It's Time for Cleveland to Lose "Tall Betsy"

We’re coming upon Halloween, that time of year when things get scary.  (I’ll throw in the fact that Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses and started the Reformation on Halloween, something that Bossuet could appreciate.)  In any case “ghost stories” make their way to the surface.  In Cleveland, TN, that means “Tall Betsy,” a story initiated by another Cleveland legend, Allan Jones.  According to the “official website“:

Tall Betsy was a very tall woman who walked the streets of Cleveland, TN in the early 1920s. She always wore black and was referred to by the townspeople as Tall Betsy, Black Betsy, and the Lady in Black. Marie used the stories of Tall Betsy to get young Gincy to be home before the street lights came on because that is when “TALL BETSY” comes out.

Since score-settling about past offences is the rage these days, I think it’s time to do so on Betsy’s behalf.

I come from a family of tall people in general and tall women in particular.  My mother was 5′-11″ and my wife is 5′-9″.  It’s not been easy to be a tall woman.  Growing upon in Palm Beach (where Allan Jones has his digs just down the street from where my grandmother lived), we’d watch a show on WPTV called “Call the Doctor”.  Television moved a lot slower in those days; all this amounted to was a physician and a moderator sitting in front of the camera taking live calls about medical issues.  One caller was distressed that her daughter was shooting up so fast and wondered what could be done.  The doctor’s first response was brief: “Tall men”.  (Worked in my family…) But then he went on to say that there were drugs and other treatments that could stunt growth, and many women in the day were subjected to that kind of thing.

The sad truth was that, in a culture where men hated to look up to a woman in any way, tall women were regarded as freaks.  That’s compounded in this part of the country by the fact that the Scots-Irish, among their other characteristics, tend to be vertically challenged.  They had a few defenders, though: J.R.R. Tolkien conceived of the Lady Galadriel at 6′-4″.  Had she grown up in these hills, she would have gotten many phone calls from Pat Summitt.

Summitt and the Lady Vols did a great deal to advance the cause of women, tall and otherwise.  It’s hard to argue with winners.  But sooner or later those winners will go shopping, and in Knoxville that meant the Tall Gallery.  Near the West Town Mall, it was one of my wife’s favourite “tall shops”, which have pretty much disappeared from the landscape.  Owned by two elderly women who barely reached the ground, it was a place for hours of hunting through the clearance racks (and for me they had the best waiting area of just about anywhere where my wife has shopped).  Greeting everyone who came into the place was a 7′ or so stuffed giraffe in the display window, an example that it’s possible to turn a put-down into a mascot.

Now, in fairness, there are tall women who are really scary.  Leading the pack these days is Samantha Power, our ambassador to the UN, who along with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett and John Kerry, have made a complete mess of American foreign policy with their combination of pseudo-moralism and passive-aggressive behaviour.  Thanks to them and others, every day in the Middle East is Halloween without the treat.

So if Allan Jones wants to promote some Gothic horrors (or maybe Celtic horrors, she’s from Ireland) about “Tall Samantha” we’d all be better off.  In the meanwhile it’s time to put away the fears (and the shortening drugs) and, as our TN-3 congressman Chuck Fleishmann knows all too well with his South Dakota colleague Kristi Noem, celebrate leadership we can look up to.

Those Strange 2CV's

While on a recent trip to Nashville, we stopped at the Lane Motor Museum and viewed their French car exhibit.  For most Americans, French cars are a total abstraction.  For people in other parts of the world, it’s another story.  One of the most famous–perhaps the most famous–French car ever produced was the Citroën 2CV.  Produced from 1950 to 1990, more than 5 million of them were made.

The 2CV and its more luxurious offshoot the Dyane were both featured in the novel The Ten Weeks.  Unfortunately the cars at Lane and those in The Ten Weeks don’t quite synchronise in time, but they’ll give you a good idea about this interesting automobile.

A 1954 2CV, perhaps a little before the novel’s time (it was set in 1970-1.) Note the ribbed bonnet, which was good for carrying loads such as potatoes.

Luke did his usual magic getting Pierre, Raymond and their luggage into Pierre’s old Citröen 2CV—another of Pierre’s “trademarks”—and with Luke driving they puttered off to the hospital. (pp. 26-27)

And puttered was about it: the original 2CV’s top speed was 37 MPH.  By the time of the novel, the 2CV’s and the Dynanes floored it in the low sixties.  The upside was fuel economy, which wasn’t quite as high as the maximum speed but pushed it.

The Spartan dashboard. Great to cure distracted driving.

The 2CV was unharmed. “Papa, why do you think that they left our 2CV unhurt?” Madeleine asked as they puttered home.

“Maybe they didn’t think it was a car,” Raymond quipped. (p. 42)

A variant of the 2CV that probably didn’t make it to the Island: the 1962 4 x 4 Sahara,. Four wheel drive was done by putting one engine in the front and one in the rear, with two ignition switches and petrol tanks (two petrol tanks appeared in the Jaguar XJ6L, albeit for a different reason). Primarily made for off-road travel in Africa.
Newer than the novel’s time frame, this 1974 model is probably a little closer to the Dynane which the Ten Weeks’ heroine Madeleine drove.

Being with a medical excuse meant that she could leave school right after class and skip the athletics, a privilege she relished as she got into the Dyane and headed out. The day was beautiful and reaching its peak at 27°C. Madeleine was especially exhilarated by the nearly 5 kilometre drive across the Dahlia Bridge. Many Verecundan youth looked at the bridge as an extended over water drag strip. Although Madeleine’s Dyane’s capabilities in this regard were limited, it still felt nice to stash her hat and let the breeze to blow through her hair. As she took the straight shot back across the bay, she looked out to see the port, marina and ultimately the Verecundan skyline over the right guardrail. (p. 87)

A few more amenities for the driver, too, along with a proper door handle.

They got to the side walk. They could hear more protesters around the corner; they knew that they would come their way shortly. At this point they looked out into the street and saw Madeleine’s Dyane rolling down the street. The car crossed over and pulled up in front of them.

Madeleine lowered the window. “You need to go now!” she told Terry and Cathy. “They’re coming!” The two girls looked at their paint drenched clothes and Madeleine’s car in horror.

“Take your clothes off!” Madeleine ordered them. Terry started immediately but Cathy was stunned at the order. “You’ve done it before!” (p. 256)

The boot angle.

The visual appeal of the scene took a leap upward as he approached the Dyane. Luke had done a good job in getting most of the paint out of the interior of the car, but Madeleine was pickier. The garage had a strong odour of paint thinner, but Jack’s eyes were drawn to the sight before him. Madeleine had donned an old Izod shirt and shorts to finish the clean-up, and she was busy getting specks of paint that Terry had left on the passenger side floor. To get there, she had crawled in over the driver’s seat, so Jack was presented with the sight of Madeleine, rear up and legs out of the car as she inspected the floor for one more speck. (p. 258)

The exhibit at Lane runs until 4 April 2016.

The Ivy League Finally Meets Its Match

In this case, from New York’s Eastern Correctional Facility debate team:

The debate team from New York’s Eastern Correctional Facility has major bragging rights, after beating the national debate championship team from Harvard.

In September, the inmates invited the Harvard team to the Napanoch prison for a friendly match. The Eastern Correctional Facility team was formed two years ago, and the men take debate classes taught by faculty at Bard College; about 15 percent of the inmates are enrolled in different courses through the Bard Prison Initiative. “Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor, and expectation as students on Bard’s main campus,” Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, told The Associated Press. “Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty.”

Harvard’s people attempted to slough the loss off on Facebook, but they should be profoundly humiliated by the result.  It’s not a verbalised message, but Americans are told (and implicitly believe, based on the way they vote) that, unless you attended and received a degree from a few élite schools, you cannot be President, you cannot be on the Supreme Court, and that you’re really not up to being in a place of power in this country.  All of this is put into question by this result (to say nothing about the state of the country these days).

Unless, of course, you think that the reason Harvard lost is that their idea doesn’t need to be debated any more, which is why they’re not as good at defending it as they used to be, in which case we’re in real trouble.  The only way that’s going to work is if moving up is strictly an insiders game, in which case putting the elites into the same tavern for four years to bond to each other would be a lot cheaper.

But what kind of “meritocracy” is that?

Thugocracy is a Tough Ruling Regime

That’s what Rep. Jason Chaffetz found out the hard way:

A Secret Service official’s allegedly deliberate decision to embarrass Rep. Jason Chaffetz could “give pause” to other lawmakers who have applied for federal jobs, cautioned former House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis…(t)he disturbing leak to two media outlets of Chaffetz’s rejected application for a Secret Service job and the particulars surrounding it raised further alarm about privacy.

Stakes in the months-long conflict between Congress and the Secret Service went even higher Friday, after agency Director Joseph P. Clancy revised his account of what he knew and when he knew it, disclosing he had knowledge that private information about the Utah Republican was circulating before it was published.

Although it doesn’t involve physical violence (unlike this) this is another form of “thugocracy” which uses the brute power of the federal government (in this case the vast storehouse of information it has on just about everyone) against people it doesn’t like.  It’s akin to the Lois Lerner/IRS mess, and I think it has encouragement from the Occupant, who himself comes from a tough political system.

As Americans, we hand over large quantities of information, willingly because we are told that there is a maze of laws out there to keep it confidential.  If we are forced to keep this confidential because of federal requirements, we do so because the penalties for disclosing that information are pretty severe.

Now we see that disclosure of such information is becoming “at the convenience of the government”, to borrow a phrase from contracting.  If you want a citizenry that routinely hides stuff from the authorities and doesn’t trust them with anything, this is a good way to do it.