Sooner or later evil stops just snarling and baring its fangs –and bites.
That’s what has happened in Arizona: the Oath Keepers have taken the first step of violent overthrow of US constitutional governance. And 12 million Americans think this and more is just superfine.
Arizona is just the first step towards things like the Einsatzgruppen in the lower picture, above. Just consider what these traitors are willing to do. Do we want to wait to find out yet again what cults do to people?
If this had happened in another country we would call it what it is without a moment’s hesitation: political terrorism. Threatening elected officials and their families with harm to force access to votes and then to refuse public auditing of the counting? For a Presidential Election that has long since been verified and closed as valid? Who on earth gives these bullies and thugs the right to question that? Gaining permission by threatening bodily harm? Hiding their process to change the outcome? Thinking that they know better than the people what the people decided? Acting to prove their lie rather than to improve our processes? What else could any reasonably prudent person label this attack?
For those who might somehow doubt that assertion, this: it does not require any special law to take down this attack and the Oath Keepers behind it! All anyone should need to grasp is that this is not an audit, that it violates all the requirements of an audit, that is aimed at the heart of our federal governance, trust in election monitoring, and has used the intimidation of bodily harm to responsible officials and their families to get at the ballots and “audit” them in secret.
And because a President of the United States has twice been released from paying the penalty for prima facie high crimes and treason, his BIg Lie that Mr Biden is a usurper of the election process has taken root in a substantial minority of our electorate. They are doing what Goebbels and Hitler knew they would do if the Big Lie were repeated often enough and given any form of support at all: become indignant, angry and want to tear down the edifice that they now believe is undermining their rights, even if that is evidentially and de facto untrue.
We have as part of our governance a wild fire just waiting to be lit.
And this act of terror in Arizona is the spark to light it. If the people of Arizona who do not want this (and the private conversations show that they are the majority) continue to stick their heads into the sand and betray the country that gave them the freedom to disagree, then it will ignite and grow like wildfire.
Of course making the mind up to act now and act decisively, finally takes understanding that these self-righteous, but deluded and fatally manipulated terrorists are betting that those who could crush them in DC wil drag their feet, obfuscate, deny approvals, argue it away.
Why not? That’s effectively what they have done so far. Just how much of a threat to the Oath Keepers and their ilk do they think that more federal investigations and state trials will be? Do the rest of us not read history? Do we not recall that Hitler led a putsch attempt in Bavaria, was arrested, tried and sent to prison.
And he used the time in his well appointed prison apartment rooms to write Mein Kampf, prepare to use his trial as a platform for campaigning for his Nazi cause, and get out early to go right back and this time eventually succeed in destroying Germany’s Weimar democracy without ever having fired another shot or gotten a majority in the Reichstag?
Yes the Weimar Republic was fatally flawed by weaknesses in its constitution. But: Did Donald Trump do his almost fatal damage to the country and constitution he was sworn to protect and uphold, only twice to be let off by the cowardly, traitorous Senate Republicans — because our constitution was working so well? Is he still at large because he has been rendered harmless by a political system that automatically knows how to shut down wannabe dictators like him? Are the oath keeper thugs and bullies perpetrating their treason in Arizona because our system is built to handle this? If so, why has it not done so already?
All it takes is the realization that this sort of terrorism from the Top can happen because our system has no way of stopping a President who is a criminal. We relied with pride in the mold of the transfer of power peacably set by George Washington and assumed nobody would ever usurp that, because, after all, we were exceptional. Note that the last verb in the previous sentence no longer can be read simply as narrative past. It must also be read as a statement of factual past-ness: our exceptional status, mostly of the level of legend in our own mind, is dead and gone. We cannot deal with Trumpcult and still believe that we are somehow exceptions to human frailty, duplicity, naïveté and culpability.
We used to be the people about whom Goethe wrote, Amerika du hast es besser: America, you have it better.
What we now have is reflected in another insightful poem by that same great man:
We must act now, when our cock-sure arrogance has been knocked into a cocked hat and then run over by the Trump Truck. It is the only time we will have the credibility and compelling force of morality free of self seeking. It will be more persuasive because we will have been bleeding from the wound to pride and presumption. And that’s an advantage the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the other self-righteous, presumptuous exceptionists cannot claim.
All it takes is an understanding that Trumps cadres are not his supporters, they are armed, angry, trigger-ready Trumpcult drones.
There is an ancient way of describing what they have done: sold their souls to the devil. Goethe, the great German writer and commentator on human nature, in the worlds most thorough work on evil, Faust, has the devil tell Faust who he is: I am the spirit who constantly negates. But this is the modern Prince of Darkness: no horns, no tail, no cloven hooves, but a good natured, urbane, sophisticated looking, infinitely manipulating bon vivant. He could easily look just like Donald Trump.
So all it takes is understanding that we need no other answers about why this is happening. We need no more theories about his cult members being just dissatisfied Americans. Arizona should have nailed that debate shut for good.
This requires that the rest of us get going together and root this out with whatever that will take. Luther told us: when faced with this degree of betrayal and loss of good faith for the community. no one individual can handle this. We all have to agree to quell this now and with categorical decisiveness.
Do we, who need our democratic union to survive, believe in those values articulated by Lincoln at such tremendous cost,less strongly than these terrorists believe in their nihilism?
The Rubicon has been crossed.
What in the name of all that is good and desirable are our leaders waiting for–a written invitation?
Here it is then: for every bite into Government of, by and for The People, The People must bite back a thousand times more and a hundred times harder.
Let’s finally be clear: it is now the COngress against the President to save the Union.
The President is a traitor. The Senators who support him are traitors. The representatives who support him are traitors.
Supporting insurrection and sedition are treason: Donald committed it, the others support it.
When do the two Democrat Senators from Georgia take their seats? That will change everything. Then the patriots left, the LARGE MAJORITY of the Congress, can do what is needed:
In one day, act to impeach, try and convict DOnald J Trump of HIgh Crimes and Misedmeanors. And when he threatens whatever he can conjure up from his devils mind, — he will and everone knows it even Rich Mitch—use all force necessary to take him, his little right wing thug army and all the traitors who after the insurretion continued with their false challenges without blinking an eyelash of remorse or regret.
This is war, Congressmen and Senators who want the republic to live on and Trump in any role of public view not to. Just shut the hell up about whether this creep in the White House will ever concede. HE is too far into denial and that is not a river in Egypt.
You’d better start thinking of it that way and super fast, because, first, things are going to go from worse to horrible in the next two weeks and second, you are losing.
Still not convinced? Look again at the face. Fat body and animal like bellowiing of ALL of those wannabe SA troopers. This is mass hysteria, these folks are OUTSIDE rational talk, redemption, quiet. And you just let them win: they shut you down for 5 hours.
While you are doing business as usual; in your comfy fog of cowardice and denial, they aer emboldened and planing the next, larger, more destructive attack.
It is clear and present danger. Your response has to be even more clear and present. You are the only defense we have left.
A two step national recovery program based on Samuel Adams.
1 Heed the Wisdom for our Republic from Samuel Adams:
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”
“It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote…that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”
2. Accept An Invitation from Samuel Adams to his Tories but befitting our Trumpers
If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”
For centuries our common law has rejected ex post facto laws: we do not invent punishments or restrictions to apply to acts already committed. If we decide that lawn mowing is unacceptable on Sundays and make a law against it, the law is enforceable from that point forward but not retro-actively, against my neighbor whose mower interrupted my nap a week a go.
This prohibits the states from passing any laws which apply ex post facto.
But the actions contemplated by the Republicans in Texas would require a retroactive judicial decision in their favor. The principle of ex post facto prohibits legislatures from passing laws which retroactively criminalize behavior. That is however just a minimum standard. Wlhile this prohibition does not attach as stvia legislated language to judicial decisions, appellate courts sometimes announce a new rule of law, but will not apply it to the case in front of it, in order to attempt to comply with ex post facto prohibitions.
The norm in the US is and always has been no ex post facto laws or judgments. Period. It is so well known that in cases involving ex post facto, the ruling judges do not even need to cite the paragraphs of the Consitituion and the existing practice of upholding the norm.
That is an inviolable sine aus non of Anglo American common (judgment practice inherited from the past) law.We do not use legal gotchas.
So then how do Republicans reconcile trying to exclude write in votes retrospectively and the rule of law? They have known that write in ballots were in the offing and had been approved by Srares. They should have challenged before voting began not ex post facto, retroactively.
Has our judiciary finally become intrumpKate’s with the key foundation of all authoritarian governments: that the most powerful is always right, that might makes right? Are we as a nation finally throwing in the towel on the difficult debate and dialogue of democracy in favor of the oppressive but simpler toe-the-line deep freeze of autocracy?
Judicial prohibition of those Texas drive in votes means that we no longer have a judiciary of rights, It woujld mean that ours has collapsed into a Judge Freisler (Nazi showtrial judge) system of mock courts. It will mean that anything the autocrat or a loyal Trumpionette does not like about you and me can be made criminal and punished, with no defense, and without due process.
And it will not be just cutting your grasss that will be shut down: it will be anything that Trump and his Trumpionettes do not like about our involvement in this election I. Or about whatever Donnie loudmouths about, changing often from sentence to sentence. You could not even run a garbage pickup service that way, let alone a nation under emergency Pandemic threat.
Has the GOP finally completed the petrification process from Lincoln to Loudmouth, from Grand Old Party to Gotcha Oppression Party? Is the judiciary now a Trumpionette show too? Have we deteriorated into a nation under Trump instead of one under law?We had better hope not.
Germany, the nation-state, has existed only since 1870.
Healthcare for all was introduced there in 1883 by Kanzler Otto von Bismarck in an effort to take the wind out of the sails of the Social Democrats. It was the first single payer comprehensive healthcare insurance system on this planet. It was built on the defining principles of solidarity and self-governance, and these principles have remained at the core of its continuous development for 135 years.
Even during the inflation after WW1 and the utter destruction of the nation after WW2. Since 1913 Germans have had the right for insured individuals to freely choose their health-care providers.
After World War two, benefits were actually increased.
Since 1993 competition and a strengthened market orientation have gradually gained importance.
In 2004, self-governance was strengthened through the establishment of the Federal Joint Committee, a major payer–provider structure given the task of defining uniform rules for access to and distribution of health care, benefits coverage, coordination of care across sectors, quality, and efficiency. Under the oversight of the Federal Joint Committee, payer and provider associations have ensured good access to high-quality health care without substantial shortages or waiting times. (The Lancet, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)31280-1/fulltext)
It has turned out to be a lot more valuable than just winning elections against the Social Democrats in the 1880s.
Some years ago I found myself at an exclusive meeting with German managers and a representative of their embassy. I speak their language but when the embassy official asked that his talk be just “unter uns” — restricted to “us” the Germans, I realized I was not supposed to have been there. (I agreed with his analysis, and told him so when I met him in the reception line after his presentation. He welcomed me to his talk.)
He pointed out that Germans and Americans spend about the same amounts and percentages of income on healthcare. So much for the argument that single payer systems cost more.
He pointed out that the difference was first that they have better outcomes and second that their coverage was more evenly distributed and readily available to all citizens .
No need to convince me. I had already had the experience of paying 1 mark for a doctor to come to the apartment in which I was living in the Rheinland, and give me an exam and medications when I fell ill and could not take the bus (I had no car.) So much for the US special interests’ horse-manure about losing the doctor+patient relationship, about better treatment, about “the best care in the word” and so forth and so on.
He pointed out that they have fewer days lost to illness on a comparable %age basis than we do. So much for the delusion that our broken puzzle system creates better competitors.
But it was not just his analysis that made all the points, It was experience,
I have friends, German citizens but long time residents in and ardent fans of this country, who for years had needed extensive reconstructive surgeries for each. The US insurance for which they, as self employed, shelled out an arm and a leg , did not cover it.
So they abandoned their business here, left their daughter here in the US and returned to Germany. They did not want to but they had to.
Without any waiting period or limits for pre-existing conditions, it was all covered in Germany’s 135 year old system. No challenges, no appeals for mercy to employees who don’t give a hoot, none of systemic stinginess. which favors the insurance companies. No limits imposed when they had to get specialists for hidden conditions. No problem when they needed help, financial help, with recoveries, with finding decent housing, etc, and so forth and on and on.
Back at that Germans-only presentation, a the presenter systematically showed, in well documented numerical detail, how our system just could not compete with theirs. The Germans there, all resident aliens in the US for work, were laughing sorrowfully at us, their host country. I was the only American there who spoke German; the person with me could not. No other Americans were there. I was ashamed and embarrassed.
Why should they not have had a sad laugh at our folly? We apparently think Scrooge would do a really bang-up job of medicine. Are there no ERs? Are there no charities? Are there no Pharma cost of medicines assistance programs so that the middle class can afford upper class prices? Does anyone here really give a hoot about anyone else? Let them just get sick and die if they won’t work for their health–decrease the excess population and create herd immunity! Bah, humbug! Healthcare by Scrooge.
Why shouldn’t I or any of us with a conscience be ashamed and embarrassed–in addition to outraged.
Trump has proven the Germans’ scornful assessment of us to be right. Think about who supports Donald.
What sort of a stingy, withered human would not want all to have equal access to world class health care? Maybe a Rich Mitch?
What sort of dried out, tattered soul thinks that healthcare is a commodity and that being unemployed ipso facto means you are not worthy of health? Name us a Repugnikan, almost any Repugnikan in power today..
What sort of a 19th century mentality thinks that our failing/failed system works better than those of the Germans, the English, the French, the Cubans, the Czechs, the Canadians — of just about any other healthcare system on earth? How about the ones like the foggy Fox fools, who think that socialism is still being practiced all over the world?
We have been here since 1883 also, and what the devil have we been doing? What loads of claptrap have we been fed and gleefully swallowed? No more Scroogecare Healthscare! Vote the skinflints out.
I have made the decision to stay away from even possible sources of CoVid transmission on the advice of my good doctor.
He is right. Lifelong respiratory vulnerability is an open invitation for an infection. And being superannuated reduces the strength of the immune fresponse: a second reason to keep away. So I do it.
It is the right thing to do. If I get it, ipso facto I will have exposed others. Maybe even people I know and care for, although most of them are also my age or somewhat younger and staying put at home. But the nobility of it all has faded into….silence filled with the noise of troublesome thoughts and frustrations.
When we lived on the ridge on the side of the mountain in South Asheville, I could deal with cabin fever just by going outside. And if that didn’t work, I could watch Bruno and Zora and then after they died, Kaiser and Titan play.
(First row, third picture: me with Bruno and Zora at the Biltmore Estate. I would exercise them off lead==they were very obedient–and in the cooler weather, I wore a blue baseball cap with a German Shepherd insignia on it, a blue jacket with a Michigan patch on the front, khaki pants, and leather boots. People would gather to see the dogs do their routines and then ask us for directions. They though I was Security…. Second row, first two pictures TItan chasing or hovering, Kaiser leading Titan in chase or lolllygagging on the ground for more play–Titan really never got the lolllygagging.)
People places and things to visit and see — lots in the course of my life’s wandering journey. Lots of gratitude.
Bottom line, however, has been lifelong: antsy, bored, restless? Get out the camera and see what you can shoot and do better than the last time. that has led to Photos libraries of so many digital shots I’m embarrassed to name the number. The point is: taking pictures is, has been and always will be me.
The trouble is, off the mountain, in .8 acres rather than 6, in really unimaginative house a bit less than half the size of the mountain house, (it was all we couid get) is very practical for us and Roxy and Lutz, but quite sleep-inducing .
Just less to see and do. Life on its terms: accept it and adapt.
OK. Maybe I can get some shots of that woodpecker who hammers away out in the trees around us.
I’ve been trying since April of 2017 — he or she makes a large racket but no image! It got to the place where I was sure, absolutely certain, that he knew I was down there with a camera and bigtime zoom lens. And just to spite me, he would always peck his tree caves on the other side of the tree from me.
Until two weeks ago, that is. It seems his arrogant self confidence got the better of him and he came out, onto the top of a couple trees on the neighbor’s lot, maybe 100 yards from me as the crow flies. And he came out into silhouette, perched on the top of one of those trees and even somewhat with his back to me. As if he were saying, come on, here I am, just see if you can get a good shot of me. I am, after all, very much worth it.
The shot at the top of the page is the result, the sad result. It was (yet another) foggy, soggy, misty greysky day. So my results, even with a good deal of photoshopping in Photos, did not get any better than this:
I was happy I got that shot and that it could be improved so much — that one came from an almost black and white silhouette. I had a bit of my passion back, but it is addictive: I wanted something better, more interesting, more colorful, more revealing of this boy’s character.
In the meantime, I began to realize that if I want interesting bird shots from .8 acres and little flexibililty about shooting position, I’d have to find ways to make them come to me. And I have some ideas.
Two weeks later I was taking it easy (from what?) in the am with mly absolutely necessary cup of Aldi Coffee Store, when N out on the front porch called out, “he’s back”. I dashed out in bath robe and iPhone… and jhere he was. It was a clear, dry, blue sky and The Boy was showing off from the top of that same tree. His royal Aves Highness had bestowed his presence upon us once more!
It was a big risk, but I dashed back into the house to get the Canon with the Zoom Lens. To my utter surprise, he was still there, surveying his kingdom from his highwire throne:
When your photo quarry won’t move and it just a ibit too far away and you have very little position flex, then there are only so many pictures I at least can conjure up. So I wound up just watching, feeling a bit dissatisfied that I could not get any other more interesting shots,
And then he took off, hell bent for leather iln the air, headed to his next pecking place.
My lens is a sports lens basically. It is made for action shots and the Canon has a program for that. And I was using it for shots because it is not as persnickety about light as some other settings. So I aimed the camera by dead reckoning, line of sight guesstimate at where I thought he might be as he rocketed out of sight. But I expected not to have caught him at all, the odds were against me.
Later in the morning I was down here on the iMac, downloading the pix from the am into Photos. Boo. Nothing but blue sky and green leaves with lots of shadow.
But wait a minute. In those two shots there, the two before him against the blue sky came out with him as a blur in the heavens–what is that dark shadow? Lets try some adjustments in Photo…
Wow. How grateful for having lucked out and gotten those two shots. They made my day. He is beautiful. And beauty is so utterly consoling. Mr Canon: what a good job! the Gods were with us. Still just a tad indistinct but again, I’ll take it.
Now that’s the sort of bird shot I like. Maybe I have been looking to shoot the birds in all the wrong places. Mr Pileated Woodpecker is telling me that the richness of nature does not end just because my yard is smaller. Keep on doing your ‘tog stuff, Mr G!.
The United States now has 1/3 of all the corona virus infections on this earth. The United States now has 1/4 of all the deaths from The Virus on earth.
The number of infections and the number of deaths is INCREASING≥. Some perspective: a few days ago,. Germany: 855 new cases ,0 deaths.
And yet Angela Merkel stopped and postponed going to their second phase of relaxing socializing restrictions until mid June due to concern over increases.
While in the USA despite well communicated, increasing infection rates and death rates much higher than any other nation on earth, some states are relaxing restrictions. Ahhh yes: the South’s R-naught will rise again! And some unbelievably carried weapons, Nazi and Confederacy flags into the Michigan state house to protest for restoration of such basic rights as…. getting a hair-do. What an example of ….. self seeking gone lethal.
According to information which came my way some years ago from a source at the German Embassy in D. C., we spend the same amount per person for health care as Germany. We do it out of pocket, they by taxes. They have even coverage, we have hole-y pre-existing exclusions. They had systems and supplies ready to deal with such a contingency. We did also, until Trump and bad boy Jared Kushner actually threw away all the notebooks compiled to help them govern. Then Trump plus Moscow Mitch and his gang of paid off puppets gave the body pandemic the Genickschuss (coup de grace) when they took away funding. We pay as we go if we can, and if the help we need happens to be there. They just go. By and large, whatever they need, is already there.
Who, given reasonably prudent discernment, would not want the German ones: one of the the worlds best death rates, guaranteed top notch and immediate healtlh care, payments to replace Corona-lost income, a Chancellor who works in planful collaboration with her own staff; and with the Minister Presidents of ALL the German states?
Here: Missing Picture of any Federal Trump-er Meeting with Governors to Coordinate Federal and State Efforts
Die Zeit today published an article about why the Germans have been so effective in dealing with the Corona virus.
Der Föderalismus wirkt Federalism Works
Deutschland meistert die Corona-Krise besser als viele Nachbarstaaten. Das zeigt sich nicht nur im Gesundheitswesen. Vor allem der deutsche Föderalismus hat sich bewährt.
Germany is mastering the Corona Crises better than many neighboring states. That is apparent not only in the healtlcare system. Above all German Federalism has stood the test.
A concluding statement his the nail on the head: Der Föderalismus, richtig verstanden und betrieben, wirkt. Er sorgt auch für ein besseres Verständnis von Maßnahmen, die sich an der regionalen Situation orientieren und deshalb nicht als unverhältnismäßig empfunden werden.
Federalism, correctly understood and practiced, works. It ensures a better understanding of measures, which are oriented to regional situations and therefore are not felt to be disproportionate.
that is 100% correct and that is also exactly what is happenig here that is sandbagging any countrry wide effort to get ahead of the epidemic. Each region feels that is has to protect its own regional situation since whatever Trump does or most likelly does not do, is a one size fits all, excelpt of course that it does not. Just ask the people in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and the armed protestors in the Michigan State House.
but Zeit again explains it all better:
In Staaten wo Föderalismus weniger kooperativ interpretiert wird und man stattdessen mehr auf den Wettbewerb setzt, ist das anders. Im amerikanischen Föderalismus werden Informationen getrennt voneinander gesammelt – also Bundes- und einzelstaatliche Behörden erheben eigene Daten und handeln unabhängig voneinander. Die USA gleichen damit mehr der Europäischen Union, die kaum geeint auf die Corona-Krise reagiert und wo vielmehr die Mitgliedstaaten autonom entscheiden. Beide, die EU und die USA, tun sich schwer damit, eine Antwort auf das Virus zu finden.
In states where federalism is interpreted less cooperatively and instead is based on competition, the situation is different [re the good results the Germans have gotten]. In American federalism information is gathered in a divided manner–thus federal and state agencies gather their own datra and act independently of each other. The USA in that regard is like the EU which has reacted to the Corona Crisis scarcely in a united way and where the member states make decisions autonomously. Both, the EU and the USA, are struggling to find an answer to the virus.
The key here is that federalism works by cooperation. 244 years down the road we have yet to learn that. How else explain that 1/3 of the voters laud Trumps vile, and dangerously evil but not too skilled attempt to destroy it? How else explain that these same voters apparently think that more competition, win-lose competing, will carry the day and save the moribund, ragged health care patchwork quilt and the staggering, top heavy economy?
Whether German or other, there are systems in this pandemic which work better than ours. Indeed any of the others is working better sincew ours is working worst, by any measure. Our Federalism not only is not working, it is being used to make the crisis far, far worse than we may even be able to imagine. Trump and his supporters could easily do themselves and then us in.
What to do, how to build a working federalism?
First, isolate the disease spreaders. Let Trumps lethally undiscerning, self seeking supporters all get together, hug, shake hands, work shoulder to shoulder —for a couple of months, then send the survivors to Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina — and any other states who are dropping social distancing and lockdown while the Rnaught continues to rise. Turn back, with all force needed, any one of them trying then to leave those assiduously stupid states, when their R naught erupts volcanically while ours continues to fall at the same slow rate with which it rose. Those people misusing our federal system are endangering our lives every bit as much as if they were pointing loaded guns at us. that is a crime, so why not this?
It is high time that we exacted a penalty upon those who would endanger their own and us just to go to a restaurant or get a haircut. And the penalty should be as onerous as the illness which they pass on to others.
Let them all stew together in their own juice..
In the meantime, the rest of us will need to do a moral inventory. The key to cooperation is our thinking. We need to examine: why do we think that our competitive ways work when in one of the worst surprises Mother Nature could foist upon us it has failed so utterly miserably and dangerously for all of us? And then we will need to rethink how we understand and practice federalism–one might say that our current methods have not exactly been stellar..
Maybe it is time to cast off the erroneous German cultural stereotypes of Hogans Heroes and the WW2 War Department and learn something from our allies, the Germans. Who looks more like Colonel Klink: Angela Merkel or any Trump-er? How about Trump’s Arch Fool, Jared Kushner? Todays Germans would say to us: Wenn dein Pferd stirbt, steig’ ab: when your horse dies, dismount. Looks more than a little like we have been beating a dead horse. Time to dismount and try out some German ways. Nicht wahr? (Wouldn’t you say that’s true?)
Heavens, how we miss our home. We put our backs and our souls into it — it looking so confidently and, for us, welcomingly down the ridge, oveer the edge and out into the cove far belowl What a treasure it gave us in living the Blue Ridge mountain life.
Today, we are in a small home that is functional and right sized for us and Roxy and Lutz, our two German Shepherds (#s 6 and p7 since 2001 when Bruno came to us). This house fits our ages, but our hearts ache for the beauty, adventure, peaceful coexistence with nature — of almost 20 years. It was and will always be home for both of us.
A wonder and also a fright at times was winter on the Ridge. It drew out of us special efforts, at times more courage than we really wanted to summon up, and for me, advengture in service. And that is because winter brought me, The Old Plowguy, outdoors on this:
Me on my Yamaha 660 Grizzly ATV with 5’ steel snow plow blade
For most of my years there, the Grizzly and I plowed the snow off our 1.6 miles of asphalt and gravel. Sometimes I did another stretch of about ½ mile (guess) on a second stretch of rough gravel road.
Over the years, the exhaustion of several hours muscling around 800 pounds of Grizzly and blade wore thin. Sometimes it was admittedlly dangerous. I plowed when the first snow fell at temperatures just above freezing, in order minimize the inevitable re-freeze ice pack forming under the second fall. If you were out and about on that day, you had to be back coming up the mountain by 3 PM. Otherwise, you would be trying to drive on an uphill icerink under slippery snow.
Meanwhile, I would be out there dodging those who thought that they could handle uphill icerinks in rear axle drive cars. Their cars would be found either stuck in the inside ditch, off on a turnout patch, or just abandoned all the way down by the mailboxes. I gave lots of folks an interesting ride going up the icerink on the atv. Griz never needed chains, but my passengers did not know that. I think they found the ride invigorating at least.
I found it tiring. The atv with blade is front heavy and in total weighed about 800 pounds. That means that the atv could easily become dangerous with the blade down, under power that is just a teen big too fast and without that sense for what the snow would permit that only experience could impart . Too much gas, too much speed, not having figured out where to dump the plowed load safely and all of a sudden the atv becomes a pendulum attached to the pinned down blade. That is 600+ lbs swinging across an icy road that is max 12 feet wide. And swinging towards a sheer drop of lots of vertical feet. You could easily wind up down that slope and have the atv come down on top of you.
It was hard work that took skill and experience. I would come home soaked through the underclothes and into the snowmobile suit I wore. And at temperatures sometimes near zero. Then the next day out I would go again to plow it all over again, but this time pushing a good depth of snow off of the thin ice underneath.
Somegtimes the first of the double snowfalls would start at dusk. So, avoiding the accumulation of two snowfalls occasionally meant nighttime plowing with no lights except the two and (later on) an led light bar on the front of the Grizzly.
That was what led me , Griz’s to our nighttime near catastrophic, amazing victory over mountain and weather.
To roll the tape back a bit first: The Grizzly was a wonderful machine. I got it out of self defense and used it with great pride and joy, When we first moved up on that ridge, there were no neighbors at all anywhere near at all. You have to understand: we moved from New Jersey where one neighbor’s house was almost close enough to touch, the other housed a guy who thought it really cool to run the truck engine he was building — right: building — outdoors at 7AM . Two houses away was the fire station, where rhe guys thought is just hunky-dory to sound the alarm at 3 am fire or not. And then there was the collection of unwanted large items. If you wanted to lose something, you just put it on the curb in front of your house and the five finger discount folks came by at night while you were either asleep or distracted by the fire siren and took it. There was no such thing as no neighbors nowhere to be seen or heard where we had lived in Joisey.
It all changed so fast. One day we were sleeping our last night in a Civil War house in Joisey: —one we liked despite all the intrusion of our all too up close and personal neighborhood. Two nights and some hundreds of miles later, we were trying to sleep in our new house up on the ridge at about 3000 feet. No friends, no dogs in the house, no way out in bad weather and lots of hints of Unseen Things in the woods just outside our windows.
OK, so we were no heroes. It was an adventure but also scary at times, occasionally ridiculously so. LIke seeing at night the two red eyes peering into our solarium from outside and not going away no matter what we did. We knew what the dangers in Joisey were, but here, in the woods, at night, there could be Things Unknown. And for nights on end we sat up scared stiff at the two red eyes staring, staring, boring in on use from the woods maybe 15 feet from our bedroom on the main floor..
We finally threw in the towel and moved the bedroom to upstairs. But there they were, thjose two red eyes had followed us and knew where we were higding out. What if now it could get in while we were upstairs asleep? That may have been when I cast off my Northeastern liberal refusal to have weapons in the house and bought a 12 gauge shotgun with buckshot at WalMart. And for what? It turned out that the red eyes were lights from the breaking glass sound detector we had ADT install on moving in. They were reflecting off the inside of the solarium windows which we could see from the main floor or upstairs.
After all, in Joisey, They could be coming to break in. Right? When we told the off duty Sheriff Deputy, who checked on our house after closing but before we moved in, that we had an alarm system installed (No Deutsche Schaeferhund dogs yet at that time), I thought he would have a heart attack laughing. And over time it was very clear: where we were and with the steep, narrow old logging road we had, having al alarm system was as useful an addition as a life saver vest would be for a fish.
There’s a lot more stories where that came from, but I digress – -which by the way I do very well. Back onto the trail here.
Ol’ Griz Saves Ol’ Greg
We moved into our house in December. Not too long after that, In our very first Blue Ridge winter, we had our first Blue Ridge snow and sleet storm. It started later in the afternoon and kept on coming and coming. We could see it filiing up the abojut 450 feet of our drive, from the windows of the library room over the garage.
Now you need to understand: I grew up in Michigan. Snow? So what! Walk miles back and forth to school in blizzards, deliver a Detroit newspaper from a one speed Roadmaster bike in the wintertime dark, in ice storms, in snow storms: the paperboy always delivered. And it was an article of growing manliness that you delivered never dismounting, never missing a porch throwing the rolled up papers. And I shoveled out our home drive and walks. So: I could shovel with the best of them, I had my monster snow thrower which I”d brought from NJ, I had the right gloves and winter clothes. Ice, sleet, freezing rain, fog on ice, snow? No problem, you can take the boy out of Michigan, but you cannot take the Michigan out of the boy. Yep, I know snow, can handle snow.
Except that in MIchigan the boy knew snow that was much more on relatively level land, the boy relied for any help on the neighbors all over the place. I was not used to dealing with snow on ice on slopes so steep that even some pro-plowers would not come up to help us out. And God, being the ever aware instructor that He She They is/are, made sure I got the right tools for mountains, a powerful awd atv with locking differential, and then learned fast how to use it. By the time we moved, I modeestly say with full confidence, I knew it all about atvs on snow. The boy had added to his snow management repertoire..
As I watched the ice-sleet-snow stuff cascade down onto our very long gravel drive, that knot of fear began to tie up my guts. The slush was piling up on the drive and would turn to ice overnight. And I had no way to remove it: my showthrower brought from New Jersey was very heavy, unwieldy on slopes, and would have simply slid down the drive and over the edge just across from the apron of our drive several hundred feet down a sharp incline. And no way could I have shoveled any of it away.
This was apparently God’s first immersion course lesson in mountain life. As a friend once said, if you just can’t live any more with a chainsaw in one hand and your atv keys in the other, it’s time to move off the mountain. I was just learning that you had to do that.
Next morning our drive had 3 inches of ice on it. Three inches of frozen slush,– that much, I’d never seen before. How on earth were we going to be able to get out? Our supplies would soon dwindle away and, Oh my Gawd, WE WILL STARVE UP HERE AND NOBODY WILL KNOW IT !
I wish I could find pictures I am almost certain I had taken. Living up there brought endless and unexpected just great photo ops: that camera had very quickly almost attached itself to me as a new appendage. Which was just fine by me and has bought me wonders of gratitude now.
Long story short, across the cove, which was several thousand yards away from us, mostly nearly straight down from the outside edge of the road at the bottom of our very long gravel drive, Bob B who was building a log house a stretch up the mountain from us. Bob had an atv with a plow. I had heard him buzzing alonmg down on the road. He had established himself as The Lone Plowguy for our scattered, “gently sloping” (real estate-ese for steep inclines) community.
So, holding onto trees and frozen tall vegetation, I’d managed to get down to the road without falling. After waiting for a long time and freezing my you-know-what off, I saw him and hailed him for help. He’d been plowing a bit where the ice was not that thick but his atv would not handle that drive. Someone had in the meanitme hired a guy on a backhoe with a blade to scrape uphill…. After ;more frozen waiting, we got in touch with him when he came up our way and asked for his help plowing me out. He said no. He could not plow that but with the forks on the backhoe bucket,he could rip up the drive to let the chunks then melt over time. So he ripped up the drive surface in to large ice chunks and the pushed them over the side.
No charge. Mountain folks, real mountain folks, help each other –they are a very cooperative clan of highly individual, skilled, economical and just wonderfully friendly folks. All they ask is that you be willing to listen for a half hour after you greet them with Hey Billy, how’r yew? I came to value that immensely.
No charge that is except for paying another guy a lot to come up and regrade the whole drive.
So right then and there I decided, I was going to have an atv at least as powerful as Bobs, and then split up the road for plowing with him. I got the atv all right, — actually more powerful than Bob’s, but Bob would not share plow duty. He wanted the Lone Plowguy role for himself. He moved away however very shortly and that’s how I and the Grizzly became The Lone Plowguy. And came to feel just like he did about sharing the plowing on My Mountain Road.
The big test for the Plowguy and his old pal, Griz, came one evening some years later, in a two stage snow+ice+sleet storm. The weather guys had reported the Lone Plowguys Nightmare: wet semi freezing heavy snow with sleet and some ice coming down in buckets, starting at about 5 pm and going till about 9. And then starting up again in the morning with colder air and snow, a number of inches.
If that froze at night and then got covered in the morning with newfallen snow, we were cooked. Under that white blanket would be an icerink on a narrow, downhill slope. Not even chains would get you down. And we had had our fill of Florida residents who thought, no problem, I’ll just stoke up the Sequoia, hop in with my coffee traveler, and lope on down to the road which I know will be clear. Snow and ice? No problem, we will “adjust” –was how they put it the first time they tried it.
It did not happen twice unless they were unusually stubborn and had had their brains fried by too much sun and too many Pina Coladas,.
I had gotten real tired of getting either a cell call or having some snow covered Floridian knock on my door, after having trudged up the Ski Slope and up our drive, in deep snow, to ask me to stoke up mmy Sequoia or the griz and help him get his Sequoia out of the ditch halfway down thje ski slope. Because they had no idea at all how to shift the Sequoia into all wheel drive that could back that SUV backwards up a greased telephone pole. And ofcourse always blocking the road. Always before I’d had a chance to plow it despite my frantic pleas to wait till I let them know the road was plowed (also because packed tire tracks are hard to plow up without ripping up the road itself).. And always seemingly at some inconvenieent hour.t.
So at 4 PM I began donning the long johns, the insulated undershirt, the snowmobile suit, the cloth inside helmet head cover, the snowmobile gloves, the yellow goggles for evening, and the tall insulated rubberized boots that kept the feet from freezing sitting on the metal runners of Griz. It was a lot of work, and then I trudged out of the house, across the yard in deep snow, and down the flagstone path in deep snow to the unheated shed where Griz awaited –sweating like a dray horse on a hot day even before putting the key into the Grizzlys off and on switch..
You checked Griz all over: were the bolts on the plow tight? the contacts on the electric motor that pivoted the plow snug and still waterproofed? How about the winch rope that attached the 3,000 pound lift weight rated winch to the hundred pound steel 5 foot snow blade? Was the tank full and did I have extra gas, a shovel, some gravel, a rope with clamps, an engineeers hammer and steel spikes, a winch rope repair kit, my coffee traveler, and an extra set of keys? Was the bluetooth headset inside my helmet working to call Nancy if I slid into the ditch? If I slid over the edge, I woild not have to worry to call because 800 pounds of atv wouild tumble onto me as we fell and, well, you can guess the rest.
It always took Griz a long time to start. The shed was not heated and Griz’ oil was often like molasses in January. It seemed that he always decided to start just when I was about to kick him and give up. I think the profanily gave that extra needed spark.
Well all of the above transpired on that fateful evening. I have to admit, I’d never before plowed the whole road in the dark with snow and sleet falling. Nonetheless, I got down our drive and just plowed a lane through the near freezing slush, down the ski slope part of the road down to R’s house, cleared the left hand turn so that it would be less to push coming back up, and , went down that slope to tke hairpin turnaround, and from there, now on asphalt. down the hill — plowing all the way, with occasional turns to the left to push the snowmound I had accumulated in front over the drop off. I once calculated that Griz and I moved of tons of snow in a typical plowing episode.
I pushed loads of wet snow carefully over and down the outside road edge, often very near 90 degree straight down to the cove. Yes, cautiously, to be sure, but also confidently as I had done it all so often before. The lights on the atv to my infinite relief really lit up the road well.
I went down to the mailboxes –turnd around and stopped to take the dusk picture of the single lane you saw abo ve.
And then started pushing the heavy load in short bursts uphill and again off to the side. Griz was lifting, pivoting and lowering that blade like a champ..
At the top of the rise coming up from the mail boxes, on the left, was a friend’s house, He had a very steep and angled drive which was hard to shovel off by hand. He’d also had abdominal surgery and I knew that he would not be able to cleaf that off at all. He and his wife were also German Shepherd dog people — as were we, they also were owned by a couple of those great dogs. So I thought, what the hell, I’ll just take a moment and scrape it off for him.
At the top of his drive, where I’d first gone to get a bit of gravity help to plow down the sides, I raised my blade to back up and there was a loud WHACK noise and the blade slammed down hard onto the asphalt.
At first, belileve it or not, I was embarrassed and hoped that nobody would come out and ask, what’s wrong? I had no idea. The Lone Plowguy is, by definition, always in charge, always prepared, always cool calm and collected. That must have been another Lone Plowguy. The only thoughts in my mind were: what the hell just happened and how can I finesse this in front of my admiring crowds (none of which were out there of course)?
A quick inspection showed that the winch rope had snapped,and backlashed its frayed, wound cold steel lines into a Gordian knot inside the winch housing.. Now why peojple call that wound steel cable a rope I will never know. I sure could not tie it together like rope. I do know that men like that term and that it is especially a favorite of men who pronounce [asphalt’] as “ash-fault”, and with just a little bit of arrogant authority. Anyway, in a panic to see if I could repair it, I found that I had all the repair tools I would need, but none of the right cable clamps. Moreover, my cell was not reaching home from there, so I could not get a ride and leave Griz on trhe road to –do what with tomorrow: the damned blade was down, the cable snarled on he winch, and the socalled wintry mix was coming down harder. And really, was I going to remove my gloves in freezing sleet to try to unwind gnarled steel winch cable (take that ash-fault snobs) inside a still installed winch housing? Was I nuts?
Slowly it dawned on me with a bit of a combined chill and thrill: I would have to drive up 1.6 miles of road, ascending somewhere near 1000 feet, pushing through very weighty and unwieldy semi-frozen snow and ice mounds i’d left along the inside of the road coming down, on ice that had formed under rhe slush, on Griz without his ice chains and with 100lbs of blade locked onto the ground uphill in front of me. I was scared stiff that at some point the pushback from the accumulating onto the pinned down blade would cause me on the Griz to pendulum and slide backwards over the outside edge of the road.
Griz was about to show me his mettle or at best, I’d have a very long walk back home without a flashlight on ice.
I locked the differenrtial, put griz inro gear and shoved the throttle, as WW2 fighter pilots said about going into war speed in emergencies, “balls to the wall.”, (plastic balls atop the two engine throttles all the way to the firewall — sorry alpha males and imaginaative females, but it had no physiological meaning),
All I can say is: wow. Old Griz did not even-grunt in pain.! My boy just dug his rubber claws into the pavement, leaned up into the slope, and wrestled, punched, pushed and slammed the snow all over the place all the way to rhe garage door at home and in record time. After about one minute riding with complete trust in Griz, I just leaned into the incline with him and we had just a unmatchable victory adventure up that dark little narrow old logging road, riding in complete harmonious mutual control.
Man did I love it: the Lone Plowguy Rode Again! It never got better than on that night.
In all this story telling, however, I have missed one part of my life with the Griz: the sense of thrill going up and down the slopes on a bright, cold morning, slopes in such pristine, clean, white blankets of snow. I wished old Griz could ferry me and my cameras but leave no tracks:the newfallen snow is so utterly soothingly beautiful.
Hail, from the Victors
Well there you are, now a sort of digital Tonto to my equally digital Lone Plowguy. But you know, as I’ve been immersed in writing this, figuring out how to get video into a block but mostly closely examining my pictrures and videos to see where I want them to fit in this narrative, there has been very little thought angst about the maelstrom of maladies swirling around us these days. Mostly I feel–have emotion–and it is the emotion we call gratitude, although I guess there is thought there too. Do I care? No. It is just great relief. Thanks for reading my sharing.
We are nowhere near the end of the Trump-thumping we are taking.. We are not at the beginnig of the end, nor the end of the beginning. We may be at the start of the beginning. And that makes it all even more sad and urgent. We have already lost so much; it is such a great shame.
Towards the end of his life, the great German poet, scientist, lawyer, statesman etc;, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) became very enchanted with the energy, robust freedom and lack of a haunting past in the young American Republic. During those later years he wrote the following poem (here in English translation praising and expressing an important hope about us and our republic:
(If you want to know more about who Goethe was, read my post “Who is this guy Go-ee’-thee (Goethe)?
One of DT’s first targets for negation remains our fragile, wilting ecosystem. We must get it back under control —and fast—. Before DT touched nature with his cold, dead hands, an annual reduction of atmospheric hydrocarbons by 2% would have saved us-but we were barely making that. Now after he has negated our environmental protection, the yearly target for a timespan 4 years shorter than in 2016 is 5%. And we had been barely eking out a scrawny 2%…. If we fail now, there will not be a second chance, the resulting inhospitable, lethal climate will make this planet uninhabitable.
Let us remember the hopes and faith that so many had for us so many years ago.
But we can only get to the end of the beginning by accepting without filtering where we are today. That’s the first step.
To that end, today Goethe’s hopeful poem could only be written something like this:
Amerika, du hattest es besser…
America, you had it better
Than our old continent.
But you failed to save your forests and oceans,
You permanently poisoned pristine waters.
Shame! your present is blighted by leaders of
Useless remembrance and vain strife.
You misused the present in bad faith!
And your children will never write verse,
Condemned by drudge lackeys and their bumbling boss, to
end with a whimper:
as nature winds down in reverse..
Where indeed have all the flowers gone, long time passing? How much pain must good men endure, before they throw off this yoke?