The Fadingly Infamous Walter Palmer

I, like many people, was disgusted with the slaying for “sport” of a semi-tame lion in Tanzania, but I never saw a good articulation of just why the act engendered such strong emotion. Until, that is, when after half a century I recently re-read a fiction story by the great John D. MacDonald. The third in his Travis McGee series, A Deadly shade of Gold contains a commentary on the phenomenon that is as pertinent now as it was when it was written in 1965.

After slaying his wounded lion while surrounded by his $50,000 coterie of trackers and protectors, Walter Palmer is apparently back drilling teeth these days, his notoriety fading even as Cecil’s noble head graces the wall of his den. But the distaste lingers and the coarser elements of human nature endure. Here’s how Travis McGee put it 60 year ago:

I do not like the killers, and the killing bravely and well crap. I do not like the bully boys, the Teddy Roosevelts, the Hemingways, the Ruarks. They are merely slightly more sophisticated versions of the New Jersey file clerks who swarm into the Adirondacks in the fall, in red cap, beard stubble and taut hero’s grin, talking out of the side of their mouths, exuding fumes of bourbon, come to slay the ferocious white-tail deer. It is the search for balls.

A man should have one chance to bring something down. He should have his shot at something, a shining running something, and see it come a-tumbling down, all mucus and steaming blood stench and gouted excrement, the eyes going dull during the final muscle spasms. And if he is, in all parts and purposes, a man, he will file that away as a part of his process of growth and life and eventual death.

And if he is perpetually, hopelessly a boy, he will lust to go do it again, with a bigger beast. They have all their earnest rationalizations about game control. It is good for animals to shoot them. It may serve some purpose to gut shoot them with a plastic arrow. We have so bitched up the various ecologies in all our areas, game control is a necessity. But it should be done by professionals paid to do it, the ones who cherish the healthy flocks, the ones who do not get their charge out of going bang at something with thrice the animal dignity they can ever attain.

I do violate my own concepts by slaying the occasional fish. And eating him. But spare me the brotherhood of the blood sports, the hairy ones, all the way from Macmillan and his forty grouse a day to some snot kid who tries to slay every species of big game in the world, with the assistance of his doting daddy.

There is one thing which strikes me as passing strange. Never have I met a man who had the infantry memories, who had knocked down human meat and seen it fall, who ever had any stomach for shooting living things. I could not imagine Paul Dominguez ever shooting even a marauding crow. He would need no romantic fantasies about himself. His manhood would need no artifical reinforcing.

Source:  Macdonald, John D. (2013-01-08). A Deadly Shade of Gold: A Travis McGee Novel (pp. 311-312). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.  A true copy except that I have fiddled with the paragraphing some.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


Last Sunday a local columnist here in Joplin, one Geoff Caldwell, wrote that Senate Democrats had dishonored all on the 9/11 anniversary, and that includes all the war dead from ” . . . Valley Forge to Vicksburg, Bastogne to Baghdad, to the 9/11 sky above Pennsylvania, . . . ”  Their sin?  They used the filibuster to prevent the president from having to veto a bill condemning the anti-nuclear treaty with Iran.  Of course, for some reason the writer failed to call for an end to the filibuster rule.

I was inspired to write the following letter to my editor:


credit: democratic

Demagogue. n. Someone who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.

A demagogue is identifiable. He generalizes the opposing party as collectively faulty or evil. He wraps himself in the flag and proclaims the other party unpatriotic or even traitorous. (Perhaps surprising to some, Democrats can be patriotic.) He directly or by inference denigrates cultures and religions different from his own. He promotes American military action as the prime solution to world problems, this despite the obvious nation-building failures of Vietnam and the trillion-dollar mistake that was the second Iraq war. War is cathartic and quick, the aftermaths not so much.

He appeals to fear, such as fear of terrorism. But according to the NY Times, since 9/11:

 . . . nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists . . .



In his farewell address, George Washington spoke of the dangers of political parties, something he knew well from Europe’s experience. John Adams agreed. They knew that compromise and cooperation were essential. Their fears have proved well founded. Partisanship reached the breaking point in 1861 and has resulted in gridlock and near government shutdown during the past 7 years. The American experiment is in danger. Two wars proved that military might alone can not fix the world and we cannot afford to rebuild the world in our image, even if it would accept the offer.

Demagoguery is thick in the current primary campaigns. Will “we the people” let it win the day?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Cautionary Tale of Two Religions

The evening television news has of late been reporting on a massive migration of refugees out of the warring regions of Libya, Syria, and Somalia into Europe. A van filled with some 50 dead bodies of men, women and children was found in Austria. Dismal tent cities have sprung up, including one near the French end of the Chunnel where nightly forays are made by desperate people wanting to walk 31.4 miles to England. One might think that such things are unprecedented but they are not, nor is the the kind of religious hatred powering the wars.

This was brought home to me by a shocking article in the New Yorker magazine’s issue of June 29. Titled The Great Divide, it reviews the causes and events of the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent by its British colonial masters in August, 1947, two years after World War II and at a time when the 10-year-old me was learning in my geography and history books about quaint foreign cultures. So far as I know, those text books never did catch up to the reality that was happening and despite having bachelor’s degree and a master’s, and despite having a lifelong interest in history and the news, I was ignorant of the details until now. An excerpt of the article:

In August, 1947, when, after three hundred years in India, the British finally left, the subcontinent was partitioned into two independent nation states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Immediately, there began one of the greatest migrations in human history, as millions of Muslims trekked to West and East Pakistan (the latter now known as Bangladesh) while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction. Many hundreds of thousands never made it.

DAMASCUS, SYRIA - JANUARY 31:  In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues.  (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)

These are Syrian refugees, but the message is the same. Credit:

Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for almost a millennium attacked each other in a terrifying outbreak of sectarian violence, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other—a mutual genocide as unexpected as it was unprecedented. In Punjab and Bengal—provinces abutting India’s borders with West and East Pakistan, respectively—the carnage was especially intense, with massacres, arson, forced conversions, mass abductions, and savage sexual violence. Some seventy-five thousand women were raped, and many of them were then disfigured or dismembered.

Nisid Hajari, in “Midnight’s Furies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), his fast-paced new narrative history of Partition and its aftermath, writes, “Gangs of killers set whole villages aflame, hacking to death men and children and the aged while carrying off young women to be raped. Some British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazi death camps claimed Partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies; infants were found literally roasted on spits.”

By 1948, as the great migration drew to a close, more than fifteen million people had been uprooted, and between one and two million were dead. The comparison with the death camps is not so far-fetched as it may seem. Partition is central to modern identity in the Indian subcontinent, as the Holocaust is to identity among Jews, branded painfully onto the regional consciousness by memories of almost unimaginable violence. The acclaimed Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal has called Partition “the central historical event in twentieth century South Asia.” She writes, “A defining moment that is neither beginning nor end, partition continues to influence how the peoples and states of postcolonial South Asia envisage their past, present and future.”

After the Second World War, Britain simply no longer had the resources with which to control its greatest imperial asset, and its exit from India was messy, hasty, and clumsily improvised. From the vantage point of the retreating colonizers, however, it was in one way fairly successful. Whereas British rule in India had long been marked by violent revolts and brutal suppressions, the British Army was able to march out of the country with barely a shot fired and only seven casualties. Equally unexpected was the ferocity of the ensuing bloodbath.

The question of how India’s deeply intermixed and profoundly syncretic culture unravelled so quickly has spawned a vast literature. The polarization of Hindus and Muslims occurred during just a couple of decades of the twentieth century, but by the middle of the century it was so complete that many on both sides believed that it was impossible for adherents of the two religions to live together peacefully. Recently, a spate of new work has challenged seventy years of nationalist mythmaking. There has also been a widespread attempt to record oral memories of Partition before the dwindling generation that experienced it takes its memories to the grave.

I submit that the parallels to the second Iraq War are unmistakable. Angrily

Credit:  Time, Inc.

Credit: Time, Inc.

determined to round up the usual suspects because of 9/11, America attacked the thuggishly brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, confident in our hubris that we would be greeted as saviors and would thereby make out of the two conflicting religions an island of peace in the Middle East.  The control Hussein wielded over the majority

Sunni’s was broken and we made everything worse, much worse.

How could this happen? I don’t think I am the only one with delayed knowledge of this historical catastrophe?  There was no shortage of egg heads in the Bush administration who should have known of it, not least of whom was Dr. Condoleezza Rice who held three degrees in political science and had served one term as National Security Adviser. Perhaps her text books also omitted from essential history events that society prefers to ignore. Even now there is a strong movement in the GOP to deemphasize from history text books material that is critical of our nation. Even more to the point, ought we not think soberly about this example as we consider the statements of contenders for the presidency during the present campaign?   Do they have a sense of history?  Do they have gravitas?  Do they react emotionally?  Do they take slights personally?  Do they display some humility about power?  These things matter.  Stuff happens.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Reality Show Becomes Nightmare

As a reborn Democrat I often get cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile the news with the GOP party line.  A good example of this is an article in USA the Today news section

What?  Me Worry?

What? Me Worry?

entitled, As construction heats up, so does worker shortage.  According to the CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, the shortage of workers is an “epidemic”.  One large-company builder for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic region says he could increase his revenue 50% if he had adequate laborers.    The article adds that “competition for workers is so intense that “rivals routinely poach his workers ” . . . by offering small increases in pay.”

I find this just amazing, especially considering the recession that has now faded into the background.  Remember the financial cliff  the Tea Party had their shorts in a knot over?  Whatever happened to that?  They had everyone so convinced of this that they were nearly able to shut down the whole government over it.

Here in Joplin, home-building proceeds apace, especially since the 2011 tornado, but even in non-affected areas like our small development.  With some 50 homes, it sees about 3 new houses built per year and I can’t help but notice that much of the work, particularly framing, concrete and masonry, the grunt stuff, is done by Hispanic workers.  I suspect many are illegals.  From bricklaying to driveways, they do quality work – the average house price here is probably $300,000.  I wonder what would happen to the prices if Donald Trump is able to deport, or self-deport all these guys?  Hmm.  Probably something like happened in Alabama several years ago when its legislature passed draconian anti-immigrant laws and Hispanics fled the state.  It was devastating to the economy and especially to farming, not to mention the human costs.

Donald Trump and those like him, Cruz and Walker included for sure, ignores reality when he talks wildly about deporting 11 millions of people.  His expertise is playing Monopoly with other peoples’ money and sometimes going bankrupt in the process.  Now he wants to do it with the whole country.  Is this a reality show, or just the beginning of a national nightmare?  

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

My Visit With Galloping Gertie

Jim Wheeler:

I wanted to reblog this, a fine travelogue because of the quality pictures!

Originally posted on JAR Blog:

One of the teaching units I enjoyed most in my physics classroom was on wave motions. Almost everything is capable of some sort of waving motion, or oscillation. The motions come in a wide range of frequencies and amplitudes dependent upon the object. Smaller objects tend to have high frequencies and small amplitudes. Large objects tend to have low frequencies and large amplitudes of motion. It is a fascinating field of study.

Some objects respond to an input of energy of some specific frequency and begin oscillating with the same frequency as the source. Their motion can grow in amplitude as the source of energy continues. A simple example is a pendulum with a child on a swing. Pushing the child at the right time inputs energy to drive the amplitude larger. The energy of drawing a violin bow across the strings of a violin sets some of the strings into vibrations that are large…

View original 487 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s Not US, It’s THEM!

Jim Wheeler:

My record on women’s issues is not very good, but here is a reblogged post that I totally respect on the abortion issue.

Originally posted on FiftyFourandAHalf:

You probably can’t tell from my blog posts, but I love words.  I love the sound of them, the feel of them in my mouth and at my fingertips.  How changing just one word can transform a sentence from shit to shinola.

So I love it when somebody proves me right-ish.  Or like I’m in the right pew.

For decades one term has bothered me.  “Pro-Choice.”

Abortion ain’t a “whole wheat or rye” sort of “choice.”

So I’ve had my thinking cap on for all that time, trying to think of a better way to say it.  What else could it be called?  What word can express the magnitude of that decision for any woman.

And am I the person to come up with it anyway?  You see, I never had an abortion.  I never was able to get pregnant.  So perhaps it isn’t my role.

But I do know…

View original 607 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

10 Easy Questions For The Republican Presidential Debates

Originally posted on List of X:

This is how the stage of the Republican debate would look like if all candidates were allowed to participate. This is how the stage of the Republican debate would look like if all candidates were allowed to participate.

The 2016 presidential campaign is now in full swing, and there already seem to be at least several hundred Republicans who have declared that they are running for president – Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, just to name a few. To manage the onslaught of the candidates, Fox News, which is hosting the first Republican primary debate on August 6, has already limited the debate to top 10 candidates. (I guess Fox is working on its own list of 10…) However, even with just 10 candidates Fox will face a challenge in how to give every one of them an opportunity to give an extended answer…

View original 509 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments