Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The True Face of America Revealed

Donald Trump has done us a tremendous favor. He has torn the cover off political and economic reality in America. The United States is run by the rich for the rich. The rest of us exist simply to make them richer. Until now, the government could hide this truth with social placebos. Within it, there were conscientious people who even helped the “99%” – Teddy Roosevelt. FDR, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Barach Obama – with attempts at far-reaching programs designed to protect us from corporate greed. These programs are in jeopardy as the New reality approaches, and all for profits. The United States government is big business, always has been, and the president-elect says he knows how to run a business. We shall see. Trump's cabinet selections only go to prove his ties to Corporate America, four billionaires among a group of people consistently opposed to the principles of the very posts they are planning to assume. Cronyism and nepotism are openly displayed; the Spoils System is back. We have put the fox in charge of the hen house. More than a few hens will disappear. More than a few eggs will be broken. Basic human rights will be in jeopardy. Social programs will be gutted. The draft will be re-instated. Polution levels will rise, profits across the board will go up but do not expect wages to keep pace or jobs to come back. Old rich white guys rule the roost openly, in plain sight. Plutocracy rules! Do not kid yourself: democracy is dead. This is not sour grapes. This is dread. This is reading the writing on the wall and saying, “We've been here before, not America, but people.” Donald Trump lost the election by nearly three million votes, about the margin that George Bush won re-election in 2004 over John Kerry, the only time in this century that the Republican candidate for president won the populoar vote. He claims it was a landslide. He won 306 electoral votes, only 36 more than the 270 required. He claims that was a landslide, too. He claims a great many things and, having said them, he seems to believe them to be true even when provably false. And yet, and yet: he is president-elect. It makes me wonder if Trump, who yelled so loudly that the election was rigged, actually rigged it himself. The one who cries foul even before the first vote is cast just might be the one who smells. This Christmas season, the lyrics to the song have changed: “It's beginning to look a lot like Moscow everywhere you go...” Democracy can be ressurrected. It comes down to this: we need to find three Republican senators who will vote with their consciences and not with their party. All we need are three on any given confirmation or legislation. Hard to believe that what remains of democracy depends on three votes, but it does.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Titanium Anniversary (42)

On December 28, 2016, Diane and I will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. Anyone who knows me understands that the number 42 is special to me. I wrote a blog all about the number several months ago that even wound up re-printed on Clever Magazine. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I had every intention of makling our 42nd something truly memorable and special. First, I hoped to take us to the Netherlands to celebrate. We both love traveling there, particularly in the winter. In fact, we have flown there twice leaving on December 26 and once on December 25, thus spending our anniversary in the good company of my family there. Last year, in fact, they gathewred their resources to take us to a really entertaining restaurant in Vianen, near Utrecht, for #41. Doing something similar has oceans of appeal, but financial reality set in. We can't afford a trip like that at this time. Second thought was to get away for a long weekend somewhere quiet and interesting, preferably where we had never been. We even thought of taking the train from Whitefish west to Leavenworth, Washington, a town that, despite its name, resembles a Bavarian village repleat with an extensive nutcracker museum. Alas, even that requires more funds than we currently can spare, particularly after a close encounter, too close for comfort, with a deer on the highway, her demise and sizeable damage to our car. The third plan is going to work, however. We are still getting away for an overnight or two, depending, in a posh suite overlooking the somewhat challenged skyline of Kalispell. I am having hip replacement surgery on that day, our anniversary. I had postponed the surgery and limped along in pain for months before finally giving in six weeks ago and scheduling the surgery. The last day available in 2016 is December 28. We grabbed it. Behind our thinking was, get it done before Trump takes office. Mostly, though, it is the nature of our gift to each other on that day. Diane brings me the chance to lose the chronic pain in my hip. I bring her the peace of mind that comes with not having to hear me complain about or groan in that pain. Best yet, we have discovered something even more special about 42. Anniversaries come with some special symbol to help celebrate them. Anniversary Number Four, for example, should be celebrated with linnen or silk, or fruit or flowers. Number 15 is crystal or watches. After 15 years, the item is listed only sporadically instead of annually. Number 40 is Ruby, number 45 sapphire. However, 42 had no designation until now., but now we know: 42 is the titanium anniversary. How hip is that?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Custer's Last Stand: Another Excerpt

Close Encounter: A Personal Story Historians are not supposed to make it personal. But it always is. Something drew the historian to the subject. Often, as in the case of this book, there are several things over a considerable period of time, but one thing triggers the effort to actually begin. Finishing is always another matter. My wife and I moved to Montana in 2011. I saw my first buffalo roaming free a year later, in May 2012, in Yellowstone National Park, about a day's drive from our new home. We had taken my niece and nephew, visiting from Holland, to see America's number one national park, a literal hot bed of thermal activity, and home to the largest free roaming population of bison in the world. We saw them grazing in large meadows close to the road. We saw them crossing the road, huge wooly beasts who did not mind taking their time to cross while we tourists clicked away with our cameras. We also saw a mother grizzly bear and her cubs less than thirty yards away, but that's another story. Heading back to Gardiner, Montana, and our motel, we turned right onto the road to Lamar Valley, where we understood more bison roamed, and in bigger numbers. We had traveled barely ten miles toward the valley when we saw bison to our left in a distant meadow and began to slow down, looking for a turnout. Then, to our right, on the hills, we spied a small group galloping parallel to the road., no more than twenty yards away. I stopped the car just as the entire group turned toward the road. We saw that several of the buffalo were calves barely managing to keep up with the adults as they thundered toward us. In the lead was a huge, powerful-looking male, who stepped onto the highway just in front of our car and stopped dead in his tracks, blocking our way. My understanding is that the buffalo is a herd animal. He is prey. He runs. If he ever realized how powerful he was, if he ever turned to charge... The four of us were seated in our four-door Kia sedan, not a big car. My nephew, an avid photographer, was snapping pictures with his telephoto lens poking through the open window as the cows and calves raced by. The bull, a magnificent creature, eyed the camera carefully, snorting as he deliberately inched his way toward the passenger side of the car. I realized he could flip the whole vehicle over with one well placed thrust. I think he knew it, too. His nose came within an inch of the camera while we told Erik to pull inside and roll up the window. The bull did not move. He managed to guard the side of our car while blocking the front at the same time until the last of the calves crossed the road. Then he snorted one more time, turned, and slowly sauntered across the road, as if to say, “Don't mess with me or mine.” If this animal felt any fear at all, it was for his charges and not for himself. It was one of the most beautiful displays I had ever seen.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

My Newest Book! Custer and the Plains Wars...

The blog page has been strangely silent of late, for which I apologize. I might claim to be in mourning, for my dog who passed November 21, or for the country, which passed into a strange new world 13 days earler. I could claim that the weather has kept me busy, with my first and subsequent sojourns into snow-shovel land of Winter 2016-7. I could, but the truth is, I have been busy. Now I can proudly tell you all what I have been busy doing, and remind myself and all of you that life goes on. We do what we have to do. It is what it is. The long and short of it is that I just self-published my next book on CreateSpace, Amazon and Amazon Kindle. It is called Custer's Last Stand: An Illustrated History of the Plains Wars and the Near-Extinction of the American Bison. It is a concise history, meaning short (130pp) and yet filled with interesting information and true stories. I had fun writing it. I finished the main draft three years ago and have been tinkering, fiddling, adding, subtracting, polishing and postponing it ever since as if it were a gemstone I had cut from a rough piece into a perfect, faceted shape. The book sells for $9.99, the Kindle version for $4.99. It is availabkle now, in the US, and within the next 2 days elsewhere worldwide. I know there have been many books written about Custer and the white man's push into Indian territory I think I bring a new perspective. You can buy it on Amazon, A,mazon Kindle, CreateSpace webstore, or any other major bookseller. I encourage you to do so. Here is an excerpt: Seth Bullock, sometimes lawman, sometimes explorer, sometimes merchant, was one of the people who encouraged President Ulysses S. Grant to make Yellowstone the first national park in America – or the world – long before Wyoming and Montana would become states. Setting aside a huge piece of wilderness for protection was a radical idea, but Congress passed the Yellowstone Park National Protection Act and Grant signed it into law on March 1, 1872. In June, 1876, Bullock was operating a merchantile with his partner Sol Starr in the boomtown Deadwood, South Dakota, near the gold fields of the Black Hills. In his later years, Bulloch would become a close friend and mentor to another President, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt would go on to become the great conservationist, expanding the national parks system and adding a national monument program as well. Roosevelt turned 18 on October 27, 1876.. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. The train, the Iron Horse, now linked east to west. On its tracks, new towns formed. The vast West was shrinking. More and more people moved westward in search of some version of the Promised Land. It was their manifest destiny to conquer and rule that land, and although the invasion was slow at the start, it grew faster and faster. The terrible War Between the States that once and for all would abolish slavery in the United States, cut short expansion for a time. But the race was back right after. America stretched from sea to shining sea and belonged to a specific group of people. Anyone in their way was in danger. The United States of America was one hundred years old, or would be, on July 4. Across the country people planned centennial celebrations. Colorado, admitted into the Union in August, would become known as the Centennial State. In the vast and dangerous West, settlers were pouring in, looking for homesteads to ranch or farm, or gold, or buffalo skins, or places to sell all the things the others in there area would need or want. 1876 was a monumental year, even as years go. Before the year was over, Wild Bill Hickok would be murdered while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota; the Jesse James-Cole Younger Gang would be broken up after a failed attempt to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota; the nation would celebrate the centennial of its birth with the lavish International Exposition in Philadelphia, later to be known as, simply, the Centennial, a six month long national fair to which one in five Americans would go; the National Women's Suffrage Association, formed seven years before, would draw significant attention to the women's rights issue; Ulysses S. Grant would finish his second term as President, to watch as a new Preisdent would be elected but no one would know the outcome for months at the threat of a second civil war; and George Armstrong Custer would fight the Battle of the Little Bighorn.