Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Black Lives Matter Book List

Some stuff to read while thinking about this:

Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriett Beecher Stowe.  The first popular attempt to depict life under slavery.  It's rife with stereotypes and a little preachy, but it is the book that started it all and surprisingly readable.

Reconstruction, Eric Foner.  600 pages of hard work and real history.

Contempt of Court, Mark Curriten and LeRoy Phillips Jr.,  Saga of the first Supreme Court case to defend the rights of a black citizen... sort of.  The real issue was whether a Tennessee sheriff was under the jurisdiction of the federal courts and could be held in contempt for failing to abide by a federal court order.  The order involved a directive to protect a black man from lynching in 1901.

Trouble in Mind, Leon Litwack.  More than  you  want to know but everything you should know about lynchings in the  USA.

Lost Battalions, Richard Slotkin.  Chronicles two regiments that valiantly fought in WWI.  One comprised mostly of Jewish immigrants known as  the 77th "Statue of Liberty" Division; and the 369th Infantry Division, known as the Harlem Hell Fighters.  One came home to some recognition, the other to lynchings and ethnic cleansing.

The Children, David Halberstam.  The front line troops of the civil rights movement were children.  Their leaders were college kids, their shock troops were as young as 10 years old.  They stood up to fire hoses and police dogs and the worst the crackers could bring.

Simple Justice, Richard Kluger.  The complete story of Brown v. Topeka BOE.

Blood at the Root, Patrick Phillips.  The story of ethnic cleansing in one Georgia County.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I have been writing about this subject for several weeks and have yet to have anything to say that is unique or more useful than anything else I  have read.  So  here is the truth.  


 In Which I Prove Once Again to be a Nudge

When I was in 10th grade the history teacher, who was also our football coach, often sent me to the library for some research during class.  That's because he was about to give a lecture and he got tired of me correcting his version of the record.  Nothing much has changed.

On June 4,  I got a nice note from Lauren Katzenburg,  editor of the NYT's At War newsletter, promising a correction.  She had written that the Bonus Army had been protesting to get paid money that was due to veterans.  Au contraire, I noted:    "The Bonus Army  "bonus" was in no way due and payable in 1932.  The Great War Compensation Act of 1924 issued veterans certificates that could be redeemed for cash value in 1948.  The veterans were trying to persuade the government to redeem the certificates at a discount. "  And I added,  "Thus, the government did not repeatedly decline to pay a bonus due.  Of course, if Hoover had any sense or compassion, he would have paid up.  Putting the money in the hands of spenders would have boosted the economy.  It would also have saved Hoover from his greatest embarrassment."

But there is more!  On June 20, I  was informed by the NYT that my comment on an article about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-black WAC unit, was accepted.  Again, I was just clarifying the record.  The article correctly noted that Harry Truman had desegregated the military in 1948.  I added:   "The order ending segregation in the military was issued by Truman in 1948. It was not fully implemented until the Eisenhower administration, 1953 to 1961."

(Two days later)   And speaking of the NYT, this morning I  picked up a copy of the Times Sunday Review from June 23, 2019 that I had put aside to read later (and never read).  Happened t glance at an article called Stonewall and the Myth of Self-Deliverance by Kwame Anthony Appiah.  The article cites a famous SCOTUS decision that placed consensual behavior by adults out of the jurisdiction of the government as Lawrence v. Kansas.  Well that caught my eye.  The correct cite is Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).  Kansas is, of course, the whipping boy of  choice for East Coast pundits citing outrageous Bible Belt regulation.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Nice Vacation

A week ago I was fairly convinced I had COVID 19. I  even wrote a blog post headlined, Life With Covid 19.  That's because I had been tracking my fever hourly for about four days.  It had a high of 103.9. and  ranged from 104.5 to 97.6 since May 30, when it  first clocked in at over 102.  Otherwise no  symptoms and I had Covid test that came out negative.
Still, my doctor was convinced, as I was, that I had Covid 19, albeit a mild dose.  So I had another test.  When they take the test, they take a long q-tip and shove it up your nose.  The first time I took it they used a special  kit with its own carrying case and device that looked like a digital thermometer and packed away in its own special plastic case. The test was administered by a very gentle,  soft spoken doctor who apologized for any pain.  I felt nothing.  For the second test I had a battle-weary nurse who used a very long wooden stick, shoved it way back  into my head and rooted around awhile.  "Wanna make sure we get a good sample,"  she said.  I  was definitely aware that someone had shoved a q-tip up my nose, but I  also  wanted to be sure she got a good sample.   She put the q-tip into a plastic sandwich bag.  

Two days later, negative.  So what's caused the fever?  It's a mystery.  I am back and functional and a little disappointed that I did not have a mild case of Covid.  The average recovery is about two weeks, and by the time the test result came back I was nearly two weeks in quarantine.  A few days more and I would have been cleared and potentially carry antibodies that would last for a while. So I  watched a lot of good movies and read a couple of good books.  Nice vacation.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Life in Quarantine

June 8, 2020

Today my temperature was 97.7.  Normal for the first time since May 30.   That's when I discovered I  had a temperature over 102 and got a test for Covid 19.  I didn't get the test back until Thursday, June 4, and it came back negative.  A false negative we think.
I  have had no other symptoms.  I still have a fever.  100.9 as I write this.  It's been as high as 104.5 and never lower than  100 until yesterday when I woke up to 99.5.  The morning readings are lower because I take aspirin or ibuprofen at bed time.  I'm stuck here, more or less, until I get three days of normal temperature. 

It's not that bad although I'm getting tired of the routine and cannot lose the feeling that I'm a burden to the rest of the household.  They are not complaining, and keep me comfortably fed and watered (sometimes beer).  

The good news is no one else in the house is showing symptoms. Hickory, whose health issues (severe asthma) make  her the most vulnerable is, normal for her, driving herself to physical exhaustion. That has a lot less to do with me than her volunteer job at Keeping Our Promises, an organization she created which has resettled over 100 Afghan and Iraqi  families here in Rochester.  She has found a new place to store and manage the donated household goods that for the last three years have taken up all the spare space in our house and garage. She is getting it all out of  here (HURRAH) and organizing it downtown at Greenovation. Yesterday she pulled a muscle moving stuff she should  not have been moving  and had to go to the emergency room. (I have told her to slow down many times, but when has she listened to me?)

Hickory has also done her share of cooking and delivering meals to the shut-in.  Will, who  started his internship last week with a local custom amplifier maker, fills in shopping and delivering meals.  The family shut-in appreciates the delicious meals. Hickory has done some lunch sandwiches, soups.  Will and Swillar have cooked some excellent spicy stir fries, BLTs, breakfast quesadillas and peanut butter and jelly banana wraps.  The family is also keeping an eye on Harry and Shirley, which has normally been my job.  

I can imagine what hell this would be for my wife the extrovert,  but for me it's the Life Of Riley.  I have a room full of books and have finished four light novels in the last week,  will probably finish another today. I am plowing my way through Barbara Tuchman's  A Distant Mirror (minimum 25 pages/day) and decided,  after 50 pages, I don't want to read Advise and Consent or Lord Jim...  at least not now.  I organized all the books in my bedroom (and the one shelf in the hall just outside my door) and culled out about  20 volumes for the library sale.  I read the NYT, WAPO, DnC and Guardian daily and spend entirely too much time on the Facedbook.  I subscribed to Curiosity Stream and binged an excellent documentary on WWI (Apocalypse).  I binged Fargo on Hulu.  I have watched many movies:  yesterday alone Clueless and Groundhog Day (I  had forgotten how much I love that movie.)  There is this blog to maintain and... I actually got some work  done for one of  my clients. 

There must be an end game here.  My doctor (who  calls periodically) is  convinced that this is Covid or maybe Lyme Disease.  I'm going to get another COVID test and if it's  negative we'll  test for Lyme and run a Covid antibody test.  In the meantime I'm looking for at least four more days of this RnR here in quarantine. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

White Privilege Saves My Ass (again)
I had a cop draw down on me once.  It was a strange situation n a strange day.  I  had been in Canandaigua attending, of all things, a rally for George The Moron Busch.  He was selling his Medicare Part D gift to the Big Pharma and since I  was for better or worse the political officer for  my company, I had gotten an invitation from the local GOOP mob. How could I refuse? 

So after the rally I stopped by my house, which is  on the way back to  the office, and had lunch.  Our road runs directly under Interstate 90 which is the route Busch would  be taking to the airport.  So I am driving back to  the office, and I notice a cop car stopped about 20 yards on the other side of  the I-90 overpass blocking the road.  He has his flashers on. I slow down and stop between the overpass and the cop  car. 

Next thing I know the cop has jumped out of his car and is pointing his gun at me and shouting.  I distinctly remember shouting back, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"  a statement which, had I  not been surrounded by my puffy cloud of white privilege, would have gotten me killed.  But he just shouted a lot more, still pointing his gun.   

Eventually I got the idea  that Busch was coming this way and this cop was assigned to  keep terrorists from blowing up the overpass. There should have been two cops, one on each side, or he should have parked his car on one side and stood on the other, but there apparently had not been a lot  of  advance planning about this.  Which I said, "how  the hell  was I supposed to know  that?"  and he said well his car was there, and I said, but it wasn't on the other side of the overpass and how the hell was I  supposed to know  what he was doing?     Anyway he didn't kill  me and put his  gun away but he glowered a lot and let me pass. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Is there a punch line here somewhere?

George "The Moron" Busch was great for comedy.  It was his only positive aspect. When he left I thought those joyous moments ...  an irate Iraqi throwing a shoe at the President of the USA... would never pass this way again.  Then we got the presnut.  Is it now the best of times?

The Onion tells us that Iraq is preparing to send peacekeepers to the USA.  Andy Borowitz, behind a picture of the presnut's all-white cabinet meeting, tells us it's a task force on racism.  And the memes created from the photo of the presnut in front of the Episcopal Church holding a bible have been priceless. Borowitz tells us, "Trump Struggles to  Identify Unfamiliar  Object."  There is one with his famous "pussy grabbing" quote shopped onto the church bulletin board; one with Matthew 7:15 (beware of false prophets) shopped in; and my personal favorite, one captioned "take a prostitute to a hotel  and get a free book."  (The later has been taken down by Facedbook, which has no  sense of  humor.) 

It's irony, of course. The lower we sink, the funnier things get. At some point you have to ask how much disrespect can a leader handle? "The President is a Liar" is a good measure.  Not Nixon, not even The Moron Busch who lied to us to  justify a war that cost trillions and killed thousands of Americans, was consistently called a liar in the main stream media.  Politicians might call each other liars... notably that asshole Joe Wilson... but the media has long been reluctant to do so.  

To be called a liar by the NYT or Forbes requires a special  relationship with the truth.  The presnut, who was given a pass on this issue during the 2016 campaign,  (what a shock he must have had when they finally began calling him on his bullshit!) was finally challenged on Inauguration Day.  Remember how he insisted he had the biggest inaugural in history and Kelly Ann Conway postulated the existence of "alternative facts?" 

By early spring 2017, the "fact checker" lists had began...  every major news outlet has one.  Last month, Forbes noted, in reliance on the WAPO's list, that the presnut has told 18,000 lies since taking office and, "As of early April, Trump has told 23.3 lies per day in 2020, a 0.5-lie increase since 2019. What’s more, Trump has averaged 23.8 lies per day since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the US — another 0.5-lie increase."  Hysterical, but true. 

Have we hit rock bottom?  Apparently not.   Today, GOOP senators are defending the presnut's bible photo op. "Obamagate,"  a fraudulent claim that President Obama conspired against the good name of the President-elect back in 2016, is still a top priority in the Senate.  With the presnut threatening a military take-over of state policing powers while inciting his well-armed supporters to riot, have we not had enough?  Can we trust that there will be full and fair elections in November?  Can we survive with this lack of a leader  until January 20,  2021?

The 25th Amendment allows for the removal of the President when the Vice President, in conjunction with the majority of the cabinet or a majority of either house of Congress, is unable to "discharge the powers and duties of his office."   This can't happen without a serious conspiracy of the top GOOP leadership, but it is a kindness to state that the GOOP leadership is a confederacy of dunces.  The people who brought us Sarah Palin and Reince Priebus and the presnut himself  are not going to  save the nation.  We are all still in free fall.   The bottom is down there somewhere.  We should brace for the crash,  or try to laugh it off. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

I Lost a Friend to Covid 19

I recently posted The Village Voice obit for my friend Ward Harkavy who died of Covid 19 on May 17.  I had tried to write about this twice but could not get it right.  I kept seeing Ward looking over my shoulder saying, "God, Pryor, that's Bullshit." 

Ward and I  worked at the same newspaper (Lawrence (KS) Journal World), but not at the same time.  That was probably a good thing.  Ward was an exacting copy editor.   I  was a fair to middling reporter and knew nothing of style books or spelling or commas.  

He was a great and admirable companion.  Acerbic, witty, fearless and funny.  (Among the first people to  be banned from the presnut's twitter feed).  We smoked a lot of dope together...  one reason the law school faculty named me most likely to flunk the bar.   (I did not.)  With a small group of wits, ran a fake candidate (Martin L. Roberts, The Man From Kansas) for  Lawrence City Council.  With another select group, watched a lot of baseball.  During an especially long meeting on the pitcher's mound one beautiful evening at Royals' Stadium, Ward informed me they would never allow those meetings in the Jewish Baseball League.  Why? I asked.  "Time is money,"  he said.

The last time I saw him was in 1986.  I  was in Tucson for the NCAA Regionals.  We toured the Saguaro National Forest and stayed out late smoking dope under the desert sky.   He talked about the man who shot up an ancient saguaro cactus, which promptly fell over and killed him.   Karma, Ward noted.
Before there was Google there was Ward.  He was an authority on almost everything, and always  available any time of the day or night to  answer trivia questions.  His answers were widely respected and settled many a debate.  So for a while he never knew when he would get a call from me.  

Still, I lost track of him.   Shortly after I moved to Rochester (where for a very, very, very brief time many years before, Ward had a job as the media reporter) I was looking for some information about Amadou Diallo, and Google took me right to an article Ward had written for  The Voice.   

I called him up and thereafter we faced booked and Plonskied and once in a  while discussed getting together in the city.  We never did.  Just goes to show.  You never know.
 Life in Quarantine

When we started this Covid shut down I  made a practice of taking my temperature regularly, and after a couple of weeks with  no issues, I stopped.  So Saturday, I  got to  thinking about that and took my temperature. I didn't feel sick, just tired from having missed my nap three days in a row, but otherwise fine.  I was a little shocked to discover it was at 102.3. 

What to do?  This can be a serious matter, given that I am a caretaker for a fragile  87-year old.  I called the Covid hotline and they sent me to the clinic... where they found my temperature was normal.  Defective thermometer?    They administered THE TEST, and told me I  should get the results in four days (Wednesday at the latest.) In the meantime,  the prescription is quarantine.

 I have no symptoms, other than  a fever.  (Today its right at 101)

 There are things to like about this.  I spent all day Sunday reading.  Havn't had an excuse to do  that for years.  Finished The Closers,  Michael Connelly; started 1453, Bernard Cornwell; and started A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman.   (The last two I have read before.  Tuchman's history of the middle ages starts at about 1453, with the 100 years war.)  Also read the NYT and WAPO.   Today I cleaned my room, something needed for a long time. 

Things I don't like about it... I have stuff to  get done that I can't do in my room.  Hickory (who is also more or less quarantining) has plenty of stuff to do besides bring me stuff I could get for myself.  And I feel fine.

Do I worry about having Covid 19?  Sure.  But I don't really think I have it. This is just an excess of caution and I expect to be back to normal Wednesday.  If not?  Will keep  you posted.