Do you want to know what betrayal feels like? I’ll tell you. I like these little cigars called Panter Mignons. Easy draw, strong flavor, and they don’t skank out halfway through and taste like a pile of old fish a dog lifted his leg upon. I used to buy them at a suburban cigar store. They cost $10 for a box of ten. Well, the store became unreliable; sometimes they had them, sometimes they didn’t, and if they didn’t have them I went without. The other day I went online to see if I could find some, and indeed I could.

Three dollars for a box of ten.

Forgive them not, said my inner Yoda. I could understand bumping up the price two bucks, or maybe two-fifty. But SEVEN DOLLARS seems excessive, and it means I would never trust the store to sell me anything again. Thieving bastiches.

I bring this up because today I betray an entirely new set of readers: those who have come here from the first time from the Backfence. I’d said in today’s column that I would have overflow letters from my Valentine’s Day column – the first link from the Backfence to the Bleat, I believe. I have no idea how many people read one but not the other; I don’t know if the majority of my newspaper audience is even aware of this secret life I lead here. I was all set to run 60 inches of letters; I opened up the office laptok, plugged it in to download the letters from my office email, and . . . low battery warning, caution, goodnight Mrs. Kalibash wherever you are, dead laptop. I’d left the power supply at the office.

So . . . uh . . . let me make up a bad Valentine’s Day letter!

From NotHank:

Dear Backfence. I never thought this would happen to me, but there I was in third grade with a big crush on a girl named Gail. She didn’t know I existed, except when I got in trouble for shooting a pindart at a friend of mine – I had to go to the front of the class and say I was sorry, and she whispered something to a friend and they both laughed, which I was sure meant that she liked me. At least she had noticed me, which was a start. So on Valentine’s Day I chose the best Valentine from the bag of Ben Franklin cards, and wrote LOVE, HANK on it in big letters. Which was strange when you think about it because that wasn’t my name, but I wasn’t ready to admit anything. Valentine’s Day; the card from Gail was scrutinized like the Dead Sea Scrolls. It had a guy on it – a coal miner with a mask and dusty overalls, and he said “I’m digging you, Valentine.” I had no idea what this meant, although in retrospect it seems creepy that this sort of slang had worked its way down to grade school cards. Anyway the next day I had a friend shout “hey, Hank” in recess, so I could see if she turned around. That was my plan – I would reveal that I had a secret identity as Hank, and she would be thrilled, thinking I was like maybe a secret agent or something. But my friend got it wrong – he went over to Gail and poked her in the shoulder, and when she turned around he pointed at me and said “Hank wants to talk to you.” And she started laughing, and all her girlfriends started laughing, and everyone called me Hank for the rest of the year.

“That was third grade. She signed my senior yearbook ‘To Hank, a swell guy.’ That was ten years ago. Now I spend my free hours tracking her on the Internet. I am a patient man. ”

So that’s what I would have had, if the laptop had worked. I'll post more tomorrow, after I get the power supply. If this your first stop at the Bleat, you’ve just experienced what most people get every day: a failure to provide what was promised yesterday. Join the club!

First time visitors are invited to go here for the main menu – poke around, enjoy yourself. Trust me: skip the rest of this.

Anyway. If you’re still here: one of the things I do at the Bleat is alienate my well-wishers with my political numbskullery, and alas today I have to delve into that realm. Hugh Hewitt, a center-right talk show host, recently asked the Northern Alliance of Bloggers to comment on John Kerry’s 3-decade-old testimony on Vietnam and America, and ask whether this should be relevant to the campaign today. One does not turn down a request from the High Commissioner; here we go.

It matters only if he still believes these things. I don’t hold anyone accountable for what they said when they were in their 20s, frankly. Otherwise I’d have to dismiss much of what I believe today because - I held contrary positions when I was Young and Idealistic, and thought that those were attributes that lent some sort of moral weight to what I thought. (Hah!) I believed:

Ronald Reagan had the IQ of a Sea-Monkey, and not only wanted nuclear war but was completely unaware of the consequences of such an event, because he hadn’t read that New Yorker article by Jonathan Schell!

All people in the military were either brainwashed killbots, or generals who saw weapons as phallic substitutes, playthings whose lethality they could not possibly comprehend (The phrase “Boys and their toys” was the height of insight in our circle)

The Soviets could be best deterred by signing agreements that spelled out exactly how many thousand ICBMs we could point at one another, and the more we showed we desperately wanted peace the more they would want to be our friends, and while the USSR was possibly, maybe, perhaps an evil empire, it was extremely unhelpful to say such a thing out loud

It was better to let all of Latin America fall to Soviet-friendly regimes than to support governments that did not resemble North Dakota school boards

Europe had it all figured out

Rich people suck

Anyone who was socially conservative was probably repressing a vast amount of perversity, and your average Republican spent his private moments panting over the bra section in the Sears catalog

Religious people were okay as long as they didn’t seem to take it all that seriously

People who opposed unrestricted abortion rights wanted women to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen; somehow “Ozzie and Harriet” got dragged into the discussion, since that stood for the bad old days when women were manacled to gas stoves

And so forth. As the years passed, I grew uncomfortable with a number of these commandments. I loved this country; I still thought it was the last best hope, and I became increasingly impatient with those who regarded it as the first worst evil. A great number of my ideas did not survive contact with the real world. Add to that a tenure in DC, and you had a mid-30s polar realignment. I suppose by modern definitions I am a CONSERVATIVE, but I’m all over the road. Total freedom in the arts, no censorship – just don’t force Mormons to pay for an exhibit that shows the Prophet Moroni getting a lapdance, okay? Let the cable channels supply naughty tales for paying customers – just don’t insist that anyone has a First Amendment right to wardrobe malfunction on broadcast TV. Our family business is petroleum – Lord,, I know all about EPA overreach. I know exactly what I did with my tax cut, and the six people who wouldn’t have gotten paid if I hadn’t got it.

Most important issue now: the war. This cuts across the grain; this changed everything, as we said in the post 9/11 days.

What matters, then, is intellectual flexibility. When you are presented with new facts that blast apart your old beloved precepts, you either reexamine what you believe, or you hammer the new round pegs into old square holes. We all know people who refuse to revise their past, who’ve fixed their identity in a Golden Age and resist any attempts to revise their judgments. They’re stuck in a world where “Hotel California” is a bitchin’ album and “WKRP” is classic TV and vans with airbrushed scenes of surfer girls are the apotheosis of automotive art and there was this one Saturday Night Life skit where Reagan like totally lost it and went all mental, and . . . those were the days, dude.

Fine, whatever. This much is true: when you’re 50, holding on to the details of your 20-something convictions is like being 40 and trusting the insights you had when you were ten.
I don’t care what John Kerry said when he was 25.

I care about what John Kerry says today . . . about what he said when he was 25.
New at
LINK of the WEEK
Terry T and OGIC: art-crit delights. Bookmark and enjoy.
Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More