Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From the Shelves of the Paco Library


The invasion of Britain by the legions of the Emperor Claudius, under the command of General Plautius, which began in A.D. 43, represented the first sustained attempt to bring the northern isles permanently within the confines of the Roman Empire (following upon earlier expeditions, beginning with Julius Caesar). The struggle pitted the battle-hardened, highly disciplined legions against the fiercely independent British tribes led by the chiefs of the Catuvellauni, Togodumnus and Caratacus.

Simon Scarrow has created an excellent series of historical-fiction novels centered on the exploits of two Roman officers, Lucius Cornelius Macro and Quintus Licinius Cato, in the invasion of Britain. Macro is a veteran centurion whose inadequate literacy causes him to lean heavily on Cato, the son of a freedman who had been employed in the Roman bureaucracy. Cato starts out as Macro’s optio (executive officer) and eventually, in spite of his youth, earns promotion to centurion in his own right.

Scarrow is a historian and teacher who brings to his fictional works an enormous amount of comprehensive scholarship in establishing the setting for the series; but equally, if not more, importantly, he is a fine novelist, extraordinarily skilled in spinning out enthralling yarns. I have just finished the fifth book in the series, The Eagle’s Prey, and it is one of those novels that made it a genuine pleasure to get out of bed in the morning, in anticipation of diving into the action during the morning commute to Washington.

In this story, we follow the legions as they attempt to definitively destroy the army of Caratacus; however, General Plautius’ battle plan goes awry when the third cohort of the Second Legion, under the unsure command of Maximius, permits Caratacus to escape with several thousand of his troops. General Plautius, advised (or rather, threatened) by Narcissus, a highly-placed Greek slave who has become the Emperor’s closest advisor, to make an example of the third cohort, sentences the unit to decimation (over the objections of the Second Legion’s commander, Vespasian). Cato is one of the unfortunate soldiers who draws a losing ticket in this lottery of death, and how he and his men escape and redeem themselves forms the bulk of this exciting novel.

In addition to the fine plotting and non-stop action, Scarrow’s books are a (sometimes comical) testimony to the fact that many of the basic features of army life have been the same since time immemorial. The dreary marching and countermarching, the constant drilling, the ferocious sergeants, the enlisted man’s disdain for officers, and the keen insight into the average soldier’s toughness in battle (he’s not fighting for his Emperor or his unit’s standard, he’s fighting to keep himself and his friends alive, and to avoid the shame of succumbing to an often heart-felt desire to run away).

If you haven’t had the pleasure of slogging along with Macro and Cato, you’re in for a treat. Start with the first book in the series, Under the Eagle, and go from there.

The Evil-Empire State Building



H/T: NetRight Nation.

Wronwright, McEnroe; Call the Office

All right, how the hell did this leak out? Karl is going to be...miffed, to say the least.

Mt. Vernon

Mrs. Paco and I made a day trip to George Washington's estate in Mt. Vernon today, and had a great time. The skies were a bit overcast, and the air was cool, so we were able to walk the grounds in comfort. Like the tourists we are, we took a few pictures:

Here's a view of the front of the house. The siding is made of pine, but cunningly cut, with beveled edges, and painted with a whitewash mixed with sand, to look like stone. About 80% of the siding is original, from Washington's day.



This is the back of the house, which faces the Potomac River.



The views of the river are breathtaking.



Ah! The dung repository. I included this because it was the occasion of my learning a new word: stercorary (a covered place for keeping animal dung).



This is one of Washington's sport-model wagons.



Washington noted in his will that he wished to be buried on the grounds of his estate. This is the original tomb...



...and this is the "new" one, completed in 1831.



It was a little windy today, so Mrs. Paco had a case of wild-gypsy-woman hair.



This is a pretty brick-path leading from the small wharf back to the main house.



We couldn't take pictures inside of the house, but the place is quite impressive. The paneling in the entry-way is beautiful, and there are, I believe, nine bedrooms. The study had a magnificent glass-fronted bookcase, filled with books actually owned by Washington.

There is a museum on the premises, many interesting outbuildings, a working farm, livestock, a lovely forest trail - it's a wonderful place that is lovingly maintained as a tribute to a great American. If you're ever in the neighborhood, don't miss it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What I Want for Christmas in 2016

Please, oh, PLEASE let it be so.

I Can Just See the 404 Error When I Go to Download It

We will one day be able to upload our brains.

Hey, what gives?


So, I’m goin’ tru my emails an’ I see one from de Daley Gator an’ he’s braggin’ about bein’ included on a right-wing mob list put out by some internet reds callin’ demselves Media Matters. Anyhow, I click on over to dis bolshie outfit and I read tru de article and guess who’s conspickyoos by his absence? Yers truly, dat’s whom! Yeh, youse hoid right; Paco Enterprises ain’t nowhere to be seen. For cryin’ out loud, it’s like I’m an extra on de set a’ Little Caesar, jus’ some goomba pushin’ a’ ice-cream cart aroun’ in de background. Whaddaya t’ink a’ dat, boys?



Dat’s a helluva note, boss!



We wuz robbed!



Leave us pay a little visit to dis alligator guy wit’ a baseball bat, Chief!

Steady, boys, steady! De last t’ing we want is a gang war. For now, we’ll be big about dis business and jus’ wish de Gator congratulations. But don't get cocky, wise guy. An' stay outta de North Side.

Snark and Boobs

No, not what you think. It's a great blog I stumbled across while paying one of my daily visits to Ed Driscoll.

Also via Ed Driscoll: Marquette University makes a bold stand against dangerous radical propagandist... Dave Barry?!?

Picture, Thousand Words


H/T: Babalu

Vive L'Empereur!



Fools! Ignorant proles! Sans culottes!

When I ran for president on a platform of change, wasn’t it obvious that I meant daily change? As a great strategist – and if you doubt my bona fides, I suggest that you study both my primary and my general election campaigns – I have learned that the tired, retrograde policies of a few months ago are no longer relevant to the world as it exists today; and, for that matter, the strategy of today may well be out of date by the Friday news dump.

Oh, sure, when I was campaigning, I was loud and clear in my declarations that Afghanistan was the real seat of our battle against man-made disaster. But my views have evolved since then, armed, as I am now, with many additional facts (and, of course, the victory in the presidential election). It is a time for mulling over the situation, studying all of the relevant data, weighing the input from my advisors, perhaps tweeting General McChrystal - if I have time, before my all-important trip to Copenhagen to lobby for Chicago’s bid to host the Olympic games.

As another great military genius once put it, “Order marches with weighty and measured strides. Disorder is always in a hurry” (Unless we’re talking about health care and cap-and-trade legislation, where time is of the essence). Once I have assembled every conceivable piece of information, I will feed the problem into my infallible decision model, and my action, if any, will be swift.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hollywood Circles the BMWs...

...in order to protect convicted child-rapist Roman Polanski.

But of course! He is a member of the intelligentsia, he is an artiste, he is one of them.

I guarantee you, if we were talking about Joe Nobody instead of the director of Chinatown, law enforcement authorities would be receiving kudos for bringing a cold case to closure, and the only person howling about the felon's "victimhood" would be his own mother (maybe; Joe's ma might just as well be bellowing that she always knew the little bastard would come to no good and it was high time justice caught up with him).

Update: Kate Harding at Salon minces no words (H/T: friend and commenter Jeff).

Update II: So, Polanski's in a fighting mood, is he? What does that mean? He's going to slit the D.A.'s nose with a switchblade?

Update III: Smitty at The Other McCain weighs in. Great observation: "It's not so much a dark Kafka moment of the Law attacking an individual, but a bifurcation of the idea of equality under the law into a common and elite branch of law."

Worst. President. Ever.

Let me get this straight. Our troops are engaged in bloody warfare in Afghanistan, the commanding general in that theater is asking for more soldiers, Obama can't find the time to make a decision on what he gave us to believe was, in his opinion, the really, truly legitimate war, but he's got time to go to Copenhagen to lobby the Olympics Committee to award the 2016 games to Chicago?

Well, if Chicago does get the nod, I hope Barack Obama will be attending in the capacity of a person who has been a private citizen since January of 2013.

So, Now, Even Pedophilia Can Be "Nuanced"?

Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post thinks child-rapist Roman Polanski deserves a break, and Barack Obama believes that a teacher, who not only failed to report an incident of sexual relations between a 15-year-old boy and a man that the boy had met in a bus station restroom, but who encouraged the boy to continue with the "relationship", is a fine choice to serve as Safe Schools Czar.

Wrong. Just plain wrong. Prime wrong, can't be reduced to something less than wrong.

Kevin Jennings is the next czar who needs to get the boot (if we absolutely have to get rid of them one at a time). And Roman Polanski, who pled guilty to statutory rape (even though the facts indicate that it was out and out rape), and then fled the country, needs to do time, even if he is a movie-land idol.

America: It is Still the Home of the Brave

Friend and commenter Nashville Cat sends sad word of the passing of Ryan Job, a member of the Navy Seals who recently died after reconstructive surgery. Ryan had been blinded due to combat injuries sustained in Iraq. He was 28 years old. N.C. sent a news video about Ryan, which is definitely worth a look:



N.C. also passed on a couple of personal anecdotes about Ryan, which I have edited slightly for the purpose of preserving confidentiality:
When we showed up at the appointed hour [for dinner], Kelly [Ryan’s wife] was not feeling well, so we seized the opportunity to whisk Ryan off for some industrial strength male bonding at his favorite watering hole. Well, of course, we had a blast. After we got him modestly snozzled, and he found out about our slightly unsavory law enforcement backgrounds and attitudes, he loosened up and displayed his wicked sense of humor. One quick example: Ryan leaned over and invited us to peer into his prosthetic eye. There, deep within, was a tiny gold SEAL emblem (what SEALs call a “Budweiser”).

A couple of weeks later, I suggested to X that he take Ryan shooting at the range where X is a member. Sure enough, Ryan jumped at the chance to smell some gunpowder. The owner put them in one of the VIP lanes. X gave Ryan verbal corrections and the range to target and when he was lined up, X would tell him, “Send it.” So well trained are SEALs that Ryan was producing some excellent groups. There was only one other shooter and he was in the adjacent lane. During a reloading break, he asked X why he was giving Ryan directions and X replied, “Because he’s blind.” The guy looked at Ryan’s target, then at his own, and just packed up and left. He was being out-shot by a blind man!
May God rest the soul of this courageous patriot, and comfort his friends and family.

Barack Obama and the Doctrine of Self-Containment

After the Second World War, geopolitical theorist George Kennan developed the doctrine of containment, whereby every aggressive action taken by large communist states would be met with an equal and opposite reaction.

President Obama, who fancies himself to be something of a geopolitical thinker, too, is pushing his own new doctrine, which I suppose can be called self-containment: the withdrawal of American influence and power from around the world based on the assumption that the United States is in no way an exceptional nation, and that its historical self-identification as such is, on balance, a cause of international instability. Combine this extraordinary foreign-policy view with his attempts to turn the U.S. into a European-style socialist country, and to create a polity which rests on lax immigration restrictions and permanent interest group rivalry, and what you wind up with is a sort of Austro-Hungarian Empire - without the imperial trappings, but with all of the late regime’s abysmal weaknesses in the international sphere, including a fatal lack of military strength (plus, of course, the suffocating bureaucratic apparatus of a government intent on constantly meddling with the economy).

So America has gone from being a “shining city on a hill” to just another non-descript burg on the international equivalent of highway US 1. This is a vision that is not shared by a majority of our citizens, and I believe they will start showing their rejection of this philosophy in 2010.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Random Talk

1) Big Lizards justly honors Beldar for his excellent, yet succinct, diagnosis of the Obama administration.

2) Mark Steyn continues to bat 1.000.

3) Pundit & Pundette cull a highly questionable anecdote from the load of blather that the President delivered in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus.

4) Richard McEnroe says beer is better than wine. I am swayed by his logic.

5) I find myself disagreeing with George Will more frequently these days than in the past; however, I sure hope he's right about this.

Accept No Substitutes

Just wanted to go on record and point out a few more things that have no connection with yours truly:

1) The Pakistan Automobile Corporation.

2) The Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra.

3) The Package Organizer.

4) And very definitely not this stuff.

Hey, Now, What's That Smell...

P.J. O'Rourke reflects on Woodstock.

Happy Anniversary!

Something...and Half of Something recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. If you like to see liberals and other morons deep-fried in their own fat by someone who maintains a zero-tolerance policy toward political correctness and other forms of intellectual cowardice, you'll enjoy Linda's blog (I know I do).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunday Funny

An ambulance driver goes in hot pursuit of his patient (H/T: Ricketyclick).

Also, talked to Bro Paco on the phone Thursday. He saw Gaddafi on tv and said "Man, he looks like he stanks!" I saw a photo of him taken during his nearly endless speech, and, yeah, I'd say Bro is right on the money; dude looks like he just took a bath in camel urine.

The Pressure; Keep It On

There have been a number of fascinating events over the last few weeks highlighting our President's dangerous foreign policy delusions, as well as a couple of sideshows featuring some of his political appointments (Van Jones, for example). And there is, of course, the sudden (apparent) collapse of ACORN as a result of the efforts of a couple of young people with a video camera.

But the health care issue is still floating around out there like the flying island of Laputa, overshadowing everything else, so it's important that we keep the pressure on. One recent, and very important, development is the discovery that the Democrats have it in mind to criminalize non-compliance. You don't want to buy health insurance? No problem, as long as you don't mind going to jail.

Update: Sure, they think we're probably too stupid to understand the complicated details, but they're not taking any chances (H/T: Carol's closet).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rule 5 Saturday

The Horne gets blue and low-down in this rendition of “Unlucky Woman.” The great Teddy Wilson and his band provide the instrumental.

The Company He Keeps

Hey, it's happened to all of us from time to time, right? You have a pal, he gets into some kind of trouble, you go out on a limb to offer support, you tell him you'll go to the mat for him - and then, after you've invested your prestige in defending him, he goes out in public and claims that he's being bombarded by radiation and poison gas, and that Israeli mercenaries are trying to assassinate him. So, do you cut him off or double down? If you're Barack Obama, you dig in, continue to publicly support your pal, and maybe secretly hope the poison gas relieves you of the friend who has become an embarrassing political liability.


Help! I'm Mel Zelaya and I'm being zapped with deadly Jew rays!!!

Czar Mania

How many czars does the President have? Twenty-seven, according to this list at Free Market Mojo. True, some of these positions were created by Obama's predecessors, and at least one czar – Van Jones – has been given the boot (but as far as I know, the position still exists and will be refilled).

But why so many? Do we really need a “Great Lakes Czar”? And surely the appointment of a “Guantanamo Closure Czar” is temporary? Or maybe not, since this is another issue on which the President can’t seem to make up his mind. I see no reason why most of these jobs couldn’t be folded into existing federal agencies – or, even better, eliminated altogether.

Update: More from Ric's Rulez.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Useless Nations

Let’s face it. The U.N. has become a sort of comedy club for evil clowns. Chavez. Gaddafi. Ahmadinejad.

Of course, their humor is in extremely bad taste. And the emcee is a fool.

Happy Feet Friday

Teddy Powell and his orchestra swing out, with some especially fine trumpet and drum solos.

Vacation

I started vacation today, and will be out all next week. We’re not planning on going anywhere, except for maybe a couple of day trips, so I had thought that might mean more (maybe even excessive) posting. But now I’m not so sure. Mrs. Paco, ominously, has broken out her “to do” list. It has given me a feeling similar to what I imagine a nervous defendant in a Victorian–era English courtroom would feel, while he watches the bewigged judge fish around among his papers looking for the square of black silk.

I hope to spread the chores out, however, so as to at least create the illusion of periodic relaxation. Meanwhile, be sure to pay a visit to Tim Blair’s wayward children.

1) Boy on a Bike warns us about one of the hazards of growing old: there’s not always somebody around to vet our wardrobe.

2) Mr. Bingley spots the AP cruising through an alternative universe.

3) That wild man of the web, TimT, takes a look at the dark underside of “kniterature.”

4) Richard McEnroe – a protestor’s protestor – brings us word of the Whole Foods “buycott” in Pasadena

5) kae has spooky pictures of a dust storm. I drove through one of these in Phoenix one time; scary, but awesome.

From the Shelves of the Paco Library


In addition to his series featuring casts of regulars – Wooster and Jeeves, the Blandings Castle crowd, Ukridge – P.G. Wodehouse wrote numerous “one-off” novels and short-stories in which the reader encounters non-recurring characters. The inside joke, of course, is that the author’s non-recurring characters represented well-established types, so that one might say they weren’t non-recurring at all, they simply reappeared under different names.

The Girl on the Boat (first published in 1922) is one of those increasingly rare treasures: a Wodehouse novel that I have not read before. Sam Marlowe, a young, handsome and athletic fellow who has been putting off entering his father’s law firm, has been visiting the United States and is preparing for his return to England. He is introduced to the beautiful red-head Wilhelmina - Billie – Bennett through the not atypical Wodehousian device of being bitten by her Pekingese. Billie was recently engaged to be married to Eustace Hignett – one of those sensitive poetic coves – but on the day the marriage ceremony was to take place, Eustace’s mother – Mrs. Horace Hignett - who had just found about the secret wedding plan and who was adamantly opposed to the whole idea, defeats the scheme through the simple expedient of stealing all of her son’s trousers. Another suitor for Billie’s hand is Bream Mortimer, the son of a wealthy American who wants to rent Mrs. Hignett’s English estate for the summer.

The novel is a variation on the age-old theme: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. But in Wodehouse’s hands, the theme is, of course, enlivened by wildly imaginative farce and an endless stream of golden metaphors and similes. Here are a few delightful samples:
About this time there was a good deal of suffering in the United States, for nearly every boat that arrived from England was bringing a fresh swarm of British lecturers to the country. Novelists, poets, scientists, philosophers, and plain, ordinary bores; some herd instinct seemed to affect them all simultaneously. It was like one of those great race movements of the Middle Ages.

Bream Mortimer was tall and thin. He had small bright eyes and a sharply curving nose. He looked much more like a parrot than most parrots do. It gave strangers a momentary shock of surprise when they saw Bream Mortimer in restaurants, eating roast beef. They had the feeling that he would have preferred sunflower seeds.

Ships’ concerts are given in aid of the Seamen’s Orphans and Widows, and, after one has been present at a few of them, one seems to feel that any right-thinking orphan or widow would rather jog along and take a chance of starvation than be the innocent cause of such things.
As is also fairly common in Wodehouse’s novels, it is not just humans who are splendidly drawn:
Between Smith and the humans who provided him with dog-biscuits and occasionally with sweet cakes there had always existed a state of misunderstanding which no words could remove. The position of the humans was quite clear; they had elected Smith to his present position on a straight watch-dog ticket. They expected him to be one of those dogs who rouse the house and save the spoons. They looked to him to pin burglars by the leg and hold on till the police arrived. Smith simply could not grasp such an attitude of mind. He regarded Windles not as a private house but as a social club, and was utterly unable to see any difference between the human beings he knew and the strangers who dropped in for a late chat after the place was locked up.
This is an extraordinarily fun romp through that unique world of love-smitten young suitors, strong-willed women, grumpy millionaires, and memorable dogs that the Master created and made his own. The volume I bought is published by the Overlook Press, which is bringing out handsome new editions of Wodehouse’s works, complete with fine cover art.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Now That's Foreign Policy Stuff I Would Read

A pity, a thousand pities, that Stacy McCain does not spend more time writing foreign policy articles.

Hey, Barry; God Did Not Go On Vacation, And He Did Not Leave You In Charge

I have often wondered, in recent months, about the respective proportions of design and incompetence in the Obama administration. After much study, meditation and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that the incompetence, though abundant, is not the main threat; this government, rather, is little more than a political demolition derby, and Barry plans on being the only one who can drive off of the track at the end of the race. I believe that he is consciously trying to destroy America’s institutions and traditions in order to remake our country in his own image.

It is difficult to see what other conclusion one can draw from the long (and growing) list of destructive domestic and foreign policy initiatives that this arrogant regime is foisting on the United States: porkulus, cash-for-clunkers, the nationalization of health care, trillion-dollar deficits, the bullying of Israel and Honduras, the cosseting of leftist thugs, the abandonment of our commitment to the independence of eastern Europe, the coming abandonment of our war against the terrorists in Afghanistan, the truckling to the Iranian theocrats, etc., etc., ad nauseum. This is the most dangerous president in history, bar none.

One term and out, folks. Let us pray.

Bob Belvedere is Now Head of the Marketing Division at Paco Enterprises

Why, you ask? This is why:



Yeah, I know, I know. Detective Paco looks a lot like George Raft. Everybody says that.

Check out Bob's blog, Camp of the Saints, for this poster and many other fine things. And check it every day!

Perversity Diversity Czar

Mark Lloyd thinks that white folks ought to get out of the way and that Hugo Chavez is swell.

Lloyd, one of Obama’s many czars, underscores the problem when you have an activist president who will try every way he can to circumvent the normal channels of governance by subverting transparency and transferring extraordinary authority to appointees who never receive a public vetting.

This clown needs to go.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

True Story, or Load of B.S.? Or Both?

According to this story, a 6,000-acre fire near the California town of Moorpark may have been the result of the spontaneous combustion of cow manure.

Animals Can Tell

From the distinguished Smitty, of The Other McCain, I received an email which included a link to this story at the Bluegrass Pundit (the perfect followup to my latest Detective Paco yarn).

BTW, Captain Heinrichs passes along a recipe for roast camel.

Detective Paco in "The Case of the Hot Camel" (Conclusion)

Through a combination of Wronwright’s mother-camel impersonations and the brawn of the Stuyvesant’s two stocky sons, we were able to get Camilla in the horse-trailer with little trouble. Night had fallen, and it looked as if we had a good chance of avoiding detection by any Libyan snoops who might have been watching from the embassy. We hit the road and, after getting lost and shuffling a third of the way to Buffalo, we backtracked and, in the wee hours of the morning, finally found the narrow rural road that ran past the Stuyvesant’s farm.

“There!” Wronwright said. “See that huge mail-box? ‘The Stuyvesants’”.

I turned up a gravel drive, which snaked for nearly a fifth of a mile through pasture land and ended at a large, white clapboard house with what appeared to be a genuine tin roof. This was definitely the place, all right; the Stuyvesants’ truck and trailer were parked outside the garage. There was a light burning by the front door, and it looked as if some of the interior lights were on, too. I parked our rig, and Wronwright and I got out, stretching luxuriously after the long trip. Camilla had been bleating piteously for the last hour, so we took her out and hitched her to the white rail fence that ran along the front of the house; then, we walked onto the porch, and I tapped lightly on the screen door. I heard Freddie’s voice invite us in.

And there they were, sitting on a sofa in the parlor; however, the couple had become a trio. Freddie and Minnie held down one end of the couch, while a clean-shaven man with curly, iron gray hair and an olive complexion held down the other. But what I was mainly interested in was the MAC-10 machine pistol that the stranger was holding on my clients.

A smile creased the gunman’s face. “Come in, my friends, and join the party!”

We sidled into the room and stood facing them. As bad as the situation looked, my mind was occupied with the stranger’s physiognomy. I hadn’t met the man before, but I knew that face.

Freddie was wearing the most woebegone expression I had ever seen. “I’m sorry, Detective Paco. I could have sworn that I had rattled this fellow.”

“’Shaken’ him, dear”, Minnie corrected her husband.

“Yes, that’s right. I was sure that I had shaken him, so I headed here to the farm. Imagine our surprise when he came pushing his way into the house a few minutes after we arrived.”

Oh, I could imagine their surprise, all right. I was feeling a considerable wave of that particular emotion myself.

The gunman, who apparently felt that he wasn’t getting his fair share of good lines, horned in on the conversation.

“In my country, camel rustling is considered a grave offense.”

“In your country?” I inquired.

“Yes. Libya, of course.”

And then it clicked. I finally recognized him, from photos I had seen in the paper.

“Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi,” I muttered. “The Lockerbie bomber.”

Al-Megrahi opened his eyes wide, and a wicked smile once again spread across his map.

“Fortunately, that’s not what my passport says, Detective Paco.”

The Stuyvesants gasped, and threw their arms around each other.

“So,” I said, “you’re back in the saddle with Libyan Security again, are you?”

“Well,” he chuckled, with fake modesty, “Gaddafi seems to think I’m pretty good at it. And this little venture was child’s play.”

Minnie said, in a low, trembling voice. “But you were released from prison because you were terminally ill.”

Our new friend laughed. “It seems that the doctors – my compatriots, you’ll remember – turned out to be quite mistaken in their diagnosis. You have no idea how surprised and relieved I was to hear it.”

I stared at him with disgust. “We share your surprise, but you’ll have to pardon us for not joining in your relief.”

He shrugged, and brandished the gun in my direction. “A pity you have recognized me, Detective Paco. It looks like you and your partner, there, have – how do you say? – ‘bought the farm.’ I will take care of you two, first, and then this charming old couple can help me transport the camel back to the embassy. Your husband will drive the trailer, Mrs. Stuyvesant, and you will ride with me in my car – as a guarantee of good conduct by your better half. And I really must insist that you both stay at the embassy and enjoy our hospitality. Now, let’s get going. Hands held high over your head, if you please” He motioned us toward the front door with his gun.

We filed out of the house and gathered around Camilla. Al-Megrahi, covering us with the MAC-10, patted her head. “She doesn’t look any the worse for her little trip.” He slowly began to circle the camel. I whispered to Wronwright. “Have you got any of those butane burritos handy?”

Wronwright pursed his lips. “How can you think of eating at a time like this?”

“Just slip one to me!”

“All I’ve got left is this half-eaten one.”

“Perfect!”

Wronwright handed me the burrito, which I quickly held up to Camilla’s mouth. She hadn’t had anything to eat for hours, so she greedily wolfed it down. Al-Megrahi was standing directly behind her.

A few seconds later, her eyes almost popped out of her head. She bawled angrily, lowered her head, and began kicking violently with her hind legs. Her hitch broke, and she ran off, vanishing into the night.

I steeled myself to tackle the Libyan, who I figured would have been startled by the bucking camel, maybe (I sincerely hoped) dropping his guard as a result. But he had simply dropped, period. He was sprawled on the ground, to all appearances gazing up at the stars, and he had a curious indentation on his forehead that looked remarkably like the footprint of a camel.

I kneeled down to inspect him more closely, checking his pulse, and then stood up and wiped my hands on my pants. “Mr. and Mrs. Stuyvesant, this man is dead.”

“Oh, dear me,” Minnie practically whispered. “Camilla killed him.”

I shook my head and wagged a finger. “No, ma’am. She executed him.”

Wronwright snapped his fingers and started bellowing. “Hey, I know that one! Witness for the Prosecution!”

“Huh?”

“Charles Laughton has just got Tyrone Power off on a murder charge, but he’s really guilty and his wife, Marlene Dietrich, stabs him, and somebody says, ‘she killed him’, and then Laughton says, ‘No, she executed him’”. He stood there beaming, as if he were nine years old and he’d just won a spelling bee.

“All right, all right,” I muttered. “I didn’t say it was original. But it’s true, folks. This man was a terrorist who masterminded one of the most heinous mass murders in history, and he was released from jail as part of an oil deal, on the obviously false pretext that he was terminally ill. Al-Megrahi still owed justice a debt; this is simply the collection of a payment deferred.”

Payment Deferred! Another great Charles Laughton film, and also very appropriate. You see, Laughton murders his wealthy nephew…”

“Enough with Charles Laughton’s filmography, ok, Wronwright?” While I mulled the situation over, Freddie cleared his throat and spoke up.

“I suppose,” he inquired uncertainly, “that we should call the police?”

I looked at Minnie, who suddenly gave me a coy smile. “Would that be one of the better policies, Detective Paco?”

She was a cool customer, no doubt about it. I grinned in spite of myself. “Yes, but perhaps not the best policy.” Turning to Freddie, I said, “Bringing the police into this matter would just create a lot of confusion. We’d have to explain the whole business about the camel, which you’d have to return to the Libyans, and then there’s this dead terrorist we’ve got on our hands, and who knows what vindictive action Gaddafi might take in connection with his bizarre demise. Tell me something, Mr. Stuyvesant; about that greenhouse of yours…those carnivorous plants of yours just eat bugs, right?”

“Well, they do consume them, but it’s really an opportunistic form of feeding. They draw most of their nutrients from the soil.”

“What do you think your plants would make of a man-sized meal?”

“You mean…bury the fellow in the greenhouse?” Freddie got that wistful look, again, wondering, no doubt, about nature’s short-sightedness in failing to create a species of T-Rex flora.

“Wronwright and I can take care of the burial, your plants get enough fertilizer to last for months, and you get to keep Camilla.”

The Stuyvesants agreed to my proposal, so Wronwright and I performed the necessary task. An hour later, we walked into the house, washed our hands, and were offered some piping hot coffee by our clients.

Freddie seemed a little anxious about the whole thing. Poor fellow, I thought to myself. He probably wasn’t expecting anything this dramatic when he embarked on a life of crime. I sighed, and offered to change the plan. “Mr. Stuyvesant, I realize this is a lot for you to take on. Would you like us to dig up the body and dispose of it somewhere else?” Wronwright shot me an angry stare; he had the aspect of a man who has done all the shovel work he intends to for one day.

“What?” Freddie asked vacantly. “Oh, no, no, I wasn’t thinking about the legal problem of having a corpse buried in the greenhouse. I was just wondering about Mr. al-Megrahi’s acid content.”

“His…what?”

“Well, I’m worried that he may have an adverse effect on the soil’s pH balance. My carnivorous plants are rather sensitive to that sort of thing. How deep did you bury him?”

“The regulation six feet.”

“Oh” he said, greatly relieved. “That ought to be fine, then.”

The new day was dawning, and our attention was arrested by a plaintive bleating noise outside the front door. We all proceeded into the yard, and there was Camilla. One glance at Wronwright, and she began frisking and gamboling with joy. He walked over and let her nuzzle his face one last time. When he turned, he was wiping a tear from his eye. “Damned hay fever”, he said. I pretended to believe him.

My partner and I then discussed our mopping-up operation. He would drive the rented trailer, and I would follow in al-Megrahi’s sedan. We’d both pull over at some likely spot near the state line and abandon the car, then I’d ride with him the rest of the way to Englewood and we’d return the trailer to the Stuyvesants’ sons. Fortified with Minnie’s strong coffee, we said our good-byes and began the long return trip home.

* * *

The scene: the large dining room in the Libyan ambassador’s home in Englewood, New Jersey. The ambassador’s distinguished guest – Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution – sits at one end of the mahogany dining-room table, among a somber group of Libyan diplomatic and security officials. He is attired in one of his more subdued uniforms: a maroon tunic with white Sam Brown belt, and lavender pants tucked into the kind of tall riding boots that J.E.B. Stuart would have envied. There is a moody scowl on his face causing him to resemble an Easter Island statue that has just stubbed its toe.

“So, Mr. Ambassador, there has been no word from al-Megrahi at all?”

“No, Excellency, he seems to have vanished from the face of the earth. He simply said something about being hot on the trail of the stolen camel.”

Gaddafi sighed. It had perhaps been a bad idea to accede to al-Megrahi’s wishes and let him come to the United States to work his terrorist magic against the Number One Enemy. And he had so been looking forward to a dish of roast baby camel meat.

“Well, what’s on the menu, then?”

At that moment, the ambassador’s dining room staff paraded into the room from the kitchen, laden with covered silver dishes. The ambassador nervously fingered his tie and cleared his throat.

“I’m sorry, Excellency, but we had a power outage today and we were not able to prepare the kind of meal that would be truly worthy of your refined person. I am afraid we had to send for take-out.”

A servant placed a dish in front of Gaddafi and removed the cover, revealing two pale, pocket-shaped lumps of food. The Libyan strongman sniffed at it skeptically.

“What is this stuff?”

“Oh, it’s quite good, Excellency! It comes from a local shop that is famous for this specialty. It’s called a “bean burrito.”

Ruh Roh

Oops! Heh. Sorry, I didn't have time to finish the Detective Paco story. Tonight, I promise.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Detective Paco in "The Case of the Hot Camel" (Part II)

A couple of days later, we drove up I-95 in unexpectedly light traffic. The conversation had been pretty light, too.

“Ok, Wronwright, you haven’t said two words in the last three hours. What’s your beef?”

“Paco, you could at least have done the sporting thing and let me know before we got twenty miles out of the city that you expected me to impersonate the rear end of a camel.”

“Is that all that’s bothering you? Relax. You can be the front end if you like. Er, you haven’t been eating any more of those bean burritos, have you?”

“That’s not the point!”

“It sure is the point. It’s kind of close inside that costume.”

“No, no, no, I mean about having to be either end of a camel. It’s…it’s undignified.”

“C’mon, Wronwright! You’ll not only be helping to save the life of a camel puppy…”

“I think they’re called ‘calves’”.

“Whatever. As I was saying, you’ll be saving this creature from a fiery fate, and you’ll also be giving the Libyans one in the eye. And there’s always the most important thing of all; we’re getting paid.”

We rode along in silence for a while, when, suddenly, I heard the rattle of cellophane. “You want a bean burrito?” Wronwright asked, in a conciliatory tone, as he began munching on one.

“No, thanks”, I said, taking the precaution of rolling down the window.

* * * *

We pulled into the Stuyvesant’s driveway in the late afternoon. Their home was quite an impressive old pile: two stories, with a fine stonework façade, a large covered porch, and an attached garage that looked as if it had been added in more recent times. I smiled as I saw the horse-trailer parked in front of one of the three garage doors. Wronwright and I went to the front door (me with a large canvas sack in my arms) and were admitted before we even had a chance to ring the doorbell. Freddie practically yanked us inside.

“Thank goodness you’ve arrived, gentlemen! One of the people from the embassy came by again, asking about the camel, and Camilla started to bleat just as he left. He might have heard her, I don’t know.”

“Take it easy, Mr. Stuyvesant. Everything’s going to be fine. Well, let’s go introduce ourselves to Camilla.”

Freddie began escorting us through the house toward the kitchen, where there was a door leading into the garage. We walked in.

And there she was, standing next to Minnie, who was feeding her some oats out of a sack. I have to say, I always considered camels to be fairly ugly brutes – all hump and neck and spindly legs and stupid faces – but this one was different. In the first place, her coat didn’t look like the living-room carpet in a biker’s mobile home; it was a kind of ivory color, still soft and smooth. Also, she seemed to be lacking that supercilious smirk that grown camels always seem to have. Camilla was all wide-eyed innocence, with a touch of shyness. Plus, she was comparatively pint-sized.

“Come on in, gentlemen,” Minnie said. “She’s quite gentle.”

Wronwright and I edged toward Camilla - side-by-side and slowly, like Siamese twins making their way through a minefield.

“Go ahead, Detective Paco,” Minnie prodded. “Make friends with her.”

I stepped in front of Wronwright and reached out a hand to pat her head. Having decided that I meant her no harm, and apparently still being hungry, she licked her lips and grabbed the Panama hat off my head. I snatched it back – what was left of it.

“What the…that was brand new!” I squashed the remaining two-thirds of the hat back on my coconut, and scowled. Wronwright, not unnaturally, considered the episode to be possibly the funniest thing he ever saw.

Now, when Wron gets truly tickled, his laugh takes the form of a series of raucous “haws”, interspersed with loud, throaty sobs. So, he stood there, almost doubled over. “Haw, haw, haw, HUNH, haw, haw, haw, HUNH!” This noise had an unexpected effect on the camel. She gazed at Wronwright, twisting her head this way and that, and then charged at him.

This alteration in events froze the laughter on his lips, as the prospect of being run down by a camel apparently reconfigured his larynx into the approximate size and shape of a kazoo, and the “haws” died away into a high-pitched “Eeeeeeee!”

Camilla, however, far from being vexed by Wronwright, abruptly halted her charge, extended her neck, and began nuzzling my partner’s face.

Freddie clapped his hands in glee. “That was splendid, Mr. Wronwright! Those low grunts you were making are precisely the sounds that a mother camel makes when she’s summoning her calf for feeding time!”

I strolled over to admire the touching domestic situation at close quarters. “Well, well, well! You know, there’s nothing more beautiful than mother-love, Wron. If I were you, though, I wouldn’t do any more female camel impersonations; Camilla might start looking for your udder.” Wronwright quickly cupped his hands over his groin.

Minnie corrected me. “Oh, she’s already weaned, Detective Paco.” Wronwright stood at ease.

“Well, it’s time to execute our plan, folks. Wron, let’s you and I climb into this costume, and remember: we need to move into the trailer quickly. Dusk is starting to fall, but the Libyans will still be able to see over here pretty clearly. We’ve got to convince them that Camilla is actually being loaded into the trailer, and if we give them too much time to study our impersonation, they’re likely to figure out that they’re looking at a ringer.”

We climbed into our respective halves of the costume, and the Stuyvesant sons fastened the Velcro straps and buttons in the middle; Wronwright and I were now as one camel. Minnie pushed the button on the automatic garage-door-opener, and Freddie swung wide the door of the trailer, and slid a ramp out of a slot above the bumper.

I had granted Wronwright the honor of taking the point, and he shuffled forward, Minnie pulling on a makeshift halter (verisimilitude is important in situations like this). I stumbled along behind, and we made our way cautiously up the ramp; however, somehow, our respective gears got unsynchronized, and Wronwright wound up lurching forward at the last second, snapping the fasteners loose. The sudden slack caused me to tumble backward down the ramp; the camel’s rump had suddenly become a free agent. I jumped up and hurriedly scooted up the ramp into the trailer. “Hit it!” I shouted, and the Stuyvesants, who had piled into the front seat of the truck, burned rubber.

“Damn it, Wronwright, I said it was like dancing! One, two, one, two…”

“Listen the only dance I know is the waltz, and that goes one, two, three, one, two, three.”

“Skip it. Let’s get out of this costume.”

The Stuyvesants turned a curve and screeched to a halt where the side road joined the street that ran by their house. My partner and I jumped out and ran to the other trailer parked under the low branches of a tree. Freddie put the metal to the floor and disappeared into the gathering dusk. A few minutes later, a black sedan came barreling down the street in hot pursuit of the Stuyvesants.

“Ok,” I said. “So far, so good. We’ll wait a couple of minutes, go back to the house, load the real camel, and be on our way.”

(To be continued)

Detective Paco in "The Case of the Hot Camel" (Part I)

I knocked on the door of the bathroom in my office. “Are you coming out, or do I have to come in after you?”

An irritated voice, somewhat obscured by the sound of the ceiling fan in the bathroom, communicated a threat. “If you do, you’ll be sorry!”

I tried to reason with him. “Look, things can’t be that bad. Come on out and we’ll talk.”

There was a flushing noise, and the voice issued instructions. “I’m coming out now, but you better go back to your desk.”

I did as I was asked, and a moment later, Wronwright waltzed out of the bathroom, whistling a happy tune and drying his hands on a paper towel, which he crumpled up and neatly swished into the wastebasket with an elaborate hook shot. I sat down in my swivel-chair and lit a cigarette.

“Wronwright, why do you eat those things? Bean burritos with jalapeño peppers and habanero sauce! You know the stuff goes through your system like napalm.”

Wronwright eased himself into the visitor’s chair in the manner of a man who thought that there was just a chance that some practical joker had placed a tack or a whoopee cushion on the seat. “I know, I know. I pay for it every time, but they’re so delicious, I can’t help myself. Here,” he said, fishing around in the pocket of his jacket, “you want one? I buy these at a shop down the street. They come in sealed bags, already cooked, so you can microwave them or just eat them right out of the package.”

“Microwave? You gotta be kidding me. You could boil water with one of those things just by dropping it in a pot. Thanks, but no, thanks.”

There was a buzzing noise, and I clicked the switch on the intercom. Sheila’s low, musical voice announced that my 10 o’clock appointment had arrived. “Send ‘em in.”

Wronwright rose to leave, but I stopped him. “Stick around. I might need your assistance on this one; looks like an out-of-state job.”

Wron’s face brightened considerably. “Out-of-state? Do you think I’ll need my…”

“Elvis costume? No, I really don’t think so. This assignment’s up north.”

“Well, how about my…”

“Honduran field marshal’s uniform? No, plainclothes should do.”

Wronwright heaved a disappointed sigh and sat down on the sofa by the wall.

The door to the waiting room opened and Sheila ushered in two short, round, rosy-cheeked seniors. They looked like a couple of extra-large Hummel figurines that had grown old and gray together sitting on someone’s outsized bric-a-brac shelf.

“How do you do, Detective Paco?”, the man inquired, extending a small, liver-spotted paw. “I’m Frederick Stuyvesant, and this is my wife, Minerva.” The wife gave me a nod and a friendly smile. I invited them to sit down.

Sheila, who appeared to have developed an instant fondness for the Stuyvesants, put her hand on the back of the husband’s chair and leaned over to ask if they wanted anything.

Now, one of the most fascinating things about Sheila is this: even when she’s wearing a loose-fitting blouse, as she was that morning, her upper-story charms tend to make the thing look very snug, particularly when the top two buttons are unfastened and she’s leaning over a chair. Mr. Stuyvesant, presented with this unexpected view, began licking his lips, like a hungry bear in front of whom two honey pots had just been dangled invitingly, and his right hand wandered absent-mindedly inside his suit jacket, most likely to give his pacemaker a good thump. Minerva jabbed him in the ribs.

“She means coffee or tea, Freddie. Or maybe a nitroglycerine pill.”

Startled from his reverie, Freddie blushed, coughed politely, took a deep breath (no doubt wanting to inscribe on his mind, forever, the memory of the clean scent of Sheila’s golden hair), and said in a slightly strangled voice, that no, they were fine. Sheila, having done her good deed for the day, smiled and glided out of the office. Freddie, in a display of superhuman effort (I could see the muscles in his neck straining against the temptation), managed to deny himself the supreme pleasure of watching my secretary’s oscillating derriere as she retired from the room.

“Well, Mr. And Mrs. Stuyvesant, I’m flattered that you came all the way from New Jersey to seek my services, but the message you left with my secretary was a little obscure. Perhaps…”

My preamble was interrupted by the rattling of stiff cellophane. “Oh, by the way, that’s my sometime-partner, Mr. Wronwright.” My clients swiveled their heads in the direction of Wron, who had been attempting, with a spectacular lack of success, to discreetly open another packet containing one of his prized bean burritos. He grinned sheepishly and slipped the snack back into his pocket. “Howja do?”

Returning to the business at hand, I continued. “As I was saying, maybe you could fill me in on the details of your problem.”

The Stuyvesants exchanged glances, the wife giving her husband a reassuring nod, and the little man proceeded to elaborate.

“Detective Paco, I’m a retired bank executive, and Minnie and I have a home in Englewood, New Jersey, although we spend a lot of time on a small farm we own in upstate New York. Our place in New Jersey is located next to a house owned by Libya’s U.N. ambassador. As you probably have heard, Muammar Gaddafi is planning on coming to the United States for a meeting at the U.N., and he originally intended to stay in some kind of luxury tent which his people were going to pitch on the grounds of the ambassador’s residence. That idea got scotched because of local complaints – in which Minnie and I joined heartily, I am proud to say – but the Libyan ambassador is still planning on hosting a large reception for Gaddafi at the estate. They’ve even shipped a baby camel to the residence, and I have uncovered the reason.” Freddie’s countenance grew stern; he now looked like an angry Hummel figurine. “They intend to roast that little camel, sir! Roast it and eat it!”

Some vigorous tut-tutting seemed appropriate, so I obliged.

Freddie continued. “Minnie and I have long been involved with both the New Jersey and New York chapters of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, so you can imagine how horrified we were to discover the Libyans’ plans.” He stopped speaking for a moment and nervously ran a finger around the inside of his collar, after which he cleared his throat. I suspected that the conversation was about to take a turn toward some particularly delicate issue. I was right.

“Detective Paco, I hope you won’t be offended by this question, but, ah, I’ve researched some of your very interesting cases, and, er, well…would you characterize yourself as being , um, completely ethical?”

I recognized a trick question when I heard one, but I wanted to hedge my bets. I leaned back in my chair, steepled my fingers, and made with my best man-of-the-world smile. “I have always thought,”, I said blithely, “that honesty is one of the better policies.”

Minnie lurched forward in her chair and blurted out an earnest question. “But not always, necessarily, the best policy?”

“Why, no, Mrs. Stuyvesant. Sometimes, in the pursuit of true justice, we have to bend the rules a little.”

Husband and wife exchanged another of their telegraphic glances. Freddie patted Minnie’s hand; they seemed greatly relieved. Me? I was growing slightly less so. A vague, but ominous, idea crossed my mind that Freddie, when he retired, not content with a gold watch and the well-wishes of his colleagues, had perhaps helped himself to a sack-full of cash and bearer bonds from the vault and was now looking for me to help him flee to Mexico. I comforted myself by contemplating the old axiom that ninety percent of the things we worry about never come to pass. Unfortunately, this case would ultimately wind up being one of those that fall into that infrequent, but not unprecedented, ten percent.

No, he hadn’t stolen any money. After hearing the rest of his story, though, I rather wished that he had.

“Detective Paco, you’re our man! You see, Minnie and I have, in fact, bent the rules, and we want you to help us on our path to…what did you call it?...‘true justice.’ Yes, that’s it. True justice. You have quite a faculty for putting things in just the right way, if I may say so, sir!” Right about then, I would have gladly traded it for the faculty of knowing how to keep my mouth shut. “Let me give you the low-down. Detective Paco, we want you to help us move a hot camel.”

“You want me to …come again?”

“We pinched her! I think that's the word you people in the underworld use, isn’t it?”

Swell. I had just been promoted from private investigator to a fence in the hot camel syndicate.

“You pinched a hot camel?”

“No, no” Freddie corrected me. “The camel didin’t become hot until we stole it. Now that we’ve pinched her, she’s hot.” Freddie was really getting into the spirit of his new life of crime.

“We couldn’t stand by and watch Camilla be slaughtered and eaten…”

Camilla? Of course.

“…so Minnie and I decided to act.” Freddie looked at Minnie, handing her the conversational baton.

“That’s right. The Libyans have a pretty good security set-up – lights, cameras, guards and so on – and there’s a high fence around the grounds. But toward the back, the lawn fades away into a tangle of secondary growth, and a portion of the fence has collapsed. We had made friends with Camilla, passing fruit and hay through the fence, and eventually we managed to lure her toward the gap at the back of the property. Once we got her on our side, we whisked her off to the garage. The Libyans went crazy looking for her, and came to the house twice to ask if we knew anything about it. We told them, emphatically, that we had no idea what had happened to their camel. They went away, but I don’t think they believe us because they’ve got a couple of men watching our place all the time. In fact, I’m sure they believe we’ve got her. Fortunately, our two sons are home visiting and they’re keeping a look out while we’re away from the house.”

Minnie handed the baton back to Freddie. “We want you to help us secretly move Camilla to our farm in upstate New York. We have a lovely place – fifty acres of prime pasture land, ringed about with old forest growth, a spring of crystal-clear water, a few show horses, clean and comfortable barns and out-buildings…”

“And don’t forget the greenhouse, Freddie.” Minnie wiggled with pride as she beamed on her husband. Turning to me, she said, “Freddie has constructed a state-of-the-art greenhouse which contains one of the largest collections of carnivorous plants in the world.”

Freddie simpered and waved away the compliment with a self-deprecating gesture. “Well, perhaps one of the largest privately-owned collections.”

This latest revelation sparked Wronwright’s first contribution to the discussion. “Carnivorous plants? You mean like in Little Shop of Horrors?”

“Oh, no, Mr Wronwright” Freddie reassured him. “That’s just science fiction. My collection consists mostly of venus fly-traps, pitcher plants, that sort of thing. No,” he sighed, with a strange kind of wistfulness, “I’m afraid there are no plants capable of actually capturing and eating humans.”

“So, what you want me to do,” I said, in as level a voice as I could muster, “is help you sneak the camel out of your place in New Jersey, transport her to the farm in New York, and leave the Libyans in the dark. Right?”

“Right,” the couple answered in unison.

“Do you care one way or the other if the Libyans find out that you had the camel, once she’s safely tucked away?”

Freddie and Minnie considered that for a moment. Freddie flashed a pair of raised eyebrows at Minnie; Minnie shrugged. “No,” Freddie said. “After we’ve settled Camilla safely on the farm, I doubt the Libyans would concern themselves any further. The main thing is to get her out of the house. After that, I don’t care what they think”

“Hmm.” I looked at Wrowright and smiled. “Partner, I think you may get to wear a disguise after all.”
* * * *

I laid out a plan of action for my clients. The Stuyvesants would fly to New York, pick up a horse trailer they owned, and drive it to their place in New Jersey, leaving it parked conspicuously in the driveway. Meanwhile, their sons would rent a horse trailer and park it on a side-street in the neighborhood, out of sight. Wronwright and I would pretend to load the camel into the Stuyvesant’s trailer (presumably under the watchful eyes of the Libyans), the Stuyvesants would tear down the road, drop us off on the side-street, and then keep going; my partner and I would wait until we saw the Libyans go by in pursuit. Then Wronwright and I would drive the rented trailer back to the house, put Camilla in it, and proceed at our leisure to the farm. If the Stuyvesants couldn’t shake their pursuers, they were to drive around for an hour or two and then head home. If they were sure that they had lost them, they were to head to the farm, too.

Wronwright seemed a little puzzled. “How do we ‘pretend’ to load a camel in a trailer?”

I threw an arm around his shoulders – as was my custom when trying to convince him to do something that I knew he’d find objectionable – and poured on the flattery.

“Wronwright, that is our challenge. But with you being a master of disguise and all, I’m sure we can come up with something. Perhaps we can discuss that little detail after the Stuyvesants leave.” I turned to our guests. “Mr. and Mrs. Stuyvesant, we will be glad to take on this assignment. Please call me when you get back to New Jersey with the trailer.” Freddie and Minnie departed, wreathed in smiles and sighing in relief (Freddie must have dallied in the anteroom momentarily to pay his respects to Sheila; I heard Minnie say, somewhat querulously, “Come along, Freddie; remember what the doctor said about exciting yourself”).

(To be continued)

Decline and Fall

The ideology of Charles-Johnsonism continues its decline into incoherence.

But is it really Charles Johnson who's spinning this web of paranoia and hatred? The Jawa Report presents Photoshop evidence to the contrary.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jimmy Carter...

... even worse than you thought (this story originally not brought to you by the mainstream media).

Update: And his former hired help is pretty awful, too.

Sunday Funny



H/T: El Campeador.

And please remember to support our sponsors.

Let There Be Light (On Second Thought...)

Old Grouch draws attention to another idiotic "green" policy.

Feet of Clay, Ears of Tin

Bad enough that the Obama administration reverses U.S. policy on placing defensive missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, but even worse that the deed is done on the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union.

Perhaps Obama is taking a leaf from the playbook of an earlier supporter of "smart" diplomacy...

Right Makes Might

101-year-old veteran collars burglar (H/T: Tim Blair)

Scratch a Liberal...

... find an apologist for despotism.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rule 5 Saturday

The sinuous Rita Hayworth in the classic 1946 film, Gilda, singing “Amado Mio”.

Irving Kristol - RIP

Irving Kristol has died at age 89.

I began reading Irving Kristol's essays some 20 years ago, and knew that I had encountered an intellectual truly worthy of the designation. His Reflections of a Neo-Conservative is an excellent introduction to that generation of "liberals who got mugged", and traces not only his own journey, but the journeys of many other far-left thinkers, toward the right of the political spectrum.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Israeli Flag



Not official, of course, but a nice variation on the Gadsden flag (notice the Hebrew for "Don't Tread on Me").

A big H/T to Seraphic Secret.

Happy Feet Friday

Lionel Hampton and his band in an early 50’s jam session.



Bonus video, especially for reader Dean Martin: Bill Haley and the boys in “Rock Around the Clock.”

Nothing Weeps More Readily...

... than a block of ice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Assortment

1) Charlie Gibson of ABC is going out in a blaze of bias.

2) Finally! Obama stakes out a position that conservatives can rally ‘round.

3) Charles Johnson keeps digging; Stacy McCain fills in the hole.

4) Rickety Click provides a great analogy.

5) The Obama Foreign Policy checklist:

Bully a small but faithful ally that has been sincerely trying to uphold democracy: check.

Wallow in complete cluelessness on the subject of the perfidy of Iran’s theocracy: check

Cozy up with thuggish regimes: check.

Trade war with China: check.

Cave to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin by canceling missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic: check.

Mark my word; before the end of his term, Obama is going to make Jimmy Carter look like Metternich.

From the Shelves of the Paco Library




I’ve got a couple of historical mystery writers for your consideration, today.

Rosemary Rowe has created an extremely unusual (and generally reluctant) sleuth named Libertus, an ex-slave in Roman Britain who is a master in the trade of mosaics. A Celt who has more or less assimilated into Roman society, Libertus is more than happy to ply his trade; however, his work with mosaics has given him an eye for seeing patterns of all kinds, and he is frequently enlisted by his patron, Marcus Aurelius Septimus, the governor’s personal representative in the town of Glevum (modern-day Gloucester), to assist in sensitive political missions and in discovering the truth behind crimes, generally including murder, that pose a threat to the Pax Romana. A recurring, underlying theme, is the ongoing search by Libertus for his wife, from whom he had been separated many years before, and who had also been a slave. In the book I’m reading now - The Ghosts of Glevum - Marcus Aurelius Septimus, himself, is accused of a crime against the state, as the new military commander, Praxus, has died under mysterious circumstances in Marcus’ own home. His main hope for extricating himself from this life-threatening situation is the intelligence and determination of our hero, Libertus – who is desperately trying to avoid the coils of the law that are beginning to tighten around him, too. Although Rowe takes a very different approach with her Roman mysteries than Lindsey Davis (Libertus is far from being a wise-cracking professional investigator, like Marcus Didius Falco) , she is, like Davis, extremely well-versed in the history of the period, which makes for an instructive, as well as an entertaining, read. I believe there are now nine books in the series, and of the five or so I’ve read so far, I have nothing but praise.

Nick Revill is an aspiring young actor who has just landed a job with Richard Burbage’s company, the Chamberlain’s Men, which stages its plays at the Globe Theater. The company’s plays are supplied by a talented fellow by the name of William Shakespeare. While thrilled to have found employment in his chosen profession, Nick notices that there are some eerie similarities between the events that have befallen the family of a friend of his, and a new play that Shakespeare has written – a little number called Hamlet. The similarities raise suspicions in the mind of the authorities, which ultimately touch upon the playwright, himself. Nick winds up with the uncomfortable responsibility of unraveling the mystery of his friend’s late father, who has died under mysterious circumstances, and whose beautiful young wife has remarried with unseemly haste.

Sleep of Death is the first in author Philip Gooden’s Elizabethan-era mysteries centering on Nick Revill and the famous troupe of actors known as the Chamberlain’s Men – and, of course, their far more famous playwright. Filled with humor and exciting scenarios, the mysteries are intriguingly plotted and highly evocative of the period. Gooden has published six novels in the series, so far, and seems to have moved on to another series of mysteries involving a Victorian-era lawyer named Tom Ansell (with which I am unfamiliar). Nonetheless, having read the first of the Revill books, I’ll certainly be picking up the rest of them.

If the New York Times Building Burned Down…

…the paper's employees would probably have to watch Glenn Beck to find out about it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not to Be Confused with Yours Truly

Although, if I were a dog, I suppose it would be a nice living.

Doubling Down on Stupid

Barack "I Don't Want to Meddle in the Affairs of Other Countries" Obama is now refusing to recognize the November elections in Honduras. Be sure to check out the article at Human Events linked at Babalu.

Obama prefers to back Chavista and narco-presidente Mel Zelaya over the legitimate Honduran government (But he's not a socialist, you cross-burning rednecks!)

Decisions, Decisions...

Sue Lowden or Harry Reid, Sue Lowden or Harry Reid...

Sue Lowden...



...or Harry Reid...



Dang! Life is just full of tough calls, isn't it?

The Race-Tard

Ok, you know what? Go ahead and play the race card, idiots. I don’t care. The thing is so dog-eared that I’m calling for a brand new deck - and a completely new game. One in which criticism of a black politician isn’t touted as prima facie evidence of racism, and opposition to socialism isn’t viewed as part of the Ku Klux Kreed.

So, up yours, Rep. Hank Johnson (D is for Dumbass – Georgia). And Charles Johnson? Get bent! You’re a big evolution fan; give me a howl when you advance to the intellectual level of a lemur.

Update: Hey, and all of that goes double for the grandee of Georgia goobery

Update II: God only knows how Richard McEnroe finds this stuff.

Blinders

They’re good for helping a mule keep his eyes on the ground immediately in front of him, but they’re a terrible disadvantage to a newsman, as Jeffrey Lord makes abundantly clear in a fascinating article in the online edition of The American Spectator. Lord provides much important historical context surrounding the sinking credibility of the mainstream media, and offers up one particularly intriguing example of a media cover-up involving the murder of a CIA official’s wife that I had somehow managed to overlook (which is not surprising, since the news people who could have broken the story refused to do so at the time).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Upset in Florida?

Too soon to tell, but it is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Gaddafi: Still Crazy After All These Years

Fred Halliday, at Open Democracy, depicts the problems that can arise in a nation subject to a Cult of Personality - particularly when the key figure's personality is seriously warped. While not at all downplaying the violence and murderous history of the Gaddafi regime, Halliday also manages to bring out some of the more farcical elements of the Libyan strongman's rule. Here's a taste:
There are many measures of the regime's failure...The first I witnessed during a visit to Tripoli in 2002, whose official programme inevitably included a visit to the "World Centre for Green Book Studies" (though it was a pleasant surprise to find in a bookshop near my hotel that of the thirty-four translations of the book made available, the most prominently displayed were those in Hebrew and in Esperanto). Colonel Gaddafi was so enamoured of the idea of "green" that he even considered naming the main government building in Tripoli the "Green House", until its English gardening connotations were pointed out. More reminiscent of other revolutionary trajectories was his renaming of the months of the year (the Roman words being too reminiscent of the Italian imperial yoke), and his attempt to replace all English words by Arabic (even such good friends of the people as "Johnny Walker" [Hanah Mashi] and "7 Up" [Saba'a Fauq].
Here's another:
The chaotic management system then prevailing was revealed in the announcement that on a particular Sunday there would be a meeting of ministers, in effect a cabinet meeting: but since Libya officially has no capital city, no one knew where this would be held, and senior officials and their advisers spent hours driving around the desert from one place to another trying to find out where they were supposed to meet.

A superb read.

BTW, does anybody know whether Gaddafi is still planning on coming to the U.S.? I'm working on a Detective Paco story based on that premise, but I need to know for sure (if he isn't coming, what am I supposed to do with this baby camel and Wronwright's hot 'n spicy bean burritos?)

Women Who Wear Pup-Tents

No, I'm not talking about Rosie O'Donnell's kimono. I'm talking about that curious Middle-Eastern garment known as the burka. Marnia Lazreg, an Algerian-born professor of sociology at the City University of New York, says this has nothing to do with piety, and everything to do with "political ideology and male power". Robert Fulford discusses Professor Lazreg's book on the subject - Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women - in the National Post.

I suppose a rough Western equivalent would be the chastity belt (which a quick Google search reveals to be of interest only to a small group of people who are given to, er, rather outré fantasies).

Unhealthy

Tiger Hawk highlights one of the more idiotic provisions of the Senate health care bill: a value-added tax on companies that develop new medical technology.

It is an obvious point, but one that constantly needs to be made: when you tax something, you get less of it. The U.S. leads the world in technological innovation, and the Democrats are preparing to bump us down a few notches. Ask yourselves, citizens – does this make sense? Furthermore, does electing economic illiterates who would propose such a law seem like a good idea? Remember how you answered those questions when 2010 rolls around.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Barry's Foreign Policy: Totally Inscrutable (Or is it?)

Obama continues to badger Honduras. Is this just a fat-headed refusal to admit that he was mistaken, or is he truly committed to a resurgence of Marxism in Latin America? Given his overtures toward Venezuela and Cuba, it's difficult to see the President's intransigent bullying of Honduras as mere personal vanity, as an inability to confess that he has the whole issue pegged wrong. One begins to wonder if he believes that he can somehow co-opt Chavez and Correa and Ortega and Morales into joining him in promoting a watered-down Euro-socialism for the Western Hemisphere - which, if nothing else, provides another clue as to what he hopes to accomplish in the United States. Obama's cozying up to Marxist populists in Latin America - in tandem with his downplaying of our country's traditional alliances, e.g., Israel, and his stolid indifference to democratic yearnings in Iran - looks to be all of a piece with his administration's domestic policy of strengthening the national government at the expense of individual freedom, and his tactic of demonizing his opponents.

The red flags are proliferating; all the more reason to stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks.

Dan Collins Believes in Saying it with a Blowtorch...

...in this case, applied to the seat of Charles Johnson's trousers. Well done, Dan! (Bound to be, by now).

Joe Wilson Says One Apology is Enough

Despite the threat of a wrist-slap from Bella Botox, Joe Wilson says he isn't about to apologize on the House floor.

Good for him. And a pox on any Republicans who decide to play I'm-too-holy-for-my-halo, and join with Democrats in continuing to make an issue of the incident.

Update: Republicans should be looking for good candidates for 2010. Marco Rubio strikes me as a future star - if he can get the support he needs.

Update II: Richard McEnroe is doing his best to get the word out on viable conservative candidates. If readers are aware of people in their districts (or states, as the case may be) who need some help, let me know and I'll give them some exposure.

Sunday Funny

Breakfast is ready!


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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Genie of the Lamp

I failed to mention this previously, but shortly before Christmas last year, I was poking around in an antique shop down in Richmond and I found an old brass oil lamp. It was kind of a cornball knockoff of Aladdin's lamp, but a fairly interesting gew-gaw that I figured might be worth a few laughs, so I bought it. Imagine my surprise when I started rubbing it down with some brass polish, and an oriental gentleman, decked out in turban, M.C. Hammer pants and curly-toed slippers appeared in a puff of smoke. He offered to grant me three wishes.

"Dude! You don't expect me to believe this, do you? I mean, this is strictly fairy-tale stuff."

He shrugged, and said, "It is not for me to presume to instruct the master of the lamp in what he should believe or not believe. My only duty - and I'll be more than happy to show you the official job description - is to grant you three wishes."

I decided to humor the old boy, so I mentioned, in an off-hand sort of way, how nice it would be to have a million-taxpayer march on Washington. The genie stroked his beard thoughtfully, and begged for a little time to fulfill this unprecedented wish. And, today, it looks like he came through.

I had also expressed an ardent desire for the return to private life of race-huckster and would-be revolutionary, Van Jones. The genie carried out that wish in fairly short order.

My question to my readers is this: what should my third and final wish be?