Back Soon!

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So glad you enjoy what you find here, we’re on a brief hiatus but look forward to a return.

If you haven’t already, try my book, available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  You’ll enjoy it.

If you’ve read my book, do send me a picture of it in some cool setting, on your shelf or next to some good coffee or your favorite houseplant.  I’ve been collecting and compiling these photos, they’re a joy.

Riches await in the archives, on such topics as America Since 1945, Wonder Trail, and the California Condition.

diego

see you soon!

 


Trump at Gettysburg

Pickett's Charge from a position on the Confederate line looking toward the Union lines, Ziegler's Grove on the left, clump of trees on right, painting by Edwin Forbes

Pickett’s Charge from a position on the Confederate line looking toward the Union lines, Ziegler’s Grove on the left, clump of trees on right, painting by Edwin Forbes

gettysburg-trump

Disgusted afresh with this one, from NY Mag: “Final Days: Trump’s advisers are working hard to plan their own futures while riding out the roller-coaster end of the campaign.” by Gabriel Sherman.

I mean, this is what happened at Gettysburg:

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An American president should not visit that place without some sober thought about how it came to be that 7,058 people murdered each other there in three days (perhaps our worst ever mass shooting?)

Starting to seem like Trump has never read

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Or even Shelby:

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Has he not at least had Sam Waterstone read him the Gettysburg Address?:

The whole point of the Gettysburg Address, he might’ve reminded himself, was that we can’t let all this horror have no meaning, we must use it to remind ourselves of how we got here, what is good about us, what values we must work for.

UGH!  I’m with Ken Burns.

Also what about this:

gettysburg

I know everybody deserves a lawyer, but is it not a tad revolting that Ailes lawyer is Dukakis’ former campaign manager?

estrich

Maybe there’s more to the story, but this seems, from my distance, like an easy example of a valueless incestuous intertwined gaggle of political and media elites who care about nothing but staying in the game.

I’m sure in defeat Trump will have all the dignity of Lee:

lee

He was engaged in rallying and in encouraging the broken troops, and was riding about a little in front of the wood, quite alone–the whole of his Staff being engaged in a similar manner further to the rear. His face, which is always placid and cheeful, did not show signs of the slightest disappointment, care, or annoyance; a he was addressing to every soldier he met a few words of encouragement, such as, “All this will come right in the end: we’ll talk it over afterwards; but, in the mean time, all good men must rally. We want all good and true men just now,” &c. He spoke to all the wounded men that passed him, and the slightly wounded he exhorted “to bind up their hurts and take up a musket” in this emergency. Very few failed to answer his appeal, and I saw many badly wounded men take off their hats and cheer him. He said to me, “This has been a sad day for us, Colonel–a sad day; but we can’t expect always to gain victories.” He was also kind enough to advise me to get into some more sheltered position, as the shells were bursting round us with considerable frequency.

from the account of Fremantle, who was there, a version less dramatic than this one:

 


Magnum, Everyman

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from Wiki as I prep a Halloween costume.

In real life more going for Robin Masters, “the celebrated-but-never-seen author of several dozen lurid novels.”

A recurrent theme throughout the last two seasons, starting in the episode “Paper War”, involves Magnum’s sneaking suspicion that Higgins is actually Robin Masters since he opens Robin’s mail, calls Robin’s Ferrari “his car”, etc. This suspicion is never proved or disproved, although in at least one episode – “Déjà-Vu” S06E02 – Higgins is shown alone in a room, picking up the ringing phone and talking to Robin Masters, indicating they are two different persons.


Huell

Caught a few minutes of the late great Huell Howser, up to Pismo to learn about clams.

found here

found here


Fo

People are mad that Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  Why?  Because he does music, which is not the same as literature?  What is the difference?  More sounds? Instruments are allowed?  Hmm.

Anyway, have heard no mention in the convo about the time a literal clown won the Nobel Prize.

OK fine Dario Fo was a playwright but what he did was more than just write words down, right?

Mr. Fo attributed the State Department’s change of heart to the intervention of President Ronald Reagan, a former actor. It was, Mr. Fo said dryly, “the gesture of a colleague.”

Was reminded because heard he died.  Dario Fo obituary.


12 Takes on the Al Smith Dinner

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Hearing all these points about The Al Smith Dinner.

There is something grotesque about a white-tie banquet with the wealthy and powerful laughing about how they’re all on the same team.  On the flip side, there’s something great about the wealth and powerful laughing about how they’re all on the same team if the team has some common, positive values.

The Al Smith Foundation raises money for the sick, the poor, and the orphans of New York.  It honors a great, cheerful, positive public figure who rose up from poverty to run for president despite religious prejudice.

The dinner is an old-fashioned truce.  Swallowing the noxious flavor of eating with your opponent is how societies can function and remain peaceful.

History offers many stories about how deeply fucked up things get when someone violates the tradition of a ceremonial truce:

red-wedding

People who jockey for political power should have to sit there and be made to at least pretend to be humble.

IMO this is a great tradition even if only for giving us this wonderful gif of Mitt Romney ironing himself.

mitt

Through a friend from my Catholic childhood, I got to go and sit up in the rafters a couple times.  McCain, who must’ve known he was about to lose, gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.

Obama smashed too, of course.

Perhaps the two funniest candidates in American history?

Made it to the Romney/Obama one as well.

I remember a guy younger than me in the crowd was pumped, felt sure Romney was gonna win.

Watched this year’s on C-Span.  Man, it was gnarly.  Here are some takes:

  • The #1 thing holding Donald Trump back is that he’s too sensitive.  If he had a thicker skin, if he could laugh off attacks on himself, believe he could’ve won.  Hillary was right about the “baited with a tweet” thing.  If he had one ounce of Reagan’s ability to laugh something off Trump could’ve pulled it off.
  • Al Smith’s nickname was The Happy Warrior.
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Pic found here

Which candidate can be said to be more Happy Warrior?  Thought Hillary did a good job of Happy Warrioring at the second debate, under very tough conditions:

shimmy

and it worked for her!

  • Much of the preliminary business of the Al Smith Dinner is talking about how much money has been raised for charity.  As you listen to that, it’s hard not to be revolted by Trump’s total scumminess on charity.  My perception was the room grew angrier and angrier at Trump as they heard this, and so were primed against him by the time he got up there. A politician is one thing, but a rich guy who gives nothing to charity?  That sucks.  That’s the complete opposite of the values of this dinner.
  • For someone on the verge of achieving a lifelong dream she’s worked impossibly hard for, Hillary seems miserable.  What is the lesson there?  Is it campaign fatigue and going to bed every night with a knot in the pit of her stomach?  Is it the regular reminders that a lot of people, probably a majority, just kind of don’t like her?  There’s something real devil’s bargainy in the cruel twists that seem to meet Hillary’s ambitions.
Deeply reviled.

Deeply reviled.

(should admit I am 100% in the tank for Hillary.  Even her soldiering on in the face of all this I admire.  Will the rest of the media admit as much?)

  • This event must be as close as possible to a pure nightmare for Donald.  New York’s elites laughing and booing at him. In front of him and behind his back.  Read anything by or about Trump:  his greatest fear/source of rage is being mocked by Manhattan.

ny-elites

This headline would’ve appeared to Trump if he summoned the vision serpent. We are caught in a snobs vs slob death spiral.  A sharp commentator points out there was a real Nelson Muntz aspect to Donald at this dinner:

nelson_fantasising

Is Nelson in his way a sympathetic character?  Trump’s father was a nasty piece of work, has there ever been a bully who wasn’t bullied?

  • Hillary had some great jokes but she is not great at comic delivery.  Then again, who’s the best over-70 year old joke deliverer?  (Gotta thank Medina for asking that one).  My first picks: Mel Brooks or Bill Cosby.
  • Katie Dunn’s parents would only let Al Smith marry their daughter when he promised he would never become a professional actor (per Caro’s The Power Broker, p. 117).  In those days you went into politics because everybody liked you.
Katie and Al

Katie and Al

  • There’s a lot terrible about the Catholic Church, but in my experience growing up around the Catholic church I saw a lot more attention to and help for the sick, the old, the poor, the dying, the disabled, the mentally ill and the homeless than I’ve seen outside of it.

In Al Smith’s day the Catholic Church provided a social welfare system for the poor and the unfortunate and the immigrant.  Other churches did the same thing.  Think how many hospitals are named after saints.  As far as I understand it the Mormon church still does.  The Catholic Church in America is in a managed decline.

What will fill the social welfare vacuum?  Who will take care of the poor, the sick, the immigrant, they dying?  Who should?

Sometimes it seems like the domestic political argument in America is between two answers: “the government” and “nobody/family/somebody’ll handle it/I don’t know but not the government.”

Bill Clinton and George Bush both succeeded at least in pretending to find happy compromises, “the third way,” “compassionate conservatism,” etc.  For awhile I felt like Paul Ryan was doing a decent job of at least pretending, too.  But man when Trump came along he went the sniveling way.  Is he more dangerous and more vile than Trump?

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  • “They’re laughing at us” might be Donald’s campaign theme.  From The Washington Post:

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It’s a horrible feeling to be laughed at and it takes dignity to rise above it.  Watching him at the Al Smith dinner, in a way I almost felt bad for him.  If I could give Donald Trump advice I would tell him to relax and return to being a clown version of a rich guy.  It was a good job and he was well-compensated.  But he doesn’t listen.

In a way DT feels like a dangerous, bitter, vile version of this guy:

rodney

  • Al Smith’s father was an immigrant.  Not from Ireland though, from Italy. (Ferraro = blacksmith = smith).  His mother’s parents were immigrants from Ireland.  A frustrating thing about this election is we couldn’t have a serious talk about immigration. How much should we have?  From where?  Infinite?  If not infinite how do we sort out who can come?
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Weird vote in Colombia

Last month there was a weird and surprising vote in Colombia.  I’ve been learning myself about it, and let me share the story as I understand it:

colombia

click for source

Here is messy, mountainous Colombia.

For some fifty-two years, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, fought the government.  FARC’s origins are Communisty, with their main grievance being rich people have all the best stuff in Colombia.  In their war their crimes are many and so are the government’s.

Nasty would be a mild word for this fight.

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If you’re new to Colombian history it’s easy to lump this 52 year war in with the period known as La Violencia, but no, La Violencia was a whole separate ten year time, starting in 1948, in which maybe 200,000 people died.

Here’s how we got to the vote.  The last president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, was what you might call “aggressive” in his tactics towards FARC.

uribe

Makes sense: FARC killed his dad.  His efforts severely diminished FARC if not knocked it to the ropes.

Uribe oversaw, for example, Operation Jaque, that freed Ingrid Betancourt from her FARC captors.

ingrid-betancourt

Wiki, Justin Hoch

There’s no doubt the USA has been helping the government on this, by the way.  Why shouldn’t we?  The Colombians helped us in our Korean War for some reason.

Colombia entered the Korean War when Laureano Gómez was elected as President. It was the only Latin American country to join the war in a direct military role as an ally of the United States. Particularly important was the resistance of the Colombian troops at Old Baldy.

Camera Operator: SFC. CHARLES M. ROBERTS - DOD ID: HA-SN-98-07069 (old version) Personnel of the Korean service corps unload logs from an M-39 Armored Utility Vehicle at the RHE 2nd US Inf Div supply point on "Old Baldy" near Chorwon, Korea. Logs are for use in the construction of bunkers. A second M-39 is in the background. Korea, 1 Oct 1952.

Camera Operator: SFC. CHARLES M. ROBERTS – DOD ID: HA-SN-98-07069 (old version)
Personnel of the Korean service corps unload logs from an M-39 Armored Utility Vehicle at the RHE 2nd US Inf Div supply point on “Old Baldy” near Chorwon, Korea. Logs are for use in the construction of bunkers. A second M-39 is in the background. Korea, 1 Oct 1952.

By the time Uribe left office, in 2010, FARC was not what it used to be.

Here is Uribe’s successor, Colombia’s current president, Juan Manuel Santos:

santos

First secretly, then publicly, his guys negotiated with FARC in Havana.  The two sides reached an agreement that would end what Santos called the last armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere.

The guy leading FARC is called Timochenko:

timochenko-goraherria

from wiki.

According to the United States Department of State, Timoleon Jimenez has set the FARC’s cocaine policies directing and controlling the production, manufacture, and distribution of hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States and the world, including the “taxation” of the illegal drug trade in Colombia to raise funds for the FARC and the murder of hundreds of people who violated or interfered with the FARC’s cocaine policies

Santos and Timochenko shook hands at a meeting in Havana in June.

All that had to happen to ratify the accord was that Colombia’s people vote on it.  Guess what happened?:

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Don’t know where CNN got this number, The Economist says 13m people voted.  Anyway, low turnout in a country of 47 million, partly because there was a hurricane.

Perhaps many NO voters thought it was bullshit that FARC murderers would get to be in parliament and wouldn’t be punished much for their various cruelties.  Says The Economist:

People who live in areas where the FARC has recently been active mostly backed the deal. “We are the ones who’ve had to live with bullets flying around us,” says Freddy Rendón, a cattle rancher in Uribe, a town in Meta, in central Colombia, where Yes won 93.5% of the vote. Those who live in more peaceful parts, including cities, voted No.

After the votes were counted, everybody was apparently surprised and nobody knew what would happen next.

Then, in a funny twist, Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Maybe to give the whole project a peaceward shove from Norway.  Some cynics suggested Santos was a little too thirsty for the prize.   That’s a little vain perhaps but is it so wrong?  There is something funny about how much humans like prizes.

Santos with a bird from The Guardian, click for link.

Santos with a bird from The Guardian, click for link.

What will happen now is unclear.  FARC doesn’t seem dying to go back to fighting.  Maybe they can’t, in which case Colombian’s voters are, collectively, clever if sneaky negotiators who pulled quite a trick.

Me?  I’m rooting for peace in Colombia, a country I very much enjoyed visiting.

Popayan, Colombia, Helytimes photo.

Popayán, Colombia, in a photo taken by Helytimes.

You can read more about Colombia, what little I know of it, written at about this level, in  my book:

dog

Only if you like tales of fun and adventure.

Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  Pick one up at South Congress Books in Austin, TX for example.

south-congress-books-in-austin

I think you’ll enjoy it.

Colombia.

Colombia.