With a little help from my friends (‘Why I may appear to have been writing less, of late,’ Part One of Three)

11:16 am July 3rd, 2014

Friends and fans — if few in number then all the more cherished — have been asking why I seem to have been writing less this year.

I hope I don’t take too much on myself if I’m reminded of Paul McCartney reporting the press reaction when the Beatles stopped touring and went almost a year from August of 1966 without releasing any album other than some oldies compilation.

“The music papers had been saying, ‘What are The Beatles up to? Drying up, I suppose,’” Mr. McCartney smiled.

So they called the press conference, June 1, 1967, and asked “What do you think of this, then? We’re calling it ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’”

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‘Survival could not be expected’ (‘Why I may appear to have been writing less of late,’ Part Two of Three)

11:01 am July 3rd, 2014

1941. War came. The Navy, sometimes befuddled but even then the wisest of the services, made dad a radio man, on the little destroyer escort Raymond.

As most 20-year-olds would, dad took the rigors of tropical service in stride, writing in his surviving notebook about the traditional ceremony of the pollywogs’ first crossing of the equator under the supervision of King Neptune. But things got serious when Rear Admiral C.A.F. Sprague, commander of the northern escort carrier group of the Seventh Fleet off the island of Samar, looked up on the morning of Oct. 25, 1944, to see the Japanese central force –- the 63,000-ton battleship Yamato, largest in the world with her 18-inch guns, the battleships Nagato, Haruna, and Kongo with full cruiser escort, bearing down on his little task force, which lacked even a single capital ship.

Vice Admiral Tokusaburo Ozawa’s carrier force had drawn off Bull Halsey’s fast battleships to the north, as planned, and Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita’s central force found the San Bernardino Strait undefended. Thousand-pound shells started raining down on the light escort carriers from a range of 15 miles. Naval historians say the little force was probably within five minutes of destruction when Admiral Sprague gave the still astonishing order for the destroyers and even the little destroyer escorts to make smoke . . . and attack.

Aboard the destroyer Johnston, Captain Ernest E. Evans (in a statement sometimes attributed to Lt. Cdr. Robert Copeland of the DE Samuel B. Roberts, which went in a little later, though I’m sure each commander said something similar) told all hands over the bull horn that they were entering ”a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival could not be expected,” but that they would do what damage they could.

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What would an engineer need to know about ethics? (‘Why I may appear to have been writing less of late,’ Part Three of Three)

10:49 am July 3rd, 2014

Dad always thought those studying the sciences should be taught more of the history, the philosophy, and especially the ethical dilemmas which had been faced by their predecessors.

Those in charge of the university’s Electrical Engineering (and Computer Science!) Department scoffed. Their slates were full helping these kids schedule all the “How to fit Tab A into Slot B” coursework required for a degree. If the kids wanted to waste a semester taking history, that’s why there was a History Department. If they had time to dabble in Philosophy, that’s why there was a Philosophy Department. Ethics? Go visit the chaplain.

Even dad’s tendency to use his sabbaticals in Britain and Europe (ask the Brits if they think they’re part of Europe), visiting the sites of famous scientific or engineering triumphs and disasters (who the heck visits Germany to see the Fossa Carolina?), taking pictures and collecting maps and drawings and anecdotes and writing up what he found about the quirky historical figures who made it all happen, was considered suspicious enough that they eventually put a stop to it. (How was that going to help anyone build a better ray gun, after all?) None of that material was ever published. The notebooks and file folders still clog the quiet house.

But now that I’m sorting through a portion of his library, I find it an intriguing compendium of books on these very topics -– what science is, the philosophy of science, the history and ethics of science. I just came across a 1984 book by Werner Heisenberg’s widow, called “Inner Exile.” Heisenberg won the 1932 Nobel Prize for Quantum Mechanics, a prize he later admitted he should have shared with Max Born and Pascual Jordan. The book seeks to explain his decision to stay in Germany during the war when so many other notable physicists fled to the West, leading to charges Heisenberg had stayed to work on “Hitler’s atomic bomb.”

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The Testament of James, first excerpt

10:19 am July 3rd, 2014

The following are the first 3,600 words of Vin’s new novel, “The Testament of James,” set for publication by Mountain Media in late 2014. If having to wait some months to read the rest of the story will bother you, please don’t start.

This material is copyright c Vin Suprynowicz, 2014.

# # #

The Testament of James

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Pushing the ranchers off the land, part 1 of 6

11:37 am July 1st, 2014

(NOTE: a condensed version of this report appears in the Autumn, 2014 issue of “Range” magazine, on newsstands now.)

After years of bluff, bluster, and one-sided hearings in the federal courts (whose politically appointed judges never answer any of the ranchers’ questions about the limits of federal jurisdiction) the federal Bureau of Land Management this April sent hundreds of armed men, including SWAT teams and snipers dug in along the ridge lines, to barricade roads and attempt to seal off hundreds of thousands of acres south of Mesquite, Nevada — about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas — in order to confront a single, 67-year-old rancher, Cliven Bundy.

Their goal, depending on who you ask, was to a) round up Bundy’s 600 head of cattle and remove them from land to which he has the undisputed grazing right and which his family has been grazing for more than a century, or else to b) lure him into an armed response to men bulldozing his water lines, torching his water tanks, and shooting his bulls, so that they could jail or kill him, to serve as an example to other ranchers elsewhere in the West who might be tempted to similarly resist the bankruptcy which looms for all as the BLM continues to annually reduce the number of cattle they’re allowed to graze.

Either way, they failed. One reason? The government can no longer control people’s access to the real news — a big change from the days when all they needed to do was make sure the evening newscasters on three or four major networks kept repeating the boilerplate sound bite that this was all about “a trespassing rancher who refused to pay a million dollars in grazing fees.”

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It all depends on who wants the guns (plus an update on the Showdown at Bundy Ranch)

7:43 am April 24th, 2014

A month after a deranged mother-murderer shot up that elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, California state Sen. Leland Yee, 65, described by the Los Angeles Times as “a hero of gun regulators,” helped introduce what was seen as one of the toughest pieces of gun control legislation in the country, an attempt to ban all across California the “bullet button.”

If you don’t know a “bullet button” is, it’s another device, like the old “thumbhole stock,” designed specifically to comply with the ridiculous language of absurd “gun-control” laws.

California years ago banned “large” (meaning “regular”) magazines which can be quickly changed by pushing a magazine release lever, see, requiring that rifles have “fixed” magazines that can be removed only by using a tool.

Scratching their heads, manufacturers came up with a release lever that can be operated only with a tool – pushing in a recessed button with, say, the tip of a bullet — in order to comply with the law. Gun-banners, of course, responded by trying to ban the new, legal configuration (designed to meet a requirement THEY had set), shrieking that it’s merely an attempt “to “get around the law” – kind of like saying that if you drive 59 miles per hour, you’re trying to “get around” a law designed to prevent high-speed driving by setting a 60 mph speed limit.

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‘I’m so mad I just want to spit’

9:39 pm April 2nd, 2014

My friend Ed was a United States Marine. Some would say he was an “ex-Marine,” but I’m not sure these guys are ever “ex-” Marines.

Ed lived in Connecticut. It’s my birthplace, but a state I left long ago. If I needed to be reminded why, my recent conversation with Ed’s widow would have done it.

“If my husband hadn’t died, I would never have known about this, and I would have become a criminal on January first,” Ann says.

Ed was active in the program of the federal Director of Civilian Marksmanship, back in the 1980s, helping law-abiding citizens acquire surplus government combat rifles “at cost” — a proper role for the federal government, which is required to “arm the militia” (and we’re still waiting for our quad 50s, by the way.)

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It’s better to be thought a fool than to sit down at the typewriter and remove all doubt . . .

8:05 pm March 17th, 2014

I bought a few jazz records over the weekend, as I do whenever the opportunity arises.

One was a 10-inch Mercury LP from 1950, produced by Norman Granz and titled “Charlie Parker with Strings.” The disc was a bit controversial when producer Granz brought it out. Critics wondered whether Bird Parker, who had fought the hard fight over the previous decade to introduce the new melodic and rhythmic approach of small combo be-bop, was “selling out” to produce a more marketable sound. (They needn’t have worried. More mature evaluation has concluded Parker merely refused to stay in a rut, was always willing to try new combinations.)

The second disc I bought was something I normally wouldn’t have given a second look. Not that I wish to say anything negative about “The Moanin’ Sax of Ace Cannon,” 1964, Hi Records number 12014. After all, Cannon played with Bill Black, who was once Elvis Presley’s bass player (so there!), and he indeed has no problem carrying the tune of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” It’s just that there are millions of discs out there in Herb Alpert/Mitch Miller/Andy Williams land, and I believe in leaving most of them — including the “Memphis Soul” sound of Hi Records, whose heyday came a little later in the ’60s when they signed Al Green — to those who will appreciate them more than I.

In fact, I bought the Ace Cannon record for one reason: So that I could share with you, verbatim, the liner notes of one Elton Whisehunt, billed as representing the Memphis Press-Scimitar (a Scripps afternoon daily that closed in 1983 after losing circulation for decades) while also serving as a “Billboard Music Week Correspondent.”

“The true artist will strive . . . to play the music as it is written,” the authoritative Mr. Whisehunt advises us.

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Applause lines and other nonsense

8:51 am March 6th, 2014

Among scores of other promises, some more and some less likely than walking on water, Barack Obama devoted a paragraph in his recent State of the Union address to the age-old Democratic promise of more gun control — vowing he’ll proceed even without the cooperation of Congress.

“I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook,” the lame-duck president intoned.

“Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day,” he continued. “I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say ‘we are not afraid.’”

Could this mean federal indictments are finally to be handed down against the G-men who murdered all those innocent souls at Waco and Ruby Ridge?

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There are two ‘classes,’ you see, the peasants and the elected elite

8:13 pm March 3rd, 2014

NOTE TO READERS: Vin Suprynowicz specifically authorizes & encourages the copying, forwarding and re-posting of this column, with the sole proviso that, as a matter of courtesy, no new material not of his making be interpolated (mixed in) to create the impression he wrote it. Column originally posted at vinsuprynowicz.com

On Tuesday morning, March 4, Kermitt Waters, a Las Vegas attorney whose main job is defending Nevada property owners whose land is being seized by government agencies offering low-ball prices (and who to that end joined with retired Judge Don Chairez to successfully bring us the “PISTOL” property-rights initiative back in 2004-2006) will stand before the full Nevada Supreme Court on the top floor of the leaky boondoggle “Regional Justice Center” in Las Vegas, staging a last-ditch defense of the constitutional right of Nevadans to participate in their own government through the initiative and referendum process, as supposedly guaranteed by the state Constitution.

With the public kept away by limited seating and armed guards operating metal detectors, Mr. Waters will stand alone. He will be there on his own time and at his own expense, with nothing to gain financially. Arrayed against him will be the expensive and fancy lawyers of the Nevada state Legislature, the Nevada Attorney General’s office (defending Nevada’s Secretary of State), the casino industry, the mining industry, and a plethora of other special interests anxious to see that the common citizenry is left with no ability to go to the polls and do end-runs around the state lawmakers who these potentates have bought and paid to do their bidding.

Hardly anyone is paying attention. And because the political appointees who make up Nevada’s high court are political animals, Mr. Waters’ efforts are probably doomed to be tossed out on a number of grounds – “not ripe, no standing,” what have you — without the real issue even being discussed.

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