“Don’t Shoot The Messenger”?  How About THIS Messenger:

surprise croppedHas a family member, friend or acquaintance ever shown up at your door, uninvited?

I hate that.

How about a group – adults and children, at your door, uninvited?

Expecting an invitation to enter your home, expecting that you’ll gladly drop whatever you were doing because nothing you were doing could be more important than their uninvited appearance?

Uninvited…and possibly – unwelcome?

It happened to my husband and me over the holidays.

Only it wasn’t at the front door – it was in our family room.

And it was a group – adults and children, 17 of them.

In one second my husband’s and my peaceful afternoon was interrupted by a buzz on his smartphone, followed by an explosion of people and music and noise.

It was members of my family, on the other side of the country, raucously celebrating the partyholidays, and deciding to include us in the fun.

It felt like our home had been invaded, and indeed – it had.

By Facebook Messenger.

A brand-new experience for me.

I’d never heard of Facebook Messenger, much less been in it.  On it.


But suddenly I saw a room full of relatives on the phone’s screen, and up in the screen’s corner, my own stunned face staring back at me.

Now, before you say anything, even with my lack of experience I know I didn’t have to allow the party into my home.

I could have said, “Oooo – bad time, can we do this in a half-hour?”  Then at least I would party_03have been prepared, and I could have spiffed myself up a bit instead of appearing to one and all in my bathrobe.

Instead I stammered, “Wh – what the heck is this?”

And just like that, one family member – evidently the iPad Commando – started walking around the room, pointing the camera at each person and shouting, “Say hi to so-and-so!  Say Merry Christmas to so-and-so!”

And one by one, every family member and I said “Hi!” or “Merry Christmas!” and then they promptly walked off camera to get back to the festivities.

As the iPad Commando turned the camera on herself and her face filled the screen, the background noise continued unabated.  “How did you connect us?” I shouted.

“Face (unintelligible) enger!”  she said, which I later learned meant “Facebook Messenger.”  Then she walked into the kitchen to show me the deserts spread out on the counter, waiting for the horde to descend en masse.pie cropped

Damn!  Is that apple pie?  And I missed it!

I missed my family.

Later, I did some research about Messenger, and started thinking it might be cool technology.  I could maybe see how it might be a good thing.

I imagined a parent connecting face-to-face with a child away at college, or a service member on deployment seeing the smiles of a spouse and children, or my showing Aunt Myrtle the gorgeous sweater I’d bought with her gift card.

If the weather was lousy I could “visit” with someone in a hospital if they felt like it, or domess with hearts my book club on Messenger, or offer a friend a digital “shoulder” to cry on.

And I could Messenger my hubby when he’s upstairs, just to tell him I love him, and see his smile.

Maybe I’ll look into this Messenger thing.

Yup, I’m being dragged, kicking and screaming…

into 21st century cropped fixed

This Ploy Is So Blatantly Obvious, It Actually Deserves The Word…

Recently I was reading an article, then stopped and thought, “Didn’t I just read this the other day?  Are they running the same story again?”

The answer is, different articles, same story:

States Purging Voter Rolls

First, in Wisconsin:

Slate FINAL (2).jpg

Then in Georgia:

Common Dreams (2)

Two states, with a common thread,

From the Slate article about Wisconsin:

“…in a massive purge that would disproportionately affect minorities and Democrats.  The decision rests on a dubious interpretation of Wisconsin law pushed by a conservative group that seeks to weaponize state records against left-leaning voters.  If upheld, the ruling could increase Donald Trump’s chances of winning the closely divided state in 2020.”

From the article about the Georgia purge by the nonprofit Common Dreams, a quote from the advocacy group All Voting is Local:

“Voter purges pose a distinct threat to our democracy, causing disproportionate harm to the very voters who have long been disenfranchised:  people of color, low-income voters, and those who move frequently.”

The common thread:  The words “disproportionately” and “disproportionate.”

Wisconsin and Georgia purging so many voters in such a short time frame is new, but purging voter rolls is not.

In August, the Brennan Center, a non-partisan law and public policy institute, published this:

Brennan (2).jpg

And said,

“The Brennan Center analysis found that between 2016 and 2018, counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.”

The article goes on to say,

“This phenomenon began after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a decision that severely weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

What is Shelby County v. Holder?

I found this article in The Atlantic very enlightening:

ATlantic (2)

Regarding Shelby County v. Holder, the article says,

“In that 2013 decision, the Supreme Court invalidated a decades-old ‘coverage formula’ naming jurisdictions that had to pass federal scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act, referred to as ‘preclearance,’ in order to pass any new elections or voting laws.  Those jurisdictions were selected based on their having a history of discrimination in voting.”

So, jurisdictions that had a history of discrimination in voting had to pass federal scrutiny before they passed new voting laws.

But the Supreme Court did away with that, and that unleashed a firestorm of voter purging that began in 2013 and has steadily increased.  According to the Brennan Center article:

“The median purge rate over the 2016-2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Trump was elected on November 8, 2016.

17M-01 croppedAnd the purging has been surging ever since – this from the Brennan Center article:

“The latest data from the Election Assistance Commission shows that between the presidential election in 2016 and the 2018 midterms, more than 17 million voters were purged.”

And when your name is purged, you may or may not know about it.  You’ll go to your polling place, and be denied your right to vote.

A big, ugly surprise.

Now, purging voters for the right reasons is not only legal, it’s mandated by law.  If someone moves out of state or dies, of course their names should be removed.

But there’s another reason voters are being purged, one I find especially pernicious.  Take, for example, in Georgia.

Where voters are being denied their right to vote simply because they haven’t voted for awhile.

According to a December 17 CNN story,

“The removal comes as part of a new state provision signed into law earlier this year.  Under the provision, the state must remove registration records from the voter rolls that have been deemed ‘inactive’ for more than three years.  A voter is categorized as ‘inactive’ if they don’t vote in two general elections and have had no contact with board of elections in that time.”

“Signed into law earlier this year.”

This year.coincidence cropped fixed.jpg

Imagine that.

Now imagine that you live in Georgia and you haven’t voted for awhile.  You haven’t moved, you haven’t died, and you’re on your way to vote in the next election.

You arrive at your polling place only to be told, “You’re not on our list of registered voters.”

Georgia’s CTA (Cover Thy Ass) move was sending a pre-addressed, postage-paid confirmation card that asked voters to confirm or update their information.  The “inactive” voters were marked for removal after failing to respond to a within 30 days.

But suppose the card didn’t make it to its destination?  The Postal Service has been known to misplace, misdirect, or inadvertently shred our mail a time or two.  More like a mail_01 croppedzillion.

Or suppose you dutifully completed the card and dropped it in the corner mailbox, and the Post Office misplaced, misdirected or inadvertently shredded it.

Or supposed that confirmation looked like junk mail – which it probably did – and who has time to wade through the pile of junk that shows up in our mailboxes every day?

Whatever occurred, in Georgia you can be denied your right to vote only because you haven’t voted for several years.

According to that CNN article, Fair Fight Action spokesman Seth Bringman said,

“In our view, it is a First Amendment right not to vote, and it is unconstitutional to take away a Georgian’s right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections.”

So here’s where we are.

Between the presidential election in 2016 and the 2018 midterms, more than 17 million voters were purged.

And according to this article:

Mother (2).jpg

December 13:  A state judge in Wisconsin ruled that the state could begin canceling the registrations of 234,000 voters – seven percent of the electorate – who did not respond to a mailing from election officials.

December 16:  The Georgia Secretary of State removed 309,000 from the rolls – four percent of the electorate – whose registrations were labeled inactive, including more than a hundred thousand who were purged because they had not voted in a certain number of previous elections.

Mother Jones did the math:

“These numbers are large enough to swing close elections.  Donald Trump carried Wisconsin by 22,000 votes; the number of soon-to-be purged voters is more than 10 do the math croppedtimes his margin of victory.

“Democrat Stacey Abrams failed to qualify for a runoff against Brian Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race by 21,000 votes; the number of purged voters in Georgia is 14 times that.”

And – no surprise – here’s that word “disproportionately” again:

“These purges appear to disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning constituencies, including voters of color, students, and low-income people who tend to move more often.”

Blatantly obvious?

Oh, yeah.

Now let’s you and I do the Election Day math.

Your state:

Voters_01 (2).jpg

My state:

Voters_02 (2).jpg

Every state:

Voters_03 (2).jpg


Here’s an earlier story from October, one that didn’t get the attention that the Wisconsin and Georgia voter purges got, but is sickeningly similar:

NY Times (2).jpg

According to the article, this past summer a group of elected officials in Ohio, mostly all moderate Republicans, decided that rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the government would release the full list of 235,000 voters to be purged, and give the list to advocacy groups.  And…

“The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors.

“The result:  Around 40,000 people, nearly one in five names on the list, shouldn’t have been on it, the state determined.”

One ironic example:

jen miller cropped
Jen Miller, “inactive voter.”

Jen Miller, the executive director of the League of Women Voters.

Miller got the list of 235,000 names and found her name on the list, flagged as an inactive voter.

“I voted three times last year,” said Ms. Miller.  “I don’t think we have any idea how many other individuals this has happened to.”

And there’s this more recent story:

NPR (2).jpg

It says, in part,

“Democrats and liberal advocacy groups…are worried that their voters are hurt the most by these cleanup efforts.  That’s because low income, minority and young voters do tend to move around a lot.  So they are disproportionately affected.”

There’s that word again.

how cropped larger

Update 12/18/19:

How many more?  I think this opinion piece in the December 18 Washington Post put it well:

Image (2)

The article says in part:

“Many states operate on a use-it-or lose-it principle:  If you haven’t voted in a couple of elections, the state sends you a notice, and if you don’t respond, they strike you from the rolls.  Then the next time you show up to vote, you find that you’re no longer registered.

“Republicans deny that they have any partisan motives; they claim that voter purges are just a way of cleaning up the rolls.  But we all know the truth:

“If purges didn’t work to suppress Democratic votes,
Republicans wouldn’t be so eager to do them.”

I couldn't vote larger

New Commercial, Same Old Message:  Your Body Is…

Let’s start with some context:Syringe cropped

You go to the doctor and hand him or her $1,000, cash or credit card.  You’re going to have an elective medical procedure, and no insurance companies cover this.

You say, “Doctor, I want you to stick a needle in my face 50 times, around my eyes and in my forehead.

“And in that needle, one of the ingredients will be botulinum-toxin protein, one of the most powerful nerve poisons known.  This toxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

Clostridium_Botulinum cropped
Clostridium botulinum.

“This will cause flaccid paralysis of the muscles where you did the injections, so the muscles can’t contract.  That makes skin relax and soften.

“So these bad wrinkles in my forehead, bad lines between my eyebrows, and bad crow’s feet around my eyes will be all gone.  I’ll look younger, be infinitely more successful, and live happily ever after!

“Or until the toxin wears off in a few months, at which time I’ll return for a refill.”

Context:  Botox Cosmetic treatments.

“Botox” is a brand name – there are several others – and it’s been around for years.  Their website says BOTOX® Cosmetic is “the #1 selling treatment of its kind,” and claims to be:

“The first and only treatment FDA approved to temporarily make moderate to severebotox cropped frown lines, crow’s feet and forehead lines look better in adults.”

“Temporarily…look better.”

Now let’s review a recent Botox TV commercial.

The commercial starts out as do so many others, aimed at females age 12 and over.

The message:  For any female to allow her face, skin, hair, body, etc. to look anything but eternally youthful is:

bad_branding cropped fixed

The commercial starts with brief clips of young, lovely, taut-skinned women – with one young, handsome (token) man thrown in – and a female voice-over urging us to “own your look…with fewer lines”:

Own Your Look (2)

“How?” we wonder, “Please, tell us how!”

The voice-over lady is happy to tell us:

“Botox Cosmetic.  It’s the only one FDA approved to temporarily make

Frown Lines (2)


Crow's feet (2)


Forehead lines (2).jpg

“Look better.”

There’s that “temporarily…look better” again.

We’re now 20 seconds into the commercial, and the disclaimers begin.

Disclaimers we’re not really hearing as more images of young, lovely, taut-skinned women – with a few more young, handsome (token) men thrown in – fill our TV screens.

Here’s what we’re not hearing:

The effects of Botox Cosmetic may spread hours to weeks after injection causing serious symptoms.  Alert your doctor right away as difficult swallowing, speaking, breathing, eye problems or muscle weakness may be a sign of a life-threatening condition.

(“Life threatening”?  Wait.  What?)

Do not receive Botox Cosmetic if you have a skin infection.  Side effects may include allergic reactions, injection site pain and headache, eyebrow/eyelid drooping, and eyelid swelling.

(“Drooping?  Swelling?”  Geez!)

Tell your doctor about your medical history, muscle or nerve conditions, and medications including botulinum toxin as these may increase the risk of serious side effects.

(“Serious side effects”?  Holy shit!)

Disclaimers complete, we’re now 50 seconds in and winding up for the big pitch:




See Results (2)

And you can, indeed, go to the Botox website and see before-and-after pictures, like this one:

Before After (3)

Of course, the fact that “Nancy” is frowning in her “Before” shot, and not frowning in her “After” shot has nothing to do with anything.

I looked at all the images and was not surprised to not see these before-and-after pictures…

Botched Marcelle King larger

Or these…

Botched 1 Jozette Sheppard

Or these…

Botced Carol-Kingscott reversed

Images of people with botched Botox treatments who don’t “look better…

temp cropped larger

But do look tragic…

permanently cropped


I recently watched the documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, in which the actress/activist freely admitted to having had cosmetic surgeries.

Fonda, now 82, has been performing in front of the camera for 60+ years.

“Looking good for the camera” is very much in her job description.

Whether that camera is shooting Grace & Frankie – the Netflix series Fonda stars in with Lily Tomlin, now renewed for its seventh season – or catching Jane being arrested at a protest:

Fonda (2)

Looking good is necessary to Fonda’s career.

Fonda comes to mind because I recently heard about an acquaintance who also had cosmetic surgery.

The acquaintance, whom I’ll call “Ann,” is 43.

She does not make her career in front of a camera, but rather, in front of a classroom.

Family of six.pngAnn is the divorced mother of two pre-teens, and happily remarried to a divorced man, also with two children – a blended family.  Their income is adequate for their family of six, and they tend to spend every penny they earn.

I would describe Ann as attractive, of average height and weight.  She tries every new diet that comes along, and between the kids and her classroom, she gets plenty of exercise.

But apparently, Ann felt her body was “bad,” and needed fixing.

So she had breast augmentation, a tummy tuck and thigh liposuction, all three procedures in one day.

Cost:  Approximately $20,000.liposuction

None of it covered by health insurance.

I’ll never ask where they got the money.

And I’ll never ask why she voluntarily went under the knife – plus anesthesia, pain, recovery, risking infection and worse.

Though I know the most common answer to that question is, “I wanted to feel better about myself.”

college-fund-image croppedIf I did ask, and did hear that reason, I’d have had further questions:

Did it ever cross your mind that putting that $20,000 into a college fund for your kids would make you “feel better” about yourself?

Did it ever cross your mind that using that $20,000 to help pay down your monster mortgage would make you “feel better” about yourself?

Did it ever cross your mind that putting that $20,000 in an easily accessible account for emergencies would make you “feel better” about yourself?

Apparently not.

Instead, Ann spent that money to change her body.

Because her body was…

bad_branding cropped fixed.png

You want “bad”?

How’s this for bad:

Girl After Breast Surgery (2) fixed.jpg

Update from Ann, 12/29/19:

“My belly is flat, the drain plugs are out, my breasts are round.”

Who-cares-No-one cropped.jpg

What Does $1 Billion Look Like?

We hear the word “billion” a lot, especially in relation to “dollars.”

But what does one billion dollars look like?money_02

To get some perspective:

  • If you had $1 billion, you could spend $5,000 a day for more than 500 years before you ran out of money.
  • If you put $1 billion $1 bills in a stack, your pile would measure 67.9 miles high.
  • One billion $1 bills would weigh around 10 tons.

Now that we have some perspective on $1 billion being a lot, let’s see some recent figures on how we’re spending billions every year:

  • Americans spend more than $72.5 billion on their pets.
  • Americans spend more than $72 billion playing the lottery.
  • Americans spend more than $18.5 billion on bottled water.
  • Americans spend more than $165 billion on uneaten food.
  • Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks.
  • Americans spend more than $11.5 billion in litter clean-up.

Americans also spend billions on something we don’t think about much, if at all.

Here’s what $1 billion also looks like:


This is a B-2 Spirit, which was in the news recently because the Air Force held a commemorative event for the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight:

B-2 anniversary

I didn’t know the Air Force celebrated airplanes’ anniversaries, and I think that’s so sweet.

I wish I’d been invited – doesn’t this look like Party Central?

B-2 anniversary_03.jpg

Especially since, as the Los Angeles Times noted,

“Behind the gathered crowd, a construction crew used equipment to move mounds of dirt into a dump truck.”

Whoa!  Party Hearty!

Leading the celebration was Major General James Dawkins, 8th Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center Commander:

B-2 anniversary_02

Dawkins lauded the capabilities of the B-2, though as far as I can ascertain, he didn’t mention that when the Air Force bought 21 of these starting in 1998, they cost $1 billion each.

That was in 1998 dollars.  Today, $1.5 billion each.

But rather than go on buying the same old, same old thing, the Pentagon has announced it plans to replace the B-2 Spirit with the new and improved B-21 Raider:

B-21 rendering

Or rather, Raiders, plural, since we taxpayers are buying 100 of them.

For at least $80 billion.

Remember that “One billion $1 bills would weigh around 10 tons”?

That’s at least 800 tons of $1 bills.

Now, the Air Force is very hush-hush about what they – I mean, we – are going to actually pay for each B-21, or when it’s actually going to fly.

First, the cost.

 Defense News said this, in 2018:

Defense News (2)

The article goes on to say,

The case for greater public disclosure of B-21 costs is strengthened by the fact that Northrop Grumman’s winning contract bid was lower than the Pentagon’s estimate, raising concerns that it was unrealistic.  It would not be the first time that a contractor has underbid to win a contract, only to ask for more money after they won.

Moreover, the Defense Department has a long history of underestimating how much its major aircraft acquisition programs will cost.  In the 1980s, the B-2 bomber program overran its cost so badly that a mere 20 aircraft emerged from a $40 billion program intended to buy 135 to 150 aircraft.  The service also deeply underestimated the unit cost of the F-22 and F-35 aircraft.

Major General James “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell-The-Price” Dawkins.

Back in 2017 Defense News said,

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the contract value of the B-21 Raider to be revealed…it will be “some time” before the service divulges more cost information, the Air Force undersecretary said on October 12.

Let’s see…October 2017 to now.

I’d say that’s “some time,” and then some.

Even further back – in 2016 – the late Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded the Air Force release the value of the B-21 bomber development contract.

McCain’s letter said, in part:

“This is a critical program for our nation’s defense, and the American people deserve to know how many of their hard-earned tax dollars will be spent in these initial phases as we embark on a major defense program expected to exceed $100 billion in total.”

The Air Force didn’t tell McCain.

Official Air Force BIO Portrait
General Stephen “Don’t-Hold-Me-To-It” Wilson.

And if the Air Force wouldn’t tell McCain, I reckon they won’t tell us, either.

And as for the when the B-21 will fly, again according to the Los Angeles Times, the “B-21 could fly for the first time in 2021 and is expected to enter service in the 2020s.”

“Could.”  “Is expected.”

If that isn’t vague enough, back in July U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Stephen Wilson said there were around 863 days left before the first flight, which gives a December 2021 date.

But, said Wilson, “Don’t hold me to it.”

Vague, vaguer, vaguest.

We don’t know how much, or when, or even what the B-21 will look like – all we have is an artist rendering.  Here are the B-2 and its successor, the B-21:

B-2 spirit smaller B-21 raider

Seriously, how do you tell the difference?

Should we tell them to get vanity license plates?

License Plate (2)

That would help – and I can offer a suggestion on helping to pay for those new B-21s.

When the contractor comes back to the Pentagon to ask for more money – and we know they will – this time, instead of nailing us taxpayers for it, the Pentagon could get creative and borrow an idea from this entrepreneur:

Put logo on plane (2)

For just $5, this artist will “Place your logo or any other type of image on the wings of a warplane…Also included are two lines of text (or more but smaller size).  For example, website address, slogan, call to action…anything.”

Imagine this, but with the new B-21 Raider.

If it ever flies.

The artist adds your info to the video along with background music, and you get this:

German Gal

Imagine the thrill!

Granted, at $5 a pop the Pentagon will have to sell a lot of these, but I know a great way for them to get started:

Chosen Final (2)

Book Review: “A Tapestry Of Treason”

Publication Date:  August 2019

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four – two red and two white.

Review, long version:

If you enjoy English royalty historical fiction – the Plantagenets, the Yorks, the Lancasters, their predecessors, their successors – I highly recommend author Anne O’Brien.

What’s different about O’Brien is that her many books don’t just focus on history…

But also, on herstory.

Here are the 10 O’Brien books I’d read, and the women whose story the books tell.  I’ve enjoyed them, learned from them, and recommend all of them:

Queen of the North smaller ShadowQueen_smaller

Queen of the North
Elizabeth Mortimer

The Shadow Queen
Joan of Kent

Kings-Sister-360x581 smaller Forbidden-Queen-360x581 smaller

The King’s Sister
Elizabeth of Lancaster

The Forbidden Queen
Katherine of Valois

Kings-Concubine-360x581 smaller Virgin-Widow-smaller

The King’s Concubine
Alice Perrers

Virgin Widow
Anne Neville

Devils-Consort-360x581 smaller Uncrowned Queen smaller.png

Devil’s Consort
Eleanor of Aquitaine

The Uncrowned Queen
Philippa of Hainault
Scandalous-Duchess-360x581 smaller

Queens-Choice-360x581 smaller

The Scandalous Duchess
Katherine Swynford

The Queen’s Choice
Joanna of Navarre

Now we have #11, O’Brien’s latest:  A Tapestry of Treason, that tapestry woven by the York family.  On her website, O’Brien describes the family as “magnificently dysfunctional,” and they were. Tapestry-of-Treason-smaller

O’Brien’s focus is Constance of York – daughter of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, and granddaughter of Edward III.

Born circa 1375, Constance had an older brother, Edward, and a younger brother, Richard.  When the book begins in 1399, she is married to Thomas, Earl of Gloucester.  Constance was very aware of – and proud of – her family’s royal blood, and her place in that family, their power and their connections.

And because the current king, Richard II, has no heir, her father, the Duke of York, is Richard’s heir to the throne of England.  If the Duke of York should outlive Richard II, then the Duke would become king, and his oldest son, Edward, heir to the throne.

Power and connections?

Oh, yes.

Edward III; detail from his bronze effigy in Westminster Abbey.

There’s a tangle of many cousins – both legitimate and illegitimate grandchildren of Edward III – that can be challenging to keep track of, but O’Brien handles it deftly.  Equally deft was her giving Constance the first-person narrator role, so we get some insight into Constance’s thoughts, and motivations for what she did.

And, oh – what Constance did.  I found myself thinking, “No!  Constance!  Don’t do this!” but that’s because I had the benefit of having read about Constance before, and knew it would go badly.

Constance was an intelligent adult, and could be as arrogant, ambitious and grasping as the men around her.  She could also be tactless, cruel and self-centered.

I found her fascinating.

Because of her rank, Constance was able to make some of her own choices in an age when most women had none.

But choosing treason?  Not once, but twice?

She was fortunate to keep her adult head on her shoulders.

Effigies of Henry IV and Joan of Novarre, Canterbury Cathedral.
Effigies of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre, Canterbury Cathedral.

Two of the power-hungry men in Constance’s life were her cousin Henry, son of John of Gaunt; Gaunt was Duke of Lancaster and third son of Edward III.  Henry usurps the throne of Richard II and becomes King Henry IV, and when this happens, the York family – which had been loyal to Richard II – must suddenly switch their loyalties to Henry IV.

But – will they?

The other man is Constance’s older brother Edward, who was charming, brilliant, and a traitor, schemer, liar, and ambitious self-seeker.  But Edward took it to another level, betraying both his king, and his sister.

Toward the end of A Tapestry of Treason, here’s Constance, looking back on her life:

I closed my eyes, seeing the tapestry of connections that I was stitching.  Had I not, for much of my adult life, been at the centre of a tapestry of treason, drenched in blood and death?  I had stitched with my own hands and intellect to undermine and destroy.  In my mind’s eye I could see each interlocking stitch, the interplay of colour and vibrancy.  There would be no redemption, no forgiveness for me in its creation, even though it had never come to pass.

In was during Constance’s era that the seeds were sown for what is often referred to as “The Wars of the Roses.”  Awhile back I learned that that phrase is attributed to a man who lived 300+ years later, Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

A woman, perhaps Constance, holding the white rose of York.

I think that phrase is such a misnomer.  It romanticizes what was a series of bloody civil wars in mid-15th-century  England that lasted almost 30 years, fought between people who were blood relatives – descendants of that tangle of cousins of York (white rose) and Lancaster (red rose).  The phrase “The Cousins’ Wars” is also used, less frequently, but more accurately.

If you’re interested in the Yorks’ role in the opening act of The Cousins’ War – and in Constance’s herstory – I highly recommend The Tapestry of Treason.

His Motto Is, “Come See Us!”  So The Feds Did, And…

This story sounds like the synopsis of a Robert De Niro/Martin Scorsese movie.

A lousy De Niro/Scorsese movie.

First, take a bunch of guys with names like Marco Garmo, Fred Magana, Leo “The Ham” Hamel, Giovanni Tilotta and Waiel “Will” Anton.

Then add in a 23-count indictment, federal prosecutors, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

And then, like many movies, start with some flashbacks:

February 13, 2019:

Headline 1 (2)

The home of San Diego “jewelry giant” Leo Hamel:


The FBI and ATF searched Hamel’s home as part of an investigation into a suspected firearms trafficking case.

It’s around 7:30am.

Cut to:

Three hours later, at Hamel’s San Diego flagship jewelry store:

ATF at store

The FBI and ATF raided the store as part of the investigation.

Officials were seen going in and out of the business.  An FBI spokesperson confirmed that agents were serving “multiple federal search warrants” for evidence on the gun trafficking case, but declined to release details about the home or potential suspects.

And there hasn’t been much in the news since then.

So let’s do another flashback.  Who is Leo “The Ham” Hamel?

I should be honest and say that as far as I know, I’m the only one who calls him “The Ham.”

And the reason I call him “The Ham” is because he LOVES seeing himself on local TV.  Hamel had been in business since 1979, and once he’d discovered the pleasure of seeing himself, on TV, in his own commercials, he – and we – saw a lot of him.

Most of the commercials featured Leo and his family, like this one from 2010:

Commercial 1 (2)

There’s Hamel, his wife Penelope, and their kids who, while remaining nameless, always chimed in at the end with a hearty, “Come See Us!”

Over the years we saw the kids grow, as in this commercial from 2017:

Commercial 2 (2)

The kids were changing, but their “Come See Us!” didn’t.

Hamel branched out in 2018, running this ad for his new “Leo Hamel Boutique & Consignment Shop” that October:

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The shop, Hamel noted, was “conveniently located next to our jewelry store.”

The same jewelry store that the FBI and ATF would raid four months later.

The same kids at the end of Hamel’s Boutique & consignment Shop commercial:

Come See Us (2)

And their same, “Come See Us!”

But wait – Hamel’s wife, Penelope, isn’t anywhere to be seen.  Did she perhaps stop stumping for Hamel’s business because he filed for divorce in 2017?

Little did Hamel know back then that his troubles were just beginning.

Now our movie dissolves to the present – late November – and we catch up with the rest of the cast of characters, which now includes the U.S. Attorney.

And if you can keep track of this mess, you’re a better director than Scorsese:

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Hamel is one of the “four others.”

In addition to Hamel, the indicted were Marco Garmo, 52, who served as a sheriff’s deputy for 27 years; sheriff’s department Lt. Fred Magana, 42; firearms dealer Giovanni Tilotta, 38; and local resident Waiel Anton, 35.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Garmo was charged with engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, making false statements in acquisition of a firearm, obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and other offenses.

Besides making a profit, Garmo sold guns to cultivate future donors for his anticipated campaign for sheriff of San Diego County.

(Insert:  Marco Garmo TV commercial #1)

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The “other four” were charged with aiding Garmo in operating an illegal gun trafficking business.

Cleary, Garmo was the ringleader here.

Hamel and Magana entered guilty pleas to aiding and abetting Garmo’s business and will be sentenced in February 2020.

Garmo and Anton pleaded not guilty and are expected back in court on January 10.

Tilotta remains at large, which means nobody knows where the hell he is.

Now I enter in, as the nameless voice-over narrator.sheriffs

I’ve long been an admirer of – and grateful for – police officers.  They put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe from the bad guys.

When two of the police are the bad guys – Garmo and Magana – it’s sickening.

It’s especially sickening when, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, in 2017 San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore – Garmo’s boss – formally reprimanded Garmo after an investigation found that he had bought and sold dozens of guns without securing a federal firearms license:

“Garmo said at the time that he was simply a gun hobbyist who was unaware that he needed a federal license to buy and sell so many weapons.”

wait what

At the time, Garmo had been a law enforcement officer for 25 years.  Yet he was “unaware” of the law?

I’ll bet during those 25 years, Garmo busted other people who broke the very same law he said he was “unaware of.”

The Union-Tribune continues,

“Sheriff Gore defended his decision from 2017, saying the punishment fit the misconduct because Garmo did not appear to be selling the guns for profit and apparently had simply overlooked the law that requires people who buy or sell more than five guns a year to have a federal license.”

“Simply overlooked”?

And “did not appear to be selling the guns for profit”?

What was Sheriff Gore suggesting?  That Garmo was running a gun non-profit 501(c)(3)?

(Insert:  Marco Garmo TV commercial #2)

Marco (2).jpg


More sickening:

“The sheriff’s case was referred to the District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges, but then-District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis declined to file charges and instead sent Garmo a letter warning him not to continue violating the law.”

If this had been you or me, buying and selling “dozens of guns without securing a federal firearms license,” do you think Bonnie Dumanis or any District Attorney would have contented herself with just sending us a letter?

Notecard (2).jpg

I’m doubtful.

End voice-over narrator.

Our movie winds down with this from Hamel’s attorney, after Hamel pleaded guilty:

“Mr. Hamel is pleased to have this matter behind him, and he is satisfied with the agreement he has made with the government.  This will allow him to get back to his family and continue to the businesses he enjoys along with his numerous community service activities.”

Well, it will allow Hamel to “continue” until his sentencing in February.

And perhaps during that time Leo “The Ham” Hamel will treat us to a few more commercials, starring, of course, him.

And of course, his kids saying, “Come See Us!”

Only now they can say…

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(Fade to black)

(Music up)

(Roll credits)