Friday, January 30, 2015

Murder, mystery, and Nazi spies

I’n not a fan of the true crime genre. All too much of it consists of cheap, exploitative stories written by unintelligent, poorly-educated hacks.

Every now and then a compelling story draws the attention of an enterprising reporter. The result is a book than surpasses its pedestrian competion.

Clint Richmond’s Fetch the Devil is just such a book.

In 1938, Hazel and Nancy Frome disappeared as they drove from El Paso to Dallas. Days later they were found murdered over a hundred southeast of El Paso. The wife and daughter of a prominent West Coast executive had been tortured for several days before they were killed and dumped in the desert. The investigation into the crime was the largest in Texas history. Yet, the crime was never solved despite the diligent efforts of talented investigators.

Richmond tells this story with verve while avoiding cheap sensationalism and pervy voyeurism. He also does a great job limning the historical settingAmerica a decade into the Great Depression, war clouds gathering in Europe, unrest in Mexico that threatens to spill across our southern border.

As is often the case with unsolved murders, the investigation was compromised by media-whoring and political jockeying by various police agencies.

Fetch the Devil ends with the author offering his hypothesis of who murdered the Frome’s and why. I found his ideas well supported by the facts and very convincing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Benghazi: Imagine a press corps that did its job

This piece by Sharyl Attkisson demonstrates that there are still important unanswered questions about the 2012 terrorist attack and the White House’s handling of it.

Unanswered Benghazi Questions: 8th in a Series
We do not know the answers to Attkisson’s questions. But we do know this much:

If there is no fire, the White House sure is wasting a lot of energy pumping out smoke screens.

If the WH has nothing to hide, they are not helping themselves by spreading so many lies.

The consequences for the republic are grave when the watchdog press sides with those in power.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The submarine cocktail: not a girly man drink

Edward Ellsberg:

Even so I had always come up after a dive numbed and stiff from the cold, requiring a powerful “submarine cocktail,” a pint of hot coffee and whisky, mixed half-and-half, to help thaw me out.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Two hundred years ago today

New Orleans

On this day in 1815, Andrew Jackson decisively defeated the British Army at New Orleans.

Robert Remini, in The Battle of New Orleans, wrote:

There was a time when the United States had heroes and reveled in them. There was a time when Andrew Jackson was one of those heroes, along with the men and women who stood with him at New Orleans and drove an invading British army back into the sea.

The victory was unexpected. The British had had the better of it in most of the land and sea battles and even burned Washington, DC. At New Orleans they had 8,000 regulars who were veterans of Wellington's army that had defeated the French in Spain. Jackson had only 4,000 troops most of whom were militiamen and recent volunteers.

Even more surprising was the lop-sided outcome. British losses were 291 dead, 1,262 wounded and 484 taken prisoner. The Americans lost only 55 KIA, 185 wounded and 93 missing.

We rarely commemorate the battle today, but for those who were alive in 1815 and for their children, it was a different story. Remini, again:

Americans in the first half of the nineteenth century did believe that January 8 would be remembered like July 4-- both dates representing the nation's first and second declaration of independence from Great Britain. Indeed some called the War of 1812 the Second War for Independence. Generally speaking, widespread observance of January 8 as a day of national celebration continued for the next fifty years.