Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 7:30 pm

Odds and ends for April 14

We have seen our enemies, and they are weak. Seriously. Relative to us, weak on a world-historical scale.

In Idaho, the batshittery of the right-wing nut jobs carries an eight-digit price tag.

New Mexico has become the second state to ban the civil forfeiture of innocent people’s property. This needs to happen nationwide.

When cops misbehave, body cams are not, by themselves, helpful. The video must be publicly available. D.C. appears headed in the opposite direction. (That issue is still up in the air here in Greensboro.)

Speaking of misbehaving cops, The Baltimorie Sun proves that there are still a few reporters out there kicking ass and taking names.

Researchers have found patterns in then-President Ronald Reagan’s speech that indicated Alzheimer’s disease years before Reagan received his diagnosis in 1994. I mention this not to take a dig at Reagan but to point out that this approach may be a way to diagnose Alzheimer’s in people sooner than has been possible up ’til now.

My friend Louis Bekoe is running for president, and I’ve got to say that right now he’s the best choice out there.

Speaking of running for president, supposed contender Chris Christie apparently will be campaigning on a platform to cut Social Security and Medicare. Unlike Bush 43, at least he’s being upfront about it.

And candidate Rand Paul‘s wife insists that he doesn’t have a problem with women because he has worked with female surgeons. OK, then, if she says so.

Non-local folks, this is particularly for you: The National Folk Festival will be here in Greensboro this year and for the next two years as well. Here’s info. This is a big deal.

Damn. Percy Sledge is dead at 73.

 

Monday, April 13, 2015 9:52 pm

Odds and ends for April 13

Gunter Grass, the Pulitzer Nobel Prize-winning author (and, ironically, former Waffen SS soldier) whose work forced German culture to confront the horror of Naziism, is dead at 87.

Apparently Marco Rubio is running for president. Here are seven reasons that’d be a bad idea.

Sigh. One more example of out-of-control cops. At least no one died this time.

Duke Energy’s contributions to the Republican Governors’ Association increased by an order of magnitude after the Dan River spill. Duke says that’s just coincidence. Yeah. Sure. Right.

The former executive director of the State Employees Association of N.C., Dana Cope, appears to have spent close to half a million bucks that wasn’t his.

Why make North Carolina workers safer when you can just rig the numbers?

How bad has this legislative session been for North Carolinians? Let us count the ways.

It’s a uterus, not a clown car: A 65-year-old German woman who has 13 kids and seven grandkids is pregnant with quadruplets.

The Lost Colony? Maybe not so lost after all.

Thursday, April 9, 2015 8:22 pm

Odds and ends for April 9

Sorry, guys, I was on the road today, so I ain’t got much.

The Rhino Times commissioned a push poll by a conservative chop shop to make it appear there is more support for a measure to redistrict Greensboro City Council than there actually is. Doug Clark at the N&R calls them out on it.

Meanwhile, some Wake County voters have sued over the recent changes to the Wake Board of Commissioners imposed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

In other popular stuff carried out by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, a lot of middle-class North Carolinians saw their state income taxes go up this year. But hey! Tax cuts for the wealthy and big bidness!

Why Stephen Curry, and not James Harden, should be this year’s NBA MVP. (I mean, besides Davidson. Duh.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 8:57 pm

Odds and ends for April 7

First, congratulations to Duke!

Sure, a ban on medical schools teaching abortion wouldn’t survive constitutional scrutiny. But suppose it did: Legislators would be sentencing a nontrivial number of women to death. How about we ban your fucking heart valves, you goddamned sociopaths? I’m sorry, but in what universe am I supposed to treat this as just another policy proposal to be dispassionately debated?

The DEA secretly recorded billions of Americans’ international calls years before 9/11. And not one damn person will go to jail behind it.

My online friend Chris Dashiell went on a bit of a rant Monday on Twitter about what the backlash against the Rolling Stone UVa/rape story says about our toxic media environment. I’ve Storified it so that you can enjoy it, too.

Here are five Texas firefighters who I think will really enjoy prison.

In Chicago, Mayor (and all-around jackass) Rahm Emanuel could be out on his ass. As Al Capone is reputed to have said after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, I’ll send flowers.

Rand Paul formally declared for the presidency today. If his batshit insanity, leavened with enough isolated sane positions to attract some low-info voters, isn’t enough to turn you off, consider this: His campaign website is selling an “NSA spy-cam blocker.” Grifters gonna grift.

While I have argued that voter fraud — real voter fraud — is vanishingly rare, I’ve never argued that it doesn’t exist. Now, some N.C. cases have led to criminal charges. The cases involve two felons who hadn’t had their rights restored, a guy who voted in both North Carolina and Florida, and one person who wasn’t a citizen of the United States. It is unclear at best whether the state’s voter-ID law would have prevented the latter case, and clear that it wouldn’t have prevented the other three. (h/t: Fred)

And U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is running for re-election, presumably because we kids still haven’t gotten off his lawn.

Aluminum batteries could replace our lithium ones, extending battery life. But probably not anytime soon.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott initially said he couldn’t “in good conscience” reject Medicaid expansion. So much for conscience.

The New York Times takes a look at the redistricting dispute in Greensboro and other cases in North Carolina. Oddly, the article doesn’t present any larger context or perspective on the fact that this is a national, ALEC-driven effort.

Speaking of the Times, perhaps I should ask it for a million bucks just to see what would happen.

A day or two ago I mentioned a Long Island high-school student who had been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. Well, turns out, North Carolina has one of them, too.

Monday, April 6, 2015 7:39 pm

Odds and ends for April 6

Apparently Jeb Bush listed himself as Hispanic when he most recently registered to vote in Florida, which would be hilarious and all except that putting false info on a Florida voter-registration form is a third-degree felony.

Now that Columbia University’s report on the now-retracted Rolling Stone article about rape at the University of Virginia has been made public, how successful is the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity likely to be in its planned lawsuit against the magazine? Eugene Volokh at the Washington Post discusses it.

The Supreme Court is letting a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over its new voting restrictions move ahead to trial. Good.

Today’s Braves-Marlins game in Miami was delayed by rain in the second inning. Despite the stadium’s having a retractable roof.

Now he’s just showing off: Long Island high-school senior Harold Ekeh got accepted at all eight Ivy League colleges.

 

Sunday, February 8, 2015 10:30 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 8

A Fox News guest, Jonathan Hoenig, tells viewers Saturday that mandatory vaccinations will lead to forced abortions. Host Eric Bolling says nothing (of course), leaving it to guest Nomiki Konst to say, “Oh, my God,” and inform Hoenig that 48 of 50 states mandate vaccinations for schoolchildren.

The biggest American labor strike in 34 years is widening. The United Steel Workers are striking, and their membership includes the work forces at some oil refineries, so this could hit you right smack in the wallet. What’s that, you say? First you’re hearing about it? Well, go figure; it’s labor news. Charlie Pierce offered some perspective a few days ago.

As Andrew “objectively pro-terrorist” Sullivan rides off into the blogging sunset to, sadly, sickening and near-universal applause, Driftglass does us all a favor by recalling for us a far worthier blogger who didn’t retire but died … and who never got his due.

I’ve little to say about the passing of Dean Smith, but only because you’ll find much more and much better stuff if you go look for it. While I think it’s all but certain that he either knew or should have known about the academic shenanigans that apparently were taking off as his career neared its end, his stand for integration at a time when his job might not have been the only thing at stake will secure his reputation.

Just my opinion, so no link, but: No way do the Carolina Panthers re-sign Greg Hardy, even if a jury exonerates him (which I also don’t think will happen). Someone will sign him, but not the Panthers. Their front office has moved on, and fans should, too.

RIP Joe B. Mauldin, bassist for Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets. (h/t: Fred)

Friday, February 6, 2015 8:03 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 6

Climate change: It’s a matter of national security.

Obama might be a socialist, but the country just completed its best three-month period of job growth in 17 years, bitchez. Still a long way to go — unemployment actually went up in January as more people resumed looking for work — but it’s definitely looking better.

Boko Haram is opening a branch office in neighboring Niger. Bloodshed and misery follow. World does little.

The annual silliness known as the National Prayer Breakfast was this week. And this year we got more proof, were more needed, about just how impossible it is for Americans conservatives to have an honest conversation about race.

NBC’s Brian Williams lied about being in a helicopter that got shot down in Iraq (which is a firing offense where I’m concerned), but did he also lie about seeing a body floating outside his New Orleans hotel after Hurricane Katrina? Quite possibly not.

Relatedly, why is it such a bad thing for Brian Williams to lie when Fox News personnel do it day-in and day-out, constantly? That’s neither a rhetorical question nor an exaggeration of the network’s mendacity.

Hey, anti-vaxxers? When Autism Speaks says you should vaccinate your kids, you’ve pretty much lost the vaccination argument.

I love it when they throw each other under the bus. This time, it’s Bibi and Boehner, who both deserve all the tire tracks.

One would think that maternal health would be a human right. Sadly, the U.S. has not gotten the word.

Yes, health insurance premiums have gone up an average of $4,154 under Obama — but that’s less than half as fast as they went up under Bush.

Is police reform impossible? Could be.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin tried to rewrite the Wisconsin Idea (the state university system should benefit the entire state), then got busted for it, then lied about it, then got busted for lying about it. Great start to your presidential campaign, there, goob.

If there’s no war on women, it ain’t for lack of trying.

Intuit’s TurboTax, though not hacked itself, may be being used by scammers to file fraudulently for tax refunds.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership might be the most dangerous, and depressing, trade agreement you’ve never heard of.

The oldest living survivor of the U.S.S. Arizona has died at age 100.

The movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” opened today. Theater operators requested that patrons not dress up, or down, for the showings.

This is how the apocalypse will begin.

Or this, as a single penguin holds the entire crew of a Coast Guard vessel hostage. I, for one, welcome our new spheniscidaean overlords.

Y’all have a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 8:34 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 4

The FCC comes out plainly in favor of ‘Net neutrality. That’s wonderful, but the devil will be in the details of the regulations, which have yet to be written.

Former Michigan attorney general Andrew Shirvell must pay $3.5 million in damages to a gay college student whom he stalked online and in real life. Dude, wouldn’t asking him out, getting shot down, and then moving on with your life have been  a lot cheaper?

A creationist theme park in Kentucky that wants both $18 million in state tax credits AND the right to discriminate on the basis of religion has sued the state, which is insisting on either/or. Guys, look up the Bob Jones University case, decided more than 30 years ago. Penguins will ice skate in Hell before you win this.

If you’re waiting on the Supreme Court to settle the question of mandatory vaccination, you can stop; it already did. In 1905.

Vermont’s new motto is in Latin. So what do conservatives do? Start bashing Latinos, obviously. Teh_Stoopid: It burns.

New York police commissioner Ray Kelly, whose fascistic tendencies already have gotten full display in cases of violence committed by his cops, now wants to be able to make resisting arrest by protesters a felony offense. Because there’s no way THAT would ever be abused.

Here in Greensboro, state Sen. Trudy Wade has introduced a bill to change the current city council election system (mayor and three other members elected at large, plus five district members, so that any one voter can vote for a majority of the council) to seven members, all elected from districts, plus a mayor, and to extend terms from two years to four, and other mischief. I’ll probably say more about that later, but the short version is that it’s a bad idea and Trudy should sit down and shut the hell up.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 7:41 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 3.

North Carolina’s junior senator, Republican Thom Tillis, says he’s just fine with NOT requiring food workers to wash up after visiting the restroom. Remind me never to shake his hand.

English majors, rejoice! Harper Lee will publish a sequel to her 1960 masterpiece, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” on July 14.

Standard & Poors, the investment ratings agency whose labeling of crap mortgage-backed securities as investment-grade helped blow up the economy a few years ago, will pay $1.38 billion to settle those allegations. But — say it with me, kids — once again, no criminal charges against anyone.

The New York Times asks an incredibly stupid question about how anti-vaxxers got so much influence. Athenae at First Draft delivers a righteous dopeslapping of an answer.

Y’all have a good evening.

Monday, January 19, 2015 8:20 am

Happy birthday …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 8:20 am

… to my friend and a great American, Julie Lehman!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 6:00 am

Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” doesn’t mean quite what you think (or what *I* thought)

Filed under: Salute!,Say a prayer — Lex @ 6:00 am

Army officer Robert Bateman, a historian, dove a little deeper last year to show that the punch line of Owen’s classic poem was based in part on a historical misunderstanding:

Between the time when he was blown into the sky by mortars at the age of 22 and when he was shot dead by machine gun fire at 25, he wrote some poetry, the finest bit of which is partially stolen from the Roman orator Horace. It was repurposed by Owen. Dulce et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori. Owen had been taught that Patria meant “your country.” He called this sentiment, “the old lie.” You should read this poem, because it is beautiful, before you read my critique.

..But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
…the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin…

Owen shows us, up close, the inhumanity of war. Then in the final lines he mocks the notion that it is sweet or right to die for one’s country. To do this, he repurposes a bit of Latin from the Roman orator Horace:

…The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

See, early in the war, the British government had used Horace to encourage enlistment by appealing to the population’s Edwardian sense of duty. In 1917, Owen would have understood, “Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori” as something like, “It is beautiful and right that one should die for one’s country.” Nationalism and propaganda colored Owen’s interpretation of Horace, and I appreciate his resentment. But I think Horace’s words can be understood differently — not as an old lie, but as a shared truth.

Pardon, for a moment, my amateur translation of the Latin. It is tinged and informed by history. Dulce roughly means, “correct and/or peaceful/beautiful/sweet.” The word “et” is the same now as it was then, “and.”

The next word, “Decorum” carries some freight. “Right” and “Proper” is often how it is translated now, but in context it means, I think, “according with the values of your society.”

“Est” is merely “is.”

“Pro Patria Mori” is a little complex. Pro means “for,” and “Patria” is, essentially, your country. Okay, no. That is not exactly right. That is just what Owens was brought up to think that it meant. In reality it sort of means, “The folks what brung you up.” Or maybe, “Your peeps.”

See, the problem is that the word “patria,” as it is often translated, is that the idea of a “country,” or a “nation” is a more modern invention than Horace, or any Roman, would have recognized. They did not think in terms of “countries,” and so Latin did not have words that talked about what we would recognize as countries. I think Horace would approve of my deconstruction. (No, I am not a Derridean.)

So the sum can be seen, Owen’s interpretation of, Dulce et Decorum est,” labeled by a man who saw war and called this “the old lie,” came out this way: “It is beautiful and right that one should die for one’s country.” But Wilfred was wrong. That is not his fault. He was a poet, not a historian.

Dulce et Décorum Est, Pro Patria Mori, should be translated this way: “Fighting and possibly Dying for your friends and family to protect and defend them, as you have been taught, is the right thing to do.” Nationalism and Propaganda colored Owens’ interpretation, and I understand his resentment. Horace had been used by the British government early in the War to encourage enlistment out of a sense of Edwardian duty. That is not Owens’ fault, he was reacting to his own nation — not the actual history.

But even knowing this, the dead march through my dreams. They are my friends, my soldiers, my cadets-turned-officers, my enemies, dead in their many ways, but dead all the same. For the same reason, friend and foe, they are dead. Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.

And so, today, I ask you to remember them. All of them, because in the end, they died believing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 8:39 pm

Good news: Big damn hero running for Congress in 6th District. Bad news: It’s another state’s 6th District.

Filed under: Cool!,I want my country back.,Salute! — Lex @ 8:39 pm
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Walter Robinson, a reporter for the Boston Globe and a Vietnam War veteran, has made a kind of cottage industry of blowing up politicians’ overblown claims about their military records. And so it was that when he began looking into the military background of Seth Moulton, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 6th Congresssional District seat in Massachusetts, he might have been expecting to find that Moulton had, shall we say, overstated his military accomplishments.

But if he was, he was way wrong:

The American political graveyard has more than a few monuments to politicians and public officials who embellished details of their military service, in some cases laying claim to medals for heroism or other military honors they never received.

And then, uniquely, there is Seth W. Moulton, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District, a former Marine who saw fierce combat for months and months in Iraq. But Moulton chose not to publicly disclose that he was twice decorated for heroism until pressed by the Globe.

In 2003 and 2004, during weeks-long battles with Iraqi insurgents, then-Lieutenant Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire” while leading his platoon during pitched battles for control of Nasiriyah and Najaf south of Baghdad, according to citations for the medals that the Globe requested from the campaign.

The Globe learned of the awards — the Bronze Star medal for valor and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor — after reviewing an official summary of Moulton’s five years of service, in which they were noted in military argot.

In an interview, Moulton said he considers it unseemly to discuss his own awards for valor. “There is a healthy disrespect among veterans who served on the front lines for people who walk around telling war stories,’’ he said. What’s more, Moulton said he is uncomfortable calling attention to his own awards out of respect to “many others who did heroic things and received no awards at all.’’ …

Even his parents did not know, and were told just this week, according to Scott Ferson, a campaign spokesman. …

Moulton won the Bronze Star medal for valor, the nation’s fourth-highest award for heroism under fire, for his actions over two consecutive days during an August 2004 battle for control of the strategic city of Najaf, one of Islam’s holiest cities. According to the citation and accompanying documentation, his platoon was attacked and pinned down by intense mortar, rocket, sniper, and machine-gun fire. With four of his Marines wounded, Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire,’’ moving among his men while ignoring incoming mortar rounds and sniper fire, and directing supporting fire that repelled the attack. The platoon again came under heavy fire the following day when Marines expelled soldiers from the Mahdi Army from another section of Najaf.

Moulton received the other medal for valor during the battle for Nasiriyah in March, 2003, the first major battle after the US invasion. Moulton’s platoon was credited with clearing a hostile stronghold. Later, Moulton rushed to the aid of a Marine who had been wounded by friendly artillery fire even though there was a chance that additional rounds might land at the same spot.

In the interview, Moulton asked that the Globe not describe him as a hero. “Look,’’ he said, “we served our country, and we served the guys next to us. And it’s not something to brag about.’

The greatest honor, he said, his voice choked with emotion, had nothing to do with the medals. “The greatest honor of my life was to lead these men in my platoon, even though it was a war that I and they disagreed with.”

I have no idea what kind of congresscritter Moulton would make. And in fairness, his openly gay Republican opponent (only in Massachusetts!), Richard Tisei, seems not to be the kind of slash-and-burn Republican who  has done so much damage to the nation in the past five years. But Moulton’s heroism combined with his modesty — his servant-leader approach — is certainly something Congress could use more of, military background or  not.

(h/t: Charlie Pierce)

 

 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 6:10 am

Happy birthday …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:10 am
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… to my best friend and a great American, Tony Patterson!

Sunday, September 7, 2014 11:23 am

“Guns and Butter,” or, What freedom cost my friends

Great article in Charlotte magazine about the Suarez family, next door to whom I lived from seventh grade until well after I had left for college (Raul and Teresa were in my class at school). Their story is amazing.

Friday, August 29, 2014 9:15 pm

Meet Mario Gutierrez, a great American

What he went through would have been harrowing enough if it had been only his own life on the line. But he likely saved dozens, if not hundreds, of lives by preventing a devastating explosion — while some lunatic was trying to knife and screwdriver him to death.

 

FSA Officer of the Year 2014 from Todd Thurgaland on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 16, 2014 6:31 am

Happy birthday …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:31 am
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… to my stepfather and a great American, Jerry Hancock!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 6:26 pm

“Thunderstruck.” With spoons.

Filed under: Fun,Salute! — Lex @ 6:26 pm
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Not quite as cool as the flaming-bagpipes version, but damn fine musicianship nonetheless. Well played, boys. Well played.

Monday, August 4, 2014 12:47 pm

Happy birthday to …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 12:47 pm
Tags:

… my youngest brother and a great American, Hugh Carter Alexander!

Saturday, July 26, 2014 9:56 am

Happy birthday …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 9:56 am

… to a proud, successful small-business owner and a great American, my brother Frank!

Friday, June 6, 2014 1:33 pm

The things they carried

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 1:33 pm
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Ernie Pyle, on deadline:

NORMANDY BEACHHEAD, June 17, 1944 – In the preceding column we told about the D-day wreckage among our machines of war that were expended in taking one of the Normandy beaches.

But there is another and more human litter. It extends in a thin little line, just like a high-water mark, for miles along the beach. This is the strewn personal gear, gear that will never be needed again, of those who fought and died to give us our entrance into Europe.

Here in a jumbled row for mile on mile are soldiers’ packs. Here are socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles and hand grenades. Here are the latest letters from home, with the address on each one neatly razored out – one of the security precautions enforced before the boys embarked.

Here are toothbrushes and razors, and snapshots of families back home staring up at you from the sand. Here are pocketbooks, metal mirrors, extra trousers, and bloody, abandoned shoes. Here are broken-handled shovels, and portable radios smashed almost beyond recognition, and mine detectors twisted and ruined.

Here are torn pistol belts and canvas water buckets, first-aid kits and jumbled heaps of lifebelts. I picked up a pocket Bible with a soldier’s name in it, and put it in my jacket. I carried it half a mile or so and then put it back down on the beach. I don’t know why I picked it up, or why I put it back down. …

 

“Like waiting for an earthquake.”

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:15 am
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D-Day and its aftermath in Bedford, Va., home of Company A, 116th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, the first wave on Omaha Beach:

On July 4th, 1944, the Bedford Bulletin reported that Company A had been commended for their actions on D Day – but still, no news about individual Bedford Boys. It was about this time that letters written to the men came back as undeliverable.

Bette Wilkes would be the first to get some news, a month after D Day, and it was much less than official. She was standing on a street corner when called to by a woman across the street. “Bette, did you hear about John?” Then the woman crossed the street – “he was killed.” Bette rushed home in a state of shock. Family tried to convince her that surely the government would have told her if anything had happened. Bette Wilkes never revealed the name of the bearer of bad tidings.

Another letter followed to the Fellers family that Taylor had been killed, but still no word from the Army. According to Helen Stevens, “it was like waiting for an earthquake.”

On July 17th, twenty one year old Elizabeth Teass reported to her job at Green’s drugstore where she was the Western Union Operator. She switched on her teletype machine and sounded a bell heard in Roanoke twenty-five miles away. She typed the words, GOOD MORNING. GO AHEAD. BEDFORD. Words came chattering back. GOOD MORNING. GO AHEAD. ROANOKE. WE HAVE CASUALTIES. Teass watched as one telegram, then two, then three came through. She waited for it to stop but it didn’t, not for a long time. Teass was in shock, why so many? But she knew her job. The families must be the first to know. …

There could not possibly be a more appropriate place for the National D Day Memorial that was dedicated on June 6th, 2001.

Of the thirty five Bedford Boys who went away to war, thirteen came home.

How the most important day of the 20th century began

Filed under: Salute!,Say a prayer — Lex @ 12:16 am
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From the prologue of Stephen Ambrose’s book “D-Day”:

At 0016 hours, June 6, 1944, the Horsa glider crash-landed alongside the Caen canal, some 50 meters from the swing bridge crossing the canal. Lt. Den Brotheridge, leading the twenty-eight men of the first platoon, D company, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Regiment, British 6th Airborne Division, worked his way out of the glider. He grabbed Sgt. Jack “Bill” Bailey, a section leader, and whispered in his ear, “Get your chaps moving.” Bailey set off with his group to pitch grenades into the machine-gun pillbox known to be beside the bridge. Lieutenant Brotheridge gathered the remainder of his platoon, whispered, “Come on, lads,” and began running for the bridge. The German defenders, about fifty strong, were not aware that the long-awaited invasion had just begun.

As Brotheridge led his men at a fast trot up the embankment and onto the bridge, seventeen-year-old Pvt. Helmut Romer, one of the two German sentries on the bridge, saw the twenty-one British paratroopers — appearing, so far as he was concerned, literally out of nowhere — coming at him, their weapons carried at their hips, prepared to fire. Romer turned and ran across the bridge, shouting “Paratroopers!” at the other sentry as he passed him. That sentry pulled out his Leuchtpistole and fired a flare; Brotheridge fired a full clip of thirty-two rounds from his Sten gun.

Those were the first shots fired by the 175,000 British, American, Canadian, Free French, Polish, Norwegian, and other nationalities in the Allied Expeditionary Force set to invade Normandy in the next twenty-four hours. The shots killed the sentry, who thus became the first German to die in defense of Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

Seventy years ago today. I’ve read avidly about this day, and the war of which it was a part, since at least as far back as 1970. I can recite a lot of facts and anecdotes about D-Day, I can talk about Eisenhower’s strategy, the effort and luck involved in the Allies’ scheme to make the Germans think the landing would come at Calais, and so forth and so on. And yet there remains a part of me that just can’t even imagine …

Monday, June 2, 2014 6:18 pm

Fred Gregory, great American, receives N.C.’s Order of the Long-Leaf Pine

Filed under: Cool!,Salute! — Lex @ 6:18 pm
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For the dozen years that I’ve been running this joint, Fred Gregory has been so much a part of it that despite our frequent disagreements we have been the (dys)functional equivalent of co-hosts. In real life, we met in the late 1980s when I was a cops reporter for the News & Record and he was a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. We’ve been friends since and spent 11 of those years as neighbors besides, and my daughter and his granddaughter became great friends.

The sneaky SOB didn’t tell me this in advance, but this morning he was honored with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s highest civilian honors, for his career service with the DEA, the Drug Tax Division of the N.C. Department of Revenue, and as a magistrate in the 18th Judicial District here in Guilford County. I congratulate him, and so should you.

 

Saturday, March 8, 2014 8:00 am

International Women’s Day: Our Mother’s Voice

My Aunt Carol, married to my mother’s older brother Pete, is a remarkable woman who had led a singular and sometimes even dangerous life. Now, she suffers from dementia. My cousin Kathy has written a piece that is a tribute to her mom, a retelling of the story of how her mom inspired the formation of the nonprofit Our Mother’s Voice, and a call to carry on the work that Aunt Carol, Kathy, and many other inspiring women have carried out in lives of service to an often deeply ungrateful society. Today, International Women’s Day, the least I can do is recommend that you read Kathy’s story of Aunt Carol. Hie thee hence.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 10:27 pm

Quote of the Day, RIP Pete Seeger edition

Filed under: Sad,Salute! — Lex @ 10:27 pm
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“Pete was an angry man. He did something great with his anger.” — writer Jeff Sharlett

Friday, November 1, 2013 7:55 pm

More like this, please

Six months ago, the Toronto Star published a story claiming that a video existed of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack. Ford not only denied it, he bitterly attacked the media, most especially the Toronto Star, which he tried to convince subscribers and advertisers to boycott.

Until Thursday, when Toronto’s police chief confirmed that the video exists.

To me, that’s not the news; to the extent I thought about it, I thought Ford was guilty as sin.

No, the news is this open letter from the Toronto Star’s publisher, John Cruickshank:

The truth finally found a few more friends in Toronto yesterday. It badly needed them.

For the past six months, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has waged a brilliantly cynical and manipulative campaign against the Toronto Star and any other media who dared to question him.

Exploiting character assassination, defamation and a numbing stream of self-serving lies, Ford obscured the truth and befouled the truth-tellers.

Until yesterday. …

Six months ago, Mr. Ford might have ’fessed up, done a stint in rehab and emerged to a chorus of congratulations. Everybody loves a redemption story around election time.

But the mayor did not own up to his behaviour. Instead, he turned on the messengers.

And in the success of his malign campaign, he proved how fragile the truth can be if our chosen leaders lead their followers astray.

Mr. Ford and his thuggish brother, Councillor Doug Ford, used their media access to label the news reporters of this city as pathological liars and anti-democratic maggots.

The Fords urged their loyalists to cancel their subscriptions to the Toronto Star and to pull their advertisements.

The Star’s owners and journalists were accused of pursuing an ideological vendetta against Ford. Star reporting was denounced as harassment. Called delusional.

Ford acolytes hauled the paper before the Ontario Press Council, charging that the Star’s use of unnamed sources was unethical and that the media’s focus on the issue was detrimental to the democratic life of the city.

Toronto’s divided and querulous council proved powerless to call the mayor to account or defend their own integrity.

Painful as it is, we must acknowledge as a community that the mayor has been startlingly successful in his deceit.

Many citizens, perhaps a majority, have gullibly given credence to Mayor Ford’s lies about his drug use and about the reporters and editors he vindictively targeted.

The public was persuaded to ignore his erratic behaviour and the intense secrecy he insisted on about the hours he kept and the people with whom he spent his time. Episodes of public intoxication were laughed off (though members of his inner circle conceded the mayor urgently needed intervention).

Latterly, we have heard a little bit about some of the potential harm that comes when a leading official surrounds himself with criminals. Letters of recommendation have gone out from the mayor’s office for a killer and a drug dealer.

We are likely to learn a good deal more about what has been at risk at city hall in the days ahead. …

This is work of a scale and seriousness that can only be undertaken successfully by what is now called “the mainstream media.” Others lack the resources, the experience and the credibility to call a senior official to account.

We feel tremendously proud today of our unwavering pursuit of a shocking story about a popular mayor.

It’s a good day for the city of Toronto despite this bitter period of deception we’ve been through.

And it’s a good day for journalism.

That letter 1) flips Ford and the paper’s critics the middle finger; 2) honors all the Star journalists who have worked on this and related stories; 3) re-emphasizes the value of quality investigative reporting from an outlet with enough financial and legal resources to do hard stories right and make them stand up.

Now, I don’t know Cruickshank from Adam’s housecat, and for all I know this is as much a personal vendetta for him as it is a journalistic endeavor. It would be a shame if that were so.

But I’m trying to come up with publishers in this area — hell, the state — who would have the stones to 1) pursue, publish and defend a similar story in the face of similar opposition; and 2) flip off in print the people who were wrong. I can think of maybe one, and I’m not even sure about him. That’s sad. To some reporters working on difficult and unpopular investigative stories, a big ol’ public “Get bent!” from the publisher to the paper’s critics might be even more valuable than a raise.

Monday, October 7, 2013 7:31 am

Happy birthday …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 7:31 am
Tags:

… to my best friend and a great American, Tony Plutonium!

Sunday, September 8, 2013 9:44 am

N.C.’s Jens Kruger wins Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass

Filed under: Cool!,Salute! — Lex @ 9:44 am
Tags: , ,

Well, THIS is kind of cool. Jens Kruger, a banjoist and member of the Kruger Brothers band, has won the above-named prize, which comes with $50,000 in cash and the opportunity to appear onstage and on TV with Martin. The band’s PR is handled by my friend and classmate Julie Macie, whose job, I suspect, just got both harder and more rewarding. Here’s the news release:

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Jens Kruger has been named as the fourth recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. Kruger is known for his innovative banjo composition and performance that integrates folk music with European classical music. Kruger is the first North Carolina resident and first winner that born outside of the United States.

Kruger is known for his inventive, hard to categorize musical style of composition and performance, which can be described as thoughtful and lyrical.  His virtuosic playing style ranges from the very complex to the simple and profound. Jens Kruger and The Kruger Brothers have raised awareness about bluegrass music by writing and performing classical pieces that incorporate the instrumentation of banjo, guitar and bass. The Kruger Brothers consist of Jens Kruger (banjo, harmony vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) and Joel Landsberg (bass, harmony vocals).

Born in Switzerland, Kruger and his brother Uwe left home to become street musicians. As adults they were billed as the Kruger Brothers, adding the third “brother,” Joel Landsberg, from New York City. Their interest in the music of Doc Watson motivated them to relocate near where near Doc’s home in North Wilkesboro, NC in 2003. They had the honor often playing with Doc.

The Steve Martin Prize, created and endowed by Martin, includes a $50,000 honorarium and recognizes an individual or group for “outstanding accomplishments in the field of five-string banjo or bluegrass music.” Each year’s winner is selected by a committee of noted banjo players, including Martin, Pete Wernick, Béla Fleck, Alison Brown, J.D. Crowe and others.

Regarding the award, Kruger said, “Coming to this country as an immigrant and to be accepted so warmly is amazing, and quite humbling.”

Sunday, August 4, 2013 9:14 am

Happy birthday to a great American …

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 9:14 am

… my brother Hugh, who turns 50 today.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 6:03 am

Andy Duncan: Seventh time’s the charm

My friend and former co-worker Andy Duncan, about whom I’ve written a time or two, is what those of us who write for a living call a real writer. I mean, yeah, we’re good enough to put food on our tables with writing in some form or fashion, but we also stare at the work of Andy and writers like him, shake our heads, and mutter, “Daaaaaamn …” Writing is a craft, and a lot of people without any special gifts can become, like me, good, workmanlike writers. Lots of writing and rewriting for 30 years, with some decent editing along the way, can, indeed, allow you to wake up one day at the age of 50 and say to yourself, “Why, yes, I am a writer.” But as far as hard work can take you, you also need a gift to break the surly bonds of Earth and go out into space, where the stars and the nebulae lie.

Andy works as hard at his writing as anyone I know, and harder than most. So do I, for that matter. But Andy has the gift.

Andy’s fiction falls into the general area of sci-fi and fantasy, but much of it is as firmly rooted in the American South and its storytelling traditions as are the work of Faulkner or Agee or O’Connor. When he writes about a blues musician in Hell, Hell is the Mississippi Delta. When he writes a ghost story, it’s set in the Depression-era studios of WBT-AM in Charlotte, with painstaking details that match up with what that studio really was like then. And when an anthology editor got in touch with him once, wondering whether he might have a story on the shelf that involved someone having sex with a ghost, he reported, “I was both proud and ashamed to admit that I had three.”

Six times my friend has been nominated for a Nebula Award, the top prize given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for outstanding work. Six times he was the bridesmaid, not the bride. But 2012 was different: His story “Close Encounters” won the Nebula Award this past weekend for Best Novelette.* What kind of company does that put him in? Well, let’s just say you’ll recognize some of these names even if you’ve never read a sci-fi or fantasy work in your life (and although I’m generally not a fan of the genre, I freely admit that far too many people haven’t). I’ll let him explain the rest of it.

Congratulations, my friend. You are, now and forever, Nebula Award-winning writer Andy Duncan. You’re also a helluva great guy, although they don’t give out cool trophies with astronomical bodies embedded in them for that, more’s the pity.

*A novelette is between 7,500 and 17,499 words. A novella is between 17,500 and 39,999 words. Anything shorter than a novelette is a story. Anything longer than a novella is a novel. You’re welcome.

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