Some Thoughts on Yesterday’s Tragedy

As bad as yesterday’s tragedy in D.C. was, there may have been some good to come from it.  For one thing, it finally – after four long years – broke Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican Party’s leadership.  Maybe it required something really, really, really bad to happen for that break to finally come about.  Both Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell acquitted their constitutional duties admirably.  It was particularly notable that McConnell’s eloquent and forceful speech, denouncing claims the election was faulty, came before the Capitol was invaded by Trump’s mob.  The same speech given after the invasion would have been thinned in its significance. 

The Capitol’s desecration also finally ripped the mask of buffoonery and inconsequentiality from Trump’s face.  Especially his “go home in peace” video aired during the insurrection, with its vehement repeat of his unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him, fully exposed that this guy means business and was seriously out to overturn the election of Joe Biden.  We still don’t know why the Capitol Police, with no backup, were so ill-prepared for Trump’s mob.  Trump’s rally and its “wild” pre-characterization were well known to local authorities long before.  The ugly possibility that Trump had a hand in weakening the police’s defensive capacity hangs over yesterday’s events, too. 

Another good byproduct of the tragedy was the fact that it transformed what is usually a pro forma exercise by the Congress – the opening and counting of the Electoral College’s state-by-state results – into a tangible verification and certification of the election’s legitimacy by the U.S. Congress.  This was exactly the opposite outcome from what Trump’s mob may have hoped for. The Senate rejected the challenge to Arizona’s electoral outcome 93-6 and rejected the challenge to Pennsylvania’s 92-7.  The remaining challenges were dropped.  These were resounding confirmations by Congress’s upper body. 

It should have made all thoughtful Americans proud, moreover, that both houses committed themselves to finishing their electoral task despite having to work through the night.  In my judgment, Ted Cruz’s opening argument on behalf of the Arizona challenge – with its reliance on survey data about American distrust of the election – was lame and unworthy.  Some of the remarks delivered by both Democratic and Republican no-voters on the challenges were quite moving.  I was also touched by Kelly Loeffler’s withdrawal of her challenge to Georgia’s electoral results, thus terminating that state’s challenge.  She was surely chastened by her own lost election the previous day, yet her act suggested an awakening on her part.

Incidentally, I don’t think Trump’s mob’s members were driven solely by the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen.  After all, how can any mob member actually know about one or another state’s election processing in detail.  And surely even they pause to consider whether the “news” they’re getting from rightist sources is fully trustworthy.  No, my feeling is that paying allegiance to the Big Lie is more a kind of shibboleth, a secret password for membership in a woefully angry and alienated segment of our society.  How and why a wholly unsavory character like Donald Trump should have acquired their allegiance is a mystery that we’ll need to ponder for years and years.

I don’t know if the Republican Party will now, as some have suggested, split into two parties – i.e., a Trumpian and more traditional wing.  But it seems to me that the tragedy of yesterday’s events at the Capitol has given the nation, both the thoughtful Left and the thoughtful Right, a terrible counterexample around which to forge a new national unity and sense of purpose in the upcoming Biden administration.  I wish yesterday had never happened.  It was the most heartrending event in American history that I can recall.  But I hope some good can come out of it even so.

–Ron Roizen

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Classic College Application Essay/Letter

Need a little assistance? Are you, about now, struggling to compose a first-rate college application essay or letter? Maybe Hugh Gallagher’s classic example may help.

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I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran of love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my back garden. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby d|ck, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for MI5. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on holiday, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

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A message to my Trump-supporting friends

Lenin, Engels, & Marx

It now appears very likely that Mr. Trump will lose in Tuesday’s election. 

The pollsters, chastened by 2016, have reportedly cleaned up their act sufficiently so that their estimates have become more reliable again.

In light of a likely Trump loss, I want to take a moment to comfort my Trump-supporting friends. 

Over the past several months of the vying campaigns it’s seemed that the main argument for continuing Trump’s presidency has been the threat of imminent socialism or communism from a newly elected Democratic or left-of-center presidency and congress.

I want to assure you that this is a fantasy, it’s not going to happen.  The U.S. has resisted and rejected state socialism ever since it burst on the scene in Russia in 1917.  It did not fall into socialism’s embrace in the post-World War I years, when political disillusionment owing to the senseless slaughter of so many was rife across the western world.  Even more tellingly, it did not turn to socialism in the decade-long throes of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The political climate even became rather too imbued with anti-communism during the “Red Scare” period in the 1950s.  And the U.S. did not copy the well-advertised attractions of the welfare state as they were promoted, for example, in Scandinavia and Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. The fall of the Soviet Union, at the end of 1991, certainly didn’t enhance communism’s allure for Americans.

Moreover, the two great arguably socialist innovations in American political life — Social Security and Medicare/ACA — have remained contested turf in our society.  Trump ran in part on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and the U.S. Congress has allowed Social Security’s ultimate fate to become imperiled by its unwillingness to step up and make modest structural changes.

A new Democratic administration will not take away America’s privately owned firearms, poison its schoolchildren with a new-old ideas, or ban fundamentalist Christianity in favor of soulless secular humanism.  The new Democratic hegemony, on the contrary, promises the return of a sensible mildness and inclusiveness in our political life. 

I am a Democrat – by now, an “Idaho Democrat.”  I don’t want to pack the U.S. Supreme Court or even do away with the Electoral College.

Our system of government is not a “direct democracy” but instead a “representative democracy.”  This means that we pick some among us to go to D.C. and take care of our collective business for their term of office.  After we’ve elected them we may have little control over what they actually do.  The only tangible control we have is throwing them out at the next election.

Mr. Trump has well earned being thrown out.  Beyond that, even some of my Trump-supporting friends have confided that he’s hardly a good example to our children or a good fit for the presidency.  (Others of course may not share those views.)  For my part – I readily confess – I cannot fathom why even a single thoughtful American would have cast a vote for him in 2016, and far less a vote in 2020.  But surely that speaks to my limitations as a student of American politics, too.

Still, I wanted to send this message to you.  The sun will still come up if and when a Democrat becomes the U.S. president again.  Rabid Leninists are not going to be roaming our streets imposing with iron fists a new political order.  Big billboards showing a smiling Chairman Mao are not going to be pasted up. 

Calm yourselves, my friends.  It might even be interesting and useful for a new political right to emerge from the ashes of Trumpism. 

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The Rossi Murder’s Preface

Fellow lovers of Wallace and Idaho history,

“The Rossi Murder,” my 94.4K-word manuscript, is still in need of a publisher.  After a three-month stay at WSU Press it was courteously declined.  As you might imagine, I’d hate to see the 18 months of effort congealed in this work go to waste.  My hope is that Facebook and the World Wide Web may send news of its languishing situation far and wide.  And, as a result, a publisher somewhere will get wind of the story and come knocking.  I know, I know:  it’s a longshot.  But that’s my hope and — for now at least — I’m sticking with it.

Yours, Ron


HOW I CAME UPON THIS STORY

Nine Mile CemeteryWife Maggie, daughter Alexis, and I moved (from Berkeley, California) to the historic little mining town of Wallace, in Idaho’s northern panhandle, in November, 1997.  We soon started looking around our new environment.  It wasn’t long before we discovered beautiful, forested Nine Mile Cemetery, which lies a little more than a mile north of town on Nine Mile Creek Road.  The cemetery’s entrance road runs upward between two hillsides.  To the right, very near the entrance and only a few feet from the graveyard’s flagpole, sits the prominent grave of Herman J. Rossi.  In due course I would hear the rumor that Rossi’s grave had been consigned to this location, across the road from the cemetery’s main grounds, because of objections that he was a murderer.  (Despite all the years that have passed since I’ve never been able to securely confirm or disconfirm it – although I question this rumor’s verity at the end of this book.)

Also early in our Wallace experience, I acquired a copy of Patricia Hart and Ivar Nelson’s wonderful, large-format book titled Mining Town.  It offered an intelligent and affectionate account of Wallace’s history alongside eloquent photographs drawn from a remarkable array of images housed down at the University of Idaho’s Library in Moscow – called the Barnard-Stockbridge Photographic Collection.[1]  Hart and Nelson’s text, as it happens, neatly summarized the main points of the notorious Rossi murder in two pages (140-141):  Herman Rossi’s second wife, who was 15 years his junior, had a serious drinking problem.  On discovering, on his return, that she had enjoyed a drunken weekend with a young lover, Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist, in the Rossi home while he was away for a week in Boise, Rossi strode downtown to the Samuels Hotel, assaulted Dahlquist in the lobby, and then shot him as he fled across the room.  Three and a half months later Rossi was found not guilty of murder by a jury that wasted little time on deliberation.  I remember thinking, on reading Hart and Nelson’s brief account, that there had to be a lot more to this story. Continue reading

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David Preston Bond and Wikipedia

Note from R.R.:  Shortly after his death I began pulling together a draft Wikipedia page for David.  Others — including David’s brother, Marc, his widow, Kazia, and Shauna Hillman — pitched in with valuable help.  But the draft page that emerged was rejected by Wikipedia on May 28, 2020.  Since then, for a number of reasons, the page has been stuck in limbo and its fate is uncertain.  Not wishing to see the effort go completely to waste, I decided to post the draft page here — as an interim measure, it is hoped.


Bond in front of mine

David Preston Bond (April 11, 1951 – February 16, 2020) was a newspaper reporter, columnist, and editor based in the American Northwest. He chronicled and supported North Idaho’s mining industry over much of his career. “Bond considered himself a defender of the blue-collar man,” one tribute added, “who didn’t hesitate to take on big government and those he considered a threat to their livelihood.”[1]

Early life and education
Bond was born in Santa Rosa, California. His adoptive parents, Richard and Patty (née Hendrickson) Bond, of Spokane, Washington, were both graduates of the University of California, Berkeley, where, in their senior years, Richard was student body president and Patty, vice president. Richard “Dick” Bond was a natural gas company executive and a Washington State legislator from 1975 to 1987. The family relocated from Spokane to Nanaimo, BC, on Vancouver Island, in 1957 and returned to Spokane in 1965, where David attended Ferris High School.[2] He served as a page in the state’s legislature in his junior year.[3] After high school, in June, 1969, he enrolled at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where he studied English and political science. David left Willamette a few credits short of graduation. Continue reading

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Disappointment: The Story of James F. Callahan, Wallace, Idaho’s Unluckiest Mining Millionaire

by Ron Roizen

Calahan still lives in cabin - Spokane Chron - 09111915

Callahan’s home up Nine Mile Canyon (Source: Spokane Chronicle, 11 Sep 1915, p. 5)

The life of miner James Francis Callahan (12 August 1858 – 12 June 1921) — more usually known as “Jim” – affords, at the same time, one of the most heartening and most disheartening tales in the annals of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District.

Callahan labored tirelessly year after year at a prospect located in Nine Mile Canyon north of Wallace.  Local mining wisdom regarded his enterprise as hopeless and misspent effort.  He was variously known for this venture as a fool,[1] a “queer character,”[2] and the “Crazy Man of Nine Mile Canyon.”[3]

Callahan discovered the site into which he invested his hope in 1885, he placed his claim in 1887, and he completed the construction of his nearby cabin by the end of the following year.  Yet, the first ore from his mine wouldn’t ship out until 1906, two decades after beginning work at his site. Continue reading

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Jim Wardner’s Biggest Whopper

by Ron Roizen

WardnerThe tall tale is a revered part of the American West’s cultural fabric.  Wyoming’s notorious jackalope and the outlandish 19th-century prevarications of fellow journalists Mark Twain and Dan de Quille, at Virginia City, Nevada’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper, may serve as outstanding examples.  The Coeur d’Alene Mining District had its share of yarn spinners, too.  The best known among them was doubtless Jim Wardner, founder of two towns that still bear his name – one in Shoshone County and the other in British Columbia, about 25 miles southeast of Cranbrook and nestled alongside Canada’s Kootenay River.  “Of course, as a promoter I am compelled to do a good deal of romancing [i.e., gentle lying],” Wardner reportedly once remarked, “but I tell the truth sometimes.”

His most memorable hoax involved cats and a tiny island in Puget Sound.  In the early 1890s the always enterprising Mr. Wardner let it be known that he was launching a business called The Consolidated Black Cat Company, Limited on Eliza Island in Bellingham Bay.  There, management would feed free-range black cats via seine fishing and the cats themselves, as was their habit, would freely multiply.  Every month about 500 would be harvested for their skins, which would be sold and soon turned into parts of fashionable ladies’ garments and accessories.  “Cats’ fur,” commented one contemporary observer, “makes up elegantly into muffs and capes, and I see they are beginning to be quite popular.”  The enterprise’s island venue would eliminate the problem of interbreeding with non-black cats, thus maintaining consistent color.  Wardner’s project was to be capitalized to the tune of $200,000 and shares were available to would-be investors.  Newspapers across the country glommed onto the story like felines to catnip. Continue reading

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Notes on Coronavirus – Testing’s Importance Overstated

coronavirus green

by Ron Roizen

Cable news has been decrying the state and national shortages of coronavirus testing capacity.

But I’m not convinced the shortage is as problematic as it’s touted to be.

Why are tests important in the first place?

Testing’s chief purpose is to distinguish the Ps (positives for the disease) from the Ns (negatives).

Distinguishing Ps from Ns makes possible sequestration, thus in theory protecting Ns from infection.

In the case of coronavirus however transmission of the virus most often originates with asymptomatic people.  And people not experiencing symptoms don’t usually seek out medical testing.  Most transmission, in turn, will derive from Ps not tested and not identified as such.    Continue reading

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Coronavirus – Some Historical and Statistical Context

Float - July 4th parade - 1918 - Wallace

by Ron Roizen

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NOTE:  This post, in Georgian, is available here, translated by Ana Mirilashvili.

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As of today, some big numbers are being suggested for the novel coronavirus’s potential death toll in the United States – ranging from 100,000 to 240,000.  These are merely projections.  And yet they lack, when presented by themselves, appropriate historical or statistical context.

Every year roughly 2.8 million people pass away in the U.S.  In a population of 325 million, 2.8M deaths represents a little less than 1 percent of the total population.  In recent years the U.S. death rate has varied between 0.8 and 0.9 percent of total population per year.

If 240,000 “extra” deaths were in fact to result from this new virus, then total deaths would rise to a little over 3M, an increase of 8.6 percent over the “normal” U.S. mortality count. Continue reading

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Another Sample Chapter from “The Rossi Murder”

Mabel-1.2Below, one more sample chapter from my booklength MS, The Rossi Murder, which is nearing completion but still in search of a publisher.  Very soon after his Shoshone County jury acquitted him for the murder of his young wife’s paramour, Clarence Dahlquist, on October 14, 1916, Herman J. Rossi filed for divorce.  Mabel, in response, filed a change of venue motion with the district court, seeking to have the case heard in Kootenai County, where her husband had relatively less influence and fewer business associates and friends.  Rossi contested her motion.  The documentation associated with this battle provided ample material for the writing of this, the book’s 16th, chapter.  Enjoy!

CHAPTER XVI

MABEL’S CHANGE OF VENUE REQUEST AND THE FINAL DIVORCE DECREE

Although newspaper editors near and far doubtless hoped that their divorce would provide yet another salacious and riveting courtroom drama, actual events took a less public course.  The conflict shifted to behind-the-scenes legal wrangling to which the newspapers were largely not privy.  Mabel’s change of venue (COV) request, made to Judge William W. Woods in Shoshone County’s First District Court, argued three main points:  (a) that she was now a resident of Coeur d’Alene, in Kootenai County, and therefore the place where the plaintiff’s action should be brought; (b) that Herman Rossi had grossly misstated his wealth, his indebtedness, property holdings, and the extent of the couple’s community property; and, finally, (c) that Judge Woods himself had heard too many discrediting things said about her at Herman’s murder trial to allow him to avoid bias against her in the divorce proceedings.  Mabel noted, in particular, that Judge Woods had heard her husband’s testimony saying she was chronically intemperate, that she was “a demon” while intoxicated and frequently assaulted her husband, that she committed adultery with Dahlquist, and that she committed numerous other alleged acts of impropriety and improper relations with him.  And although Mabel had “the utmost respect and consideration” for the honorable judge, “both as a man and as a Judge,” she felt that what Woods’ exposure to these allegations would inevitably become “unconsciously and unintentionally prejudiced against her.…”  She surely had a case.  Continue reading

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