? Stay with me here. The Supreme Court ended “separate but equal” educational facilities and opportunities for different races in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. This pissed off a lot of people (and they and their grandkids are still pissed off about it in 2018), so, in 1956, a bunch of pissed off Congress critters got together and said they supported the Constitution, just not certain parts of it, like the Supreme Court deciding on the Constitutionality of stuff that the Congress critters decreed.

The pissed-off Congress critters also supported, of course, the Only Amendments Which Count: the Second [genuflect when you say that] and the Tenth [look bewildered and take their word for it; be prepared to genuflect when they tell you to genuflect]. Therefore, they, the pissed off Congress critters, would Just. Not. Have. Any. Of. Brown v. Board.

So, like outraged teenagers who for the first time have learned about stuff like the existence of poverty or CIA assassinations or student loan debt or their university’s investments in repressive regimes such as South Africa or Israel or the U.S., they (stay with me here: “they” means the pissed-off Congress critters) got together and issued forth AN MANIFESTO, in which they laid down the law.

Here are the choicest excerpts, with my sarcastic comments in brackets:

“We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means.” [I suppose that in the South it was lawful to throw yourself bodily across the entrance to schools and universities when negroes show up, so I give ’em that point.]

“We appeal to the States and people who are not directly affected by these decisions to consider the constitutional principles involved against the time when they too, on issues vital to them may be the victims of judicial encroachment. [Slippery, slippery!! Today: Miscegenation in Miss-ssippi; tomorrow: Legal cocksucking in Boston!]

“Even though we constitute a minority in the present Congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the States and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation. [We have a tripartite system of guv’mint, not a dual, dumbasses, but let’s not quibble over our greatness being derived from two or three systems. These pissed-off Congress critters are saying that even though a majority rejected their being in the majority in the Congress, they were certain that the majority supported their minority in believing …something something about the Tenth Amendment. As for “Judicial usurpation,” that term has been gradually replaced with the more down-to-earth term “judicial activism,” which now means “any court’s decision we don’t like, especially the ones about equal negroes, women in control of their bodies, brown-skinned immigration, prying guns from our cold dead hands, and … those other ones, like the ones letting queers live and shit, yeah, those.”]

“We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation. [Now here, the pissed-off Congress critters were on to something. Under the rubric of invoking “Massive Resistance,” they noted that it was lawful for whites to take their children and their money to whites-only private schools in redlined housing developments, meaning Brown v. Board was pretty much dead from the get-go. As for the last clause in the MANIFESTO, the pissed off Congress critters failed to prevent the usage of the National Guard a few times to enforce the decision (damnit John F. Kennedy and, er, um, Dwight Eisenhower!!), then got all friendly with the same National Guard when it executed four dirty hippies at Kent State. [Sarcasm ahead] “Use your guns to kill the hippies, just don’t use them to make my precious pale son sit next to an icky black nappy-headed five-year-old negress in kindergarten show-and-tell.”[/Sarcasm]]

“In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our States and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts.” [“Sons and Daughters of the South! This is a “trying” period as we seek to save the White Race from extinction through the diabolical use of court orders to force our chill’run to share their coloring books and colors with the Colored! Be on the lookout for: Agitators! Troublemakers! Fifth Columnists! Carpetbaggers! Miscegenationists! Thugs! MS-13ers! But even as these Yankees sack and pillage our fair Southern lands for the second time in a hundred years and threaten a formal Second War of Northern Aggression, you all should scrupulously refrain from touching a hair on their comma-nist heads in a disorderly and lawless fashion. Mess ’em up while they “resist arrest,” then haul their asses to Parchman and shoot ’em “while trying to escape.” Just do it all in a lawful fashion.]

Declaration of Constitutional Principles, or, “The Southern Manifesto,” the start of “Massive Resistance” to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1956. Bracketed words are my own sarcastic commentary and not in the original document.

So this is fun! Oh, but wait! This just in …

“[Richard Russell] proclaimed his faith in the “family farm” and supported most New Deal programs for parity, rural electrification, and farm loans, and supported promoting agricultural research, providing school lunches and giving surplus commodities to the poor. He was the chief sponsor of the National School Lunch Act of 1946 with the dual goals of providing proper nutrition for all children and of subsidizing agriculture.”

Wikipedia (ugh again I say ugh)

Oh! That puts a better light on him …

But wait again! School lunches for negroes weren’t, er, they were the same but just separately equal, you see. And Russell’s political heirs are trying mightily as we speak to trash what is left of the school lunch program. With Imperial Queen Betsy “If You Don’t Buy Some Amway, My Crazy Creepy Mercenary Brother Will Shoot Your Ass” DeVos in charge of the Dept. of Ed. and Sonny “Negro Slaves Served in the Confederate Armies and Loved It!” Perdue in charge of the Dept. of Ag, that children are learning and anyone is eating is rather a major Jesus-sized miracle at this point. But I digress as always.

Okay, you get the point. Man is always, unlike our system of government, a duality: good/evil, light/dark, well-intentioned/malevolent. Russell was no different. There was some good mixed in with the … wait, what’s this? … “In the 1930s and 1940s, Russell participated in Southern filibusters to block federal bills aimed at suppressing lynchings and poll taxes” [Hartford Courant]. Well hell’s bells! Screw it. Alright, Russell was an asshole and the building should be renamed. Maybe not for John “Sarah Palin” McCain and maybe not as an intentional tweak on the nose of President Orange Tantrum Pants, but for someone of better moral fiber. I propose “The Colin Kaepernick Senate Office Building.”

What brought this tirade on? Actually, I just finished The Accidental President, A.J. Baime’s very good detailing of Harry Truman’s incredibly historic first four months as president in 1945. In the book, it seems the very same pissed-off Senator Richard Russell makes an appearance at the end. While Truman was dealing with everything from the atom bomb to Joseph Stalin to the Japanese to the Chicago Tribune to the very pissed off Reluctant First Lady Bess (a.k.a. The Boss), he had to deal with Richard Russell.

Russell, ever-outraged Southern Belle whose barrel hoops have become hopelessly entangled in several of his seven layers of petticoats, sent a letter to Truman telling Harry S., nay, DEMANDING that Harry S. grab that [sarcasm ahead warning] slanty-eyed Jap bastard Emperor Hirohito and hang him like he was a negro attempting to enter an elementary school, [/sarcasm] er, uh, rather, hang him like a war criminal.

In response, Harry S. delivered a perfect, vintage “Give ’em hell, Harry!” response:

“Truman had received a missive from Senator Richard Russell, Democrat of Georgia, who asked that the United States continue bombing until the Japanese ‘beg us to accept unconditional surrender.’ Russell believed ‘the vast majority of the American people’ thought the emperor ‘should go,’ and that ‘if we do not have available a sufficient number of atomic bombs with which to finish the job immediately, let us carry on with TNT and fire bombs until we can produce them.’

“(To this, Truman responded: ‘I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the “pigheadedness” of the leaders of a nation and, for your information, I am not going to do it unless it is absolutely necessary . . . My objective is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children of Japan.’)”

A. J. Baime. The Accidental President New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2018

And so, we have a major government office building named after a white supremacist/professional outrage machine/snowflake who voted to let small children have lunch but who was on the receiving end of one of Harry’s best “Give ’em Hell” smackdowns. I’ll bet he sure lost his pantaloons over Harry’s 1947 integration of the armed forces. Plus, he was probably a beta cuck.

“America, America, God spread they stupidity on thee!”

————————

[By the way, Russell may or may not have known it, but Truman had two options in August 1945:

1. Use the bomb and then allow the Japanese to accept reality, surrendering unconditionally while keeping their emperor, or

2. Continue the war with an invasion of the Japanese home islands with a planned 766,600 troops, not winning the war until approximately November 15 of 1946 (!), which would have cost an untold number of American casualties (we incurred 3/4 of a million casualties in the war. A doubling of that figure for the invasion of Japan is not unreasonable). For reference, the 1945 fight for Iwo Jima resulted in 20,000 U.S. and 25,000 Japanese casualties. Iwo Jima is approximately 8.1 square miles. The Battle for Okinawa cost over 40,000 U.S. and over 80,000 Japanese casualties.  Okinawa is 466 square miles. The square mileage of Japan is over 145,000. Half-a-million American casualties and another year-and-a-half of war … Russell might have welcomed it.]

————————

[I should also highlight what I was told in a 1989 interview by John Smith of Marlow, Oklahoma, a survivor of the Japanese invasion of Wake Island, Dec. 1941-Feb. 1942: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank god for the atomic bomb.” The other nine Wake Island vets who were gathered in his home for one of their periodic reunions agreed with John unanimously.

Harry’s use of two bombs did indeed greatly reduce Japanese casualties and more of the destruction Richard Russell wanted. And it saved 3/4 of a million American men another year-and-a-half of hell and possible injury and death, as well as releasing P.O.W.s like John Smith from almost four years of hell, mistreatment and starvation. Some of those P.O.W.s weighed less than 100 pounds when they were finally were freed—their freedom thanks to God, Harry S. and the atomic bomb.

Richard Russell’s preference would almost certainly have consigned them and countless others to death, if not by American bomb hits on prison compounds or by the complete incendiary destruction of Japan, then by the long, slow agony of starvation, a situation that was getting worse the longer Japan hung on.

Richard Russell, like Robert E. Lee, was a fool. Get his name off the Senate Office Building and put it in the history books under “Pompous racist ass who maybe did one or maybe two decent things his whole life.” And since I brought him up, the traitor Robert E. Lee should have met Joseph Goebbels’ end: his body dug up, cremated, and the ashes thrown into the nearest river. What? Too much?]

The Conscience Stirs

A gem I wrote on FB on 28-Feb-2010:

“My Facebook account is being deleted (allegedly) as of this morning. It takes 14 days for the deletion to go through, during which time they beg and plead for you to come back (mainly by trying to guilt trip you: “Your friend, John X, will miss you!”) and sending you spam begging for your presence on their totally messed up, nonsensical, aggravating, unsafe, unsecure, grossly indecent to privacy site, with its hideous navigation, crippled by the company’s inability to comprehend basic navigability and usability and its stuffed-up with San Francisco-centric IT/corporate culture snobbery permanently sticking its cube dwellers behind an impregnable wall which protects them from actually having to communicate with their users.

“Yeah, all that: gone. And I feel good. So very much better. Didn’t need the aggravation. Didn’t need to deal with the kind of things I dealt with working in San Francisco in that environment myself. Didn’t need to justify my life to distant people with political agendas.

“It was nice to hear from and reconnect (briefly) with high school friends/acquaintances. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in real life, away from that god-awful FB interface. But the rest of it … no, don’t need it.

“Relief. Sweet.”
________________

28-Feb-10, Author

Fast forward to eight-and-a-half years later: I still stand behind my rant from 2010. And am half tempted to repeat the experience.

I originally joined Facebook in 2004, when only college students in certain schools could do so. It was really supposed to just hook up various combinations of random, mostly romantic, relationships for college students. It was a hook up site, plain and simple. It was designed to get you a returned phone call, a date, and hopefully, ultimately get you laid. Sorry, but that’s what it was.

I was in grad school at Michigan, an approved school, and had an .edu email address, which was required, so I could sign up. Seemed like a good idea, although I was not interested in hook up apps or college culture, just cutting edge tech and if it could be used in the classroom.

But. The way this thing has developed since 2004 from a hookup site/innovative curiousity into a force of nature which does only one good thing (makes it somewhat easy for you to keep up with far-flung friends and family) and many, many, many, very many, very bad things.

It rips into your brain, vacuums up any and every thing about you and then commodifies and monetizes the pieces that make up “you” billions of times over. This makes a few people incredibly wealthy. It leaves the rest of us stripped naked of our identities and essences, our food/clothing/shelter choices, our deepest thoughts and most superficial desires.

Worst, it is a force combined with others like it that has this century turned the country from a publicly accountable democracy into a privatized unimpeachable corporate kleptocracy. And what that new sociopolitical system does best is steal us from us and fence us on a black market, allow lying demagogues to assume power and distort the meaning of truth in our universe.

I pretty much wish I had remained disconnected from FB while also being innovative enough to stay connected to the real people in my life without Facebook’s corrupting middle man kleptocracy. I sense that there is another housecleaning coming; my involvement will need to be further curtailed. I’m thinking of what we can do next … there are far better possibilities, surely, than this unholy mess of greed and venality.

Now don’t even get me started about Twitter …

On Shitholes


God’s Destiny for America has a Pottymouth

[Once again, my conscience overflows and will not give me rest without giving vent to something political/religious. So skip/block/defriend to your heart’s desire; just don’t say you didn’t get a trigger warning.]

During a lengthy sleepless (yet again) night, the above pictured “breaking news” started popping up on websites whereever you happened to be looking. The Presidential utterance was met by the usual silence from Graham, Dobson, Falwell, Jackson, Metaxas and Trump’s personal spiritual advisor Paula White (who wants your January paycheck or else God’s consequences will be visited on your head. Give her your 8% and you … get a Mercedes or something. Funny, but I thougth tithing was supposed to be 10%? Mercedes from God at a discount, I guess.). Meanwhile, Dallas First Baptist’s Jeffress doubled down; his only regret? Being a pastor doesn’t allow him to use the same phrase. We should refuse “shitholers” and bring more Norwegians into the country! Amen! Preach!

Then this afternoon came the Post’s «interesting analysis of what, to borrow the Presidential phrase, a “shithole” Norway used to be», and why it’s now THE place from whence our immigrants should come. This graphic is key to the article:

Graphic showing U.S. and Norway gross domestic product in comparison to each other. Norway now far exceeds the U.S.

So I earned something today: We should move to Norway if we want a higher quality of life away from pottymouths. The problem with that plan? They don’t take people from morally and economically vacuous “shithole” countries like ours.

Duly noted.

This country has not only slid downwards in domestic product, it’s been sucked into a vacuum of moral leadership. What are Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Bishop Harry Jackson, Eric Metaxas saying today? Dead air. They got tax cuts, the IRS was called off their backs and Bibi is happy. Was it just over 20 years ago that the same suspects were gnashing their teeth over merely how to explain the term “blowjob” to their children? We used to call this current kind of thinking “the ends (tax cuts, IRS exemptions and proclaiming that Jerusalem is the capital and therefore the Rapture is nigh) justifies the means.” And I don’t remember ever being told that was a good thing. I was told it was secular humanist “situational ethics” and it was evil. (An aside: If Jesus wants to come back, I seriously doubt a presidential proclamation moving, eventually, the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is going to be what actually moves Him.)

And thus we have Dallas First Baptist Church’s Robert Jeffress doubling down and saying he supports the “shithole” comments 100 percent. Not only that, but “America is not a church where everyone should be welcomed regardless of race and background.” He added some regret that as a pastor he’s not supposed to use naughty words.

(!)

Urm. Yes. America has always been portrayed (the reality notwithstanding) as the greatest and most welcoming secular church in human history. A shining city on a hill, said Reagan. “Give me … The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” said Emma Lazarus in The New Colossus, a poem we liked and believed in so much we had it engraved on a massive public monument.

Specifically saying she will have no comment is Paula White, who is often portrayed as Trump’s “spiritual advisor,” and who is currently demanding that “faithful” people give her church all of their January paychecks (which amounts to just 8%, not the Biblically commanded 10%—mustard seed faith on the cheap!). If they do, Jesus will bless you with riches! You get a Mercedes! And you get a Mercedes! And you get a Mercedes! And you get ’em at a 2% discount from God’s list price! And if you don’t pony up? God will visit consequences on your head. You get the plague! And you get a divorce! And you get a gay child!

There are some vestiges of sanity, so props where they are due: A.R. Bernard resigned from the White House “evangelical council” months ago and stated, “His own comments expose him. They were elitist and blatantly racist.” And former Southern Baptist head Ronnie Floyd stated the obvious, “I would not agree with those comments at all. We need to see that every person is made in the image of God. … Anytime we devalue a person it’s not good … Regardless of their skin or ethnicity, we need to honor one another.”

As I am sometimes reminded, I was dedicated “to the Lord” when I was a month or so old in the Roswell First Church of the Nazarene, a denomination where I learned things that were the 180-degree opposite of what Trump and White and Jeffress and Falwell and Graham and Dobson are doing. I learned that good old verse “by their fruits ye shall know them.” I was taught that quaint old Golden Rule, something about do unto others. I was also taught following Christ didn’t mean Mercedes. God knows, for all of Mom’s hard-earned 10% back to the church money, a Mercedes was never outside our door, unless it had broken down and Zsa Zsa needed a telephone to call AAA. No, in my childhood, following Christ meant a life of hardship and service and respect and sacrifice and a life lived in common and shared in common with other people, including lepers, tax collectors, felons, you name ’em. And rendering unto Caesar.

I was also taught the following pertinent scripture. Please note the absence of “except for those from shitholes” in these quotes:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28
“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” Jeremiah 31:25
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” John 7:37
“In everything, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35

New Testament

Every single day is a new low. How low can we go? There is no bottom. So pretty goddamned low. Shithole low.

Shuttling Between Failures


Turning Sows’ Ears into Silk Purses

This one truth we know: 2017 was disastrous on many levels, including in commercial aviation. Airline corporate boards’ are ever ramping up on their war on passengers, pilots and cabin crew. But there was a very tiny yet significant bright spot noted in The Washington Post and elsewhere: « 2017 was the first year since the advent of passenger air travel that no one died in a commercial airline accident ».

“The Aviation Safety Network estimated there were nearly 37 million flights in 2017, more than any year in history, meaning that aircraft mishaps are declining even as the number of flights continues to rise. The last commercial jet airline crash in which more than 100 people were killed was Oct. 31, 2015, when 224 lives were lost after a flight from Russia broke apart in Egypt. The ASN, which tracks crashes using different metrics from those to70 uses, showed 10 recorded crashes involving small propeller planes and cargo aircraft, killing 44 passengers and 35 people on the ground in 2017. In 2016, the group counted 16 accidents with 303 dead.”
—The Washington Post, 2-Jan-18

But in true 2017-was-an-asshole form, even that tiny bright spot was tarnished when the Personality-in-Chief who shuttles between golf courses and Pennsylvania Avenue on a pimped-out Boeing 747 at considerable taxpayer expense, took credit for last year’s remarkable airline safety record. Urk.

For the Golfer-in-Chief to take credit for this is beyond offensive and insensitive and a lie. It blackens the names of people like Eastern 304’s Grant Newby and Braniff 250’s Don Pauley and Jim Hilliker and Ruth and Mitchell Kuhr and USAirways 1549’s Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles and those dead and injured on Southern 242 and Delta 191 and Air Florida 90, plus all the CAB/NTSB investigators, FAA enforcers and weather experts like Dr. Ted Fujita and Dr. Fernando Caracena … and on and on. And especially all the flight crews who thousands of times a day implement what was learned in the past and get us safely to Lawton and Houston and Milwaukee and Paris and Hong Kong and Lagos.

Let’s be clear: The Ego-in-Chief had absolutely nothing to do with the absence of death on the airways last year. And it was a slap in the face and highly offensive to the memories of all the people who died and all the people who worked so hard to prevent future recurrences. Their great sacrifices are the real reason why we can fly from Dubuque to Fort Myers … Without. Dying. In. A. Plane. Crash. Now you are admittedly shoved into a tiny space with little air and subject to appalling treatment, but you are more likely to be killed by being beaten up by rogue security forces (or being shot by a toddler with Granny’s gun) than you are from Dying. In. A. Plane. Crash. Airlines, airports, police and corporate boards have much work to do on the ground to equal the safety record in the air.

In fact, the record of the former deadbeat owner of the “Trump Shuttle” is pretty clearly the opposite of admirable airline operation, safety and responsibility. The Boston Globe did « a very through review in 2016 » of how the pioneering Eastern Airlines Shuttle was destroyed by Frank Lorenzo and the man who appears to be the current incarnation of P.T. Barnum.

These two Vandals have the same egos and desire to destroy, but Lorenzo actually had some brains to carry it out. Unlike his business partner.

The story is sordid and long, but the details were made clear by Matt Viser’s excellent Globe piece. To wit: Lorenzo sold the Donald the Eastern Shuttle for an overvalued $365 million (if DT had created a brand-new shuttle from the ground up with brand-new planes, not old worn-out 727s, estimates were that he could have done it for $300 million.) Of course, the money was all borrowed. It was 1989; Eastern (and Continental) were already almost dead from Lorenzo’s sledgehammer and the economy was tanking. Pan Am 103 was bombed, the first Gulf War was about to begin. It was incredibly bad judgement to overpay a bunch of other peoples’ money for something that was guaranteed to tank.

The now-decades-old D.T. playbook was followed from the beginning. D.T. started his airline foray by … snarking about Pan American, which had put in more hard work and suffering and pioneering effort into air travel than D.T. would ever be capable of mustering:

“He suggested Pan Am’s flights were unsafe, that the company was strapped for cash and couldn’t spend as much to maintain planes as Trump Shuttle.”
—The Boston Globe, 27-May-16

And, heavy foreshadowing here, true professionals expressed their disgust over his statement, which, both then and now, is like pissing in the wind:

“We said, ‘Donald, don’t ever do that again,'” recalled Henry Harteveldt, who was the company’s marketing director. “It was wrong. We had no proof to back that up. And there’s an unwritten rule in the airline business that you don’t attack someone else’s safety record. There but for the grace of God go I.”
—Ibid

In other words, D.T. (and countless weak attempts to contain his insanity) has never changed. He was just given 21st century tools to broadcast his uninformed and misguided vitriol to a wider audience, i.e. Twitter. And this time, he has nuclear annihilation capabilities instead of a piddly little failing airline.

But back to 1989. As Harteveldt stated, “There but for the grace of God go I.” The Shuttle was pretty crappy safety-wise from the beginning, and he did nothing to improve it, partly because he had zero aviation experience. The grace of God was apparently withdrawn:

“And Trump’s unfounded remarks about Pan Am safety? They almost immediately came back to bite him. Trump’s own airline was struck by a near-tragedy within its first three months, when the nose gear failed on one of his jets and forced a crash landing at Logan.”
—Ibid

As is noted, investigators found the nose gear failure cause: A “mechanic had used the wrong part in the gear mechanism, and it eventually disintegrated and locked the gear in place,” a safety failure that had happened under Lorenzo’s watch.

“Trump — who weeks earlier had made claims that he would send all of his own planes through X-rays to make sure they were safe — turned on the TV and watched as CNN showed a Trump Shuttle flight circling the air. “After several attempts to jar the nose gear loose, and after circling around to burn fuel, the pilot landed on the back two wheels, slowing the plane down as much as possible before lowering the nose of the plane onto the runway.”
—Ibid

He then flew up to Boston on a Trump Shuttle flight. Hilariously tragic: He “was kind of a nervous flier” and asked one of his airline executives, “Is this thing safe?” I can’t think of a more perfect illustration of his public-huckster/private-doofus personality … and oh, the foreshadowing!

Once in Boston, he praised the “maestro” pilot who sucessfully landed the flight, Robert Smith. And in another bit of foreshadowing, Smith loved D.T. right back:

“The ‘maestro’ that day, pilot Robert Smith, said Trump had been advised not to come up — so as not to draw attention to the crash — but Trump disregarded it. “He was very happy with the crew,” said Smith, who after decades in the airline industry called Trump “the best boss I’ve ever had.” “And I think he was very happy with the exposure he got that day. He handled it beautifully.”
—Ibid

I smell Stockholm Syndrome and future Trumpista voters; you know, the ones who voted for him but who will bear the full brunt of his destructive con. But I digress. I love the followup to “He handled it beautifully”:

“One of the passengers on that flight — who recalls sliding out the aircraft and into a pile of foam — was Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush and his super PAC to try to defeat Trump. “Afterward,” he said, “all I got was a form letter and a drink coupon.”
—Ibid

While Murphy is, like myself, biased against him (or rather his con jobs and inability to grasp reality), facts are facts. A drink coupon for an emergency evac is hardly handling things “beautifully.”

In fact, his own marketing executive at the Shuttle summed up this “beautifully handled” situation:

“‘He certainly was a man known for his bravado. He promised people a diamond in the sky when we had 21 of some of the oldest, worst maintained 727s then flying,’ said Harteveldt, the marketing director. ‘He’s giving a press conference promising a diamond in the sky. I’m saying, “You may have to settle for cubic zirconium to start.””
—Ibid

Perhaps if he had “x-rayed” (!) all those 727s and found the gear part problem the whole situation would not have had to be “beautifully managed” in the first place.

Ultimately, the shuttle was “successful enough to cover operating costs but not enough to pay down the debt.” Meanwhile, D.T. was divorcing his wife and marrying his mistress, something which happened twice, but does not bother the opportunistic evangelicals flitting around his head. But I digress.

After just 12 months, he fired an executive (who had insisted that the 727 needs two pilots and a flight engineer, even though D.T. wanted to fly them with just two pilots to save money) and laid off 100 employees. After 18 months, the shuttle lost $128 million dollars. After 30 months, he golden parachuted out:

“In late 1991, about 2½ years after Trump had purchased the airline, Trump gave up control of his prize in order to get out from a pile of debt. As part of the deal, Trump was no longer responsible for some $245 million in loans left on the shuttle airline. In addition, out of the $135 million that Trump had personally guaranteed, at least $100 million was forgiven, according to news reports at the time.”
—Ibid

Absolved from $245 million in loans and welshing on $100 million which he had “personally guaranteed.” He was out only $35 million while banks and others were left holding the bag. Said he: “I felt successful. The market had crashed. I didn’t lose anything. It was a good thing,” he said.

A very good thing for him indeed. The human wreckage he left? Not so much.

Apologies to The Globe and Matt Viser for so extensively quoting from the article, but it needs rebroadcasting to as many people as possible. Kudos.

But instead of focusing on D.T.’s usual nonsense, we should focus on remembering and honoring the memory of the thousands of casualties and millions of worrkers who made 2017 the safest commercial aviation year in history. May 2018 continue the trend.

[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Rob Potter via Unsplash]

Same Here


In Which I Join in on a Hashtag, God Help Me!

There’s this thing that has been closely guarded for going on 40 years in 2018. It’s my secret. So as it hits its 40th birthday in our new year, I decided it’s time to tell the world.

#MeToo.

There. It’s out. More is coming.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Mihai Surdu via Unsplash.]

They Don’t Like the New ‘America First’ As Much As They Did the Lindbergh Version


Deutsche Welle reports that “a new survey published by German public broadcaster ARD shows Germans trust Russia more than the US.” Or to be specific: “28 percent of respondents felt Moscow was a reliable partner, compared to 25 percent for Washington …. More than 90 percent said Paris was a reliable partner, while more than 60 percent said Britain …”

So let’s see if I’ve got this. Germany, a country in which there are still many women alive who were raped by invading Russian Red Army soldiers and in which the human products of those rapes are still living, now trust … Russia more than the United States.

Yes, I hear you. I too am sick of all the Winning and Greatness we have achieved Again.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash.]

Questions. We Got ‘Em.


Long Dong Silver Rides Again

Why, just now, are we reading that Supreme Court Associate Justice Long Dong Silver, who apparently goes by the name “Clarence Thomas,” was again outed as a serial sexual predator? Why was the story, dated 27-Oct, buried in the National Law Journal? And why are we just finding out this from … a «Canadian news magazine of much repute»? And buried in the last paragraph? Of an article on the “coarsening of American politics”? And about which (the repeated grabbing of a woman’s ass at a 1999 party, not the Macleans article) no one else seems to know about?

Why? Because, as reporter Anne Kingston notes, women are “female reproductive vessels” and not human beings. And because Long Dong Silver has always, and will always, get a free pass. And both of these are realities for reasons which surpasseth understanding.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Ravi Sharma via Unsplash.]

American Carnage: 3-Dec-17


Globaloneyism?

What we learned this week:

• The wheels of justice grind very, very slow, but they are grinding towards folks who allegedly but probably committed treason against the country, but who will almost certainly not do jail time, much less pay the ultimate penalty historically paid by traitors.

• Speaking of future criminals, perhaps they might wish to take instruction from the example of Slobodan Praljak.

• Terry Crews can tell you that it is currently acceptable to be a sexual assault victim … unless you’re a black male. Then people adopt a “meh” attitude. I.e., #MeToo is quite trendy at the moment, but is likely to become passé rather quickly.

• Gronk probably needs to be reined in and it’s probably already too late.

• Life is about to get particularly hellish; CVS is buying Aetna and Disney is buying (part) of Fox. Also, Congress’ War on Everyone Except Their Donors is nearing one of its biggest successes of the last 40 years.

• A would-be blacksmith saw a show on tv that instructed him how to make something weapon-ish, which undoubtedly included a post-ironic “don’t try this at home” small print warning; he then tried that at home, burning down three downtown blocks of buildings in a town near Albany, NY.

• Alabamians (whether it’s a majority of them will be seen on 12-Dec) have no problem with pedophilia rationalization, especially while the Elephant Tides or whatever their stupid name is are winning. There is no surprise here at this reality.

• Nazis are just “the normal people next door” and nothing bad should happen to either them or the New York Times for pointing this out, says The New York Times.

And I’m not linking to any of that because … reasons. Google what you don’t understand.

Good night, y’all.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by “FreeStocksDotOrg” via Unsplash.]

American Carnage: 17-Nov-17


The Diddler’s Club

What we learned this week:

• Al Franken is the latest member of the “People Who Diddled People Who Didn’t Want to be Diddled” Club. This Diddlers Club, of which we’re all so very proud, officially now consists of the nation’s President; at least two former presidents; two or three sitting United States Senators and lord knows how many more; a Supreme Court Justice; god knows how many Members of the House of Representatives and their staffs; governors of various states; members of various state legislatures, including a member in Ohio who was exercising his member with another man’s member, cheating on his wife as he attempted to pass virulently anti-LGBTQ legislation; the impeached Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, who may become a United States Senator next month; journalists of various stripes; sports figures and commentators; Catholic priests and Protestant preachers; college professors; doctors, lawyers, indian chiefs and at least one family member. It’s quite a roster, very inclusive.

• In other words, we learned what women have been trying to tell us about the lives they have to lead because they have something every heteronormative man seems to badly want: a vagina. Also some men, because they have what every homonormative man wants: a penis.

• What’s the matter with Kansas? The hypersecretive autocratic government which took power over the last ten years operates incompetently and in «extremely secretive, weird ways».

• I missed this back in September, but one acolyte of “Christian” nutbag autocratic Bill Gothard, who has platinum status in the Diddler’s Club (and he’s in his eighties) is in trouble in Arkansas. «Kenneth L. Dewitt applied Gothard’s principles of Godly behavior while running a prison ministry for imprisoned Arkansas women. The Godly principle apparently involved Dewitt having incarcerated women come in under his “umbrella of authority” and submit to God’s plan for women: repeated diddling because … men. Dewitt is “is currently serving a five-year sentence at the Ouachita River Unit after pleading guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault of prisoners.” Gothard couldn’t be reached for comment; he was probably unreachable in a private jet giving private dictation to one of the shapely arrows in his Quiver.

• If you don’t recall the sordid details of Reality TV stars The Duggars, who were Gothard’s proudest achievement and America’s favorite voyeuristic targets (19 blond white kids, what’s not to like?!), «here’s a link from 2015 that pretty well explains the entire wreckage of Gothard’s slimy trail, stretching back to the 1950s. [Full disclosure: My parents ponied up to pay for me to go to a Gothard Basic Seminar and an Advanced Seminar back in high school. Family members have been fully involved in the “ministry” and continue to angrily defend the old goat even now that’s he’s been sued by, what, 30 or so?, abused men and diddled women. IF we were still talking to each other and IF I was masochistic enough to be there for Thanksgiving dinner, Gothard would be a topic that would have to be avoided ere blood was shed on the turkey carcass. /End disclosure.]

• One more piece of recent Gothard news: IBLP, Gothard’s “former” ministry from which he has disassociated with just like Trump, cachinged last month on the sale of a property they owned in Australia. «They scored $9.5 million U.S. dollars on a property valued at just $6 million». And they won’t even have to practice the usual offshore tax haven chicanery to avoid a hefty tax bill; they’re an American “church” and therefore exempt from taxation. Maybe they’ll have a come-to-Jesus moment and repent and spread the money among Gothard’s Diddlers Club targets. Right after the Holy Spirit heeds their prayers and pigs fly from Melbourne to Los Angeles. Aside: I love how the Aussie press just tells it like it is in this case: “US religious cult.” You have NO idea, my Aussie friends!

• I said only one more Gothard piece. I lied. There’s an article in The New Republic that discusses the … politics and peccadilloes, shall we say … of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame. I mention it because Gothardites and other similar evangelical fellow travelers have always had a very weird (at least to me) fetish for the 19th century, and their worship of Wilder and Little House is repeated in a million ways over everything from Gunsmoke and John Wayne to learning how to cook like pioneer women. Some of them even submit to the kind of abuse meted out by 19th century husbands, but that’s a different paragraph. «Little House, Small Government» is a nice starter primer to this phenomenon, although it’s sadly too short to be able to explore the evangelical connection or the fetishization of dying on the Oregon Trail.

• Turning to more uplifting in the face of bigotry, abuse and violence news, there’s a fascinating account in a publication I’d never read called Emergency Physician’s Monthly. «It’s the story of what happened to one hospital’s ER team the night the NRA slaughtered some folks» listening to what now passes for “country” music. It’s a highly recommended read, as are the other articles on the site.

• Speaking of the wild frontier, the usually lily-white Outside magazine actually printed «a lament from a young man who went west» to work some seasonal jobs at Montana resorts. Why did he not have a great season? His skin color wasn’t up to snuff. (Which of course meant he worked in “housekeeping.”) The article explores his experience with the casual “lighten up” (har har, get it?) type of racism from coworkers and guests which finally wore him down and sent him packing back east to relative safety. Remarkably, his white coworkers calling each other “ni—-s” as a “joke” was about the worst that happened to him. It’s amazing he wasn’t shot or jailed; it’s even more amazing that Outside printed the report. I grieve for his loss of innocence, and hope he has all the success in life he wants. I’d also like to shake his hand; he’s braver than I.

• Closing with one Diddlers Club story that’s so fun. Ohio state rep. Wes Goodman, family values warrior and, of course, Republican, resigned his seat after he was caught using his state office for some consensual diddling with a person who was not his wife and not a woman. Yes, yet another one of those “Fags must die! If you agree, meet me in my car at the local park for some cocksucking followed by the signing of a petition demanding the death penalty for fag kissing!” kind of people, as usual, hoisted on his own petard, or his boyfriend’s whatever. As someone quipped on Twitter, “Goodman’s wife is probably so pissed, he’s having to move into a log cabin!” (Get it? Log Cabin Republicans are the gay ones who haven’t figured out yet that they support a party which has members who seriously, sincerely, would go Leviticus on their gay, rich asses given half a chance. Goodman’s website has been scrubbed today; but the good old friend, the Wayback Machine, is providing nice clear copies of things the good man has written. Unfortunately, his Twitter account has been locked down, but that’s not a barrier either. Here’s Wes’ priceless take on the Family: “Healthy, vibrant, thriving, values-driven families are the source of Ohio’s proud history and the key to Ohio’s future greatness. The ideals of a loving father and mother, a committed natural marriage, and a caring community are well worth pursuing and protecting.” Oh, how fun. Don’t you love closet cases who talk about “vibrant, thriving” committed natural marriages when the only thing that’s actually “vibrant and thriving” is their relationship to their boyfriends’ cocks? Little Wes is a cutie. He and Aaron Schock, if that old gym queen manages to avoid prison, should totally get together. They’d make a truly hot, power Log Cabin Republican partnership. I hope Wes is a bottom, ’cause I doubt Aaron lets just anyone go balls-deep on his bleached ass.

• And, oh yeah, there was another NRA nutbag gun attack. It is now officially news if a mass shooting does NOT occur on any given day.

So, ain’t our America nation grand? After reading all this stuff (and then writing about it) I feel extremely … greasy. Like the country has gone much bukkake all over my gay face. I need a bath and some penicillin. And this country is 100%, pure Grade A, psycho nuts insane, from the demented consummate con man in the White House to … well just about everyone else. Not at ALL what I thought living in the U.S. during my middle age would be like. Can’t wait to become elderly. ‘Cause that shit is also seriously fucked up in major ways too.

Good night, y’all.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Vlad Tchompalov via Unsplash.]

To the Editor, Part Deux

In which we in the future answer “Letters to the Editor” of the Chicago Tribune written during the past that was called World War Two.

“Globaloney Stamps.
“Chicago, June 1. — Totay I received the shock of my life when I went to mail a package to my boy in service. I needed 20 cents in stamps and was given four 5 cent stamps with the red flag of Albania spread almost across the entire surface. Just what is this country coming to?
“Mrs. H.V.”
Chicago Tribune, 6-June-1944, Page 10


Methinks I smells the grandmother of a future Trump supporter!

Actually, “Mrs. H.V.”, on 6-June-1944, “what this country had come to” was the liberation of the European continent from Nazism and Fascism, which it did along with 22 other nations (hence the term “Allies”) and an “associated power,” Albania, which at the time of your “Letter to the Editor” was occupied by forces of the German Wehrmacht.

By the way, Albania’s designation as an associated power was formally recognized at the 1946 Paris conference. Albania officially signed the treaty ending World War II between the “Allied and Associated Powers” and Italy in Paris, on 10 February 1947. Albania had been occupied by Fascist Italy then Germany; it was quickly subjugated to communist party rule and suffered under Enver Hoxha for the next five decades.

Finally, “what this country had come to” on D-Day 1944 was to recognize on a five-cent postage stamp that it wasn’t winning the war alone, was not in the war alone, and was not suffering in the war alone.

I hope your “boy in the service” was able to hold on to his U.S. Postal Service five-cent Albanian flag stamps. They’s probably worth some moneys today. [And thank him for his service.]


“Four More Years of War
“Mankato, Minn., June 1.—I wonder how many people now earning big money, more money thant they have ever handled before, and who will vote a certain way thinking to insure a continuation of this income, ever pause to think what another four years will bring?
“Among the many unpleasant things that are to me a foregone conclusion is that Roosevelt will drag the war out another four years. Why wouldn’t he? It is the perfect solution of unemployment, a problem he failed to solve until we managed to become embroiled in war. Another very good reason to drag it out is, that he is not restricted in war time spending.
“He has a mania for spending and giving and war allows him privileges which peace would curtail, we hope. So, I say vote for Roosevelt and draw four more years of war at least.
“Reader”
Chicago Tribune, 6-June-1944, Page 10


Is that you, Erle P. Halliburton? No? Are you Fred Drumpf? Ah! I suspected so. It’s the 1944 version of a Twitter storm (ask your son, he’ll explain).

Where to start, where to start.

1. “What will another four years bring?” Oh, honey, you have no idea. You should just suspend time and stay safe and quiet in 1944, baby. You don’t really wanna know the answers to this question. Lessee. Hitler? Dead. Mussolini? Hangs lifelessly from a lamp post. Tojo? Incompletely suicides, resurrects, then is executed. Roosevelt? Dead. A National Security State is born. We have to start hand-feeding everyone in Berlin. Truman gets pissed over a negative review of one of his daughter’s piano recitals. We fuck up in Korea causing … some very bad shit to be set into perpetual motion. China turns red. Japan turns black, largely from just two very large bombs. Lots of soldiers come back from all points of the globe and take your job, discontinuing your own income.

2. “… Roosevelt will drag the war out another four years. Why wouldn’t he?” The war will continue for one year and three more months. Roosevelt won’t drag the war out because he’ll be dead in ten months.

3. “… unemployment, a problem he failed to solve …” Unemployment was nearly 25% in 1933 when Roosevelt took office; in 1941 it had fallen to 10%; and when he died in 1945, economists considered the country at “full employment,” with less than 2% of the nation’s workforce unemployed. You’re just being deliberately idiotic here, my friend.

4. “… until we managed to become embroiled in war.” The United States was not attacked by Franklin Roosevelt; war was declared by the Empire of Japan on 7-December-1941 with the launching of a surprise attack on military installations near Honolulu, Hawaii. War on the United States was declared by Germany the next day. The United States Congress “embroiled” us in the war by declaring war in Public Law 77-328, 55 STAT 795 on 8-Dec-1941. After Germany declared war on the U.S., the Congress reacted with a declaration of war on Germany in Pub. Law 77–331, Sess. 1, ch. 564, 55 Stat. 796. The “embroiling” would seem to be, then, a joint act of Japan, Germany and the United States Congress, the parties with power to declare, embroil and conduct warfare.

5. “Another very good reason to drag it out is, that he is not restricted in war time spending.” Dear “Reader,” am I to extrapolate from this sentence that you wish to conduct the most massive conflict in human history involving most of the peoples and locations of the planet, the object of certain parties (see #4 above) being to destroy the United States and dozens of other countries … that you wish to conduct this war “on the cheap”? The Congress has appropriated funds necessary to forestall the aim of aforementioned parties and it is the duty of the President to use those funds to defend the country to the utmost against, again, parties which wish us destroyed. And you’re taking exception? Oh, sweetie, wait until a certain actor whom you’ve seen in “Bedtime for Bonzo” seizes the presidency and spends over $700 a piece for hammers for the armed forces, which will partially explain trillion-dollar-deficits. Then we’ll get back to you and ask your opinion. Surely we can count on that opinion being, shall we say, apoplectic? Or is it just Mr. Roosevelt who gets under your skin? Enquiring minds wish to know.

6. “… vote for Roosevelt and draw four more years of war at least.” A vote in November 1944 six months hence will, dear “Reader,” get you nine more months, not years, of war, and just about one month of a Roosevelt fourth term.

So buck up, dear “Reader”! The end is nigh. Now go sit by the radio and let General Eisenhower entertain you with tales from a place called Omaha Beach. And then write back and tell us how much money you would have allocated to the D-Day Invasion of German-occupied Europe, the largest military invasion in human history. Give us a hint. $100,000? $200,000? Can’t wait for your fascinating reply!

To the Editor (2017)

In which we in the future answer “Letters to the Editor” of the Chicago Tribune written during the past that was called World War Two.

“Globaloney Stamps.
“Chicago, June 1. — Today I received the shock of my life when I went to mail a package to my boy in service. I needed 20 cents in stamps and was given four 5 cent stamps with the red flag of Albania spread almost across the entire surface. Just what is this country coming to?
“Mrs. H.V.”
Chicago Tribune, 6-June-1944, Page 10”


Methinks I smells the grandmother of a future Trump supporter!

Actually, “Mrs. H.V.”, on 6-June-1944, “what this country had come to” was the liberation of the European continent from Nazism and Fascism, which it did along with 22 other nations (hence the term “Allies”) and an “associated power,” Albania, which at the time of your “Letter to the Editor” was occupied by forces of the German Wehrmacht.

By the way, Albania’s designation as an associated power was formally recognized at the 1946 Paris conference. Albania officially signed the treaty ending World War II between the “Allied and Associated Powers” and Italy in Paris, on 10 February 1947. Albania had been occupied by Fascist Italy then Germany; it was quickly subjugated to communist party rule and suffered under Enver Hoxha for the next five decades.

Finally, “what this country had come to” on D-Day 1944 was to recognize on a five-cent postage stamp that it wasn’t winning the war alone, was not in the war alone, and was not suffering in the war alone.

I hope your “boy in the service” was able to hold on to his U.S. Postal Service five-cent Albanian flag stamps. They’s probably worth some moneys today. [And thank him for his service.]


“Four More Years of War
“Mankato, Minn., June 1. — I wonder how many people now earning big money, more money thant they have ever handled before, and who will vote a certain way thinking to insure a continuation of this income, ever pause to think what another four years will bring?
“Among the many unpleasant things that are to me a foregone conclusion is that Roosevelt will drag the war out another four years. Why wouldn’t he? It is the perfect solution of unemployment, a problem he failed to solve until we managed to become embroiled in war. Another very good reason to drag it out is, that he is not restricted in war time spending.
“He has a mania for spending and giving and war allows him privileges which peace would curtail, we hope. So, I say vote for Roosevelt and draw four more years of war at least.
“Reader”
Chicago Tribune, 6-June-1944, Page 10


Is that you, Erle P. Halliburton? No? Are you Fred Drumpf? Ah! I suspected so. It’s the 1944 version of a Twitter storm (ask your son, he’ll explain).

Where to start, where to start.

1. “What will another four years bring?” Oh, honey, you have no idea. You should just suspend time and stay safe and quiet in 1944, baby. You don’t really wanna know the answers to this question. Lessee. Hitler? Dead. Mussolini? Hangs lifelessly from a lamp post. Tojo? Incompletely suicides, resurrects, then is executed. Roosevelt? Dead. A National Security State is born. We have to start hand-feeding everyone in Berlin. Truman gets pissed over a negative review of one of his daughter’s piano recitals. We fuck up in Korea causing … some very bad shit to be set into perpetual motion. China turns red. Japan turns black, largely from just two very large bombs. Lots of soldiers come back from all points of the globe and take your job, discontinuing your own income.

2. “… Roosevelt will drag the war out another four years. Why wouldn’t he?” The war will continue for one year and three more months. Roosevelt won’t drag the war out because he’ll be dead in ten months.

3. “… unemployment, a problem he failed to solve …” Unemployment was nearly 25% in 1933 when Roosevelt took office; in 1941 it had fallen to 10%; and when he died in 1945, economists considered the country at “full employment,” with less than 2% of the nation’s workforce unemployed. You’re just being deliberately idiotic here, my friend.

4. “… until we managed to become embroiled in war.” The United States was not attacked by Franklin Roosevelt; war was declared by the Empire of Japan on 7-December-1941 with the launching of a surprise attack on military installations near Honolulu, Hawaii. War on the United States was declared by Germany the next day. The United States Congress “embroiled” us in the war by declaring war in Public Law 77-328, 55 STAT 795 on 8-Dec-1941. After Germany declared war on the U.S., the Congress reacted with a declaration of war on Germany in Pub. Law 77–331, Sess. 1, ch. 564, 55 Stat. 796. The “embroiling” would seem to be, then, a joint act of Japan, Germany and the United States Congress, the parties with power to declare, embroil and conduct warfare.

5. “Another very good reason to drag it out is, that he is not restricted in war time spending.” Dear “Reader,” am I to extrapolate from this sentence that you wish to conduct the most massive conflict in human history involving most of the peoples and locations of the planet, the object of certain parties (see #4 above) being to destroy the United States and dozens of other countries … that you wish to conduct this war “on the cheap”? The Congress has appropriated funds necessary to forestall the aim of aforementioned parties and it is the duty of the President to use those funds to defend the country to the utmost against, again, parties which wish us destroyed. And you’re taking exception? Oh, sweetie, wait until a certain actor whom you’ve seen in “Bedtime for Bonzo” seizes the presidency and spends over $700 a piece for hammers for the armed forces, which will partially explain trillion-dollar-deficits. Then we’ll get back to you and ask your opinion. Surely we can count on that opinion being, shall we say, apoplectic? Or is it just Mr. Roosevelt who gets under your skin? Enquiring minds wish to know.

6. “… vote for Roosevelt and draw four more years of war at least.” A vote in November 1944 six months hence will, dear “Reader,” get you nine more months, not years, of war, and just about one month of a Roosevelt fourth term.

So buck up, dear “Reader”! The end is nigh. Now go sit by the radio and let General Eisenhower entertain you with tales from a place called Omaha Beach. And then write back and tell us how much money you would have allocated to the D-Day Invasion of German-occupied Europe, the largest military invasion in human history. Give us a hint. $100,000? $200,000? Can’t wait for your fascinating reply!

Bang Bang, Crash Crash.

Not surprised. Grieved. Shell-shocked. But not surprised. Worst death toll yet in Orlando, five in a domestic in hometown Roswell, another one averted in West Hollywood where friends are marching for our right to live and love today. It’s an endless list … they’re just like car wrecks now … 32,675 dead on the roadways in 2014 didn’t make us blink, while 475 dead in 372 mass shootings in 2015 made us yearn for more anger and violence … so there’s lots of room for more … the merrier. There’s tons of land for cemeteries.

Sing it: “This land is your land, this land is my land … this necropolis was made for you and me.”

The Dawn of Childish Just Me

William Bradley’s ‘The Dawn of ‘Just Me’: Zack Snyder’s Neoliberal Superheroes’, just published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, contains a telling paragraph, the first part of which exactly sums up someone I personally know. I suppose it’s true of Zack Snyder, the person and the director, as well. Seems bang on:

‘In the end, I don’t know that Zack Snyder’s Superman films demonstrate a coherent philosophy. They seem to be the reflections of a guy who read a lot of superhero comic books as a child, made his action figures fight each other, saw a lot of special effects-driven blockbusters, read some Ayn Rand, got stoned, listened to some Rush, and then, as an adult, was loaned copies of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The Dark Knight Returns and came to believe that the entertainment of his childhood could be made acceptable for an adult audience if it was just made a little bloodier.’
—William Bradley, The Los Angeles Review of Books

This paragraph also captures an aspect of this kind of persona rather well:

‘Or the scene toward the beginning of Watchmen (2009), during the weekly “beer session” shared between Dan and Hollis. Note how Dan announces that he needs to get going, despite the fact that he still has about two-thirds of his beer left. Imagine you had a guest over, and that guest opened a beer while you were talking, and then promptly set the beer down and announced, “I must leave now.” You would assume that you had said something offensive to prompt such an abrupt exit. That, or your guest is an android who does not yet properly understand human protocol surrounding conversations over drinks.’
Ibid.

Mr. Bradley appears to have met some of the same people I’ve met.

70 Years On

[Fair warning: Not a happy or basset-y post. (Didn’t help my, shall we say, outlook on life, that our water heater failed and flooded the den and we’re down to weak cold water in the bathroom and heating water in pots on the stove like we did in 1975.) And it contains opinion at the end which you may or may not like. Just do what I do often with Facebook; hide or don’t read this post. Happier/doggier/noncontroversial posts will be return when I’m in a better mood.]

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation by elements of the Red Army’s First Ukrainian Front of the Polish city of Oswiecim and the German konzentration/vernichtung lager system surrounding it. Auschwitz (Hell realized on Earth) is quite real. I’ve been there. The only difference between 27-Jan-45 and today is that you can visit this hell without getting burned. They sell postcards and photobooks in Hell on Earth’s gift shop, actually. It’s jarring, but quite human, to buy postcards at the gravesite of 1.1 million murdered people.

I took pictures there 15 years ago this April. It was quiet and beautiful and a nice springtime day in rural Poland. Hell had moved to other places long before I got there.

Yes, the Shoah is real. And no, it shouldn’t happen again. But it has happened/is happening again since ’45 and it will again after this anniversary. The first concentration camp was set up by Spain in Cuba in 1897. We had them scattered throughout the American west during the 19th century and we’re still operating one at Guantanamo Bay today. The Russian gulags are probably still operating as well, and no telling what North Korea is like; it’s darker than the Polish Warthegau/Generalgouvernement areas were in 1943. But we do know that millions have probably died there.

The Auschwitz complex is huge and covers many miles in up to 45 different satellite camps. Auschwitz I – Main is the site of Gaskammer/Krema I, where Zyklon B was first used. Now the main camp houses a museum with human hair (many still braided as it was when it was cut off) and luggage and eyeglasses and prayer shawls and cooking pots and dentures and shoes. You can stand in Gaskammer I and see the purple stains on the wall, remnants of Zyklon B.

Auschwitz II – Birkenau is down the road a couple of miles from the main camp. It is the most photographed/well known; Gaskammers/Kremas II – V are located there and it was in those buildings that most of the 1.1 million Jews, Gypsies, mischlinge/halflinge, political prisoners, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other undesirables met their deaths.

Auschwitz III – Monowitz/Buna is where slave labor (those who were selected for work instead of extermination) produced synthetic gas and rubber (using fuel from such sources as Standard Oil of the US, which continued to provide Germany with Ethyl gas (remember that brand?) up until the early months of January 1942. IBM provided the machines that tabulated and kept tabs on the undesirables. General Electric, Ford (and Henry and Edsel themselves) and other American companies and individuals helped out too. And yes, we knew the camps were there (and had aerial photos), but refused to bomb it out of existence, fearing we would “kill innocent people,” a concern that apparently was out of fashion by 1945, re. Dresden and Hiroshima.

I took pics of the main camp, Auschwitz I: One as we got ready to walk through the famous gate with its encouraging “Works Makes [you] Free” sign (stolen a few years back, recovered in pieces and now in the museum, replaced by a replica). Another of the highly electrified no-man’s land separating the prison blocks from administration blocks at Auschwitz I. Yet another of Gaskammer/Krema I, where Soviet prisoners of war became the first to inhale Zyklon B en masse. Underneath that chimney are two crematory ovens. To the side is the gallows where they hung the camp commandant in 1947. Just to the side of the gallows is the pretty white house where his wife and five children lived; they played in the yard as their father burned people next door. And more (I hope to get the time to post them here soon.)

We then went a mile down the road to the more famous Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the vernichtungslager (extermination camp). It housed workers and Roma and Sinta families and the Sonderkommando responsible for pulling bodies from the gaskammers and putting them into the ovens. Most Sonderkommando, after a certain time, followed the dead up the chimney. I took more pics; one of the latrine for Birkenau slave labor. No, there were no toilet seats or running water. Use of these communal spaces was permitted twice a day; when you left for work and when you came home to bed. Another pic I took was of the view SS officers in charge of “selections” had: the trains arrived from all over Europe, passed through the arch in the guard house and were parked on this siding. The selection chose a small quota for work; everyone else went up the chimney … sometimes in as little as an hour.

Today, speeches were made, the last 300 survivors were paraded in a tent and one noted, “Jews are targeted in Europe once again because they are Jews … Once again young Jewish boys are afraid to wear yarmulkes [skullcaps] on the streets of Paris, Budapest, London and even Berlin.”

The response? Statements by world politicians were issued with the usual words, but without an effort to actually fly to Cracow and drive 45 minutes. The leader of the liberating nation sent his regrets; seems the Red Army is a bit preoccupied in the Ukraine again. So he stayed in Moscow and posed with a rabbi lighting a candle. American and British politicians roused themselves briefly to post platitudes on Twitter, then went back to plundering their respective treasuries. Germany’s bundeskanzler called Auschwitz “a disgrace.” And executions for all kinds of reasons proceeded apace this week in Saudi Arabia, Syria, China, North Korea … Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma …

Sorry to be on the pessimistic side … but I’ve been there. And if we can’t learn from setting our own eyes on Auschwitz/Birkenau (and events of this century so far indicate we have not) … then … there will be more anniversary commemorations in other places in the world.

Finally

I was the first registered Republican in my family. I cast my first vote in a presidential election for Ronald Reagan, the second for George H.W. Bush. I listened to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, thought I was a Dittohead, and was one of the few who watched and liked his television show. I actually cried when George Sr. and Barbara left the White House to Bill and Hilary in January 1993.

And then the Republicans lurched to the fringe, became immoderate, aggressive, in-your-face, and triumphal, became harnessed to extremist religious philosophy. They attacked anytime President Clinton breathed. Limbaugh yelled (in 1992) that he was happy to be in the opposition; it’s more fun, you can snipe and bitch and moan and not have to actually do anything. The Republicans launched their Contract on America (er, I mean for).

And then, in 1994, came Harry and Louise. Corporate money flooded in, and the Republicans steamrollered and destroyed health care reform, dooming hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to premature death over the next 16 years. The militias and ti-foilists, precursors to the Tea-baggers, came out. And all that culminated in terrorist Timothy McVeigh’s murder of 168 people in my own backyard in the service of a right-wing political philosophy.

I mourned the loss of health care, as well as the Murrah Building, and ranted and railed against my party. In 1996, I registered as a Democrat, voted for Bill Clinton and then watched the Republicans continue to make war, year after year, against the middle class, and especially against gay and lesbian Americans like me.

I’ve been trying to remember exactly what the turning point for me was. And I’m almost 100% certain it was health care reform. When the Republicans attacked and destroyed the possibility of a saner, more humane health care payment system, they also attacked and destroyed me. I returned to the Democratic fold where my family had originally been for the better part of a century.

I didn’t turn on the Republicans, as the saying goes; they turned on me.

Their behavior right now, as we wait for the final House vote, is beyond disgusting. No lie too big or too outrageous to read into the Congressional record or give to the cameras at CNN.

But to me, it doesn’t matter what happens in November; I realize the Democrats will probably pay a price. And I don’t care. It takes courage to do the right thing, they’ve finally grown a bit of a pair, it’s the right start. And if they lose control, fine. The resulting nastiness will, once again, prove to Americans who too easily forget history, that the right does not have our best interests at heart, only those of corporate boards and religious charlatans.

Will watch the final vote and the president’s statement following. And be finally relieved that 100 years of obstruction of a basic fundamental human right has finally ended.

The Right Way

“The whole world is watching what we do here. We’re going to win or lose this war depending on how we do this.”

Ali Soufan

The story of the United States of America joining the long and black list of nations who abuse and torture prisoners and then invent all sorts of justifications for it is dribbling out slowly. «A new article in Newsweek» is one of the best I’ve seen so far at laying out both the nitty-gritty and some of the bigger cultural issues at play.

The article centers on the story of Ali Soufan, one of the FBI’s top experts on Al Qaeda who also ‘had a reputation as a shrewd interrogator who could work fluently in both English and Arabic.’ It was Soufani who successfully discovered both the Jose Padilla dirty bomb plot and the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (one a preventive and one a prosecutorial piece of detective work) within the rule of law, without using torture:

“Last week Soufan, 37, now a security consultant who spends most of his time in the Middle East, decided to tell the story of his involvement in the Abu Zubaydah interrogations publicly for the first time. In an op-ed in The New York Times and in a series of exclusive interviews with Newsweek, Soufan described how he, together with FBI colleague Steve Gaudin, began the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. They nursed his wounds, gained his confidence and got the terror suspect talking. They extracted crucial intelligence—including the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the architect of 9/11 and the dirty-bomb plot of Jose Padilla—before CIA contractors even began their aggressive tactics.’ … “I was in the middle of this, and it’s not true that these [aggressive] techniques were effective,” he says. “We were able to get the information about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a couple of days. We didn’t have to do any of this [torture]. We could have done this the right way. ” [Emphasis added.]

What did ‘the right way’ look like?

“As the sessions continued, Soufan engaged Abu Zubaydah in long discussions about his world view, which included a tinge of socialism. After Abu Zubaydah railed one day about the influence of American imperialist corporations, he asked Soufan to get him a Coca-Cola—a request that prompted the two of them to laugh. Soon enough, Abu Zubaydah offered up more information—about the bizarre plans of a jihadist from Puerto Rico to set off a “dirty bomb” inside the country. This information led to Padilla’s arrest in Chicago by the FBI in early May. ”

But Bush/Cheney and the CIA didn’t want ‘the right way,’ followed (it was too calm and too much namby-pamby ‘police action’ for them) and manufactured, through the compliant devices of the likes of John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the means to ramp up torture. And the only objections that seemed forthcoming appear to have been centered on the potential political blowback, not on the inhumane, immoral, and illegal acts being undertaken:

“Pasquale D’Amuro, then the FBI assistant director for counterterrorism … and other officials were alarmed at what they heard from Soufan. They fretted about the political consequences of abusive interrogations and the Washington blowback they thought was inevitable, say two high-ranking FBI sources who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. According to a later Justice Department inspector general’s report, D’Amuro warned FBI Director Bob Mueller that such activities would eventually be investigated. “Someday, people are going to be sitting in front of green felt tables having to testify about all of this,” D’Amuro said, according to one of the sources. ”

The issue, as usual, follows America’s cultural fault lines. There are (hopefully a minority) Americans who, in this case, are so steeped in fear and anger that they have no problem using any means necessary, including those of history’s worst human offenders as well as contemporary terrorists, in order to feed that fear and anger. The fault lines not only run through society, but through all government service as well:

“… in early 2002, Soufan flew to Guantánamo to conduct a training course. He gave a powerful talk, preaching the virtues of the FBI’s traditional rapport-building techniques. Not only were such methods the most effective, Soufan explained that day, they were critical to maintaining America’s image in the Middle East. “The whole world is watching what we do here,” Soufan said. “We’re going to win or lose this war depending on how we do this.” As he made these comments, about half the interrogators in the room—those from the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies—were “nodding their heads” in agreement, recalls McFadden. But the other half—CIA and military officers—sat there “with blank stares. It’s like they were thinking, This is bullcrap. Their attitude was, ‘You guys are cops; we don’t have time for this’.” ”

Americans on one side committed to the rule of law and cognizant of the possible price that has to be paid to follow it; on the other side those who would jettison it when the going gets rough and their fear and anger get control of them. The same is true in the general society. There are Americans who are so fearful and anger that they stock the house with guns and loudly tell anyone who will listen that ‘if anyone tries to break in their house, they’ll blow ‘em away!’ and then tries to pass laws that arm teachers (ostensibly to prevent more Columbines) and carry guns into restaurants and so on and so on. There are Americans who accept that life is sometimes dangerous and short and that if something happens the police are there to ‘protect and serve.’ And then get on with their lives.

Meanwhile, the torture story goes on. The documents being examined tell the story about how our nation willfully abrogated the rule of law and committed acts for which we prosecuted and executed or jailed perpetrators in other nations within our living memory. And the perpetrators, like many Germans and Japanese of the 1933-45 period and communists of the Soviet and People’s Republic periods, will probably never be brought to heel for what they’ve done. Especially if they think like Torturer James Mitchell:

“Although Soufan declined to identify the contractor by name, other sources (and media accounts) identify him as James Mitchell, a former Air Force psychologist who had worked on the U.S. military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training—a program to teach officers how to resist the abusive interrogation methods used by Chinese communists during the Korean War. Within days of his arrival, Mitchell—an architect of the CIA interrogation program—took charge of the questioning of Abu Zubaydah. He directed that Abu Zubaydah be ordered to answer questions or face a gradual increase in aggressive techniques. One day Soufan entered Abu Zubadyah’s room and saw that he had been stripped naked; he covered him with a towel. The confrontations began. “I asked [the contractor] if he’d ever interrogated anyone, and he said no,” Soufan says. But that didn’t matter, the contractor shot back: “Science is science. This is a behavioral issue.” The contractor suggested Soufan was the inexperienced one. “He told me he’s a psychologist and he knows how the human mind works.” Mitchell told Newsweek, “I would love to tell my story.” But then he added, “I have signed a nondisclosure agreement that will not even allow me to correct false allegations.” ”

How convenient. And how very … American. And human. And disgusting.

Germans Join UN Racism Conference Boycott

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced that Germany will join the U.S., Israel and other countries in a «boycott» of the upcoming United Nations World Conference Against Racism after “a draft declaration circulated earlier this year made Israel responsible for the entire Middle East conflict, while human rights violations in Muslim countries were largely ignored.”

Preparations for the conference have been “dominated by Libya, Cuba, and Iran.” Holocaust Denier and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to address the conference tomorrow, 20-April, the 120th anniversary of Hitler’s birth.

Italy, Canada and Austria are also boycotting, as well as the Netherlands:

‘Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said in a statement that countries with questionable human rights records were seeking to abuse the gathering “to place religion ahead of human rights and unnecessarily curtail freedom of speech, to negate discrimination against homosexuality, and to place Israel alone in the accused bench”.’

Britain and France will attend as scheduled, although the Brits will be “watching carefully” developments and the French want to “articulate clearly their human rights position.”

I suppose this lands me amid the ranks of conservatives on this issue, but I support the U.S. boycott. Racism should not be fought with … reverse racism, not to mention historical ignorance.