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

16 June 2022

Fear and Loathing in the Midwest


I spent the first weekend of June doing an Alternatives to Violence (AVP) Workshop at the pen - my 46th workshop, BTW.  (We all have our hobbies.)  

Anyway, we hosted a bunch of brand new inmates, who were still being processed, i.e., watched and classified. That takes about a month, during which they have plenty of time to experience apprehension and remorse. Maybe.  

So we had a boatload of new inmates, and they all really got into it, and it wasn't just that they were bored s***less in their cells. (Being locked down 23/24 is harder than it sounds, especially if you're not allowed books or other entertainment.) They were impressed that we weren't Bible-thumpers, or some kind of recruitment for treatment centers (although we certainly recommend AA/NA/Al-Anon), etc. All of them wanted to go to the next workshop, and all of them said the program is desperately needed outside. (Tell me something I don't know.) 

Meanwhile, during and in between exercises, war stories were told. Most of them were in for addiction - drugs, alcohol, gambling - or addiction related crimes. 

"Meth is everywhere," one guy told me. "You can't go to a party where someone isn't loaded with meth. You can't hang out with your work buds without someone offering it to you."

"And they're all crazy," another guy said. 

"Yeah, this one guy, he was tweaking for 24 straight, and he finally crashed, right. Right on the living room floor. And then when he woke up, he woke up just freaked, totally paranoid, and started shooting everyone in the house."  

"Yeah, these days they'll kill you. They'll shoot you and don't know why they're doing it. They'll shoot you first and then figure it out."

"Somebody's gotta do something about meth, man." 

"Yeah, you're a hell of a lot safer here than out there." 

(Tell me something I don't know.)  

Of course, some kind of drugs have been everywhere for quite a while.  At least in California, where I grew up. In the mid-1960s, the junior high school girl's bathroom reeked of marijuana, but that's another story.  There were reds (downers), whites (speed), acid (blotter, orange barrel, windowpane, Mr. Happy, and other pharmaceutical concoctions), other hallucinogens (mushrooms, mescaline, peyote, etc.), hash (fresh off the boat or from the pressure cooker), heroin, and cocaine (very expensive).

There was also crystal meth which was, I was told, very cheap. But meth-heads then shot it up, which put it in the "Oh, hell no, I'm not doing that!" category for me. (We all have our standards.) Plus crystal meth users were as crazy then as they are today. True, they were less violent back then, but there were also a lot fewer guns around, especially since I avoided biker gangs if at all possible.  Turns out the biker gangs were the ones who controlled most of the production and distribution of crystal meth, which I did not know at the time, and only found out in writing this blog. (HERE)  

Anyway, crystal meth users were nuts. I had a neighbor at the infamous Blackburn Hotel who used crystal meth. He had a theory that, if he could get his body speeded up fast enough on meth, he would be able to run through walls. He tried that theory out, over and over and over again, with all the bumps, bruises, and smashed bits you'd expect. 

Another feature of modern drugs is, of course, fentanyl. Now there's a conservative talking point (making the rounds for quite a while) that drug addicts die because they're "doing fentanyl", as if they're actually buying fentanyl by name, and so they deserve to die of an overdose. (Sigh; the cruelty really is the point.) But fentanyl (which is apparently ridiculously cheap) is what today's drug dealers cut their expensive drugs with. So heroin - always notorious for being dicey in strength - today is cut with fentanyl. And a lot of junkies die. 

Back in my day, heroin was generally cut with milk powder, which was very cheap, but at least non-lethal. What was lethal was when some really pure heroin went around, and junkies who were used to the cut stuff OD'd left and right. Now it's fentanyl that's killing them, but it's heroin they bought. The same with the fake oxy pills that are out there - cheap fentanyl with some cheap other thing put together in a makeshift lab to look pretty much like oxycontin or oxycodone pills. Only these will kill you, and of course nobody tells you. It's a dangerous world out there. 

Of course, not all the drugs in my day were stepped on with benign substances, either. Orange barrel  acid was cut with strychnine, supposedly because it made for more intense colors in the hallucinations. I don't know anyone who died of it, although I did hear of a few people who had intestinal cramps.  

One thing that strikes me in the difference between then and now is that back then, most drugs were still either a plant (marijuana, peyote, mushrooms), or derived from a plant: hash, opium, mescaline, morphine, heroin, and cocaine. These were all processed in some way, but at least there was some natural substance behind it, and (lacking adulterants) wasn't nearly as toxic as the drugs of today.  

Today, however, most of the drugs are all synthetic - meth, oxycodone, ecstasy (MDMA), synthetic cannabinoids (known on the streets as K-2, spice, synthetic marijuana, bath salts, etc.), and fentanyl, all made in a lab, highly addictive, highly toxic, with a tendency to psychosis.  And it shows.  I see a lot of meth-heads (my generic term for people who've been on synthetic drugs for too damn long), and it doesn't take 30 days for them to detox - it takes 2 years. If then. They just aren't right. Sometimes they never get right again. Not to mention lesser issues like loss of teeth, skin sores, etc. (Warning:  Graphic PHOTOS HERE)

NOTE:  And even these drugs are cut, too - in some cases with brodifacoum, a rat poison that causes bleeding, or fentanyl. 

NOTE: I understand Fox News pundits are worried sick about "pot psychosis-violent behavior link". But pot doesn't do that. "Synthetic marijuana" does, but it's not marijuana. Apparently this is hard to figure out, especially if you're paid just to bulls*** about it.  (Wikipedia, The Wrap)

NOTE: So just get it over with and legalize marijuana nationally, so law enforcement can move on to stopping meth and synthetic cannabinoids, etc. because the boys are right, meth is everywhere, and meth and K-2 can transform people into psychotic monsters.  

God help us all. 

And now, a lighter note:

I don't know if you remember or were there, but if you stood in line at a drugstore in the 1960s and 1970s, you found all sorts of over-the-counter products that were chock full of amphetamines. That's what most prescription diet aids were were made of. Also all the No-Doze type study aids for sale, which now (I am assured) have only caffeine in it. But a lot of prescriptions are still made with amphetamines - like Adderall. 

BTW, am I the only one who remembers Ayds diet candy? There used to be a shelf of them by every drug store register. Yes, sales collapsed as the AIDS epidemic spread in the 1980s, and it folded. (HERE)  Note my favorite of all the ads:  how to control your weight during pregnancy, using Ayds...  




And, of course, back in the late 1800s, early 1900s Coca-Cola's main ingredients were cocaine and caffeine. Since 1929, Coca-Cola has used a cocaine-free coca leaf extract. But my mother, who was born somewhere around 1917 (exact date a little hazy), well remembered her father going up to the drug store on Saturday night for a pail of Coca-Cola, which was Coca-Cola syrup mixed on the premises with soda water. "And that was the best Coca-Cola I ever had. It's never been the same since they put it in bottles." 

Finally, a last word from South Dakota:

From February, 2022:  We had two successive Sioux Falls police officers arrested for possession, manufacturing and distribution of graphic, hard core child porn.  (Argus

From June 13, 2022: 2 Sioux Falls men were charged & arrested as part of a white supremacist group planning a riot at an Idaho Pride Parade. One of them, James Michael Johnson, moved from Denver to Cheyenne, WY, where he tried to make the world a safer place for himself, if not democracy by "march[ing] around downtown armed with a gun or a baseball bat, claiming to be keeping us safe." And then moved to Sioux Falls, because Cheyenne didn't appreciate him enough. (Dakota Free Press)

Seems like something rotten is going on in Sioux Falls that we we really need to pay attention to.

Ah, South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, and act like Goodfellas...



02 June 2022

Let's Talk About the Laws


Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things— (Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight)

In the wake of the tragedy at Uvalde, I am seriously disheartened (and thoroughly pissed, I might add) by the number of people whose first reaction has been some variation of, "YOU'RE NOT TOUCHING MY GUNS!"  Cold dead hands, and all that.  

“It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity—it’s inhumanity.” — Amanda Gorman

The other major reaction is "We already have the most regulated guns in the world!" which is hogwash, and/or "We have lots of laws, we just need to enforce them!"

But do we really have such strict laws? I thought I'd check into it, and the short answer is "No.  No, we don't."

BACKGROUND CHECKS

Let's start off with background checks.  88% of Americans support enhanced background checks. Our not-so-friendly 2nd Amendment absolutists tell us we already have that. So what kind of background checks do we have right now?  

The 1993 Brady Bill "prohibits certain persons from shipping or transporting any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce, or receiving any firearm which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or possessing any firearm in or affecting commerce. These prohibitions apply to any person who:

  • Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  • Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  • Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  • Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  • Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  • Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

(Some people bring up the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, but it was repealed by the Trump administration in 2017, so I'm not even going to get into that.)

Anyway, the Brady Bill sounds really good, doesn't it?  Except there are loopholes. LOTS of loopholes:

The Reporting Hole:

Some places don't forward the records.  

State and local agencies are not required by law to report criminal records to the FBI.  In most cases, local agencies don’t have a system in place for submitting the names of people with restraining orders or domestic violence convictions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) — so those names simply aren’t entered.  

And, even when reported, well: Just because someone’s name is not entered in NICS doesn’t necessarily mean that a federal gun background check reviewer wouldn’t raise a red flag at the point of sale. That’s because background checkers also check two other databases, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Interstate Identification Index, which contain more arrest records. But those records aren’t always complete, and may require further investigation by the reviewer. For example, they don’t always indicate whether an arrest was followed by a conviction. Or a court record might not specify the relationship between perpetrator and victim. If tracking down that information takes more than 72 hours, a gun dealer can make the sale anyway.   (The Trace)  (my emphasis added)

And while Federal agencies - like the military - are required by law to report them, in 2014 the Inspector General found that the Defense Department was still not reporting them.  10 years of not reporting. In 2015, they still weren't reporting 30% of them.  And the service branches do not have a dedicated office that handles such notifications (NYTimes).  

NOTE:  Under the military code, there is no such charge as domestic violence.

Also, various city, county, and state law enforcement agencies often do not report convictions for domestic violence, stalking, harrassing, etc., specifically because they would take away the right to carry a firearm, and guess what a lot of law enforcement do every day?  Yep. So they're off the grid, too.

The National Database Loophole:

There is no national database of who's bought what gun(s).  And that's ALWAYS been opposed by the NRA. 

Meanwhile, many of anti-abortion states want to set up a state / national database of women's menstrual periods, via tapping Planned Parenthood information (which Missouri actually has already done LINK), and various smart devices and hospital records (just in case you got a D&C for a miscarriage and not an abortion, you're going to have to prove it).  No national gun registry, but by God, let's register all women's most intimate health cycles. Next thing you know, I'll have to have a doctor's notarized statement that I'm past menopause to cross state lines - oh, yeah, they're working on laws to stop pregnant women from doing exactly that.  

Call me cynical, but I get the feeling that the GOP considers all gunowners as potential heroes, but all women as potential criminals - and legislate accordingly. 

The Gun Show Loophole:

Only gun dealers have to do background checks. Private sellers don't have to do any background checks at all, whether at gun shows, parking lots, neighbors, Internet, private ads, etc. And your relatives can buy you any gun(s) they want. 

The Who You Are Loophole:

The Boyfriend Loophole - Federal domestic violence laws don’t include people who never lived with, or had a child with, the perpetrator. Known as the “boyfriend loophole,” the omission allows many abusers to buy guns even if there’s been a violent assault that leads to a criminal conviction. About a third of states have laws that aim to bridge this gap, but that leaves 2/3rds off the grid.

The Sibling Loophole - Under federal law, the abuse of a sibling doesn’t trigger a gun ban.  

The Stalker Loophole - Stalkers convicted of misdemeanor crimes are not prohibited by federal law from buying or possessing guns. According to a 1999 study, 76 percent of women who were murdered by intimate partners were first stalked by their killer.  (The Trace)  

GHOST GUNS:

"Domestic terrorists and racially motivated extremists are increasingly arming themselves with homemade, untraceable “ghost guns,” a threat that is now a top public safety concern for law enforcement, according to a leaked U.S. government report.

"The six-page report by the Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team — a coalition of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the FBI — warns that such extremist groups are gravitating to guns and gun accessories that can be made using do-it-yourself kits or 3D printers. Ghost guns can be acquired without background checks and their lack of serial numbers makes them nearly impossible to trace, complicating criminal investigations."  (The Trace)

73% of Americans support a plan to enforce safety measures on the sale and procurement of ghost guns.

NRA Stance: "The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to prevent you from making your own firearm. This a fact that has been recognized for 200+ years." (Fox)
My Note:  Got news for you, NRA. Our Founding Fathers weren't sitting around making their own muzzle-loaders and dueling pistols. They bought them, like everyone else did.  

AGE LIMITS ON GUNS:

72% of Americans support the idea of raising the legal age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old.

BUT:  "Federal law allows people as young as 18 to buy long guns, including rifles and shotguns, and only a handful of states have enacted laws raising the minimum age to 21. There’s no federal minimum age for the possession of long guns, meaning it’s legal to give one to a minor in more than half the country....
"44 states that allow 18-year-olds to buy long guns, including semiautomatic rifles, according to Giffords Law Center, which tracks state and federal gun laws. Only six states have raised their long gun purchasing age to 21: California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont, and Washington State. Americans are meanwhile not allowed to purchase alcohol or cigarettes until they are 21."  (The Trace)

Informational:  Since Columbine, there have been 244 school shootings, with more than 311,000 students involved. 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured.  7 in 10 of the shooters were under 18, which means some adult gave them at least one weapon, or access to it.  (Wapo) and (AP)  

Also, there are no federal restrictions on how many guns you can own. Thus, Texas has no restrictions on how many guns you can own, but it does limit ownership of sex toys to six (section 43.23 of Texas’ penal code).  

ASSAULT WEAPONS:

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban was a ten-year ban enacted in 1994, which included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms that were defined as assault weapons as well as certain ammunition magazines that were defined as large capacity. When it expired in 2004, attempts were made to renew it, but they all failed. (Wikipedia)

When the assault weapons ban was lifted in 2004, a there were 400,000 AR-15 style rifles in America at that time. Today, there are at least 20 million. 

Banning assault-style weapons: Sixty-seven percent strongly or somewhat support; 25% strongly or somewhat oppose.  (Politico)  

OPEN / CONCEALED CARRY:

25 states allow permitless concealed carry.
39 states allow permitless open carry. 

RED FLAG LAWS:

Red Flag Laws permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. You would think this would be an obvious gun safety practice - Gov. Abbott (TX) and the entire GOP have been making major speeches about dealing with "the mental health crisis" in this country. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott and the Texas Legislature passed a law eliminating ANY permit requirement for guns — and then slashed $211 million from Texas’s mental health budget.  

So far only 19 states have some kind of Red Flag law in place, but Oklahoma has an anti-red flag law. The law specifically "prohibits the state or any city, county or political subdivision from enacting red flag laws."  And South Dakota's own Governor Kristi Noem proudly announced:

"In 2020, I blocked bills proposing unconstitutional red-flag laws to strip citizens of their right to bear arms. The following year, I signed “stand your ground” legislation, and I further protected your right to purchase guns and ammo during emergency declarations. This year, I repealed all concealed carry permit fees for state residents, which is necessary to remain in good legal standing in other states with stricter gun laws. It won’t cost you a penny to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights." (LINK)  (Emphasis added)

NOTE: BTW, "Stand Your Ground" legislation, as I have said before, specifically denies people prosecutorial immunity under SYG if “[t]he person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, [or] residence . . . such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision of no contact order against that person.” I.e., a victim of domestic abuse can't claim SYG if it's her husband. Or her father. 

So welcome to a major Catch-22:  Federal Background Check laws don't cover boyfriends or stalkers or siblings, and SYG doesn't cover spouses or fathers.  Ladies, you're screwed.  (Read more at Treason's True Bed.)

AND FINALLY,  A SHORT HISTORY OF THE NRA:

Up until the 1970s the NRA actually opposed private ownership of guns. 

Karl Frederick, NRA president in 1934, during the congressional NFA (National Firearms Act) hearings testified "I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. ... I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses." The NRA supported both the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 (enacted after the assassinations of RFK and MLK Jr.), which created a system to federally license gun dealers and established restrictions on particular categories and classes of firearms. 

NOTE:  The 1967 California Mulford Act, which prohibited open carry of loaded firearms, was a direct result of increasing gun ownership among black people, especially members of the Black Panthers. It was supported 100% by the NRA. Governor Ronald Reagan signed the bill, and said he saw "no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons" and that guns were a "ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will." In a later press conference, Reagan added that the Mulford Act "would work no hardship on the honest citizen."  (HISTORY) and (WIKIPEDIA)

And then in the late 1970s a faction of the NRA decided to go political, heavily backing the GOP and promoting the idea of a personal right to own private weapons. It took a while, but in 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller became the first Supreme Court case to decide whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense or if the right was intended for state militias. They plumped for self-defense.  (NRA)

There's a long 200+ year stretch between the Founding Fathers and the we must have the right to own every type of firearm and carry it wherever we want to at all times line.

Sigh…

From the Conservative Response Archives:

"As harsh as this sounds—your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights … We still have the Right to Bear Arms … Any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those." Joe Wurzelbacher, a/k/a Joe the Plumber, after the 2014 Isla Vista killings (killed 6, injured 14).

I guess he warned us where this was going. But there's no way on God's sweet green earth that I'm going to agree with it.

So, gun bans and confiscation? A disarmed, defenseless, and compliant population, whose security and freedom are simply dependent on the goodwill of others? Is that where you'd like to take us?

(1) See the Reagan quote above and (2) Actually, yes, I would like to see us dependent on the goodwill of others, the way we used to be not that long ago.  And considering this was posted on a conservative Christian website, all I can say is his church is woefully poor at reading the Gospels. 

A pencil can be an assault weapon.

But you can't kill as many with one as you can with an AR-15, can you?

"More than ever, we're held hostage by the pro-life American ethos: Life begins at conception and ends with a Second Amendment execution." — Dick Polman

What the hell has happened to us?

19 May 2022

Hiding in Plain Sight & Other Crimes


by Eve Fisher

Musings about Hiding in Plain Sight:

First of all, re the story of former Corrections Officer Vicky White who ran off with the inmate Casey White from Alabama, I am amazed that they stayed uncaught that long. I mean, 6'9"?  Seriously?  They were caught, as you probably know, in Evansville, Indiana, where "they were found with $29,000 in cash and four guns, including semiautomatic weapons and an AR-15. They also had several wigs in different colors." But, no matter how many wigs they had, how did they make it 11 days without being turned in, especially staying in a motel for a week?  Outside of a basketball convention, 6'9" anywhere should have been like Herman Munster in a Mickey Rooney lookalike contest. 

Along similar lines, I want to know how Jack Reacher isn't known all over the country:

6 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 210–250 pounds and having a 50-inch chest. In Never Go Back, he is described as having "a six-pack like a cobbled city street, a chest like a suit of NFL armor, biceps like basketballs, and subcutaneous fat like a Kleenex tissue."..."He was one of the largest men she had ever seen outside the NFL. He was extremely tall, and extremely broad, and long-armed, and long-legged. The lawn chair was regular size, but it looked tiny under him. It was bent and crushed out of shape. His knuckles were nearly touching the ground. His neck was thick and his hands were the size of dinner plates."  (Wikipedia)  
So... tell me again why he has to introduce himself anywhere?  

And I've written before about James Bond announcing himself everywhere he goes.  "Bond, James Bond."  Not very secret.  

Meanwhile, it's tragic that Ms. White killed herself, but: a widow, no children, and highly respected as a CO at the jail - employee of the year four times - what did she have to go back to? Jail. Trial. Prison. Corrections officers - any law enforcement officer - often face retaliation in prison. The truth is, sometimes consequences show up that are so stark and horrific there's no way to live with them...

Speaking of Consequences...

Some news outlets are already speaking of the Buffalo, NY white supremacist terrorist as a "white teenager," and "just a boy, really." Bull hockey. Last I heard, 18 makes you an adult in this country. You can vote, marry, drive, and as he did, buy any kind of freaking rifle or "long gun" you want from a licensed gun dealer anywhere in this country at 18. 

I'd say more about this case, but I'm too sick to my stomach. 

Meanwhile, even before this one, we've had 198 mass shootings in the United States this year:  
https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting 

Who's safer with this endless flood of guns, ammo, and hot rhetoric?  Personally, I think it's about damn time that Stochastic Terrorism be made a crime.  


After all, if they could convict the woman who texted her boyfriend repeatedly, encouraging him to kill himself (and he did), why can't we do something similar to people on "certain networks", etc., who actively rev up their listeners to a fury and then say things like, "I'm only asking questions." 

Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows, so is one who deceives a neighbor and says, “I'm just asking questions...”  Proverbs 26:18-19 (Paraphrased for modern usage)

No you're not. You're trying to get them stoked so that you get higher ratings. And maybe there'll be a shooting, and then the ratings will shoot up even higher. 

Which leads me to my next idea:  a Sandy Hook style class-action lawsuit against Tucker & Friends and Fox News for the whole "great replacement theory" and other racist theories that are getting innocent people killed.  

Even More Horrific:  Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

The numbers are horrific. As of March, 2022, there were "103 people missing in South Dakota, with Indigenous people making up 62% of all missing persons despite being only 8.7% of the state’s population. According to the Attorney General’s Missing Persons page, Indigenous women make up 28% of all missing persons and 63% of women currently missing in South Dakota." Also, "Native American women are murdered at a rate ten times higher than the national average." (HERE  And a few of the grisly details HERE)  

Meanwhile, the South Dakota legislature approved making an Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP), which was fantastic! 

But then AG Ravnsborg said he couldn't find "the necessary funds to establish such a position." Yes, we have a very cheap legislature - they don't give money to anything, even when it's their idea. 

At last the non-profit Native Hope said it would fund the position at $85,000 per year for three years, so there may be some hope. Now can they find the law enforcement necessary to do the actual investigating???

BTW, Native Hope's website is:  https://www.nativehope.org/  Donations are always gratefully received.




On a Lighter Note, What's in a Name?

"A man found floating on a raft in the ocean off the coast of Rhode Island in 2016 after his boat sank has been indicted on charges alleging he killed his mother at sea to inherit the family's estate, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday.  The eight-count indictment released in federal court in Burlington also says Nathan Carman shot and killed his grandfather, John Chakalos, at his home in Windsor, Connecticut, in 2013 as part of an effort to defraud insurance companies, but he was not charged with that killing. [Why, one may ask?] Carman was found in an inflatable raft eight days after he went fishing with his mother, Linda Carman, who was never found." 

Now families are tricky things, and God only knows what led Mr. Carman to do the things he did. But greed does seem to have been a factor:  he sued the insurance company for $85,000 for the loss of his 31 foot fishing boat, The Chicken Pox. (NewsTimes)  Yes, The Chicken Pox

So of course I sat around thinking of similar suitable names for a boat, and came up with:

Montezuma's Revenge
The Spanish Flu
Daddy's Hemorrhoids 
Reilly's Pyloric Valve 

And those are just the printable ones.  Feel free to add your own!






05 May 2022

Helen of Troy


My friend and fellow historian Doolin' Dalton (Brian Thornton) have at various times discussed historical questions of all kinds from all ages. And I've often pondered those Western Ur-epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, from which we get legends, myths, stereotypes, tag lines, slang, and a whole new kind of hero:  Odysseus, who wins everything by his wits, not his brawn. (QUITE a change from past heroes, from Gilgamesh to Odysseus' fellow warrior Achilles.)  

The Iliad and The Odyssey were finally written down somewhere in the 700s BC, but scholars and archaeologists have proved, from Homer's language to archaeological excavations, that it's set in Mycenean Greece (1700-1050 BC), some time between the 13th and 12th centuries BC. Long time ago, but reading it even today there's a lot that seems very… modern? normal? about a 10 years' war with lots of posturing, POWs, destruction, burnt earth, rape, death, trickery, treachery, etc. 

But what strikes me every time I read it is something that (back then) no one talked about. This was a patriarchal world with a matrilineal inheritance system. Later, as a historian, I figured out that this wasn't and isn't unusual.  From the Hebrew tribes to China to Egypt, from the Hopi to the Tuareg,  Check out Wikipedia - matrilineality has been, is, and ever shall be among certain cultures. And it makes perfect sense. While there may be some doubt in a pre-DNA world as to the father, there's almost never any doubt about who's the mother. (This is part of the reason royal houses and most aristocracy had their moms-to-be used to give birth in public. No switching babies!)

You can see it everywhere, once you look for it. Penelope, waiting for Odysseus to come home, weaving her web and unpicking it every night while hundreds of suitors are besieging her to marry her. It doesn't make sense from a modern point of view - after all, if Odysseus is dead, then there's the grown son Telemachus to take over, right? But if it's a matrilineal system, then as long as Penelope is alive, her husband, not her son, is King of Ithaca. She's quite a prize. 

It also explains why, when Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods to get a fair wind back to Greece, his wife Clytemnestra decides to murder his sorry ass, because he just killed the heir to the throne, the one who would pass on the throne of Mycenae to her husband. (No, I have no idea why Clytemnestra's other daughter, Electra, couldn't replace Iphigenia in the line of succession. Myths are sloppy things. But it does explain why Orestes has nothing.)  

This also explains a lot about Helen of Sparta, a/k/a/ Helen of Troy. She was reputedly the most beautiful woman in the world from childhood. Theseus kidnapped her when she was 7 or 10, depending on who tells the story, and while he did not take her virginity, he did satisfy himself with her other ways. She was rescued by her divine half-brothers, Castor and Pollux, who returned her to Sparta. When she was old enough to marry, as many as 36 princes and warriors showed up. This made her father, Tyndareus, King of Sparta, very, very nervous - what if they wouldn't accept his choice? What if they kept fighting forever?  

Odysseus (good old wily Odysseus) cut a deal with Tyndareus - if Odysseus figured a way to make everyone agree, then Tyndareus would back Odysseus' marriage with Penelope. Agreed! So Odysseus made everyone swear that whoever Tyndareus chose, all the suitors would defend the chosen husband against anyone who quarreled with him. Or seduce or kidnap Helen. 

Obviously Odysseus could see the writing on the wall:  her life would never be tame.  And perhaps Tyndareus knew as well, and picked the relatively uncharismatic Menelaus for her husband:* someone who, when the going got tough, would fight to keep her, and later take her back.   

* It reminds me of when, in 900s AD France, the Merovingian line finally sputtered out, and the French nobles gathered around and elected Hugh Capet King of the Franks, because he was relatively weak and landless.  He surprised them by hanging in there, and siring progeny that ruled – in one branch or another – until 1848. 

And thus, the Trojan War…

HELEN OF TROY


We may or may not have the choice to love,
but we have no choice in being loved.
We are or we aren't, 
and there's nothing we can do about it.
(An inconvenient truth.)

Perhaps that's why so much of art and artifice
revolves around getting someone to love us.
Once more trying to fight against immovable fact.

But it's true: we cannot make someone love us.

But if they do,
well,
it's harder than you might think to make them stop.
They say that God hasn't wearied of us yet.

Obsession,
that hidden shame or public outrage,
is truth's dark face of love.
It is obsession,
whether with a place or a memory or a person or an idea.

Without that, it's merely curiosity.
Scratching an itch.

Poor Helen.
So many men's obsession.
Though some of them, like Theseus, were just scratching an itch.
So young, so young - 
Is it any wonder there's no hint that Helen ever loved back?
Not even in Troy, 
where Aphrodite has to keep luring her back 
into the not quite wedded bed of Paris.

She'd been inoculated against love.

And then came all the tribute-bearers,
fiery warriors and princes.
And of them all Menelaus was chosen for her husband.
Menelaus, not the sharpest knife in the drawer,
nor the man to set the world on fire.
Although he did when Paris took her.

But when he burnt those topless towers
was he burning for a woman or a crown?
He was only king of Sparta because he married Helen.
Without her he was just another landless prince.

Oh, yes, I can easily believe
that Helen went home with Menelaus,
that paragon of boring husbandhood,
and was perfectly happy, 
living out her days in peace and quiet.
I can imagine her relief.  

Think about it.
Her whole life was spent with men 
ravening like wolves for her fair flesh.
Except for one man who was ravening for something else.
But because he did,
he was the one man who would always want her,
take her back,
forgive her,
live quietly with her,
happy to have her,
his Queen who made him King.

© Eve Fisher, 2022


My latest story, "For Blood", a sci-fi/mystery combo, is up at Black Cat Weekly #35. Available at Black Cat and  Amazon.  


 

21 April 2022

Twickenham Garden


The last couple of weeks were wild. Last week, I was exposed to Covid at an AVP workshop at the pen (which was a really excellent workshop), and so, out of an abundance of caution (because I'm fully vaxxed and double boosted) I isolated for 5 days except for brief forays for necessities with an N-95 mask firmly in place.  Covid test was negative, praise God. Boosters work!

Even wilder was the weather - we had 3 days of 50-60 mph wind gusts, and we all now understand why Beret in Giants in the Earth went mad from the wind. Seriously, semi-trucks were being blown over on the highway. 

And the South Dakota House Legislature voted to impeach AG Jason Ravnsborg for killing Joe Boever. This surprised a lot of us because the House Judiciary Committee voted against recommending impeachment. But then a lot of information leaked - such as the fact that the investigating officers were convinced that Ravnsborg lied, lied, and lied some more, and wrote it down, but the House Judiciary Committee refused to hear any of their evidence. (If you're surprised by this, you haven't been keeping up with my reports from South Dakota.)  It also didn't help that Ravnsborg put out the most incoherent, whiny letter you ever read defending himself (See HERE.) South Dakota can put up with a lot of misbehavior, but the key virtues up here are hard work, more hard work, and no whining. Ravnsborg's impeachment trial in the Senate will begin June 21st. 

Anyway, Allan and I began watching the Irish shows recommended by David Edgerly Gates in his The Irish & Their Discontents. The opening episode of Single-Handed had Jack Driscoll coming back to the rural Northwestern Irish community he grew up in, and finding out that nothing is as simple as he hoped it would be. The line that stuck with me was "I thought I knew the place. But it's a cesspit." 

And that is so true. Any community can seem beautiful, carefree and innocent on the surface. Look long enough and all the cockroaches come out; the mold's ankle-deep; and innocence - what happened to that? And it is, apparently, always  more shocking when it's a rural area, a small town, where everyone knows everyone and they appear - from the outside - to be all happy families together. (That's why Agatha Christie set so many of her stories in the countryside.) Our illusions die hard. 

  • Familiarity can breed contempt, but when you're stuck with the same people in a small area for life, what it really breeds is secrecy.  
  • It's pretty easy for the biggest bully and/or the richest person to take over, like the boss cow, because how are you going to stop them? Think of what's going on in Ukraine right now. At the beginning a lot of pundits said that NATO and the US could not even think about going in militarily - i.e., help to defend Ukraine - because Putin might use the nuclear option. Well, that's how bullies win and take over - they threaten to do something and everyone (see above) goes along or ignores it. 
  • There's always a group of wealthy and/or powerful (usually men) who run everything. If they like you, you get jobs and contracts and help and protection. If not... 
  • There's always a gossip, dripping with venom and spite, who's willing to let everyone know any little nasty tid-bit s/he finds out. (They're just as likely to be male as female.)
  • No one will ever talk about domestic or sexual abuse at all. "That doesn't happen here." If the victim runs away, there will be a lot of whispers. If they ever return for a visit, well, they won't be admired for their courage. That's a big can of worms, and no one wants it open.
  • For that matter, if you leave a small town to go make your fortune in the big city, at least some people will hold it against you. How dare you make us look bad? What's good enough for us should have been good enough for you.

All because humans are humans, whether rural or urban or in a monastery:

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister
Gr-r-r--there go, my heart's abhorrence!
  Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
  God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
  Oh, that rose has prior claims--
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
  Hell dry you up with its flames!
             - Robert Browning

(See the whole diabolical poem HERE)

John Donne © Wikipedia
Twickenham Garden
Blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears,
Hither I come to seek the spring,
And at mine eyes, and at mine ears,
Receive such balms as else cure every thing.
But O! self-traitor, I do bring
The spider Love, which transubstantiates all,
And can convert manna to gall;
And that this place may thoroughly be thought
True paradise, I have the serpent brought.
                - John Donne

(See the entire poem - with interesting commentary - HERE)

We all carry the serpent with us, don't we?

07 April 2022

Due Diligence in South Dakota


The South Dakota State Legislature has finally wound to a close. Lot of drama. Lot of culture war bills, which, as usual, took up the first 2 months of the session, leaving the truly important stuff - like the State Budget - until the last freaking week. 

There was also a lot of feuding between our Governor and the legislators, culminating in 3 gubernatorial vetoes of bills which the legislature wanted: oversight of all the latest in Federal dollars coming to SD, a bill allowing pregnant minors to give consent for prenatal and maternity care *, and a bill that would allow marijuana misdemeanors to be automatically expunged after 5 years from someone's record.  

* MY NOTE: So much for pro-life, right? Our Governor's reason for vetoing the bill was that "Parents' constitutional rights include the right to care, custody, and control of their children. That includes the right to make healthcare decisions for their child." (HERE) And what if they make terrible ones, Governor? What if they're the worst parents in the world?

But the Legislature declined to even try to override each veto.

Instead, the House Select Committee's response was to vote against recommending the impeachment of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for killing Joe Boever in an automobile accident. (HERE) Governor Noem has been pushing for Ravnsborg to resign or be impeached from the get-go.)

It was all classic South Dakota passive-aggressive. 

Speaking of passive-aggressive, I've mentioned before that we have and are having an influx of Blue State Refugees (BSRs) - and some Red State Refugees (apparently Missouri is getting expensive) - that has made for some interesting dynamics. For one thing, these BSRs do not practice passive-aggressive. Nor do they do due diligence, as far as I can tell.  

Officer Grant Tripp has told me some of the tales from Laskin, SD. A lot of BSRs have moved there, drawn to it for freedom, rural values, cheap prices, clean air, and the right to do whatever they want:

They see these ads for houses, you know - 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, new furnace, $75,000, and they think hey, it's the deal of the century. Which, compared to where they're coming from, it is. Only they don't bother to ask why it's got a new furnace. Why they all have new furnaces. We all know it's because it's on the flood plain, and we've had two 100 year floods in 20 years, and the third is due any time we get another 5 inches of rain in 5 hours. In other words, probably next year or so.  And so they buy it and move in, and go around moaning about the smell of mold and mildew down in the basement. Well, guess what?  You really should take a sniff of a basement before you buy it, at least in my book. 

And then there's all those cheap slab constructions that Lars Opdahl put up south of the tracks, you remember? Well, he had them as rentals, because no South Dakotan is going to buy slab construction, because you need a basement for tornadoes in the summer and insulation and storage in the winter. But these people snap them right up. No questions asked. And then they bitch and moan about freezing to death all winter. Not to mention their pipes freeze and then burst.

And that leads to the bitching and moaning about the heating bills, which are high. One guy told me, 'I pay more in utility bills here than I did in _____ !'  Well yeah, you're in a small town now, and most small towns get most of their money from electric and sewer and water bills, because there's not a large tax base.

'And they tax everything!'

Yep. South Dakota state sales and use taxes are 4.5%, and every community's tacked on a municipal tax rate, too. Some places are as much as 6.5%.  Look, we don't have an income tax in South Dakota, but you still need to get the money from somewhere to run counties, towns, cities, and the state. So we have high property taxes, sales tax on everything, and use tax on everything but concealed carry permits. It costs more to live up here than you might think. An income tax would probably be a lot cheaper.

The other complaint, of course, is that there's nothing to do in Laskin, as if it's a national tourist center or a big city:

'There's no shopping! 

'The movie theater's so small, and it shows the same damn movie all week, and no matinees!

'And the casinos - they're just dive bars with slot machines! 

'And the restaurants - there's no variety. Just fast food and a few cafes.'

What did you expect in a county of less than 10,000 people?  And it could be worse. You could move out to one of the really small towns in South Dakota, population under 500. There all you'd have is a post office, and a bar, which at least will serve chislic and burgers with the beer. You want more variety? Do what the rest of us do, go to the nearest big city once a week or so and stock up, and have a nice dinner before you drive home.  

Oh, and they're shocked there's so much crime. Yeah. Well, guess what, there's meth in Mayberry these days, along with fentanyl-laced heroin. I-90 is a major drug corridor that runs from the Pacific to the Atlantic and right through South Dakota. 

I heard about some Blue State Refugee guys who were hired as cops in Rapid City, and they were shocked, shocked, shocked! that there wasn't much in the way of cheap housing. Really? They didn't notice Ellsworth Airforce Base? And the Black Hills, Sturgis, and other major tourist centers? And then they found out about gangs. And drugs. And a high murder rate.  Back in 2019, the crime rate in Rapid City, SD was higher than in 92.2% of U.S. cities. It hasn't gotten better. And Sioux Falls' crime rate was higher than in 83.1% U.S. cities."  (HERE)

Another fun thing is their sudden concern for the environment, as in 'Isn't there anything they can do about the feed lots? That smell...'  Nope. Just thank God you don't live by a CAFO (that's Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) of hogs.  Oh, and that stinky green stuff in the lake is agricultural runoff. Nitrates and phosphates. Fertilizer. You know. Agriculture and tourism, our two biggest industries.

'Why do you live here?'

Well, most of us were born here. All our friends and family are around here. You can, or at least could, always count on your neighbors to help out in a crisis. And living in a small town has a lot of advantages:  It's quiet. (In other words, tone it down, folks.) There's a slower pace of life. (Slow down. Quit driving 50 on 20 mph roads.) And good manners. Or at least that's how it used to be...** And when you really want to get away from it all, there's lots of wide open spaces, especially West River. Nothing but grasslands as far as the eye can see. Just sit and listen to your own heart beating…


Think about it: If you want to change South Dakota to the place you left, then why did you leave? Why are you here?  

Thanks, Grant!  Say hi to Linda!

** Please stop yelling in stores and at city / county commission / school board meetings. [Example HERE]  That's not how we do things up here. At least, not until now... 

24 March 2022

Dark Tales for Children


Thanks to Joseph D'Agnese's Reading in Bars blogpost (HERE), I read Zilpha Keattey Snyder's The Egypt Game, and really enjoyed it. I think Snyder captured childhood obsession and fantasy perfectly. You do the damnedest things in childhood, from time-travel to being horses, from reading every single novel by an author and memorizing every freaking character and plot twist (Tolkein, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Andre Norton, Heinlein, T. H. White, Ray Bradbury, Carolyn Keene, Sherlock Holmes, etc.) to knowing you are going to die if you don't get to watch the latest episode of [fill in the blank here].  

And children know that adults have absolutely no understanding or comprehension of who you are, what you want, or what you're going through, and never will. Deep down, every child completely disbelieves that adults were ever children. They are an alien species, set down among us to tell us what to do and train us for some future role. This is, I think, part of the attraction we had for Stranger in a Strange Land, aside from the sex (which for the 60s was pretty damn racy). The Old Ones raising the Nymphs to become something else made perfect sense. 

But I disagree about the darkness of The Egypt Game. Yes, a child is murdered. And a second one, later on. I know, I know, if that isn't dark, what is? Well, so is child molestation, and in my childhood neighborhood we had a guy across the street who was molesting his foster kids, and our college-age next door neighbor tried to molest me when I was six. That's dark - too dark for most children’s book writers to think about touching, and probably rightly so.  

Anyway, despite the murders, there's a distance kept throughout the novel which makes sense:  children really can ignore almost everything if they're obsessed with something else. And 99% of the adults of The Egypt Game are harmless. Most of the time, the children spook themselves, which is also normal. 

MY NOTE:  In The Headless Horseman, my Laskin character, Linda Thompson, reminisces about how she talked herself into an obsession with a man – who does look pretty odd – that makes her absolutely terrified of him. Meanwhile, in case you haven't guessed, there were worse characters roaming Laskin at the time.  

Anyway, as I thought about it, I realized that children's literature has actually gotten tamer in many ways.  Try Nancy Drew - the books we were reading in the 1960s were still, mostly, the editions of earlier years. And thinking back on those books, what I remember is how in almost every story, Nancy was knocked out, kidnapped, bound, gagged, and taunted at least once, if not more than once. 

Nancy Drew in bondage
Image courtesy of The Paris Review

And sometimes it was Nancy and her chums. Repeatedly. In The Clue of the Velvet Mask, George Fayne, one of Nancy's best friends, was not just chloroformed and kidnapped, but shot up with mind-altering drugs, and - when she's finally rescued - is terrified that they are all going to be killed. Now this is important because George is, throughout the series, just as brave as Nancy, and even more of a daredevil. So for her to be frightened? So frightened that she's screaming at Nancy to give up the investigation? Scary. Also, the villain nearly smothers Nancy to death in that one. In fact, the ruthless, dangerous criminals who Nancy's up against repeatedly drug and physically assault Nancy and her friends. (Wikipedia)  Very dark.  

MY NOTE:  The Clue of the Velvet Mask was the last ghostwritten Nancy Drew by Mildred Benson, who has been credited as Nancy's original creator, and apparently the darkest one she ever wrote. If you want to see how dark it can get, you need to find the original - the 1953 edition - currently out of print.  

SECOND NOTE:  We all knew, BTW, that George was gay, even back in the 1960s, but then we were California girls, and learned stuff early. Didn't bother us a lick. When we role-played Nancy Drew novels, none of us minded being George if we couldn't be Nancy - what we hated was being assigned to play Bess Marvin, George's cousin and Nancy's other best friend, who was always depicted as plump, hungry, and scared of her own shadow.

Yes, children's literature has been tamed. Think about Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. An orphan is almost starved to death in an orphanage, escapes, and is taken in by a young gang of pickpockets and thieves under the tutelage of a career criminal. Among the companions are a young prostitute who is regularly beaten and eventually bludgeoned to death by her brutal criminal lover. Etc. How the hell did this ever get read aloud as a post-supper treat? And yet it was. 

Going back even further in time, there's Martha Sherwood's The History of the Fairchild Family, published in 1818 and remaining in print for over a hundred years, and part of every good Victorian child's library.  Fiercely Calvinist, it's all about the Fairchild parents trying against all odds to save the souls of their little unregenerate children Emily, Lucy, and Henry.  Horrific things happen - Augusta Noble, saucy, pert, and disobedient, plays with candles and burns herself to death, which immediately leads to everyone declaring the obvious truth that she is now burning in hell as well. And, when Emily, Lucy, and Henry fight amongst themselves one day, their father first whips them, then takes them out to see a gibbet, where a rotting corpse is hanging, its chains rattling in the wind, and makes them kneel in the dust and pray underneath it.  Now that's nightmares.

BTW, if you want to read The Fairchild Family in all its horrors, you can read the 1819 text HERE - especially "The Story on the Sixth Commandment."  It explains the early Victorian mindset better than any modern analysis can ever do.

And, finally, Grimm's Fairy Tales. I remember The Robber Bridegroom very well, because for some reason I was fascinated by the fact that the robbers gave the poor victim three glasses of wine:  one white, one red, and one yellow.  Anyway, the miller's daughter goes to see her betrothed in the forest, not knowing he's a robber. At the house both a bird in a cage and an old woman tells her that the people there will kill her and eat her. The old woman hides her behind a cask, and the robber & his gang arrive with a woman whom they proceed to get drunk, and then kill her and chop her up. Luckily the ring finger flies off and lands in the miller's daughter's lap, and she shows it at the pre-wedding banquet. The bad guys are executed, so all is well. Huzzah!

Maybe that's the hallmark of true children's literature - in the end all the bad people are caught, executed, die, are destroyed? And then you grow up, and you find out that the bad guys aren't always caught, executed, die, or destroyed. That's when your heart breaks, and the real nightmares begin.

"Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon."~ G.K. Chesterton, writing the original lines, in Tremendous Trifles, Book XVII: The Red Angel (1909)

10 March 2022

The Silence of the Lambs


Flock of sheep.jpg
“Evil commonly strikes us not as a problem, but as an outrage. Taken in the grip of misfortune, or appalled by the violence of malice, we cannot reason sanely about the balance of the world. Indeed, it is part of the problem of evil that its victim is rendered incapable of thought.”
— Austin Farrer*, Love Almighty and Ills Unlimited
While I have never personally seen The Silence of the Lambs (I don't watch movies in which a serial killer is the hero), I do know that the title comes from Clarice Starling's nightmares - memories of the screaming of spring lambs as they were slaughtered at a relative's farm.  At the end of the movie, Clarice is able to sleep again, because her success at saving Catherine Martin has allowed her to "sleep peacefully in the silence of the lambs."  (Thanks Wikipedia!)

We all prefer the silence of the lambs.  Quiet those nightmares.  Make those dark memories go away.  Paper over those dark thoughts.  And for God's sake, don't let anyone remind us of how bad life is for all the little lambs still being slaughtered.

It helps that little lambs often don't scream while being slaughtered.  Faced with inescapable evil - and it's surprising how much evil is inescapable in this world - the lambs are rendered incapable of thought, of speech, of reason, of anything but enduring what has to be endured right now.  Later can come a reckoning - that is, if they can ever come up with the words to explain what happened, the stomach to tell it, or the courage to pursue any sort of redress.  

And here's the thing:  when something truly terrible happens, there's almost always a moment of silence.  Because the mind just stops.  There is no reasoning, no words, just raw experience.  A very strange place to be. Most people (including myself) leap to somewhere else. I'd say 90% of the time, the first thing that rushes up is a black hole of horrordenialfearangerdisgustpanicrepeat.  The second is rage and/or violence. Anything but stay in that black hole. Anything at all.**  

NOTE:  Freezing also happens in the face of natural disasters. My husband was in Gulfport, Mississippi during Hurricane Camille, and when it hit, he stood at a plate glass window and watched the winds pick up a semi-truck and throw it directly towards where he was standing. Luckily, it didn't go through the window, just landed right outside. But the point is, he couldn't move. He was hypnotized.

NOTE:  Same thing happened with a cousin of Allan's in Ireland during the Troubles. Standing outside a building, having a cigarette, and then a bomb exploded - and the wall behind her went down. She couldn't move. Frozen.  

Back in 2014, I wrote a blog about powerlessness and protests in the aftermath of the Ferguson riots.  You can read it here:  (Absolute Powerlessness)  

I don't know a woman who hasn't been sexually harassed, discriminated against, assaulted, and/or abused, and it's not because I'm hanging out with a loose crowd.  It's just what happens.  And if you say something - well, "Jeez, can't ya take a compliment?" "What were you wearing?" "Were you drinking?" "What were you doing there?" "Why didn't you say something earlier?" "Now is not the right time to say anything." "Why can't you wait to say something until later?"  (There's never a right time to say something, is there?) 

I know a lot of people who have been harassed, discriminated against, assaulted, and more based on their gender, ethnicity, and/or race.  And those who attempt to get redress - well, "I didn't hear / see anything."  "I don't remember that happening." "Why didn't you just shut up and follow orders?" "Why didn't you say something earlier?" "Now is not the time."  "Why can't you wait to say something until later?"  (There's never a right time to say something, is there?)

I know a lot of people with PTSD, from a variety of causes, because I know a lot of veterans, victims, survivors, etc. Most of them never talk about what happened, because it's too damned hard. 

Here's the thing:  no one becomes powerless, they are made powerless, either systematically or traumatically.  It's alarmingly easy to do.  It's what every domestic abuser / child abuser / cult / dictator etc. has done throughout history to keep power and render the lambs silent.  The wealthy and the powerful count on their money, their clout, their background, their connections to get them out of anything. And the powerful always believe that the powerlessness  they have created - the lack of reaction, that stunned silence, the helpless capitulation that powerlessness can cause - will last forever.  

And this is why the powerful are always horrified when the lambs finally turn. 

I'm writing all of this for two reasons:

(1) For those of us who write mysteries, thrillers, or just about anything, to keep that in mind. The first reaction to evil is sometimes indeed sheer stunned silence. What comes next is a crap shoot. For example, look at this picture of Zelensky, meeting with a President who wanted a quid-pro-quo of lies for desperately needed - and promised - military aid weapons. 


That stunned reaction might indeed be part of how that particular lamb has changed:


“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.” - Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.

(2) There are apparently a lot of people in "certain circles" (looking at you, Tucker Carlson!) who deep down really, really, really wish Ukraine had just rolled over and surrendered like a good doggie. Because then they could keep their talking points beautifully intact about Putin as a strong, moral, pro-Christian global leader. 

A few notes on that subject: 
Just because Putin attends church on high holy days does not mean he's devout. That used to be the norm for everyone - we've all heard of Easter & Christmas Christians. 
And while he is anti-LGBQT, which seems to prove something to "certain people", he's also pro-choice on abortion. 
Not to mention that he has people killed (see below). 
And then there's the fact that he's declared the liberal ideology that has underpinned Western democracy for decades to be "obsolete." 
NOTE to his admirers: in Putin's Russia, there is no freedom of speech, assembly, elections, movement, protest, or anything else - even for you, if you dared to go and live there.  
And he has said, “The breakup of the Soviet Union is a national tragedy on an enormous scale; only the elites and nationalists of the republics gained.” 
(Last I heard, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, what used to be Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany, what used to be Yugoslavia, and Albania do not agree with him. And before people write, "Most of those weren't Soviet Satellites!", they were in the Warsaw Pact, each of them had Soviet installed or Soviet friendly governments, and some had Soviet tanks which rolled in to put down any attempts at independence in the 1950s and 1960s. Look it up.)  
Back to killing people:  Alexander Litvinenko, Putin critic, 2006; Anna Politkovskaya, reporter on Chechnya, 2006; Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine 2005-2010, poisoned 2004 but survived, permanently disfigured; Sergei and Yulia Skripal, father and daughter, 2018 in Salisbury, England but survived (barely); endless journalists, dead.  Etc, Etc, Etc.
But - according to many people, still, in "certain circles", the current invasion of Ukraine is the West's fault, because we haven't realized how vulnerable Putin feels. And how much we in the West had to do with his feeling vulnerable and threatened, because...  NATO. Never mind why NATO exists in the first place. Never mind Soviet interventions in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), or the hard-line Soviet regimes in Eastern Europe that lasted well into 1989 countries (or later). 

Look, the classic position of any bully or abuser is: "You made me do this!" "They were picking on me!" "Shut up or you'll get worse!" "But I want ___" 

Hey, in the immortal words of innumerable people in "certain circles":  "F*** your feelings, snowflake."

And always remember, "Total liberty for the wolves is death for the lambs." (Isaiah Berlin)  




* Austin Farrer (1904-1968) was an Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian and biblical scholar. He was friends with C. S. Lewis (Farrer gave Lewis communion on Lewis' deathbed), Tolkein and Sayers.

** Denial is also another way to deal with it, but it didn't work for Clarice. An even better example, perhaps, is Daphne du Maurier's short story No Motive:  the price always has to be paid. 

24 February 2022

Just Another Day in Paradise


First of all, RIP, P. J. O'Rourke, with whose writing I often disagreed, and almost always laughed. A couple of my favorite quotes from Parliament of Whores:

"The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."

"A reporter needs to remember that any time a politician tells them they are 'present at the making of history', can achieve the same feeling by going around to the backside of a dog and being 'present at the making of earth.'" (That one's paraphrased – but close enough!)

It's been a hell of a month, so far, in South Dakota. Suddenly Marty Jackley and Kristi Noem are endorsing each other, for AG and Governor respectively.  Four years ago, of course, they were taking knives to each other on horseback.  

We had two successive Sioux Falls police officers arrested for possession, manufacturing and distribution of child porn on yet another app I'd never heard of, Kik Messenger, where apparently you can sign up and send anything you like without giving them name, address, email address, phone numbers, in other words, in near-total anonymity.  (Argus)  Rumor is that the feds are investigating.  The mayor and police chief are vowing to review hiring practices for the department. Good idea. And maybe check their cell phones every once in a while. After all, employers can check your social media online, right?  

I know everyone's saying Covid is over, but no one's told us up here.  We're averaging 6 people dying a day for quite a while.  Only 31% of South Dakotans have been fully vaxxed and boosted, which means - for those who don't do math – that 69% of the population have NOT been fully vaxxed and boosted. In fact, 30% haven't had even 1 dose. And people wonder why I still wear a mask when I'm shopping at the grocery store. That and the fact that there's always one person who's unmasked walking down the center of the aisle while sneezing and/or coughing up a lung without benefit of hands or inner elbows.  (Ewwww!!!) 

Meanwhile, Little Shrimp on the Prairie is back!


(For those of you who have forgotten my previous investigative journalism on this company - with the help of my dear friend, Dark Ally - see this walk down memory lane:  Little Shrimp on the Prairie)

Or maybe not.  Tru-Shrimp, the Ballaton, MN indoor shrimp farming company, which has been on hold for a number of years after getting a few million investment dollars from, among other things, Lake County, SD, announced a month ago that they would be offering an IPO – 1.5 million shares at between $9 and $11 per share. Among my inner circle, loud laughter ensued. And it's only continued now that – once again! – Tru-Shrimp is backing off, and once again, our dream of home-farmed shrimp for the masses is dying in a vat of stagnant water.  (SEE HERE.)

Meanwhile, on February 21, 2022, Jan Grape did a post about "Been arrested lately?" which was great. (HERE)

And my answer is yes, I have been arrested - way, way, way back in 1972, in L.A., specifically downtown Hollywood, in a police sweep that was meant to assuage shopkeepers who were tired of shoplifters and other kinds of trouble. 

So one night the police came through and arrested quite literally everyone in sight. EVERYONE. Including my then boyfriend. Well, that freaked me right out, but I knew better than to go running up and raise hell. So instead, I went home – which was about 3 blocks away, in the Blackburn Hotel (names changed to protect the guilty). And a cop followed me. Inside. Up the stairs. And walked right into our studio apartment and arrested me. Cuffs, a muttered Miranda, and down to the station, where I was booked and put in jail. 

That was Friday night. I spent the weekend inwardly hysterical, thinking of endless possibilities of never getting out, or getting lost in the system, while outwardly pretending to be calm, fasting, and doing yoga in the cell hallway whenever they let us out for a bit. God, I was a good actress. The result was that on Monday, I was let go along with almost everyone else against whom there were no real charges. (Just about everything that my arresting cop did that night was illegal.) No arraignment, nothing. Just led me out, gave me back my few belongings (including a crumpled pack of cigarettes), and out the door. That first cigarette was sheer heaven!  

The only problem was that I had no real idea where I was. The jail was not in downtown Hollywood, so I bugged some people, found a bus, got a ride, made it back to the general area, and got back home late that afternoon. Great reunion. All was well. 

BTW, the shopkeepers really reamed out the cops over that sweep.  They didn't want us, the residents, arrested. We were their customers. Poor as we were, we were the ones buying coffee, cigarettes, newspapers, donuts, in the morning, the Red Mountain wine at night, not to mention toiletries and generally keeping the bodegas and the coffee shops going. You know, regulars. The shopkeepers didn't want us locked up. They wanted more police presence in the stores, keeping an eye on the strangers coming and going. In the [short] remainder of my time in the area, there were no more sweeps. 

And that's been it for my official criminal record – and after 50 years, with no arraignment, I kind of think my non-existent record has been expunged.