Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Unknown Murder Mystery

Amid the crises and chaos -- oh my! -- I've been working on a post that could be called "creative nonfiction" about the murder of my mother's grandfather Joe in 1904.

Until recently, I knew nothing at all about it. I'm not sure my mother knew anything about it, either. The only mention I recall she made of her grandfather -- ie: her mother's father -- was that he died years before she was born, and she thought it was in an accident of some kind. But she didn't know.

She did remember Ida, Joe's widow, mother of Edna, my mother's mother. Ida always wore black, she was stern, and she was the matriarch of the house of women my mother was born into in 1911.

The newspaper articles about Joe's murder are pretty juicy, including plenty of salacious details, some gore, and statements from witnesses. My my, "Shorty," as he was called, was quite a character and so was Ella, his murderess.

In my research prior to discovering the murder story, I found a number of curiosities about Joe that I was unable to resolve, but there are some indications from this murder story about what was going on that are kind of astonishing when I think about it.

At some point, possibly around 1890 -- not long after Edna's birth -- it appears that Joe and Ida separated. I've found Joe apparently living with his mother Eliza, not with Ida. But I also found another Joe (we'll call him "Hastings" because that's one of the aliases he used) living elsewhere. On occasion, there were as many as three "Joes" -- that I suspect were all the same person -- living in different places in Indianapolis.

Then in 1904, the year "Shorty" was killed, Joe is listed as living at the same address as Ida, and someone  named "Francis J" is listed as living at Joe's mother's address. In other years, there is a "Joseph F" listed at Joe's mother's place, and Joe is not listed at Ida's -- except in the 1900 census, in which he is also listed at his mother's address. I'm pretty sure now that "Francis J," "Joseph F," and "Joseph M" are all the same person listed at different times. I have found no listing for "Joe Hastings" however.

Ella -- Joe's murderess -- and her husband Frank apparently knew Joe as "Joe Hastings." I suspect that Joe used the name "Francis J" sometimes when he was listed at his mother's house because of Frank Hicks, his mistress's husband. How drôle. They were apparently friends, as the newspaper report of the murder indicates that prior to the deed, Frank had invited Joe to stay for lunch with him and Ella.

From all accounts, Joe was a frequent visitor and had been visiting Ella and Frank for at least two years before the murder.

Ella claimed that she did Joe's washing. That's all. And that's why Joe came over as often as he did. But apparently neighbors knew that Joe and Ella were having an affair. Whether Frank knew, I don't know. I suspect he did.

These sorts of things weren't as unusual in the late Victorian era as we've been led to believe. In fact, casual couplings and long term affairs were pretty routine -- and from what I can tell, they were often accepted with little or no complaint or even much notice. Men and women both had affairs, though women (married or not) were at greater risk for consequences when they did.

I'd say such things are less usual these days than they were then.

In doing this research, I found that Ida -- Joe's wife, my mother's grandmother -- gave birth to her son Ralph more than a year before she married Joe. Oops. This wasn't all that unusual either, but still...

It gives rise to speculation: was Joe Ralph's father? Maybe, maybe not. About 18 months after Joe and Ida were married, my mother's mother Edna was born. Not long after that, as far as I can tell, Joe and Ida separated, and Ida, with her children, went back to live with her parents.

Ida's father, John, died in 1902; her mother Mariah Louisa died in 1908. After Ida moved back to her parents' home, she lived there with various relations. Then after her parents died, she lived there with her widowed sisters, her children, and eventually her granddaughter Virginia, my mother.

So from what I can tell, Ida was more or less independent after separating from Joe. But she did not divorce him, and after his death she staged a big funeral for him at her house and led the cortège to the cemetery a couple of miles away. From that day forth, she asserted she was Joe's widow, and she always dressed in black.

Ida also attended Ella's trial -- as the Wronged Widow Woman. Ella was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. I don't know what happened to Frank, or if Ella and Frank had any children. I've found no record of either of them except for the reports of Joe's murder.

It appears that Ida inherited property from her parents -- quite a lot of it if newspaper reports of her property sales are any indication. She was arguably quite well off from these sales. On the other hand, she claimed to be employed as a seamstress. From what my mother remembered of Ida, which wasn't a lot as my mother and her mother left the household in 1917 when my mother was only five years old, she was strict and stern, and I got the impression my mother didn't like her much, perhaps she was afraid of Ida.

Of course she wouldn't have known Joe, and I doubt she heard much about him. If, as I suspect, Joe and Ida separated not long after Edna's birth, then I doubt Edna had a lot of contact with her father, and she was probably much closer to her grandparents, but I don't know.

So much I don't know.

"Creative nonfiction" is about the only way I can deal with what I'm discovering, too.

Monday, January 16, 2017

As the Coup Continues

There seems to be a much more widespread understanding that there may be a Deep State coup under way to either control the incoming Trump regime or to prevent his ascension to the presidency should control prove impractical or unpossible.

Some observers have gone into hysterics over it, calling it "unprecedented" interference and such-like. Horseshit.

I've pointed out that this is what the Permanent Government does. I won't use a term like Deep State most of the time because it's not really hidden, and its ways ought to be pretty well known by now. It isn't just Trump. They try to undermine or control every president. And if that proves to be to be too difficult or the president goes rogue, they have other solutions at their disposal. Those of us who are old enough have witnessed some of those solutions.

After all, presidents. serve for 4 or 8 years, if that. The Permanent Government is there always. And some of the individuals who hold the power of that Government would like to be there in perpetuity. Immortals, they are or would be if they could be.

Some Trump supporters/defenders seem to be relying on the institutions of government, the constitution, the congress, the courts and such like to protect Trump from the machinations of the Deep State. I'd say that trust is misplaced. The institutions themselves are rotten to the core, long ago compromised and corrupted. They can't effectively protect anyone, not even themselves, and they have that institutional knowledge. They might serve as a buffer if things go completely haywire, but beyond that, I can't see them serving any positive function at all.

If the coup is successful, they'll go along. If it isn't, they'll go along. From appearances, they seem to be on the side of their own perpetuation. Thus, they are instinctively golpistas, but they are unlikely to participate directly in the program.

The institutional defense is the constitution. Whereas the incoming Trump regime seems to be intent on circumventing the constitution and ignoring the rule of law -- among other things -- in order to install direct rule by the oligarchs and kleptocrats, the institutions of the permanent government rely on their devotion to the constitution and the rule of law to prop up their shaky legitimacy. In other words, they may be corrupt and compromised, decadent and generally useless on behalf of the People, BUT they follow the process of government as delineated in the constitution and practiced through the ages. It may not work very well, but that doesn't matter, they do it as they have done it for centuries, and this Trump regime is not going to be allowed to operate outside those parameters.

The institutions will not protect Trump and his cronies if they continue to try to operate outside them.

On the other hand, some of the Trump loyalists and defenders seem to think that if this coup-business goes much further, Trump can rely on a faction of the military to protect him and the incoming regime. That may be the case, I don't know. His determination to strategically seed generals in his cabinet and among his close advisors is certainly indicative of an interest in using the military as a shield, and I'm sure that the golpistas are factoring that into their calculations.

Trump supporters seem to think he's popular and that the public wants him to rule. This does not seem to be the case at all. He was never generally popular, and what popularity he had is cratering as the public witnesses more and more of the chaos that ensues from his wild, unpredictable and childish behavior. Even the military is shaken by it. This man isn't capable of governing  a global imperial state like the United States of America, and he apparently refuses to learn how to do it.

That's not to say that direct rule by the oligarchs and kleptocrats is something the military and governing institutions instinctively reject. They don't. Not at all. But a faction of them do reject such rule by Trump simply because he demonstrates every day he is incapable of handling the "awesome responsibility" of the office. He's too scattered, too unpredictable, too resistant to control. He wishes to be an emperor, dictator, and god, against which there can be no opposition.

His supporters largely want him to be that too: an emperor, dictator and god.

How far we have fallen from the ideal of a self-governing republic.

Maybe that was a pipedream all along.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Chaos -- and The Wreck

I've been contemplating Chaos the last few weeks, and wouldn't you know, last Wednesday, Ms. Ché was involved in a serious auto accident in Albuquerque. She and the other driver were both injured, and the cars were totaled. This was Albuquerque, and this is what happens day in and day out. You never know when it will happen to you. But you can be almost certain that it will.

So I guess you have to be prepared, but I don't really know how you prepare for what is essentially a random incident. Best you can do is prepare for the risk. Be aware that it can happen at any time, and you never know. 

I wasn't there, so I don't know exactly how this wreck happened or whose liability will eventually be claimed. From what I've been told, it sounds like either driver, or both, may have been at fault. At any rate, that determination is probably weeks or months away.

In the meantime, Ms. Ché is recovering from her injuries (mostly from the airbags) well, and the insurance company has paid off her car loan and provided a modest amount on top of it to use toward another car should we choose.

Well, since Ms. Ché starts back to school at IAIA in Santa Fe on Tuesday, we pretty much have to choose. We have another vehicle, the ancient Astro van that got us here from California back in the day, but she says she can't drive it ("It's too big! My feet won't reach the pedals!") and I really wouldn't want her to, as it is old and the brakes -- among other things -- aren't the best. I've driven it in ice and snow -- whoo-hoo! -- and it's an adventure to say the least.

Another car, though. Hm. A friend wants to sell us a recently restored 1957 T-Bird. Wouldn't that be fun? It's a gorgeous car, but well out of our price range (I believe they want $37,000 and it's worth more), and beyond that, I'm not sure it's the best thing to commute the 50 miles each way between our place and Santa Fe. Still... it would be a treat.

I've contemplated a beater, rust bucket pick up. They are available at pretty low prices in this area, but... Not sure Ms. Ché would be able to drive it any better than she could drive the van, and there would be plenty of safety concerns on that long daily commute. A breakdown along the way could be a serious misadventure.

The car that was wrecked was a Subaru, pretty much an ideal vehicle for New Mexico given the weather and the roads and so forth. She loved it. Now for something else...

The Wreck of course was a chaotic incident. Chaos seems to be our collective fate for a while. Getting through it is not going to be easy, yet some of us are well-adapted to coping with whatever comes our way.

I'm not altogether sure I'm one of them. But we'll see, won't we?

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Coup Intensifies

I dunno.

This Russian Thing is getting more and more bizarre by the hour. The supposed "dossier" has had some effect, but just what it is and will be, who can say?

The intent seems to be more of a warning than a serious effort to undermine/overthrow the President-elect, *quote unquote*, as if to say, "Look, we can do this, and you can't do anything to stop it."

Yes, and? Are they trying to bring him to heel? Or is it something else?

I've been pretty clear that I don't think Trump should take office. His faction of the ruling clique was always small, and from appearances, its core seems to be shrinking. They clearly have a personal interest in seizing the government's levers and dials, and they are being opposed by a much larger cohort that doesn't want to yield. That doesn't mean Trump can't overcome the obstacles being placed in the way of his rule, but each time he has to do something to overcome the obstacles, authoritarianism and rule by diktat are solidified. This may be the intent of the factions of the ruling clique that are facing him down, I don't know.

What I have little doubt of is that these things have been long since gamed out and prepared for. People tend to have very naive notions about how incompetent our government is or how ultimately benign it is. In fact, its operations are quite strictly controlled and internally they are remarkably competently implemented for long time and long term interests and goals. It's not perfect, but on the whole, it's highly organized and well-conducted. And yes, the possibility of someone like Trump arising and being "elected" and what to do about it has probably been one of the scenarios of what could come since before I was born.

The Rabble can certainly affect outcomes, but what's going on is essentially an internal struggle between factions of the ruling clique.

Something like it happened at the outset of the imposed Bush-Cheney Regime when elements of the ruling clique set out to control the incoming regime's scope of action. It worked for a while. Certainly Bush-Cheney was far more publicly benign from its installation in January until the events of 9/11/2001. Once the attacks occurred, however, everything changed fundamentally. Within a month, the government was transformed, and nearly all controls on the actions of Bush-Cheney, domestically as well as overseas were lifted. Opposition within the ruling clique all but disappeared.

And we had one catastrophe of bad judgment after another.

Was that because there was no coherent opposition within government, or was it because a previously prepared game plan was being implemented? I'd say it was a bit of both, plus the effects of whatever spontaneous elements appeared.

It was undeniably catastrophic for millions upon millions of Americans, millions upon millions of people overseas.

And that catastrophe was only partially mitigated in the US, not mitigated at all in the Middle East and elsewhere under the calming rule of Obama and his faction.

Now the Incoming is set to transform government top to bottom (or so they say) and impose catastrophic rule domestically and on a somewhat different set of targets overseas. The permanent government and its ruling clique allies are responding with one grenade after another. I don't think we've ever witnessed anything like it.

It's a kind of a coup. It could turn into a real one. As I said in November, what might come is interim rule by a military figure. But if so, it isn't publicly being prepared for.

Delegitimization of the Incoming is proceeding apace, but beyond that? What? At this point, it's impossible to tell.

The Congress is totally out of control. The Incoming is fighting and flailing. The spectacle is getting more and more chaotic.

What next?

One week before the Inauguration.

Strap in.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Continuing Russian Thing

Hot horny Jeebus. This is stupid.

Why in heaven Our Rulers -- or a faction of them -- continue to press this Russian Thing defies reason. They're out of their minds. It should have long ago been over.

Yes, perhaps some of it is true, but it doesn't really matter whether the Ruskies were trying to influence the election. One would -- or should -- expect various foreign interests to attempt to have their say in who gets to sit on the Imperial Throne after all, and it should make little difference to the American electorate.

There are other problems with our elections that are far more significant and important including unverifiable voting machines and growing levels of voter suppression. The fact that Americans have to choose between what Hugh at Ian's Place calls "shit-sandwiches" for president -- sandwiches chosen by their Betters for their malleability and their likely service to the High and the Mighty while keeping the masses entertained and tame -- is much worse in the end than any propaganda and poison that is injected into the mix by inside and outside influencers.

Our elections have been farces for many years. For people of my generation, November 22, 1963, was the only "election" that really mattered; every one since then has been a farce. The situation has gone from bad to worse, and there is really nothing the People in their multitudes can do about it through regular order.

As long as we accept the regular order of elections and transfers of power and observing the constitution (although not), things cannot change for the better. We started down a rathole in 1964, and we cannot emerge, because there isn't a light at the end of that tunnel. That way leads directly to Hell.

We can break out of the confines of that tunnel, though, and as soon as we do, voila! A new day dawns. Or rather, its always dawning, we just can't see it for all the garbage and horseshit we're surrounded with.

That's why, among so many other things, the Russian Thing strikes me as so stupid. It doesn't matter. But a faction of Our Rulers is intent on making things as fraught as possible with the Ruskies, because they miss the Cold War. Or something.

Of course the Other Faction, apparently aligned with Trump, is just as desperate to get it on with Iran and China and who knows who else, as well as that shadowy metastasizing 'threat' called ISIS or whatever the Brown Menace du Jour might be.

They are creations, essentially fictions, brought forth and flogged to provide an enemy to fight. For without enemies, Our Rulers have no meaning.

Deny them their enemies and you deny them their power.

Think about that...

Monday, January 9, 2017

Pondering the Dead Lists

As I'm old and ill myself, thoughts of mortality naturally enter into my consciousness -- perhaps more than I want them to. Death of course is part of the pageant of life, and I can't say I'm particularly frightened of shuffling off this mortal coil when the time comes, whenever that may be. For all my current health problems, I'm doing pretty well. Frustrations there are aplenty, but it could be so much worse, and so I'm grateful for whatever time I have left and whatever joy and insight I can find and share in that time.

In exploring my ancestry, I'm finding out about people and incidents of death and let's call it mayhem that I knew little or nothing about unmotil recently.

It started with my uncle Vincent who was tried (twice) for the murder of his wife in 1946. My father was one of his defense attorneys, so I knew something about it but not a whole lot. The main take away was that he was acquitted, but how that happened seemed a bit mysterious to me. What I gathered was that my brother -- who was there when his aunt died -- was interviewed in chambers, and subsequently, the court directed a verdict of acquittal. But I didn't know that this was his second trial, and that the first trial had ended in a hung jury -- 9-3, acquital. I also had no idea what the situation really was in Vincent's household and how his wife might have met her demise by cruel accident just as Vincent claimed in his defense.

His alibi was that he was at his mistress's house when his wife fell down the stairs, hit her head and expired. He found her body when he returned the next morning. Called the police, one thing led to another, and he was arrested and charged with murder 2.

One theory was that an intruder had come into the house -- for robbery perhaps -- and bludgeoned her to death. The other theory was that she had just fallen to her death down a flight of stairs, hit her head on a table and that was that.

The prosecution argued that in a drunken rage, Vincent had pushed her down the stairs and left her to die while he went to dally with his mistress in town.

That was actually what my mother believed to be the case, and there was always that kernel of doubt about what had happened.

But my brother was a witness, the only witness, really. He could not testify because he was ruled incompetent.He was 11 years old at the time and severely physically and mentally disabled. He had been raised by his aunt and uncle, Vincent and Garla, since his mother died at his birth. My father could not look after him and Vincent and Garla could not have children of their own, so they took my brother in and raised him as their son.

The extent of his disabilities were manifested over years. He couldn't stand up or walk on his own, he couldn't talk until he was about eight years old, he had repeated seizures. He was in much worse shape than I thought. I only saw him when I was an infant. He was in private care after Garla's death and it was thought unwise for me to see him or him to see me later on. So I never did.

As a witness, I'm not sure what he might have said, or if what he said in chambers made any sense. But apparently it was enough, combined with other evidence, for the judge to declare there wasn't a case for murder.

I learned from a cousin I discovered online that Garla had many problems herself. She drank heavily for one thing. But maybe worse, and what could easily have been the proximate cause of her death, was that she couldn't see very well. From her descriptions of what was happening, her vision would come and go -- she could see for a time, and then her central vision would go blank and she could only see peripherally, sometimes not even that. It can't be corrected with glasses, of course. If she was tipsy and lost her vision the night of her death, well... that would be that, wouldn't it?

Vincent claimed he had left the house in the afternoon to go see Pauline his mistress, and he stayed with her until the next morning. She corroborated his alibi in court. The prosecution's claim was that Vincent had dispatched his wife so he could marry Pauline. They both denied it vigorously.

Well, as it turned out, after his acquittal, Vincent and Pauline were married and they moved to Santa Barbara where they lived the rest of their lives. Hm. Stranger things. I didn't know they were in Santa Barbara -- I thought they'd stayed in Iowa. I periodically lived in Santa Maria, just up the road from Santa Barbara. Stranger things indeed. Vincent died in 1962 which was the last year I saw my father. I think there is a connection, but I'm not entirely sure what it is.

Next on the dead list was my mother's biological father Lawrence. He died when she was five years old in 1916. She told me she remembered very little (I think nothing) about him, but that she clearly recalled attending his funeral where it was discovered he had another wife and daughter. Ooops. This supposedly led to a big scandal, and eventually my mother and her mother moved to California from Indianapolis "to escape the shame."

The shame? Yes. According to my mother, the "discovery" of Lawrence's other family at his funeral was scandalous because it meant that he was a bigamist.

But as I've explored the situation and the public record, I'm not sure it was such a scandal at all. Nor am I convinced that Lawrence's death was an accident.

According to the story I was told and my mother seemed to believe, Lawrence was killed in a streetcar accident in Indianapolis when he was crushed between the cars.

Except that's not quite what happened. He wasn't in Indianapolis, he was in St. Louis. It wasn't a street car accident, it was a railyard incident, and he was indeed caught between two rail cars, a freight car and a refrigerator car, and he was cut in half.

Yes, he had another wife and daughter in St. Louis, but whether he was a bigamist, I can't say. There are hints that he was never legally married to my mother's mother [Note: I found a marriage notice today (01/10/2017); Lawrence and Edna were married on February 4, 1910 in Louisville, KY, yet in April 1910, Lawrence was listed in the census as divorced] but I've found a record of his marriage to his St. Louis wife and to another wife in Indianapolis from whom he was divorced. He had another child by a young girl in Indianapolis (she was 16) the same year my mother was born, as well three children by his first wife, and another daughter by his St. Louis wife. There may have been others, who knows?

The point is that he was quite a ladies' man, and this is one reason why I'm suspicious of his death in the railyard.

For his St. Louis wife subsequently married the yard boss. How... convenient.

Railyard incidents leading to the death of switchmen weren't all that rare in those days as worker safety was not the highest priority, but it was certainly possible to arrange "accidents" should the need arise.

It may have arisen in Lawrence's case simply because... well, any number of reasons. At any rate, he died, and soon thereafter my mother and her mother and Leo, a friend of Larry's from his Indianapolis days who married my mother's mother, decamped for California and a new life. Things went well for them. And then they didn't. But that's another story.

Most recently -- yesterday in fact -- I came across the story of what happened to my mother's grandfather Joseph. He died in 1904, well before my mother's birth. His wife, Ida, then put on her widow's weeds (she always wore black said my mother) and... well, "mourned" is probably too grand a term. More accurately, she declared her independence, and she lived with her children and her widowed sisters and their children until the household broke up in 1917 with the departure of my mother's family to California. Ida went to Chicago with her son, Ralph. Ida's sisters, Nora and Lillian (or Josephine, her first name which she didn't use) stayed in Indianapolis. Ida would return to Indianapolis after Ralph got married c. 1920, an she lived there (as a widow) with one or another of her sisters (both of whom remarried) until her death in 1935.

Joseph, Ida's husband and Edna's father (Edna was my mother's mother) was shot and killed by his mistress Ella on May 24, 1904, apparently after he told her he was "through with her."

According to news reports, he'd been seeing Ella for years, and he basically hadn't lived in the same household as Ida and their children for years before that. Supposedly he moved out to take care of his ill and disabled mother across town. But then at some point, he sent his mother to Chicago to be looked after by his sister who lived there, and Joseph stayed at his mother's house while he prepared to close it. At least that was his story. He had taken up with Ella Hicks, a married woman, at sometime during his separation from Ida.

Ella claimed she only did Joseph's washing and when he made an indecent proposal to her that day, she defended herself with her revolver, thus the murder was actually self defense, don't you see? But apparently there were witnesses to actually happened, and who knew all about Ella's affair with Joseph. Though Frank, Ella's husband, was not a witness to the murder, he apparently knew about the affair, and...I guess he was OK with it. He and Joseph were apparently buddies at any rate. Since I derive all of this from newspaper reports of the incident and Ella's trial, I can't say how much of it is true. Make no mistake, media was just as filled with falsehoods and "fake news" then as it is now, if not more so.

Witnesses said that Ella was intoxicated and was quite deliberate in shooting Joseph when he told her they were done. She was not about to let him go back to his wife or to another woman, no way, no how, and she shot him.

The jury believed that account of what happened and convicted her. She was sentenced to life in prison, but her lawyers argued for a new trial. Apparently that happened, but I don't know the outcome. They were going to try to argue an insanity defense, and maybe they were successful, but if so, I doubt Ella would have been released.

And so... I don't know what these things mean, if anything, in the vast, eternal scheme.  Yet I'm bothered by it just the same.

I didn't know. I think that's the most bothersome thing. But I don't know what I would have done if I did know about these deaths and others among my ancestors and relations. As I find that misadventure plays a role perhaps as great as illness and old age in the history of deaths in the family, and that affairs play more than a little role in those misadventures, I have to think about how that all works -- especially in the contexts of the times.

We have an image of Victorian/Edwardian propriety, let's say, that simply isn't matched by fact. In doing research, I found out my father was married three times. I knew about two of his wives, but not the first one -- she was never mentioned. I knew he had affairs, but with whom or when, nope. Well, except for one, but I'll leave that for another time.

And so it goes. In discussing some of these things with my new-found cousin, she confesses there's so much she never knew about her own family and ancestors, so much that was never said. She didn't know about me, for example, nor did I know about her, even though we lived fairly close to one another in California, and there were other cousins (all now dead) much closer -- and we knew nothing about one another. No one ever said. She said there were other cousins too that she had no knowledge of, except their names.

She said she thinks I was privileged because at least I got to know some of the family in Iowa. She never did. We both wonder if there are any relations still living in Iowa, or did they all move to California?

We don't know.

She wants to know how as many of our relatives as we can find died, for she thinks there might be a genetic thread to follow. I don't know.

For example, we share a German great-grandfather who died in 1901 a couple of weeks after my father's birth. We don't know the cause, but we do have a picture, a family portrait taken perhaps five years or sooner before his death (there's no date, but the clothes and the ages of the children indicate it was taken in the 1890s). Reinhold, our great-grandfather, appears to have fallen asleep in the portrait while reading the newspaper. I look at it and suspect he had congestive heart failure -- which would be consistent with what we see in the portrait. May be. I don't know.

She wants to know how Vincent died. I don't know for sure, but I suspect alcoholism, as he was a heavy drinker like his late wife. My father died of cancer. My mother died of emphysema -- smoked like a chimney till the end, she did.

But my sister died of pulmonary thrombosis following surgery for shattered knees injured in a prison takedown. I think I've told the story before. She was 59. My brother also died of pulmonary thrombosis, but it appears he was in a coma for a long time beforehand. He was 32.

So many things we know, and so many more things we don't know. It is a wonder...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hm. Things You Find Out On the Internet

For some time, I've been working on a follow up post to the one about the house where my mother grew up in Santa Maria. In order to work on it, I had to do some more research on where she and her mother, grandmother and aunts lived in Indianapolis.

The household in Indianapolis was a matriarchy because all the older women were widows, and my mother's mother (Grandmother Ida's daughter) would become a widow soon enough.

So today I was looking up some information on Ida's husband Joseph (I think I called him John in an earlier post) who died in 1904. (I may have said 1902. It seems I confused Ida's husband with her father.)

I found his death certificate today. It said the cause of death was "gun shot wound." That was interesting. I had thought he died in an accident of some kind, but had no idea he'd been shot. Maybe it was suicide? Murder? Something else?

Digging around on the Google Machine, I found news stories which explained plenty. He was murdered.

By his paramour, Ella Hicks.

Apparently, he'd been seeing Mrs. Hicks -- yes, she was married -- for some years, and one day, while he and she were drunk at her house, he told her he was through with her. She took her gun from the chest of drawers in her bedroom and shot him in the mouth, killing him instantly.

I had no idea. Well, I had some suspicion that something was up because Joseph had been living with his mother -- so he said -- at her house, which he used for his official address much more than the address of the house he shared with Ida and their children, Ralph and Edna (Edna would be my grandmother.)

Ella was tried in July of 1904 -- the murder was in May and apparently was witnessed by more than one neighbor -- and she was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Turns out Ida's sister Lillian was the widow of an Indianapolis policeman who was killed in the line of duty. Now I'll have to find out about Ida's sister Nora, who was also a widow. What happened to her husband? And then there is the saga of Edna's husband Larry, who would die under curious circumstances himself -- I've always thought he was murdered by "accident," but how would such a thing be proven? Ah, that's the cleverness of it, no?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On the Refusal to Stop Being Distracted

For some it's football; for some it's Facebook and Twitter; for me I suppose it's nostalgia and learning something about my ancestry.

These are distractions from The Other Things we're told are Very Important and To Be Feared. Media outlets compete with one another to generate the highest level of fear among the Rabble they can, and apparently one of the focuses of Fear, Fear, Fear is the Russian Thing (whatever it may be) and Putin-the-Devil.

Oh my goodness. I am all atremble.

I can't even count the number of years ago it became apparent to me that Our Dauntless/Faultless Media engages in Deliberate Fear Campaigns over anything at all (including Foreign Devils) on a regular basis, the point of which is to get the Rabble all hopped up about something and buying things -- including repeat doses of media propaganda -- to salve their Fear. You go back in media history, and fearmongering over just about anything at all has been a constant throughout that history. So has propaganda on behalf of government and propaganda against the ruling party in favor of the other party. Conspiracy theories have been rampant in the mainstream and the fringe media. As bad as it is now, it's been worse in the past.

All the agitation against it has done nothing to change it. We must come to the recognition, then, that Our Media, for all its good points and for all its ills, has never been the paragon we are expecting it to be. The media's function, for the most part, is to distract the Rabble from what's important.

What's important is the way government and finance capital collude to rob and exploit the people and suppress dissent and revolt in order to continue robbing, exploiting and destroying for profit.

What's important is that elections in the US -- as well as many foreign lands -- are farces. The pageants result in outcomes that the Rabble must accept on faith alone because there is no way on earth to verify the vote. It is what we're told it is, with no way at all to review and confirm that the tallies actually record the vote as cast by those who  are permitted to cast votes.

What's important is that the pace of climate change appears to be accelerating and our rulers have made no preparations for the well-being of the Rabble -- and don't appear to care what happens to them anyway.

What's important is that our warriors continue to expand their reach and continue precipitating calamity and chaos without end.

What's important is that our rulers rule contemptuously and contrary to the interests and will of the People, and they believe there is nothing the People can or will do that they need pay attention to.

What's important is that 2016 was the turning point whether anybody likes it or not, and it's now or never. Change for the better will come -- or it's not coming, and we may as well lie down and die.

If we are to be saved, it will be up to us to do it; no Savior is on the horizon.

I've said that "non-cooperation" is the key to changing things. Don't go along with the Fear, don't go along with what we're told to do, don't go along with what we're told is true.

Starting with the election outcome.

As I've said many times, the vote and the outcome cannot be verified. We have to take it on faith alone. I for one refuse. Everyone should. Refusing to accept the outcome, denying its legitimacy is the first step to undermining the legitimacy of the whole enterprise our rulers have been engaged in. Denying the legitimacy of the election delegitimizes not just the presidency but the congress, courts, state houses and even local governments. The whole rotten apparatus of rule starts to crumble.

The people don't have to engage in violent uprisings -- though I expect that will happen in some areas under some circumstances. There may be no way to prevent it. On the other hand, simply refusing to be distracted from what's important and sustaining that refusal can have powerful effects far beyond what's immediately apparent.

This year things will change for many millions of Americans and people around the world. We can't stop it, but we can affect what changes and how that change occurs.

We can-- and must -- make a difference.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Looking Back on 2016 -- Heightening the Contradictions

So far, this has been a winter without winter where we live. I'm writing at around 2 am on what should be a cold winter's night, but the outside temp is nearly 40, and there's been some rain. Rain. In late December, early January. In Central New Mexico, rather high in the mountains. While it's not unheard of -- little is -- it's not at all normal.

2016 was like that. Different yet much the same, and not at all normal.

In January, I started having severe symptoms of what turned out to be rheumatioid arthritis. Diagnosis was complicated by the onset of pneumonia. Looking back, I realize what a mess I must have been. I didn't know it at the time, but that's kind of how it goes. When I'm ill, I rarely realize how bad it is -- or if it is bad at all -- and as a rule I wait too long for treatment. In this case, the situation was complicated by multiple conditions needing treatment and by my own cussedness and contrariness.

I think all of that has influenced the way I look at what else happened last year.

"Ché What You Call Your Pasa" started as a political commentary blog back in 2007, and that's what it primarily still is though now mixed quite a bit with personal recollections, ancestry research, nostalgia, local interests, and my obsession with houses. Still the political nonsense of Our Betters and the resistance to their machinations provide the scaffold on which hang whatever insight I may have about what''s going on in the USofA and the world.

What a mess indeed.

Throughout the past many years, I've been highly critical of the policies of the White House occupants and the carefully engineered Congressional majority. I've run the electoral process in this country through multiple wringers. The courts have been subject to intense criticism, particularly the utter lawlessness that seems to have infected the judiciary at every level.

I've been a critic of much of the standard internet criticism of the Way Things Are and How Bad Our Rulers Are. This has been going on since before there was an internet, in much the same way, with the same concepts and criticisms repeated ad nauseum, and nothing (much) gets better. We are always just "starting" to see or believe something that is generally self-evident; the Empire is always on the verge of collapse; blamecasting and scapegoating for failures is a constant; but failures themselves are only steps on the way to ultimate victory. More than anything, the Democrat (sic) Party must be destroyed; the Republicans are generally blameless because they (at least) "tell the truth;" liberty means private sector or even individual ability to impose authority without government interference.

On the internet it's taken as axiomatic that the Clintons ("Clintoons!!") are the source of all corruption and evil.

The Democrats in Congress are worthless.

The media is little more than propaganda for one side or the other.

There aren't really two "sides" anyway. There's only one side with two faces.

Obama is a buffoon. So was Bush. So was Clinton.

In fact no White House occupant since FDR, and maybe not since Lincoln or Washington, has been worthy of the office.

The voters are ill-equipped to make a rational choice for President, thus the mess we're in.

Yadda yadda.

While some of this is rhetoric and cant, some is true enough. The problem is that nothing (much) changes for the better. It just keeps getting worse, no matter what.

Underlying it is the wish for a Savior to fix things once and for all. With the (apparent) election of Trump, much as was the case with the election of Obama, at least some Americans feel the Savior has Come.

Of course, I reject the very idea. Presidents have a particular role to play in the Pageant, but Savior is not one of them -- except among true believers whose touching faith is at the root of both major party's base.

So we've gone through a year of chaos, contradiction, bizarre obsessions, denial, and political theater such as has not been seen in this way previously. Much of the internet seems to feel vindicated by the (apparent) election of Trump. If he's not their Savior, he is what they have been waiting for -- for good and ill.

This belief seems to afflict both the "left" and the right as well as much of the libertarian cohort. They look to Trump to undo what's wrong and restore what's right, and in the end, to rule as a (somewhat) benign dictator/entertainer -- which is all they've ever wanted in the first place.

There is no doubt in my mind that the political system is rotten to the core, and to my way of looking at it, the problems are inherent in the system. It cannot be reformed. No dictator, benign or otherwise, will "fix" anything because they benefit from what's wrong. In fact, so long as the entire institutional establishment benefits from what's wrong or can be made to benefit them, nothing (much) will change for the better. Our system of politics and rule is set up to be that way. It cannot be changed from the inside, and the influence of the Outside (us, the Rabble) on events is slight or none.

The electoral pageant of 2016 had many elements of unreality. The candidates all around were generally execrable with the exception of Sanders whose candidacy was almost too rational for his own good, certainly for the times. Apart from being an old man railing against old problems and offering old solutions (my god, is there nothing new to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow? Nothing?) he was arguing, arguing, arguing, all the time, as if by rational argument alone the intractable problems of our times can be/will be corrected.

No. It doesn't work that way.

I think he knew that, but he was out there making a case that needed to be made-- no one else in the political hierarchy would dare to make it -- and let the chips fall where they may.

Eyes would be opened. The Butterfly Effect would be initiated and things would work out eventually.

Or not.

Mrs. Clinton conducted what looked to me to be a very odd campaign, one that was nearly secret because so much of it was conducted behind closed doors at high dollar fundraisers. Her absence from public view appeared to be strategic. Since everyone already knew everything about her, there was thought to be no need to show her to the public any more. All that was necessary was to defeat her rivals, which-- according to elite theory -- ought to have been a simple enough thing to do.

A clown on the one hand, vs a radical Socialist on the other. Piece of cake.

But it wasn't. Bernie got very close to defeating her in the primaries, and according to some opinion, his defeat was engineered by the Party hierarchy. In other words, had it not been for electoral fraud on a massive scale, Bernie would have won the Democratic Party nomination. Maybe. Maybe not.

Funny thing about our elections: we can't ever know whether those accusations are true or not. Our elections are riddled with faults, opacity, voter suppression, and opportunities for fraud (ie: fixing the tally to fit a pre-determined outcome). Our system is an anachronistic, opportunistic embarrassment and it should have been scrapped long ago. But certain interests benefit from the way things are, and nothing will change for the better so long as that is true.

Herself seemed stunned that it was so difficult to reach the goal she sought. It was incomprehensible to her that there was so much genuine opposition to her ascension; the opposition could only be the result of historic anti-Clinton propaganda and the inherent deplorability of the voters who opposed her. 

All her campaign thought they had to do was make mock of and denounce her chief rival, the Evil Clown, and she'd be home free. It was a campaign run like the front page of Daily Kos, and in the end it resulted in self immolation.

The opposition to her ascension, however, was more than matched by the opposition to the ascension of her chief rival, the Trump the Evil Clown. Ultimately, the opposition to him was even greater than the opposition to her, but the quirks of our anachronistic system once again allowed the loser to be declared the winner, and here we go.

Once again: the second time in 16 years that the Electoral College has elevated the popular vote loser to the presidency, once again defying the will of the people (well, at least those of the People willing and able to cast a vote) to install the Other Guy in the White House. This time it didn't require a Supreme Court intervention to reach that point, but courts did intervene, repeatedly, to stall or stop recounts of votes in crucial states. Courts ruled to protect the announced outcome, regardless of what really happened.

We don't -- and can't -- know whether the outcome was jiggered, nor can we know to what extent it was or is possible to jigger election outcomes.

Based on the shocked reaction to the outcome by all and sundry -- including the ostensible "winner" -- the outcome defied expectations. Either the election wasn't seriously compromised and it more or less accurately reflected the will of the voters, or it was heavily jiggered in the states that mattered and there was and is no way to be sure about it one way or another. Either scenario results in the same shock.

Ever since November 8, we've been in a situation where one faction of the Overclass is trying to figure out how to get out of this mess while another faction is trying to consolidate its power in the face of the Twitter troll in chief's chaotic hoo-hah.

In other words, things are flying apart, and it's only by chance that they seem to be holding together.

We're still on the edge of the precipice (another internet trope, btw). I would put it this way: it's another precipice. We've already fallen far. Crashed and burned. The survivors are now facing another drop.

Under the circumstances we really don't have a future to look forward to. The end is not so much nigh as it has long since come.

We're sorting through the debris, that's all.

Compared to the hell so many people around the world have been going through, our situation is mild. That may change at any time, but for now, even the worst of what's been happening domestically -- and much of it is terrible -- is nowhere near the catastrophic levels of pain, death and destruction faced by whole populations abroad. Need we mention the ongoing horrors in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Ukraine and on and on? We have had it lucky compared to so many others.

The contradiction between what those outside our borders go through and what Americans go through -- and complain mightily about -- is stark. We should acknowledge that but we don't.

The notion that somehow putting a made-man "billionaire" in the White House will tame or end corruption is absurd. But it's passionately believed by those afflicted with Savior-itis.

The idea that somehow wars will end because Trump wants "peace" borders on insanity. But it's believed passionately by those afflicted with Savior-itis.

One of the most persistent arguments in favor of Trump's ascension is that regardless of what happens domestically ("who cares, really?") his foreign policies will more than make up for any domestic deterioration. More than make up for it. Never mind no one knows what those foreign policies are. One can dream, can't one?

The idea is that since he won't start "Clinton's War" with Russia, it's all good. Nothing else matters at all. Of course, I've argued that Clinton wouldn't have started any such war, either. What she was doing was ham-handed and stupid, but it would not have led to a first strike against Russia. Period.

Trump on the other hand seems intent on fomenting conflict -- nuclear or otherwise -- with China, Iran, "ISIS" and others, and for some reason that's ok with his loyalists and defenders. Kill them all. "They're not like us."

Of course I recognize and point out the inherent and historic racism in this point of view. "They're not like us" is the key to understanding. One commenter posted about how the Chinese and Vietnamese and others of that ilk raise, kill and eat dogs, the implication being that for that alone they deserve to be exterminated. I'd say they beg to disagree.

Other excuses for mass extermination of the Other include the fact that they breed too much ("Look at Africa for god's sake!") and they don't obey their Betters.

Whatever the case, there are just too many of them and if they won't go quietly into the void, they must be pushed -- for the benefit of all of us.

Don't you see?

Getting rid of them will make our lives better somehow.

This is one of the basic tenets of White Supremacy, and during the Euro-American colonial/imperial period, getting rid of them was policy. Precipitating population control of the other by famine, war and other means (spreading diseases, for example) was routinely employed as a means of keeping their numbers in check. My Irish ancestors had plenty of experience with the tactic as it was constantly being employed by the British against them.

Of course it was policy in the United States against the Indians as well.

So will we see a return to it? I don't know, but all the mechanisms exist to do so, and White Supremacy has once again come to the fore. It's the unmentioned key to understanding the rise of the right in North America and Northern Europe.

They want their countries back.

And to the extent they can, they will get their countries back.

The rest of us had better hunker down.

During the year just past I quoted Robert Graves, "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out."

That's certainly what's happening. Our supposed enemies seem quite content to let it be.

It makes the contradictions between the away we see ourselves and want to be and the way our rulers see us and their own future even starker.

I say the situation is unstable, inherently chaotic, and it will not end well.

But then we've been on this path for so long perhaps it's too late to change it.

Read Mao On Contradiction. See if he wasn't on to something, and see if centers of rivalry -- whether domestically or internationally -- haven't figured it out.

Happy(?) New Year.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of Year Wrap Up

We live in Interesting Times.

More later. Much to think about and much to do today.

[01/01/2017 :  Well. I didn't get to it yesterday, and it doesn't look like I'll get to it today. Too. Much. To. Do.

Nevertheless, despite all, may I wish all and sundry a sufficiently happy new year for the needs thereof... looks like we're gonna have at least one more job to do...]

Friday, December 30, 2016

Houses: My Mother Grew Up Here

Herself lived here...
This is the house where my mother grew up in Santa Maria, California. Until recently, I didn't know where she had lived in Santa Maria when she was young. I don't think she ever told me, and I'm not sure I ever asked, despite the fact that I lived in Santa Maria from 1949 to 1953, and I spent most summers there from 1973 to 1983.

The picture was taken by the omnipresent Google Street View in 2012, before the house was fairly extensively rehabbed. Though the front porch is enclosed in this image, and the paint color is not likely to have been original (ha), the picture gives a pretty good idea of what the house was like when my mother lived there.

It seems to me to be quite a pleasant place, all things considered.

It's a classic California bungalow built c. 1918. My mother, her mother, and her step-father moved to California from Indiana in 1917, and I'm pretty sure that my mother's step-father had this house built shortly thereafter. In 1920, it was apparently the only house on that side of the street. It was two blocks from my mother's stepfather -- Leo's -- work at the Eugene Rubel Dodge dealership on Broadway.

"A Classic California Bungalow" gives me pause. Our last home in California was in a neighborhood full of "Classic California Bungalows" and I can't say that I was particularly fond of them. They tended to be dark as caves, and if they were in original condition -- few of them were -- they were poorly constructed, rickety, rotting, with unsafe and inadequate wiring, failing plumbing, tiny kitchens, and otherwise barely functional interiors.

They were considered the height of modernity back in the day, however, so much better and simpler they were than the gaudy Victorians they replaced. In California at the time this house was built, the Bungalow was the nearly universal modest home style, and I can well imagine that the family that moved from industrial Indianapolis to idyllic California in 1917 were entranced with the idea of building and living in one.

Leo worked for the streetcar company in Indianapolis. The streetcar company was notorious for its ill treatment and very low pay of employees and for appalling working conditions.  In California, Leo went to work in the repair shop for a prominent auto dealer and worked his way up to service manager. I always thought Leo's heritage was Irish or Welsh, but it turns out he was of German descent, as was Rubel, and he was a member of the Knights of Pythias by which connection he was able to move to California and find work quickly.

The house he built in Santa Maria wasn't large by today's standards, but it was more than adequate for the needs of his small family at the time. It appears to have been lighter and brighter than most bungalows. The front faces south, and the large picture window in the living room must have let in lots of light. There is a large south facing window in the dining room as well, but as it is sheltered by the porch roof, it wouldn't have let in quite as much light. On the other hand, there is a high window on the east side of the dining room that would have flooded the room with morning sun. So much that there is a wood frame for a shade above the dining room window. The kitchen and the breakfast room also face east, so the morning light would have been generous and cheery -- at least when it wasn't foggy.

There are high windows on either side of the fireplace in the living room, and they could have let in abundant afternoon light as they face west. Each bedroom and the bathroom also have windows facing west. In most of the country, west-facing windows are a bane, especially in summer, but on California's central coast, that's often not the case. Ordinarily, the fog rolls in from the Pacific each afternoon, softening or eliminating the heat and glare of the western sun. Even when the sun shines in the west on the Central Coast, it is hardly ever hot.

I had thought that the main entry to the house was on the east wall of the living room, but now I think not. There is an indication that the front door is actually directly across the porch from the door visible in the picture above. It probably did not open into the dining room,  however. In the similar floorplan I found in Keith's Magazine (c. 1916), there is a small vestibule and hallway separating the living and dining rooms, and something like that is what I suspect this house featured.

The dining room would have been smaller than is indicated from the exterior. It may have been smaller, but it had typical bungalow built ins -- a buffet under the horizontal window, and two glass doored china cabinets on either side. The living room probably boasted glass doored book cases on either side of the fireplace.

I don't know whether the ceilings in the living and dining room had box beams, but it wouldn't have been surprising if they did. Pan ceiling lights would also be expected, but and there may have been side lights as well.

The floors would have been oak -- except in the kitchen, bath, breakfast room and screen porch. I expect that all except the bath had linoleum floor coverings; the bathroom probably had tile flooring -- the small hexagon tiles so common in those days.

What kind of bathroom fixtures there were, and whether there was a claw-foot tub or a built in tub, is a mystery. I suspect the fixtures were the most modern, however. The idea of having a house like this was to be as up to date as possible.

A bungalow kitchen sink

The kitchen probably had a row of cabinets with tile countertops. A sink was in the center under the east window. On the opposite wall was no doubt a gas stove. The ice box was probably located on the screen porch the way they were in those days. I imagine there was a "California cooler" at the end of the counter in the kitchen, so the ice box was probably small compared to some. There were no doubt laundry tubs on the screen porch, but I have a feeling that Edna (Mrs. Leo) had a washing machine from very early on as well. She probably acquired a radio and an electric refrigerator as soon as they were reasonably priced and available in Santa Maria. As a side note, Santa Maria at that time was a small rural community dominated by a few pioneer ranching/farming families. They ran cattle and grew fruits and vegetables for market. It wasn't unlike the Salinas of Steinbeck's East of Eden -- with the exception that I think the people of Santa Maria were a good deal nicer, but that's another story.

The rooms in this house not large by today's standards, and I expect the house probably had less than 1,200  square feet in total.

The house would have been considered "neat and tidy" when it was new. My sense is that it always had a stucco exterior, probably without the lower brick veneer seen in the photo. I imagine it was furnished simply. More likely simplicity was the style favored by my mother's parents from their own experience in Indiana. I think they brought a lot of that Midwest simple-living ethic with them to California and never entirely lost it. My mother inherited some of that, too.

I don't know for certain, but I suspect the house was painted barn-red with white trim when my mother was growing up there. I have this notion because that color scheme was one she talked about frequently. She tried to get my father to paint his own house in Iowa that color, but he wouldn't do it. He did, however, have a three-part front window put in to please my mother; she complained that his house was "so dark."

From real estate and other listings I've been able to find, it appears that the house was used as an office building in recent years, primarily for medical and chiropractic offices. But it has retained most of its residential character. After it was last sold in 2014, it was extensively rehabbed -- I wouldn't say it was necessarily remodeled or restored -- and it appears to have been returned to residential use.

My mother got married the first time in 1932, and she moved into a small duplex with her husband -- who was an employee at Eugene Rubel's, an auto mechanic working under Leo. Not long afterwards, Leo sold this house and he and Edna bought an auto court in Willits on the Redwood Highway.

 In 1939, Leo sold that and "invested" all his money in a mining venture in Nevada. Turns out it was a fraud, and he lost everything. I suspect he barely escaped going to jail.

By 1941, he and Edna were back in California where Leo took work as a machinist at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. Edna was ill with the cancer that would kill her by the end of the year. My mother and sister were in Sacramento. My mother would divorce her first husband in 1941 or 42 (I've never known the exact date -- all my mother told me was that she and my sister's father were married "for about ten years.")

My mother and father were married in 1947, divorced in 1949. My mother vowed never to get married again, and never to depend on a man again, and she didn't. It was tough at first, but she made her own way the rest of her life, and I've admired her courage throughout.

I think this Santa Maria bungalow had a very strong influence on the way she came to see herself and the way she wanted to live. Never again would she live in a bungalow per se, but she insisted on living in a house as opposed to an apartment, and when she could, she owned her own houses rather than renting. A surprising number of the houses she lived in resembled this bungalow, as have a surprising number of houses Ms Ché and I have lived in on our own. Indeed, the house we live in now has some fairly strong resemblances.

It's more because the style became standardized than anything else.

As I think about this house and imagine how it might have been when my mother was growing up, I can more and more easily picture it and the effect it had on her. She never indicated to me that she was an unhappy child -- except for one thing: she wasn't adopted by Leo, and she always knew that he wasn't her natural father. She used his last name and she said he always treated her as his daughter, and he was a kind and generous man, but he wasn't her father. And that made for... difficulties that she couldn't control. She didn't know her biological father. He was killed when she was five years old, but he had left Indianapolis years before when she was only one or two years old. The absent father became a theme later in her life.

Leo's failure to strike it rich in Nevada and Edna's subsequent death from untreated cancer (they were Christian Scientists), followed by my mother's divorce from my sister's father led to a period of intense chaos in my mother's life, chaos that only started to settle in the early 50s, and even then, nothing ever quite settled down for her.

She lived an interesting life... ;-)

As a point of reference, this is apparently the Santa Maria bungalow where my mother and her family lived until Leo built or bought the house at the top of the post.

She also lived here...
I say "apparently" because the address of this house isn't exactly the same as the one listed for the family until 1918. It's two numbers off, and houses on this street are numbered by tens.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Peace on Earth

Most of those of us who have been around for a while have had the notion of Peace on Earth hammered into us throughout our whole lives. This was, perhaps more than anything else, the Post War mantra repeated over and over again, "Let there be Peace on Earth."

Of course peace never came, not really. The mechanics of it were always the problem, weren't they? If there was to be world peace, a Pax Mundi as it were, just how was it to be accomplished? Scholars and mystics the world over struggled to figure it out, and their conclusion seemed to be that the ultimate peace of the world would only come when the Giant Asteroid wiped out humanity. Or some such. Or we blew everything up in a Nuclear Holocaust.

Nevertheless, many of us, we, the Rabble, haven't given up on something as elusive as Peace on Earth simply because it may be an unreachable ideal.

Unfortunately, our situation in the West -- as that part of the world where Anglo-American culture is dominant is still called -- has become so decadent and corrupt, "ideals" are considered a fool's game. Grab all you can before it all goes to shit seems to be the current ethic if you will, an End Times to end all End Times predilection, because I guess if you don't get yours now, you never will. Never ever.

There's just never enough to go around, and it's too bad for them that's got nothin'.

And of course things are going to shit at an accelerating pace. Make no mistake. The End is Nigh.

Many of Our Betters intend to survive no matter what, and I suspect too many of them will.

I was pondering Jeffrey Epstein's bolt hole up the road from our place. The Zorro Ranch is huge, XX,000 acres, I don't know how many exactly, on the border between the Estancia and Galisteo Basins in central New Mexico. An enormous mansion sits on a mesa overlooking both basins. A little western town, like a movie set, sits below on the Estancia Basin side, where apparently the ranching operations take place. They run some cattle, longhorns included, as well as a variety of artisinal breeds, but there are never very many of them, not like some of the other cattle ranches in the area.

There's some dispute over whether Epstein still owns the Zorro Ranch. Apparently the property records aren't clear about its current ownership. The only people we've ever seen entering or leaving through the ranch gate appear to be workers, mostly ranch hands. There's never been a motorcade of bullet proof SUVs and the like, and we've never seen squadrons of helicopters (black or otherwise) coming in for landings at the helipad up the hill.

This is the Google overhead view of the ranch house and helipad:

The mesa on which this spread sits is probably a couple of hundred feet high, and I expect that deluxe bunkers have been blasted into it to preserve, protect, and defend Epstein and whoever else can hie themselves hitherwards when the End comes. I don't doubt that a list has been made, and preparations for transport of selected VIPs have been made. Shuttles are no doubt on 24 hour call.

Epstein's place is one of many such retreats around the nation and around the world built in the past 20 years or so for the purpose of having "a place in the country" for the rich and powerful to shelter in -- just in case.

Our place is nothing like that at all, just a simple hand-built pioneer adobe ranch house, without a ranch any more, surrounded by a modest working class neighborhood, salt of the earth neighbors with whom we get along (mostly) --- even though we're from California. Heh.

But some of our thinking when we bought this place was not unlike that of the High and Mighty selecting their bolt holes for when the time comes.

When I mentioned to a friend in California that we'd bought this place out in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico, he sensed right away that a big part of the reason was to have a place to go "when it all goes to shit."

True enough, I suppose. True enough. Though I don't see actually how we would survive should the plug be pulled on "civilization." We, like most folks, depend on electricity and natural gas for light and heat. We don't have a generator or a fireplace or even a woodstove. We don't have our own well so we'd run out of water pretty quick. We haven't laid in supplies, though there is -- or would be -- room for a pretty extensive pantry should we want to have stuff on hand for the Apocalypse.

We're several miles from the Interstate, where most supplies originate in any case. But there are farms closer, farms and ranches, where produce is grown, livestock raised and so forth, and the ranchers and farmers are among our acquaintances if not actually friends. Some of them have made preparations of their own, though nothing as elaborate as Epstein's, and I would imagine that should everything go to shit, folks around here would pull together to hold on to some of the attributes of a positive and purposeful way of life.

That aside, however, once Ms. Ché and I are out of medications, I doubt either of us would last much longer as we both have conditions that are guaranteed to be fatal -- sooner without medications than later.

Oh well.

Not that we, personally, have any particular need to survive come what may. Whatever contribution we can make, we're making while we have the chance, while we're here, elders with some discretionary resources. It's not for us to hold on to; it's for us to give away while we can.

Many of us understand the nature of the crisis this year's presidential (s)election has precipitated. The installation of Trump and his cronies into power marks a clear and clean break from the nation's past. Nothing like this has happened before. And there is little or no likelihood that prior practice will be restored. This is the end of the Republic in all ways but name. Much like the Roman Republic, many of the aspects and attributes of the US republic will no doubt continue on as empty shells, meaningless rituals and practices, but the Republic established by the Founders and operated more or less competently for the past 230 years will be extinct, and something else, call it an Empire, will take its place.

I doubt that very many people will notice, as we've been on this path for a long, long time. Nixon in fact established the Imperial Presidency -- to much mockery and laughter -- and the precedent was set. But there was more to it than just the show. The underlying premise was that the USofA, as an Imperial power, had an obligation to establish and maintain a Pax Americana that would eventually encompass the globe, and that the US had an obligation to use any and all strategies and tactics to accomplish the goal.

In other words, the Empire, for all its faults, would one day come to rule the world. The US has never deviated from that path ever since the crises of the '70s that led to military defeat and withdrawal in Southeast Asia and the crisis of the Presidency that led to Nixon's resignation and the installation of the nation's first unelected president. That was the break in the nation's republican heritage that has never been repaired.

Precedent was set and here we are.

The precedent was that presidents (and vice presidents)  can be removed and others installed without consultation or the assent of the People.  Who accomplishes the transfer of power is still shadowy. Who is actually in charge at any given time is a mystery.

From my view, the power of the presidency is a matter of agreement between the contending factions of the permanent government and the Overclass. Until now, the Overclass had been content to rule indirectly through the agency of the permanent government. Now with the advent of Trump, the mediation of the permanent government will apparently be dispensed with and the Overclass will rule us directly.

The narrative among most of the Trump defenders and loyalists -- at least among those who can acknowledge the situation -- asserts that this is a good thing, and it's about time that our billionaire Overlords were openly in charge rather than corrupting the managerial class who have been in charge of the government for  many generations. In effect, we're going back to the origins of the government itself when the very wealthy Founders were the ones who ran and in effect were the government.

One could therefore argue the advent of Trump "re-founds" the nation the way it was supposed to be.

An argument in favor of this New America is that Trump and his cronies are so rich they can't be corrupted -- the way today's Congress and the whole apparatus of government under a managerial class (oh, such as the Clintons, for example) could be and has been. It's a ridiculous argument, but it's one that has gained some currency, without the simultaneous recognition that putting the corrupters in charge means that there is no longer any mediation between their interests and demands and those of the People.

Without that mediation, the People get screwed harder and faster than ever before. Duh.

On the other hand, there seems to be no recognition that there are many things Our Betters could do -- rather than screwing the People harder and faster than ever before -- to secure their almost perpetual rule over us, and they could even engineer their longed-for Peace without resort to nuclear or other armed conflict.

No, it seems that nearly all Trump defenders and loyalists are determined to impose as harsh and destructive a rule as possible on everyone but  themselves -- as revenge, apparently, for harm they believe they've suffered under the Republic. They're disappointed that their hero and champion is not entirely on board with them.

In reality, provided there is any sense of social conscience in and among the Trump-ists, to engineer both domestic and international peace and good will; there is no sign it will happen -- just the opposite in fact -- but you never know.

My wish has always been an end to war and violence.

We may or may not get there.

Signs are not looking good. On the other hand, stranger things have happened.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

[Sorry for the incoherence in my last post. I may try to clean it up -- or not. This is turning into a more difficult week for me than I anticipated. Suspect it may have something to do with medications... or maybe incipient dementia. ;-0]

Oh Christmas Tree...

Christmas Eve has always been an anticipatory annual event for me. Somewhere (I don't know where) there are pictures of me taken when I was an infant and toddler beside what now seem like spectacular Christmas trees in Iowa and California. I have strong memories of Christmas trees from my childhood, putting them up, decorating them, and piling their bases with Christmas presents every year no matter where we lived, no matter what. There were some years we were very poor and Christmas might have been lean and spare, but I wouldn't have known it. In fact, it didn't occur to me until I was an adult that part of my childhood was spent in relatively dire poverty.

In those days, late 40s and early 50s, it was much more difficult for a single mother to simply get by -- let alone make a living - than it is today. Nevertheless, child poverty rates today probably match or exceed what they were back then. And nevertheless, parents (single or no) still do whatever they can to make the Holiday season as nice as they can for the children.

And so, here we come upon another Christmas Eve. I'm old and I'm ill, though surprisingly chipper about it all. Why be a Gloomy Gus, eh? I'm not particularly chipper about the looming catastrophe under a new King-Emperor, but there's not a lot I can do about it, is there? Que sera, sera and all that.

I think I've mentioned that we keep a Christmas tree up all year long in honor of Ms Ché's mother who loved Christmas more than any other holiday, in part because she gave birth to her daughter (Ms Ché) on Christmas Eve, and she named her Mary (among several other names she was given, along with several more she chose for herself.)

We got a new Christmas tree this year. The one one we'd been using had become rather ratty over the years (it's at least thirty, maybe forty years old) and it seemed appropriate this year to set up a new one. It's sweet and small, decorated with both new and old baubles, some of them dating back to our childhoods and it is filled with memories on every branch. Unfortunately, one of the Gift Cats (so we call them) delivered by a neighbor back in May (or was it April?) decided he liked the lower branch ornaments (the older ones included) and took to knocking them off the tree and chasing them around the house. He only broke one, but still.

The Gift Cats, huh. They're adorable but they get the crazy sometimes, the way cats do, and they go wild around the house, getting into everything, making a mess, and yes sometimes breaking things.

They're both black. One, the smaller and leaner one, called Ashe, has become a "watcher." He's joined members of the feral colony outside to protect the colony and the property from the intrusion of alien cats. He's very aggressive if he spots a stranger, whether feline or any other species, including the delivery men who have been stopping by practically every day with gifts. He runs right up to them when they cross onto the property and he challenges them: "Who are you? What are you doing here?" We laugh, but he's actually the only one who does it. The other watchers will patrol the property line, or they sit in the sun waiting and watching for feline intruders. When they spot one, they will issue threats and challenges, usually running the intruders off. But every now and then, one gets through the cordon. Over the years, a few of the interlopers have integrated into the colony. But most aren't accepted.

Cat politics in feral colonies is not unlike that of lion prides. Cats are very social creatures, not the solitary animals that they are reputed to be. Their societies are built on kinships. Female cats run the societies. Males "service" them. I don't mean just sexually. All of our feral cats (a couple of exceptions who have escaped going to the vet) are neutered. All of the alpha and sub-alpha males are neutered, so their sexual service to the queen catta and her daughters is nil, but the alphas and sub-alphas still perform their duties to protect the colony.

One of them, the oldest, we call Bruiser. He's a big gray tabby with only one good eye. He apparently lost the other one in a fight with an interloper. He's the prime Alpha, and everyone defers to him. He doesn't actually do a great deal any more, as he's getting old and can't see all that well. He stations himself where he can take in as much of the property as he can under the circumstances, though, and he keeps watch throughout the day.

His chief sub-alpha we call Baby. He was quite sickly when he was born (to a female who we were unable to trap). Ms Ché nursed him back to health, and as soon as he was able, he took up a role supporting Bruiser's efforts to keep the colony safe from the neighbors' unaltered males.

Whereas Bruiser used to get into serious fights with stranger-cats, Baby never did. He would stalk them strategically, ultimately driving them off the property. We would watch him work, amazed at his skill at cornering the interlopers and forcing them beyond the property line without raising his voice and without any physically attacking them at all. It is a wonder to behold.

A secondary sub-alpha -- who wants to be the alpha male -- is called Larry. (As in the Clash of the Clans skeleton, the bad disobedient one). He came here as a disheveled and nearly starved interloper. A skeleton of a juvenile cat. We suspect he was abandoned by whoever he lived with. It's not unusual in this area for people to have cats and leave them behind when they move (that's how the colony began), or to bring them to this area and abandon them to fend for themselves. Some make it, most don't. If the coyotes don't get them, they're likely to starve to death or get run over.

Larry arrived one day, looking sick and skinny and he could barely walk, he was so bad off. Ms Ché nursed him back to health the way she does, and took him in to the vet for vaccinations and neutering. Well, when he came back, we discovered that they had initially done surgery as if he were a female, poor thing, and... oops! He was not amused, and it took quite a while for him to recover. He still walks as if his abdomen hurts. Nevertheless, when he recovered, he decided he was part of the colony and began asserting himself as an alpha against Bruiser. They got into many fights with one another, both of them wounded in their rivalry. Ms Ché treated their wounds as a neutral party, and she told them to stop it. Eventually they did, though they haven't made total peace with one another. Bruiser tends to watch for intruders from the front; Larry patrols the back, and he challenges and sometimes fights with any intruders he comes across. I think the fact that he patrols his own section of the property is what keeps him out of conflict with Bruiser.

When the Gift Cats came along, we didn't know what would happen. As it happens, the smaller but more aggressive one (Ashe) decided he would take on patrol duty, and at first he attached himself to Larry as a kind of assistant. Larry was not amused, but he tolerated this black juvenile following him around -- until he didn't. One day he swatted Ashe hard and gave him the stink eye. Ashe backed away.

I don't know how it happened, but somehow Bruiser decided to take on Ashe as his assistant. They will sit together watching sometimes for hours, but Ashe also patrols -- which Bruiser no longer does -- and Ashe boldly confronts anyone who comes on the property unauthorized, whether it is neighbors, delivery people, or other animals. I've seen him run off dogs. He will not allow any strange cat on the front of the property. And any person he sees headed toward the house he challenges. He's so proud of himself, too. He demands praise, not just from us but from the rest of the colony as well. He's made several buddies among the ferals, and when the elders die off as they will, he and his buddies expect to take over.

I go on about cats because they've been an important part of our lives. Both Ms Ché and I have had cats since we were children, and since we don't have kids of our own, cats have been kind of substitute offspring. Ms Ché said that when she would come here (to our place in New Mexico) when we were still living in California, she felt "cat-lonely" and so it was only natural that she would adopt and take care of the feral colony that had actually started at a neighbor's place. Sometimes she thinks that was a mistake. There are typically between 16 and 20 cats in the colony -- population has been very stable for years -- and they require a lot of attention, not to mention food enough for an army.

Ferals are reputed to be grand bird killers, but the ones here are not. First, they don't roam far from the property (after all, it's where the Food Lady lives) and second we rarely count more than five or six bird kills on the property per year. They're proud of their hunting skills, of course. But the birds (we have many) are wise, too. The ones the cats get are occasional doves (maybe twice a year) and more frequent sparrows, some of which are nestlings that fall or are pushed out of the nest. The other birds are almost never  found among the carcasses of birds the cats have caught. I've seen them stalk grackles and road runners, both of which seem to just laugh at the cats -- and I'm sure they would attack them if they felt threatened at all.

Also, too, the cats keep the property completely free of rodents. (Sorry Not-Even, A Mouse). The only wildlife they seem unable -- or unwilling -- to control are the skunks which remain an occasional but persistent problem in this area.

So Christmas is partly for us together, partly for Ms Ché's birthday, partly for Ms. Ché's mother, partly for the cats. This year, we have more gifts to share with one another, the cats, and our friends and neighbors, just because why not? We'll have a Christmas Eve dinner here at home, then go out tomorrow for Christmas with friends. It's an annual ritual and tradition now.

Despite my foreboding about the intentions and madness of Our Rulers, there are some things we have no intention of giving up, come what may.

Merry Christmas to all... And to all a Good Night.

Gift cats, Ashe (top), Tubby (bottom) asleep on Christmas Eve

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Making It Impossible to Govern

I'm not clued in to the various -- and contending -- protest movements under way to "stop Trump". The initial street protests seemed to fizzle out, partly because of the holiday season I'm sure (priorities and all that), partly because people have to work to get by, and partly because they were being overwhelmed/co-opted by Democrats who basically didn't want any uprisings in the streets.

No, they were going to go about the business of de-Trumping by clever political strategy. Except they didn't have one. They still don't. Some of the most ludicrous examples of the failure of political strategies are on view daily at Daily Kos. I will say no more about that.

What the Dems have had all along, though, is an intense and overriding interest in knee-capping the Left -- or what they believe to be the Left. No genuine popular movement can get going under their wing. Any independent "left" movement must be crushed or co-opted. They must control the process. Otherwise, who knows what might happen? Someone like Trump could get elected.... ooops.

Speaking of, we just can't know whether vote casting and counting was done accurately this time around. It's a mystery that will never actually be solved because in too many cases, there's no way to verify the vote. It can't be done. What is becoming known, however, is that efforts to suppress the vote, to disqualify millions of voters, and to make it impossible for significant numbers of voters to vote, or for their votes to be counted were very successful, and these efforts were directed at and largely affected Democratic voters. It also appears that many Democratic voters declined to vote for president, whereas others voted third party.

So for the sake of argument, I'm going to accept the results as a relatively accurate reflection of what those who were able to vote and were so inclined voted for. I'm not taking it on faith. The announced outcome is one of many possibilities. For the sake of argument, the result is instructive.

We get to this outcome in large part through the failure of institutions and politics to protect and defend the People from the depredations of the Overclass, an Overclass which has had almost unfettered free rein to pillage and plunder for decades.

Politics hasn't changed it; politics has enabled it. No matter what the People say they want, no matter what or who they vote for, the political class does what it wants. Institutions have been more interested in preserving, protecting, and defending themselves rather than anything or anyone else, and they have almost all failed their constituencies. NGOs have long been a bad joke. Churches forgot their mission. Institutions of higher learning exploit their students and their parents. Police go rogue and murder without consequence. Financial institutions loot their customers. Media parades bizarre falsehoods.

On and on. It's a goon show, and most Americans know it.

Since its all a con anyway, why not put a master con-man on the throne? What do we think Obama has been? Or Big Dog? Or Bush the Lesser? All of them con-artists. And that's big reason why they were put on the throne to begin with. Their job is to con the public and keep them tame in the face of all the horrors and exploitation they're subjected to. Hillary couldn't do it.

The biggest institutional failure in the political realm is that of the Democrats who have failed in every way -- especially since 2009 -- to protect and defend the People against the forces arrayed against them. I maintain that failure is cynical and deliberate. They knew what they were doing: betraying their constituency. That's been the way of nearly all leftish political parties in the west for many years.

And that is a primary rationale for the "rise of the right." Given that the so-called Left has entirely abandoned the People, there is no political party that serves them. The "rise of the right" is not due to popular will, it's due to abandonment by the pseudo-left, the Democrats and Social Democrats and in some regions by Socialists. They obviously don't care any more -- if they ever really did -- about what happens to the Little People. No doubt it has something to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation of China into the capitalist workshop of the world, but that happened so long ago now, hardly anyone remembers any more.

The right rises when the People, abandoned, have no political anchor on the left or center. A political vacuum thus created is filled one way or another.

What is necessary, then, is for the People to take matters into their own hands, outside the political process, and make it impossible for the Ruling Clique to govern.

That's both easier and more difficult than it sounds. Most people, by nature, are going to go along with the powers that be. Most think they have no other choice. On the other hand, it doesn't take a lot of resistance or rebellion to throw a spanner in the works and bring the Juggernaut to a halt -- at least temporarily.

A weak government can be stalled or overcome rather easily.

I will not recommend ways to do it at this point, but understand that many of the "resistance manuals" out there are little more than support manuals for the failed political institutions and systems that don't work.

Robert Reich has one that's gotten some currency. It's not really about resistance at all. It's about supporting failed institutions, the political process and the Democrats. To that I say, No. He blew his premise in any case on Democracy Now! yesterday. It bordered on self-parody. Sorry that Amy didn't call him on his bullshit.

Another is the Indivisible Guide produced by congressional staff and political consultants which again focuses on working within the failed political process that's brought us to this point.  It doesn't work. But it keeps people busy doing things -- which won't work -- so there is that. Keep hope alive and all that!

If the Trumpian agenda is to be stopped or thwarted, what's needed is to make it impossible.

The political system is designed and intended to enable it. It's just that simple.