Sunday, November 2, 2014

Spooker

Let's talk about something else. It gets wearisome watching what's going on with our corrupt political leadership and our increasingly stiff-necked society. Sometimes you just have to be reminded how great a gift life is.

I've been Catholic from the cradle, but my faith was really born with my first child and confirmed with the next one and it has been reconfirmed every day of their lives. The next greatest proof of God is dogs.

I've been missing having a dog since my brilliant little faithful and scrappy poodle Tank was put down last year. I had just gotten Erin-Tops and even at the end when he went completely blind, Tank insisted on going for walks at my feet, bumping into things and being stabbed by thorns along the way, but smelling every inch of the rich scents of game and earth out here in the country.

Losing Tank was hard but there were some ways it made life easier. He watched my every little move and knew what I was going to do next before even I did. There was no free will with him. If I varied off the prescribed way I was supposed to do things, I was likely to trip over him.

Recently by chance I read one of the greatest pieces of dog-literature I've ever experienced. I heard somewhere about literature that reading about other people's lives makes you understand your own life better. This one really hit home, the short story "A Man and his Dog" by Thomas Mann about the dog Bashan. I happened upon it in an old collection of his shorter works. I realized as I eagerly read each page how much I lacked for not having a dog with me. Then every time I took a walk through the woods around the property I longed for the companionship of a Bashan. I borrow or babysit dogs out here and we always have a good time, but it's not the same as having one of my own. I have even dreamed lately about having a dog again.

(There is a stand-alone book translation of the Thomas Mann story available entitled Bashan and I. Click on the title to see a picture of the kind of dog in the story and read more about it.)

Friday night a week ago, I kept thinking I was hearing something in the dark outside. I got a flashlight and shone it around the edges of the clearing around the house. Finally I spotted it: two yellow eyes reflecting back at me. I held the light on them until they closed, then slowly opened again. I walked out into the yard and the eyes didn't retreat, but all I could make out was a form in the scrub brush of what I took to be a coyote. It was kind of spooky. I didn't think more about it, and went to bed.

As soon as the sun comes up, I've got a habit of glancing out the windows every time I pass one, hoping to catch a glimpse of the deer or turkey or other animals that chance through the yard occasionally. So I know what it's supposed to look like out there without thinking about it. And as soon as there was light last Saturday morning, something caught my eye. There on the ground next to my Jeep was a lump that didn't belong. The first notion that popped into mind was of a sweater that had been dropped in a pile there. Of course, that made no sense. I am in the middle of nowhere!

I stepped outside to see better. My God, it was a curled up dog. The air was not quite freezing but cold as kraut anyway and at first I thought the dog was dead. But he raised his head and stared at me. Later I realized that stare said, "This is my last chance." I had a moment of indecision, but only a moment. I was in the house and back out in a flash with one bowl of food and one of water. And in a quicker flash this skeletal, mangy mongrel was on the food and it was gone, and then it was the water's turn.

Here he is. Heartbreaking, no? Most likely he had been dumped out of a car down at the highway. How could any human being do this? I think he'd been on his own for a week or more. I'm not sure he would have made it another night. He wouldn't let me come near him without food that day, but by the next, he was wagging his tail.

If you didn't click to look at the Mann book before, go back and do it now. Spooker's resemblance to Bashan is uncanny. It turns out, Spooker is no common mongrel. He is a Treeing Tennessee Brindle. One day he will be a beautiful, full grown hound dog. And he has filed papers to adopt me as his faithful companion. I accept.

I don't yet have a photo that does justice to the progress toward recovery in just this week's time: the tail wagging, the walking with me through the woods, the barking at an unknown car, the watching my every move in the house... but I can tell you, it is all a miracle, and to me, it is proof of God.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ebola: Obamacare's First House Call.

The future of U.S. Healthcare is here and now and we are seeing it played out before our disbelieving eyes in the shockingly inept way the federal government is responding to the threat from Ebola.

I need not detail the willful incompetence of the Obama administration in protecting the American public from this disease. From the fact that Bloomberg's anti-Slurpy health advisor is at the top of the Center for Disease Control to the political hack who has been appointed "Ebola Czar," they have been turning the Hippocratic Oath on its head: "First, do harm."

What continues to perplex me is how we got to this place. How did we get to the point that our nation's supposed best and brightest are pretending that the government takeover of the health care system will reduce costs? That supporting Islamists in the Middle East will lead to peace? That attacking the successful will help the poor? That our defense department, our state department, in fact every department of government, has as their organizing principle fighting the boogeyman of global warming?

With each new revelation of this government's stupidity/malfeasance, I experience another spasm of disbelief, like a Soviet prisoner getting electric shock therapy. How, how, how? I'm tired of it.

The fact is, despite our education and the internet and sophisticated, cosmopolitan lifestyles, as a human race we just haven't gotten one whit smarter. I saw a Facebook post this morning linked to by a liberal friend. The woman was complaining of nightmares, what with Ebola and ISIS and people who don't believe in global warming science! Jeez, Louise! Since when did science become a matter of faith? Since when did science prevail by consensus? And how about believing in God, and keeping science where it belongs as a discipline, not a theology.

It may seem I'm getting far afield from the original point, but I am not. Dr. Obama and the leftist cabal running this country and exploiting the divisions of race, immigration, and social status are at the root of the nightmares through which that woman and all of us are living. Unfortunately, as they have said about Ebola, it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What will Putin do?

Any American who's had a loved one with a debilitating mental illness or addiction will feel right at home with the Obama administration. Every possible way they can spite themselves, despite the good will of those around them, they do.

Time for economic recovery? Let's put in socialized medicine. Need friends in the Middle East? Let's foment rebellion against every dictator in the region who is holding the Islamists at bay. Have a chance finally to heal the vestiges of racial hate in America? Throw an Eric Holder into the fray.

Now we aim to arm the Syrian Rebels. Oh, only the good ones, not the Islamic State ones. Right. And Congress is enabling this idiocy just like a good Samaritan handing $20 to a "Will Work for Food" panhandler.

Anybody with a working brain can see that this is yet one more counterproductive step with our guns aimed squarely at our own feet in a long line of such miscues, intentional or otherwise. Whatever the motive, it can only help the cause of the Muslim Brotherhood. And most likely, end up being a mortal threat to Assad.

So what will Putin do? Will he continue to back Assad? Will this provide his chance to go toe to toe with Obama on the battlefield and show who's the real man? This is the real question. This is the World War III question.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: The Bully Pulpit

Now that I am frequently in my Jeep an hour at a time, I enjoy listening to the Great Courses series. My choices tend toward history. I highly recommend courses by the historians Mark Stoler and J. Rufus Fears. They do not drone. They have a knack for personalizing the facts, for leading you to why this happened and where things went wrong and who was behind the mess without spoon feeding it. It's great, involving, compelling history. Nothing, unfortunately, thrills my nerdy little soul more.

But I have to say, I can be thrown off a good history now and then by a peccadillo (which rhymes with armadillo and that stands for... never mind). For example, I recently bought a course on the history of biblical Israel. The professor has a nice voice and she knows her ancient history and she had plenty of great information to impart. But she insisted on saying "B.C.E." throughout instead of "B.C." In case you don't know, B.C.E. is the newish, supposedly neutral historical way to designate the era "Before Christ." It stands for "before common era." There's not even anything to capitalize in that. And there's nothing neutral about it. Even if you're not a believer, even if you don't accept Christ's life as fact, the very concept of Christ marks the most pivotal turning point in world history. To deny that as a historian is absurd, and using "B.C.E." is just a passive aggressive way to make a statement of one's religious feelings or lack thereof. It's like Vanderbilt University renouncing and renaming Confederate Hall without tearing down the building or the Brown faculty eliminating the Columbus Day holiday but renaming it Fall Break or some such. It's historical revisionism and hypocrisy of the worst sort: that done sanctimoniously and judgmentally.

I do not digress. This has everything to do with why I would not normally have read, much less purchased, The Bully Pulpit - Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Most of us know her from TV as a featured commentator giving historical perspective in federal election coverage. I have to say I enjoy watching her and the information she brings to the table. So she's sort of a cross between a big time historian and a big time journalist.

That in itself wouldn't throw me off, but I suspected already and you don't have to read far into this book to know, that the two passions of the author are progressivism and agenda journalism. It is a complete and total paean to any and every possible way to see American history through the lens of leftist ideology. So if you choose to read this book, accept and ignore this irritant, like the lady spewing "B.C.E." over and over again. As for how I ended up reading it, the book was a gift, so I figured I had nothing to lose by forging past her politics to get to the meat of the thing.

First and foremost, Ms. Goodwin does an outstanding job of painting the two divergent personalities: Roosevelt, the type A, charismatic man of intense passions and Taft, his erstwhile best friend and chosen successor in the presidency, the fat and affable judicial intellect, a sort of tortoise to Roosevelt's hare. I ended up admiring them both, but I'd probably rather go fishing with Taft. Roosevelt would be too busy, casting and recasting and trying different lures. I like to just sit there and watch my bobber. Taft would be all about that.

Ms. Goodwin sets the scene well, giving context to the two men amid their contemporary American society at the turn of the century. These are the two presidents who, tragically, ushered in the bumbling Woodrow Wilson through the breakdown of their friendship and Roosevelt's launch of a disastrous third party bid. America, though in a period of prolonged prosperity after the Civil War and before the world wars, was roiling with social unrest and change. The obvious comparison is to today's world and, I would say, our current bumbling president, but the important thing to remember is that it is comparison, not equivalence. The progressivism of that day is not at all what is passing for progressivism today. Progressivism then was good sense, like eliminating child labor, establishing the forty hour work week, including women in the vote. Progressivism today is rank leftism.

Once I managed to get past the author's grinding ax--progressivism, progressivism, progressivism-- I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style, wealth of facts and details, and presentation of the personalities who drove American history out of the horse and buggy and into the automobile. (Curiously, it was Taft who loved the new invention while Roosevelt despised it.) Looking for a good, long read into history? Go get it, but don't buy it as a metaphor for politics today hook, line, and sinker. And be careful to steady the boat when Taft steps in.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off"

Now even Taylor Swift is being accused of racism because of her new video for her pop song, "Shake It Off."

On the contrary. Taylor Swift has huge talent and a huge sense of humor. Or more precisely, whimsy, which is something direly lacking in today's world of pure cynicism, sarcasm, and begging to have a chip to carry on one's shoulder. And she's living proof a la the Jackson Five of the America of opportunity, the antidote to the dismal world of rapperism and occupation.

Judge for yourself. I choose whimsy, hope and change, not rage, hope and change.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Nobel Prize for Savoir-Faire...

...should be awarded to whatever Egyptian official had the presence of mind to order John Kerry and his entourage subjected to metal detectors before his meeting with the Egyptian president. What a meet comeuppance for the pompous one and the Obama administration who left the Egyptians in the lurch when the Islamists took over. It's no wonder those guys figured out how to fit the stones of the pyramids together so perfectly.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Movie Review: Dinesh D'Souza's Movie "America"

Frankly I didn't make it all the way through D'Souza's previous "2016" movie. The ground it covered was all familiar to me. I felt its purpose was more to educate the ignorant about the nature of Barack Obama than to talk to someone like me, who was already convinced of his ineptitude. I was watching it on a laptop and I couldn't stay with it.

For someone continuing to study and puzzle over this man and what is happening to our country, however, this new film is not to be missed. D'Souza puts it perfectly in saying that Obama didn't create the movement, the movement created him. In this "America," D'Souza helps make sense of it all.



D'Souza treats or interviews several guiding lights from the current progressive side of things and features archival television and movie footage of many key events and progressive leaders in modern American history. It is not dry. In fact, most of this is very interesting. Footage of Saul Alinsky is especially revealing, as is examination of Howard Zinn's largely unchallenged take on American history. (I remember reading his book in high school, and, even then as a liberal-leaning young nincompoop, thinking that this guy's lens wasn't very clear. But his seminal book has become like a Bible for those who want to believe the worst about America.)

I think the film really shines in its historical reenactments. D'Souza uses the device of asking what the world would be like if America didn't exist, and visits several characters in American history, some well known and some who are not, but should be. I especially liked George Washington's character. I'm not sure he ever really spoke in the movie, but the actor very successfully conveyed the dignity and charisma that made men follow him and took the Constitution from theory to reality. I was also very taken by the potrayal of Lincoln. In short segments with iconic figures, it is very hard I think to achieve the suspension of disbelief necessary for dramatic affect, but this movie does it brilliantly.

I've been to several movies, documentary or otherwise, where I did not feel I got my money's worth. Not this one. The cinematography showcasing America's beauty is worth the price of admission alone. But I'd also like to think it will change some minds. Those people whose appreciation of history is slight and whose idea of news is watching Jon Stewart are the ones who need to see it for that to happen, but I think unfortunately only the conservative choir is the main audience who will see it. If you are in that choir, you owe it to yourself to go see it while it's in the theaters; it plays great on the big screen.