Sunday, April 30, 2006

Early Autumn

Early Autumn by Robert B. Parker (1981)

Spenser takes a troubled boy under his wing and in one short summer transforms him into a man.

This is a very uplifting novel about the positive difference that just one dedicated adult can make.


Ceremony by Robert B. Parker (1982)

Susan asks Spenser to look for a missing high school girl.

Spenser and Hawk trace her to an underworld of prostitution and pornography.

This is a very disturbing novel.

The only redeeming factor is that some of the bad guys get punished.

Not a very uplifting ending.

Clash of Carriers

Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot of World War II

By Barrett Tillman (2005)

This book is an exhaustive study of the June 1944 battle using both American and Japanese sources.

Known as The Battle of the Philippine Sea, the clash between the two opposing carrier fleets developed around the American invasion of Saipan.

Saipan was crucial because the airfields allowed American bombers to attack the Japanese homeland.

The result was an overwhelming victory for the American forces.

A lot of good brave men died on both sides of the conflict, and that is what war is.

Coyote attacks humans

This is an AP story concerning a coyote attacking humans near Seattle.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hangman's Crusade

The Hangman’s Crusade (1981) by James Barwick

This is a very cynical historical novel based on events in early WWII.

Heydrich offers to kill Hitler, take over the German government, and end the extermination of the Jews.

So, the Allies assassinate Heydrich, knowing that the Nazis will murder thousands of Czechs in retaliation (just as they did in real life).

Few authors dealing with this period can resist including a cameo by Kim Philby, and this author is no exception.

The protagonist is a newspaper reporter, recruited and then sacrificed by OSS.

A lot of very good and brave people die, and that is what war is.

Sudden Mischief

Sudden Mischief (1998) by Robert B. Parker

Susan is Spenser’s girlfriend, and she asks him to bail her ex-husband out of a bad situation.

Hawk serves the same function as Clete and Mouse do in other novel series by different authors.

Spenser and Hawk are protagonists, but Susan is a victim.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

One reviewer described this movie as “flavorless as a winter tomato.” Heh.

It has a fabulous cast, but a weak script. It is a revenge story with an underdeveloped plot.

It was an interesting choice to make the two main groups of villains Jews and African-Americans.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Blood Jaguar

The Blood Jaguar (1998)

By Michael H. Payne

This book is a novel where the characters are talking animals, and the emphasis is on character development and dialogue.

The main character, a bobcat, is more victim than protagonist. If you are looking for a book where the main character has a substance abuse problem, this one is for you.

A Shield Against Mediocrity Was Needed

Guardians of the Forest (2005)

By Graham McNeill

This book is yet another disappointing Warhammer novel.

Wood elves and chaos beastmen are two of my favorite Warhammer races. It is criminal that the author could not do more with them than this.

The protagonist/victim is a Bretonnian knight, who later transmogrifies into a grail knight.

There are some interesting discontinuities in the space/time continuum, but it is nowhere near enough to save the novel from a conspiracy of mediocrity.

Rights vs. Rights

Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies
Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue.

By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
April 10, 2006

(From the LA Times, reprinted in the 4-20-06 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

ATLANTA — Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."

In that spirit, the Christian Legal Society, an association of judges and lawyers, has formed a national group to challenge tolerance policies in federal court. Several nonprofit law firms — backed by major ministries such as Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ — already take on such cases for free.

The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant.

A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 64% of American adults — including 80% of evangelical Christians — agreed with the statement "Religion is under attack in this country."

"The message is, you're free to worship as you like, but don't you dare talk about it outside the four walls of your church," said Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Assn. Center for Law and Policy, which represents Christians who feel harassed.
Critics dismiss such talk as a right-wing fundraising ploy. "They're trying to develop a persecution complex," said Jeremy Gunn, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Others fear the banner of religious liberty could be used to justify all manner of harassment.

"What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn't mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn't work?" asked Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.

By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians.

"Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse."

Christians are fighting back in a case involving Every Nation Campus Ministries at California State University. Student members of the ministry on the Long Beach and San Diego campuses say their mission is to model a virtuous lifestyle for their peers. They will not accept as members gays, lesbians or anyone who considers homosexuality "a natural part of God's created order."

Legal analysts agree that the ministry, as a private organization, has every right to exclude gays; the Supreme Court affirmed that principle in a case involving the Boy Scouts in 2000. At issue is whether the university must grant official recognition to a student group that discriminates.

The students say denying them recognition — and its attendant benefits, such as funding — violates their free-speech rights and discriminates against their conservative theology. Christian groups at public colleges in other states have sued using similar arguments. Several of those lawsuits were settled out of court, with the groups prevailing.

In California, however, the university may have a strong defense in court. The California Supreme Court recently ruled that the city of Berkeley was justified in denying subsidies to the Boy Scouts because of that group's exclusionary policies. Eddie L. Washington, the lawyer representing Cal State, argues the same standard should apply to the university.

"We're certainly not going to fund discrimination," Washington said.

As they step up their legal campaign, conservative Christians face uncertain prospects. The 1st Amendment guarantees Americans "free exercise" of religion. In practice, though, the ground rules shift depending on the situation.

In a 2004 case, for instance, an AT&T Broadband employee won the right to express his religious convictions by refusing to sign a pledge to "respect and value the differences among us." As long as the employee wasn't harassing co-workers, the company had to make accommodations for his faith, a federal judge in Colorado ruled.

That same year, however, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that Hewlett-Packard Co. was justified in firing an employee who posted Bible verses condemning homosexuality on his cubicle. The verses, clearly visible from the hall, harassed gay employees and made it difficult for the company to meet its goal of attracting a diverse workforce, the judge ruled.

In the public schools, an Ohio middle school student last year won the right to wear a T-shirt that proclaimed: "Homosexuality is a sin! Islam is a lie! Abortion is murder!" But a teen-ager in Kentucky lost in federal court when he tried to exempt himself from a school program on gay tolerance on the grounds that it violated his religious beliefs.

In their lawsuit against Georgia Tech, Malhotra and her co-plaintiff, a devout Jewish student named Orit Sklar, request unspecified damages. But they say their main goal is to force the university to be more tolerant of religious viewpoints. The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on religious liberty cases.

Malhotra said she had been reprimanded by college deans several times in the last few years for expressing conservative religious and political views. When she protested a campus production of "The Vagina Monologues" with a display condemning feminism, the administration asked her to paint over part of it.

She caused another stir with a letter to the gay activists who organized an event known as Coming Out Week in the fall of 2004. Malhotra sent the letter on behalf of the Georgia Tech College Republicans, which she chairs; she said several members of the executive board helped write it.

The letter referred to the campus gay rights group Pride Alliance as a "sex club … that can't even manage to be tasteful." It went on to say that it was "ludicrous" for Georgia Tech to help fund the Pride Alliance.

The letter berated students who come out publicly as gay, saying they subject others on campus to "a constant barrage of homosexuality."

"If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda," the letter said.

The student activist who received the letter, Felix Hu, described it as "rude, unfair, presumptuous" — and disturbing enough that Pride Alliance forwarded it to a college administrator. Soon after, Malhotra said, she was called in to a dean's office. Students can be expelled for intolerant speech, but she said she was only reprimanded.

Still, she said, the incident has left her afraid to speak freely. She's even reluctant to aggressively advertise the campus lectures she arranges on living by the Bible. "Whenever I've spoken out against a certain lifestyle, the first thing I'm told is 'You're being intolerant, you're being negative, you're creating a hostile campus environment,' " Malhotra said.

A Georgia Tech spokeswoman would not comment on the lawsuit or on Malhotra's disciplinary record, but she said the university encouraged students to debate freely, "as long as they're not promoting violence or harassing anyone."

The open question is what constitutes harassment, what's a sincere expression of faith — and what to do when they overlap.

"There really is confusion out there," said Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, which is affiliated with Vanderbilt University. "Finding common ground sounds good. But the reality is, a lot of people on all sides have a stake in the fight."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

He was the wrong choice

My faith in democracy has been reaffirmed.

Bob Swendrowski was soundly defeated in yesterday's Whitnall School Board election.

Swendrowski was the wrong choice.

Wrong for the Whitnall School District.

Wrong for Wisconsin.

Wrong for America.

Heh. OK. Maybe a little hyperbole there towards the end.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Lee Rocker

Racin’ the Devil by Lee Rocker (2006)

12 tracks, rock/rockabilly

Lee Rocker was the bass player for The Stray Cats

Interesting (but uneven) mix of songs, including a remake of Rock This Town.

The best four tracks are The Girl From Hell, Runnin’ From the Hounds, Funny Car Graveyard, and Swing This.

I would rate The River Runs and Ramblin’ as not worth listening to.

Jesse Evans, Part 3

The most notable exploit of Company D occurred in the area of Fort Davis. Roberts recalled that about June 25, 1880, he received a telegram from Judge G. M. Frazer of Fort Stockton, asking for help. Numerous stores and other business firms had been robbed in recent months, and local authorities were unsuccessful in dealing with them. The military from nearby Fort Davis would not assist in civil matters, so Frazer called for help from Captain Roberts.
From his Menard County camp, Roberts sent Sergeant E. A. Sieker and Privates J. W. Miller, E. J. Pound, Nick K. Brown, Henry Thomas, R. R. Russell, D. T. Carson, S. A. Henry and George Bingham. Sergeant L. B. Caruthers of Company E also arrived on orders from Major Jones. The men scouted into the Davis Mountains and, on July 3, they finally caught up with a band, which resisted arrest. As Roberts later wrote:
They were about a mile ahead of the Rangers and the boys being eager to get to them struck a little faster gait, which move caused the robbers to leave the road they were on and strike for a canon some distance from the road.
The Rangers started straight for them at full speed, but the bandits reached cover first, dismounted, and took shelter behind the large rocks that fringed the area of the gulch. As horses are not all created equal, only four Rangers managed to get within close range. Sieker, Russell, Carson, and Bingham made up the quartet.
As the Rangers approached, firing commenced from behind those rocks, two bullets striking Carson’s horse and one through the brim of his hat, and Bingham was shot dead. Carson, Sieker and Russell dismounted, and as [robber] George Davis showed up from behind a rock to shoot, Sergeant Sieker and Carson fired at him almost simultaneously, Sieker’s bullet striking him in the breast and as he fell Carson’s bullet went through his head. [8]
Seeing this deadly work of the Rangers, the three surviving robbers broke and ran. Finally realizing they could not escape, they chose to surrender upon the promise they would not be harmed. In the excitement of the gunfight, the Rangers had not realized that Bingham was dead. When they did find out, they almost killed the surviving robbers. Sergeant Sieker, in charge of the scout, reported to Captain Roberts:
We charged the party and took their stronghold. Then we had the advantage, for the first time, and then they surrendered. Had I known Bingham was killed, at that time, I should have killed them all. But we had disarmed them before we knew it. They then prayed for mercy. [9]
The citizens of Fort Davis gave $500 in cash to the Rangers, and the citizens of Fort Stockton gave them $600. This scout was no doubt the most important one these Rangers ever performed. Jesse Evans, one of the robbers captured, had formerly been a pal of Billy the Kid. He was tried and found guilty of murder (for the death of Bingham) and sent to Huntsville State Prison. He managed to escape, however, and was never heard of again. [10]

(9) Sieker’s report appears in Ed Bartholomew’s Jesse Evans: A Texas Hide-Burner (Houston, Frontier Press of Texas, 1955), p. 52. Curiously, Sieker’s report was published in the Mason County News sometime in July 1880. Famed Ranger James B. Gillett clipped the item from that newspaper and preserved it in his scrapbook. He then sent it to J. Marvin Hunter’s magazine, Frontier Times, to be the feature of a short article, “Texas Rangers Battle With Outlaws in 1880.” This appeared in the August 1927 issue, Vol. 4, No. 11, pp. 1-3.
(10) Although other historians assert that Evans escaped and was never heard from again, Gillett, in his Frontier Times article, states: “Evans in trying to escape was shot and killed.” He identified the robbers as Evans, two brothers named Davis and the man killed, unknown.

Jesse Evans, Part 2

Jesse Evans: A Texas Hide-Burner

By Ed Bartholomew (1955)

Only 500 copies of this book were printed, so it was not easy for me to find one. I would like to thank The State Historical Society of Wisconsin for making this book available, and the Milwaukee County Federated Library System for providing the interlibrary loan services that were required for me to borrow the book.

This is a very interesting book. It reminds me in some ways of Mark Twain’s tale of Grandfather’s Old Ram. The difference is that the author does occasionally return to the topic of Jesse Evans after rambling rather far.

Jesse Evans is not one of the most famous of the gunfighters of the Old Wild West. He rode out of nowhere, terrorized people for about five years, and then vanished without a trace.

The author points out that many of the popular stories about Jesse Evans are fiction created by dime novelists. For example, there is no evidence that Jesse Evans and Billy the Kid were boyhood chums.

Since so little is known of the life of Jesse Evans, the author spends a lot of the book talking about other notable personalities of the time, such as John Chisum, Pat Garrett, and Billy the Kid.

The author suggests that the Evans gang operated as independent rustlers during the Lincoln County War.

Bartholomew also says that the widely reported Evans connection with the Chapman murder is wrong. It was a man named Campbell who shot Chapman, was indicted, and escaped.

In 1880, Texas Ranger Captain D.W. Roberts described the Evans gang as “the most noted band of outlaws that ever infested any state or county.”

Evans was convicted of second-degree murder for the killing of Texas Ranger George Bingham and sentenced to 10 years at Huntsville. He escaped a few months later and vanished without a trace.

The author points out that Billy the Kid was virtually unknown before the dime novelists latched onto his story, and that if they had chosen Jesse Evans instead, then we would all remember that chapter of American history differently.

Jesse Evans

The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters

By Leon Claire Metz (2003)

The author modestly reminds us that it would be impossible to include everyone deserving mention. With over 500 entries, I think the author did an outstanding job.

This is a great reference book.

Following is just one of many items of interest contained in the book.

Evans, Jesse J. (1853 ?- ?)

Jesse Evans is one of the many enigmas relating to the Wild West. He claimed to have been born in Missouri in 1853. One who knew him, Frank Coe, believed he was half Cherokee. Otherwise, Jesse Evans was blessed, or cursed, with a common name. A belief even exists that Jesse Evans was a graduate of the College of Washington and Lee in Virginia.

Evans arrived in New Mexico around 1872 and worked as a cowboy for John Chisum. By 1875 he was a suspect in the Shedd Ranch murders of the Mes brothers in the Oregon Mountains of southern New Mexico. On New Year’s Eve, 1875, he and three other gunmen brawled with Fort Selden troopers at a dance. The soldiers won, but Evans and his friends returned around midnight and commenced shooting through the windows. A soldier and civilian were killed; another civilian and three soldiers were wounded.

Two weeks later, on January 19, Quirino Fletcher bragged that he and two friends had killed and robbed two Texans in Mexico. Later that night, a person assumed to be Evans put six bullets in Fletcher. In the meantime Billy the Kid fled Arizona, where he had killed Frank Cahill; while on his way to Lincoln, New Mexico, he paused for a few months in the Mesilla Valley, where he took up the practice of horse thievery. Both Billy and Jesse Evans may also have been involved in the subsequent El Paso Salt War, but at any rate the Kid went on to Lincoln and became a regular, while Jesse put in off-and-on appearances during the Lincoln County War. Jesse, for instance, signed up as a Lincoln County deputy, and was one of the posse members who put bullets in Englishman John Tunstall. A grand jury indicted Evans for murder, he being first on the list. At the trial, Jesse testified that he had not even been in the vicinity of the Tunstall shooting – and went free.

Shortly afterward, in mid-March, Jesse and Tom Hill tried ransacking the nearby sheep camp of a German herdsman, whom they shot and assumed they had killed. The herdsman made it to his rifle, however, and killed Hill. Then he shattered Jesse’s right arm. Evans took refuge in the Shedd Ranch and from there was taken under arrest to Fort Stanton. He was released soon afterward.

On February 18, 1879, Evans and friends met with Billy the Kid in Lincoln. The Lincoln County War was over by this time, its major participants either dead or scattered. The Kid sent Jesse Evans a note at Fort Stanton suggesting a talk. The two men, plus friends, met that evening in Lincoln and essentially agreed that from that moment on neither side would threaten or harm the other. Then, to celebrate the pact and to prove they were great friends, they went on a drunken spree, bumping into Houston Chapman, an attorney representing Susan McSween. By some accounts, Jesse Evans shot him, by others it was Billy the Kid. In this instance, not only did the bullet kill Chapman, but the powder set his clothes afire.

On March 5, Jesse Evans was arrested, charged with Chapman’s murder, and jailed at Fort Stanton. Within days, he escaped. He now fled to Fort Davis, Texas, robbed a store, and on July 3, 1880, engaged in a gunfight during which he killed a civilian and a Texas Ranger, George Bingham. The rangers captured Evans and tried him for murder. He entered the Huntsville, Texas, penitentiary on December 1, 1880. Then in May, while on a work detail, he escaped and vanished. All efforts to trace him from that moment on have come to naught.

Life among the Inuit

The Last Gentleman Adventurer: Coming of Age in the Arctic

By Edward Beauclerk Maurice (2004)

This book is the memoirs of a young man who went to work for the Hudson Bay Company in the 1930s.

The book contains absolutely fascinating anecdotes of life among the Inuit.

Unlike many other HBC agents, the author learned the language and made many friends. Also a very tragic book, as many of his friends died of various illnesses.

The most horrible account is when eleven Inuit out of a band of about thirty died after eating from a rotting whale carcass they found washed up on the beach. The Inuit had plenty of other food (fish and birds) at the time, so it was never clear why they chose to eat the whale meat.

While Europe Slept

While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West From Within

By Bruce Bawer (2006)

The central theme of the book is that Muslims are prejudiced against homosexuals.

The author raises several other interesting points, but it always comes back to that central theme.

The author left America because he felt that Americans discriminated against homosexuals. He moved to the Netherlands, where he found the native Dutch to be very accepting of homosexuality, but then Muslims moved in and ruined the neighborhood.

The Whiner

Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy

By Bruce Bartlett (2006)

The author, who worked in the Reagan White House, goes through a long list of ways that W has not lived up to the Reagan ideal.

Bartlett compares W to Nixon, claiming that neither one was a real conservative.

The author raises a number of interesting points, but it is clear that he has an ax to grind.

He lost whatever credibility he might have had with me when he started talking about what a great president Clinton was.

Bartlett probably feels that he documented his case well, since fully one third of the book is made up of appendices, notes, and the index.

I would characterize the author as a whiner.

The Survivor

The Survivor (1964) by Robb White

The author served in the Pacific in WWII, which is the setting for the novel. A Navy pilot joins marines on a recon mission to a Japanese-held island. Everything goes horribly wrong and a lot of good, brave men die. And, once again, that is what war is.

The title is somewhat ironic, since the protagonist does not survive the mission.