Filibuster? Blame Aaron Burr.

It’s 1804. Aaron Burr kills Alexander Hamilton but he’s still the vice president, runs out of town. Back, 1805, he’s in the chamber. He’s still dispensing advice in the Senate. And Burr says, you’re a great deliberative body but a really great chamber has a very clean rulebook and yours is a mess. And he singles out that previous question motion. They get rid of it in 1806, not because they wanted to create filibusters, right, not because they saw the great deliberative body of the Senate and they needed a right way to protect the rights of minorities. That rule was gone because Aaron Burr told them to get rid of it and it hadn’t been used yet.

Sarah Binder
On the Media – The Filibuster: Protection or Obstruction? – Apr 6, 2017

Robert ReichThe Only Way Democrats Will Get Anything Done – Feb 25, 2021 (facebook)

The Senate isn’t a democratic body. It is a body created to ensure that states had a voice in the federal government. That is its reason for existing and that is why it is made up the way that it is. But that doesn’t mean that the rules that govern the Senate should be broken in such a way that it can’t get business done because the minority wants to roll around on the floor like a temperamental child that doesn’t get what it wants (Yes, Ted Cruz. I’m imagining you with chocolate smeared on your face and wearing an OshKosh jumper rolling on the Senate floor right now, destroying my fond memories of Green Eggs and Ham. Petulant. Small. Child. Ted Cruz) The Senate simply needs to restore the motion to call the previous question that still exists in the House rules and in the basic parliamentary rules that govern most legislative bodies (Robert’s Rules of Order) Striking that rule in the Senate is what has lead to the impasse of the filibuster.

It is amusing to me that the rule was originally struck because it was thought that Senators were too civilized to need to end debate with a vote since no Senator had ever refused to stop talking when it was clear that he was not convincing anyone. Had the original Senators known the future, known that James Calhoun would use the filibuster to bring the United States to the brink of Civil War, that Mitch McConnell and his Republicans would use it to stop the Senate from being able to get anything done, they would have left the ability to call the previous question in place. If we could talk to them today they would probably marvel at our inability to simply set the filibuster aside as a bad idea that has long outlived its usefulness. They had just voted themselves as no longer subject to the King of England a few decades earlier. Don’t like the rules? Change the rules.

Editor’s note

This was originally published as a quote from the episode of On the Media that tops the article, near the date when the episode released. Since this is a problem that we are still talking about four years later, I have moved it forward to today and added more of my thoughts on the subject, like I had originally intended to do when I set the quote aside to be published later, and then published even later after my thoughts evaporated.

The First Presidential Impeachment

I queued up the latest episode of Throughline when it came out on the 14th of January, and I wondered what take they would give on the subject of impeachment now that we were in the second impeachment for Donald Trump:

Throughline – Impeachment – January 14, 2021

The episode turned out to be a rebroadcast of a previous episode (High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Feb. 28, 2019) but as I was listening to the episode I was thinking “yeah. I wrote an article about my experience reading this book. What happened to that?”

After looking through my online drafts, I can tell my self from the middle of January what happened to it. I flushed it. I flushed the whole article. I was so disgusted with the results of President Trump’s impeachment in 2019 and trial in the early months of 202o (what feels like a decade ago now) that I didn’t see the point in adding an article about this book to the blog. I mean to say, the book and the first impeachment of a President in United States history had no bearing on the results of this modern President’s flirtation with perhaps being punished for his infractions by being impeached for some of them. The tale had no bearing other than that he was left in office just as Andrew Johnson had been, to the disgust of everyone who cared about the future of the country and the plight of the former slaves who were betrayed by Andrew Johnson.

Because I’m fanatical about saving everything I write somewhere, it turned out that there still was a draft of the article sitting in my backups waiting to be dusted off and revisited. Since President Trump has been so enormously stupid as to attempt to overthrow the United States government and not even understand that he should probably run away after failing so spectacularly to do even that job correctly, he has been impeached for an unprecedented second time, almost exactly thirteen months since he was impeached for the first time. Impeached for sedition. That’ll look good on his resume. What follows is an amended set of thoughts on the subject of the book and the relevance of the first impeachment of a sitting President with the current governmental tragedy that we are witnessing.

Impeaching a President implies that we make mistakes, grave ones, in electing or appointing officials, and that these elected men and women might be not great but small—unable to listen to, never mind to represent, the people they serve with justice, conscience, and equanimity. Impeachment suggests dysfunction, uncertainty, and discord—not the discord of war, which can be memorialized as valorous, purposeful, and idealistic, but the far less dramatic and often squalid, sad, intemperate conflicts of peace, partisanship, race, and rancor. Impeachment implies a failure—a failure of government of the people to function, and of leaders to lead. And presidential impeachment means failure at the very top.

Brenda Wineapple

The Impeachers (2019)

I picked up The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple  after hearing her interviewed on several podcasts over a few weeks in August, 2019. I listened to it over the course of a month or so in fifteen minutes stretches as I got ready for bed and then tried to go to sleep. When I dusted off the first abortive attempt to write an article about this book, I decided to listen to it again while editing this article and adding to it. I have now been listening to the book for two days straight and finished it on the morning of the third day. It is much better than I originally thought, and it is packed full of relevant details about the current president and his predicament.

It isn’t the most sleep inducing of books, which is a point in its favor, but I have to keep relistening to chapters in order to try to keep all the players straight. This is a flaw in the narrative that has been constructed for the story of the impeachment of Andrew Johnson to be told in. I have read better histories over the course of the years, but there is nothing particularly bad about this one. It flows well from chapter to chapter, I simply can’t keep all the names straight because I don’t understand their place in the overall story. In case anyone else is having this problem, I’ll attach a list of the obscure characters that the author seems to insufficiently touch on at the end of this article, as well as include a few quotes from them interspersed in the text. I looked them up out of curiosity anyway, I might as well list their names and what I took away from stumbling across them online here in this article. However, the best way to learn about the subject of the book, Andrew Johnson and his direct impeachers, is to just read the book or read one of the numerous other books that have been written about him and them.

Here’s an example of why this book is relevant today:

I cannot believe there is really any danger of armed resistance to impeachment. The force which Johnson could command is so small and the suicidal folly of the course so evident. Still, Johnson is an exception to all rules.

Moorfield Storey

Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump resemble each other in character. Vain, narcissistic and borderline sociopaths, with a certain kind of charisma that they both used to raise crowds to their defense when they were speaking extemporaneously, but when looked at later in the cold light can be seen to be voicing sentiments that are almost completely without merit. They are cut from very similar cloth and neither of them should have ever been allowed near the levers of power, and abused their power when it was given to them.

The story of the first presidential impeachment stems out of the first assassination of a United States president, which followed directly on the heels of the Civil War, a conflict that finally put to rest the question of slavery that had badgered American reality and morality since the founding of the United States following the separation of the American colonies from Great Britain.

I recommend that anyone interested in this subject also read Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin or at least become passingly familiar with the subjects that swirled around in political circles of the day. Because, while the book is entertaining and self-contained from the perspective of explaining most of what you need to know about the subject of the first impeachment of a president, it isn’t going to tell you just how embedded the common notion of white supremacy was, a concept that was later scientificated into eugenics, which in the modern day is inseparable from white supremacy itself, even though it is still an active science in several countries.

Without that understanding, you will not be able to credit just how hard it was to find enough people of power to make the kinds of changes in the South stick that needed to stick without turning the entire project into another form of genocide:

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Abraham Lincoln – Second Inaugural Address – Saturday, March 4, 1865

Threading that needle, avoiding the mass slaughter of the plantation owners for the purpose of providing property and means for their now freed slaves, while at the same time allowing the former slaves enough space to be able to exercise their newly-granted legal rights, was the task before the country when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the task that Andrew Johnson was not capable of executing. A fact that he demonstrated many times before the House of Representatives was forced to impeach him for his transgressions of the law.

I especially loved the explanations that Benjamin Butler came up with to explain what it is that falls within the realm of ideas encapsulated by the phrase High Crimes and Misdemeanors:

An impeachable misdemeanor might be an act that subverted the principles of government, such as one that violated the Constitution or that flouted an official oath or duty or law. It could be an act that abused or usurped power.

The Senate was bound by no law, either statute or common, that should limit your constitutional prerogative. The Senate, acting as a court, was a law unto itself. Bound only principles of equity and justice where the laws of the people was supreme.

The Impeachers, Chapter Twenty-Two

The Senate is not required to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt in order to hold the president accountable for the crimes he has been charged with, an idea that is also encapsulated in this article from The Atlantic, as well as my own article on the subject. These definitions did not stand in the way of the president’s defenders then and now, insisting that there were no laws broken so the impeachment could not be a valid one but only a political one. Even a political impeachment is valid, if the reasons for the impeachment are dire enough.

If there was a movie made of what happened after Lincoln was assassinated its title should be Betrayal. Betrayal is what Andrew Johnson did to the visions of Abraham Lincoln. A betrayal of the formerly enslaved people in favor of the wealthy white landowners. If these downtrodden people had been given the voice they were promised back in 1865, we wouldn’t have needed to impeach a white supremacist president in 2019, and then impeach him again in 2021.

Andrew Johnson not only deserved impeachment, he should have been impeached sooner. Andrew Johnson was not the first president that should have been impeached and removed from office. Andrew Jackson should also have been impeached and removed because of his unwillingness to enforce and abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court. He was not impeached because he had a House of Representatives and a Senate that agreed with his treatment of the native peoples in Georgia. These supporters did not mind that he enriched himself by stealing the natives land and selling it through authorized representatives, selling it to whites that wanted to possess the land. (Jacksonland)

Mitch McConnell comparing the Republicans who impeached Andrew Johnson to the Democrats who have impeached Donald Trump did get one thing right. Both impeachments were undertaken late, and both impeachments will likely end with injustice done to the Constitution and the ideal of the rule of law. In the case of the impeachment of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell is already on record as being intent on doing injustice.

The modern record should not distract from the historical though. It is the process of following the trends through history that provides the illumination for current events, not the other way around. Andrew Johnson never did get the justice that he so richly deserved, and that is yet another reason why we remain in this quandary today.

Putting aside such causes of the Senate’s action as women, whiskey, cowardice, greenbacks, Free Masonry, Negro-hate, offices for one’s sixteen pine-tree cousins, a diseased Chief Justice, spite, dyspepsia and noodleism – It is evident, on the face of things, that while a very large majority of the people, and specially of the Republican party, wished its success, there was a very strong doubt among the party leaders whether such success would help the party.

Wendell Phillips, The Impeachers, chapter 27
Characters

Roughly listed in the order that they appear in the book:

  • Edwin Stanton – Perhaps the most famous of Lincoln’s cabinet. You see a different side of the man in this history than you will see in other histories.
  • William Seward – Secretary of State under both Lincoln and Johnson. A much more despicable figure than I had understood him to be from other histories I have read. What a strange man he must have been.
  • Thaddeus Stevens – Leader of the abolitionists in the House. Played memorably by Tommy Lee Jones in the movie Lincoln, he has never been treated more kindly as a character anywhere other than in that movie, and that is a shame on our nation and what our nation means. Stanchly even handed, but willing to manipulate the rules of the House of Representatives to serve the needs of the nation itself, we need at least one legislator equal to him in today’s Congress. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have any of them.
  • Charles Sumner – Leader of the abolitionists in the Senate. No one seems to like him, and there is little of him in this book. Still, we should understand who he was if we are to understand his place in history. I’ll have to try to find more to read about him.
  • Lyman Trumbull – Coauthor of the thirteenth amendment. Author of some of the freedman’s legislation. Senator from Illinois.
  • Thomas J. Durant – Former federal officer and an attorney in New Orleans where he witnessed the sadistic massacre there in 1866.
  • George Boutwell – Former Democrat turned radical abolitionist Republican.
  • James Mitchell Ashley – Proposed the resolution to impeach Andrew Johnson. For this and for his stance on educating the populace (including former slaves) he was soundly defeated in 1868 and never held elected office again.
  • Benjamin Butler – Benjamin Butler would open the House Manager’s prosecution case against Andrew Johnson in the Senate. More should have been written about the history of this man, given how important his role is in the impeachment trial. Butler provides the definitions for the offenses that Andrew Johnson was impeached for, quoted above.

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

Betsy Peratrovich, granddaughter of the civil rights activist, told Google her thoughts about her legacy. “She and my grandpa Roy were quite a team,” she said. ” He liked to give her all of the credit, as she continually inspired him to strive to improve the lives of Alaska Native peoples.

“But my dad recounts that they both used to sit around the dining table at night where together they typed letters, wrote and practiced speeches, and strategized on how best to secure equal rights for all,” she added.

Newsweek
twitter.com/GoogleDoodles

I thought I’d put out an article on the actual day that is hers. That is today. At least, in Alaska today is her day. Everywhere else in the US we still hold native Americans as second class citizens. Unofficially.

Second Impeachment

To Senators Cruz and Cornyn

You were in the capitol that day. You know what the mob did. You know who sent that mob to the capitol, looking for your blood and the blood of your fellow legislators as well as the blood of the Vice President who loyally served him for four years. The guilty person I’m referencing is Donald Trump. In 2016 he said he wouldn’t accept a vote outcome that showed that he lost, even though he planned on losing. That is the poor excuse for a human being that Donald Trump has always been. He reiterated this unwillingness to accept defeat before the 2020 election was held, after the election results were known, and still refuses to allow anyone to call him the former president within his earshot.

He lost, yet he refuses to admit the truth of this to anyone, including himself. He is an active threat to all of us individually and to you personally as a locus of power inside the American government, power that can oppose his will and the will of the mob that he controls even to this day. He and they will come for you eventually. Sooner or later there will come a time when he and they draw a line that you won’t cross, and then you will be eliminated in your turn just as every person that refuses to back his play has been betrayed over the decades that he has been in business, let alone in power as the president. This is an unavoidable course once you start down the road to dictatorship, the kind of country that Donald Trump and his supporters want to remake the United States into.

There is only one way for you to avoid this fate, avoid it for all of our sakes. You must convict Donald Trump for the many, many crimes he has committed over the last four years as well as for the ones he committed since last November when he lost his chance to be president again. Convict him and then bar him from ever holding public office again. Only then will we be free from the fear and hatred that Donald Trump wields as a weapon. We may still have to fight the White Nationalists that his behavior and your blindness in supporting him have empowered over the last four years, but at least they will not have Trump to lead them anymore.

If you don’t convict him for his crimes and bar him from ever serving in public office again, you will have loosed the hounds of war as surely as if you released them yourself. The White Nationalists will be empowered, and Trump will lead them to take control of the United States government again, just as they are taking over the state governments under the colors of the Republican party right now, while you blindly continue to pretend that it isn’t happening.

Hell is coming, Senator. On February 5th of last year, when you didn’t convict Donald Trump at his first impeachment trial, you set us up to lose half a million lives to the coronavirus under his leadership. All that blood is on your hands. The death toll will be even higher if you fail to uphold the law this time. Millions will die as the country tears itself apart from within, killed by your willingness put party over country and not remove the threat that resides within your own political party. Killed by the enemies from within the country that back this cancerous growth in your party.

May the blood of your evil deeds ever lie heavily upon you for that vote last February and for the actions that your partisan blinders keep you from taking now. Hell is coming for us all, unless you act to convict this cancer named Donald Trump and bar him from ever holding office again. If you fail us, I pray that hell will find you and yours sooner than it finds me and mine. Hell may spare me and mine if I am clever enough to avoid the scythe that death wields, but it will certainly not spare you.

Convict Donald Trump and bar him from ever holding public office again. That is the right choice, and no one knows these facts better than you do. Back the prosecutions that are mounted against him and his supporters for the crimes that they have committed. Dedicate yourself once again to the country that you took an oath to preserve, and perhaps you will be spared like Scrooge on that fateful night when he saw the error of his ways. No one knows the future. The known acts of President Trump warrant his conviction and his demonstrated willingness to subvert the rule of law requires you to bar him from ever holding office again. These things we do know. They now require you to act.

A letter I sent to our Texas Senators

Here is a video of the first day of the House managers arguments as recorded on C-Span:

C-Span – U.S. Senate Impeachment Trial – Feb 10, 2021

On January 6, President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead.

Joaquin Castro (Heather Cox Richardson on Facebook)

Second day of the House managers arguments as recorded on C-Span:

C-Span – U.S. Senate Impeachment Trial – Feb 11, 2021

The defenses arguments and questions as recorded on C-Span:

C-Span – U.S. Senate Impeachment Trial – Feb 12, 2021

The lunacy of the defenses arguments is only outdone by the lunacy of the votes of the 43 Republicans that effectively shut down the bid to legislatively convict Donald John Trump for crimes he had been demonstrated to have committed by the House managers, and after that to have legislatively castrated any future Trumpist moves to make the United States a monarchy run by Trumpists in the future by barring him from holding future office, on their own stated basis of insisting, in contravention of their own oaths of office, that they still didn’t believe they had the right to sit in judgement of a president who had left office, a question that had been settled in day one of the trial, left me once again bereft of hope and vision for any meaningful future for this country.

Those of the forty-three Senators that openly stated that the question of the rightness of trial was their reason for why they voted to acquit, should be censured and removed from office for their violations of their oaths to the constitution. It can’t be more simply stated than that. If they cannot be bound to their own decisions of less than a week prior, then they have no moral backbone on which they can base future judgements. They should be replaced as soon as possible with people who can stand by their own decisions, and the decisions of their own legislative bodies. Yes. I am looking at you Ted Cruz and at you John Cornyn. You have disgraced your office, your state, and yourselves. You cannot justifiably presume to represent any Texas citizen in good standing, no matter what justifications you offer for your actions.

The Bulwark Podcast – David Priess on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Impeachment – February 17th, 2021

Those were your people once, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Cornyn. The talking heads on the podcast and their audience of tens of thousands of subscribers. Now they are your opponents.

Happy New Year

If you only listen to one year in review show, this is the one to listen to. It’s just six minutes. This is the tl;dr version of a review show, set to music:

Vox. com – Today, ExplainedThe Year in Review – December 30, 2020

Now, if you are in for more of a marathon, take a look at Netflix’s Death to 2020:

Netflix – Death to 2020

Bring spirits to this one, and be prepared to laugh and groan your way through the crazy attempt to bring humor to a year that is definitively beyond the ability to satirize. But they do try.

There there is Amazon Prime’s Yearly Departed:

Amazon Prime VideoYEARLY DEPARTED

It too is a respectable entry into the annals of the shitshow that was the year 2020. Stay for the credits. How they put the comics together digitally is a thing of beauty.

The Wife and I sat up drinking until midnight, watching both these shows before tuning in to the creepy-assed feed from an empty Times Square on Youtube to watch the ball drop for Central Standard Time, before they hauled that sucker back up again to drop it again the next hour.

NBC NewsNew Year’s Eve Celebrations – Dec 31, 2020 (Times Square NYC pulled down their video)

Or maybe they just put the video of the ball drop on on a loop and replayed the one-hour loop twenty-four times? Who can tell? What I can tell is that the official feed did not have the sad CST drop that I saw as part of my New Year’s celebration. Everyone had cleaned up and left aside from some holdouts who were still braving the cold at one am EST. NYC needs to break with tradition and embrace the universal time code (UTC) they should celebrate the new year at 7:00 pm EST and call it done. It’s no more midnight in NYC at 12:00 am than it is noon (as measured by the sun) at 12:00 pm. Tell those railroad barons what they can do with their time zones! Throw off the yoke of the tick-tock man!

Anyway, fuck you 2020. Your next of kin might well be worse, but I’m well done of you no matter what happens later.

Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day, fritter and waste the hours in a off-hand way.

Pink Floyd, Time (The Dark Side Of The Moon, track 4)

Bag Man

The story of the downfall of Spiro Agnew, Tricky Dick Nixon’s Vice President. He was insanely popular with American conservatives of the time, just as Richard Nixon was popular with the majority of Americans of the time. They were both popular when they were elected. Spiro Agnew had a secret that wasn’t much of a secret in Baltimore where he had come from, and that secret would lead to some strange twists and turns in the near future as Richard Nixon broke laws in his attempts to stay in office.

It was the conjunction of these two popular people on the office of Vice President and President, two popular people who had both committed crimes that they could be removed from office over, that lead to the memo from the Justice Department that advised that a President can’t be indicted (the Atlantic) as Rachel Maddow discusses in this segment of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

The Late Show with Stephen ColbertWhat Mysteries Does Rachel Maddow Hope Are Solved Once The President Is Out Of Office? – Dec 10, 2020

Without that advisory from the Office of Legal Counsel Donald Trump would have been indicted for his crimes before he was impeached, and his impeachment and removal would have been a foregone conclusion because you can’t be President of the United States and conduct the business of the United States from prison. Well, Mitch McConnell and the cult-like followers of QAnon would have said he was railroaded and that the superhuman Donald Trump could easily do the country’s business from prison, but they wouldn’t have represented a majority. They would have been an even smaller minority than the one that came out and voted for Donald Trump in the November election.

Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House by Rachel Maddow 

I’ve mentioned the podcast that spawned the book she is out stumping for three times on the blog over the past few years. Unfortunately all the links that were in previous articles now lead to non-existent feeds as far as I can tell, so I will have to re-edit them eventually to point to a new feed location (Done. However the feed was restored when I started editing, so I left some of the old links in. Fingers crossed that the feed stays up this time. -ed.) In the meantime, the podcast is also on Youtube just like the segment of LSSC that I linked above.

MSNBCBag Man Podcast – Apr 10, 2019

If you love a good yarn, especially a true tale of intrigue, check out this podcast and book. you’ll definitely enjoy the story. I did.

Space Heaters

The rental house I lived in when I moved to San Angelo in 1985 had these damn space heaters in it. Still had them, fifty years after the house itself should have been condemned. Only the ones in the bathroom and living room worked, and when I say worked I mean the gas could be turned on and lit, and there were enough heating elements in them to radiate heat out into the room. I don’t mean that they kept the house, much less the room they were in, warm.

When I moved into the place in the Spring of that year, my new roommate had been living there alone for quite some time. A recent divorcee, he was living in a bachelor’s paradise. The kitchen sink had a motorcycle engine in it. Under the engine was the rotting remains of a summer feast that he hadn’t bothered to clean up before taking the engine apart on top of it. The bathtub had the engine from his truck in it. He had been showering off with a garden hose outside, or going home to his parents house on lake Nasworthy to get cleaned up. Had been driving several miles out to their lake house on a pretty regular basis, before the motorcycle broke down and after the truck broke down. When the motorcycle quit working he was kind of stuck in a rut, until I showed up.

I slept on the floor in the bedroom, on a mattress we salvaged from somewhere. He had his bed in the former sitting room. It had its own front door that we never used. A second front door that let onto the front porch, the nice entrance to the nicest part of the house, the one that still had the best finishes in it for those long-gone guests of the poor people who had probably assembled the building out of the spare trash that they had cobbled together from another construction project somewhere in town.

How we got through that year is a mystery shrouded in clouds of Ganja smoke. What I can say is we made the place livable in pretty short order. We put the truck back together with twine and bailing wire, and he rebuilt the engine for his motorcycle, which let him go back to riding motocross in his spare time, and we managed to live there for most of the rest of that year until the freeze hit. when it got cold, the downside of the shabby and time-worn construction of the house showed itself.

The house was made of pasteboard. What’s that, you ask? Paper? Not paper no, but it might as well have been paper for all the good that it did. To assemble a pasteboard house you put up corner posts and frame the doors and windows. They are generally square houses with four rooms, one in each quadrant of the structure. As I mentioned, ours still had two front doors. One door for the sitting room that you invited your guests into, and the other door was for the living room, where the family spent their time, back in the 19o0’s when it was built. In the center of the structure, where the four interior walls would meet, you put the main structural post to hold up the peak of the roof, which slopes down to just about head height at the eaves. The roof was usually made of tin, and was definitely the most durable part of that house.

After you have your doors and windows framed up, you run lap siding from the corner posts to the door and window frames. There are no studs in the walls outside of the studs required to hold the windows and doors in place. The interior walls could be made of almost anything. Anything that would hold up to what came next. On the inside face of the exterior siding you then staple chicken wire or plaster lathe (if you could afford that) and then you plastered the chicken wire and the backside of the siding to make the inside face of the exterior wall of your house. You would then carefully plaster the interior walls so as to make them look like walls, too.

The resulting interior surface is markedly strange-looking, with accentuated bulges all around the doors and windows, where the only framing in the walls actually existed. You have now created your pasteboard house. It is paste applied directly to the boards that the rain runs off of on the outside of your house, and the interior walls are so thin as to make privacy largely a figment of your imagination.

There is no insulation value in the walls of a pasteboard house. The temperature outside the house is the temperature inside the house. Those little space heaters were like candles in the wind, the drafts through the cracks in the wall were that bad. We had to prop our feet up right in front of the fire to feel the heat at all. The less said about the intolerable heat in the Texas summers, the better. The swamp cooler had mosquitos living in it, just to add to the fun of the oppressive heat. But on those winter nights when it really got cold, it was impossible to get warm anywhere in that house.

The pipes froze, of course. Indoor plumbing was an afterthought, an addition that took up the space where a sleeping porch had been once upon a time. That room had the space heater that could keep the room warm, since it was the smallest room with the lowest ceiling. But the pipes froze routinely because there was no way to keep them warm. We could leave the water trickling over night, but that usually just meant we had icicles hanging from the faucets when we woke up.

The last few weeks we were there, the wooden floors started to bow up, which made sleeping or even walking on the floor an interesting dexterity test, especially when stoned. Clearly the exterior walls were not keeping the moisture out of the house, and the resulting swelling of the floorboards caused them to buckle in several places. We never could figure out how to get them to lay flat again once they started doing that. Which was too bad. The floors were about the nicest thing about the place before they started to buckle.

I caught pneumonia that winter in that rental house on Adams Street. I caught pneumonia and had to beg a space to stay at a friend’s house. A friend’s house that seemed like a palace in comparison to the rental we had on Adams. A palace with insulated walls and central heat and air. It even had indoor plumbing that wasn’t an afterthought tacked onto the back, a bathroom taking up what had been the best place to sleep in the house during the summer. Instead the bathroom was inside the house, like a bathroom should be.

That was my last experience with space heaters. I got lucky. I didn’t asphyxiate because the rooms were so drafty there was always enough oxygen to feed the gas fires and the living, breathing people, and I didn’t set myself on fire sleeping with my feet in the grate. Also? The friend I bummed some crash space off of was generous enough to let me keep living in that comparative palace that her parents had entrusted to her, let me keep living there until I found an apartment in a completely different part of town. An apartment that wouldn’t kill me. Which was a step up, for me.

Changing Government

Manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Thomas Jefferson
Morning Edition – Thomas Jefferson Descendant Reflects On His Ancestor’s Memorial And Legacy – July 15, 2020

Christine Herndon Provence Schulte 1927-2020

Christine Herndon Provence Schulte passed away on Thursday, November 5th, 2020, in the presence of her loving daughter, Sandra.

She was born on October 1, 1927 in Madill, Oklahoma to W. C. “Pete” and Ossie Biles Herndon.  She graduated from Madill High School in 1945 and went on to get her associates degree at Murray State School of Agriculture, Tishomingo, Oklahoma in 1947.  It was there that she met Elmer A. “Bunk” Provence.  They married on Oct 16, 1948 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  She went on to get her B.S. in Business from Oklahoma State University in 1956.  

After graduation, She and Elmer moved to Lawton, Oklahoma where she worked as a bookkeeper from 1957 until 1963 when they adopted their daughter Sandra Kay.  The family then moved to Altus, Oklahoma in 1965.  

Christine returned to school at Southwestern State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma and graduated in 1971 with a second Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education.  She became a business teacher at Altus High School in 1971 and taught general business classes and typing. Many of her students fondly remember their experiences with her and credit her with their success in business. She continued teaching at Altus High School through the 1984 school year.  

In 1984, she and Elmer both retired and moved to their farm outside of Sterling, Oklahoma, where she attended the First Baptist Church and was a member of the Sterling Ladies Town & Country Club and the Arts & Craft Club. She was also a member of the Comanche County Retired Educators Association and the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association.

Elmer Provence passed away on Dec 17, 1997. She lived alone in the house she and Elmer built until March 2, 2002, when she married Henry J. Schulte.  The Schulte’s lived together on his farm on the opposite site of the same highway that bordered the Provence farm until Henry passed away on April 8 of 2006.

She continued to be active in the social life of her community of Sterling until stricken with illness in 2016 when she moved to Austin, Texas in order to be closer to her daughter. We owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Yanez and all the nurses at Clare Creek memory care home for their tireless work. We know that Mary Belle and the other ladies at the home will miss Christine a lot.

She was preceded in death by her parents Pete and Ossie; her sisters: Janice Robinson and Betty Jane Matthews and her brother, Grover Herndon. She is survived by her daughter Sandra Kay Steele, her son-in-law Anthony Steele and her two grandchildren Alyssa and Gregory all of Austin, Texas, and numerous nieces and nephews. 

We are born with the seed of who we can be, unrealized at our core. To live fully we must find that seed and become the potential person we were always meant to be. It will be the hardest struggle that you can know in order to become that person, and yet it will be the adventure of a lifetime to engage in that struggle.

anonymous

Services will be held at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Lawton, Oklahoma where she will be laid to rest on November 11th, 2020 at 10:30 am. Donations may be made in her name to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, The Susan B Komen Foundation or the Disabled American Veterans.

Roxanne Longstreet-Conrad 1962-2020

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It was the iguana you noticed first. That much I can say for sure. The bright green iguana named Miss Iggy, who would one day go on to be an invited guest at conventions, a star attraction herself, before age crept up on her too and stole her away. It was the iguana I noticed first. I have always had a fascination for lizards. They simultaneously repulse and attract me with their odd movements and strange eyes. The next thing you might notice would be the smooth mane of raven-black hair. Then it would be the impish grin that seemed always to threaten to spread across her face. Above that expressive mouth were the sparkling eyes full of mischief. That was Roxanne, when we first met.

It was at an Armadillocon. I don’t remember the number or the year, but I know we were there as part of our Star Trek club, and I’m reasonably certain that the only reason I met Rox there was because the Wife was having one of her usual gabfests with her, and I needed the Wife’s attention for something else at the time. So here I was studying the iguana and the face while Rox and the Wife discussed the mutual experiences the two of them had growing up, and the various kinds of fandom the two of them were interested in. They both had a lot in common in those days, still do for the most part, but back then the trials that they both had faced resonated between the two of them.

It is a queer coincidence that Rox died this weekend, a day after Sean Connery. That is one of the things that I remember about her, the fascination we both shared for the movie Highlander, which is the role that I most strongly remember Sean Connery for. When Cat and Rox invited me to stay with them while I took my architectural exam, I remember that she and Cat, her husband, and I sat and watched an episode or two of the series. I can’t say I shared her fascination for the show, but we did both enjoy the narratives that could be constructed around the character of an immortal figure striding unknown through history. The ability to have a single persona witness the rise and fall of civilizations, virtually unchanged.

I had a real appreciation for the easy way that she could write narratives. I have always admired those great storytellers that can weave a good yarn out of almost anything, even if I don’t appreciate the actual stories themselves. The ability to just take a random object and craft a backstory for it is a true talent. The ability to make you see the thing in a new light, even without ever seeing the object at all, but describing it through words alone to the point where you swear that you know exactly what that object looks like. As I said, it is a true talent, and she had that talent in spades.

I wish I could say that I had read all her books and loved them, but I haven’t. I tend more towards an appreciation of a good biography or tome of history than I do almost any work of fantasy. The Wife and Daughter have read most of her books, and they recommend them highly to anyone who will listen to them. For myself, I was more interested in the person, rather than the stories she told. When Rox was at the table with you at dinner, the conversations were always light and lively. She was always quick to laugh and a joy to be around. All of us here in the Steele household are missing her greatly right now. I am so crushed by the news, even a full day later, that I can barely string these few words together as a tribute. I’m sure I will have more to say in the coming days. As the immediate grief lessons, the words will come back to me. They always do.

She was the one who encouraged me to start writing, if what I wanted to do was write. She was the one who suggested starting a blog and just putting my thoughts down in it a few at a time, as the ideas formed in my head. Just write it down, she said. So I did, and so I have. So I will again.

There has been too much death this year. 2020 is indeed a beastly year, and it can’t be over soon enough to suit me.