Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

14 January 2021

The Real Key to Blackmail and Scams

Scammers never die. Months ago, a friend got the following message (I have deleted the password and the link to send the bitcoin):
𝙸'πš– πšŠπš πšŠπš›πšŽ __________ πš’πšœ πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš™πšŠπšœπšœ πš πš˜πš›πš.𝙸 πš—πšŽπšŽπš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšπšžπš•πš• πšŠπšπšπšŽπš—πšπš’πš˜πš— πšπš˜πš› πšπš‘πšŽ πšπš‘πšŽ πš—πšŽπš‘πš 𝟸𝟺 πš‘πš˜πšžπš›πšœ, πš˜πš› 𝙸 πš–πšŠπš’ πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ πšœπšžπš›πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšπš‘πšŠπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš•πš’πšŸπšŽ 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 πšŽπš–πš‹πšŠπš›πš›πšŠπšœπšœπš–πšŽπš—πš πšπš˜πš› πšπš‘πšŽ πš›πšŽπšœπš 𝚘𝚏 πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŽπš‘πš’πšœπšπšŽπš—πšŒπšŽ.

π™·πšŽπš•πš•πš˜, 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 πš—πš˜πš πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš–πšŽ πš™πšŽπš›πšœπš˜πš—πšŠπš•πš•πš’. π™·πš˜πš πšŽπšŸπšŽπš› 𝙸 πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš™πš›πšŽπšπšπš’ πš–πšžπšŒπš‘ πšŽπšŸπšŽπš›πš’πšπš‘πš’πš—πš πšŠπš‹πš˜πšžπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞. πšˆπš˜πšžπš› πšπš‹ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπš πš•πš’πšœπš, πš–πš˜πš‹πš’πš•πšŽ πš™πš‘πš˜πš—πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπšπšœ πšŠπš•πš˜πš—πš πš πš’πšπš‘ πšŠπš•πš• πšπš‘πšŽ πš˜πš—πš•πš’πš—πšŽ πšŠπšŒπšπš’πšŸπš’πšπš’ πš˜πš— πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πšžπšπšŽπš› πšπš›πš˜πš– πš™πš›πšŽπšŸπš’πš˜πšžπšœ 𝟷𝟸𝟽 𝚍𝚊𝚒𝚜.

πš†πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πš’πš—πšŒπš•πšžπšπšŽπšœ, πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšœπšŽπš•πš πš™πš•πšŽπšŠπšœπšžπš›πšŽ πšŸπš’πšπšŽπš˜ 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚎, πš πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πš‹πš›πš’πš—πšπšœ πš–πšŽ 𝚝𝚘 πšπš‘πšŽ πš–πšŠπš’πš— πš›πšŽπšŠπšœπš˜πš— πš πš‘πš’ 𝙸 'πš– πš πš›πš’πšπš’πš—πš πšπš‘πš’πšœ πšœπš™πšŽπšŒπš’πšπš’πšŒ 𝚎-πš–πšŠπš’πš• 𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚘𝚞.

πš†πšŽπš•πš• πšπš‘πšŽ πš•πšŠπšœπš πšπš’πš–πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšŸπš’πšœπš’πšπšŽπš πšπš‘πšŽ πšœπšŽπš‘πšžπšŠπš•πš•πš’ πšπš›πšŠπš™πš‘πš’πšŒ πš πšŽπš‹πš™πšŠπšπšŽπšœ, πš–πš’ πš–πšŠπš•πš πšŠπš›πšŽ πšŽπš—πšπšŽπš πšžπš™ πš‹πšŽπš’πš—πš πšŠπšŒπšπš’πšŸπšŠπšπšŽπš πš’πš— πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš™πšŽπš›πšœπš˜πš—πšŠπš• πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πšžπšπšŽπš› πš πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πšŽπš—πšπšŽπš πšžπš™ πš•πš˜πšπšπš’πš—πš 𝚊 πš‹πšŽπšŠπšžπšπš’πšπšžπš• πšŸπš’πšπšŽπš˜ πšŒπš•πš’πš™ 𝚘𝚏 πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš–πšŠπšœπšπšžπš›πš‹πšŠπšπš’πš˜πš— πš™πš•πšŠπš’ πš‹πš’ πšŠπšŒπšπš’πšŸπšŠπšπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš πšŽπš‹πšŒπšŠπš–.
(𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚊 πš’πš—πšŒπš›πšŽπšπš’πš‹πš•πš’ 𝚘𝚍𝚍 𝚝𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚎 πš‹πšπš  πš‘πšŠπš‘πšŠ)

𝙸 πš˜πš πš— πšπš‘πšŽ πšŽπš—πšπš’πš›πšŽ πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πš›πšπš’πš—πš. π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšπš‘πš’πš—πš” 𝙸 'πš– πš–πšŽπšœπšœπš’πš—πš πšŠπš›πš˜πšžπš—πš, πšœπš’πš–πš™πš•πš’ πš›πšŽπš™πš•πš’ πš™πš›πš˜πš˜πš πšŠπš—πš 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• πš‹πšŽ πšπš˜πš›πš πšŠπš›πšπš’πš—πš πšπš‘πšŽ πš™πšŠπš›πšπš’πšŒπšžπš•πšŠπš› πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πš›πšπš’πš—πš πš›πšŠπš—πšπš˜πš–πš•πš’ 𝚝𝚘 𝟾 πš™πšŽπš˜πš™πš•πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πšπš—πš’πš£πšŽ.

π™Έπš πšŒπš˜πšžπš•πš πšŽπš—πš πšžπš™ πš‹πšŽπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšπš›πš’πšŽπš—πšπšœ, 𝚌𝚘 πš πš˜πš›πš”πšŽπš›πšœ, πš‹πš˜πšœπšœ, πš™πšŠπš›πšŽπš—πšπšœ (𝙸 πšπš˜πš—'𝚝 πš”πš—πš˜πš ! π™Όπš’ πšœπš’πšœπšπšŽπš– πš πš’πš•πš• πš›πšŠπš—πšπš˜πš–πš•πš’ πšœπšŽπš•πšŽπšŒπš πšπš‘πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπšπšœ).

πš†πš˜πšžπš•πš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš‹πšŽ πšŠπš‹πš•πšŽ 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚊𝚣𝚎 πš’πš—πšπš˜ πšŠπš—πš’πš˜πš—πšŽ'𝚜 𝚎𝚒𝚎𝚜 πšŠπšπšŠπš’πš— πšŠπšπšπšŽπš› πš’πš? 𝙸 πššπšžπšŽπšœπšπš’πš˜πš— πš’πš…

π™±πšžπš, πš’πš 𝚍𝚘𝚎𝚜 πš—πš˜πš πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚝𝚘 πš‹πšŽ πšπš‘πšŠπš πš›πš˜πšžπšπšŽ.

𝙸'πš– πšπš˜πš’πš—πš 𝚝𝚘 πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚊 𝟷 πšπš’πš–πšŽ, πš—πš˜ πš—πšŽπšπš˜πšπš’πšŠπš‹πš•πšŽ πš˜πšπšπšŽπš›.

π™Ώπšžπš›πšŒπš‘πšŠπšœπšŽ $ 𝟸𝟢𝟢𝟢 πš’πš— πš‹πš’πšπšŒπš˜πš’πš— πšŠπš—πš πšœπšŽπš—πš πšπš‘πšŽπš– 𝚝𝚘 πšπš‘πšŽ πšπš˜πš πš— πš‹πšŽπš•πš˜πš  πšŠπšπšπš›πšŽπšœπšœ:

[𝚌𝚊𝚜𝚎-πšœπšŽπš—πšœπš’πšπš’πšŸπšŽ 𝚜𝚘 πšŒπš˜πš™πš’ πšŠπš—πš πš™πšŠπšœπšπšŽ πš’πš, πšŠπš—πš πš›πšŽπš–πš˜πšŸπšŽ * πšπš›πš˜πš– πš’πš]

(π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 πš—πš˜πš πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš‘πš˜πš , πšπš˜πš˜πšπš•πšŽ πš‘πš˜πš  𝚝𝚘 πšŠπšŒπššπšžπš’πš›πšŽ πš‹πš’πšπšŒπš˜πš’πš—. π™³πš˜ πš—πš˜πš 𝚠𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚎 πš–πš’ πš™πš›πšŽπšŒπš’πš˜πšžπšœ πšπš’πš–πšŽ)

π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšœπšŽπš—πš 𝚘𝚞𝚝 πšπš‘πš’πšœ πš™πšŠπš›πšπš’πšŒπšžπš•πšŠπš› 'πšπš˜πš—πšŠπšπš’πš˜πš—' (πš•πšŽπš 𝚞𝚜 πšŒπšŠπš•πš• πš’πš πšπš‘πšŠπš?). π™°πšπšπšŽπš› πšπš‘πšŠπš, 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• 𝚐𝚘 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚒 πšπš˜πš› 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 πšŠπš—πš πš—πšŽπšŸπšŽπš› πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπš πš πš’πšπš‘ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšŠπšπšŠπš’πš—. 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• πš›πšŽπš–πš˜πšŸπšŽ πšŽπšŸπšŽπš›πš’πšπš‘πš’πš—πš 𝙸 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚐𝚘𝚝 πš’πš— πš›πšŽπš•πšŠπšπš’πš˜πš— 𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚘𝚞. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 πš–πšŠπš’ πšŸπšŽπš›πš’ πš πšŽπš•πš• πš”πšŽπšŽπš™ πš˜πš— πš•πš’πšŸπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš—πš˜πš›πš–πšŠπš• 𝚍𝚊𝚒 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚊𝚒 πš•πš’πšπšŽπšœπšπš’πš•πšŽ πš πš’πšπš‘ πšŠπš‹πšœπš˜πš•πšžπšπšŽπš•πš’ πš—πš˜ πšπšŽπšŠπš›.

𝚈𝚘𝚞'𝚟𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝟸𝟺 πš‘πš˜πšžπš›πšœ πš’πš— πš˜πš›πšπšŽπš› 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘 𝚜𝚘. πšˆπš˜πšžπš› πšπš’πš–πšŽ πšœπšπšŠπš›πšπšœ 𝚘𝚏𝚏 𝚊𝚜 πššπšžπš’πšŒπš”πš•πš’ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš›πšŽπšŠπš πšπš‘πš›πš˜πšžπšπš‘ πšπš‘πš’πšœ 𝚎-πš–πšŠπš’πš•. 𝙸 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚐𝚘𝚝 πšŠπš— πš˜πš—πšŽ 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 πš”πš’πš—πš 𝚌𝚘𝚍𝚎 πšπš‘πšŠπš πš πš’πš•πš• πš’πš—πšπš˜πš›πš– πš–πšŽ πš˜πš—πšŒπšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚎𝚎 πšπš‘πš’πšœ πšŽπš–πšŠπš’πš• πšπš‘πšŽπš›πšŽπšπš˜πš›πšŽ πšπš˜πš—'𝚝 πšπš›πš’ 𝚝𝚘 πš™πš•πšŠπš’ πšœπš–πšŠπš›πš.

First of all, my friend is 78 years old and knew that she had never done any of this. Secondly, she is not the kind of person who would give in to blackmail, even if she had. I said when she shared it, "Ooooh, I can hardly wait for the pictures!" So we had a good laugh, she ignored it, and no pictures have yet been received.

I've never gotten one of these, but I have gotten messages and e-mails saying, "Is this you in this video?" With a funky internet address to click. I am not enough of a fool to click on them (even if the name they're using apparently is someone I know), because I haven't been out in public for what seems like years, and actually, I don't care. I have gotten over the need to look at myself beyond keeping myself clean and neat. As the Duke of Wellington said, "Publish and be damned."

Blackmail only works if the victim cares.

The Nigerian Prince scam was always one of my favorites, and I kind of miss the e-mails. The blatant misspellings, the extreme amount of money promised, and all for a limited deal, because they heard that I was a kind, loving person who would understand… Little do they know.

bitcoin cryptocurrency
bitcoin cryptocurrency
Back before the internet ruled the world, my husband answered a call that was a live person, who started off saying, "Do you want to be a millionaire?" Allan, bless him, instantly answered, "No," and hung up.


Ponzi schemes.

I mean, you know it's too good to be true, but maybe this time for you…

From Somerset Maugham's The Round Dozen, whose central character is an eleven-time bigamist who took all his wives' savings before leaving for the next:

"But there is one thing I should like you to tell me," I said. "I shouldn't like you to think me cynical, but I had a notion that women on the whole take the maxim, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive,' as applicable exclusively to our sex. How did you persuade these respectable, and no doubt thrifty, women to entrust you so confidently with all their savings?"

An amused smile spread over his undistinguished features.

"Well, sir, you know what Shakespeare said about ambition o'erleaping itself. That's the explanation. Tell a woman you'll double her capital in six months if she'll give it you to handle and she won't be able to give you the money quick enough. Greed, that's what it is. Just greed."

Scams generally only work if the mark is greedy. And/or needy.

That's why people fall for cons (generally on-line) who swear they love them with all their hearts and would do anything for them and they're going to be so wonderful together and meantime they need just a little money to:
  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses.
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses.
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something.
  • pay off gambling debts.
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents. (FTC)
They must write some sweet texts / emails, because they get sent money. Lots of it.

And think about the endless fundraising that various televangelists do, from Reverend Ike of Atlanta ("Send me your money today") to Joel Osteen with his megachurch (not open during hurricanes) to Ken Copeland, Pat Robertson, and the late, great Oral Roberts. I'll never forget when Oral Roberts announced that God had told him he had to raise a million dollars by next week or He would "take him" - I turned to Allan and said, "I want an autopsy."

bitcoin cryptocurrency
BTW, get on a politician's list for fundraising and you may never get off of it - even if they're no longer in office. After all, a certain soon to be ex-president has had a massive on-line campaign going for years to finance his… well, you tell me. People give and give and give to the guy who says we just need $500 more, even though they know they're clearing out their life's savings.

Most cult members are extremely needy – whether it's for community, love, discipline, punishment, a cult can provide everything the victim needs. For a very long time. And even when the rewards decline to nothing, the true cult member still stays, because they can't imagine leaving anymore. They've sacrificed everything - they can't go back now.

Jerry Seinfeld once said – and you can see it on Comedians in Cars with George Wallace – in a casino, in front of the audience, "When I make money at something, I keep doing it. When I start losing money at something, I quit doing it." And proceeded to explain to them all how they were supporting the luxurious casino with their money, i.e., by losing. Which was absolutely true. And yet they all laughed…

Basically, the key is all in the victim. Cons and blackmailers have to figure out who will pony up the money, and why. And they are very good at it.

And that, my friends, is the explanation. If you know your weakness, you can beat the blackmailer and the scammer. But if they know your weakness and you don't - well, you're screwed.

* So are casinos and advertisers. There's a reason all the casinos went to video lottery – it's designed to be addictive. See Here And why cigarettes were designed the way they are.

31 December 2020

We Hate to See You Go

I'm willing to bet that there will be songs written and sung about 2020, but none of them will be as sweet as this one by John Mayall (backed by Eric Clapton):

Still, I'm sure that when 2020 showed up, clean and neat as a newborn baby on January 1st, it had no idea what kind of Frankenstein's monster it was going to turn into.  If we had, we'd have showed up with torches and pitchforks on January 21st…

Now I never make New Year's resolutions (never make promises in the dark of the moon…) but I do look back and say what the hell was that?  The nicest way I can put it is that this year, as the old-timers of my youth would say, was "sent to try us", and it certainly showed everyone what they were made of. I learned that I still know how to wait, which keeps on being handy, year after year - and this year more than any other.  I also learned I can be a total news junkie, and that is not a good thing.


To all the health care workers and front line workers, whoever and wherever you are and were – you knocked it out of the park!  You're still knocking it out of the park.  We can never thank you enough.  We can never honor you enough.  And we really need to provide mental health care for the PTSD that is coming once this pandemic is over.  And it wouldn't be a bad idea to forgive / pay for all their student loans as a small thank you.  

Meanwhile, here are the gifts I wish for our country - and the world - for 2021:

(1) Coronavirus vaccines for everybody.  100% everybody.

(2) Resocialization.  From children to adults, we're going to have to get used to being around each other again, not ducking across the street or to another aisle in the store, etc.  It's been a long time.  No one except Allan and myself have been in my house since April.  We haven't gone to a restaurant except to get takeout since March.  In person meetings of any kind ended when winter came in and it was too cold to sit on the socially distanced on the porch.  We're gonna need some help.  And a lot of mental health care and counseling.  Even for those of us who have been fortunate enough to not have lost loved ones, there's a certain level of PTSD that's going to rise like an ocean once we can get around to feeling things again.  

(3) Civility, negotiation, conflict resolution and nonviolence.  Because this has been a year of frightening selfishness, disguised as freedom fighting.  From the "militia" that plotted to kidnap and kill at least one governor over lockdowns, to the (still on-going) threats to election officials for not providing the desired results, constant anti-mask protests and general COVID defiance, it's enough to make even Thomas Paine say it's time for a reboot.  The worst, to me, were the anti-maskers who actually protested health care workers:  

To the protester wearing scrubs: “This is a free country. This is the land of the free. Go to China!” (The Guardian

(4) You can't have a country - or even a family - without rules, respect, and personal sacrifice for the greater good.  We need to relearn that on a national scale.  So, a return to teaching kindness, compassion, and empathy in schools, churches, families, and media is definitely needed.  

BTW, to all the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, etc., one of the best articles I read was written by Martin Luther in 1527, and reprinted in Christianity TodayWhether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague.  An excerpt:

"Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God."  HERE  (my emphasis added)

(5) Civics classes for all!  We have a great Constitution, and it's amazing how little people apparently know it.  Or how willing some are to make it optional.  (Senator Mike Lee: "Democracy is not the objective." – WRONG)  Teach it in schools, beginning in grade school and repeating the lessons over and over again through college.  Use the texts that immigrants have to study and learn from.  And for the adults in the room, here's the beginning of a refresher course:
  • The Constitution. (HERE)
  • The Declaration of  Independence. (HERE)
  • You could also do worse than read George Washington's Farewell Address. (HERE)
    • That set a high bar for Presidential farewells, didn't it?
  • Frederick Douglass' (What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?)   
(The above is only a start - don't give me crap about who got left off.)

(6) A stake through the heart of racism and the trickle-down theory of economics, which is just another name for the war on the poor (as opposed to the war on poverty), and which is often only another name, yet another cover, for racism.  The trickle-down theory has been thoroughly disproven, time and again, and most recently scientifically.  (Bloomberg)  The truth is, when the rich are given large tax cuts, they're more apt to buy another yacht or stash it off shore for themselves.  But give the poor some money, and they will spend it in their community on food, clothing, rent, etc., which really does create jobs for all.  Give the children of the poor a free, good education, and they will increase the wealth of family, friends, and neighbors.  Give the poor a chance, and the whole world will change, and for the better.  

And now, for something completely different:

Last year, I made Fearless Predictions for 2020.  Most of them - surprise! - did not come true.  But some did: 
  • President Trump will continue to tweet at the same rate most of us breathe.
  • "Xi Jinping will remain President for Life of China. Vladimir Putin will make himself President for Life of Russia. (Russian government resigns) Major pissing contest follows.
  • Brexit will happen. Almost no one, including Brexiters, will like it.
    • Future quote: "It isn't what I expected it to be. I thought everything would be cheaper, we'd have more freedom, and all those foreigners would be gone."
And, still possible: 
Speaking of Brexit, even money that:
  • Scotland will vote for independence.
  • Northern Ireland will vote to join the Republic of Ireland.
  • Scotland will join Northern Ireland and Wales in a Celtexit from Great Britain.
  • Normandy and Brittany will consider joining them. The beginning of the Great Celtexit from Europe will begin. Catalonia will try to join, but will be told to cabrear.
Fake news and deepfakes will receive their own category at the Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and Oscars. No one will ever know who truly wins.

Wildly improbable, but I still want one:

Woolly mammoths will be cloned, especially the last of the species from St. Paul Island, Alaska, which were pgymies - they stood 5'6".  I wonder how they sounded when they trumpeted?  

"May the best of your past be the worst of your future."


03 December 2020

Lighten the Mood Already

No charges, no grand jury, no nothing in the South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg case other than the investigators say he was driving distracted when he hit and killed Mr. Boever. Other than that, crickets. Since November 2. Of course, he is an elector, so maybe they're waiting until after December 14th.

South Dakota's COVID situation is just as bad as you've heard, and probably worse. 82,000 cases, 995 deaths and the population of the state is only 880,000. And Gov. Noem still won't do anything but look good on a horse.

But enough doom and gloom! Here's some of my favorite lighter things in life, so here's something lighter. There will be a [short] quiz at the end.

Exhibit 1: The Big Snit - perhaps my favorite animated feature of all time, outside of Wallace & Grommit.

One of my favorite Oscar moments, Sean Connery & Michael Caine eventually giving an award to Kevin Kline:

And why Kevin Kline won the Oscar: "Apes don't read philosophy." "Yes they do, they just don't understand it!"

Dr. Tongue's Evil House of Wax (from SCTV):

Salvador Dali on What's My Line. 'Nuff said.

Jimmy Stewart's favorite joke:

And my good friend and fellow SleuthSayer, Brian Thornton sent me a copy of his latest book, Suicide Blonde! Folks, it's great: three novellas of historical noir, and the lead off story should have a movie made of it with a Gloria Grahame lookalike as the lead. Maybe both leads. Thanks so much, Brian, and I loved it.

Stay safe, stay well, stay masked!

Which of the above is this a quote from?


19 November 2020

Updates from South Dakota

South Dakota has been in the national news a lot lately, and not just because Governor Kristi Noem has been vigorously defending the reelection of President Donald J. Trump in every venue she can find.  She was very active on Twitter but now she's moved to Parler:  

"It's official, I've joined @parler_app! Find me at @GovernorNoem. We need social media platforms that respect and protect FREE SPEECH. We need a whole lot more respect for Freedom and Personal Responsibilty in this country."

Wait until they hear that she's trying to figure out a way to stop Amendment A - which legalized marijuana in this state - from happening, because "it's just not right for South Dakota".  So much for Freedom and Personal Responsibility, right?  Constitutionally, she can't do anything about it, but I'm not sure she's aware of that.

Meanwhile, I know she doesn't care about the virus.  We are in a fearsome situation up here, complete with long articles in WaPo (here and HERE), USA Today ("The Dakotas are 'as bad as it gets anywhere in the world' for COVID-19"),  Forbes (South Dakota is the most dangerous place to travel in America), dire statistics in the NYTimes, and a Governor and a Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken who refuse - ABSOLUTELY REFUSE - to impose a mask mandate or a shutdown or anything else, because "freedom and personal responsibility."* 

How's that working?  Not so well:

South Dakota total cases – 68,671; 1 out of every 13 people in this state (pop. 880,000) has/has had the virus
South Dakota active cases – 19,240; 1 out of every 46 is currently active for the virus
South Dakota deaths 674 – 1 out of every 1,360 has died

Sioux Falls total cases – 22,440; 1 out of every 10 people in metro Sioux Falls (pop. 230,000) has/has 
had the virus
Sioux Falls active cases – 6,115; 1 out of every 38 is currently active for the virus
Sioux Falls deaths – 185; 1 out of every 1243 has died

And - from Johns Hopkins itself - a 56.4% positivity rate for testing, the 2nd highest in the nation.**

Heck of a job, Kristi & Paul.  Maybe you can start a noir folk duo and sing about Freedom & Incubation around the nation.

Oh, and on top of everything else, back on November 10th, "South Dakota health officials acknowledged that they include NICU (intensive care unit beds designed for infants) in their total count of hospital beds available in the state — a key metric that the governor has used to defend her handling of the coronavirus pandemic."  (Rapid City Journal)  In case you don't know, adult human beings, no matter how old and frail, cannot fit into baby pods.  

LATEST NEWS: there's the case of Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg.  If you remember, he had an accident on a dark night on a rural road and "thought he hit a deer."  Instead, it turned out that he killed a local man, Joseph Boever.  But no one discovered that until the next day, and in the meantime Mr. Ravnsborg had been driven home by the local sheriff, etc., etc., etc.  Well, we finally got an update -  November 2nd, which seems so long ago - and it turns out that the results of the investigation so far are that Ravnsborg was distracted at the time of the crash, and Mr. Boever was holding a light in his hand when he was hit and killed. (NOTE: Deer not only have more legs than humans, they don't carry lights.) But the exact time of 911 call, and the victim's autopsy and toxicology report - and any charges - are still pending. Oh, to be white and hold high office... (Argus Leader)  

And then there's our local neighborhood goings on.  I came home from the grocery store the other day to find a white quad pick-up truck parked in front of a rental house across the street.  Big deal, right?  Except as I inched past (it's a narrow street), I noticed that the window on the passenger side had a small "Police" on it.  And, as I pulled into our driveway, I saw 4 guys get out of the truck, all wearing dark bulky blue sweaters with epaulettes, etc., on them, blue jeans or camo pants, and a very large gun strapped to their thigh.  Well, I was planning on taking a walk, but decided it wasn't the right time.  Instead I went on inside, made a cup of tea, and watched the show from my living room window, which is shielded by a large porch and an even larger tree from outside prying eyes.***  Our boys in blue went from room to room - at one point a woman came scurrying out (in 30 degree weather) wearing sweatpants, t-shirt, and flip-flops to get something out of her car (I'm betting ID) - and started taking stuff in (apparently to search a little deeper, shall we say) and bringing stuff out.  They stuck around for over an hour, and then left.  My personal guess is that they already had someone under arrest back at the station, and were searching for drugs and/or weapons.  (Yes, they found some.)  

Meanwhile, you can't get all your entertainment from a 1919 version of a picture window.  My latest favorite entertainment - besides endlessly looping New Tricks - is Victorian Farm on Acorn (via Amazon Prime) - For one thing, I'm an historian, and the reenactors are historian Ruth Goodman, and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn.  (I have a couple of Ms. Goodman's books, BTW.  Great stuff.)  Shire horses!  Sheep!  Cooking with coal!  More sheep!  Victorian Christmas!  Pigs and sheep!  Yes, life was hard, but it's absolutely fascinating, and I could have used a lot more than 6 episodes of it.

Speaking of Victorians, I'm rereading my way through my library of great Victorian mysteries:  I've mentioned these before on SleuthSayers, but I'll bring up a couple again, because they're brilliant.  And they're long and complex, which helps in these days of social isolation.  

Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. Here two young women's identities are stripped from them as one dies and the other is declared dead and sent to a madhouse for life. What happened? Who died? Who lived? How can the truth be proven? Besides an endlessly twisting and turning plot, there are amazing characters: a magnificent heroine in Marion Halcombe, the ultimate Victorian cold-hearted bitch in Mrs. Catherick, and the worst guardian known to man, Frederick Fairlie, who really should have been shot at birth. And then there's Count Fosco, one of my favorite villains in all of history, with a face like Napoleon's and the heft of Nero Wolfe. Watch him as he plays with his little pet white mice and, at the same time, his irascible "friend" Sir Percival Glyde. Meet his completely subservient wife, who spends her days rolling his cigarettes, watching his face, and doing his bidding. He loves sugar water and pastry and plotting, and he never, ever loses his temper or raises his voice. His only weakness? A passionate admiration for Marion. But can that actually stop him? Don't count on it.

In Mrs. Henry Wood's East Lynne, the ostensible main plot - and a true Victorian corker it is! - revolves around Isabel Vane, an Earl's daughter who, unbelievably, is reduced to poverty and marries attorney Archibald Carlisle (SO much beneath her in birth). Mr. Carlisle is such a miracle of common sense, rectitude, honor, and beauty, that I have to admit after a while I get tired of hearing how wonderful he is. It almost makes you cheer when she is eventually unfaithful to him with a former suitor, who seduces her, impregnates her, and abandons her (the "Lady! Wife! Mother!" scene is worth the read in and of itself). Lost - in every sense of the word - and alone, Lady Isabel is believed killed in a railroad accident. However, she is only disfigured beyond recognition (isn't that always the way?), and comes back to be the governess in her old home, to her own children, and to the children of her husband and his new wife, Barbara Hare. That in itself would keep almost any soap opera running for YEARS. But what really fuels this sensation novel is the second plot, about the murder of a local gamekeeper, whose daughter, Aphrodite Hallijohn, was "involved" with multiple suitors, among them the clerk of courts (I can believe that one), a mysterious Captain, and Richard, the brother of the second Mrs. Carlisle. Richard and Barbara are the children of the local Judge, and Judge Hare does his best throughout the novel to find, convict and hang his own son. Barbara's whole goal in life (other than being the perfect wife to Mr. Carlisle) is to clear Richard's name. Each and every character is involved in the solution to this murder, and the shifting identities of various people - at least three people live in disguise for major parts of the novel - are obstacles, keys, and clues to what really happened in that hut so long ago.

Mrs. Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret curled many a person's hair back in the day, especially once it was revealed that what they thought was the secret - a secret that should be solved by anyone of moderate intelligence early on - is not The Secret at all. Let's just say that Lady Audley is a work of art, and perhaps the source material for all suicide blondes. Once again, a spicy Victorian stew of bigamy, mysterious deaths, hidden identities, even more mysterious (and convenient) arson, betrayal, adultery, heartache, and suspense, all served up at (for a Victorian novel) a fairly rapid clip. 

One of the reasons I read so much Victorian fiction, BTW, and especially now, is because the Victorians were really good at writing morally good characters.  As Janice Law said on Tuesday, "Evil is easy in writing, goodness is tough to do, a fact that might drive the philosophical to notions of original sin." But the Victorians - who definitely believed in original sin - mastered the art.  From Miss Matty in Cranford to Ruth in Ruth, Emma in Emma, Felix and Lance Underwood in The Pillars of the House, Daniel Peggotty, Annie Strong, Miss Mowcher, and Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield, Marion Halcombe and Walter Hartright in The Woman in White - the Victorians were masters of dishing up characters who were morally good yet unique individuals.  (Notice, I have not mentioned any of the sugary sweet heroines - they're as much stereotypes as Snidely Whiplash.)  

Anyway, from more modern times, also in my personal library, are yards of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe - novels, short stories, novellas.  Just take me to the brownstone and drop me off, okay?  I'll take some Eggs Burgundian, a look at Wolfe's library and orchids, a long discussion / debate about literature with Wolfe, and a long chat on almost anything over drinks with Archie.  

Also Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse books (my favorite is The Wench is Dead); our own Janice Law's Francis Bacon series; Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series (personal favorite The Lady from Zagreb); Len Deighton's Harry Palmer novels; and Somerset Maugham's short stories - including  the Ashenden British agent stories.  (Ashenden supposedly influenced Ian Fleming.)  And yards of Agatha Christie.  And Sherlock Holmes.  

Also, non-fiction:  The Death of Woman Wang (how and why a man got away with murder in a poor province in 17th century China), and God's Chinese Son (biography of the founder of the Taiping Rebellion) both by Jonathan Spence; and Memories of Silk and Straw by Junichi Suga, translated by Garry Evans (pre-WW2 small town Japan).  

In case you're wondering, part of the reason I've fallen back heavily on my own library is because the Sioux Falls library hasn't done interlibrary loans since March, and I've read most of what they have.  And I really can't afford tons of new books all the time.  Just a few here and there.  So...  Back to the classics!  

Finally, last Sunday, I gave a sermon based on Hebrews 13:3: "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." About what I've seen, done, heard - I also talked about AVP and quoted one of our AVP Facilitators - Sly Sam - poems! Sermon begins around 22:50.

Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and stay safe, stay well, stay masked.  

*We finally imposed a mask mandate in Sioux Falls last night - but with no penalty for noncompliance.  

**Worst in the nation as of today is Wyoming, with 90.6% - whatever's going on there, don't go there.

***I am apparently entering the Miss Marple / Miss Silver phase of my life, but then again, I've always been nosy.  

05 November 2020

Dark Hollow

[NOTE:  This story was originally published in Space and Time Magazine, Fall Issue, 2000.  It's the first of my Crow Woman stories.  I hope you enjoy it!]


Silver light, hot pine.

When I first came there was a brook over there, swift as a white hawk over grey stone.  But it dried long ago.  Down to a small still pool, dark as a doe's eye, in stones fawn-flanked with lichen.  Still water makes silent air.  I never used to hear my footsteps.  Now even pine needles have a sound, like slick sand sliding.

The cornfield is new.  I remember the first planting.  The green spears came up, all rowed and blocked like an army setting camp.  Right there.  Dark That Rides called:  "Crow Woman!" and we flew to trees' edge and stood gaping in their shadow, the turned earth strong as blood in our nostrils.  The rabbits crept out first.  First the blade, then the ear - then the mice, then the deer.  That was the summer of sleek bellies.  And those thick green waves, dusted gold under a bowed blue sky.  Food and beauty.  Each defended the other.

In winter, we said.

Winter came. 

Bleached sticks under a whipped grey sky. Order wind-shredded and it won't take much to wipe it clean. We stood at the end of the path of trees and watched as hard slaps of cold burst across the field to rattle the stalks like bones -- and then I heard the water. "No," I said, just as Dark That Rides began to step outside. He stopped. I could feel him looking at me. "Listen." We listened as the wind played that tattered harp in runs and rills and splashes. The white hawk back. Water and food and beauty. He sighed. "If it pleases you," he said. The field's still there. 

There's a man at the edge of it, looking. Right now. 

Norm sat in the car while Stan stood outside, smoking a cigarette, staring intently across the field. Stan was looking for the perfect spot, and Norm had nothing better to do than to go along. Norm wasn't too bright, but Stan was brilliant in his own way. Stan talked and Norm listened. Stan said "Let's go"; and Norm hopped in the car. It was a man and his dog kind of relationship which suited them both. Lately, they'd been coming out here a lot. Stan figured that right here, or rather, over there, was what he was looking for. The field was open, but behind it was brush piling into thicket into rock into the whole tangled mess of Dark Hollow. 

The wind rattled a handful of ice against the windshield, jerking Norm awake. They worked nights, and hadn't slept yet. Stan opened the door and got in, letting a blast of cold air into the car. 

"Yep," Stan said, driving away. "That's the place." 

Silver light, cold dawn. 

When I first came, the tall grass hid the thin dirt path as if it were something shameful. Later it grew wide and rutted. I can still smell the dust from when they poured out a river of gravel and made it level. I thought the wind would never wash the air clean again. That night I lay in Dark That Rides's arms and dreamed they had broken up the moon and sent it spilling in white shards upon the earth.

"Hush, beloved," he said. His arms strong and gentle, cradling me in the night. "You're safe." His kiss like a breath on my hair. "All things are safe." 

In his arms, it was true. It is true. 

But I wonder when I see a man, the same man, standing on that road, looking across the field, time after time. 

Stan was sure now. He had the plan, he had the victim, and now he had the place. Norm sat sleeping in the car, as usual. Stan flicked away his cigarette and something fluttered on the ground, catching his eye, stooping him over. Just an old plastic grocery bag, dirty and empty and stiff with sleet. When he straightened back up, the field had changed.

He'd seen it before, in some book, maybe in school. A painting. He didn't remember who did it, but he remembered it clearly. An endless field of bleached dry corn bowing under a dark gray sky, two thick planes of color, with a handful of black arcs that were crows, cawing their way through the storm. The only thing missing was a figure walking in its heart. 

And then there it was. Walking away from him, through the corn. His heart pounded, waiting for it to turn. It didn't. The wind died. The crows had sunk back down into the corn. Everything was quiet, except for a sound like water. The figure kept walking away from him. It was a woman. It was Val. His desires took him so fast he didn't even think before he started running after her. 

In the car, Norm saw Stan run off and sat up. The crows rose from the fields, cawing wildly, and then something darted past the car, huge and brown. He ducked without thinking about it, and a tap at the window nearly made him jump out of his skin. 

"Are you all right?" 

An old woman, wrinkled and bent and brown, was standing on the road by the car, looking in the window at him. She tapped again at the window, and he rolled it down. "Are you all right?" she repeated. 

A coughing fit shook him speechless, but he managed to nod. 

She waited until he finished. "You need to go back to your home. Now." Her eyes, bird clear, bird bright, bird cold, scanned the earth and the sky, and ended with him.  "It's not safe out here." He just nodded, as if she was making sense. "Not safe for you," she said, without emphasis, but with certainty. Then she walked away, down the gravel road. He finally managed to call out the window and ask her if she needed a ride, but she said, without turning, "No." And walked on. 

He watched her disappear around the curve. Suddenly he felt cold and afraid. He had to get out of there. Where the hell had Stan gone, anyway? All the old tales about Dark Hollow rushed through his mind. Crow Woman. Her lover, Dark That Rides. Dark That Rides. Get out now! his mind screamed. But Stan had the keys. Get out! Get out! 

Silver light, silver leaves. 

When I first came, it was night and there was no moon. A river of stars spilled down into the trees, to where I lay on oak leaves starting with every sound. Late, late, so very late, Dark That Rides passed by. He made no sound to wake me, no touch to move me. But I knew that he was there. In the dark. Watching me. And I was terribly afraid. I did not know him then. I did not love him, then. 

Stan came back, panting, clutching his side, furious. It must have been a trick of the light, or his imagination, or just that he wanted it so bad. There was no way it could have been Val, she'd still be at work. He should have known that. He relieved himself of a string of profanity before Norm could get his attention. "All right. What is it?"

"We got to get out of here," Norm said. "Now."

"What are you talking about?"

"Just, we got to get out of here. This ain't no place to be, Stan. Believe me."

"What's got you so riled up?"

"Just give me the keys!" Norm shouted, and lunged at him. Stan's eyes gleamed. 

Silver light, dark light. 

I stood up and called out to the night, "I am Crow Woman. Whoever is out there, I am here. Waiting. Come and meet me."

His voice filled the night, warm and dark and strong. "I am Dark That Rides. And I swear no hurt shall touch you."

I believed. But I was so tired. "You do not know," I said. "My enemies are many. They want my life. I am ready to give it to them. I do not care any more."

"Care," he said. "Tomorrow they will come, and I will rid you of them. Now sleep until morning. You are safe." 

That night I lay on oak leaves beneath an obsidian sky and slept on warm dark wings that rose and fell and rose and fell and rose and fell.

Stan looked down at Norm's body. Shock and fright leached all the pleasure out of him. The bloody rock fell from his hand as he looked around. No one anywhere in sight. He felt Norm's pulse. Nothing. The back of Norm's head was a mat of blood. He had really killed him. Then the triumph surged. It wasn't the plan, but it proved that he could do it. Now all he had to do was finish it. He hoisted the body on his shoulders. 

Silver light, hot fur. 

The men found me in the morning. They had been hunting me for days. Their dogs sniffed me out. They ran up the slope, baying at me. I clung to the oak tree and waited. The dogs made a circle, snarling and growling, their teeth sharp and white and hungry. The men were smiling. Their teeth were sharp and white and hungry. In their hands gleamed sharp knives. They were so close I could smell their sweat. Their blades were high above my head. Their hands reached out to pull me down. And then they stopped. Fear tore them apart, cleaved mind from body, soul from flesh. Fear of my beloved. Fear of Dark That Rides. 

Stan bundled Norm's body into the deepest part of the plum thicket in Dark Hollow, dragged brush around it, and stood back. No one could see that anybody had ever been there. It was sleeting, rasping all around him. That would cover up any tracks he might have left. And who would be looking for tracks? If it was only Val, and not Norm, not that he was going to miss Norm, but - Val. Yeah, well, her turn was coming. He stood there, at the edge of the Hollow, dreaming it, all of it:  her fear, her pain, her death. 

The crows were silent. Nothing moved except the sleet tapping the ground and the wind in the trees, stirring them, bowing them, clapping them together like cold and brittle hands. There was no wind, but suddenly he felt very cold. 

"I warned him," a voice said. He looked up and saw a young woman standing among the trees. She was very beautiful, very alone. He smiled, his teeth white and sharp and hungry. Her eyes were steady as she said, "There is no sense in warning you." She made a signal with her hand. Stan grinned wider and moved towards her, then stopped. Behind her, beside her, was something else, something that grew retchingly fast, retchingly dark, retchingly hideous... He tried to turn, to run, to wrench himself away, but his mind had lost its body, or his body had lost its mind, or - 

A pillar of molten darkness lifted itself up above a forty-foot cottonwood and clove it in two. One whole half of the tree came crashing down to the ground, into him, leaving the other half upright. Its torn heart, raw and open to the wind and sleet, was, mercifully, the last thing he saw before he died. 

Silver light, warm night. 

We watched as they came and took away the bodies. Dark That Rides had made a blood trail they could not ignore, though they would have liked to. I could hear them whispering about me, about my beloved. "Strange things happen in Dark Hollow." Here, where all is safe. The only strange thing here is this: 

My true love has my heart and I have his, but I have never seen his face.


22 October 2020

Stand Back and Stand By

One of the most depressing things about living in this day and age is that I have to keep saying things like:

  • Nazis are bad.
  • White supremacy is bad.
  • People who say they plan to start a race war are often telling the truth.
  • People who say only they have rights – to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, not to mention the Constitution – are dangerous.


Look, even I know who the Proud Boys are. You can read some summaries of their "beliefs" here:

SPLC - Why are the Proud Boys so Violent?; Anti-Defamation League - Proud Boys; USA  Today - Who are the Proud Boys?

Meanwhile, we had some more proud militia types - the Michigan Wolverine Watchmen (???? - obviously they've been reading too many Marvel comics; that or they all went to UofM. Although I doubt it...) - who decided kidnapping Governor Gretchen Whitmir and trying her for treason at a kangaroo trial and then executing her on national television was a great idea, along with attacking police officers and starting a civil war “leading to societal collapse”.  (NYTimes)

NOTE:  Why, why, why do so damn many white militia types want societal collapse?  Where do they think they can buy their favorite gummy bears?  And lest you think these are rugged survivalists, remember that most of this gang was involved in the armed protest / assault / invasion at the Michigan Capitol building back in April as they sought... <checking her notes...> access to haircuts and hardware stores.  (The Guardian)

Update:  turns out the Michigan Wolverine Watchmen were planning to not only kidnap, try and execute their governor, but also the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam.  Listen, you rugged semi-constitutionalists, if states' rights are the most important of all, what the hell gives you the right to interfere in the governance of another whole state? 

And what is that they really want, anyway?  I've noticed that most white supremacist organizations - including the Proud Boys - have quit using the term "white supremacist" (puts people off) and instead call themselves "Western chauvinists".  And there's a key right there - because the mind set of these groups is predicated on a false idea, a toxic nostalgia, for a world in which (white) Americans (men) ruled the world, we were the wealthiest and strongest nation in history, everyone did what we said (except, of course, the Russians who back then were mortal enemy #1), and life was perfect.  Gas was cheap, a man - any [white] man - could earn enough to support a family, and the women could stay home and take care of the family as God intended.  Our suburban way of life was the envy of the world, and only we had it and we deserved each and every bit of it because we worked hard for it.

Granted, people did work hard for it - but the reason for our prosperity of the late 1940s through much of the 1960s was because we were the only industrialized country which had not had its major cities bombed to rubble in the almost 7 years of WW2.  70-80 million people worldwide died in WW2. Some 60 million Europeans became refugees during the entire World War II period. According to the United Nations, a million people had yet to find a place to settle by 1951, more than five years after the fighting stopped.  There was a need for massive rebuilding all across Europe, Asia, north Africa, and the Middle East:  buildings, infrastructure, factories, homes.  After a war that long, everybody needed consumer goods:  clothing, shoes, cars, furniture, etc.  And for years, the United States - relatively untouched by war - had a monopoly on production and sales of just about everything.  That was the economic miracle of the 1950s.  Based on the desperate poverty of almost everyone else in the world.*

And that is why I call it toxic nostalgia, because to bring back the glory days of the 1950s and 60s would require a return to that level of global poverty.  Instead, what we're seeing today (pandemic aside) is a world in which poverty is decreasing, countries are increasing production and prosperity - and instead of accepting it and joining in, some Americans are waxing way too nostalgic about when we "ruled the earth".  And dreaming about how to get back there. 

And that's not even nearly as bad as the superfund toxic nostalgia about the good old days of the ante-bellum South, in which slavery wasn't so bad, and somebody needed to pick all that cotton, and at least the slaves all got converted to Christianity and were saved.  That, too, lingers on - along with all the old BS about how slaves deserved to be slaves, because they were so inferior to whites.  Iowa Rep. Steve King asked a while back, "which nonwhite subgroups had contributed more than white people to “civilization.” 

Well, I taught a year-long class every year on World Civilizations which would have answered his question; but I think he would have flunked for citing Ancient Aliens as a source.**  See also SLATE on "Why It Makes No Sense to Judge Groups of People by Their Histories of Invention."  

This, and far too many other reasons are why we have a serious white supremacist problem in this country.  Thanks to Wikipedia, here's an incomplete list of White Supremacist Groups in the United States:

I can guarantee you that each and every member of all of these organizations knows what "Stand back and stand by" means.  

I've mentioned this before, but this incident will always haunt me.  Years ago right after the Timothy McVeigh bombing, one of our regular militia visitors at the courthouse told me, "War has been declared."  When I said the children in the day-care weren't soldiers (remember, 19 children were killed in a daycare there, as well as 3 pregnant women), he replied, "There are no innocent victims."  And he meant it.  And was not apologizing for it.  And was proud of it.  

White supremacist literature (see "The Turner Diaries") is all about "getting rid of" (i.e., killing) everyone who doesn't meet their standards, to the point where you wonder if even in our weapons-rich environment, there really are enough bullets to get that job done.  Because they are all about purity policing the world.  They really do want to create a white paradise, but of course, there are a lot of "whites" in their world who they don't consider truly white, or white enough. And as their immediate world gets whiter, they expand their list of undesirables, and make more and more "white people" non-white.  In the long run, there's no one "good enough" left. 
Remember, the Nazis declared European Slavic people to be non-white, and good for nothing, according to Hitler, but to be "slaves to our culture". That and be slaughtered to make room for more pure German Aryans.
Remember, Timothy McVeigh bombed a government building knowing there was a day care center in it full of children.  

 *I told this to someone last week, who was amazed - they'd never heard this explanation of the American 1950s before.  God knows what they're teaching about WW2 these days...

**Not to denigrate Ancient Aliens - it's a great piece of mental cotton candy. 

ALSO:  We finally got an update on the South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravsborg case - 4 weeks later - where Gov. Kristi Noem and Public Safety Secretary Craig Price on Tuesday gave an update on the Saturday, Sept. 12 crash that killed 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Noem and Price spoke to reporters from the Sioux Falls City Hall.  The audio of the 911 call made by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was released, but otherwise, "The incident remains under investigation, and Price declined to answer some questions, saying he wants to release a full report when the matter is concluded."  (Argus Leader
Color us all suspicious.  Because if this had been anyone but a high government official, this investigation would be over and charges would have been filed.  

08 October 2020

The Evidence in the Case

A few weeks ago, when the Atlantic article came out saying that Donald Trump had called people in the military "losers" and "suckers", I got into it on-line with someone about evidence.  They didn't approve of anonymous sources.  So I posted the video of Trump calling McCain a loser and "not a war hero":

And the Howard Stern interview, where Trump called STDs his "personal Vietnam.  I feel like a great and very brave soldier."

And said that I thought we could perhaps extrapolate future behavior from prior statements.  Now I wouldn't have minded an argument on freedom of speech - I'm always ready to defend that one - or even the validity of judging someone by their past behavior.  BUT the reply I got was that "the videos are just circumstantial evidence."  So I blew a gasket.  Because of course no, they're not.  

(Legal Definition)  "Circumstantial evidence is proof of a fact or set of facts from which one could infer the fact in question. For example, that a suspect is seen running away from a murder scene with a weapon in hand is circumstantial evidence he committed the murder. This contrasts with direct evidence, which directly proves the fact in question. An eyewitness who testifies to seeing the suspect shoot the victim is direct evidence." The direct testimony, on record, on tape, is direct evidence.  Period.  You can argue that the person was lying, or bragging, or telling a story - but you're gonna have to prove that.  Meantime, what they said is what they said.  

In history, we call direct evidence primary sources: original things (diaries, letters, stelae, pottery, tombs, and other original artifacts of all kinds).  Secondary sources are analyses or discussions about primary sources (like textbooks, pundits, op-eds, and conspiracy theories).  For an historical argument to be sound, it must be supported / defended by primary sources, and must be analysis of the evidence.  Yes, opinions will crop up and even barge in, but there damn well better be strong primary sources. 

That does not mean there will not be debate, furious, even murderous.  It also doesn't mean that point of view doesn't matter, whether from the originator or the historian.  For example, in the old days, i.e., up until the 1950s, most history was about war, royalty, and nobility, with a very occasional mention of peasants.  That was what was "important" to the primarily European men who wrote history.  And there was also plenty of documentation - low hanging fruit you might say.

But then things changed, because historians began to study things like 100 years of church registers, noting the number of bastards born in, say, a town in Normandy.  Or the court records of counties, noting how many cases of assault there were in an average year (a lot - the Middle Ages had a fairly high level of violence).  Or... you get the idea.  And suddenly we had social history, with histories of (for example) a village in the Pyrenees like Le Roy Ladurie's brilliant Montaillou.  This was based on Inquisition documents (1294-1324 AD) where they wrote down the interrogations of peasants about the Catharist heresy in their village (and there was a lot), and along the way recorded everything from how people got their bread (and how much it cost) to who combed whose hair for lice and why.  

This also changed what was seen as the impetus for change.  For example, today, it's pretty much a given that the Renaissance was largely triggered by the Black Death, which (by killing a third of the world in its first 4 years - 1347-1351 - and its repeat performances every 10-20 years for the next 300 years) basically overturned much of the medieval order of peoples and ideas (including that "God's in His heaven and all's right with the world - obviously something was seriously wrong), and set the stage for not just the Renaissance but Martin Luther and the Reformation.  

In the same way, Jared Diamond's 1997 Guns, Germs & Steel, challenged the traditional Western Eurocentric theory of world history by showing through primary sources (direct evidence) that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate primarily in environmental differences and had nothing to do with the superiority of Europeans over the rest of the world.  (See Wikipedia for a concise overview, but better yet, read the book yourself - fantastic.)  And it in turn fed off of Alfred W. Crosby's The Columbian Exchange, which discussed the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between the Old and New Worlds, changing ecosystems world-wide.  (Again, read the book.)   
BTW - one of the great examples in literature of historical arguments (and how much analysis, deduction, argument, and debate they require) is not Dan Brown, but Tom Stoppard's 1993 play Arcadia, which deserves far more productions (and at least one movie!  Please!) than it has gotten.  Alternating between the mid-1800s and the present, the present scenes show dueling historians arguing over the following primary sources:  mid-1800s "game books" (i.e., hunting records at a country house), a diary (by a young girl), and a number of letters and notes tucked into a poetry book which itself was heavily underlined.  All of which seem to indicate that Lord Byron killed minor poet Ezra Chater in a duel over Chater's wife at this country house where they were all guests at the same time, and after which Mr. Chater disappeared, and Lord Byron fled to the Continent for two years.  Solving what belonged to whom (including who did all that underlining) is a masterclass in historical deduction and detection.
Also, I would give almost anything to have seen the 1993 production: directed by Trevor Nunn with Rufus Sewell as Septimus Hodge, Felicity Kendal as Hannah Jarvis, Bill Nighy as Bernard Nightingale, Emma Fielding as Thomasina Coverly, and Harriet Walter as Lady Croom (Wikipedia).  
Anyway, the point is that you can debate the meaning of various primary sources, i.e., direct evidence - what you cannot debate is that they are real and they are relevant.  We have to keep people accountable for what they say and write.  Especially politicians, who currently are trying to have it both ways:  They mean what they say until they're in the hot seat, and then they either never said it or didn't mean it or were only joking.  

We have to keep reminding people that without the clear, continuous definition of original sources / direct evidence vs. secondary sources / circumstantial evidence, we will lose more than good historical argument:  we will miss justice as well.  And perhaps democracy.

24 September 2020

A Little Touch of Manslaughter

As you may or may not have heard, South Dakota has hit the national news a lot lately. 

  • Governor Kristi Noem has been talking regularly on Fox News, promoting South Dakota's freedoms, and is currently traveling around the upper Midwest to campaign for Trump.  (Fox News)
  • She has also been spending CARES money on ads around the country urging people to move to South Dakota, where "we respect your freedoms" and "We're open for business!"  (AP News)
  • We hosted the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, where 460,000+ bikers came to a town of 7,000 and held one hell of a week-long party. The national COVID-19 repercussions are debated (Politifact) but I can tell you it's a fact that Meade County (Sturgis) went from 71 cases before Sturgis to 487 and counting (that's 1 out of every 14), and most of the other West River counties show large spikes as well.  (Pennington County - Rapid City, etc. - went from 942 cases to 2,091.)
  • We hosted the Sanford International golf tournament in Sioux Falls September 7-13th, which was the first golf tournament to allow spectators, and we can hardly WAIT until the COVID-19 figures come out from that.  (Argus Leader)  
  • As a result of all this stuff, South Dakota is in the top ten, and may still be the #1 hotspot for COVID-19 in the country for a couple of weeks now, thanks to a 10%+ positivity rate.  A popular response to Gov. Noem's "We're open for business!" ad slogan is, "And we're wide open for COVID!"  (Argus Leader) (NYTimes)
  • And, most recently, our Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg drove home from a GOP political event in Redfield, SD, and hit and killed a man walking along the shoulder of Highway 14, just west of Highmore, SD around 10:30 PM on Saturday, September 12th.  (NYTimes)

From the beginning, AG Ravnsborg has said that he thought he hit a deer.  This has been met with considerable skepticism and some derision here in the Mount Rushmore State, because everybody in SD has either missed or hit a deer at some point in their driving lives.  When we first moved up here, we asked why collision insurance was so expensive and mandatory - since we do have a low population / population density - and were told it was because of the deer.  We have a lot of deer.  

And to be purely informative, I must tell you that humans do not look like deer.  For one thing, we have fewer legs.  We also wear clothing, walk upright, and have arms that flail a lot as we soar through the air.  

Despite an on-going investigation, shrouded in secrecy for almost two weeks now, AG Ravnsborg put out a two-page statement (via his campaign office, on his official Attorney General letterhead, two days after the accident) about what happened. Since my fellow blogger Cory Heidelberger has posted, analyzed and summarized this and other aspects of the case, please check out his blog HERE. The following quotes, etc., are from Cory: 

Ravnsborg apparently views “ongoing investigation” as a conditional excuse for silence: he refuses to answer questions from the media out of “respect” for the “process” and a his desire to let investigators do their work “without any interference or appearance of impropriety on my part.” Yet he feels arguing his case in public, without cross-examination, does not interfere with the investigation at all.

Ravnsborg says he had drunk no alcohol Saturday night.

Ravnsborg fudges his story a bit, saying now that he initially thought the man he hit was “a large animal (likely a deer)”.

Note also the grammatical distancing: Ravnsborg says, “My vehicle struck something….” Making the subject of that sentence “my vehicle” instead of “I” is like saying “My firearm shot something” or “My pen wrote something.”

Ravnsborg says he stopped, called 9-1-1 immediately, and investigated the scene with Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek. He and the sheriff saw no sign of the large animal they were looking for.

Ravnsborg reports his car was too damaged to drive safely. That level of damage suggests Ravnsborg was moving at a pretty good clip coming out of Highmore.

Ravnsborg says Sheriff Volek, who lives near the accident site, loaned him his personal vehicle to go back to Pierre. Ravnsborg brought the car back in the morning with his chief of staff and spokesman, Tim Bormann, to drive him back.

Ravnsborg says he and Bormann stopped at the accident site on the way to Sheriff Volek’s house. The debris from Ravnsborg’s car was still on the road. Ravnsborg and Bormann walked the shoulder and “discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway. My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased.”

“Just off the roadway”—that’s a key detail. The victim was not thrown far away from the road into the beanfield. The grass in the ditch was not high: Boever had hit a hay bale in that ditch with his truck earlier Saturday; a KSFY photo also shows a bale in the ditch, indicating the ditch had been recently mowed. The body does not seem to have been hidden by vegetation.

Ravnsborg drove to Sheriff Volek’s house immediately to tell him they’d found a dead man. The Sheriff came back to the site with Ravnsborg and asked him to go back to Pierre.

An investigation suddenly graduates from car-deer accident to human fatality, and the sheriff on the scene tells the suspect apparently responsible for the death to leave the county?

Interesting... Very interesting... But coming from the state that has given us two big juicy scandals (EB-5 and GearUp!), well, anything's possible.

Meanwhile, KELO-TV has a photo of the car Ravnsborg was driving (Kelo-TV). The windshield is almost gone on the passenger side.

Meanwhile, of course some people are already blaming the victim for taking a walk at night on a rural road.  (See Here)  (The writer of this is a GOP State Legislator.  Politics is EVERYWHERE.)  
My response:  Why Boever took a walk is totally irrelevant. The last I heard, this is South Dakota, in the United States of America, and each and every one of us have the right to take a walk whenever and wherever we want as long as we're not trespassing. Unlit, rural highways are a really excellent place to see the stars, for one thing. For another, he might well have wanted to get something he forgot out of his truck. And finally, his mental condition, history of alcoholism, or anything else is irrelevant. He was the victim, not the driver. It is the driver's responsibility to explain why he hit and killed a human being. QUIT BLAMING THE VICTIM. Someday it might be your cousin lying by the side of a road, dead, while someone else says, "well, what were they wearing?" 

Meanwhile, this is the victim's cousin (SD State Legislator Nick Nemec) on going to the accident scene (KELO):

At the time the brakes were applied (clearly visible due to tire skid marks) the right hand tires of the car were well onto the shoulder of the road. This stretch of US14 has wide paved shoulders with rumble strips at the white line.

I stepped off the tire skid marks and they went on for over 200 feet before there were two parallel blood skid marks on the paved shoulder. This first blood marks were about 6″ wide and 6′-8′ long.

There was then a skip for about 20 feet before a wider blood skid mark closer to the edge of the shoulder that was about 1′ wide and 20′ long. There was then another skip of about 20′ until a dried pool of blood in the grass on the edge of the road. 

The pool of blood was 2′ from the edge of the pavement (I measured with a tape measure) the grass here had been mowed late this summer and had regrown to 8″ tall (I measured it). This was the very edge of the grass and the ground was nearly level with the shoulder of the road at this point, the ditch slope had not really begun yet. Black flies were buzzing in the air just above the blood pool.

As I stood there a flatbed truck drove by carrying a red Ford Taurus with a huge hole in the passenger side of the windshield. The truck turned into the SD DOT yard near the speed limit sign and drove into the shop and the overhead door quickly closed. Highway patrolmen and other authority figures immediately surrounded my vehicle as I drove up to the building and parked. I requested permission to photograph the windshield of the vehicle and was denied...

I saw traffic cones marking stuff and new paint marks of a different color on the road. I don’t know how long the road was reduced to one lane but a friend told my brother Victor that FBI agents were seen on the scene later that afternoon.” 

I will, at this point, allow you all to consider all the clues that are given as to what happened and make your own pre-investigation report conclusions.  Personally, my view is that - with his consistent statement that he thought he hit a deer, and the body was not discovered until the next day - there is no way that AG Ravsnborg could have been looking at the road at the time of impact.  Texting?  Nodding off?  Distracted by something else?  

Updates will follow as they're released from South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry and act like Goodfellas.  And sometimes we just BS all over the place.