Was Secretary Spencer any good?

At Sea – Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, right, speaks with Carrier Strike Group 8 Command Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Bates in the in-port cabin during Spencer’s visit aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Feb. 25, 2018. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kaysee Lohmann

Now that Secretary Spencer is officially no longer the Navy Secretary, I’m able to openly ask the question: why is everyone up in arms about him being fired? People (military and non-military) were hot and bothered by it on Facebook. Perhaps I’m a cynic, but I’ll ask what should be the most important question: what, exactly, did Secretary Spencer do as SECNAV for two years?

If we judge his tenure by the shape of the Navy, it isn’t pretty. US Ship Force levels have been relatively flat. This is made worse by the continued deployment of ships to respond to, basically, everything around the world. The Joint Staff uses a process called “Global Force Management,” where each Combatant Commander requests presence of different forces. Aircraft Carriers in particular are the subject of much discussion, and when one breaks (like the Harry S. Truman), you have people arguing over how to surge another carrier out, rather than discussing whether a carrier is even needed in the first place. This causes our carriers and other ships to wear out, and given we can’t build them fast enough, we are left with a Navy full of worn out ships and crews.

Secretary Spencer had to have seen this, and yet in two years, we haven’t had any change. His long range ship building plan put us at 355 ships, maybe, in 2030. We’re building 10 ships a year…maybe. While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, China is set to overtake the US in ships by 2020. Numbers don’t account for crew readiness and weapon systems, but here again, the US is using relatively expensive weapons while China and Russia crank out increasingly cheaper missiles. Quantity becomes its own quality, and bankrupting the country to win the future fight isn’t a good option.

We could tackle this problem in a lot of ways. Building different ships, for example smaller carriers, would help get more ships to meet global requirements while saving higher-end ships for the big fight. Building a better shipyard infrastructure (getting away from having only a few places we can build Navy ships) could help lower the cost. Sharing ship designs with allies, similar to the F-35 program, could lower cost and make overseas repairs easier. Or perhaps we add in diesel submarines to help bring more submarines to the fight. Or we could build some smaller vessels, like the PCs of old, but with advanced striking power, to get a cheaper vessel that can fight in the littorals (the Littoral Combat Ship is anything but small or cheap).

But we have no innovation. The Long Range Shipbuilding plan sticks to traditional platforms, just calling for more of them. The one different platform, SSGN (converted ballistic submarines that shoot Tomahawk missiles and deploy SEAL teams) are going away, to be replaced by smaller Virginia submarines with specialized modules. Slightly innovative, but not enough to deal with China and Russia, who are designing very different Navies to fight very different wars in the future.

And how is that new carrier catapult working out? Even Bob Work was able to get LCS module price back on track.

We didn’t get much with Secretary Spencer. Our Navy isn’t in great shape, and ground wasn’t laid to make it much better. When the Secretary then decides to openly disagree with his boss, what did he expect would happen? If your boss is telling you to do something, and its not illegal, you get to disagree in private, but if he insists, then you get to resign.

For everyone mad about Secretary Spencer, I have to ask why. Is it because it was Trump that fired him? Did you really think Spencer was doing a good job? Because while I have some issues with Secretary Mattis leaving (I would prefer he stay on), I don’t see how Secretary Spencer was making our Navy great again.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Chicago on the Thames

We’ve written in the past about Chicago belonging to the gangs and pols protecting them because they provide votes.

Apparently things aren’t all that different in London:

Judah encountered a Grenadian, now a successful cocaine dealer, who recalled moving to the White City estate in West London with his mother when he was 12.
‘We pitched up for a better life, but found ourselves right in the middle of a war zone,’ he recalled.
He said the estate ‘was way more corrupt . . . way more dangerous, more full of disillusion than anywhere in Grenada. Within six months of being here, I had lost 75 per cent of my morals.’
After a few years here, and now a heavy cocaine-user, he woke up to his mother screaming. She’d found his gun in the fridge and bullets on the sofa.
She was crying: ‘Please, please, the police will kill you, the gangsters will kill you! My baby, why, why did I ever bring you to this country?’
The sex industry is another area where our flawed immigration policy has had a malign effect. Now, 96 per cent of prostitutes are migrants. In the main, Albanians have taken over.
Typically, they lure girls from Moldova with promises of modelling jobs, but then rape and traffic them.
I saw the results of this myself when a brothel opened in a house on a quiet, residential street near my son’s primary school in Hampstead. 
The mother of one of my son’s friends lived opposite. She was intimidated by the sinister men in leather jackets who sat in the nearby coffee shop all day.
She reported to the police that the girls on the top floor looked underage and never went out. In due course, her car was smashed up. 
She suspected this was done as a warning to keep her nose out of it. The police did nothing and she never raised the matter again.

If only they had been tweeting that men didn’t have vaginas, then the London police would have been all over it.

The latest terror attack might get more headlines but this is the real threat to England and it’s being ignored.

But Pam Geller and Robert Spencer are too much of a threat to let in.

Well at least it’s not happening here is it?

How Serious is the left/media

So serious that they are more concerned about a Rocky Poster meme as a real story.

As Don Surber put it:

The next day he posted his Rocky Balboa picture. CNN and others in the media were horrified. They called it a doctored photo.

Normal people laughed.

So serious that they get “triggered” by “misgendering” a dog:

As comforting as it is that people are acknowledging the biological reality of the presence of certain sex organs and how that correlates to gender, the amount of digital ink and time spent on this rather simple mistake seems excessive.

I wonder if some of the left are angry at reporters for presuming that “Conan” identities as a “dog”.

This is in fact why they are not being taken seriously by actual serious people as opposed to those who play serious people on TV.

new polls show Trump maintaining or strengthening his edge in the six key battleground states that swung the election in the Republican’s favor, particularly among white working-class voters who flipped to Trump after eight years of backing President Barack Obama while Democrats continue to fall behind this critical voting bloc.
“The poll offers little evidence that any Democrat, including Mr. Biden, has made substantial progress toward winning back the white working-class voters who defected to the president in 2016, at least so far,” the Times noted. “All the leading Democratic candidates trail in the precincts or counties that voted for Barack Obama and then flipped to Mr. Trump.”

I wonder why?

On Thanksgiving Americans should be most thankful for…

What separates the United States the most from all other nations is our Constitution.  That most remarkable document created the freest and most prosperous country that ever existed.  Our Constitution accomplished this by creating a limited federal government that could not interfere with the God-given Natural Rights of any individual.  Unfortunately, thanks to the silly notion of a living constitution the federal government has all but abandoned the constitution.   This Calvin Coolidge quote perfectly sums up the greatness of our Constitution and why we should be thankful for it.

The Constitution of the United States is the final refuge of every right that is enjoyed by any American. So long as it is observed, those rights will be secure. Whenever it falls into disrespect or disrepute, the end of orderly organized government, as we have known it for more than one hundred and twenty-five years, will be at hand. The Constitution represents a government of law. There is only one other form of authority, and that is a government of force. Americans must make their choice between these two. One signifies justice and liberty; the other tyranny and oppression. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.

Most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with a bountiful feast.  The food for the feast is quite easily purchased in supermarkets where massive amounts of food await the customers, unlike socialist nations where massive amounts of people wait in line for small amounts of food.  This Milton Friedman quote explains the true power unleashed by our free market economy.

The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.

All Americans should be thankful that our Bill of Rights includes the free exercise of religion clause.  That clause guarantees the rights of every American to worship as we please.  That right is central to our Thanksgiving because the Pilgrims came here escaping religious persecution.

We should be thankful that we live in a country that has a freedom of speech clause in our Bill of Rights.  That right protects our freedom to speak our minds however we want too.  It is an absolute shame that so many college students and young people have been brainwashed into believing that freedom of speech is a bad thing.

We should all be extremely thankful for our military, currently serving, and all that have ever served.  They have all sacrificed to protect our freedom. 

Giving Thanks with a Busted Wing

Webster: Feeling all right?

Luz: There you go [putting a blanket on Lipton ]He’s got pneumonia.

Webster: l’m sorry to hear that.

Luz: What are you sorry about? He’s alive, he’s got a couch, a goddamn blanket. He’s snug as a bug.

Lipton: Yeah

Band of Brothers: The Patrol 2001

Thanksgiving day has come and for the first time in a lustrum it’s not the calm before the profitable storm.

At the warehouse where I work Black Friday begins a month of overtime and stretches of seven days of working flat out to keep up with orders, occasionally these expectations aren’t met beyond the 1st week (thus the shocking one week layoff I had a few years ago) but usually it means a lot of hours and plenty of extra money to pay for the bills that come in the Christmas season.

All of that changed on Sunday when I tripped at work and fell hard on the concrete floor fracturing my shoulder and putting me out of commission for this busy & profitable time.

Given not just the injury but the conversion of December from a month of good income to relying on workman’s comp just to keep bills paid one might think that there is little to be thankful for, but that conclusion can only come with an ignorance of history.

For the majority of human history if you didn’t work you didn’t eat, if you got hurt you were dependent on the charity of others, if you were very lucky you had a big enough family to carry the load, if not you worked through an injury like mine and basically screwed yourself up assuming you were allowed the privilege of doing so.

America’s capitalist system has created a country so rich that my big worry can be my recovery and maybe a few late bills plus a few trips to a 1st rate doc while I recover. Meanwhile I have the whole net & Roku to keep me occupied along with 3 dynasty baseball leagues.

And then of course there is you dear reader and the blog.

I’ve got plenty to be thankful for, a great wife, fine sons, friends and family, the blessings of God, but I would be very remiss if I didn’t give thanks for those Puritans (who wouldn’t have thought much of me as a Catholic) who came to this land 400 years ago and created the freest and wealthiest land the world has ever seen.

I suspect that a lot of kids attending $50K+ a year colleges while somehow considering themselves oppressed with a straight face can’t see this. What a shame.

Three Sable League Updates

I am currently running four Dynasty Baseball Leagues three online and one face to face here. This is why I’ve stopped doing the “sports columns” that I was doing for the league because I just can’t keep up with that many.

But if you’re interested (and even if you’re not) here are the updates on all the online leagues (except the face to face one)

Online SABLE/GERBL league 48 games

AL

  1. Texas Thunder 29-19 —–
  2. Juneau Muffin Men 27-21 2
  3. Boston 25-23 4
  4. NYY (computer) 18-30 11

With two days to go Juneau & Texas were tied and had two games against each other. Texas managed to pull both out to clinch their ticket to the Series in the 48 game league,

Final League leaders

NL

  1. Rivertown Raiders 31-17 —–
  2. Ragnar’s Vikings 21-27 10
  3. Washington (me) 21-27 10
  4. LA Dodgers (comp) 20-28 11

Rivertown took an early lead and kept clinching with 6 games to go. The most interesting thing was the last surge of the Vikings who spent most of the year but won their last 4 games against Division Rivels to finish 2nd.

This is the league I was doing writeups on until time became a constraint.

League leaders AL/NL Bold indicates overall lead

  • Batting Betts MFN .357 Dickerson Wash .311
  • OBP Betts MFN .457 Muncy LA .385
  • Slug Betts MFN .650 Escobar KRV, Rendon Wash .536
  • OB+Slug Betts MFN 1.107 Escobar KRV .890
  • Runs Trout Tex Yelich Bos Nimmo Bos 31 Rendon Wash 32
  • Hits Lindor Tex 58 Merrifeld KRV 64
  • 2B Chapman MFN 18 Rendon Wash 25
  • 3B Baez Tex Nimmo Bos Chapman MFN 4 Marte Wash 4 Ramirez RVR 4
  • HR Trout Tex 12 Carpenter RVR 10
  • RBI Bergman Bos 38 Story Wash 33
  • SB Benintendi 9 Cain RVR Merrifield KRV 11
  • BB Trout Tex 42 Muncy LAD 33

Pitching

  • ERA Clevinger Tex 2.86 Sale RVR 1.66
  • Wins Clevinger Tex 6 Cole KRV Corbin RVR 6
  • Losses Sabathia NYY Happ NYY Severino NYY 5 Kershaw LA 6
  • Saves Osuna MFN 7 Jensen LA 10
  • Blown Saves Kimbrel Bos 4 Alexander LA 3
  • Innings Verlander Bos 70.2 deGrom KRV 74.1
  • K’s Verlander Bos 112 Scherzer KRV 111
  • K’s per 9 Verlander Bos 14.26 Sale RVR 13.69
  • BB per 9 Greinke Tex 1.32 Buehler LA 1.47
  • Avg vs Snell Bos .211 Sale .RVR 171
  • WHIP Greinke Tex 1.03 Sale RVR 0.82
  • HR per 9 Severino NYY 0.61 Corbin RVR 0.49

World Series

Game 1 Texas 4 Rivertown 2 W Iglesias (1-0) L Nola (0-1) S Vazquez (1)

Game 2 Rivertown 7 Texas 4 W Flaherty (1-0) L Clevenger (0-1) S Castello (1)

Game 3 Rivertown 8 Texas 7 W Castello (1-0) L Iglesias (1-1) S Diaz (1)

Game 4 Texas 3 Rivertown 1 W Wheller (1-0) L Morton (0-1) S Kela (1) Game 5 Rivertown 6 Texas 2 W Noka (1-1) L Grenkie (0-1)

Game 6 Texas 9 Rivertown 2 W Carrasco (1-0) L Flaherty (1-1)

Game 7 Rivertown 2 Texas 1 W Corbin (1-0) L Clevenger (0-2) S Diaz (2)

Rivertown entered the series with both Sale their leading pitcher and Adam Wainwright out for the year this series was neck & Neck all the way decided in the last inning of the 7th game..


League 2 Greatest Team League 154 game season no interleague play

Current Standings Teams designated with **** are available for interested players

AL East

  1. 1970 Baltimore Orioles 20-7 .741 —- Won 5 9-1
  2. 1939 New York Yankees 16-16 ,500 6.5 Won 2 6-4 ****
  3. 1946 Boston Red Sox 12-15 .444 8 Lost 5 3-7 ****
  4. 1928 Philadelphia A’s 11-18 .379 10 Lost 1 5-5

After a very slow start Baltimore has racked up an impressive streak

AL West

  1. 1924 Washington Senators 18-14 .563 —— Lost 2 6-4
  2. 1973 Oakland Athletics 16-13 .552 1 Loss 1 3-7 ****
  3. 1954 Cleveland Indians 15-14 .517 1.5 Won 1 5-5 ****
  4. 1934 Detroit Tigers 9-20 .310 7.5 Won 1 4-6

NL East

  1. 1957 Milwaukee Braves 21-9 .700 ——- Won 2 9-1 *****
  2. 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers 17-8 .680 1.5 Won 2 8-2 ****
  3. 1969 New York Mets 12-17 .414 8.5 Lost 1 2-8 ****
  4. 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates 7-18 .280 11.5 Lost 1 2-8

NL West

  1. 1962 San Francisco Giants 17-13 .567 —— Lost 3 4-6
  2. 1942 St. Louis Cardinals 14-15 .483 2,5 Won 1 6-4
  3. 1929 Chicago Cubs 13-16 .448 3.5 Lost 1 3-7 ****
  4. 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers 12-17 .414 4.5 Won 2 7-3 ****

Current Leaders

League leaders AL/NL Bold indicates overall lead

  • Batting Bucky Harris Wash.393 .434 Cleon Jones Mets .418
  • OBP Frank Robinson Bal .476 Jackie Robinson Brooklyn .496
  • Slug Al Simmons Phil A’s .764 Rogers Hornsby Cubs .707
  • OB+Slug Al Simmons Phil 1.173 Jackie Robinson Bkyn 1.163
  • Runs Charlie Keller NYY George Selkirk NYY 30 Hank Aaron Mil Willie Mays SF 30
  • Hits Joe Dimaggio NYY 51 Cleon Jones NYM Carl Furllio Brk 41
  • 2B Hank Greenberg Det 13 Marty Marion St Louis Joe Adcock Mil 11
  • 3B Joe Judge Wash 5 Johnny Hopp St. Louis Cards 7
  • HR Al Simmons Phil A’s 11 Rogers Hornsby Cubs 12
  • RBI Joe Dimaggio NYY 34 Rogers Hornsby Cubs 33
  • SB Mark Belanger Balt Bert Campaneris Oak Showboat Fisher Wash Sam Rice Wash 2 Maury Wills LA Dodgers 16
  • BB George Selkirk NYY 30 Jackie Robinson Bkyn Eddie Matthews Mil 26


  • ERA Vida Blue Oak 2.36 Mort Cooper St Louis Cards 1.43
  • Wins Vida Blue Oak A’s Bob Lemon Cle Schoolboy Rowe Det 5 Warren Spahn Milwaukee 5
  • Losses Tom Zachary Wash  Vic Sorrell Det 5 Bob Johnson Pirates
  • Saves Bob Klinger Redsox 5  Don McMahon Mil 6
  • Blown Saves Marcelino Lopez Balt Pete Richert Balt Ray Narleski Cle 2 Luke Walker Pirates Bobby Bolin Giants Don McMahon Mil 2 
  • Innings Red Ruffing NYY 59.2 Don Drysdale LA 57  
  • K’s Walter Johnson Wash 48 Sandy Koufax LA Dodgers 70
  • K’s per 9 George Easrshaw Phil A’s 7.71Sandy Koufax LA Dodgers 12.35
  • BB per 9 Jim Hardin Bal 1.29 Don Newcombe Brk 0.43 
  • Avg vs Vida Blue Oak .168 Tom Seaver Mets .150
  • WHIP Jim Harden Balt 1.03 Tom Seaver Mets 0.75
  • HR per 9 Vida Blue Oak A’s 0.00 Charlie Root Cubs 0.00 


All futility League (each team lost 100 games their season) 154 games no Interleague (available teams marked by *****

AL East

  1. 1970 Chicago White Sox 13-7 —- .650 Won 1 6-4
  2. 2018 Baltimore Orioles 10-7 1.5 .588 Won 1 6-4 ****
  3. 2002 Tampa Bay Rays 7-10 4.5 .412 Lost 5 3-7 *****
  4. 2003 Detroit Tigers 6-11 5.5 .353 Lost 2 3-7

Al West

  1. 2008 Seattle Mariners 10-7 —– .588 Lost 1 5-5 ******
  2. 2005 Kansas City Royals 11-9 .5 .550 Lost 1 6-4 ******
  3. 1973 Texas Rangers 7-10 3 .412 Lost 3 5-5 ******
  4. 1982 Minnesota Twins 7-10 3 .412 Won 2 5-5 ******

NL East

  1. 2009 Washington Nationals 10-4 .714 ——– Won 1 6-4 *****
  2. 1967 New York Mets 6-6 .500 3 Lost 3 4-6
  3. 1998 Florida Marlins 7-7 .500 3 Lost 1 5-5 ******
  4. 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates 5-7 .417 4 Lost 4 4-6

NL West

  1. 2002 Milwaukee Brewers 12-8 .600 ——- Lost 1 7-3 *****
  2. 2012 Houston Astros 10-10 .500 2 Won 1 6-4 *****
  3. 1974 San Diego Padres 9-11 .450 3 Lost 1 5-5 *****
  4. 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks 7-13 .350 5 Won 1 4-6 *****

Leaders

League leaders AL/NL Bold indicates overall lead

  • Batting J Lopez .458 Sea T Davis NYM .396
  • OBP J Lopez Sea .500 A Dunn Wash .508
  • Slug J Burroughs Stairs Tex .925 J Willingham Wash .692
  • OB+Slug J Burroughs Tex 1.387 J Willingham Wash 1.171
  • Runs J Villar Bal 23 S Moore Hou 19
  • Hits J Lopez Sea 33 J Hernandez Mil 29
  • 2B D DeJesus R Nunez Bal 11 Q McCracken Ari 8
  • 3B D DeJesus KC 3 E Dukes Wash R Machado Mil E Hernandez SD 3
  • HR J Burroughs Tex 11 J Maxwell Hou 10
  • RBI J Burroughs Tex 23 J Maxwell Hou B Wallace Hou 21
  • SB J Villar Bal 8 E Hernandez SD 11
  • BB J Villar Bal 14 A Dunn Wash 20

Pitching

  • ERA J Horlen W Sox 0.00 M Lincoln Pitts 1.23
  • Wins T John W Sox A Williams Min 4 V Darenbourg Fla 3
  • Losses R Castillo Minn M Maroth Det R Hernandez KC J Brown Tex 3 E Gonzalez Ari W Lopez Hou D Freisleben SD 3
  • Saves M Givens Bal 4 M Mantei Fla 3
  • Blown Saves M MacDougal KC 4 M Fetters Pittsburgh 3
  • Innings T John W Sox 35.2 R Johnson Ari 41.0
  • K’s B Johnson W Sox 30 R Johnson Ari 51
  • K’s per 9 T Felton 10.8 B Borris Hou 11.35
  • BB per 9 C Silva Sea 0.51 J Anderson Pittsburgh 1.23
  • Avg vs J Horlan W Sox .155 M Lincoln Pirates .140
  • WHIP J Horlan W Sox 0.75 R Johnson Ari 0.88
  • HR per 9 11 tied with 0.00

any interested players should contact me via a comment here or a chat if you comment here I can send you an invite to the game which allows a two day free trial. Id do better than the two day trail but with a busted shoulder and at least a month or two out of work can’t spare the extra cash.

The Pentagon’s Vast All-Wing Conspiracy: Plunder

Nicknamed “Pentagram” for a reason

by baldilocks

While reading the media frenzy on the firing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, I ran across a report on something that I read last year and promptly put out of my mind because it was too big to fathom, both the fact of it and the implications of it.

In 2018, the Pentagon conducted an audit; it was the first time Department of Defense had ever done so since its 1947 creation, even though an annual audit for the Department has been legally required since 1990. The audit failed – an insufficient description.

The Pentagon cannot account for $21 trillion. TRILLION. Times 21.

Truthdig:

There are certain things the human mind is not meant to do. Our complex brains cannot view the world in infrared, cannot spell words backward during orgasm and cannot really grasp numbers over a few thousand. A few thousand, we can feel and conceptualize. We’ve all been in stadiums with several thousand people. We have an idea of what that looks like (and how sticky the floor gets).

But when we get into the millions, we lose it. It becomes a fog of nonsense. Visualizing it feels like trying to hug a memory. We may know what $1 million can buy (and we may want that thing), but you probably don’t know how tall a stack of a million $1 bills is. You probably don’t know how long it takes a minimum-wage employee to make $1 million.

That’s why trying to understand—truly understand—that the Pentagon spent 21 trillion unaccounted-for dollars between 1998 and 2015 washes over us like your mother telling you that your third cousin you met twice is getting divorced. It seems vaguely upsetting, but you forget about it 15 seconds later because … what else is there to do? (…)

Let’s stop and take a second to conceive how much $21 trillion is (which you can’t because our brains short-circuit, but we’ll try anyway).

  1. The amount of money supposedly in the stock market is $30 trillion.

  2. The GDP of the United States is $18.6 trillion.

Remember: the Pentagon is run by generals, admirals and GS-eleventies and it is they who approve of these monstrous expenditures. It’s impossible to even begin to comprehend the decades of graft that many of them have perpetrated for the benefit of themselves and their associates. But I do think that the antipathy and open insubordination to President Trump is directly related to his general trend of turning off the spigots of tax dollars which go into the pockets of all these public “servants.”

No other president has been willing to ask “hey, where did all this money go?”

That’s why everyone dipping into our pockets – Democrat and Republican, military and civilian — wanted Donald Trump gone even before he arrived. And why they keep trying to make it happen.

I don’t know if the country can recovery from this vast rape-and-pillage, but if it can, the first step has already been taken.

(Thanks to MintPress News)

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Report from Louisiana: The 2019 Reading Challenge

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I caved to peer pressure in January and took the Goodreads Book Challenge; I vowed to read 100 books in 2019.

I have fallen short.

Right now I’m at 54 books.

I think Goodreads should amend this challenge from books to pages. A lot of the books I read were long books. Some of the people on my “friends” list at Goodreads vowed to read 100 books, but upon closer examination, many of those were children’s books.

I failed to think of that.

I could cheat, and go back, edit my stated goal. But, that hardly seems fair.  And 54 books isn’t a bad total, really.

After all, it’s not really about how much you read, is it? 

I’ve read some really thought provoking books this year, and I’ve read some fluff. I’ve almost read my way through the entire Tana French oeuvre, as well as a large body of non-fiction.  French’s The Witch Elm was excellent.

Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s The Institute, and it’s not exactly a small book. After reading Elevation, I swore I’d never read another book by Stephen King, but I changed my mind. The verdict is still out on The Institute, but so far I’m still with it.

I guess my favorite book that I read this year was The Sound of Building Coffins by Louis Maistros. It’s not for everyone, but I loved it. So unusual.

Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House was an excellent book.

Early in the year I read all of the books by Rebecca Wells, I had never read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood before now. She was the featured author at the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival this year and I wanted to read her work before meeting her.  In 2020, the featured author at this festival will be Osha Gray Davidson who wrote The Best of Enemies about race and redemption in the South. That book is standing by in my “to be read” stack.

And while I have not resorted to picture books to meet my 100 book pledge, I did read a fair bit of YA books, but since I count that as research for my classroom library I figure that is ok. Some of them were pretty good and some not so much.

In the non-fiction realm, I read Ethan Brown’s Murder in the Bayou about the eight women in Jennings, Louisiana, who were murdered. The book offered a ton, literally a ton, of more information than the mini-series, and made things a lot more clear. It was a good read.

I also read that Marie Kondo book that advises you to throw all your stuff away and wish I hadn’t. I didn’t throw one single thing away, for the record, that I wouldn’t have whether I’d read her book or not.  Thankful for that.

Ernest Gaines died a couple of weeks ago and that broke my heart. He was such a great writer and a true gentleman. I’m reading his short stories in Bloodline now. (Yes, I’m reading more than one book at a time.)  His book, A Lesson Before Dying made me ugly cry when I read it last year – such a great book.

Like most readers, my stack of books “to be read” is staggering and I’m not sure I will live long enough to read all of them. I might have a book buying disorder.

As for the book challenge, I have no idea why I did such a thing. It’s not like me at all.  Peer pressure is a powerful thing and looking back at the books I’ve read this year is humbling. Did I measure up?  (To what?!)  I probably won’t do the challenge again next year. Why am I on Goodreads in the first place? Who is tracking what I read and why?

It can make you a little paranoid.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

An immigration crackdown in Greece

By Christopher Harper

Having spent the past few days roaming around Greece, I find it amazing that the U.S. press hasn’t picked up on the crackdown on immigrants.

The Greek government has adopted a policy to “shut the door” on migrants not entitled to stay — a hardening of its stance amid a new surge in arrivals.

That would be from a country that often tilts toward the left side of the political spectrum.

Simply put, recent elections tossed out the old leader as citizens got tired of the immigration crisis in the country.

“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament. “Those who are not welcome will be returned. We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter even though they are not entitled to asylum.”

Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16.

In speaking with some local residents, citizens are unhappy that the refugees often have no desire to participate in the country’s social life, including keeping their children out of school. Few are trying to learn Greek.

“Greece has its strengths, but it is not an unfenced vineyard,” Mitsotakis said recently, using a Greek expression meaning the country is not open to anyone. “Those days are gone.”

Moreover, Mitsotakis’ government said it wants to move up to 20,000 asylum seekers out of sprawling island camps and onto the mainland by the end of the year and expects that new facilities will be ready by July 2020.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has raised concerns over the new centers, arguing that the new facilities would amount to detention centers. Human rights groups have also criticized a new framework for speeding up the processing of asylum requests as a “rushed” attempt that would impede access to a fair asylum process for refugees.

Separately, officials in neighboring North Macedonia said a police patrol detained a group of 33 migrants found walking through the southern part of the country, near its border with Greece. Police said the group consisted of 21 Afghan nationals, seven Pakistanis, three Iraqis, and two Iranians.

Although the Balkan route followed by migrants trying to reach Europe’s prosperous heartland has been closed since 2016, thousands still use it. They usually pay large sums to smuggling gangs to illegally get them through the closed borders.

Sound familiar?