Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Government is what we choose to do together

County forces 91 year old woman to tear down her wheelchair ramp:
LAUREL, Md. (ABC7) — Prince George’s County filed a legal case against a Laurel couple in their 90s over a wheelchair ramp in their own home. To avoid legal trouble, the elderly couple’s son tore down the ramp, trapping the woman in her own home. The county permitting department said the family had no permit to build a wheelchair ramp in front of their own home.
Let's count the stupidity:
  1. The County thinks that a 90 year old needs their permission to build a wheel chair ramp that allows them to leave their home.
  2. The County threatens to jail a 90 year old couple if they don't tear down what is essentially a fire exit.
  3. The inspector did not find any deficiencies in the ramp itself, but forced the 90 year old couple to tear it down and restart the process because it was the process.
I can't wait until these buffoons control our healthcare.  Oh, and remember this about Paul Ryan?

Who do you think the Prince Georges County Inspector votes for, Democrats or Republicans?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Back from hiatus

The Queen Of The World and I rode the motorcycle to Morgantown, WV for Mountainfest over the weekend.  I haven't found a decent app for blogging from the iPhone, and so it was a bit quiet here while we were gone.  Thanks to co-bloggers Brigid and ASM826 for putting up some posts.

But it was nice to unplug from the 'net for a bit.  And the ride is nothing if not scenic and since we somehow lucked out and missed the rain on the way over and back, it was a nice ride.  Alabama put on a really good concert there (pix to come later).

But now back to the grind.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Driving Miss Abby - A Brigid Guest Post

The photo is Miss Madeline Car, a restored Triumph that sits in my garage longing for warmer days and solitary country roads. In the city,  where traffic is heavy and the red signal light appears to be only a suggestion,  I drive a very large, full size, extended cab 4 x 4. It's helpful for visibility in this and other cities where everyone drives like they are in Nascar.  But it is really not maneuverable enough for Chicago, the home of high-speed slalom driving thanks to potholes which are cleverly laid out in key locations to test driver's reflexes and keep them on their toes.

Still, I feel safer in it than most vehicles I've owned and since it's paid for I'll just stay on my toes.

Work-wise - over the years I've had an assortment of cars to use while on official business, all that came with strict rules as to who and how they were used.  If I'm in the work vehicle, I obey the speed limit and slow ever further down if I see a Patrol car, because nothing will make you the object of jokes more than getting a ticket while in the Squirrelmobile.
Some years back before I was with the Secret Squirrel agency, I worked for another such outfit that we will simply refer to as International Sneaky Service, different work, but like any job, with its own set of rules. As always, I was the only woman and commonly I was the team leader.  Several of us were out on a mission when, at the place we stopped on our drive, to eat lunch, the local animal shelter was having a "adopt a pet" for the locals in the parking lot next door. One of my work team wandered over to pat a pooch. He came back and said, "there's a really cool Lab I want to adopt, he's older, no one wants him, I have to give him a home".

I'm in command here, he's looking at me for the OK. He's got no one, a couple years from retirement, his girl leaving him after a long tour away. I haven't seen this look on his face for far too long.

I look at the rest of the group, one of them a combat vet who got shot down, his legs burned badly, he's missing some toes, but not his heart. Another was a former Marine, as tough as they come, but whom I've seen shed tears when a dog was lost in duty. The probie with us was quiet. I nod my head.

Twenty minutes later, he has custody of one very happy, well behaved and older, male Labrador retriever. But how to get the dog home? We'll just put him in the official Sneaky Service vehicle and bring him back to headquarters where he can get transferred to his new owners truck stealthily in the parking lot out back as he was off duty when he got back.  But probie says. "we can't' take anyone on official business in the Sneaky car, we'll be up on charges".

I said, "that's people, no civilians allowed,  contractors/ employees only, we know that but there's nothing in the rules about a dog, he can't sue our boss if we have a fender bender" So off we go, all the while, probie stewing and fretting in the back seat, treating the dog like a bomb getting ready to blow. Finally as we near our destination, he just loses it, his voice rising up an octave as he exclaims, "A dog in the Sneaky car, a DOG in the Sneaky CAR!! We might as well have a KILO of COCAINE in here!!"

The dog was obtained during our meal break, and these guys were my responsibility. If anyone was going to get chewed out for giving Fido a lift it would only be me, NOT the probie. Fortunately, we had arrived. As we covertly left the vehicle for another team to soon use, and got ready to move Fido, we discovered the reason said dog may have needed a new home. From the back seat came a cloud of doggie gas that would gag a maggot. Retreat! We quickly got him out and closed the doors, moving him to the waiting truck of his new Dad. As we went inside the building, not even noticing we were back, we couldn't help but see the new guys open the door of the car we'd just evacuated with "WT . . . *)#(@. . .What's that SMELL! OMG!!!!"

That's been quite a few years ago. His remaining short years were good ones, happy and well loved, with his adopted Dad, who apparently had no sense of smell. Hopefully, now, he is in doggie heaven, where everything smells like bacon.

Barkley Memories - Alway Up to Something

Then there are the long trips by myself. I'm not sure why I enjoy the car trips. I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land . . . across rivers and towns. My Mom would have preferred I marry a hometown boy and stay in the tiny town in which I was raised, but once I tasted adventure, I was born into that gypsy life and have never really known another.

St. Expurey said, "he who would travel happily must travel light". And this adventurer did travel light, based across the US, with a short stint as a contractor overseas. I remember those early years, I remember not just the travel, the airplanes themselves, but the feel of the starched uniform shirt I wore, the smell of a crewman's aftershave (which thank heavens wasn't Brut). It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug sprayed glass that tints the world bright.

The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but some things never changed. Days in an airplane traveling far. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red-winged birds, mountains formed of ice and fluid need, and rivers without borders, all blending into a bright diorama of life racing past. The world looks different from above, clouds massive and dark, looming up like a target in a gun sight, looking twice the size of an ordinary man.

I have spent a half of my life it seems on the way somewhere. I have watched a hundred cumulus clouds erupt, the mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny airport diner and the journey was only beginning.

Along with me came the music, classical, jazz, and music from the Swing Era f there was a CD player in the vehicle. There are parts of the earth you can hear music of all types, there are areas where all you will find is country Western. Some of it is good, it certainly taught me a few things. .

(1) No matter where you are in the plains states, somewhere, on some station, someone is playing "Bad Bad Leroy Brown".

(2) If the singer is going on about taking you for a ride on his "big tractor", he's NOT talking about farm equipment.
3) there will be areas where all you can find is rap or Hispanic music. If that happens make up your own country songs - "If he hadn't been so good lookin I might have seen the train".
And finally, after many hours straight of broke down, done wrong, sad tears kind of songs I realized that -

4) At the gas station of love, sometimes it's self service and no fresh coffee.
Finally, though, I'm home where, fortunately, I have someone of the four-legged variety waiting eagerly for me, (with the two-legged kind arriving home soon) Life is good, worth singing about, even if my knee has gone to sleep.

Til then, I have Abby. She's good company, at home or in the truck. She's a heartbeat at my feet on those nights I'm alone in the house when my husband is on the road and a draft of lonely wind taps at my soul. Like Barkley, she's the uncomplicated creature I could be if I knew better. She challenges any threat with honor; to bark at the UPS man is the utmost of patriotism for her, and she quietly offers me an affection ignorant of my faults. She sleeps deeply yet watchfully and for her cunning seems to have no knowledge of death, and relies on me to do her worrying about that for her.

When she goes on a trip with me, she gently lets me put the driving harness on her, so she stays secure, then quietly lays down and goes to sleep until we have arrived. I will miss Barkley until the day I die.  But getting an older dog from Rescue was one of the best decisions I ever made along the way. Since the day she showed up at the door with her Foster Mom, she's been a warm, brave and loving companion that has made the continued journey worth taking.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Good news and bad news for Harley-Davidson

It looks like the EU is working on dropping most tariffs - and since these added something like four grand to the cost of a hog sold there, this is good news for HOG.  More good news for Harley is that this may even mean that Trump's tariffs on imported EU steel will go down or away, letting them lower prices or solidifying the bottom line.

The bad news is that the Harley buying demographic is getting even older.  Kids these days aren't saddling up like they did in the past.  Dr. Jim has a bunch of reasons why.  This is my favorite:
You have to shift manually and use something called a clutch.
It's funny because it's true.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

On Timing - A Brigid Guest Post

Doc Holliday:  What did you ever want?
Wyatt Earp:   Just to live a normal life.
Doc Holliday: There's no normal life, Wyatt, it's just life. Get on with it.
Wyatt Earp: Don't know how.
Doc Holliday: Sure you do. Say goodbye to me. Go grab that spirited actress and make her your own. Take that beauty from it, don't look back.  Live every second. Live right on to the end. Live Wyatt. Live for me.   Wyatt, if you were ever my friend -  if ya ever had even the slightest of feelin' for me,
leave now. Leave now... Please.

Timing is everything they say.

In ballistics certainly so. In the outcome of a day even more so.  I missed out on a flight  in a smallish plane some years ago, because I was suddenly sick to my stomach. All aboard died.  My stomach bug was not the flu but a yet known and unplanned pregnancy.

How many of us, unknowingly, missed a vehicular accident, a violent crime or a whack from mother nature, simply because we forgot our phone and ran back into the house, decided to linger over that nice little .380 in the case, or simply had too much, or too little caffeine.

Timing can be good.  It can also be lousy. Missed trains, missed job opportunities.  Missed dreams.  I've heard from more than one guy friend that he was bummed the "girl of his dreams" had found someone. Yet, he never asked her out, couldn't express the feelings until it was too late, sometimes remaining silent for months or even years, growing only older of bone and pride.


When we were kids, we ran around with time simply carried in our pocket, as dense and round as a coin, many coins, that jingle as we ran. We are told by some grownups that we soon will have to grow up and leave childish dreams behind, but we don't listen, because we have nothing in our experience to gauge their caution by, to give the portent of a structured future any range and meaning.  Besides we are too busy, just doing things that kids do, even if that was just sitting and waiting for hours for a fish to bite a tiny hook.

Then, seemingly overnight, we fell into that grown up, carefully measured and timed world, picking up our watch in the process. The dreams of childhood passed behind as we jumped on board a fast moving train, losing our innocence before we even fully realized we possessed it.
As adults we are governed by time, watches, and cell phones and alarm clocks and schedules.  Mechanical clocks and biological ones. We rush headlong into actions without considerations, as if the sheer and simple arranged succession of days was not fast enough, constituted without capacity enough, so that weeks and months and years of living had to be condensed down into one moment, and it is today, now.  We as a society, and as individuals, do not seem to be able to closely watch and wait for that which is worth waiting for.  We feverishly work for things we do not need and we vote without thought for those that promise us prosperity without effort.

Everything is based on now. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. What do you mean you haven't got a date, got a spouse, a house, a baby, and we need to talk to you about those 25 pounds.  Everything is on a time schedule and it's not necessarily ours. Meals are microwaved, we speed date, express wash, Kwik-e-Mart, and you know what? We find that in rushing towards what we're supposed to want, we missed the things that can truly change our lives.

Reset your clock.

Just once, turn off your computer turn off your cell phone, turn off Twitter, and Facebook and clear your calender for a few hours.

Pick up that old firearm that may have been your Dad's, or your Grandfathers and head out into the country.  If you don't hunt, then pick up a camera, a drawing pad and a pencil.  But take some tool that will open up the wilderness to you and go.
Go out into that rapid and fading back country that is retreating as the tide is, walk out into that land that was ours, is ours, field and forest, bayou and orchard, grain and dust, harbor and thicket. Go on out and decide what is important and what is not, among all the flotsam and jetsam in your life, where it is going and how much control you're going to give to others over it.

Go out into that land that still carries the tracks of those that crossed this nation to build, to grow; men, and women and children, bringing with them their tools and trades, goods and gear, by steamer, by wagon wheel by train, by big slow rivers that sometimes revealed no current and sometimes ran backwards, running not to hide, but to dream, all the way to the ocean. It was a land on which a man ate only by the sweat of his brow, the ability to plow a straight furrow or chop down a limb without removing one of his own.  It was a land of milk and honey, steelhead and gold, which offered itself up on rare occasion from the earth as compensation for torn lives and broken bones, payment which neither man nor his government proffered for the weak or the foolish.

Find a spot out in this expanse of history and sit and take it in.

There is so much that might have been, could have been, wrong place, wrong time, so boundless in capacity is man's imagination to burn and scatter away the refuse of probability, leaving only yearning and dreams. No time or space or distance can keep you from that what matters, even if to the world, your dreams of your life is and what kind of world you wish to live in, are little more than transparent scratchings on depthless glass.
I'll sit by my brothers bedside as the chemicals go into his body that may or may not kill the cancer that's consuming him with fire that bears no warmth. There is the steady whoosh from machinery in the room, the movement of unsleeping blood, the intake of air. The room is simple, but its corners and edges hold the quiet, complex lives of two very secret people, who long ago escaped from a place that held only pain, there in that season between thunder and any thought of rain, finding their own shelter, with a new family.  Now, we have no season, the hospital room alternating day and night in a vacuum in which light is only a hope.

As you sit out there in that countryside, think of these words. Stop and look and breathe. Pick up a discarded piece of wood. Think of what you have, what means the world to you, and what and who you will fight for, as an individual, as part of a family and as a citizen.
Then carve your name on that little piece of wood, carve the name of the one you fight for, or simply carve "Freedom", the letters bearing one clear unfettered voice that sounds out, through the delicate attenuation of your actions, through the ringing bells of your worth, through the tone that is the weight of silent guns - I WAS here, I AM here, there IS still time.

Then go back home to your home and your memories.  A heart shaped locket with a young woman and a man in an airman's uniform, months before war separated them for years. A shirt that could fit a thousand others but which only one wore so long that you will forever know its wearer by the simple feel of the fabric underneath your fingertips, the echo of sandalwood that clings to blue cotton. Go back to your present. A photo on the wall of those who still live to tell you their stories, to hold firm your past, memories that are borne on the air that you still breathe, invisible, yet essential as air itself. Go back to your future. A flag on a wall, one for which your loved ones gave up much of their life for, or even, life itself.

Go back and claim what is there, while there is still time.
 - Brigid

New York Times fake news is a hit piece on the Dominican Republic

Tourism is one of the Dominican Republic's most important industries.  Blessed by spectacular Caribbean beaches, people from all over the world vacation there.  But fear not, Gentle Reader, the New York Times is doing its best to wreck what little prosperity that tourism brings:
Come for the beaches, say tourism ads for the Dominican Republic. 
But it has some beaches you might want to skip right now. 
The Caribbean nation is known for sapphire seas and ivory beaches, but it is grappling with waves of garbage washing up on its shores, a vivid reminder of the presence of thousands of tons of plastic in the world’s oceans.
This article is garbage.  I know for a fact that the DR's beaches are some of the best in the world.  The Queen Of The World and I went there just three years ago.

Bavaro beach, Dominican Republic, 2015
It's nothing short of spectacular.

Bavaro beach, Dominican Republic, 2015
It's also inexpensive and easy to get to.  The people are friendly beyond belief.  If you're looking for a Caribbean vacation, this gets two thumbs up from the Queen Of The World and me.

But back to the Times.  It seems that the reporter put the story together from press releases from an environmental advocacy group:
Relying on Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, who is based in New York, Karasz parrots “It happens pretty much all the time if there is a strong rainfall or a storm,…The phenomenon is not confined to the Dominican Republic, and can be seen in many developing nations with a coastline. “Everybody uses the rivers and the beaches as dump sites.” and “What is happening in the Dominican Republic is only a small symptom of the larger global problem”, Mr. Gutsch said. Plastic dumped in and near rivers washes into the ocean, and only a small percentage bounces back onto shore. The majority makes it to the high seas.”
So who are you going to believe, the Cyrill Gutsch and his anti-plastics crusaide, or your lying eyes?

But it's worse than that.  This sort of naked, fake news environmental advocacy comes at the expense of the people to the DR.  This is a developing country, and the people there are poor.  Why would the Times publish and incorrect story that might cause poor people to lose their jobs?

The obvious answer, of course, is that environmentalists in general and the Times in particular don't care about poor people.  They care about their ridiculous dogma.  It's Rich People's Leftism.  That right there is why I have a tag It's Not Easy Being Green.

"Undocumented Immigrant" term will not longer be used at Department of Justice

Speaking clearly, for a change (warning: autoplay):
The Justice Department has instructed US attorneys offices not to use the term "undocumented" immigrants and instead refer to someone illegally in the US as "an illegal alien," according to a copy of an agency-wide email obtained by CNN. 
According to the email, the Justice Department uses terms in the US Code to describe an individual who is illegally in the US, and thus refers to them as "an illegal alien." 
"The word 'undocumented' is not based in US code and should not be used to describe someone's illegal presence in the country," the email states.
Seems that it is the correct legal term.  No doubt the Usual Suspects will go nuts in 3 .. 2 .. 1 ..

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A thought for the day

Heh.  Shamelessly stolen from Gorges Smythe, who has a whole lot more.

Not understanding your opponents goes both ways

It's clear that the Left does not understand Donald Trump or how he works.  As a result, he is able to keep them focused on whatever his tweet-du-jour is, rather than what he's working to accomplish.  He's racked up a fair record of wins so far doing this, and will continue to do so as long as his opponents refuse to take him seriously on his own terms.

But that applies to us as well.  Peter points out the latest idiocy du jour from the Left, and idiotic it is:
Yet another example of the blithering idiocy that has overtaken so much of academe in this country is provided by an organization calling itself "the BABEL working group", which earns our Doofus award today.
A prominent association of medieval studies scholars has pledged to boycott the discipline’s largest annual conference over a lack of social justice programming.
The first reaction is: the stupid, it burns!  But that's reacting to the BABEL Working Group the same way that the Media reacts to Donald Trump.  If we look at these people from their own perspective, we find something rational (and sinister):
The letter, which has been signed by more than 600 people as of press time, argues that by rejecting workshops such as “How to Be a White Ally in Medieval Studies 101,” “Toxic Medievalisms,” and “Intersectionality and the Medieval Romance,” the ICMS organizers are hurting scholars of color and excluding their perspectives.

“The rejection of multiple sessions co-sponsored by Medievalists of Color (MOC) in particular minimizes the intellectual guidance that scholars of color would provide at the conference, when these scholars are already severely underrepresented in the field,” the letter protests.
They have a rational goal - get more leftie/Social Justice Warrior representation in this academic field.  Their goal isn't scholarship, it's power.  And they mean business.

Quite frankly, the biggest knock against conservatives is not that they are standing athwart the march of history yelling "stop", but that they don't  analyze demands from the left in terms of power.  The idea that the GOP establishment is basically in favor of open borders is a great example of this.  Their donors want cheap illegal workers who can be bossed around without making much of a fuss, but the Democrats want voters.  It's about power.

And so when you see something that looks idiotic, consider that the Left is doing to you what Trump does to them.  Don't look at what they say, look at what they want to do.

So my (hopefully gentle) disagreement with Peter is that these aren't doofuses.  They are serious, and mean to do exactly what they say because it gets power for them.

It takes 5 seconds to install a credit card skimmer

Skimmers are devices that crooks put over point of sale terminals (or - sometimes - ATMs) to steal your credit card number.  Worse, they can steal your ATM PIN number if you use the card as a debit card.

It's astonishingly quick for the Bad Guys to install these things.  Watch:

One guy distracts the clerk and the other does the dirty deed.  Yikes.

I posted a couple years back on how to spot one of these, and it's worth reading if you didn't see it then.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

On Anniversaries - A Brigid Guest Post

Sometimes you think you can fly, only to be destined to drown.

And so we stay earthbound. "Should have". "Would have". Those are words in all of our hearts, at least once. We recall much of a life as each year passes, candles on another cake, warm breath against the flames. But what do you remember most, the best day of your life or your last regret?

The difference is profound.

I look at my Dad, and when my late brother's name is mentioned he gets this look of profound grief on his face, even as I've learned to get through the day as a stoic. He is a man who is not Time's trinket and for him, my brother's collapse and death on Good Friday as if it was yesterday.

But he'd not have given up the experience of adopting and raising him, both of us, for any happier ending.
I remember a few short years ago, when I thought my heart was in pieces, not likely to heal.  A fractured goodbye, and the realization that the person I had cared for, who had asked to meet my family and had done so, was a breathing ghost. I was left with just a rose, drying between two pages, the blood from an internal thorn tearing something loose inside, the print of nose against the glass of a skyscraper where I leaned into it so the tears couldn't be seen. Afterwards, I wondered if life was even worth living, there in that brief darkness before there is light.

But I didn't go down that path, the thought only one of brief self-pity, not intended to be action. I had a really good cry or two and a giant plate of Nachos and a beer or three with a six-foot pony-tailed blond, who has always been my rock among best friends. Then I met my gal friend M.C. and as we drove around a haunted landscape, I realized that although I hurt, I FELT, and that was a good thing.

Then, after a long night's sleep, I picked up the phone and called a guy friend, someone I had chatted online with for years, sometimes spending hours sharing geeky puns and jokes. I knew he would understand. My boyfriend and I broke up", was all I said, and he listened, as he always did while I talked it out, and tried to put it behind me.
It wasn't the first time my heart had broke, and wouldn't be the last, but the feeling peeled something from me, like skin from an onion, leaving nerves exposed to a cold that bit with weasel teeth. It brought back a memory of that first loss of someone I loved and a memory of how I handled it. For that first time my heart broke, I did what a lot of people do. I pushed everyone away, pushing my boundaries, sometimes hanging up high in the air, the g-forces on my body a distraction from the pain, the air parting like the Red Sea, my only need to move on at maximum risk to my body, and minimum risk to my soul.

I wanted nothing from the world but the ability to push through it without being touched.  I talked little to people but much to the sky, whispering to it my regrets as I rolled through 40 degrees of bank, taking counsel with that great blue solitude.
You think that cheating death like that would make me feel alive but for a time, it was a battle without passion, grey and colorless, with neither the urge to win or the fear to lose, played out before an arena with no audience.  I came within a few knots of a final pronouncement more than once and found that I had nothing left to say.

The only sound was the wings cleaving the air, a sound that is like all other sounds of profound mystery, the lap of a wave upon a shore, the echo of taps, the whispers of a voice that speaks to you in dreams from an eternity away, heard but not comprehensible.

I lost out on a lot of life during those brief years.
This time, I was a bit older, and a little scar tissue and I weren't strangers, having been through much worse than breaking up a budding relationship. This time I was going to open myself up to friends and get out and enjoy my life with the four legged friend who had taught me that lesson. With Barkley in tow, we got out and we talked and we learned to laugh again, and in fairly short order. There were whiskey and bacon and late nights with two good friends laughing as we compared the merits of Barry White versus William Shatner and Greensleeves or Zamfir and his Pan Flute as music to get lucky by. On one of the rare days I let that last heartache get the better of me, one of those friends said: "if you had to do it all again, knowing it would teach you how to feel again, would you"?  I looked at her and said "hell yes."

I didn't see my friend that I called that night for a few months, our talks continuing with the usual matters between people that share hobbies and books, even if they don't share the same generation. Then one night he mentioned a date with a ballerina, and I pictured them out, young, beautiful, laughing and felt something twist in my chest that had not been there for a while. But I didn't say anything, not then, not when Barkley and I would meet him for a coffee.
Then one day he called me after landing from a  long business trip overseas and asked me to an event we both loved, not a date, just a typical outing with friends someplace upstate.  I said yes and plans were made. After hanging out all that day, he asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat once we'd had a chance to get cleaned up (playing with steam engines all days can get a little dirty) and we located a couple quick burger places near our respective hotels.  He showed up at my door dressed in dress pants and a crisp shirt, and the burger joint I was expecting as planned, turned into an intimate, elegant bistro, a glass of wine, and a conversation about things much deeper than the night, things only hinted at, never said.
Halfway through the meal, I thought to myself "holy cow, this is a date".

That was seven years ago, on a warm, clear day.  That date is now my husband.

Because he asked.
How often do we stay silent, when we are searching, when we need help, when we are hurt?  How often do we shut ourselves away when we want a cool touch upon the brow or a hand that helps us up a steep slope. There is so much that can keep us from the truth of things, holding us in that toil of a heart's hesitation.

Sometimes it's pride, sometimes it's hurt. Sometimes it's history.  Often it's the fear of being rejected The safety stays on, the mouth stays closed and while we think we are protecting ourselves, we're merely closing a door on life, one that can be as fixed as one of a prison.  In doing so sometimes we lose a friend, we lose an opportunity or we lose on love- that improbable, inexplicable and sometimes bewildering thing that binds us together despite our blood, or through it.
A fellow I knew professionally, lamented to me in a moment of vulnerability after a very late night on the job that his old high school crush was marrying someone else.  I said "did you ever ask her out" and he said "no. . . I knew she would say no, she was beautiful and popular and I'm. . . . ", accepting the words as he uttered them with an almost eager fatalism. That which makes something its truth also makes its meaning.  I should have offered comfort, but I remained silent, not knowing what to say.

So he and I just continued to work, in silence, our untrammeled feet taking us to a place rendered quiet not by solitude, but by loss. We worked on, blind and deaf to any emotion but the gathering and I realized I should have said something, if only, "next time. . . ask" said with a smile, and a hug from a friend, not a colleague.
On a day when another birthday shortly looms,  I look at what is around me, and how I almost lost it, lost myself, simply by never taking the chance, listening to my fears, and not to my heart.  For the past does have a way of coming back to us.  You can fear in in silence, treating it as if you would an unwanted dream or you can learn from it, remembering it like a fine book, full of wonders and maybe occasional warfare, but as full of life as the landscape around you.

From what I've learned in 59 years on this planet, is the earth is simply a standing place and how you look at what is around you is your loss or your gain.
The sky and water weld together without joint, the sun descending down, touching the lake with a soundless hiss.  Soon, the moon would spread over this place with the thick sheen of silver. This is just one day in time, one day to be cataloged in memory.  The living trees, the flowers planted by another's hands, so still they appear to have been formed in stone, even to the smallest bud, the feather stroke of a tiny leaf.

I touch the porch railing of this old house, tracing it the way fingers trace a human backbone, there under the skin, in the silent perusal of that which becomes wonder. Another year older, another day wiser.  I could worry about, or as I did on that birthday not all that long ago where I could give my best friend and Partner a T-Shirt that says "I Can't Drive 55" and just laugh, a sound that will bend the trees and shake the fixed stars in the sky.  I turn towards the door, where there is a light on, waiting.

We are governed by Dumbasses

And when I call them "dumbasses", I must apologize to donkeys for any disaprobation due to being associated with these idiots:
The nation's top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them. 
In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had "provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006," which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them.
Electronic voting has two computer components: the voting machines (where you cast your ballot) and the election management machines (where the ballots are counted).  The security of the voting machines themselves has been pretty much deplorable, and we've known this for a very long time.  But the saving grace is that to hack the election you need to hack a bunch of voting machines, and you need physical access to do so.  That hakes it hard - not impossible, but hard (read: expensive) and so the risk is mitigated by the real world (im)practicalities of the scenario.

But the election management systems, aye there's the rub.  The votes get dumped from the voting machines into the management systems where they get counted and tabulated.  And those machines were connected to the 'net.

Ooooooh kaaaaaay.  Good thinking.

So riddle me this, Voter Fraud Man.  If you wanted to change an election, would you try to gain physical access to maybe thousands of voting machines in key swing districts, using hundreds of accomplices who might get caught (or blab to the PoPo), or would you target a few dozen of remotely accessible (and poorly protected) election management computers where you just change the counted results by a few percent to swing the election your way?  After connecting from a jurisdiction that doesn't have an extradition treaty with the USA.

Take your time thinking about it, I'll be right here.

For extra credit, what do you think the password of the PCAnywhere remote access software was?

So we are governed by dumbasses.  No, not the idiots who designed and sold this bleeding turkey of a voting system.  The ones who bought this bleeding turkey of a voting system.

In a younger and more vigorous era of the Republic, the sellers (and buyers) of this smoking train wreck would have been horse whipped through the public square.  Alas, for the decline of the America.

We have to ban them for the Children!

I mean, c'mon - nobody needs that!

The Roman Deep State and Make Rome Great Again

Things looked grim for the Roman Empire in 455 AD.  Much of the provinces of Gaul and Hispania had been essentially taken over by barbarian armies.  In May the Eternal City itself was sacked by the vandals.  This wasn't a mostly-extortion sacking like Odoacer did in 410, it was violent and destructive, stripping the capital of the ancient world of its accumulated treasures.  Not for nothing does the word "vandal" have its current meaning.

Genseric sacking Rome, by Karl Briullov
It looked like things were about to fall apart.  A series of weak Emperors had been dominated by barbarian generals serving as Roman commander in chief for most of the last 60 years.  Unexpectedly, Majorian donned the purple, vowing to make Rome great again.

He was energetic, intelligent, and a good leader of men.  He quickly gathered his troops and - unusually for an Emperor in those days - personally led them into Gaul.  Beating the Visigothic king who would later come to be known as Theodoric the Great, he forced the Goths to recognize the Emperor as overlord.  He then turned his attention to the barbarian Burgundians, storming their capital and making them rejoin the empire as well.

He then turned his attention - and his armies - south.  Since Theodoric had pledged his people's loyalty, Majorian gave them the chance to prove it, by attacking the barbarian Suebi who had taken over northwest Hispania.  They did.  Meanwhile, Majorian's own troops drove the Vandals from Spain.

By 460 AD, Majorian had been Emperor for a short three years and had nearly restored the Empire.

But he was an outsider.  A native of Gaul, he was never accepted by the Roman Senate and the Italian power structure.  The following year he was assassinated.  The Roman Deep State may have thought that they could handle things (they couldn't), or perhaps that it was better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.  The next years would show how that wasn't all that it was cracked up to be as the last Emperor, the Little Augustus Romulus Augustulus was deposed in 476.  The Roman Deep State refused to serve an Emperor from Gaul and faound themselves under the yoke of a Barbarian king.
Majorian presents the welcome discovery of a great and heroic character, such as sometimes arise, in a degenerate age, to vindicate the honour of the human species.
- Edward Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
Donald Trump in many ways finds himself in a similar situation to Majorian.  A series of disastrous trade agreements have gutted large parts of America, vandalizing a once thriving middle America.  You could call it a sacking and not be far off.  He, like Majorian, is a man of energy and intelligence, and has quickly achieved much more than most people thought possible.

But he, too, is an outsider, opposed by those who seem to prefer ruling in Hell over serving in Heaven.  Political violence is in the air.  An assassin shot a Congressman last year.  A political zealot assaulted and hospitalized a Senator.  We are surrounded by images of Trump with his head cut off.

As Trump increasingly succeeds in marginalizing a Deep State who thought that they alone were fit to rule, at what point can we expect a real plot to kill Caesar?  Because the Trump revolution is centered around the man himself - this is not an institution, it is a reflection of him as a force of nature.  Remove him, and you remove the force.  Vice President Pence is no Donald Trump, and likely would be made of the same material as the last few pathetic Roman boy Emperors.

But what happens then?  The forces rending the Republic will not be gone.  The forces that led to the election of Trump will not disappear.  Our Deep State will likely discover what the Roman Deep State found, that it would have been better to serve in Heaven than live in the Hell they unleashed.

Monday, July 23, 2018


New Jovian Thunderbolt has been blogging eleven years.  That's like the neolithic age of the Blogosphere when he started.

Congrats, T-Bolt!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Toots & The Maytals - Take Me Home Country Roads

The Queen Of The World and I are going to a Reggae festival today, but it's Saturday morning which means country music.  What to do, what to do ...

Toots & The Maytals has a reggae version of the old John Denver classic, with a couple changes.  Almost Heaven West Jamaica ...

Friday, July 20, 2018

Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it

Digging for Hitler

Wow.  This is more than a little creepy.  Tacitus thinks that he may have helped excavate a battlefield where Adolf Hitler served in World War I.  This is very thought provoking, and highly recommended.
The past isn't dead.  It isn't even past.
- William Faulkner

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Assassination chiq - Louis Armstrong "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You"

There has been a lot of buzz over the last couple years about someone killing Donald Trump.  CNN's Wolf Blitzer discussed what would happen if someone blew up the inauguration.  A Missouri state legislator said she hoped it would happen.  Twitter is (as you'd expect) a sewer of this sort of stuff.  Chuck Schumer said that Trump was "really dumb" for taking on the CIA because they had lots of ways to get back at him.

And everyone seems to have forgotten that someone actually tried to assassinate The Donald.

Ah, the rarified atmosphere of calm, intellectual debate.  More thoughts coming tomorrow, but in the meantime, here's Louis Armstrong with what was probably the first ever recorded assassination threat against Trump.

Around the blogs

Rather than having to actually, you know, think and work, I'll highlight some posts that struck me as important and well worth your time.

OldNFO posts about how College is a waste for many kids and they would be much better off financially learning a high paying trade.  The comments are all pack full of smart, too.

The Czar of Muscovy writes about how when an organization loudly trumpets what appears to be nothing short of lunacy, you should follow the money.

Speaking of lunacy, Lawrence Person writes on how the establishment simply can't get their heads around how Trump accomplishes what he does - even though it is as simple as simple.  Smartest kids in class, right there.

Peter writes disturbingly about how the lunacy is being dialed up past 11 to 12 or beyond, and that a coup or assassination may be the logical outcome.  Quite frankly, I don't expect the 50% of Americans who voted for Trump to go along quietly with this if it happens.

A comedic interlude

This made me chuckle.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Dogs of War vs. ISIS Jihadis

Dog 1, ISIS 0:
The hero Alsatian was accompanying the troops on a training exercise in the north of the country when their convoy of four vehicles came under fire from extremist militants.

One of the SAS cars was destroyed by a homemade bomb and the outnumbered forces were forced to split up and take cover.

With the ISIS fighters pinning the British troops down using two heavy mounted machine guns, an American soldier who was with the group released the snarling dog.
That's like opening a can of whoop-ass, only furrier.
It charged at the attackers, dodging bullets before taking down one of the jihadis and ripping his neck and face.

It then turned its attention to another extremist, savaging his arms and legs in a frenzied assault.

The jihadis, who are thought to have never seen an Alsatian before, fled the scene screaming, allowing the SAS team to call in air support.
Good dog.
The team then made their way to safety with the dog, who is now being treated by the troops as a hero.
Ya think? Bravo Zulu Kilo Niner.
"A snarling Alsatian running at you is very frightening and probably not something the jihadis had encountered.

"The dog did its job and returned to its handler worth its tail wagging."
This made me laugh out loud.  I can just imagine what the dog was thinking in his doggie brain.  Didja see what I did?  Didja?  Didja?  Can I do it again?  At least, that's what Wolfgang would be thinking.

This moment of awesome is brought to you by a heads up from the Queen Of The World, who knows a thing or two about German Shepherds.

Russiagate, explained

It's funny because it's true.

John Stormer has died

Via Ann Althouse, we see that John Stormer is dead at 90:
John A. Stormer, whose self-published 1964 book, “None Dare Call It Treason,” became a right-wing favorite despite being attacked as inaccurate in promulgating the notion that American government and institutions were full of Communist sympathizers, died on July 10 in Troy, Mo. He was 90. 
Mr. Stormer’s book, published by his own Liberty Bell Press, tapped into a vein of conservative alarm that was still very much present in the early 1960s, even though the Red-baiting era of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy had faded in the 1950s. 
The book landed in the year that the Republican Party nominated Barry M. Goldwater, the conservative Arizona senator, for the presidency, and Goldwater sympathizers latched onto it, buying up copies and distributing them at rallies and by other means. The far-right John Birch Society was among the groups spreading the book around.
I hadn't know this yesterday when I posted a link to this old post of mine.  In it, I excerpt what may be the finest summary of Stormer that I've seen:
Moldbug amplifies this battle, and then we'll get to the meat of the argument here:
It is not that the American left was the tool of Moscow. In fact, it was the other way around. From day one, the Soviet Union was the pet experiment of the bien-pensants. It was Looking Backward in Cyrillic. It was the client state to end all client states.


The theory of Russia as a client state of the American left helps us understand the behavior of the great Communist spies of the 1940s, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. Essentially all significant institutions of today's transnational world community - the UN, the IMF, the World Bank - were designed by one of these gentlemen, whose role in passing American documents to Soviet military intelligence is now beyond dispute. John Stormer was right.

Or was he? The thing is that while, technically, Hiss and White were certainly Soviet agents, they hardly fit the profile of a traitor like Aldrich Ames. Hiss and White were at the top of their professions, respected and admired by everyone they knew. What motivation could they possibly have for treason? Why would men like these betray their country?

The obvious answer, in my opinion, is that they didn't see themselves as betraying their country. The idea that they were Russian tools would never have occurred to them. When you see a dog, a leash, and a man, your interpretation is that the man is walking the dog, even if the latter appears to be towing the former.

Hiss and White, in my opinion, believed - like many of their social and cultural background - that the US had nothing to fear from the Soviet Union. They saw themselves as using the Soviets, not the other way around, helping to induce the understandably paranoid Russian leadership to integrate themselves into the new global order.
So a Puritan drive towards the perfectibility of mankind drives the entire political establishment - including Presidents like Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush - to support what on the face would be far left wing policy positions.
This post may be the best introduction to the Dark Enlightenment that I've done.  You can, of course, read Moldbug directly, but he's pretty thick going.  My post (and the post I link to at Foseti) spend some time to digest Moldbug for you.

Or you can read Stormer yourself, as a free download from the Internet Archive.  The title comes from a very old quote: Treason doth never prosper. What's the reason? Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.  Pretty clever, that.

Rest in Peace

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Heavy Mental Music

This is a very different spin on "high and tight", but anything that has Bill Murray fixing martinis is a-OK in my book.  Srlsy.  And it is mid-July after all ...

Hey Bustah!

I gotcher "Russian Collusion" right here

Why NASA could never take us back to the Moon

ASM826's post yesterday looked back on the race to the Moon nostalgically, as a lost age of engineering and an opportunity squandered.  I'm not so sure.  The Moon race was an anomaly in American history, a massive engineering project divorced from financial return.  The great projects from the 19th and 20th centuries all were focused on profit and growth - the Erie canal, the transcontinental railroad, the Interstate Highway system.  Project Apollo stands out as the oddball.

There's no mystery about why we never went back.  I wrote about this nine years ago.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jack Kennedy's Treasure Fleet

I was 11 years old, and it was late. We simply weren't allowed to stay up that late - after 11:00. But this was no normal day. We all huddled around that old Black-and-White television set, watching a terrible picture that showed the first man on the moon. Dad was in Paris finishing his PhD research, and watched it projected on a huge screen at the Place de la Concorde. This was maybe the last time that an American's money was no good in Paris.

We haven't been back, since Gene Cernan climbed back aboard the LEM in December, 1972. Some folks think this is a crying shame. I used to be one of them. Now I recognize that there could not have been any other outcome. We've seen this before.

Between 1405 and 1433, the Chinese Ming dynasty sent a series of exploration voyages to southeast Asia, India, and even Africa. While the Portuguese under Prince Henry struggled down the western coast of Africa in their tiny caravels, huge Chinese treasure ships sailed to Calicut and Mogadishu.

And then they were gone, as if they had never been. Why?

The historian David Landes spends considerable time on this question in his indispensable The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations. The Chinese voyages differed in one critical way from those of Diaz and Columbus: the Chinese voyages were motivated by a desire to glorify the Middle Kingdom, while the European ones were motivated by the desire for filthy lucre:
In the 1430s a new emperor reigned in Peking, one who "knew not Joseph." A new, Confucian crowd completed for influence, mandarins who scorned and distrusted commerce (for them, the only true source of wealth was agriculture) and detested the eunuchs who had planned and carried out the great voyages. For some decades, the two groups vied for influence, the balance shifting now one way, not the other. But fiscality and the higher Chinese morality were on the Confucian side. The maritime campaign had strained the empire's finances and weakened its authority over a population bled white by taxes and corvee levies.


So, after some decades of tugging and hauling, of alternating celebration and commemoration on the one hand, of contumely and repudiation on the other, the decision was taken not only to cease from maritime exploration but to erase the very memory of what had gone before lest later generations be tempted to renew the folly.


At the same time, [the Chinese] desire to overawe meant that costs far exceeded returns. These voyages reeked of extravagance. Whereas the first profits (the first whiff of pepper) and the promise of even greater ones to come were a powerful incentive to Western venturers, in China the pecuniary calculus said no.


The vulnerability of the program - here today, gone tomorrow - was reinforced by its official character. In Europe, the opportunity of private initiative that characterized even such royal projects as the search for a sea route to the Indies was a source of participatory funding and an assurance of rationality. Nothing like that in China, where the Confucian state abhorred merchantile success.
So why did we leave the Moon, never to return? Why is NASA wandering in the wilderness? Let's update Landes, shall we?  In Europe America, the opportunity of private initiative that characterized even such royal Government projects as the search for a sea route to the Indies low-cost way to orbit was a source of participatory funding and an assurance of rationality. Oops - that's your problem, right there.

The heroism of the Astronaut corps doesn't change the fact that NASA will not - and can not - ever do what Columbus did. If they want to make a difference, to make it possible for people to live in Space, they should declare that they will purchase X kilograms of orbital launch delivery at $Y per kilo, and get out of the way. Unlike the X-Prize and Spaceship-One, NASA's pecuniary calculus will always be a football game.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Jacques Duphly - La Forqueray

Yesterday was Bastille Day, France's national holiday that celebrates the storming of the notorious Bastille Day prison in Paris in 1789.  So what music for the day after Bastille Day?  As it turns out, there's a bit of a mystery surrounding today's composer.

Jacques Duphly was a virtuoso harpsichordist in France under the last of the kings.  One of his teachers seems to have been Jean-Jacques Rousseau himself, who later asked Duphly to contribute articles on harpsichord to Rousseau's Dictionary.  He published four folios of compositions, and was considered one of the best harpsichord teachers in Paris.

But he disappeared from public life in 1768, when his last folio was published.  Students even placed an advertisement in a newspaper asking if anyone knew where he was, but to no avail.  Duphly died alone among his music library the day after the Bastille was stormed.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The state of politics

Asleep At The Wheel - I Want a New Drug

This is, well, unusual.  But it shows that crossover covers go back pretty far in Country music.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Now we see the gun laws that lefties object to

Specifically, felon in possession and firing a pistol at police:
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Denver woman accused of shooting at officers during protests in North Dakota against the Dakota Access oil pipeline was sentenced Wednesday to four years and nine months in federal prison. 
Red Fawn Fallis, 39, was accused of firing a handgun three times while resisting arrest on Oct. 27, 2016. No one was hurt. Fallis, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, denied intentionally trying to injure anyone and claimed not to remember firing the gun after being tackled by police.

She pleaded guilty Jan. 22 to civil disorder and illegal possession of a gun by a convicted felon.
But since she is a loony leftie environmentalist, she should go free or something:

All right, then.

Appropriate advice for Friday the 13th

The Pentagon is gonna Pentagon

Even if it will probably get a bunch of our guys killed.

Man, the Air Force will do anything to protect its dumb F-35.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Quote of the Day: Russian oil edition

Miguel looks at Trump's comments about the Germans building a pipeline to Russia and snarks:
The last time Germany spent that much to get Russian oil, it cost them 3.5 million troops.

New Taxidermist in town

LOL.  But that antelope must have been shot by ASM826.  I'm pretty east coast.

Although given all the deer around Castle Borepatch, maybe he could do a White Tail sporting an AR-15.  It is Maryland, after all!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Borepatch political endorsement

It wouldn't be the only horse's ass in the "World's Greatest Debate Society".  The t-shirt (which is awesome and covered with awesomesauce) was made by the Queen Of The World.


My kind, anyway.

Background on the printed pistols the Department of Justice just caved on

The big news in the shooting community is that the DoJ has caved on trying to restrict the dissemination of 3D printed firearms designs.  For those who are interested, here are some old posts that provide some background on this.

When I ran across one of these, and their creator at a security conference.  Interestingly, the Feds seem cooler with the technology than local politicians or law enforcement.

The futility of trying to keep the designs off the 'net.  You'd think that people would understand this by now, but people who groove on controlling other people have to try.

What was the underlying law (ITAR) all about anyway?  There's quite a history of this, and it shouldn't give confidence to the gun controllers.

The comments are all good in these posts as well.  If you want to know more about the issue than a lot of people (and more than 99% of the media and gun grabbers - but I repeat myself) then you might want to give these a read.

How to get Blogger to send email notifications for comments

This broke a month or two ago.  ChickenMom has the info on how to get it unbroken.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I think this is the only post I'll make about Trump's SCOTUS nominee

Well, about the idiotic reaction to it, at least.

For the three of you who don't get the background, there's this:

For anyone who *still* doesn't get it, my Potawatomi forebears would tell Senator Warren that she's a fake indian.  Unlike her, I have documentation from the Potawatomi Nation.

Did I miss National Punch-A-Hippie Day?


The Age of Reform is upon us

It seems that the ancient Chinese did not have a curse, "May you live in interesting times".  Too bad, because there's a lot of truth in that expression.  We're finding this out right now as the entire West is engulfed in a massive reform era.  Consider:

  • The Republican Party has been in a civil war for 2 years.  The Chamber Of Commerce faction (call them the Optimates) is in a knife fight with the Trump wing (call them the Populares).  The rhetoric is ugly, a continual violation of Reagan's Eleventh Commandment.  This will feature prominently in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings, with center-left Republicans like Susan Collins possibly splitting and voting with the Democrats.  The Democrats have been watching with a mix of glee and horror, depending on whether the Trump wing wanes or waxes.
  • The Democratic Party looks like it has also descended into a civil war, with the establishment wing (Clinton, Schumer, Pelosi, Cuomo, Brown) arrayed against a nascent but growing socialist insurgency.  Hillary had to stack the deck to beat Bernie in 2016, and establishment bigwigs are getting knocked off in primaries.  Republicans grin and pass the popcorn, ignoring the fact that this is the first time in my lifetime that actual hard core socialists are on the ascendent in this Republic.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks to be hanging by a thread, with her "conservative" allies pulling the rug out from under her feet and forcing a humiliating change in policy.  We'll see if she survives politically but it looks like there's blood in the water.
  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May seems to be in the same cookpot as Merkel, only this time over Brexit.  Voters in Britain decided to leave the UK, but she seems to be trying to do a sneaky "leave but don't leave" swicheroo and is bleeding cabinet ministers because of it.  There is talk of a vote of no confidence which as far as I can remember hasn't happened since Margret Thatcher over two decades ago.
  • Italy (to great consternation in the European Parliament) has voted out its old center-left/center-right duopoly and voted in a Nationalist-left/Nationalist-right alliance.  There is talk about ITALEXIT, where Italy leaves the EU.  Whether it happens or not, this is a political earthquake.
Everywhere we look, the political establishment is being rejected.  Reform is in the air.

But the curse is funny because it's true: interesting times are uncomfortable times.  What if real Venezuella-style socialism comes to one of the 50 states?  [**cough** California **cough**]  What if bona fide fascists like Greece's Golden Dawn rise to power, driven by an militarily expansionist Turkey?  What if the US two party system splinters into a more European style four (or more) parties?

There has been an amazing era of stability in the West, dating back decades - certainly to 1980, and probably to 1950.  Everyone alive today, except for the very old, only remembers that stability.  The political churn that was the 1920s and 1930s is only known through dusty history books and flickering newsreels.  That was a reform era, too, as the old Imperial regimes crashed to the ground after the Great War.  Those were also interesting times.

POLITICS, n.  A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Day the North almost lost the Civil War

154 years ago, a battle was fought in the northern approaches to Washington DC.  Due to incompetence at every level of command in the Army Of The Potomac, Confederate General Jubal Early had brought an entire army corps to within a day's march from an undefended capitol city.

Image via Amazon
Frequent commenter and buddy in real life Libertyman came for a visit to Castle Borepatch, and the Queen Of The World and I took him to the site of the battle.  Had Castle Borepatch existed 154 years ago, you could have heard the gunfire from the Castle parapets.  Libertyman kindly sent this book, Desperate Engagement which tells the story of that campaign.

By early summer in 1864, Robert Lee and the Army Of Northern Virginia was facing a siege at Richmond and Petersburg.  Ulysses Grant had attacked nonstop that spring, at the Wilderness through Cold Harbor, pushing Lee back to the gates of Richmond.  Grant was immune to casualty reports and had very nearly broken his army that spring even though he had gained territory.  Now he needed to replenish his forces for a final push to take the Confederate capitol.  To do this, he stripped the north of all available soldiers.

Lee saw an opportunity.  Perhaps the most successful general in history who could divide his forces in the face of a superior enemy, he asked Early to take his Corps up the Shenandoah valley, defeat the Union forces there, and cross into Maryland.  Lee's plan was that this would force Grant to detach significant forces from Richmond to protect Washington.  Early was Lee's most aggressive general, in many ways cut from the same cloth as Stonewall Jackson, and Early jumped at this chance to thrash the Yankees on their own turf.

The book lays out in astonishing detail how the Union high command simply missed the intelligence they received from the field: how Early routed the Union army in the Shenandoah, how Early's men kept marching north towards Maryland, how they had crossed the Potomac.  Somehow none of the generals up to and including Grant connected these dots, and they were simply ignorant that 20,000 confederates were marching on an undefended capitol.

1864 was an election year, and the war had been going badly that year.  Losses were enormous, and Lincoln's call for another half million men led to draft riots in New York City.  If the South had captured Washington, it is unlikely in the extreme that Lincoln would have won re-election, it's possible that England and/or France would have recognized the Confederacy, and the history of the New World would have been very different.

But not everyone was asleep.  B&O Railroad Co. President John Garrett alerted the commander of Union forces in Baltimore, Lew Wallace.  Wallace scraped together a few thousand men and - despite opposition and indifference from the Army high command - brought them to Monocacy Junction, a B&O station a couple miles south of Frederick, MD.  They dug in.

Although outnumbered 3 to 1, they fought hard.  It took Early's foot-sore men an entire day to break the resistance.  Then Early raced for Washington.  His troops arrived within sight of the Capitol dome, but were exhausted from the hard marching of the previous month - not to mention the battle.  It's a fascinating question what would have happened if he had pushed into town immediately.  The forts were guarded by militia and invalid soldiers who would not have stood a chance.  But his troops were at the end of their endurance, and a suddenly aware Grant had detached the 7th Corps by steamboat from Richmond, and they arrived at the city wharf at the same time Early's troops arrived outside the forts.  Early was famously aggressive, but seems to have thought that he risked the destruction of his army.  Instead, he withdrew to Virginia.

What is indisputable is that if Lew Wallace and his troops had not so stubbornly fought for so long, Early would have beat the steamships by a day.  The Capitol would have been burned, the Treasury looted, and Lincoln's (and likely the Union's) prospects would have gone up in smoke.

The Union high command showed continuing incompetence after the battle, looking around for a scapegoat and seizing on Wallace who was removed from his command.  Grant finally figured out that Wallace had saved the day and restored his command after a couple of weeks.  All in all, it was not the Army's finest moment.

Wallace, of course, went on after the war to write Ben Hur, which made his fortune.  He's known for that, but really should be known for saving his country.

Thanks to Libertyman for the book, which is a great read.