Political comment

Lafayette, we are sorry

American troops arrive in Europe during World War I.

June 29, 2017

Bastille Day in France marks the day of French liberation from the monarchy, the day citizens in Paris and rose to storm the infamous Bastille Prison to liberate political prisoners there. It is as important a holiday to the French as the Fourth of July is in the United States. The celebration this year also marks the centennial anniversary of Americans entering World War I and officials in the country have woven that into the fabric of the traditional events of the day.
     A mantra of troops arriving in France for the "war to end all wars" was "Lafayette we are here."          The origins of the statement date all the way back to the American Revolution when the French General the Marquis de Lafayette joined the Revolution as a military officer and later convinced the French government to send troops to aid the American effort. He was instrumental in securing the deciding victory in the war at Yorktown.
     Upon returning home Lafayette became a leader in the French Revolution beginning with the storming of the Bastille July 14, 1789. With assistance from Thomas Jefferson he helped write the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen."
Lafayette Escadrille Pin. This Lafayette Escadrille
pin belonged to Charles Heave "Carl" Dolan Jr.,
who in 1915 was the 31st volunteer of the Lafayette
Escadrille (Escadrille N. 124), which was a group of
38 Americans who volunteered to join the French
 Flying Corps before the United States entered
World War I.
 (Wikkipedia)
     When American troops landed in Europe in 1917, the call "Lafayette we are here" acknowledged the debt owed France and the great French general.
     But even before America officially joined the war, a year earlier, American pilots flew in what was called the Lafayette Escadrille, a unit of the French Air Service, the Aéronautique Militaire, largely composed of American volunteer pilots flying fighters.
     With that tradition of mutual aid and the acknowledgement of the French support of the American Revolution in place this year,                  Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to visit France July 14, Bastille Day. Only this time the American invasion could become more of an embarrassment than a triumph. Trump has already cancelled a visit to England citing expected demonstrations against him as the reason. He is even less popular in France, especially after removing the United States from the Paris climate accord. Now as the representative of the United States he looks like he wants to impose his presence on a country's most cherished holiday. To be fair he was invited by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has openly criticized Trump on several occasions over his stand on climate change. The invitation most likely was to acknowledge America's entrance into WWI.
     The objections to Trump in Europe, where he is even less popular than in his own country, go well beyond climate concerns and many consider him a danger who could start a war.
      Given Trump's record so far in visiting foreign countries, this trip should raise some concerns given the history and current situation in our relations with France. One can only hope Trump will approach it with proper respect and acknowledgement with a sense of the history and when the protests come instead of lashing out, handle them with some modicum of decorum and diplomacy.
     Perhaps we will receive an indication in the way he handles our own Independence Day, the first during his term in office.
     But given his history it seems necessary to offer our apology to the French ahead of time: "Lafayette we are sorry."

Lafayette Escadrille, the movie

A footnote: People may question the apparent Swastika, the Nazi symbol, on the headdress in the pin. That symbol was used by Native Americans long before the Nazis adopted it. Here is a brief history of its use. Native American Symbol – Swirling Log

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Election result opens a vision into a dystopian future

Either way, could this be our future?
June 22, 2013
     Last night I experienced a mental flash, a quick peek into the future that scared the living hell out of me. It began with the news that a woman had won an off-year election in Georgia. The woman, a Republican, had been quoted during the campaign that she didn't think people deserved to earn a living wage, she didn't care.
     "This is an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative; I do not support a livable wage," Karen Handel said on Atlanta's WSB-TV in response to a viewer question about raising the minimum wage.
     That was one of several outrageous statements she made during the campaign, but it was the one that stood out for me and I wondered in that flash how anybody in a right mind could vote for someone who said something like that. But the quote and the election victory were only the beginning of the flash; they only triggered it.
     From that moment my mind went to a potentially hopeless situation. I have been able to endure the Trump administration lately because I can almost see a way out of it. As investigations move closer to revealing the corruption there is room for some optimism this horrible era in American democracy can be brought to an end at least by the Congressional election next year. Part of that hope also is that the outrageous situation in Washington will lead thinking people in the country to vote with their minds and turn out the people who are doing so much damage. But with everything that's going on a majority in one congressional district still saw the way to elect someone who does not support a living wage. People elected the very candidate who would do them the most harm.
     Then the thought broadened across the country. Will every election in the near future turn out this way? Will, despite things like a health care act that could endanger as many as 100 million people not discourage administration supporters in the 2018 congressional election. Will people still return those supposed representatives to office to continue the destruction?
     The next part of the flash went to current news about hate crimes and their increase, immigrant roundups with no legal defense, random killings of Muslims, Sikhs, black people, anybody who is "not like us."
     Also news reports have documented the growth of quasi militia groups on the country. People on the edges who train and outfit themselves to fight for their rights. Just recently one such group called for recruits in the coming civil war. A civil war? Who are they going to fight? Aren't civil wars usually fought between governments and upset citizens?  Most of these people seem to be on the side of the Trump government. Then it hit me. The civil war is not threatened against the government, it is aimed at people like me. The threat is if the criticism and investigations lead to an end to the Trump administration, the militias will  hunt down the people they blame, those commie liberals. Here is an exact quote from one such group.
     If the drumbeat of verbal attacks, leaks and otherwise destructive assaults on President Donald J. Trump, his family, those around him and their supporters do not soon abate, expect right-wing militias and other reactive vigilantes to spring into action, resulting in a full-fledged civil war, with blood flowing in our neighborhoods and streets," wrote Larry Klayman a lawyer and former Justice Department prosecutor who founded Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch.
     And this one came from everybody's favorite conspiracy twit and apparent confidante of Donald Trump, Alex Jones: "You guys better have some helicopter jump jets and be ready to get out of here real quick if the actual civil war kicks off … You’re going to get wrecked bad. There are a lot of people like Santa Claus been making a list, been checking it twice about who’s been naughty and nice. And you kick off Civil War 2, baby, you’ll think Lexington and Concord was a cake walk."
     The monologue has become more serious and more violent. Granted those making the threats are on the fringe of the political spectrum and don't represent a large number of people, but when you have an enabling president who slyly encourages such violence and turns his back when it happens, what they are saying is not entirely outside the realm of possibility.
     So, there you have it. Democrats think the closeness of the Georgia election shows they are on the right track for 2018. But suppose the close victory actually encourages Republicans and gives them the arrogant confidence to continue their destruction of the government and further depressing the general population because they think their money can win tight elections, and then they go ahead and do it. To them it's still a mandate albeit a closer one, and they have the people behind them to continue the disassembly of the Republic.
   If not and if by some miracle progressive heads regain control of our future, are those of us who still can think, going to have to join in arms against marauding goons in camo sporting AR-15s with god and the president on their side?
     Suddenly in a flash last night and then again today walking past the "Resist" bumper sticker on my vehicle and then noticing a mysterious red "X" on the front license plate it all seemed plausible – plausible to the point where I, personally, might have been targeted already. No matter what, I am removing that "X."
First shots in new civil war already fired
Trump appointee threatens another civil war
Trump encourages civil war


Big Brother really is watching

June 23, 2017
A friend of mine posted the following on facebook today: (language warning)
So I have decided to quit posting on FB. It seems like prospective employers, government agents, anyone who you may enter into a financial arrangement with and the police can look at your page and find out all kinds of shit about you. I knew that, but after recently receiving a notice that the Secret Service was looking at me because of some of my anti-trump postings, I decided, fuck it. I tried but now, me, a humble little fisherman from 61 degrees north latitude, seems to be the focus of a right wing inquisition. I'm only paranoid because everyone is trying to kill me. So from now on all you're gonna get from me me is tales of my kids exploits and pictures of cats. And I hate cats. And once and for all, Fuck trump!!! He's an idiot and will be the death of our nation. Hit me with your best shot asshole.
Now this one of the toughest guys I know.  He has hiked and climbed and paddled his way across much of Alaska and much of the world for all I know. I remember once telling him I wanted to see the Southern Cross under sail. He said he had sat in a place where he saw the Cross and the North Star at the same time. The peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. What I am saying is this guy is not easily intimidated
He has been outspoken about the current administration as have many of us, but apparently he has been singled out by the Secret Service with a warning that Big Brother is watching him. Now as far as I remember this fellow never made any kind of threat toward the president or anyone else. His criticism was strong and sometimes profane but never stepped over that line into the dark area of advocating some kind of harm to anyone.
I mean this is a guy who told me his greatest experience in kayaking was finding a case of beer on a beach and spending an extra day there. The storms and bears and other hardships barely registered compared to that fortunate discovery of beer.
As rugged looking a person as you could ever find, his demeanor is mellow and almost quiet, but quick to laugh at a joke or a funny story told around a campfire
Knowing him I have to ask why the Secret Service doesn't have better things to do than watch this guy instead of maybe the militias and militants around the country advocating civil war and blood in the streets, not to mention the people who have carried out those threats. I am asking for instance how many members of that Bundy gang are in prison after two gunpoint standoffs with federal officers?
Is this the beginning of totalitarian secret police, attempting to quiet discourse. It is no crime to criticize the government or the president even to the point of profanity. Is this the very thing my friend was attempting to warn us about, that we have a president who is determined to dismantle our government in favor of an oligarchy. 
Given the amount of hatred and vitriol spewed at the Obanas during his administration, including assassination threats, you have to wonder how many of those people received warnings from the Secret Service. Even if there was some surveillance it sure didn't have much effect because that hatred is still being voiced against the former president and his family.
The fear of course is whether this is normal for the Secret Service or has Trump issued some kind of order to ferret out his critics and silence them? Given the threat my friend feels, you can't really blame him for pulling back a little. But if Trump's people can discourage such a rough and tumble individualist as this guy, what are the rest of us going to do? Is this yet another indication of the danger posed in the posting right above this one? Election result opens a vision into a dystopian future

Of course the warning may not have come from the Secret Service at all. Could be just a Trump troll attempting to intimidate the opposition.

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Interesting quotations

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

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