My bets could win money on this race, except they didn’t

“. . . the winner got away well, but the favorites weren’t hampered at the start and either could have beaten the Irish trained horse, only that they just didn’t.”

“The Tale of the Gypsy Horse” by Donn Byrne, collected in The Dick Francis Complete Treasury of Great Racing Stories.

Reading a horse story, I came across this famous dog passage

“Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

“Silver Blaze” a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, collected in The Dick Francis Complete Treasury of Great Racing Stories.

‘the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world’

“Anyone moderately familiar with the rigors of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted his people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”

  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf

“Slaves, Don Teodore, are our money”

“. . . the financial genius of Africa, instead of devising bank notes or the precious metals as a circulating medium, has declared that a human creature, the true embodiment of labor, is the most valuable article on earth. A man, therefore, becomes the standard of prices. A slave is a note of hand that may be discounted or pawned; he is a bill of exchange that carries himself to his destination and pays a debt, bodily; he is a tax that walks corporeally into the chieftain’s treasury. Thus, slavery is not likely to be surrendered by the (Africans) themselves as a national institution. Their social interests will continue to maintain hereditary bondage! they will send the felon and the captive to foreign barracoons; and they will sentence to domestic servitude the orphans of culprits, disorderly children, gamblers, witches, vagrants, cripples, insolvents, the deaf, the mute, the barren, and the faithless. Five-sixths of the population is in chains.”

  • Adventures of an African Slaver: Being a True Account of the Life of CAPTAIN THEODORE CANOT, Trader in Gold, Ivory & Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer.”

How the slaves were brought across the Atlantic

“I returned on board to aid in stowing one hundred and eight boys and girls, the eldest of whom did not exceed fifteen years. As I crawled between decks, I could not imagine how this little army was to be packed or draw breath in a hold but twenty-two inches high! Yet the experiment was promptly made, inasmuch as it was necessary to secure them below in descending the river, in order to prevent them leaping overboard and swimming ashore. I found it impossible to adjust the whole in a sitting posture; but we made them lie down in each other’s laps, like sardines in a can, and in this way obtained space for the entire cargo. Strange to tell, when the (boat) reached Havana, but three of these ‘passengers’ had paid the debt of nature.”

  • Adventures of an African Slaver: Being a True Account of the Life of CAPTAIN THEODORE CANOT, Trader in Gold, Ivory & Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer.”

One reason slavery lasted four hundred years

“Slaves were scarce, and by 1819, prime field hands were selling for $1100 in the markets of New Orleans. Even in Cuba, the paradise of smugglers, they brought $350. On the Guinea coast they could be purchased for a few yards of cloth, a keg of gunpowder, and a cask of rum – for goods, that is, worth $25 to $50. It was an old axiom of the British excise men that no trade could be prohibited when its profits were more than thirty per cent. The profits of a successful slaving voyage were a hundred and fifty, two hundred, two hundred and fifty per cent.”

  • Malcom Cowley’s introduction to “Adventures of an African Slaver: Being a True Account of the Life of CAPTAIN THEODORE CANOT, Trader in Gold, Ivory & Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer.”

A time for whatever popped violently into my head

When reading, I often come across sayings, adages, well-turned phrases that I might write down in a notebook or forget within 20 minutes. The forgetting I can’t help, but the stuff written down should get better play – as in sharing them.   

So I have decided to put them on this blog, maybe on a daily basis. Why not dump them here all at once? Because I like the idea of a “mailbox surprise.” Maybe that comes from living on Rural Route #1 with a mailbox just across the road. Who knew what might show up there after the mail man had driven by, sitting in the middle of his front seat, left hand on the steering wheel and right hand reaching to the mailbox (before mail-delivery trucks with right hand steering)?

Same with daily comics in the newspapers that eked out one piece of the plot daily. Whatever happened to Dick Tracy, Steve Roper, Dondi, Terry and the Pirates and finally, Prince Valiant? Once the prince and Aleta were dropped from my daily newspaper, I stopped reading comics (except for “Shoe.”)

So this will be like Orlando in Virginia Woolf’s book where “whenever anything popped violently into her head, she went straight to the nearest telegraph office and wired” it to her husband. But I won’t drop into a cypher language or sign it “Rattigan Glumphoboo” as she did to keep the telegraph clerk from being any wiser. (That’s a better alias than the ones I have been using.)

The first “anything that popped into my head” came from a Zoom class Kathy and I are taking. Seemed to fit the moment:

“If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason’s and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.” Ulysses S. Grant

Despite what my Ohio friends say, Trump gets the Buckeye state

Ohio friends and family can’t understand why I am keeping the Buckeye State in the electoral vote stack for Donald Trump in my handicapping of today’s presidential vote. And it may be that I am stuck in the past.

Born there, spent my first 20 years there and I can’t get over living in a congressional district that was Republican for more than 70 years, many of the representatives from the same family. So that has influenced where I think Ohio should go politically.

But I have listened to those living in Ohio and have read this book, trying to understand Ohio, and as the title says, the rest of America:

“Barnstorming Ohio: To Understand America.”

Written by David Giffels, a former columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal, the book came out this year, which might give it a short shelf life if it is only used to figure out the Trump-Biden election. But maybe people will read it to figure out what happens in the days, weeks and months ahead as we determine who won and how the nation will deal with that decision.

Giffels makes the point that you can’t ignore Ohio when trying to handicap who will win today’s election, as I have been doing the past few weeks. “Since 1896, Ohio’s voters have sided with the winner in twenty-nine of thirty-one presidential elections,” he writes. “No state has a higher percentage of accuracy. No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. We are the only state to have a perfect record choosing the victor since 1964.”

My handicapping has Biden winning by one electoral vote (see chart below), which means I’m betting against Ohio. However, Giffels never comes down firmly for either the Democrats or the Republicans. He never says this candidate (Trump or Biden) will win. I think Giffels moves a bit toward Trump, but my final bet is on Biden to win it all despite where Ohio ends up.

As far as the second part of the book’s title — To Understand America – the book goes a long way in figuring out what we are all about in 2020. Closing auto factories in Lordstown, Ohio, even though Trump in 2017 said manufacturing jobs were “all coming back”? Reminds me of the jobs lost as Boeing shuts down operations in Washington State. Manufacturing jobs in many parts of the country aren’t coming back. That might mean a landslide against Trump. But UAW Local 1112 president David Green in Lordstown doesn’t quite see it that way. Trump will get some votes, but not “as many votes in this valley as he did then (2016), for sure.”

Soybean farmers hurt by Trump’s tariffs? Those tariffs also applied to apples, cherries and hay in Washington and to commodities grown in many states. Would a stubborn farmer abandon Trump? “I believe people in his cabinet understand the (farmers’) situation,” Giffels quotes a sixth-generation family farmer.

Malls and downtowns abandoned? That’s not just an Ohio problem, and the resurrection of downtowns — when it happens — means building what we expect America to look like, and that’s not Walmart. But will the breweries, bookstores, quaint antique shops and coffee bars replace the lost manufacturing jobs? And will Amazon come along quickly enough to buy your local empty mall and turn it into a “fulfillment center”? If enough people who fled years ago come back to run those boutique shops and Amazon warehouses, will that be enough to swing things Democratic? Or will Trump’s “law and order” litany to save downtowns keep things in his column?

Looking at all these issues, Giffels seems to find Ohio voters who chose Trump in 2016 and don’t seem likely to change their vote today. Maybe that’s because of Jim Traficant, who inured Ohio to a demagogue. The name was familiar to me as just another congressman who went to jail, but his antics might have been the ones that eased Ohio into Trump’s camp in 2016, and maybe 2020. Giffels quotes USA Today in 2016: “If Trump wins Ohio, he should thank Jim Traficant, who wrote the roadmap.” When on trial for racketeering, he offered an outlandish defense of “deny, deny, deny” what he had already confessed to that no one could believe except for the 12 men on the jury, who found him not guilty. From sheriff to congressman, “his greatest political talent was his ability to convince a marginalized constituency that he understood and cared about them in ways his opponent did not.” Later convicted on charges of racketeering, fraud, bribery and other corruption charges, he spent seven years in prison and died in 2014 when a tractor on his farm rolled over him.

All parts of America have marginalized people, but they don’t have Jim Traficant. Or they didn’t. A “Traficant” can come from anywhere, like New York City, to win an election and maybe a re-election.

Giffels never quite gets to that conclusion, no Trump wins, no Biden takes Ohio and the nation. What he does conclude is that Americans have reached a “crisis of empathy.”

“. . . whenever I talked to a Trump supporter, that person’s own certainty convinced me at least for the duration of the dialogue that he (Trump) would win a second term, and whenever I talked to an anti-Trump Ohioan, they expressed concern that I was right, even as they couldn’t conceive this happening again. To know people who voted for Donald Trump and not be able to comprehend how anyone could do such a thing is to confront the fact of our divide: a nation of people who cannot understand one another and who are losing reasons and opportunities to do so.”

A depressing place to end, but Giffels doesn’t. Instead, he turns to the buzzards at Hinckley, something I had forgotten in my 50 years outside of Ohio. Maybe they still do this, but in the 1960s, radio stations would announce when the buzzards where coming back to Hinckley, Ohio, sort of like the swallows of Capistrano. I never heard a reason for why the birds came to Hinckley and why on a certain date. Not until I read Giffels’ book. It seems that on Christmas Eve 1818, more than 500 men held a game drive, pushing all wildlife into a shrinking circle, killing 21 bears, 17 wolves, 300 deer and uncounted squirrels, turkeys, foxes, raccoons, etc. The men built fires, barbequed, bundled up some meat and went home, leaving the rest to rot. In the spring, the buzzards came, and they’ve been coming back ever since, looking for something they still believe is there.

What will we come looking for as we return in our four-year cycle? Strife that the other side won? Or will we get a start on ending our crisis of empathy? I’m not taking bets on that.

“You can’t go into Youngstown, Ohio, and tell everybody they’re going to be retrained and go work for Google or Apple. “

Michael Avenatti