August 27, 2021

Skip the Forensic Audits / Oltmann's Vindication

A delicious treat today from the NY Times no less. They had a long article about our hero Joe Oltmann as well as the enemy Eric Coomer.  A proposed drinking game: drink every time the press, including the Times, paints Coomer as a victim who gets death threats. Oltmann gets the same threats without the mention -- or that he’s spent $250k in legal fees, had to give up being CEO of his company, and had to line his bed with steel plates in case someone tries to shoot at him during the night. 

The Times piece was jokingly slanted, of course, but to make Coomer sound like a victim they had to get him to come clean about his past which includes a DUI arrests, addiction to heroin, being a skinhead in the ‘90s and being Antifa-friendly Trump-hater.  Oltmann had claimed he had screen shots of Coomer’s psychotic Facebook posts which Coomer had always denied -  Coomer now admits he did post those things. So we know Coomer lied at least about that. Some measure of justice anyway. 

**

Meanwhile Patrick Byrne made some good points today which I'm especially sympathetic to after learning of the gigantic amount of pain experienced by an Ohio Sec of State who wanted to understand electronic voting back a decade ago. From Byrne: 
"In my opinion, there are too many people asking for 'full forensic audits.'

Such products take an extended period of time and get mired in all sorts of political and legal wrangling.

But the sales pitch has been effectively disseminated, and people are buying it.

I much prefer the canvassing approach, because it puts the control back into the hands of the people and it's far faster at proving the fraud.

Here are some simple questions to illustrate my position...

Which strategy did Arizona politIcians stop early on, and which strategy did they allow to proceed?

Which strategy produces direct evidence of election fraud, and which strategy produces indirect evidence?

Which strategy produces revenue for the election audit industry, and which strategy empowers the people to take back our country?

When a canvasser finds an empty lot that voted, or a dead person who voted, or someone who moved away years ago that voted, they KNOW right then that election fraud is real. They tell their friends, and the demand for action swells.

When you win the fierce battle and find the funds to start a "full forensic audit" you get to sit on your hands and wait for months for an uncertain outcome.

You can start canvassing the minute you get your shoes on. Starting in your own neighborhood.

Don't get distracted by the sales pitch. Stay on task. We only have a limited time to fix this."

August 23, 2021

Election Integrity 2007-Style

I happened across a $3 copy of a former Ohio Sec of State's book, Democrat Jennifer Brunner. As a Secretary of State, she's forgotten more than I know about voting integrity especially given her level of interest. 

It's intriguing because she was an outsider in a Republican-dominated state (and any time one party dominates, corruption ensues). So I thought here was a fresh pair of eyes on the problem of voter fraud. And sure enough, she was a valiant fighter for the cause back in '06-'07. 

And it also speaks to the enormous amount of time, energy, help, and luck you need to look at our voting systems.  And this is with an energetic Secretary of State who appears to have honestly wanted election integrity. 

Reading her chapter on "Project Everest" - so named because of the daunting task of trying to understand the byzantine process - made me a lot more sympathetic to the AZ audit folks who, unlike Brunner, had neither the voting companies, the university help, corporate, and media folks on their side. And she barely made it happen!  Surely Lindell and Byrne and the rest will need a miracle. 

It certainly makes me realize there's no option other than to go back to paper ballots, as unlikely as that might be.  

Excerpts:

**********************************************************

On the campaign trail for Secretary of State, I heard question after question from people I talked with about the reliability of the state’s new voting systems, especially the electronic, touch screen voting systems. I promised what I dubbed a “top-to-bottom” review of Ohio’s voting systems if elected. I was able to fulfill that promise in Project EVEREST, a “top-to-bottom review of Ohio’s voting systems” that was called by a University of Massachusetts TechReport “the most comprehensive to date” in the nation.

For more than thirty years, voting system technology was fairly static, so an initial investment in a punch card or lever system was a decent investment that lasted for some years without needing replacement...

The longevity of the punch card and clunky, mechanical lever systems allowed counties to enjoy a fairly peaceful coexistence with state and federal requirements, as long as those requirements remained fairly static.

        **

In the minds of many, the lines blur between the punch card voting before 2006 and touchscreen voting from 2006 forward. Regardless, voting machine technology remains substandard to what we use everyday in banking and for travel.

The name EVEREST was a brainchild moniker of a staffer named David Klein, who worked extensively on the study, especially on documentation of the results. The name, EVEREST, stood for “Evaluation and Validation of Election Related Equipment, Standards and Testing.” Harnessing the help we needed to perform this study and keeping it on track many times made me think that finishing this project ever, let alone on time, was like climbing Mt. Everest.   Project EVEREST’s purpose was to review each type of certified voting systems in Ohio, (systems also used throughout the U.S.). Four major tasks were accomplished in testing each voting system: security assessment, configuration management...In lay terms, we wanted to see if the machines could be tampered with or "hacked" if they were being used properly by the state's boards of elections, if they performed with integrity and if the correct operational controls were in place to ensure their integrity. 

**

We designed the study to accomplish what I called “parallel, independent testing” by corporate and academic scientists, which allowed different parties to test Ohio’s (and the nation’s) voting systems using multiple methods. I knew I was taking a risk that each type of testing entity (corporate versus academic) could reach different conclusions, but science is science, and they came to the same conclusion.   

The overall conclusion made in Project EVEREST was this: "The findings of the various scientists engaged by Project EVEREST are disturbing. These findings do not lend themselves to sustained or increased confidence in Ohio’s voting systems. The findings appearing in the reports necessitate that Ohio’s voting process be modified to eliminate as many known risks to voting integrity as possible while keeping voting accessible to Ohio’s voters. These changes must be thoughtfully planned with the assistance of the Ohio General Assembly, Governor Strickland and Ohio’s election officials. As they are implemented, these changes must be made widely known to the public to facilitate orderly and cost efficient implementation."

             **

It has been said that elections belong to the people. Excessive dependence on any voting machine company to operate the state’s elections, when that company’s voting system is subject to trade secret or propriety information claims, results in a loss of transparency that should exist to assure election officials and the public

                **

The information available to the scientists who performed the assessments of this study is some of the most comprehensive information available to date for any such study...Our study involved a review of each system’s source code. Existing voting machine contracts provided the Secretary of State contractual access to these escrowed “brain architecture schemas” known as source codes. But getting timely access to them for each voting system was another story. I knew that being denied this critical access was just a temporary restraining order away in a lawsuit filed by jittery manufacturers, seeking to protect their investments and reputations...It was a delicate balance to work with the manufacturers, yet get what we needed to perform the study. 

                **

The Controlling Board process was fraught with politics, with local election officials quietly lobbying against us with legislators, many of whom were only too happy to object to what we were doing. In this process, the media was a boon to approval. We had kept the media well apprised of Project EVEREST’s progress, which was painstakingly but necessarily slow. No legislator dared vocally or visibly be against testing voting systems to prove Ohio elections were fair or to improve public trust in their integrity.

                **

Allowing myself to get a bit bruised and battered in the public process actually helped garner the understanding of the media and improved our chances of approval at the next hearing. We achieved approval, still needing to return to the bargaining table to cement final details with the researchers as subcontractors.

**

The most difficult part of the negotiations was resolving the differences that arose from and between the various parties of interest regarding confidentiality. Voting machine manufacturers wanted to protect their “trade secrets.”

I had agreed to the advance review by the companies because I believed this was necessary as a means to obtain their cooperation. They were providing us the source codes to which we were entitled and all necessary equipment and documentation needed for the study to have the necessary credibility and integrity. As part of our agreement, representatives of the manufacturers had even conducted training sessions to help our researchers know how the voting systems were to be set up and operated. This turned out to be important to preventing delay in the research process. For the manufacturers, it ensured that all tests on the machines were under proper conditions of use.

**

I told him flatly I would wait one day after it was released to them and then make the report public. I told him the contract, when read carefully, allowed me to do that. He tried first to say that the contract did not permit me to do that. That argument didn’t work.

 **

As cooperative as the manufacturers had been, I also knew that extremely negative findings could result in cold and calculated business decisions to protect good will and other assets with a court order to prevent me from releasing the study’s findings.

Finally, he said, “But, Jennifer, you’re going to get sued for releasing this report before three days.”

“But I may get sued anyway to stop me from releasing it if I wait,” I countered. 

“But that isn’t the understanding the voting machine companies had,” he said.   “It doesn’t matter what they understood. It’s what’s in the contract, “ I countered.                

**

Having participated at every stage of the study, I could speak like a teacher, covering the study’s major conclusions and giving specific illustrations of the types of tests that showed the flaws and vulnerabilities of the systems that had been thrust upon the states by a combination of a Congress that never wanted a Presidential election decided by a Supreme Court again and the lust of the “market” for the sale of voting machines for low-margin profits at massive volumes. But the inexperience of Congress in the ways of election administration that have been and continue to be primarily and stubbornly local lent itself to hasty testing funded in part by manufacturers that missed things like 1980’s versions of software that was augmented and modified in multiple computer languages, causing instability at best and sometimes outright failure to perform.

       **

Added to that were the practices of local governments, some better than others, that were often unprepared to take and account for federal money and make decisions about technology, let alone successfully implement it. Most boards had little to no previous exposure to this new voting technology....In many cases there had only been enough funding to buy the machines, not even extension cords, and certainly not to develop consistent training on the programming, maintenance and use of the machines.

         **

When I took office, I had held to the belief that, even though I am a Democrat, and Republicans controlled the legislature, there was enough common ground. I believed that both parties would want to work together to ensure reliable election results and a smooth election. The hotter the heat in the election kitchen became, the more that idea went up in smoke. By November 2008, the relationship between the two major political parties on election administration was more like bare-knuckled combat. It never ceased to amaze me that year that in their zeal to confound the reforms I was trying to make, some Republicans were willing to risk everything, even the efficacy of the election process as it would affect their own candidates.

**

When Ken Blackwell was still Ohio Secretary of State, Matt had openly criticized him, even though the two of them are Republican. Matt had taken a $10,000 check for the local Republican Party that represented the interest of the Diebold company during the HAVA-required voting machine procurement process several years earlier. He had been disciplined for it by the Franklin County Board of Elections, but he was neither prosecuted nor fired for facilitating the transaction. This same executive had informed me that the Dispatch believed that Matt had redeemed himself by speaking out against Ken Blackwell, who had engaged in at least one self-imposed news blackout with the Dispatch.

Progress Ohio, Ohio’s premier Democratic progressive nonprofit organization, headed by Brian Rothenberg, had made a public records request of Matt’s emails from his board of elections email account.

My “birthday present” in these emails was to feel like a patient who had been limping around for weeks who finally saw an x-ray of her broken leg and finally knew why she had been limping. Matt Damschroder’s emails were replete with conversations with staff at the [Columbus] Dispatch ranging from the reporter assigned to cover me to the editor to the associate publisher. In it were a myriad of emails from various other Republican local election officials from other counties in the state, often copied to personnel at the state Republican party. Then the two most astounding things jumped out at me in my perusal of Matt’s emails: his invitation to the reporter assigned to cover me to come to his house for dinner—and the reporter’s acceptance of the invitation.

When I was in Washington, DC attending the National Association of Secretaries of State’s conference, I called the editor of the Dispatch, Ben Marrison, at a session break. I told him I didn’t want the Dispatch reporter assigned to me covering me any more. I told Ben that I did not think the reporter could be fair and objective if he was having dinner at the home of Matt Damschroder (one of the reporter’s best sources who was at the same time one of our office’s biggest critics). Ben seemed shocked—I’m not sure at whether I actually called him and made the request, or at the allegation I lodged, or both.

With Patrick Gallaway and Jeff Ortega on one side of the long conference room table, with me at the end of the table and with the three representatives from the Dispatch on the other side, I listened as Ben Marrison flatly told me that at his paper there was a bright line between news and editorial content and that they were and could be fair with me. I argued, citing examples to back up my contentions. Nothing much was accomplished. I couldn’t tell them what to do, only how I viewed what they did. After that time it seemed to be just brief periods when this newspaper would let up from its sharp criticisms and sometimes editorialize in my favor.

**********************************************************************

Elsewhere on the web I saw this from back in 2019 when question election fraud was still widely approved. This is the most common sense thing you can't say other than a man is male and females are female: 

At the polling sites, human errors can occur when the electronic computerized pollbooks, voting machines and tabulators are set up. Computers can be damaged. They can be subject to electromagnetic interference during their operation. They can be incorrectly calibrated. Their input sensing function or reading ability can be distorted. They can experience random unintentional data corruption or electricity spikes. Problems can happen during software updates. New software patches are sometimes applied that can cause malfunction. How the machine records a voter’s choice can be incorrectly programmed into the machines.”

And these issues don’t include the obvious. With the most powerful office in the world at stake, insiders who have the right to secretly program our computerized voting machines could decide to manipulate the votes. Unauthorized programmers or hackers – in the United States – can do the same. 

August 18, 2021

On the Rapid Decline of Science

 Riveting read on the decline and fall of science: 

Something has gone very wrong in the basic research complex that we do have in the universities and in the federal funding system. We know something has gone very wrong because of the replication crisis. John Ioannidis at Stanford wrote this classic paper where he said “50% of published research is non-reproducible” which means you basically can’t reproduce the same results meaning you can’t do anything with the research, it’s basically fake. Interestingly he was studying biomedical research, which is an area of research you think would be very focused on getting things right. It subsequently turned out he might have been underestimating the problem. Fields like biomedicine might be as fake as 70%.  

Anyway, science right now is in an existential crisis. This is a real, real issue, and there’s now a generation of scientists who specialize in pointing this out and analyzing it. Andrew Gelman and others. I’ll give you an example: I had a conversation with the long-time head of one of the big federal funding agencies for healthcare research who is also a very accomplished entrepreneur, and I said, “do you really think it’s true that 50-70% of biomedical research is fake?” This is a guy who has spent his life in this world. And he said “oh no, that’s not true at all. It’s 90%.” [Richard laughs]. I was like “holy shit,” I was flabbergasted that it could be 90%.

He’s like “well look, 90% of everything is shit”, which is literally this thing called Sturgeon’s law which says that 90% of everything is bad. 90% of every novel written is bad, 90% of music, 90% of art… 90% of everything is bad. So his analysis was, anything you get in the field of medical experimentation, biomedical development, and this is going to be true of any field, there’s like five labs total in the world that are really good at what they’re doing...

But once you get out of those top five labs, it’s pretty much make-work, incremental, marginal improvements at best, and a complete waste of time otherwise. And I said “good God, why does the other 90% continue to get funded if you know this?” And he said, “well, there are all these universities and professors who have tenure, there are all these journals, there are all these systems and people have been promised lifetime employment.” 

**

There is a real argument that there are just a certain number of super-elite people. There are a certain number of people who are going to be really good scientists and it’s just not going to be that many. It’s some magical combination of intelligence, honesty, industriousness, integrity, the ability to recruit and build a team. In some ways being a top researcher is like being an entrepreneur, you have to actually pull all these different kinds of dilemmas together. 

And then of course, the implication of that from a societal standpoint is that we’ve really got to know who those people are and we’ve really got to give them room to run. We’ve really got to make sure they have room to run and are not driven out. 

**

So we’ve put these games in place because we thought we were systematizing ways of achieving excellence. If you go back and you read the people in the 1920s, people like Vannevar Bush, FDR’s science advisor, who basically codified modern university research in the 40s. He thought he was creating an optimized system for maximum output of high-quality research. And it’s an incentives problem. To your point, and everyone in business knows this, every time you define a metric immediately people will start gaming the metric. So if you tell me as a researcher in a university I need to start publishing journal articles, immediately I’m going to start publishing journal articles. Now, will anybody read them? Will anybody cite them? Will anybody care? Do they actually move the field ahead? Maybe, maybe not. So I think it’s possible we as a society spent 50 years assembling these systems and these games in the first half the 20th century, and then we spent the last half of the 20th century gaming the games. 

August 16, 2021

How a Colorado CEO Ended Up in an Antifa Meeting

Interesting to hear the backstory on how businessman Joe Oltmann got invited to an Antifa meeting and now is being sued for millions in the bluest of cities presided over by the bluest of judges. (Oltmann seems like a freedom fighter getting tried in the old Soviet Union or a black man hoping for a "fair trial" in the old South.) 

The summary: The covid restrictions made him into an activist since it touched on his primary concern (business).  His public outreach led to sharp and surprising criticisms in print, making him very angry. An alleged undercover Antifa member came to him and said that some of the journalists are Antifa. He goes to virtual meeting with Antifas hoping to out a journalist and hears about Coomer.  Does more research on Coomer and the puzzle fits. 

Wonder if there was any other way for Oltmann to have handled it, how to get sensitive info to non-corrupt?  Leak to a friendly news outlet, assuming any exist? A tall order no doubt and the one way is to publicize the way he did. 

His story:

In March of 2020, when they started locking down small to medium businesses, I watched as the governments were allowed to ball up the constitution and trash it. I watched as business owners suffered and kids were confused. I watched as friends committed suicide and big businesses went unchecked. So I woke up and felt called to do something. First I had my company build technologies for restaurants to give them a way to stay alive, and gave it away for free. Then I helped with the reopen movement and organized protests in Colorado. I organized businesses and got them to reject the shutdown collectively. That is when journalists started writing bad articles about me.

After the lockdown was mostly lifted, I started working on an organization that could restore constitutional integrity. Again felt God was asking me to do it. Don’t ask me why, because I was just as happy being a tech CEO and the distraction was not good for business. In the middle I was nominated a second time for Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Second time with this honor.

The riots and looting and violence of Antifa and BLM started beginning of June. I watched as people were attacked, the streets turned to chaos. I now had enough.

Met John “Tig” Tiegen, who is an American hero who fought to save Americans in Benghazi. We talked about his passion to stop this evil and protect our communities. I founded FEC United, which means faith, education and commerce… the three pillars of our society. He founded UADF, United American defense force, a humanitarian organization created to protect our communities from these Marxist communist evil terrorists.

As our membership swelled to 80,000 in just months and 300-1000 would show up to weekly meetings, the attacks in the media intensified. They wrote things about me calling me militia and dishonoring Tig.

An Antifa member showed up to one of our meetings. Told me he was an Antifa member trying to walk away and that I needed to know that the people in journalism writing this stuff were in fact mostly Antifa.

Second meeting after I did not pay attention to it, because I did not trust the source, he told me he could prove it. He could get me connected into a meeting. It got my attention and I got on the call with his assistance to listen in, hoping to get some journalist or more specifically activist information.

That is when I heard Eric. Did research and validated it was him, and what he said. It was not till later I discovered the significance when I read an article with Eric Coomer as the spokesperson for Dominion. My heart sank and I had a decision to make. One that to this day made me choke up a bit recognizing the magnitude of the sacrifice I made for myself and unfortunately my family.

So I did not get involved in this because of politics, I got involved because I care about my country and the people in it. I built a company by the grace of God from a cocktail napkin. I knew the gifts God gave me we’re at that moment meant for something bigger. So I listened and here I am.

August 15, 2021

David Brooks Piece on the Bobos

David Brooks wrote a long column on how his Bobos broke America. 

I think it's mostly pretty good although predictably Brooks shows bad faith to anyone who has money who supports Trump since, of course, if you have money you have nothing to complain about (see Karl Marx).  Meaning, I guess, that no one should vote, for example, on behalf of the unborn. Or with the working class. Or for voting integrity. 

But one point that I think is fair and a key one is how the Bobos grew up on the ironic, detached, and have a naivety about their own power: 

But, blind to our own power, we have created enormous inequalities—financial inequalities and more painful inequalities of respect. The task before us is to dismantle the system that raised us.

I think there is a sort of David Letterman-esque quality to Gen X'rs that is allergic to earnestness, piety and patriotism. Which is a good way to shirk responsibility along the path to breaking America.

Brooks also homers with this: 

Some 60 years after its birth, the meritocracy seems more and more morally vacuous. Does the ability to take tests when you’re young make you a better person than others? Does a society built on that ability become more just and caring?

But he misses with this: "Right-leaning parties don’t need to have a policy agenda. They just need to stoke and harvest the resentment." Which is like whining: "the GOP didn't have a policy agenda during the Civil War..." 

Duh, just win the damn war.  There's no reason on God's green earth for DeSantis or Trump or any GOP 2024 candidate to have a policy agenda other than defeat the enemy within. 

August 13, 2021

The Cyber Symposium

I’m mesmerized and hypnotized by the “beautiful wreck” that was Mike Lindell’s Cyber Symposium. There’s a lot to take in. Most notably the PCAPs were AWOL. I had no expectations it would be otherwise given that I’d already read they were obtained from a scammer named Dennis Montgomery, so that part wasn’t interesting. What IS interesting is the amazing human story of a guy (Lindell) who laid it all out on the line. I mean he begged people to come and expose his PCAPs as a lie and then the big day comes and... well the lion went out like a lamb. 

It’s part of my eternal fascination with (and fondness for) certain figures who step out in faith with no net underneath. Lindell’s a sort of Martin Luther without the negativity and anger. He appears an ingenue, a “fool for Christ” (and for election reform).  He reminds me, in his iron will, absolute certainty of the rightness of his opinion, and imperviousness to embarrassment of Ham of Bone at times, especially during the famous Bobber Beer test.  It also reminds me of a Fundamentalist Christian coworker who was certain the world would end or Rapture would ensue on a specific date a decade ago, and he was convinced enough to hand out flyers publicly. 

Of course the reality may be simply that Lindell got set-up, a victim of disinformation, in order to help discredit election integrity altogether. 

Another fascinating factoid included a cryptic fellow with code name “CodeMonkeyZ", who apparently gave away too much information in passing along his Dominion leaks such that the deep state was able to figure out where the leaker was located. And now she’s in big trouble and some say, naturally, it was a set-up from the get-go. As Lindell said, "I feel like I'm in a spy novel." 

The symposium at least had stellar and legit speeches, such as the one given by Captain Seth Keshel.  It's certainly puzzling how an election that seemed to have many "quirks" brought on by covid mail-ins would meet such fierce resistance in media/GOP office holders/etc. to forensic audits.  At the very least you might end up with a cleaner voting system, right? Ironically, if predictably, Democrats were the first to notice the voting system flaws. The reaction of office holders and the media is ultimately helpful in identifying who can be trusted and who not. And it's also helpful just as a matter of preparedness in that it demonstrates the Left can no longer be viewed as anything but a fifth column. 

The Cyber Symposium has helped clarify the credibility of some of the actors in the post 11/3 movement. Lindell's, obviously, very low.  Josh Merritt up arrow. Matt DePerno even higher credibility for having avoided the event and Lindell.  Patrick Byrne, alas, lower due to feeling the CPACs were legit.  Steve Bannon seems credible given he looked at the big picture, away from the machines, and always  knew the state legislatures were the solution and not the courts. Matt Braynard an up arrow for a similar reading of Lindell. Dr Shiva gets an up arrow for his early prediction of the deep state planting misinformation on election reformers and his finding the 2018 link between state officials and social media giants regarding censorship. 

August 12, 2021

The Need for War

I wonder if part of the neocon affection for foreign wars is a recognition that humans long for war, thirst for war with every fibre of their being, despite hating it profoundly and despairingly when in the midst of an actual one.  The horror of war is easily forgotten, of course, when one is not going on.

Assuming every generation or two war is needful, then maybe the neocon thinks why not make it foreign rather than civil, the latter being often far more devastating and destabilizing?  At least with an external foe citizens can beat furiously against that the foreign scapegoat or, failing that as GW Bush failed, then by making the object of ending the war be the the target of their wrath.  It's slightly harder to be for war while being in an active campaign against it. 

I was contemplating that recently as progressive bloodlust and their eagerness to push conservatives beyond the pale ever increases; even Leftist journalist Kevin Drum not long ago admitted the obvious, that the Left is the aggressor in the culture wars.  And there’s no particular reason to think it won’t lead eventually to an actual war. 

The liberal ideal of utopian visions and seeing all things are possible (including ridiculous things like men can pretend to be women and America can become a socialist country) waits, inevitably and impatiently, for war. From a Walker Percy novel:

“What happens to a man to whom all things seem possible and every course of action open? Nothing of course. Except war. If a man lives in the sphere of the possible and waits for something to happen, what he is waiting for is war—or the end of the world.”

August 10, 2021

Military Honors and the Latin Mass

I attended a funeral involving full military honors recently. A group of dressed military shot three times, followed by a lone bugler playing a clear and perfect “Taps” in the pouring rain without umbrella and without flinching. Two of them performed the ceremonial folding of the American flag and presented it to widow. Very Latin-Mass’y in terms of discipline,  reverence, and appreciation of the role of silence.  The lack of personality in the military displayed a lack of ego, which is what Amy Welborn mentioned in a recent post is a key difference between the extraordinary form and ordinary form as is often practiced. 

August 08, 2021

Savannah-Hilton Head Trip Log



We traveled on Saturday through scenic southern Ohio, past the gentle hills of Chillicothe, and into West Virginia. We went past intriguing tourist draws like the Moth Man Museum, the Leo Petroglyph, a town called Savageville (named, presumably, for the Indians in the village at one point), Jesus in the Hills camp...

I inwardly grin thinking about the American Catholic history podcast on Fr Stephen Badin, the first priest made in the U.S., and how he chanted penitential Psalm 51 around the grounds of the Louisville Cathedral, thinking them so frightful. The 20th century said: “hold my beer”. 

I looked at pictures of the cathedral online and it’s not that great to my taste (neo Gothic) but of course it’s infinitely preferable to the many ugly churches built in the 60s and 70s.

**

Staying at “Hammersmith Farm” room, number 207, at the Foley Inn.  Historical as the day is long. Haunted they say. Owner Mrs. Foley in the 19th century was something of a character from what I could overhear from the ghost tours who stationed outside the hotel. 

The hotel operator was a genial older man who lived his youth in Ohio near Akron, had a career in the military, spent 20 years in Key West as a bed and breakfast owner before coming here due to the being unhappy with the cruise ships arriving in the early 2000s at Key West. 

I always wanted to stay right on one of Savannah’s beautiful historic squares (in this case Chippewa Square).  Large statue of Oglethorpe, the man in the center of it all Georgia-wise, with the old trees draped in Spanish moss. 

We started out walking a bit but the heat and humidity was nothing short of awe-inspiring and sweat-inducing so we quickly switched course and headed into the nearby Six Pence Pub for some grub and beer. Said to be called “the most authentic English Pub in Georgia."  Steph had a peach beer, soup and salad while I had “Beef Guinness” which is as it says.  And we both had the air conditioning!

Sunday:  A fulfilling sight-seeing day. Started early with explorations of the Foley Inn, namely the coffee dispenser.  Followed by the very attractive outdoor patio that still remained untouched by the fierce heat and humidity that was to come. Then a respite in the leather chairs of the “gentlemen’s club” feel to the off-lobby rooms. There was a satisfaction in just sitting and imbibing in them for a bit, java in hand. 

Next up was Mass at the nearby cathedral, about a ten minute walk. The music was ethereal and I was dumbfounded that such beauty existed in a fallen world. A Latin mass feel to it with the Gregorian overtones. This was matched by the beauty of the cathedral, not to mention the same of the readings, the preaching and the Eucharist. 

One of the things I liked about the cathedral is that it’s not a box. It’s got carve-outs, niches, second story openings. It reminded me of infinity, ie. God. I felt a similar emotion one time in the hills of Hocking County Ohio where I witnessed a meadow among the woods with a small “door” (actually an oval opening along the bushes and trees surrounding the plain) that led to another meadow, which promised a “door” to another meadow... 

A self-contained meadow, by contrast, is a very finite thing. Not necessarily wonder-provoking.  Similarly, this church had openings that suggested “unexplored” - invisible - territory that could lead to other unexplored territory. Invisible territory is the coin of the realm. What we can see is not where the action is. Christ prefers, I think, to do “invisible miracles” with the Eucharist, Baptism, and Confession than visual ones. You can see that in the gospel where he healed a guy of his invisible sins before saying, “oh, yeah, take up your mat and walk”. That which is hidden the imagination can deal with imaginatively, which is to say, can deal with reality. For Reality is infinite and contains “wheels within wheels”.

We walked back to our B&B and then I headed out into the unconscionable heat for a long-delayed run. Yesterday I had sat for 12 hours and so I was primed. But the heat and humidity made Ohio's seem like a joke. My pace was ridiculously slow. But at least by days’ end I ended up walking and running a combined 6.6 miles.  I had planned to jog a good number of the Savannah squares but ended up seeing two with anything resembling full consciousness. The rest were blurs under the sweat and fatigue.

We decided to bag the idea for bikes since the recommended place didn’t seem to be too responsive and the heat...  Plus there were so many pedestrians and cars and crosswalks that the ride would’ve been choppy at best. So we went with the tried and true Savannah Historic Tours hop-on-hop-off. We staggered to the visitor’s center in the profound heat and eventually headed off with a guide that was perfect, giving exactly the sort of historical detail I wanted. (Later we would hop on to the bus to another guide who was more along the lines of a frustrated comedian, frustrated for good reason. I know of what I speak.)

This first dude was my spirit animal and it was with some regret we hopped off to tour the Flannery O’Connor home. Even more regret was added after we found it was closed. Very circumspect hours, that. So I continued my long string of not seeing her Savannah home or other other GA home, alas. I’m lame.

So we were waiting at the stop when another couple waited. She teased me about my Harvard shirt, saying did they let anyone wear their shirts now? I smoothed the bottom so she could read the “Just kidding!” part, and added, if a bit of a killjoy, “I wouldn’t buy the shirt today because elite universities are the worst institutions in the country.”  She sighed and said, “it’s not the same country I grew up in.”

They highly recommended we do the Mercer House tour which they had just left. Scene of a murder and subject of sensational best-seller book and film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. We’d also never done that, so we headed over there.

This turned out to be entertaining and edifying. A lot of great art, good architecture.  Probably the first time I’d ever been in a room where a murder was committed.  Lovely “man cave” with the dark walls and the animal prints (the taxidermed leopard on the couch was a touch).  Love those sorts of elegant rooms with a literary flavor.  Some cool surprises, like a stained-glass cupola that doesn’t show up on the outside because it’s covered by the attic and lit by flood lights. Also the winding staircases with artificial effect of the railings appearing a similar size when they eventually shrank to 2-3 feet. And of course we can’t go upstairs because of the liability. Lawyers ruin everything; absolute lawyers ruin absolutely.

After this we got back on the trolley and I turned out to be the first person in trolley history to have correctly answered the guide’s question: “What famous person was born in Pinpoint, Ga?” My hero, of course. “Who said that?” and I raised my hand to general acclaim and glory, both muted by no one seeming to care except the guide. Fame, so fleeting. Clarence Thomas, this one's for you. 

We were winding down physically, I having had only a muffin and protein drink some seven or eight hours previous.  We trollied back to City Market and looked for the nearest restaurant. Denied by one for not having reservations, we landed at the most prosaic name ever created in restauranting history: “Cafe”.  Definitely a dearth of imagination on that one. But it turned out to have the redeeming features of air-conditioning, craft beer (Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA - wonder how many people under 40 even know what ‘pernicious’ means?) and good food. Had a Greek salad and blackened chicken dish. Had water by the gallon as well, having lost my body weight in sweat.

Next we staggered home. I had a beer in hand in order to enjoy the frisson of drinking where open container laws exist and Steph took a picture of me in front of the Prohibition Museum as my way of spitting on the grave of that awful law.

**

Later I experience the world’s smallest balcony at 4’ by 1.5’. I sit down on the deck since there’s no room for a chair and my shoulders are slightly scrunched, presumably due to my massively mesomorph fame. Adding to degree of daunt was the bees nest at the upper corner of balcony, some five feet above me.  The things we do for a cigar... 

But fortunately no skin was stung during this episode and it was intoxicating literally and figuratively: the aroma of the smoke, beer, the “Moon River” balcony (less the guitar and singing), and the solid and comforting Presbyterian edifice before me where Woodrow Wilson was hitched. We live in small houses that we might appreciate grand churches, libraries and museums. Why live in mansions when they become, in short order, the “new normal” and thus incapable of producing wonder?  Save that for church when you can more easily marry that impulse to a higher one. 

The church I'm admiring is the tallest building in Savannah - you can see it everywhere - and is the point in Forrest Gump from which the feather floats down to his bench. 

Monday: Weirdly, it felt like a full vacation already. Just Friday night's newness, Saturday’s full day adrenalin rush, and now this morning's “little trips” taking up about three hours.  A sightseeing vacation really doesn’t need to be more than parts of three days.

We got up and walked a few blocks to the beautiful Savannah river, admired the lovely squares  along the way including the original one, saw the harbor and the arching white bridge along the horizon. Then had breakfast at the Collins Quarter Bar near our B&B.  Unique breakfast items and an airy place. Hipster joint with exotic juices and fancy coffees. Reminded me of a breakfast place in Baltimore, both being converted old buildings. I got something called “Swine Time Beni”, which I almost called “Swine Flu Beni” by mistake. It had a base of French toast topped with eggs over easy and bacon and pulled pork.  Overly filling as the description infers. Had a watermelon, apple, cherry combo drink to go along with it.

Finding myself without credit card, Steph paid and I immediately called the cafe we were at last night (called “Cafe”).  And sure enough they had my card. So we headed over there to pick that up pronto.

We then headed to Clarence Thomas’s home. A modest white house but still a big upgrade from his birthplace home in Pinpoint, Ga. Hand-built by his grandfather. As the tour guide said yesterday, it’s just utterly amazing Clarence Thomas went from where he did to the highest court in the land.  It was nice to hear him say that on a tour bus of mixed political sympathies.  If Thomas was a liberal, you’d hear about his rags-to-riches story on every network, in every political book, etc...

Then we headed off to Hilton Head and first thing to do was to run down the beach, steps cushioned by rock divided many times over by the pounding surf. (Also called sand.) The heat wasn’t nearly as bad as in Savannah, presumably because of the strong wind and lack of concrete. 

We went grocery shopping and got the salad bar for dinner and so we could eat - finally - around 6pm or later. An amazing 9 hour gap between meals. When I travel eating takes a back seat I guess.

The beach was crowded and the bikinis reminded me of how things have changed and what a Savannah tour guide said about why there were two staircases in many a southern mansion. It was because if you were going up behind a woman at a party and looked upon her bare ankles or calves, you were then duty-bound to marry her or her honor was forfeited. Thus they had a men’s staircase on one side and woman’s on the other.

Tues: Started reading “Midnight in Garden of Good and Evil” for obvious reasons. It does draw you right in. Savannah, my new Baltimore. And less crime!  Pure beauty and dripping with history. Flannery O’Connor grew up here, lived her first 13 years here, and so it largely formed her.  She looked upon - many, many times - the same cathedral that enthralled me on Sunday. Must’ve known it like the back of her hand. 

The British attacked and held Savannah during the Revolutionary War and there are signs and markers; George Washington walked those very streets and it’s odd to think of that figure so seemingly remote in history (partially due to the clothing and wig no doubt) had walked right where I was standing. 

Quite a change to go from the cosmopolitan city of Savannah to very 21st century America on the sands of Hilton Head.  

**

From article on Clarence Thomas:

I also remember Thomas' neighborhood, E. 32nd Street, next to the railroad tracks. His grandfather built their house with his own hands and $600 worth of material.

E. 32nd Street wasn't quite as bad as it sounds, but it was a pretty unlikely place for a black kid to start out from for the Supreme Court or any other such success.

Wed: Another wistful run on the wistful beach. A small dagger to the heart is seeing, via the camera, our sunny driveway in Ohio and comparing it to the clouds of Seasides. Sigh-sides. You can’t control the weather is the cliche of the day.  I read a bit of Walker Percy, and a bit of the history of Savannah. 

Thurs: “It’s a good reading day” is a vacation euphemism for “the weather sucks”.  Which is certainly true today where the clouds keep a coming and the rain keeps a threatening. “Pray, Read, Drink” will be the new title of my bestseller. 

We walked down to Coligny Square and missed the rain fortunately. Bought a “mystery 6-pack” of craft beers, wandered into the hardware store that features Steph’s favorite store mascot-dog, Maverick. Maverick is the huge white dog that reminds of us of Max since Max is likewise part Great Pyrenees. Maverick’s about 7 now and a local celeb such that he now “sings” along on some songs. The store has a soundtrack of many songs and on about 20 of them Maverick will add his groans and calls.  There was a collaboration with the local symphony - I kid you not - in which Maverick “sings” along on stage, and that is being prepared for YouTube as we speak. We’ll be looking for that. 

**

The news of the day leads me to the conclusion that "Homo sapien" is a stretch, but "Cuomo sapien" is an outright contradiction in terms. (Sapien meaning of course ‘wise’.) 

**

Read more of Cheap Ticket to Heaven.  Nice. Been too long. 

Fri: At last the sun returns and I think of Fantasy Island: “Boss, boss, de sun! De sun!” To paraphrase slightly. 

I headed off to 8am Mass and the good, familiar padre was there but he had a load of activities after mass (special prayers for first Friday, followed by anointing of sick) so I didn’t stick around for Confession.  

As good a reason as any for the lack of miraculous in most Catholic circles: "Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous. “ -Mother Angelica

Walked by an old white man reading from his breviary: “Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own”.  Race obsession will continue until morale improves, meaning until the Second Coming. 

We also walked by couple men flying an American flag and a “Trump 2024” flag.  I joked “why not Trump 2021?”. 

Then I let the words of a Salman Rushdie novel wash over me, as well as the wind, as well as the 70s Elton John album from a boombox somewhere nearby.  I feel like we got our groove just in time to go home.. 

And so in the glutinous air (thank you Mr. Rushdie) we dodged a couple threatening storms and camped at the beach from 11 till 4. Not bad at all. Pleasant to daze to the Pure Jazz soundtrack available via Apple Music. And to read the imagery-prose of Rushdie. 

Sun addendum: Back home, but as a wee vacation add-on,  I headed over to the local St. James Lutheran for the brat fest and the German language service in order to see the way the owners of my land worshipped 150 years ago. Nice to hear my “second Mother Tongue” again (I think of it that way due to both the genetic link and taking three years of Deutsch in high school.) 

Over a dozen men composed the choir and they were directly behind me (I was in the last pew) and the rousing opening hymn was wonderful if very covid-y feeling. Hard to have all them singing behind me and not thinking of Delta, and not the airline. I left after 20 minutes or so, planning to catch the rest on video despite it not being the same as we all know after many a televised Catholic mass. 

Some familiar hymns albeit in German: “Beautiful Savior”  (“....Jesus ist schöner.”), the tune to “All Creatures of Our God and King” (sang at my parish’s Catholic mass today), “Now Thank We All Our God” and of course, “A Mighty Fortress”. 

It always takes me aback to hear voices enthusiastically enunciating the word “Reich” given the associations. But it’s not the word "reich"'s fault, anymore than the word niggardly is a word on death's doorstep.  The church is named St. James but presumably not after the author of the book in the Bible banned by Luther. 

The structure of the service was familiarly Catholic, with most of the constituent parts without Communion, and I thought about how familiar this must be to Pope Benedict (who would surely cringe at the American accents). 

There were little Germanic add-ins at the end, with a medley of hymns and a sudden the refrain of Beethoven’s Fifth.