Monday, August 31, 2009

Mary Jo Kopechne

The sainthood of Ted Kennedy may be assured following the orchestrated respect the political class has paid him, but his involvement with the death of Mary Jo Kopechne should not be sentenced to the memory hole.

Her brief bio on Wikipedia reveals that she:

1. Was fond of political coercion herself, as channeled through the political activities of Robert Kennedy, then later as a member of "Matt Reese Associates, a Washington, D.C., firm that helped establish campaign headquarters and field offices for politicians and was one of the first political consulting firms."

2. Was a very bright young woman and a dedicated campaign worker. "Kopechne and the other staffers were politically savvy, and they were chosen for their clear heads and ability to work long hours under pressure on sensitive matters."

3. Was one of six so-called Boiler Room Girls, the name associated with the female staffers of Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. The other five appear to have had or are still having highly successful careers. "By mid-1969 she had completed work for a mayoral campaign in Jersey City, New Jersey. She was on her way to a successful professional career."

4. Did not have to die when she did. From the Wiki article:
On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, held in honor of the Boiler Room Girls. It was the fourth such reunion of the Robert Kennedy campaign workers.

Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Robert's brother Ted Kennedy, after he — according to his own account — offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back to Edgartown, where she was staying. She did not tell her close friends at the party that she was leaving and she left her purse and keys behind.

Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off a narrow, unlit bridge without guardrails that was not on the route to Edgartown and it overturned in the water. Kennedy extricated himself from the vehicle and survived, but Kopechne remained in the vehicle and was found dead.

Kennedy failed to report the incident to the authorities until the car and Kopechne's body were discovered the next morning. Kopechne's parents said that they learned of their daughter's death from Ted Kennedy himself before he reported his involvement to the authorities, but that they learned Kennedy had been the driver only from wire press releases some time later. . . .

A week after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. He received a two month suspended sentence. On a national television broadcast that night, Kennedy later said he was not driving under the influence of alcohol nor had he engaged in any immoral conduct with Kopechne.

The Chappaquiddick incident and the death of Kopechne became grist for at least fifteen books, as well as a fictionalized treatment by Joyce Carol Oates. Questions remained about Kennedy's timeline of events that night, about his actions after the incident, and the quality of the investigation and whether official deference was given to a powerful politician and family.
And this from David Galland, Managing Director of Casey Research:
My issue emanates from a stop some years ago by the side of the road in Martha’s Vineyard. On the island for a vacation, I took the short detour to see the site of Kennedy’s infamous accident at the bridge to Chappaquiddick. Getting out of the car, I vividly remember my first impression.

“This is it? That’s where Kennedy’s car went in?”

The thing is that the canal is narrow and shallow. I’ll give Kennedy the benefit of the doubt that he was disoriented – massive quantities of alcohol will do that to a guy – but I won’t give him anything toward his contention that he couldn’t have taken more active measures to save Mary Jo Kopechne’s life.

Any reasonably strong swimmer – which I assume he was, having grown up on the water – could have made the shallow dive necessary to get her out. But even if he was too drunk or scared to pull that off, he could have quickly found the help needed to get her out before the air bubble in the car was exhausted and she drowned. Instead, walking by a fire station and a private house, stopping at neither to request help, he trod a circuitous path to his hotel, where, after changing into dry clothes and lamely trying to establish an alibi by visiting the front desk to complain of a loud party, he turned in.

It was only nine hours after driving off the bridge, and after a local fisherman had discovered the car, that Kennedy finally reported the accident.

This is, of course, all part of the historical record – an interesting part of which you can read by following the link below to the FBI files on the accident, made available thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request.

But I will never forget my visceral reaction to the sight of that small and shallow channel, the certain knowledge that Ted Kennedy was a sociopath, a coward, and a cretin, who made every possible move to rescue his political career and almost none to save the life of a young woman.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Doughboy: A young reader's short story



George F. Smith

Close your eyes and think of the worst thing that could happen to you.

Think you got it?

Bet you don’t.

Imagine this: it’s the first day of summer vacation, and you bust your ankle jumping out of a tree.

Okay, I fell out, but I was planning to jump.

I like to jump from things. When I get older I want to be a stunt man in the movies.

I’m a tough guy but this made me cry. I didn’t cry when I fell. I only screamed.

My mom drove me to see Dr. Wingate. The doctor is not one of my close friends.

He said, “Chad, I’ve got good news!” Dr. Wingate never has good news when he says that. “Now you’ll have a good excuse to sit around and read all summer. Your foot’s going to be in a cast. Can I be the first to sign it?”

That’s when I cried.

I was too mad to read. For the first few days I sat like a piece of rotting fruit watching TV. Do you know how awful daytime TV is?

Sure, my friends came to visit. Davey and Hack came to sign my stupid cast. So did Shannon, who thinks I’m her boyfriend. Then they went back outside and disappeared forever.

But I was about to make a new friend.

One day I decided to go out back with my Book of Big Things.

It takes awhile for me to get someplace. I walk with crutches, and everything gets in my way. Even worse, mom came along in case I needed her.

Our house is on a hill, and we have some woods behind us. I saw the tree that I fell from. At least it was big.

A small stream runs through the woods. We’re not getting much rain this year so the stream isn’t very deep. In fact, it’s pretty much just mud.

I wanted to lay in the hammock but mom wouldn’t let me. “You might fall out,” she said. Mom would keep me in a glass jar if she could.

“Let me know if you need anything, hon,” she said, then went back inside.

So I sat in a lawn chair with my book. I read about big animals, big planes, big buildings. Even big trees. They’re called redwoods.

I wondered if the tree I fell from is a redwood. I thought probably it was.

Then I saw something moving on the ground.

It was only a leaf. But leaves don’t move by themselves. And there was no wind to move it.

Something was underneath the leaf.

It was sneaking up on me. Sneaking up very slowly, so I wouldn’t notice.

I rolled out of the chair on my hands and knees. I crawled to the leaf and picked it up.

A turtle. A turtle smaller than my hand was sneaking up on me.

I laughed. “Who do you think you are?” I said. In a blink his head and feet vanished.

Mom doesn’t allow me to have pets. “They’re smelly, and they would ruin the house,” she told me before. “And pets will bite you.”

But this guy was so small, mom would never know he was around.

I decided he and I were going to be pals.

“What’s your name?” I asked him. But he didn’t have much to say.

“Listen,” I said, “I gotta call you something. I can’t just call you ‘turtle.’”

So I looked at him and thought about what to name him.

“Maybe I should call you soldier boy, because you’ve got a helmet and were crawling on your belly like a soldier under fire. Yeah, I should call you soldier boy. How do you like that name?”

He didn’t have much to say.

Then I remembered a story my dad told me once when he came to visit.

Dad likes to talk about wars. It makes mom upset when he does. We were watching TV and an ad came on showing the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Dad said to me, “American soldiers were once called ‘doughboys.’ They were heroes of the First World War.”

I asked, “Why, because they looked like him?” I gestured at the TV.

“No,” he said. Then he told me the story.

He said a long time ago American foot soldiers were sent into Mexico. As they marched along they’d get themselves covered with dirt and sand. It turns out the soil in Mexico is called adobe, which is pronounced “ah DOE bee,” which is sort of like saying “a doughboy.” Since the soldiers also looked like doughnuts when they were coated with the stuff, someone started calling them “doughboys.”

“Man,” I said to him, “if I were a soldier I wouldn’t let anyone call me ‘doughboy.’”

“You would if you lived back then,” he said. “A doughboy meant a good American fighting man. Soldiers were proud to be called doughboys.”

I wondered if that name would work for my turtle?

I decided it would.

Then it struck me. Doughboy was looking for a new home. It used to be the creek, but it had dried up.

“I’ll help you find a new place to live,” I told him. “But we’ve gotta keep you alive until we get you there.”

I put him in my hand. He still hadn’t come out of his shell.

“It’s not going to be easy, you know. Me, the hobbled one. And mom, the party-pooper.”

Then I had an idea.

What was it mom said when she went inside -- “Let me know if you need anything”?

She won’t be saying that again for awhile.

“Hey, mom!” I hollered.

When she came out, I told her I was getting hot and wanted to sit under the umbrella at the patio table.

So she put the umbrella up for me while I crutched my way to the patio.

Then I asked her to please get my Tommy squirt gun. And a big bowl of water. A BIG bowl. While she was inside I hid Doughboy behind a straw broom leaning against the house.

She brought a bowl out from the kitchen.

“Not big enough, mom,” I said.

“If it’s too big you won’t be able to refill the gun,” she said.

Then I showed her how I’d tip it over the edge of the table into the gun’s water tank.

“There’s a big bowl in the garage,” I told her, “sitting under a huge flower pot we don’t use.”

She made a lot of noise getting the flower pot bowl. I guess it was buried under some junk.

“Anything else?”

I could tell she needed a big smile so I gave her one. “Would you get me some bubble soap? The kind with the wand that you wave and make bubbles?”

She was trying to look happy.

“I need something to shoot at,” I explained.

While she drove to K-Mart to get bubble soap, I hobbled about the yard on my crutches and scrounged up a pile of stones. I put them under my chair.

I gave her a hug when she came back with the soap. Moms like hugs.

As soon as she was inside I filled my Tommy gun. I spilled a lot of water on the patio, but that was okay, I had more than enough. Then I waved some bubbles into the air and blasted them. I howled when I made a hit. I wanted mom to feel good.

Besides, I was having a ball.

Then I built a little island in the center of the bowl with the stones I had collected. So Doughboy could sun himself.

“Okay, Doughboy,” I said, “your new digs are ready.”

I hopped to the broom and moved it aside.

Doughboy was gone.

When a mud turtle disappears on dry land you don’t panic. It’s a turtle, not a jack rabbit. It couldn’t be far.

Unless something got it.

The only predator I could think of was mom. But maybe a bird had swooped down on him while I was stone hunting.

Then I looked--

--on top of a wall on the other side of the garden -- the garden adjoining the patio--Doughboy, moving toward the edge, his escape velocity amazing--

--and beyond the edge, a big drop into another garden with huge rocks in it--

--and me, anchored by the stupid cast, watching, helpless--

--but not quite helpless.

I dropped down and crawled like a flash flood in his direction.

Ever crawl with a cast on your foot? It’s hard and it HURTS! And I couldn’t think about what I was doing to mom’s flowers. I kept yelling, “Ow! Ow! Ow!” while I crawled.

Doughboy fell before I got to him.

But a spider web had broken his fall. I caught him before he slipped through--


--”What are you doing!” I yelled at him.


I looked back. Mom, standing on the patio, her hands on her hips. Big trouble.

“What are you doing!” she hollered.

This was a good time, I thought, to tell the truth.

She didn’t take kindly to Doughboy.

“I won’t hear of it!” she said. “Those things carry diseases. You could get very sick.”

“I’m only going to keep him while we find him a new home.”

“That’s what you think.”

She turned and went inside. When she came out her hand was wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag.

She stuck the hand out. “Give him to me,” she demanded.

“Um, I don’t think that’ll work.”

“Why not?”

“He could bite through it.”

“Nice try, Chad. Put him in my hand.”

“C’mon, mom.”


I set Doughboy in her bagged hand. “What are you going to do with him?” I asked.

“Flush him.”

“You can’t do that!” I shouted.

“It’s nothing but a filthy rodent.”

“It’s a reptile. All he wants is another place to live.”

“I’ll see that he gets there fast.”

She headed for the door. I almost panicked.

“Let me do it!” I hollered. She stopped. “Please.”

Maybe you think I had a plan, but I didn’t.

When we got to the bathroom she insisted I wash my hands. Then she got one of those stupid sandwich bags and made me put it on.

She handed Doughboy over. “I’ll give you one minute,” she said.

My heart was pounding. “Time to go, little buddy,” I said. Doughboy had his head out, peering around, wondering where he was. “You’ve fallen into enemy hands, and she’s putting you to death for being a turtle.”

“Chad!” she growled.

“Know that you died a brave soldier, well-deserving of your name. Don’t hate her for doing this. Grandma wouldn’t let her have pets, either. In her heart she believes she’s ridding the world of evil. Bet you didn’t know you were evil, huh?”

“Put him in the toilet.”

“Minute’s not up yet!” I protested. I glared at her and felt my eyes fill up with tears.

She was getting nervous. She looked at her watch, then back at me. “Twenty seconds,” she said.

“We all need someone, Doughboy. Too bad you didn’t have anyone who cared. If mom had someone who cared, she probably wouldn’t be doing this to you.”

“Stop it!” she said. “I won’t have you putting a guilt trip on me for doing the right thing. Put him in the toilet.”

“Sure, mom.”

I set Doughboy in the bowl. What an awful way to die. Then I placed my hand on the flush handle. I stood like a soldier waiting for a command. “I’ll flush when you say, ‘kill.’”

She said in a shaky voice, “We care for each other.”

I didn’t feel much like agreeing.

“We do,” she insisted.

I shrugged.

She looked at Doughboy. “Go ahead,” she said and started to turn away.

“You’ve gotta say ‘kill.’ And you’ve gotta watch.”

She said something awful then pushed my hand down, flushing the toilet. Doughboy was being swirled in smaller and smaller circles, headed to his death.

“Get him!” she screamed, plunging her hand in and blocking the drain. I slapped my hand on Doughboy’s shell and pulled him off the back of her hand.

Then I set him on the floor and gave her a hug, a real one this time. She was sobbing.

Doughboy seemed to like the home I built for him. And mom got him some turtle food at the supermarket.

I was happy to have him around. I made soap bubbles for him once and read to him from my books. He liked to look at the sky, except when it thundered.

I didn’t know much about turtles so mom got me a book from the library.

You know how turtles can’t get back on their feet if they flip over on their shells? Same thing if they swim upside down in shallow water. If you’re going to keep them as pets, make sure you give them enough water to right themselves when they swim.

And be careful you don’t feed them too much. Otherwise they’ll get too fat for their shells.

The book I read got me to thinking.

I felt like I was keeping Doughboy in jail. I said I would find him a new place to live. That’s what I decided to do.

So a week after he crawled up to me from the woods in back, we drove to a nearby cemetery that had a nice pond with ducks and other turtles.

I set him down on some grass and watched while he crawled toward the water. I’ll never forget how small he looked. Even the grass looked bigger than Doughboy.

As he reached the water’s edge he stopped. He looked around, checking out the pond.

Then he did something I didn’t expect. He looked back, at me.

He didn’t have much to say.

“Good luck, Doughboy,” I said.

“Bye,” mom said from behind me.

Then he waded in and swam away.

The End

How the Fuzzies Lost: A Short Story

This was written long ago and is based on real events.

How the Fuzzies Lost


George F. Smith

The Fuzzies and the Hairies seized the spotlight that year. The rest of us existed to let those two pile up wins and play for the championship.

School officials who ran the Saturday morning basketball league frowned at those names, especially Mr. Bereman, the gym teacher/football coach built like a wire who loved his job because it gave him an opportunity to practice sadism legally. He was never without his clipboard, glasses, or suspicious look.

Hairies? Fuzzies? Those names are strongly suggestive. Frown.

A grown-up's frown in 1958 usually foreshadowed something worse, so we were braced for Bereman to go airborne. Surprisingly, he let the names stand, in the usual adult way of granting permission without approval, not knowing such a minuscule concession could be cited in later years as an incubator of our moral decay.

The Saturday morning league was a consolation for those of us who tried to make the school team. Amherst had for years towered over the competition in Western New York high school hoops. If you were inclined to wager, you bet on the margin of victory, not on whether they would win. Only a few were chosen to carry on the school's dominance each year, leaving a lot of us available for less glorious activities.

"Spider" Mike Bray captained the Hairies, "Banger" Steve Altman piloted the Fuzzies. They built their squads with the best and most popular discards from the school team tryouts. Spider was a lean speedster and master of the no-look pass; Banger was a burly loudmouth with a quick temper who lived to win.

On sign-up day in the gym three other teams emerged, but a few of us were still homeless. Bereman hollered out that anyone not on a team should go over to the east corner basket and wait there. As we arrived one by one we met like strangers on an elevator, standing around and averting each other's eyes.

From this debris of double-discards our team was born.

For our captain we elected a stoop-shouldered kid named Bob whose favorite TV show was Maverick and whose scout-leader father had taught him that planning and preparation could occasionally offset serious shortcomings.

Maverick had ways of dealing with shortcomings, too.

"So, what are you guys called? The Creepies?" Bereman asked when he came over to take our names down.

"Nope. Niagara," Bob said with a broad grin, enjoying his role as bearer of the unexpected.

A week later we had our only preseason game—against the Fuzzies.

“You guys better not miss any shots,” Banger warned as we took the court. He was smiling. The Fuzzies had recently held their own in a scrimmage against the school team, and four of his five starters measured taller than any of us. Banger, the football team's fullback, was built wide but not particularly high. Naturally, we figured to get killed.

It turned out the Fuzzies were so confident of winning when it counted they could afford to drop a nothing game to a bunch of nonentities like us. At least that’s what they assured us afterward in the locker room.

We were inclined to believe them, but winning left grounds for doubt. Had Paul, our guard, simply had a hot shooting day? We guessed probably so. Banger or Spider would've recruited him if he'd been any good. Then we had this guy, Ed. Ed liked baseline jumpers and made them more often than not. No one knew Ed very well either, so we figured he’d just been lucky, too.

But Bob and I, we wondered.

We started the regular season by proving the Fuzzies right. True to their promise, they beat us—in a close game.

In the late Fifties, the “team player” phrase so rampant now hadn't been coined yet, but that didn’t stop us from thinking that way. A team, we agreed, had players with roles, and the role of the shooters was to take good shots. The other players would get the ball to them. Paul and Ed, we decreed, would be our shooters. If we wanted to win, that's the way it had to be.

We tested our strategy on the other three doormats during the following weeks. It worked, but then we figured almost anything would work on them. With our game against the Hairies only a few days off—which would close out the first half of the season—we were about to find out if we were the best of the bad or actual contenders.

Since the Fuzzies had edged the Hairies the previous week, we had a hunch we could play them tough. When we heard that one of the Hairies' best players would miss the game because of the flu, we thought: this is our chance.

But we blew it. They beat us by a point.

Midway through the season the Fuzzies were on top undefeated with the Hairies right behind them at 4-1 and us – Niagara – hanging around at 3-2. We would play the same teams again in the second half of the season.

At this point we began to sense possibilities.

When the regular season ended the top two teams would play for the championship—on a Saturday night. Tickets would be sold, parents and friends would come to watch. A guy on the gymnasium's public address system would announce significant events of the game, as if we were real players. The team that won would receive a championship medal the size of a quarter.

We wanted to be there. We wanted to win it all. And to do that we couldn’t afford to lose another game.

Two days before our rematch with the Fuzzies captain Bob came down with the flu.

Things were even worse for the Fuzzies. They were stricken by the flu and something called lax. Some of their players didn’t think they needed to show up. Weekends, after all, were for sleeping in. They were good, no need to prove it to anybody, why should they crawl out of bed for a stupid game against us?

Saturday morning arrived like a bad hangover for the Fuzzies. With Banger on the phone berating one of his no-shows, the referee declared the game a forfeit and awarded the win to us. Banger slammed the phone down and ran screaming onto the court: “We’ll beat you with four players!” Then to the referee he snapped, “Come on, start the game!”

“It’s still a forfeit,” the ref reminded him.

“Who cares? Let’s go!”

And he proceeded to give us a clinic in what it took to kick butt. They played like hockey players in a grudge match, out-hitting and outscoring us. He gloated and laughed at us in the locker room after. “That’s the only way you guys will ever beat us,” he shouted, “and it’ll never happen again! You stink! We beat you with only four players!”

I stopped by Bob's on my way home and ran up to his attic bedroom to give him the news. I found him sitting cross-legged in bed, an old T-shirt hanging from rounded shoulders, hair omnidirectional and complexion near-death. When I told him we won he didn't believe me. "Would I risk contamination to tell you a lie?" I said. That convinced him. He threw a fist over his head and let fly with an imprecation, which sent him into a coughing fit.

"By forfeit," I added, when the barking subsided.

“Oh,” he said, then smiled and shouted: “It still counts!” The excitement got him hacking so hard his talking was reduced to interjections of profanity. On the plywood floor a stack of 45's was playing, and Little Richard was belting out, "A-wop-bop-a-lu-bop!" through tinny speakers.

Luck, the lady whom Maverick-Bob loved the best, had returned his affection with the forfeit win. Knowing her fickle ways we rededicated our efforts to keep our winning streak alive. Bob recovered, Paul and Ed were hitting their shots, and we were all playing our self-imposed roles.

It was clear even to our 15-year-old brains that Paul had been passed over by the elite teams because they didn’t like him. He had boyish looks and sometimes tried to impress the in-crowd by smoking a cigarette or telling a dirty joke. He didn’t think we were worth impressing that way. Ed was the quiet type whose friends didn’t play sports, so the other teams, not knowing he was good, simply passed him by.

We extended our streak by winning our second-last game of the season—putting us at 7-2— then took time to watch a match-up between the Hairies and Fuzzies. With one loss each, both teams were tied for first. The mood was serious, the game close all the way, but the Hairies prevailed. Spider had his guys playing tight defense and making careful shot selections.

As the players headed for the locker room it struck me: I had seen the Fuzzies lose, not by forfeit, but by being outplayed. No one had done that before. And the team that beat them was our next opponent, in a game we had to win.

I recalled with a shudder that they had beaten us earlier, missing one of their stars.

“The Hairies won with intensity today," Bob said later in his room. "We need to do something about that.”

“We could ask them not to try so hard."

He shot me a dirty look, then his face lit up. "Listen—what if we wore crazy uniforms? What if we wore knee socks, and sailor hats turned down over our ears, and . . . and loud jerseys? And painted our faces?"

“They'd laugh at us,” I said, admiring his genius.

We picked up the components of our new look piece by piece during the coming week. If it was going to work, it had to be a surprise – a sudden surprise – so we didn't talk about it with anyone, not even our teammates. On the eve of the game, we held an emergency team meeting and gave our guys their new identities. They all thought it would be fun, but most didn’t think it would help.

In the locker room on Saturday morning, the Hairies dressed and went out to warm up while we lollygagged around. Then we donned our costumes, part-way. A couple of guys smeared their faces with red muck, then started goofing off.

“Hey!” Bob yelled. They froze. “We're here to win. And wipe that stuff off. We can put it on during the pre-game huddle."

We warmed up without our hats, with our shirts off and our socks rolled down. When game time approached we swung into full gear. And held our breath.

“What's this?!” Bereman bellowed, as we took the court for tip-off.

Would he stop us, make us change into normal playing clothes—

Declare a forfeit?!

"Just a little fun," Bob said, card shark to dupe.

Bereman waved his clipboard in dismissal. “You've come this far, get on with it.” He folded himself onto a bench along the edge of the court, fighting back a smile.

We played possessed while the Hairies watched; we won in a blowout. The Fuzzies, who had just trounced their opponent, dropped by to laugh.

“Now we’ve got a three-way tie,” Banger said as we cleared the court. “Someone loan Bereman a dime.”

A coin toss would give one team a bye to the championship game to meet the winner of a playoff between the other two.

People cry that the universe as a whole is devoid of justice, but after Spider alone called the outcome correctly on the first toss, we saw evidence to the contrary. Spider's team, the Hairies, got the bye. The Fuzzies would play them for the championship. All they had to do was beat us in the coin-toss game first.

The Fuzzies were delirious. Revenge was at hand. There would be no forfeit this time; the better team would win, and no team was better than the Fuzzies.

We were glum. Our confidence had been delusional; we had no real talent. We were in a playoff game by the grace of a forfeit and some trickery. We had run out of ways to win.

We held a cheerless team meeting. Every attempt at self-assurance seemed feeble in the face of the overbearing Fuzzies.

“What would Maverick do?” I asked captain Bob.

He stared into space and began whistling off-tune. "Cash in his chips," he said, trying for a joke.

We couldn’t turn to fans for support because we didn't have any. We were too old for our parents to care, and too unexciting for anyone else to give a hoot.

Minutes before the playoff game was to begin, we still hadn’t found a way to beat them.

“The trouble’s with our name,” said Stewart, our tallest player, after missing a mind-numbing succession of warm-up shots. “‘Niagara’? That’s stupid. We need something cool.” Cool, a good Fifties word.

The ref was blowing his whistle, signaling tip-off was imminent.

“Let’s do what got us here!” Bob commanded as we all hunched over in a circle. Then as he tried to refresh us about what we had done to bring ourselves there, nerves overtook him. Nothing much sensible came out of his mouth, other than we needed to be aggressive. We took the court to confront the grim-faced Fuzzies armed with confusion.

We did a good job of keeping the ball away from our best shooters in the first half, while allowing the Fuzzies plenty of open shots and offensive rebounds. Captain Bob drove the lane for layups, showing no respect for their defense and coming away empty almost every time. Following his lead, other guys tried the one-on-five approach. When the half ended the Fuzzies were so far ahead we wanted to hide.

“We're panicking!” I yelled at Bob across the locker room during halftime.

"I know!"


“Everything they’ve got’s in their mouth,” came Paul's calm voice. “They’re laughing right now because they think the game’s over.”

More silence.

“Paul’s scored one basket,” I said.

Bob thumped Paul’s shoulder as if trying to pick a fight. “Listen, you’re bringing the ball down court from now on. Keep it until you get a clear shot or see an open man. Ed, stay with him, then drift to the baseline and wait for a pass. The rest of us need to draw the defense away from them and be ready.”

“Speaking of defense,” I said.

"Damn it, smother them!" he screamed.

The second half was a repeat of the first, only we switched sides: they did the choking, we did the scoring. And Paul did the playmaking. He moved over the floor like a dancer, supreme in his element, confident of every move. If more than one defender started to crowd him, he'd whip the ball to one of us for an open shot. If the defense backed off, he'd find his spot and put up the jumper. He finished as the top scorer and number one in assists.

And he was the MVP in the championship game, as well.

By then, a few of the Fuzzies had recovered from their playoff loss to come watch us play the Hairies. Banger wasn’t among them. To my delight, my father came. I suspect the Hairies still couldn't take us seriously, and after the confidence-building win over the Fuzzies, we had them in our hands. Quiet Paul led us in slaying another giant.

As we headed for the showers after the game, one of the Fuzzies came down from the stands for a look at my championship medal. Though he had to squint to see it, I wish today it was still among my possessions.

I hadn't seen Banger since after the coin-toss game, when he stood straight-shouldered under a shower cursing us. He couldn't stand our shrieking and howling. A season he would soon forget would be a lesson we would always remember. Like the river of the same name, Niagara dropped its great surprise near the end. His guys had bigger egos than us, player-for-player they had more talent. No doubt if they staged Hamlet they'd all try to play the lead.

We didn't, and that's what pulled us through.

The End

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Critical Mistake of WW I

An enlarged edition of John V. Denson's The Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories features an article by historian Ralph Raico, "World War I: The Turning Point." David Gordon of the Mises Institute reviewed Raico's contribution today.

Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles blamed Germany and her allies for the war's outbreak. During the 1920s, revisionist historians such as Charles Tansill challenged this view, and by the 1930s a modified revisionist position became the consensus: None of the war's participants wanted a major European war. Miscalculation and botched diplomacy brought it on.

During the 1960s, majority opinion among historians shifted back to the Versailles verdict, due in large part to Fritz Fischer's 1961 work, Germany's Grasp for World Power. Raico staunchly disagrees; Fischer and his followers have not proven their case. Gordon writes:
True enough, the Germans encouraged Austria to deal decisively with Serbia following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But to accept a local conflict is not to will a European conflagration, and Germany's policies were no more bellicose than those of the Entente powers. "[T]here is no evidence whatsoever that Germany in 1914 deliberately unleashed a European war which it had been preparing for years" (p. 214).

Whoever bore primary responsibility for the European war, one thing was immediately clear. No valid reason existed for the United States to become involved. To do so would fly in the face of the American tradition of noninvolvement in European power politics.

Sentiment in the United States overwhelmingly opposed involvement, and President Wilson accordingly called for neutrality. "This was somewhat disingenuous, considering that his whole administration, except for the poor beleaguered Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, was pro-Allied from the start. The President and most of his chief subordinates were dyed-in-the-wool Anglophiles" (p. 220).

In line with his pro-British bias, Wilson turned a blind eye to the British hunger blockade of Germany, even though it often violated America's rights as a neutral power. At the same time, the president was quick to protest German countermeasures to the blockade, especially submarine warfare. Wilson's partisan policy, combined with Germany's persistence in submarine warfare, led to America's entry into the war in April 1917.

Raico makes clear that American participation in the war had disastrous consequences for liberty. "In fact, 'democracy' was already beginning to mean what it means today — the right of a government legitimized by formal majoritarian processes to dispose at will of the lives, liberty, and property of its subjects" (p. 234).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Interview with Taylor Caldwell, 1978

The Captains, the Kings, and Taylor Caldwell


George F. Smith

Published in Writer’s Yearbook 1980
Copyright, 1979

September, 1938. The economy is still on its back. In bookstores across the country, a new novel appears: Dynasty of Death, by Taylor Caldwell. At a time when little else is moving, this epic about a munitions empire quickly becomes a hot seller.

Scribners had introduced the author as a Buffalo housewife who’d written the story on her kitchen table while her family slept. But several critics weren’t buying: the book’s air of maturity is the mark of a “seasoned literary gentleman,” they believed, writing under a phony name.

In one sense they were correct. Taylor Caldwell was definitely seasoned -- she’d spent 30 years writing more than 100 novels, all unpublished, and estimates having destroyed “two or three forests” in the process.

Having tasted her first major triumph (she’d sold a few stories to confession pulps), she continued her exhausting pace and became one of the world’s most commercially successful authors. Like Dynasty, many of her novels are long and make appealing statements about the conspiracies behind wars, monetary crises, and political facades, while titillating the reader with the passions and pretenses of worldly affairs.

The critics were with her at first, describing Dynasty as “magnificent,” “fascinating,” “powerful,” and a close cousin of Gone With the Wind. But a decade later there was grumbling that her prose was “color-blind” and overloaded with adjectives, and by 1957 she was accusing New York Times editors of publishing “monotonously vicious” reviews of her books because of her unshakable opposition to communism.

Yet while author and critics warred, her books continued to sell. Her latest estimate, hardbound and paperback: 100 million copies.

About a year ago, Doubleday published her thirty-second novel, Bright Flows the River, a title with a Biblical derivation like many of her others. In keeping with tradition, it was on the Time’s bestseller list a month later.

To her satisfaction, Testimony of Two Men and Captains and the Kings recently appeared as TV mini-series -- a belated compensation for the mistreatment Hollywood accorded her in the ‘40s, when industry moguls bought four of her books but never produced them.

Born 78 years ago near Manchester, England, Taylor Caldwell came to the United States with her family in 1906 and settled in Buffalo, New York. She soon began writing stories and when she was 12, her father sent one of her scripts to her grandfather, who was on the staff of E. P. Dutton, then a Philadelphia publishing firm. Like the disbelieving critics of Dynasty, he said it was impossible for her to have written such a book and told her father to “burn it; she’ll cause you trouble.” But she saved it, and after 46 years and many rewrites, saw it published as Dear and Glorious Physician.

She married at 18 and again at 31, bearing a daughter from each marriage. “If one of my children were a writer,” she once wrote, “I’d say, ‘God help you. You’ll need it.’ There must be easier ways of earning a living, such as working in salt mines.”

While agonizing over her writing at night, she worked at low-paying jobs during the day and acquired the formal education her father never approved of for women. Today, along with countless literary awards, she holds three doctorates in English literature, granted from Niagara University, D’Youville College, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Her second marriage ended tragically in March, 1967, when a thug broke into her home, pistol-whipped her and fatally wounded her husband. The assault left Taylor Caldwell deaf.

She was married a third time in 1972, but divorced a year later. Then on July 6, 1978, she eloped in Erie, Pennsylvania, with her present husband, Robert Prestie, who’s also her business manager and a former Trappist monk. “I’m always committing matrimony,” she says. “My last husband had eight wives before me. If I had any sense, that would’ve been a lesson.”

Though writing is her life, she also enjoys cooking, and has often made stunningly accurate predictions. She had warned, for instance, of President Kennedy’s assassination and had forecast the fall of Khrushchev. And if her second husband had listened to her, they would have owned shares of Polaroid when it was only 31. (But her foresight is not 20-20 or there would be a Goldwater among American presidents.)

Recently, I spent two evenings with Taylor Caldwell at her North Buffalo home, listening to her candid remarks on writing and the world she writes about. On each occasion, she equipped herself with bourbon and a chaser, and plenty of low-tar cigarettes -- which she smokes without inhaling, I was told.

She’s a feisty woman who laughs deeply, sometimes at herself. Because of her hearing disability, my questions and responses had to be shown to her on paper.

WYB: On the copyright page of Bright Flows the River, it says Taylor Caldwell is a pseudonym. Someone goofed, right?

CALDWELL: What do you mean by pseudonym? A false name? Taylor Caldwell was my maiden name. I’m so sick and tired of hearing pseudonym! I was baptized Janet Miriam Taylor Holland Caldwell. I can get the baptismal certificate and prove it.

WYB: That’s OK. Let’s talk about writing. Why did you choose a career as a novelist?

CALDWELL: I didn’t choose it -- it chose me. My father was an artist, and I wanted to be an artist. I won prizes with art when I was a young woman, at the Buffalo Art Gallery. But then I started to write text explaining the pictures I painted. And my father said there was no money in painting -- I’d never make a living at it.

WYB: Did anyone encourage you to write?

CALDWELL: My parents were interested in my writing, but they expected me to be a world-famous writer by the time I was 14. And then when I wasn’t, they got mad and tried to stop me from writing. They took paper away from me, and pencils. My father destroyed nearly everything I wrote. I managed to save a few of my first novels, though, including Dear and Glorious Physician.

WYB: You wrote for 30 years before getting published, though. What kept you going?

CALDWELL: Well, I knew I was a writer so I knew it was just a matter of time. I had expected success to come earlier, but I had a family to support. I worked two jobs seven days a week and went to school nights.

But I never got discouraged. I got a little blue sometimes for two or three hours, but never depressed. Writing’s an obsession like any of the arts, and you can’t leave it alone.

About half of my published novels were written before I was published. So I didn’t write a book every two years, as some people think.

Writing -- I exist only for that. It’s the most important thing in my life. It’s not apart from me. I have no other interests, except cooking. I don’t belong to any organizations, clubs -- I don’t go to lunches. This is my life, the most important thing -- far more important than anything else I do. It has to be that way, otherwise you’re just a hobbyist.

Now, a painter needs only to know the technique of his painting, and he has to have a tremendous emotional response to it. Musicians, sculptors -- the same way. But they don’t have to know about everything. A writer does.

He has to do a tremendous amount of reading, too. I’d rather go without food, sleep, even cigarettes, than go without books. I read at least three of four books a week, plus all kinds of publications, some very weird. I like to know what’s going on, what people think. I read the far left, the far right, and in between, to see what people are doing and saying.

WYB: What are some of those weird publications?

CALDWELL: Oh, the tabloids. Newspapers, books. I spend a third of my time reading. The world is a terrible place, but it’s very interesting.

WYB: I take it you believe writers are born, not made?

CALDWELL: Yes. I’m sure you’ve run into people who’ve said, “If I just had the time, I could write a book.” Everybody thinks they can write a book. And everybody’s life story could be the subject of a book -- I don’t care who they are. It depends how you approach it. But writing itself, either you have it or you don’t have it.

Years ago, Sinclair Lewis was at some university speaking to would-be young writers. He said, “You all want to be writers? Then why the hell aren’t you home writing?”

WYB: Do born writers need three doctorates?

CALDWELL: Education is always a help. I didn’t complete high school, but I took the college entrance exam at the University of Buffalo and was admitted -- in spite of the fact that I could never get beyond long division. I still can’t.

I was never a good scholar, even as a kid. I liked to get on my skates and play hooky and wander all over Buffalo. I learned more that way than I did in school.

Once, when I was about nine, I went to a factory which was next to a creek. There were dead fish lying on the bank and the creek was covered with oil. I went in the factory and said, “What are you pouring all that oil out for and killing the fish?”” And I was thrown out.

Later I wrote a book about ecology, Tender Victory. It was published in 1956. Was I attacked by the liberal reviewers! “She’s trying to destroy the living of the poor working man -- with her demand that factories stop pouring out smoke and pollutants.” The New York Times raged and screamed. It was several book club selections, though.

I think I was the first voice raised in America against air pollution. But a reviewer said my hero -- a minister fighting the polluters -- should have been thrown out in the dung heap.

WYB: Besides stalling, what do beginning writers do wrong?

CALDWELL: I’ve read a few unpublished manuscripts by women who want to be writers. You don’t want to be a writer any more than you want to have blue eyes if you have brown eyes. You are a writer or you’re not.

But anyhow, they send beautifully typed manuscripts. Then they paste flower decals on their pages, or cut out pictures of children for the first page. That’s all right if you’re writing a child’s book, but not if you’re writing what you think is a mature novel. They’ve even punched holes in the manuscript and tied it together with a blue or pink ribbon.

WYB: What about their technique?

CALDWELL: Childish. Sentimental. Uninteresting. Full of maudlin gushings. I call them “mommy” novels. I’ve seen quite a number of male writers who I thought had something. Men are not that maudlin.

WYB: What other errors do you find?

CALDWELL: Well, each one’ll have a different error. A lack of structure. A lack of plotting. A lack of interest. Characters -- nothing. I don’t know why people think writing is so easy. Also, watch the cliches. The cliches will creep in. In the heat of writing, they will creep in. I go back over my material, and back, and back. I reread right from the beginning dozens of times, and the damn cliches still come in.

Writing isn’t fun. It’s the hardest work in the world. The very, very hardest. I mean creative writing. If it’s reportorial, it’s a different thing. When you have to create a whole milieu, with characters and background, that’s a different thing entirely.

WYB: Writing’s no fun at all?

CALDWELL: No, just labor. Oh, you start out all enthusiastic. But after two or three chapters it becomes plain drudgery. I worked about ten hours the other night just on correcting and rewriting, because what you write originally is just a shadow of what you had in mind.

WYB: I’ve read that you do much of your research by getting in touch with your many past lives. Is this true?

CALDWELL: No, I don’t believe in reincarnation. When you’re dead, you’re dead. At least, I hope there’s no such thing as reincarnation. I wouldn’t want to come back here. I’ve had it.

This world’s brought me very little joy, very little satisfaction. It’s brought me nothing but tragedy from the time I was born. I regret every day I live. The human situation is not as unique as you think it is. We’re all the same. We all get kicked in the pants, we all have our moments of elation -- though not much happiness. Happiness is a child’s word. There may be short periods of contentment, but very short. Life is mostly disappointment, tragedy, loss and failure.

It wasn’t until the last few years -- imagine, not till the last few years -- that I found out something that even a child knows. That money rules the world. That’s what nations fight about. I didn’t know it was that important. It came as a big shock to me.

WYB: You’ve written much about conspiracies in your novels. Do you think conspiracies in fact play a major role in history?

CALDWELL: Yes. And I think these are our last days. We’re going to have a terrible world holocaust. We’re building up to it.

Before Wilson’s war broke, the newspapers began talking about an energy crisis. I remember that very distinctly. I’ll never forget it -- and I never forget a damn thing, it infuriates me sometimes. The newspapers said we only had enough oil in the world to last till 1930, if we were careful.

WYB: In Captains and the Kings, and other books, you blame the conspiracies on international bankers.

CALDWELL: Of course. In 1912, the international bankers pushed for an amendment to the Constitution to create a private organization, the Federal Reserve System. It’s controlled by the bankers, who meet several times a year to decide what our dollar is worth. Our dollar, of course, is fiat money, not backed by gold or silver. And it’s printed by a private concern. The word federal is there just to deceive the people. The American people voted for the Federal Reserve without knowing what it was about.

Just as they voted for the income tax. It’s unconstitutional, but the United States and the international bankers wanted to get in the European war, so the amendment was passed. And this is what the government told the people: “It’ll never hurt you. You’ll never be taxed. It’ll just just be the very, very rich, and then only two or three percent.” And guess who pays the majority of the taxes? Then people earning under $20,000 a year. The very, very rich don’t pay taxes. Do you think the super rich are paying taxes? Of course not. They have big trust funds. It’s the working class who’s paying taxes.

I’ve stated a thousand times: the primary purpose of the IRS is not to collect taxes but to force federal controls upon the people. To bribe the obedient and destroy the dissidents. To elicit favors and impoverish independence. I have a friend who was murdered by the Internal Revenue. Outright murder. When they got after me, they suggested I commit suicide. I saw the letter.

I don’t know how I’ve survived the onslaughts of the government. It almost makes me believe in the Deity. I’m a Catholic, but I’m a Catholic-atheist, because the tragedies in life have overwhelmed me.

WYB: What’s a Catholic-atheist?

CALDWELL: It really means that, as the ancient Romans said, all roads lead to Rome. No matter what name you give to the spirit that rules law and order in the universe, it’s the same thing. But it’s forever shut out from man. It’s just the manifestations that we see. There’s really no such thing as an atheist.

WYB: Do you think your readers accept the idea of an international conspiracy?

CALDWELL: Yes, I’m very pleased. At least 50% of my readers now are young people, especially young men between the ages of 18 and 30.

WYB: In the forward to Captains and the Kings, you said that President Kennedy perhaps “knew too much” when he spoke of “the Gnomes of Zurich.” You were referring to a conspiracy?

CALDWELL: Sure. Only three weeks before he died, I warned him not to go anywhere. I sent copies of my letter to him to all the major newspapers in the country. Only one printed it -- The Messenger, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I’d known Kennedy since he was a freshman in Congress -- I knew the whole family. He wouldn’t listen. He wrote me and said the communists could get him in church if they wanted to. I said in my letter, “He’s being attacked by the liberal media, he’s in terrible danger, and I’ve got a terrible premonition something’s going to happen to him.” That was sent three weeks before he went to Dallas.

Old Joe Kennedy gave me a lot of information for Captains and the Kings. He knew what was coming. He set up enormous trust funds for his children. Tax-free.

WYB: Your main character, Joseph Armagh, was based on Joe Kennedy?

CALDWELL: No comment.

WYB: L. V. Roper, creator of Renegade Roe detective novels, says he gets his inspiration from George Washington because it’s “his picture on dollar bills.” What do you think of that?

CALDWELL: Quite true. Samuel Johnson, the famous English writer of the 18th century, said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” And Tolstoy said if you’re not widely read, you are a failure.

WYB: You agree?

CALDWELL: Of course. It’s just like anything else. Unless you have customers, your business is going to fail. Writing is a business -- all art is. When a man paints a picture, he doesn’t expect just to sit there and look at it. He expects to sell it.

It’s getting harder and harder to find time to work. There's too much other business going on in here, plus there’s a household to run.

WYB: Why do you write at night?

CALDWELL: Well, it was partly forced on me. I don’t like the daytime. I don’t like the summer, and I don’t like the spring. I like the night. And then I had to work for a living during the day, so I wrote all night and worked all day. I very seldom will sleep -- I don’t have the time. I only sleep when I’m absolutely exhausted, and then only for a couple of hours. That’s all I can afford.

When I’m working on a book, I’ll go from 12 to 24 hours at a stretch. I never stop. For instance, yesterday I didn't go to bed until one o’clock in the afternoon. And I’d worked from five the night before.

WYB: Writing always seems to come down to discipline.

CALDWELL: Of course. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job. I do most of my work in my mind at parties, when I’m among people. I watch them. Sometimes I can read their lips . . . You’ve also got to be a cynic.

WYB: Why?

CALDWELL: Because you’ve got to look at life clearly. No rose-colored glasses. The human race is not very admirable. It was a big mistake of God’s . . . The more I see of people, the more bitter I become. I think I appeal to readers because there’s nothing false or hypocritical in what I write. And they recognize themselves, and recognize their fears. And they know what bastards they are.

WYB: Can we get into the details of book writing itself? Do you work from an outline?

CALDWELL: No, never an outline. I have the general idea, then it works itself out. If I could do the outline, the book would be written. I do make notes about things I want to put in, in the next chapter. Writing is done in your mind. When I sit down to type, it’s just a matter of recording.

WYB: Do you do much rewriting?

CALDWELL: Quite a bit. That is sheer dull labor. And I’m an intrinsically lazy person -- very slothful. I hate physical movement. Except for cooking.

WYB: How does a writer create believable characters?

CALDWELL: Study people. Listen to their minds. Watch their expressions.

WYB: Your hearing problem has made that task even harder, I assume.

CALDWELL: Yes, I need to hear people’s opinions -- what they say and how they say it.

WYB: How do you do research?

CALDWELL: The usual way. It’s plain research -- hard, tough research. I have a whole library on every subject.

WYB: Ever lose interest in a book after working on it for so long?

CALDWELL: Sure, all the time . . . You just have to plug away. I’ve started quite a number of novels, and they just didn’t seem right to me, so I abandoned them.

WYB: Do you work on more than one book at a time?

CALDWELL: One’s bad enough. I hate to start writing. Always do. I’ll do anything possible to delay it, because I know once it takes me over, there’s no stopping.

WYB:: Ever experienced writer’s block?

CALDWELL: Sure, all the time. One lasted a year. Nothing was stirring. Happened a few years ago.

WYB: How did you overcome it?

CALDWELL: Let the field lie fallow. Wait. Chew my fingernails. Wonder when something’s going to happen. My subconscious mind works all the time.

WYB: You wrote The Romance of Atlantis with Jess Stearn. How did you break up the work?

CALDWELL: Well, I gave him the idea and wrote two chapters. He did the rest. I think it was the first big novel he ever did. After finishing, he said, “It’ll be a long time before I ever do anything like that again.” If we didn’t have to pay attention to petty things like houses and eating and sleeping, we’d be much better off. I’m a very good cook, by the way, though I don’t eat much. I have a very good cook here now, a young man. No women here anymore.

WYB: Why?

CALDWELL: Well, I don’t like women. I never did. That’s why I don’t belong to women’s lib. Most of my relatives were male. Women are the inferior sex. There’s no doubt about it -- women are the inferior sex, in every way. There’s never been any woman genius -- never. With all the opportunity in the world -- all the leisure in the world, all the shelter -- if women had any genius, it would’ve come out. It never did. There’s been no woman Michelangelo, or Beethoven, or Mozart.

WYB: What about you?

CALDWELL: It’s talent. It’s not genius. Only men have the gift of genius.

WYB: You don’t consider yourself a genius?

CALDWELL: Of course not. Of course not. No woman writer is ever a genius.

Women irritate me. I’ve met a few intelligent women -- not many. Maybe two or three. They’re usually after a man, that’s all. The more men a woman knows, the brighter she becomes. That’s true. I’ve been married many times, so I know.

WYB: And yet you dedicated your latest novel to journalist Rita Smith.

CALDWELL: She’s a very, very bright girl. She’s one of the few intelligent women I know. One of the few? Who’s the other? . . . I’ve never been popular with women.

There’s Margaret Mead. She became a big feminist. About 20 years ago she wrote an article, I think it was for Cosmopolitan, and said women should devote all their time always to nurturing their holy goddamn children. She named me and Edna Ferber -- said we’d be much happier if we just nurtured children. I wrote her a flaming letter. I said what about women who are not mommies? Not all women are mommies. I have two children of my own, but I was never a mommy. I said I don’t like children, I never wanted any children, they’re a waste of time. And they become your mortal enemies.

A stupid woman reporter, an American, I think it was in Singapore -- stupid thing -- she said, “Do you ever think of retiring?” I said, “Retiring to what?” A weak, silly smile. “You know, to give others a chance.” Well, what I said about that was unprintable. I picked up all my dirty words from my men friends. “Good God!” I said. “I’m not dead yet! Besides, there is plenty of room at the top. It’s only at the bottom where it’s crowded.” I told her that publishers were always looking for competent authors, who are few and far between, and age has nothing to do with it.

WYB: Are there any women writers you enjoy?

CALDWELL: The women writers today are doing their best work in the suspense field. That’s all I read. I don’t read other novels, except by men. Women in the suspense and murder field.

WYB: Who, for instance?

CALDWELL: One of my favorites is Mignon Eberhart. And of course Agatha Christie was excellent. Fine characterizations. The best writing in America is being done in the suspense field -- the very best. I tried it once. Never again.

WYB: Why?

CALDWELL: Too hard! The plotting is terribly intricate. And then there are all kinds of clues you have to scatter around. That’s too much -- too hard.

WYB: Not something you’d recommend for beginners?

CALDWELL: Well, I don’t know. It may be good discipline. At least they could work at it, like lifting weights or jogging. Anyone who can master that field can master anything.

WYB: Which writers most influenced your development?

CALDWELL: The old classics. Balzac, Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Walpole. And the Bronte sisters.

WYB: Any contemporary writers?

CALDWELL: John MacDonald. He’s a marvelous writer.

WYB: I understand you’ve had trouble with the business side of your writing.

CALDWELL: I get ripped off -- Oh! You have no idea! My husband has been going through all my files. He comes up from his office downstairs in a screaming rage -- “Look what so-and-so did to you!” And not just for a few dollars, but for tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Look what they did to you!” I said, “Well, that’s all love and trust.”

WYB: Ever have trouble with publishers?

CALDWELL: No. A lot of writers start to think they’re precious, and they get very temperamental about their publishers. I never had any trouble. Many publishers don’t like writers because they get too full of themselves -- they get too egotistical. If they have one bestseller, they think they’re on top of the dung heap. Which they’re not.

WYB: What’s your attitude toward sex in literature?

CALDWELL: Well, there’s sex in my new book, Bright Flows the River, but it’s not explicit. To eliminate sex from a book is to eliminate the great creative force in the world. Out of the sexual instinct rises all the art, you know.

WYB: So I’ve heard.

CALDWELL: Oh, it’s a well-known fact. No eunuch ever wrote a book. . . .

Young children today are bombarded by the sex revolution, and they need some protection. They need to know what it’s all about. I’m very conservative -- I’m really right-wing -- but there’re things that the right-wing does and says that make me angry. For instance, I’m Catholic, but I believe in rigid birth control.

When I was young, I had a priest who used to tell use girls, “You must exercise self-control. You must be disciplined. You must judge the result of your action.” Then he said, “No girl ever ran into trouble who kept her drawers on.” At home, I told my parents, and they were up in the air. He was censored by his congregation. But we girls knew exactly what he was talking about. Children know more about sex than their parents think they do.

I believe in abortion, too. I wrote to the Right to Life people and said, “You demand that every fetus that’s conceived should live. All right, you guarantee the mother of that fetus that you will take care of that child through college. Not impose that unwanted child on the taxpayer.” Silence.

But on the other hand, the pro-abortionists are all for abortions, but a criminal murderer, his life is sacred. A human life is sacred when a person makes it sacred. The man who caused my deafness and killed my husband is out on probation, by the way. The judge cried over him and let him loose. He sentenced him to four years then put him on probation. He’s now under indictment, charged with killing two more people. . . .

WYB: Are you working on another book?

CALDWELL: Yes, and after I get rid of the book I’m writing now, about a modern Job, I’ll write a book about the life of Christ, seen through the eyes of his mother.

WYB: Will the Job novel be finished this year?

CALDWELL: No. It takes about two or three years to finish a book. I’ve got about a third done. Since I had a heart attack a year ago, I’ve not only aged ten years but I’m exhausted all the time.

I read the book of Job over and over. Poor Job. He was afflicted. According to the Bible, he was a just man. But Satan said, “You put your finger on him, and injure him, and he won’t be such a just, devout man.”

So God said to Satan, “Do anything you want with him, but spare his life.” And so he was afflicted. His children deserted him -- he lost everything. He was reduced to sackcloth and ashes. Even his wife said, “Curse God and die.” But he didn’t. But he did rebuke God. He said, “I’ve lived a devout life. Worshipped You. I was just to my fellow man. Accomplished all I could in Your name. Look what’s happened.”

And God answered him, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world? Where were you when I created the galaxies and the universes? Answer as a man! Gird up your loins and answer as a man!”

That’s the subject of my next book.

WYB: You said that writing isn’t fun. Yet you seem to be having a good time. Are you glad you’re a writer?

CALDWELL: Let me answer you this way: I was talking to a woman last night. I said, “I’m not like other people.” She started to giggle. Then I raised my voice and said evenly, “That’s one blessing God gave writers -- they’re not like other people!”

The End

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A doctor's view of ObamaCare

This was emailed to me by a friend. I suspect the letter is circulating heavily on the internet. The author, Stephen Fraser, is an anesthesiologist in Indianapolis.

After reading the excerpts and the doctor's comments, I wonder what part of the bill, if any, wasn't inspired by 1984.
July 23, 2009

Senator Bayh,

As a practicing physician I have major concerns with the healthcare bill before Congress. I actually have read the bill and am shocked by the brazenness of the government's proposed involvement in the patient physician relationship. The very idea that the government will dictate and ration patient care is dangerous and certainly not helpful in designing a healthcare system that works for all. Every physician I work with agrees that we need to fix our healthcare system, but the proposed bills currently making their way through congress will be a disaster if passed.

I ask you respectfully and as a patriotic American to look at the following troubling lines that I have read in the bill. You cannot possibly believe that these proposals are in the best interests of the country and our fellow citizens.

Page 22 of the HC Bill: Mandates that the Govt will audit books of all employers that self insure!!

Page 30 Sec 123 of HC bill - THERE WILL BE A GOVT COMMITTEE that decides what treatments/benefits you get.

PagePage 29 lines 4-16 in the HC bill: YOUR HEALTH CARE IS RATIONED!!!

Page 42 of HC Bill:The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your HC Benefits for you. You have no choice!

Page 50 Section 152 in HC bill: HC will be provided to ALL non US citizens, illegal or otherwise.

Page 58 HC Bill: Govt will have real-time access to individuals finances & a National ID Healthcard will be issued!

Page 59 HC Bill lines 21-24: Govt will have direct access to you ur banks accounts for elective funds transfer.

Page 65 Sec 164: is a payoff subsidized plan for retirees and their families in Unions & community organizations: (ACORN).

Page 84 Sec 203 HC bill: Govt mandates ALL benefit packages for private HC plans in the Exchange.

Page 85 Line 7 HC Bill: Specifications for of Benefit Levels for Plans = The Govt will ration your Healthcare!

Page 91 Lines 4-7 HC Bill: Govt mandates linguistic appropriate services. Example - Translation: illegal aliens.

Page 95 HC Bill Lines 8-18: The Govt will use groups i.e., ACORN & Americorps to sign up individuals for Govt HC plan.

Page 85 Line 7 HC Bill: Specifications of Benefit Levels for Plans. AARP members - your Health care WILL be rationed.

Page 102 Lines 12-18 HC Bill: Medicaid Eligible Individuals will be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. No choice.

Page 124 lines 24-25 HC: No company can sue GOVT on price fixing. No "judicial review" against Govt Monopoly.

Page 127 Lines 1-16 HC Bill: Doctors/ American Medical Association - The Govt will tell YOU what you can make! (salary)

Page 145 Line 15-17: An Employer MUST auto enroll employees into public option plan. NO CHOICE!

Page 126 Lines 22-25: Employers MUST pay for HC for part time employees AND their families.

Page 149 Lines 16-24: ANY Employer with payroll 401k & above who does not provide publi! c option pays 8% tax on all payroll.

Page 150 Lines 9-13: Business's with payroll btw 251k & 401k who doesn't provide public option pays 2-6% tax on all payroll.

Page 167 Lines 18-23: ANY individual who doesn't have acceptable HC according to Govt will be taxed 2.5% of income.

Page 170 Lines 1-3 HC Bill: Any NONRESIDENT Alien is exempt from individual taxes. (Americans will pay)

Page 195 HC Bill: Officers & employees of HC Admin (GOVT) will have access to ALL Americans finances /personal records.

Page 203 Line 14-15 HC: "The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax" Yes, it says that!

Page 239 Line 14-24 HC Bill: Govt will reduce physician services for Medicaid Seniors, low income and poor are affected.

Page 241 Line 6-8 HC Bill: Doctors, doesn't matter what specialty you have, you'll all be paid the same!

Page 253 Line 10-18: Govt sets value of doctor's time, profession, judgment etc. Literally value of humans.

Page 265 Sec 1131: Govt mandates & controls productivity for private HC industries.

Page 268 Sec 1141: Federal Govt regulates rental & purchase of power driven wheelchairs.

Page 272 SEC. 1145: TREATMENT OF CERTAIN CANCER HOSPITALS - Cancer patients - welcome to rationing!

Page 280 Sec 1151: The Govt will penalize hospitals for whatever Govt deems preventable re-admissions.

Page 298 Lines 9-11: Doctors, treat a patient during initial admission that results in a re-admission -Govt will penalize you.

Page 317 L 13-20: PROHIBITION on ownership/investment. Govt tells Doctors what/how much they can own!

Page 317-318 lines 21-25, 1-3: PROHIBITION on expansion- Govt is mandating hospitals cannot expand.

Page 321 2-13: Hospitals have opportunity to apply for exception BUT communit! y input is required.. Can u say ACORN?!!

Page 335 L 16-25 Pg 336-339: Govt mandates establishment of outcome based measures. HC the way they want. Rationing.

Page 341 Lines 3-9: Govt has authority to disqualify Medicare Advance Plans, HMOs, etc. Forcing people into Govt plan.

Page 354 Sec 1177: Govt will RESTRICT enrollment of Special needs people! Unbelievable!

Page 379 Sec 1191: Govt creates more bureaucracy - Tele-health Advisory Comittee. Can you say HC by phone?

Page 425 Lines 4-12: Govt mandates Advance Care Planning Consult. Think Senior Citizens end of life patients.

Page 425 Lines 17-19: Govt will instruct & consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney. Mandatory!

Page 425 Lines 22-25, 426 Lines 1-3: Govt provides approved list of end of life resources, guiding you in death. (assisted suicide)

Page 427 Lines 15-24: Govt mandates program for orders for end of life. The Govt has a say in how your life ends.

Page 429 Lines 1-9: An "advanced care planning consultant" will be used frequently as patients health deteriorates.

Page 429 Lines 10-12: "advanced care consultation" may include an ORDER for end of life plans. AN ORDER from GOVT!

Page 429 Lines 13-25: The govt will specify which Doctors can write an end of life order.

Page 430 Lines 11-15: The Govt will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life!

Page 469: Community Based Home Medical Services = Non profit organizations. Hello, ACORN Medical Services here!!?

Page 472 Lines 14-17: PAYMENT TO COMMUNITY-BASED ORIGINATION. 1 monthly payment 2 a community-based organization. Like ACORN?

Page 489 Sec 1308: The Govt will cover Marriage & Family therapy. Which means they will insert Govt into your marriage.

Page 494-498: ! Govt wil l cover Mental Health Services including defining, creating, rationing those services.

Senator, I guarantee that I personally will do everything possible to inform patients and my fellow physicians about the dangers of the proposed bills you and your colleagues are debating.

Furthermore, If you vote for a bill that enforces socialized medicine on the country and destroys the doctor/patient relationship, I will do everything in my power to make sure you lose your job in the next election.

Stephen E Fraser MD