“Queen Elizabeth I, The Armada Portrait” (unknown artist, oil on oak panel, 1588)

Saturday afternoon, sunny and milder, 78 degrees.

I’ve been on a British history binge for weeks now, absorbing documentaries and shows about the War of the Roses and the Tudors. Last night I finished watching the series, The White Queen, based on books written by historical novelist Philippa Gregory. I’ve never read any of her books, and she has been criticized for working loosely with history, but hey, the key word here is novelist, not biographer.

I used to know pretty much the entire tree of British monarchy, largely because of my Shakespeare classes, but I’ve had to go back and familiarize myself again since beginning this current binge.

Steven van der Meulen, portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (c 1563)

Anyway, today is the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I (September 7, 1533 – March 24, 1603), who ruled England and Ireland for almost 44 years. The grand irony, of course, is that her father, Henry VIII was obsessed with having a son to carry on the Tudor dynasty, yet his son, Edward VI reigned for only six years and died at only 15, and his daughter, Mary (aka Bloody Mary) ruled for only five. Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and second wife Anne Boleyn, was never supposed to be queen, and she was in fact declared illegitimate at one point, yet her rule is referred to as England’s Gloriana, and her long reign brought stability to the country after years of instability and war.

For more on the “virgin queen” you can go here or here.


Music from the OST The Virgin Queen, “Gloriana”

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If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Stop the romaine lettuce proliferation in our society. NOW!

“My head is bloody, but unbowed.” ~ William Ernest Henly, from “Invictus

Friday afternoon, cloudy and cooler, more storms, 77 degrees.

Well the appointment yesterday went much better than the first. They’re checking into my request for Aimovig, and if for some reason it doesn’t get approved, I’m going to try Botox again. I had really hoped that I’d outgrow my migraines, you know, like you outgrow acne, but not so much. The heat and humidity always does me in, and the other day I just felt like crawling into a cave somewhere and never coming back out.

Anyway, this is day three of this particular episode, and I still have that lingering tightness around my skull. I’m hoping that’s how it stays and that the intense pain doesn’t decide to rear its ugly head again.

Here’s a weird collection for you—born on August 23:

  • Keith Moon, drummer for The Who (1946-1978)
  • Barbara Eden, American actress, I Dream of Jeannie (1931)
  • Park Chan Wook, South Korean film director, Oldboy (1963)
  • Henry Lee Lucas, serial killer (1936-2001), who was born in Blacksburg, VA (didn’t know this tidbit)
  • River Phoenix, American actor, Stand by Me (1970-1993)
  • William Ernest Henly, British Poet, “Invictus” (1849-1903)

Enjoy. More later. Peace.


You have to appreciate advertising with a sense of humor:

Is it weird that I’d buy this?

The Western Kansan, Leoti, Kansas, December 14, 1893

Speaking of bathing . . . What do you mean you want soap?

I just don’t know what to say . . .

The San Francisco Examiner, California, August 10, 1913

Man, I love Patton Oswalt:

This is just insane:

Yep, I went there:

A forward-thinking little girl:

Vancouver Daily World, British Columbia, June 27, 1921

And finally, there’s this:

 

“We need people who are strong gun advocates to say, ‘No more.'” ~ Laura Dugan, associate chair at U. of Maryland’s Dept. of Criminology and Criminal Justice

“NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch tried to criticize diversity by showing an image of characters from the children’s series Thomas & Friends wearing KKK hoods. Loesch shared the image to mock the show’s addition of a female train from Africa.”

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold . . .” ~ Dana Loesch, NRA Spokeswoman from speech at 2018 CPAC

Monday afternoon, cloudy and very humid, 86 degrees.

So I decided that I should try to finish my companion post on the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, and NRATV (here is link to Saturday’s post). Honestly, I feel that writing about it is one of the best things that I can do in response to the most recent gun violence massacres. I don’t know how effective my forum actually is as regards getting some kind of message out there, but if I don’t try, then I shouldn’t complain. I mean, I’m pretty much removed from access to marches until I have a working vehicle, but I have to at least try to participate however I can.

I realize that Mitch McConnell, in not forcing Congress back into session, is probably hoping things will die down before Congress resumes, that the recent violence will not be so fresh in people’s minds, which means that calls for reform can be glossed over with more important things, like continuing to benefit from an influx of Russian cash into his home state of Kentucky. But I’m hoping that the American people will not be lulled back into complacency so easily this time, that the three mass killings in less than two weeks will continue to be a raw wound that gnaws at us so that the momentum for reform doesn’t stall.

And so I will continue to write and to post.

“If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO
NRA EVP/CEO with Russian agent Maria Butina (I didn’t even get into how the Republicans have blocked the SEC probe into Russian money filtered through the NRA. For more info, click on the picture, which is linked to the Newsweek article.)

I have to say that I, for one, am incredibly glad that there were no weapons in schools when I was teaching middle school. Having been personally involved in three (yes, three) altercations, I can only imagine what would have happened if one of those kids had been able to grab someone’s gun. It actually gives me chills to contemplate it.

Most of the outrageous things that Wayne LaPierre predicts never come to fruition, like when he declared that there was a “massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.” Or when LaPierre stated that in a 1995 fundraising letter that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would give “jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”

I’ll give him this: The man loves his rhetoric.

But we don’t need any more rhetoric. We may not even need an assault-weapons ban as it’s so easy for manufacturers to work around it as they did in the 90’s. But could we at least discuss seriously universal background checks and restrictions on large capacity magazines? Poll after poll show that the majority of Americans are behind these reforms. I mean, come on—when you hunt, do you need a magazine that holds 30 rounds? There won’t be much of that quail left if you unload your magazine into it.

Just saying.

Some of the weapons found inside Las Vegas shooters room Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept/AP

I also think that places like Wal-Mart and others should have limits on how much ammunition can be purchased at one time. Now before all of you survivalists out there scream at me (not that I think there are actually any in my audience), I know that you stockpile ammo for the zombie apocalypse. I also know that you buy your supplies gradually over time. It’s the people intent on doing harm who go in and buy 1,000 rounds, like the Las Vegas shooter in 2017. He purchased 720 rounds from just one dealer. It needs to be harder to get so much ammunition because right now, there are no limits, and the NRA fights any time a state tries to impose such limits.

Admittedly, the irony is that the Las Vegas shooter passed his background check for his weapons, which included 23 guns, including a handgun in his hotel room and 19 firearms at his home in Mesquite, Nevada. But he didn’t have to pass any kind of check for the ammunition that he had, which allowed him to commit the largest mass shooting in the country’s history.

Anyway, enough of my stream of consciousness on all of this. I had wanted to feature info on the NRA’s now defunct TV station, which was yet another vehicle by which millions of dollars of the organization’s money were spent, but the last post was so darned long that I had to break things up—and they’re both still too long . . .

“They [mainstream media] are the rat-bastards of the earth. They are the boil on the backside of American politics.” ~ DANA LOESCH, political commentator/NRA’s national spokesperson, on NRATV

During the NRA’s 2019 annual meeting Oliver North was forced out as president amid reports of infighting and budget deficits and accusations of financial improprieties, including money the organization spent on NRATV, which aired a particularly embarrassing segment in September of the previous year (see image above). In addition to his role as NRA president, North was hired by Ackerman-McQueen in a seven-figure contract to produce content for NRATV.

No More North or Cox . . .

In June, the group’s chief lobbyist and head of political operations, Chris Cox, was suspended and then later resigned following allegations that he and North attempted to extort LaPierre. In legal filings, the NRA contends that North conspired with Ackerman and McQueen, Cox, and board member Dan Boren “to unseat the NRA’s executive leadership and give Ackerman lucrative, de facto control over its largest client.” The NRA contends that North called LaPierre’s assistant in April and allegedly threatened that Ackerman McQueen would reveal information about the CEO and the organization’s finances that would “cause maximum reputational harm,” according to the NRA complaint.

The following timeline of the fight between NRA and its advertising agency comes from Media Matters:

  • September 7, 2018: Loesch showed Thomas & Friends characters with KKK hoods on during her NRATV show.
  • March 11, 2019: The New York Times reported that several board members “questioned the value” of NRATV following Loesch’s segment.
  • April 12, 2019: The NRA files a lawsuit against its ad agency and producer of NRATV,  Ackerman McQueen.
  • April 17, 2019:  A Trace article written in partnership with The New Yorker exposed more than a decade of financial problems at the NRA, including that the group “has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars” and currently spends less than 10% of its budget on firearms education, safety, or training.
  • April 24, 2019: NRA updates its civil lawsuit complaint against Ackerman McQueen, saying Oliver North “double-dipped by drawing a salary” from the group and the ad agency.
  • April 26, 2019: Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre accuses North of trying to extort him.
  • April 27, 2019: North is forced out on the third day of the annual meeting.
  • April 27, 2019: NRA suspends its top lawyer. Following North’s departure, Steve Hart, a longtime lawyer for the NRA board of directors, was reportedly suspended.
  • April 27, 2019: New York attorney general opens an investigation into NRA’s tax-exempt status.
  • April 29, 2019: NRA elected Carolyn Meadows to succeed North as  its newest president; Meadows is on the board of an organization that maintains the largest Confederate monument in America.
  • May 2, 2019: Questions arise about LaPierre’s travel expenses.
  • May 6, 2019: Meadows claimed Rep. Lucy McBath won her House race because she is a “minority female.”
  • May 15, 2019: Leaked documents show “lavish” spending for LaPierre despite poor conditions for NRA staff.
  • May 22, 2019: NRA files a second lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen requesting $40 million in damages.
  • May 23, 2019: Ackerman McQueen files countersuit against NRA asking for up to $100 million in damages
  • May 29, 2019: Ackerman McQueen submits a notice to terminate its contract with the NRA, leaving NRATV’s future in question.
  • June 2, 2019: The NRA admits “the concept” of NRATV “remains under review.”
  • June 3, 2019: Ackerman McQueen claims the NRA is preventing them from cooperating with Senate Finance Committee subpoena.
  • June 6: The NRA subpoenaed North and two other board members.
  • June 7: NRATV host Grant Stinchfield said, “If you think I’m too blunt, our words are too strong, quit your whining, get serious about this fight or move over and let someone else fight for you.”
  • June 9: Post reports that the NRA “bought nearly $3.1 million in ammunition and other supplies” from Crow Shooting Supply, run by former board member and president Peter Brownell.
  • June 10: Daily Beast reports that NRA told North to pick a side.
  • June 19: Ackerman McQueen warns NRATV could be shut down within days because NRA owes the ad agency nearly $1.7 million for promotional work.
  • June 20: NRA suspends its second-in-command after an alleged failed coup attempt against its chief executive. In a lawsuit filed on June 19, the NRA alleged that text messages and emails show top lobbyist Chris Cox and another board member discussing their efforts to oust NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
  • June 25: NRA pulls the plug on NRATV.

“A heinous act of mass murder — either by terrorists or by some psychotic who should have been locked up long ago — will be the pretext to unleash a tsunami of gun control.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO, from a 2013 op-ed

The 10,000 square foot mansion the LaPierres wanted the NRA to purchase for them in 2018

“They’re sending out requests for money, saying they might go bankrupt in their legal fight with New York. They’re going through all of this drama of saying they need money, while they are spending money on all these things that can’t even be justified.” ~ ROB PINCUS, Gun Rights Advocate

Saturday evening, sunny, and warm, 83 degrees.

I’ve been working on this post since this morning, and it’s now after 8 p.m., so I’m dog tired and hurt all over. Just thought I’d share that tidbit.

NRA Insignias/Getty Images

So you are a proud member of the NRA. Fine, truly. It’s your right as an American citizen to belong to anything you choose. I may not agree with you, but that’s my right as an American citizen. We get to disagree about things. Again, a free and open society allows for that. Here’s hoping we continue to be a free and open society for many years to come, a society that endorses freedom of the press and your right to be a safe gun owner.

But allow me to elucidate for you a few NRA facts about which you may be unfamiliar, a few facts about exactly how the NRA spends your membership dues. You may be surprised . . . or maybe not. But first, a few background facts about the organization.

“It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house . . .” ~ Lt. Col. Allen West, Ret., NRA Board Member, in a blog post (May 14, 2019)

NRA Background Information:

  • The NRA was co-founded in 1871 by William Conant Church and Captain George Wood Wingate. Prior to 1970, the organization was primarily non-partisan, but during the 1970s it became increasingly aligned with the Republican party.
  • This nonprofit group (501c4) has an annual revenue of around $400 million and enjoys tax-exempt status as a “social welfare” organization. As such, it is not required to disclose its donors. It is, however, required to file a tax return declaring its revenue sources, which includes membership dues.
  • Wayne LaPierre was appointed executive vice president in 1991 and still serves as CEO. But did you know that LaPierre’s early career included working for Democratic lawmakers in Virginia? Irony, huh?
  • Nine US presidents have been NRA members. In addition to Grant, they are: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush (who resigned in 1995), and Donald Trump. Three US vice presidents, two chief justices of the US Supreme Court, and several US congressmen, as well as legislators and officials of state governments are members.
  • NRA membership dues after 2018 hike: Regular membership fees when not running promotions: annual $45, two-year $75, three-year $100, five-year $150 and lifetime memberships $1500, 60 monthly payments of $25 (Interestingly, these rates differ depending upon which site you are exploring, but I got my information directly from the NRA site.)
  • Since 2013, the NRA has cited is membership as being around 5 million.
  • According to Newsweek and multiple sources, the NRA’s membership typically gets a boost after tragedies like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • The NRA received twice as much money from nearly five times as many donors in the seven days after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting than it did in the seven days before the shooting.
  • Even though a Quinnipiac poll conducted in the days after February’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting showed 97 percent of surveyed gun owners support universal background checks for gun purchases, the NRA still opposes such legislation.
  • According to Rick Newman on Yahoo Finance: The NRA’s political spending takes two forms: money spent on lobbying, and money spent on elections, whether direct donations to candidates or spending on their behalf through a political-action committee. Required disclosure forms show spending of $5.1 million on lobbying and $54 million on elections, or $59.1 million total.
  • According to an article by Mike Spies in The New Yorker, the NRA has “reduced spending on its avowed core mission—gun education, safety, and training—to less than ten per cent of its total budget, but it has substantially increased its spending on messaging.”
  • The NRA receives most of its income—$164 million in 2016—from dues paid by its  members, and contributions, including money donated to its political-action committees, brought in another $104 million in 2016.
“I can think of no other non-profit organization that compensates their Executive Vice President the kind of salary and benefits that Mr. Lapierre gets relative to how much employees receive. I also cannot understand how a person like Mr. Lapierre treats the people that work for him like his own personal indentured servants . . . ” ~ Andy Lander, former NRA employee of 13 years in an open letter

Facts of which you may be unaware regarding questionable NRA membership totals and expenditures by the upper echelon of the organization:

On NRA membership, real and not-so-real:

  • Banners of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, and Dana Loesch outside at the organization’s annual convention in Dallas in 2018 (Justin Sullivan/Getty) Does anyone else find these banners slightly frightening? No. Just me?

    A Newsweek review of the tax exempt records, known as 990 filings (full text of 990 from 2015 here, and 2017 here), shows wild fluctuation in membership numbers from year to year, but also an overall decline in membership revenue between 2007 and 2016.

  • According to an article in The Trace, there was a  “22 percent drop in membership revenue—from $163 million in 2016 to $128 million in 2017. Dues from members accounted for just 40 percent of the NRA’s total revenue in 2017 — the lowest percentage in a decade.”
  • Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist, said the group uses a few other tricks to pad its numbers: counting lifetime members who have died, counting annual members whose memberships have lapsed in the 13 month: “one method he and his colleagues used was to continue counting annual members on its rolls even after their membership lapsed, at least for another month, in hopes they would renew.”

On the big, big costs associated with keeping the EVP/CEO:

  • NRA EVP/CEO Wayne LaPierre: I want it all . . . now . . .

    CEO Wayne LaPierre, gets paid very well. In 2015, the last year for which the group’s tax return is available, LaPierre earned $5.1 million in total compensation. That’s more than the CEOs of Alaska Air, CME Group, Church & Dwight, Dish Network or Garmin earned that year.

  • A comprehensive article in Business Insider states that “in 2017, the most recent year available, NRA paid LaPierre a salary of $1,366,688, plus an additional $67,289 in ‘other compensation from the organization and related organizations,'” according to the company’s 2017 990 tax form. That brings his total compensation that year to $1,433,977.
  • In 2015, the NRA paid a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment to LaPierre, which will become even more startling later in the post.
  • La Pierre will continue to earn a salary even after leaving the NRA. State records show that LaPierre’s contract “provides for consulting services and personal appearances upon the end of his employment, at an annual rate that starts at his currently contracted final base salary and is later reduced.”
  • An article on the NPR site by Tim Mark states that “of the more than 600 organizations that Charity Watch tracks, LaPierre is the eighth-highest compensated nonprofit leader in the country.
“The litany of red flags is just extraordinary.” ~ Marc Owens, former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt enterprises

A Pro Publica article contends that in July 2018, a half-dozen of the organization’s accountants produced a document detailing the most egregious issues that needed to be addressed by the audit committee tasked with conducting NRA fiscal oversight. The audit committee document was part of an effort by NRA accountants last year to address a broad array of questionable transactions and business arrangements that they believed could threaten the organization’s tax-exempt status.

The “List of Top Concerns for the Audit Committee” details a range of questionable transactions and business arrangements involving several top NRA vendors and executives. Violations of the organizations procedures and policies included hiring staff without HR knowledge, reimbursement of living expenses beyond HR policies.

The transactions involved top NRA executives, favored vendors, and consultants, including Josh Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff. The organization’s 2017 tax filings revealed that Powell had racked up more than a hundred thousand dollars in personal expenses—including a housing allowance—paid by the NRA.

That being said, it appears that the biggest infractions came from the very top.

On LaPierre’s Questionable Expenses:

  • A leaked document shows that LaPierre likes his clothes—for purchases dating back to 2004 From the Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills the total for designer suits was $274,695.
  • Fox News reports that the CEO billed the group’s outside ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.

    went on vacation just after the Sandy Hook, CN, massacre of school children
  • Among the travel expenses billed to the NRA’s former ad agency are more than $200,000 in “Air Transportation” costs during a one-month period in late 2012 and early 2013, in part related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas.
  • The Fox News article also states that “The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it. (The NRA is now in litigation with its former ad agency)
  • LaPierre charged the NRA’s ad agency $39,947 for a private jet to Eleuthera just three days after the Sandyhook Massacre and then $29,100 for a plane from Nassau, Bahamas, to Dallas, Texas.
  • But it wasn’t all vacations and travel expenses for LaPierre and his spouse: The NRA also spent tens of thousands of dollars in travel and lodging expenses for hair and makeup artists for Susan LaPierre.
“This is like the worst kind of corporate waste because buying the house does nothing to advance the interests of the NRA. How can you explain that? It’s not like he’s been underpaid.” ~ Daniel Kurtz, New York attorney specializing in non-profit law

About that nine-bathroom house on the golf course:

  • The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2019 that in 2018 LaPierre was in talks with the NRA’s former ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, to facilitate the purchase of a 10,000 suqare foot house in Dallas that was priced at $6.2 million at the time: “The discussions about the house purchase occurred early last year, shortly after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Mr. LaPierre was concerned about his security and was interested in another residence besides his publicly known address in northern Virginia.” (Oh irony, thy name is LaPierre…….)
  • LaPierre’s wife, Susan, did quibble with one design detail, according to an email The Post reviewed. She thought the men’s closet may not be large enough.
  • According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The origins of the idea to buy the mansion, its proposed purpose and the reason the deal never went through are now being fiercely disputed by the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, which are locked in a bitter legal fight.”
  • An aside: Before the big falling out and all of the drama, Ackerman and McQueen had a 38-year relationship with the NRA, and in 2017 (the most recent available records), the NRA paid the ad agency and its affiliates over $40 million. This relationship could be a post all by itself, and that’s not even getting into the whole Ollie North aspect.
  • Ackerman says they were setting up an LLC, WBB Investments, for LaPierre so that his home buying would not become public.
  • Even though the NRA claims that not a dime of its money was spent on the proposed purchase, a good faith check for $70,000 was in fact wired to WBB Investments towards the home’s purchase.
Check from NRA to WSB Investments, LLC for $70K

And finally, did you want that coffee with or without the retirement option:

Remember that insignificant sum of $3,767,345 the NRA paid into LaPierre’s retirement fund in 2015?

NRA Annual Meeting
  • According to the NPR article, a copy of 2019 National Rifle Association pension documents obtained from a source showed that the NRA’s pension obligations were approximately $134 million at the beginning of this year, but they had only set aside $93 million to meet those obligations.
  • FYI: There are 786 people in the NRA’s pension plan, of which 223 are currently employed by the organization. The company has underfunded pensions affecting hundreds of former and current employees—even as LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, according to the group’s most recent financial disclosures.
  • An article on The Trace states that even though hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to a number of NRA executives, board members, and vendors through sweetheart deals and opaque financial vehicles, to cut costs, the organization froze contributions to employees’ pension plans and even eliminated free coffee at its headquarters.
  • Perhaps the coffee cutback is only a reflection of the bigger cash problem facing the NRA. In May, they sued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, claiming that the state’s zealous regulatory efforts against its Carry Guard insurance program had cost the NRA “tens of millions of dollars” in lost revenue, legal fees, and other damages.

So that’s just a capsule of how the NRA gets and spends some of its money, and granted, this post ended up being much longer than I had anticipated. What I take away from this is perhaps three things: Bloating at the top of organizations seems to be universal, and those in charge tend to forget all of the people they stepped on to get there. Second, the original mission of the NRA has been lost (advancing rifle marksmanship). Gun education and safety falls somewhere in the bottom of priorities.

And finally, and this is good news for those of us who really are against the organization’s upper echelon and the out-of-touch messaging, their belt tightening has affected their political spending:  The group shelled out just under $10 million on House and Senate candidates in 2018—less than half of what it spent on congressional races in 2014 and 2016 (emphasis mine).

(The above information can be found anywhere on the internet, but I’ve tried to use as many sources as possible so as to be thorough and as unbiased as I can be when discussing the NRA. I’ve also sought the original documents that were leaked on the web. All links are included unless a statement is considered common knowledge.
Tomorrow’s companion post will focus on the downfall of NRA TV.

 

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

The Atchison Daily Globe, Kansas, May 12, 1904 (From yesterdaysprint.tumblr)

Friday afternoon, partly cloudy and beautiful, 84 degrees.

I’m having problems getting to sleep again; I’m really hoping that this doesn’t turn into another full-blown episode of insomnia. Last night I dreamed I was having a good conversation with Brett’s partner, Dom. I was telling her how much I missed speaking with Brett. She said that she would tell him . . .

I’m hoping that Corey will spray the bugs around the house soon, so that I can venture outside without adding to my huge collection of bites. Oh well.

Hope you like today’s collection. Enjoy.


My nights lately:

image

In praise of words:

La Grande Observer, Oregon, April 25, 1930

When you realize . . .

I love this picture. One of my earliest memories of is of my father working on a green car while we were living in Navy housing before going to England.

Love this sign:

To the billionaire owner of SoulCycle, Stephen Ross:


And this one, too:

Another one from isn’t:

Great bumper sticker:

Grooming a steer:

And finally, I love this. I wish that I knew where my old I Read Banned Books button was:


Music by Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” (just as relevant today)

“Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!” ~ Latest crowd chant at a Trump rally

Baron Von Fancy Billboard in the Bowery, NYC

“Sleep not in peace:
There are a thousand waters to be spanned;
there are a thousand mountains to be crossed;
there are a thousand crosses to be borne.” ~ Rafael Zulueta da Costa, from “Like the Molave”

Saturday evening, sunny and hot, 93 degrees (feels like 98).

I’ve been pondering this post for a few days. Finally, I decided that the best way to write it was just to write it. I’ve been saving this Camus quote from a 1948 play for a bit, and it seems fitting; the more things and times change, the more they stay the same:

“Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble – yes, gamble – with a whole part of their life and their so called ‘vital interests.” ~ Albert Camus, from State of Siege (L’État de siège)

I was born in Norfolk, Virginia to a Filipino father who became an American citizen by fighting for the U.S. during WWII, and a mother from a small town in North Carolina. At the time in which they were married, there was still a law on the books in Virginia that made their marriage illegal. They got married in Elizabeth City, NC. I have light olive skin, but when I was young, I used to tan like crazy, and could get quite dark.

I tell you all of this for one specific reason: I have been told to go back to where I come from. Truthfully, that’s not the worst racist thing aimed at me or to which I was subjected. In fact, the first time that I heard the N-word was in Norfolk when someone called me one. I went home and asked my mother what it meant.

I have been asked what I am. If I have replied, “an American,” I have been asked what kind? I have been asked if the rumor is true that Oriental women have vaginas that are built differently. I have been told in apparent praise that Filipinos are good workers in the kitchen (as Navy stewards). I once heard someone say that my father was good looking for a Filipino. I was asked by my school mates in grade school why my eyes looked the way that they did. My father, who spoke with an accent, was told to speak English; his vernacular was more eloquent and proper than most people I have known, including many of those born here. People have openly stared at me when I’ve had my three children together as my daughter is fair, and my sons are quite olive, more brown in the summer, and I’ve been asked in front of them if they have different fathers. They don’t.

When I was young, I longed for long blond hair and blue eyes. I did not get them, obviously, and I am oh so grateful. I am made of fairly strong stuff, directly as a result of the kinds of things that I used to routinely hear, face, and experience. To be half-Filipino with a very proper British accent in the south before segregation? Now that’s different. I was the darkest thing in my school. Oh how I hated it then. Now? It makes me laugh.

Ignorance makes me laugh. Dumpf makes me laugh, that is when he’s not making me grab my head in pain from screaming at the television. I don’t write about politics often here as a deliberate decision. I will probably ramp up closer to the election, but right now I’m trying to hold on to my sanity. So I eschew the pontificating. For now, that is.

But I had to write just a few words in response to this past week’s latest Dumpster fire. Go back to where you came from hits at the very heart of anyone who is first or second or even third generation, but seriously, it should hit at anyone who calls themselves American. None of us came from here, not really. Only the Native Americans came from here. The rest of us? Immigrants. Willing and unwilling. Pilgrims. Slaves. Indentured servants. Whatever, whoever, however. We all come from immigrant stock.

I have no plans to go back to where I came from, at least not immediately. I mean, I came from Norfolk, so there’s that . . . But I have to ask you, those of you out there who still think 45 is the guy for you, that he represents real Americans, whatever that means—how is it that you really don’t see him as the sexually perverse, pussy-grabbing, serially-unfaithful, draft-dodging, tax-evading, child-abusing, racist crook that he is? I’m not asking you to vote for a Democrat. That’s not what this is about. I’m just asking you to look within and ask yourselves if this man truly represents your America, land of the free, home of the brave, we “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” . . .

That’s all. Just that.


It was really hard to pick the right song. I finally settled on Chicano Batman’s bilingual version of “This Land is Your Land” (I know that it’s a Johnny Walker commercial; doesn’t matter, it’s the point).



I Was In A Hurry

Yesterday I lost a country.
I was in a hurry,
and didn’t notice when it fell from me
like a broken branch from a forgetful tree.
Please, if anyone passes by
and stumbles across it,
perhaps in a suitcase
open to the sky,
or engraved on a rock
like a gaping wound,
or wrapped
in the blankets of emigrants,
or canceled
like a losing lottery ticket,
or helplessly forgotten
in Purgatory,
or rushing forward without a goal
like the questions of children,
or rising with the smoke of war,
or rolling in a helmet on the sand,
or stolen in Ali Baba’s jar,
or disguised in the uniform of a policeman
who stirred up the prisoners
and fled,
or squatting in the mind of a woman
who tries to smile,
or scattered
like the dreams
of new immigrants in America.
If anyone stumbles across it,
return it to me, please.
Please return it, sir.
Please return it, madam.
It is my country. . .
I was in a hurry
when I lost it yesterday.I Was In A Hurry

Yesterday I lost a country.
I was in a hurry,
and didn’t notice when it fell from me
like a broken branch from a forgetful tree.
Please, if anyone passes by
and stumbles across it,
perhaps in a suitcase
open to the sky,
or engraved on a rock
like a gaping wound,
or wrapped
in the blankets of emigrants,
or canceled
like a losing lottery ticket,
or helplessly forgotten
in Purgatory,
or rushing forward without a goal
like the questions of children,
or rising with the smoke of war,
or rolling in a helmet on the sand,
or stolen in Ali Baba’s jar,
or disguised in the uniform of a policeman
who stirred up the prisoners
and fled,
or squatting in the mind of a woman
who tries to smile,
or scattered
like the dreams
of new immigrants in America.
If anyone stumbles across it,
return it to me, please.
Please return it, sir.
Please return it, madam.
It is my country. . .
I was in a hurry
when I lost it yesterday.

~ Dunya Mikhail (Trans, Elizabeth Winslow) (found on Poetry Foundation)

Happy 4th of July America!


“Sometimes nations should pray for amnesia.” ~ Anna Kamieńska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook

In honor of the country’s birthday . . . nope, sorry, in honor of 45’s belief that the world revolves around him, he held a ‘Merica celebration on the National Mall in which he praised our country’s history, especially the Revolutionary War in which the country gained its independence. All went well until it got to the airplaines . . .

“Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over airports, it did everything it had to do.”

Donald J. Trump, noted historian and purveyor of fine facts of the fake kind……

Argh…this was in my drafts folder………..