By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT  —  Let me open this week by apologizing for missing my post last week; a friend of mine died suddenly and the funeral was Monday. It all happened so quickly that I never even thought about my post here until Wednesday.  Note:  if you are a diabetic, please take care of yourself and do not ignore symptoms or skip medications. That disease is serious business.  Take care of yourself.

Meanwhile, here in Louisiana, local and state government continues to be the hot mess that it has been for decades and an issue for which Louisiana has become famous. I’ve documented pretty thoroughly the ineptitude that is local government in New Orleans: Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to attempt to reinvent his legacy and image in the face of daily shootings and murders in the city while he was spending millions to remove four Confederate era monuments.

Let’s read between the lines of this summation of the situation:

The city says about $2.1 million was spent to remove the three Confederate monuments in May and the Battle of Liberty Place monument in April, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration had not anticipated.

My question: how could Landrieu have been so clueless as to not realize security would be needed? Did he really not think people would protest this?  Ineptitude at its finest.

Continue:

The city said $1.04 million of the monument-removal costs came from budgeted city funds, with $1.07 million coming from private donations through the Foundation for Louisiana, which is keeping the names of donors secret.

Secret?  Seriously?  I would love to know who is funding cultural genocide in New Orleans. FOIA, anyone? Be sure to read this post from The Hayride for more about Landrieu and his friends at Foundation for Louisiana.

Continue:

Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said “racial extremists” forced the city to spend $710,000 on a safety and intelligence contractor named Trident Response Group. Invoices show that Trident, a Dallas-based company, provided advice developing operational plans with consultants charging up to $425 an hour.

Trident also provided two security advisers, listed on invoices only as “Bob” and “Gary,” at $275 and $250 per hour, respectively. About a half dozen other security analysts monitored threats on social media and other sources as known white supremacy groups and opposing Antifas encouraged online followers to amass in New Orleans, Berni said.

Again, this wasn’t anticipated? And “racial extremeists” forced the city to spend this money? This is incredible. I would suggest Landrieu would be more to blame than “racial extremeists.” As for Trident Security, they are self-described as “elite risk and threat solutions firm of Veterans and Special Ops to anticipate and solve problems for influential decision-makers.”

This is serious secret-agent stuff, isn’t it?! And all for what? What was accomplished?

Continue:

Mayor Mitch Landrieu had said there would be no city funds used the remove the Liberty Place monument and statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis.

Berni emphasized no city funds were used on actual removal work, only logistics, security and storage. For example, the city was forced to spend about $52,000 building a shed for the monuments — and another $12,000 in security there — after they were moved to a storage yard because of attempts to vandalize them when they were left outside, Berni said.

Semantics. Word-play. Of course city funds were used in this demolition.  And again with this “forced” business – the city “was forced to spend…”. When did this shed get built because last time I saw photos of the monuments they were outside in a maintenance yard. Perhaps Landrieu should have left them where they were until he had a plan to place them someplace else – then he could have saved $52K  on “a shed.”

And by the way, there is still no plan for the monuments that anyone knows about.

Continue:

After WWL-TV reported earlier this week that the city spent $173,000 deploying 221 NOPD officers to the three Confederate leaders’ statues, the full amount paid for all four removals and the protests was released Friday. The total NOPD cost was nearly $220,000. Fire Department personnel were paid $20,000 and EMS employees made about $5,500 to be stationed at the monuments.

The Regional Transit Authority also spent about $7,500 to remove and reinstall overhead streetcar lines at Lee Circle to clear the way for the especially challenging removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

Via. The Advocate

The graphic from The Advocate breaks down regular and overtime hours. All could have been avoided. Trident received $710K for this gig.  Would anyone say that Mitch Landrieu has been a good steward of the city’s money?  I don’t think so.

I feel certain at some point the Democrats are going to attempt to put Landrieu’s name out there for the next presidential election and it’s incumbent on all of us to know what you’re getting with that.

Meanwhile, New Orleans continues with daily shootings and murders, potholes go unfixed, the city’s infrastructure declines, tourism declines and problems amass.  The city is more racially divided than ever – a city that was once known for its acceptance of diversity and tolerance.

But at least there are four less pieces of public art. There’s that.  At least now nobody will have to drive by a statue of Robert E. Lee and feel the trauma of remembering that our country was once divided by a civil war over issues much more complex than just slavery. At least nobody will have to walk past a Jefferson Davis monument (even though they will still have to travel of Jefferson Davis Boulevard).

He has protected us from that trauma. Now if he could figure out how to protect us from the violence in the streets of New Orleans that would be something.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Puppeteer by Calipsoo

by baldilocks

Right now, I’m reading Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. (Actually, I’m listening to it, via an audiobook copy checked out from the Los Angeles Public Library. As I’ve said many times before, audiobooks allow multitasking—driving, riding, working out, cleaning the house, etc.) Since I’m only at the end of Chapter One, this won’t be a review, but I can’t help but put down a few thoughts. These initial observations may read as critique against capitalism or Western Civilization, but that’s not my intention. All civilizations have flaws–most much worse than ours.

Isenberg outlines the British concept of “trash people”–meaning the poor—and how the British upper crust desired to use that population for its own ends with respect to the colonies. Of course, we all know that class divisions have existed and still exist in Western civilizations, but reading about the planning and the implementation of these endeavors bids comparison to how the present-day American “upper crust” uses the poor and the not-so-poor. Back then, control of the poor to the end of making profit, was far more overt than it is today, which makes today’s efforts far more effective—as is so for all hidden agendas.

From what I can tell, there has always been a set-apart group in European countries and their colonies: an indentured/enslaved caste—whether the bondage is formal or not. Sometimes, it’s the natives of a conquered land. Other times, it’s a forcibly imported group, such as African slaves, the British underclass, or the Irish. Today–in America at least–it’s primarily those of Mexican descent.

The interesting thing about this history is that it proves the axiom that there’s nothing new under the sun. And, though the tactics have changed, the goal remains the same: control.

But, back in the heyday of the British Empire, the elite just wanted to control your body and couldn’t care less about your mind…

More to come.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!


By John Ruberry

“So you’ll be paying yourself to build a railroad with government subsidies.” Sen. Jordan Crane to Thomas “Doc” Durant.

“These are exciting times. You and I are opening the way for the greatest nation the world has ever seen.” Major Augustus Bendix to Cullen Bohannon.

“See him driving those golden nails
that hold together the silver bars
That one day’s gonna take us to the stars
cos he’s the man who built America.”
Horslips, from their song, The Man Who Built America.

“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit.” President Donald J. Trump to Congress last week.

Last week I completed my latest binge-watching endeavor, Hell on Wheels, an AMC show that ran from 2011-2016 that is available on Netflix and on Amazon.

The building of the American transcontinental is the driving force of the plot of this series–the Union Pacific heading west from Omaha and the Central Pacific heading east from Sacramento.

The transcontinental railroad exemplified America at its best–getting the job done 16 years before Canada and 36 years before Russia. It also exemplified America at its worst. Racism and corruption–the Crédit Mobilier outrage was one of our nation’s worst political scandals and it forever tainted this monumental achievement.

The Civil War purged America of slavery, the nation was no longer “a house divided against itself,” but in 1865 the United States was in a way like an uncompleted jigsaw puzzle, the east and west coasts, the easy part, were settled but much of the middle–the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, still needed to be filled in.

Hell on Wheel’s main character is Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former slaveholder and Confederate cavalry officer who travels to Nebraska Territory to hunt down Union soldiers who murdered his wife and son in Mississippi. Despite that ruthlessness–make that because of that ruthlessness–Union Pacific president Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney) takes him under his wing, although their relationship is mostly turbulent throughout the run of the series.

Bohannon isn’t the only character scarred by the turmoil of mid-19th century America. Elam Ferguson (Common) and Psalms Jackson (Dohn Norwood) are freedmen who quickly learn that freedom from slavery doesn’t mean equality. The Reverend Nathaniel Cole (Tom Noonan) and his daughter Ruth (Kasha Kropinski), suffer from pangs of guilt remaining from Bleeding Kansas. The Rev. Cole’s most prominent convert to Christianity, Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears), is estranged from his father, a Cheyenne chief. The most compelling character on the show, Thor “The Swede” Gunderson (Christopher Heyerdahl), is a Norwegian immigrant and former Union army quartermaster–a man who says he is good with numbers, but after his barbaric incarceration at the notorious Andersonville prisoner of war camp, he ascertained that “I had to control people like I control numbers and I learned to practice a sort of immoral mathematics.”

The Swede is Hell On Wheels’ principal villain and if there is ever a Villains Hall Of Fame built, then he belongs as a charter member.

Another intriguing HoW character is Irish immigrant Mickey McGuinnes (Phil Burke), who like Durant, finds a way to make himself a success after starting with nothing. One of his workers is a tattooed former prostitute and a Jack Mormon, Eva (Robin McLeavy). She was captured by Indians after her family’s wagon train was waylaid.

The final season of Hell on Wheels brings in the storyline of the Central Pacific. Movie posters for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly boasted, “For three men the Civil War wasn’t hell. It was practice!” The Chinese laborers on the Central Pacific can be forgiven for having a similar dismissive view of our Civil War, which killed 600,000 Americans. Emotional scars from the Taiping Rebellion plague many of the Chinese characters. That conflict, which was actually a civil war between Imperial China and a man claiming to be the brother of Jesus Christ, probably killed 20-30 million people–after the famine deaths are added in. Some estimates bring the death total as high as 100 million. If that last figure is correct, then the Taiping Rebellion was the deadliest war ever.

Life is cheap in both the Union Pacific and Central Pacific camps–both are served by brothels, although opium is offered at the latter instead of whiskey.

Durant was a real person, although his portrayal in Hell on Wheels is largely fictional. Other historical figures appearing include Wyoming’s territorial governor John Campbell (Jack Weber), President Ulysses S. Grant (Victor Slezak), and Brigham Young (Gregg Henry). Eva’s character was based on an actual woman, as was the man in the show who survived a scalping. He carries his scalp in a bottle of alcohol–and offers paid listeners a recounting of his ordeal. The phrase “Hell on Wheels” is a real one in this context, it’s what the tent cities that followed the construction of the Union Pacific were called.

Blogger walking the rails

In the penultimate HoW episode, there is a prescient moment as black and Chinese workers rush to finish the road in 1869. Above them you see the moon. One hundred years later, yes, in 1969, “the greatest nation the world has ever seen” reached the moon. No country has repeated that feat or even attempted it.

Yes, American exceptionalism is real.

If you enjoy westerns, you’ll find Hell on Wheels worth your while. But if you are looking for romance–then look elsewhere. Mount is a fine actor but love encounters are not his long suit. And what was the point of his sex scene on top of a table with fused nitroglycerine on it?

As with most westerns, the cinematography is first-rate–with Alberta filling in capably for Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and California. It would be better if movies about America would be filmed here, but that’s another subject for another time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last night Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus since 1967, announced that it is pulling up stakes and shutting down the circus for good.

For a very brief period I was one of its center ring performers. More on that later.

Steeped in history more than any other American entertainment offering, the Greatest Show on Earth can be traced to the 1860s with a circus run by James Anthony Bailey. In 1881 he teamed up with P.T Barnum, a circus latecomer who made his name as an oddity museum and freak show operator, creating Barnum & Bailey Circus. Its first big attraction was Jumbo, purportedly the world’s largest elephant–and an unintended result was the adding of “jumbo” to the English language.

Three years after Barnum & Bailey was founded, the five Ringling brothers, entertainers from Baraboo, Wisconsin, started their circus.

Technology was at first kind to these circuses, trains allowed the shows to travel quickly from city to city, abandoning wagons except for the parades with wild animals that served as priceless publicity for drumming up ticket sales. Trains gave Barnum & Bailey the opportunity to travel outside of its base in the Northeast–and the Ringlings weren’t confined to the Midwest anymore.

The Ringling family purchased Barnum & Bailey in 1907 and the shows were consolidated in 1919.

An elephant helped establish Barnum & Bailey and the combined circus was partly brought down by elephants.

Sometime around 2000 animal rights organizations, notably PETA, began protesting circuses and the Greatest Show on Earth was of course its biggest target. The mud and dung started flying with animal cruelty accusations from these groups, particularly regarding elephants. But Feld Entertainment collected $25,2 million in a settlement from animal rights activist groups over their charges of cruelty to pachyderms.

The battle was over but the war was lost. Two years ago Ringling Brothers announced that its elephants would be retired from the circus in 2018, but that date was moved that up to May of last year, largely because of what Ringling CEO Kenneth Feld called “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” local ordinances.

When he announced the shutdown of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Feld didn’t cite one item but offered, “The competitor in many ways is time.” People, particularly children, are less patient than ever in the age of smartphones, tablets, and YouTube–and the length of its shows has dropped by nearly an hour since Feld Entertainment purchased Ringling Brothers. Technology now worked against the circus.

But Feld’s daughter, Juliette, went in a different direction, stating “We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Brothers was getting to see elephants.” Ticket sales, which have been declining for a decade, dropped noticeably when the shows became elephant-free.

Of course it’s the goal of the animal rights activists to have all circuses to be strictly human affairs. They’ll never deny that. So the camels, alpacas, lions, and tigers that are part of the Ringling menagerie will be retired, likely ending up in reserves.

Mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, 500 Ringling employees will be out of work, and it’s my fear that it will be tough going for them, as circus life tends to be a multi-generational endeavor.

Interviewer: “So, what makes you think you can be a good fit at our big box store?”

Job seeker: “Well, I’ve worked at Ringling Brothers for thirty years and I’ve lived on circus trains all of that time. I was educated at circus schools because my parents worked for Ringling Brothers too.”

Thanks for hanging in there, I’m getting to my center ring moment now.

Twice I attended Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey shows. My dad took my brothers and I to a performance at Chicago’s International Amphitheater in 1967. It was a dazzling experience–and the hall was packed. Nearly forty years later I brought Little Marathon Pundit to the Ringling circus, this time at the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont. Yes, the show was shorter, there was a motorcycle daredevil act in addition to the animal performers, but there was no big band this time–a rock combo offered music and there were a lot of empty seats. Outside the auditorium there were protesters even though it was snowing.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

Back inside, as David Larible, a clown, descended the stairs of the arena I snapped a photo of him with my then-exotic smartphone. He motioned me to follow him, brought me to the center ring, where I, along with a few other lucky attendees, participated in a musical instrument comedy skit, as my daughter heartily laughed. It was one of those unforgettable father-daughter moments.

Yes, I’m a former Ringling performer.

You can argue that Ringling Brothers was dying then–but certainly the animal rights radicals hastened its death. And when this venerable circus is dead–a part of America will have died with it.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Ruberry Black Sox
Ruberry in June with man in 1919 White Sox uniform

By John Ruberry

As this decade winds down you can look for many 100th anniversary articles. They’ll be a huge uptick of them next year to mark the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, followed by more on the armistice that concluded “the war to end all wars” in 1918. The execution of the czar and his family, as well as the fall of the Houses of Hohenzollern and Habsburg also occurred that year, events all directly related to World War I.

In 2019 baseball fans will mark 100 years since the Black Sox Scandal, when eight Chicago White Sox players conspired with gamblers to throw, that is, purposely lose the 1919 World Series.

“It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people — with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway remarked about the scandal in The Great Gatsby.

That one man, although given a fictionalized name in Gatbsy, was Arnold Rothstein, the mastermind of the scandal, although one of the few things that historians agree upon is that its genesis came from Charles “Chick” Gandil, the first baseman for the 1919 South Siders.

What does the First World War have to do with Major League Baseball’s most notorious scandal. Plenty. In his book The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball, Charles Fountain looks back at “the war to end all wars” and goes back much further.

Comiskey statue, US Cellular Field
Comiskey statue, US
Cellular Field

The most famous member of the Black Sox of course was the illiterate–but, as Fountain explains, in no way dumb, left fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson. During the Great War Jackson was one of the baseball players who avoided military service by joining a defense industry factory baseball team where he made perhaps the same, if not more money than he did playing for owner Charles Comiskey’s White Sox. In recreating the setting of early 20th-century baseball, Fountain, a Northeastern University journalism professor, shows that there was plenty of money “out there” for players, as a third circuit, the Federal League, proved in 1914 and 1915 by luring players from the established National and American leagues with more lucrative contracts.

Another way to collect extra cash was to throw games, and Fountain spends an entire chapter on the now largely forgotten Hal Chase, a talented first baseman who was the first homegrown star of the New York Yankees, whom he dubs “the Prince of Fixers.”

There was more gambling cash involved in baseball than ever during World War I, as President Woodrow Wilson’s “work or fight” labor policy inadvertently led to the closing of most horse racing tracks for the duration of the conflict. Money for wagering wasn’t just going to idly sit in gamblers’ wallets until the war ended. While some minor baseball leagues suspended play during the war, the big leagues, despite shortened seasons in 1918 and 1919, were still in business. And so were the gamblers. The war, and Wilson, upset the economic balance of the underworld.

After the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, or after the South Siders lost it, and despite an investigation by Comiskey that seemed to suggest some White Sox players weren’t playing, as how it was said back then, on-the-square, it would take an unrelated gambling incident for the scandal to break wide open in the final week of the 1920 season, as the White Sox were in a heated pennant race that they would lose to the Cleveland Indians. The fixers almost got away with it. As the eight Black Sox players were exposed, Fountain details the playing out of a longstanding feud between Comiskey and American League president Ban Johnson, one that nearly put the junior circuit out of business with the creation of a new 12-team National League. Of course the two-league majors survived, ruled by a man seemingly removed from the Old Testament, federal Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

As White Sox left the ranks of baseball’s elite in 1920, modern baseball, the post-dead ball era, began. No one knew it at the time, but the Golden Age of Sports, led by the New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth, had also arrived. Comiskey, who died in 1931, never put another contending team on the field, and the White Sox wouldn’t return to the Fall Classic until 1959–and the South Siders wouldn’t win it all until 2005. But the owner nicknamed “the Old Roman” was still able to cash in on the rollicking Roaring Twenties party; Comiskey Park was expanded in 1927, largely because of Ruth’s transformation of baseball.

Comiskey is treated somewhat sympathetically here, as someone who is more frugal than stingy.

Fountain’s effort succeeds not only as a baseball book but as an historical work. Which means you don’t have to be a fan of the national pastime to enjoy it.

John Ruberry, a lifelong White Sox fan, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Tampico IL Reagan Mural
Reagan mural in Tampico, Illinois

By John Ruberry

Nancy Reagan died this morning at her home in Los Angeles. The former First Lady, who had been ailing in recent years, was 94.

Ronald Reagan in the last year of his presidency said this about his wife:

What do you say about someone who gives your life meaning? What do you say about someone who’s always there with support and understanding, someone who makes sacrifices so that your life will be easier and more successful? Well, what you say is that you love that person and treasure her.

Ronald’s movie career was on its downslide when he met aspiring actress Nancy Davis– who like “Dutch” was a native of northern Illinois–in his role as president of the Screen Actor’s Guild.

What if they had met earlier? “If Nancy Davis had met Ronald Reagan earlier in his movie career, he would have gotten an Oscar — she would have insisted on it,” says Myra Gutin, a First Lady historian.

While First Lady Nancy spearheaded the “Just Say No” campaign against drug abuse, brought much-needed attention to the AIDS epidemic, and brought style and grace back to the White House.

President Reagan, despite his long career and a politician, was an intensely private man. But the Gipper opened up to Nancy.

After his narrow defeat in the 1976 battle for the Republican nomination with President Gerald Ford, Reagan wanted to quit politics. But it was Nancy who spurred him on. And it was Mrs. Reagan who insisted to her beloved “Ronnie” that he fire John Sears, the manager of his 1980 presidential campaign, and White House chief-of-staff Don Regan, both of whom were operating beyond the boundaries of their jobs.

Without a doubt were it not for Nancy there would not have been a President Ronald Reagan.

Rest in peace.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – My ancestors on my mother’s side were originally from Castile, Spain; they settled in Natchez, Mississippi and then moved to Rapides Parish in central Louisiana where they were landowners and planters. One of those men was Joseph Welsh Texada who was a captain in the 8th Louisiana Cavalry and fought at Shiloh with the Crescent Regiment. I have heard the stories of my ancestral family for years from my mother, especially, who was always very proud of her Southern heritage and of her family’s distinguished background.

At Shiloh alone 23,000 lives were lost.  My ancestor survived and he went on to serve as a state representative and on his local Police Jury.  His life mattered.

The nationwide move to remove all Confederate symbols, monuments, history is simply appalling to me. Joseph Welsh’s life mattered and so did the lives of the 23,000 lost at Shiloh and the thousands at other battles.

In New Orleans, Governor Mitch Landrieu has won yet another battle to remove four iconic Confederate monuments in the city. Wednesday, January 27, an Orleans parish judge denied a request to halt removal of the monuments and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the decision the next day. And so the battle now moves to the Louisiana Supreme Court in what will be the last chance.  Until all appeals are exhausted, a group supporting monument preservation is continuing to collect signatures on a petition which currently has over 28,000 signatures. The large majority of NOLA residents is strongly against the removal.

New Orleans is, of course, not alone in this fight.  All across the nation history is being erased. There’s even been a move to remove the stained glass windows commemorating Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee from the National Cathedral in Washington. It’s also happening in Birmingham, and Atlanta. The University of Texas removed their statue of Jefferson Davis last year.  Many on the side of removal have suggested that these statues and monuments be placed in a sort of interactive historic park where people can still see them and learn about the history. This guy, for example, suggest that these “objects of hate” be put into a park similar to Memento Park in Budapest where images of Stalin, Lenin, and Guevara can be seen “in their proper context.”

My concern with that is who decides what the proper context is? I object to Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis being classified as an “object of hate” and in the same class as Lenin and Stalin. Quite a difference. If that’s the way these people view the Confederate generals, I have concerns about them writing “the proper context” for this suggested park.

Again I ask, where in the world does this stop? Thomas Jefferson had slaves: shall we tear down Monticello?  What of all the grand southern plantations still standing along the Mississippi River and throughout the South?  Shall we raze those and put up condominiums in their place?  Maybe we better stop the annual pilgrimage in Natchez. The Williamson Museum in Georgetown had an Old South Ball this weekend as a fundraiser which was also attended by about 100 protesters. Protesting a dance?  Like Footloose?  Why does your ancestry trump mine? It’s too much.

It all just defies logic.

It makes me sad.

It makes me want to fight harder to preserve my own heritage.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By John Ruberry

Unless you have been living in a spider hole without access to a computer or a television, you are of course aware of the Donald Trump phenomenon. Without spending much money, his or anyone else’s, the real estate billionaire has vaulted to the top of the Republican presidential polls.

Whether he is a genius or a crackpot genius remains to be determined, but The Donald finds himself in a rare position–he is recreating the political process in a way that mirrors the ascendancy of Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But the Republican political establishment is either indifferent or hostile to Trump. No sitting Republican members of the US House or the US Senate have endorsed him. Nor have any statewide elected officials. Trump for the most part eschews spending money on political consultants, in fact he spends more cash on baseball caps, shirts, and yard signs than on “expert” advice. His spending on TV ads has been a pittance compared the expenditures of other candidates.

Trump has made a number of controversial statements, several of which he has partially walked back, such as his call to halt Muslim travel into the United States. But in that instance, Trump has made Muslim immigration and our weak vetting of potential terrorists into a major political discussion point.

The political novice enjoys a rare gift–by addressing the political situation, Trump alters it.

The ruling classes, Democratic and Republican, dislike change and they abhor disruption. But the GOP needs to embrace Trump–even if he fails to win the Republican nomination for president.

After all, there is no one more skilled to attack Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee in 2016, on such issues as the Benghazi killings and the “It was a video!” canard, the rise of ISIS, the Clinton Foundation slush fund and foreigners buying access to her, Clinton’s possibly illegal misuse of classified data, and her hypocrisy of being a defender of women while her husband is a serial sexual abuser of them.

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

Like it or not, America is transforming into a Trump-ified nation. And if he becomes president, it will be to some extent become a Trump planet.

My advice to the GOP establishment is that you should hop on the Trump train now–or you will find yourself under it.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Columbus statue, Chicago
Columbus statue, Chicago

By John Ruberry

As with atheist attacks on crèche displays on publicly owned land that happen every December, ’tis the season of political assaults on Christopher Columbus. Monday is Columbus Day, which marks the Genovese explorer’s discovery of America; the federal holiday is also an unofficial celebration of the contributions of Italian-Americans to our nation, individuals such as Enrico Fermi, Mother Frances Cabrini, and Lee Iaococca.

But there is a growing movement among left-wingers to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In the past two months eight cities voted to drop Columbus and adapt the Native American day. Last week the Washington Post asked eight prominent Italian-Americans, including Nancy Pelosi, “Whom else should we celebrate besides Christopher Columbus?” The House Minority Leader chose her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr, who was mayor of Baltimore in the 1950s.

Columbus monument, Denver
Columbus monument,
Denver

Yes, Columbus and his men committed atrocities against the people he called Indians. And yes, it was Siberian hunter-gatherers who really discovered America thousands of years earlier. But unlike the Vikings, Columbus commenced permanent European settlement of the western hemisphere. It was in the New World, particularly of course in the United States, where the goals of the Age of Enlightenment came closest to its ideal–and without the chaos of the French Revolution. Slavery in North and South America persisted into the 19th century, but the abolition movement was born in the European cultural hearth, not in China, Africa, or the Ottoman Empire.

The spirit of the Age of Exploration continues today in the United States. Only Americans have traveled to the moon and returned. This summer it was an American space probe that journeyed past Pluto.

Happy Columbus Day.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Not Julius Caesar, but Caesar Rodney of Delaware,

Rodney was a leading patriot in his colony, a member of the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, a formative member of the Delaware Committee of Correspondence, a military leader in the colonial militia, and a delegate to the Continental Congress from formation until 1777. The following year he was elected President of the State of Delaware for a three year term, a duty that he assumed even as he served as Major-General of the Delaware Militia. In this office he played a crucial part not only in the defense of his own colony but in support of Washington’s Continental Army, for Delaware had a record of meeting or exceeding its quotas for troops and provisions throughout the revolutionary conflict. Rodney’s health and strength flagged for a time. He suffered from asthma and from a cancerous growth on his face, for which he never attained proper treatment. He saw his colony through the war at the cost of personal neglect.

Rodney’s health “flagged for a time” understates the severity of his illnesses. I subscribe to Bill Bennett’s American Patriot’s Daily Almanac (you can subscribe at the link) and the other day the subject was Caesar Rodney’s Ride:

He suffered from asthma as well as skin cancer that had left his face so disfigured, he often hid one side of it behind a green silk scarf. Yet as John Adams noted, there was “fire, spirit, wit, and humor in his countenance.” Rodney was in Delaware on the evening of July 1, 1776, when he received an urgent message from Philadelphia. Congress was ready to vote on the issue of independence. Of the two other Delaware delegates, one favored and one opposed a break with England, so Rodney’s vote would decide which way the colony would go—if he could get there in time.

He rode through the night, in thunder and rain, to cover the 80 miles to Philadelphia. The next day, just as Congress prepared to vote, the delegates heard hoofbeats on cobblestones, and a mud-spattered Rodney strode into the hall, still wearing his spurs, exhausted but ready to break the tie in his state’s delegation by voting for independence.

The Continental Congress decided to break from England on July 2, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by men like Caesar Rodney, who pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes and their sacred Honor, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”

Thank you, Caesar.

You can buy The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America  and The Educated Child: A Parents Guide From Preschool Through Eighth Grade from Amazon; I also recommend The Book of Virtues, and Our Country’s Founders: A Book of Advice for Young People for reading to your children.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog