“Hate” Is a Crutch

 

I am confident that people who know me in real life will tell you that, while I exhibit at least the usual complement of flaws, odd quirks, and irritating peccadilloes, being hateful is not numbered among them. That’s probably because I’ve been fortunate, and can’t think of anyone who has seriously wronged me or wronged someone I love. Hate simply isn’t an emotion I experience, and the word is not one I use.

I would like to believe that this is true of most people — that they don’t really feel hate much, if at all — and that the word is too casually used.

Certainly, it is overused. It has become a convenience for some to label a difference of opinion as an expression of hate. This hurts everyone, simultaneously undermining the language, denigrating the person or group so labeled, and forestalling any possibility of discussion and understanding.

We can disagree about even important matters without hate being a factor. We can favor open borders or controlled borders, high minimum wages or no minimum wages, legal same-sex marriage or only traditional marriage, socialism or free markets, free abortion or no abortion — any of these extremes or anything in-between. We can vote Democrat or Republican, have Bernie stickers on our cars or wear “Make America Great Again” hats, embrace a rainbow of sexual promiscuity or prudishly advocate abstinence, fully accept the apocalyptic claims of the global warming alarmists or be skeptical of their science or the policies they advocate, be an enthusiastic supporter of the trans movement or think it’s a bunch of faddish nonsense, oppose the private ownership of guns or be a pro-gun fanatic in favor of no regulation at all.

None of these positions requires that someone be hateful, and it’s small-minded, presumptuous, and rude to ascribe hate to someone simply because he or she disagrees with your position on these issues — or, indeed, on the vast majority of issues.

I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t hate: how much of your life you want to devote to hating is your business, not mine. I’m saying you shouldn’t accuse other people of hating based on something as superficial as their opinions on topics about which you happen to think differently.

By far, most of the claims of “hate” I hear and read suggest more to me about the person making the claim than about the ostensibly hateful object of the accusation. I think it most often reveals that the accuser is shallow, lacks self-awareness and empathy, is uncharitable, and/or cynically uses the ugly label to silence people whose arguments he or she is unwilling or unable to engage.

Too readily smearing others as “haters” seems itself almost … well, it certainly isn’t an act of love.

Quote of the Day: Dogged

 

Hot Dogs
Armour Hot Dogs
What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?
Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks,
Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox love hot dogs,
Armour Hot Dogs
The dogs kids love to bite!

Here it is, in 1967:

 

The comments below the YouTube video remark that such an ad could not be made today, with its fat, skinny, tough, and sissy shaming. They wonder how long it will be before it is pulled for its offensive content.

I think it might be pulled for another reason: Look at the diversity among those kids! Different races, sexes, and sizes, all getting along with each other! I thought we were bigoted back then. The presence of this ad belies the contemporary narrative.

Indeed, my own memory is of children from all sorts of backgrounds (I was raised in central California) playing together. Sure, we didn’t let the girls (except the rare talented and interested one) play HORSE or 500 or flag football. But they did play marbles with us. And nobody, nobody gave a damn what color your skin was.

I hate history being rewritten before my eyes; I have a hard enough time with my memory as it is. Famously in the original Star Wars: A New Hope, Han Solo shoots Greedo in the cantina before Greedo draws his weapon, and since 1997, Greedo draws first, to justify Han’s reaction (here’s the video, at 7:45). Give me a break!

A couple of weeks ago, some friends took my wife and me to see a production of Paint Your Wagon. The program notes that the original was a messy affair. Apparently this was the excuse to lade the show with politically correct sentiment and woke, tinny, and banal dialog. Our friends were angry, and justifiably so. They wanted their beloved musical; they got warmed-over Leni Riefenstahl. My wife and I shared their dismay.

The reinterpretation of history is inevitable; it’s purposeful gaslighting is unnerving and immoral. Our artifacts are being removed or used as palimpsests for propaganda. What some intend as a “brave new world” emerges as “what fresh Hell.” 

What to do? My idea is to run my own version of the Benedict Option: Buy a copy of From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun, and read it. This masterpiece is laden with recommendations (e.g., “The book to read is The Railway Station by L.T.C. Rolt”). Then purchase as many books from his recommendations that you can. Then hand them down to your kids. It can be your way to “snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable” (Witness by Whittaker Chambers).

Barzun’s book covers only the last 500 years, but it’s a good start to the pursuit of the past. And we should pursue our past.

And be dogged in the pursuit.

Silence Is Consent

 

We know that President Trump relies heavily on the feedback he gets from MAGA rally crowds. If Second Amendment voters are keeping silent on gun control and just cheering at Trump’s rallies, he reasonably believes he has them on his side. So it is a great shame on every gun owner who showed up at the New Hampshire Trump reelection rally unprepared, with several friends, to start chanting “Keep Your Word!” That sound of silence was reasonably taken by President Trump as confirmation that he could talk his 2016 voters into any position he takes in 2019.

He was so cocky as to say “you have no choice but to vote for me.” The crowd should have chanted back “Romney, Romney, Romney, Keep Your Word, Keep Your Word, Keep Your Word.” They failed to push him back onto the rails, even though rally crowds have independently raised other chants.

Want to move him back to his campaign promises? Show up in numbers and start chanting “Keep Your Word! Keep Your Word! Keep Your Word!” while waving Gun Owners for Trump signs or ball caps with very bold “#2A” on them. Otherwise, he will be swayed to the New York yankee position, while making the terrible mistake of believing he has the voters with him, because the crowds are with him.

He just needs one or two good shocks to the system with large, audible chants. Unfortunately, the next scheduled MAGA rally may be too late, September 29, after he may have already destroyed his brand, believing he could sell us anything.

There is another avenue, immediately available: women gun owners must show up this week at the Women For Trump events and join with men who are gun owners to fill the MAGA Meetup and TVLI Training events in battleground states and made perfectly clear that they will not vote for President Trump again unless he strictly keeps his promises, as written in 2015.

His Twitter feed should be filled with #KeepYourWord #2A.

He has no excuse that “things have changed.” His clear, strong 2015 position was taken after: Columbine High School 1999, Virginia Tech 2007, and Sandy Hook Elementary School 2012. The Pulse Nightclub shooting was in 2016, before the Republican Convention. Yet Donald Trump did not back down on gun rights and the fraud of Democrats’ “background check” bills. In that context, and with a very tough election, Donald H. Trump put his name on the following promises on Second Amendment rights:

Defend The Rights of Law-Abiding Gun Owners

GUN AND MAGAZINE BANS. Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like “assault weapons”, “military-style weapons” and “high capacity magazines” to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi- automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans. Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.

BACKGROUND CHECKS. There has been a national background check system in place since 1998. Every time a person buys a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer – which is the overwhelming majority of all gun purchases – they go through a federal background check. Study after study has shown that very few criminals are stupid enough to try and pass a background check – they get their guns from friends/family members or by stealing them. So the overwhelming majority of people who go through background checks are law-abiding gun owners. When the system was created, gun owners were promised that it would be instant, accurate and fair. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case today. Too many states are failing to put criminal and mental health records into the system – and it should go without saying that a system’s only going to be as effective as the records that are put into it. What we need to do is fix the system we have and make it work as intended. What we don’t need to do is expand a broken system.

President Trump needs immediate strong feedback, appealing directly to his “promises kept” brand, and reminding him of the terrible mistake President George H.W. Bush made in thinking he could talk his way out of breaking his “Read My Lips, No New Taxes!” promise. People like Tucker Carlson need to roll out reminders of how just threatening people with a left wing radical like Obama failed twice. They must further make the point that President Trump and his adult children really face being perp-walked if he loses. It is in Trump’s absolute self-interest to strictly live by his written promises, given in 2015.

President Trump must reread and reissue, without change, his 2015 position paper. Talking about appointing two Supreme Court justices cuts no ice if he backs bad legislation. And the legislation will be bad, just like the willful failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, and the continuous bipartisan obstruction of border wall funding. It is President Trump who must make a real reform speech, based in the claims of his 2015 paper, or he risks losing reelection and seeing his beloved adult children in handcuffs.

Member Post

 

“Trump will never step down.” “Nazis deserve to be punched.” “Drumpf is a dictator. He’s taking away our rights!” “We should be grateful for the people who are brave enough to put themselves in harm’s way to actually try and stop the fascists from making more progress. Peaceful doesn’t work.” And then, the kicker. Pictures […]

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Crazy Cat Family

 

We keep acquiring cats at my house. The tally is currently four but destined to grow, as my youngest daughter frequently asks when she can get a kitten. Most people can just blow off this kind of request, but we’re different. We’re the crazy cat family.

My wife and I each had several cats growing up. My family named cats after spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and my cat Curry, by far the dumbest cat I’ve ever seen. We got him from the neighbors across the street before he was weaned and consequently, the little Siamese guy would sit and suck on your shirt for hours. I once saw him climb to the top of a free-standing ladder in front of a second-story window, stare at his reflection, and begin shifting his bottom for a lunge.

“He’s not going to attack his reflection, is he?” we asked from the driveway.

“Ooooh!” we all said in unison a second later, as he did in fact leap into the glass and fall to the ground, but not on his feet. Most cats master the physics of angular momentum and land on their feet. Not Curry, he must have missed leg and tail day.

When I met my wife, she had recently acquired Figaro, a tabby abandoned in a packing box in a Wal-Mart parking lot. From our first date, it was clear I would play second fiddle to Figaro. He was big — really big — and smart. Many years later, I convinced my wife to let me have a Husky Malamute puppy. She acquiesced, but Figaro wasn’t having it. The puppy took one nip at him and Figaro put five claws across his muzzle. The puppy moved to Grandpa’s house.

For a while, it was just us and Figaro, until The Sophie Monster. The tiny white kitten was a virtual supervillain for the first year of her life. Combine the genius of Professor X, the dexterity of Elastigirl, the fearlessness of Wolverine, and the innocent beauty of Audrey Hepburn, and you get Sophie. A few of Sophie’s greatest hits:

  • Climbing under the closed bedroom door.
  • Hiding for hours on top of the open bedroom door, or in the dishwasher, the dryer, or the kitchen cabinets.
  • Jumping off our second story balcony.
  • Knocking glass things from high surfaces, which, we concluded, were a personal affront to her.

She mellowed out in her older years and became renowned for the softest fur ever to grow on a feline. Petting her was almost enough to outweigh the way she would violently claw the trim outside our bedroom door whenever my wife and I locked it.

And she loved Gus, the kitten we brought home after Figaro left us. That was fourteen years ago. Now Gus is the old man, Alpha male. For many years Sophie and Gus were inseparable, often sleeping in a Yin and Yang configuration, probably as a coping method of sorts as we added children to the house at a staggering rate (children are more fun to reproduce than cats, after all). But Sophie faded away, and Gus was left to contend with six humans all on his own. We felt sorry for him.

Surely, he wanted a buddy. Enter the barn-born littermates Bingley and Knightley (yes, a la Jane Austen). Not since Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger have a pair of twins been so different.

And Gus hated them both.

But Knightley would scoot her tiny black frame up to Gus every chance she got. She would sleep on him and he would wake up hissing at her. He would swat at her as she walked by him repeatedly. She’s a persistent little sister to this day, yearning for her big brother’s love. Bingley, on the other hand, only loves two things: our daughter, and being left alone. And he’s huge.

The first time I tried to cut Bingley’s claws ,he made me pay for it. Imagine a mountain lion with zero percent body fat and muscles toned for tearing other lifeforms to pieces. Now, shrink the mountain lion down to twenty pounds, and you have Bingley — he’s even the same color. The second time I tried to cut his claws, I recruited my fourteen-year-old son to help. We joined forces to capture the beast and wrap him in a towel. It only took seven attempts to secure him long enough to cut the front two claws, and that remains one of the hardest things I did that year, with dripping lacerations on a video to prove it.

You might say our crazy cat family status began at that point. If Bingley couldn’t dissuade us, we must have been ready to take on new challenges — such as Dashwood, a polydactyl street fighter who stumbled onto our back deck at midnight one winter evening. We took her in, and almost as quickly took her to the vet to silence her heat induced meeeeyyoooowwwwing that permeated every corner of the house for four long days.

After that, we became Safe Families for Cats. We’ve taken in two so far as temporary placements for families in need. One was a delightful little gem we called Pikachu, or Fu Man Chu, or Tippecanoe (I think her name was Chingu or something). The other was called F.U. — or at least that’s what I called her once we were finally rid of the beast, many weeks later.

So, as I write this, we are at four: three sweet cats, and Gus, the old man who doesn’t care anymore. Well, he cares about being fed, just not about things like staying off the counters, retracting his claws, or being quiet when you lay down the baby.

Last night my wife told me about an acquaintance asking if we could take in two kittens for a month. And we might, it’s still up in the air, but I’ve long since made my peace with a house full of cats. And since I get 50lb bags of cat litter delivered to my door via Amazon, and three older kids to handle the maintenance of litterboxes, there is little stress on me personally.

So when my youngest daughter asks for a kitten, I say, “Sure,” without thinking. Then I add a postscript: “As soon as we sell a million books.”

She doesn’t blink. She just closes her eyes and prays, “God, please let us sell 3 million books, so we can get three kittens.”

I smile. “You could always pray for four kittens, if you want.”

That would be just fine with me.

Postscript: As of Saturday afternoon, we are now foster parents for two temporary placement kittens. God help us.

Member Post

 

A couple of weeks ago, on the Ricochet podcast, @peterrobinson stated that he is in favor of “getting the weapons of war off our streets.”  Well, what are those weapons of war, and how can we tell them apart from common, everyday firearms? What is an “assault weapon,” and what happens if we ban their ownership […]

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The Quiet Ones

 

There are some causes worth speaking out about. And then there are those causes that one dare not utter a word for fear of retribution. Pope Francis and Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, are quite sympathetic and at times vocal about certain causes – LGBTQ rights, gun violence, diversity, and climate change to name but a few — but they’ve both gotten noticeably quiet about two movements that have surfaced in the past year or so. One that promotes free speech and one that would crush it. One that seeks to live in freedom in one of the great success stories of enterprise and capitalism and the other that seeks to impose communist rule through a blood-soaked revolution.

Clearly, Apple has a great deal to lose if Cook speaks up about the Chinese government’s moves to bring Hong Kong under a more oppressive yoke, taking direct control of Hong Kong’s banking sector, and cracking down on any dissent. The financial hit to Apple would be in the billions if President-for-Life Xi Jinping became upset with a positive statement from Cook about the democracy movement in Hong Kong and ordered that factories where Apple products are manufactured be shuttered.

Cook and company would then have to scramble to find other countries, maybe even the United States, to set up their assembly lines. But perhaps Mr. Cook and his team calculated that some 7 million Hong Kong citizens aren’t even worth tweeting about because Apple needs to continue to prosper, grow, and please its shareholders and President Xi.

Of course, closing factories may not resonate well throughout China and this may put pressure on Beijing to relax its control on Hong Kong. Mr. Cook and his executive team at Apple still have an opportunity to do the right thing and speak up. Even a tepid statement like President Trump’s would be something. Unfortunately, to date, there are no official statements or even tweets from Mr. Cook or Apple condemning Antifa violence or praising the aspirations of the millions of inhabitants of Hong Kong to remain free.

Mr. Cook, it should be noted, is a successful capitalist with sympathies for the occasional leftist causes, like many of his Silicon Valley billionaire cohorts, and uses his position to opine on certain issues of morality. Pope Francis, on the other hand, is not a capitalist. He is actually supposed to be a moral authority, some Catholics might even say the moral authority when it comes to various thorny issues.

Sadly, this pope’s record is quite troublesome — promoting prelates who he knew were sexual predators, showing fealty with the LGBTQ community in promoting behavior that is in direct opposition to Catholic teaching, constantly castigating capitalism and constraining any criticism of socialism or bloody socialist dictators like the Castros in Cuba or Maduro in Venezuela, and prattling on about climate change.

In all fairness, it should be noted that Francis did grant an audience to one Hong Kong Catholic student who implored the Pope to express his concern about the recent crackdown on dissidents. The audience lasted for ten seconds and Francis responded by simply asking the young Catholic to pray for him. So, there is that.

Pope Francis also has a special relationship with the Chinese Communist regime. Several years ago, he relied on now-defrocked former and rampant sexual predator Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to lay the groundwork for that special relationship which allows the communist regime to appoint men to the episcopacy. In counter-espionage parlance, these are known as agents. From LifeSiteNews:

Many Western sources agree with Mosher that Xi Jinping is ruthlessly intent on abolishing what religious freedom there is in China, and won’t cede any authority to the Vatican.

“In practice, China’s Communist Party is unlikely to give up control over any religion, even Catholicism, which has relatively few adherents in China,” the WSJ notes.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a program to ‘Sinicize’ all religions to make sure they don’t offer alternate viewpoints to the Communist Party.”

That was echoed by Forbes contributor Olivia Enos, who pointed out religious persecution has risen notably since last October’s Party congress.

“Finalizing a deal now would send the message that the Vatican is willing to turn a blind eye to Chinese threats to religious freedom—including the persecution of Catholics,” wrote Enos.

The deal would also have serious implications for Taiwan, “known for respecting religious freedom,” she added.

Under the One China policy, Beijing would likely require the Vatican to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of China, leaving Taiwan bereft of its last European ally, Enos explained.

The aspirations of Hong Kong citizens aside, the Pope and the Vatican press office haven’t made any statements or taken to Twitter to condemn Antifa violence. Given that it’s a movement that incites violence, celebrates their bloody handiwork, and promotes the overthrow of the United States to become a communist regime, one would have hoped that Francis or others in the Curia would have had the courage to say something. Anything. Apparently, climate change and embracing the paganism of indigenous Amazonian tribes is more important at the moment.

Rahe’s ‘Sparta’s First Attic War’ Provides a Clear Account of a Neglected Period of History

 

Today, few are aware of the 70-year struggle between Athens and Sparta, known collectively as the Peloponnesian Wars. Neglected in today’s history classes, most people who know of it largely recall the last phase of the war, where Sparta conquered Athens.

Sparta’s First Attic War: The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 478-446 B.C., by Paul A. Rahe, examines the period leading up to that phase of the Peloponnesian Wars. It examines the period when Sparta and Athens moved from allies to rivals, and finally to enemies.

The book follows the 34-year period between the end of the Second Persian invasion of Greece and the start of the five-year truce ending the first war between Sparta and Athens. Rahe traces the events of that period. These include the decline of Persia’s seapower and Athens’s subsequent growth as a naval and economic power.

The book opens with Sparta and Athens working together against Persia. Rahe shows how as Athens grows in power and arrogance and Persia withdrew from the Aegean, Athens threatened Spartan domination of the Peloponnese. Ultimately, Sparta found Athens more threatening than Persia.

The book is a delight on several levels. It’s well-written. Rahe lays out his arguments in clear and understandable language. He avoids the political correctness that poisons much of the histories written in this century. One example is in the title, where he uses B.C. rather than BCE for dating.

Also, it’s unapologetically a military history, which emphasizes grand strategy, the plane where politics and military strategy blend. The concepts of J.F.C. Fuller and Julian Corbett, two military strategists from a century ago, are blended into Rahe’s analysis.

The result is an incisive analysis of a critical period. Modern readers come away understanding the decisions made by the various Greek city-states in the context of their times. Spartan restraint against Athens, seemingly inexplicable to modern readers becomes understandable with Rahe’s analysis.

Sparta’s First Attic War provides a clear account of a neglected period of history, one critical to the development of Western Civilization. Those interested in history, especially military history, should read it.

“Sparta’s First Attic War: The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta, 478-446 B. C.,” by Paul A. Rahe, Yale University Press, 2019, 328 pages, $38

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Sisterly Advice

 

Phil Mickelson is 49 years old. He has won three Green Jackets, the Open, and the PGA Championship. He’s won almost $90M. But his sister, Tina, still knows how to put him in his place.

He made it to the tee and finished T-48.

Quote of the Day: Peggy Noonan on Language

 

The title of Peggy Noonan’s essay in last week’s Wall Street Journal was “What Were Robespierre’s Pronouns?” Two great paragraphs:

There is the latest speech guide from the academy, the Inclusive Communications Task Force at Colorado State University. Don’t call people “American”, it directs; “This erases other cultures.” Don’t say a person is mad or a lunatic, call him “surprising/wild” or “sad”. “Eskimo”, “freshman” and “illegal alien” are out. “You guys” should be replaced by “all/folks”. Don’t say “male” or “female”, say “man”, “woman”, or “gender non-binary”.

In one way it’s the nonsense we’ve all grown used to, but it should be said that there’s an aspect of self-infatuation, of arrogance, in telling people they must reorder the common language to suit your ideological preferences. There is something mad in thinking you should control the names of things. Or perhaps I mean surprising/wild. [emphasis mine]

I am fighting back against the speech police and their insistence upon controlling our language. What are you doing?

Witch Way

 

It was raining, cats and dogs (well, a witch’s cat and a sort-of werewolf with bones for brains – she really shouldn’t say that, even in the privacy of her own thoughts, but bless him it was true) were taking cover, and she still had to finish this blasted potion. Never, never, never, the dripping young woman thought to herself, brew a potion from a recipe book that actually specifies it be made ‘on ae righte blasted heathe on ye first true dark midnight after th’ full moone, and thatte at the height of ae summer storme’.

But here she was, soaked to the skin and getting more and more drenched by the moment, frantically stirring a bubbling cauldron with a long hazel stick (‘exactlie five foote in lengthe’), as the wind blew against her trailing black cloak and threatened to take her with it. She’d already seen her hat go whistling away over the horizon. ‘I tried to tell you,’ said a voice from under a pair of wet, flattened-down ears somewhere in the undergrowth.

Not helping …’ she muttered, leaning on the stick to hold the cauldron steady as it wobbled precariously over the hissing fire – without touching the burning-hot sides. ‘Sometimes, I just love my job,’ said the witch.

In fact, ‘witch’ wasn’t really a fair term to use, in the circumstances. Witches were supposed to be wicked, and bent and wizened and ugly, too (though leaning like this over a cauldron full of noxious fumes and damp woodsmoke, she began to understand how they got that way), whereas she … wasn’t.

‘Are you sure about this?’ she called again over the wind.

‘Look,’ said a feline voice, complainingly. ‘That recipe book was hard to track down. I had to call in all kinds of favours just to borrow it. It’s right there, in black-and-white: ‘To Cure thee Witche’s Curse’.’

‘Well,’ she called back, her damp hair flying out behind her, ‘if you’re sure …’

A big bounding shape rollicked past some hazels into the clearing. ‘What’s going on?’ he said, shaking himself vigorously.

There was a hissing nearby. ‘Watch where you do that, you stupid mutt! I was nearly dry!’

‘Sorry, Algie …’ The wolf hung his head, then brightened up, sniffing at the cauldron, inching towards it.

‘Rex, stop that! Desist at once, I say— Priscilla, look out!’

‘Rex – no. No …’ She tried to hold on to a collar and keep the cauldron steady at the same time. But he was strong … ‘No – no, it’s hot! You’ll get burned.’ He stopped pulling.

‘Um. Should that be doing that?’

She looked back at the cauldron. Something was going wrong. Instead of a clear delicate blue, it was turning an unpleasant molten red, hissing like it was about to—

‘Gangway!’ said a streak of black fur zipping into the night.

She was conscious of a mass of wet dog cannoning into her and pushing her out of the way.

The cauldron exploded. A small mushroom cloud rose over the hillside, green smoke edged with yellow …

*

The first light of dawn crept shamefacedly over the horizon. It fell on a book with singed edges, rainsoaked and lying open on the ground. The storm had passed over now, just a few drops of rain falling like teardrops on the bare hillside.

A wet cat, bedraggled and snuffling, trudged its way over the hill. Every so often, it sneezed violently, sending itself up into the air.

Algie would be the first one to admit that he had embraced cat-hood like one born to it, that he was lazy, selfish, and bad-tempered, often unscrupulous, and that unattended (cooked) fish in his vicinity was liable to disappear in mysterious circumstances. So, obviously, when he found the still, unmoving figure on the grass, it was only raindrops trailing down from his luminous green eyes …

He heard the sound of a collar tinkling. A large dog-like wolf limped slowly nearer.

‘Go away, Rex …’ said the cat, tiredly. ‘… Please. Now is not a good time …’

‘Sorry, Algie.’ He turned and started limping away …

… ‘Wait.’

A hopeful doggy face turned back.

‘… Stay. Please.’

Rex limped back nearer.

‘If you tell anybody about this, I’ll … I’ll … Well, just don’t tell anybody, okay?’

Rex looked down at the unmoving girl and flopped down sadly on the ground. ‘She … she really gone?’

Algie didn’t say anything.

‘She looks peaceful.’ Rex huffed out a mournful breath. ‘Guess because she not a witch no more. Guess she got her wish …’

Algie’s tail flicked back and forth. ‘… Guess she did …’ He risked a glance back. Rex’s eyes were closed. Algie stalked closer to Pris, lying there on the ground. Rex was right. She did look peaceful … He nudged against her, hoping against hope. Nothing …

‘Well, kid,’ he said quietly in her ear. ‘… You’re free …’ He nudged at her again. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘if you were to wake up now and say you were only fooling – I’d believe you … I wouldn’t mind … please … It shouldn’t be like this …’ He curled up next to her forlornly and closed his eyes.

He wasn’t sure how much later, but he could feel dog breath over him. Wait a minute. ‘Rex …’ he said quietly, opening his eyes. ‘Can you … turn back into a human?’

Rex shook his head, slobbering only slightly. ‘Nope … Nope, nope, nope … Werewolf curse … Pris say …. Pris say that why have bones for brains. Curse went wrong …’

Algie sighed deeply as only a cat who is suddenly tired of life can do. ‘Yeah … That’s what I thought. It was worth a shot …’ Probably wouldn’t work, anyway. Had to be a human for a kiss to wake someone under an enchantment, or something … didn’t you? He glanced back at the girl on the grass. If this works, he thought, you owe me fried fish for a month …

He stepped up, carefully, up over her stomach, and closed his eyes. Eugh … the things we do for …

A pair of hands gripped his fur urgently. ‘Don’t even think about it,’ said a girl’s voice weakly, coughing on the remains of the smoke caught in her lungs. Algie opened his eyes. Pris was pale as death, but breathing … ‘C’mon, furball – get …’

He hopped down and flicked his tail nonchalantly. ‘See,’ he said turning to Rex. ‘I told you there was nothing to worry about … Er, how much did you hear exactly?’ he asked her.

She smiled slightly out of the corner of her mouth. ‘Not a word …’

*

As they walked (well, strutted, in Algie’s case; and limped, in Rex’s; and to be fair, Pris was floating a few inches off the ground on a broomstick) towards home, he asked, ‘So, does this mean you’re still a witch?’

‘For now,’ she said, sadly. She reached down and scritched behind his ears and then leaned over to pat Rex on the head.

‘So …’ said Rex brightly. ‘What are we doing tonight?’

‘The same thing we do every night, pooch,’ she said, with a smile that might even have reached as far as her eyes. ‘Try to break the curse … well, curses. All three of them …’

And together they wandered off into the drizzle and the sunrise. It was raining, there was a cat and a dog (sort of), and there was always tomorrow …

Familiarity, Contempt, and All That Jazz

 

I would normally post something like this on PIT 14 or the “What Are You Listening To?” group, but this tune seems suddenly to be everywhere. KJAZ in Long Beach, CA, plays it but, more than that, it is popping up on phone hold queues everywhere.

It’s catchy enough, but I fear I will become as annoyed with it as I am with the Pachelbel Canon in D, another instance of an old tune that was catapulted into ubiquity.

If by some chance you haven’t heard Ramsey Lewis’s Les Fleur, before, enjoy it while you can.

Is there a tune you once loved that has become over-familiar and that you wish you could avoid either forever or for long enough that the absence of it makes your heart grow fond again?

.

Does the Constitution Need Reformation or Restoration?

 

reform or restore constitutionThere is a long-simmering fight on the right between those who urge a convention of the states, under Article V of the Constitution of the United States, and those who urge active resistance at every level of government to nullify unconstitutional actions by every branch of government. The former argue for reformation of the Constitution, while the latter argue for restoration of the Constitution as currently written. Both have merits, both are sincere, and both do not say enough. What follows is a brief outline of some contentions and a suggested common flaw with a common, but very hard, solution.

Reformation:

The convention of states argument is most notably advanced by Mark Levin, in The Liberty Amendments, and by Mark Meckler through the Convention of States Project. Their core claim is the Framers anticipated conditions, under which Congress would be corrupted by at least self-interest and would effectively refuse to put one or more needed amendments before the states for ratification. We certainly see Congress, the presidents, and the courts playing a cynical game of blame avoidance while they collectively distort the legitimate Constitution, as properly amended by the Article V ratification process.

This is why the Supreme Court has become such a political battleground, as the original Anti-federalist position on courts has proven true and the Federalist argument, “least dangerous branch,” has been repeatedly falsified. The Anti-federalist styling himself “Brutus” published a short series of clearly written essays, aimed at people like you and me, concluding:

A constitution is a compact of a people with their rulers; if the rulers break the compact, the people have a right and ought to remove them and do themselves justice. But in order to enable them to do this with the greater facility, those whom the people choose at stated periods should have the power in the last resort to determine the sense of the compact. If they determine contrary to the understanding of the people, an appeal will lie to the people at the period when the rulers are to be elected, and they will have it in their power to remedy the evil. But when this power is lodged in the hands of men independent of the people, and of their representatives, and who are not constitutionally accountable for their opinions, no way is left to control them but with a high hand and an outstretched arm.

Brutus was right, but could not foresee the other branches engaging in kabuki theater, using the unaccountable courts to their own benefit.

This same game is why the Code of Federal Regulations dwarfs the U.S. Code, which dwarfs the Constitution, effectively creating a fourth branch of government, without authorization of the people through their states ratification process. Naturally, both distortions of the Constitution impinge on our liberty, and both lack carefully constructed checks and balances, ratified into the Constitution through the Article V process.

Article V, U.S. Constitution

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

The Article V Convention of States process has never been used, while the Congress has acted 19 times to send proposed amendments to the states for ratification. The first time was in the first Congress, when it sent a slate of 12 proposed amendments, ten of which were ratified as the Bill of Rights. Then, Congress acted twice, quickly, to send the 11th and the 12th Amendments to the states, fixing bugs revealed in the early operation of the Constitution.

There was a lull until after the American Civil War, when Congress acted three times in quick succession to send the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments for state ratification. After another lull, the early and mid-Twentieth Century saw Congress act 13 times, resulting in 12 amendments being ratified. Convention of states advocates argue the constitutional reform process works and is needed now.

Restoration:

The outlier is the Equal Rights Amendment, defeated by the newly invigorated social conservatives. The face of that movement was Phyllis Schlafly, at the head of the Eagle Forum. Perhaps it was her experience in this fight that caused her to vigorously oppose the convention of states movement as a constitutional con game, too dangerous to unleash. Andy Biggs rose from the Arizona state legislature to the U.S. House of Representatives, despite or with his publication of The Con of the Con-Con.

The position argued from the Eagle Forum and the modern John Birch Society is that the courts and the rest of government will make a mockery of any amendment, continuing their lawless behavior. The real answer, they say, is to do the hard work of growing a citizenry knowledgable of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. They also argue that a convention will get out of control, or be under the control of globalists from the left and right. They allege bad motives and bad funding sources. The Convention of States Project response is that amendments take such a strong level of support, with 3/4 of all the states agreeing in close order, that courts and other politicians are too frightened to disobey. Yet the infamous Slaughterhouse Cases of 1872 would seem to give the lie to this.

No sooner had the Reconstruction Amendments (13 through 15) been ratified, than the Supreme Court, which had triggered the bloodbath, the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, by its naked, lawless bigotry in Dred Scott, again acted in naked, lawless bigotry to render the 14th Amendment meaningless. What followed were a consistent series of fraudulent decisions, culminating in 1896 with Plessy v Ferguson‘s cynical “separate but equal.” So, the courts demonstrably do not respect the will of the people, or is it more complicated?

The corrupt bargain settling the 1876 presidential election outcome saw the white northern business interests, and their white Republican congressional creatures, do a dirty deal with white southern agribusiness men. and their white Democratic congressional creatures, to withdraw federal protection of Southern blacks. This had the added benefit to the white Republican Congressional members of effectively, rapidly, removing their new black Republican peers. They were all for freeing the slaves, but not for having to work side-by-side with emancipated leaders.

So, the Supreme Court may not have been in any fear of effective contradiction by the American people when it gutted the three most recent amendments. Senator Mike Lee of Utah agrees that the Constitution must be restored by rebuilding a citizenry that is knowledgable of the written Constitution and Declaration of Independence. He proposes other actions, but the adult education piece is foundational. In this, he overlaps with the Eagle Forum and John Birch Society.

That same informed citizenry would seem to be essential to the success of any convention of states campaign. How else will you get “two-thirds of the several states” to agree to the need, and three-quarters of the states to ratify proposed amendments? But who is informing the citizenry, and how?

The actual history of alcohol prohibition reveals a nearly half-century campaign at the school board and local newspaper level to shape curricula and editorial positions. Eventually, there was a critical mass of temperance propaganda, effectively shaping the thinking of enough men to outlaw alcohol production and sale. Remember that women did not get the right to vote until two years after men outlawed alcohol. Mens’ hearts and minds were shaped for two or three generations, creating the conditions for passage of Prohibition.

Both do not say enough:

Now consider the relentless, unidirectional propaganda transmitted through the education and media systems to Gen X, Millennials, and now Gen Z. Look at changes in attitudes and responses to opinion surveys. Neither the restoration nor the reconstruction arguments articulate effective plans to reverse this wave of current and near-future voter opinion.

Indeed, the left will soon be in a position to call the bluffs of both conservative factions. You say you want to amend the Constitution? What will you do when a new plurality shows up in enough states, ready to “reform” the Bill of Rights to match their sensibilities? When three-fourths of the states ratify hate speech clauses, and define historic Christianity as unprotected bigotry, what will you argue then? It is in the Constitution, so shut up and “support and defend.”

You say resist and restore? What happens when state after state turns on your resistance and your efforts to restore? What happens when they counter your informal efforts to properly teach the Constitution with state-mandated curricula and focussed media propaganda contradicting and silencing your message?

What if they properly amend the Constitution you venerate, to better suit their desires? Remember that Article V is part of the original Constitution, so appealing back does you little good. They can point back and quote Framers anticipating a need for future amendments.

What is to be done?

Any viable solution must include immediate and sustained state-level re-education, counter-messaging at every level. Think “Schoolhouse Rock” or PragerU on steroids across radio, television, and internet platforms. Think every state imposing free speech codes on every corporation in their boundaries, using every tool available to prevent corporations from acting with the left to subvert or change the Constitution, both within the corporation and in the community. Corporations must be told that if they want the steak and sweets of low taxes and friendly regulations, they must first agree to eat the spinach of really respecting, in policy and action, religious conservatives.

Think imposing ideological diversity or neutrality and free speech on the state-funded education system at every level, starting in public school and college administrations. The Goldwater Institute’s campus free speech model legislation is a good start. Hold elected officials responsible for holding regents and administrators accountable.

Yes, we also will need a long term march through the institutions, but the enemy gets a vote and now plays this game from the commanding heights of the institutions. If Texas flips in the next few election cycles, taking the nation with it, Republican governors who bragged of bagging big employers will be to blame. They, and other Republican governors, acted as the servants of the Chamber of Commerce while paying lip service to social conservatives, whose enemies the governors were welcoming in without condition.

Appearance on Cold War Conversations Podcast

 

My interview was posted today. I talked about the early space program and the origins of GPS. This podcast is great. I especially liked the episode where Hess’s interpreter talked about his conversations with the former Nazi #2. Here I am with my father in 1963.

 

Member Post

 

My definition of a racist is: “Someone who treats people differently based on their race.” This doesn’t match with the modern definition of a racist: “Someone who disagrees with any part of what the left pretends to believe in this afternoon.” As communism and socialism have proven disastrous in practice over the past 100+ years, […]

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Don’t Worry – Just Ask the Right Questions

 

Last year at a local meet the candidate forum, the State House contender approached the lectern and said somberly and boldly, “Climate change is real.” 

He would have accomplished just as much had he said, “The sun rises” or “Dogs bark.” Yet another example of uncritical soundbite over meaningful distinctions.

So what are the meaningful distinctions? Recently I watched a ninety minute class on Climate Change by Dr. Jay Richards of the Catholic University of America. He pointed out that to talk meaningfully about climate change, you have to ask four questions:

  1. Is the Earth warming?
  2. Are we causing (or at least contributing to) it?
  3. Is it bad?
  4. Would the advised policies make any difference?

The first two questions are surprisingly uncontroversial. Is the Earth currently in a warming trend? Yes, just like there have been these slight up and down trends for as long as we could measure.

Are we contributing to it? Yes. Carbon does contribute to the well documented greenhouse effect. So does water condensation. Thank goodness for without the greenhouse effect, the planet would be uninhabitable. On the other hand, could it be too much of a good thing? So . . .

Is it bad? This is where things get controversial. The models project a dismal future even though observable reality does not. The frightful photos of the seasonal melting of glaciers should be coupled with the seasonal reforming of glaciers but that doesn’t sell magazines. (Also there is nothing concerning about photo of the polar bear on a small piece of ice – they do that to catch seals).

Here is the problem with models: Models depend upon assumptions beyond the measurable facts. For example, carbon in the atmosphere won’t raise the temperature so high so that the North Pole would collapse. However, we can add the following speculation to our model:

  1. Assume the temperature rises and some ice melts and becomes water.
  2. Water is darker than ice.
  3. Therefore the water should absorb even more heat.
  4. Therefore more ice will melt
  5. This cycle continues melting much more ice than the original change of temperature would melt.

It is not the worst of assumptions except for the fact that it does not play out in actuality. As a result, assumptions cause the models project a worse future than observable trends.

Would the advised policies make any difference? No and the class can go into the specifics of the Kyoto agreement to show that the billions of dollars would be a waste other than tepid comfort for the “just do something” crowd.

But a larger spiritual question is in view. Do we really think we can control everything, even the climate? Of course we should minimize pollution to the atmosphere but beyond that, how about the historical solution – adapt? You do know that land bridges that used to have foot traffic is now underwater so such an idea is not unheard of.

Worse case: Over time houses may need to be moved inland and sea walls added. The poor may need help insulating their homes. But that is different than doomsday “vote for me or die” scenarios. 

Further, climate change is not always negative. If things are really changing over time, deserts become farmland. Hot or cold areas could become tourist destinations. It works both ways.

Jumping from the phrase “climate changes” to catastrophe is a large, irrational leap. There are meaningful questions and solid steps in between.

If you would like to watch the class, message me and I’ll send you the link. The Colson Center is happy for us to share the link with friends but not post generally on social media.

Quote of the Day – How Freedom is Lost

 

I left the Soviet Union to escape communism, socialism, Marxism — whatever you want to call it. America was and still is the only place in the world you are truly free, and you are losing it. Now the evil is coming here; it is all around us, especially where I live in California. These people are ignorant, they have no historical knowledge, and they are very dangerous. The ideology is seductive to America’s naive youth and always ends up with people dead. – Svetlana, the pseudonym of a Soviet émigré to the United States, now in her 80s.

The quote comes from a woman interviewed for a Washington Times article on the seduction of socialism. They kept her name secret for fear of the consequences to her if they revealed it. The need for secrecy is real and all very soviet. A SJW mob would show no reluctance to dogpile an eighty-something woman who warns of the consequences of the mob’s actions.

To today’s youth, socialism is seductive. Your needs and even your desires get taken care of. All you need in exchange is to surrender your freedom. In an age of helicopter parents, freedom is something few experience while growing up. Their parents plan every aspect of their lives, controlling their children’s movements and contacts with others outside the house. The many hours of ranging the neighborhood unsupervised (as I and my brothers did in our childhood) are over. With it, so are any childhood experiences with freedom.

You do not miss what you never had. That is one reason the residents of Beijing and Shenzhen put up with restrictions far more onerous than the ones which have the residents of Hong Kong out in the streets. Those living in Beijing and Shenzhen have never experience freedom. Those in Hong Kong have.

The generation of Millenials now attending college is easily seduced by socialism’s siren call. Few have experienced true freedom. Additionally, the only societal framework most have lived in during their earliest years is socialistic. A family is a socialist organization: from which according to their abilities and to which according to their needs.

Dad (and today mom as well) went out and earned the resources that fed the family and provided for its needs. The members of the society, especially the children, had their needs provided for regardless of their ability to contribute to the family. In the bad old days, when things were tight, even the children were expected to work to provide to the best of their abilities. Even then, they did not receive resources based on what they contributed. They received resources according to their needs. In today’s resource-rich America, children, even teens, are often discouraged from working and saving. Why bother when the ‘rents bring in enough money to provide for their children? Isn’t providing for all your children’s wants and needs a demonstration that you are a good parent?

Yet however admirably socialism works in a family, it does not scale. Even in a village-level society it quickly devolves into tyranny as that society’s leaders decide their needs are more expansive (and important) than those of the other members of the society. They develop into the nomenklatura or good people or some form of aristocracy.

Which the pseudonymous Svetlana experienced first hand, but American’s naive youth have difficulty understanding.

Can Trump Solve the Chinese Puzzle?

 

Xi puzzle“Facts don’t care about your feelings,” as Ben Shapiro is wont to say. Indeed, John Adams admonishes us: “facts are very stubborn things.” In the midst of all the virtual ink spillage, and pundit and politico posturing, the inconvenient truth is that Hong Kong is a city in communist China. This unfeeling and stubborn fact fundamentally limits what the United States, any other nation, and people inside Hong Kong can do to affect conditions on the ground. Yet, there may be a move, within the larger Chinese puzzle, that President Trump can play now that might slow Hong Kong’s descent into normal Chinese city status.

Cautionary Tales of Careless Words:

We hear conservatives and constitutionalists argue against “do something” as a reaction to mass shootings. Yet, we hear from some of the same sources that the president of the most powerful nation in the world must “do something,” where “do something” is just “say something.” Educated and wise counselors and leaders may be charged with knowing our own history with presidents “saying something.”

Ask the Hungarians, the Kurds, and the Marsh Arabs how it worked out when Republican presidents offered strong words of support for resistance and condemnation of oppressors. Perhaps our learned class learned nothing because they lost no one. If we really care, we should be careful to first do no harm, especially where the results of miscalculation are demonstrably bloody. The best advise to President Trump, whether on Iran or Hong Kong, is “don’t say you want a revolution.”

So, what should every analyst, every talking head, and, most importantly, the President of the United States, learn from Hungary 1956 and Iraq 1991? How about not throwing around “regime change” unless you are ready to go all the way with military support, even if you only think that will be through the air and on water?

A Word on Puzzles:

On hearing of the latest Hong Kong protests, in the context of the North Korean nuclear issue and the conflict across all forms of national power with China, the image of a sliding block puzzle and the phrase “Chinese puzzle” came to mind. Did you grow up with physical media games you could carry with you, while traveling? If so, perhaps you recall a puzzle, locked in a frame, like the one above.

I knew them by the nomenclature “Chinese puzzles,” yet it turns out that this form of sliding block puzzle may have independently arisen in America and in China. The American variant initially had numbers on each block, with one block missing, allowing the player to always move only side-to-side or up and down into the blank space. With a four-by-four matrix, if you leave out one cell you get fifteen puzzle pieces, hence the “15 puzzle.”

The 15 puzzle was invented by a postmaster named Noyes Chapman in Canastota, New York and was distributed by the Embossing Company around 1868. However, the puzzle rose to prominence in 1878 when a prominent American puzzle enthusiast named Sam Lloyd claimed that he had developed a new puzzle which was a modified version of the 15 puzzle.

It turns out that Chinese children were playing a game with unequal sized paper blocks, with a similar objective of setting the game pieces in a particular order. The Chinese game was based on a semi-mythical story of a general fleeing with a remnant of troops through a pass, seeking to live to fight another day. This was the Haurong Pass game:

Huarong Pass (Huarong dao 华容道) is a sliding block puzzle that’s popular throughout China. Its story is based on a well known encounter during the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220) between Cao Cao, the shrewd and clever strategist for the Wei Kingdom, and Guan Yu, a commander in the Shu Kingdom army who had once served under Cao Cao.

[…]

In 1938, when the Anti-Japanese War began, Professor Lin Dekuan of Northwestern Industrial University left his home in Hanzhong, Shaanxi province, and moved to the countryside in Chenggu county to avoid the Japanese air raids. There he saw children playing with sliding block puzzles made of paper.

You will note from the language that this Berkeley, California, based puzzle website is sympathetic or submissive to the Chinese communist narrative of history. Take it as another dot in the collection that may form a picture of communist Chinese information operations in America. Set that to one side and consider that this puzzle is well known to Chinese leaders. In that context, consider the analogy of international relations.

You are not free to pick up and move pieces for an easy solution. Indeed, each move you make both limits and opens possibilities for the next set of moves. Hong Kong, if we care to “do something,” or if we do nothing, is interconnected with the whole China puzzle, and the pieces of this puzzle keep changing in numbers and shapes, so that more complex three dimensional Chinese puzzles may now be more apt analogies to the geopolitical situation in 2019.

Early Moves in this Chinese Puzzle:

Hong Kong is a Chinese City. It was taken from a Chinese emperor by the British Empire after the first Opium War. It was taken to protect British commercial interests against both inland threats and rival European imperial powers who had commercial interests in China. Yet that first move was followed by a fateful second move.

The sliver of land taken, all nice and legal, with properly signed papers, was not self-sustaining. More land was needed, but the British did not wish to provoke the Chinese population or give occasion for conflict in the local elites. So, they took out a 99 year lease on a much bigger chunk of land, a lease no one thought would run out:

The ailing Qing Dynasty leased the New Territories to Britain for 99 years, starting 1 July 1898. The new additions were to make up 90 per cent of Hong Kong’s land mass. The term of 99 years was fixed almost casually. Both sides believed the new lands would remain British for ever, along with the original colonial possession of Hong Kong island, acquired in 1842. The British empire would never die.

The lease was signed in the midst of a flurry of European colonial expansion in China. Britain did not want to be left out, but it was prepared to let China’s rulers save face by not insisting the territory should be ceded in perpetuity.

Then the wooden wall of the empire on which the sun never set was burnt down by the air, land, and sea forces of the land of the Rising Sun. After World War II, Britain was no longer so great, and it was in absolutely no position to enforce control of far flung possessions. The day that Generalissimo Chiang Ki-shek and his forces escaped to Taiwan, the path was open for red banners to advance through the streets of Hong Kong. Yet, the communists were wily and did not consider killing the golden goose until they could raise their own productive flock of fowls.

Today, there is quite a gaggle of productive geese in China, and citizens of each of these cities might ask why Hong Kong residents think they are so special. They are likely to resent the reported behavior, and the freedom, of Hong Kong. It is delusional to think that protests by Hong Kong Millennials will prompt wider civil disruptions across China.

Oh, but surely great and good leaders must protest vigorously! If only we had a Reagan, or a Thatcher. Oh, wait, never mind. Many readers here are old enough to remember 1984. Youth is no excuse, as we are assured that Gen X and following are all tech savvy, and wise in the ways of the Internet. So, let us take a quick trip down memory lane, with a BBC report from Beijing on 19 December 1984:

The British colony of Hong Kong is to be returned to China in 1997 after an historic agreement was signed in Peking today.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signed the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang.

It formally seals the future of Hong Kong, transferring it from a British colony of six million people to communist China in 13 years.

Years later, Dame Margaret Thatcher revealed that the communist Chinese leader threatened to simply take Hong Kong in a day. Thatcher had regrets over Hong Kong, but could only reply with appeals to his self-interest:

“One country, two systems was developed some years earlier as an approach to the issue of Taiwan,” says Lady Thatcher. “It doesn’t look any more appropriate in that context now than it did then. Nor did it at first seem to me the way ahead for Hong Kong.”

However, she goes on to share one of the bargaining tactics she employed during her time in office. “In fact, I complimented [Deng Xiaoping] on his brilliance. It’s often a good idea to tell people with whom you negotiate that they were right all along.”

Prime Minister Thatcher signed Hong Kong back over to China only two years after fighting a naval campaign to hold onto a few rocky islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. There, the British could still overmatch a corrupt South American state. The geography of Hong Kong led to a far colder calculus, expressed at Thatcher’s 1984 Hong Kong press conference:

[Prime Minister Thatcher]

The first point I wish to make about this Agreement is that it assures the continuation of Hong Kong as a free trading capitalist society for a very long time to come—into the middle of the next century. This means that Hong Kong can plan long-term with confidence. I believe Deng Xiaoping Chairman Deng intends his bold concept of “one country-two systems” to last. [end p1]

My second point is that you have my absolute assurance that Britain will administer Hong Kong wisely and well between now and 1997. We shall honour our obligations to the full.

My third point is that Britain will not merely do all in its power to work for Hong Kong’s steady development and a smooth transition; we shall also seek to win the widest possible acceptance of the Agreement in the rest of the world.

[…]

[Unidentified questioner]

Yes, now I come to the question. Mrs. Prime Minister, our common aim is to maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. Will Mrs. Thatcher and the British Government ever consider helping Hong Kong people to establish and to promote this fund, and may I just remind you, Mrs. Prime Minister, during the Falklands War, in which your Government decided to protect a remote dependent territory. On behalf of the Hong Kong people, the Hong Kong Government act responsibly to donate 20 million Hong Kong dollars to the South Pacific Fund in order to help the British people to fight for their reputation and to maintain Britain’s prosperity and stability. In return, will the British Government …

Bernard Ingham

I am sorry. Please! Could we have slightly shorter questions please!

Prime Minister [Thatcher]

I am not quite sure what the question was going to be, but our duty is to implement the Agreement into which we have entered and to implement it to the full—and we shall do that.

There you have the cold calculus, the hard facts that do not care about your feelings. A desperate man pled for the British military to protect Hong Kong from the Beijing government, invoking the Falklands War. Prime Minister Thatcher declined to give an embarrassing direct answer, rightly, responsibly so.

So What Moves Are Left? Can Trump Solve the Chinese Puzzle?

Consider how the British left Hong Kong, while President Reagan defeated the Soviet Union, President George H.W. Bush had a short glorious war in the Middle East, as part of realizing his vision of a “new world order,” and President Clinton edged towards bombing the Serbs, while taking campaign cash from the Chinese. Consider the documents and the conditions on the ground.

You will not get far in reading about the period between Prime Minister Thatcher’s signature and the 1997 hand-over without running into Chris Patton, the final British administrator. He set about trying to change the local government rules so that the population could elect its city leaders.

Think about that. For over a century, the British were quite happy to run the city without the locals getting all chirpy about how things were run. Then, when the documents were already signed, the transfer under way, a British civil servant decides to introduce a little democracy. This did not go over well and led to the current arrangement, in which only a portion of the local government seats are determined by popular vote. A controlling block is determined by the interests of associations, representing the business and financial bosses, who have a strong interest in stability, in not rocking the dragon boat.

The British and Chinese governments take different views of the Joint Declaration [emphasis added]:

The agreement entered into force on 27 May 1985 and was registered at the United Nations by the Chinese and British Governments on 12 June 1985.

The UK Government is clear that “the Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty, registered with the United Nations, which continues to remain in force. It remains as valid today as it did when it was signed over thirty years ago”.

[…]

China challenges the status of the Joint Declaration

Chinese officials have, in recent years, challenged the status of the Joint Declaration.

The Foreign Affairs Committee noted comments by Chinese Foreign Ministry officials in 2017 suggesting the arrangements under the Joint Declaration are “now history” and described it as “ridiculous for the UK to pose itself as a supervisor… on Hong Kong affairs”.

Consider for yourself the strength of the document, and what it actually asserts, by reading the full text below. What is central to the words and actions of British governments, starting with the Thatcher government, is an attempt to tie Chinese self-interest to being especially decent to the residents of Hong Kong. President Trump may find a move here that advances the larger puzzle’s resolution.

President Trump seeks trade agreements, with binding force, between a whole series of countries, including China. He can point out to domestic and foreign audiences that having a reputation for keeping deals is important to getting a good deal in the first place. People who are known for breaking their word get less generous terms than those known for keeping up their end of a bargain.

So, it is arguably in the interest of China to scrupulously enforce the agreement they signed, as written. After all, the goose is still laying golden eggs and the deal, as written, terminates in 28 years. The neoconservatives were wrong, the horse is not going to sing. The Chinese dragon will not turn into a capitalist or a republican. The young protesters are eventually going to live by the same rules as their peers in Shanghai, by the terms agreed to in 1984.

The question that matters now is can China communist bosses be trusted to take the long term win as scheduled, or will they bust the agreement as inconvenient. Hong Kong will be a signal to U.S. government trade negotiators and military planners, concerned about freedom of navigation in the region. That is what President Trump should say, what he responsibly can say.


Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong
 
The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People’s Republic of China have reviewed with satisfaction the friendly relations existing between the two Governments and peoples in recent years and agreed that a proper negotiated settlement of the question of Hong Kong, which is left over from the past, is conducive to the maintenance of the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and to the further strengthening and development of the relations between the two countries on a new basis. To this end, they have, after talks between the delegations of the two Governments, agreed to declare as follows:

1. The Government of the People’s Republic of China declares that to recover the Hong Kong area (including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, hereinafter referred to as Hong Kong) is the common aspiration of the entire Chinese people, and that it has decided to resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong with effect from 1 July 1997.

2. The Government of the United Kingdom declares that it will restore Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China with effect from 1 July 1997.

3. The Government of the People’s Republic of China declares that the basic policies of the
People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong are as follows:

(1) Upholding national unity and territorial integrity and taking account of the history of Hong Kong and its realities, the People’s Republic of China has decided to establish, in accordance with the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region upon resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong.(2) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be directly under the authority of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs which are the responsibilities of the Central People’s Government.

(3) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. The laws currently in force in Hong Kong will remain basically unchanged.

(4) The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be composed of local inhabitants. The chief executive will be appointed by the Central People’s Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally. Principal officials will be nominated by the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for appointment by the Central People’s Government. Chinese and foreign nationals previously working in the public and police services in the government departments of Hong Kong may remain in employment. British and other foreign nationals may also be employed to serve as advisers or hold certain public posts in government departments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

(5) The current social and economic systems in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and so will the life-style. Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment will be protected by law.

(6) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will retain the status of a free port and a separate customs territory.

(7) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will retain the status of an international financial centre, and its markets for foreign exchange, gold, securities and futures will continue. There will be free flow of capital. The Hong Kong dollar will continue to circulate and remain freely convertible.

(8) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will have independent finances. The Central People’s Government will not levy taxes on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

(9) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may establish mutually beneficial economic relations with the United Kingdom and other countries, whose economic interests in Hong Kong will be given due regard.

(10) Using the name of ‘Hong Kong, China’, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may on its own maintain and develop economic and cultural relations and conclude relevant agreements with states, regions and relevant international organisations.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may on its own issue travel documents for entry into and exit from Hong Kong.

(11) The maintenance of public order in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will be the responsibility of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

(12) The above-stated basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong and the elaboration of them in Annex I to this Joint Declaration will be stipulated, in a Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, by the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, and they will remain unchanged for 50 years.
4. The Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the People’s Republic of China declare that, during the transitional period between the date of the entry into force of this Joint Declaration and 30 June 1997, the Government of the United Kingdom will be responsible for the administration of Hong Kong with the object of maintaining and preserving its economic prosperity and social stability; and that the Government of the People’s Republic of China will give its cooperation in this connection.

5. The Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the People’s Republic of China declare that, in order to ensure a smooth transfer of government in 1997, and with a view to the effective implementation of this Joint Declaration, a Sino-British Joint Liaison Group will be set up when this Joint Declaration enters into force; and that it will be established and will function in accordance with the provisions of Annex II to this Joint Declaration.

6. The Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the People’s Republic of China declare that land leases in Hong Kong and other related matters will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of Annex III to this Joint Declaration.

7. The Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the People’s Republic of China agree to implement the preceding declarations and the Annexes to this Joint Declaration.

8. This Joint Declaration is subject to ratification and shall enter into force on the date of the exchange of instruments of ratification, which shall take place in Beijing before 30 June 1985. This Joint Declaration and its Annexes shall be equally binding.

Done in duplicate at Beijing on 19 December 1984 in the English and Chinese languages, both texts being equally authentic.

(Signed)
For the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
(Signed)
For the Government of the People’s Republic of China
 

Quote of the Day: Slavery

 

“Of all forms of slavery there is none that is so harmful and degrading as that form of slavery which tempts one human being to hate another by reason of his race or color. One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.”

“In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists. Wherever, in any country the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists.”

Booker T. WashingtonAn Address on Abraham Lincoln before the Republican Club of New York City (12 February 1909)

It is an interesting concept, hatred enslaves the hater. Hatred and scapegoating lay the foundation of slavery. And Booker T. Washington knew well the evil of slavery, far better than the modern race activist, who views hatred of white men as a virtue and gleefully imagines their enemies cast out from society into the outer darkness. The typical racial activists shackle themselves to a cause that brings only spiritual slavery while calling for reparations for slavery.

Group Writing: Raging Storms

 

When the rain falls gently, soothing the leaves on trees, darkening the streets slowly, satisfying the thirst of eager flowers, I welcome those soft showers. But my experience with the “raining cats and dogs” variety of storms has been terrifying, and I could definitely do without them. Unfortunately, nature will have her way.

Three terrifying experiences that have never been duplicated came to mind when I thought of raining cats and dogs. The first was on a cross-country drive, and we were on a Texas highway. My husband drove one car and I drove the other, as we were in the process of moving from CA to MA. We amused ourselves by taking turns being in front, and to make sure I didn’t get sleepy, he would occasionally call me on my cellphone. (This was in 2006* when you couldn’t get arrested for using a cellphone while driving.)

The highway had little traffic, and we knew we might come into an occasional rainstorm. But I couldn’t have mentally prepared myself for the onslaught we were about to hit. Ahead of me, suddenly, I could only describe the rain as a wall. I cringed, realizing I had no way to avoid it. Then I breathed in, thinking, how bad could it be?

Very bad.

The roar of the rain filled the car. I slowed down as quickly as I could without slamming on the brakes. I couldn’t see anything in front of me, and I opened my eyes as big as saucers, hoping I could magically penetrate the barrier that now surrounded me. It only lasted a few moments, as these storms almost always do, but it was a moment of terror and I held on to the steering wheel and prayed I didn’t hydroplane.

And then it was over, almost as quickly as it had started. Although I’ve lived in different parts of the country, I’ve never seen a deluge quite like it, and hope I never will.

The second experience was in Parker, CO; we lived in a quiet suburb with a large drainage ditch not far away. It would occasionally have water in it, but most of the time we barely noticed it and didn’t give it much thought.

Until we got the downpour of the century south of us in the Black Forest area. It was raining in our area, too, but just your normal kind of rain. Suddenly a movement caught my eye. It was the drainage ditch southwest of our house. Where puddles had rested earlier, water was growing up the sides of the ditch. I watched, mesmerized, thinking the rains would surely stop soon. But they didn’t. And the water continued to rise in the ditch located just 100 feet from our home. It transformed from a swift stream to a raging river. We watched the mist climb off the top, the water cascading powerfully and tried not to panic. We were certain that the water would top the sides of the ditch and take our home away. I tore my eyes away from the scene and looked south; the sky was lightening. The rain must have been slowing down. And then I noticed that the roaring river was not climbing higher, but had leveled off. After several moments I reassured myself that the water level was subsiding.

I started to breathe again as the sun came out.

My last encounter with potentially heavy rains was Hurricane Irma. I’d never been in a hurricane before. And it appeared, as we went to bed, that she was heading right for us. The wind blew, the rain shattered the stillness, and we barely slept that night. We have a lanai, and every hour or so one of us would check to see if it was flooded; we have a side door to the yard that we planned to open if the water rose too high, because it could have flooded the inside of the house. (If we’d left the side door open, the winds would likely have ripped it off.)

We had such a bizarre experience checking the water level. The way our house was oriented, the direction of the winds actually appeared to blow the water out of the lanai. Every time we went out there, the concrete was barely damp. The furious wind seemed determined to take everything and all of us with it. But it didn’t.

We only felt the edge of Irma. But others in Florida had to suffer devastation.

For us, it’s hard to say whether the actual weather or the anticipation of it was worse.

This time, it was the anticipation. Next time, who knows.

*Edited date thanks to my observant commenters!

 

Five Small Poems on the Secret Lives of Creatures

 

About a week ago, I posted a poem of mine about a toad. It landed with a thud on the Ricochet Member Feed. It was soon a lonely and pathetic thing as it moved inexorably down the morning posts with hardly even a Pity Like.

But that was a week ago. I’ve discovered that my poetic Muse won’t leave me alone, even at the risk of ridicule and shame.

Frankenstein

Scarred refuse
of yesterday’s men:
Finds pain in being alive.
Would rather
lie in pieces again.

[OK, I know that wasn’t much, but it’s so short that readers who never make it to the end of a poem can now boast that they made it to the end of a poem.]

The Vampire

White-faced Transylvanian,
with a recessive gene
that urges nightly sips of blood.

But believes it a sin
To have vulgar tastes:
Drinks young virgins
instead of old men.

[Well who wouldn’t?]

Wolf-man

Periodic beast:
When the full moon
floods the landscape,
our pajama-sleeper
feels tendons tighten,
coarse hair grow,
and eyes evil-brighten.

Then our hairy fellow
runs naked across the dark heath,
Ripping up humus and moss
With red nails and sharp teeth.

In the morning, belly filled,
he wakes up man again:
Prompt at office,
politic and quiet,
a gentleman
with modest tie,
eyes bright.

[This is my favorite. I’ve always like the wolf man]

Old Scratch

By custom obliged
to dress in a red
woolen onesie suit.

Forced by divine decree
To sport on his breech
a foul-smelling tail
that swishes the black flies
that buzz on his bung
(that reeks when it’s hot
of sulphur and dung).

Hoofs on his heels,
horns on his head
fire for his bed.

Hates it,
takes it
out on
mankind.

[The real origin of evil.]

The Witch

Anne Jefferies
Is bored, her lace stitchery
by her side, as she
looks around her
stuffed Victorian room.

So Anne sneaks out at night
to dance with Cornwall fairies
in a clearing in dark woods
till the coming of the light.

I think, my Victorian lass,
there were far worse ways
of using up your share of days
than to dance with fairies
in the pale moonlight. 

[Anne Jefferies was an actual 17th-century witch, though I’ve modified her story somewhat.]

One more poem:

Bob the dog thinks it a treat/to watch the cat across the street.

 

 

Netanyahu Stands up to Omar and Tlaib

 

At least someone has decided to stand up to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel agenda. It’s clear that our Congress will not.

Last month, a visit to Israel by these two lawmakers had been approved. Just two days before the trip, however, both women announced that they planned to use the trip to promote the Boycott-Divest-Sanction (BDS) movement, an international effort to cripple the Israeli economy and delegitimize the Jewish state. When their agenda became clear, Israel enforced a law passed in 2017 which prohibits entry to those who promote boycotting the country. Foreign Minister Israel Katz spoke out supporting the ban–referring to their support of BDS, terrorism and minimizing the Holocaust:

‘Furthermore, the planned visit they have prepared is entirely aimed at provocation and incitement against the State of Israel, and not to study the State of Israel’s activities,’ he said. ‘A self-respecting state does not allow those who undermine its existence to enter its borders and continue incitement.’

Our Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman released a statement, which said in part:

The United States supports and respects the decision of the Government of Israel to deny entry to the Tlaib/Omar Delegation.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is not free speech. Rather, it is no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish State. Israel properly has enacted laws to bar entry of BDS activists under the circumstances present here, and it has every right to protect its borders against those activists in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons.

Needless to say, Omar was not happy:

‘It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government,’ she said in a statement. ‘Sadly, this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.’

In response to Israel’s offer to Rashida Tlaib for a humanitarian visa so that she could visit her family, she made this statement:

‘Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart,’ she said in a statement. ‘Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me — it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice.’

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y, who supports Israel, said that this action would damage public opinion toward Israel:

‘If Israel’s government hopes to win the support of American lawmakers across the political spectrum, then this visit could have been an opportunity to share views and make a case for why American support for Israel is so important,’ Engel said. ‘Instead, refusing entry to members of Congress looks like Israel closing itself off to criticism and dialogue. This decision will only strengthen the anti-Israel movements and arguments many of us find so troubling, further politicize support for Israel in the United States and ultimately play right into the hands of Israel’s enemies.’

This statement is ludicrous for many reasons. First, the Left in Congress has already been demonstrating its unhappiness with Israel and has only made lukewarm protests against Omar and Tlaib’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments. Second, suggesting that Omar or Tlaib were the slightest bit interested in a dialogue with Israelis is delusional. Finally, Israel’s enemies will not be influenced one way or the other; they already condemn Israel.

* * * *

I applaud Netanyahu’s decision for several reasons.

He is demonstrating to the world that Israel will resist terrorism and its supporters in any form.

Israel is prepared to deny entry to anyone who supports the BDS movement.

Israel will resist the pressures from other countries that will criticize its actions.

Finally, the world should observe that those who condemn Israel and the Jews will not be ignored.

Maybe the members of Congress should note what it means to take a courageous stand.

Ugly American Tourism

 

Summer is the tourist season for Americans. There are Americans that believe their passport is some sort of talisman that turns the entire world into Disney World. Disney World is a bit different than North Korea; bad behavior in Disney World means being escorted out of the park, bad behavior outside the borders of the United States can become a nightmare.

Americans regardless of their political beliefs make mistakes when choosing a vacation destination. Trekking across the border of Iran is really not a good choice, and I would suggest taking a visit to Yemen off your bucket list, unless it’s the last item on your bucket list.

One visit to another country does not necessarily make a person an expert on that country when it comes to culture or politics. There is the old joke about a group of American socialists visiting a newspaper publisher in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Americans marveled at the large printing press. One woman exclaimed we don’t have anything like this in the United States. Closer examination of the press revealed a plaque stating: “Made in Brooklyn, USA.”

Two Americans who happen to be members of Congress have been refused entry into Israel. Unlike our own Congress that believes in open borders, Israelis do not. Congressional junkets are paid vacations that are described as fact-finding missions. As Joe Biden says, we prefer truth to facts. Members of Congress are like locusts; they devour wages and strip the fields bare, and worst of all they are probably lousy tippers.

Different countries mean different rules.

Friday Food and Drink Post: Have Your (War) Cake and Eat It, Too

 

To commemorate the 74th anniversary of V-J Day on August 15, herewith, a couple of family recipes for War Cake a more-or-less appetizing (de gustibus, and all that) sop to the sweet tooth of the war-weary denizens from the Old and New Worlds. One is from 1942 and was shared with me by a friend in the early 1970s, and the other we found handwritten on a slip of paper that fell out of my grandmother’s favorite cookbook when we were sorting out her stuff after she died. It and the paper it’s written on are of sufficient antiquity that it’s quite possible this one is from WWI. Our guess is that it was sent to Granny by the branch of the family that emigrated to British Columbia; hence its name, Canadian Cake (click to embiggen):

War cakes were made with basic ingredients, usually ones that kept well, and ones which could be stockpiled until there were enough of them to splurge on such a treat. They were usually very light on fresh ingredients and egg and dairy products, including butter, most of which were consumed as soon as possible, and others’ rations of which were often given to children. Plain fats, likely those rendered from other cooking projects were kept and used–lard, suet, bacon (if you could get it) grease, newer and cheaper fats such as margarine and shortening–whatever could be obtained or kept long enough for the purpose.

And when you had enough, you got your bowls and pans out, preheated your oven (coal, coke, wood, sometimes gas, and increasingly electric) to a “moderate” heat (350F-375F) and went to town.

The second War Cake recipe I have is this one:

8 oz brown sugar
4 oz shortening
2 cups boiling water
10 oz seeded raisins
1 teaspoon salt

Boil the above ingredients gently together for ten minutes. Then cool.

Add:
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 lb flour

Mix. Pour into loaf pan and bake in slow oven, 2 hours at 275F.

I’m not suggesting you try these. They’re a bit of an acquired taste. They both have quite the “fruitcake” vibe, and Lord knows I’ve done my turn in the barrel defending fruitcake on thread after thread here often enough to know how that conversation usually goes.

But the fact of the matter is that people have been inventing, adjusting, and improvising with recipes since time immemorial, to use what they had, what was left over, what they could scrounge, what they could afford, eliminating what they didn’t like, and adding what they did. They’ve been substituting when they ran out, having brilliant (and not so brilliant) ideas for new and delicious (and not so delicious) dishes for hundreds of thousands of years. Where else do you think such old-time British delicacies as cold boiled mutton, toad in the hole, bubble and squeak, and haggis, came from? They didn’t come from a people with French chefs and bottomless privilege, that’s for sure.

It’s gratifying and inspiring when our kitchen experiments work. It can be devastating or hilarious when they don’t. Maybe its time to share some of those recipes. Your creative challenges. That time you made a mouth-watering meal which arose, like a phoenix from the ashes, out of an about-to-expire selection of leftovers in the fridge. That one-dish-wonder you made completely from canned food. (No peas, please. There will be no tinned peas on this thread.) Times you’ve had to think on your feet to rescue a recipe, or snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the kitchen. Times when things have worked brilliantly. And times when things haven’t gone so well. Think of it as cooking therapy. We’re not here to judge you (well, except for the peas). Have at it.

Just don’t overdo it. You’ll probably know when you’ve gone too far:

PS: That V-J Day business? Thank you, all those who served in the cause of freedom, before, during, and since. I don’t forget.

My Poem About a Toad

 

In the early 1980s, a colleague and I published a poetry journal. That encouraged me to take up the writing of poetry — for a year or so, anyway. Yesterday, I was browsing my bookcase and came across a few of these poems. So I said to myself, “Self, I bet Ricochet people dig poetry, so I’ll lay this one on ‘em.”

The Spadefoot Toad

Curled comatose under the sediment
of a dried-up desert pond,
a spadefoot toad waits for the rain.

Waits buried in its moist burrow,
sealed by mucous and sand,
while above a burning sky blisters
the living and burns the land

And if it rains
and fills the pond with water,
moisture seeps down
through the cracked earth,
drips into the toad’s lair,
and glistens to life leathern skin.

And then bulbous eyes open after stony sleep.

But if the drought lasts too long,
the sun bakes ever deeper
into the layered earth
until it sucks the burrow dry,
and the spadefoot toad
never again wakes,
never again feels
water that quickens limbs —
but stiffens slowly,
dries to a crumbling husk,
and dusts the desert winds.