The view from afar

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It will soon be time for Neo to go East – which never seems quite the thing, as I always think of him in terms of the West and the wilds of Nebraska. I recall from being in the States for a year or so in the early 90s that the thing which hit me most was the size!  I remember driving to Abilene from near St Louis, and I71 seemed to go on for ever – and once we got past KC, it was (or so I recall) an endless straight line; it was the first time I’d ever seen cruise control – there’d be no point on English roads.

I was brought up a semi-rural part of Wales, and you could probably fit the whole country into Kansas and have room for France. I’d never had any idea that a country could be that big – and when we flew from St Louis to Sacramento, I remember thinking that it was like going from one country to another – and yet it was one country. I learned in school about how important the flag was (can still recite that pledge) and the language and, though no one I think said it – Christianity.

With so many different nationalities emigrating from all over the world, America could just have become a maze of different cultures – and yet it became a nation – one nation under God. From afar, where I am, that still seems a pretty remarkable achievement and worth examining and defending – not least at a time when migration is high on the political and religious agenda.

As I understand it (so just put me right if that means I understand squat) it was the allegiance to the flag and to ‘these United States’, as well as the need to learn a common language which, along with a common religion, served as the sinews to unite the fledgling nation. At a time when so much writing seems to be about what the USA got wrong – slavery, its treatment of the first nations – it might be worth a little balance here? We lose much if we project our values on to the past and judge it wanting. Go that way, and let’s think what a future where no one kills babies in the womb would think of us?

History has winners and losers, but we are all its heirs. We all want to be the good guys, and it is easy enough to use our value judgments to make ourselves more virtuous than our ancestors. But I guess they did their best, and we have inherited their work – and if we don’t concentrate on the good bits as well, and we see only the bad bits, then what sort of world will we bequeath to the future?

America is an idea, and it is always in development. As you guys enter an election year, it looks as though things will get pretty polarised – but I hope, for all our sakes, that as usual, you’ll do the right thing – even if it is, as Churchill once put it, after doing all the wrong things first.

That journey Neo’s about to take is across the breadth of a great nation – and Americans, not least at this time, might stop and think about those pilgrims who took so long going the other way and in so doing, created a great nation out of a wilderness. I know in our ecological times that’s not a popular viewpoint – but let’s face it, the critics would have nowhere to live or to have been educated without those old white men. So, I’m saying a thank you to them – and wishing Neo a happy journey – and a merry Christmas.


Of Tar and Feathers, and Smoothbore Muskets

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was out in San Bernadino the other day, and he has some things to say.

He’ll get no argument from me on any of that since it’s simple common sense. But since he’s being Nebraska nice, there’s more to it than that. Because the Islamic Jihadis aren’t the only ones who dislike our freedom. Kevin D. Williamson writing at the National Review had this to say.

There are many popular demons in American public life: Barack Obama and his monarchical pretensions, Valerie Jarrett and her two-bit Svengali act, or, if your tastes run in the other direction, the Koch brothers, the NRA, the scheming behind-the-scenes influences of Big Whatever. But take a moment to doff your hat to the long, energetic, and wide-ranging careers of three of our most enduring bad guys: laziness, corruption, and stupidity, which deserve special recognition for their role in the recent debates over gun control, terrorism, and crime. The Democratic party’s dramatic slide into naked authoritarianism — voting in the Senate to repeal the First Amendment, trying to lock up governors for vetoing legislation, and seeking to jail political opponents for holding unpopular views on global warming, etc. — has been both worrisome and dramatic. The Democrats even have a new position on the ancient civil-rights issue of due process, and that position is: “F— you.” The Bill of Rights guarantees Americans (like it or not) the right to keep and bear arms; it also reiterates the legal doctrine of some centuries standing that government may not deprive citizens of their rights without due process. In the case of gun rights, that generally means one of two things: the legal process by which one is convicted of a felony or the legal process by which one is declared mentally incompetent, usually as a prelude to involuntary commitment into a mental facility. The no-fly list and the terrorism watch list contain no such due process. Some bureaucrat somewhere in the executive branch puts a name onto a list, and that’s that. The ACLU has rightly called this “Kafkaesque.” […]

Why do we put all the T. Kennedys on the list instead of the actual sack of it we’re interested in? Because running that information down and systematizing it is hard work. Reviewing that information is a lot of work, too, which is why our friend Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard and Fox News ended up on the terrorist watch list. (Amusingly, he found himself being subjected to heightened scrutiny by a dedicated cable-news viewer who instantly recognized him.) That’s all the stuff of good stories for a Stephen Hayes or a Ted Kennedy, but if you’re a bodega operator in the Bronx without connections and resources, you’re pretty well hosed. […]

The Democrats and their intellectually corrupt apologists at the New York Times and elsewhere are willing to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, to micturate from a great height upon the entire concept of due process, and to treat all of us like criminals — while doing precisely nothing to prevent school shootings, terrorism, or ordinary crime — because they don’t have the guts to tell their political clients in the schools, the mental-health bureaucracies, and the criminal-justice system that eventually they are going to have to do their goddamned jobs in exchange for the hundreds of billions of dollars we lavish upon them.

Do read it all at: Gun-control-debate-government-laziness-stupidity-corruption.

Charles C. W. Cooke adds this, and, boy howdy, do I agree with him.

Traditionally, we have used an old-fashioned tool to sort out who deserves to be punished and who does not: It’s called “the justice system.” If, as the watch list’s proponents insist, there are people among us who are too dangerous to remain at liberty, then those people must be arrested, charged, and tried tout de suite. Until that happens, they must be left the hell alone, lest the pitchforks and smoothbores that subdued the last set of usurpers start to twitch and grow restless in their retirement..

Source: Terrorism-gun-control-advocates-use-fear.

Frankly, it didn’t work out well for the lobsterbacks, and I see no reason to think the leftists are any more capable than say, Lord Cornwallis.

But for plain common sense on the subject, where it matters, let’s go back to Senator Sasse


Home, and it’s Lovely Out Here

Sometimes we get so involved with all the problems in the world that we forget the good stuff. Yesterday I was chatting with a friend and we were discussing our states, and it struck me that Nebraska is mighty pretty, and I haven’t shared that with you guys for quite a while.

So here you go. Enjoy


One in three of us work in jobs connected with agriculture, as I do.



But we still take pretty good care of the joint, and our feathered friends.



I’ll live and die an old Boiler, but I’ll have to admit it is pretty cool how the whole state stops on Saturday afternoon in the fall.



They’re right, Lincoln is about the friendliest city I’ve ever been to, but it’s too big for me. But this is from a county fair out my way in a town of a bit more than a thousand people.



And that’s all good. but for me this country has always been about long views and far horizons.Willa Cather wasn’t wrong, it can be lonely, sometimes very lonely but, it also gives you perspective on the world and its problems.



By the way, that fancy Victorian house at about 1:50 is Buffalo Bill Cody’s.

Presumably, regular programming will resume tomorrow. 🙂



Endings and 2015

2006_ford_e_350_super_duty_xl_capitol_heights_md_100330811228254623As many of you know, I go east for Christmas with my family. I usually make the journey by train. I find the journey relaxing, and a time to change gears.

It also has to do with my dislike of our airports anymore. Like many others, I find our so-called airport security system to be something between a joke, and an expensive charade, designed more to cow the population than to make flying safe. Not to mention that it has no basis in law. Let the airline provide what security is essential, in their minds, in a free(r) market.

2014, as likely all know will go into my books as my Annus Horribilis, it’s hard to conceive of a year where I’ve had more terrible things happen, from my health (and Jessica’s) to the distractions consequent to both, and to the general tone of society, epitomized by Ferguson.

And it finished as it was begun.

We left early for my train since we had some stuff to pick up about another hour beyond the depot, and figured that was as close as we were likely to get. Well, we get about 3 miles out of town, dim our lights for oncoming traffic and almost instantly hit a brown cow hiding in the highway. Most of us have hit a deer at some time, a cow is worse, much heavier and a much lower center of gravity.

Still thanks to a combination of seat belts, air bags, and the fact that we were driving an E-350 van, and likely God’s will, we were all unhurt. Unfortunately both the cow and the van were killed. That’s twice now, in my lifetime that wearing a seat belt has saved my life, you are simply a fool if you don’t.

pa_pittsburgh04And so, once we figured out an alternate vehicle, I made it to the depot on time, which is more than Amtrak can say!. Still they weren’t terribly late, and a lot can happen from San Fransisco to the middle of Nebraska.

So, I clamber on, and then the conductor and I find what may have been my final mistake (big one, anyway) of the year. I was supposed to board the day (night, really) before.

Say what you want about Amtrak, their people in train service are simply the best, and have been for years. The conductor took it in hand, found me a roomette, sorted my other connections (all 5 of them) with reservations, and sent me to bed, without a care in the world.

Try that with an airline! Note that I don’t recommend it with Amtrak, either. In my case, the ticket was purchased when Jessica was very ill and I simply put it in my calendar wrong, and forgot to check.

Beyond that, it was, as always, a wonderful way to spend Christmas with those I love (most of them, anyway!)

And so like so much of 2014 it all worked out, not necessarily as I wished but, it worked out.

And so, as I catch up we will resume here, and look forward together to a better year.

Happy 2015

Christmas Schedule

picAMT35005As many of you know, traditionally, I go east to be with my family at Christmas. This year is no exception, I’m leaving this evening, so posting will continue to be sparse until the first of the year.

I think (perhaps hope is the word) I may be ready to resume normal service at that point, we’ll find out together, I suppose. 🙂

In any case, I hope you are also with those you love and have a very Merry Christmas!!! See you soon. (Yes, I’ll be around sporadically, so feel free to comment.)

Merry Christmas

Starting Another Year

The arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlbo...

The arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, are encircled by both the Garter and the collar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it very important to thank Jess for her wonderful article yesterday. She said many nice things about me, some of which are true. 🙂 Where she is really right, is the strain of writing a blog. I decided quite early that it was reasonable to post at least once a day, and while I have never really reconsidered, doing my 4-15 hundred words 7 times a week and 52 weeks a years has often been a strain. Part of that is the unrelieved gloom of the political situation. and part of that is my memory of a better America, where a man worried about his honor. The good thing is that I have found it still exists, you just don’t see it on TV. And not just us old Americans either. One of the lessons that Jessica brings us is that the generations coming after us, and indeed in England as well as America, are very much like we are. We definitely need to increase the tribe, but that can be done. We are not starting completely over.

And, never doubt that she is an integral part of this blog, her by-line hasn’t appeared much in the last few months, and there are reasons for that, I understand and agree with them, but without her, this blog would have gone under several times, when she has rescued me from the ‘Slough of Despond’. It will likely happen again. So, if you like what I write, remember what I told a distinguished contributor from her wonderful blog, All Along the Watchtower yesterday, ” A lot of it, which won’t surprise you, is Jess, more behind the scenes than I would prefer. Muse, partner, supporter, and more, I wouldn’t have made it this far without her.”

One of my hobbies (time-wasters, if you prefer) has become the real estate listings in the £ Daily Mail. No, I’m not seriously shopping but when you live in a world that was settled slightly over a hundred years ago, it is fun to look at houses that are a bit older. Like this one.

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Click to embiggen

It’s in the village of Painswick in Gloucestershire, and it’s called Castle Halle. The description says it is the third castle on the site which records say was occupied by Saxon Thane Ernsige before the Conquest. It passed into the control of the Lords Talbot, and the final Talbot, John of Shrewsbury  demolished the castle in about 1442 and there are some traces remaining. Sir Henry Winston lived here until his death in 1618 and presumably raised his daughter, Sara, here. Sara made a pretty good marriage, marrying Sir Winston Churchill whose son, John Churchill, later the First Duke of Marlborough, who became Queen Anne’s great general, and whose family eventually brought us another Sir Winston, and intermarried into the Spencer’s as well, thus being ancestors of Princess Diana as well.

I don’t care what you say, you just can’t buy a house with a history like that like that in Nebraska 🙂 I would bet ours are a bit more energy-efficient though.

But, hey, it’s Sunday and we try most weekends to have a movie. So let’s start the fourth year right, with a John Wayne flick. How about War of the Wildcats, and while we watch it, maybe we should think about having an oil boom somewhere besides North Dakota and Texas.


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