The Week in Review

Mr. Tom Perez (former Secretary of Labor) has been elected as the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, defeating Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN). As I tweeted last Saturday, I was pretty confident that Congressman Ellison had this locked up…which is just a little reminder that I shouldn’t be making any more political predictions.

There was yet another awards show this week. I’ve no doubt that a bunch of folks with high school diplomas and BAs in theater gave their sage advice on the direction of the country. But what I know for a fact is that someone announced the wrong best picture winner. (And am I the only cat who didn’t see any of the nominated films?)

The NYT was caught parsing the president’s CPAC speech to the point of telling a lie. The Times caught lying? Again? This is my shocked face.

Seems not a week goes by without some Islamic terrorist group reminding us why they are hostis humani generis. In this case, Abu Sayyaf has beheaded a 70 year old German man some three and a half months after kidnapping him and murdering his girlfriend.

There is a plan in place for Raúl Castro to step down and retire next year. Miguel Díaz-Canel is his designated successor. Here is a profile piece on Mr. Díaz-Canel (who, as Castro’s designated successor, I presume to be a horrible human being who will continue the regime of oppression).

Looks like it was a dose of VX nerve agent that was used to assassinate Kim Jong Nam.

Mr. Wilbur Ross has been confirmed as the Secretary of Commerce.

President Trump’s speech to Congress Tuesday evening seems to have gone over well with most of the country. Some number of Democrats hissed at him. I remember when being disrespectful to the president while he was addressing Congress was racist. I’m glad that’s in the past, as I’m pretty sure I haven’t really respected any of them since Mr. Reagan—and I had a few problems with him, too. You can read the text of his speech here.

Amazon.com’s cloud hosting service suffered a mishap on Tuesday. The effects were widespread, and some of the responses were hilarious.

Former Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen has been banned for life from serving on the Nevada bench. Mr. Hafen was the JP that ordered a deputy public defender handcuffed for advocating for her client. Personally, I would have liked to have see him put in stocks in the public square, but I guess I’ll have to settle for this.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Andress-Tobiasson has been given a $1,000 fine and a public reprimand for her inexcusable abuse of authority to help a friend secure a divorce from her estranged spouse. This is a follow up to her “tearful admission of wrongdoing” earlier. Just in case I wasn’t clear last time I mentioned this, JP Andress-Tobiasson is unfit to sit the bench and should have been removed from office and banned from the bench for life (as Mr. Hafen has been)…but then, our masters aren’t really subject to justice, are they?

A man named Juan Thompson has been arrested for making a large number of bomb threats against Jewish organizations across the country. A former journalist with the website The Intercept, Mr. Thompson made some threats in his former girlfriend’s name in a campaign of cyber-stalking against her. Mr. Thompson is reputed to be a staunch leftist—which of course means an anti-semite.

AG Sessions is under fire for an allegation of perjury to Congress. Now, I’m no fan of the AG—I think he is as wrong as can be about drug policy and civil asset forfeiture—but when you peel back the onion on this one it starts coming across as a smear campaign. Why? Well, first, Mr. Sessions didn’t lie to Congress; when he met with the ambassador (in a Russian requested follow-up to a meeting between Sen. Sessions and Ukrainian representatives), he had no role with the Trump campaign, and met with them in his role as a senator. Then there is the matter of the Democrat congresswoman who has  publicly castigated the AG and said she never met with the Russians—but did.

Finally, Rachel Dolezal (remember her?) is having trouble finding employment. Good! This con artist deserves every sling and arrow that falls upon her. Now, if only folks had the good sense to treat Miss Dolezal’s fellow frauds Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren the same way…

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Whiskey of the Week

The Whiskey of the Week is Kessler Blended American whiskey.

Kessler advertises itself as an especially smooth whiskey, and they aren’t lying. Unfortunately, that may be all it has going for it.

Coming in at only 80 proof (40% ABV), Kessler has little burn and almost no kick. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it tastes…watered down. In all honesty, I cannot recommend this either as a sipping’ whiskey or a good mixer. That said, it is far from the worst drink I’ve ever had.1

Kessler is currently rated as the #2 best selling blended whiskey in America, so a lot of people must like it, but when I set it against JD2 it just doesn’t stack up.

Currently owned by Suntory Holdings (the same outfit that owns Jim Beam), Kessler is blended in Colorado. I usually try to add a little history to these posts, so here you go: Julius Kessler, a Hungarian immigrant, first distilled his brew in the 1888s and he made a go of selling it to various saloons throughout the Old West. (That’s right, this is an authentic Western Classic.)3 Thoughout its history, the Kessler brand has been owned by the Seagram Company (purchased in 1935), and was eventually bought out by Beam, Inc.

Here is a review from The Whiskey Jug.

Not recommended. That said, if you have a choice between this and, say, Seagram’s 7 go with this one.

1 I’m not even talking about tequila–just other whiskey’s.

Regular readers are well aware of the special place that John Daniels holds in my heart. What’s that? It’s “Jack” Daniels you say? Brother, if you knew JD as well as I do, you’d be calling him by his first name, too.

3 Unfortunately, like most “classics,” this one has more sentiment than quality.

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Navel Gaze of the Week

On cultural appropriation

This week I want to discuss one of the contenders for Silliest Idea Ever, that of “cultural appropriation.” Just to ensure we are on the same page, let us stipulate that cultural appropriation is the use of materials or elements of one culture by members of another. That use can be anything from playing music, to wearing clothing, to fashioning one’s hair, to eating the food of a culture that you are not historically, geographically, or ethnically descended from.

To borrow a phrase from the ever more thin-skinned among us, the concept of cultural appropriation is deeply racist from start to finish.

To suggest that a white woman cannot wear dreadlocks, or that indigenous peoples cannot serve as mascots for sports teams, or that a western singer can’t make use of Japanese imagery in a music video, or that college students shouldn’t wear certain costumes on Halloween or sombreros on Cinco de Mayo… Actually, when you string a list of “cultural appropriation” offenses together like that, it comes across as rather silly, doesn’t it? The complaint of a mewling child, perhaps?

“Pay attention to me!” (stomps foot) “I’m special! Momma said so!”

Yet there are grown men and women who work themselves into high dudgeon about this and expect you to take them seriously. And not all of the people making these childish demands are in it for the headlines: about a year ago, I attended a screening of “Reel Injun.”1 One of the scenes depicted a boy scout troop, led by a German counselor, as they dressed in “Indian” garb and engage in war whoops.3 After the film, a young woman in the audience announced that the cultural appropriation depicted in the film offended her and…honestly, I don’t know what she said after that, because I had tuned her out.

Whenever I hear someone start to drone on about “cultural appropriation,” “privilege” (male, white, or other), or any other type of collective offense, I…just stop paying attention. Because at that point I know that the person speaking is not someone to be taken seriously.2 I’m dealing with a child—no, worse! An adult who has abandoned any pretense of maturity in order to act like a child…and one who is deeply ignorant of history.

Because human history is written in the blood of conquest. There is no place on this earth where the current inhabitants’ ancestors did not wrest the land by force from the previous occupants. Nor is there any culture extant today that is free of influence from other peoples. None.

Now, you may personally be a thin-skinned racist whose self-worth is intertwined with the belief that only people who look exactly like you should get to wear that shirt, get that haircut, use that eating utensil, wave that flag, vote on issues that affect you, marry people who look like you, breed with people who look like you… Oh, that’s different you say? Poppycock! It all springs from the same racist well. Perhaps, instead of telling strangers that they have “offended you” because they want to sample some of your culture, you should take pride in the fact that it resonates with them—or at least learn to slap it on a t-shirt and sell it for a profit.

In any case, when you accuse me of appropriating your culture, my response has been and shall remain: “Fuck you.”4

1 (c) 2009. Dir. Neil Diamond. Interesting film, and I recommend watching it should you get the opportunity. It is an eye-opening look at Hollywood’s depiction of American Indians from the native perspective.

Oh, sure, if they muster a mob or some such of course I’ll take them seriously. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for everyone.

3 Yes, it looked just as stupid as you imagine. However, there is a vast difference between “You look like and idiot,” and “You are stealing my culture and should be publicly shamed!”

4 Sure, call my boss. Demand I be fired for being insensitive to your feelings. Oh, wait–I’m retired! I suppose you could call for my public shaming on Twitter… Maybe one of these days I’ll work up the energy to care. Tell you what, you go ahead an hold your breath while we wait to see how that works out for you.

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Book of the Week

The Book of the Week is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

 

I’ve got to tell you, when I first read this book back in high school (many, many years ago) I never anticipated how much I would come to love it. In fact, when I was first forced to read it (and perhaps because I was forced to do so), I really didn’t appreciate it at all! However, over the years it has really grown on me.

While it is–like pretty much all of Mr. Dickens’s work–a little…bleak…it is a great story of redemption and the tragedy that can be unleashed on the young by society’s bitterest people.

The novel follows the growth of young Pip who, after receiving a bequest from an (initially) unknown benefactor, sets his course on becoming a gentleman; the beautiful Estrella, whom poor Pip falls hopelessly in love with; and the vile Mrs. Havisham, who seeks to blight Pip’s journey to satisfy her own bitter desires.

While I generally prefer stories in which the hero’s journey reaches a happier conclusion, this tale is worth reading just for how well it is written. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a satisfying wrap up (there is!),  just that–depending on which version you read–the novel may not end the way you hope. Be advised, if you pick up a version with the “happy” ending, that wasn’t the way the author intended for the story to go. In fact, Mr. Dickens originally planned for the novel to end on a bitter note, and it was only at the insistence of his publisher that Pip and Estrella got to have that happy ending.1

You can buy this book both with the original and the publisher-mandated conclusions (some versions contain both), albeit it can take a bit of hunting to get the one you are after.

You can pick up various editions for free (as the manuscript is in the public domain), but Amazon offers some really nice hardcover editions.2

Higest recommendation.

1 Like many purists, my preference is for the original. Despite my liking for a happy ending, I think the original is just better written. That may reflect Mr. Dickens’s resentment of having to produce the other.

2 It may surprise regular readers of the Whiskey of the Week post, but I actually spend more money on books. That may be because after reading them on Kindle, I break down and buy hardbacks for my library.

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The Week In Review

Norma McCorvey [Jane Roe of Roe v Wade (1973) Fame] died last Saturday. I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but later in life she became a pro-life advocate (or anti-abortion; take your pick). She was 69.

Last Saturday, President Trump mistakenly made a claim that something refugee-related had occurred in Sweden the night before. The Twitterverse rose to the occasion with #swedenincident. Credit where it’s due, some of the comments were laugh-out-loud funny. On a more somber note, within 48 hours there were riots in Sweden…in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods.

On Sunday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon rocket successfully launched from Cape Canaveral. The rocket carried supplies to the International Space Station, successfully docking on Wednesday. Later in the week, a GPS malfunction resulted in an initial abort for docking with the ISS (It succeeded on Thursday). It’s good that we still have  It’s good to know we still have a space program despite the government’s inexcusable retreat on this front. Still, the efforts of Musk and Jeff Bezos (among others) do let me tweak the occasional progressive’s nose about who actually gets big things done.

Hopes for a quick repeal of the ACA (or Obamacare) continue to fade. Regular readers know that I have very little confidence that the Republicans will have the spine to repeal this law. John Boehner recently said that he doesn’t think it’ll happen.

Looks like Milo Yiannopoulos has lost his book deal with Simon and Schuster. I have no particular feelings bout the man, as I’ve paid every little attention to him. I have read reports about him, but as time goes by I am ever more leery about third person accounts—even when I find them in the mainstream (or “legitimate”) press. At any rate, since he’s lost his deal, he could always try CreateSpace. If there really is an audience for his writing, the publishing houses aren’t the gatekeepers they once were. He was also disinvited from speaking at CPAC. Both events seem to be a reaction to recent comments he made about relationships between older men and…younger. He has been widely been accused of endorsing pedophilia, which he has vehemently denied.

President Trump as selected LTG H.R. McMaster to be the new national security advisor. General McMaster enjoys a reputation as a top notch strategic thinker within the US Army., and looks to be a good choice.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued new guidelines on Tuesday which direct immigration officials to more closely enforce existing immigration law. Needless to say, this has upset allies of the illegal alien community and their advocates. I’ve mentioned several times in the past that I lean toward being an open borders guy; the idea of some government agent saying “papers please” damn near sets my hair on fire. But here’s the thing, we need to either enforce the law as it is written—which means deporting aliens who do not enjoy legal status—or we need to change the law. As it is, politicians who are too cowardly to reform immigration and grant a general amnesty to illegal aliens are also condemning as too harsh enforcement of laws as written. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.

The Mexican government has objected to the crackdown on illegal aliens. To be fair, part of their objection is rooted in the belief that the US will endeavor to deport all illegal aliens to Mexico (including those who are not Mexican citizens).

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Tillerson is in Mexico City, attempting to repair relations, while Homeland Security Secretary Kelly is promising that there will be no mass deportations of illegal aliens.

The Nevada legislature is taking steps to change the state constitution and normalize gay marriage. Good! This is how things like this are supposed to be done. As angry as the overreach of the courts made me, my own state amending the constitution in order to prohibit gay marriage (in 2000 and 2002) really got my goat. Now, if I had my way, we’d normalize polygamy as well. (Yes, I am a hard-L libertarian on marriage issues, too.)

The heavy snows in the Rocky Mountains this winter are good news for those dependent upon the Colorado river. Snowfall has been about 134% of the last 30 years’ average. Of course, some just can’t take a break from doom and gloom; the linked article also includes information on a forthcoming paper (to be published in Water Resources Research) in which the authors suggest that the Colorado’s flow could be halved by the end of the century.

On Friday, some members of the press started pissing themselves in outrage over the White House inviting only a small pool of reporters to cover an informal briefing. In the linked story, WaPo writes a fairly petulant article about CNN, the NYT, and other others being excluded, while Breitbart, the Washington Times, and Fox were allowed in. Personally, I think the press is confusing freedom with access–and the “cool kids” are miffed that they aren’t being favored any longer.

Finally—just in case you needed any more evidence that using the federal government to virtue signal is a bad idea, consider these two stories (which I really should write a Navel Gaze of the Week on):

Transgender use of bathrooms. Under the Obama administration, the federal government (unconstitutionally) interfered in the rights of the States to determine who would get to use which restrooms in public schools. Now, as I lean very hard toward libertarian ideals, its should be no surprise that I am incapable of caring any less where you make water. That said, I am equally incapable of conceiving of a reason for the federal government to try and set policy on this, so I am in favor of President Trump rolling back the previous administration’s overreach. Of course, for the very many American’s who believe “feels” should trump constitutionality, this is an outrage beyond measure, and an outright assault on civil rights.

Federal tolerance for legalized marijuana. At the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been signaling that the federal government is going to start more rigorously enforcing federal drug laws…which, again, the previous administration had turned a blind eye to. This will particularly affect States like my own, where marijuana has been legalized. Now I voted for the decriminalization of Mary Jane here in Nevada (despite the fact I have a strong personal prejudice against its use), but here I have to side with the Trump administration again. Because presidents are not supposed to pick what laws they want to enforce; rather they are supposed to enforce all laws constitutionally enacted by the Congress.

And folks, if you don’t like the result, be it with federal overreach about who uses which bathroom, federal proscription of recreational drugs, or current immigration laws, then demand Congress pass new laws! If the law had been amended (instead of the former president using his office to virtue signal in unconstitutional ways), we wouldn’t be in a position where a different president could signal in the other direction. Also, remember this—before you entrust the government with even a shred of power, it’s a good idea to remind yourself that people you hate will eventually hold the reins.

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Whiskey of the Week

The Whiskey of the Week is a twofer: Bird Dog Peach Whiskey and Bird Dog Apple Whiskey.

               

While I was initially a little skeptical of the Peach (it just isn’t one of my favorite flavors), I knew I just had to try the Apple as soon as I saw it.

“Wait a minute, old man!” you say. “I know you’re a drunk,1 but why would you sample the Peach if you were skeptical?”

Good question. Bird Dog Peach was suggested to me via Twitter,2 and as I’m always up for sampling a new kind of booze,3 I thought “What the hell?” and grabbed a bottle. And when I was out looking for it I spotted the Apple. (So, in keeping with what has turned out to be a series of twofers this week, you get two whiskeys to consider.)

So, having now liberally sampled both of these elixirs, here are my observations:

The Peach. The first thing I noticed when I cracked open the bottle was the strong aroma; it reminded me of peach brandy, in fact.

Now as to how it tastes: This whiskey is very sweet. Even cloyingly sweet. That said, I liked the taste. Sweet as it was, the hint of peach flavored the bourbon nicely. If you find it to be too sugary, cutting it with just a little water (about one part in ten) will reduce the sweetness without overly reducing the alcohol content. (Bird Dog flavored whiskeys are a mere 80 proof, 40% ABV.) The Peach is smooth and provides a nice mellow burn as it works its way down your throat. Taking into account its sweetness (either because you get used to it or that’s your preference), it is a fine sipping whiskey.

I wouldn’t mix it with anything, but if you have to I’d suggest 7-up or Sprite rather than Coke. If you have a preference for it, straight soda water might be a good mixer–but I caution against adding too much, lest you dilute its kick. One might even consider cranberry juice, were one in the mood for a morning cocktail…

The bottom line is that I’d recommend it with ice cream before I would with steak. I enjoyed several snifters throughout the week while I was working the rough draft for “Voyage Beyond Fear,”4 and repeatedly found my glass unexpectedly empty.

(“Several snifters” = near empty bottle over the course of three evenings. What can I say? It grew on me.)

The Apple. The aroma is not as strong as with the peach, but you’ll definitely smell apples when you uncork it,

I found that the apple was nowhere near as sweet as the peach, while still being much sweeter than Jim Beam Apple. It had more of a “candy” flavor than I was expecting (which many others have said about Jim Beam’s variant). Like the peach, it was smooth and had a nice burn. My only real objection to the apple was that I’ve had better. (Grandma’s Apple Pie moonshine being the best in show as far as I’m concerned).

As with the peach, I would generally recommend against mixing it. That said…I did try adding a generous splash of cranberry juice to it, and it made for a decent breakfast drink (see note no.1).

Here are a couple reviews from other folks. Bird Dog Peach via The Whiskey Reviewer; Bird Dog Apple via Distiller.

You can pick up a bottle of either at your local liquor outlet for around $20 (prices likely to vary for my British friends).

Bird Dog Peach Whiskey: recommended.

Bird Dog Apple Whiskey: recommended (with the caveat that there are better apple whiskeys available).

In either case, be prepared for a heavy dose of sugar. As I’ve remarked several times, both of these are very sweet.

1 drunk, remember, not an alcoholic. Alcoholics go to meetings.

2 Hat tip to James (@itsjames_1)

3 Except tequila. Sorry tequila fans, but it all tastes like medicine to me. And vodka is only good for concoctions like Margaritas.

4 Coming this summer! Yes, another shameless plug. You do get that I’m a writer, right?

 

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Navel Gaze of the Week

On Music

This is the third piece in (what is evidently) a short series on education. You can view the first post here and the second here.

This week I want to discuss music appreciation. Now, I don’t care if you like classical or country, rap or reggae. Music, like poetry, should move the spirit. Barring that, it should at the very least entertain the listener. So I’m not going to preach at you about what kind of music you “should” be listening to. That’s a matter of taste, and I will no more try to dictate yours than I would listen if you tried to dictate mine.

No, I want to write about playing music.

Lots of folks are plagued by memories of being dragged to piano or violin lessons when they were children. Others sought out a cheap guitar or a set of drums and tried to get a high school band going. But most of us, I think, have never done anything more than fiddle with an instrument once or twice.

In my own case, I gave a (brief) shot at learning the trumpet when I was a boy (somewhere around the second or third grade, I think). It was hard, I didn’t like it, and I gave up on it. When I was in junior high in Walla Walla,1 every student had to spend one trimester of the seventh grade in Choir. I loved it…but I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.2 And so I never experienced the joy of making music.

In an earlier age, just about every educated person was expected to know how to play an instrument; it was considered to be part of a well-rounded education (which is why this post fits in with the two referenced above). That isn’t really the case anymore. That it isn’t is a considerable relief to many parents that are already struggling to pay bills, many children who would rather do just about anything else, and a great loss to every adult–because they’ve missed out on learning to do something that might have made their lives richer.

Fortunately, it is never to late to take up an instrument. Why, a man could wait until he is in his late forties before suddenly deciding he wants to learn to play the violin. (And yes, I do mean me.3) There are some good practical reasons for doing so, too. This article lays out ten of them.

Now, much like when I wrote about the value of a liberal arts education, not all of us are in a position to pursue music as a hobby. Instruments are pricy, and lessons aren’t exactly cheap. If you have kids at home, you likely have neither the time nor the energy to invest an hour a day in practicing.

But if you do have the means, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you take up music as a hobby. Depending on what instrument you choose, you and another member of your family could learn on the same one, cutting relative costs by about half (still need to pay for more than what set of lessons). Student (or learner) instruments are cheaper than those for performers, and most music stores will finance the cost over time. My violin–a student instrument–ran me ~$450. I’m not saying that that was cheap, but it was much less costly than a medium-grade piece that could have run to a couple thousand.

And I love playing (however badly)!4 Just learning to read music was like discovering a foreign language. Plus, being a history buff, it’s been fascinating to me to learn about the development of western music over time. It’s even given me a (small) appreciation for some styles of music that I don’t much care for.5

So–whether the kids are grown and gone, you’re young and single and need a hobby, you have the benefit of having inherited vast wealth and need something to do besides racing cars and sharing cocaine binges with your buds, or just just want to start planning for the day you get a little ahead on time and money–please give a little thought to what you might like to learn to play. If the day comes that you can fulfill that ambition, I can guarantee it’ll be worth it.6

1 Every time I think about Walla Walla, Washington, I’m reminded of a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs used the words as part of spell or some such. The thought still cracks me up.

2 Still can’t, really. Which is why, to the considerable relief of those who know me, I only sing in the shower.

3 Just don’t ask me to play for you. Trust me, I’m doing you a favor. Almost two years of study and I still sound like I’m torturing a cat every time I draw the bow. But I do love working at it.

4 My dogs are somewhat…less appreciative. I call my practice sessions “special puppy torture time.”

5 Rap. I’m talking about rap music. And my expanded appreciation is still minuscule. Nonetheless…

6 Said guarantee being valued at the exact cost you paid to view this free post. My generosity extends only as far as my opinions, save when the folks at the charity succeed in convincing me I have a few dollars to spare.

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Cigar of the Week

The Cigar of the Week is the CAO Colombia Tinto Natural Robusto.

I picked up one of these as free sample included with part of a recent order of CAO Gol Brazilian Robustos.

Made in Colombia, these sticks measure 5″ and boast a ring size of 50.  This cigar is made with a special leaf from a remote growing region near the mountainous coastline. Having a medium-full body, this tasty cigar features a light brown natural wrapper.

In my opinion, this car has a smooth smoke from start to finish, and boasts a 4.5 average review from Thompson customers..

Another fat, tasty stogie from the folks at CAO.

You can pick up a box of 20 for ~$85 from Thompson. Because the order comes with a 5-pack of samplers, that’s really 25 sticks, which works out to just ~$3.50 per stick. Like my previous CAO my recommendation, they’re neither cheap nor especially costly.

Recommended.

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Navel Gaze of the Week

A Holiday That Shouldn’t Be.

You get a *bonus* opinion piece this week, in light of the holiday!1

Today is the official celebration of George Washington’s birthday, and thus a federal holiday. Depending on what state you live in, it may be called “Presidents’ Day” (or some variation thereof). Allow me, if you will, a few moments to rail against this insanity.

I am a great admirer of George Washington2 (he is one of my few true personal heroes). I truly believe there is (or ought to be) something to the old saw “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” That said, he was a man–and an imperfect one at that. Despite the great services he performed for our nation,3 despite the stamp he put on the office of the presidency, despite the occasional rant I allow myself about how poor a job our educational institutions do in teaching both how important he was in his own day and remains in ours…his birthday should not be a federal holiday.

No man’s should. Certainly no political leader’s.

We are a republic, after all, not a kingdom. Our government is administered by an executive, not ruled by an emperor.

[Kevin D. Williams (@KevinNR) wrote a fantastic piece about this folly last week (you can read it here). But as this is something I get dyspeptic about every year, I’m adding my two cents anyway.4]

Moreover, as much as I disagree with the idea that Mr. Washington’s birthday be a federal holiday–one of my few heroes, remember!–I become outright furious about “Presidents’ Day.” Only a handful of those who have filled that office have been men worthy of esteem (and a short-fingered handful at that). As for the rest? Most of them were men I wouldn’t trouble myself to piss on if I were to see them gloriously aflame. It makes my skin itch every time someone suggests I should honor them as a group.

Celebrate William Henry Harrison, who served barely a month before dying? James Buchanan, who set the stage for the Civil War through abject political cowardice and incompetence? Woodrow Wilson, who is in serious contention for the worst president in American history? Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used the excuse of the great depression to transform our republic into a nation of governmental dependents–and imprisoned 100,000+ Americans in concentration camps? Lyndon B. Johnson, who put the welfare state on steroids, escalated the Viet Nam War, and fought it so incompetently that he should have been impeached? Richard M. Nixon, who…need I elaborate? James Carter, he of the “national malaise” and the Iran Hostage Crisis? William J. Clinton, who so debased the modern presidency that blowjobs in the oval office became part of our national conversation?

And these “gentlemen” are just the highlights (or lowlights, rather). Please do not suggest to me that there is something so ennobling about the presidency that the forty-four men5 who have filled it should be celebrated.

If we must have a holiday (and I don’t see the public sector unions surrendering that benefit6), I’d much rather see one celebrating Benjamin Franklin, or Harriet Tubman, or Frederick Douglass, or the Wright Brothers, or any of the many estimable people that populate our history who weren’t presidents.

Better yet, how about swapping Mr. Washington’s birthday for Constitution Day?7 I expect that would be something our first president would get behind (if, you know, he was in a position to do so).

And if you can’t get on board with that, can you at least agree that it should be a celebration of Mr. Washington alone? If your state has added someone else into the mix (as I mine has; it is officially “Presidents’ Day” in Nevada), campaign against it! If you live in one of those states that has not, don’t let people get away with this “Presidents’ Day” nonsense. Celebrating one good man as though he was a godling is bad enough.

Let’s not add Wilson, Nixon, Clinton, and yes Trump into the mix. We’re better than that. Or we damned well ought to be.

1 Don’t fret. The Cigar of the Week will still post today, right around noon as per usual. And the regular Navel Gaze of the Week will be up either Tuesday or Wednesday.

2 And yes, I am well aware that Mr. Washington was a slave owner. And yes, I know that the Iroquois still refer to him as “Town Burner.” He’s still one of my heroes.

Recommended reading: The Man Who Would Not Be King by David Boaz.

4 That is what you’re here for, isn’t it?

5 Grover Cleveland, who filled the office on two non-consecutive occasions (and is my second favorite president for a number of reasons), counts twice. That’s why President Donald J. Trump is the 45th president rather than the 44th, despite being the 44th  of 44 individuals to serve in the office.

6 Got to have those three day weekends, after all. Which is why the federal holiday is today, the 20th, when Mr. Washington’s birth date is the 22nd.

7 In honor of the day the US Constitution was signed by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 17th, 1787. Currently not a paid holiday, but rather one in which all federal agencies and publicly funded institutions provide education on the founding charter.

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Book of the Week

The Book of the Week is twofer: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island, both by the incomparable master Jules Verne.

              

The reason I’m grouping them is simple: together these two novels tell the story of Prince Dakkar, the real name of the tragic hero Captain Nemo. They are two of my absolutely favorite books (nearly tying Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for first place).

We first meet the good captain in 20,000 Leagues, when a French scientist (Piece Aronnax), his assistant (Conseil), and the harpooner Ned Land are lost at sea and Nemo rescues them. 20,000 Leagues is especially notable in that Verne foresaw many modern technical marvels.

In The Mysterious Island, a group of Union soldiers, who are prisoners of the Confederacy, conspire to steal a Confederate observation balloon and make their escape. Unfortunately, the storm they are using for cover blows them into the distant South Pacific (somewhere east of New Zealand), and they find themselves marooned far from home. While castaways, they have to learn to survive, deal with pirates, and figure out how to escape and return home. Over the course of the story, they suss out that they are enjoying the services as a mysterious benefactor–who turns out to be the legendary Captain Nemo, the last survivor of the Nautilus.

These are definitely books you want to get in hardcover, so as to keep them on your shelf and in easy reach so you can enjoy them again and again.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island are available from Amazon for $8.62 and $24.99 respectively (hardcover editions; paperback and Kindle are priced differently).

Also, there is a Classic Starts children’s edition available from Amazon for $5.95. A great book in a great series that you should consider getting for the kids. I have the entire Classic Starts collection in my library for my nieces and nephew.

Highest recommendation.

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