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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

Arrias Speaks: Terror – Again


After the most recent (multiple) terror attacks several commentators were quick to point out that the process from ‘explosion to arrest’ took less than 48 hours and that this demonstrated the great strides made since 2001.

The action of the various police and investigative organizations in identifying and tracking down the suspects was excellent police work. But…

It should be remembered that it was because of no action of any intelligence or police organization that no one was killed. That these bombs went off and yet no one died is just a little short of a miracle. But banking on miracles is not a great security strategy.

That various terrorists have failed in their attacks because of incompetence (the ‘Underwear Bomber,’ the ‘Shoe Bomber,’ etc.) is hardly cause for celebration. We can thank God that such was the case. But, besides prayer, what can we do to prevent terror future attacks?

In the short term we can’t completely stop attacks. Whatever we start today won’t yield immediate and comprehensive results. Answers that ‘we need to copy Israel’ (the implication being that Israel has better security than the US) miss the point that the US is physically 400 times bigger than Israel with 40 times the population; the US is a much harder problem then Israel. And it’s a different one: it’s worth remembering that Israel suffers from regular security threats. The US can learn a great deal from Israel and others, but the US solution is going to be much different.

The US also has the benefit of the Constitution. That is something we absolutely don’t want to ‘throw out.’ But with the rights and freedoms the Constitution guarantees and protects, there is an associated cost. So, any solution must balance our security with those rights and freedoms.

So, how do we do that? Our candidates need to be asked this question. Any reasonable answer needs to address the following points:

First, recognize that any answer is going to be incomplete, that there will always be mistakes and gaps in our security. And, every answer will take time to implement. That we’re 15 years into this war against Islamic terrorists and we’re still asking these questions is a reason for criticism. The first 7 or 8 years or that period we seemed to perform slightly better. But in the past several years we’ve seen multiple successful terrorist attacks. Our security appears to be slipping. That suggests that, at a minimum, the people in charge right now need to be retired and new leadership and new strategies are needed.

Second, immigration reform – and that means better border security and immigration control – is a key element of our internal security. Trying to establish better security while maintaining open borders is nonsensical. We need to establish control first and then move on towards some sort of immigration reform. It is the sine qua non of the security problem. You can’t have open borders and high security. Pick one.

Third, intelligence agencies – working with the FBI, the state and local police and other agencies – can do a lot. They can probably do more then they are doing. Doing so will require intruding on personal liberties from time to time. And there will be mistakes. The intelligence agencies have no right to unchecked activities, or instant acceptance and loyalty from the citizenry. The nation needs more, and more aggressive, Congressional oversight. The intelligence community needs to be more forthcoming with Congress, and Congress needs to be much more aggressive and assertive in establishing detailed and comprehensive oversight.

Fourth, winning this war will require a very aggressive ‘away’ game. The root of this war is Islamic fanaticism. The way to fight them is with our Arab friends and allies who are in the same war as we, and who are suffering far more casualties than we are. We need to work with them to root out existing terrorist cells, but we also need to help them to do what is necessary to reform or stamp out those forces that promote fanaticism that threatens not simply the West, but threatens their own nations.

These are the big pieces: new leadership; immigration reform; meaningful intelligence reform and oversight; and attacking Islamic fanaticism at its roots. There are a thousand details. But whatever we do, every plan must include these elements.

Copyright 2016 Arrias

Life & Island Times: Savannah Whoo-ee’s

Savannah Whoo-ee’s

Marlow’s Coastal Empire

They hadn’t heard train whistles for thirty, maybe forty, years. Their new home-town hadn’t either until about six years ago, when globalization brought back regular whoo-ee’s to the residents. When Savannah became the Saudi Arabian-like sea-railhead for eco-friendly, sustainable, wooden fuel pellets for European Union electric power plants, train traffic on its dilapidated rails zoomed.


Up to 192 whoo-ee’s per day now bother certain residents. The Wall Street Journal reported that Noble L. Boykin, whose law firm is on East 38th Street, said he and other attorneys have to take “train breaks” during depositions. He has to step into a closet for phone calls. He also lives near the tracks, so he can’t escape them – even at 5 a.m. “Everybody hates it.” he said.


Marlow and W are not so inconvenienced.

Perhaps it was due to something they had read long ago or heard their mommas say that out of sight was out of mind. Now each time they stop for a train or cross empty rails, they recall long ago trips that passed shadowy lanes, winding streams, moonbeams shining down on lonely small town stations, and sleeper cabin pull down shades. With each whistle and trestle beam, old dreams reappear through their minds’ cracks. They look at the tracks going forward and those going back to what and who knows who.

Well, their hood doesn’t shake like the B&O, but sometimes it wobbles like the L&N.

Savannah’s become a railroad hot-spot, trains not scared to shout where they’ve been.

A long ago Savannah songwriter lived a few short blocks away from Marlow’s place during the halcyon days of US railroads. More than a few of this Mercer boy’s songs feature railway imagery and motifs.

Maybe Savannah‘s now reconnecting with her blues in the night when “the rain’s a-fallin and (she) hears trains a-callin ‘whoo-ee!’ A-whooee-ah-whooee ol’ clickety-clack’s a-echoin’ back th’ blues in the night.”

They have noticed the evening breezes now and then start the trees to crying. Sometimes the moon hides its light when the trees get these blues in the night.

Copyright © 2016 From My Isle Seat/Johnny Mercer

34 Confederates

(The impressive spire of Christ Church Alexandria, attended by George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Photo Socotra).

I ran across a bit of news the other day that confirmed that I no longer live in a place I once did. It was about The Rebel, the one who stands at the intersection of South Washington Street (Virginia Route 400) and Prince Street in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.

(The Rebel statue in Alexandria. Photo John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The figure is that of a bare-headed Confederate infantryman. He is facing south, looking down and reflective of the sacrifice made by local residents who were occupied by the overwhelming Federal Army for nearly four years of war. The spot is significant, and marks the place where a local regiment mustered to retreat from Alexandria as Federal troops swarmed across the Long Bridge from Washington to occupy the city and the high ground of the Virginia Piedmont, construct an interlocking ring of imposing forts, and secure the Capital from the predations of the Virginians.

There have been previous controversies about “Appomattox,” the formal name for the seven-foot bronze statue atop his plinth. I remember when an undocumented immigrant drove his pickup truck through the ornamental wrought-iron fence that once surrounded it. Back then we had another term for persons in the United States without papers or the approval of our elected government.

We called them criminals. See how things have changed? Anyway, I always thing of that undocumented motorist every time I pass the statue, heading over to the Jeff Davis Highway to go to the Pentagon or one of the other iconic buildings here in Your Nation’s Capital.

The forces of revision never sleep, any more than rust does. Periodically, there have been efforts to move the statue, which when it was erected in 1889 was a source of great civic pride. Not so much anymore. There is a concerted effort to erase the presence of the Confederates in the city of Alexandria. The City Council voted by acclamation last weekend to change the name of Jeff Davis Highway and implore the Virginia General Assembly to permit them to move Appomattox to a less visible location.

The Council had appointed a special task force that was charged with the de-Nazification of the city. Wait, sorry. Wrong country. What I meant was that the inconvenient parts of our collective history has to be scrubbed of things that could conceivably make anyone uncomfortable.

As a person with both Confederate and Union ancestors, I appreciate the whole spectrum of the people who did what they did in the context of their times, and their children who tried to honor their sacrifice in the war between some of the States and the Federal Government.

Anyway, these things seem to come and go with the generations, and some people are deeply committed to re-writing the past. The monuments themselves are the products of the next generation after the fighting was done, and the outcome enforced. I ran across 34 Confederates quite by accident this morning, and I was struck that they were passive participants in the War of the Dead, the one that came as the Federal Government was setting up the system of National Cemeteries to provide dignified resting places for the 300,000 Union soldiers who had been buried where they fell.

Naturally, that was only for the victors at the time. There are still some Confederate mass graves in strange places. I have seen the one off Georgia Avenue, north of the District. The grave contains the bones of ten Rebels killed in the Monocacy Campaign of General Jubel Early, dispatched by Bobbie Lee to distract Ulysses Grant, who was in the process of capturing strategic Petersburg, the key to the conquest of Richmond.

I found 34 more today.

I had a meeting in Old Town with a company I respect a great deal. Parking is always a problem in Old Town, which is mostly why I don’t go there much any more. But I was parked just north of the Christ Church on Washington Street. It is a lovely old structure, completed before the Revolution in 1773, and they have been putting people in the ground there ever since.

I don’t walk as well as I used to, and was slowly moving north as I saw a large marble marker inset into the shoulder of a mound of ivy. Welcoming he chance to stop for a moment, I walked over to the iron fence and looked through. I will let the stone tell you the story:

These Rebels were dug up over the furor with the Union Dead and the Alexandria National Cemetery.

I did not see a reference to them in the deliberations of the City Council. Perhaps the Task Force does not know that they are on the grounds of the Church, or perhaps they realized that the grave in on private property and thus beyond their power.

They can re-name Jeff Davis Street if they wish- they have that power. The Statue’s removal will need the cooperation of the State Assembly, which they are not likely to get (at the moment). That august body recently sent a bill to our distinguished Governor strictly regulating the movement of war memorials.

He vetoed it, of course, since he is in favor of scrubbing the past to make it nice and tidy.

I am hoping the 34 Rebels who rest in the Christ Church grounds remain there. Of course, if public sensibilities demand they be removed to a more inconspicuous place, I am sure they would understand.

It would not be the first time, you know?

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra

Route Seventeen

Life and Island Times
Coastal Empire September 22 2016 – Route Seventeen

Alongside route 17 outside of Savannah Marlow and W spied a house. The frames around its windows and doors were painted blue. Folks, especially in South Carolina’s Low Country and Georgia’s Coastal Empire, have a name for this paint’s soft blue-green hue – “Haint Blue.” Haints are the restless spirits of the dead who, for whatever reason, have not moved on from their physical world.”

These were not your quiet, floaty, sorrowful ghosts; they were the kind you didn’t want to mess with, and the kind you certainly didn’t want invading into your humble abode looking for revenge.

According to legend, the sole thing haints feared was crossing water. Living in an underwater bubble or building one’s house inside a moat wasn’t an option. So, locals chose a simpler – some might say more elegant – solution. They would dig a pit in the ground, fill it with lime, milk, and whatever bluish pigments they could find, stir it all together, and paint the mixture around every opening into their homes. The haints, confused by these watery pigments, would be tricked into thinking they couldn’t enter.

Low Country examples of haint blue

The route seventeen house’s wooden clapboards were warped and gray from old age just like the area’s people. The house sat on concrete pilings a couple of feet up from the ground. The soil surrounding the house had been pounded flat and lifeless, so that nothing could grow there.

Marlow had seen this foundation preparation before back in the 70s when he loved in the marsh country of North Carolina. There the issue was snakes. There wasn’t going to be any bad snakes hiding there on the dirt. Marlow also suspected that now and then turpentine was poured on the ground around the foundation to keep snakes from lurking in the cool space under the house.

As they slowed their car down to peer into the dark shade of a century old live oak that dominated the home’s front yard, they saw a broken down red wagon.

As the car sped up as they passed, their minds slowed down to wonder whether around supper time one could stop there and ask for some food and get invited in. The meal would be pan fried cornbread and maybe some catfish from the nearby pond. Hot bacon grease and vinegar when they had on e or the other might be poured over raw collard greens. There might be some grits too and ice tea with sugar and lemon.

Maybe next time they passed that way, they just might stop and visit this world from their individual pasts. Both had known poverty and isolation but remembered that it had not meant sadness. For a brief moment, they savored memories when potatoes could be made into a feast and a single toy was forever.

Copyright © 2016 From My Isle Seat

Storm Over Leyte with John Prados


An evening of naval history and the role of intelligence in battle at the International Spy Museum

092116-2The International Spy Museum (800 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004) is a national treasure of spookery, tradecraft and strange tales. It is a must-see attraction when visiting Your Nation’s Capital, and well worth the trip downtown. Numerous watering holes are located in the neighborhood if you need to fortify yourself before assuming your clandestine identity and touring the exhibits that challenge your ability to maintain a cover identity in the secret world.

The Spy Museum is also a wonderful educational resource, and this week hosted a fascinating talk in partnership with the Naval Intelligence Professionals (NIP). The museum’s leadership were grateful for NIP’s National Capital Chapter’s efforts to co-sponsor a presentation by author and historian John Prados on the epic WWII Battle of Leyte Gulf. Turnout was brisk for the ninety-minute presentation.

At the presentation in the the evening of 19 September, 2016, John talked at length about the contributions made by Naval Intelligence, namely ‘JICPOA’ (Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area) and ‘FRUPAC,’ (Fleet Radio Unit Pacific) to the success of the USN forces in that battle.NIP Founder RADM Donald “Mac” Showers was a participant in both organizations. The ISM Historian, Dr. Vince Houghton, spoke first, thanking NIP for co-sponsoring the event, then introduced author John Prados (who he has written at least 20 historical books).

John then spoke for just over an hour, then held a Q&A session for another half hour, describing numerous little-known events that provide the context for the greatest maritime struggle in history. His account of President Franklin Roosevelt’s 30-day trip to and from Pearl Harbor the month before the battle was riveting. FDR met with ADM Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur at Pearl Harbor to set the final strategy for the recapture of the Philippines. He also paid special tribute to the intel contributions made by FRUPAC and JICPOA, and the stroke of luck that allowed the USN to steal the Japanese “Z Plan,” which provided the USN commanders with the Japanese battle plan in advance of the crucial engagements.

092116-3-pradosJohn Prados is an author and analyst of national security based in Washington, DC. He is the author of more than twenty books and many articles on topics of current importance, presidential studies, international security; and diplomatic, intelligence, or military history.

His current book is Storm Over Leyte: The Philippine Invasion and the Destruction of the Japanese Navy (Penguin Random House). His current longform ebook is A Streetcar Named Pleiku: Vietnam 1965, A Turning Point (Nowandthenreader.com). His current e-book is Operation Vulture: America’s Dien Bien Phu. Recently appearing in paperback are The US Special Forces: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press), The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power (University of Texas Press). Classic paperback editions include Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun (NAL/Caliber); and Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975 (University of Kansas Press), winner of the Henry Adams Prize in American History. Other longforms include “Rethinking National Security” (Nowandthenreader.com). Other works include Normandy Crucible: The Decisive Battle That Shaped World War II in Europe (NAL/Caliber), In Country: Remembering Vietnam (Rowman & Littlefield), and How the Cold War Ended: Debating and Doing History (Potomac/University of Nebraska). In addition, Prados is author of titles on national security, the American presidency, and other subjects including Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and World War II. He is also a noted designer of board games on military strategy, intelligence, and diplomacy.

John’s narrative described the sprawling nature of the tactical picture as the Allies prepared for the invasion of the Philippine island of Leyte. In the Japanese Order of Battle, every available warship, submarine, and airplane was placed on alert while Admiral Kurita Takeo stalked Admiral William F. Halsey’s unwitting American armada. It was the beginning of the epic Battle of Leyte Gulf—the greatest naval battle in history.

092116-3-prados-book-coverJohn’s newest book, Storm Over Leyte, provides an unprecedented look at both sides of this titanic naval clash. Drawing upon a wealth of untapped sources for the book, including US and Japanese military records, diaries, declassified intelligence reports, and postwar interrogation transcripts— his book offers up a masterful narrative of naval conflict on a gigantic scale.

With access to the naval intelligence reports that influenced key strategic decisions on both sides, attendees found out why Prados believes that despite the Americans’ overwhelming superiority in firepower and supplies, the Japanese found a new weapon and achieved part of their goal in forestalling the inevitable.

NIP stalwart and lecture attendee Terry Wilton noted: “As the son of a WWII veteran and American history professor, I thought I knew all about the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but John Prados told us of numerous little-known events leading up to the battle and how the Pearl Harbor intel offices contributed.”

I could almost hear our pal Mac Showers chuckle as he recounted the hunt for IJN Yamato, the super-battleship that was flung in a last-dtich effort against the Allied armada. Mac was there, and he made it as vivid as if it had happened yesterday. Since his passing, we will have to rely on great historians like John Prados to keep the memories alive. In light of the assertive actions of the PRC in fortifying the reefs and shoals of the South China Sea, the lessons are particularly (and troublingly) relevant today.

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra

Willow Retrospective

(The Burger Bash 2015 Grand Champion, two in a row for Tracy’s Willow team).

I told you last year it would not be the last time I wrote about Willow. In a way, it is always going to be with us. Heather talked about it at Front Page the other night, that the one-year anniversary of the ending of ten years of hi-jinx and fine dining. So, it is time to shed the dark clothes of mourning and move on.

Maybe. Brian, Tracy O’Grady’s spouse, wrote some nice words on the formal last night of business. That is when I had the honor of sliding off the bar and crashing to the floor in a clumsy attempt to dismount after some well-considered remarks. It had been quite the afternoon, what with the Big Pink ritual of closing the pool that Sunday evening, then cabbing it back to the raucous crowd celebrating the end of an era.

But of course, that was not the end of it, and why for me, today is the official one-year Anniversary.

The next day I was limping my way through work and got a call from Old Jim, who demanded that I drop what I was doing and swing by for a drink. Cleverly, I asked: “Where?”

“Willow,” he growled, and hung up.

I beat cheeks over there as fast as I could hobble. Heather was cleaning out the last of the liquor behind the bar, and dispensing free beer. It was very eerie and almost felt like a reprieve, though of course it wasn’t.

The place is still empty a full year after Willow’s end, and I have to wonder whether having a great restaurant paying some rent is better than having a soul-less, empty space, generating nothing and employing no one.

That afternoon there was the bittersweet talk about some of the great moments- the two victories in the DC Burger Bash, back-to-back, and the Buffalo Nights with the fabled Beef-on-Weck Sandwiches. I can still do the litany that went along with them:

“Locally raised, hormone-free, humanely-slaughtered round of beef, slow-cooked to perfection and thinly sliced, piled high on Kate Jansen’s home-baked Kemmelweck rolls topped with fennel and sea-salt.”


I would order two on the last Friday of the month. One to eat there at Willow, and soak up some of the booze, and the other to serve as multiple meals over the rest of the weekend.

So, along with the sadness that goes along with the loss of a pivotal social institution, there is also the memories of all the people who made the place to vibrantly alive.

It was a decade that may have been the best of our lives, or certainly the strangest with new beginnings, wars in distant places, unlikely Presidents and wild economic swings.

Don’t get me wrong: I like Lyon Hall and The Front Page just fine. Both are nice bars with friendly staff and excellent bar-flies. We have gained some traction at the FP and George the owner has even given us a formal nickname from the place we normally sit: “The South Side.”

That last day when alcohol still flowed over the grand old Willow bar was a strange and surreal afternoon. Some customers appeared, not knowing that the place was closed, and for a change, the inmates were running the asylum. We had a grand time drinking with Tracey and Heather and me behind the bar.

I would be in the place two more times, once for the pre-auction inspection of the furnishings and equipment, and then a morning to haul away the treasures on which I had successfully bid.

Though familiar, the suite was a husk from which the life had flown. Willow’s closure was about something larger than that. It also closed a chapter in our lives

Chanteuse Mary and Old Jim retired and moved to Vegas. Bartenders became attorneys. Relationships began and ended there, and a parade of professional drink consultants traded places behind the bar, only to float away again.


Of course the food was great- inspired, in fact, but it was the people that made the place the best bar I have ever patronized.

Deborah, Tex, Peter, Big Jim, Sammy, Marvin, Jasper, Brett, Angela, Tinkerbelle, Holly, Liz-with-an-S, Serena, Heather…all of them blurring into a boozy blur of figures on the other side of the bar. There was often a free drink for the regulars if one was needed.

The Roberts, both exceptional line cooks who masterfully interpreted Tracy’s culinary vision. All those hard working servers- Marc the Frenchman being one of my favorite people, who was always willing to share a Gallic laugh in his native tongue.

Not to mention the characters on our side of the heavy wooden bar left over from the raffish days when the place was called Gaffney’s and the place was a dive.

Mac Showers, Old Jim & Chanteuse Mary. John-with Old Jim. Chanteuse Mary. Jon-without, Barrister Jerry, The Mikes- short and long haired versions- and the Rays, the Heathers, The Lovely Bea and Placid Jamie, the Missile Twins, wild-haired JPeter, Senior Executive Jerry, the Master Chief and JeanMarie and Jake and Celia. Jeeze.

What a cast of characters and grand pals.

But there is something to keep in mind: Tracy and Brian are still in the business. They are running Campono’s, an Italian-style place down by the Kennedy Center. If you haven’t tried Tracy’s quinoa cakes you don’t know what you’re missing. Don’t just take the reviews in the Washington Post as gospel- stop on by and try them yourself. Or that awesome not Italian Panini sandwich, featuring imported Italian meats, and cheese , or the new Turkey Reuben Panani or the veggie Mushroom Melt or the Palermo Reuben Panini or the tuna sub with artichokes, arugula and eggs.


You get the idea.

Campono’s: 600 New Hampshire Ave, NW, directly across the street from The Kennedy Center.

In the meantime, we have to bloom where we are planted. Hope to see you for a cocktail at the South Side of the Front Page bar, or maybe we can grab a bite at Campono’s before going to the show across the street.

As John Belushi’s character in the film Animal House declared: “It ain’t over until we say it is over!”

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303

Pressure Cookers

Linden, New Jersey, can rest a little easier this afternoon. A fellow named Ahmad Khan Rahami was found sleeping in the doorway to a bar, and when awakened, produced a pistol and engaged in a running gun battle with police after shooting a cop in the abdomen.

Thankfully the officer was wearing a ballistic vest and was not hurt. The same cannot be said for Mr. Rahami, who apparently collected multiple bullet wounds.

The event stemmed from the morning excitement on Sunday, when a pipe-bomb was detonated at a Marine Corps Reserve 5k fun run at the shore. No one was hurt there, but that was not true about the pressure-cooker bomb blast in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Additional bombs were found a couple blocks away, and still more in a back-pack back in Jersey. Five associates and co-religionists were stopped in a car headed over the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island when they were stopped Sunday night.

Sources said the FBI suspected the men may have had a role in the bombing and were questioning them at the FBI headquarters in Manhattan. It is believed the five, who live in New Jersey, were heading to JFK to catch a flight when they were busted.

That was a lot to unscramble as the story grew. I heard there was something in Virginia during the Cowboys-Redskins game that never was confirmed, and then there was the near-deadly attack at the mall in Minnesota, where nine people (non-fatally) were slashed by a loon brandishing a knife who was explaining at the top of his lungs to his potential victims that he was representing the Religion of Peace (trademark) and would never hurt a co-religionist.

Now, I may have been born at night but not last night. So, I was only mildly surprised to hear that the Governor of New York, and the Mayor of New York City had explained that there was no foreign connection behind the assault and the bombings.

I recognize that failing to protect your citizens against foreign enemies can make you look kind of bad, and that there is always the possibility that disgruntled Baptists or Mormons may have jumped off the reservation, but come on.

Pressure cooker bombs? That is the technique that appeared in the al Qaida glossy magazine “Inspire,” and was promptly adopted for use by the despicable Tsarnaev brothers at the Boston Marathon, and the slashing is a regular feature of Hamas-sponsored violence against Israel.

(Pressure cooker bomb found near Chelsea in Manhattan. It is similar to the designs used by terrorists and originally published by al Qaida. Getty image).

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told us at his presser yesterday that that the explosions were an “intentional attack” but at the moment there was no “connection to terrorism and no immediate claim of responsibility.”

Well, ISIS actually did claim credit for the slashing attackss, but Mr. de Blasio was doing a little case of careful parsing of words. That attack did not happen in Mr. de Blasio’s city, only a couple bombings with devices that look a lot like the ones the terrorists have been shopping around the Inspired crowd.

I supposed you could make a case that Mr. Rahami’s family was in a feud with the cops and the city council over the disturbances that happened with sad regularity at the family restaurant- the First American Fried Chicken shop on the first floor of the family residence. You know the restaurant business can be a real pressure cooker.

You will note that the only religions mentioned this afternoon are the Latter Day Saints and the Baptists. I don’t think it is too much to ask for Mr. de Blasio to wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe some of the other politicians who are calling so desperately for our votes, too. Or, at least those not dumped in the ‘deplorables’ basket already.

There are people who are being encouraged to do this mayhem to us. They belong to ISIS and al Qaida and Hamas. They target young men. Seven of them acted out this weekend and we are very fortunate that no one was killed. We know exactly who is encouraging them. Even Gov. Cuomo was moved today to acknowledge there might be a “foreign connection.”

But I have to say that a nation whose leaders can’t even bring themselves to utter the words that describe our enemies are not serious about stopping them- or protecting us.

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra

Ed Note: at two this afternoon, Maayor de Blasio admitted that there might be a terror connection to the bombings. No shit, Sherlock.

US Foreign Policy: Off the Rails

A recent commentary opined that, if elected, President Trump must find ‘qualified’ people for key positions; that only a few on his team have the necessary credentials.

Another article lauded Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy acumen, experience and inside knowledge. This was compared to Mr. Trump’s inexperience and lack of inside knowledge, concluding that Mrs. Clinton was the only possible choice for those serious about US national security policy.

So… let’s begin with several simple assertions:

Mrs. Clinton is at least part-author of current US foreign and security policy.

Mrs. Clinton will, on the whole, maintain current US foreign policy and national security policy.

Mrs. Clinton will draw from the ‘established’ policy experts.

So how has US foreign policy and national security policy developed after 7 years of these experts?

Iraq was recovering in 2009, declared a great success by VP Biden in 2011, but now wars with ISIS, and drifts further into the Iran – Russia camp everyday.

Egypt has been through two non-constitutional changes in government and is fighting a nasty shadow war with Islamic extremists.

Libya, not a friend in 2009, but being helpful, was turned into a failed state and a breeding ground for radical Islamists. This is arguably Mrs. Clinton’s particular achievement.

Syria’s civil war emerged from the ‘Arab Spring,’ an event misunderstood by the Mrs. Clinton and the Administration. 5 years later 300,000 Syrians are dead, the war continues, and a refugee crisis threatens Europe.

Russia rises, despite Clinton’s ‘Reset.’ Putin seized Crimea, is slowly seizing eastern Ukraine, has applied heavy-handed pressure on Georgia, and has successfully exploited the vacuum in the Middle East – caused by the partial US withdrawal – to keep Assad in place in Syria, and stake out a new power position for Russia.

Iran exploited the same power vacuum and helped to undermine the government of Yemen, leading to civil war in that country – now 5 years in duration. Now, flush with cash, Iran ‘flexes its muscles’ in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea.

North Korea transitioned into the 3rd generation of the Kim dynasty, has conducted scores of missile tests, and accelerated nuclear weapon development; the US has done nothing to slow that nuclear weapons program. Within several years the North will have nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them regionally. Within 3 or 4 years they may be able to reach the US.

China continues expanding, with Chinese naval forces now on patrol in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, Chinese bases built or building in Pakistan and Djibouti, and seeking a naval port in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

The Philippines’ new president is bowing to Chinese presence, and, recognizing American fecklessness and the situation in the South China Sea, it’s looking increasingly that he will cede de facto control of key Philippine islands to China.

Cuba’s leaders mocks us; Mexico builds a border wall to keep out those crossing its southern border (really); Chinese commercial interests have moved into Panama, and want to move into Nicaragua; Venezuela has collapsed; and Brazil and Argentina are facing economic and political crises.

Many US policies are diametrically opposite to that which came before. From Israel to Japan, Great Britain to the Philippines, the US has retreated from longtime friends, and courted new friends (e.g. Cuba and Iran) who’ve turned around and mocked the US even as the White House chases more agreements.

These political and economic situations, if not caused by the US, have all been seriously exacerbated by US policies in the last 7 years, many of which were first implemented by Mrs. Clinton.

Meanwhile, the US economy remains stagnant; and our military, according to those across the political spectrum, has grown weaker; investments are needed in a host of capabilities, and it will require years to recover.

Yet, those who created this mess wish to remain in power. These are the people the intelligentsia insists President Trump must have on his team.

As this disaster unfolds in slow motion we’re told that Mrs. Clinton can fix it. But Mrs. Clinton helped create this catastrophe. Can we really afford to give her another chance?

Perhaps Mr. Trump can’t fix it. But if ever there were an argument for Donald Trump, this is it.



I am in terre incognita here. I wake each morning with the dread feeling that something awful is either about to happen, or already has. I am staying away form the television. The left and the alt.right commentators are savaging each other, and the kick-off for the Michigan game is still an hour and a half away. Perhaps NCAA football will fill the idle hours that we once spent in the water, swimming our way through the dog days of summer in Baghdad-on-the-Potomac. But this summer is, alas, toe-tagged. That is a useful phrase, describing the means by which the departed are identified at the morgue; a label on string is tied to the great toe complete with name and other information. Naturally, time has marched on, and anklebands (like the wristbands you get when you visit a hospital) are now more common. I can’t imagine trying to get a band around a whole season, though. There was so much crazy stuff that went on, in and out of the water.

But if I were filling out the tag, it would read:

Summer Pool Season
Born: Memorial Day
Expired: 9/11/2016, 8:00 PM
At Big Pink
Of Natural Causes

The grim realization is now complete. The pool should have been open today. Normally the Board authorizes the first two weekends in September for us to pretend that the summer has not been toe-tagged officially. This summer, though, the Blue Water pool management company announced that there were no lifeguards available anywhere in Northern Virginia, that last weekend last weekend was really it, and despite the furniture still being out and the water glittering under the late summer sunlight, we are sliding into the next season.

i was in mild denial through mid-week, sitting out on the patio, imagining that it was still Memorial Day, and that the gate was going to swing open to a full season of frolicking in the deep end.

That pleasant delusion came to a rapid end on Wednesday. A young American guy who was apparently willing to work showed up and started hauling tables, chairs and recliners over to the corner of the pool deck, stacking them in the smallest pile possible. I made a point of sitting out to see him work. As I enter my dotage, I enjoy observing other people work, and labor he did. He ran a thick outlet hose from the pool to the parking lot, got suction on the end, and the water level in the pool slowly lowered to what he considered an acceptable level. Then the green tarp came out from the basement, and was carefully rigged to the spring tensioners on the perimeter and hooked into the grommets set into the concrete deck.

Then he looked at it, surveyed his work for a moment, and then turned and stepped through the gate, locking it behind him and walked to the building to return the key to Rhonda at the front desk, where it will rest for the next eight months.

I have been in on one of the minor mysteries here in this venerable building: the key to the communal gas grill was exactly the same as the padlock on the gate. I always comforted myself with the idea that in an emergency, I could grab a New York Strip on a plate, sign out the key to the grill and go for a surreptitious swim.

That is going to have to wait until next season now.

And so what will take up our idle hours? It is difficult to imagine drinking more. I suppose we could sit up straight, do our civic duty, and serve as the informed citizenry the Framers imagined to make the tough electoral decisions that will keep America strong.

The idea of actually paying much attention to the opera buffa that passes as the political process is far too daunting, though. I Heard someone comment that this was the strangest campaign since the 1828 electoral battle between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams given the amount of bald-faced mud-slinging and outrageous assertions.

To make the time pass, and keep politics at bay, I suppose we could reconstitute the Book Group of last winter. That would give us motivation to open ourselves to new concepts and ideas. Plus, the nice thing about book groups is that you can read and drink while doing it.

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra

Smoke and Mirrors


Well, things are getting interesting, aren’t they? I am not quite sure what to think about it all. If that video clip from the 9/11 ceremony had not surfaced, we would not even be having a discussion, much less breathless theories about insidious medical matters, body doubles and conspiracies. It is a bewildering world of smoke and mirrors out there, as puzzling as a pair of sunglasses with bright blue lenses.

To that end, I was going to run a piece this morning by noted Roman historian Tacitus on the developments out there on the campaign trail, the one in which both candidates are reporting to be in apple pie order, and fully ready to assume the responsibilities of the office to which they both aspire.

Or all four of them, for that matter, though I haven’t heard the blood pressure numbers for either the Libertarian or the Green candidates, though I do hope they are well. If you have not heard of them, the former was caught not knowing about a town in Syria, while the latter was filmed spray painting graffiti on a bulldozer.

I introduced you to Tacitus the other day; he and fellow Roman Empire essayist Arrias will be joining the Socotra home page with their own tabs to serve as click-bait for our media empire.


Tacitus has a distinct take on the matter at hand, and precisely what it could mean. Had I published it, the renowned Roman historian would have made his first appearance in the annals of The Daily. He has direct and pointed views about things, as befits a scholar and observer of the human parade for more than 2,000 years.

“Nothing new under the sun,” it has been said, and Tacitus has seen the empires rise and fall. It is not unrealistic to take the lessons of the history he has seen and apply them to the Good Ole U.S. of A. Kingdoms and Republics have a natural entropy to them, a steady or dizzying rise and then decline that can be abrupt or linger in a sickbed for decades.

I should let you know that Tacitus takes on the events of the day with an unflinching gaze. As you know, since the endless campaign started to get hyper-weird, I have moderated my public persona, since I am not sure which list of enemies I am going to wind up on once all the dust settles. As a natural-born Citizen of Rome, Tacitus is under no such constraints.

I am pretty sure Tacitus is not a Republican. As a young man, he studied rhetoric in preparation for a career in law and politics, and like his contemporary Pliny, he may have studied under the Spanish rhetorician Quintilian. He started his career as a lawyer under the riegn of Vespasian, but switched to public service as a Quaestor (Latin for investigator) under Emperor Titus.

He and his property survived Domitian’s reign of terror (AD 81–96), but the experience left him jaded and perhaps ashamed at his own complicity with the atrocities and corruption of the era.

Domitian, in the words of Tacitus: “(left) no interval or breathing space of time, but, as it were, with one continuous blow, drained the life-blood of the Commonwealth…”

So, I suppose it would be fair to term Tacitus crusader for virtue, and there doesn’t appear to be a party these days that endorses that concept. The essay this morning will be the last we see for a couple weeks, since the Ancient Roman has adapted to modern America, and is taking his SUV for a spin across the continent.

A disclaimer up front, at the advice of our attorneys, and it will remain in effect for the duration. Read this quickly, like the disclaimer at the end of the ads for exciting news drugs that “can cause giddiness, vomiting or sudden acute collapse.” There are no acknowledged members of the GOP on the editorial staff. The most we can get out of them is that they are dyspeptic Independents. The views of Tacitus do not necessarily reflect those of the management of Socotra House LLC, its stockholders, dependents or hangers-on. The opinions expressed are those of an ancient Roman who has seen it all before, and lived to tell the tale. Today, he turned his attention to the medical arts. There is a pointed reason for that, as I am sure you are aware.

To give some context, the medical profession has come a long way from classical Rome. The ‘doctors’ back then were not nearly as highly regarded as they are now. The medical profession itself, outside those assigned to the Legion, was considered at best a blue-collar trade, fit for slaves, freedmen or non-Latin citizens. Mostly Greek, in fact. They were largely self-taught or apprenticed practitioners who put out their shingle as healers. Sort of like bloggers today.

Considering what is going on out there, it is possible that they had it about right in those days. Anyway, after some minor construction work at the print plant, we will be ready to launch Tacitus on an unsuspecting public.

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra