The Daily Ed

Thrown under the YouTube bus

A week of demonetizations

This week YouTube demonetized the Revenge of the Cis channel on a flimsy pretext of (undefined) “hate speech”. 

The video sharing site also demonetized Steven Crowder’s channel, under pressure from the leftwing media titan, Vox Media. 

Steven Crowder’s offense? Crowder had repeatedly satirized Carlos Maza, the leftwing journalist of Vox. 

Maza himself led the campaign against Crowder. (Carlos Maza would just love to be the next Lavrentiy Beria…if only the rest of us would give him the chance, dagnabbit.)

It’s all about “hate speech”…and a bridge I want to sell you. 

The technical reason for YouTube’s demonetization of Crowder? “Hate speech”. Carlos Maza is a gay man who openly embraces his own gayness and effeminacy. (Let’s just say that Maza is not a manly gay man, à la Pete Buttigieg. He’s one of the “softer” gay men.) But when Crowder joined in the joke, the same material instantly became “hate speech”.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Some time ago, YouTube removed videos of alt-right commentator Vox Day (not to be confused with Vox Media). 

Why? Yeah, you guessed it: hate speech. 

Oh, and it gets even more complicated. This isn’t YouTube versus an organized, rightwing band of brothers. Vox Day doesn’t like the two cohosts at Revenge of the Cis, who don’t like Vox Day in return. The Revenge of the Cis cohosts also don’t like Steven Crowder…

And…Vox Day has yet to make an official pronouncement regarding Steven Crowder. But Crowder is a well-known conservative who is more commercially successful than Vox Day. Vox Day would therefore be likely to denounce Crowder as a “cuckservative”. (Vox Day is wont to denounce or dismiss all commercially successful conservative figures as “cuckservatives”.)

But Crowder, Vox Day, and Revenge of the Cis have all been demonetized—or otherwise punished—by YouTube for (undefined) “hate speech”, their various antipathies toward each other notwithstanding.

Sometimes, even Vox Day is right.

Credit where credit is due. Vox Day has repeatedly warned that YouTube is out to remove, by hook or by crook, anyone who is “right of Hillary Clinton”. 

The evidence suggests that he’s right. 

YouTube is a dying platform, anyway—at least in its current iteration. YouTube is famously losing money. YouTube is now desperately scrambling to curry favor with corporate advertisers, and to recruit big-name studio talent. 

This means that YouTube is likely a waste of time if you are a right-of-center political analyst. “Hate speech” is one of those categories that can be expanded as needed. YouTube is obviously intent on defining “hate speech” as “anything that leftwing mouthpieces like Carlos Maza find offensive”. (Revenge of the Cis was likely demonetized because of a hit piece they did on Carlos Maza, too, calling him “very sensitive”.)

Oh, the homophobic, hate speech horror of it all!

Vox Day is wrong about all manner of things. But he’s right about YouTube. This is not a platform for anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton.

And besides…

Even if you’re to the left of Hillary Clinton, or completely apolitical, you’re likely to be thrown under the YouTube bus in the near future, as the site seeks to replace independent creators with NBC studio talk shows and music videos from Ariana Grande. 

That is, if you haven’t already been thrown under the YouTube bus.

No more cat declawing in New York

It is not very often that I agree with much of anything done by the finger-wagging hecklers of the nanny state—who are in especial abundance in the Empire State.

But even a stopped clock, as they say, is right twice per day.

New York has banned cat declawing. And although it pains me to agree with anything enacted by New York’s political leaders, I agree with this one.

Cat declawing is not analogous to a human getting his fingernails clipped. It is more analogous to having the tips of your fingers amputated at the last joint.

Doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? Well, you can bet that the cat doesn’t think so, either.

The declawing procedure (called an onychectomy) creates lingering pain for the cat. It also leaves the cat unable to defend itself, or to hunt for food (should the cat end up in the wild).

There is no reason to put cats through this procedure, save the convenience of the owner.

There is a certain reality about cats: Cats have claws; cats will occasionally claw your carpet, furniture, and curtains. It happens.

Once in a while, your cat will claw you. I used to be a cat owner. I can assure you that your odds of being killed or seriously maimed by a house cat are close to nil. But yes, you may be scratched, along with your home furnishings.

Don’t want to deal with all that? The answer is simple. Your cat doesn’t need an onychectomy.

You don’t need a cat.

The Cairo Deception: Chapter 2

A new life would be possible because of the object that he now carried in one of the interior pockets of his jacket: the Garnet of Hatshepsut. 

Shortly after arriving in Cairo, Jack had procured an old map from one John Millhouse, a British professor of Egyptian antiquities. The map indicated the approximate location of the garnet. 

“The garnet is worth a fortune,” John Millhouse had told him, as Jack handed over the money for the map. “Finding it will not be easy, but not many people know about it. If you find it first, you’ll be a rich man. You’ll be set for the rest of your life, in fact.”

And two days ago, Jack had finally found the garnet. 

In order to find the garnet, Jack had endured hours in the sun, the dangers of the desert, and the constant grumblings of his Egyptian assistant, Tahmid. 

But now, finally, the garnet was his.

Hatshepsut, Jack had learned, had been one of ancient Egypt’s lady pharaohs. She had lived about 3,500 years ago. 

Jack had only the barest knowledge of ancient Egyptology. But once he was back in the United States, he promised himself, he would learn more about Hatshepsut. He owed that long-dead lady a lot. Or he would owe her a lot—once he sold the gem. 

The garnet was a large red stone, with Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into its bottom, flat face. 

It was a beautiful gemstone. The most beautiful gemstone that Jack had ever seen.

But Jack had no intention of holding on to it. He had already tied up most of his affairs in Cairo. Tomorrow—or the next day, at the latest—he would leave the Egyptian capital and catch a train to the port city of Alexandria. From there he would catch a steamer to New York. 

In New York he would find a buyer for the garnet. There were dealers of rare gemstones in New York. Many of them would want to purchase a stone like the Garnet of Hatshepsut.

Jack had already determined that while he would not allow himself to become greedy, he would not be taken advantage of, either. A bidding war among the New York dealers of rare gems would not be out of the question. 

After he had sold the garnet, he would take his bank draft payment to the nearest branch of a major bank. 

He would put the bulk of his earnings into a new savings account, of course. He would permit himself a single indulgence, however. 

He would visit one of the many car dealerships in New York. There he would purchase a brand-new Ford automobile—perhaps a DeLuxe Roadster or Fordor. 

Or, for that matter, why not a brand-new DeSoto Airstream? Before leaving for Egypt six months ago, Jack had seen one of the 1936 DeSoto Airstreams in Indianapolis. The newest DeSotos were really something. 

Whichever car he decided upon, he would pay cash. He imagined the look on the salesman’s face, the smell of his new car’s leather upholstery. 

Over the past two days he had replayed the scene many times.

Then he would drive to Franklin, Indiana, where he would begin the rest of his life. 

But before he did all that, he had to get the Garnet of Hatshepsut safely out of Egypt. And he was now concerned that a group of men might be specifically intent on taking it from him.

Men who were presently in this bar. 

Chapter 3

Table of contents

The Cairo Deception: Chapter 1

Jack McCallum thought: I am in one of the most dangerous bars in Cairo, and I have a fortune in my pocket. 

Of course, all of the bars in Cairo were dangerous, or most of them, anyway. Now, late on a Saturday night, Rossi’s Bar was filled with prostitutes, gamblers, and any number of men who would gladly slit your throat for a few Egyptian pounds.

The item that Jack had in the pocket of his leather jacket might be worth several hundred thousand dollars or more. 

Who knew?—It might even fetch a million. 

Jack sat alone at a small table in a corner of the darkened bar. He was nursing a glass of bourbon. A Lucky Strike cigarette slowly burned in the ashtray before him.

Rossi’s Bar was billed as an Italian bar, though the owner, Jack happened to know, had no particular affiliation with Italy. On the far wall, there was a cheesy mural of men wearing striped shirts and broad-rimmed hats, pushing gondolas through the canals of Venice. On another wall, the flag of Italy. 

Jack wondered how much more time would pass before the bar’s theme and decor would have to be changed. Italy was a loaded topic in Egypt. Three years ago, in 1935, Italy had invaded the nearby country of Ethiopia, or Abyssinia. 

Egypt still enjoyed some protection, as a result of its relationship with the British Empire; but the Egyptians were rightly worried about Italian ambitions in North Africa. The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, openly compared himself to the emperors of ancient Rome. Mussolini expressed a desire to recreate the Roman Empire in the twentieth century.

The world was a troubled place, Jack knew, as it entered the tenth month of 1938. The nations of Europe were all nervous about not only the ambitions of Mussolini, but also those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. 

In the Far East, the Japanese were waging a war of aggression in China. Last December, Japanese forces had entered the Chinese city of Nanking, where they had murdered tens of thousands of Chinese civilians in cold blood. Japanese soldiers had also violated untold numbers of women and girls. 

Journalists were calling the incident “the Rape of Nanking”. Jack had read perhaps a dozen newspaper articles about the atrocities in China. They were hair-raising and saddening. 

I would like to save the world, Jack thought. But first I’m going to go home to Franklin, Indiana. I’m going to pay off my parents’ debts. Then I’m going to set myself up with a farm, or maybe a business. 

I’ll have enough money to save part of the world, Jack thought, if that’s what I want to do. And I’ll have plenty of time. I’m only twenty-five years old, after all. 

If I can get out of Cairo all right—and then out of Egypt—I’ll be set for life.

Chapter 2

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The Consultant: Chapter 54

They were at dinner the following night, when Barry realized that his spirits were at an all-time low since he had come to terms with his new situation. 

The North Koreans had not broken his spirit—not yet. But the execution of the young woman, and the changes at the tour agency, had made an already intolerable situation even more intolerable.   

Tanaka had left the canteen early tonight, pleading gastrointestinal issues. So it was just Barry and Anne.

Given the probable hygiene standards in North Korea, it was a wonder, Barry thought, that all of them weren’t doubled over a commode, all the time.

“How are things going with at the tour agency?” Anne asked.

Barry shrugged. He didn’t want to go into it—the death of the young woman, the probable deaths of Mr. Lee and Mr. Ki.  

“You look like you’ve been through something,” Anne persisted. “Some kind of trauma. I mean above and beyond the ordinary trauma of being here.”

“I made a move,” Barry said. “Something that might have gotten us out of here. It didn’t work out.”

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“Not now,” he said. “Maybe another time.”

He realized that now he was the one keeping secrets, even though he had insisted that they need to work together. But he couldn’t get past what he had seen: the young woman’s murder…And after Jung-Ho had lied to and manipulated him.

Damn you, Jung-Ho, Barry thought. Someday, I’ll see you up against a wall.

But he knew that this would never happen. How could it? He was completely powerless here. 

“Are you done eating?” Anne asked. 

Barry looked down at his empty plate. Dinner tonight was the same as always: rice, vegetables, a bit of meat. Weak tea. 

“Yes. Let’s get out of here.”

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They were walking across the compound, when Anne asked him for news of their own country. Oddly enough, this was the first time the topic had come up.

“We don’t get much news in here,” Anne said. “We catch some tidbits from the state-run media. That’s about it. So Donald Trump is really president?”

“Yes,” Barry said. “Donald Trump is really president.”

“Is he popular?”

Barry smiled at the question. He suspected that he and Anne might have different political leanings. “That’s a matter of opinion. Politics. Let’s hope that we’re both able to vote in the next U.S. election…whomever we each vote for.”

“Speaking of which,” Anne said, “Jung-Ho told me something about the politics of this country.”

“You and Jung-Ho have private conversations?” Barry said. “Sounds cozy.”

Then Anne told Barry how Jung-Ho had been trying for several years to seduce her.

Although he held his tongue, Barry must have appeared skeptical of Anne’s explanation. 

“I string him along,” Anne said. “That’s all. Do you really think that I could…be with him? After what they did to Kevin?”

He was tempted to challenge her. But then he thought: Hadn’t he played nice with Jung-Ho, too, in order to angle himself into an advantageous position?

“No,” Barry said. “I suppose not. Anyway, what did he tell you?”

“Jung-Ho seems to think that there’s going to be some shakeup in the top leadership of North Korea,” Anne said. “He claims to have some involvement in it. Keep this yourself, of course, please.”

“Sure,” Barry said. “Of course.”

He was singularly unimpressed by Anne’s news. His only objective was to get out of North Korea. He didn’t care who ran this place. 

He also didn’t see a path whereby any change in the country’s leadership would bring about their freedom. The entire regime was so lawless. What were the odds of their being freed by a new man, or a new cabal, in power? 

Probably close to zero, Barry thought.  

Chapter 55

Table of contents

Blood Flats: Chapter 13

For Lee the sound of helicopters would forever have an association with Iraq, But the helicopter was no Marine Corps bird. This was a Kentucky State Police helicopter. It was making wide circles across the fields and forests, following a general trajectory down the highway.

Perhaps Phelps had not pursued him into woods, after all. The sheriff had chosen to work smart rather than hard. Lee could appreciate the reasoning of his adversary. The sheriff would have looked more heroic if he had engaged in a foot chase. But that would have ultimately been fruitless. Lee was both younger and fitter. He had had a head start on the lawman. Phelps had no doubt taken these factors into account. He was thinking strategically rather than emotionally.

And now Lee had to control his own emotions if he intended to keep his life and his freedom. 

There would be two men—possibly three—circling above him in the helicopter. He imagined them looking down on him through a pair of binoculars. Yes, that’s the man, they would be saying. He’s the one who killed those two people in that trailer.

If he fled across the field into the woods, he would draw the helicopter down upon him. A lone man racing across an empty field would not go unnoticed from their vantage point. They would descend upon him and call in more units and drive him into a noose.

Nor could he go back the way he came. And yet, he would draw attention if he merely walked down the highway. 

A short ways down the road was a feed and agricultural supply store. Surely the general citizenry would not be alerted of his fugitive status yet. He could go in there and mill about for five or ten minutes, pretending to be another shopper. By that time the helicopter would be gone.  

The aircraft made another circle in the general area above him. Had he already caught their attention? 

He began to walk toward the agricultural supply store, his steps as deliberate and natural as he could manage them. There was a sign in the parking lot that advertised special pricing on herbicides. Another sign declared a deal on a device that captured carpenter bees. 

Lee was within a few yards of the parking lot when he realized that the .45 was still jammed in his belt. 

A pickup truck rolled past him from behind, slowed, and idled into the parking space near the front entrance of the store. What a damn fool he had been; the gun would have been in clearly visible from the front seat of the truck. Lee was lucky if the driver had not seen it, in fact; hopefully he had not been paying attention.

A sunburned man clad in jeans, a stained tee shirt, and John Deere cap climbed out of the parked pickup truck and walked through the front entrance of the supply store without giving Lee so much as a glance. He had been lucky; but he had to do something about the gun before another vehicle drove past.

The sound of the helicopter’s engine seemed to grow louder as it roared overhead again. He risked a brief glance at the sky: The chopper was moving away from him now, though he knew it would circle back, sweeping the area in a series of wide, gradually shifting arcs.

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There was a culvert at the edge of the parking lot. Lee did his best to ascertain that no one was watching him. Then reached behind his back and removed the gun from his belt. He knelt and pretended to tie one of his boot strings. He slid the gun into the mouth of the drainage pipe, and pushed it far enough into the corrugated steel opening so that no one would notice it. 

Then he stood up. The police helicopter was growing louder again. Hopefully the men above him had not noticed the lone figure stooping to push an object into a drainage pipe. 

Lee crammed his hands into his pockets and walked toward the main entrance of the store. Two other shoppers walked past him, exiting the store: one with a bag of seed slung over his shoulder, another carrying a newly purchased shovel and hoe. Neither man was familiar. 

The automatic glass door slid open and Lee stepped into the air-conditioned interior. The floors were bare concrete and the main area of the store was a maze of pallets: Many of the items that farmers bought were packaged in bulky sacks, bundles, and buckets. The pallets were stacked waist-high or shoulder-high. Along the outer perimeter of the main room were shelves of smaller items: hand tools and containers of insecticide, work gloves and spare parts for farm equipment.

At the back of the customer area was a television mounted near the ceiling on a steel frame. A group of three men and one woman were gathered around the set.

I need to kill about five or ten minutes in here, Lee thought. Just enough time for the police helicopter to move on. Lee prayed that none of the shoppers would recognize him. Of course, he had many friends and acquaintances in the county, and his picture had recently been in the paper following his return from Iraq.

Lee buried his face in a newspaper-sized promotional circular that was lying on an adjacent stack of boxes. The boxes contained a chemical fertilizer that was—according to the words printed on the cardboard—specially formulated for use on soybeans. The circular had been printed by the Burpee seed company. 

He pretended to divide his attention between the circular and the television set. This strategy, he decided, would make him less noticeable than a deliberate and obvious effort at seclusion. He stood just outside the gaggle of shoppers watching the television.

The broadcast was a news magazine talk show of some sort. The show’s host was interviewing a middle-aged, bearded author. When the camera panned on the interview subject, the man’s name and source of distinction were identified by electronically generated letters:  “Brett St. Croix, author of The Death Factory: How the U.S. Military Turns American Youths into Killers”  

The interview had apparently been underway for a while, and St. Croix was in the middle making a particular argument. 

“Militant Islam is nothing more than a reaction against Western interventionism!” St. Croix declared. The camera angle shifted from the author and the host to the studio audience. The author’s comments elicited a few groans from the crowd—but these groans were drowned out by a larger volume of cheers. “And we shouldn’t be intervening in the Middle East!”

Lee was in no mood for politics at the moment; but he found himself, ironically, welcoming the distraction from his more immediate predicament.

By God, I agree with you, Lee thought, repeating the author’s last statement in his own mind. Though for an entirely different set of reasons.

Hawkins County was red-blooded patriot territory; but Lee knew that the war in Iraq had been less than popular in many quarters of the country at large. He had seen the protesters on television and on the Internet. In fact, he had watched more than a few news reports of these protests while in Iraq. There was a television in the rec room of the fortified compound that had been his home in Iraq. On more than one occasion, he had subjected himself to the irony of these televised protests against the war, only hours or minutes before the Marine Corps subjected him to the real thing.  

The protesters don’t get it, Lee thought. Even when they are right, they are right by accident. 

There were perspectives on militant Islam and great power intervention that the media mostly chose to ignore. Lee remembered one particular Iraqi village that he and his fellow marines had entered during an anti-insurgent sweep. They had found no al-Qaeda in the village; but they had found something else that made Lee question the ultimate success and meaning of the U.S. mission in Iraq. 

In the center of the village a group of men had been gathered around the body of teenaged girl. Her arms were bound around her waist. To Lee’s horror, the girl had been buried up to her waist in the sand so that the men could more easily pelt her to death with rocks. 

The girl had already been dead by the time the marines arrived. The village men were in the last stages of their rock-throwing. A few members of Lee’s squad had fired in the air to make them stop. The marine interpreter had shouted at the male villagers, demanding an explanation. 

There was much shouting, and more than a few threats hurled in both directions. Gradually the story came together. The sixteen-year-old girl had been married off to a man three times her age. Her father had wanted a choice patch of land that belonged to the prospective groom, who already had two middle-aged wives and four children who were older than his new bride.

Apparently the young girl had been quite beautiful, and she had attracted many admirers. Trouble had arisen when the girl’s husband had decided that she was too flirtatious with a young man in the village. Nothing had ever been proven; but there were damning accusations. The young man had fled one night in terror. The girl had remained to face the summary justice of the Quran. Her father and her estranged husband were among the men who had thrown the stones.

There was nothing about the girl that looked flirtatious or beautiful now, with half of her torso buried in the sand, her hair matted with blood, her face a mass of contusions.  

Is this the society that we are fighting to preserve? Lee had thought, as he looked at the smashed concavity that had once been the nose of the young girl. Is this what I am risking my life for?  

Standing in the feed store now, Lee recalled the dark, violent impulse that had seized him in that moment, as he had looked from the crushed, swollen face of the teenage girl to the sullen faces of her male executioners. He had wanted to gun down all of those men who had thrown the stones, to slaughter them in a righteous fury of the Old Testament variety. In the end he had restrained himself; but there had been moments since then when he had wished he had killed them—every last one of them. 

These reminiscences came to an abrupt stop when there was a sudden change in the programming. The talk show was interrupted by a news bulletin. 

Lee didn’t wait to hear if the news broadcaster mentioned his name, or to see if they flashed a photo of him across the screen. No doubt that would come with time. He turned as soon as soon as he heard the words “multiple shootings” and the name of the trailer park. 

On the way out he bumped into a man who looked familiar. He greeted Lee with a smile. “Say aren’t you?” he began—for this man had not seen the images on the television. 

Lee nodded and brushed past him, then out the main entrance of the store. He scanned the sky: there was no helicopter in the burnt blue haze, and its sound was gone as well. 

He knelt by the culvert and quickly pulled the gun from the drainage pipe. He shoved it into his belt and stepped onto the two-lane highway. There was the screech of brakes, and a horn blared. Lee leapt aside as the driver of an old Ford Mustang shook his fist and accelerated again. Watch where the hell you’re going he shouted, mouthing the words through his windshield as Lee, more than a little dazed, silently stared back at him.

Chapter 14

Table of contents

Blood Flats: Chapter 12

Back into the woods again. Lee had no idea where he was going now—except that he was still traveling south. It would be about noon: He allowed himself a brief glance upward and saw that the sunlight filtering through the tree leaves was intense, burning the outlines of branches into negative images across his retinas. 

Perhaps he had made a mistake in leaving Tradd’s gun where the young father could find it. Tradd might be tracking a short distance behind him even now, as the law was surely tracking him.

He passed a deer blind that was suspended about a foot off the ground. There would be no hunters in June but the deer blind spooked him nonetheless: It reminded him of a machine gun pillbox on four wooden legs: He imagined Sheriff Phelps taking aim at him, sliding a rifle out from the wooden structure’s firing slit. 

Was the image a premonition? Was that how this was all going to end? A bird darted across a shaft of sunlight in the middle of the trail and Lee started, expecting Tradd or Sheriff Phelps or perhaps someone else.

Calm down, he told himself. You have to think. You have to get your wits about you.

Lee also found that he was haunted by the parting look that the boy, Zack, had given him. He pictured the young boy telling his grandchildren about the incident someday, the way that old-timers sometimes told stories about chance encounters with famous outlaws from the 1920s. He knew that he was no John Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson; and at this exact hour much of the county still regarded him as a war hero. But that collective opinion of him would surely change—just as Tradd’s opinion of him had shifted in the flicker of an instant. The false accusations and the circumstantial evidence would be enough to damn him in most people’s minds.

Whatever Lee’s true motivations, whatever the truth of what had happened in the trailer, the young father would recall only one fact: that Lee had held a gun on him and, by extension, his family. And when the law learned of the incident it would only add to the weight of his apparent guilt. He was going to end up dead or behind bars—and probably dead—through a series of his own miscalculations and plain bad luck.

The trail descended and rose again and the woods abruptly ended. Beyond the woods was not the uncut meadow or cultivated field that he might have expected, but a stripped landscape of dirt and uprooted trees. The land had been cleared in a wide semicircle, and the uncomfortable fantasy of being an outlaw in the woods gave way to an even more uncomfortable reality: He was an outlaw in the open daylight.

Lee heard the sounds of the heavy equipment before he saw the men working: A county work crew was adding an extension to Route 257: The new road would pass by the campground where Lee had been an unwelcome guest at the campsite of Tradd and his family.

He sensed that he was walking into a bad situation; but once again going back the way he had come was not an option. Lee walked forward, trying his best to appear nonchalant, hoping that he would be able to make his way without attracting attention. It was a hope that soon proved futile.

“Hey, you can’t cut through here!” the leader of the work crew shouted at Lee above the rumbling of a road grader. He was in his early fifties and he had a considerable paunch. He badly needed a shave and a cigarette dangled from his lips. The crew leader had been talking to the crewman operating the grader when he noticed Lee. The massive yellow machine was about to transform a strip of this bumpy field into a more level surface that would become the next increment of the Route 257 extension. Black smoke belched from the machine’s vertical exhaust pipe.

The crew leader signaled for the crewman operating the road grader to hold on for a moment. He came jiggling over to Lee, shaking his head and muttering beneath his breath—no doubt cursing this fool who didn’t have the sense to stay away from a construction site.

“You can’t cut through here!” the crew leader said. He was close enough for Lee to smell the man’s sweat and the cigarette.

The .45 was tucked in the waistband of Lee’s pants at the small of his back. Lee did not think that any of the county work crew members were close enough to notice the outline of the gun beneath his shirt. But they were pausing their tasks and gawking now, as men engaged in tedious work will do in the presence of any unexpected diversion. 

“I’ll stay away from the equipment,” Lee said. He knew that these words would not placate the man even before they were out of his mouth.

“No, you don’t understand,” the crew leader said. “This is a restricted area. You get hurt here and the county is liable. That would mean my ass and probably my job. I’m not going to lose my job because some fella wants to take a hike through the woods.”

“I’m just passing through,” Lee said.

The operator of the road grader had now killed the engine of his machine and was climbing down from the cab. 

The crew boss removed his cigarette from his mouth, turned his head and spat in the dirt. “I can’t let you through here. Look—we’ve got pits and trip hazards all over the place. This is a dangerous area.”

I’ve witnessed a double murder, for which I’m now on the run, and this guy wants me to concern myself with “trip hazards” Lee thought.

Nevertheless, Lee was now facing a potential confrontation with two men, as the crewman from the road grader was beginning to walk toward him. He was a large man who looked like he had a temper—the sort of guy who regularly engaged in knock-down-drag-out bar fights on Friday nights—just for fun.

“What’s the matter, dude? You hard a hearin’?” the road grader driver called out. “You’re in a restricted area.” 

A few more exchanges of words and there might be a real confrontation, Lee realized. He had the .45 of course, and the crew boss would back down in an instant if he saw it. But that would expose his presence to yet another set of witnesses. And the crewman from the road grader might call Lee’s bluff. Some men were daring and stupid enough to charge a loaded firearm.

“Tell me where I can go,” Lee said.

“Now that’s the spirit,” the crew boss said. “You got two choices: Go back in the direction you came from, or take that road outta here.” He jabbed a thumb toward a gently declining hill at the edge of the construction area. Lee could see pavement through the breaks in the trees.

Since Lee could not retrace his steps in the direction of Tradd, he would have to go down the hill, then. 

He eased his way backward, taking short steps so that he would not take a pratfall and then roll down the hill. The road crew probably interpreted this maneuver as fear of an attack. In reality, this was the only way Lee could keep them from seeing the .45. 

“Show’s over!” the crew boss shouted to his subordinates, seeing that Lee was going. “Back to work!”

Lee walked through a short band of trees and undergrowth and came out on a two-lane highway. His first impulse was to head for the grassy expanse on the opposite side of the road. Another forest lay beyond it. 

Then he heard the thucka-thucka of the helicopter.

Chapter 13

Table of contents

Disney CEO goes full political in Georgia

Opinions vary about abortion, of course. But if you’re a Disney employee, you have to think like Disney CEO Bob Iger. 

Media Companies May Stop Productions In Georgia Over New Abortion Law

Disney CEO Bob Iger questioned the practicality of shooting in the Southern state if the conservative law is not knocked down by the courts. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard,” he said.

Iger is referring to the so-called “heartbeat law”, which bans abortions when fetal heartbeat activity can be detected. 

Iger apparently feels comfortable making decisions about controversial social issues on behalf of Disney’s employees and contractors.

This is typical of the arrogance shown by tech and media executives in recent years. 

‘Revenge of the Cis’ demonetized by YouTube

The YouTube channel “Revenge of the Cis” has been demonetized by YouTube.

This was never my favorite YouTube channel, but I do watch it on occasion. The channel’s two bearded millennials are a constant source of snarky (and occasionally insightful) commentary.

They are also balanced politically (which is not to say that I always agree with them). They do go after leftwing opportunists like Carlos Maza of, and other “SJWs”. But they also take to task rightwing figures like conservative comedian Steven Crowder, and alt-right blogger/aspiring personality cult leader Vox Day. 

Their style is not my style. The Revenge of the Cis guys are profane, shoot-from-the-hip, and boisterous. I’m reserved and methodical. But then again, they are YouTubers, and I’m a writer/blogger. These are different skill sets.

Serious social and political commentary on YouTube is dead, for all intents and purposes. YouTube has decided that it wants to rebrand itself as a conventional Internet television channel. And citizen commentary isn’t part of that agenda.

But you don’t have to be “political” to be disappointed by changes at YouTube in recent years. As a writer at The Verge noted in an article published in April, the “golden age” of YouTube is over

The “the golden age” of YouTube refers to a period when independent creators could earn decent incomes producing content that was quirky and entertaining, but too “niche” for television or mainstream media.

Not all of this quirky content is political in nature. In fact, only a small portion of it is… I used to enjoy watching language-learning videos on YouTube.

But YouTube has decided that celebrities like Ariana Grande, and slick, studio-produced, corporate entertainment are its future. 

And who knows? Maybe they are. Part of the problem is that after 14 years of existence, YouTube is still unprofitable, despite its massive traffic. 

So what is the lesson for creators?

I know that I harp a lot on the subject of digital sharecropping and social media, but this is yet another textbook example. If you are a creative person, do not build your platform on someone else’s real estate.

I only use social media for posting links to content on Edward Trimnell Books nowadays. I do not spend a single minute composing tweets, making YouTube videos, etc.

Anything built on a social media platform can disappear at any time. It isn’t worth the effort. 

Our House: Chapter 4

After 1120 Dunham Street, Jarvis took them to one other house. It was a ranch home that both Clint and Jennifer quickly rejected for a number of reasons. The house was outside the Mydale school district, the floor plan was awkward, and there was a suspicious smell in the basement that might have been cat urine.

“We really want to find a house in the Mydale school district,” Jennifer reiterated, as Jarvis drove them back to the real estate office. “That was a big factor in our selection of you as our agent. Your office is located in Mydale.”

Jarvis looked in his rearview mirror before responding to Jennifer, who was seated in the back seat of the Lexus with her husband. “And I thought it had something to do with my personal appeal.” The remark could have been interpreted as either routine salesman’s banter, or yet another attempt at flirtation. 

Unseen by Jarvis, Clint smirked and shook his head. Jennifer replied: “You’re very charming, Mr. Jarvis, but please don’t forget that we really want a house in Mydale.”

“Duly noted,” Jarvis said. “We won’t be looking at any more houses that don’t have a Mydale mailing address, or that fall outside the Mydale school district.”

Mydale was a bedroom community that had been mostly rural only twenty years ago. Though technically incorporated as a city of 30,000, Mydale was actually a part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area. Despite the development spree of recent years, Mydale had not lost its feel of semirural prosperity; and there remained working farms a few miles beyond its borders. 

Located twenty miles northwest of downtown Cincinnati, Mydale was far enough away to maintain its separate identity, but close enough to allow for an easy commute to the larger city, where both Clint and Jennifer worked. 

But most of all, Mydale was known for its above-average schools. The town had been fortunate enough to attract a series of industrial parks in the early 1990s, and the tax revenues from the resident businesses allowed the Mydale school district to recruit the best teachers, to offer all the latest and most innovative educational programs. 

In the parking lot of Jarvis Realty, Tom Jarvis invited the Hubers to come in for refreshments and additional discussions, even though he must have known that the day had reached its natural conclusion. It was past two o’clock, and they had to pick up Connor. 

They had left him at Clint’s parents’ house. As was usually the case, Jennifer’s parents would theoretically have been a babysitting option, but Connor—with the typical candor of a six-year-old—made no secret of the fact that he preferred the company of Grandma and Grandpa Huber over that of his maternal grandparents. 

This needled Jennifer a bit: Clint’s father was an older version of Clint—affable, not terribly serious, and vaguely childlike himself. Her own father, meanwhile, had been a partner in a Cincinnati law firm. Hank Riley loved his only grandchild, Jennifer was sure, but he was often stilted and remote when it came time to actually interact with him. Seventy-hour workweeks had absented Hank during much of her own youth. Jennifer’s fifty-seven-year-old mother, Claudia, meanwhile, seemed to be in denial about the very concept of grandmotherhood. Since turning fifty, Claudia had gone on a plastic surgery binge: botox, facelift, and even a mentoplasty on her chin. Jennifer often joked with Clint that breast implants were likely next on the list.  

“Another time,” Clint said, shaking hands with Jarvis. “We’ll be in touch, though. Thanks for your time today.”

The realtor shook hands with Clint and then with Jennifer. “You’re welcome. If I can answer any additional questions, or set up any additional showings, let me know.”

“And just to confirm,” Jennifer said, “the Dunham Drive property is still on the market.”

“It is,” Jarvis allowed. “Unless Deborah Vennekamp decides otherwise.” 

“I’m sure Mr. Vennekamp will want to have a say, too,” Jennifer replied, proud of herself for not defaulting to the self-consciously feminist position. Moreover, the Richard Vennekamp in that portrait hadn’t looked like the sort of man who allows his wife to make all of the family’s major decisions.

Jarvis smiled enigmatically. “You haven’t met Deborah Vennekamp.”

Chapter 5

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