Saturday, February 28, 2009

DBTL 16: Of Course You Know This Means War

Excerpt from a TASS communiqué of 7 October 1944:

In response to this morning's invasion of Lithuania by forces of the reactionary bourgeois Beck regime, the Soviet Union has chosen to honor the terms of its mutual assistance pact with Premier Paleckis of the Lithuanian Socialist Peoples Front. A general advance has been initiated into the so-called autonomous regions of Central Lithuania, Byelorussia and Galicia. The heroic regiments of the valiant Red Army are honorably fulfilling their duty. The whole Soviet people welcomes the wise policy of the Soviet government.

Warsaw, Polish Commonwealth
8 October 1944

"It's an odd-looking invasion force," said Kastus Baranouski, President of the Belarus Duma and Secretary of State for Belarus in the Polish Cabinet. "Tanks in the front, and horse-drawn supply wagons in the rear."

"What sort of reception are they getting?" asked War Minister Stanisław Skwarczyński.

"A cold one, as you might imagine," said Baranouski. "A lot of the people have relatives in the BSSR, or know someone who escaped across the border. They have no wish to become collectivized like the easterners."

"It's the same in the south," said Vasili Rozhenko, Baranouski's Galician counterpart. "The Bolsheviks don't like kulaks, and as far as they're concerned, every peasant in Galicia is a kulak. I've also learned that all the Red Army troops who've entered Galicia are Russians, which was wise of Stalin. If he'd sent in Ukrainians, his units would all be facing east by now."

"I'm afraid things aren't as clearcut in Central Lithuania," said Antanas Vardys. "Even with autonomy, a lot of people want reunion with the Republic. They would prefer an independent Lithuania, but if not then it's all the same to them whether they're ruled from Moscow or Warsaw."

"And how are our own forces dealing with the odd-looking Red invaders?" President Jósef Beck asked Skwarczyński.

Skwarczyński shrugged. "About as we expected. The Soviets' tanks are turning out to be tougher than we anticipated, which is the reason they've been able to advance as far as they have. On the other hand, our own forces are falling back in good order. It helps that a lot of them are veterans of the German War. They've been through this sort of thing before. Had the attack been a total surprise, doubtless our situation would be a dire one. Fortunately, our intelligence section was able to give us enough warning of the Bolshevik buildup to allow us to mobilize."

Skwarczyński continued, "As far as the air war is concerned, General Karpinski reports that Dr. von Braun's anti-aircraft rockets are proving to be quite effective in bringing down enemy planes. We've had at least twenty confirmed kills so far. This is fortunate, since the Bolsheviks have been putting twice as many planes into the air as we have. Göring's jets are also proving effective for their numbers, but of course since the Garden has only produced a dozen aircraft so far, their impact has been relatively minor."

"In summary," said Skwarczyński, "the situation is serious, but not desperate. Barring any unwelcome surprises from the Bolsheviks, we should be able to contain the invasion within the next week or two, after which we can put General Guderian's plans for a counterattack into operation."

"Thank you, Marshal," said Beck. "Count Raczyński, how are our allies reacting to the invasion?"

Count Edward Raczyński, the Foreign Minister, said, "I'm afraid the Pact isn't working out quite as well as we had expected." Beck himself had spent the previous five years building a military alliance called the Warsaw Pact among the various nations that bordered on the Soviet Union. "Our embassy in Bucharest reports that the Romanians show no interest in entering the war against the Bolsheviks. General Antonescu says he fears that if Romania goes to war with the Soviet Union, the Hungarians will take advantage of their preoccupation to invade Transylvania." Raczyński sighed. "To do the General justice, Admiral Horthy might well do just that. But it also gives Antonescu the excuse he needs to wait on the sidelines until it becomes clear who will win.

"The Finns, on the other hand, have just issued an ultimatum to the Soviet government demanding their withdrawal from Poland by noon tomorrow."

"I think I detect the work of Marshal Mannerheim," commented Skwarczyński.

"I wouldn't be the least bit surprised," said Raczyński. "He at least is well aware that a Soviet Union which triumphs over Poland will be going after Finland next. If Finland declares war on the Bolsheviks, I think there's an even chance that Estonia will as well. And if Estonia does, there is a chance that Latvia will also."

"And what of Japan?" asked Beck.

"As for Japan," said Raczyński, "we have received no word yet from Ambassador Lipski. A Japanese attack on the Bolsheviks would be very helpful, but as the Japanese are deeply mired in China, I do not foresee such an attack in the immediate future. Thus, out of our five Warsaw Pact allies, we have one probable cobelligerent, two possibles, and two unlikelies."

"What of the British and French?" asked Skwarczyński.

"Prime Minister Attlee and Premier Weygand have both condemned the Soviet attack, but that is likely to be their only contribution to the situation. The British are preoccupied with India and Palestine, the French with Algeria and Indochina."

Nobody bothered to ask what the American reaction might be. Under President Taft, the United States had become thoroughly isolationist. The recent grant of independence to the Philippines seemed to mark a final retreat by the Americans from the world outside their hemisphere.

There was a few seconds of silence while the Cabinet members absorbed the information they had been presented. At last President Beck spoke. "The Marshal," by which of course he meant Marshal Piłsudski, "always believed that we would eventually find ourselves at war again with the Bolsheviks. He devoted his life to preparing for that war, and we who follow in his footsteps have continued his work. The coming weeks and months will determine whether our preparations have been sufficient.

"I do not need to remind any of you of the stakes we play for. The very existence of our Commonwealth is at risk. If we fail, the whole of the Commonwealth from Belarus to Brandenburg will be at the mercy of the Bolsheviks, and the Hanoverians and Bavarians will find themselves with some unpleasant new neighbors.

"But we faced these people twenty-four years ago, and under the Marshal's wise guidance we prevailed. I believe that the Marshal's spirit watches over us still, and that under his watchful eye, and with the help of God, we can prevail again."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

National Slave Auction Day

So, what's next for the GOP after National Tea Party Day? Time to yank on another strand from American history: slavery. Because paying taxes is just like being sold into slavery, right? So that's why Republicans should follow up the Teabagging of America with a series of mock slave auctions. I've started the ball rolling with this suggestion at the GOP's Rebuild the Party site. I doubt whether the idea will catch fire, but a man can hope, can't he? And as The Editors remind us, these rats ain't gonna fuck themselves.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


(This Twitter brought to you by the Republican National Committee.)

DBTL 15: The Speer Squad

Berlin, Brandenburg Devo, Polish Commonwealth
6 October 1944

Geli Raubal Skorzeny Speer was not having a good day. Her husband Albert had been gone all week on a business trip to Vilnius, where he had been commissioned to design a new legislative building for the Central Lithuanian Devo's Seimas. Although Geli was pleased at the success of her husband's career, she regretted the long periods he had to spend far from home. Ever since his neoclassical design for Brandenburg's new Bundestag building had been chosen four years before, Albert had been in great demand. The legislatures of Poland's other devos had insisted that Albert design their new meeting places as well, and the result was a series of long absences from Berlin on his part.

That in itself might not be so bad. What made Albert's absences particularly trying was the need to care for their six children.

Albert's wife had died seven years earlier in the course of the Polish siege of Berlin, leaving him alone to take care of their three sons. Geli's own husband Otto, an officer in the Austrian Army, had died while piloting a glider during a training mission in 1940. He had left for work that day saying, "I'll be back," just like always, but he had vanished with his glider somewhere in the Tyrolian Alps, leaving Geli to care for their three daughters. She had gone to work as a chambermaid for a government minister in Vienna, and it was there that she met Albert while he was designing a new ministry building for her employer.

They had fallen in love, and Albert had brought Geli and her daughters to live with him and his sons in Berlin. After four years, their composite family had mostly come to accept each other, but there were still plenty of rough patches.

This afternoon, for instance, Geli had been treated to a long tirade from her second daughter Janna, brought on by the news that her elder sister had been chosen to deliver the Autonomy Day address at their school. "All the boys want to dance with Marta," Janna complained. "All the girls want to be friends with Marta. Everywhere I turn, it's Marta, Marta, Marta! And what do I get? I get to wear these stupid glasses, that's what I get!"

As though to prove Janna wrong, minutes later Marta had rushed into the house holding a bloody handkerchief to her nose, followed by an abashed-looking Celine clutching a rubber ball. Celine, it turned out, had thrown the ball to Marta. Marta had missed it, and the ball had hit her in the face. Now Marta sported a swollen nose and two black eyes, and she declared that she couldn't possibly deliver the Autonomy Day address looking the way she did.

Meanwhile, Geli's stepson Peter had been moping around the house for days. He had come back from the cinema the night before imitating the voice of some movie-actor or other, muttering "Pork chops and sauerkraut," to himself. Peter's elder brother Gregor had lately been suffering a number of unfortunate accidents. Geli knew she was being superstitious, but she couldn't help thinking it had something to do with the pagan Lithuanian idol Albert had brought from a previous trip to Vilnius, and which Gregor had taken to wearing on a cord around his neck.

As if all this weren't enough, their housemaid Alyx had recently eloped with a neighborhood butcher, and now Geli suffered from a lack of both housecleaning and fresh meat. The only member of the family who wasn't causing Geli headaches was her stepson Robb. In fact, she hadn't seen Robb all day.

On top of everything else, even the news was proving to be bad. All day the radio had been carrying reports of fighting in Lithuania since the death of President Smetona One group calling itself the Socialist Peoples Front had seized a radio station in Kaunas and announced it had signed a mutual defense pact with the Soviet Union. Another group called the Commonwealth League was calling for union with Central Lithuania under Polish rule. The ruling Nationalist Party had fragmented into competing factions, and the Lithuanian government was paralyzed. Everyone was afraid that Poland would go to war with the Soviets over Lithuania, and if that happened Albert would be practically on the front lines.

Geli was in the kitchen getting more ice for Marta's nose when the doorbell rang. She spent a few seconds waiting for Alyx to answer it before she remembered that Alyx didn't live there anymore. Setting down the ice cube tray, she made her way to the front door, where the doorbell was again being rung.

"All right, all right, you can stop now," she muttered to herself as she opened the door. More loudly she said, "How may I help you?" Then she felt herself growing faint.

"I'm back," said Otto Skorzeny.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Republican Icon Abraham Lincoln

At the Republican website Rebuild the Party, commenter James stated "Lincoln was the leader of this party and freed the slaves at all costs.That is the kind of leadership I'm looking for." In reply, commenter Tribulation Periwinkle (whom I have reason to believe is actually a Democratic mole) said, "Well, I think he also cut taxes, too."

Wise words. But it raises the question of whether Abraham Lincoln, our nation's first Republican president, does indeed represent the kind of leadership that modern-day Republicans are looking for. To help answer that question, I've prepared a quick rundown of Lincoln's career as president:

November 6, 1860: Abraham Lincoln is elected 16th President of the United States. Although he won a majority of the electoral votes, due to the divided field Lincoln only won a plurality of 40% of the popular vote. In his victory speech, Lincoln promises to be "a uniter, not a divider".

December 20, 1860 - February 1, 1861: Seven southern states secede from the United States.

February 4, 1861: The seven seceded states form the Confederate States of America.

March 4, 1861: Lincoln is inaugurated. Americans are unaware that Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, Secretary of War Simon Cameron, and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles are members of a secret society called the Project for the Manifest American Destiny. The PMAD believes that President James K. Polk erred in not annexing all of Mexico in 1848, and is determined to resume the war with Mexico and conquer the entire country.

March 5, 1861: Lincoln recieves word that Fort Sumter has only a few weeks supplies left. He convenes a meeting of his war planning committee, the White House Information Group, to plan an invasion of Mexico.

April 12 - 14, 1861: Confederates take Fort Sumter. Lincoln publicly vows to take Confederate President Jefferson Davis "dead or alive", but privately asks Secretary of State William Seward to find evidence linking the attack on Fort Sumter to Mexico.

April 17 - June 24, 1861: Four more southern states secede and join the Confederacy.

May 10, 1861: Seward reports that he can find no evidence of Mexican involvement in the attack on Fort Sumter. Vice President Hamlin and Secretary of War Simon establish the Counter Secessionism Evaluation Group to manufacture evidence of Mexican involvement.

June 16, 1861: Congress passes legislation reducing tariffs. Government revenues fall by half.

July 21, 1861: Union army defeats Confederate army at Battle of Bull Run.

July 26, 1861: Union army defeats last-ditch Confederate defense outside Richmond. Confederate government flees to Petersburg.

July 27, 1861: Union army occupies Richmond. Hamlin and Simon establish Office of Special Plans to prepare for invasion of Mexico.

August 1861: First units from Union army in Richmond are transferred to Philadelphia in preparation for expedition to Mexico.

September 1861: Congress passes Legal Tender Act, authorizing the Treasury to issue $150 million in banknotes to make up for lost tariff revenues.

October 1861: Office of Special Plans leaks report to Republican newspapers that Mexican agents are in Hesse-Cassel to recruit mercenaries for a Mexican attack on the Union.

December 1861: Veteran American diplomat Charles Francis Adams is sent to Hesse-Cassel to investigate mercenary claims, but finds no evidence to support them.

January 28, 1862: Lincoln claims in his State of the Union address that Mexico is hiring Hessian mercenaries to attack the Union. He calls on Congress for a declaration of war.

February 7, 1862: Congressional Democrats, wary of treason accusations, support President Lincoln's call for war. Congress declares war on Mexico.

February 25, 1862: Congress reduces tariffs again. Government revenues fall by a third.

April 14, 1862: First anniversary of fall of Fort Sumter. Mexican Expeditionary Force sets out from Philadelphia.

May 10, 1862: Union warships bombard Veracruz in attempt to "shock and awe" Mexican government into surrender. Much of Veracruz destroyed.

May 30, 1862: Simon declares that "we know where the Hessian mercenaries are. They're in the area around Chapultepec and Mexico City."

May - June 1862: Union army advances to Mexico City.

June 9, 1862: Union troops topple statue of Mexican President Benito Juarez. Mexican government goes into hiding.

June 15, 1862: Mexico organized as US territory. Provisional Territorial Authority, established to rule Mexico, becomes dumping ground for Republican Party hacks.

July 4, 1862: President Lincoln declares "mission accomplished" in Mexico. Confederate forces retake Richmond.

July 23, 1862: Charles Francis Adams publishes an article questioning the presence of Hessian mercenaries in Mexico.

August 6, 1862: Hamlin leaks the news that Adams' wife Abigail Brooks is an undercover Secret Service agent in an effort to discredit Adams.

August 9, 1862: Treasury issues another $400 million dollars in banknotes. Inflation rate in US running at 80% per year.

September 2, 1862: Hamlin dismisses rising insurgency in Mexico, calling insurgents "dead-enders".

October 1862: Union troops in Minnesota withdrawn for redeployment to Mexico. Souix overrun Minnesota, massacre settlers.

November 1862: Democrats win control of Congress in off-year elections. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts defeated by Democratic candidate Frederick Douglass, a former slave.

December 1862: Mexican President Juarez captured by US forces. Hamlin declares Mexican insurgency "in its last throes".

January 1863: President Lincoln declares Mexico "the central front in the War on Secession", reveals plan to "surge" more troops into Mexico.

February 1863: Union troops in California withdrawn for redeployment to Mexico. Confederate sympathizers seize government. California secedes, joins Confederacy.

April 10, 1863: Benito Juarez executed.

June 1863: Confederate troops take Indianapolis. Republican newspapers trumpet fall in casualty rate in Mexico due to surge.

July 7, 1863: Treasury issues another $1.4 billion in banknotes. Inflation rate in US reaches 200% per year.

August 10, 1863: Confederate troops take Cleveland.

September 1863: Senator Douglass declares his candidacy for president.

October 1863: Photographs surface of Union troops torturing Mexican prisoners at Habo Caribe Prison. New York Evening-Post editor William Cullen Bryant dismisses the torture as being "no worse than fraternity pranks".

December 1863: Mormons in Utah Territory secede from Union.

March 1864: Inflation rate in US reaches 500% per year.

August 1864: Campaigning against Mexican War, Douglass wins Democratic nomination. Lincoln and Hamlin renominated by Republicans.

September 1864: Run on banks causes financial panic in US.

November 1864: Douglass wins presidential election.

March 1865: Frederick Douglass sworn in as president. Lincoln, unable to return to Illinois due to Confederate occupation of Midwest, joins Hamlin in undisclosed location in Maine.

So, taking Lincoln's record into consideration, I have to admit that, yes, he does seem to be just the sort of leader the Republicans are looking for.

A message for George Soros

Mr. Soros, if you're reading this, and there really is a conspiracy . . . I want in!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lightning crashes

From the estimable Gavin M. at Teh Sadly comes this post concerning noted white supremacist Hal Turner. Hal, it seems, has decided that the legion of fellow white supremacists who follow his blog have let the side down by not rising up against the Zionist Occupation Government and its mud man puppet Barack Hussein Obama. That being the case, Hal writes in his presumably final GBCW post, "I have decided to cease publishing my views, hopes, observations and dreams on issues social, cultural and political."

So, what will Hal be doing instead of blogging? "There is a violent revolution coming in this country. The government and the invisible hand that pulls its strings are going to be confronted in a historic manner. As I undertake the acts that must be done, the rest of you can sit back and watch". If I had to guess, I'd guess that Hal intends to follow in the footsteps of these two guys. Or maybe these guys. Or perhaps this guy.

Or, since Hal has apparently deleted his GBCW post and resumed blogging, maybe he's just full of crap.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

DBTL 14: The Wild Wild East

Lomza, Polish Commonwealth
12 August 1944

Lt. Karol Wojtyła of the Polish cavalry was having dinner in the officers' mess when he saw his friend Wojciech Jaruzelski amble in. Wojtyła waved the younger officer over.

"Where have you been hiding out?" Wojtyła asked.

"I was visiting with Anna," Jaruzelski confessed.

Wojtyła chuckled. "That's the third time this week. Are you two becoming an item?"

"Not if her father has anything to say about it," said Jaruzelski.

"Ah, forbidden fruit," Wojtyła said knowingly. "How does the rest of her family feel about you?"

"Her brother Stanisław likes me well enough," said Jaruzelski. "In fact, I spent the afternoon with both of them."

"Providing cover for both yourself and Anna," Wojtyła commented. "Very sound tactics. I've taught you well, young squire. Was Stanisław actually present at all during his sojourn with the two of you?"

"The whole time," Jaruzelski said with a small sigh. "He might like me, but he insists on observing the proprieties."

"Such is life," said Wojtyła.

"Mind you," said Jaruzelski, "there were compensations. Stanisław is a veritable font of gossip. If it's happening anywhere within fifty kilometers of Lomza, Stanisław knows about it. For instance, did you know that the Koczanskis are planning to move to Białystok?"

"You don't say," said Wojtyła dryly.

"According to Stanisław, Andrzej Koczanski has been hired as a machinist's assistant at the Garden. Good money they pay at the Garden, Koczanski is a lucky man. Stanisław also told me that the Nasos are planning to torch a wheelwright's shop in Yedwabne tonight."

Now Wojtyła frowned. "And how would Stanisław know what the Nasos are planning?"

"He keeps his ear to the ground, that's all," said Jaruzelski. "He knows people."

"People wearing black shorts?" said Wojtyła, his frown deepening.

"Well now," Jaruzelski said, "I'm sure he's not a Naso himself."

"I should hope not," said Wojtyła. "What's the point in going to all the trouble of beating the Brownshirts if they're just going to turn up again in our back yards? Have you told Colonel Lasky what the Nasos are planning?"

"What could he do about it?" Jaruzelski pointed out. "If he sends some troops to Yedwabne, the Nasos will just keep out of sight, and wait until tomorrow night to torch the Jew's shop." The younger man shrugged. "It's not our problem."

Jaruzelski continued to chatter, but Wojtyła heard none of it. He was turning over his friend's words in his mind. The worst thing was, Jaruzelski was right. Colonel Lasky could send a hundred men to Yedwabne and accomplish nothing.

But Wojtyła wasn't ready to dismiss the Nasos. Like many young Poles, especially in the Army, he had always idolized Marshal Jósef Piłsudski. When Piłsudski said that anti-Semitism had no place in a great nation, Wojtyła took his words to heart.

One man could not change the hatred in millions of hearts. However, Wojtyła realized, one man could act effectively where a hundred men would be helpless. And just like that, Karol Wojtyła knew what he had to do.

Yedwabne, Polish Commonwealth
12 - 13 August 1944

Moshe Abramowitz was awakened in the dead of night by the sound of voices and the smell of smoke.

"Hey, Jew-boy, rise and shine! We got a little present for you!"

Abramowitz exhanged a glance with his wife Manya, likewise awakened by the tumult outside their shop. The wheelwright looked down from the window of his bedroom to the growing crowd outside.

No, he thought to himself. Crowd is the wrong word. Mob would be more like it.

At least a dozen men, most of them wearing Naso uniforms or armbands, most of them holding torches aloft.

"Come on out, Jew-boy!"

"Stay here," he told Manya. Quickly donning a pair of boots, Abramowitz hurried down the stairs to his shop, and out into the street to confront the mob.

"What do you want?" he said.

"We want you to get the hell out of Poland, you Yid bastard!" bellowed one of the torch-bearing men, a heavyset man in full Naso regalia. The others chorused their agreement. "We'll give you one minute for a head start, then we take care of your shop!" Another chorus of agreement, accompanied by enthusiastic waving of torches.

A shot rang out, and the ringleader's torch was torn out of his grip.

"Do you think you've got enough men to handle one Jew?" a voice rang out. "After all, there's only fourteen of you!"

As one man, Abramowitz and the Nasos turned to see the dark figure of a man silhouetted against the flank of a white horse. He was dressed in black from head to foot, and his face was hidden by a mask. Both hands held pistols, and both pistols were pointed at the Nasos.

The ringleader's words were threatening, but Abramowitz could hear the fear lurking beneath them. "Butt out, stranger. This is none of your concern."

The masked man took a step forward, and the Nasos shrank back.

"I've made it my concern," the dark figure said in a voice that was low and menacing. "My first shot was a warning. The next one will be fatal. If any one of you thinks he's man enough to stand against someone who can fight back, go ahead and try. Otherwise, you'd better all crawl back under whatever rocks you came from."

Abramowitz could see sweat running down the ringleader's forehead. The frightened Naso glanced to his men, but none of them seemed inclined to test the stranger's claim.

The masked man took another step forward, and one of the Nasos broke and ran. He was quickly joined by the rest of the mob, until only the ringleader remained.

"You may have won this round," the Naso snarled, "but we'll be back."

"The next shot," the stranger repeated, "will be fatal." He pointed one of his pistols at the Naso, and the uniformed thug turned and ran after his men.

Abramowitz watched the last Naso pelt away, then he turned to face the masked man. "They'll be back," he said.

"So will I," said the man in black, as he holstered his pistols. Hanging a small object from the sign above the shop's door, the stranger turned away. A sharp whistle brought his mount to his side, and he vaulted effortlessly into the saddle. As the horse reared back, the rider cried out, "Hajo, Argent! Away!" and a moment later he was gone in a cloud of dust.

Manya emerged from the shop to join her husband. "Who was that masked man?" she wondered.

Moshe Abramowitz shook his head. "I don't know." Taking down the object the rider had hung from his sign, he added, "But he left behind this silver cross."

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Night at the Theatre

A Night at the Theatre by Abraham Lincoln
An Introduction to the Anniversary Edition

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, and the University of Rhode Island Press has chosen to mark the occasion by publishing this new edition of his classic novel, A Night at the Theatre, widely regarded as the single most influential novel in American literature. Not only was it the inspiration for two different literary movements, Counterfactualism and Stream-of-Consciousness, many historians feel that its popularity contributed to the cooling of passions on the issue of slavery in the 1860s. This is all the more remarkable given that A Night at the Theatre was the only work of fiction ever written by Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln was a successful railroad lawyer in Springfield, Ill. during the tumultuous presidential election of 1860. In that year, Senator William H. Seward of New York, the candidate of what was then a newly forged anti-slavery coalition called the Republican Party, was narrowly defeated by the Democratic candidate, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. The Republicans were regarded with such loathing by Southerners that the mere possibility of a Seward victory led a number of Southern statesmen to threaten to secede from the Union. The threat of secession and civil war so alarmed Lincoln that he set out to write a cautionary tale for his fellow countrymen on the evils that waited in store for them should they ever allow the nation to be torn asunder.

A Night at the Theatre was the result. A number of literary critics have advanced the hypothesis that the novel's unorthodox (for the time) structure was the result of Lincoln's lack of formal schooling. Despite serving in the Illinois state legislature and the US House of Representatives, and despite his successful law practice, Lincoln grew up in humble circumstances in Kentucky and Indiana. The little schooling he received had barely sufficed to allow him to "read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three" as he put it. Thus, Lincoln may have pioneered the technique of Stream-of-Consciousness not from deliberate intent, but because he literally didn't know any better.

The novel opens with its viewpoint character, President Moses York, paying half-hearted attention to the lackluster perfomance of a play which he and his wife are attending at Ford's Theatre in Washington City. York hears footsteps behind him, and turns just in time to see a man fire a pistol point blank in his face. For the rest of the novel's forty-five chapters, York fades in and out of consciousness as he is carried out of the theatre to a nearby house, where he spends the next few hours slowly dying of his wounds.

The reader follows President York as he deliriously relives a life lived in a world different from our own, a world where he was elected President in 1860 on the Republican ticket, prompting the Southern secession and civil war Lincoln feared. As the war between North and South drags on for year after terrible year, the armies fighting become larger, the weapons used become deadlier, and the casualties of battle mount from the thousands to the tens of thousands and finally into the hundreds of thousands. York relives in harrowing detail visits to field hospitals crammed with so many wounded there aren't enough beds to hold them all, with piles of severed limbs visible through the windows. We see through his eyes the aftermath of battles fought by hundreds of thousands of men, freshly turned mass graves covering the ground as far as the eye can see, and huge trees felled by the passage of countless bullets through their trunks.

We also see the gradual darkening of the soul of a man of peace forced to direct a terrible war. In the novel's last chapter, York's wandering memory returns to the theatre box where an assassin's bullet brings him face to face with his own mortality, and the reader shares his inseparable feelings of fear and relief as he sets aside the awful burden of his life and faces final judgment for his actions and the actions of his countrymen. The flash of the assassin's pistol merges with an all-consuming light that could either be an ethereal glow or the fires of retribution, and the novel ends with the chilling line, "York knew he would welcome either."

Lincoln completed A Night at the Theatre in the autumn of 1861, and he initially had considerable difficulty in finding a publisher for it. The novel was finally serialized in the Providence (R.I.) Daily Journal beginning on March 29, 1862. Although the response was lukewarm at first, by the time the last chapter was published on January 31, 1863, the Daily Journal's circulation had doubled, and two dozen other papers around the country were serializing the novel. Book publication followed in April 1863, and within a year it had sold 300,000 copies, making it the most popular work of fiction since Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Although the civil war depicted in A Night at the Theatre ended in defeat for the Southern secessionists and freedom for the South's slaves (which no doubt helped persuade Henry B. Anthony, the editor of the staunchly Republican Providence Daily Journal, to publish it), Lincoln's graphic depiction of the carnage of war diluted the novel's sectional appeal. While the Charleston Mercury dismissed the novel as "the longest tall tale ever spun by a drunken backwoodsman", De Bow's Review of New Orleans praised Lincoln for showing "the grim face of war", which "all too many of our countrymen, North and South, seem eager to embrace". Likewise, while the Chicago Tribune called the novel "the most important work of fiction ever to be published upon these shores", the New York Herald denounced it as "worthy of no more notice than the ravings of any other lunatic".

It is true that the cooling of passions in the early 1860s had many causes. The "cotton bust" in the South made it plain to many Southerners that their reliance upon cotton and a few other cash crops as their section's economic foundation left them too vulnerable to the caprice of the marketplace. James D. B. De Bow's call for the South to embrace the industrial revolution and economic diversification gained many adherants, and the power of the planter aristocracy began to decline. Likewise, the efforts of President Douglas, and, after his death, those of President Herschel Johnson, to dampen the flaring tempers of the time (and incidentally to re-unite their fractured party) helped to bring a measure of calm to a nation that had come perilously close to hysteria.

Nevertheless, there is no question that the horrifying vision Lincoln's novel presented of a nation plunged into fratricidal war did much to cool tempers roused by the events of the 1850s. When Seward finally won the Presidency in 1864, few Southerners outside of South Carolina were moved to consider secession, a marked contrast to the attitudes of four years earlier. Seward's measured policies with regard to slavery gave further encouragement to Southern moderates, and with the admission of Kansas as a free state in 1866 and the abolition of slavery in Delaware the following year, Southerners seemed finally to recognize that the gradual termination of their peculiar institution would prove more beneficial in the long run than a doomed resort to war.

The novel's literary impact was equally great. Writers from Horace Greeley to Walt Whitman began to experiment with the Stream-of-Consciousness form, which eventually gave rise to such masterpieces as Mark Twain's The River, Stephen Crane's Shipwreck, and Jack London's Gold. Although the popularity of Stream-of-Consciousness waned after the turn of the century as Cabell's New Romanticism gained ascendancy, its status as the first uniquely American form of literature has earned it a lasting place in this country's literary canon.

At the same time, Lincoln's detailed picture of an alternative America at war with itself gave birth to the Counterfactual genre which has produced such notable works as Winston Churchill's The American Dominions, Marcel Proust's Napoleon Triumphant, and William Faulkner's audacious series of sequels to Lincoln's original, the Yoknapatawpha Chronicles. In 1963, the 100th anniversary of the publication of A Night at the Theatre, the American Counterfactual Society instituted the annual Abraham awards to honor the year's best achievements in counterfactual literature. Such past Abraham winners as H. Beam Piper's The Champion of Lutzen, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, and Harry Turtledove's A Different Flesh show the continuing vigor of Lincoln's other literary offspring.

Lincoln himself did not live long enough to see the impact his novel had on the nation he loved. On June 8, 1862, while his novel was still being serialized in the Providence Daily Journal, Lincoln died in a train wreck outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Professor John E. Pez
Department of History
University of Rhode Island
February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin Day

By a fascinating coincidence, Abraham Lincoln was born on the same day as Charles Darwin, February 12, 1809. So while everyone else is celebrating Lincoln's 200th birthday, let's take some time out to remember that other guy who was born 200 years ago today.

The Obama conspiracy revealed!

Ever since Barack Obama became a leading candidate for the presidency, conspiracy theories have been swirling around the internet. Theories that Obama was involved in violent anti-apartheid protests in college, that Obama's autobiography was ghost-written by a domestic terrorist, that Obama's wife gave an angry anti-white interview to an African press agency, that Obama's wife forced him to exile his mistress to the Caribbean, that Obama's wife was videotaped denouncing white people, that Obama's birth certificate is a forgery designed to disguise that fact that he isn't an American citizen, that Obama was the son of Malcolm X, that Obama had an affair with/was raped by a pedophile at age nine, that Obama had a gay quicky with a drug dealer, and that Obama was a secret Muslim.

Well, it turns out all of that was just a smokescreen laid down by the Obama team itself, in order to disguise the real truth, the really true truth, about our current president. The birth certificate rumors were particularly important in disguising the truth, because they led to countless attempts to prove that Obama's birth certificate was a forgery. The real secret that the Obama team has been hiding all this time is not that his birth certificate was a forgery, but that there was more than one! The real true honest truth that has remained a secret up until now is that there are actually five Barack Obamas!

You read that right. Barack Obama was actually part of a set of identical quintuplets! The man we know as Barack Hussein Obama actually has four brothers named Barack Hasan Obama, Barack Hakim Obama, Barack Habib Obama, and Barack Harun Obama.

Frankly, it should have been obvious all along. How could one man be a gifted orator, and a gifted writer, and a professor of Constitutional Law, and a community organizer, and a legislator? He couldn't, of course. Each of these specialties is dealt with by one of the Barack Obama brothers.

Why did Obama fumble his own name during his swearing-in ceremony? Because it wasn't his name! The man who took the oath of office was not Barack Hussein Obama, it was one of his brothers! The next day, we heard news accounts of Obama taking the oath of office again in private. That was when Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in. And why has Ruth Bader Ginsberg suddenly taken ill? Could it be because she secretly swore in the other three brothers? Now that her role in the secret ceremony is over, is she being eliminated because she knows too much?

Speak up, America! Demand to know the truth! Do we have one president, or five?

(This conspiracy theory is dedicated to Ben Bova.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

DBTL 13: Octopus's Garden

Warsaw, Polish Commonwealth
17 July 1944

"If a single bomb falls on Poland," Hermann Göring assured Marshal Stanisław Skwarczyński, "you can call me 'Meyer'."

Skwarczyński seemed puzzled. "Why on Earth would I want to call you Meyer?"

"Perhaps he means Oscar Mayer," suggested President Jósef Beck. "You know, the American cold cut magnate."

"But that makes no sense at all," Skwarczyński pointed out reasonably enough.

"No, no," said Göring in annoyance, "Meyer, the fellow from . . . ." His friend Lothar von Richthofen gave him a sardonic grin. Wrong culture, Fatty, his look said.

"Oh, never mind," Göring finished. "My point is, once we have a few hundred of these babies in the air, there won't be a single aircraft in the whole world that can stand against them."

"Except for the anti-aircraft rockets von Braun's building in Lublin," Skwarczyński mentioned. "I dare say one of them could take out one of your jet aircraft."

"And don't forget the British have jets of their own," Beck added. "In the unlikely event of a war between us, I'd wager theirs could give ours a run for their money."

Göring had an awful urge to grab the heads of the two Poles and bang them together. Since they were the two most powerful men in the Polish Commonwealth, and his bosses to boot, it was an urge he had no trouble suppressing. Still...

"Still," Skwarczyński concluded, "your point is well made. Your jets have acquitted themselves well here today, and they would indeed prove a formidable addition to the Commonwealth's arsenal. I will recommend to the Cabinet that your research project be converted into a full-scale production facility, and that plans be made for the creation of a jet fighter squadron within the Polish Air Force." Shaking Göring's hand, he added, "You've done well, Director. You've earned the gratitude of the whole Polish Commonwealth today."

A welter of unfamiliar emotions flooded through Göring's heart. After all the disappointments and failures of the last five years, he had finally managed to win through to success, to carry an important task through to completion. His thoughts went back four years, to his office in Los Angeles and the fateful conversation with Lothar. "So what's it going to be, Hermann? Are you going to screw this opportunity up, just like you've screwed up every other opportunity your life's been blessed with? Skwarczyński wants someone to build him aircraft, and God help us, he thinks you're the man to do it. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that he's out of his mind, but that doesn't matter. The offer still stands. Do you want to come back with me and try to make something of your life, or would you rather stay here and drink yourself to death?"

His life had been changed, and it was due, he knew, to the man standing in front of him. Skwarczyński had believed in him when no one else had, even Göring himself. It was with perfect sincerity that Göring answered, "I couldn't have done it without you, sir."

That earned him another grin from Lothar. "Modesty,Hermann? All right, you imposter, who are you, and what have you done with the Director?"

With a smile of his own, Skwarczyński asked, "Have you given any thought to what you're going to name your new jet plane factory? The Hermann Göring Works, perhaps?"

Göring thought of the ornamental rose garden he had had planted outside his office, in honor of his beloved first wife.

He said, "I think I'll just call it the Garden."

Just then, four jets in a diamond formation roared by overhead. Hermann Göring looked up at them and smiled.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making Light

Making Light is the blog of Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the most important husband-and-wife team of science fiction editors since Lester and Judy-Lynn Del Rey (not that controversial a claim, really, since there have been very few husband-and-wife teams of science fiction editors). TNH and PNH, as they're known, blog on such subjects as pet hoarding, publishing scams, astroturfing, and politics.

Within liberal blogging circles, TNH is best known for a comment she made on Patrick's old blog on January 29, 2003 regarding the Bush administration: "I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist." Of course, that was before we found out how many conspiracies the Bushies were involved in.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

TV Tropes

When your favorite television show jumps the shark, is it because of a retool or due to having a writer on board? When a character disappears, were they put on a bus or did they suffer from Chuck Cunningham syndrome? What's the difference between the Wesley and the butt monkey? Which villain is the evil overlord and which is the dragon?

If these questions are perplexing you, it's time to take a visit to the TV Tropes and Idioms website. You'll learn to tell when a show is being screwed by the network, when a character is being Flanderized, and why all bikers are Hells Angels. You'll also find hours of your life slipping helplessly away, so be warned!

Friday, February 6, 2009

DBTL 12C: Białystok - Reel Three

We'll Always Have Pasadena

Białystok, Belarus Devo, Polish Commonwealth
23 April 1944

"I hope you don't mind," Raoul Wallenberg said to Hermann Göring. "I took the stairs from the street to your apartment."

"Not at all," Göring said in a tired voice. "I wish the bar did this much business when it was open."

Meanwhile, Ingrid Bergman stood up from the table she was sharing with Göring. "My darling," she said to Wallenberg, "you made it!"

"I take it you two are already acquainted," Göring observed. "Good. That saves me the trouble of introducing you."

"Raoul is my husband," Ingrid said.

Surprised, Göring accidentally knocked his drink off the table. "Lavi is right. I haven't been keeping up properly with current events."

"We've kept it a secret," said Ingrid. "The studio insisted."

Göring laughed. "You should have stayed married to me. Everyone knew you were married to me."

"And that didn't stop--" Ingrid cut herself short. "But that's all past. Hermann, Raoul and I need you to get us out of Białystok."

"I still don't see any compelling reason why I should involve myself," said Göring.

Wallenberg produced a pistol. "Is this compelling enough for you?"

"I'll make it easy for you," said Göring. He rose from his chair and moved to the bottom of the stairs. "Go ahead and shoot. You'll be doing me a favor."

"Raoul, put that away," Ingrid ordered. She walked over to stand beside Göring. "Hermann, what would it take to make you help Raoul leave Białystok? What do you want?"

Shlomo spoke up. "Lady, why don't you leave the boss alone? He was doing fine until you turned up."

Göring smiled wanly. "Thanks, Shlomo. But there's too much unfinished business between me and Ingrid." He turned to Ingrid. "All right, you want to know what I want? When you get back to Hollywood, I want you to announce that you've decided to remarry me. We made up here in Białystok, and all is forgiven. The marriage will be at the end of July. That will give you and Wallenberg time to get a divorce."

Ingrid stood still for a minute. She finally said, "Hermann, is there somewhere Raoul and I can talk together alone?"

"My apartment," said Göring. "I'm pretty sure he knows the way."

When the two of them had gone up the stairs, Shlomo said, "Are you out of your mind, boss?"

"Possibly," said Göring. "Would you mind getting my car ready for me, Shlomo? We're going to be making a trip to the base very shortly."

Shlomo shook his head, but he went.

Ingrid and Wallenberg emerged from Göring's apartment. "We have agreed to your conditions," Wallenberg said. Ingrid was silent, her eyes lowered.

"Then come along," said Göring, "we've got a short trip ahead of us."

It was a silent ride to the airbase where Project Octopus was located. Göring sat up front with Shlomo, while Ingrid and Wallenberg sat in the back, holding hands.

Dawn was lighting up the eastern sky by the time the airbase came into view. The guard at the gate waved them through when he saw Göring. A few brief directions brought the car to one of the hangers. Göring led the way, unlocked the side door, and switched on the lights.

There was a moment's silence, then Ingrid said, "Hermann, what in God's name is that thing?"

Göring grinned. "The War Ministry in Warsaw ordered a bunch of them from from the Sikorsky company in America. It's called a helicopter."

Wallenberg said, "I hope you don't expect me to fly this thing."

"The pilot will be along shortly," said Göring. "That gives us time to discuss the question of who will and will not be on it. Because, you see, you are not getting on that helicopter with Raoul Wallenberg."

Ingrid was confused. "I don't understand, Hermann. What has happened to you? Last night we said --"

"Last night we said a great many things," said Göring. "We agreed that you would divorce Wallenberg and remarry me. I've decided that it would be better for all concerned if you were to remain with me here in Białystok where you belong."

"Hermann, no, I, I..."

"You've got to listen to me," Göring insisted. "Do you have any idea what I'd have to look forward to if you left me again? Inside of us we both know you belong with me. You're part of my work, the thing that keeps me going. If that helicopter leaves and ground and you're on it, I'll regret it."

"No," Ingrid said softly.

"Maybe not today," said Göring, "maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life."

"You don't have to do this," Ingrid pleaded. "We'll always have Pasadena. Isn't that enough?"

"No," said Göring heavily. "It wasn't enough four years ago, and it isn't enough now. Ingrid, it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of bratwurst in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now..."

"Now Miss Bergman must be going," came a voice from behind them.

Göring was astonished. "Lavi, what are you doing here?"

Captain Lavrenti Romanov strode forward into the hanger. "I knew you'd come here after I left the bar. I've got bad news for you, Hermann. New orders from Brest-Litovsk. Wallenberg is to be allowed to return to Sweden." He turned to face Ingrid and Wallenberg. "Miss Bergman, your plane has been released. You can leave anytime."

Ingrid said, "Goodbye, Hermann. I won't be coming back." She and Wallenberg hurried out of the hanger.

Göring glared at Romanov. He was about to speak when the policeman said, "Forget it, Hermann. It's Białystok."


Thursday, February 5, 2009


You've got them, I've got them, we've all got them. An e-mail shows up in your box with the header URGENT BUSINESS PROPOSITION. You open it up and it says:


I am fifty year old widow (the fourth wife) of the
Late President MABELA KABILA of the Republic of Congo.
My husband was the formal President of D.R.C. who was Assassinated by
one of his own body guard on the 16th Of January 2001 At the mid-term of
the rebellion which is still in my Country, my two sons, my daughter and
I went out of Congo according to my husband's Instructions before His
death because the fate of our country was yet to Be decided. We came
with sealed diplomatic baggage TO South Africa, that contains US$18.5Million.

Since then, I have been looking for a reliable and
Trustworthy person to help me transfer the money into
A foreign accounts overseas ...

That's right, it's the advance-fee fraud, aka the 419 scam. A whole culture of fraud has grown up among the shady internet cafes of Lagos, Nigeria. Inevitably, this has led to the rise of a counter-culture devoted to baiting the 419 scammers. One of the leading scam-baiting website is Scam-O-Rama. Here you will find scam-baiters taking on the personae of Harold Stassen, Mal Reynolds, Betty Crocker, and Geoffrey Chaucer as they prank the Lads from Lagos. The site also includes a 419 FAQ, 419 scam news, links to various government and police sites, a 419 haiku competition, and much more. If you'd like to see internet scammers being punk'd by smartass would-be victims, check out Scam-O-Rama.

DBTL 12B: Białystok - Reel Two

Play it Again, Shlomo

Białystok, Belarus Devo, Polish Commonwealth
23 April 1944

"If she can stand it, I can," said Hermann Göring. "Play it!"

"Yes, Boss," said Shlomo Kaminski unhappily. He began tapping out the song, and in his mind Göring could hear his ex-wife Ingrid singing the lyrics in English.

Come and sit by my side, if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loved you so true

There was a knock at the door. Shlomo made his way through the darkness of the empty bar and unlocked it. It was Ingrid.

"Hermann," she said, "I have to talk to you."

Through the haze of alcoholic melancholy Göring looked up at her. "Oh. I saved my first drink to have with you. Here." He pushed the shot glass of Jack Daniels across the table.

"No," said Ingrid. "No, Hermann, not tonight."

"Especially tonight," insisted Göring.

"Hermann," said Ingrid, "I need your help."

"You mean you need my help getting Raoul Wallenberg out of Poland," Göring stated.

"The authorities have impounded my aircraft," she said. "I was hoping--"

"What? That I would loan you one of my experimental jet aircraft?"

"That you would know of some way for us to leave Białystok," she said.

"There is," Göring said. "It's called a train. One leaves for Warsaw every morning at 8:22."

"Oh, Hermann, you know that Raoul can't take a train! The police will arrest him as soon as he walks into the terminal."

"Then I suggest you pack yourselves a picnic lunch and go for a long walk, because that is the only way your friend Wallenberg can leave Białystok."

Ingrid's next comment was, perhaps fortunately, interrupted by the bar's front door being kicked in. From out of the night strode in Leonard Kosnowski and his gang of Naso thugs, still wearing their Party uniforms of brown shirts, black shorts, and red-and-white thunderbolt armbands.

"Hello," said Kosnowski's henchman, Andrzej Squigman.

"Looks like Fatty's having a party," Kosnowski observed. "And we happen to be wearing our Party uniforms, so we've decided to join in."

"I want to smash up the Jew's piano," said Squigman.

Shlomo stood up to face Squigman. "You and what army, punk?"

"Later, Squigi. First things first," said Kosnowski. "It's time for you to make a financial contribution to the National Socialists, Fatty. Where do you keep the cash?"

"It's in my office, behind the bar," said Göring expressionlessly.

As Kosnowski passed the table with Göring and Ingrid, he gave her a lascivious grin. Squigman was biting the palm of his hand in anticipation.

The door to Göring's office swung open before Kosnowski could kick it in, and the Naso found himself face-to-face with Captain Lavrenti Romanov, Białystok's Prefect of Police. Kosnowski's grin was replaced by stupifaction, an expression which came naturally to him.

As Kosnowski backed away from the office door, Romanov emerged with two of his men.

"Lavi, glad you could make it," said Göring. "I'd like to press charges against Leni and Squigi here. Vandalism, robbery, that sort of thing."

Romanov glared at Göring and the Nasos impartially. "I'd be happy to, Hermann." He motioned for his men to take the Nasos into custody.

When they were all gone, Ingrid said, "Romanov was waiting to arrest me, wasn't he?"

Göring nodded. "Nothing bad would have come of it. He would have kept you down at the Palace of Justice for a day or two, asked you some polite questions about Wallenberg's whereabouts. You would have refused to tell him, of course, and so he would have put you on a train to Danzig and shipped you back to Sweden."

"And you would have stood aside and let him," Ingrid said sadly.

Göring shrugged. "I stick my neck out for nobody."

"So it seems," came a voice from above them. Göring spun about and looked up at the top of the staircase leading to his apartment.

It was Raoul Wallenberg.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Derek the Clown Video embed

Our tale begins in 2007 with an $800,000 federal grant to the Elizabeth New Life Center so they could tell our little boys and girls not to have sex. ENLC gave some of the grant money to Derek Dye, aka Derek the Abstinence Clown, so he could travel to middle schools in Ohio and do some juggling and warn the kids about how putting Mr. Peter in Miss Hoo-Hah made the baby Jesus cry. In January 2009 a blogger named Joe Sonka got word from the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and put up a blog post about Derek the Federally Funded Abstinence Clown. Joe contacted Pam Spaulding at Pandagon, and she also wrote a post about Derek. Both posts included actual video footage of Derek the Federally Funded Abstinence Clown doing his abstinence clown act. The video made it to YouTube and went viral, at which point both Derek the Federally Funded Abstinence Clown and the ENLC freaked out. Apparently, they didn't want people actually seeing what their tax dollars were paying for, so Derek petitioned YouTube to yank the video, citing "copyright violations", and the ENLC's Kevin Freckman emailed Sonka, demanding that he take down the video from his blog.

Well, Markos Moulitsas, Lord of the Great Orange Satan, eats punks like Freckman for lunch, so he was quick to post the video to the front page of the GOS and dare Derek and the ENLC to do their worst. As a devoted minion of Lord Markos, I must and will emulate his defiance, and post the video here as well. Not only will this up my badass liberal blogger quotient, it'll give me the opportunity to embed a video, which is something I've never done before. Let's give it a whirl:

There we go! Enjoy, folks, the sight of Your Tax Dollars At Work.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

DBTL 12A: Białystok - Reel One

Everybody Goes to Fatty's

Białystok, Belarus Devo, Polish Commonwealth
22 April 1944

Everybody needs a hobby, some constructive way to spend one's leisure hours, however many or few those might be. Hermann Göring's hobby was a bar in downtown Białystok called the Flying Deutchlander. When he had come to Białystok four years earlier to head up Poland's experimental jet plane program, Project Octopus, he had found the perfect spot to relax: not too rowdy, not too quiet, and they always had some Jack Daniels on hand. He grew to like it so much that he finally bought it, after which the staff had insisted on renaming it. As the bar's Jewish pianist Shlomo Kaminski had explained, what was the point in working for a big shot if you didn't let everyone know it? And without question, Göring was the biggest shot in Białystok.
"Not that that's saying much," Göring pointed out.

"No, really," said Shlomo, "you're easily the heaviest man in this part of Poland."

Göring had laughed and agreed to change the bar's name. However, he refused to let the bar be called Fatty's; the final name was a compromise. The bar staff had the last laugh, though, because the bar was Fatty's to everyone in Białystok.

Göring had also had a jukebox imported from America, and he kept it topped off with a steady supply of the latest tunes by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.

Shlomo regarded the jukebox with disdain. "Boss," he said, "the trouble with you is, you're just too Americanized."

"Not Americanized," Göring countered. "Californicated."

But one night, sitting within his office behind the bar, Göring found his contentment suddenly shattered by the sound of Shlomo playing the one song he had been expressly forbidden to play, "Red River Valley".

Göring had stormed out of the office, intending to beat Shlomo to a pulp and kick his sorry Yiddish ass out the door and all the way to the next devo. He was brought up short by the sight of a woman standing by Shlomo's piano and softly singing along.

It was Ingrid.

Just like that, eight years fell away, and the two of them were newlyweds, just come to America for Ingrid to film an English-language version of Munkbrogreven. They had gone driving, and found a honky-tonk bar in Pasadena where they slowly danced to the strange cowboy music on the jukebox. That had been before the fights, before the accusations.

Before the divorce.

"Don't be angry with him, Hermann," she said. "I told him to play it."

"What are you doing here, Ingrid?" he asked.

Before she could answer, the bar was suddenly deluged by half a dozen thugs in the uniform of Boleslaw Piasecki's National Socialists, singing the "Eligiusz Niewiadomski Song":

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of the fateful shots
That killed a traitor President
And made the Yids kerplotz"

Frowning, Shlomo Kaminski began pounding out the Commonwealth Anthem on his piano, which was soon taken up by most of the people in the bar, drowing out the Nasos. It was, Göring knew, an adaptation of an American song:

"This land is your land, this land is my land
From Wawel Castle to the southern highlands
From the Pripet Marshes to the Baltic waters
This land was made for you and me"

Ingrid peered uncertainly in the direction of the Nasos. "Who are those men?"

"Those are the local Fascists, the Blackshorts."

"Blackshirts?" questioned Ingrid.

"Blackshorts," Göring corrected. "All the shirt colors have been used up by Fascist groups in other countries, so they had to settle for wearing black shorts. They're the usual crew of anti-Semitic ultra-nationalists. They hate the Commonwealth, and the devos. They want to re-centralize Poland and disenfranchise the other nationalities, especially the Jews. The local Naso bigshot is an ugly customer named Leonard Kosnowski. That's him on the right."

The ugly customer in question chose that moment to half-stalk, half-stagger over to Göring.
"What the hell kind of place are you running here, Göring?" Kosnowski demanded. "You've got Jews behind the bar, Jews behind the piano, Jews in the woodpile!"

Göring glared at the Naso leader and used his height and bulk to loom over the other man. His voice low and menacing, Göring said, "Kosnowski, in my bar, I decide who is a Jew."

The Naso took an involuntary step back. Then, muttering profanities under his breath, he slunk back to his corner of the bar. A curt order to the others, and they left the bar in a group.

"They'll be back," Shlomo pointed out.

"I'll be waiting," said Göring.

There was a strange dreamlike quality to the next hour, as Göring introduced his movie-star ex-wife to various friends and co-workers from Białystok and Project Octopus. He had retreated to a place behind the bar and stood observing while Shlomo led a group including Ingrid in a round of songs.

The sound attracted Captain Lavrenti Romanov, who had been trying his luck in the game room. Romanov had been appointed Prefect of Police for Białystok by the government of the Belorus devo. Göring had found him to be pleasant, affable, and thoroughly corrupt. Romanov took his monthly bribe from Göring in the form of a three thousand złoty gaming chit. He usually went through it in less than a week.

"Is that who I think it is?" Romanov asked, as he seated himself in front of Göring at the bar.
Göring nodded.

"What on Earth could she be doing in a backwater like Białystok?"

"I never got around to asking her," Göring said.

"If I were a gambling man," said Romanov, "which of course I am not, I would wager that her presence here has something to do with the rumored arrival of her countryman Raoul Wallenberg."

"I thought Wallenberg was in the custody of the NKVD," said Göring.

"He was, for a short time," said Romanov. "However, he escaped recently. Needless to say, our Soviet neighbors are anxious to get him back."

Göring was familiar with Wallenberg, as who was not? Although he seemed nothing more than an ordinary Swedish businessman, political prisoners had a habit of escaping, and dissidents of vanishing, whenever he was in the neighborhood. The NKVD had finally gotten fed up, and on Wallenberg's last visit to the USSR, he had been arrested for espionage, sabotage, and general anti-Soviet behavior.

Göring said, "I wouldn't think there was much chance of the Commonwealth handing him back to the Russians."

"Then you haven't been following current events lately," said Romanov. "I'm disappointed in you, Hermann. You're usually so up-to-date."

"What current events am I missing?" Göring inquired.

"Trouble in Lithuania, same as always," said Romanov. "President Smetona's illness is growing worse. Lithuania is a powderkeg, and it grows more unstable as Smetona gets weaker. There could be a civil war, and that would almost inevitably draw in the Commonwealth and the Soviet Union. What price the freedom of one man if it could buy a few more months of peace? Thus, I have orders from both Brest-Litovsk and Warsaw to have Wallenberg detained if he should appear in Białystok."

"That doesn't explain what Ingrid is doing here," said Göring.

"Of course it does," said Romanov. "In Białystok, everybody comes to Fatty's. If Wallenberg has come here, sooner or later he will show up in your bar. And then..."

"And then?" said Göring.

"And then he will be a guest of the Belarus devo," said Romanov. "Unless, of course, you should choose to intervene on his behalf."

Göring shook his head. "I stick my neck out for nobody."

Blogroll Amnesty Day

Blogroll Amnesty Day started back on February 3, 2007 when the proprietors of a couple of first-tier blogs, ie Daily Kos and Eschaton, decided to start pruning blogs from their blogrolls that they no longer found useful. This ticked off the proprietors of some other, lower-ranking blogs, ie Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Jon Swift, who declared it their intention to deliberately start highlighting and linking to less popular blogs. For this third anniversary of B.A.D., Skippy has decided to extend the festivities to the week preceding February 3rd (though it'll apparently still be called Blogroll Amnesty Day rather than Blogroll Amnesty Week, because it's just such a badass acronym), and has urged that all participating blogs link to at least five other blogs.

Since This Blog is down at the very bottom of the heap, and I would be hard-pressed to find blogs that are less popular than my own, by the terms of B.A.D. I can link to any blogs I like. I find that I had already inadvertantly started participating when I posted about the Miss-a-pointed blog back on Sunday. With a one-blog head start, I figure I might as well go all-in. Here are four more worthy blogs.

First up is a blog overseen by one of my few readers, Nomi Hurwitz, I Dreamed I Saw Grace P. Last Night, which Nomi describes with the words Love, Justice, Mishpoche, and frozen lemonade. "Grace P." is a mix of Providence-based political and social activism, poetry, and literature.

Next up is Kmareka, another Rhode Island-based blog run by social workers Kristen Marek and David L. Jaffe and registered nurse Nancy Green. As Kristen says, Kmareka "Sounds like America but less repressive — a place where social workers and citizens speak out." Based in Cranston, Rhode Island, Kmareka focuses on local issues, health issues, local health issues, and social work.

Continuing the Rhode Island trend is Miss Poppy Dixon's Providence-based Adult Christianity. Miss Poppy describes her blog as "Christian pop culture through the eyes of a radical housewife and part time atheist, Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon. Online since 1995. Stop by every day for the latest in Christian crime, intimidation, fraud, and foolishness."

And finally, we conclude the Lil Rhody madness with Hard Deadlines, the Portsmouth-based blog of John G. McDaid, science fiction writer and management consultant. McDaid focuses like a frickin-shark-mounted laser on his home town, keeping an eye on the Portsmouth town council, the school board, and the local tax-cut crazies who call themselves the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens.

Well, that about wraps up this year's Blogroll Amnesty Day. If you enjoyed reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I enjoyed writing it twice as much as you enjoyed reading it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

DBTL 11: Love and Rockets

Lublin, Polish Commonwealth
8 June 1943

Later on, he always regretted not going to Warsaw during the siege. If it had been Spain, he knew, nothing could have kept him away. But the Mola putsch had ended practically before it began, and Poland would have been so damned cold, and in the end the whole damned war had come and gone and him still in Key West trying to land marlin.

And now here he was, six years of his life gone by and nothing to show for it. A writer was only as good as his last work, and his last work had been a hopeless mess called To Have and Have Not. It had begun well enough, but somewhere along the way it had gotten away from him. He should have gone with his gut and burned it, but instead he had let Max Perkins talk him into publishing it. There had been the usual critical gang-up and the book had done poorly.

An attempt at playwriting had gotten bogged down, and then the stay in California had resulted in nothing but a bunch of unproduced movie scripts. Then he had let writing go hang and spent his days fishing on the Pilar. Pauline and the boys had left him and now at age 43 he was washed up, alone, wondering from day to day whether he should just take a gun and end it all.

From out of the blue had come the call from Arnold Gingrich asking him to go and cover the Polish rocket launch for Esquire. He had almost turned Gingrich down from force of habit, but something had made him accept. It was as if he knew that this was his last shot at redemption, the last roll of the dice, all or nothing. He had agreed, and now here he was somewhere out in the back of beyond, waiting for a bunch of German eggheads to try to fire off an oversized bottle rocket with a Polish flag painted on the side. Most likely the thing would just blow up.

It hadn't taken him long to find a dive bar in Lublin that served Cuban rum, and he had been trying to sweet-talk a waitress who spoke nothing but Ukrainian when he saw the young guy in the British uniform. It had been too long since he had met anyone else who spoke English, so he waved the Brit over and stood him a drink.

"Flight Lieutenant Clarke, RAF," the Brit had introduced himself, with that funny way of saying "leftenant" that the Brits had.

"Hemingway," he answered, "Ernest Hemingway. I'm here to cover the launch for Esquire."

"Ah, yes, you're the chap who wrote The Sun Also Rises, wonderful book."

"Thanks. The RAF? Aren't rockets a little out of their league?"

"To be perfectly honest," said Clarke, "I volunteered to be here. I've always been quite keen on the subject of rockets and, er, space travel. Been following Dr. von Braun's career for years. Member of the British Interplanetary Society, in fact."

He couldn't help himself from laughing out loud. "That Buck Rogers stuff?" He knew he'd made a mistake the moment he said it, because the Brit stiffened up.

"Will that be the title of your Esquire piece, then?" Clarke said frostily.

"Hey, I'm sorry," he said. He wasn't used to apologizing -- to anyone, for anything -- but if the Brit really was up on all this rocket stuff, it would save him a lot of legwork. "That's what a lot of people back home would say. But, hell, if the Poles think it's a good idea, then it's gotta be a good idea, right?" That was true enough. In the last 25 years, the Poles had literally come out of nowhere to become a major power. They practically ran eastern Europe, and even Uncle Joe had to mind his P's and Q's where the Poles were concerned.

Besides, the Brit had hit close to home. He had been planning to call the article that -- a satirical piece about a bunch of funny little eggheads shooting off Roman candles. He was starting to realize just how close he had come to churning out a piece of worthless hackwork. It would have put the last nail in the coffin of his writing career.

Clarke unstiffened again. "Oh yes, backing von Braun's research shows a good deal of foresight on the Poles' part. Rather more than the Germans themselves showed before the war."

He spent the rest of the evening getting background from Clarke. A Russian (from a Polish family, as the Poles were always quick to point out) named Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky (he made the Brit spell it for him) had first broached the idea in 1903, and an American named Robert Hutchings Goddard had been conducting experiments. As soon as he heard that, he knew that he had a hook for the article. Americans loved hearing about Americans.

The current bunch here in Lublin were Germans who had been inspired by a guy named Hermann Oberth. They had been working in obscurity until one of their number, Werner von Braun, had convinced the Polish government to fund their research in 1939.

Now here it was four years later, and the Poles had invited everyone to see them launch their first rocket. And even though there were no Russians here (or so said Clarke), you could bet your bottom dollar Uncle Joe was watching.

"So," he said at last to Clarke, "do you think it'll work?"

"I'd like it to," the Brit said, "but most likely it'll just blow up."

He left the dive bar stone cold sober, with a promise to meet Clarke the next day for a tour of the place. Then he went back to his hotel and slept the soundest sleep he'd had in six years.

The next day was a whirlwind, with Clarke showing him around and explaining more about the rocket. They had taken a lot of ideas from Goddard (much to his annoyance, him being the secretive type), like mixing liquid rocket fuel with liquid oxygen, and using a gyroscope to keep it flying straight. That afternoon the two men had driven to the launch pad to see the rocket itself.

The sight of the rocket standing up next to its gantry, with steam rising up from the side, was a revelation. He was struck by the sense of raw power that the thing gave off. It was mesmerizing.

There was a film crew scurrying around the base of the rocket, and it took a while for him to notice that one of them was a woman. She looked about his age, kind of old, but there was a grace about the way she moved that told him she was a dancer, or used to be.

When she finally noticed them, it was Clarke's uniform that attracted her attention. With the camera running, Clarke explained in pretty good German about his duel roles as an official observer from the RAF and an unofficial observer from the British Interplanetary Society.

After the interview, Clarke introduced him, and damned if the magic of his name still didn't have its effect. It turned out that the woman was the documentary filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. He had seen her documentary of the siege of Berlin, "City of Shadows". She in turn had read German translations of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. She had to go to interview some Polish government official, but they made a date to meet that evening at his hotel.

Clarke had dropped him off at his hotel, and he had time to change clothes and shave before meeting Leni in the lobby. For a while he was worried she wouldn't show, but when she showed up wearing a dark blue evening dress and a knowing smile, he knew everything would be all right.

She was gone when he woke up, but he knew he'd see her at the launch that morning. Clarke picked him up at the hotel, and they drove together back out to the launch pad. He could tell the Brit was practically quivering with excitement at the prospect of seeing the rocket go off. He felt the same way himself, about the rocket and about Leni.

The reviewing stand was about a mile away from the launch pad, because everyone knew that the rocket would most likely just blow up. There were hundreds of people there, including President Sławek and War Minister Skwarczyński. He could see Leni too, conducting interviews and shooting footage of the crowds and the rocket.

A loudspeaker counted down the seconds in Polish and German, and then from the launch pad there was a light like the rising sun, followed by a sound like thunder. At first he thought the rocket had indeed blown up, but when his eyes adjusted he could see that it was still there, rising on a tail of flame straight and true into the sky.

This, he knew, was power on a scale he had never imagined before. The men who had built it had taken raw elemental fire and tamed it. Someday, he knew, there would be men riding atop rockets like these, setting out like Columbus into uncharted waters, testing their manhood against the unknown.

The Germans and Poles were opening up a new frontier, and with that phrase he knew what his article would be called. But he knew more than that. He knew that his next novel would be about a man riding a rocket like this into space, braving the unknown. It was burning in him as brightly as the rocket flame.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

First nominee

Reader Nomi Hurwitz has sent in our first nominee in the "Pick the new New York Times Wingnut" contest. Her nominee is Ann Coulter, right-wing sexpot wannabee and rumored m2f transgender. The reader who comes closest (as judged by me) to choosing the correct replacement for Bill "William the Bloody" Kristol will be the honored recipient of the coveted Golden Pez. If the reader successfully predicts the NYT's new wingnut, the award will be upgraded to the even-more-coveted Platinum Pez.

Thanks for participating, Nomi. Good luck!


Adrienne, a regular commenter at John Cole's Balloon Juice blog, has declared her intention to get back to work on her blog. I know all too well the sword-of-Damocles-like feeling of having a blog to which you haven't posted in far too long, and I wish her well. Since we infinity-minus-one-tier bloggers have to stick together, I have placed her blog, Miss-a-pointed, on my own blogroll, and I'll be checking in from time to time to see whether she can keep the thing going.

Every day, Adrienne. You've got to post something every day.