Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rep. Carson, the Second Amendment is your friend

Troglopundit proposes a solution for Rep. Andre Carson's fears.

Rough justice in San Diego

Via Shylock Holmes.

The government picks another winner

"Solyndra to Declare Bankruptcy".
Solyndra was touted by the Obama administration as a prime example of how green technology could deliver jobs. The President visited the facility in May of last year and said "it is just a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world. And you guys all represent that. "

The federal government offered $535 million in low cost loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. NBC Bay Area has contacted the White House asking for a statement.
Yeah, well, here's some advice NBC Bay Area: don't hold your breath.

Five hundred and thirty five million dollars. Criminal. Or insane. Or maybe both.

Update: Steve Burri sees a pattern.

Lotta clowns on the golf course these days

"Golfer mistaken for clown charged with DWI".

You need to do better than that!

Look, all you email scammers out there - particularly you, "uberwalla" - you guys need to up your game.

Do you really think I'm going to fall for a $1,000 gift card scheme from Home Depet? Dude, you're just phoning it in!

President Obama’s jobs speech

It will be quite awful, I’m sure. Which puts me in mind of the great H.L. Mencken, and his observations on presidential oratorical styles. It is amazing how some things never change. Here is Mencken on Woodrow Wilson (his comments will probably be as applicable to Obama’s upcoming word-swarm as they are to practically every other public utterance that our Haranguer-in-Chief has inflicted upon the citizenry over the last two and a half years):
At the moment, I can only give thanks to God that Hale has saved me the trouble of exposing the extreme badness of the Woodrovian style--a style until lately much praised by cornfed connoisseurs. Two or three years ago, at the height of his illustriousness, it was spoken of in whispers, as if there were something almost supernatural about its merits. I read articles, in those days, comparing it to the style of the Biblical prophets, and arguing that it vastly exceeded the manner of any living literatus. Looking backward, it is not difficult to see how that doctrine arose. Its chief sponsors, first and last, were not men who actually knew anything about the writing of English, but simply editorial writers on party newspapers, i.e., men who related themselves to literary artists in much the same way that Dr. Billy Sunday relates himself to the late Paul of Tarsus. What intrigued such gentlemen in the compositions of Dr. Wilson was the plain fact that he was their superior in their own special field—that he accomplished with a great deal more skill than they did themselves the great task of reducing all the difficulties of the hour to a few sonorous and unintelligible phrases, often with theological overtones--that he knew better than they did how to arrest and enchant the boobery with words that were simply words, and nothing else.
Or perhaps Obama’s speech will sink into the very Marianas Trench of bleak forgetability, in which case the unfortunate Warren Gamaliel Harding might be a better template:
I rise to pay my small tribute to Dr. Harding. Setting aside a college professor or two and a half dozen dipsomaniacal newspaper reporters, he takes the first place in my Valhalla of literati. That is to say, he writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
And the Republican debate is being bumped for the speech, I hear. Truly, the guy’s permanent campaign has become one of the most revolting aspects of his reign.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Republicans to watch

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez looks to be a rising Republican star. The linked article includes a special bonus: a video of the Governor qualifying for the renewal of her concealed-carry permit.

Chuck Norris wants you to register and vote

Nuff said.

Today's Chuck Norris fact: Chuck Norris found the last digit of pi.

Extended family ties

The Cabinet Room in the White House. President Obama has assembled his foreign policy team for a meeting.

Obama: Ok, everybody, we ought to be able to get started in a couple of minutes. We’re just waiting for Secretary of State Clinton to call in on the conference phone. I’m pretty excited about today’s topic. The Center for American Progress is floating a radical new idea for establishing peace in the Middle East. Something called Operation Isn’trael.

Personal secretary [popping her head in the door]: Mr. President, there’s a call…

Obama [testily]: Well, put her through!

Secretary: No, sir, it’s not…

Obama: What do you mean ‘no, sir’? We’ve been waiting for this call. Put it through!

Secretary: But, sir, it’s not…

Obama: Put. It. Through.

Secretary shrugs and withdraws. A moment later the telephone on the table buzzes. Obama hits the speaker button.

Obama: Welcome, Madame Secretary.

Deep male voice: H-e-y, Bar-ryyyyy!

Obama [suddenly appearing ashen]: Wha…?

Voice: Barry! This your old uncle Onyango!

Obama [nervously looking at his assembled colleagues]: Er…who?

Uncle Onyango: Don’t start puttin’ on airs, young man. This is me, your favorite uncle!

Obama: Uh, I’m waiting to take a call from the Secretary of State.

Uncle Onyango: Haw, haw, hawwwwwww! You thought it was your secretary calling? You always were a little mixed up, ever since you was a little fellow.

The President’s counselors stare fixedly at their notebooks, a handkerchief or two being withdrawn from pockets in order to suppress chuckles artfully converted into polite coughs.

Uncle Onyango: Anyhow, I got into a little trouble here in Massachusetts. The local cops pulled me over for DWI…By the way, you know what your father used to call that? Driving While Inspired! Haw, haw hawwwwww!

Obama: Listen, I don’t know who this is, or how you got through, but…

Uncle Onyango: Oh, so that’s how it is, is it? I call on my favorite nephew to help me out with a little thing like making bail, but he’s a big shot, now, don’t want to help his poor old Uncle Onyango…

Obama: Look…

Uncle Onyango: You rakin’ in the money from those fundraisers, Barry – millions of dollars! – but you can’t find a few bucks to help me make bond? You know, I’ve been living in this country for decades – even bought my own social security card! – so, if you don’t want to put it on a family basis, how about this? You’re the president. And since I got me a social security card, that makes me a kind of ‘almost’ citizen. And, from what I see in the papers, you sure ain’t hittin’ on much in the accomplishment department, so here’s your chance to do something – what do you call it? – tangible, yeah that’s it, something tangible to help out one of your fellow almost-citizens.

Obama: All right, all right! I’ll wire the money.

Oncle Onyango: Hawwww! I knew I could count on you! Say, Barry, how ‘bout this? When I get out of this little legal jam, I’ll drive down to Washington, you an’ me go a road trip. Oh, is there a liquor store near your place? We’ll want to stock up before we go. Or I can bring some from the store where I work; but I’ll need some more upfront money. And maybe we can take that brand new bus you bought.

Obama: I’ll be traveling. Overseas. To Mongolia. Bye! [Turning to colleagues] Heh. I don’t know how it happens, but every now and then some prankster manages to get through to the White House.

The advisors murmur sympathetically. Suddenly, the president’s personal secretary sticks her head in the door again

Secretary: I’m sorry, sir, but there’s another call…

Obama: Finally! Put Mrs. Clinton through…

Secretary: But she’s not…

Obama: Dammit, who’s in charge around here? Transfer the call!

The telephone on the table buzzes again. Obama hits the speaker button.

Obama: Hillary, we were just getting ready to begin …

Female voice: Barry?

Obama: How dare you address me that way!

Female voice: Why not? I been callin’ you that since you was a baby.

Obama: Wait! Who is this?

Female voice: This your old auntie, Zeituni! Listen, I heard that drunk rascal Onyango was plannin’ on callin’ you up and askin’ for bail money. Don’t you be wastin’ money on that old reprobate! If you got money to throw around, why don’t you help me get out of this public housing project…

Obama: Ok, this meeting is over! We’ll reconvene later this afternoon. In the Rose Garden. I’m pretty sure there are no phones out there.

What a strange, inexplicable…coincidence


Gibson gets raided for supposedly violating Indian (not U.S.) law by importing rosewood for its guitars. C.F. Martin, another guitar maker, also imports rosewood, but doesn’t get raided. The CEO of Gibson has made donations to Republicans. The CEO of Martin is a Democrat donor. Just one of those crazy things, I suppose.

More on Gibson’s history (including its successful defiance of a parasitic union) here.

I b’lieve I seen ‘bout everything…

when I see preshizzle’s bus fly. Somebody - anybody - please explain this to me.

Some people will do anything to get out of a speeding ticket

Of course, I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here at all.

Anyhow, at least the officer maintained a state of readiness while engaged in, er, extracurricular activities; he didn’t even remove his utility belt.

Some of these would look sweet in my display cabinet

The strange case of the missing gold coins.

The latest from Obama's favorite think tank

The slimy Center for American Progress attacks anti-terrorist thinkers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

One would have thought it impossible

But it’s simply undeniable: Al Gore is becoming increasingly absurd.

First he claims that opposition to the assertions of Cli-Fi enthusiasts is like racism, and offers this advice:
“There came a time when friends or people you work with or people you were in clubs with… there came a time when racist comments would come up in the course of the conversation and in years past they were just natural. Then there came a time when people would say, ‘Hey, man why do you talk that way, I mean that is wrong. I don’t go for that so don’t talk that way around me. I just don’t believe that.’ That happened in millions of conversations and slowly the conversation was won.”
Brilliant! So, if someone challenges anything a Gorean acolyte says about climate change, said acolyte just walks away, or maybe puts his hands over his ears and sings tra-la-la, and victory is assured!

BTW, have you seen photos of the new Martin Luther King statue?

It’s a good thing they left that big chunk of granite on the back. Eventually, a grateful people - or more likely, their government - can subscribe to the sculpting of Al Gore’s image on the reverse with an appropriate sentiment carved into the base: Hero of the Moral Equivalent of the Civil Rights Movement.

But Al’s not finished. He also believes we should reduce our carbon footprint by eating more organic food and less meat.

Oh, pardon me a minute.

Hey, Al! Your lunch is here!

Seriously, though, has anyone seen a recent photo of Al? He looks like a refrigerator with a Man-in-the-Moon cookie jar sitting on top of it. His gothic dimensions do not suggest a diet of lettuce and oatmeal. Why, I bet if he went on a hunger strike for a week, his unconsumed vittles could support an entire Honduran village, leaving the campesinos completely satiated and bursting their rope belts.

The many frustrations attendant upon full-time prophesying notwithstanding, Al continues to profit handsomely from his advocacy of the global warming flapdoodle. When the time comes that his family and friends, after much soul-searching and consultation with eminent psychiatric specialists, must ultimately put him away for his own good, he can rest assured that the institution in which he is to be confined will be solicitous of his every need. Maybe, under ObamaCare, he won’t have to pay anything at all.

Bright spots

Unemployment is bad across the board, except for (a) the federal government, and (b) the teleprompter manufacturing industry.

Now, here’s a genuine bright spot: Obama Downfall (via Ace). Warning: strong, er, subtitles.

Interesting history lesson

You know, instead of linking Steve at the Pub practically every day – which I’ll be tempted to do, since his stuff is so good – I’m just going to blog-roll him and encourage readers to visit there as often as possible.

Check out this post, in which he describes the horror of the Sandakan Death March (illustrated with a fascinating photograph of a Japanese “Gestapo” guy being interviewed by an Australian officer and an American translator, and guarded by an Australian soldier; picture, thousand words…)

And on a lighter note, dealing with a problem with his local bank, see here (and by “lighter note”, I don’t mean to imply that the problem is trivial; it’s just that Steve’s reply to an apparently wooden-headed bank officer is priceless. And it ain’t the Sandakan Death March).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Monday movie

Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell get the chemistry going in Fallen Angel.

Sunday funnies

Troglopundit considers a new military policy.

A historical gallery of Paco Enterprises’ fine products. Like this duck-hunting gunboat:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good catch from Dana Loesch of Big Journalism

ESPN's golf analyst, Paul Azinger, issued an amusing, critical tweet of the preshizzle the other day and is now being threatened by the network with some form of retribution. Other ESPN employees who have tweeted their political views don't seem to have encountered the same problem.

BTW, Republican Walt Disney must be spinning in his grave:
So Disney bankrolls Obama’s campaign, also owns ESPN, allows glowing commentary of Obama from its contributors and on-air talent and censures Obama dissent from their talent. No, no bias here at all.

Maxine Waters: stupid AND evil

Humberto Fontova takes a walk down memory lane and reminds us of Maxine Waters' nauseating defense of a cold-blooded murderer.

Well, Jonathan, you asked for it

The absurd Jonathan Alter recently asked for proof that Barack Obama is a bad president.

John Ransom is happy to oblige.

Steve at the Pub Demands to be heard

And you know something? He deserves to be. A fine writer, with a gift for the artful telling of the events of daily life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sue the bastards!

There's more than one way to skin a cat - or a bunch of left-wing, anti-Semitic agitators.

Update: Who can cook up a hilarious metaphor? Old Sailor Man, that's who! Here he is in the comments section:
On the Oz homefront, the creature masquerading as a prime minister is currently standing on its toes in a vat of lukewarm sh*t*, the surface being at lower lip level, and reciting very very carefully indeed the mantra "Dernt leut ut rerple" over and over.

* labor party policies in liquid form.

Twenty-nine percent of likely voters are stupid, insane or not paying attention

“New Low: 29% Give Obama Good or Excellent Marks on Economy.”

Update: I wonder if this hippie fantasist is still among the 29%.

Oops, almost forgot!

Happy, er, National Toilet Paper Day.

It's also National Dog Day. Mabel sends her best.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Feet Friday

Up and at ‘em! It’s the “Bugle Woogie”.

Assorted Blairistas

Let’s take a look at what’s happening with alumni of Tim Blair’s Comment Academy.

First, we have our blogfather, Tim Blair himself, noting a unique play of the race card in Australia.

Gavin Atkins, in probing Tim Flannery’s relationship with Panasonic, uncovers another pesky example of the Law of Unanticipated Consequences.

That wild man of the worldwide web, Tim T, may just have stumbled upon the primary reason for blogging.

Kae can’t get her lawnmower started, but rediscovers forgotten jewelry (I’m putting that one down as a “win”).

Richard McEnroe declines Maxine Waters’ invitation to go to hell.

Miss Red offers what is certainly one good reason that conservative movies don’t do well.

Boy on a Bike profiles some of the London rioters.

That’s a relief! Swampy’s husband is shrugging off the threat from Hurricane Irene.

Rick Perry vs. Obama… decisions, decisions…

Warren Buffet (again)

Oh, isn’t this a surprise! Warren Buffett’s going to be hosting a fundraiser for Obama in NYC.

Well, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “the rich are different”. And Buffett, who most people think of as just a shrewd, but unassuming, Midwesterner, is really different, as this fascinating 2008 Daily Mail article makes abundantly clear. In addition to having “mommy issues” (no wonder he gets along so well with Barry!), his first wife pretty much just lost interest in him after 20 years of marriage, and not only permitted him to have a mistress, but actually picked one out for him (he married her after his first wife died). The most important thing to know about Buffett, however, is found at the tail end of this passage:
On Wall Street, Buffett struck people as a hick, and within their apartment block he had earned a reputation for tightfistedness.

He made a deal with a local newsstand to buy week-old magazines at a discount as they were about to be thrown away. He had no car, and when he borrowed that of a neighbour, he never filled up the tank [emphasis mine].
And now, Mr. and Mrs. American Taxpayer, he thinks you should be filling up the tank, while he shelters his jack in foundations and trusts – and hosts fundraisers for his socialist buddy.

When it comes to specific investment advice, I’ll be glad to give Buffett my complete attention. But with respect to anything else – well, as Old Paco is fond of saying, opinions are like a$$holes: everybody’s got one.

And some people are one, and no amount of money is going to alter that fact.

Rick Perry gets the Kinky endorsement

Kinky Friedman’s, that is. However the Republican race finally shakes out, I don’t imagine anybody will get a plug quite like this (H/T: Hot Air).

On a more serious note, Jeff G. at Protein Wisdom has two excellent posts up today that are must reads: Who Lost the Middle Class?, and Jeb Bush Warns 2012ers on Hitting Obama - the latter, particularly, sizzling with Jeff’s trademark snark.

Stacy McCain emphasizes something we should all be grateful for: the Republican Party has a deep bench.

Well, that sounds like a mess

“Greek police smash violent doughnut ring”.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is Alec Baldwin a truther?

Hmmm, could be.

He might want to get over that if he plans to run for mayor of New York City. C’mon, Alec; do the right thing.

Clearing away the rubble

Working around the clock, a team of earthquake clean-up experts was able to put my office back in order…

…so I was on the job today. And it looks like the hurricane might veer off a bit to the east, which would spare us further devastation. On the other hand, my gamble on frogs and locusts for next Tuesday isn’t looking too promising.

Beware of billionaire philosophers

My biggest gripe against the super-wealthy is that so many of them, having succeeded in one aspect of life, come to believe that they are experts in everything else.

I have had occasion to write before about the increasingly annoying Warren Buffett, a man of unquestionable business acumen who insists on spouting inanities about everything from birth control to fiscal policy. He was at it again recently, claiming to be yearning for higher taxes (small digression: did he yearn for higher tax rates when he was starting out in his business career, or only after he made such an ungodly pile that nothing short of outright confiscation could significantly reduce the quality and quantity of fare on his dinner table?). Charles Kadlec of Forbes takes the old windbag to task.
Billionaire Warren Buffett's call last week for higher capital gains and income tax rates on those with incomes above $1 million a year may appear to be an act of noblesse oblige. In reality, Buffett has betrayed his duty to those less fortunate by lending his name and prestige to an ignoble myth – that taxes targeted at the rich do not affect the middle-class and poor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What makes the tax-the-rich myth so insidious is that Buffett most likely would not suffer any change in his standard of living if his taxes were doubled to $14 million a year. With an annual income of approximately $40 million, he can pay more for just about anything he chooses.
And, as is almost invariably the case with liberals, who should we find lurking in the corner but our old friend, Hypocrisy?
Buffett's own actions suggest that he knows all this. He could lead by doing – and simply write a check to the federal government in an amount over and above what he has to pay in taxes. But, in fact, he has done just the opposite. Mr. Buffett has sheltered the bulk of his fortune from the federal death tax by putting it into several foundations that, over time, will give the money away.
In a 2007 CNBC interview he provided the following explanation: “I think that on balance the Gates Foundation, my daughter's foundation, my two sons' foundations will do a better job with lower administrative costs and better selection of beneficiaries than the government.” (Emphasis added.)
Ahhh, y-e-s-s…. So, in other words, Buffett is essentially saying, “The government is just dandy as a money-manager for all of you little people out there; however, when it comes to real dough, I’ll take care of my own, thanks.”

J. Packington Paco III: “I may be a bit of a pirate, but at least I’m not in league with the Coast Guard to suppress other aspiring buccaneers.”

Update: Haw!!!

Profiles in sheer awesomeness

Human Events has produced an interesting series of videos featuring Charles Moore, former editor of the UK Daily Telegraph, talking about the rise of Margaret Thatcher (that’s Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven to you lot). Here’s clip 1:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shaken, not stirred

Earlier this afternoon, we experienced an earthquake here in D.C. No, not like the electoral one back in November; a genuine, building-moving-back-and-forth-type earthquake. Pretty paltry stuff compared to what they get in California (5.9 on the Richter scale) - still, the damage was fairly extensive. Just look at what the quake did to my office...

Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I did survive that.

They’re doing some construction work in our building, and at first I thought maybe a big piece of equipment had gotten loose from somebody and was rolling down the hall upstairs. But the noise kept getting louder, and the shaking more pronounced – and then the alarms started going off and we were told to evacuate the building. My phone rang as I was grabbing my valuables (cigarettes) and heading out the door, and it was Mrs. Paco, telling me that she felt the earthquake in Fairfax, Virginia (the epicenter was near a town called Mineral, not too far from Richmond). The missus was good and rattled (when she was a little girl, she went through the huge 1960 earthquake in Chile, so she’s definitely allergic to these things).

We had to hang around outside for a couple of hours before we were permitted to go back in. The metro was a nightmare, because teams had to check the tracks for damage, but I finally made it home.

And now they're talking about a hurricane this weekend. I've got two dollars in the office pool on frogs and locusts for next Tuesday.

Now we’re talking fast and furious

Chuck Norris addresses the federal government’s gunrunning scandal.

Today’s Chuck Norris fact – Jesus walks on water. Chuck Norris swims on land

S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. was apparently S&P’s fault

CEO of S&P, Deven Sharma, is “stepping down”, to be replaced by Citi COO, Douglas Peterson.

I don’t carry any brief for S&P; the company and other ratings companies completely dropped the ball by propping up the housing bubble through the selective use of blinders. But, as the saying goes, I question the timing of this move (TurboTax Timmy Geithner has been publicly frothing at the mouth over S&P’s downgrade decision). On the other hand, maybe it’s just a specimen of Jungian synchronicity.

Meanwhile, the installation of an executive from Citi – one of the big beneficiaries of all that TARP money – does not exactly go a long way toward bolstering my confidence in the ability of S&P to build credibility.

In other Wall St. news, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, has hired a defense lawyer for some reason. Meh, that’s gratitude for you, eh, Lloyd?

Monday, August 22, 2011

If you move to Chicago, what's to stop you?

Actor Morgan Freeman says if he could, he'd vote for Obama "1,000 times".

From the shelves of the Paco library

Mark Twain – irreverent satirist and comic author – penned one work that was so far from the tone of his better-known books, that, if I hadn’t seen the dedication (to his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens), I probably wouldn’t have recognized it as his own. The work to which I refer is Twain’s historical novel about Joan of Arc. The full title is Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte (Her Page and Secretary), and is written in the form of a first-person account by one of Joan’s long-time companions. Although Twain was an agnostic, he produced, in Joan of Arc, a marvelously faithful account of her life, her vision and her martial pursuits, with little or no (to my mind, at least) modernist, condescending, ironic perspective. It is a well-researched novel, honestly and realistically presented in the contemporaneous voice of a friend and servant, whose worshipful admiration reflects something of Twain’s own genuine feelings about Joan (so faithful is it to the memory of Joan of Arc, that it was reprinted by the Ignatius Press, a conservative Catholic publishing house).

The novel is filled with interesting and occasionally amusing diversions, including descriptions of several of Joan’s friends, childhood playmates who grew up with her and, from a sense of duty and love, followed her as she embarked upon her famous mission to expel the English from the domains of the Dauphin, and see him crowned as Charles VII. The battle scenes are conveyed with a mix of horror, fear, pride and desperate hope, exactly the emotions that I imagine that one of Joan’s warrior-companions would feel. Always, at the center of things, there is Joan – relentlessly honest, unassuming and humble, but inspired by her Voices to lead her countrymen to wash away the shame of nearly one hundred years of continuous defeat.

And then, there is the last, tragic chapter of Joan’s life, when she is captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, and tried for her life by an ecclesiastical court filled with judges whose primary allegiance appears to be to their temporal English overlords, rather than to God. The courtroom scenes are moving, and almost maddening, in the juxtaposition of the young prisoner, a model of quiet courage and dignity, and her persecutors, attempting, day in and day out, to trick the unschooled country girl into an admission of heresy. Yet, Joan, completely deprived of counsel and friends, unlearned and illiterate, kept in chains in a cage in a dungeon, through a combination of native wit, and divine inspiration, neatly avoids the cunning traps laid out for her by her judges – except toward the very end when, sick and exhausted, she signs a document of abjuration which she does not understand, and then is quickly framed for apostasy. Finally, we follow Joan through the final steps to martyrdom and, ultimately, to her eventual rehabilitation.

Twain considered this his finest book – an opinion shared by virtually none of his critics. Which is to say merely that it is his most “un-Twainish” work, not that it isn’t a very enjoyable and instructive piece of historical fiction.

* * * * * *

For a faster-paced, more compact fictional treatment of the life of Joan of Arc, I highly recommend An Army of Angels, Pamela Marcantel’s amazing first novel. It has been in circulation for a long time (it was first published in 1997), and I think it may still be in print. I remember reading Florence King’s review of the book in National Review shortly after its publication. I can’t find her complete column, but here is a snippet:
“It is only fair to warn you that this review will violate the standards of objectivity, detachment, and ironic distance demanded by literary criticism. I’ve reviewed many books that I’ve liked and some that I’ve loved, but this time I have a masterpiece on my hands and I’m still reeling from it…An Army of Angels is surely a labor of love, but it is also high drama on a par with Victor Hugo and classical tragedy, laid out with the precision timing of seasoned stagecraft, graced throughout by a command of the English language that brings me to my knees.”
Hey, who am I to try and improve on Florence King? What she said.


The first day after vacation. President Obama rushes into the Oval Office for a scheduled meeting with a group of his advisers. He is carrying a box under one arm.

Obama: Sorry I’m late, guys, but I had to fetch something from upstairs. That vacation on Martha’s Vineyard is about to start paying dividends!

Axelrod: I certainly hope so, Mr. President. The press coverage has been pretty bad.

Obama: Not for much longer! My last day, I was out on the golf course and was having some trouble with my chip shots. You know what I did? I completely changed my grip and address, and I wound up playing like a pro! I was making some sensational shots!

Plouffe: You mean, sir, that you’re going to step down from the presidency to take up professional golf?

Obama: No, of course not [the president looks thoughtfully into the middle distance for a few seconds, then sighs]. No, no. What I mean, is, I got a great idea. I turned my game around by completely changing my focus. I’m going to do the same thing with my approval ratings! Now, what’s the biggest problem with my presidency so far?

Axelrod: Well, unemployment, the slow recovery, government debt…

Plouffe: And let’s not forget the growing recognition among the people that there are too many job-destroying regulations. There’s also your tendency to govern by executive fiat, as evidenced by your recent decision on deportations of illegal immigrants, and then there’s the Mexican gun-running scandal, your perceived lack of leadership during the debt-ceiling negotiations, the crony capitalism…

Obama: All right, all right! That’s enough! Here’s my point: I have had one or two successes, and they’ve been related to our military efforts. I got Bin Laden, and Gadhafy’s on the way to the dust bin.

Plouffe: Er…and?

Obama: Let’s play those things to the hilt! Jobs and the economy; that stuff’s so yesterday. I’m going to put myself across as a successful war president! That’s the kind of competence that virtually screams “leadership”. Besides, I’ve been wondering what to do with this thing Angela Merkel gave me, and now I see how I can use it as a terrific prop for my new image.

The president fishes Merkel’s gift from the box and proudly sets it on his desk.

Axelrod: Mr. President!

Plouffe: Sir, a...a pickelhaube?!?

Obama: Plouffe, stop showing your ignorance. This isn’t a bucket for collecting pickles. It’s one of those spikey German helmets from the First World War. The thing’s got military prowess written all over it.

Plouffe: Mr. President, that’s what a pickelhaube is; a spikey German helmet.

Obama: Oh. Huh. Well, the name sounds kind of funny. But nobody’s going to care what it’s called. The only thing that matters is the image. Here, let me put it on, and you’ll see.

Axelrod [wiping forehead with handkerchief]: Oh, yes, that screams something, all right, but I’m not sure it’s leadership.

Obama: Why? What’s wrong with it?

Axelrod: With all due respect, Mr. President, I really don’t think we want to be drawing parallels between you and Kaiser Wilhelm. Please take that thing off.

Obama removes the helmet, looks at it wistfully, and places it on his desk.

Obama: Sheesh! A guy tries to use a little initiative around here and all he catches is flack. [Obama’s personal secretary walks in] I thought I said I didn’t want to be disturbed!

Secretary: Sorry, sir, but you’ve got three urgent messages, one from Mr. Bernanke and two from Mr. Geithner.

Obama: Well, leave them, and see that I’m not interrupted again.

The secretary, offended by the president’s tone, stomps over to the desk, impales the notes on the business end of the pickelhaube, and stomps out of the room. Joe Biden slips around her and enters, wearing a cocked hat .

Biden: Damn the torpedoes…

Obama: Forget it, Joe. The military motif is off.

PhotoShop courtesy of Steve Burri

What’s so progressive about hypocrisy?

Michelle Malkin easily bats away the pretentiousness of Hollywood gnat, Janenane Garofalo. Even more than the pretentiousness, however, it is the hypocrisy that rankles.
From the safety of her Tinseltown cocoon, she has lashed out bitterly at tea party activists as “teabagging rednecks” and assailed their fiscal-conservative activism as “f***ing redneck douchebaggery. Unmitigated douchebaggery” — all while complaining about the lack of civility in politics. In 2009, Garofalo ignored a personal invitation from Texas Tea Party activist Katrina Pearson and other black conservatives to attend one of their rallies and meet reality.
Confronted by reality, liberal pieties melt like a scoop of ice cream on a July afternoon in Death Valley, leaving unthinking ideologues like Garofalo curled up in a fetal position repeatedly shrieking non sequiturs like “teabagging rednecks!” I am convinced that, beyond a certain point, adherence to liberalism is truly a form of mental illness. It has all the symptoms: denial, projection, persecution-mania, narcissism, coprolalia. Tellingly, it’s also the one illness for which Democrats will never seek to fund treatment.

Michelle also takes on Maxine Waters, who possesses the highest mouth-to-brain ratio in Congress.

Follow-up to Monday movie

This has nothing to do with Stagecoach, but in the context of actors and acting, Mark Steyn has written an interesting piece on the late Sir Alec Guinness.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Monday movie

The Indian chase scene from Stagecoach (be sure to check out the Indian reloading at about 3:50; he’s sitting that horse just as easy as if he were relaxing in a Laz-E-Boy).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scoff if you will!

Some scientists are claiming that aliens may invade the earth in order to protect themselves from an out-of-control species that refuses to do anything about global warming.

Laughable? Not at all. I’m reasonably certain that the aliens have already sent scouts and infiltrators ahead of the planned invasion.

Ineffectual, early attempt by aliens to create a humanoid disguise.

Because most owners would obviously use it for dropping their kids off at daycare

Thank you, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration! And just what am I supposed to do with my new racing gloves?
Italian automaker Pagani was to begin selling its $1 million, 700 horsepower Huayra supercar in the U.S. later this year but federal safety regulators have said "Not so fast."

Pagani had applied for an exemption from federal auto safety rules requiring child-safe "advanced" airbags, arguing that complying with the rule would have caused "substantial economic hardship," according to documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
NHTSA denied the request…
If this is part of Obama’s plan to force everybody into a Chevy Volt, it ain’t gonna work.

Islamic cunning

Kathy Shaidle features Wild Bill discussing “Islam’s greatest invention”.

And don’t miss Ray Stevens’ scheme for adapting Obamanomics to the family budget.

Did you ever wonder where DailyKos posts come from?

Smitty has the astonishing answer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy Feet Friday

Sadly, he's not much remembered now, but Gene Rodgers was a solid musician and arranger, who played piano with some great bands and soloists, including Chick Webb, Cab Calloway, and Coleman Hawkins.

And it is - naturally! - his mad, bad boogie-woogie style that appeals to me. Here he is in a clip from the 1947 movie Shoot to Kill.

The insanity of British self-defense laws

The folks at Powerline invited historian and professor Joyce Lee Malcolm to offer some thoughts on the recent riots in England. She responded with a fascinating column detailing the evolution of Britain’s laws in the matter of self-defense, and showing some of the positively absurd outcomes. Try this one on for size:
On June 23 around midnight a masked gang broke down the back door of a home in Salford, in northwestern England. The householder, 59, his son and the son’s girl friend called the police and tried to defend the home and themselves. They managed to stab one of the gang who died of his wounds. When the police arrived they arrested the householder, his son and the son’s girlfriend on suspicion of attempted murder.
So, in England, when you’re startled by armed intruders in your very home, you’ve got to add the possible legal penalties of self-defense to all the other things that you’re trying to sort out in your mind, in a matter of seconds, under intense pressure. Whatever happened to that wise observation written down by Sir Edward Coke in his Institutes of the Laws of England: “A man’s house is his castle and fortress, et domus sua cuique tutissimum refugium”[and each man’s home is his safest refuge]? By shifting the burden of defense from the citizen to the police, all that is really assured is that someone will eventually draw a chalk line around your corpse if you are killed, and make a reasonable effort (one assumes) to try and discover your murderer.

What is also maddening is the notion – no doubt born of the hostility toward private property that goes hand in hand with socialism and its variants – that it’s better to suffer any amount of damage to homes and businesses and livelihoods, to tolerate the incineration of entire blocks, in fact, rather than run the risk that a single hair on the head of a thug be harmed. Why? Why is the life of the criminal sacrosanct, and the life – or liberty – of the homeowner negotiable? Could it be that the pseudo-intellectuals who are making excuses for the rioters, if not out and out defending them, believe that the barbarians are engaged in some form of revolutionary justice against the “exploiters”?

Britain cannot permanently serve as the host for a growing, parasitic, destructive underclass. There is little incentive for anyone to obey the law if those who violate it can do so with a reasonable expectation of impunity. And there is no incentive to work hard and build wealth if producers can be deprived of the fruit of their labor by uncontrollable mobs (or by the taxman acting on their behalf). Britain will either undergo a sea change in its attitude toward the proper relationship between the state and the individual, or it will continue its long death spiral, ultimately becoming a kind of sovereign Detroit.

It is a mercy that the choice is so stark; the high definition of the alternatives may yet permit people of courage and wisdom to find a way to save their country.


Prospective replacement found for Tim Geithner.

Just because the Obama administration is extremely busy, er, fixing the economy, it doesn’t mean that foreign policy is going untended. Under cover of the overriding concerns about our economic and fiscal mess, Obama’s people are still trying to bully Israel.

“Profiling” is considered controversial by our security wonks; “fake profiling”, however, is ok.

Attorney General Eric Holder, feeling the heat on the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, finally launches an investigation – into S&P’s rating system.

Pat Austin has some suggestions for the president’s summer reading. Meanwhile, I’ll be reading Obama’s latest book…

(H/T: Ace of Spades)

What this country needs is another federal department.

I’m really looking forward to Dick Lugar’s retirement party.

There’s an Unemployment Insurance Hall of Fame? Who knew?

Obama blames black cats and walking under ladders for economic malaise.

New book: The Genius and Heroism of Michael Moore…

…by, er, Michael Moore.

If you’ve been trying to find a substitute for ipecac, this is your lucky day!

Riots, then and now

Robert Avrech at Seraphic Secret recollects some frightening moments during the 1992 L.A. riots. A gripping personal account, well worth a read.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An embarrassment of riches

With the recent news that Paul Ryan is considering a presidential run, it is becoming increasingly untenable to argue, as some have, that the Republican field is weak. It never was, anyway, in my opinion. Bachmann, Perry, Romney, McCotter, Cain, possibly Palin – they all have their weaknesses, but they all have strengths, too, including one they all hold in common: any of these candidates is head and shoulders above Obama in every category that really matters. And can you imagine a debate between Barry and Paul Ryan? (although the one I’d really like to see would be a debate between Obama and the extraordinarily witty Thad McCotter; if that ever happens, the preshizzle would be wise to arrange, beforehand, for an international crisis to interrupt the debate early in the evening. “Listen, Thad, I’ve got as much, er, ‘feck’ as anybody, but…oh, hold on a sec…Hello? Yes? Oh, good evening, Krugman. What’s that? An alien invasion? I’m on it. Sorry, everybody, I’ve got an intergalactic crisis I’ve got to fix. Later.”)

Things are really hottin’ up! But no matter how strongly we may ultimately wind up feeling about this or that presidential candidate, he (or she) is never going to be a savior, as Don Boudreaux points out in this excellent repost (as timely today as when he first published it in 2004).

President Walter Mitty’s new adventure

Having tried on FDR’s hat, only to discover that it came down to the bridge of his nose, and Ronald Reagan’s suit, which proved to be too large in the chest, Obama is now going for the Truman gambit, barnstorming the country and bashing Republicans on his widely heralded “America Under the Bus” tour (Let’s see… “Give ‘em hell, Barry!”…M-e-h-h-h…)

What an amazing combination of contrasts this fellow is turning out to be. The incredible lightness of being Obama; no more genuine substance than a cloud of dandelion seeds. And yet, dealing out social and economic destruction with the power of a wrecking ball in a neighborhood of adobe shacks. Forget another term; I’m just hoping we all make it through this one.

Update: Obama said today (one can hear the wistfulness), “It used to be that everybody was sitting there watching Walter Cronkite, now everybody is on their own little blog or on their own separate news forum.” Yeah, isn’t it just too damn bad that we don’t have an avuncular old liberal like Cronkite giving us our daily bowl of propaganda sweetened with corn syrup to disguise the taste, and talking us into, among other things, losing wars and leaving millions of innocents to the tender mercies of totalitarian savages. Dick.

Today’s Fast and Furious outrage

Three ATF supervisors who are up to their ears in the Mexican gunrunning scandal have just been…promoted. As Ed Morrissey points out: “Only in government would three supervisors who botched their jobs so badly that people died get promoted so that they can maybe avoid getting people killed in the future.”

"Doc" Brown, RIP

Survivor of the Bataan Death March dead at the age of 105.

Green energy's exciting future

Evergreen Solar files for bankruptcy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The preshizzle heads for the open road

Obama: Dammit, Dave! Are you sure this is downtown Detroit?

Axelrod: Yes, Mr. President. It’s changed a little since you took office.

The next big stimulus idea

Paul Krugman has taken leave of his senses - this time, for good, it seems. Not only does he laud post-1940 government spending as having been good for the economy (World War II as stimulus plan), he suggests that an alien invasion – or just the threat of one – is the kind of thing that would end our economic slump.

Turn on the money machine, earthlings!

Matt Damon’s brain

Ben Shapiro analyzes the, er, thinking of Michael Moore’s candidate for president, and finds the actor’s thought-box to be a very unprepossessing specimen.

Reaping the poisonous harvest of the welfare state

Peter Hitchens and Theodore Dalrymple have written excellent essays on the riots in Britain, and the societal rot that made them possible (indeed, inevitable). A sample from Dalrymple’s piece:
The youth of Britain have long placed a de facto curfew on the old, who in most places would no more think of venturing forth after dark than would peasants in Bram Stoker's Transylvania. Indeed, well before the riots last week, respectable persons would not venture into the centers of most British cities or towns on Friday and Saturday nights, for fear—and in the certainty—of encountering drunken and aggressive youngsters. In Britain nowadays, the difference between ordinary social life and riot is only a matter of degree, not of type.

Deep calling to deep

President Obama receives support from an unexpected completely predictable quarter.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reader speculation invited

So, who's going to play Bin Laden in the movie? For that matter, who's going to play Obama?

By the way, Steve Burri has some intel on the proposed script.

Monday movie

Clark Gable demonstrates his hitchhiking technique in the film classic, It Happened One Night.

Bonus: Robert Avrech describes two honeymoons from hell:

Ava Gardner and Mickey Rooney (!)

Gloria Swanson and the bestial Wallace Beery.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Woman wakes up, finds blimp in backyard. "I thought for a moment it was Al Gore," woman tells Paco World News Daily (PWND).

Shaking up the race

Governor Rick Perry of Texas is now officially a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and I have to admit, I am wowed by one of his introductory comments, cited here by John Podhoretz.
“I will work every day to make Washington, DC as inconsquential in your life as I can,” says Rick Perry as he announces for president. Well, there it is. The 2012 race in a nutshell—”America is not broken. Washington D.C. is broken,” as Perry said, in contrast to Barack Obama’s continuing insistence that government must somehow lead the way out of the economic doldrums with infrastructure banks and payroll tax cuts and extending unemployment insurance. If the dividing line between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats want, in some sense, to direct America from Washington, Republicans believe the United States should not be directed, and should instead be managed as close to the citizenry as possible.
I'm also impressed by his views on climate change.
“...all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.”
Listen to those liberal heads exploding! Sounds like a herd of elephants stampeding over an acre of bubble-wrap.

Hats off to these Navajo warriors

Today is Code Talkers Day.
On Sunday, Aug. 14, the Navajo Code Talkers Association and Department of Navajo Veterans Affairs will celebrate the holiday and honor the brave young Navajo men who answered the call to duty and helped devise an unbreakable military code.

The code, based on the Navajo language, helped the U.S. win battle after battle as it fought to retake the eastern Pacific from the Japanese. The code talkers returned home sworn to secrecy until 1968, when the government declassified the code 23 years after the war ended.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunday funny

How to annoy the vegetarian in your life.

(H/T: Gavin Atkins)

Update: Legal Insurrection has another superb anti-Obama bumper sticker.

Presidential modesty

Mencken once said that politicians at conventions like to compare themselves favorably to "the rising of the sun and the aurora borealis". Those are about the only two grandiose self-comparisons Obama hasn't made yet - although, at this rate, it's probably only a matter of time.

Another sad anniversary

Fidel Castro celebrates his 85th birthday.

I've always wondered if things might have turned out differently had Franklin Roosevelt sent little Fidel that ten-spot he asked for.

Friday, August 12, 2011

John McSmaug

I'm a few days behind on this, but it's one of the reasons why, although I regret that Obama won the presidency, I'm not consumed by sadness over the presidency that will never be.


Police brutality in Australia ( Haw!)

The U.S. experiences an unusual boost in exports.

Another great job-creating idea from the preshizzle.

Smitty probes the origins of Obama’s unusual level of confidence.

The Troglopundit celebrates a grim holiday.

Steve Burri objects to the, er, male chauvinism of Newsweek.

So does Camp of the Saints.

Bingbing has a very important public service announcement for men.

The Iron Law of Unanticipated Consequences.

What else does George Soros spend his money on, besides left-wing causes?

Viagra, apparently.

More common-sense anti-riot measures…

…courtesy of Tree-Hugging Sister and some Newark "businessmen".

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Old bat

Fred Thompson never fails to please.

Obamacare's growing price tag

Five hundred billion dollar "error" discovered.

I would be astonished to learn that anybody ever really thought Obamacare was going to help reduce federal spending. Since we're looking for things to cut, I say let's start with the president's hallmark legislation.

Update: Yojimbo in the comments section points out that yeah, it's expensive, but Obamacare's also unconstitutional.

Happy Feet Friday

Linda Hopkins performs “They Raided the Joint”.

This is how we handle it on this side of the pond

Joy McCann compares citizen response in the cases of riots in London and L.A. Well worth a read.

That guy, again!

Australian readers will remember Bryan Law, an anti-war kook who occasionally posted comments at Tim Blair's old site (he was nicknamed "Bryla", whether by himself or the other commenters, I never was able to discover). Although I found his politics absurd, he always seemed to come across as a fairly jovial, even-tempered, and basically non-threatening fellow, who suffered even the most vitriolic barbs with good cheer.

Thanks to one of my commenters (who goes by the name of "Bryla's Ex-Keyboard"), we learn that the old boy is still making headlines. He really should be locked away before he hurts himself.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quick justice

The Taliban leader responsible for bringing down the helicopter last week has been vaporized.
The Tuesday airstrike killed Mullah Mohibullah and another insurgent who fired the shot that brought down a CH-47 Chinook on Aug. 6, killing the 30 U.S. troops aboard...The two men were killed while trying to flee the country. Troops tracked the men into a wooded area of the Chak district of Wardak province. The F-16 then dropped the bomb, killing Mohibullah, the shooter and several others.
A good day's work.

Wisconsin holds firm

The Democrat recall effort in Wisconsin falls way short.

Legal Insurrection discovers what has to be the absolutely best tweet on the subject.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Defenseless in London

Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata discusses the maddening dilemma of having a police force that can’t protect you, and won’t let you protect yourself.

Others who are far better versed than I in the sociology of modern Britain can discourse on the causes and effects of the riots currently afflicting London and other cities, but I’ll make one observation before leaving off. One of the most insidious effects of the noxious mixture of nanny-state economics and multicultural relativism is the enervation of the spirit of individualism, which depletion promotes a general feeling of indecisiveness, even as to whether one has the right to protect one’s own person and property and traditional way of life. When the stamp of politically-correct “legitimacy”, and the usurpation of personal responsibility by the state, begin to trump the concepts of self-reliance and even self-preservation, then you get what Britain’s got – a sheep-like population, among whom hordes of predatory malcontents have sprung up. The latter, betrayed by the false promises of socialism and deprived of the animating spirit of enterprise and the self-control commensurate with an appreciation of personal responsibility, seethe with envy and an unearned sense of entitlement, and are thus easily given to mindless violence.

The admirable Mr. Micklethwait proposes to take up a cricket bat in his defense, if necessary. I hope he scores a century (if that’s the correct terminology). I, for one, am glad that I live in a country where I might improve the odds considerably by employing a shotgun – if, of course, necessary. By the way, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not sneering in condescension at Britain. With our flash mobs and our bloated government and our Obamacare – the “next best thing” to a national health service – we may not be that far behind.

Update:More at the Daily Mail.

Update II: Friend and commenter, Rebecca, suggested that I google some of the British police blogs. I did, and there are some interesting takes. Here are a few:

Police Inspector Blog

PC Bloggs

The Thinking Policeman

Shear jeenyus

“Is Obama Smart?”, Bret Stephens asks in the title of this WSJ article. We all know the answer, of course, but Mr. Stephens puts it all so well:
Of course, it's tempting to be immodest when your admirers are so immodest about you. How many times have we heard it said that Mr. Obama is the smartest president ever? Even when he's criticized, his failures are usually chalked up to his supposed brilliance. Liberals say he's too cerebral for the Beltway rough-and-tumble; conservatives often seem to think his blunders, foreign and domestic, are all part of a cunning scheme to turn the U.S. into a combination of Finland, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

I don't buy it. I just think the president isn't very bright.
Also not to be missed is William McGurn’s comparison of Obama and Jimmy Carter. While many of us have seen general parallels, Mr. McGurn points out in some detail similarities that had not even occurred to me. For example:
Then there's realist theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama proved his intellectual chops when, in response to a question about Niebuhr from a New York Times columnist, he replied, "I love him. He's one of my favorite philosophers." The column went on to describe Mr. Obama's campaign as "an attempt to thread the Niebuhrian needle."

Alas, even here Jimmy Carter got there first. The frontispiece of his campaign biography "Why Not the Best" features one of his favorite quotations from Niebuhr: "The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world." Scotty Reston duly noted Mr. Carter's admiration for Niebuhr in a Times column written when the future President Obama was just 14 years old.
As one of my own favorite philosophers, Dirty Harry, put it: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Obama refuses to admit that he has any, even though many of the people who originally supported him are now waking up and taking notice. Most of Obama’s current critics in the legacy media will naturally resume their naps and continue propagandizing in their sleep for him once the Republican challenger is chosen; however, I think, for a lot of quondam Obamaphiles among the non-chattering classes, the bloom is permanently off the rose.

Update: The endless summer of Duh!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Treebeard goes ballistic

Poor Al. I fear that it's only a matter of time before he gathers a few of the Cli-Fi diehards together and they all go chasing after a comet.

Too fat

Cynthia de la Vega, Mexican beauty queen, loses her shot at the Miss World title because she gained six pounds.

Let's see...

Oh, yeah. What a porker.

Barack Obama: short seller?

The market, already down by around 300 points, took another nosedive when Barry opened his yap today (the DJIA wound up closing down 630 points).
President Obama said financial markets around the world "still believe our credit is AAA and the world's investors agree," although his speech did little to cheer up the market.
Really?!? How do you do it, Holmes?

By the way, the president – whose limited imagination conceives of “balance” as being limited to (largely imaginary) spending cuts and (very real) tax increases – ought to give some thought to economic growth. Quin Hillyer points the way.

Update: Insty has a round-up of reactions to Obama’s speech today. Probably my favorite is Jennifer Rubin’s:
He was a half hour late. His head turned from side to side as if he were attending a tennis match. He practically never looked in the camera, as if he were averting our gaze. And those were the strong parts of President Obama’s disastrous speech.

It was a bit like a slow-motion car crash. After a while, one stopped listening to the blather and simply watched the stock ticker go down and down. And down some more.

Obama had all weekend and the best he could come up with was a reiteration of his plea for a “balanced” approach to deficit control. That’s right. We have a tumbling stock market, over 9 percent unemployment and a flight to gold (some investment advisers say it will be at $2,500 per ounce by year’s end). All he can do is promise to raise taxes.
Yeah, Barry wants all those idle rich making over $250M a year to kick in with their fair share. Let’s see, though. If the top 10% of income earners are already paying over 70% of the income taxes collected – and over 40% aren’t paying any income taxes at all – just exactly what constitutes “fair”?

"Olé, comrades!"

(Image gratefully swiped from Are We Lumberjacks?)

Update II: Heh. The latest NObama bumper sticker.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Monday movie

Buster Keaton serenades a señorita (or so he thinks). This is a clip from a film short that Mrs. Paco and I saw more than 30 years ago when we lived in Miami. Some of the local businesses sponsored the showing of a series of film classics (a dollar a head), and the Keaton short was shown in conjunction with Stagecoach. It was great seeing them both on the big screen, and, considering the fact that I was still in college and we were living on the merest shoestring, it was about all the entertainment we could afford - but we definitely got our money's worth.

I've heard of shotgun weddings...

...but shotgun funerals? (H/T: Gavin Atkins).

Merchants of death

As bad as the Fast and Furious scandal has been up to now, it just keeps getting worse. Doug Ross reports that the U.S. may have been the chief enabler for the Sinaloa Cartel (H/T: Smitty, who opines that this fiasco could sink the administration).

Update: Not just worse, but worse by the hour. Mr. G points out that the U.S. government might have been permitting drugs to move north, as well as guns to move south.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sunday funnies

Steve Burri also brings the funny.

And finally: some White House party games.

The Fallen

Thirty-one of America's finest, and seven brave Afghan commandos, perished in Afghanistan when their helicopter was shot down by the Taliban.

God bless their souls, and comfort their comrades, families and friends. And may He guide us to ultimate victory against the evil of militant Islam.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Detective Paco in "Fast and Spurious"

That extra whiskey sour the night before had stopped my ears against the alarm clock the next morning, so I was half an hour late getting to the office. Not that it mattered all that much; private eyes punch bad guys, not timecards. But I like to set a good example for the troops.

Too late for that, it seemed. As I pushed through the door into the waiting room of my suite, I saw the troops cutting up pretty loud. Sheila was standing behind her desk, doubled over with laughter. She was wearing a low-cut summer number, and a good thing it was, too, since I think it was only the mesmerizing effect of the little ripples pulsing across the bronzed flesh of her ample breasts as she laughed that kept Wronwright from stamping on the ground and raving like Donald Duck having a temper tantrum. Instead, he simply stood there, furiously wiping his glasses. I figured I’d give him a minute to pull himself together before asking him to explain why his face had gone completely black. I seated myself on a corner of Sheila’s desk, plopped my hat down on the tower of unpaid bills in her in-box, and leisurely fished a coffin nail out of the pack, lighting it with my trusty Zippo.

“Well, well,” I said. “If it isn’t that great folk music legend, Delta Wron. Where’s your banjo?”

He stopped wiping his specs and put them on, but the schmutz hadn’t come off, it had just smeared into black whorls. He looked like Al Jolson wearing a pair of gag x-ray spectacles.

“I’m glad you find it funny! I was almost asphyxiated a while ago.”

“What happened?”

“I didn’t want to go all the way to the crosswalk when I got off the subway this morning, so I cut behind a bus in the middle of the block. I saw a quarter lying in the street right behind it, and I bent over to pick it up. At that precise instant, the bus took off and spewed a cloud of diesel smoke right in my face. I bet the thing hasn’t had a tune-up in years!”

“Well, look at the bright side. At least you’re twenty-five cents ahead.”

Wron pursed his lips. “It turned out to be a Coke bottle cap.”


“And I didn’t even win anything in their ‘Look-inside-the-bottle-cap’ contest. It said ‘Better luck next time!’”

“I see.”

“It was the exclamation mark that really got to me. Like they were rubbing my nose in the fact that I wasn’t a winner.”

“Well, yes, but…”

“I mean, it’s not like it’s a contest involving any real skill or anything.”

“Ermmm…yeah. Listen, how about if we just pick up the pieces and move on? We’ve got an assignment. Congressman Issa has hired us to do some investigation work on the ATF’s ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal.”

That got everybody’s attention. In his excitement at hearing the news, Wron grabbed Sheila and planted a kiss on her cheek – leaving an oily black spot on her face, which she instantly started to wipe off with his necktie.

“What are you doing?” she squealed.


“Now you’ve got the stuff on me!”


“Sheila,” I said, “I think you might want to stop pulling so hard on his tie.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry, Wron, but you need to watch those involuntary outbreaks of exuberance.”

Wronwright cleared his throat and loosened his collar. “Yeah. Or switch to bow-ties. Say, is this a uniformed job, or are we working undercover?”

“Meaning, I suppose, do you get to wear your Napoleonic-era French dragoon uniform or your tied-dyed t-shirt and false beard? Neither. Something professional, but not too conspicuous.”

“Damn! Ok, so, what’s the deal?”

“Issa wants us to go to Nogales, in Arizona, and interview some of the gun store owners who were roped into the ATF’s plan to permit them to sell weapons to straw purchasers, who then delivered the stuff to drug cartels in Mexico. His staff’s concentrating on Phoenix and Tucson, and they’re spread pretty thin, right now.”

Sheila asked a question that was on a lot of peoples’ minds. “I’ve read some articles about that program, but never really understood it. How was the ATF going to track the guns once they were in Mexico?”

“They couldn’t”, I answered. “At least, not unless or until a crime was committed and the weapons were seized. By then, more likely than not, somebody had been killed.”

“Like that U.S. Border Patrol agent”, Wronwright pointed out.

“Exactly. And it looks like some of those guns never even made it to Mexico; they’re starting to show up in the streets of Phoenix and other towns. It’s a fiasco all the way around, and the responsibility may even reach into the highest levels of the Justice Department. Given the sheer stupidity of the whole thing, and the possibility of ulterior motives – like cooking up some statistics that showed we needed more restrictive gun-control laws – I wouldn’t be surprised if the culpability went even higher. Come on into my office, Wron, and we’ll work out the details. Just don’t touch anything ‘til you wash that grime off. Especially…” I sighed in despair.

“Your new Panama hat?” Wronwright smiled sheepishly as he handed me my brand new lid, which he had retrieved from Sheila’s desk. It was now dotted with oily black fingerprints. Well, I figured, maybe it’ll do for wearing when I mow the lawn. If I ever have a lawn.

* * * * * * * * *

You could spend a lifetime in Arizona and never see everything worth seeing. But you could see everything, liberally interpreting the phrase, “worth seeing”, in Nogales in about an hour, and we were now marking our fourth day. A dusty little border city simmering in a hundred-and-five-degree heat, it looked and felt like one of hell’s low-rent suburbs. We were staying in an old motel whose road sign couldn’t boast of anything more luxurious than a Coke machine in the lobby. It wasn’t part of a chain, but if its owners had applied for membership in the Motel 6 franchise, it would have been rejected for being a few numbers short. Even the cockroaches seemed apathetic and dispirited. Stomp on us, they seemed to say. We don’t care.

I was waiting in the motel lobby for Wronwright. The venetian blinds hanging over the plate-glass window were hitched up on one side, allowing the unfiltered desert sun to flood the small room, baking the few meager pieces of cheap, 50-year old Scandinavian-style furniture (judging by the undisturbed layers of dust on the blades, I’d say the blinds had been that way since the mid-1960s). I had located a small pool of shade at one end of a couch and was sitting there reading through my notes.

We had interviewed seven gun dealers in the area, so far, four of whom had been approached by the ATF to participate in Fast and Furious. None had seemed too keen on the operation, although they had reluctantly played along. We had one more gun seller to talk to, a guy named Alex Gianopolous, whom we would be meeting that morning before closing out our investigation and heading back home. Gianopolous had turned the ATF down flat.

Wronwright finally came marching into the lobby. The manager, glancing up from his newspaper as he sat on a stool behind the counter, quickly put out a little sign that read “Back in 15 Minutes” and fled into his office, slamming the door and throwing the latch. Wronwright walked briskly to the counter and began pounding on the bell – which, instead of ringing, made a flat clanking noise (he had either worn out the clapper over the last few days during his incessant appearances in the office to complain about the inadequacy of his accommodations, or the manager had removed it in self-defense).

“Ha! Back in 15 minutes, indeed! Paco, do you know what happened last night?”

“You didn’t find another scorpion under your pillow, did you? Or was the bath water still coming out of the tap all brown and gritty?”

“No. Well, yes, the water’s still brown, but this is something new. I turned on what the comedians who own this place laughingly call the “air conditioner” before going to bed – you know, that machine in the window that roars like a gas-powered weed-whacker and blows lukewarm fog all over the room [he shouted that last bit for the benefit of the manager, no doubt cowering behind his office door] – and during the night the thing conked out and a bunch of biting gnats flew in through the vent. My face is all chewed up; I feel like I’ve been sleeping face down on a porcupine pillowcase.”

“You do look like you’ve suddenly come down with a bad case of acne. Rub some Benadryl cream on your face and let’s get going. One more interview and we’re out of here.”

We walked out of the motel into blinding sunshine and climbed into our rental car. No wonder I got a big discount on the black sedan; it was like sitting in a kiln. I poured a little bottled water over the steering wheel, wiped it down with a towel and gingerly took it into my hands as we headed over to Sonora Outfitters and our date with Gianopolous.

It was a freestanding building located on the edge of town, modest in size, but fairly new and very well maintained. A broad awning cast some welcome shade over the entrance and the front parking spaces, so I parked near the door and we walked in. The store sold a wide range of camping and outdoor sports gear, and one of the side walls was lined with racks of rifles and shotguns. Glass counters held a surprisingly diverse sampling of handguns, ranging from semi-automatics to replicas of pre-Civil War percussion revolvers. Somewhere nearby a vacuum cleaner whirred.

Wronwright wandered over to a huge stuffed bear near the entrance and studied it.

“You know,” he said, turning to me, “I wonder if these things are really as dangerous as they’re made out to be.”

Suddenly, the bear pivoted, and a massive claw swept toward Wron’s head. He gasped and hurled himself backwards, tripping over a pup tent and falling into a stack of fishing poles. While he thrashed around, trying to extricate himself from a selection of Shakespeare glass rods and Zebco spinning reels, a dark-haired angel emerged from behind the bear.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I was vacuuming and I had to move the bear. Can I show you boys anything?”

She already had, and I was admiring the inventory. Her smiling, liquid brown eyes glinted beneath a mantle of thick, jet-black hair, and her natural olive complexion, although darkened by exposure to the desert sun, was smooth and clear. She was of diminutive stature, but perfectly proportioned, and a silver and turquoise necklace rode the gentle swell of her breasts beneath a cotton work shirt tied up at the waist, as she recovered from the exertions of shifting the bear.

Her round, but firm, hips were sheathed in skin-tight denim shorts. How did she get them on, I wondered, and – I removed my hat and ran a handkerchief over my brow - off.

“Good morning,” I said. “We’re from Rep. Issa’s office. I think one of his assistants called about our visit. I’m Detective Paco, and that fellow there who looks like he’s just bought several hundred dollars’ worth of fishing tackle is my partner, Wronwright. We’re looking for Mr. Alex Gianopolous.”

Her eyes twinkled merrily as she responded. “I’m your man!”

Wronwright, who had been hastily restacking the fishing rods, goggled at her like a bass contemplating a purple worm. “You’re Alex Gianopolous?”

“Yes. ‘Alexis’ is what it says on the birth certificate, but I’ve always gone by Alex. I inherited the business from my father when he died several years ago – he was an Alex, too – and I’ve been running it with my brother ever since. Listen, it’s a little warm in the store. The air conditioning went on the fritz yesterday. The service man repaired it late in the day, but the place still hasn’t cooled down yet. Let’s go in my office and talk things over. Follow me.”

We did so – with pleasure – and found ourselves sitting in a spare, but neat little room, with a desk, a few chairs, a couple of filing cabinets and a small refrigerator. An oscillating floor fan kept things reasonably comfortable.

“Would you like some bottled water or soda-pop?”

“Yes, thanks,” I said. Whatever you’re having.”

She withdrew three bottles of mineral water from the fridge. Raising hers in a kind of toast, she said, “Confusion to the enemy!”

I took my hat off and placed it on a corner of the desk, and removed a small notebook from my coat pocket. “You don’t mind if I jot down a few notes?”

“Not at all. Although there’s not much to tell. A couple of guys from the ATF came buzzing around with an invitation to participate in a special operation. Said they wanted me to sell guns to straw purchasers so they could track them once they were sold to cartels in Mexico. Sounded screwy to me, and I told them I didn’t want any part of it. Particularly when they mentioned who one of the straw purchasers was.”

“Somebody you know?”

“Yeah, a local low-life by the name of Jimmy Fowler. He’s a self-styled big shot who’s been selling guns on the black market for years, but never in Mexico that I ever heard tell of; just around Arizona. I see him at gun shows occasionally, and he’s been in here a few times, trying to place large orders. I tried telling the ATF boys about his history, especially about him not being involved in Mexico, but they didn’t seem to care. They said that’s exactly the kind of guy they were looking for. I wouldn’t have anything to do with him, and I told the ATF so.”

Alex lifted her chin and ran the ice-cold bottle over her neck. Her eyes closed momentarily and her lips parted as she savored the refreshing coolness. A drop of condensation from the bottle caught at her throat, clung momentarily, then descended precipitately into the depths of her tawny cleavage, leaving a thin, watery trail across one of her breasts.

“Besides”, she said, “he always tries to hit on me for some reason.”

For some reason. Wonder what it could be, I thought facetiously.

She grinned. “But I always tell Jimmy that I’m only interested in the intellectual type. I’m pretty sure he had to look the word up.”

Wronwright, who, up to this point, had been sitting motionless and gazing at Alex like something he wanted to swipe off a shelf and stick in his pocket, suddenly pulled his eye-glasses out and put them on.

“I thought you were wearing your new contact lenses?” I asked pointedly.

“What?” he muttered vaguely. “Oh. Heh. You’re right. Force of habit. You know how absent-minded we bookworms with advanced academic degrees can be.”

Alex flashed her sweetest smile yet. “I imagine you wouldn’t have to look up ‘intellectual’!”

We were getting a little sidetracked. “He tried one time, but he couldn’t find it under ‘e’, so he gave up. Listen, Alex, if I understand you correctly, the ATF was pushing you and other gun dealers to sell to this Fowler guy, right?”


“And as far as you know, he didn’t have any experience in moving weapons across the border?”

“No, he always brags a lot – trying to make himself look like some kind of big-time outlaw – but he never mentioned moving guns to anybody but narcotics traffickers and other hoods based right here in Arizona.”

“Strange that the Feds would single out this bird for a straw purchaser, if the goal was to track guns in Mexico.”

Her smile switched from sweet to coy. “Isn’t it, though? Almost makes you think the government had some other plan in mind.”

“An ulterior motive,” my intellectual partner added.

“Exactly,” Alex purred. “Like maybe what the administration really wanted was simply to get weapons into the hands of criminals in either Mexico or the U.S. in order to support more stringent gun control legislation.”

“Tell me something. The ATF people who approached you. Were they local or from Washington?”

“Strictly Washington. Most of the local agents hated the program.”

I took a long pull on my bottle of water – deeply regretting that I had left my flask of bourbon back in the hotel room. “Let’s size this up. The Washington brass wanted you and the other arms dealers in the area to sell to Fowler, but it’s looking like he never sold guns to anybody but local criminals. Some of those guns have been seized in Phoenix and elsewhere in Arizona and traced back to sellers here in Nogales – which means Fowler was most likely involved as the straw purchaser. Yet, even though operation Fast and Furious has been closed down, the Feds know Fowler sold hardware illegally – at least in Arizona – yet he’s still walking around loose. I think we need to talk to him.”

Alex frowned. “I don’t know. He’s likely to clam up. If the Washington boys aren’t showing any interest, he’s not feeling any heat.”

Wronwright snapped his fingers. “Wait a minute! Alex, you say the ATF agents here in southern Arizona hated the gun-running operation, right?”

“Yes, I know most of them, and they thought the higher-ups were crazy. A couple have turned whistle-blower, as a matter of fact.”

“Well, what if we could set Fowler up – arrange for him to sell some guns illegally right under the nose of one of your trusted ATF buddies? The lawman wouldn’t have any choice but to arrest him.”

I saw where Wron was going. “So then, once we’ve got him on a real charge, he has to stand trial, and the whole program starts to get some genuine attention in the press. If nothing else, we at least get a dangerous criminal off the streets. You know, Wron, maybe you are an intellectual, after all.”

He brushed aside my compliment. “I’ve got another idea. To really pique Fowler’s interest, why don’t we give him a shot at the big time? We get an actual member of one of the Mexican cartels to turn him on to the idea of supplying weapons for some serious cash.”


“And,” he beamed, “I can be the drug dealer!”

I should have seen it coming. Wronwright, the Master of Disguise. A guy who had once worn a gorilla suit to a costume party and was recognized immediately by the host’s sister, who had only seen him before once in her life, five years earlier, as she rushed out of the front door of her brother’s apartment to catch a cab.


“Look, if you’re going to bring up the gorilla suit episode, Bob’s sister just had a keen eye for faces.”

“You were wearing the head.”

“Well, maybe she recognized my voice.”

“You were growling.”

“I can do this, Paco!”

I buried my face in my hands and sighed right down to the soles of my wing-tips. When I glanced at Wron – all bright-eyed anticipation and Eagle Scout determination - I knew I couldn’t refuse him.

“All right, all right. Alex, how do we arrange a meeting with Fowler?”

“Leave that to me. He’s always been oblivious to my contempt for him, so he won’t suspect a thing; probably he’ll just figure that I’m finally coming to my senses. I’ll call him and lay out this once-in-a-lifetime proposition, have him show up at one of his favorite dives, and then Wron can meet with him and seal the deal. I’ll tell Jimmy that the cartel hombre wants to see and buy a sample of his wares, then you and the ATF agent can jump him when he and Wron go out to Jimmy’s car and some money changes hands. I even know which ATF agent will be most interested. Jack Perlman. I’ll set the whole thing up.”

“I guess that’s about it. We’ll be in touch later to iron out the details. Wron?”

My partner was looking off into the middle distance, lost in thought. I tapped him on the arm.

“What? Oh, right. I was just mentally sketching out my disguise.”

“Well, put your brain crayon away and let’s go. We’ve got a lot to do.

* * * * * * * * *

The downside of our operation was that we had to stay a few days longer at our seedy motel. To ward off Wronwright’s steady barrage of complaints, the manager had scratched out “Back in 15 minutes” on the little sign that signaled his unavailability and written “Gone ‘til next Tuesday”. Wron, however, had become swept up in his mission, and had employed his time to travel around town assembling his drug-trafficker outfit. In fact, in what appeared to be an obsession with authenticity, he had even crossed the border into Nogales, Mexico. I was beginning to get worried.

“Wron, drug lords don’t dress that much differently than anyone else. Maybe a little flashier, a little heavy on the bling, but I don’t see why you’re knocking yourself out.”

Wronwright gave me a sort of superior smile and sighed. I think he came within an ace of actually patting me on the head, as one might a well-meaning, but rather dull-witted child.

“Paco, Paco, Paco. Deception of the magnitude that I have in mind takes careful planning and tremendous attention to detail. Not only am I putting together a realistic wardrobe, I have been brushing up on my Spanish. One must not simply look like a narcotraficante – that’s Spanish, incidentally, for…”

“Drug dealer. Yeah, I know that one.”

“As I was saying, one must not simply look the part, one must sound the part, one must be the part.

“Well, we want to make sure you don’t wind up only being good for parts, so don’t overdo it. Remember: this guy Fowler’s a dangerous character.”

Later in the afternoon, we got a call from Alex. Everything was fixed for 9 o’clock that night. Fowler had fallen hard for the idea of breaking into the international black market for weapons and was eager to meet his new business partner from Mexico. Alex described Fowler as looking like a thin Elvis Presley with a mustache. Jack Perlman was onboard and would be sitting in his car outside, watching for the exchange of money and guns. I’d be on the inside to provide backup for Wronwright in case things began to move sideways – and Shiny Sal, my stainless-steel Ruger Police Service-Six, would be tucked into an ankle holster, in case Fowler decided to give Wron’s performance the bird.

* * * * * *

I took a cab to our rendezvous, arranging to be there a quarter hour ahead of Wronwright. It was a rundown bar in the warehouse district called the Oasis, a ramshackle joint located in a one-story cement-block building, with an exterior finish of pus-colored ochre stucco and a dusty red barrel-tiled roof. In a large window by the front door (a screen door, by the way) an orange neon sign featuring two palm trees flickered spasmodically, the antique wiring buzzing and popping like a bug light in a swamp on a sweltering summer night. The place made the Rusty Dagger of Dick Tracy fame look like the Four Seasons in New York. Somewhere out there in the rutted, gravel parking lot, Jack Perlman was sitting in his car. I hoped.

I had put on blue-jeans and an old denim shirt, and had replaced my Panama with a baseball cap bearing the Red Man chewing tobacco logo, hoping to pass for a trucker. Pushing through the door, which whined on its hinges and slapped shut behind me with a bang, I entered into a realm of cigarette smoke and semi-darkness, thinly populated with hard cases who had the aspect of having spent a lifetime looking over their shoulders – or making other people look over theirs.

To my right, four bikers who, in the aggregate, probably tipped the scales at just over a ton, had somehow managed to wedge themselves into a high-backed wooden booth. It had probably taken ten head of cattle to provide all the leather they were wearing. Directly ahead of me was the bar, behind which stood an enormous bartender with a gleaming bald head, an eye-patch and a livid scar that ran from his left ear to his jawline. He wore a clean white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, revealing forearms the size of pot roasts, covered in tattoos of mythical beasts, the most benign being a dragon with dripping fangs. The barkeep poured a glass of rye which he expertly slid down the polished wooden surface to a tall, dark young man standing at the end, whose quiet intensity and ramrod-straight posture made him look like a human switchblade; no doubt he could produce the real article with very little provocation. Judging from the slicked-back hair, this had to be Fowler. I walked up and ordered a Miller Lite – Cyclops scowled at me as if I had ordered a double-mocha latte, with extra froth - then took a seat a few booths to the left of the front door. I nursed the beer slowly, waiting for Wronwright’s entry.

Ten minutes later, I heard a car horn honking in what seemed like desperation – a series of quick blasts, succeeded by a forlorn, dying coda. Shortly thereafter, the door opened, and in walked Wronwright.

Psychologists will tell you that people, when faced with a threatening situation, react instinctively: either “fight or flight”. What they overlook is the not inconsiderable number of human beings who are occasionally overwhelmed with a desire to shrink to the size of a dime and roll into the first convenient crack in the floor, but have no alternative but to stick things out.

I was feeling very much like a member in good standing in the latter club. Wronwright swaggered to the bar looking like Zorro’s father. He was wearing green corduroy pants held up with a wide, hand-tooled leather belt that resembled something worn by one of the stalwarts of the National Wrestling Alliance. A pair of ostrich-leather cowboy boots with three-inch heels protruded from the flared bottoms – complete with huge silver rowels jingling from steel spurs. A short brown-suede leather jacket, crossed bandoleers and a wide sombrero completed the ensemble. Somewhere he had also acquired a bushy mustache and a goatee. He glanced around the room, studiously avoided noticing me, and placed an order with Cyclops.

“Bonus notches, my good man! A tequila, por flavór. And don’t be stingy with the salt!”

The barkeep’s one eye bulged like a poached egg; apparently he had formed the impression that my partner was what you might call a gay caballero. “Look, buddy, I think you’re wantin’ the Purple Poodle on the other side of town.”

“Nonsense, tender of bars! My drink! Chop-chop! Er…I mean, pronto.”

The bikers seem to have gotten the idea that the Oasis had suddenly been transformed into one of those places, so they paid their tab and lumbered out to their Harleys, shaking their heads in disgust.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Fowler stood stock still, his brows furrowed. I could see the wheels turning. He was likely beginning to wonder whether this whole thing had been Alex’s idea of a joke.

Wronwright took a sip of tequila, coughed violently, and smiled benignly at the bartender.

Cyclops placed both hands on the bar and glared at Wronwright. “Would you like for me to freshen that drink for you?” he growled.

“No, no, my friend. I’m still working on it.”

“Well, I just thought I’d ask – since that one seems to be growing mold on it.”

Wron threw a quizzical glance at the bartender, who nodded at the glass.

To my horror – and, no doubt, to Wronwright’s – his goatee had come off and adhered to the lip of the glass. I have to admit, he gave it the old college try.

“Heh. It is the curse of my family. Our hairlines begin receding from the chin up.”

At that moment, one of the bikers returned and addressed the barkeep. “Hey, Mark, can you bust a five for me?”

“Sure thing, Ned.” As he gave Ned his change, he asked for a favor. “Say, do something for me, will you? Escort the Frito Bandito outta here. He’s lowerin’ the whole tone a’ the place.”

Ned the biker smiled. “Glad to.” He grabbed Wronwright by the collar and the back of his belt and ushered him through the door. “C’mon, amigo, let’s go outside and play!”

“Wait!” Wron cried. “I protest! Is this your idea of gringo hospitality? What about the Good Neighbor policy?”

The door slammed behind them as they went out into the parking lot, where they were met with the loud jeers of Ned’s fellows. I prayed that Wron could talk his way out of that jam. In the meantime, I had to act fast. Fowler had paid his tab and was preparing to leave. I was going to have to step in for my partner. I knew enough Spanish to get by, and, having watched Treasure of the Sierra Madre some 20 or 30 times, I felt confident that I could fake the accent.

“Hombre!” I said, as Fowler walked by. He stopped and stared at me. I motioned to the opposite side of my booth. “Siéntese.”

He eased onto the bench seat. “You want something, mister?”

“Sí. But there is a password that our mutual friend provided to you, I think, no?”

Slowly, his map took on an expression of understanding.

“Ohhh..I get it. So, you’re the man.”

“I don’t know. Am I? The recognition phrase, if you please.”

“Right, right.” He scrunched up his face in thought. “Something about…geeks wearing lifts?”

“Close enough.” If Alex really was interested in the intellectual type, then, quite apart from his participation in criminal activities, it was definitely “game over” for this mug’s romantic aspirations.

“Yeah, that’s why I was thinking that that character who just got tossed out of here was the man I was supposed to meet. ‘Geeks wearing lifts’. I mean, did you see the heels on that clown’s boots?”

I waved away his observation. “Obviously a mere coincidence. Probably just a musician in a mariachi band who got separated from his friends.”

“Could be. So, back to business. You’re with one of the cartels?”

“Yes, the, er, Paco cartel in Sonora. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?”

“Oh, sure,” he said, with a false air of worldly wisdom. “Everybody knows about that one.” He took out a pack of cigarettes and offered me one, then lit them both with a match that he struck on his shoe. I smiled inwardly. Tough guy.

I continued. “Then you know that, even though we are not the largest cartel, we have big plans. And big plans require the right kind of assets – the kind I’m told you can provide.”

He gave me a crooked smile. “I’m your boy!”

We talked for a while, discussing his access to weapons and the kind of volume he could provide on a regular basis, haggling over prices, sketching out potential supply routes. All of it being recorded for posterity on a concealed device I had in one of my shirt pockets. After listening to this puffed-up little squirt drone on for thirty minutes or so, I decided it was time to close the deal.

“You have brought a few pieces with you, no? I want to see the kind of merchandise you have on hand. I’m willing to buy a few things now, if they look good.”

“Sure, let’s go. I’ve got some prime stuff in the trunk of my car.”

“Is it safe to examine the goods here?”

He gave me the smirk I was rapidly growing tired of. “Are you kiddin’? Even the cops steer clear of this neighborhood.”

I threw a fiver on the bar and told baldy to keep the change. We then proceeded into to the parking lot. I was both astonished and relieved to see that Wronwright was not only still in one piece, but had apparently made some new friends. He was squatting by one of the bikers’ motorcycles, flashlight in hand, his big sombrero hanging on the back of his neck by the drawstring.

“See? There’s your trouble right there. You’ve got a crimp in your fuel line.” The bikers, gathered in a semicircle around Wronwright and the Harley, uttered a chorus of “Oohs!” and “Ahs!”, like so many first-year med-school students observing the handiwork of a world-renowned surgeon.

Satisfied that my partner was ok, I permitted myself to be guided by Fowler to his car. It was a big Cadillac parked at a front corner of the bar, well in the shadows. He popped open the trunk, and he must have seen my eyes gleam. He laughed. “Bet you don’t see high-grade iron like this every day!”

He was right. I had never seen so many semi-automatic pistols and AK-47 clones in one place in my life, let alone every day. I picked up a few of the weapons in succession, removed and replaced the magazines, worked the bolts and slides. I smiled broadly and nodded.

“Excellent! I will take all of these.”

We agreed on a price and I pulled out a roll of bills that I placed in his hand. As he began to count the money, our transaction was abruptly interrupted. A hulking great fellow with a crew-cut loomed in the offing, a Glock pistol gripped in a beefy paw.

“James Fowler?” It sounded more like a command than a question

Fowler whipped his head around and gaped. “Who are you?”

“Agent Jack Perlman of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. You’re under arrest.” Before Fowler knew what had happened, he was bent over the now-closed trunk, his hands cuffed behind his back. He was, to put it mildly, incensed. The whole time his rights were being read to him, he bellowed in fury.

“You can’t do this to me! You’re just some local T-man! I got a deal with Washington! The Department of Justice!”

Perlman arched his eyebrows and we looked at each other and smiled.

“Oh?” Perlman said. “I’m sure Congressman Issa will be interested to hear about your deal with Washington. Move it, punk! The car’s over this way.”

Perlman stashed Fowler in his car. Another agent sat in the front seat, keeping his eyes on the would-be international gun smuggler through the wire mesh that divided the front and rear of the interior.

Perlman returned to the Cadillac, where I was puffing on a cigarette. Wronwright joined us, wiping his hands on a rag that one of the bikers had provided.

I stared at Wron and shook my head. “The master of disguise!”

He sighed and threw the rag on the ground. “Sorry about that, Paco. I guess maybe the bandoleers were a little over the top?”

“Maybe just a little,” I said. “But tell me something. Why did you blow the horn when you pulled the rental car into the parking lot?”

Wronwright frowned. “Yeah, I heard that, too. But it wasn’t me.”

Perlman piped up. “It was me. I saw you waltzing into the bar looking like the rooster from that Disney cartoon, The Three Caballeros, and I was trying to get your attention. I wanted to tell you that costume wasn’t going to cut it at all.”

Wronwright sighed again. But then his expression brightened. “Anyhow, all’s well that ends well! We got our man!”

We had, indeed. The whole thing gave me a feeling of great satisfaction. Almost as much satisfaction as I got from the realization that we’d be leaving behind, forever, that flea-bag of a motel.

* * * * * * * * *

A few weeks later, I was sitting in the office, writing out checks to cover the bills which had been piling up, when Sheila popped in. She was dressed in something that seemed to be all the rage among young females that summer – a short, sleeveless, tunic-like dress, tightly belted, and made out of fabric that looked like high-quality sweat-shirt material. It put me in mind of something an ancient Roman slave girl might wear. Or an ancient Greek slave girl (I quickly suppressed a recollection of my encounter with Alex). In any event, I was looking forward – guiltily, to be sure - to the first time she got caught in the rain wearing that outfit.

“Did you see the news?” she inquired excitedly, brandishing the Washington Post.

“No, I haven’t had a chance to read the newspaper today.” I picked up the last, remaining unpaid bill and studied it curiously. “Say, what the…”

“It says here,” Sheila continued, “that Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping down.”

“Don’t tell me. To spend more time with his family?”

“Yep! Of course, thanks to you boys, the family time might wind up being only on visiting days.”

“You never know. He’s pretty slippery. But I’m glad just to see him go. Listen, there’s a dry-cleaning bill here for over $200…”

“Knock, knock!” Wronwright stepped into the office, all smiles. Sheila clapped a hand to her mouth – presumably to stifle a laugh, but it could have been that her stomach was turning. He had the appearance and manner of a grandee who had a land grant from the King of Spain tucked in his back pocket.

“Wron! I distinctly remember sneaking those clothes out of your suitcase and hiding them under your bed at the motel before we went to the airport!”

“Yeah, well, I snuck ‘em out again. No sense in letting them go to waste. They look good as new now that I’ve had them cleaned and pressed.”

I looked at the dry-cleaning bill, closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. If I had known what was coming, I would have used my hands to cover my ears.

“And check this out!” He whipped out a trumpet from behind his back. “You might recall that I used to play the trumpet in the high school marching band. I’ve parlayed that into a position with a local amateur mariachi group. Listen to this.”

Before I could stop him, he was off and running, racing through several bars of something that might possibly have been La Cucaracha, but sounded more like the terrified braying of a doomed mule that had wrong-footed itself on a narrow trail and toppled into the depths of the Grand Canyon.

He stopped, bowed to imaginary applause, and asked, “How was that?”

Sheila, who was checking the windows for cracks, was blunt. “Wron, that sounded like a traffic jam.”

Wronwright frowned. “Hmm. I guess I could use some practice. I’ve got plenty of time, though. Our first performance isn’t until next Sunday.”

I stared in amazement. “You’ve actually got a gig?”

“Sure do.”


“A charity performance. At the, er, at a place here in town.”

“”Where?” I insisted on knowing.

“Ok, ok. It’s for patients at a treatment center run by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Hey, but at least we’re making the effort. They’ll be grateful.”

Sheila sauntered toward the office door. “I don’t know about the merely hard of hearing”, she smiled as she glanced over her shoulder at Wron, “but the stone deaf sure will be.”