Category Archives: Book reviews

On the Louvin Brothers – “spelled S-I-N?”

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Earlier this week – a Tuesday morning heading into Fayetteville for some shopping – I heard a song, “Cash on the Barrelhead.” The song, courtesy of my Sirius bluegrass station,* was by the Louvin Brothers, and I knew them from previous experience. That “brotherly” association brought back some bad memories. As it turns out, I’m way more familiar with another song the Louvin Brothers did, “That word broad-minded is spelled s-i-n.”

Which means that – to the Louvin Brothers – any good Christian has to be narrow minded. But that to me is perversion of the Gospel… 

But anyway, the Brothers recorded their “s-i-n” song in 1952. The lyrics read in part: “I read in my Bible, they shall not enter in. For Jesus will answer, Depart, I never knew you.” Which is a “Christian sentiment” that I’ve always found incongruous, if not ironic. Like when the song’s refrain repeats, over and over, “That word broadminded is spelled s-i-n.”

But just to clear things up, that “depart, I never knew you” quote came from Matthew 7:23. And Matthew Chapter 7 starts off with Jesus saying: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And Chapter 7 goes on to talk about the narrow and the wide gates, about true and false prophets, and about true and false disciples.

In turn, the sentiment in the “s-i-n” song could be one big reason why – for the first time since the 1930s – fewer than half of Americans belong to a church, mosque or synagogue. That is, because of false disciples either perverting the Gospel or creating God in their own image, not the the other way around. And as far as that “wide gate” goes, I’m thinking the people who enter that wide gate are the ones who turn way too conservative in their theology, especially as they get older. (Which is such an easy trap to fall into.) It’s much more difficult to enter the narrow gate by remaining – even in old age – independent and open-minded, like Moses and Jesus and Paul. (“Oh my!” To which I could add, “Me too!”)

Then there’s John 6:37, where Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And there’s Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And finally, for your “secular” consideration, there’s 2d Timothy, Chapter 2, which tells of “dealing with false teachers.”

[T]he Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil…

That’s from 2d Timothy, Chapter 2, verses 24-26. And speaking of devil-snares, Ira Louvin certainly had demons of his own to deal with. (But then, who am I to “cast the first stone?”)

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To get back on track, Charlie and Ira – the “Louvins” – were born Loudermilk brothers. “After becoming regulars at the Grand Ole Opry and scoring a string of hit singles in the late 1950s,” those brothers broke up as a duo in 1963. Mainly because Charlie grew tired of “Ira’s addictions and reckless behavior.” Or see the Wikipedia article on Ira:

Ira was notorious for his drinking and short temper. He married four times, his third wife having shot him multiple times in the chest and hand after he allegedly beat her. He died on June 20, 1965 when a drunken driver struck his car in Williamsburg, Missouri. At the time, a warrant for Louvin’s arrest had been issued on a DUI charge.

I first wrote about these brothers in a companion blog, listed in the notes. The gist of that post – from 2014 – was that there was a vast difference between Ira Louvin’s “public and private persona.” (“Do as I say, not as I do.*”) I noted that that difference “could be spelled ‘h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e,’” rather than “s-i-n.” (Then added, “but that would be a bit too snippy for this Blog.”) 

I ended up concluding, “Suffice it to say, Ira was merely human, like the rest of us.”

But then – being broad-minded rather than narrow-minded – I recently changed my tune a bit. I ended up feeling kind of sorry for ol’ Ira, mainly because of the web article, The Bloody Ballad of Charlie and Ira Louvin | PopMatters. It’s a review of the book Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers, by Charlie Louvin, in association with Benjamin Whitmer.

As children … Charlie and Ira experienced their share of Hell on Earth. Their father, himself the son of a cruel drunk, turned his violence on his sons. Ira, being the oldest son, received the worst of beatings that used feet, fists, switches, pieces of furniture, logs — anything within reach if their father was angry enough — to put him within spitting distance of death’s door at least once.

Then there was the story of the “mutt puppies that resulted from the boys sneaking a bulldog in to breed with a prized bloodhound.” The cruel-drunk father told Charlie to “put them in a sack and brain them against a fence post to kill them.”

Which led to another dark note, of Louvin-Whitmer concluding that “the alcoholism and self-destructiveness that defines Ira seems inevitable, given his grandfather’s drunkenness, his father’s cruelty, and Ira’s mix of insecurity and rebellion.” Which led to another conclusion, that their music – their musical careers – ended up being the Louvin Brothers’ “only ticket out of a life of back-breaking work and abuse.”

Which may be why their music turned out to be so popular; why that music struck a chord with so many people. As the “Satan is real” book review noted, the story of the Louvin Brothers was one of “a mid-century Southern gothic Cain and Abel,” who turned out to be “one of the greatest country duos of all time.” One newspaper called them “the most influential harmony team in the history of country music.” On the other hand, Emmylou Harris said, more succinctly, “there was something scary and washed in the blood about the sound of the Louvin Brothers.”

In short, theirs is a “raw and powerful story of the [country-music] duo that everyone from Dolly Parton to Gram Parsons described as their favorites.” Which reminds me…

A couple Christmas seasons ago, before Covid, I went to a concert at Saint Mark’s UMC – Atlanta, featuring the Trey Clegg Singers. They had a guest singer, whose name I can’t remember. But his performance reminded me of William Warfield singing “Old Man River” at New York City’s Lincoln Center in 1966. (I was 15 at the time.) Each time I remember thinking, “There was a lot of pain that went into making that voice so beautiful.” And so it was with the Louvins.

In the meantime, we all have our own demons to deal with…

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The upper image is courtesy of Making God In Our Image – Image Results. And by the way, the quote is attributed to other people besides Mark Twain. Another note. The ggogle search “making God in our image” got me close to six million results. Also, much of this post was gleaned from a May 2014 post on a companion blog, On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n.” For more detail on the song itself, see Cash on the Barrelhead and The Louvin Brothers – Wikipedia.

Re: “Cash … barrelhead.” That was “on the way into Fayetteville,” Georgia. And it was the Sirius XM bluegrass station.

Re: “Broadminded.” See Louvin Brothers – Broadminded … SongMeanings.

The Van Gogh image is courtesy of Narrow Minded Image – Image Results. In case you can’t see it, the text reads, “It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent.” It came with an article from AZ Quotes, with other Narrow-Minded quotes.

Re: Decrease in church membership. See for example Gallup: Fewer than Half of Americans Belong to a Church.

Re: Whose image? See Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image. (Not the other way around.)

Re: Moses and Jesus and Paul. (“Oh my!”) See Lions and tigers and bears oh my – Idioms by The Free Dictionary.

Re: “Do as I say,” etc. See also Matthew 23:3 “So practice and observe everything they tell you,” on the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time, with the note, “they don’t practice what they preach.”

The St. Mark’s in question is at 781 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta. (Around the corner from the “Sivas Hookah Lounge.”)

Re: 1966 revival of Showboat. See SHOWBOAT LINCOLN CENTER CAST – COOK,BARBARA – 090266118229 | HPB.

The lower image is courtesy of Louvin Brothers Broadminded S-i-n Images – Image Results.

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A reminder: Great politicians STILL sell hope…

PHOTO: Chris Matthews of MSNBC waits to go on the air inside the spin room at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino after the Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Chris Matthews didabruptly resign,” but his truth still remains: Great politicians sell hope…”

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I just got back from a lightning, one-week mini-vacation. First to Rockville Maryland for my grandson’s wedding, then to Pigeon Forge Tennessee for a family get-together. (Including a day-visit to Dollywood, illustrated at left.) I got back home late last Thursday (6/10/21), and over the course of a Recuperation Weekend, checked on my blogs. My last post on this blog – “(Some of) the music of my life” – happened back on May 20, 2021. So another blog-post is long overdue.

Looking for an easy past-post to review, I went back to June, 2015. There I found “Great politicians sell hope,” a post based on a 2007 Chris Matthews book, Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success.

Unfortunately, Chris himself has run into some hard times since then. Some of the gory details are in the notes, but suffice it to say that even though he had to resign under a cloud, what he said in his 2007 book still rings true. The truly great politicians still sell hope…

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Now, about that idea that “Great Politicians Sell Hope:” When I first heard Matthews make that claim – back in 2015 – I thought, “What rock have you been living under?“ But in his book Chris noted that our best presidents – including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan – were able to “sell themselves” by giving Americans a sense of hope for the future.

So back In 2015 I asked, “What happened? What happened to those presidents who gave Americans a sense of hope for the future?” But since then one big thing happened. (And maybe two or three.) After four tumultuous years of Trump, Joe Biden’s election seemed to offer a glimmer of that hope. And despite ongoing conservative guilt by insinuation TV ads – that they were Socialists, creeping or otherwise – Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock painted Georgia blue.

But we digress. Back to the Chris Matthews book. The 2015 post told how I reviewed it, which led me to think this: “Maybe today’s politicians seem especially nasty because so many voters they’re trying to woo are turning nasty.” Maybe today’s politicians just reflect the “nastiness that seems to have taken hold of a large part of our population.” Then came this quote:

C. P. Snow believes that Western society has become an argument culture (The Two Cultures). In The Argument Culture (1998), Deborah Tannen suggests that the dialogue of Western culture is characterized by a warlike atmosphere in which the winning side has truth (like a trophy). Such a dialogue virtually ignores the middle alternatives.

That quote came from a link in the post, and seems as good an explanation as any, and especially the part about ignoring “middle alternatives.” Today’s politics do seem to trend to the extreme, and in the process avoid any middle or compromise alternatives. On that note, the Amazon blurb for Tannen’s book said “in the argument culture, war metaphors pervade our talk and influence our thinking. We approach anything we need to accomplish as a fight between two opposing sides.” Rather than the traditional American spirit of compromise

Former President Ronald Reagan (right) talks with House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) in the Oval Office of the White House in November 1985. | AP PhotoHowever, not that long ago even great political arch-enemies Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan – at right – could meet over a drink when the day’s battles were over. And Ted Kennedy could do the same. Even though the two were political arch-enemies, Kennedy admired the fact that Reagan “knew how to manipulate symbols for his causes yet could sup with his enemies:”

He’s absolutely professional. When the sun goes down, the battles of the day are really gone.  He gave the Robert Kennedy Medal, which President Carter refused to do… He’s very sure of himself, and I think that people sense that he’s comfortable with himself… He had a philosophy and he’s fought for it. There’s a consistency and continuity at a time when many others are flopping back and forth. And that’s an important and instructive lesson for politicians, that people admire that.

Which is another way of saying O’Neill, Reagan, and Kennedy all personified that traditional American spirit of compromise: “If politics is the art of the possible, compromise is the artistry of democracy… In a democracy, the spirit of the laws depends on the spirit of compromise.”

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Which brings us back to that 2015 “hope” post. It went way long – almost 2,000 words – and talked about things like George Wallace repenting his racism, and how Harry Golden handled the troubled years between 1942 and 1968. (Years which included McCarthyism Vietnam War protests, and the Civil Rights Movement.) And how through it all, Golden “kept a sense of hope and a sense of humor.” And how Carl Sandburg once wrote that it must have been someone like Golden who was “in the mind of the Yankee, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote:  “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” (Words that I try to live by…)

And finally, that 2015 “hope” post started and ended with the wisdom noted in the cartoon below, that in “bad times or hopelessness, it is more worthwhile to do some good, however small, in response than to complain about the situation.” And to the article, Better to light a single candle. And that great bloggers – like great politicians – should also work harder on “selling hope.”

Which is just what I’ll keep trying to do…

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The upper image is courtesy of Chris Matthews abruptly resigns from MSNBC following controversial comments, with the subhed, “The anchor apologized for sexist remarks before unexpectedly signing off.” See also Chris Matthews resigns from ‘Hardball,’ apologies for inappropriate comments. (Both from March 2020.) The gist of story is summarized in the Wikipedia article, including:

In October 2016, political journalist Laura Bassett appeared on Matthew’s program to comment on sexual assault allegations against then candidate Donald Trump. In February 2020, Bassett alleged that prior to that program, Matthews made inappropriate remarks about her makeup, clothing, and dating life. As she was having her television studio makeup applied, Matthews purportedly asked her: “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?” Bassett claims that when she laughed nervously and said nothing, Matthews followed up to the makeup artist with: “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.” 

All of which seems pretty tame these “A.T.” days (After Trump), compared to both comments and actions by recent politicians. (And tame as well to some comments I used to make when I was young and obnoxious.) The article added, “Following his resignation, Matthews garnered well-wishes from professional colleagues in the news media and others, including from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who noted Matthews’s willingness to “criticize the neocon pro-war agenda.”

Another note: In researching this post I temporarily got Chris Wallace mixed up with the Chris Matthews, the actual author of “Great politicians sell hope.” In the process I discovered recent stories about Chris Wallace, including Fox News’ Chris Wallace Confronts Mike Pompeo on Trump Admin Not Being Tough on Russia, and Chris Wallace Challenges Pompeo: You ‘Had Almost a Year’ to Prove Lab Leak Theory. Which means I may be doing a new post on Wallace himself…

Re: “argument culture.” The full title of Deborah Tannen‘s book is The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. Tannen wrote an earlier book, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (1990). According to Amazon, in that earlier book “Tannen showed why talking to someone of the opposite sex can be like talking to someone from another world.”

The lower – “stupid darkness” – cartoon image is courtesy of You Stupid Darkness! | Kurtis Scaletta’s Site, with links to comics.com/peanuts, “one of the most amazing but little-known Internet resources.”  See also lightasinglecandle.wordpress.com, and The 5 Greatest (newspaper) Comic Strips Of All Time.

See also Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness – Quote, and Better to Light a Candle Than Curse the Darkness | Psychology Today. The former noted the saying may be attributed to numerous sources, including – but not limited to – Eleanor Roosevelt, Confucius, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, and/or Charles Schulz. The latter offered three ways to overcome anxiety and find greater hope: “As we face the COVID pandemic, political unrest, economic challenges, and multiple crises, many of us are feeling anxious, uncertain, lost in darkness.”

John Paul Jones – Admiral of the Russian Navy?

September 23, 1779 – Battle between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis, off Flamborough Head

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Here’s a break in the action from way too many political posts…

This past Saturday morning I ran across my paperback copy of John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy, by Evan Thomas. (I bought it second-hand four or five years ago.) That reminded me of a post I did back in June 2016, On John Paul Jones’ CLOSEST call. The “CLOSEST call” part had to do with Jones being accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.

But the really strange part came in finding out that – at the time – Jones was serving in the Russian navy. And here we’ve been told all along that he was the Father of the American Navy. So first a word about this better-known aspect of John Paul Jones.

That is, most people know John Paul Jones as the American naval hero of the Revolution.

That included his signal victory over the British man-of-war HMS Serapis, in the Battle of Flamborough Head, seen at right. Jones commanded the Bonhomme Richard, “originally an East Indiaman.” That is, it was a merchant ship that had been jury rigged into an ad hoc Navy vessel.

As a result of that hours-long battle, the Bonhomme Richard sank, and Jones had to make the captured Serapis his new flagship. But in the latter part of the battle he is supposed to have said, “I have not yet begun to fight.” That was said to happen when the commander of the Serapis called out, asking Jones if he was ready to  “strike the colours;” i.e., to surrender. Evan Thomas indicated Jones probably didn’t say that.

What Jones apparently did say – late in the battle – was: “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!” And in his official report, Jones merely said he had answered “in the most determined negative.” Which is definitely not as colorful, but we digress…

Back to why Jones joined the Russian navy.

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, but as late as 1787 – four years later – Jones was still trying to get the prize money due him from the war. (He was growing increasingly disgruntled with the American Congress. “Go figure!”) Accordingly, he decided to leave the country and enter the service of the Empress Catherine II of Russia. She commissioned him a rear admiral, and so he was known in the Russian Navy as “Kontradmirál Pavel Dzhones.”

For more on why he ended up an admiral in the Russian navy, see John Paul Jones – Russiapedia Foreigners in Russia. For one thing, in 1785 the U.S. banned privateering. That was the practice of a non-naval ship – and captain – “engag[ing] in maritime warfare” under a a letter of marque. (By which Jones should have collected prize money.) Further, Congress refused to promote Jones to the rank of admiral.

At the same time, war was brewing between Russia and Turkey. SoCatherine the Great, Empress of Russia (at left), decided to recruit Jones. In doing so she “broke her own rules,” including the usual practice of reducing foreign officers in rank:

The Russian ambassador received an urgent order to recruit Jones to the Russian Navy. ‘This man,” she said “will enter Constantinople…” However, Jones’ extraordinary reputation and ability forced Catherine II to break her own rules, instead promoting him to the rank of Rear-Admiral and giving him command of the flagship Vladimir.

Jones did have some initial success. However, “being a foreigner, he was constantly surrounded by suspicion, jealousy, and intrigues in which he refused to participate.” As such he found himself quickly out of favor with his commanding officer, Grigory Potemkin. Potemkin – said to be Catherine the Great’s lover – lobbied for Jones’ “removal behind the scenes.”

Which included what turned out to be a false accusation of rape and/or child molesting.

Read the full story in the first CLOSEST call, which clocked in at 2,122 words. (With extensive notes, as on Catherine’s “open relationships,” with Potempkin and others.) But here are the highlights:

[I]n the Russian navy Jones was also surrounded by people of far lesser ability and courage. And who were extremely jealous of his ability and courage. (Which happens a lot…) Those Russian enemies included Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen… He  in turn “turned the Russian commander Prince Grigory Potëmkin against Jones…” To cut to the chase, “In April 1789 Jones was arrested and accused of raping a [10]-year-old girl named Katerina Goltzwart.”

Such an accusation of “child rape” was bad enough under American law. But under Russian law, anyone convicted of such rape was “to have his head cut off or be sent to the galleys for the rest of his days.” (For all the gory details of the sordid accusation see the June 2016 post.)

But then the truth started to come out…

The 10-year-old girl – who was actually 12 – said the incident occurred while she was “selling butter.” It turned out that “selling butter” was a euphemism for what she was actually selling. And that she’d been “’selling butter’ for quite a while.” Further, one of her best “butter buying” customers included the very same manservant who’d given such damaging testimony against Jones. And finally, the girl’s mother eventually admitted that she’d been “given money by a ‘man with decorations’ in return for telling a damaging story about Jones.”

In other words, it was a setup, a “situation in which someone is deliberately put in a bad position or made to look guilty.” But the damage had been done. Jones was increasingly ostracized by “polite” Russian society. Beyond that, there were problems with a number of British naval officers who the Empress Catherine had also recruited. Those officers “refused to serve under the Pirate Jones.” So in the end, in the “late summer of 1789, Jones left Russia, still resplendent in his beribboned white uniform, but shunned and disgraced.”

From which we can glean at least two key object lessons. One is that many of our hardest-fighting heroes – like John Paul Jones – also have a “penchant for the ladies.” (Which can ofttimes be their undoing in civilian life.) Yet another is that – as a nation – we tend to tear down the very heroes we build up. (Which was one reason Jones left the American navy.)

In the case of John Paul Jones, that meant he died in Paris, in obscurity. He was also buried in obscurity, and it took more than a century to find out where. Not until July 1905 – more than 100 years after he died – was his body finally returned to the United States.

That is, three years after leaving Russia (in 1792), Jones died in Paris. He was buried at the Saint Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. But four years later, the French Revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten.

Then, beginning in 1899, General Horace Porter – then U.S. Ambassador to France – started searching for Jones’ body. (Having only “faulty copies of Jones’s burial record” to go on.) On April 7, 1905, Jones’ body was found and unearthed. In due course it was returned to the U.S. and – on January 26, 1913 – “the Captain’s remains were finally re-interred in a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.”

Apparently just another case of We Build-Up and Then Tear-Down Our Heroes

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To Britons “the pirate Paul Jones,” but to us he’s” Father of the American Navy…”

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The upper image is courtesy of John Paul Jones Painting Serapis Bonhomme Richard Anton O. Fisher – Image Results. Captioned: “‘USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis’ by Anton Otto Fischer.” Some text on the battle was gleaned from Battle of Flamborough Head in the American Revolution

Re: Letter of marque. A “government license in the Age of Sail that authorized a private person, known as a privateer or corsair, to attack and capture vessels of a nation at war with the issuer.”

Re: “War was brewing between Russia and Turkey.” There were actually 12 such wars, extending over 355 years, according to History of the Russo-Turkish wars – Wikipedia. The first one began in 1568, and the last one ended in 1923. “It was one of the longest series of military conflicts in European history,” and generally the wars “ended disastrously for the stagnating Ottoman Empire; conversely they showcased the ascendancy of Russia as a European power.” 

Re: “Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (at left).” The image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is captioned: “Marble statue of Catherine II in the guise of Minerva (1789–1790), by Fedot Shubin.”

Re: “extensive notes, as on Catherine’s “open relationships.” The image is courtesy of Catherine The Great Lovers – Image Results, and more specifically, Catherine The Great Movie Russian – Image Results. I clicked on the “view page” that accompanied the “Russian” image, trying to get some detail on which “Catherine” move it portrayed. Instead I got two messages, one about “hot sexy girls” and a second on how to obtain a Russian bride. It was tough to track down, but apparently the image is from a “movie poster” for some Russian TV series. Beyond that I don’t really care. All I wanted was a good image to accompany the text, and the titles in Russian seemed to best fit the bill.

Re: Jones’ problems in both the American and Russian navies. It didn’t help that – like many fighting men – Jones was inapt at “Imperial politics.” That is, political intrigue.

Re: Grigory Potemkin. See Biography, Villages, & Facts | Britannica, which noted that he “remained friendly” with Catherine, “and his influence was unshaken despite Catherine’s taking subsequent lovers.” See also Who Was Grigory Potemkin, Catherine the Great’s Lover? Some tidbits therefrom: “After she overthrew her husband to take the throne, Catherine never married again – but she found something of a soulmate in Potemkin, who helped her rule for decades.” Then too, “In 1776, they developed an arrangement for an open relationship,” after which “they took other lovers, but retained a strong partnership – both politically and emotionally.”

That’s why I like blogging so much. It’s so educational…

The lower image is courtesy of John Paul Jones – Wikipedia, which included the caption:  “Paul Jones the Pirate,’ British caricature.”  

Note that a caricature is a “rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way…  In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others…  Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary and can serve a political purpose…”

The Mysterious Death of Ashley Wilkes – Revisited

“Yes, Ashley was quite the Ladies’ man – and not just with his ‘cousin’ Melanie Hamilton…” 

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Now that the Trump Era is almost over… (Referring back to my last post, from December 7.)

It’s that time of year to both look back and look forward. To look back at the Trump era – and especially of this past year – and to look forward to a new beginning, in 2021.

But first – here’s a look back at “The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes.” I posted that back on September 1, 2015. I followed that up with Introduction to “Ashley Wilkes,” announcing that I’d just published an E-book, a collection of posts from this blog. The title came from my post earlier in 2015, and it was subtitled:  “And other tales from the ‘Georgia Wasp.’”

More recently, this past November I published a newer E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(Subtitled “Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”) I published that one under a nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” However, I’d published the Wilkes book under “T.D. Scribe.”

Which still sounds strange, even as a pen name, so for reasons including consistency, I just re-published Ashley Wilkes under “James B. Ford.” (Available at Amazon Kindle Books.)

So here’s a look back at that mysterious death, “re-visited.” You can read the whole story in the original post. But since it clocked in at over 3,000 words, here are the highlights. First of all, “Wilkes” – Leslie Howard – was both a hit with the ladies of the time and a suspected British spy. At least the Germans seemed to think so, which is arguably why they shot down BOAC Flight 777, with Howard as a passenger. (From Lisbon to London, “on or about‘ June 1, 1943.”)

One theory for the shoot-down was that Howard was on a top-secret mission – on behalf of Winston Churchill – to persuade Spain’s Francisco Franco not to join the Axis powers. (Germany and Italy. Spain was officially neutral at the time.) Howard’s go-between was said to be Conchita Montenegro (at right), with whom he’d ostensibly had a torrid love affair.

Not to mention his affairs with Tallulah Bankhead and Merle Oberon, two other leading ladies. And while he was said to be something of a ladies’ man, Howard once quipped that he “didn’t chase women but … couldn’t always be bothered to run away” from them either. And by the way, “Conchita” later claimed that she “used her husband’s influence” to secure a meeting between Howard and Franco’s “caudillo while Howard was in Spain on a lecture tour to promote film in May, 1943.” (Talk about broad-minded…)

Another theory had it that the Germans were really after Winston Churchill. He was flying back to London via the same or a similar route about the same time. Churchill had just spent a month in North Africa. The North Africa Campaign was just ending, and Allied leaders were planning the invasion of Sicily and Italy. The normal stop-over for such trips from North Africa to London was Lisbon, in ostensibly-neutral Portugal. (Often via Gibraltar.)

And during the war, Lisbon was a hotbed of “trade, conspiracy, and subterfuge.” (Lisbon was the destination of refugees in the movie Casablanca.) And German spies saw two men who looked like Churchill and his bodyguard at the Lisbon airport. But by a strange coincidence, Lesley Howard was said to resemble Churchill’s lone bodyguard. At the same time, Howard’s “close friend and business manager, Alfred Chenhalls,” was said to resemble Churchill:

A long-standing hypothesis states that the Germans believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was on board the flight. Churchill, in his autobiography, expressed sorrow that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life.

Another note: His airliner was shot down some nine months after the release of his 1942 movie Spitfire. That came three years after Howard starred in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. (A poster for “Spitfire” is at left.) That 1942 movie was originally called The First of the Few in Britain. (The name was changed to “Spitfire” for American audiences.) Howard played “R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Supermarine Spitfire.”

The British title alluded to Winston Churchill‘s speech attributing victory in the Battle of Britain to “the few.”  (That is, the few men who piloted British fighters in the battle, and especially those who flew the Spitfire.)  As Churchill put it, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Less than nine months later after “Spitfire’s” release, Howard’s airliner was attacked by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft. The airliner – with 16 other passengers and crew – was attacked some 500 miles west of Bordeaux. The plane – or parts of it – came down in the Bay of Biscay, 200 miles north of La Coruña, on the far northwestern tip of Spain.

As to why the Luftwaffe shot down the airliner, here’s what Wikipedia said of Howard:

He was active in anti-German propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence, which may have led to his death in 1943[.  He] was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death.

Meanwhile, Churchill and his plane may have been saved because of bad weather. His original plan was to change planes in Gibraltar. Instead of transferring to a more-comfortable Pan American Boeing 314 Clipper – also known as the Pan Am “Flying Boat” – he had to continue his flight to London on a bomber. That plane was the definitely uncomfortable B-24 Liberator.

So there may be a lesson there. As the old proverb goes: “Better to continue on in discomfort, rather than getting your ass shot down by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft!”

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The upper and lower images are courtesy of Ashley Wilkes – Image Results. For other image sources see the original post(s) from 2015.

On the old (2015) “For a book version…”

 

An editor’s note:  I originally did this post – on a book about the “mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes” – in 2015. It was a “Page” link – along with ABOUT THAT “WASP” NAME and ABOUT THE BLOG – at the top of the main page. This was shortly after I published “The Mysterious Death of Ashley Wilkes,” discussed below.  Again, that was in October 2015, which gives you an idea how long it’s been since I’ve published a book.

But then in November 2020 I published a new book, described in the post “On ‘(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.'” Which brings up at least one note: The nom de plume I used for the 2015 Ashley Wilkes book was “T.D. Scribe.” (Short for “The DOR Scribe.”)

Since then I’ve been using a new pen name, “James B. Ford.” And for the record, I’ll be re-publishing “Mysterious Death” and some other books under that fake name under the newer “James B. Ford.” But for now you can go to Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks and type in “James B. Ford” to locate the blurb on “Adventures in Old Age.” Meanwhile here’s the original 2015 “For a book version:”]

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[From October 2015:] I just published a collection of posts from this blog.  (As noted in the Introduction to “Ashley Wilkes.”) The title of the book came from a post I did back on September 1.  (The “strange” death of Ashley Wilkes – and other tales from the Georgia Wasp.)

The cover features the poster above left, at the top of the page. The poster came from the movie Spitfire, originally titled The First of the Few in Britain. The film was released in Britain on September 12, 1942. Less than nine months later – “on or about” June 1, 1943 – Lesley Howard’s airliner was shot down by eight LuftwaffeJunkers Ju 88C6 fighters over the Bay of Biscay. It may have been an accident.  The Germans may have been really after Winston Churchill. Or Howard – “Ashley Wilkes” – may have been the dangerous British spy the Germans thought he was.

As noted, this fascinating tale and others like it are now available in book form.  As far as how to get the book – in either the Kindle or paperback version, see “Intro to Ashley:”

To get an e-book, go to Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks and type in “T. D. Scribe.”  (That’s my nom de plume.)  Or type in “Ashley Wilkes.”  To order the paperback version, go to Shop Books – Lulu and do the same.  (Where the book should be the fifth one down, if you type in “T. D. Scribe,” or right on top if you type “Ashley Wilkes.”)

And now a word about “T.D. Scribe.” That’s the nom de plume I used in my original blog, dorscribe.com. This second blog – modeled on the Carolina Israelite – is devoted to more secular subjects and an homage to Harry Golden. For example, this blog lets me explore such varied topics as Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies,” “When adultery was proof of ‘loyalty,’” ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian, and any number of Travelogs

But back to the Wilkes book: On the paperback version, here’s the blurb from “Lulu:”

This collection of posts from the “Georgia Wasp” web log starts with “the mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes…”  It ends by asking the musical question: “Whether Moses – some 3,300 years ago – was the first guy to say, ‘It’s only weird if it doesn’t work!’”  (At the Battle of Rephidim. “Hey, you could look it up!”)

As noted in “Intro,” I now have my first book-collection of essays.  In turn, that collection may eventually be seen as a worthy reflection of Harry’s first such effort, 1958’s Only in America.  As the old saying goes:  “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Although to Oscar Wilde – seen below – such imitation was “the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  (Which may of course be also true…)

And just as an aside, I’ll shortly be updating the “For a book version” link at the top of the Home page with information on how to get my newest e-book, (Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(Subtitled “Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”)

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Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpg

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The image immediately above is courtesy of Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia.

See also Quote by Oscar Wilde: “Imitation is the sincerest form…”  But finally, see also a separate “Goodreads” article, Quotes About Imitation (76 quotes) – Goodreads.  The latter included the following pithy observations at odds with Wilde’s “acerbic and iconoclastic wit:”

“Through others we become ourselves.”
― Lev S. Vygotsky

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”
― T.S. EliotThe Sacred Wood

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.”
― George Bernard Shaw

and finally, this:

“There is only one thing which is generally safe from plagiarism — self-denial.”
― G.K. Chesterton.

“The intelligent Southerner … you seldom meet…”

Atticus Finch: A quintessential “intelligent Southerner” – of a type now Gone with the Wind?

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1651350My last post – An early post-mortem – started with a note about my brother and I just finishing a four-day, 115-mile canoe trip down the Missouri River. (From Sioux City to Omaha, on July 12.)

But then I went on to take a look at “this time last year.” As a result of that, I did a combination-post using three draft projects I started a year ago. (“This time last year.”) That is, I combined those three draft-posts into Early post-mortem, to make one long post on those long-forgotten projects. (Plus the canoe “early post-mortem.”) Those three draft posts were on: 1) Gerrymandering, 2) humor as a weapon, and 3) – briefly – an ongoing book-project I’m working on, “My Adventures In Old Age.”

And why did I do that? Mainly because a “full postmortem account” of the canoe trip would “take time, and I’m long overdue to submit a new blog-post.” So here’s another delay in doing that full post-mortem.. But as it turns out, this project led to a “foreshadowing” post that I did about an earlier canoe-trip adventure…

To explain, once I got back home I started re-reading American Home Front: 1941-1942. In doing so I found a great quote for these challenging times. I’ll get to that quote later, but first want to note that two years ago I also started a review-post of the Home Front book. And in reviewing it I found some notes relating to my recent canoe-trip. Plus some good historical tidbits.

I wrote this first rough-draft paragraph for that review-post back in September, 2018:

For my recent long drive up to Canada – for my “Rideau Adventure” – I borrowed a book-on-CD from the local library: The American Home Front: 1941-1942, by Alistair Cooke(Most people “of a certain age” know Cooke for his America: A Personal History of the United States. I have both the book and DVD version of the 13-part BBC documentary television series first broadcast in 1972.)

And today, aside from having both the book and DVD version of Cooke’s “Americadocu-series, I now have the book version of his American Home Front. (Published in 2006, two years after his death.) And as noted, I started re-reading it again, once I got back from my latest canoe trip. In doing I found the following particularly relevant passage. It’s particularly relevant to me anyway, and I suspect to other people as well. People who may wonder “where did that guy go?”

The intelligent Southerner gives an impression you seldom meet elsewhere in America of having his own standards and of respecting you as a mature stranger while he keeps his own reserve.

“Intelligent Southerner?” “Respecting you as a mature stranger?” “Keeps his own reserve?”

Those phrases don’t come readily to mind today, whether after a session on Facebook or viewing a host of bumper stickers with sentiments like “Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder.” (To which you might reply, at least rhetorically, “Of course the only thing worse is a grumpy, bloated old white man threatened by change in the world.”) Which brings up Cooke’s comparison of that intelligent Southerner to most of the civilians he found around Louisville, the nearest big party town to Fort Knox – illustrated above right* – in March, 1942.

Cooke compared his intelligent Southerner (now mythical?) to the swarms of young people he saw as civilians in Louisville. And to the swarms of soldiers around town, from nearby Fort Knox. He said the civilian high-school boys he saw were “gawky and lifeless,” while the faces of their female companions were “innocent of any flicker of intelligence.” But to his credit, Cooke admitted – of this American town – that this was “an atmosphere that  no European need feel strange in. For it is the seeping seediness of English provincial towns.”

And just as an aside, it seems to this Old White Man – old but not grumpy – that way too many Americans these days have chosen that “seeping seediness.” But as for me and my house – or at least for me – “I will choose the way of the Intelligent Southerner.” Or try to anyway.

Nope, this “Georgia Wasp” still gets a kick out of life. And from now on I’ll cling to my own standards, while at the same time keeping my own reserve, and also trying to respect other all Americans as mature strangers. That’s going to be the hard part…

But getting back to my “Rideau Adventure.” Here’s a quote from the notes:

Another note: For the next canoe trip I’m getting a bigger tent and a cot. (No more sleeping on the ground for me.) But that trip won’t happen until at least 2020, as next summer my brother, his wife and I plan to hike the Portuguese Camino

Which turned out to be right on point. The next canoe trip did happen in 2020, and it happened despite the fact that I fully intended – this summer of 2020 – to either join my brother and his wife on another Camino hike in Spain. Or – if that didn’t happen – to fly back to Israel to Walk the Jesus Trail. Of course neither overseas flight-plus-adventure happened this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But who could have seen that coming, back in 2018?

Which brings up an email exchange shortly before we both left home to meet up in South Sioux City. (My brother from Utah, me from the ATL.) He reminded me of things I needed to bring, including a tent. He then added, “There would also be room for a folding cot…”

I wrote back: “A folding cot would be nice, but I only have that small two-person tent. Of course I could get a bigger tent, what with my stimulus check and all, but I’m wondering how many more canoe trips we’ll be doing. (Cost-benefit-wise.)” He answered, “I too wonder about how many more canoe trips. But I would imagine we’d be able to canoe great distances longer (age-wise) than walk great distances. The question is, is the interest still there.”

Just for the record: First, that was a good point about being able to canoe great distances longer than walking great distances. (At our age.) And second, the interest is definitely still there. That combination of Coleman Trailhead II Camping Cot and Ozark Trail 6 Person Dome Camping Tent made all the difference in the world. (Measuring 8-by-12 feet, instead my old 7-by-7 feet “two person” tent.*) That larger tent came in very handy on Saturday night, July 11. That was the night after my brother’s tent got destroyed by an 80-mile-an-hour windstorm…

But more on that in a later post!

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This gives some idea what happened at 1:10 a.m., early July 11…

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The upper image is courtesy of Atticus Finch – Image Results. Which leads to the question: “Why don’t we see more Southern Gentleman like him anymore?”

The “intelligent Southerner” quote is at page 40 of the Grove Press paperback edition of “American Home Front,” first published in 2006 “by the estate of Alistair Cooke.” For a New York Times review, see The American Home Front: 1941-1942, “Alistair Cooke’s America, Explored in Wartime,” or The American Home Front: 1941-1942 (Smithsonian.)

Re: “Fort Knox … above right.” Wikipedia caption: “A tank driver at Fort Knox in 1942.”

Re: Walking the Jesus Trail. A hike offered by Saint George’s College Jerusalem:

This course, new to St. George’s College in 2020, offers an exciting opportunity for pilgrims who wish to experience the land from an entirely different perspective: walking. The course will spend five days following segments of the Jesus Trail in the Galilee [(www.jesustrail.com] from Sepphoris (Zippori) near Nazareth to Capernaum, staying each night in a guest house or hotel along the way. Walkers will only carry day bags; luggage will be sent to the next guest house via the bus.

The lower image is courtesy of Windstorm In A Tent – Image Results. It was said to be accompanied by an article in the Kathmandu Post, “Storms compound lives under tent.” But when I clicked on “View Page,” I was advised, “Sorry, the page you are trying to access does not exist. But maybe the search gods can help you find what you’re looking for.” So I typed in the “storms compound” headline and got kathmandupost … storm-compounds-lives, from May 23, 2015. The subhead read, “High winds and thundershowers on Saturday evening added to the hardships of people taking refuge in tents in open spaces after the April 25 earthquake displaced them.” I’ll explain the differences in the two situations in a later post, but for now let’s just say that our situation involved only my brother and I, two people in two separate tents. But the photo does give you some idea what we went through, from 1:10 to 1:50 a.m., that Friday night/early Saturday morning, July 10-11, 2020. (Also, note the alternate spelling, “Katmandu | Bob Seger.”)

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For some reason I put this note from a “president unfit” search in an early version of this post: “I got to that article (3/30/20) in The Boston Globe by starting to Google ‘a president ignored,’ based on a Washington Post article I’d just read. (See A president ignored: Trump’s outlandish claims increasingly met with a collective shrug.) But right after I typed in ‘a president’ the Google-phrase ‘president unfit for a pandemic’ came up. That led in turn to a number of media outlets reporting the Globe’s story; I saw 34,800,00 ‘search results’ from the Google-phrase. (Incidentally, the subtitle to the Globe article: ‘Much of the suffering and death coming was preventable. The president has blood on his hands.'”

I’m not sure what I originally intended that quote to relate to. (Freudian slip?)

“One nation after Trump” – a book review…

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I called the first draft of this post, “Cultural elites and Trump.”  But then I ran across – at a local library days ago – the 2017 book, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-yet Deported(E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann.)  Needless to say I was intrigued.  And not least of all because I too look forward to an America without Trump.  Something I noted in Belated 4th of July meditation:

Whether by vote in 2020 or operation of law in 2024, Trump will end up leaving the White House.  What happens then?  Aside from the cheering, the dancing in  the streets, the fireworks and parades, a new nightmare will begin – for Donald Trump.

And when it might be said – yet again – “Our long national nightmare is over.”

But first let’s go back to Some thoughts on “the Donald.”  That post came in December 2018, but looked back at posts “from two years ago.”  That is, two years before 2018, to a post I did in December 2016, right after Trump’s election.  Among other things there was a prediction in 2016 – by Professor Allan Lichtman – that Trump would be “impeached within two years.”

Which hasn’t happened.  He may yet be impeached – by a Democrat House of Representatives.  But he won’t be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate.  (It would take 66 votes.)  Which brings us back to the hope offered by One Nation After Trump.  I just started reading it, but hear are some sample reviews.  Like the one from the Amazon blurb:

Yet if Trump is both a threat to our democracy and a product of its weaknesses, the citizen activism he has inspired is the antidote.  The reaction to the crisis created by Trump’s presidency can provide the foundation for an era of democratic renewal and vindicate our long experiment in self-rule.

Andrea Prada at the march on Washington.Or consider the conclusion of The Guardian, the British daily newspaper (now online), founded in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian.  See One Nation After Trump review:  “In everything from the Women’s March on Washington [at left] to the ad hoc groups of lawyers who flocked to airports across the country to help victims of Trump’s travel ban, the [authors] see strong evidence that the rational part of the country is finally ready to take back America.”

Then there was a New York Times review, which opined that Trump’s rise to power. . .

. . . reflects the longer-term trends that have shaped the modern Republican Party: the four-decade war on the “liberal media”; the delegitimatization of political opponents; the appeals to racism and xenophobia; the hostility to democratic norms. “Trump is less of an outsider than he seems, and he was building on rather than resisting recent trends within the G.O.P.”

And which concluded – depressingly – that “Reading this important book, one gets the nagging sense that even after Trump, Trumpism will persist.”  Let’s hope not.

Which brings us back to “Cultural elites and Trump.”  That is, before starting to read One Nation After Trump, I tried to figure out how Trump got elected in the first place.  I initially wrote:

It finally hit me.  “What’s the attraction with Trump?”  The answer?  Donald Trump is “America showing its ass.”  (Or mooning, to put it more politely.)  Put another way, Trump “represents” – and I use the term loosely – a certain segment of American society which now chooses to thumb its nose at – or more precisely “moon” – both the rest of the world and that “cultural elite” part of American society that it hates so much.

President Trump Fat Shaming Supporter RallyWhich got support in articles like Send Her Back! Send Her Back! – The Bulwark.  It noted “acts of deliberate transgression against what many Trump supporters have come to view as the supposedly stifling ethics of our cultural elites,” and sending ”those damn media types into a tizzy.”  Also that his verbal attacks – though not including the one where he “fat shamed his own supporter ” – are just another “handy weapon for triggering the pearl-clutching libs.”  See also Class warfare between workers and elites explains Trump:

What’s happening in America is an echo of what’s happening in democracies around the world, and it’s not happening because of Trump.  Trump is the symptom of a ruling class that many of the ruled no longer see as serving their interest, and the anti-Trump response is mostly the angry backlash of that class as it sees its position, its perquisites and – perhaps especially – its self-importance threatened.

Which definitely presents a problem for those of us yearning for “the America of past years.”  And especially of past presidents, none of whom now seem so bad.  But now:  Do you see the irony?  Of Liberals and Independents trying to “go back in time,” while today’s “Conservatives” seem bent on tearing out all of America’s democratic institutions root and branch?

But perhaps all is not lost.  One thing that One Nation pointed out – early on – was how slim the margin of victory was.  Aside from losing the popular vote by 2.9 million, “Trump’s victory was a very close-run thing – a matter of 77,744 votes in three crucial states.”  His win was also “enabled” by James Comey reopening a probe into Hillary’s use of a private server while secretary of state, and by Russian interference in addition to hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. (Likely by Russian hackers.)

Yet despite all that help this “monumental shift in the nature of the nation’s political leadership was enabled by relatively modest shifts in the electorate.”  And by voters rejecting Hillary.

Some good news? Such numbers “are critical for understanding how fragile Trump’s hold on the public is.”  (I’ve been saying the best weapon against Trump is his own big mouth.)  Then there’s “Trumpgret,” as in New Hampshire struggle: Voters feeling “Trumpgret.”  So maybe there’s hope that 2020 voters will again reject this ongoing dark side of American politics…

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American As Apple Pie?”  Americans have always hated immigrants…

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The upper image is courtesy of American Anti-immigrant Propaganda – Image Results.

Re:  “Root and branch.”  I Googledtear out root and branch” and got Sadly The Hatred Against Syrian Refugees Is As American As Apple Pie From November 2015, it noted:

As the world faces one of the worst humanitarian crises yet known, several American politicians went out of their way to attack some of the world’s most vulnerable people, continually competing to be the most cruel.

A trend that continues “even to this day.”  The article concluded that we must “fight the bigots who are acting so cruelly to people so desperately in need of aid.”  But we shouldn’t pretend this ongoing sickness is “‘un-American.’ It is a tendency in our history that we must tear out root and branch, but before we do that, we have to realize that it’s there.”  See also Root and branch definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary:If something has been completely changed or destroyed, you can say that it has been changed or destroyed root and branch.”

The “fat-shamed” image is courtesy of Donald Trump Fat Shamed One Of His Own Supporters. The article posted August 16, 2019, in UNILAD, the “British Internet media company and website owned by LADbible Group,” which provides “‘social news. and entertainment to their 60 million followers, and has offices in London and ManchesterUK.”  The caption:  “President Donald Trump accidentally fat shamed one of his own supporters at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire after mistakenly believing them [sic] to be a protester.”  The article went on:  “Trump proceeded to insult a man he believed to be one of the protesters, focusing on his ‘weight problem.’ However, he didn’t realise the man he was fat shaming was actually one of his very own supporters, an individual who had reportedly been flagging the protesters to security.

The references to the “One nation” book are from pages 21-22 of the 2017 hardcover edition.

The lower image courtesy of Anti-Irish sentiment – Wikipedia.  The caption, “American political cartoon by Thomas Nast titled ‘The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things,’ depicting a drunken Irishman lighting a powder keg and swinging a bottle. Published 2 September 1871 in Harper’s Weekly.”  Another image from the same article – at right – was captioned, “An Irishman depicted as a gorilla (‘Mr. G. O’Rilla’).”

Which supports the claim that Americans have always hated immigrants.  See also got Sadly The Hatred Against Syrian Refugees Is As American As Apple Pie, which noted that this American “hatred” goes back as far as 1790:

Just look at the Naturalization Act of 1790, one of the first important pieces of immigration legislation. It limited citizenship to those who were “free white persons.” One year before the passage of the Bill of Rights, those vaunted rights were effectively being limited to white men.  When waves of Irish immigrants came over in the mid-1800s, they were feared and hated, commonly depicted as ape-like by native born whites…  These nativists didn’t just spread hate, they burned Catholic churches, and instigated anti-immigrant riots.  

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Here are more notes from my research on “Trump’s attraction.”

See Trump’s dislike of — and desire to be a part of — the ‘elite.’

“Trump has since made a name for himself – in New York City and, more unexpectedly, in Washington. As he reminded his Minnesota supporters, he won the presidency – which by one definition automatically puts him among the elites: “a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group.”

“By all accounts, Trump supporters . . . exercise the major share of authority and influence within the Republican Party, which is the governing party in the United States.  The group’s values on racial issues, the economy, immigration and other cultural issues has a louder and bolder advocate in the Oval Office than at any other time in recent history.

“But perhaps the reason it is difficult to embrace that definition is because Trump and many of his supporters believe that winning isn’t all that matters.  It matters that you be viewed as a winner.  And for a president who has been quick to lob the label ‘loser’ at those with whom he didn’t find favor, knowing that there are many Americans who don’t want him in their club is a great source of anger.”

See also Elite – Wikipedia, defining the term as a “small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the ‘elite’ are ‘those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type.'”

Or, a “relatively small, loosely connected group of individuals who dominate American policy making. This group includes bureaucratic, corporate, intellectual, military, media, and government elites who control the principal institutions in the United States and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions of the policymakers.”

And see Why a lot of Americans resent the cultured “New York City elite.”

“I think this feeling was shared by some of the voters who went for Trump – as well as Brexit beforehand.  Trump, a masterful populist, has manipulated this very real bitterness, raising his 18-carat pitchfork against “liberal elites” for his own political gain.”

It added that a “cultural elite may be disliked for reasons that are as not particularly economic: college professors, experts, NGO staffers and psychotherapists are not corporate titans, after all. It’s a new variation of an old-fashioned populism that is anti-intellectual and anti-expert.

“Trump and his family may be mining this anti-elite anger, but they are, of course, preposterously upscale, living in Trump Tower, attending expensive private schools, flying about in private jets (now with in-flight Secret Service) and dining in five-star restaurants… Republicans are benefitting from the cultural resentment of their non-elite electorate. They also aren’t proposing anything that could make life better for the people who actually live in small towns or in ‘flyover’ states.”

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My own thoughts:  I defined the “elite” as that “portion of American society that has pretty much ruled America during the latter half of the 20th century, and the 21st century as well, up to Election Day, 2016.  Since the end of World War II, the rest of the world has looked at America as that ‘city on a hill’ it has claimed to be since the beginning.  And America has responded – by and large – by accepting the mantle of world leadership.

“And because America is a land of such promise, people from other countries keep trying to come here. But – by and large – they are no longer white, English-speaking and mostly European. Which frightens a large segment of American society.

“Aside from that the mantle of world leadership is heavy. It means not going off half-cocked. It means being responsible, and thinking through what we say and do. And many Americans seem to think we should act more like Russia, imposing our will on the rest of the world by sheer force. Which – from all accounts – is what we used to do in the days of Teddy Roosevelt. And it could be that the Americans who support Trump would love to see a return of a bit of American imperialism.

“On the other hand, if that’s true, why did Russia try so hard to get Trump – not Hillary – elected?”

On Billy Graham – noted “Liberal?”

 Billy Graham (at right):  To some “rightist” Christians, Graham was way too “ecumenical…”

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Graham in a suit with his fist clenchedI learned something new about Billy Graham.  I learned that some far-right preachers compared him to the Antichrist

That is, lately I’ve been listening to the book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents:  Billy Graham in the White House(Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.)  I skipped over the early parts, about Graham when he was young and full of himself.  And way more conservative than he was in later life. 

Which is another way of saying that  – as he grew in age – Billy Graham “also grew in grace.”  (See 2d Peter 3:18.)

Graham eventually grew in grace so much that he came to believe that God loves all people – even Liberals.  Which led some fundamentalist Christians to criticize him “for his ecumenism, even calling him ‘Antichrist.’”  On that note, see Deuteronomy 19:16-19.

(Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says that if you accuse someone of a crime and he’s not guilty of it, you are punished as if you committed the crime yourself.  So if you accuse someone of being “Antichrist” and he’s not, you get punished as if you were the Antichrist.)   

But we digress…

That is, on the other hand Graham started out as a Biblical literalist.  That led to an early confrontation with fellow evangelist Charles Templeton.  It’s described at pages 2-4 of the “book book,” but you can see an Oniine version at Billy Graham and Charles Templeton:  The Sad Tale of Two Evangelists (See also Heresy in the Heartland: Charles Templeton.)   

In essence, it started with Templeton telling Graham:

Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation.  The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago;  it has evolved over millions of years.  It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.

Graham responded, “I don’t accept that…  I believe the Genesis [account and] I’ve discovered something in my ministry:  When I take the Bible literally …  my preaching has power.”

Nevertheless, this was the man some Christians called “Antichrist.”  It started as early as 1957, when – after a crusade in New York – some fundamentalist Protestant Christians criticized Graham for his “ecumenism.”

40 years later he continued to express inclusivist views.

That is, he dared suggest that some people without explicit faith in Jesus can be saved.  For example, in a 1997 interview with Robert Schuller, Graham said:

I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. 

In response, Iain Murray – writing from a conservative Protestant standpoint – said “Graham’s concessions are sad words from one who once spoke on the basis of biblical certainties.”

2013-02-18-Graham.King.jpgBut see Why Do Liberals Love Billy Graham(HuffPost.)  An example:  He was asked about two candidates for president, one “more learned and qualified,” the other a devout Christian.  How would he vote?

I’d pick the experienced and confident one…  I don’t think that we should vote for a person just simply because he says he’s a Christian.  I think we need confident men of integrity in places of responsibility.  We are living in a secular society.  We have a separation of church and state in this country.

Graham added that he doesn’t “play God,” saying who is saved and who isn’t.  The article concluded that Graham “managed to achieve that rare balance of fierce conviction and humane humility…  He would not condemn.  His mission was to comfort and inspire.”

Which brings us back to Ecumenism.  It’s the effort “by Christians of different Church traditions to develop closer relationships and better understandings.”  (See also Is ecumenism biblical “Gotquestsions.org.”)  Which means we could use a good dose of “Billy Graham” today.

We could use a popular preacher who “doesn’t play God.”  We could use a popular preacher with “humane humility.”  We could use a popular preacher whom does not condemn, but rather focuses exclusively on comforting and inspiring.  We could use a popular preacher who wouldn’t vote for a man “just because he says he’s a Christian.”

That is, for another – broader – view more you could check Ecumenical Synonyms … Thesaurus.com.  Synonyms for “ecumenical” include open-mindedreceptivetolerantbroad-minded, unbigoted, charitableinclusiveand/or unprejudiced.  And they are good.

Because without such principles – without, for example, developing “closer relationships and better understandings” – you could end up with something like this:

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Donald Trump

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The upper image is courtesy of Billy Graham Bill Clinton – Image Results.  The photo is in “Billy Graham: Pastor to the Presidents – True Christian or FreeMason ‘Christian.'”  (From the “Orthodox Christian Channel.”)  The gist of the article was that Graham was a Mason.  Among the quotes:  

Billy Graham called Bill and Hillary “wonderful friends” and a “great couple.”  Billy Graham also had former country and western superstar Johnny Cash, known to be a Mason, perform at his crusades on numerous occasions.  

The images in the main text are courtesy of the linked-articles in the adjacent paragraph.

The lower image is courtesy of Donald Trump – Image Results.  See also ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian, which featured the image.

“The rope has to tighten SLOWLY…”

 

*   *   *   *

There’s been a lot of hubbub lately about Donald Trump’s pardon power.  And a lot of Americans worry that he could use that pardon-power so freely that he could avoid any successful prosecution.  (Either against himself or against any of his underlings.)

The first question has already been answered:  He can’t pardon himself.  (See No Donald, you CAN’T pardon yourself.  And even if he could, that “self-pardon” would only apply to federal crimes, not state crimes or civil suits.)  But that still leaves the question:  “If Trump pardons anyone and everyone who could incriminate him, wouldn’t that be the same as ‘pardoning himself?’”

All the president's men.jpgThe answer?  “Not necessarily.”  Which brings us back to the years from 1972 to 1974.  Back to “Deep Throat,” Richard Nixon, the Watergate scandal, and the movie – and book – All the President’s Men.

And for you thinking this is “like deja vu all over again,” it is…  

*   *   *   *

First of all, I wanted to call this post, “The truth will come out…”  (Because that’s what I believe.)  Then I started re-reading All the President’s Men, the 1974 book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  I was looking for the part where “Deep Throat” lectured Woodward on the importance of building a conspiracy investigation slowly, “from the outer edges in.”  (In an obscure parking garage at 3:00 a.m…)  

I checked out the hard copy from a local library – my paperback is somewhere “lost in my house” – and eventually found the passage in question.  Then I started typing in the lecture, and the phrase “the rope has to tighten slowly” sounded ever so much better.

*   *   *   *

But here we cut to the chase.  Specifically, could Donald Trump use his pardon-power so freely that he could avoid any successful prosecution?  Put another way, what would happen if Trump pardoned all those lower-level minions who could possibly incriminate him?

Just this.  Since those “minions” will have been pardoned, they will no longer face the prospect of incriminating themselves.  Which means they can be compelled to testify.  And if they refuse to testify, they can be jailed for contempt of court.

And once they testify, a prosecutor – or Democratic Congress – can start building a case against Trump for obstructing justice.  For one thing, granting pardons to hide a criminal act is a criminal act itself.  Which brings us to the old saying, “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.”  (As illustrated at left.)

And today’s antithetical version: “Why is the Mueller investigation taking so long?”  (Note that that complaint was lodged as early as five months after Mueller was appointed.  Which brings up the classic American need for instant gratification, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…)

*   *   *   *

Which brings us back to 1974, and “Deep Throat” lecturing Bob Woodward on the importance of building a conspiracy investigation slowly.  You can read the full lecture – and background – at page 196 of the Simon and Schuster (1974) hardback, All the President’s Men:

“A conspiracy like this … a conspiracy investigation … the rope has to tighten slowly around everyone’s neck.  You build convincingly from the outer edges in, you get ten times the evidence you need against the Hunts and Liddys.  They feel hopelessly finished – they may not talk right away, but the grip is on them.  Then you move up and do the same thing to the next level.  If you shoot too high and miss, then everybody feels more secure.  Lawyers work this way.  I’m sure smart reporters do too.  You’ve put the investigation back months.  It puts everybody on the defensive – editors, FBI agents, everybody has to go into a crouch after this.”

The book added, “Woodward swallowed hard.  He deserved the lecture.”

The point is this:  The Mueller Investigation started over a year ago, in mid-May, 2017.  So far – it appears – it has resulted in 17 indictments and five guilty pleas.  So what happens if Trump starts pardoning more lower-level people?

Simply this:  They lose their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves.  They can be compelled to testify, on pain of being jailed for contempt of court.  The Mueller Investigation might end, but we would begin a whole new series of state criminal proceedings.  As in any state like New York where “The Donald” or his minions have done business.

And the “noose-tightening” would start all over again…

*   *   *   *

Or – like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men – real Americans just Want the Truth!

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The upper image is courtesy of Just The Facts Ma’am – Image Results.  But see also Joe Friday – Wikipedia, which noted that Detective Friday never actually used the phrase:  “A common misattributed catchphrase to Friday is ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ In fact, Friday never actually said this in an episode, but it was featured in Stan Freberg‘s works parodying ‘Dragnet.'”  See also FACT CHECK: Dragnet ‘Just the Facts’ – snopes.com.

Re: Pardons and the Fifth Amendment.  See Would a full presidential pardon void an individual’s 5th Amendment protection, and Donald Trump Pardons: How a Pardon Could Backfire.  For a fuller explanation of “contempt of court” in such circumstances, see If you’re pardoned, can you be compelled to testify about your crime?

Re:  “The wheels of justice turn slowly.”   See Justice – Wikiquote, under the letter “F,” which noted the saying has “appeared in various forms over the millennia, going back as far as “Euripides circa 405 BCE.”  In other words, the concept was known at least over 2400 years ago.  

Re:  The Mueller investigation starting on or about May 17, 2017.  See Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation.

Note that the ellipses (“…”) were in the original “Deep Throat” quote in All the President’s Men.

For the guilty pleas and indictments, I Googled “mueller investigation indictments and guilty pleas.”

Note that the change from “rope-tightening” to “noose-tightening” was a bit of creative license.

The lower image is courtesy of Tom Cruz I Want Truth – Image Results.  

“The Coming Fury?”

NY Post's Shameful 'Civil War' Cover On Dallas

Did someone mention The Coming Fury – first book of Bruce Catton‘s Civil War Trilogy?

*   *   *   *  

My last two posts noted a recent 10-day family road-trip north, via “convoy:”

Three cars, carrying five adults and seven younger folk, ranging in age from 10 to 22.  Among other places, we’ll be visiting Valley Forge, the Liberty Bell and Philadelphia in general…  Last but not least we’ll see Hershey PA … “The Sweetest Place On Earth.”

7096For five nights of that 10-day trip, we all stayed with my aunt in Wilmington.  Her three-story house is pretty much a museum, and a much-loved place to visit.  (By nephews, great-nieces and -nephews, and other relatives through marriage.)

Nowhere is that “museum-ness” more evident than on the third floor.  The third floor was pretty much my aunt’s private “penthouse” when she was young.  (My grandparents stayed on the second floor.)  She was an avid reader then, and a great collector of books.  Which means that now the third floor of her home resembles nothing so much as a library.

And so, late one night that last week of June, in Wilmington, I sat relaxing on the third-floor bed – topped by an air mattress – sipping a bottle of Rolling Rock.  It was then that my eyes lighted on a Bruce Catton book I hadn’t read.  I have read – and pretty much loved – all his other CW books.  But that night, I saw “Bruce Catton,” on a thick, hard-cover book, and the unread title, The Coming Fury.

WmLYancey.jpgI was hooked from the first page.

Catton began by describing the first of two 1860 Democratic National Conventions, with the arrival of William L. Yancey.  (At left.)  

It seems that certain “fire-eaters” – like Yancey – didn’t care if they caused a “split convention.”  The result?  A host of Democrat-delegates walked out of the convention.  (In essence, a revolt that split the party.)  That virtually guaranteed the opposition candidate – Abe Lincoln – would be elected.

All of which may sound familiar to modern ears.  That is, what caught my eye – in reading the beginning of The Coming Fury – was the way Catton’s writing seemed to foreshadow some of the surprises that may well be coming at this summer’s Republican convention:

The delegates might look for a safe middle ground [and] work out some sort of compromise that would avert a split in the party and nation;  or they might listen to extremists, scorn the middle ground, and commit all of America to a dramatic leap into the dark.

In 1860, it was the Democrats who saw their party literally split in two.  (Thus virtually guaranteeing the election of a candidate they didn’t want.)  In 2016, it may be the Republicans who experience a delegate revolt, and thus a split party.  (See also karma.)

Alexander H Stephens by Vannerson, 1859.jpgThe first 36 pages of Coming Fury led up to Part Four of Chapter One, “The Party is Split Forever.”  (A quote from Alexander Stephens – at right – after a friend said “things might be patched up” at the second, “rump” Democratic convention in Baltimore.)  Then at pages 78-80, Catton explored some of the reasons behind the split in the party.

He began by saying the choices made at the two competing Democratic conventions “came at least in part out of a general, unreasoned resentment against immigration and the immigrant.”  (E.A.)

[By 1860,] Americans both North and South could see that something cherished and familiar was being lost.  Looking back only a few years, it was easy to see a society where … everyone thought, spoke and acted more or less alike, living harmoniously by a common tradition.

Which is being interpreted:  “Some things never change.”  Aside from that, if anyone in 1860 had thought about it, they might have come up with a catchy slogan like “Make America Great Again.”  (That is, a call to “return the country to its previous glory.”)

However (as Catton wrote), that cherished vision of the past – “singularly uncomplicated and unworried … simple and self-sustaining” – seemed to be on the verge of disappearing:

Revolutionary change was taking place everywhere … and people who liked things as they had been found the change abhorrent.  Furthermore, it seemed possible that newcomers were at least partly responsible for the change…  Germans, Irish, French, Italians, men of new tongues and new creeds and new folk ways, cut adrift from Europe…  It was easy to feel they were corrupting the old America. (E.A.)

(79-80)  Which may be another way of saying that a large group of people who hadn’t been free – before – were about to get freedom for the first time in their lives.

But then and now, such a change in the status quo scares a lot of people.  As Catton wrote, “To fear change meant to fear the alien – the man who looked and talked and acted differently, and who therefore was probably dangerous.” (80)  Which helped give rise to the fire-eaters noted above.  (Defined in part as “extremists who did much to weaken the fragile unity of the nation.”)  

Which brings up the subject of “splitting” in another context.

In Independent Voter, I noted the phenomenon of “splitting,” a personality disorder also called “black and white thinking:”

Splitting … is the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole.  It is a common defense mechanism used by many people.  The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

It’s also known as cognitive distortion, or or “all-or-nothing thinking.”  And as noted, it’s a common defense mechanism that seems to be getting commoner and commoner these days.

joe-walsh-defends-tweetWhich means that in times of great stress, people are more prone to say really hurtful, unproductive or downright stupid things.  (Like ex-congressman Joe Walsh, at right.)

But my personal theory is that resorting to cliches, canned responses, and/or downright stupid remarks – in times of great stress – simply “beats the heck out of having to think!”

So in times of great stress – like we’ve seen in the last week or so – one option is to say something really stupid and/or counterproductive, like This is now war!”  Or you can sheathe your sword – metaphorically or otherwise – and stop adding fuel to the fire.

After all, who wants to start another American Civil War?

Or as that great philosopher Henry Ford once put it (offering a better solution):

Don't find fault, find a remedy... poster

In other words, “Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem…”

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The upper image is courtesy of NY Post’s Shameful ‘Civil War’ Cover On Dallas | Crooks and Liars. (Although there was a literal plethora of internet sources available:  See for example New York Post Recklessly Hypes ‘Civil War’ After Dallas Shooting (Huffington Post), and New York Post Blares Dallas Police Killings Set Off ‘CIVIL WAR‘” – from the Talking Points Memo website – which described the Post as an “infamous tabloid, known for its inflammatory headlines.”)

The book-cover image is courtesy of The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton — Reviews, Discussion. References to the text are from the are from the 1961 hard-cover Doubleday and Company edition, “The Centennial History of the Civil War, Volume 1.”

Re: “Fire-eaters.”  Here’s a quote I found working on this post, but misplaced the cite:

James M. McPherson suggested in Battle Cry of Freedom that the “Fire-eater” program of breaking up the convention and running a rival ticket was deliberately intended to bring about the election of a Republican as President, and thus trigger secession…  Whatever the “intent” of the fire-eaters may have been, doubtless many of them favored secession, and the logical, probable, and actual consequence of their actions was to fragment the Democratic party and thereby virtually ensure a Republican victory.

The “success-failure” image is courtesy of Why Black or White Thinking May be Keeping Keep Your Clients Stuck:  “I don’t know about you, but ‘Black or White’ or ‘All or Nothing’ thinking is one of the commonest issues I see with my coaching clients.  When a client is stuck – it’s often because they are looking at the world through this Black or White thinking filter…”  

(“The Coaching Tools Company.com is based on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada. Launched in March 2009 … our goal is to inspire coaches and help spread the positive impact of coaching throughout the world. We do this by helping coaches get established, grow their clients, grow their skills and grow their businesses.”)

On that subject, see also All or Nothing’, or ‘Black and White’ Thinking and Depression.

Re:  Ex-congressman Joe Walsh.  See Ex Congressman tweets of war against Obama, Joe Walsh defends tweet threatening “war” on ObamaEx-Congressman Walsh on Dallas shootings: “This is now war,” and/or Ex-congressman threatens “war,’”warns Obama to ‘watch out.” 

And by the way – Joe Walsh – the Bible clearly says, You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.” (See Exodus 22:28 and the beginning of Acts 23.) 

Re: “sheath your sword.”  See also Sheath Your Sword | Duke Today.

The lower image is courtesy of Don’t find fault, find a remedy… poster | Zazzle.  See also Quote by Henry Ford: “Don’t find fault, find a remedy (Goodreads).  As to the phrase “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”  it is generally – and most recently – attributed to Eldridge Cleaver.  However, a guardian.co.uk article on the subject included one reader who said this was a “misquotation.”  Another reader wrote:  “Eldridge Cleaver was hardly being original.  ‘Those who are not for us are against us’ is in the Bible – and had probably been said before that.”  

Note that the Bible-quote is from Matthew 12:30 “Whoever is not with me is against me…”  Note further that this was part of Jesus’ sermon on A House Divided.  See also the “House Divided” Speech by Abraham Lincoln, given in 1858, when he was running for the office of Senator from Illinois.  (Two years before the original American Civil War.)  And finally, see the post from my companion blog, On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?  That post compared Matthew 12:30 with what Jesus said in Mark 9:40:  “For whoever is not against us is for us.”