Alabama, Mississippi, slavery, and votingPosted: March 8, 2017 Filed under: America, politics, the world around us Leave a comment
Look at this voting map of Alabama for President, 2016:
And this one of Mississippi:
Those are from Politico, 2016 county by county election results.
Compare them to these amazing Raven Maps (I love Raven maps, buy a Raven map) that show elevation:
Look at the Mississippi Delta:
My hypothesis is that the legacy of slavery can be seen in a simple voting map: black people still live in bottomland — cotton country.
You might double check that by looking at racial percentages by county.
No doubt there are factors I haven’t considered.
Compare too to this 1861 Coast Survey slavery map:
This might demonstrate:
- geography affects history
- historical legacies can last a very long time
- good maps are illuminating
Which one of you jokestersPosted: March 1, 2017 Filed under: America, America Since 1945, Middle East, politics, presidents, the California Condition Leave a comment
Ordered me two copies of The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen?
Mission accomplished, it’s next up after I finish Tom Ricks:
Public Land, Part Two: What Happened with H. R. 621Posted: February 12, 2017 Filed under: America, politics, the American West, the California Condition Leave a comment
We can’t all be experts on every outrage that’s going to come along. At Helytimes we’ve taken on the issue of
Our Public Land
the land owned by the US government in the form of national parks, national forests, national monuments, and much more.’ The land we, the American People, own together, in other words.
Part One covered HJ Res 46, which proposes to ease up the rules for oil, gas, and mineral drilling and extraction in our national parkland.
Victory on H. R. 621 and What We Can Learn From It
Meet Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz
You may have heard of him, he was in the news this week catching hell at his town hall:
You may have seen some these videos on Twitter.
Chaffetz is an interesting character.
- Born to a Jewish family in California
- he was the placekicker on BYU’s football team.
- Married a Mormon woman and converted to Mormonism.
- Utah campaign manager for Michael Dukakis in 1988
- at some point he became a Republican. Possibly after meeting Ronald Reagan in 1990 (when, remember, Reagan had a decent degree of dementia)
- Ran an aggressive Tea Party-style primary campaign in 2008 against a longtime Utah Republican, Chris Cannon, and knocked him out
- An aggressive Benghazi investigator
- Was all over the map on Trump: endorsing, unendorsing. In the end he did vote for him
- Has made it difficult for the residents of Washington DC to implement the legalization of marijuana they voted for
Here’s a funny article by Thomas Burr in the Salt Lake City Tribune about Chaffetz involving himself in DC local politics, and then getting payback where some DC politicians are like “fine Utah bitch you gonna tell us how to run our city then help us fix our potholes.”
Today though, we’re going to focus on a bill he introduced that comes up in the town hall.
H. R. 621: Story of a Victory
On Jan 24, Chaffetz introduced H. R. 621, which he titled “Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2017” which proposed to “dispose” – sell off – some land that is owned by you and me.
Let’s back up.
Do the Republicans Want To Sell Off Our Land?
Is this true? Will Trump / The GOP Sell Off Our Public Land?!
My take: they definitely tried to do so. Given nearly complete power after the 2016 election, it was a top priority for several Republicans.
The rush to sell off public land has been beaten back, for now.
There’s a lot to learn from what went down about how to win against the Republican Party of Donald Trump.
Bias: Love for national lands
I love national lands. I love national parks and national forests and national historic sites and national seashores. I love national monuments and national battlefields.
The best of the United States is on display in a US Park Service uniform.
The National Parks are the gems. Most federal land is not like this at all.
How much land does the federal government
– the US –
– us –
The federal government owns a huge amount of land. For instance, the federal government owns about 84% of the total land area of Nevada.
Here is federal land ownership in California:
The federal government owns 47% of California.
As you can see, this is a much different issue for some states than others. Here is Utah:
The feds own 66.5% of Utah.
The feds own a mere .8% of Rhode Island, mainly coastal scrubland.
Getting all that from this great piece in the Deseret (UT) News by Jackie Hicken.
All told the federal government owns about 28% of the nation’s total surface, 2.27 billion acres.
Isn’t that crazy?
Here is a reasonable position:
The federal government shouldn’t own that much land. It’s not in the Constitution as a job for the federal government to own a buncha land.
Here’s a sample of that take:
Now: I think Lars Larson may even have a point about cutting down forests. Forestry is a science, I’m not well-informed enough to opine on it except to say I believe any forester will tell you burns are part of a life cycle of a forest.
But I disagree with Lars Larson on his first part. Because when we say “the government owns this land,” really we mean we own this land. What could be more “the people’s land” than land we all own together? “Give the people’s land back to the people?” It already is ours!
You and me. The taxpayers. The voters. The government is just us.
What Are The Kinds Of Our Lands?
Here are the percentages of our land, broken down by which agency manages them for us. The “Big Five”:
(getting my data from here, from 2013. The pie would be slightly bigger if we included the Department of Energy, and there’s the Indian reservations, but that’s a whole other thing.)
As you can see, the National Park Service owns a mere 13% of US federal land.
National Park Service handles:
- National Parks
- National Monuments
- National Preserves
Plus battlefields, historic sites, seashores, etc. As I understand it, the only way to get rid of these would be to pass a bill through both houses of Congress and have the president sign it. A cool power of the President is that he can create a National Monument out of any existing federal land. Obama did this often.
The Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture handles:
our National Forests.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service handles:
our National Wildlife Refuges. (Their slice of the pie gets way bigger if you count marine acres.)
There are National Wildernesses, administered by various different folks because they’re usually part of some other land.
There’s lots of land owned by the Department of Defense,
Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army bases and such. The Navy owns a surprising amount of inland land here in California for dropping bombs on.
And there is a bunch of leftover extra land, BLM land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The BLM owns about 47% of the west and one-eighth of the land of the United States.
(Here’s a good Gizmodo article by Wes Siller about this same topic).
The biggest chunk of public land is BLM land
On a trip to California in 2002 or so the Jeppson-Gamez brothers took me to some BLM land. I learned you can shoot a gun and drive a Jeep and do whatever the fuck you want on BLM land. What a great privilege as an American.
Here’s some BLM land in California:
Here are some facts:
A lot of federal land is already used, mined, logged, grazed, and exploited now
There’s logging in national forests, and mining and grazing on BLM land. The major operating principle for BLM land law is “multi use.” Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m no expert just an interested citizen, but I believe most BLM rules stem from the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.
Who should handle this junk land has a long, contentious history
Here is a readable summary of some history on the subject. Who should own and manage land that looks like this?:
Should the states manage it? In the Depression the states didn’t want it.
Fights over which of the multiple uses should be favored come up all the time. The most newsworthy fight in recent years on this topic, the weird Oregon standoff originated with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s dispute with the BLM over grazing his cattle on their lands:
the dispute started in 1993, when, in protest against changes to grazing rules, Bundy declined to renew his permit for cattle grazing on BLM-administered lands near Bunkerville, Nevada. According to the BLM, Bundy continued to graze his cattle on public lands without a permit. In 1998, Bundy was prohibited by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada from grazing his cattle on an area of land later called the Bunkerville Allotment.
Cliven Bundy refused to recognize federal ownership of the land, claiming it rightfully belonged to Nevada, which would maybe be chiller about letting him graze his cattle there.
This being the USA, Cliven’s stand led to, a few years later, Bundy’s sons sitting around with guns at a remote bird refuge while Dad reflected on his views on “the Negro“:
they abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?
Where does the GOP Congress stand on federal land ownership?
All over the place, is the answer.
1) the Republican Party’s platform supports returning some federal land to the states.
See here for a Snopes breakdown of this. Here’s the language on federal land transfer in the Republican Platform:
The federal government owns or controls over 640 million acres of land in the United States, most of which is in the West. These are public lands, and the public should have access to them for appropriate activities like hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. Federal ownership or management of land also places an economic burden on counties and local communities in terms of lost revenue to pay for things such as schools, police, and emergency services. It is absurd to think that all that acreage must remain under the absentee ownership or management of official Washington. Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states. We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands, identified in the review process, to all willing states for the benefit of the states and the nation as a whole. The residents of state and local communities know best how to protect the land where they work and live. They practice boots-on- the-ground conservation in their states every day. We support amending the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish Congress’ right to approve the designation of national monuments and to further require the approval of the state where a national monument is designated or a national park is proposed.
Key word there is “certain”?
I think it’s possible to be passionate about maintaining our treasured national land, and still think some federal land could be better managed by the states.
There’s a lot of wack stuff in the GOP platform, like this:
A Republican administration should streamline personnel procedures to expedite the firing of bad workers, tax cheats, and scammers.
Obviously they’re not worried about the Commander in Chief who won’t release his tax returns. Maybe they will be similarly hypocritical about conveying federally controlled land to states.
2) the Republican Congress changed rules to allow the federal government to give up land while counting it as “budget neutral”
Meet Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah:
A Republican Congressman. He is apparently responsible for a change in House of Representatives rules. Now, I don’t know anything about House budgeting rules. This article, from The Salt Lake City Tribune, written by Juliet Eilperin, seems fair and clear:
Under current Congressional Budget Office accounting rules, any transfer of federal land that generates revenue for the U.S. Treasury — whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing or other activities — has a cost. If lawmakers wanted to give land-generating receipts to a given state, local government or tribe, they would have to account for that loss in expected cash flow. If the federal government conveys land where there is no economic activity, such as wilderness, there is no estimated cost associated with it.
But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman [Rob] Bishop [Republican Congressman of Utah], who backs the idea of providing state and local officials with greater control over federal land, has authored language in the new rules package saying any such transfers “shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.”
This was the same rules package that had the ethics loosening thing that got people to call their reps in an effective show of democratic displeasure. Here is a much-tweeted Guardian article on the topic.
There’s lots about public land on Rob Bishop’s website. One issue that seems to bother Rob Bishop in particular is Wilderness Study Areas. And I agree they represent the complex mess of interests when you deal with public land.
A Case Study: How A Wilderness Study Area Becomes A Wilderness
The Wilderness Study Areas are roadless sections of land that the BLM puts a hold on until Congress decides whether to designate them as wilderness or not.
Here’s my personal favorite:
Here’s what Rob Bishop says:
For decades, unsettled land-use designations, such as wilderness study areas, have fueled distrust and acrimony. The uncertainty about the future of these lands created conflict amongst those favoring differing types of uses. The diverse uses of public lands have an important role in making Utah healthy, viable, and inviting. The future of the state depends on a responsible balance of both conservation and development.
There are 86 Wilderness Study Areas in Utah. Myself, I think we should err on the side of keeping wildernesses — once they’re gone, they’ll never come back.
Once you’re a WSA, you either become a Wilderness, federally protected, or you get dropped and you can get chopped up and mineraled and whatnot like any old BLM land. Or you get downgraded to Conservation Area, or some other designation.
The most recent Wilderness Study Area bill I can find in Congress was from last year, when some WSAs inside federal conservation areas were proposed to get dropped. It’s been referred to committee. Here’s an article about it, it sounds like a complicated issue.
You can see how this all gets pretty slow-moving and bureaucratic.
Maybe Rob Bishop has a point
The bottom line of what Rep. Bishop wants to do is made pretty clear on his website:
Congressman Bishop’s views on public land use differ from mine, why should I trust that this is a good faith effort to make new conservation areas?
Congressman Bishop is committed to conservation and economic development as part of the Public Lands Initiative. Throughout his career, Congressman Bishop has had a strong record of both conservation and development. The Cedar Mountain Wilderness area was created in 2006 after Congressman Bishop facilitated a locally-driven, collaborative process similar to the Public Lands Initiative. As a former high school teacher, Congressman Bishop also has pushed for increased energy production in Utah to help support and fund public education. Congressman Bishop is committed to elements of both conservation and development as part of any Public Lands Initiative legislative proposal.
How will the state of Utah benefit from this?
The state of Utah’s public education system will benefit from increased energy and mineral production. Public land users will benefit from the regulatory certainty that comes from congressionally designated lands. Local governments will benefit from revenue generated from multiple use of the land, including recreation, mineral development, and energy production. The outdoor recreation businesses will benefit from the improved certainty about land use and conservation. Future generations will benefit by having responsible policies that utilize the land in the most responsible and reasonable ways that make sense now and into the future.
Proponents argue, however, that taking the federal government out of the picture will help the budget and offer economic benefits for the many communities located near federally-guarded land.
“In many cases, federal lands create a significant burden for the surrounding communities,” Molly Block, spokeswoman for the House Natural Resources Committee, said. “Allowing communities to actually manage and use these lands will generate not only state and local income tax, but also federal income tax revenues.”
That’s from this UPI article by Stephen Feller and Doug C. Ware.
Look, Rob Bishop’s there in Utah. Maybe he knows best what should happen with this land. In tough Western areas he could see roped off federal preserves with no clear purpose, and point out those could be jobs and money for his district, or even just better managed wilderness under local control.
Why shouldn’t disposed-of land be marked as a loss to the federal revenue, when it is? Isn’t this a form of the federal government lying to itself? Lying to its citizens? As an American taxpayer, I don’t see how this rather sneaky accounting change is at all good for me.
Plus what the hell?! This land belongs to us, American citizens. These guys want to sell away our inheritance?
High Desert News‘ Elizabeth Shongren puts it clearly:
Previously, when Congress wanted to transfer public lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or other federal agency, the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ research arm, calculated the cost to the U.S. Treasury by computing what revenues the lands provide over 10 years, such as grazing fees or oil and gas royalties. Under House rules, before a bill approving a transfer could be adopted, budget cuts would have to be made in other federal programs equal to the value of that land. The rules change eliminates that budgetary barrier to land transfer bills.
I’d have to explore this more, but I have a feeling the House somehow tied itself into knots on spending and budgetary rules to make various political points, and is trying to untangle this particular aspect so they can get rid of public land.
Can the government sell off our treasured national lands?
Yes, but it’s not that easy.
Let’s start with the BLM. Can the BLM sell off their land? From their website:
How are these lands selected for sale?
The law states that the BLM can select lands for sale if, through land use planning, they are found to meet one of three criteria: 1) they are scattered, isolated tracts, difficult or uneconomic to manage; 2) they were acquired for a specific purpose and are no longer needed for that purpose; or 3) disposal of the land will serve important public objectives, such as community expansion and economic development.
The BLM does not offer much land for sale because of a congressional mandate in 1976 to generally retain these lands in public ownership. The BLM does, however, occasionally sell parcels of land where our land use planning finds disposal is appropriate.
Of the Big Five Agencies, only DoD and BLM lost land between 1990 and 2013 (again, source here). In those years, the BLM went down by 24, 777, 190 acres.
Where did those acres go?
This decline in Alaska is largely the result of the disposal of BLM land, under law, to the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, and Alaska Native Corporations.
Seems fine to me. The Congressional Research Service goes on:
With regard to disposal, the NPS and FWS have virtually no authority to dispose of the lands they administer, and the FS disposal authorities are restricted.
Last big push to dispose of national lands failed. It was HR 350: State National Forest Management Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Don Young of Alaska.
HR 621: Story of A Victory
Let’s return to Utah rep Jason Chaffetz:
Which land did he try to sell away?
It’s not immediately clear. Chaffetz’s website links to a 1997 report of disposable lands. Ryan Krogh at Men’s Journal identifies some of the choice land included in the 1997 report:
The Potential Land: 35,200 acres of BLM-managed land in the Powder River Basin, which is just east of the Bighorn Mountains, popular with hikers, campers, horseback riders, and hunters.
Here’s what’s going on on BLM land in the Powder River right now:
The Potential Land: 27,300 acres surrounding the Shoshone River, a popular fly-fishing stream in northern Wyoming. Most of the BLM-managed land in Park County is downstream of the town of Cody, which sits between the Big Horn, Owl Creek, Bridger, and Absaroka mountain ranges. Tourism is the town’s primary industry.
The Potential Land: 44,000 acres in a county that’s home to Steens Mountain, a 9,733-foot peak that’s popular with campers and hunters, and Malheur National Forest.
State: New Mexico
The Potential Land: 25,000 acres that contain “cultural resources,” meaning it’s probably home to pueblo ruins. The land is most likely a giant tract southwest of the town of Quemado, and some of the land abuts the Gila National Forest, home to the endangered Mexican gray wolf, the Gila trout, and some of the best elk hunting in the U.S.
The Potential Land: 2,105 acres that is home to endangered species and “historic/cultural resources.” The surrounding area contains the Gunnison Gorge, famous for its rafting and fly-fishing trips, and Uncompahgre National Forest, which is home to elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.
The Potential Land: 208,900 acres that contains endangered species, historic resources, and is home to “wetlands/floodplain.” BLM-managed land makes up a giant percentage of land in Elko County, but exactly what land is up for consideration is unclear, or what the effects might be.
The Potential Land: 23,525 acres with mining claims and historic resources. A comment attached to the description notes that the land is “classified as habitat for the Desert Tortoise (a sensitive species).”
Now I heard about this, and I was pissed, because this land belongs to me. And you. And us. Any time we wanna go there, it’s there.
And Jason Chaffetz tried to sell it off.
Well this did not play. Word spread via strong, aggressive groups like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:
Google HR 621 and you fill find angry, mobilized publicity from groups like TheMeatEater.com, BowHunter.com, WiredToHunt (“Deer Hunting Strategies for the Next Generation”), and TexasBowhunter.com.
There were rallies in Helena, MT and Santa Fe, NM which BHA says drew a thousand people.
Chaffetz backed down by last night — six days after introducing the bill:
What can we learn from the defeat (for now) of HR 621?
- Strong, organized, motivated, attentive citizens can win, easily, on issues that matter.
- Play to a politician’s fears. Jason Chaffetz got to Congress by primarying a guy in his own party. He’s got to watch his back constantly. His greatest fear has got to be somebody doing to him what he did to Chris Cannon, outrunning him on the right.
- Push the pushable. Chaffetz wasn’t moved by people who would never vote for him. He was moved by hunters and fishermen, people who probably would vote for him, as long as he doesn’t fuck them on something they care about.
- Look at the focus on these groups: bow-hunters, meat-eating hunters. They have clear interests, goals, and passions. They follow their issues and inform each other.
- Powerful allies. Look at the sponsors for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. These are big corporations with big interests in keeping their customers happy and hunting and fishing. Yeti coolers has a partnership with MeatEater.com. What are rich companies that have interests that could align with yours?
- Specific targets. They learned something from all that bow-hunting.
- See how fast and aggressively they responded to the slightest hint of a challenge and you can get an answer to the seemingly baffling question of why gun control bills get crushed so easily. Strong, organized people are paying attention to the slightest threat to their gun rights and they do not let up.
The Trump hurricane has achieved an effect of constantly shifting focus. When we compare what bow-hunters did to the stammering, confused, bafflement of the Hollywood libtards we follow on Twitter, and my own flabbergasted reactions, we realize we have much to learn from Texas bow-hunters on how to stay focused on a few issues that matter to us most.
The biggest lesson:
This issue brought together, on the same side, Joyce Carol Oates:
and these kind of guys:
And the bros on the Texas Bowhunter forums.
They’re both passionate on the same side on this issue.
For me, the strongest takeaway is don’t insist on too much ideological purity.
Build coalitions on issues you care about.
That is the way to win in politics.
Plus who do you think Jason Chaffetz is most scared of?
I’m guessing it’s this kinda guy? (seen here killing a huge deer with a bow and arrow).
This guy and I may have different ideas about what to do with the land we share.
But we share an interest. We can team up.
One of the most illuminating things I read about the election was “David Wong”‘s piece on Cracked.com about the rural vs. urban divide. Here I am very far from Powder River, WY. The odds of me visiting it in the next ten years are small (but real). But here I am allied with people who live near there and use it all the time.
Gotta Hear Both Sides
Look, it’s fair to say maybe we should sell off some public land. The clearest expression I found of this ambiguity was put up by this poster on TexasBowhunter.com — I hope user 175gr7.62 won’t mind me quoting him, I think it’s a valid take (encourage you to read him in context):
I’m torn on it. The Constitutional side of me says the Fed should have never owned it anyway. The Constitution says the government can acquire and retain land necessary for carrying out its enumerated powers. This includes parcels for military bases, post offices and buildings to house federal employees undertaking enumerated functions. I don’t think anything the BLM or Forest Service does counts as anything enumerated. Several Supreme Court cases have said the govt can own it but I think that’s just case law.
The hunter in me said it could be bad if the Feds sell the land because it could be bought by a private citizen who can then prevent its use. That being said, if they sell it and I don’t have the money to buy it that’s my fault…I should have gotten a better education or made better investment decisions.
Reasonable people can disagree on how public land should be managed and who should managed it.
What bothers me, and what puts me on edge, is the sneakiness of what Bishop and Chaffetz appear to be doing.
And the misguided priorities. This is the first thing they got to post-election.
Well, Chaffetz at least got called to the carpet for it.
A Passionate Plea
Here’s a full video of Jason Chaffetz’s town hall. Listen to this guy at 11:39 say our free public lands are all he has.
Please write to us (helphely at gmail or in the comments) if we got something wrong or you have a strong take.
These are complicated issues, I did my best and in good faith but it’s easy to make an error.
In our Next Installment:
Part Three: Strange Allies.
And why this:
is better than this:
His sporting blood turned to horsepissPosted: February 7, 2017 Filed under: America, America Since 1945, Arkansas, books, writing Leave a comment
This interview with Charles Portis, on his days a young reporter, for an oral history project about the Arkansas Gazette newspaper is so wonderful.
On Tom Wolfe and Malcolm X:
They made movies out of several Portis books:
is one and
What does Charles Portis make of all this I wonder?
Click on this link for an amazing picture of William Woodruff sailing up the Mississippi with his printing presses.
PrincePosted: December 11, 2016 Filed under: America, music Leave a comment
Van Jones: He was very interested in the world. He wanted me to explain how the White House worked. He asked very detailed kind of foreign-policy questions. And then he’d ask, “Why doesn’t Obama just outlaw birthdays?” [laughs] I’m, like, “What?” He said, “I was hoping that Obama, as soon as he was elected, would get up and announce there’d be no more Christmas presents and no more birthdays—we’ve got too much to do.” I said, “Yeah, I don’t know if that would go over too well.”
Van Jones: Prince wrote music the way you write e-mails, okay? If you were transported to some world where the ability to write e-mails was some rare thing, you would be Prince. He was just writing music all the time. He slept it, he thought it. And it wasn’t all great—some of it was good, some of it wasn’t. But he had no expectation, he was just being himself. It’s like you cut the water faucet on—I don’t think the faucet is sitting there thinking, “This is the best water ever!” The faucet is just doing what the faucet does. That’s kind of how he was.
The Van Jones ones were the best, which led me to Mr. Jones’ wiki:
He has described his own childhood behavior as “bookish and bizarre.” His grandfather was the senior bishop in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and Jones sometimes accompanied his grandfather to religious conferences, where he would sit all day listening to the adults “in these hot, sweaty black churches” Jones was a young fan of the late John and Bobby Kennedy, and would pin photographs of them to a bulletin board in his room in the specially delineated “Kennedy Section”. As a child he matched his Star Wars action figures with Kennedy-era political figures; Luke Skywalker was John, Han Solo was Bobby, and Lando Calrissian was Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hearts & MindsPosted: November 19, 2016 Filed under: America, America Since 1945 Leave a comment
from the doc Hearts & Minds (1974) which was on TCM on Election Night.
O Pioneers!Posted: November 10, 2016 Filed under: America, history, nature, the American West, writing Leave a comment
Just finished reading:
A strange thing to read, maybe. Here is the story of how I came to read it.
Some years ago, filming the finale of The Office on Dwight Schrute’s farm:
I looked around at the inland Malibu landscape and got to wondering if there could be a show about the pioneers: people who arrived on empty* land and built their lives there.
So as research I picked up the first book I thought of:
Didn’t finish it. Got distracted before I got off the third page, probably at first by my phone and then by my life.
A true Save The Cat
On the first page of O Pioneers!, there is a true Save The Cat situation.
We’re in the middle of a blizzard, and Little Emil’s cat has gone up a telegraph pole, and he’s afraid it’ll freeze:
Down in Australia in August, I saw the cool Penguin Classics edition:
and picked it up thinking, eh what the hell I should find out what happened to that cat.
Well, I found out, and I found out what happened to Emil and his sister Alexandra for the next forty years.
I believe an error was made in choosing this quote for the front page:
It isn’t the most interesting one from the book. I might’ve chosen this:
Or even, if we’re going re: ducks, this:
This quote made me think of the news:
Also can’t say that the epigraph is especially sexy:
Perhaps it’s better in the original Polish.
But still I pressed on, and in the end, I gotta give it up to O Pioneers!
The life of Willa Cather
Willa Cather must’ve been quite something. She was born in Gore, Virginia, but as a girl she was brought to Red Cloud, Nebraska:
where she made a real impression:
Was Willa Cather a lesbian?
Willa Cather shot out of Nebraska like a rocket.
The closest relationships in her life were with women, and she lived with one Edith Lewis:
for close to thirty years. Some biographers hesitate to call her a lesbian, though, saying she never identified herself that way.
Willa Cather Memorial Prairie
Willa died in 1947. She has a memorial prairie named after her, it’s the number 2 thing to do in Red Cloud, NE after her house:
Willa on writing
O Pioneers! still holds up. I found myself moved by it, and it’s short. Cather has a way of summing up loneliness, heartache, longing, compassion, in a few short lines.
I went ahead and got Willa’s collected essays on writing.
Here she tells how she came to write O Pioneers!, her second book:
She wrote in some opposition to the detail-filled writing of Balzac:
Interesting point here:
Red Cloud, Nebraska
Here’s a picture of downtown Red Cloud from Google Maps:
About as solid a Trump country as you will find:
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $26,389, and the median income for a family was $34,038. Males had a median income of $26,364 versus $17,232 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,772. About 8.4% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.
David McCullough has something moving to say about Red Cloud and Willa and her other famous book:
I found O Pioneers! very moving and powerful, let me share with you why:
Warning: O Pioneers! spoiler
Skip this if you intend to read the book with suspense in mind.
But I doubt you will. I found this the most moving passage, and worth all the reading. Let me set it up for you:
Emil, he of the lost cat on page 2, grows up under the guidance of his older sister, Alexandra. She’s really the focus of our story. Carl, the local boy who saves the cat, is in love with her, but he can’t really take it out on the plains, so he goes off, and leaves her behind. She’s left to care for her brothers.
Emil, youngest brother, does great. He goes on to college at the University of Nebraska, while Alexandra stays to watch over the farm. All the while Emil’s been in love with a neighbor girl, Marie. She marries another man, though.
Still, Emil and Marie are in love. Eventually Marie’s husband, Frank Shabata, finds his wife and Emil together. In a crazed rage he murders Marie and Emil both.
Alexandra, alone at age forty, is heartbroken, left adrift at the death of her brother. But still, she feels sympathy for Frank Shabata, who’s been sent to prison in Lincoln for his crime.
Alexandra, lost and in pain, decides to go visit Frank in prison. In afternoon/dusk, after arriving in Lincoln, she wanders the campus of the university, thinking of her murdered brother. Desperate for any kind of connection, she runs into a student:
Walt Whitman Reads: America
The Whitman Recording
The title of O Pioneers! comes from a poem by Walt Whitman.
Some years ago, a recording of Walt Whitman’s voice, said to have been recorded onto an Edison wax cylinder around 1889 or 1890, was rediscovered.
In these times when it seems maybe we lost our way, nationally, it made me feel good to hear this. Forty-six seconds long:
Oh What A Slaughter and Sacagawea’s NicknamePosted: July 11, 2016 Filed under: adventures, America, the American West, women, writing Leave a comment
Getting pretty close to having read all of Larry McMurtry’s nonfiction. LMcM has a rambling, conversational way in these books, I enjoy it. Here is some previous coverage about his book Hollywood, and his road trip book Roads, and the best one of all imo, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.
Oh What A Slaughter is definitely worth a read. A good quality of McMurtry and my all time favorite Evan S. Connell is that they really capture the weirdness of history.
How about this, as McMurtry describes the buildup to the Wounded Knee massacre?:
How can you not like a book that has this in it?
Sacagawea’s Nickname wasn’t as compelling to me.
It collects essays McMurtry wrote for the New York Review Of Books: a couple about Lewis & Clark, one about the great one-armed explorer/surveyor/ethnographer/proto-environmentalist John Wesley Powell:
But for title alone I was def gonna read it. Like every American kid I was taught about Sacagawea in school, whose name we were told was pronounced “Sack-a Jew-ee-uh.”
Imagine my shock years later when my friend Leila, who was schooled in Oregon and thus had some cred on the issue, told me her name was pronounced “Sack Ahj Way.” Well, sure. How could we know? Both Lewis and Clark, Clark especially, were crazy spellers, so their clues are confusing. From Wiki:
Clark used Sahkahgarwea, Sahcahgagwea, Sarcargahwea, and Sahcahgahweah, while Lewis used Sahcahgahwea, Sahcahgarweah, Sahcargarweah, and Sahcahgar Wea.
Anyway let me go ahead and give you a spoiler that Sar car Ja we a’s nickname was Janey.
Something the founders were nonstop ponderingPosted: May 11, 2016 Filed under: America Leave a comment
How did the Roman Republic turn into the Roman Empire?
Their situation was similar in some ways to ours but also different.
THERE! I just wrote a David Brooks column!
I wrote a David Brooks column and it was a success.
Best things about this videoPosted: February 22, 2016 Filed under: America Leave a comment
- fave activity is “to take a little nap”
- “she’s a jokester”
- around 2:46 the woman describing her like she’s a zoo animal. “It was a new experience for her. She was scared, honestly, but she acclimated very quickly.”
Experimental filmPosted: January 20, 2016 Filed under: America, America Since 1945, film Leave a comment
I made a one minute experimental film of Trump watching Sarah Palin talk.
Reality can be hacky!Posted: September 9, 2015 Filed under: America, America Since 1945 Leave a comment
Reading this Jeffrey Goldberg article about Angola prison.
If you tried to come up with a name for a Louisiana prison warden, and you came up with Burl Cain, you would chide yourself for being a little “on the nose.”
E. L. DoctorowPosted: July 22, 2015 Filed under: America, America Since 1945, writing 1 Comment
You once told me that the most difficult thing for a writer to write was a simple household note to someone coming to collect the laundry, or instructions to a cook.
E. L. DOCTOROW
What I was thinking of was a note I had to write to the teacher when one of my children missed a day of school. It was my daughter, Caroline, who was then in the second or third grade. I was having my breakfast one morning when she appeared with her lunch box, her rain slicker, and everything, and she said, “I need an absence note for the teacher and the bus is coming in a few minutes.” She gave me a pad and a pencil; even as a child she was very thoughtful. So I wrote down the date and I started, Dear Mrs. So-and-so, my daughter Caroline . . . and then I thought, No, that’s not right, obviously it’s my daughter Caroline. I tore that sheet off, and started again. Yesterday, my child . . . No, that wasn’t right either. Too much like a deposition. This went on until I heard a horn blowing outside. The child was in a state of panic. There was a pile of crumpled pages on the floor, and my wife was saying, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this.” She took the pad and pencil and dashed something off. I had been trying to write the perfect absence note. It was a very illuminating experience. Writing is immensely difficult. The short forms especially.
from here of course.
The only Doctorow I read is this one, which is great:
I also read the beginning of this one:
Billy Bathgate has a lot of sexy stuff in it that I really appreciated at the time (16?). Both books start with one guy violently taking the woman of another guy as the other guy is more or less forced to watch. It’s pretty primal and intense shit. Welcome To Hard Times was even a little too much for me.
Well, it can be anything. It can be a voice, an image; it can be a deep moment of personal desperation. For instance, with Ragtime I was so desperate to write something, I was facing the wall of my study in my house in New Rochelle and so I started to write about the wall. That’s the kind of day we sometimes have, as writers. Then I wrote about the house that was attached to the wall. It was built in 1906, you see, so I thought about the era and what Broadview Avenue looked like then: trolley cars ran along the avenue down at the bottom of the hill; people wore white clothes in the summer to stay cool. Teddy Roosevelt was President. One thing led to another and that’s the way that book began: through desperation to those few images. With Loon Lake, in contrast, it was just a very strong sense of place, a heightened emotion when I found myself in the Adirondacks after many, many years of being away . . . and all this came to a point when I saw a sign, a road sign: Loon Lake. So it can be anything.
For describing J. P. Morgan, for an example, did you spend a great deal of time in libraries?
The main research for Morgan was looking at the great photograph of him by Edward Steichen.
Google Image Search “Morgan by Edward Steichen”:
Gay Hobo SlangPosted: February 27, 2015 Filed under: America, sexuality, the American West Leave a comment
At Helytimes we love to get submissions for our roving correspondents. Longtime friend of the blog Mat W. sends in this item:
A good many years ago, I was a pretty faithful reader of Alex Ross’s blog The Rest Is Noise (title later cannibalized for his book, which got him a MacArthur Genius Grant). In those days I had a pretty boring job and would read almost anything on the internet that made it through the security filter of the company where I worked. A lot of what Ross had to say made little sense since I didn’t (and still don’t) know much about music, but I would still skim the posts and found a few good bits and bobs.
One day, I came across this post:
http://www.therestisnoise.com/2004/10/interesting_pie.html“Gay hobo subculture”!? WHA?! Of course long-time readers of Hely Times may recall Smokestack Adrian, but I was intrigued. At the time, searches of the internet didn’t turn up much. I did learn a little bit more about it in George Chauncey’s great Gay New York, but it offers a pretty light treatment, though the subject of the book, I suppose, required only a glancing discussion.
However, I recently found a great book, called Gay Talk: A (Sometimes Outrageous) Dictionary of Gay Slang. It’s by a guy named Bruce Rodgers, and was published in 1972 (under a different title, I believe). It is GREAT and really reaches back into the pre-Stonewall era for lots of verbal treasures. Guess what a Veronica’s Veil is, you guys!
AND while paging through I found a whole entry on the hobo! Rather than type up the highlights, I’ll just include a picture of the entry for all you candy kids out there.
The story of CahokiaPosted: October 29, 2014 Filed under: adventures, America, history, UNESCO 2 Comments
Anyone who traveled up the Mississippi in 1100 A.D. would have seen it looming in the distance: a four-level earthen mound bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza. Around it like echoes were as many as 120 smaller mounds, some topped by tall wooden palisades, which were in turn ringed by a network of irrigation and transportation canals; carefully located fields of maize; and hundreds of wooden homes with mud-and-straw plastered floors and high-peaked, deeply thatched roofs like those on traditional Japanese farms.
Located near the confluence of the Missouri, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers, the Indian city of Cahokia was a busy port. Canoes flitted like hummingbirds across its waterfront: traders bringing copper and mother-of-pearl from faraway places; hunting parties bringing such rare treats as buffalo and elk; emissaries and soldiers in long vessels bristling with weaponry; workers ferrying wood from upstream for the ever hungry cookfires; the ubiquitous fishers with their nets and clubs. Covering five square miles and housing at least fifteen hundred people, Cahokia was the biggest concentration of people north of the Rio Grande until the 18th century.
That is from the great Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Every American should read it.
Cahokia is very close to St. Louis – it’s about thirty miles away between what’s now East St. Louis and Collinsville, IL.
I wanted to visit, but I didn’t have a car. I explained the predicament to the Ethiopian taxi driver who picked me up at the airport. I asked him if he’d pick me up, take me there, wait an hour and take me back. So the next morning he took me out there. He and I visited the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center and Museum together. We watched the award-winning 17 minute movie. Cahokia Mounds is one of only 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the US, and they do a nice job.
“It was very interesting,” agreed the cab driver.
The idea that native Americans built cities was and remains a challenging ideas to different views of what life was like here before 1492. It fights with both 19th century views of Indians as primitive savages, and later ideas that they were chilled out wanderers in perfect harmony with nature.
How many people lived at Cahokia?
6,000, say some archaeologists, 40,000 say others. Charles Mann is really good at sorting through competing views of numbers, and if he says 1500 I’m prepared to believe him. In the grandest view, the museum’s view, at one time Cahokia looked like this:
and like this:
How did Cahokia emerge?
Cahokia archaeology is wildly controversial. But it seems like there’s more or less consensus that Cahokia grew up around the year 1000 in a “big bang.” Here’s Mann:
As the millennium approached, the American Bottom had a resident population of several thousand. Then, without much apparent warning, there was, according to the archaeologist Timothy R. Pauketat of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, what has been called a “Big Bang” – a few decades of tumultuous change.
To his way of thinking, the Big Bang occurred after a single ambitious person seized power, perhaps in a coup. Although his reign may have begun idealistically, Cahokia quickly became an autocracy; in an Ozymandic extension of his ego, the supreme leader set in motion the construction projects.
Don’t worry: there’s lots of arguing already:
[William] Woods [of U. Kansas, who spent 20 years excavating the mounds] disagrees with what he calls the “proto-Stalinist work camp” scenario. Nobody was forced to erect Monks Mound, he says. Despite the intermittent displays of coercion, he says, Cahokians put it up “because they wanted to.”
Who knows? Julian Jaynes might say that these people just started building because the two hemispheres of their brain weren’t yet in alignment so they heard voices like schizophrenics:
But that’s a topic for another day.
At the Cahokia gift shop, I picked up a copy of Pauketat’s book:
It’s terrific, just the right length. Pauketat says:
Civilizations can rise and fall, to adapt Margaret Mead’s famous quotation, as a result of the actions of a small group of people combined with the inaction of many others. Making sense of these actions and inacations can be a difficult task for archaeologists, who must distinguish between how people lived and how they wanted to be perceived as living. Cahokia’s big bang is a case study in how people can combine to great historical change.
OK, groovy – but why did this happen around the year 1000? If I can jump ahead in Pauketat’s story: This combination of the cultural power of immigrants and the economic base of Old Cahokia [don’t worry about that], with its access to large amounts of easy-to-farm river bottom, was a recipe for explosive growth. That explosion might have been sparked early one morning in 1054.
On that morning, recorded by a Chinese astrologer as July 4, a brilliant new luminary appeared in the sky. It was a “guest star,” a supernova, a visitor in the constellation Taurus, visible today with a high-powered telescope as the Crab Nebula. One of only fifty supernovas ever recorded – only three in our own Milky Way galaxy* – this nuclear detonation was the last gasp of a dying star. The inaudible explosion discharged a billion times more energy than the small star had previously emitted, and that morning a brilliant beacon – four times brighter than Venus – appeared in the daylight adjacent to a crescent moon…
Whatever i might have meant to the native peoples, a New Mexican Mimbres valley potter commemorated the celestial event by painting a pot with a star ad the foot of a crescent-shaped rabbit, a representation of the rabbit many indigenous North Americans believed resided in the moon. Ancient rock art in Arizona also appears to illustrate the supernova, as do petrogylphs in Missouri, which show the moon and supernova astride rabbit tracks. And in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, a map of the night sky in July 1054 was painted on the sandstone cliffs above a palatial-sized, multi-story Great House called Penasco Blanco, under construction at about the same time in the middle of the eleventh century. The pictograph shows the exploding star next to a crescent moon and a human hand, the later possibly representing a group of stars still known among Plains Indians today as the Hand constellation. Also in Chaco Canyon, construction began around this time on a massive new kiva, an underground ceremonial building, now called Casa Rinconada, just south of the largest Great House, Pueblo Bonito.
Pause for a sec. This is a sexy theory: a supernova creates a new star, and everyone goes into a religious building frenzy. But let’s take a look at the Penasco Blanco petroglyph. Here is is, in a photo by Ron Lussier:
Could it be that we’re stretching things a BIT here? That star/moon pattern appears in other petrogylphs that weren’t from the 1054 period.
Anyway, here’s some things we do know about Cahokia:
They had human sacrifices.
Pakutet, talking about Cahokia’s “Mound 72”:
Over the next four summers, Fowler’s crew turned up pit after pit and row after row of human skeletons in other parts of the mound. The lengths and widths of the pits were precisely suited to contain exactly the number of bodies interred within them. The excavation of the largest pit was supervised by Al Meyer, who noticed the telltale signs of a tomb originally lined with logs (which had since disintegrated) as he dug around the pit’s margins downward to the bottom. At the bottom were the remains of fifty-three sacrificed women, fifty-two of whom were young (most between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five). The fifty-third individual was an “elderly” (thirtyish) female, whom Meyer thought of as “the matron,” sparking the notion that she had been the elder wife of some man’s harem. Since there were no skeletal indications of how the women had died, it is likely that they were poisoned or strangled or that their throats had been slit…
the bodies of thirty-nine men and women who had, without a doubt, been executed on the spot. In the dispassionate language of a forensic report, Rose describes: […]
Evidence of violence also distinguishes these burials from the other mass graves. Three individuals had been decapitated prior to being thrown into the pit. The heads were thrown in before the burials were covered. Another male appears to have been incompletely decapitated
They played a game called chunkey.
Man, read about Cahokia and you are gonna hear a lot about chunkey. It was a game where you rolled a stone, and then tried to hit it with a spear. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s all over what little art we have from the Mississippian culture. Pakutet has a lot more patience than me for the differences in various chunkey stones found at Mississippian sites:
Anthropologists seem to think that this was the same game native Americans were playing seven centuries later when whites first saw them. Said Swiss painter Rudolf Kurz, who was traveling around:
they bet high; here you may see a savage come and bring all his skins, stake them and lose them, next his pipe, his beads, trinkets and ornaments; at last his blankets and other garments, and even all their arms, and after all that is is not uncommon for them to go home, borrow a gun and shoot themselves; an instance of this happened in 1771 at East Yasoo a short time before my arrival.
I’m telling you, the guys who get into Cahokia get deep into chunkey:
Emerson took the next step. He worked with a geologist and an archaeometric specialist to develop, with the aid of the National Science Foundation, a new short-wave, infrared-light-beam method of measuring the mineral composition of rock. Their device is called a Portable Infrared Mineral Analyzer (PIMA for short) and has the advantage of being able to precisely measure a specimen’s mineralogy without damaging it. Functioning like a ray gun, the PIMA is powerful enough to determine where the Chunkey Player pipe and two dozen other Cahokia-style objects were made. Between 2000 and 2003, Emerson and his team published their results: the red stone sculptures were made not from bauxite but from a raw material called flintclay, which could have been obtained only at a single source of stone originating from an outcrop as close as twenty miles west of Cahokia.
I gotta say, chunkey does not seem that fun to me that I can understand why they were shooting themselves over it seven centuries after it was invented but I’ve never tried it.
They had massive feasts.
Based on the sheer density of excavated remains, individual feasts that took place over the course of just a few days would have involved killing, butchering, and carting in as many as thirty-nine hundred deer, the use of up to seventy-nine hundred pots, and enough smoking tobacco to produce more than a million charred tobacco seeds.
I have no idea how much tobacco that is. A lot? Worth noting that Charles Mann points out that the tobacco back then was way stronger, possibly even slightly hallucinogenic.
Now as I’m reviewing Pakutet’s book I can’t help but be impressed by how much he likes archaeology. here he is talking about a site that wasn’t even very important, it was basically twelve huts from poor people who lived miles away from Cahokia Central:
The trash itself was impressive, in both amount and type.
Imagine spending years digging up people’s trash from a thousand years ago so you could make discoveries like “THEY ATE DOGS!” and “THEY ATE MOSTLY CORN”!
At Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center they make a big deal out of “borrow pits,” places where they took the dirt to make the mounds. Borrow pits? It’s like: “dude, do you mean holes?”
God bless you, archaeologists. Some of the characters he describes were pretty wild:
[Preston] Holder also joined the armed forces. He signed up with the navy and was sent to fight the Japanese. Years later, he would tell stories about his time as a coast watcher on a small island in the Pacific. The Japanese had established an airbase on one side of the island, he was stationed on the opposite side, and the people of Espiritu Santo, who had practiced head-hunting before the war, were trapped in between. Holder, intrepid archaeologist that he was, apparently convinced the natives to revive their traditional practice, and they began taking heads again, this time preying on the unsuspecting Japanese troops. Holder’s unusual ploy demoralized the Japanese, and when American forces finally retook the island in 1945, the Japanese were all too ready to surrender.
They were into a mythological birdman.
That was the only Birdman image I saw at the Interpretive Center, but artist Herb Roe has painted a more fanciful depiction of the Birdman supposedly crucial to the Mississippian culture or “Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.”
Now, what don’t we know about Cahokia?
What happened to them?
Nobody knows, seems to have collapsed around 1250.
Did they have any connection to the big cities that sprang up in Mexico?
There’s no evidence of it, really, unless you realllllllly stretch the birdman idea. Some of the archaeologists got into the idea that the 52 human sacrifices has something to do with the Mayan calendar, but c’mon bros.
I find the idea of a pre-Columbian city in the what’s now United States fascinating, and the tantalizing, inevitably frustrating effort to sort out what was going on in a place that left no record is a cool mystery. As usual, the history about the history is as good as the history. Here we have archaeologists spending five years digging in the mud of Illinois to try and figure out why people 1000 years ago dug in the mud of Illinois.
On the other hand, what we’re talking about is some piles of dirt.
Anyway, glad someone’s working on it.
By the way, for more on the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, check out this great essay by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
NevisPosted: July 21, 2014 Filed under: America Leave a comment
Everybody knows Alexander Hamilton was born there, but did you know this?
United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has a vacation home on Nevis. In February 2012 he was robbed in his home at machete-point.
Happy Fourth, everybodyPosted: July 4, 2014 Filed under: America Leave a comment
Here’s those lousy Brits marching into Concord:
as rendered by patriot Amos Doolittle, who wasn’t there but turned up a few weeks or so later and visited the sites. Here’s those same Brits retreating:
Thank goodness we don’t have to put up with that bullshit anymore.
The young Trumbull entered the 1771 junior class at Harvard College at age fifteen and graduated in 1773. Due to a childhood accident, Trumbull lost use of one eye, which may have influenced his detailed painting style.
Am I allowed to say this?Posted: May 29, 2014 Filed under: America Leave a comment
Against my better judgment I watched a few minutes of the UCSB shooter’s video.
He seemed gay to me.
Is that a thing that can or should be discussed? Even if for no other reason than to suggest that the pathology of killers might be much weirder and more complicated than we might like to think? (Because don’t we all crave easily comprehended narratives? Especially when something this awful happens?)
Can I not say it because it’s offensive to say a despicable person “seems” gay when what I mean is just I’m making a guess, a hunch based on no actual evidence, based only on a subjective perception, so subconscious I can’t even articulate it? And thus it’s skewed somehow, I can’t even know in which ways, by cultural biases, assumptions, and cruel stereotypes?
I don’t know.
Whenever I go to the source document of a story I discover or at least begin to perceive some complexity that has not survived the filtering down to me.
In this case, let me do it for you. Let me save you an unpleasant experience and bring back the information that my perception, watching a few minutes of this guy, was that his sexual conflicts and confusions may not have been what he said they were, that he might have been deluded and confused sexually beyond just the ways he claimed he was.
Dianne FeinsteinPosted: May 28, 2014 Filed under: America Leave a comment
Helytimes isn’t usually the place for politics. But we’re easing back in here after a long hiatus, and something this morning got my engines a li’l fired.
A perfectly nice person who’s my friend on Facebook posted this:
Now I’m a sane person who values his time. Not gonna comment on some guy’s Facebook post certainly.
But this one did get me steamed.
I don’t know what specific quote this is referring to, if any, where Dianne Feinstein maybe claimed she’s a gun expert because she looked at lots of pictures of guns. No source is cited except a link to the “Cold Dead Hands Guitars, Guns And Posters Giveaway Contest.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Dianne Feinstein specifically mentioned as a villain to anti-gun control folks.
What got me steamed is that Dianne Feinstein is a terrible, terrible target to pick – pardon the metaphor – in an anti-gun control crusade.
I know hardly anything about Dianne Feinstein.
Except, one of the few things I know about her is that SHE SURVIVED A WORKPLACE GUN MASSACRE.
On November 27, 1978, disgruntled* ex-City Board of Supervisors member Dan White went to San Francisco City Hall and shot the Mayor, George Moscone twice in the chest and then twice in the head. Then he went over and shot Supervisor Harvey Milk.
From a San Francisco Gate article on the anniversary of the shootings:
[Feinstein’s] office was on the other side of City Hall. She heard a door slam in Milk’s office, heard shots, saw the killer run out, went in herself and found Harvey Milk’s body. “I put my finger to see if there was any pulse, and it went in a bullet hole in his chest,” she said the other day. “I think of it as if it were yesterday. I remember Harvey’s body, his blood on me. I see it all.”**
With the Mayor now dead, Dianne Feinstein, president of the Board of Supervisors, became the acting mayor.
Here she is that day, around 2:30:
That’s how she became mayor. You might say it was the major event in her political life. In fact, if you truly hated Dianne Feinstein, then maybe you should become a gun control advocate, maybe if there’d been more gun control she would’ve just stayed as a San Francisco local politician.
Oh, also, separate incidents: some people once shot out the windows of Dianne Feinstein’s beach house (she’s super rich) and one time somebody put a bomb outside Dianne Feinstein’s window. San Francisco was pretty weird in the 1970s. With all that weirdness in the air, you know what Dianne Feinstein did? Dianne Feinstein used to carry a pistol in her purse for safety.***
What makes you an expert on guns? Shooting a lot of guns? Knowing a lot about the mechanics, makes, models and varieties of guns? Yes, that’s a kind of expertise.
But I dunno, in my opinion if you survive a gun massacre you get a little bit of cred on the issue of gun massacres.
My point is I wish there were some easily digestible and sharable video in which Dianne Feinstein herself made this point in such a clear, pointed manner, shutting down some chump for reals, slamming somebody who is obviously ignorant of her history with guns and gun massacres. But I can’t find it.
Maybe my point is I wish The West Wing was still on, so Toby or Josh or best yet Leo could sum this up in a much punchier, pithier way than I ever could.
Helytimes will return to regular broadcasting as soon as possible! Here’s a picture of a church in the Atacama desert of Chile, no filtah.
* “You always hear about ‘disgruntled.’ Is anyone ever ‘gruntled’?” – Seinfeld maybe? Or did I make this one up?
** the account of this event on this wikipedia page seems to be slightly inconsistent with the cited source, Randy Shilts’ book The Mayor Of Castro Street.
*** Mayor of Castro Street p. 207
Simpler and better.Posted: January 24, 2014 Filed under: America Leave a comment
John Ehrlichman, from the doc “Our Nixon” (avail on Netflix Instant). I’d say this doc is “fascinating” but I’m already super interested in Nixon so please, be aware of my bias.
Following his release from prison, Ehrlichman held a number of jobs, first for a quality control firm, then writer, artist and commentator. Ehrlichman wrote several novels, including The Company, which served as the basis for the 1977 television miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors. He served as the executive vice-president of an Atlanta hazardous materials firm. In a 1981 interview, Ehrlichman referred to Nixon as “a very pathetic figure in American history.” His experiences in the Nixon administration were published in his 1982 book, Witness To Power. The book portrays Nixon in a very negative light, and is considered to be the culmination of his frustration at not being pardoned by Nixon prior to his own 1974 resignation. Shortly before his death, Ehrlichman teamed with best-selling novelist Tom Clancy to write, produce, and co-host a three-hour Watergate documentary, John Ehrlichman: In the Eye of the Storm.
(Idea occurred to me watching “Our Nixon”: JFK hired people who were extremely confident, raised in/part of “the establishment.” Nixon hired people who were extremely insecure, embittered and aggrieved with “the establishment.” Danger with both.)