Schooling for Seniors

I was sitting around with my roommates a few years ago and the subject of retirement came up, as did the subject of finding low rent accommodation. I recounted an experience I had trying to find low-cost housing in Los Angeles in the summer. College dorms and fraternity houses were desperate to rent to those who would only stay for the summer, but you needed an .edu email address. This is not impossible, but neither is it trivial. Inspired by thoughts of Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School, I tried to get in touch with frat houses at UCLA and USC. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to reach any of them (a Vonage line would have helped).

Before the days of the Internet, I used to have a “how to” manual with listings of universities that rented out college dorms in the summer. I used the book to secure housing while studying and taking the Louisiana Bar Exam. I no longer remember the name of the book. Pity. It was a good idea.

Somehow the two ideas merged: back to school and free or near-free rent. The dark clouds parted and rays from the heavens illuminated my surroundings. I heard the choir of angels sing.

For years my aunt lived in Champaign, Illinois, the home of the University of Illinois, a mere three hours by car south of Chicago. State money flows into the crown jewel of the Illinois educational system. The University has world class, well-funded medical and recreational facilities. The former are underused by the student body. If you take hangovers and sexually transmitted diseases out of the equation, young people are generally healthy. At the medical school, those seeking to specialize in gerontology would be happy to have me as there are slim pickings in the potential patient pool amongst the undergraduate student body.

There’s a world class library and regular speakers and classes on every conceivable subject. There’s a music school and regular concerts. Why not enroll and get access to all those delightful benefits and student housing too? OK, so they’d put you in graduate student housing—so what? Staying at a fraternity is probably out of the question, though you never know. They might rush a sixty-year old just for the novelty of it. Free of worries about grades, my main concern would be the menus at the student cafeteria and the location of the next wine and cheese event.

There’s no reason to be lonely at a university: due to your age your fellow students will initially see you as an oddity before the crafty ones figure out that having an older friend may sometimes open doors that would otherwise be shut, especially in a country where age is a requirement to purchase alcohol. Every new class means new friends and contacts.

Don’t be afraid of showing up at any university event; by law and policy, they are open to all. There are three classes of older people commonly found on a university campus: professors, parents and boosters. People will automatically assume that you fall into one of these categories; no one will risk offense by turning you away.

Taken by the idea, my friend Roberto found that there are countries in Western Europe where tuition is free, housing is cheap, medical care is free and class instruction is given in English. Maybe Slovakia is not at the top of your education list, but it should be. “But I already have a degree,” you whine. Don’t you get it? Who cares? You can spend the next two decades sampling the educational wares of Western Europe and you won’t finish.

But having been away from it for so long, the idea of my home country—not the reality of it, the idea of it—was attractive so I looked close to what had been for many years, home.

I semi-seriously looked at real estate in Champaign; if I could find a two story building I could set up a law office on the first floor while living on the second, a nearly rent-free, or at least subsidized rental environment (it is not easy for me to hide my obsessions). I could give new meaning to the phrase “student lawyer.” For this to be successful, I would need a federal courthouse and preferably, a state appellate courthouse. With an ABA-approved law library and free Lexis available to students, a genteel appellate practice writing briefs with the occasional court appearance would be one possible pastime.

With a gut growing from all-too-frequent attendance at wine and cheese gatherings, I would discreetly encourage my classmates to take advantage of all educational opportunities open to them—especially those that offered free food. In exchange, all I would want is a heads-up on any event with a free buffet. Why be one of those seniors lining up for the early bird special, stuffing sachets of Sweet ’n Low into your purse when you can feed in style in the halls of academe—and with little or no cash outlay? Once the faculty realized that I posed no threat and was merely along for the ride of free booze and victuals they would leave me alone and treat me as just an eccentric old crank, which is fine with me.

If forced to declare a major, I would choose an impossibly difficult dead language, one that would take me years to master. I might not live so long. Nevertheless, each year I would dutifully sign up for Akkadian 101 and not let my repeated failures get me down. I would stay away from those classes where a professor might try to pass me to get rid of me. The university administration might try to discourage me by scheduling Akkadian at the ungodly hour of 8:30 in the morning, not realizing that I had no intention of attending at any hour. Class is not a realistic option so early in the morning. At 8:30 I’m dressed in a bathrobe—if expecting guests—and working on my morning coffee, sweetened with a tablespoon of Kentucky bourbon.

“Failure” would be my mantra, my shield against old age. If after repeated failures, I would simply switch to another impossibly-difficult language. My prior failures would constitute eloquent proof that a change of major was needed. If, God forbid, I were to come close to meeting the requirements for graduation and thus expulsion from this Garden of Eden, I’d quickly find a new course of study where none of my classes would qualify. Fine with me. Though realistically, studying and sitting for examinations is not on my agenda so I do not see how this could happen.

Once a quarter I’d take my Social Security check and throw a boozy “homecoming” party for older students, inviting everyone to the law office backyard where I’d set up a bbq smoker and enlist the interns who worked for me as waiters and waitresses—no empty plates allowed. I would make it known that anyone could attend, older student or not. The first few events would be sparsely attended until word got out about the free beer and bbq.

I’d hire an undergraduate band to play at the event—they’d be happy for the gig. I’d schedule around major sporting events lest parents attend, see what a cushy life I’d got going and decide to enroll themselves.

Sounds a lot better than a retirement home, Century City or Boynton Beach. Almost all American States have a university town and many charge little tuition to non-degree-seeking seniors. Some States have more than one. Slovakia remains an option. Besides Champaign, there’s Tallahassee, Florida (Go Seminoles!); Austin, Texas; Oxford, Mississippi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All have been on my radar.

Boulder, Colorado and the home of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale are also of interest. Carbondale has the reputation of being a “party” school. For some this would be a negative but not me. The town has the added benefit of being the seat of the federal district court for the Southern District of Illinois. It’s so far south that winters are rarely harsh, almost tropical compared to Chicago.

I’ll have to investigate it more thoroughly.

Why Don’t Jurors Get Ballots?

It occurs to me that jurors are left to their own devices when it comes to voting ballots on an indictment. Don’t think that it is merely a question of voting “guilty/not guilty” either; modern indictments contain multiple counts and multiple defendants. There is a verdict form on which the results of the balloting can be recorded, but uniform, anonymous ballots to record individual votes are not provided.

Let’s take a somewhat typical federal case involving three defendants and three counts each. That’s one hundred and eight decisions to be expressed on 54 ballots, assuming twelve jurors and a guilty/not guilty ballot for each of the three counts.

Jurors are not told how to accomplish their voting and have no special skills. With so many decisions to make, the temptation to call for a mere “show of hands” and the peer pressure that obtains, great. Balloting should be personal and anonymous.

Maybe they should be given voting machines.

Bahrain on UK’s Redlist

With all the discussion about the removal of Portugal from the UK travel bubble, few saw that Bahrain was added to the UK redlist. This means that travelers to the UK from Bahrain will have to spend ten days in government approved quarantine.

So much for transit business.

Assange

If the NY Times and the rest of the Western MSM got behind Assange, that would be the end of it. They haven’t, forgetting that Assange’s fate is theirs.

The Worth Avenue Gang

Jennifer’s downfall was her fine taste in clothes. Not satisfied with shopping at Target or Marshal’s—two places she wouldn’t be caught dead in—she preferred haute couture boutiques on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Shopping in West Palm was out of the question. Unfortunately, she did not have the cash to support her taste in fine clothes. She organized a gang consisting of similarly-situated women who decided that the best way to obtain the objects of their desire was simply to steal them.

Jennifer’s gang was short on subtlety. Smash and grab was noisy, but effective. To be successful, the gang had to scout out the stores to make sure that they not only had the latest fall season fashions, but that they had them in the right sizes. Jennifer and her gang had no interest in fencing the stolen merchandise, they intended to wear them. Jennifer visited the targeted stores with a list of the gang member sizes in her head. Matching shoes were always a problem for these women liked and knew how to accessorize.

Jennifer’s long, dirty-blonde hair was easy to spot on the surveillance tapes. Jennifer had assumed that no one would notice her. When you buy an expensive designer dress, you want to be seen. Jennifer assumed that people would remember the dress she stole when she somehow conned her way into a Palm Beach charity event. She was happy to pose for the photographers, and the bouncers assumed that a woman wearing an expensive dress had to be someone’s wife, girlfriend or mistress. Too-deep inquiries might spoil the chances of a substantial donation. But when the photographs were published the next day in the Shiny Sheet, that is, the Palm Beach Post, the only newspaper in the country printed using special ink and white paper formulated not to smear even if you were wearing white gloves, the shop owner who had already filed the insurance claim and had the windows replaced recognized not so much Jennifer, but the stolen dress. The shop’s broken glass had already been replaced by the time the Post published, for the idea of a boarded-up shop on Worth Avenue during the Season was simply inconceivable.

The shop owner’s call to the police was law enforcement’s big break—they had been chasing Jennifer’s gang for some time. Jennifer had been casing a store when she decided to make a purchase using a stolen credit card. Jennifer ran out of the store grabbing the colorful bag containing the carefully packed dress; shouting on her way out that there must be some problem with the bank. She was last seen heading down Worth Avenue towards the Everglades Club.

The Palm Beach rich are known for being eccentric and money can make problems disappear. The shop clerk had assumed that Jennifer was the wife, mistress or girlfriend of someone on the island, perhaps someone powerful; Jennifer had left a credit card after all. The fact that the card was in someone else’s name was insignificant; the mistresses, girlfriends and wives of the wealthy often preferred this form of payment. If the card was declined—usually the partner’s own way of seeking attention—he would later discreetly visit the store and satisfy any outstanding obligation. But no one came later, and the store’s owner filed a claim with the police.

Unfortunately for Jennifer, the dress had a retail value of five thousand dollars and since she had used, or tried to use, a credit card for the purchase, this put the fraud—a word not often heard on the island— within the jurisdiction of the United States Secret Service, who in addition to protecting presidents and foreign leaders and investigating counterfeiters, also had primary federal jurisdiction over the misuse of “access devices”—in the language of the law, credit cards—making Jennifer’s crime a federal one.

Jennifer’s picture in the Post matched her picture taken by the security cameras. They only had to start surveilling charity events on the island and in a short time Jennifer was picked up by agents who stood out so much from the real party-goers that they were asked to remain outside, special agent credentials or not. Wearing the same dress twice in a row is a Palm Beach faux pas, but as Jennifer scanned her closet the night of her arrest, she was faced with that dilemma that kept the Worth Avenue shops open in the first place: she had nothing to wear.

As they put the handcuffs on her already-braceleted wrists, Jennifer loudly proclaimed that there had been a mistake, that her boyfriend had purchased the dress, that she was a regular customer of the store, that this was a mistake, an outrage, really. In the car on the ride to the Palm Beach county jail, Jennifer stopped her protests. At the jail two female officers took Jennifer into custody on the federal warrant that the Service had previously prepared. Stopping for a coffee in the waiting room on their way out, the agents were prevented from leaving by the duty officer who said that there was a problem with their prisoner, that Palm Beach sheriff’s couldn’t receive the arrestee in the jail. The agents had to wait.

A loud buzzer signaled the opening of the thick metal door that separated the free from the restrained. Jennifer was marched through the door, still in handcuffs and accompanied by the same two female Palm Beach sheriff’s deputies, who informed the federal special agents that they couldn’t take Jennifer.

“Why not?” one of the federal special agents asked. “We only take female federal prisoners,” one of the deputies answered.

The federal special agents looked at Jennifer, realizing finally that she had been born a man.

On the long drive to MCC-Miami, the federal special agents read Jennifer the Miranda warnings. “Cooperating with us will go a long way with the judge,” they told her. Jennifer was frightened and responded in haste, hoping that this would somehow convince the agents to let her go. Just after passing through the Golden Glades interchange, Jennifer gave up the other members of her crew—why should she get in trouble for couture worn by others?

\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ ❉ ❉ ❉

I represented a member of Jennifer’s crew who predictably claimed his innocence and blamed everything on Jennifer. “She never even got me the right size,” he moaned, ignoring for the moment that this complaint was inconsistent with protests of innocence. He was also jealous of Jennifer, who had made many new friends in the institution and despite the vulgarity of the standard-issue brown prison uniform, had made it somewhat fashionable by tying shirttails into a bow in order to show off a bare midriff. The guards didn’t know what to do with her. The prosecutors didn’t know what to do with Jennifer and her crew either. It was difficult to predict how a district judge would rule in such an out of the ordinary case; a case that at its heart was merely aggravated shoplifting and an effort to get attention. A trial, they realized, would only give Jennifer what she wanted: a chance to glam up and even more attention.

The Shiny Sheet was following the case closely and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel was devoting its cheaper newsprint to the story. Roxanne Pulitzer’s sensational divorce trial had turned the Palm Beach county courthouse into a media circus; no one wanted a repeat. Turning Jennifer into a public figure was not the goal of a federal criminal trial; complicating the case, despite the obvious lack of a defense, were the rumors about the identity of Jennifer’s boyfriend, who, it was claimed, had the bad taste to dump her just as the Palm Beach Season was starting. No one knew how the rumors started or even if there was a boyfriend, but the rumors grew anyway in the retelling with detail upon detail. Jennifer’s boyfriend had supposedly thrown her out with just the clothes on her back; he was cheating on her and wanted a new girlfriend; he was already living with another woman. Sure, the boutiques had been harmed but the real victim was Jennifer.

Jennifer might well find jurors sympathetic to her cause. Shoplifting is not uncommon among even the finest families on the island which, truth be told, had seen much worse. Since the trial was to be held in the division of the federal court in Palm Beach county, there would be jurors who understood the horror of being snubbed and not having appropriate clothing for an event. Acquittal was unlikely but nevertheless a real possibility.

The prosecutors solved this stubborn problem with a group plea. Jennifer and her crew would plead guilty; there would be a small fine and restitution would be ordered. Since Jennifer did not have any cash to pay a fine, the return of the lightly-worn outfits would satisfy that requirement. There would be a two year period of supervised release during which Jennifer was prohibited from returning to any of the stores she robbed.

This latter requirement proved to be a problem, for Palm Beach is forgiving and loves nothing more than the smoke of scandal and especially where no one is hurt. A year later, after getting the Probation Office’s permission to travel to Aspen for the winter, Jennifer was back on the island. One of the stores wanted to hire her to promote their fall line and technically this would be a probation violation. At least until her notoriety started to fade, Jennifer even started to receive legitimate invitations from charity pre-events once the sponsors realized her presence attracted donors who wanted to see what all the commotion was about. 

My client was happy to get probation and the opportunity to get out of town. For him that was enough.

Vaccination Passport *Fauda*

Post office 649504 480

My vaccination is linked to my Bahraini resident’s permit number (CPR). Unfortunately, that permit has expired, though I am still in the country under another visa. A residency permit has nothing to do with the state of my health. Indeed, I could be an illegal alien and healthy, or a native-born subject of the King, suffering from the disease.

Because my residency permit has expired, I cannot prove my health status. Because I cannot prove my health status, I am barred from entering commercial establishments easily. Since my case is an edge case (like someone without a last name, everyone has a last name, right?) I have to pull out the paper vaccination passport and then explain to the guard—who is usually from Nepal—why the App is not working in my case. Hopefully he will let me in.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is itself an edge case. The country has no postal codes. Think this doesn’t matter? Try ordering something online, say from Amazon. No one ever explained to Jeff Bezos that it is possible to have a country without postal codes.

I won’t bore you with the bureaucratic fauda (the word means “mess” or “chaos” in both Hebrew and Arabic) I went through in an effort to fix the problem. Suffice it to say that it is precisely that fauda, which will become ubiquitous, that people are afraid of. That is the real fear of vaccination passports.

My take: let’s stick to paper. It’s a lot easier to fix.

US Shows Belarus the Way

Maxresdefault2

Interesting how Western governments and the Media™ have attacked Belarus for diverting and grounding an airliner. Childish minds have forgotten when the US did the same thing, grounding Evo Morales’ presidential jet and diverting it to Switzerland because they thought Edward Snowden was aboard. Thank you, USA for showing Belarus the way!

Truth Behind the Icon

The iconic photo of Che Guevara was cropped.

#photography #Original #PhotographyRedefined

Book Sales

The average U.S. book is now selling less than 200 copies per year and less than 1,000 copies over its lifetime.

Zoom Issues

Has anyone been on a Teams/Zoom call (not w/in CONUS) where at least someone had a technical issue?

Da’esh and the Dakotas

The report of Jeffrey Stahl Ferris’ suicide after a federal jury found him guilty of terror-related charges in North Dakota seemed strange to me. Da’esh, that is, ISIS, has but a tenuous grasp of geography outside what were traditional Muslim lands. New York they know, Florida they know (because of Disney) and they know Washington. But that’s really about it. The plot to blow up the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago was not hatched by those accused of planning the bombing, but by a Lebanese informant who was paid handsomely for the suggestion. What would Da’esh want with North Dakota?

As it turns out, nothing. The Ferris’ case was only “terror-related” in the world of National Enquirer exaggeration and federal make-believe. Ferris lived and worked on the Chippewa Reservation and was a former EMT. After a series of incidents of vandalism, he came upon a group of teenagers he suspected of those crimes and chased them with his Jeep. They took off on motorbikes and four-wheel ATV’s. He caught one of them and held him at gunpoint while he called for police.

Holding the teen at gunpoint was the “terror-related” act. The report that he drove his automobile at high speeds closer to the teenagers sounded like another jihadi aiming a car at a group of innocent pedestrians in the big city, a scenario that has become all too common.

The jury found him guilty of the firearm in commission of a felony charge, but acquitted him on charges relating to the chase. He was convicted on one assault charge, and my guess is that is the same charge arising out of his pointing his gun at the teen while telling him he was calling the police.

At most this was an improper citizen’s arrest, committed by a man (who I guess) was tired of vandalism in his community. No one was harmed. Did he use excessive force? Let’s put it this way: if Ferris were a policeman, there would have been no charges. The AUSA would have laughed it off.

So what is going on here? What are the takeaways from this story?

Stories like this make it difficult to trust the Press. What went out on the wire around the world was a story of terrorism in North Dakota. It was nothing of the sort. Secondly, the need to prosecute, to make cases, filtered through the bunker war mentality of Washington makes even the most minor infraction a matter of federal import.

After 9/11, the FBI reassigned many of their agents to the jihadi beat without additional training. Agents that had previously monitored biker gangs were now asked to target Al Qaeda. It didn’t work.

Why the proverbial book was thrown at Ferris, I don’t know. Maybe he was just a cranky old man tired of the teenagers pissing on his lawn. But faced with an almost-certain seven years in prison, it is no small wonder that he took his own life.

Maybe It's not Within the President's Power to Fix

Promises

Who Needs Vaccines?

Polio

Land of the Free--with Censorship

Roth censorship

Deplatforming is Censorship

Daesh

Don’t Pull the Plug

The risk that someone will yell “Fire!” is no reason to pull the plug on the projector.

Girl, Taken

Arlington Heights is a tranquil place. World events seldom disturb the peace of the Northwest suburbs of Chicago until they do. On September 11, 1973, General Pinochet staged a coup against the president of Chile. Supporters loyal to the regime were rounded up and executed. One of these supporters was an American aide worker from Des Plaines named Frank Teruggi. After the coup, The Arlington Herald newspaper published a picture of his father on the front page, sitting in the kitchen, newspapers spread out before him wondering about the fate of his son.

The U.S. Government didn’t help the Teruggi family; nor did they help the family of Frank’s friend, Charles Horman. The film Hollywood made about their murder was called Missing, starring Jack Lemon. The film told the story of a family betrayed by U.S. political concerns. Both men were among Pinochet’s victims, collateral damage in a coup supported by Nixon and Kissinger.

Almost half a century later nothing has changed. This month, ABC’s 20/20 told the story of ISIS’ kidnapping and execution of Kayla Mueller, an aid worker from Arizona, whose grandfather, Joe Lyon, lives in Arlington Heights.1

Kayla was helping Syrian refugees in Turkey and one day made the mistake of accompanying a friend, who had been hired by Doctors Without Borders, to work on hospital computer systems inside Syria. They crossed the border using transportation and help provided by Doctors without Borders. After completing the work for the Doctors, they were on their way back to Turkey when they were ambushed and kidnapped by the Islamic State. 

Doctors Without Borders abandoned her

Despite being a humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders abandoned them. Even though Doctors without Borders had helped Kayla and her contractor friend enter Syria, they washed their hands. Their excuse was that Kayla was not an employee so Kayla wasn’t their problem. Shame on them. This is not the first time that an organization working in the Middle East has hid behind “independent contractor” label in order to evade responsibility. Their abdication of responsibility directly led to Kayla’s death. 

Kayla’s parents in Prescott, Arizona were not told immediately of Kayla’s capture. Like good Americans, they turned to their government for help. Presumably they had not seen the movie, Missing. Long-term American expats know that in case of trouble, the last place you want to go is the American Embassy. In 2001, when a group of British hospital workers was accused of terrorist bombings inside Saudi Arabia, an American Embassy official told me, “if they were our guys we wouldn’t lift a finger.“ 

The U.S. government did lift a finger, but not much more. They organized a SWAT-team like raid which failed. They wrote messages to send to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Their pleas to a religious leader were devoid of Islamic religious content. This is like writing to the Catholic pope and avoiding any mention of Christianity. 

I have no doubt that the FBI hostage negotiators are experts. I doubt very much if they know the difference between shari’a and Shakira. Tactics which might be wholly appropriate for dealing with an American hostage-taker are of little use in dealing with an Islamic warlord, especially a warlord who is a graduate of our torture chamber in post-invasion Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Al-Baghdadi reasoned that such messages were merely an effort to stall for time while the U.S. planned another SWAT team raid. 

When these good American parents visited the State Department they had their hands held as American officials threatened them with prosecution were they to pay ISIS the ransom it wanted for Kayla. Meanwhile, Doctors without Borders ransomed its own “employees,” leaving the fate of the “independent contractors” to others. While officially condemning negotiations with the Taliban, the United State turned a blind eye to Qatar’s successful efforts to ransom an American serviceman held by the Taliban Afghanistan. These good American parents even went to Qatar to seek similar mercy, and, if 20/20 is accurate, were threatened by our government again. 

No one at the State Department bothered to direct Kayla’s parents to our allies in the region, allies who in the past have used their good offices to free prisoners being held in other countries.

I cannot understand why the Saudis were never asked. The Saudis have a religious tradition of intervening to mediate payments made to victim’s family. They are no strangers to the labyrinthine web of Middle East connections. Like both the United States and ISIS, they view Iran as an enemy. Even if the Saudi government were to officially decline help, individual Saudis might have been asked on a confidential basis. This was never done. 

Even as Doctors without Borders officially refused Kayla’s parents help, could they have informally helped? Of course they could have, but they were never asked.  

Tired of the stalling, ISIS executed Kayla. After her death, there were crocodile tears at the State Department and Doctors without Borders hypocritically sent their condolences. President Obama even met with the family for another meaningless session of hand-holding. Kayla died, we are told, so that Americans overseas do not become targets.

News flash: Americans overseas are targets. We were targets before Iraq and we most certainly are targets of the alumni of Abu Ghraib. Ask the Israelis what they do when their citizens are captured. They negotiate. They do not leave their people behind. 

The American government’s policy of failing to help American families hasn’t changed since 1973. Our refusal to negotiate is naive. This policy must be changed.


  1. My sister was married to Joe Lyon’s son Jim. [return]

Invitation to a Book-burning

In today’s topsy-turvy world the liberals are in favor of censorship and the conservatives are the ones being censored. The High Ayatollah of Iran can post whatever he likes on Twitter–unless he mentions QAnon, claims that the election was stolen from Trump or that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for Covid-19. Meanwhile, the former president, having mentioned all three, is banned from the platform. For life.

In this world, giving the High Ayatollah a platform that reaches millions is permissible. Denying that platform to a former president is permissible as well. As far as I am concerned, they both should be allowed to post, as should their political opponents. The High Ayatollah jails his opponents for speaking out, but he has no problem posting his own political commentary, thanks to his access to Twitter. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

The latest book to be added to the pyre–Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth–was consigned because Bailey groomed middle and high school girls, then waited for them to turn 18 and them tried to have sex with them, assaulting at least one. In at least one case, Bailey gave a fourteen year-old a copy of Nabokov’s Lolita. R.M. Koster’s comment was prescient: “If Nabokov submitted the manuscript of Lolita today, someone in the mail room would call 911.”

Still, I read more than one review–one in the Atlantic stands out–where the reviewer counted herself lucky to have had a chance to have read Bailey’s book before it was censored. Because the reviewer’s own moral character is so high that she can withstand the evil of the text? No, she was happy to read the book before it was thrown on the pyre, as Bailey’s—and Roth’s—punishment. The prelates of the Catholic church have, it is said, the world’s most comprehensive collection of pornography in the Vatican library. How could the List of Condemned Books be compiled, after all, unless someone wiser than thou had access to read them?

Meanwhile, the original manuscript of the One Hundred Days of Sodom sold most recently for over six million dollars; was then declared a French national treasure and enshrined at the French National Library. No one would dare suggest that the work of le divin Marquis be consigned to the flames: it is a national treasure. This, despite the fact that the good Marquis was, in his lifetime, condemned for this and his other books. And why not? De Sade wrote approvingly of pederasty, cannibalism, murder and of course, sodomy, a once condemned practice. The Marquis was freed from prison in the tumult of the Revolution. Today, he is viewed as one of the giants of French and dare I say world, literature.

I have so far read about half of Blailey’s condemned biography of Roth and have found nothing as bad as is found on almost every page of De Sade, not to mention Bukowski1 The closest Bailey comes to an objectionable statement is when he quotes Roth praising the bliss obtained from the transgressive sin of incest. Strong stuff certainly, but trivial compared to DeSade. Have we not learned that burning books is not the best way to show our disapproval of them? And why should we blame Roth for the sins of Bailey? Is there proof that Roth knew of Bailey’s sins? Roth may not be a sympathetic character, but millions bought Portnoy’s Complaint. Should that book be consigned to the flames as well? Should we similarly condemn those who read the now-condemned text?

You can drop by your local Barnes & Noble and pick up a Bukowski or a copy of Sodom but Blake’s bio? Unavailable.

What books would you like to add to the pyre?


  1. With Post Office being the sole exception. Maybe his poetry too. [return]

Two Houthi Drones

They’ve been throwing these at Riyadh lately.

Don’t Pull the Plug

The risk that someone will yell “Fire!” is no reason to pull the plug on the projector.

10 x 1/2

Saudi Arabia has roughly half the number of Active Covid-19 cases as Bahrain, but it has at least ten times the population of the island kingdom. Bahrain shut its borders quickly and isolated itself from March, 2020.

How is it possible that Bahrain has so many more Covid-19 cases?

Lined Up

Karen National Union.

Shan State Army.

Now Kachin Independence Army.

all lined up against the rebel Tatmadaw

No Press, Please

Perhaps they want to hide the efficient way the Suez Canal Authority is managing the crisis.

Civil War in Myanmar

The Shan State Army, along with the Karen National Union, lines up against the rebel Tatmadaw.

The Dangers of Word for Word Translation

Wordforword