It is inevitable whenever a subject is thrust into the limelight that our own personal memories come to the fore. And naturally we want to share them.  As soon as I learned about the new movie Bohemian Rhapsody I searched for the trailer and watched part of an interview with Rami Malek.  I tried not to overdo my exposure- I didn’t watch the entire trailer or interview, just a short part of each… just enough.  Why?  Queen is why. I wanted to feel enraptured by them once again, I wanted to remember what it was like. And I wasn’t let down.

The brilliance of the band Queen- all the members, but of course the persona of Freddie Mercury, is unmatched.  Through my life I recall their music, their hits, their innovation- I stood in awe of them.  But quietly.  I was never an outright “fan”.  I- very unfortunately- never saw them live. I always stopped to listen if I heard a song playing, and honestly just felt an admiration for them that was incomparable really- especially Freddie- genius as he was.

Beyond that, Queen holds a very special place in my life. Growing up in a small cow town in Nevada, we had “both kinds of music”- country and western. Before the age of about 12 I only knew of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Glen Campbell, and so on.  Nothing wrong with that. But one day in 6th grade that all changed.  I heard Queen and discovered a new world.

News Of The World 8 track- still available 40 years later- on Ebay.

That day, that time, that exact moment is so distinct in my memory- probably one of the most distinct from that age. It was lunch time. I was in the school cafeteria eating lunch.  A fellow student- her name was Renee- walked in carrying something new to me, and probably new to most of the kids in the county. It was a portable tape player, playing an 8 track tape; it was 1978. The tape player was blue and plastic and had a convenient carrying handle on the top.

Still available in 2018 on Ebay- Panasonic Dynamite TNT Plunger 8 track tape player.

The music coming out of it was like none I had ever heard. It was Queen. I remember that feeling, like life had just changed, like some door had been opened up.  I remember hearing We Will Rock You…. They sure did.  And they haven’t stopped.

 

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Survival Lesson Number 1

9 December 2018

Survival lesson number one, straight from Perfection, Nevada:
Do what you can with what you’ve got.

…he’s been called many things. Gun enthusiast, monster-hunter, doomsday-prepper. He rejects all these labels. And so do I. We are survivalists.

Unfamiliar with Tremors?  See the complete set of movies on DVD!

 

George W. Bush, the Prophet

23 November 2018

I’ll admit it: the current political regime has me scared. At no time in the last 70 or so years has so much been done to degrade our safety in such a short time. Not to mention our privacy, freedom, and sanity, no matter how the media couches it or what we have actually been led to believe.

Maybe McCarthyism during the 1950’s did as much damage to the country? Either way, I have been thinking more about past presidents- those who did so much for our country and the world, and even those who seemingly did little. My first choice would be Eisenhower.  He was one of the last presidents to actually speak the truth openly and clearly. Then maybe Kennedy, who spoke a veiled sort of truth, too much of it since he needed to be killed to shut him up.

Finally, I skip forward to George W. Bush. How much truth he actually spoke during his presidency is questionable, and open to interpretation.  But I did find a brilliant and eloquently expressed piece of commentary from the former president on Trump’s inauguration address.  I found it in one of the recent releases supporting my premise that we are well down the road to self-destruction with the current regime. See The Empty Throne by Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay for more. Also see The Jungle Grows Back by Robert Kagan for more on our current situation.

Back to Bush- according to a quote in The Empty Throne, Bush is said to have remarked at the conclusion of Trump’s inaugural address, “That was some weird shit.” Nothing could be more accurate.  And here we are, nearing year 3 of some of the weirdest shit in my lifetime.

After recent introductions in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, reading Iris Origo’s A Chill In The Air: An Italian War Diary, 1939-1940 was a given. I was sold in the first few sentences, as I suspected I would be on reading about how Origo wrote, thought, and treated the subject of Italy on the brink of war.

Iris Origo was the daughter of an English mother and an American father. She married Antonio Origo, an Italian aristocrat. They settled in a run down estate called La Foce in Italy’s Tuscany region and began the monumental task of rejuvenating the estate, the local economy, and the local population. In doing so she was able to get and insider’s view of Italian life, even though she forever considered herself an outsider.

Origo’s writing style- that of an observer, aloof, often in the from of reportage, makes her writing all the more interesting. It flows as beautifully as a diary, but it is more- it is that and more- a report on daily life in Italy during some of the darkest days in history.

Origo had access to diplomats, politicians, and the very wealthy. But she also had access to people across the socio-economic spectrum- including the farmers and laborers in the fields of her own villa. She gives accounts of interactions with friends, family, neighbors, and the person in the street on the coming war. She touches on the changes that affect everyone- military call-up, gasoline rationing, the ban on the sale of coffee. She includes commentary from both anti-fascist and fascist sources, from supporters of Hitler and Germany, to their avowed enemies. She presents her own observations as well as propaganda straight from Italian government offices.

Origo allows the reader’s perspective to develop during the rapidly changing environment as Italy entered the war. If only she had continued to write through the entire war, we would have a an unparalleled account from a very different perspective. Unfortunately for us she did not- she dropped her pen for years in order to do her part for the war effort, working with the Red Cross, taking care of those on her estate, and helping lead refugees to safety.  She did write of the war again in her War in Val d’Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 , giving us another window into life in Italy during the war.

Origo’s multi-layered life is nothing short of inspirational, and her account of Italy on the eve of World War II is a testament to that notion.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
-Abraham Lincoln,1862

Give that very appropriate quote some thought, not just in the context of the United States, but globally. Or pick just about any country in Europe and apply it. No matter where you look, Lincoln’s quote might be considered now more than ever, a prophesy.

Food for thought, or supporting evidence (take your pick) can be found in two recently published works: The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership, by Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay. Also see Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans, by Jasmin Mujanovic.

After a very slow and careful reading of The Jungle Grows Back by Robert Kagan, and after much reflection on the past 45 or 50 years of history that I personally experienced, I find that my level of concern over the fate of the world has increased dramatically. Kagan lays out clearly and logically why the United States cannot abandon the world and why we must remain the global leader of the liberal world order we have helped to create, lest the world as we know it disappear from our grasp.

Kagan’s focus throughout is the refutation of the isolationist stance Begun by the Obama administration and adopted wholesale by the Trump administration. He leaves no room for questioning the necessity of US involvement and leadership around the world. Kagan believes that if we revert to our global position prior to World War II, democracy and human rights will backslide globally, authoritarian regimes (Russia, China, Turkey, Korea) will grow and seize more power, and the security of the world will be undermined. In short we would allow the undoing of everything we have spent so many lives, so much time, and so much money since 1945 to promote.

Everything we have helped promote?  Yes, it is true- whether we accept it or not- the US has lead the world since World War II. Kagan gives abundant examples of US leadership over the last 70 years. We have, for better or for worse, taken charge and done our best to make the world a better place. Of course it is very easy to cite arguments against US involvement from past experience, from the promotion of our own corporate interests, to the protection of dictatorial regimes, to looking the other way when human rights are violated.

All this is true; there is no denying it. We could have done better, we could have acted sooner, made better choices, and acted differently as we blundered our way through the last 70 years. But then hindsight is always 20/20. The main question we should be asking ourselves is this: What is the alternative to US leadership? And to take it a step further, what would have been the outcome had we not led the world during that time?

Failure to act is worse- in many cases much worse- than the possibility of acting incorrectly.  Prime examples of failure to act in recent years: Yugoslavia and especially Bosnia and its capital Sarajevo, and more recently Syria. Our inaction left thousands, hundreds of thousands dead.  Of course we are not a “global police force”, but by the same token we cannot sit idly by and let history takes its course. If we do, we will have a world led by Russia and China- not a very promising thought. The bottom line: read the book. It will inform any political thought, and help to assimilate the constant stream of conflicting information in the world today.

The trouble with tariffs instituted out of desperation, ignorance of how the  world works, egoism, and stupidity is that they are… stupid.

As a retail store and e-commerce businessman, I already see the affects of the tariffs that are going to make America great again (it doesn’t even deserve capitalization.) I will let you in on a little secret- it isn’t going to work!

Sales are dropping and will continue to drop as  tariffs begin to affect the supply chain.  Cost increases will be passed on and on and on, until finally you and I will be paying for those 20% tariffs that are going to save America.  Will wages and income increase 20% as well? Highly unlikely.  What will we do? Rework budgets, forego purchases, and try to ride it out.  And what effect will this have on our economy, on the global economy for which we are responsible (yes, we are responsible for it and have been since the end of World War II)?  You figure it out.

Hindsight is 20/20.  If we would have stayed out of NAFTA and GATT to begin with, if we wouldn’t have agreed to so many “free-trade” agreements, we would not be in this mess.  But that is the past.  Today, we are in the thick of it, part of the global mess we have created, for better or for worse.

Big D., if you read this, you cannot make massive changes to an intricately entangled, delicately balanced system and expect the system to adapt in the blink of an eye. Or even over the course of years. A small storm becomes a typhoon easily enough. Typhoons destroy. A big enough typhoon will destroy everything.

Short-sighted, reactionary, and isolationist responses to world-wide economic issues will do nothing but harm to our economy, and by default, to the economies of much of the world.  It will increase the power of dictators such as Putin, and cause countries that are barely holding on to move backwards. The acceptance and support of populist movements in Europe is just the beginning. A return to the nationalism and fascism that lead us into war are next.