Friday, December 28, 2012

On This Feast of Holy Innocents: A Coventry Carol

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Zuzu's Petals, or, ....
Repost: Tattered Remnant #046: Karolyn Grimes

I have always viewed George Bailey of Bedford Falls, NY, as the archetypal Tattered Remnant, the secret agent of good who gets no thanks or credit for the silent, secret beneficial acts for which he is responsible. Unfortunately, George Bailey--AKA Jimmy Stewart, GEN USAF (Rt'd)--is no longer with us, for seventy years have passed since he stood on that bridge.

We do, however, still have one connection, or if you will, one bridge left with that little town in America's memory--George's daughter Zuzu, true name Karolyn Grimes, whose life has proven to be the very example of what the Tattered Remnant is about.

A Wonderful Life: Karolyn Grimes (1940- )

Hollywood is built on the bones of the ruined lives of its stars. Hardly a week goes by without our hearing about some famous starlet burning themselves out in a motel room in Peoria or something. It's an occupational hazard of the famous.

But far sadder is the fate of those child stars who were driven into Hollywood by their parents' ambitions, only to be ruined by the glittering success it brings. One remembers River Phoenix, Corey Haim, and countless others whose shattered lives litter the Walk of Fame.

Sometimes the best possible thing that can happen to a child actor is to lose it all. It may, in the end, come back to them in ways they never expected.

Which brings us to Karolyn Grimes.

Zuzu Then...

...and Now.

(From an AP story, 2006)

Karolyn Grimes offers petals, holiday cheer to fans of holiday classic


- Zuzu has a cold again.

She sniffles and sucks on a cold pill as she signs autographs for fans lined up to the door in a coffee shop.

Karolyn Grimes jokes that she left her coat open, like her character Zuzu Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life." But a more likely culprit is the holiday crunch of appearances by the former child actress -- from a Victorian festival in Puyallup, Wash., to the Colorado Country Christmas Show and now to Seneca Falls, which claims to be the inspiration for director Frank Capra's mythical Bedford Falls.

Around Christmas, this Finger Lakes village is gussied up like the snowy movie town with white lights and wreaths strung across the main street. And the 66-year-old Grimes has come for a weekend celebration: for everyone who saw the movie remembers Zuzu.

She gets to say, "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."

And the petals from Zuzu's rose – stuffed into a pants pocket by Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey as he comforts his sickly daughter – become a symbol of life. Grimes laughs about the petals getting more screentime than she did.

But she has parlayed her six minutes in the beloved 1946 film into a late-life career.

After enduring heartaches that make George Bailey's troubles look small, she has become a feel-good ambassador for the film and one of its last living links.

"I'm that little girl and I stand for something those people love," she says.

For some reason or other, that little girl embodies the image, or maybe the power to make them happy.

"People tell her as much all afternoon at the Zuzu Cafe, where she sits with a Sharpie at a table laid out with "It's a Wonderful Life" stuff: DVDs, ceramic ornaments, memory books, her own "Zuzu Bailey's It's a Wonderful Life Cookbook" and scattered rose petals.

"Do you know what a thrill this is?" "This is my favorite movie!" "Thank you for giving us so much joy!" For each person, Grimes neatly signs her name with "Zuzu" in quotes and a little doodle of a bell.

She usually adds a message like, "Enjoy life, it's wonderful."

Grimes lives near Seattle, but retains a Midwestern cheeriness.

She holds her smile for hours and laughs as she pops up for snapshots.

She has a gold "Z" pinned to her blue velveteen jacket.

Economic necessity

She lost her nest egg in the 2001 economic downturn and relies on these appearances.

As she signs, her husband sits beside her and asks, "Cash or credit card?" It's a job, but she clearly loves being Zuzu.

After signing autographs all afternoon, she bumps into a fan at a diner who talks on her cell phone to her father.

Grimes happily accepts the phone.

"Do you know who you're talking to?" she says to woman's father. "You're talking to Zuzu!"

Grimes had already worked with Bing Crosby and Fred MacMurray when she appeared in "It's a Wonderful Life."

She grew up in Hollywood and was nudged into the business by her mother.

Capra picked her to play Zuzu.

Grimes retains kid-centric memories of the movie: Capra kindly squatted to give her directions.

"Mr. Stewart" held her in his arms, take after take, for the end scene and always put her down gently.

She loved the Baileys' big Christmas tree.

At the time though, even to a 5-year-old, "it was just another job.

"Grimes' movie career waned as her mother became ill. She lost her at age 14.

Her father died in a car accident a year later.

A court shipped the teenage orphan to Osceola, Mo., to live in a "bad home" with an aunt and uncle.

Still, she liked meeting people outside hyper-competitive Hollywood.

She went to college, married, raised kids, became a medical technologist. Zuzu was the past.

Her box of clips and pics stayed in the basement until 1980, when a reporter came to her door in Stilwell, Kan., and asked her a question:"Did you play that little girl in the movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life?"'Now Grimes stands watching herself on a big-screen TV as a curly-haired pixie from 60 years ago.

The little girl asks her dad to fix her flower, and he sneaks the wilted petals into his pocket.

"What do you think? Did I see it?" she asks the audience.

Grimes is giving a crowd at the community center a tour of the movie with bits of trivia.

'Zuzu's name was inspired by an old brand of ginger snaps, she says.

The snow coating Bedford Falls was made of soap flakes and chemicals; that's why it looks sudsy sometimes.

Reviewing the flower scene, she suggests Zuzu saw through her father's heartfelt ruse and loves him all the more for it.

"I think what Frank Capra is trying to say is she knows her father isn't perfect," she said.

The film about a suicidal, small-town money lender was a bit of a dud after its December 1946 release.

"Wonderful Life" got a second life in the mid-'70s when a lapsed copyright allowed television stations to show the movie for free.

The movie gathered iconic status through constant showings.

After the reporter's story, Grimes did local Zuzu events in the '80s and branched out by the '90s.

This was a difficult stretch personally; she knows angels don't always save people.

Her 18-year-old son killed himself in 1989 and her second husband died of cancer in 1994 (her first husband was killed in a hunting accident).

She kept on.

"You have a choice," she says. "You can drown in your sorrows, be the grumpy old Mr. Potter and be hurt and be in pain ...but I think you need to put that behind you because, my gosh, life is a wonderful gift.

Grimes, one of about seven surviving actors from the movie, says she's had troubled souls approach her sobbing at her appearances.

She inspires smiles when she passes out a rose petal.

Zuzu's mission

"I really feel like Zuzu is kind of a mission maybe, I don't know," Grimes says.

"I think that there is a higher power at work and that I had to go through a lot of adverse situations in my life to understand other people's pain.

"If it sounds like a corny sentiment out of a Capra movie, consider that after a day of "It's a Wonderful Life" autographs and interviews she becomes excited -- really excited – by a small cutout of a bell stuck to a linoleum floor by her chair.

It has meaning, she explains as she walks out to the snowy sidewalks of Seneca Falls, past the decorated windows, the old-fashioned street lights and the wreaths hanging overhead.

"I really feel at home here," she says.

People here argue about the Bedford Falls connection, though it's a circumstantial case.

Both places have a "Falls" suffix, and characters in the film mention nearby cities like Rochester and Elmira.

Both places have classic American main streets, and the bridge here resembles the one where George Bailey pondered his mortality.

Capra, whose movie village was a set built near Los Angeles, left no evidence to rule out other candidates, like Bedford, N.Y.

And yet the director could have passed through Seneca Falls while visiting an aunt in nearby Auburn.

Retired local barber Tommy Bellissima even claims he cut Capra’s hair before the movie came out. Bellissima recalls a friendly guy whose name stuck in his head: capra means goat in Italian.

"Sometimes Christmas is what you believe," says county tourism director Maureen Koch at the Zuzu Cafe, "and don't make me prove it."


From Wikipedia: Grimes [has since been] honored as a famous Missourian with a star on the Missouri Walk of Fame in Marshfield, Missouri. She also received the city's highest honor, The Edwin P. Hubble Medal of Initiative in 2007 at the annual Marshfield cherry blossom festival. ('Zuzu's Petals' also serves as the name of a women's dress shop and a 1990s all-girl band. Go figure.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Very Brummie Christmas.....

From Steeleye Span.... And Wikipedia

(The Source of All Wisdom And Knowledge)...

The complete text of "Gaudete", including the refrain:
Latin English
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary — rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God has become man,
To the wonderment of Nature,
The world has been renewed
By the reigning Christ.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is born,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

Friday, December 21, 2012

On My Fifty First Birthday....

....everything is still intact, apparently.

I guess this is good news.

Friday, November 30, 2012

AFK - On Hiatus

...but not permanently. I hope to be back soon, certainly by Christmas week. 

Bless you and thanks for stopping by. RLK.

Monday, November 26, 2012

REPOST: Tattered Remnant #005:
A Man Out of Season - Thomas More


The introduction to this series can be found here.

(Here I again break the rule mandating that I write only about obscure people--for in spite of his fame, great in his lifetime and growing since--More was surely a Tattered Remnant.)

Thomas More. Lawyer. Judge. Chancellor. Traitor. Executed criminal.


His story is well known: a highly skilled lawyer in the early days of lawyering, he rose to the position of Chancellor of All England, that is, the equivalent of Chief Judge of the Supreme Court and Prime Minister combined. His master, Henry England, King, the Eighth of that Name, decided he wanted to get rid of his infertile Spanish wife who had only bore him a dull-witted girl and a number of dead sons. Nominated to succeed to the Chancellorship by his enemy Cardinal Wolsey, he too, like Wolsey, proved incapable of meeting the endless and impossible demands of his syphlitic and, ultimately, mad master. When given orders to pursue and formally approve an unjust divorce and remarriage, More quietly withdrew from his great office. He did not criticize his master, but neither did he approve. He remained silent, hoping that would save him.

But Harry England rightfully saw his silence as criticism, and ultimately demanded that he sign a formal oath of approval. More's refusal to sign led to his execution. He was beheaded with words that should be engraved on every public servant's doorway: "I die the King's good servant, but God's first!"

He is given the title of "Man for All Seasons"—the title of a famous play by Robert Bolt in which his story is used as a counterpoint for the age. Even thirty years ago, Bolt recognized the challenge More presented toward our modern mind set. But rather than being a man for all seasons, is not More truly a man out of season? Does he not contradict the whole spirit of our age?

Why, in this day and age where "mistakes are made" and responsibility dodged, where sensual desire is placed on the same plane as divine command, where "doing what thou wilt" has become "the whole of the Law"—why should a man like More, who tenatiously clung to his outlook to death, be taken at all seriously? In America today, where God is said to have died, the idea that a man should cling to the refusal to take an oath even unto his own destruction seems completely alien to us. More, who refused to sign an oath consenting to the divorce of Henry VIII from his first wife and was executed for treason, seems like fanatical Christians of old who chose death over Emperor worship: that is, almost an alien being. Why—so the thinking might go—why should we not simply take an oath while mentally crossing our fingers? Why lose our heads when we can simply claim that 'they would have killed me if I hadn't'? After all, an oath taken under duress isn't binding, is it? And if there is no truth, is not an oath just a mouthing of words?

Bolt answers this point directly. In one scene toward the end of the play, More meets with his daughter—who begs him to take the Oath and come out of the Tower where he has been held for a year. Bolt gives More these words: "When a man takes an oath, Meg, he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water....and if he opens his fingers then—he needn't hope to find himself again..."(1)

But why should he take such a contrapunctual stand? At another point of the play, More is confronted by his good friend, the Duke of Norfolk, who points at the signatures on the oath, and says, "Damn it, Thomas, look at those names—you know those men! Can't you do what I did, and come with us, for fellowship?" To which More must reply: "And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?"(2)

And again: "I will not give in because I oppose it — I do — not my pride, not my spleen, nor any other of my appetites but I do—I!" He challenges Norfolk: "Is there no single sinew in the midst of this"—he taps Norfolk—"that serves no appetite of Norfolk's but is just Norfolk? There is! Give that some exercise, my lord!"(3) And with that their friendship ends.

To stand against the spirit of the age, to attempt to exorcise the Zeitgeist: this is dangerous, indeed possibly deadly, activity. In More's case it was admirable, but futile; the separation of England's church from that of Rome—against which he stood—is wider even today than it was in his own time. But in other cases—that of the Maid of Orleans in the fourteenth century, or more recently, the cases of Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, or Natan Shchransky—the refusal to give in, to submit, to unlawful authority and the evil exercise of power, can lead to the ultimate destruction or transformation of the power defied.

The renouned English Catholic, G.K. Chesterton, makes an interesting observation on the inappropriateness of saints to an age:

[I]t is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most. St. Francis [of Assisi] had a curious and almost uncanny attraction for the Victorians; for the nineteenth century English who seemed superficially to be most complacent about their commerce and their common sense.... [Francis] was the only midieval Catholic who really became popular in England on his own merits. It was largely because of a subconscious feeling that the modern world had neglected those particular merits. The English middle classes found their only missionary in the figure, which of all types in the world they most despised; an Italian beggar.(4)

If indeed an age is converted by the saint who contradicts it most, then perhaps to call More a man out of season is not appropos: for given the superstitions we substitute for God in our day and age, a man willing to go to the block for a legal quibble may be its most inspiring contradiction. Perhaps this is what will make him a man for our season in the end after all.

1 Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons, Vintage Int'l Publishers, 1960, p. 140.

2 A Man for All Seasons at 132

3 A Man for All Seasons at 123-124.

4 G.K Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas, "The Dumb Ox", Doubleday, 1933, at 24.
This essay first appeared in EUTOPIA: A LAY JOURNAL OF CATHOLIC THOUGHT, in the Fall of 1997.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Come Back Jonee

47 49(!) years today.

John F. Kennedy.... you are missed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In Honor of A Soldier Girl

This beautiful woman is my honorary niece, and first cousin (once removed), Maire C. Kent. She is 23 years old and as of now she lies in a cancer ward at the University of Michigan Hospital system. She is suffering from an incredibly rare form of cancer and has started chemotherapy.

I first encountered this wonderful young woman through this blog: her sister Nora discovered a post I made concerning my grandfather (and their great-grandfather) A. Leo Kent. I met her and her siblings at her wedding last year.

This vivacious and irrepressible young woman now faces the challenge of a lifetime. I just wanted to raise a glass to her, and all her family, as we pull together through the struggle that faces her.

I salute you, Soldier Girl.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Ads You'll Never See Again

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ads You'll Never See Again

I think the phrase that applies here is "cringeworthy."

These were taken from one of those endlessly forwarded Emails. Enjoy.

More tomorrow. RLK.

Telecommunications in the 1990s... as seen in '68

"A keyboard! How quaint!" - Montgomery Scott

Friday, November 16, 2012

RIP Twinkies.... and Sonny Eliot

Today we mourn the passing of Detroit TV legend Sonny Eliot--whose bad jokes, worse puns, and fairly accurate weather broadcasting made him a Detroit institution since the 1950s. He was 91.

We also mourn the passing of the Twinkie, the Ho-Ho, Dolly Madison Cakes, and the Ding Dong.... Hostess Bakeries died today at the hands of its own unions, which just couldn't come to terms with the fact that making Twinkies just ain't as profitable as they used to be.

It's a beautiful world we live in. A sweet romantic place......

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Monday, November 12, 2012

WOO HOO: 100,000 VIEWS!!!!

In only 3.75 years.....

Next stop, 1,000,000 hits.........

(I do have the comfort of knowing I now have as many hits as Justin Bieber does on Youtube... in the last 15 minutes....)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

MAJOR MALFUNCTION: The Technical Reason Why The Challenger Romney Exploded On Launch



Short version:

- In a close election Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts on Election Day are crucial. Democrats have always understood this. 

- The Republican "Ground Game" was talked up through this election--but there was no ground game at all.


- The Romnoids put all of their Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts into a single high tech basket called "ORCA", operated out of Boston.

- It was supposed to feed GOTV information to local activists nationwide.

- They put all their eggs in this basket so that local GOTV efforts were suppressed in favor of this Cool New Thing.

- It did not work. At all. Critical failure. Major malfunction. It repeatedly crashed, was poorly accessable when it was running, and activists on the ground had NO INFO on whose door to knock on.

- It was kept a big secret through the campaign and rolled out at 6:00 AM of voting day. Thus the intended users could not even have gotten training on how it was used.

- It had never been beta tested, and had no redundancy.

- Intended users were told it was an "app" (= Iphone) when it was a "web app" (= Windows computer) program. Therefore they thought they needed to download it on their iPhones--and there was NO PROVISION for iPhone compatability.

- This is not mentioned in the story, but: who programmed the damned thing? If there was some hactivist or Occupier or "Anonymous" dude on the staff? FORENSICS. NOW.

What does this MEAN?

- This means that the 'missing white Republican vote' was missing for a simple reason: NO GOTV. It crashed at the critical moment.

- We could have gotten an EV victory with 400,000 more votes in crucial states. They weren't there. They weren't there because our voters didn't show up.

- They didn't show up because we didn't ask them to show up.

- This means that the fault of the critical launch failure of the Challenger is Romney himself for having bought into it, as well as those underlings who were supposed to make it happen. But primarily Romney's.

- This means that talk about the death of the Republican Party or of the Tea Party movement is extremely premature.

- This means too, that, in the immortal words of Senator Blutarski, "Nothing is over until WE decide it is!"

But I am afraid of one thing: it also means that if the system was hacked instead of hozed from the get-go, it is the beginning of a new and hideous phase of American politics.

More tomorrow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just Because I Like This

One of those Chinese animation videos, but way cool.

Tattered Remnants #22: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Time to rerun this to remind ourselves that nothing that is done alone in near despair, yet is against the darkness, is lost.


"If one is forever cautious, can one remain a human being?"

The name Solzhenitsyn is known to every adult American over the age of 35. But times are changing; already, he is fading into history and into disregard as the train of history moves forward. Although he is today still among the most famous of men, he was, at his finest, an unknown, a single minded enemy of one of the 20th Century's Great Tyrannies, the smallest of Davids against the greatest of Goliaths. As such, he was without doubt one of the Tattered Remnant.

* * * * *

In the year of 1961, in a tiny town called Ryazan south of Moscow, a high school teacher sat, late at night, before his typewriter, composing a short story. It was written in single space, on both sides of the paper (to save on the paper itself, which was hard to find at the time).

The story he wrote was a hidden artwork, created in darkness in a corner of his small apartment; he had never shown this, or any other work, to anybody else, as he was convinced that his works would never be published in his lifetime. This was, after all, only eight years after the death of Josef Djughashvili, known as Stalin; and the gang of terrorists who had assisted him in blighting the evil empire called the Soviet Union still ruled the country with a bitter, iron hand. The cold body of Stalin himself still lay in state next to Lenin's in the latter's Tomb.

He sat in his room writing a story that would change the world, retelling his experience of eight years in Siberia, where he had worked as a slave for the Soviet state, under sentence for "disloyalty" and "founding a hostile organization." His crime had been one of calling the leader of his nation "The Whiskered Guy" and "The Boss" in a private letter to a friend.

The final paragraph he composed slowly, carefully, savoring every single word:

The end of an unclouded day. Almost a happy one. Just one of the 3,653 days of his sentence, from bell to bell.

The extra three days were for leap years.

It took time, but within thirty years the writing of this short story would come to be seen as the first and single most significant event leading to the destruction of his nation's dictatorship.

His name was Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. And in typing his story he changed his universe, and ours.

Solzhenitsyn was at that time a 42-year-old survivor of the Soviet labor camps, a former "Zek", or zakliuchonniy, a prisoner. He had been arrested while serving in the Soviet Army in Poland as the Red Army approached Berlin. His letters to his friend having been intercepted, he was shipped by a special train to Moscow proper, where he was imprisoned in the famous Lyublyanka prison. He was severely beaten and, after a drum-head trial before three State Security officers, he was sentenced to eight years in the Soviet labor system. He was shipped to the east, to Siberia, where, in a series of camps, he labored as a bricklayer for the heroic Soviet people.

Solzhenitsyn had been an unquestioning Communist until his arrest. But as he spent eight years in backbreaking labor, his former appreciation for the Soviet way of life gave way to a realization that he lived in the heart of darkness, which called itself a light to the workers of the world but which was, in fact, a vile political monstrosity that ate human flesh.

(Let it not be forgotten that the Soviet empire, in its 70 years, consumed at least 40 million lives on its own initiative and lost another 20 to the invasion of Hitler.)

At the conclusion of his eight year sentence, he was freed from the camps, but sentenced thereupon to lifetime exile in the East. He was only allowed out of his imprisonment long enough to travel to the city of Tashkent, to receive treatment for stomach cancer.

After Stalin died, he was again allowed to leave the far East and he returned to central Russia, where he settled in Ryazan. His wife, who had divorced him during his imprisonment, remarried him and they settled down to a quiet life.

But he wrote on, regardless, knowing that he had no future: his works would never be published; indeed, if they were discovered, he would likely be arrested again and returned to the cold hell of the far East.

He chose, however, to take a chance. He sent a manuscript copy of his short story – Yedin Den' Ivana Denisovitcha, or One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch – to an old friend of his, Aleksander Tvardovskiy, editor of the magazine Novy Mir ("New World"). The excellence of the work was recognized immediately; some of those reviewing the short story comparing it to Dostoyevski.

But old habits die hard, particularly in socialist dictatorships. The publication of such a (counter-) revolutionary work would require approval at the highest level. It finally came from the unlikeliest of sources: Nikita Khrushchev himself, who, telling the Politburo of his decision to approve the release of the story, made what is possibly the most remarkable admission of any public official in Soviet history:

There is a Stalinist in each of you; there is even a Stalinist in me. We must root out this evil.

But this was but a false spring of freedom in Russia. Although the nation was swept by this daring new writer who actually was allowed to attack the (former) leadership of the Soviet Union, the brief era of tolerance for dissent soon ended when Khrushchev was overthrown and replaced by the Brezhnev clique of reactionaries. And Solzhenitsyn, the golden boy of the Khrushchev era, found himself almost an unperson.

In this period, his next novel, Cancer Ward, was published, but the following book, The First Circle, was blockaded. In the years that followed, while the children of the "Free Speech" protesters in Berkeley decried American "censorship" and Woodstock became the symbol of freedom, Solzhenitsyn's home was raided by KGB agents and a copy of his most important work, Arkhipelag GULag, or The Gulag Archipelago, was seized. In 1969 he was expelled from the Union of Writers: membership in which was a sine qua non to being a published novelist in the U.S.S.R.

While the police had seized the manuscript, however, copies had been carefully stored in the homes of friends, and were smuggled out of the Soviet Union to the West. An American at the Embassy, military attache' William Odom -- later head of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan -- got the manuscript to publishers in Paris.

As time passed, his importance as a writer and as a solitary opponent of the Soviet system became more apparent, even to his enemies. The Soviets could not afford to kill him, and they were unable to effectively silence him. His growing reputation became a rebuke to everything the Soviet system stood for. He was given the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 – this, back in the days when Nobel Prizes were still meaningful – and he came to stand for all those silent men of good will inside the Soviet Union who quietly opposed the stone face of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Since he could not be silenced, and since he could not be safely killed, they expelled him.

One day, in 1974, he was again arrested in his home. At this time, he was informed by the KGB officers arresting him that the decision had been taken by the Politburo to strip him of his citizenship and expel him from Russia. He was forcibly placed on an Aeroflot plane to Germany, and he was unceremoniously dumped onto the tarmac.

In the days that followed, he was allowed to migrate to the United States, where he took up residence. His second wife, Natalya – he had divorced his first wife in 1971 – was allowed to join him, along with their three young sons.

He took up residence in Cavindish, Vermont, a small, woodsy town in the Northeastern United States, which resembled in many ways his old home in central Russia. He chose well, for his Vermont neighbors had almost as insular views of privacy as he did. He stayed there, protected by his neighbors' willing shielding of the family from the curious, and quite pointedly rarely left his estate. Although his wife and children all obtained American citizenship, he chose to remain officially stateless.

Never learning to speak English fluently – although of course he read it well enough – he spent his seventeen years in exile concentrating on finishing his Red Wheel cycle of four novels on the Russian Revolution. During his stay in Cavindish, he made one public appearance–a speech at Harvard University's Commencement ceremonies in 1977, where he denounced American culture, materialism, and "bad music" to an audience that found his words, to quote the New York Times, "bewildering." It almost seemed like he was biting the hand that fed him – except that this particular "hand" was made up of a lot of people who believed that the USSR was, to put it kindly, unobjectionable.

Your Author recalls seeing him in one of his very rare appearances on American television in 1984, giving an interview where he advocated that the USSR should be broken into its component parts, and the other nations forming it allowed to be free and independent states. Although he foresaw some internal border changes that never took place – he thought, for instance, that majority Russian-speaking regions in Ukraine and Kazakhstan should become Russian territory – his foresight in predicting the shattering of the USSR which came only seven years later was, in retrospect, truly astonishing. (Were that our CIA had had such vision!)

I can remember my father shaking his head after the interview ended. "The man's a dreamer," he said. But, as it turned out, he was (pace John Lennon) not the only one.

Time passed and the ice dam that he had first pierced shattered into a million pieces in his absence. To those of us who lived through those heady years, the events that moved so swiftly still seem miraculous – the "Easter Sunday party" that broke the fence between Austria and Hungary in 1988 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the return of Solidarity, the death of the Warsaw Pact, the execution of Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu on Christmas Day 1989, the independence of Lithuania, the August coup of 1990, Boris Yeltsin standing on the tank, and, most gloriously, the fall of the Soviet flag from the Kremlin on Christmas Day 1991 and its irrevocable consignment to the ash heap of history.

But Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was forced to observe all this from exile.

In 1995, he finally came back to Russia, landing in Magadan, a city in the Far East near Vladivostok. His first act on emerging from the plane was to kiss the ground in remembrance of his fellow Zeks who had died as Stalin's slaves tearing this city out of the Siberian waste. He then took a train with his wife across Siberia, soaking in the "new Russia."

He was, as one might expect, dismayed. The collapse of the Soviet Union had left the nation impoverished, and yet the Russian people who had suffered so long did not seem to have emerged from their decades of horror morally improved. He saw Russian Mafia influence everywhere, Soviet Communistic influence still abounding, Western materialism,  gross sexual immorality, drugs, and mindless pursuit of pleasure, and he was shocked and appalled at what he saw.

He settled in Moscow and became what we might call a "pundit." He had, for a time, his own TV show, two fifteen-minute spots a week where he would interview leading politicians and thinkers of the day. But his bitter and hectoring style attracted few viewers and the show was cancelled after a few months.

He was, in the end of his life, viewed (fairly or not) as a has-been and an eccentric, a supporter of Tsarism and an opponent of democracy. He also held many views that today are held to be unacceptable, including a bitter attitude toward the Jewish people that approached anti-Semitism, although to his credit he recognized it in himself, admitted to it, and battled it. It should be remembered that it was he that observed that "the line between good and evil lies not between 'us' and 'them' but down the middle of every human heart." And none knew that line better than he himself. We all must struggle with evil; some of us have the misfortune of doing so publicly.

Yes, at the end of his life, he was in many ways a crank. But his legacy is clear.

Today, his master work, The Gulag Archepelago, composed in fear of the KGB, is now required reading in every high school in Russia.


I will not recount her life story here. While she had the makings of a member of the Remnant – she was, indeed, courageous, in a twisted way – she chose to stand up and be counted for the other side.

In the spring of 1985, I was in my final semester as an undergraduate at Michigan State University. A major public speaking event was scheduled one evening at the main theater, where the celebrated Madelyn Murray O'Hair was to come to give a speech.

O'Hair of course was and is famous as the individual who was responsible for forcing public schools to stop allowing prayer or the reading of the Bible as part of educational curricula. She gloried in her title as "the most hated woman in America," and taunted those Christians who she claimed dreamed of her death.

I remember going to see her at MSU on that occasion. As was common at such events, microphones were set up around the amphitheater so that, following her speech, the audience could comment and ask her questions.

I do not remember much about the speech, except that it was standard atheist boilerplate: Christians are idiots, atheists are the smart ones; believers are idiots, scientific materialists are the smart ones; those who imagine that the world was created are idiots... yadda yadda.

I patiently stood in line and was standing before the microphone when someone asked Mrs. O'Hair about freedom of worship in the Soviet Union.

"I've traveled several times in the Soviet Union," she bragged. "In every city there are still churches. They're open. Nobody is in them because nobody believes there any more. But there is no persecution of religious believers in the U.S.S.R."

I spoke up into the microphone at that instant.

"I don't believe Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would agree with your last statement."

"Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn," she said, voice dripping contempt, "is a fascist."

At that the room erupted in applause. I had not realized, until that moment, how alone I truly was in that building – or that almost everybody else there seemed to be enthusiastically buying the bovine scatology that she was selling.

I will not recount what ultimately became of her: an atrocity so horrible that I would not wish it happening to Charles Manson.

I'll simply observe the difference between their respective legacies: Solzhenitsyn's being a book that every school child in his nation must now read; O'Hair's, a Book that no school in her nation is allowed to teach.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sums Up How I Feel Today

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I guess he wins it....

Well, congratulations to Mr. Obama. I think. (Assuming that Ohio remains Obama territory, and Florida and Virginia don't flip... which is not 100% certain at t his instant (12:25 AM EST)).

But he didn't win everything.

We still control the House.

We still can veto anything absurd in the Senate.

At this point he remains behind in the popular vote*.

And we still retain the ability to impeach.

We're watching you, Mr. President.

And the ghosts of Christopher Stevens and the other heroes of Bengazi demand justice.


*This is where we GOPers suck it up for what happened in Y2K.....

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Monday, November 5, 2012

..... When Tomorrow Comes

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Man Who Saved The World

Came across the following from a post on Facebook, from one Mike Blackstock (whom I do not know):

50 years ago today [October 26, 1962], at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, second-in-command Vasilli Arkhipov of the Soviet submarine B-59 refused to agree with his Captain's order to launch nuclear torpedoes against US warships and setting off what might well have been a terminal superpower nuclear war. 

The US had been dropping depth charges near the submarine in an attempt to force it to surface, unaware it was carrying nuclear arms. The Soviet officers, who had lost radio contact with Moscow, concluded that World War 3 had begun, and 2 of the officers agreed to 'blast the warships out of the water'. Arkhipov refused to agree - unanimous consent of 3 officers was required - and thanks to him, we are here to talk about it.

His story is finally being told - the BBC is airing a documentary on it.

Raise a glass to Vasilli Arkhipov - the Man Who Saved the World.

So I checked Wikipedia.  It's apparently true.

On October 27, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph located the diesel-powered nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 near Cuba. Despite being in international waters the Americans started dropping practice depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. There had been no contact from Moscow for a number of days and, although the submarine's crew had earlier been picking up U.S. civilian radio broadcasts, once B-59 began attempting to hide from its U.S. Navy pursuers, it was too deep to monitor any radio traffic, so those on board did not know whether war had broken out.[5]. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, wanted to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo.[6]
Three officers on board the submarine – Savitsky, the political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and the second-in-command Arkhipov – were authorized to launch the torpedo if agreeing unanimously in favor of doing so. An argument broke out among the three, in which only Arkhipov was against the launch.[7] 
Although Arkhipov was only second-in-command of submarine B-59, he was actually Commander of the flotilla of submarines including B-4, B-36, and B-130, and of equal rank to Captain Savitsky. According to author Edward Wilson, the reputation Arkhipov gained from his courageous conduct in the previous year's K19 incident also helped him prevail in the debate. [3] Arkhipov eventually persuaded Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow. This presumably averted the nuclear warfare which would have ensued had the torpedo been fired.[8] The submarine's batteries had run very low and the air-conditioning had failed, so it was forced to surface amidst its U.S. pursuers and head home.[9] Washington's message that practice depth charges were being used to signal the submarines to surface never reached B-59, and Moscow claims it has no record of receiving it either....
When discussing the Cuban missile crisis in 2002, Robert McNamara stated that we came "very close" to nuclear war, "closer than we knew at the time."[10]
Indeed. Salut!


Reader Alex Pendjurin reminds me also of the story of Vasili Arkhipov, a nuclear launch monitor in the Soviet Union, who, in 1983, was "told" by the Soviet launch detection system that the Americans had released five missiles against the USSR. Having no confirmation of the launch he put the kibosh on further passage of the data up the chain of command. It is possible that he too likely stopped a nuclear war. His story is found here: .

Friday, November 2, 2012

EPIC Airline Instructions....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Smart Kid

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

From the New Musical Barack O, Superstar

Act 1, Scene 1: Obama On My Mind


My mind is clearer now - at last all too well
I can see where we all soon will be
If you strip away the myth from the man
You will see where we all soon will be
Barack! You've started to believe the things they say of you
You really do believe your talk so odd is true
And all you think you've done will soon get swept away
You've begun to matter more than the things you say

Listen Barack I don't like what I see
All I ask is that you listen to me
And remember - I've been your right hand man all along
You had set them all on fire
They thought they found the new Messiah
They will vote you out now - found they're wrong
I remember when this whole thing began
No talk of 'Pres' then - we called you a man
And believe me - my admiration for you hasn't died
But every word you say today
Gets twisted round some other way
And they'll impeach you if they find you've lied

Nairobi your famous son should have stayed a great unknown
Like his father sawing wood - he'd have made good
Lying back and sleeping deep would have suited Barack, yeep
He'd have caused nobody's harm - no-one alarm

Listen Barack talk no more of your race 
Change the subject please - at least with some grace
You praised 'Occupy' - have you forgotten how put down they are?
I am frightened by the press
For the truth they may yet guess
And they'll crush us if we go too far
Listen Barack to the warning I bray
Please remember that I want us to stay
But it's sad to see our chances weakening with every hour
All your followers were blind
Too much Obama on their minds
It was beautiful but now it's sour
Yes it's all gone sour.....

Biden 2016!

No, really. His hat is in the ring.

From his Second Inaugural:

"My fellow Americans, read my lips: a new generation of Americans, that have brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, with a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, under a thousand points of light, avoiding all entanging alliances, shall have nothing to fear but fear itself. For you must ask not what your country can do for you, for we shall whip inflation now, and tear down this wall, for Poland does not consider herself under Soviet domination. And so, my fellow Americans, let us bind up the nation's wounds, caring for his widow, while feeling lust in our heart, but I did not have sex with that woman, for I am not a crook."

One thing I'll say for him: Biden has billiard balls the size of... um.... never mind. (Yes, I know I ran this before. So sue me already.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


...UH... no.

I keep getting Emails about how "OBAMA HAS ISSUED 900 EXECUTIVE ORDERS!!!!!!"

Election year horsehockey, brothers. Examine this table.

(Although this table does not include ONE executive order issued on 10/26/2012.)

Gang, I want Obama removed as much as ANYBODY. But we NEED to tell the truth... particularly on something that anyone can check on the Internet in five minutes!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Final Word......

Says it all. ROMNEY/RYAN 2012.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vote Appropriately...

...after viewing this advertisement for the Obama campaign.

I have trust that, once this add is carefully viewed, the choice for who should be our next President should be obvious.
"I am Barack Obama, and I approve this message."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Words of Wisdom from The Devil's Den

With thanks to my Facebook friend, Michael Bentley:

This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you'll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we're here for something new. This has not happened much, in the history of the world: We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, all of it, from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow, no man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here is the place to build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value, you and me. What we're fighting for, in the end... we're fighting for each other.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
July 2 1863

Gettysburg Pennsylvania
(I've since been informed that this is a speech from a movie and not historical. Well, if it isn't historical, it *should* be.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's That Simple

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Harry Potter Meets Professor Lehrer

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Barack Obama and the Untermenschen

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Snowball in Hell

'You don't want Jones to come back, do you, comrades?' Snowball said, skipping back and forth and wagging his tail. It was most convincing. No, they didn't want Jones to come back." - Animal Farm

Pelosi: "Validation" Of Romney Will "Take Us To A Period Before Lyndon Johnson"

Nancy Pelosi thinks Romney will turn back the clock, where old times and segregation and Jim Crow are not forgotten.

What she's really afraid of is that Romney will turn back the clock to where her husband and his multinational corporation connections will not be able to suck money out of the Federal pot like some sort of grotesque, oversized helicopter-scale mosquito.

Nancy Pelosi? Your day is over. Retire before the FBI catches up with you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A! Bawakawa, Pousse', Pousse'.....

Happy 72nd Birthday, John Lennon. God rest you.

Monday, October 8, 2012

7 Even More Incredible Things About Romney

The good folks at have given us "Seven Incredible Things About Romney You Probably Didn't Know."

Good article. But it doesn't tell the whole story....

Seven Even More Incredible Things About Romney You Probably Didn't Know!

7. That he once beat up Chuck Norris in high school because he thought he was a geek, thus inspiring Chuck's later career.

6. That he singlehandedly killed Osama Bin Laden's dog by stuffing it in a pooch container and driving around on vacation with it on the roof of his car.

5. That he has been collecting $10 million in welfare and social security since birth. Every year. And never paid any taxes on any of it. (Really! I heard about it on the internet!)

4. That his wife has been faking her illness her whole life in order to maintain her superhero secret identity (she's actually Elastigirl).

3. That his children never lied to him, except on one occasion when one chopped down the cherry tree... and kept insisting he didn't do it.

2. That he fed his own daughter to the bore worms. (Sorry, that was Ryan. Never mind.)

1. That he lost the debate last week after being caught with a cheat sheet on his hanky.

(Hey. I said they were incredible, didn't I?)

At Last, An Honest Military Recruiting Commercial

Sunday, October 7, 2012

For Those About To Rock.....

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who Won The Debate?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bar Stool Economics of the US Tax System

  • Bar Stool Economics of the US tax system (Authorship unknown)

    Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.
    If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

    The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing;

    The fifth would pay $1.

    The sixth would pay $3.

    The seventh would pay $7.

    The eighth would pay $12.

    The ninth would pay $18.

    The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

    So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.' 

    Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

    The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected.

    They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers?

    How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'

    They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share,  then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

    So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

    And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings)

    The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).

    The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).

    The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).

    The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).

    The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

    Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free.

     But once outside the restaurant the men began to compare their savings.

    'I only got a dollar out of the $20,'declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'

    'Yeah, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'

    'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

    'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'

    The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

    The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him.

    But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important: they didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

    And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. 

    The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction.

    Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. 

    In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

    RLK here. Per SNOPES, the authorship of this little essay is a mystery. All I know is that I didn't write it... but I wish I did.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On hiatus.... temporarily.

We'll be back soon. RLK.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Modest Proposal

I've been thinking about what I've heard this campaign, and I've decided to change my outlook. It is clear that a superceding economic crisis is upon us. There is, of course, only one solution: the transformation of the United States' government into one led by an educated, wise, and intelligent vanguard of the lower middle class. They need not BE lower middle class--indeed, it is better if they are not--but they must provide for that lower middle class by creating policies that disappropriate the ill gotten gains of the upper crust and redistribute it. The obstructive nature of the present regime needs to be reformed so that decisions can be made without interference from those opposed to that vanguard. Furthermore, the law enforcement structure would need to be reformed so that the vanguard's decisions are made reality without interference. Now, there are of course those who would oppose this. They need to be reeducated in the new reality. And the approximately 10% of the country who will not accept the new regime, well, they need to disappear. This is deep and profound wisdom: Professor Ayers said that the above is absolutely true. He worked a long time to bring it about, too. And I understand one of his protigees is doing pretty well this election as well. I'm so excited about the outcome! (Next on the Silverback: the nutritive value of Irish babies and the use of a change in diet for purposes of population reduction....)

Friday, September 21, 2012


Tragedies happen in life.

Back in 2007, in Tilbury, a small town outside Windsor, Ontario, there was a small local tragedy. An eighteen year old girl was in a car on her way to school, with her sister, when the car was struck head on by another car on the wrong side of the road. The girl, Lillian Gagnier, was killed instantly.

She died a child, and had hardly made a ripple in life, although her friends and family mourned her deeply.

Earlier this month, her family gathered for a memorial at her grave site.... and this happened.

A wild faun came up and nuzzled her headstone in the middle of the service.

Now it's entirely possible that the faun was seeking salt, as one sometimes finds on exposed rock. Nevertheless, I have to admit (to quote a friend of mine)..... Goosebumps!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No Topless Kate Pix?

They say that France has banned publication of topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Just damn. Guess I can't print this now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

REPOST: Tattered Remnant #007:
Janusz Korczak: Protector of Children

The introduction to this series can be found here.

I first ran this essay three years ago. It remains the most popular on my Tattered Remnants subblog (after the entry for Titanic.) This man is worthy of honor and remembrance.


When I was the little boy you see in the photograph, I wanted to do all the things that are in this book. But I forgot to, and now I'm old. I no longer have the time or the strength to go to war or to travel to the land of the cannibals. I have included this photograph because it's important what I looked like when I truly wanted to be a king, and not when I was writing about King Matt. I think it's better to show pictures of what kings, travelers, and writers looked like before they grew up, or grew old, because otherwise it might sem that they knew everything from the start and were never young themselves. And then children will think they can't be statement, travelers, and writers, which wouldn't be true.

--Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit), King Matt the First, 1923 (Translated by Emse Raji Codell)

I first read about Janusz Korczak in a war novel: Mila 18, by Leon Uris, the famous Jewish American teller of heroic (if occasionally tall) tales from the 1960s and 1970s, now, alas, much out of fashion.

I did not know it was about Janusz Korczak that I was reading, however. Uris, as novelists will, combined together two famous figures from history into one, a character named Alexander Brandel. One of the two sources was Immanuel Ringelbaum, a historian and creator of the "Oyneg Shabbos" archives (whom I shall discuss in a later entry of this collection). The other was Janusz Korczak.

In Uris's book, at one point, the Alexander Brandel character is captured during a Nazi German Aktion, that is, an operation to sweep up Jews for shipment to a concentration camp. He is freed, however, before his arrival at Umschlagplatz (the transfer point to the gas chambers) when his friend Andrei Androfski, a heroic former Polish Army officer, goes berzerk and shoots the guards. When asked later why he attacked the Nazis, the Androfski character responds: "It was Alex... I could not let them take Alexander Brandel to the Umschlagplatz."

I can understand that Uris, a former Marine and a wonderful if brutal celebrant of the noble violence of the soldier, could not bear to let one as Korczak walk passively to his death. It was, alas, a bit of wish fulfillment on his part.

For, in real life, Uris's "Alexander Brandel" – Janusz Korczak – did indeed walk to Umschlagplatz. And his long walk to the train is one of the most heartbreaking, yet in its own way glorious, of scenes from the history of the 20th century, and elevated Dr. Korczak to be among the highest ranking of all of history's Tattered Remnant.

Janusz Korczak's birth name was Henryk Goldszmit. He was born in 1878 or 1879 in Warsaw, then under Imperial Russian rule. Little is known of his youth; even the correct year of his birth is uncertain. When he was around eighteen year old, his father died suddenly, leaving the young Henryk as head of his family and chief breadwinner.

As the invaluable Wikipedia tells us, "[i]n 1898 he used Janusz Korczak as a writing pseudonym in Ignacy Paderewski's literary contest. The name originated from the book Janasz Korczak and the Pretty Swordsweeperlady by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski." It is also said that he misspelled the original 'Janasz' as 'Janusz' but chose to stick with the altered name.

That is very interesting. Kraszewski was the leading children's storyteller of his day: it is as if Henryk named himself Henry Potter, or Bilbo Baggin. His own work and life, however, has given him the well deserved name of children's hero in his own right--even though the story from which he took the name has faded from memory.

He studied medicine, and became a pediatrician. He became noted also as the creator and operator of orphanages, in particular the Dom Sierot, the orphanage of his own design for Jewish children in Warsaw.

Having known early on the loss of a father, Dr. Korczak devoted his life to children, particularly the psychology of children and how best to teach them. He was among the first to turn away from the rigid memorization and harsh punishments of the teachers of children of that day. Again, Wikipedia:

Korczak['s]... general concept was that any child has his own way, his own path, on which he embarks immediately following birth. The role of a parent or a teacher is not to impose other goals on a child, but to help children achieve their own goals. His book How to Love a Child begins with the following:

You are saying: "Children are annoying".

You clarify: "You need to always kneel to their perceptions".

You are wrong.

Because you actually need to tip-toe to their perceptions and ideals
Korczak's various works, novels and stories – Child of the Drawing Room, King Matt the First (Król Macius Pierwszy) and its sequel King Matt on the Desert Island (Król Macius na Wyspie Bezludnej), made him quite famous. Once more, Wikipedia:

The later Kaitus the Wizard (Kajtus czarodziej) (1935) anticipated Harry Potter in depicting a schoolboy who gains magic powers (and its popularity in the 1930s, in both Polish and translation to several other languages, was nearly comparable to the present one of the Potter series). Kaitus has, however, in his journey toward becoming a wizard, a far more difficult path than Harry Potter: he has no Hogwarts-type School of Magic where he could be taught by expert mages, but must learn to use and control his powers all by himself - and most importantly, to learn his limitations.

"He ... must learn to use and control his powers ... by himself - and most importantly, to learn his limitations." In that we see the summation of his pedagogical theory. Within the sum of his powers, those children under his authority were left, as far as possible, to find their own way: not abandoned, but left to draw those swords from stones as were within their powers and talents themselves.

Korzcak's career was shadowed by the dark anti-Semitism that dogged his days. In the early 1930s, now famous, and given the title Pan Doktor ("Mr. Doctor"), he had his own radio show, where he broadcast many of his ideas on child-raising. Anti-Semites drove him off of the air after a few months. He went to Palestine in the mid-1930s; as a result of his writing on his visit, many Polish newspapers dropped his column.

Alas, things were not to improve. In 1939, the German Army crushed the Polish military and took Poland at the opening of WWII. Korczak's orphanage was closed and he was forced to move it inside the Warsaw Ghetto. Korczak moved into the ghetto with the children.

In 1942, the SS, Gestapo and all the instruments of Nazi power gathered together for what was called the Grossaktion: the "Great Operation" or "Big Action" to drive all of Warsaw's captive half-million Jews to their deaths at the Treblinka extermination camp. Hundreds of thousands of people were dragged from their homes, put on trains at a train station called the Umschlagplatz ("Assembly Square") and taken to be gassed.

They came for Korczak and his orphanage in the first week of August, 1942. The event was described in Wladyslaw Szpilman's book The Pianist:

One day, around 5th August when I had take a brief rest from work and was walking down Gesia Street, I happened to see Janusz Korczak and his orphans leaving the ghetto. The evacuation of the Jewish orphanage run by Janusz Korczak had been ordered for that morning.

The children were to have been taken away alone. He had the chance to save himself, and it was only with difficulty that he persuaded the Germans to take him too. He had spent long years of his life with children and now, on this last journey he could not leave them alone. He wanted to ease things for them. He told the orphans they were going out in to the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two nicely dressed and in a happy mood.

The little column was lead by an SS man who loved children, as Germans do, even those he was about to see on their way into the next world. He took a special liking to a boy of twelve, a violinist who had his instrument under his arm. The SS man told him to go to the head of the procession of children and play – and so they set off. When I met them in Gesia Street the smiling children were singing in chorus, the little violinist was playing for them and Korczak was carrying two of the smallest infants, who were beaming too, and telling them some amusing story. I am sure that even in the gas chamber, as the Zyklon B gas was stifling childish throats and striking terror instead of hope into the orphans hearts, the Old Doctor must have whispered with one last effort, ‘it's all right, children, it will be all right’. So that at least he could spare his little charges the fear of passing from life to death."

In the end, Pan Doktor did indeed "go to war, and travel to the land of the cannibals." And while his body did not survive the journey, his spirit shines to this day.


There are many memorials today to Pan Doktor. The Polish People's Republic issued a commemorative coin with his image. An asteroid bears his name: 2163 Korczak. His pedagogical teachings were memorialized by the United Nations in the International Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1970. Perhaps most poignantly, in the now-empty fields of the Treblinka II death-camp are some 17,000 stones: one for each village or town that sent people die in that terrible place. Only one of the stones bears a proper name: it reads: "Janusz Korczak and The Children."

But for all those, perhaps the best memorial of Janusz Korczak lies in the pocket of an old man on an Israeli kibbutz.

In January 23, 2008, the New York Times profiled a number of of Korczak's survivors, now old, living in honor in Israel. One of those profiled Schlomo Nadel, who was in Korczak's orphanage, tells the following story:

Mr. Nadel said one of his favorite memories was from Passover in 1933 or 1934. The festive meal would be held in the dining room. But with more than 100 children, Korczak had to find an innovative way to have them search for the “afikoman,” the hidden piece of matzo redeemed for a prize by the child who finds it.

His creative solution: make it a walnut hidden in one of the matzo balls served in the chicken soup.

“Everyone’s spoons were digging into the matzo balls, and I saw I had something hard inside mine,” Mr. Nadel said. “Everyone rushed to see.”

As he spoke, he reached into his left pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. He unfolded it to reveal a dark leather pouch held together with fraying tape. Inside were shards of that walnut.

Let that symbol of the joy of a child be the sign by which he is best remembered.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why Conservatives Cannot Abide Obama

                  I sing of Olaf, glad and big...... - e. e. cummings

I have been quite silent on my blog for weeks; time has been short. But the time for silence has ended.

This is a letter written to "Robin", a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook. She posted in a very lively thread on the election season:
I truly want to know exactly why the right hates Obama and Biden so much.... outside of what appears a visceral hatred of all things democratic, and especially if suggested by Obama {even things the republicans insisted on including in legislation they didn't vote for after all] I cannot see any valid reason why he gets condemned for things he hasn't even done....
She has–a first, frankly, among Democrats of my acquaintance–asked for an explanation as to why we are so opposed: politely and with at least an apparent desire to hear us out, at least once. So here you are, Robin. Why can we not stand Obama? Here goes. It's long.


Dearest Robin:

First of all, at the risk of boring you there are several details of my personal life that are salient to what you are about to read. First, I am and always have been a Conservative, indeed "right wing" Republican. And although I have, of late, garnered some disapproving remarks from Karen for my views :0), she has known me since the early 1980s and, I hope, she has not regarded me with hostility for my views (although she strongly disagrees with them).

I am a 'moderate' conservative; I am not a RonPaul!ian libertarian although I am somewhat libertarian in outlook (though I simply despise Ayn Rand). I am a strong social conservative and am an unapologetic abortion abolitionist for reasons you will see elsewhere in my blog. My Catholic faith shapes my views profoundly, although I am not interested in imposing the Catholic faith on anyone else. I regard the right not to be aborted as a human right, applicable to all people at all times throughout history.

Conversely, I am a lifelong enemy of Marxism and all it stands for as a distortion of human dignity and merely an excuse for totalitarianism. It is a bloodthirsty philosophy:  it has killed uncounted hundreds of millions of people. I spent the years 1982 to 1997 working for the US Government against the Soviets and the aftermath of Soviet Socialism; I regard the fall of the Soviet Union without a shot in '91 as the greatest single day of my life. Marxism is evil; it is a distortion of political reality and requires a dictatorship to last.

Secondly, I have extensive political experience; worked on several Presidential campaigns from Bush I in 88 to Bush II in 2000; met my wife at the second Bush I campaign in '92. I worked on Capitol Hill as a staffer on census related issues for 2 years, 1997-1999. I've been on the inside of GOP politics, sometimes at a very high level (although in a very junior position). I know whereof I speak. It might welll make me the devil incarnate to you :0) but I have spent a lot of time trying to get Republicans elected.

Thirdly, I was a peacekeeper in Bosnia for more than two years, Jan 2000 to May 2002; I had direct experience in the aftermath of the abominations that occurred in that country. Those abominations followed directly from Slobodan Milosevic's use of anti-Islamic paranoia to deflect attention away from himself and allow his party–hardcore Marxists who changed their party name–to remain in power until he was overthrown in 2001.

Finally, I'm an immigration attorney. Now how can a right wing Republican be an immigration attorney? Not all of us, or even very many of us, (in spite of what you might believe) want to have an all-white America that is bereft of immigrants. I recognize that we MUST have a viable immigration-friendly culture if we are to survive and thrive. (And there's a direct connection between abortion and illegal immigration–but you can investigate that rant elsewhere on  my blog.)

I recognize that we are a nation of immigrants. But I have come to do what I do because whatever social harm 'illegal immigrants' do, it is more conservative to get them status if possible than it is to round them up like the Serbs did to Muslims. I don't believe in ethnic cleansing; indeed, I hate it and anything that smacks of it. We did what we did to the Japanese in WW2: I don't ever want to see a repeat.

Okay. That's my background. Here's the exposition.


You want to hear why I and the Right cannot abide Obama? Here it is: Obama stands for a philosophy and a world view that is completely out of kilter with either human nature (objective and immutable) or with the American experience. He is a Marxist pure and simple, but not a Soviet marxist (which requires the 'dictatorship of the proletariat') nor is he a European Marxist. He's something else: we're not entirely sure what (he's very hard to pin down) but he's some variety of Marxist, perhaps one we have never seen before.

But in his pursuit of Marxism he wants to impose on America a philosophy and world view that is objectively false. He wishes to do so through the imposition of laws and policies–race preference, government giveaways, welfare largesse far beyond that which is necessary–that are alien to the American character and that would require the transmogrification of the American body politic and culture into something it is not. It won't work, of course, and eventually it will collapse like Marxism *always* collapses ("you always run out of other peoples' money"- Margaret Thatcher). But to maintain it it would require the transformation of the American republic into a federally driven bureaucratic nightmare, a Post Office, or Immigration Bureau, writ large.

You look at him and say, but what about the economy! And we say: he has no qualifications whatsoever to be doing anything about the economy. His economic theory is straight out of a 1970s Bolivian high school.

Everything that has been done has been done turning the laws of economics on their head. We learned long ago that you cannot 'whip inflation now' through buttons while pumping M-1 dollars into the economy; you have to have a careful balance between the amount of dollars in the economy and the amount of wealth in the economy. If the population grows 4% and the economy grows 4% then the money supply needs to grow 4% (plus or minus a half point or so). Overdo the dollars, and inflation follows as night follows day. His economic stimuli programs, which you view with equanimity, we view as pure poison and a prescription for hyperinflation: not today, not tomorrow, but soon and for years afterward.

Double the debt and finance that debt with out-of-thin-air new paper dollars from the Fed and you're buying 100% inflation in a couple of years. That it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it will not. I fully expect that it will happen within two years and the howling that will follow will destroy the Democrats, who will be held responsible. (And don't get me started as to the Democrats' causing this crisis to begin with by the bank robbery through loans to the poor that Dodd and Frank wrought and Bush tried, unsuccessfully, to stop.)

In short, his lumpenKeynesianism is economic crack cocaine: pleasant for one or two hits but you wind up impoverished and begging for another hit in short order.

As for Obamacare? None of the government's business to control health care. If you want cradle to grave government healthcare, go to Britain. Just take a number when you go to the hospital; the doctor will see you sometime before the coronation of William V. Maybe.

As for why we are hostile to Obama himself: he is cringeworthy with every speech he gives. He views the world through an inverted moral lens. Everything we view as good–-American exceptionalism, opportunity, the room to excel–-he regards as evil.  Exceptionalism is imperialism. Opportunity is exclusion. Excellence is bigotry. He operates as if Republicans are by nature racist-to-the-core and views us as having a completely alien outlook. He views American exceptionalism as mindless jingoism.

He is entirely reductive: he views the American experience as being all about the Benjamins: not about creativity and human endeavor. His 'you didn't build that' remark tells us that he regards the productive class as being parasitical; and those of us with any knowledge of what that kind of 'parasiticalness' means to the left see barbed wire behind it. He's not interested in merely taking our wealth: he cannot abide opposition, and must eventually deprive us of our liberty to succeed.

We know where he wants to take us. And we do not care to go there.


We celebrate our faith, our independence, our national identity. He views as 'bitter clingers' to our 'guns and Bibles.' His contempt for us is visceral. We can sense it. And we don't like it. Not. One. Bit.

And I don't know about you, but I sense he carries with him the stench of anti-Semitism. He really, really, really loathes the Jews. (Why they vote for him is a mystery. It's like voting for Father Coughlin.) And as a likely hangover of his Muslim education, he smiles and blinks away the naked anti-Semitism of the kind of perverted and triumphalist Islam that hangs black flags on our embassies and kills our ambassadors. And he appears to not mind a bit if Israel disappeared in a mushroom cloud if it were expedient.

The Obama experiment cannot work; it's been tried over and over: Russia, Eastern Europe, Germany, China, Korea, Cuba–every so-called effort to create a Worker's State, under a national or international socialism has produced nothing but a Bureaucrat's power trip and massive oppression for everyone else.

This effort will be no different. It cannot work because it does not take the fundamental lessons of history, of how a democratic republic works. It requires in the end a police state structure, a secret police force, detention camps, televideo court proceedings, summary hearings, summary justice.

And finally, he represents something that the Republican right views as a form of malign insanity: we really, really, really loathe being called racists for opposing him. For two reasons: one, it is not true. Second, it is not true! And third: if he keeps using that kind of language the REAL racists will come out of the closet. And not all (or even most) of the naked racists are on the right. Beware. There was a time when calling someone a Communist inspired fear; now the cite gets a :P in response and real Marxists are in power. What happens when the word Racist loses its power to intimidate through overuse? You may find out. And not from "conservatives."

In short, I and we loathe Obama not because he is black but because he is  Red.

Biden I loathe simply because he is a blithering idiot. And no he didn't supervise a nickel. ('Only one hand can wear the Ring, and he does not share power.')

Part III

You think that my warnings of his style of police structure are a right wing fantasy. Imagine a world where a defendant, once taken into custody, disappears into a jail system and his family has no right to find him. They go to the police headquarters and they are denied admission. He has no right to an attorney unless his family hires one for him. The attorney calls and asks: Where is my client? And they answer: Do you have a signed form with his signature? Attorney: Now how can I if I don't know where he is? And they say: I'm sorry sir, I can't help you without a signature.....

Imagine that the accused has no right to bond if he has even the slightest criminal history. He appears only in court by TV set and his lawyer cannot sit next to him and counsel him: indeed the lawyer can only do so over the TV set in front of the judge and the prosecutor. The Rules of Evidence do not protect him, and he can be deprived of his family forever by a decree of a judge after fifteen minutes, after which he is exiled, never to return to his home or family.

You think I'm making this up? No. I live this. I am an immigration attorney and *I SEE THIS EVERY SINGLE DAY* in my practice. If you are an alien–immigrant or eeelegul–and you fall afoul of Homeland Security the constitutional rights you thought you had are of no value whatsoever.

And Obama is driving this train.  Why? By "concentrating on removing 'criminal aliens'" he jams the system in such a way so that a minority of the 'illegal immigrants' cannot ever have their cases resolved because the courts are so jammed with 'criminals.'

And you can't blame this on Bush (although a lot of it you can blame on the GOP in 1996 when they passed the 'IIRIARA' law, which gave him the power to do this.)

What did I hear? Gitmo? Forget it. Gitmo is a piffle, a couple of hundred people, max. The Immigration system consumes hundreds of thousands of people a year, spits them up and chews them out.

I have seen in the course of the last several years an man with a wife and 3 kids who thought he had asylum granted picked up and deported because he didn't file an 'I-589'–which he had never heard of.   I've seen a 60 year old man deported his homeland--which he left at age 2 as a WW2 baby--a country whose language he no longer spoke,  for a crime he committed in the late 60s when he was 18. I've even seen a man deported for a $130 misdemeanor ticket: that was a bitter loss indeed.

And all it would take to turn this force on the rest of us is a 'national emergency' and a new Patriot act, an the Immigration Courts become Immigration and Citizenship courts, with 'civil detention' replacing criminal sentences.... a la a People's Court or the Stalinist equivalent.

So. In a nutshell: this is why we cannot, and I cannot, abide Obama. Not because of his race –I'd vote for Condoleeza Rice for President in a heartbeat, or back in the day for Colin Powell (who is retired now). I loathe him because he wants to take us somewhere this horrible century has already gone.

Like I said, not because he is black, but because he is Red.

I was taught Russian by a man whose mother had no fingernails. She'd been an Old Bolshie; the NKVD extracted them while interrogating her in 1938. I don't want to live in a country that is capable of that. But that is what lies at the end of the Marxist road. Of that I am certain: and that end I will resist. And my fellow conservatives with me.

                 There is some shit I will not eat. - e. e. cummings