Lost

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Federal debt has stopped going up. It’s stayed the same for three weeks.

 Well, maybe. Federal debt subject to the debt limit law has stopped increasing. Makes me wonder: does that mean the government stopped borrowing money to meet its obligations, or that it’s simply borrowing the money “off-book?” I’m suspicious.

If government can operate with the debt frozen and we simply froze the debt at that number for the next 100 years, inflation would turn it into a trivial amount. Can the solution to overspending really be that easy?

Joe Doakes

I’m going to guess the Fed just lost the emails for the past three weeks’ debt numbers.

Turn This Motherland Out

SCENE:  Happy Hour at the Nomad, in the Five Corners area of Minneapolis’ West Bank.  A group of Twin Cities Ron Paul supporters is having a happy hour before Rep. Paul’s speech at the U of M.  Mitch BERG is enjoying a Jack and Coke.  

Bill GUNKEL, chairman of the Inver Grove Heights chapter of Former Republicans for Ron Paul, notices Berg.

GUNKEL:  I wish Doctor Paul were running for president.

BERG: Well, at least you have Rand.

GUNKEL:  Pffft.  Rand has become a RINO squish.

BERG: Well, there is the little matter of actually having to get something done in a Senate with 40+ members who actively do like big government.

GUNKEL:  I’m surprised Doctor Paul hasn’t disowned him.

BERG: So why the animosity?

GUNKEL:  He’s gone all Warvangelical on foreign policy.

BERG:  Warvangelical?  More like realistic.  I mean, you have seen what Putin’s been doing, right?  Returning Europe to the Cold War?

GUNKEL:  Well, doy.  We make client states of all their former Republics, and we surround them with bases.  I daresay we’d be paranoid, too.

BERG:  Wait – did you just call breakaway parts of the former Soviet Union “their former Republics?”

GUNKEL:  Well, duh.  That’s what they are.

BERG: Well, in a sense.  But outside of Russia itself, the “former republics” were all either absorbed over history by the Czars, or forcibly annexed by the Soviets.  Anyone that spoke for independence, or even autonomy, would wind up in the Gulag.  And if the Soviets felt “their” republics were getting uppity, they’d turn the screws.  The Soviets starved millions of Ukrainians to death in the thirties to enforce their land policy.  They also deported entire ethnic groups from their ancestral homes, and replaced them with Russians – which is why Crimea “broke” from Ukraine last year.

GUNKEL:  Doctor Paul never talked about this…

BERG: …I don’t imagine he did…

GUNKEL:  …so I don’t believe it.

BERG:  Of course you don’t.  There’s a reason places like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia and many others revere Ronald Reagan; he gave them their chance at self-determination and getting out of the Russian orbit – in some cases for the first time since 1920, in others for the first time in hundreds of years.   To ignore that is either ignorant or intellectually dishonest.

GUNKEL:  Sort of like surrounding the Russians with military bases.

BERG: Yeah – you do know that from 1945 to the late eighties, the Soviets maintained an expressly offensive military posture toward Northern, Western and Southern Europe.  Right?  And those bases were put there to defend against that ?  And honest people can debate whether and how much those bases are still needed against Putin – but they can’t deny the history.

Presuming they knew it in the first place.

GUNKEL:  Hey – was that a shot at me?

BERG:  Not as far as you know.

And SCENE. 

Wheat And Chaff

The Saint Paul Public Schools need to close a $20,000,000 budget shortfall.

This is on a budget in an exceptionally highly-taxed city, that is already well over half a billlion dollars.

What’s the plan (emphasis added)?

Chief Executive Officer Michelle Walker said the district looked to cut administrators and supervisors rather than those who work in the schools, but “there are going to be impacts on both sides.”

The deficit represents 3.8 percent of the school district’s $533 million general fund budget. It’s largely a product of negotiated increases in salary and benefits, as well as inflationary increases for things like utilities and equipment.

First:  as we’ve seen with the recent layoffs in Minneapolis, it’s interesting that the districts are so loaded up on useless administrative mouths to feed in the first place.

Second:  The “Equipment” line item is an interesting one:

Louise Seeba, who opposed the district’s 1:1 iPad initiative, which will cost roughly $8 million a year, suggested next year’s cuts are a consequence of frivolous spending.

“I guess the voters, our parents, have to say, ‘You know what, thanks for that iPad, but now I don’t have special ed services to the level that I expect.’ I think if the schools are upset, they might have a reason,” she said.

Others downplayed iPads as a factor in the present budget picture because a referendum dedicated that money to technology.

In other words, “the iPads are being paid for by a special levy extracted from taxpayers due to an obscure vote in a low-turnout election dominated by teachers union spending; nothing to see here”.

File under “life in a one party city”.

It’s Pledge Week!

As I noted yesterday – if you like what you read here, and if (and only if) you can spare a buck or two, this is the time of year when I humbly solicit contributions:




Either way, thanks for reading!

UPDATE:  I’m wrapping it up early.  Thanks, everyone!

Tone Shopping

In the 1986 movie Soul Man, C. Thomas Howell squandered the last of his Red Dawn teen-star career momentum on a dreadful movie about a white college student who gets into Harvard by, er, turning black.

You’ve probably never heard of Vijay Chokal-Ingam.  You may know of his sister, actress Mindy Kalling (“The Office”, “The Mindy Project”), and then again, you may not, either.

And I have a hunch the forces of political correctness will do their best to make sure Chokal-Ingam does not become a household name; he’s become an activist against Affirmative Action.

His journey there, from being an unknown pre-med student, is wrapped up in this; a stunt to get into med school that sounds like it was ripped from Soul Man:

So, I shaved my head, trimmed my long Indian eyelashes, and applied to medical school as a black man. My change in appearance was so startling that my own fraternity brother didn’t recognize me at first. I even joined the Organization of Black Students and started using my embarrassing middle name that I had hidden from all of my friends since I was a 9 years old.

Read the whole thing.

Government Ingenuity

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

California is having water problems again. Too much demand, not enough supply. New tools for law enforcement at hand.

The water meter calls the water department on the cell phone to report excess usage, so they send public employees out to videotape offenders, as evidence to support an Excess Consumption ticket. This seems cumbersome and top-heavy to me.

The water department already knows historic water consumption, there, and in dry climates around the world. It could calculate a Daily Essential for each category of user (residential, car wash, hospital, laundromat). The government could charge an affordable amount for the Daily Essential based on political considerations, and charge everything over that amount a ferocious Excess Consumption rate. Payment due in 10 days or we shut you off.

No video evidence, no ticket, no phone call, no staff overtime. People would scream. But they’d comply. And if they don’t comply fast enough to alleviate the water shortage, raise the excess consumption rate some more. Eventually, even the McDonald’s franchise owner is going to turn off the sprinkler rather than risk having his restaurant closed for non-payment of the water bill.

Alternative plan: have the water meter stop the water flow when the Daily Essential amount is reached. Ideally the usage should be carried over so an underused amount will credit to the next day. This is not futuristic, it’s well within the range of current day technology. Sure, it’ll cost a fortune to upgrade all the meters – but it’ll solve the problem.

Joe Doakes

The ongoing debacle in the California water situation further proves the government is the absolute least effective way to allocate scarce resources.

Trulbert! Part XXXV – Minneapolis Calling

- 2:15PM, November 7, 2015 – Outside Forever 21 Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

Ilktost stood in the back of the lead social, in front of a column of 20 of the heavily armed pickup trucks.   It was the most imposing collection of firepower in the upper Midwest. But as they pulled to a brief halt in the parking lot of the new, still-under-construction Vikings stadium, he paused, a twinge of anxiety gnawing at his stomach.

Yes, I have to win this thing for good.  Yes, I have to do it for all the people who depend on us to survive the winter.  And for the rest of the rabble who’ll kill them if I don’t.  

But reports were filtering through to him; people, some of them armed, were starting to converge in ones and twos and small groups, on downtown Minneapolis.  It looked like there was going to be at least a demonstration against Methodist rule.

And he knew such a demonstration, like the Sharks and Jets insurgence in October, needed to be put down with absolute force.

He turned to Dave Oswaldson, standing behind him in the social.  ”How long until the troops from Jehovah and the Airport join us?”

“Twenty minutes”.

Ilktost nodded, deep in thought.  ”OK.  We’ll wait here for them to join us here.  Then we’ll drive downtown and crush them completely”.

Continue reading

Oops

Over the Easter Weekend/news hole, Rolling Stone magazine and their writer, Sabrina “Amoral Pig” Erdely, retracted their hatchet job University of Virginia rape story. I’ll add emphasis:

On Sunday, Ms. Erdely, in her first extensive comments since the article was cast into doubt, apologized to Rolling Stone’s readers, her colleagues and “any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article.”

She apologized to her readers, colleagues, and people who felt triggerwarned?

Well, isn’t that special.

Nothing for the people she falsely accused?  

The people she nifonged?

In an interview discussing Columbia’s findings, Jann S. Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone, acknowledged the piece’s flaws but said that it represented an isolated and unusual episode and that Ms. Erdely would continue to write for the magazine. The problems with the article started with its source, Mr. Wenner said. He described her as “a really expert fabulist storyteller” who managed to manipulate the magazine’s journalism process. When asked to clarify, he said that he was not trying to blame Jackie, “but obviously there is something here that is untruthful, and something sits at her doorstep.”

So Amoral Pig Erdely ran a story without even the faintest whiff of what used to be considered journalistic due diligence, buuuuuuuuut of course she’ll continue to “write” for Rolling Stone.  

It’s been my theory for most of a decade now that the “Society of Professional Journalists’” “Code of Ethics” is nothing but a framework by which media outlets can justify absolutely anything they do, even if only by pleading “we subscribe to the SPJ Code of Ethics”.

It’s very close to becoming a new Berg’s Law.

Silva Lining

Notwithstanding the fact that the Saint Paul Public Schools under Superintendant Valeria Silva have been stagnant at best, the district gave her a pretty dang spectacular pay hike in renewing her contract for four years.

She’s paid back her constituents by applying for a job in Palm Beach:

On Monday night, the St. Paul school district issued a statement in reaction to Silva’s Florida job application.

According to the statement made on behalf of the school board by chairwoman Mary Doran:

“It is not surprising that Superintendent Silva would be in demand by school districts across the country.

“She is a nationally recognized education leader. Saint Paul schools are notably successful. We have been a model for other districts in many ways. That attracts attention and recruiters.

“The board negotiated a new contract with Superintendent Silva with the expectation that she would be with us for three more years. She has devoted her entire academic career to Saint Paul’s children. Not many cities can say that about their superintendent.

It actually is more than just mercenarism; the Saint Paul Teachers Federation is unhappy with Silva and the School Board, and is essentially going to buy the upcoming school board elections, which’ll make life difficult to impossible for Silva, and open the door to a new superintendent, in this case a toady almost literally hand-picked by the union to carry out its wishes more closely than even the current board.

One thing that won’t change?  The new Superintendent will be a product of the “Celebrity Superintendent” system, and will cost a metric buttload of money.

Questions For Ron Paul And His Disciples

I didn’t get a chance to see Ron Paul at the U last night.  And even if I had, I’m not sure I’d have gone.

Partly it’s because I just don’t so much care to listen to politicians in my off time.  Even politicians I generally like.  Unless a politician offered some major insights to Western Civilization – a list I pare down to Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and not a whole lot more – they don’t generally interest me (beyond those that are personal friends, which is a whole ‘nother thing).

I went to a happy hour before the Paul event, at the Nomad over in Five Corners.  A few people asked me if I were planning on going; I replied “No, sorry – I already had unicorn farts for lunch”.

Which is a little harsh and dismissive, I know.  I’m a former Libertarian, and agree with Libertarians about a lot of things…

…in theory.  And, in a lot of ways, in practice.  The idea of limiting government – getting it out of as many interactions we can between people, and limiting peoples’ interactions with the state, and the burdens the state places on the individual, to the barest minimum necessary – is good.  Also conservative.  And, in a perfect world, Republican – although the GOP falls woefully short of this ideal in so, so, so many ways that it gets depressing sometimes.

Ron Paul certainly has a way of stirring up activism.  He does it by talking about a brand of politics that relies on absolute adherence to what he calls – and his disciples chant – “principles”.  Principles are, of course, the bedrock of a cohesive philosophy, and the basis for any sense of integrity.  And when combined with an unwillingness to sully them with any contact with the ambiguities of the real world, they’re also a straitjacket that limits ones’ political impact, and even horizons, to the absolute distillation of ones’ beliefs and nothing more.

Which is satisfying to think about – spending one’s political days vigorously agreeing with people like you – and never, ever occurs in nature.

Anyway – I’d have loved to have gone to see Ron Paul last night – if he’d have been answering questions.  Because I have a few for him.

The Hothouse Flower: The easiest way for a “libertarian” conservative to get thrown under the bus by your disciples, Representative Paul, is to compromise on any political issue with any “liberty” aspect to it. At all. Ever. No matter how abstruse.

It appears as if it the “libertarian” base doesn’t realize that a good 40+ percent of the population is perfectly happy with big government, and that some sort of compromise – that being the origin of the term “politics” – is inevitable.

As a result, it would seem to be impossible to implement “a libertarian society” at a policy level, by legislative action (since legislatures inevitably involve compromise); the only way, in fact, to implement a “libertarian society” would be through a libertarian absolute, if wise and benevolent, dictator who imposed libertarianism on society from above.

How am I wrong here?

People Are Strange: One of conservatism’s core tenets is that humans, left to their own devices without any sort of overarching moral code, are fundamentally corrupt and untrustworthy.

Pure libertarianism seems to believe that people, in their hearts of hearts, are yearning primarily to be reasonable, and are spontaneously moral. I’m not sure that anything in libertarianism says this in as many words, but you, yourself, Mr. Paul, have imlied throughout your career that without some arbitrary authority figure and their monopoly on power, people – even nations – would behave in pure, enlightened self interest.

Which sounds cool, but it is utterly unsupported by history. In any large enough group of people, there’ll be somebody, or some group, they would rather take what other people have than produce it themselves. We call them criminals – unless they managed to find themselves wearing one mantle of authority or another, and which point they become “gangs”, or with enough authority, “government”.

And yet libertarian dogma – especially that of the anarcho-libertarians that eat up much of your movement’s bandwidth – constantly presumes that if we just didn’t have any authority, society would become a mass of gentleman farmers, coexisting, negotiating, and getting along.

What basis for this is, in any heterogenous society, in any of human history, is there?

That should be a good start.

“For The Tradition and Glory of the Navy”

The ship was already listing badly at 4:02pm when the order was given to abandon her on April 7th, 1945.  Seven torpedo hits, and countless bombs, were the source of belching smoke and fire that could be seen for miles.  The ship’s magazine stocks were engulfed in flame as well, reaching critical levels that might set off the ammunition.  The cooling pumps, designed to douse such fires, had long since been broken in the battle.

By 4:05pm, the ship was sinking, listing so badly that when the final wave of American torpedo bombers attacked, they actually struck the bottom of the hull.  The ship rolled completely to her side, her 70,000 tons shifting so dramatically that the ship’s forward magazines collided, setting off a massive explosion that was witnessed as far as 100 miles away.  3,055 of her 3,332 crew would join her at the bottom of the Pacific.

The largest battleship in history – the Yamato - was no more.

The Yamato in 1941 – along with her sister ship the Musashi and the German Bismarck – were the largest battleships that fought in World War II. All three would not survive the war

It could said that the Yamato was an anachronism by the time she first set sail in the fall of 1941.  After all, nearly 12 months before the Yamato launched the British were proving at Torino that the aircraft would soon reign supreme at sea.  But then, the Yamato was as much the product of political concerns as military ones. Continue reading

The State Of Hockey

The state of Minnesota sports is such that Minnesota’s media is turning cartwheels that the Wild might get into the NHL playoffs.

Maybe.

Provided they not only win, but win in regulation time, or win in extra innings or whatever the hell overtime is called in hockey, since I don’t give a rat’s ass about hockey, and another almost-equally-woebegone team loses.

So kudos, Wild.  Maybe.

(Shrug)

More Like Guidelines

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

May 1st is Law Day. It was the idea of Charles Rhyne, President of the American Bar Association in 1958. He thought Americans should have a day to reflect on the Rule of Law in the foundation of the country and recognize its importance for society. He chose May 1st specifically because it was the day Communists celebrated their totalitarian rise to power.

The notion that we are a nation of laws, that no public official is above the law, that Congress makes the laws and the President upholds and faithfully executes them . . . are obsolete remnants of racist patriarchal oppression. The Obama Administration honors Law Day only in the breach.

Joe Doakes

Breach is the new Integrity.

Trulbert! Part XXXIV – Audit The Fled

 - 2:00PM, November 7, 2015 – Cedar and Riverside, Minneapolis

Marcus Broadman, Hana and Dan-Marius Codriciu, Dave Os, Todd Fleen and Paul Hendrickson ran through the streets of Five Corners – the eclectic neighborhood near Cedar and Riverside, just west of the University of Minnesota campus.

They had crossed the Washington Avenue bridge on foot, near the front of the mob of specators debouching from TCF Stadium.

The pistol in Hendrickson’s pocket weighed heavily as he jogged up Riverside with the others, past the market stalls, where vendors, cheeks stufffed with qat, sold Somali canjeera bread, exotic spices from the Horn of Africa, and framed wall hangings and posters of African and European pop groups.

“Hey, guys – you need a ride?”  It was a young Somali man, in an immaculate suit, driving a Ford Explorer that’d been refitted into a “Suvney”, local slang for a SUV jitney, or freelance taxicab.

Hendrickson skidded to a stop; the others gathered around him.  ”That’s not a bad idea”.  He dug a five-cud piece out of his pocket.  ”Get us to First and Hennepin?”

“No problem, madame and gentlemen!”

Continue reading

It’s Pledge Week

I’ve been blogging away for thirteen years, now.  I have an average of 600-800 people a day reading this blog – which is about 10 to 20 times more than I’d dreamed about possibly reaching when I started this blog back in 2002.

I have said this many times in the past; I’d still write every day even if nobody read me, here; writing is just part of what I am and do.

But every April in recent years I’ve passed the hat for whatever spare change people feel this blog is worth to them, provided they can spare it, and only then.  Contributions mostly go toward hosting, and a few other little things (and, in some of my past years with more parlous fiscal circumstances, self-preservation; I’m not there, this year, knock wood, and I’m happy for it!)

So if you enjoy what you read here, and have a buck or two to spare, I’d be much obliged.





UPDATE: I fixed the broken button. I think. Sorry!

Either way, thanks for reading!

The Chinese Finger-Trap

Everywhere, Japan was in retreat.

In April of 1945, the Japanese Empire was being pushed on almost every front.  Americans bombers were decimating Japanese cities and industry.  British troops were reoccupying Burma.  U.S. forces were slowly driving Japanese troops out of their positions on Okinawa – all with frightening levels of casualties for Japanese soldiers and civilians alike.

But on one front, Japanese troops were advancing – China.  On April 6th, 1945, the Empire of Japan began their last offensive of the war.  An offensive they hoped would finally end the fighting on a front that had consumed nearly 10 million combatants and taken almost 25 million lives.

A Japanese soldier stands guard at the Great Wall. The Sino-Japanese War rivaled only the Eastern Front in terms of scale; over 25 million Chinese and Japanese died in China from 1937 to 1945. Even more were wounded

Throughout the course of this series, we haven’t commented on the fighting between China and Japan.  That’s unfortunate, because while World War II officially started on September 1st, 1939, it could just as easily have been said to have started on July 7th, 1937. Continue reading

No Waves

In my heart, I’m still a rock and roll musician.  The urge to start another band – if only for the fun of it – someday still lurks deep in my heart.

But it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to make the time.  The last time I played a gig in public was July of 1996.  The last time I actually had a band was the winter of 2001 – we never played out.  And the last time I actually saw a band live in a bar was probably sometime in the fall of 2002.

So when I was walking up Wabasha in downtown Saint Paul back around the end of March, by the Amsterdam Bar, and saw a poster for “Katrina, formerly of The Waves” doing a show on April 4, the idea of actually seeing it flashed briefly, then went out.

And then I stopped, and turned around, and looked at the poster.

And thought “why not?”

And so when I got home, I got on Ticketfly, and ordered a ticket.  And thought; “how do I do club concerts anymore?

Going Down To Uppertown To Do Nothing:  We’ve talked about Katrina and the Waves; their past as a “one hit wonder” that shouldn’t have been here in the US, combined with a slew of really excellent pop music that had a bunch of hits in Canada and Europe.

Of course, the Waves broke up in 1999, after a brief comeback in 1997 in the UK; their lead-singer, the iron-lunged Katrina Leskanich, has had a spotty solo career since then.

So I figured why not?

Red Wine And Jack Daniels:  I’d never been to the Amsterdam before (at least not since it was “Pop”, back around 2010-ish).  The front of the house – the bar and restaurant – is “bohemian” with an uptown sheen.   The back of the joint – the “Hall” – affects “rock and roll club”, all black and worn and rough-hewn, without the whole “sticking to the seats” and “getting pounded by bouncers” experience that the real thing always gave you back in your twenties.

I got there late; I missed the first act, and caught the last two songs of the mid-card act, “The Flaming Ohs”, a band I first saw during Ronald Reagan’s first term, and didn’t like much during the second (and only two of whose original members are still alive).

I was a little gratified to notice that on this, my first venture back to a club in 12 years, I was actually right around median age; lots of forty and fiftysomething fans turned out for this, the band’s first stop in the Twin Cities since Mikhail Gorbachev was in power.

Walking On Stage Light: The surest sign everyone involved had grown up?  The band got onstage promptly at the advertised time, 9:50:

I started taking a selfie at 9:50; as i was trying to get the light right, Katrina walked on stage. Yep, that’s her.

And they were on!

That’s them; Katrina, along with bassist Sean Koos, drummer Kevin Tooley, and guitar player Jimi K Bones.

The setlist was concise, and actually a pretty decent mix of crowd faves from the eighties and Katrina’s new stuff (or, for all I know, stuff from after 1988; let’s be honest, I didn’t pay that much more attention to them than anyone else…):

  • Rock and Roll Girl
  • Red Wine And Whiskey – it’s always been my favorite Waves song
  • Going Down to Liverpool – including a nice shout-out to the Bangles, whose cover of this song opened the door for the Waves making it in the US
  • That’s The Way – their very underrated single from their 1986 followup album, a song that should have been a big hit.
  • Sun Coming Upper – the single off of her new album.
  • Texas Cloud – another new one, with sounds like it was written on a long Stevie Ray Vaughan jag
  • Show Me Every Scar – at least I think that was the title; I wasn’t familiar with it.
  • Where The Roses Grow – another new one, but a good one.
  • Do You Want Crying – another great one from the eighties
  • If You Can – again, guessing at the title, but it was a good tune…
  • Don’t Want No Washed Up Man – a waved-up cover of an Etta James song
  • Walking On…wait for it… Sunshine.

Katrina, during some between-song patter.  Turns out she’s working on a book on diners – and she’d never heard of Mickey’s Diner.  Some had dragged her over there after she’d gotten into town from Milwaukee earlier in the day Saturday.  She approved.

Cry To Me:  Katrina is not Katrina and the Waves.  That’s neither and both bad and good.

Comparing the material from her post-Waves albums, it’s easy to see how the
Waves-era material benefited from being a team effort (“Walking on Sunshine” was written by Waves guitarist Kim Rew; “Do You Want Crying” by bassist Vince De La Cruz).  A team effort that catches a stray bit of fire, like the Rew/De La Cruz/Leskanich efforts did for couple of glorious years in the eighties, is a rare and largely very focused thing.

The newer material is all over the map; “Texas Cloud” sounds like one of the ZZ Top songs that Leskanich performed in cover bands before the Waves made it big; “Sun’s Coming Upper” was moody and introspective and a big swerve from the stuff that put the band on the map.

I went there expecting a musical roller coaster ride; most gigs from musicians that have been and out of the public eye for a generation are.  The muse is a fickle critter.

The band – journeyman session drummer Kevin Tooley,  guitarist Jimi K Bones (of one of later-era versions of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts, as well as Kix),  and bass player Sean Koos (another former Blackheart, among many other bands) was actually a lot tighter than I’d ever seen the Waves;  they took what could have come across as a Holiday Inn lounge nostalgia act and made it crackle with energy.

Bones takes a solo.

And that was by no means a given; the show at the Amsterdam was the final stop on a fifteen-gig tour that started Saint Patrick’s Day in New York.  And for bands that aren’t currently lighting up the Top Forty, that means road travel, not flying, for the most part.

Second sign that everyone had grown up in the past thirty years?  The show was over not too terribly long after 11, and most of the crowd hit the doors; there was no chanting for an encore.

Which meant it was a nice, relaxed little group that greeted Leskanich and the rest of the band when they came out into the hall about half an hour later.  I got a chance to talk rock and roll history with Bones, and tell Leskanich how much I’d enjoyed her music.  Nothing major, just fun.

Sort of like the show as a whole.

Continue reading

“For Most Of The Things I’ve Seen, I Have No Words”

Buchenwald – the name means “Beech Forest” – was among the first of the concentration camps, built in 1937, two years before the war started.  And it was the first to be liberated by US troops – although many would follow in the weeks before the war ended.

The video, photographic and dramatic record we have of the liberation of the camps in the West is, of course, one of those things that makes anyone with a human soul wonder what the hell went wrong with humanity.  It certainly has for me over the years.

And yet inside Buchenwald in the days before liberation came proof of how not merely resilient, but powerful, humanity actually is.

———-

Buchenwald was one of the first, and largest, in the SS’  Konzentrazionslager (Concentration Camp or “KZ”) system.  As such, it wasn’t specifically dedicated to exterminating people, like the later Vernichtungslagern (“Extermination Camps”, or “VZ”); the camp, which was actually the hub of a network of camps, provided slave labor for German war industries, agriculture and other enterprises.  But Buchenwald’s command, especially after the war started, emphasized the ideal of Vernichtung dürch Arbeit, “Extermination via Work” – best summed up by Oswald Pohl, the Nazi director, essentially, of slave labor:

The camp commander alone is responsible for the use of man power. This work must be exhausting in the true sense of the word in order to achieve maximum performance. […] There are no limits to working hours. […] Time consuming walks and mid-day breaks only for the purpose of eating are prohibited. […] He [the camp commander] must connect clear technical knowledge in military and economic matters with sound and wise leadership of groups of people, which he should bring together to achieve a high performance potential.

And so for eight years, Buchenwald saw an endless parade of victims.  Before the war, it was the Nazis’ political enemies – non-Nazi socialists, communists, clergy that wouldn’t go along with the Nazi’s co-option of the church, and of course Jews, the mentally ill, Gypsies (Roma and Sinti), Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, the physically-disabled and those with birth defects.  After the war started, the population boomed, with more Jews, Poles and other Slavs, and many prisoners of war – mostly Soviet, but some notable Americans as well.  Over the years, about a quarter-million people passed through the camp.  Official German records record the offical deaths of 56,000 of them, but inmates noted many – especially Soviet POWs – were routinely murdered before they could be registered.  Many others died after being “transferred to Gestapo custody”, shipment to other camps (especially VZs like Auschwitz, Majdanek and Sobibor) or, later in the war, forced marches elsewhere.

The camp’s inmates included the famous (Jewish political leaders from France, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands), the great (Dietrich Bonhöffer, the Lutheran theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, and Elie Wiesel, the humanitarian and Nazi-tracker), and the counterintuitive (Robert Clary, a young French-Jewish actor who’d go on to star as “Lebeau” in Hogan’s Heroes).

But most notable to today’s story and the theme of this series, there were a group of inmates who had, under the noses of the guards, built a resistance movement.  Over the years, the resistance bided its time, shunting children into less-demanding jobs (and taught them skilled trades, to forestall their being shipped to extermination camps), and eventually stealing or otherwise purloining weapons.

And one inmate – Polish engineer Gwidon Damazyn, deported to the camp in 1941 – incredibly managed to build a radio transceiver and a small generator, which were carefully concealed beneath a barracks floor.  Using this, the inmates’ resistance committee were able to track the Allies’ progress across Europe, and wait for their moment of liberation.

Touch And Go:  As the Americans closed in on Buchenwald and other camps in the west. the Germans got nervous.  While the Soviets had liberated several camps in Poland as early as July of 1944, including the Majdanek extermination camp, the fact that the news was filtered through the Soviets – who were often clumsy propagandists – meant the horrific news was taken with a large grain of credulous salt in the West.

The Germans knew it’d be another matter with the Western allies.  And so the plan went through – destroy Buchenwald, and its inmates.

Plans started falling into place to evacuate the prisoners via forced march to other camps in the interior (or mass death by starvation and shooting).

But the plans were slowed by the guards’ incipient panic – many checked out and ran before the plans could be carried out – and sabotage by the inmates.

But on the evening of April 10, the inmates figured their window of opportunity was closing.  Every day that passed was a day closer to the Nazis pulling the plug on the whole thing.  But to rebel without Allies nearby  - as earlier inmate rebellions in the Warsaw Ghetto and the extermination camps at Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz had had no choice but to do, in the wilds of rural Poland and long before the tide of war turned - would be suicide.  Pointless suicide, with the war clearly nearly over.

So at noon on April 8, 1945, engineer Damazyn and Russian POW Konstantin Leonov took the radio out of hiding, and fired up the transmitter; Damazyn keyed a message in English and German Morse code to any allied units that could hear; Leonov did the same in Russian.

To the Allies. To the army of General Patton. This is the Buchenwald concentration camp. SOS. We request help. They want to evacuate us. The SS wants to destroy us.

The men keyed the messages three times in each language.

Finally – three minutes after the last transmission – an unknown radioman at Patton’s headquarters replied:

KZ Bu. Hold out. Rushing to your aid. Staff of Third Army.

Damazyn reportedly fainted when the reply came through.

The rest of the Buchenwald resistance moved into action.  They dug out their stash of weaopns – an incredible 91 rifles and one machine gun – and, three days later on April 11, stormed the guard towers, killing the guards that hadn’t fled.

One prisoner walked into the vacant administrative building, and picked up a ringing telephone.   On the other end was a Gestapo officer, asking when they could drop off the truckloads of explosives, to blow up the camp and its inmates.

The prisoner cooly told the Gestapo that the camp had already been blown up.

And that did the trick.

About four hours later, the halftracks of a company of 200 riflemen of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, under Captain Fred Keffer, part of Patton’s 6th Armored Division, gingerly entered the camp.  That company was the first of a flood of Westerners who’d follow and witness what they discovered with their own eyes.   The things they saw are a part of one of the most wrenching public moments of truth in human history.

And the rest is history.

Many other camps were liberated in the month before the war ended; Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Teresienstadt, Ohrdruf, Nordhausen, and dozens of others.  But Buchenwald, along with Dachau, was the first major camp to get the full attention of the western media – including Edward R. Murrow, who produced one of the most immortal news reports in the history of broadcasting:

His report is sonorously grim, and horrific for all Murrow omitted

 ”I reported what I saw – but only part of it.  For most of what I saw, I have no words”.

And yet it had been those same skeletal, starved, half-dead men, the ones Murrow described, who had summoned the energy not only to survive, but – in a miracle of stealth, guile and craft – to kill their tormentors in their hour of liberation.

———-

It was reading the story of the Buchenwald uprising, among the other uprisings, the Warsaw Ghetto and Sobibor and Treblinka and Auschwitz itself, as a high school kid that rocked me back on my heels; this, I thought to myself, is why the people must never be disarmed.  This was why our forefathers had the wisdom to recognize our God-given right to armed self-defense; this, and moreso, to prevent it from ever happening again.

And beyond that?  When the people are armed, these are the miracles they, humiliated wretches, starved and sick and beaten and fighting against a brutal, well-fed enemy though they may be, can wrench from nowhere.

There’s No Stopping The NARN From Hopping

Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network – America’s first grass-roots talk radio show – is on the air! I will be on from 1-3PM today!

Today on the show,

  • I’ll be talking with Dennis Prager about his new book, The Ten Commandments: Still The Best Moral Code.  Check out the book, by the way.
  • I’ll interview Corey Larson from “Casting for the Cure”
  • Finally, I’ll be talking with Allison Maass from CFACT about the upcoming visit from Ron Paul.

Don’t forget - King Banaian is on from 9-11AM on AM1570, and Brad Carlson has “The Closer” edition of the NARN Sundays from 1-3PM.

So tune in the Northern Alliance! You have so many options:

Join us!

Public Notice

If I were asked to live-blog a gay wedding – for my customary live-blog fee of $1,000, and my requisite total editorial freedom – I am currently undecided as to whether or not I’d take the gig, on purely religious grounds.

Please feel free to proffer me a request to do so (backed with certified funds), so that I have to decide whether I want to be a test case, or to take your $1,000.  Come to the table ready to sign the contract, and have your lawyers ready to go just in case.

Thanks.

There But For The Grace Of Christie Go Ye

I’ve written in the past about the case of Shaneen Allen, the Philadelphia mother and Pennsylvania carry permit holder who accidentally strayed across the Delaware River into New Jersey, got pulled over on a routine traffic stop, told the cop that she was carrying her firearm (which was legal mere miles up that very road), and was arrested for what was in Jersey a felony.

Her prosecutor, John McLain, opted to make an example of the black single mother, rejecting her for a diversion program (on his way to legal notoriety for letting NFL star Ray Rice skate on charges of especially brutal domestic abuse).

Yesterday, after nearly two years of back-and-forth, Governor Christie – never known as a friend of the Second Amendment – pardoned Allen:

I, Chris Christie, governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution of the State of New Jersey and the statutes of the state, do hereby grant Shaneen Denise Allen, a full and free pardon for all criminal charges and indictments arising from the arrest occurring October 1, 2013 to include the aforesaid crimes, and this order is applicable solely to said criminal charges and indictments, and to no other.

On the one hand, this is good news.  Christie did the right thing.

On the other, it shows the perilous state that the various states’ paternalistic approach to carry laws leaves the citizen in.  If you’re a Minnesotan with a carry permit, and you forget to stop at a gas station on the Minnesota side of the Wisconsin, Iowa, or either Dakota border, you could have precisely the same problem.

It’s why the Commissioner of Public Safety need to do the job he was charged to do in 2004, and make Minnesota’s carry permits reciprocal with every state that (according to the law) has a permitting process substantially similar to ours (e.g. – a background check, the basic assurance that the applicant knows the laws).

I Gotcher Journalistic Ethics Right Here

If you listen over the weekends to American Public Media is “On The Media”, heard on NPR stations nationwide, you’ll hear the hosts, Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, sniffling and shuffling about the state of the modern media. Periodically, the subject turns to “journalistic ethics”.

Most media organizations will point to something called the “Code of Ethics,” from the Society of Professional Journalists”. No, we’ve been over the Code before; it basically does nothing but give news media a framework by which they can declare just about any behavior “ethical”.

And just you watch – that’s exactly what is going to happen with this story :

ABC-57 reporter Alyssa Marino’s editor sends her on a half-hour drive southwest of their South Bend studio, to the small town of Walkerton (Pop. ~2,300). According to Alyssa’s own account on Twitter, she “just walked into their shop [Memories Pizza] and asked how they feel” about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Owner Crystal O’Connor says she’s in favor of it, noting that while anyone can eat in her family restaurant, if the business were asked to cater a gay wedding, they would not do it. It conflicts with their biblical beliefs. Alyssa’s tweet mentions that the O’Connors have “never been asked to cater a same-sex wedding.”

What we have here is — as we called in journalism school jargon — “no story.” Nothing happened. Nothing was about to happen.

If I were forced to mark out a story line, it would be this: A nice lady in a small town tries to be helpful and polite to a lovely young reporter from “the big city.”

In other words, Memories Pizza didn’t blast out a news release. They didn’t contact the media, nor make a stink on Twitter or Facebook. They didn’t even post a sign in the window rejecting gay-wedding catering jobs. They merely answered questions from a novice reporter who strolled into their restaurant one day – who was sent on a mission by an irresponsible news organization.

So I’m gonna make sure I tune in “On the Media” this weekendand, to see by what logically torturous path they find this behavior by the media justified.

I don’t know how they’ll do it.

I only know that they will.