A Most Dishonorable Result

We get the government we deserve

Such quotes give scant comfort in an era when integrity means so little

During the first State of the Union Address given by President Barak Obama, when he stated that health care reform would not cover illegal immigrants, Joe Wilson, Republican Representative from South Carolina, shouted from his seat, “You lie!”

The President stopped his speech long enough to reply, “That’s not true.” But too few Americans could tell the difference between the two statements.

Social media was filled with commentary about the incident, with many saying things like “What’s the big deal? Democrats have booed Republican presidents during their addresses too.”

I knew then that if relatively literate, educated Americans do not understand how partisan booing of a President’s policies differed from a serving member of Congress declaring before the nation and the world that the President of the United States is a dishonest and dishonorable man, we were in serious trouble.

But I completely underestimated just how bad it has become.

Now, seven year later, the minority of Americans who actually vote have elected someone to the Presidency who has repeatedly proven, in absolutely verifiable ways, that he is serially dishonest and egregiously dishonorable, and they voted for him anyway.

Like so many, I failed to heed the dire warnings of Carl Sagan at the end of the last century, as he predicted how the American people might sign away their very liberty, if education in this country so deteriorated that voters were unable to distinguish fear mongering from inconvenient truths, and propaganda from reasonable assertion and argument supported by empirical evidence and verifiable fact.

But even such a brilliant wise man as Dr. Sagan could not have envisioned an American electorate unable to see the difference between the baseless character-smearing of the expert career bureaucrat proven to be the most truthful Presidential candidate in this past election cycle, and the overwhelming documentary evidence proving that the rank amateur who won the Presidency is a truly dishonest and dishonorable man unfit to serve on even a PTA board.

Like many a successful shyster, he convinced them to vote against someone else. I realize that a lot of these voters were simply unaware of what they were actually voting for.

Facts Forgotten

The Trump campaign won in part by using the technique where you accuse someone of something terrible, which cannot be disproved, and then say it louder and louder and over and over until the masses believe it must be true.

Trump’s increasing declaration that no one has ever been more corrupt than Hillary Clinton was nothing more than an outrageous insult to hurl at an opponent. It can’t even be considered an opinion, as it has no basis in fact, and was put forth and repeated without a shred of evidence presented to back up his claims.

This technique is known as “the Big Lie” and it has worked very well for many people like Trump, since Adolf Hitler published the concept in Mein Kampf in 1925.

That is not to say Trump is a Nazi. He isn’t.

Fascism doesn’t mean “Nazis.” It means “the merger between the corporation and the state.”

That is the definition of Fascism according to Giovanni Gentile, the man who invented it.

And that is exactly what the American people voted for; even if most of them didn’t even know it, including Donald Trump.

All they know is they voted for the tough-talking outsider who is going to shake up Washington – by voting into power the very corruption they thought they were voting against.

They just handed the White House and Congress to the Oil Companies whose profits are soaring but pay no taxes, the Insurance Companies that will deny them healthcare or skyrocket their premiums once the ACA is repealed, the Pharmaceutical Companies who will continue to charge them many times more for drugs than what people pay in other countries, and the shadowy firms who make most of the weapons of mass destruction in the world and grow fat by eating up more than half of every tax dollar that should be going to repair our schools, bridges, roads, and affordable healthcare in the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have it.

In case you think such statements are soft on “national defense,” you may have not noticed that the USA’s military is larger and more powerful than THE ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED.

A Safe Place

At 3:30 AM, after drinking more scotch than at any time my life, I posted on social media my sincere disappointment with the results of the most important election in my lifetime, and my disgust for those who would knowingly vote for Institutionalized Intolerance, Bigotry, and Brutality, which Donald Trump embraces and encouraged.

I received a private message in response to my election night reaction, asking “Do you need a blankie and a safe place?”

My impromptu reply included the following:

Oh my.

You could not be more wrong.

I have spent far too many years in a very safe place on an island off the coast of America, in the only cosmopolitan city on the continent.

From here I could feel sorry for working class women in places like Texas, who could not access safe and affordable healthcare, or even a textbook on history or science that presented the world to young minds as it really is, rather than sustaining the precious but false beliefs of those empowered to ban books and even ideas.

But my own life was relatively untouched by such things, and I grew complacent and comfortable and on the sideline far too long.

While I could be tempted to emigrate from America to the civilized world – a place that is, around the globe, horrified at what happened here on the 8th of November – that would be deserting my homeland on the brink of its worst crisis since the Civil War.

Only, this time, the winning forces belong to the bigotry-based aristocracy that grow ever richer on the masses of ignorant laborers, because they vote against their own better interests, if they vote at all.

A little over a decade ago, representatives from around the world, who really know what they are talking about, took part in a poll that named North Korea as the worst threat to world peace and global stability.

The United States of America came in second.

The Obama Administration went a long way toward repairing the severe damage to our credibility brought about by the last Republican administration, as well as overseeing an historic and remarkable domestic economic recovery from the calamity that happened during the Bush Administration, and all despite disgraceful obstructionism on the part of a hostile Congress, the like of which having never before existed in U.S. history.

So yeah, I am distraught to the point of despair that the United States of America is now going to backslide from all of that progress and set the world back decades if not a century, when very real threats like Climate Change cannot wait, rather than leading the world into a brighter future, as it once did.

As a white Anglo-Saxon male with health insurance, most any election result hardly touches my own life.

Yet I grieve for my fellow Americans who will suffer mightily as a result of this election. And that includes those who brought it upon themselves.

Well, some of them anyway.

But I grieve most for those in this once great nation that was built upon principals of enlightenment and justice for all, whose civil rights and human rights are threatened, denied, or abused, now that the Ugly Americanism of ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, brutality, and persecution have been given a green light and the reigns of power, and in many cases will almost certainly be legislated into law.

Tolerance Has Its Limits

I have never been particularly political, except in cases of notable social injustice. My life has been built upon tolerance, even for the most intolerant, who I tended to pity if not as much as their victims, except in cases of overt bigotry. But no longer.

With very few exceptions for the genuinely ignorant or those of misguided religious principals, I simply will never forgive anyone who voted for Donald Trump in knowing opposition to raising the minimum wage so families with two full-time working parents do not live in poverty, protecting Social Security and Medicare, science education standards based on actual science rather than denial or mythology, true environmental protection, truly equal civil rights and protection under the law for all Americans including equal pay for equal work and national healthcare, stopping criminals from buying firearms without a waiting period in some states to use for crimes in other states, and forcing corporations and the extremely wealthy to pay taxes equal to their income.

Those are all things you voted against if you voted for Trump.

And for those who voted thus out of concern only for their own personal greed at the expense of their fellow citizens, just so they can pay fewer taxes in a country with one of the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world, I have lost any respect I might have held for you as a human being – permanently.


Woodstock – Still Wonderful 47 Years On

This week marks the 47th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair.

It actually took place over three days (spilling over into a fourth) on a dairy farm outside of Bethel, New York, because the sleepy town of Woodstock voted to reject the initial plan to have it there.

For the 40th anniversary some films were put together, dedicated to first two days.

Here they are for your enjoyment.

Running just under an hour per film, they are full of footage shot for the Oscar winning documentary entitled Woodstock, but much of it previously unseen. This includes fascinating and entertaining examples of the crowds who attended, as well as the people who put on the festival and the musicians who performed there. Many of these performances were not included in the original theatrical release.

Day One Music Line Up: Richie Havens, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, Ravi Shankar, Tim Harden, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez went on at 1 AM to close the first day’s program.


Day Two Music Line Up: Quill, Country Joe McDonald, Santana, John Sebastian, Keef Hartley Band, The Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Mountain, The Grateful Dead, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janice Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who went on at 5 AM (due to earlier rain delays, ending at sunrise,) The Jefferson Airplane went on at 8 AM, closing out Saturday’s program


Day Three Music Line Up: Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, Ten Years After, The Band, Johnnie Winter, Blood Sweat and Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Monday starting at 6 AM – Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha Na Na, Jimi Hendrix

Unfortunately, there isn’t a Part 3 available for these videos. But here are some videos from the musical perofrmances…

Crosby, Stills and Nash (before Neil Young came out)

And an except of Hendrix’s legendary performance, before a small crowd of diehard audience members who remained.

The Deadly Zone Rouge of France – Monday Map

Some 100 square kilometers of France is completely closed to people. It is known as Zone Rouge – the Red Zone.

The land there is utterly poisoned by the human folly that was World War I. To this day it remains unfit and unsafe to tread upon, 100 years later.

Zone Rouge - France's Deadly Red Zone

Surrounded by many more kilometers that have been slowly and imperfectly reclaimed, most people are unaware this caged landscape exists among the otherwise beautiful French countryside, near the border with Belgium.

There the Red Baron fought and fell, along with countless others of less-lofty reputations. And there, two place names became synonymous with human suffering on an obscene scale, because of the atrocious loss of life that took place there – Verdun and the River Somme.

As revealed in eye-opening detail at a blog dedicated to all sort of curiosities, the Zone Rouge is freakishly other-wordily, as the residents living near by continue to harvest a ghastly collection of munitions and human remains.

“… the forsaken territory, originally covering more than 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq miles) in the years following the Great War. Today, around 100km2 (roughly the size of Paris), is still strictly prohibited by law from public entry and agricultural use because of an impossible amount of human remains and unexploded chemical munitions yet to be recovered from the battlefields of both world wars…”

The essay is supplemented with many photos from one Olivier Saint Hilaire, which are indeed evocative. With more found via the link to his personal website.

This representational map of the Somme campaign makes up the Red Zone area between the towns of Cambrai, Arras, and Amiens.

The Somme 1916

The Lost Generation

One hundred years ago, one of the most cataclysmic battles in human history was raging in northern France.

The Battle of the Somme began on July 1, 1916. Fifty-three years earlier, on July 1, 1863, the battle of Gettysburg commenced in Pennsylvania.

Over three days of fighting at Gettysburg, a total of 51,112 Americans on both sides were lost as casualties during the entire battle, with some 7,000 killed outright. It remains the bloodiest, most lethal three days in American history.

During the first day’s fighting at the River Somme, the British Army alone lost over 57,000 men, with 20,000 dying on the field.


The battle lasted four months. The combined losses of the Franco-British and Imperial German armies were over 1.5 million men.


On Thursday last, I watched the semifinal football match of the European championships, between France and Germany. These young men, almost all of them in their 20s and among the finest physical specimens their nations could produce, were giving everything they could to prove victorious for the expectant countries and their own personal glory. And throughout the relatively civil competition, I was haunted by the fact that these same champion athletes would almost certainly have been wearing the uniform of opposing armies locked in deadly strife, had they been born 100 years earlier.

They would have undergone a very different kind of training and physical conditioning to hone their elite skills for the purpose of killing their fellow Europeans, in a war between states whose rulers were, in some cases, cousins.


For me, the obscene absurdity of the so-called Great War isn’t found in the fact closely-related cousins could inflict such horrors upon their own closely-related European peoples. But rather, that the people of Europe could have done it all over again less than 30 years later – with far worse destruction of treasure and human lives.

As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union, it is important to remember that the peace that has existed there is not to be taken for granted. Rather, it has required an enormous change of attitudes in nationalism, jingoism, and xenophobia, and continual efforts since the end the Second World War to prevent backsliding.

May the centennial of the Somme and other atrocious acts of war in the coming months and years help to educate and supplicate the current tensions rippling across Europe and its neighbors.

The Most Significant 4th of July – Monday Map

The 4th of July is set aside to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which actually took place on July 2, 1776.

But the most important July 4th of all was that of 1863, when it was celebrated as a national day thanksgiving and of mourning, at least throughout the northern states.

On that date, the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi surrendered to the combined forces under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, at the end of a long, grueling siege during the War of the Rebellion, now typically referred to as the America Civil War.

Vicksburg 4th of July map

Vicksburg map 4th of July

And on that same 4th of the July the rebel forces of General Robert E. Lee withdrew in defeat from the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, from where they retreated south across the Mason Dixon Line, and never again posed any serious threat to the nation’s capital, nor to any northern state.

gettysburg-map 4th of July 1863

While the timing in Pennsylvania was accidental, at Vicksburg it was anything but.

The commander of the Confederate forces within the beleaguered city was born and raised a Northerner. He chose to surrender on the 4th of July, saying he knew his northern people and that they would give better terms on that day than on any other day of the year.

The very first 4th of July may have rang the knell for the birth of our nation. But it was this later, more important 4th of July which helped forge in the crucible of the Civil War a single nation from a more imperfect collection of discordant states.

And even if some continue to kick and scream from what Mr. Lincoln called a new birth of freedom.


Visions of Johanna still haunting after 50 years

May 17, 1966 – Bob Dylan performs Visions of Johanna, solo acoustic

Imagine, if you can, someone hearing this song for the first time, rendered by Dylan in top form

Love songs have been a part of music since, well, forever. Many are light or even trite, while some others can be truly moving.

But when it came to popular music in modern times, there were songs about falling in love, falling out of love, being a teenager in love, or a teenager being dumped, occasionally letting someone down easy, or telling them to “hit the road, Jack.”

And then there came Visions of Johanna.

Read the full essay and hear the song HERE

Dylan 1966 Visions of Johanna concert

photo: Mark Makin who took the only photos from the concert, getting “about nine usable shots” from a roll of film, according to the BBC.

Duluth, Minnesota 1891 – Monday Map

50 years before Bob Dylan was born there

On May 24, 1941 – 75 years ago

Monday Map Duluth 1891

Although he denied his actual origins and place of birth at first, in an effort to create some mystery and an image associated with intrepid figures like Woody Guthrie and Billy the Kid, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, the Great Lakes port, before his family moved to the North Country mining town of Hibbing, MN when he was 6 years old.

Hibbing, Minnesota in the 1940s

Hibbing Minnesota north of Duluth 1940s

Hibbing Minnesota train to Duluth 1940s Bob Dylan

His mother grew up there, and his father worked for the family electrical supply shop. The young Bob Zimmerman had a normal merchant-class upbringing, and like many teenagers he wanted to play the electric guitar in a rock and roll band.

And that is something he did to revolutionary effect, when he first toured with an electric guitar, in 1966, 50 years ago.

In fact, his double album Blonde on Blonde was released on May 15, 1966, and he performed the infamous “Judas” concert in Manchester, England on May 17.


Manhattan 1776 – Monday Map

Website Shows New York City Boundaries Over 250 Years

Manhattan Island Slowly Swallowed by the Big Apple

Manhattan 1776 map

click to enlarge

The map above shows General Washington’s fortifications at New York (left) and what were later named Washington Heights (right) in 1776 stretch the length of Manhattan Island.

A series of similar maps is found on a very interesting webpage, which shows the expansion of New York City from 1660 to 2004.

See more HERE

This brought to mind David McCullough’s wonderful book, 1776, which takes an in depth look at that extremely important year in American history, and how it began with the revolutionary forces withdrawing from Boston, only to be soundly defeated at New York in the Battle of Long Island, but ultimately ending in the Washington’s daring attack at Trenton, New Jersey at the end of the year. Highly recommended.



My Uncle John Died, one the last WWII bomber pilots

One regal old eagle, my Uncle John died last night, out in California, where he and my Aunt Ruth lived for many, many years, not far from Yosemite National Park.


They were New Yorkers when they met, before the Second World War took him overseas as a pilot for the 15th Bombardment Squadron, part of the Twelfth Air Force. The 15th had the honor to inflict the first American bombing attack on Hitler’s Fortress Europe, during a daylight raid over Holland on the 4th of July, 1942.

They were then sent to Algeria to support the invasion of North Africa, where he flew level missions against enemy naval forces, piloting a three-man Douglas A-20 Havoc. As a stateside trainer of new crews, he flew many other famous aircraft of the WWII and post-war era.

His window also flew during the war, installing autopilot systems on Avenger torpedo bombers for Grumman, which had to be done in flight.
She joined him in Germany after the war, where he was one of the pilots on the Berlin Airlift, when Stalin blocked all land routes to West Berlin in an effort to get the other Allies to abandon the city to his forces.
By the time he retired from the Air Force he held the rank of Lt. Colonel, having spent many years commanding SAC’s first squadron of KC-135 in-air refueling supertankers. He then applied his management skills to various civilian occupations, including an avid golf game.
Four or five years ago, he hit a hole-in-one at a local course when he was 90 years old, and took home the cash jackpot that had been accumulating at the clubhouse. And until quite recently he was still piloting his own automobile.
A very full and useful long life among the Greatest Generation.

New York City Landmarks – Monday Map

Wonderful Resource Filled with New York City Landmarks

Interactive map provides a close look at historical sites local to each neighborhood

NYC landmarks map

Tremendous Treasure Map, Easy to Use

Whether you are tourist or a native, so many sites of historical interest often go unnoticed in the whirling stimulus of New York City. This map will let you see what is just around the corner, or provide reasons to visit areas you might not think of at first, when out for sightseeing.

When you zoom in, whole historic districts are illuminated.

Clicking on a an individual site brings up a breakout box, with information and a photo of the site in question, and a link to the official landmark designation.

The Lefferts Homestead in Prospect Park

Lefferts Homestead New York City Landmarks Map

Official Site


Armistice Day

While we dedicate this day to honor all veterans, the reason we do it on this specific day should never be taken for granted. The eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month was when the First World War came to its official close, back in 1918. Ninety-seven years ago today.

The end of a war should be commemorated, with giving thanks and celebration, both. Just as its beginning should never be forgotten, while we mourn all that was lost during the war.

 Anyone who went to war will have their own personal sacrifice to live with, if they were fortunate enough to live through it in the first place. One does not have to serve in a front line unit to end up in harm’s way, but only the veterans who served in actual combat know the full measure of such service. And yet, we can all know that such events give good reason to mark the end of wars, lest we forget what happens in them.

That fact has never been more important than right now, as the United States has been at war longer than ever before in its history – even if most Americans hardly notice.

“On Armistice Day the philharmonic will play and the songs that they sing will be sad…”

The Great War of 1914-1918 remains unique in our collective history. Tactics developed during the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War met and were bested by modern weaponry capable of horrors never before visited upon mankind. The results exceed what civilized humans can imagine.

In one battle alone, on the River Somme, there were over one million casualties, with 310,486 killed outright and many more dying in the coming months as a result of their wounds. On a single day in 1916 the British army lost over 57,000 men in one engagement. Such numbers make the American losses on D-Day seem like footnotes. The losses of the French and Germans during the many battles around Verdun are beyond comprehension. And they kept at it; bravely charging into the of face death again and again.

On the whole, the world had never seen anything like it. Unfortunately we cannot say such things were never seen again.

Today the 11th November is referred to as Veterans Day and has been expanded to remember and honor all veterans who served their country ever since, in peacetime and in war. That is a good thing.

For some years, I would choose this day to open a cardboard box with some remnants of my grandfather’s time in the U.S. Navy.

There is a photo of a group of jovial sailors. The penciled script on the back says it is from 1912 and shows “a group of electricians on the Louisiana in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” My grandfather sits smiling among them, and that implies he was involved in at least one of the two actions against rebels in Cuba that year. He later took part in the invasion of Mexico when they occupied Vera Cruz and tried to capture Poncho Villa. His unit went ashore to lay telephone wire in support of the Marines, and did some demolition work.

1912 U.S. Sailors Armistice Day

click to enlarge

Then came the Great War. By the time he went overseas he had joined to the 1st Aeronautics Corps, where he operated an in-flight observation camera and machine gun. He qualified as an observer in St. Rafael, France, but spent most of his fighting time based in Italy, first at Lake Bolsena, north of Rome, and then at a base on the western coast at Corsini. From there they attacked the Austrian Empire across the Adriatic sea.

Their aircraft were the large Macchi M8 bomber, a flying boat that took off from the water with a two-man gondola, landing with the help of pontoons sticking down from the lower wing.

Macchi M5 Flying Boat from WWIAn Italian Macchi M5 fighter with US Navy colors circa 1918

Hard landing in Italy Armistice Day

Hard landing in Italy

My Grandfather

My Grandfather in a Macchi M8

My childhood interest in my grandfather’s photos had to do with the planes and the war itself. I found it a thing of awe that they often were engaged in combat against the German Albatross D.III, the same lethal fighter plane piloted by the Red Baron when scoring 24 of his 80 aerial victories. Only in later years did I start to notice the people in the photographs and wonder who they were and what became of them.

There was this particular man who really stood out to me. Man? Many of them seem boys to me, as I look at the photos from the perspective of advancing age. They were much older when seen in my childhood.

He always appeared well-groomed and serious, more mature than the rest. He just looked like a confident leader and someone other people admired.

I kept one photo of this man, because it was the only shot that displayed the officer’s uniform from head to toe. One can see the high boots with those odd bands of tight cloth that go around the leg just below the knee, which was the style of the time. He looks out from the photo with a subtle smile like he is happy someone is snapping his photo.

Jimmie Goggins American pilot WWI Armistice Day

click to enlarge

I had the photos for some years when I began to read the backs, which usually just mentioned where they were taken and sometimes who was in them. But on the back of the photo of the cool looking officer is written in my grandfather’s flowing script, in pencil with that fancy capital F that people no longer use these days,

WWI Pilot killed 1918 Armistice Day

“Jimmie Goggins, Master Pilot. Bolsena, Italy. Burned to death in his battle plane at the Front, over the Adriatic Sea, September 1918.”

And just like the first time I read that, anyone who has looked through that box has had the same reaction, as our fascination with adventures and daring do in canvas covered biplanes changes to a contemplation of the lives lost in wars and the sorrows visited upon countless families as a result.

In the same box is a larger piece of thick construction paper. On it is a hand-colored drawing, showing patriotic symbols like an eagle, the American flag and a G.I. fighting man of the WWII era. These would have been handed out or sold to servicemen to send home. On the back there is a short note, also written in pencil.

It says, “Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, From a foxhole in France I wish you a very merry Xmas. Love, Walter.”

My mother had no idea who this would have been. She was 15 in 1944. Our only fighting serviceman during that war from my mother’s side was her brother-in-law. By that Christmas he had been on many harrowing missions in action over North Africa and the Mediterranean. He was part of the first American unit to bomb Europe and took part in the Berlin Airlift after the war. Later, he commanded a squadron of KC-135 Stratotankers under the Strategic Air Command. His son fought with the Special Forces in the jungles of Viet Nam.

My father was 16 in 1944. His youngest uncle was in the Submarine Service in the Pacific and told REALLY frightful stories at his brother’s funeral. My dad’s own service included air patrols as a navigator and radio man over the Arctic Circle during the 1950s. His colorblindness kept him from being a pilot. That’s him in the backseat of this F-89D Scorpion.

F-89D Scorpion

He designed the blue fox insignia used by his squadron. After six years he was discharged and went to law school thanks to the GI Bill. Some years later his favorite pilot went missing in action over North Viet Nam.

Every time I go through this box I think about that. And I wonder what happened to Walter, and to all the Jimmies and Walters.

And it reminds me that November 11th is about much more than discussing who got the day off and which of us had to go to work. It is about other folks, past and present who had to go do a job very different from any I have done. In the UK they call it Remembrance Day.

I like that, as there is much to remember.

WWI Flying Helmet

My grandfather’s leather flying helmet, goggles, scarf, and identity bracelet.