Considering John Kelly

Compelled by John Kelly, Boston Marine turned Trump babysitter / White House chief of staff.

John Kelly, like Robert E. Lee, is brave, self-sacrificing, dignified, and wrong.

It’s possible to be noble and admirable and honorable and really wrong.  Like, a force for wrongness.

Watched his entire press conference re: presidential respect for fallen soldiers.  Found it very moving.  He mentions walking for hours in Arlington National Cemetery to collect his thoughts.  Maybe he should send the president.

In one of the infinite amazing connections of American history Arlington National Cemetery was built on the grounds of Lee’s wife’s house.


What about General Robert E. Lee?


The single greatest mistake of the war by any general on either side was made by Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, when he sent Pickett’s and Pettigrew’s divisions across that open field, nearly a mile wide, against guns placed on a high ridge and troops down below them, with skirmishers out front. There was no chance it would succeed. Longstreet told him that beforehand and Lee proceeded to prove him right. Having made this greatest of all mistakes, Lee rode out on the field and met those men coming back across the field— casualties were well over fifty percent—and said, It’s all my fault. He said it then on the field; he said it afterwards, after he’d gotten across the Potomac; he said it in his official report a month later. He said, I may have asked more of my men than men should be asked to give. He’s a noble man, noble beyond comparison.

(from the Paris Review interview with Shelby Foote)

Henry Lee, Robert E.’s father

Why did people love Robert E. Lee so much?  He was handsome, for one thing.  Here’s Elizabeth Brown Pryor going off in her Six Encounters With Lincoln:

“Matinee-idol looks.”

They liked Lee too because he reminded of them of George Washington.

Is this interesting?: two of the most prominent American slaveholders, Washington and Lee, only owned slaves because they’d married rich women.

Lee’s wife was Martha Washington’s great granddaughter.

Anyway: whatever, it’s time for some new statues!

John Kelly made his most recent remarks about Lee on The Ingraham Angle on Fox News.

During that appearance, Kelly says something not true, that the events in the indictment came from well before Manafort knew Donald Trump.  Not true, if we believe Slate’s helpful timeline. Manafort and Trump have known each other since the ’80s.

Didn’t Manafort live in Trump Tower off the money he made as a lobbyist for dictators?

Kelly also says that the part about where got wrong what Fredrica Wilson said at the FBI dedication, that part “we should just let that go.”

Also brooooo!  What is American history up to the Civil War but a history of compromises?

Happened to read an interview in PRISM, a publication of the Center For Complex Operations, with John Kelly yesterday.  He’s talking about his career leading the Southern Command, ie Central and South America.

This was not my experience talking to Latin Americans.  More than one South American has pointed out to me that in their countries, “the troops” are not assumed to be good guys or on your side.

Didn’t love this:

We need more Marine generals like Smedley Butler:

I wish John Kelly would also remember the time Henry Lee put himself in harm’s way to defend the freedom of the press.

During the civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland in 1812, Lee received grave injuries while helping to resist an attack on his friend, Alexander Contee Hanson, editor of the Baltimore newspaper, The Federal Republican on July 27, 1812.

Hanson was attacked by a Democratic-Republican mob because his paper opposed the War of 1812. Lee and Hanson and two dozen other Federalists had taken refuge in the offices of the paper. The group surrendered to Baltimore city officials the next day and were jailed.

Laborer George Woolslager led a mob that forced its way into the jail, removed the Federalists, beating and torturing them over the next three hours. All were severely injured, and one Federalist, James Lingan, died.

Lee suffered extensive internal injuries as well as head and face wounds, and even his speech was affected. His observed symptoms were consistent with what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder.

Need to learn more about this!

Maybe a statue of James Lingan, outside Prospect House?:

source: wiki, photo by AgnosticPreachersKid

One last bit from Shelby Foote:

Bud, history always has bias!  You don’t think this guy

thought Lee was cool, if only because they looked alike?


Does Ta-Nahesi Coates get tired of having to say the same stuff over and over?:

“History’s history,” says John Kelly on The Ingraham Angle.  Is it?

Personally, when I think about John Kelly’s life, I’m prepared to cut him some slack, but man.  I can’t say he “gets it.”

Thomas Ricks, as always, has the take:

A must read.

The comment of Kelly’s that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves is when he half-jokingly suggests (around 26:41)

that they’re gonna replace the Washington Monument with Andy Warhol.


Brain surgery

(from The Economist)

isn’t there something obscene about the human brain studying itself?

Looks like Karl Ove Knausgaard looked into this theme, with pictures, for The New York Times.

(Talk about a brain studying itself!)


Boston (England)

There’s a lot of crime fiction about Boston, America, but is there any about Boston, UK?  I went looking and was directed to the works of Colin Watson, who writes about a fictional town, Flaxborough, which is based on Boston (UK version)?

I can’t say it was totally compelling to me but cheers to Colin Watson.

Watson was the first person to successfully sue Private Eye for libel, for an article in issue 25 when he objected to being described as: “the little-known author who . . . was writing a novel, very Wodehouse but without the jokes”. He was awarded £750.

Trump: Our First Mexican President

An inflammatory clickbait headline but I have a point.

Excerpt from Trump’s presidential announcement speech, as transcribed by Time:

Did he say “they’re rapists” or “their rapists,” as in “they’re bringing crime, their rapists”?

The latter seems to me the kind of way Trump talks.  We in the media (everybody) hurt the anti-Trump cause if we do anything that could remotely be considered exaggerating.  It’s not necessary, the person who gave this speech obvi shouldn’t be President, whether he said “they’re rapists” or “their rapists.”  Why not give him any margin calls to avoid accusations of unfairness?

Whatever — the point is Trump’s candidacy was driven by fear of Mexico / Mexicans, South America and Latin America.

Concern that the Anglo-Protestant tradition of America was about to be overwhelmed or subsumed or at least weakened by a Mexico-Catholic-Hispanic tradition is as old as Anglo-Protestants and Hispanic-Catholics sharing a continent I reckon.  It’s a theme in this book, for instance.

My suggestion here is that what could be more Latin American than electing a bullying gangster/businessman who talks like this?:

Trump might build a wall, but Latin American style politics has come to us.

My Chilean buddy mentioned that when he saw Trump at the U. N., he thought, “oh he’s Chavez.”

One of the reasons why Mexico sucks is their presidents have been guys like Trump: nepotistic bully-gangsters who care about nothing but enriching themselves, their family, their idiot sons-in-law, and creating enough chaos and division that the “order” appears necessary.

Pinochet of Chile

Something I tried to get at in my book

is that Los Angeles is at least as much a part of the South American world as it is a part of the Anglo world.

It’s the northernmost city in South America, as much a part of this world:

and this world

as it is of this world

and this world

This doesn’t have to be bad, duh.  It’s part of why Los Angeles is one of the most dynamic, exciting, creative, and appealing places in the country.  (That along with trans-Pacific partnership, which Trump is also fouling up.)

Trump voters should be less worried about Latin Americans coming here, and more worried about a Latin American-style president.

Worry less about Mexicans, and more a breakdown into Mexican style corruption, disregard for rule of law, one party rule, and a generally more cruel, ugly, hopeless and depressing politics.

Worry less about Mexicans coming here, and more about the United States becoming more like Mexico.

Trump voters should be doing a lotta things different, if you ask me!

Did not know

That one Jody Miller, no relation to Roger Miller, did a response to his song “King Of The Road” entitled “Queen Of The House.”




How did you manage the historical setting?


Well, I’m a bloody colonial, aren’t I? London is not my place and Britain is not my country. How was I going to have the authority to invent London in 1837? First I had to know something that’s different from what anybody ever thought about the period. I couldn’t steal from literature even if I wanted to—for the most part metropolitan literature takes the place for granted. So I spent a lot of time reading about people visiting London from abroad. They’re going to see things that would not occur to the Englishman. There was a German visitor to London, for instance, who spends all this time describing this weird English breakfast that turns out to be toast. That was terrific—the familiar defamiliarized. I was trying to imagine—what was it really like? We generally think of London in that period as gloomy and sooty and filthy, but in the New York Public Library I found an account by an American visitor who described London as ablaze with light. That’s not how anyone thinks of that period, but if you came from Australia or America at that time it was bright. I thought, that’s it—this story will start at night, and it will be blazing bright. That’s the first way in which I can colonize London for myself, take imaginative possession of the territory.

from the Paris Review interview with Peter Carey


On My Mind!

The Scarecrow Festival

is underway up in Cambria.

What the hell are we doing in Niger?

This is where four US soldiers died.  Why?

What the hell were our boys doing waiting for the damn Frogs?! The damn French Air Force has to bail out our boys? When we have the best goddamn Air Force in the world? We better anyway, we’re paying for it to the tune of $132 billion a year.

For that matter, what are the French doing in Niger?  They haven’t exactly cloaked themselves in honor in the region:

Following the 1885 Berlin conference during which colonial powers outlined the division of Africa into colonial spheres, French military efforts to conquer existing African states were intensified in all French colonies including Niger. This included several military expeditions including the Voulet Chanoine Mission, which became notorious for pillaging, looting, raping and killing many local civilians on its passage. On 8 May 1899, in retaliation for the resistance of queen Sarraounia, captain Voulet and his men murdered all the inhabitants of the village of Birni-N’Konni in what is regarded as one of the worst massacres in French colonial history. French military expeditions met great resistance from several ethnic groups, especially Hausa and Tuareg groups.

If you’re gonna be in Niger, you want to be near the river.

Source taken by diasUndKompott.

The rest of it looks rough!

Dinner in the desert

Attended a fun dinner.

Book I gave up on

Incredible title.  But what the hell is this guy talking about?

Bought it after I read this bit in Girard’s NY Times obituary:

Professor Girard’s central idea was that human motivation is based on desire. People are free, he believed, but seek things in life based on what other people want. Their imitation of those desires, which he termed mimesis, is imitated by others in turn, leading to escalating and often destructive competition.

His first work, published in French in 1961 and in English in 1965 as “Deceit, Desire, and the Novel,” introduced this idea through readings of classic novels. Over time, the idea has been used to explain financial bubbles, where things of little intrinsic value are increasingly bid up in the hope of financial gain. It has also been cited to explain why people unsatisfied by high-status jobs pursue them anyway.


Mr. Thiel, of PayPal, said that he was a student at Stanford when he first encountered Professor Girard’s work, and that it later inspired him to quit an unfulfilling law career in New York and go to Silicon Valley.

He gave Facebook its first $100,000 investment, he said, because he saw Professor Girard’s theories being validated in the concept of social media.

“Facebook first spread by word of mouth, and it’s about word of mouth, so it’s doubly mimetic,” he said. “Social media proved to be more important than it looked, because it’s about our natures.”

Scene in Los Angeles

A guy at the East Side Food Festival was demonstrating a machine that’s basically a Keurig for marijuana.

How Many

copies of the Blu-Ray of Baywatch Extended Cut does Paramount expect to sell?


From Wiki:

In May 1966, Xi’s secondary education was cut short by the Cultural Revolution, when all secondary classes were halted for students to criticise and fight their teachers.

Never forget how crazy the world is.

Xi as a boy, left.

The President of China sent his daughter to attend Harvard.  That, to me, seems like a good example of American “soft power.”

Xi’s wife is famous singer Peng Liyuan.


and then Bobby added the “S”

(from Vulture’s oral history of SNL’s David S. Pumpkins sketch.)


Somehow this was up on my phone when I picked it up.


Satisfied with my purchase of a new atlas

I’m always trying to get new views.




Critics on critics on critics

This review in the New York Times, by Vivan Gornick of Adam Gopnik’s “At The Strangers’ Gate” caught my attention.

Critics have taken aim on Adam Gopnik before.  To which New Yorker editor David Remnick says:

‘The day any of these people write anything even remotely as fine and intelligent as Adam Gopnik will be a cold day in hell.'”

The key to this memoir might be when the author reveals he graduated high school at age fourteen.  He’s a boy genius.

This is kind of Young Sheldon the book.

The book has some good stories in it.  Adam Gopnik tells about how a guy who came to one of his lectures on Van Gogh.  This guy had an axe to grind and it was this: why did Vincent never paint his brother Theo?

My favorite part of the book was Gopnik’s discussion of Jeff Koons.  Gopnik is illuminating on the topic of Jeff Koons.  Here is Koons talking to Gopnik at a party.

(I added the potato because while it may not be strictly legal to electronically reproduce pages of books, if I include them in an original work of art, that’s gotta be allowed, right?)

What is hidden will be exposed


The news and whatnot got me thinking about how a theme/promise in both the Bible and Quran is that anything hidden will be revealed.  Surah 69:18 there above.

Thomas Cleary’s version goes:

On that day you will be exposed;

no secret of yours will be hidden

Thomas Cleary. Source.

Luke 8:17:

Luke hits us with this again in 12:2:

The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.

Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!

Blythe Intaglios

Way out near the border to Arizona are the Blythe Intaglios, California’s answer to the Nazca lines.

You can see them easily on Google Maps.

Intaglio comes from an Italian word: to engrave.

What was the point of these things?

Some researchers hypothesize that the intaglios are stopping points on a keruk pilgrimage or simply the practice of the keruk ceremony at various places.[13] The keruk was a mourning ceremony that was practiced by various Native Americans in southern California. The keruk included the reenactment of the creator’s death and the recognition of the people who had died since the last keruk. Warfare has been offered a possible explanation as to the spread along the Colorado River of ceremonies such as the keruk and the similar style of desert intaglios.[13]

They were first “discovered” by pilots in the ’30s.

I keep meaning to go out there and have a look but it’s like four hours away.



When you lied on your CV

The source of that photo is Tasmanian sheep farmer Charlie Mackinnon, who said of the dog:

She was an absolute legend, worked all day.

Funny story told in Jay McInerney Paris Review interview:


I felt like I had really arrived because—well, it was The New Yorker. But it was the fact-checking department. I wanted to be in the fiction pages, but still. It actually paid pretty well, and I was seeing great writers like John McPhee and John Updike coming to visit William Shawn. J. D. Salinger was still calling on the phone. There was a terrific buzz about the place. But it was also a little depressing. There were all these unwritten rules. Like, for instance, if you were a fact-checker, you didn’t speak to an editor or writer in the hall—it just wasn’t done. Also, it turned out I wasn’t very good at it. And ten months after I got there, I was fired, and left ingloriously with my tail between my legs.


How bad were you?


My biggest mistake was to have lied on my résumé and said that I was fluent in French, which I wasn’t. So when the time came to check a Jane Kramer piece on the French elections, it was assigned to me, and I had to call France and talk to a lot of people who didn’t speak English. That was really my downfall. And of course I couldn’t admit to anyone that I had this problem. Jane Kramer discovered factual errors just before publication. Nothing earth shattering, but you would think that I had . . .


Bracing for Amis too is a late essay of Bellow’s, ‘Wit Irony Fun Games’ – ‘quite possibly the last thing he ever wrote’ – that insists that ‘most novels have been written by ironists, satirists, and comedians’. Amis concludes, ‘The novel is comic because life is comic.’

Readin’ that line in this review of Martin Amis, The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump – Essays and Reportage, 1986–2016, by Christian Lorentzen over on Literary Review

So I says, let’s get a copy of this late essay of Bellow’s and see what he has to say.  I’ve never read much Saul Bellow.

Sure enough it’s pretty good!  Here in “Wit Irony Fun Games” he talks about Lincoln’s humor:

This, in an essay about FDR, gives backstory I didn’t know to the story of the attempted assassination:

In this essay, Bellow says his famously controversial comment about “who’s the Tolstoy of the Zulus” was all a misunderstanding:

He likes Zulus, and Papuans as well:

Papuans probably have a better grasp of their myths than most educated Americans have of their own literature.  But without years of study we can’t begin to understand a culture very different from our own.  The fair thing,, therefore, is to make allowance for what we outsiders cannot hope to fathom in another society and grant that, as members of the same species, primitive men are as mysterious or as monstrous as any other branch of humankind.


This Columbus day, I renew my call for Los Angeles to return to its original name, Yang-Na


Santa Paula, CA Chumash mural Santa Paula, CA Chumash mural

Petition this Columbus Day to return LA back to its original name of Yang-Na:

yang-na from:eternity-street

View original post

Can’t forget one of our key missions here

Reporting on notable Helys.  Here’s one:

That’s in the Ahmedabad Mirror.

Kalyan Shah took that for us over on Wikipedia, thanks Kalyan!

We could use some good news.  Keep going, Hely!

Bob Dancer

fascinated by this quote in this New York Times article about the Vegas shooter.

Made me think about Addiction By Design which we discussed here.  Would love to hear Natasha Dow Schüll’s take on this guy.



Ken Burns & Lynne Novick’s The Vietnam War I felt was “harrowing.”

What does the word harrowing mean?


In farming this is a harrow.

A device consisting of a heavy framework having several disks or teeth in a row, which is dragged across ploughed land to smooth or break up the soil, to remove weeds or cover seeds;

A harrowing documentary feels like it’s doing this to you?

A harrowing experience is painful, but it breaks up your clods.

The etymology drifts back into the mists of Old Norse before dissolving away into Proto-Indo-European and Old Persian, but it may have something to do with “harvest”



From Proto-Germanic*harjōną (see also East Frisian ferheerje, German verheeren(to harry, devastate)) Swedish härja(ravage, harry)), from Proto-Germanic*harjaz(army) (see also Old English here, West Frisian hear, Dutch heer, German Heer), from Proto-Indo-European*koryos (compare Middle Irish cuire(army), Lithuanian kãrias(army; war), Old Church Slavonic кара(karastrife), Ancient Greek κοίρανος(koíranoschief, commander), Old Persian [script needed](kāraarmy)).

As a boy, Winston Churchill went to a school called Harrow:

which he found to be a harrowing experience.  Churchill had many harrowing experiences.  He was in combat, for one.  That’s a famous harrow.  Having polio is harrowing.

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 27: President Franklin D. Roosevelt leaves his home at 49 East 65th Street for a short visit to his family estate at Hyde Park, north of New York City. This photograph is unusual in that FDR’s leg braces are clearly visible. (Photo by Martin Mcevilly/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Childbirth has got to be harrowing, as is growing up on the frontier.

You wouldn’t wish any harrowing experiences on anybody, but it seems like all great leaders had been through a harrowing or two.



Lincoln Mailbag!

Wow, reader Dan G. didn’t take to Elizabeth Pryor Brown’s book, of which I spoke positively:

First chapter berates Lincoln for a disorderly approach to the military — fair enough, I suppose — without acknowledging the more defensible reasons for this, such as a desire to establish the facts on the ground independent of the possibly self-serving officers in the chair of command.  To hear her, the military should be spared any outside audit or opportunity for whistleblowing. And she doesn’t even mention his ultimate success. Her second chapter pooh-poohs his coarse humor and sometimes rustic rhetoric as though the prissy rareified manners of a Boston drawing room were innately superior and not, as they would have been in real life, a barrier to communicating with and leading the broad mass of the people.

It’s not just me:

He goes on to describe the book as:

a biography of Sam written by Diane

which is a funny idea.

Raven Maps

I’ve spoken before of my love of Raven Maps.  Shoutout to Professor McHugh for putting me onto them.

Recently I had some correspondence with them.  With their permission I share it with you.

Name: Steve Hely
Their Questions or Comments: Hi! Big fan of your maps, have bought several. I was interested in learning some cartography basics so I can make a topo map of a small (five square miles) area of the world I inhabit and love. Do you have or know of any resources for learning these skills! Thanks!

(That’s what I wrote, on their form).

Raven Maps replies:

Steve Hely,

Well, that’s a good question. The old techniques have long-since been reduced to algorithms and interred in software. All maps are now produced digitally, but I assume you want to just enjoy learning your area in the way that mapping it allows? You don’t need to become a GIS / Cartography tech for that.
My suggestion: get the printed USGS 1:24,000 scale 1:7.5′ map of your area (perversely, an area you are interested in often turns out to be at the edge of two, or at the corners of two or three, in that case get all the sheets you need), or print them out from an on-line digital source); get tracing paper (or polyester drafting film), and start tracing the features you are particularly interested in– and just keep at it. Many iterations, probably many dozens. That’s OK, tracing paper is cheap. Colored pencils cost more but you won’t need all that many. Remember that every completed map has a great many more layers and classes of features than you probably care about, and probably does not show the ones you DO care about– and that’s where the fun starts, as you figure out what to leave off, how heavy / what color the lines are, how to identify the features you care about, and so on.
For an area of 5 miles on a side, differences in projection (among various source maps, which you will probably start consulting) will be only a very minor problem, you can probably ignore. Scale differences can be corrected at your local FedEx copy shop.
And always, keep on hand some sample map you especially like, so that you can see how that map handled the particular issue you are wondering how to solve. (There’s a reason you see aspiring painters closely studying the classics in museums– first, learn how THEY did it.)
Hope this helps,
Stuart Allan
Raven Maps
What a beautiful, civilized response.
A letter like that could inspire a lifetime passion for cartography.

I mean the USGS website is sick. What a beautiful thing we the taxpayers have made.


Gun Stocks

I don’t know why I care about this.  I guess because I’m interested in what moves stock prices, narratives invented around stock prices, and how things get reported?

This effect seems to me to be exaggerated.

Motley Fool notes:

The market for firearms is highly fragmented, with many names — Glock, Colt, Beretta  — privately owned, located abroad, or both. This can making investing in guns tricky. One of the easiest ways for an investor to gain exposure to this market, though, is through buying shares of industry leader American Outdoor Brands.

American Outdoor Brands is a nicer name than “Smith & Wesson”

Yesterday they were up 3.21%.

I asked a financial friend if he thought that was significant:

3%? Not very

The other big gun stock is Sturm, Ruger – RGR.

Yesterday they were up 3.48%.  Today they’re up another 1.78%.

Is that meaningful?  Maybe?  A tiny bit?


There is an initial burst in stock price immediately when trading opened, but that was mostly corrected by the end of the day.

Why do we tell ourselves this story?

I guess because it’s shocking these companies aren’t at all harmed when their product or a competitor’s products are used to shoot hundreds of people.

We tell this story because it’s twisted and we like twisted stories.

Even the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund owns a buncha gun stock: