America’s newest national monument debuts, dedicated to The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. What we must never forget about the man and his resounding message.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Only one song would do for this of all articles, the iconic anthem of the American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968), “We Shall Overcome.”

It was not so much a song as a declaration of purpose and profound resolve, one that did not merely state and celebrate the destination… but constituted a collective pledge, renewed with each singing, that adherents were united in mind, body and purpose; for they would need all that, and more, as they moved towards the inspiring goal of equality, where people who were divided by tradition, at last forged unity from divisiveness.

“We Shall Overcome” is a protest song. The lyrics are derived from the refrain of a gospel song by Charles Albert Tindley. It was first published in 1947 in the People’s Song Bulletin, a publication of People’s Songs, an organization of which Pete Seeger was the director. The song became associated with the Civil Rights Movement from 1959, when Guy Carawan launched it as the most famous, motivating, and ultimately elegiac song of the movement; their soaring battle hymn. It was what the oppressed people, their adherents and their resolute opponents heard when fire hoses were turned on them, dogs ordered to snarl and bite, and truncheons beat down upon the pilgrims sore beset.

There were many heroes in those days, but not yet a Hero who would rise above the others and become the very heartbeat of the movement, its public face and voice to the world.

That man had not yet emerged, but his first important moment was about to take place… in Birmingham, Alabama, where from a prison cell he was about to instruct his followers, his opponents, and a world oppressed by a panoply of civil rights abuses in what a man who believes in justice must do.

Consider this man now, on the threshold of history. He is mortal, frail, fragile, with profound doubts, hesitations and an acute consciousness of his inadequacies. He, like so many Heroes hoped that he would not have to be what he was in process of becoming; he hoped others would shoulder a substantial part of the burden. But History is infallible. It saw, as the individual did not, that this man could rise above his own demons and limitations… to become what the movement must have to succeed: a moral compass, a higher purpose, a complete humanity, and the ability to be beaten down, bitten, spat on, bruised, and beaten again — and yet love his tormenters, direct the anger of his people towards benign purpose, and always get up… showing that violence, any violence, could not stop him… and so would not stop the movement either. This was sublime! This was what the man was on this planet to do… though he did not entirely know this yet.

And so in April, 1963 he went to the most bigoted city in America, likely the most segregated, the least hospitable to its black inhabitants, the city that taught the nation how to insult, condescend, intimidate, and, all too often, to kill people of color for being born and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was the capital of every finely turned, exquisite form of segregation and haters of every kind looked first to Birmingham as the citadel of their embittered beliefs, the fortress for immemorial hate that every black citizen knew only too well.

And so Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Birmingham as he went to so many fateful destinations… because it was necessary, because it was the right thing to do, because the people needed succor and relief and he had that to give and to spare.

The Birmingham event was a planned non-violent protest conducted by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference against racial segregation by Birmingham’s city government and downtown retailers. He was among the first arrested… the first taken harshly, insistently to his “suite” in Birmingham City Jail. It had to be a shock, jolting, demeaning, insulting, humiliating for this man who so loved life and life’s pleasures, more accustomed to the Word of God than the execrations of man.

But he had something to say, something which he had clearly thought about for some time, because he wrote without hesitation its profound message of import to all the world and its downtrodden.

King responds to eight white Alabama clergyman who opposed his visit to Birmingham.

On April 12, 1963 eight local clergymen offered Dr. King the benefit of their erudition and desire to defuse the anxious situation and rescue the imperiled status quo. These leaders of the church did what so many such have done over the ages. Bereft of courage, with cloudy vision, and a desire to safeguard their own positions and pulpits, they wrote Dr. King to leave… to let things take their course… to stop the violence and be patient… it would be, they were quite clear, so much better so. They didn’t have to say it would be better for them…

Dr. King was bruised in body and spirit as he arrived at the city jail. He must have wondered how he came there and whether against so much hatred he could achieve his goal. He must have wondered, too, at how many people already relied upon him… and of the terrible sacrifices he might ask them to make, even unto death itself. At such a time, a man, any man, might so wonder and reflect.

But then he read the sentiments of these local clergymen about his mission to Birmingham, criticizing it as “unwise and untimely”. He read these words, and he knew at once what he must do… and so the words of high portent and unmistakable conviction came swiftly.

He started his response in the way any disagreeing minister might have addressed a colleague, professionally, directly, pointedly. But this was not destined to be such a letter between Christian clergy of differing views. He had a higher purpose, and it was soon apparent. He meant to remind (if they knew), to teach (if they didn’t) his fellow clerics a fundamental precept of their ministries. He aimed to show them, once, for all, clearly, that justice was their business, the very heart of their business and he meant his message to be stern, unequivocal, a bell summoning all to recognition of their profound duties.

First he reminded these clergymen of the South, with their regional blindness, that the issue was not Southern, but American — “Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds”. In short, what was happening in Birmingham and what made the demonstration necessary was not merely a Birmingham problem or a Southern problem… it was an American problem (not to mention by quick extension a universal problem of long suffering humanity.)

And so he built his case for action now point by irrefutable point, making the considered advice of the local clergy seem like what it was, a self-serving argument keeping the blacks in their place, patient in the face of intimidation, outrage, and a white wrath ready to explode into legally sanctioned outrages against black citizens at any time.

Thus did King find the voice of moral certainty, the voice which freed so many and which resulted in time in the sacrifice of his very life, taken by those who came to know him as the dreaded prophet of black deliverance, and so necessary to destroy.

“Injustice,” he trumpeted, “anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The haters, the entrenched segregationists, the racial purists, the purveyors of inequitable laws and legal terrorism and abuse, for all that they wrote volumes in support of their unsustainable opinions never uttered a phrase so powerful as this… a phrase that showed just where right and a better future lay. He signed his soon-to-be-world- famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”, “Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood” and had it smuggled out in a toothpaste tube to avoid the jail’s guards.

Now this man has morphed into mythology with a grandiose civic temple for his observances. The architect Chinese artist Lei Yixin has been criticized for his work. No matter. Any architect’s work and vision would have found censure in the eyes of the jealous others who were not selected. But the truth is, this monument will soon be amongst the most popular, for all that the great monuments to Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are near at hand.

“Now,” borrowing Edward Stanton’s words on Lincoln, King “belongs to the ages.” Here his greatest challenge will be in so inspiring those who follow in his footsteps, that his timeless message remains timely and is not forgotten by all those so beholden to the man who is now enshrined amidst among the worthies of the Great Republic his life’s work so enhanced.

How a perky housewife from Minnesota gets up to 5,000 responses to her blog each and every day… and how you can do as well, or even better!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. This is the tale of someone who has achieved the kind of astonishing online results and amazing ongoing traffic that you wish you had. Her name is Diane Dohrn and she’s one of the handful of residents from Grygla, Minnesota (population 228)… a place that looks like a suburb of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon… the town where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

For this article, therefore, I selected some music by perennial local favorite Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers. Go to any search engine and find his signature tune “Bubbles in the wine.” Sit back in your recliner and enjoy the effervescence of the lady from Grygla and a success story that’ll make you smile….with all the necessary details so you can match her already great and always growing success.

When I first met Diane…

I first met Diane Dohrn a little over 18 months ago when she came to me seeking my help and advice about how to succeed online. Frankly, she needed all of the assistance I could provide; she was in a bad way just then in her life and fortune. She told me a story so typical on the ‘net as to be endemic… She’d been in this opportunity; she’d been in that. She had paid out thousands and reaped pennies. She had no tools for success… no traffic… she’d never had a moment’s training… and, until my advent, she’d had absolutely no one to assist her. And now she was desperate… with acute family difficulties… and her own disability to contend with. In short, she had nowhere to go but… up.

At bottom, she still had two crucial advantages: 1) me and 2) her own “never say die” determination that I came to know so well — and admire.

She was willing to listen…

People with problems say they want solutions… but in fact what they really want is the opportunity to vent… to bewail their lot in the world, do the “poor little me” thing… then rant and rant some more. In short they don’t really want a solution… they want a willing ear to chew on. But that’s not how money gets made. I told Diane, who came with some of these weepies, that I’d help IF and ONLY if she would focus on a series of online business building steps, including specific traffic building exercises she would need to do daily to grow the all-important traffic.

She agreed… and she kept her bargain, although it was sometimes tough for the lady when I absolutely refused to listen to items from the latest installment of “As Diane’s World Turns…”

She needed traffic… traffic…more traffic… and even more traffic. And that was where I kept our focus, with lessons on the effective use of traffic exchanges, safe lists, forums, and article directories where you develop crucial back links. An avid learner, she did herself the favor of listening to what I said, asking intelligent questions, and doing the tasks. To her surprise (but not mine) she began to generate traffic at once… and more each day. Especially as she began to understand and master one absolutely crucial traffic generating tool, which in due time she was to make her own traffic- generating machine. This marvel was the blog… and right from the start, it proved to be her forte so much so that I quickly saw that Diane Dorhn was not just going to master the blog, develop huge daily traffic from it… but become one of the true blog titans of the ‘net. Now she had my full attention, and we worked together less as teacher and student… but rather as 2 colleagues not just interested in how far the lady could take this…. but obsessed with the desire to raise Diane and her traffic to hitherto unimaginable heights. We were rockin’ and rollin’… Note for the blogless.

If you’re an online entrepreneur of any kind, trying to get huge daily traffic, you MUST have a blog. This is not negotiable. You see, a blog is your personal communications vehicle. It enables you to present and deliver your message. It is 100 percent you, 100 percent of the time. Say what you want, say it just the way you want.

The key to a blog is ensuring that it offers readers the best possible content. “Content is king,” Bill Gates famously said. That’s the kind of content you must have for your blog; content that gets people to read — and respond. Diane was fretful about this point. She worried that she have the time or skills to produce the high level content her blog and readers required daily. What could she do?

That’s where I really entered the picture, as an essential element of her success… for you see, I produce the champagne of blog content, and I produce it in 27 information categories from politics through ecology and just plain good stories; my content is sophisticated, readable, intelligent, timely, well written… and (most significantly) it gets astonishingly high reader response, as Diane came to know at once; right from the start these articles (and I write a new one each day) generated responses… lots and lots of them.

Thus, each day Diane starts by selecting the article of the day, the article that will anchor that blog and be its focus.

Then she follows a daily regime which she has followed, refined and developed over time. It goes like this:

1) Check Kstats first thing. Additionally check it several times each day to see the results on every article she has ever blogged.

2) Prepare today’s article. Select it, copy to Word. Then add all the necessary videos, links, trackbacks, pictures, etc. Diane knows that even great copy is better, more arresting, with such features. (By the way she keeps all this on Wordpad.)

3) She looks up the subject of the designated article in any major search engine. She likes to do this so she can make an intelligent comment on the article.

4) Before she sends her daily blog (first thing each morning), she visits other blogs to get ideas for the improvement of hers. She never assumes she has a monopoly on this subject; she looks for what others can tell her about her blog, the better to improve it. She told me she visits between 35-50 blogs daily, to keep up on developments in the field, get ideas, inspiration, etc. I believe it!

5) She then reads through this daily blog post a couple of times looking for typos and so on. A journalist’s daughter, she is a stickler for mistake-free copy… as a result her blog is clean, without the distracting errors made by other, less careful, blogsters.

6) Her blog always contains a great offer. Diane never forgets that the purpose of a blog is to make money, and so she works hard on her offers… both on the ones she makes in her blog… and the ones she makes when her readers respond. Because of the volume of her responses, she works on this for hours each day… and that really pays off…

One more thing she does…

Diane generously insists on my role in her success. She points to what she calls her “Internet bible” which contains Internet traffic, marketing and business building tips I have given her, live in my online programs and through my huge library of blog articles. She says, “When I need a lift, this is where I go. They are priceless.”

That’s the woman all over…

The truth is, the person who has contributed the most to Diane’s success is… Diane. She’s risen from no traffic at all to getting up to 5,000 responses EACH and EVERY day, without exception. Her own personality and approach to her thousands of blog readers is what makes the critical difference. She’s a small town Iowa girl and has retained the sincerity, empathy and quintessential Midwestern directness and candor of the heartland. Diane is authentic to her fingertips. She likes people; likes to help… and this shines through.

Now thousands of new people will learn about Diane and take heart if, like most online, they have had absolutely no success. That can and should stop now… for the best thing Diane can do is make you understand that the huge results she has already received are fully duplicatable and can be done off the kitchen table. Only one thing is missing from this system… and that is the great heart of the lady herself. That is all her own… and we admire her all the more for what she does with it to help so many for she remembers her roots and the help she got when she needed it most. This is why with her blog, she has not got just readers… but friends.

The stamp of approval. U.S. Postal Service recognizes the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest floating commissioned naval vessel.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. For this article no other song would do besides the jaunty, rousing fight song of the United States Naval Academy, “Anchors Aweigh.” Strongly associated, too, with the United States Navy, it was composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmerman with lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles. Zimmerman was at the time a Lieutenant, and had been bandmaster of the United States Naval Academy Band since 1887. Miles was Midshipman First Class at the Academy, in the class of 1907. The song was originally written for the class of ’07 to be used as a football march. It takes great fortitude and control not to jump and march when you hear its unmistakable sound. I own up to having neither when the band in full swing goes by playing this. Go now to any search engine and find the rendition you like best. Then play it loud and clear to get yourself into the mood for this tale of “Old Ironsides.”

“Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!”

Perhaps the most perilous battle she faced, literally a matter of life and death occurred in September, 1830 when the pettifogging bureaucrats in the naval department, eager to pinch pennies, ordered the greatest ship of the young Republic, now past her prime, to be broken up, just so much salvage.

A young Boston Brahmin named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. learned of this intended act of short-sighted barbarism while at breakfast reading the “Boston Daily Advertiser.” At one he decided to take action to save the ship which could no longer fight to save herself. He titled his fast-penned poem “Old Ironsides” and it ran September 16, 1830.

“Ay, tear her tattered ensign down! Long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle shout, And burst the cannon’s roar; The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o’er the flood, And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor’s tread, Or know the conquered knee; The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea.

Oh, better that her shattered bulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to her mast her holy flag, Set every threadbare sail, And give her to the god of storms, The lighting and the gale!”

By the evening of the 16th, author Holmes was famous… and his fervent verses, overwrought, overdone, overfraught, were making even the most committed pennypinchers abashed and ashamed. “Old Ironsides” was saved… but it was a very close run thing. One shudders to think what would have happened had young Mr. Holmes not been of a poetical disposition.

The great warship is born, 1797.

Now that the former American colonies had become the new American nation, the powerful British fleet, which had always protected them and cost them nothing, became the new nation’s prime antagonist. Thus, this nation found itself in the unenviable position of having virtually no ships to protect them and their crucial maritime commerce. Constructing a navy became a priority, at least for the mercantile East and New England. It was their ships and cargoes, after all, their British antagonists aimed to capture and disrupt.

And so, the USS Constitution, named by President George Washington, was authorized as one of 6 original frigates by the Naval Act of 1794. These ships were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period, a fact which was very important for all six ships, but particularly Constitution, which used this advantage to earn the most glorious battle record of them all.

Right from the first, she was needed and served in the Quasi-War with France (1798) and in the war against the Barbary pirates, practiced thieves of North Africa who had hitherto preyed with impunity on American vessels and crews. Constitution helped win the First Barbary War (1801). But these useful services were just a preface to her greatest service in the otherwise lackluster and regrettable War of 1812, a conflict both Americans and British wanted, but brought neither laurels, treasure, territory or satisfaction.

In this conflict, only the Constitution and its string of oceanic victories stood out, so much so that the British Admiralty ruled that warships combating Constitution and her sisters should never fight alone, only in packs. It was testament to just how good these vessels were, especially Constitution. She defeated one of His Majesty’s ships after another… each victory thrilled a nation irritated, frustrated, exasperated by what the American army couldn’t seem to do… and by a similar lack of results by other ships of the brand new navy.

But Constitution caused Americans to rush to the harbor and shout “Huzzah” as news arrived about victory… first, over the Guerriere. This was the engagement which gave Constitution its celebrated sobriquet. For cannon balls shot from the doomed British warship seemed to bounce off Constitution without effect. An unknown sailor shouted, “Her sides are made of iron!”… and the nickname stuck, to thrill the proud nation which looked for any hopeful news to cheer at in this entirely unhappy war.

HMS Java was next… then HMS Cyane… and HMS Levant… and HMS Lord Nelson, bearing the most famous name in British naval history… captured as a prize along with everything needed to celebrate Christmas, a meal they so enjoyed… with one toast after another heartily drunk from the defeated captain’s fine liquors. How sweet that was… and sweeter still the cheers, plaudits, and resounding thanks of the nation when on 15 May, 1815 she came home, full of honors and renown.

Now what?

As navy men will tell you, each new ship embodies the best of current technology; as these ships are launched they push previous vessels to obsolescence and the scrap heap, for there is nothing so useless as a vessel, costing money everyday, without the ability to fulfill its bellicose purpose. No ship, not even ones covered with glory like Constitution, can avoid this sad fate. Thus as she aged, the vultures and scrap metal merchants circled… and for all her victories, she also would have been broken up, no more to sail, protect the nation, and make every citizen proud. Sic transit gloria mundi. But providence intervened in the person of Mr. Holmes and his facile pen.

The subsequent history of Constitution and how she continued to serve is mundane compared to her maritime glories. No matter. She survived, though there were always those ready to sacrifice the legendary vessel to save a few pence. Her luck held… not least because of the many who worked mightily to save her and give her the honorable place in the Navy as the world’s oldest floating commissioned warship along with a museum which opened in 1976, the same year H.M. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip trod her decks when they visited Boston as part of the nation’s Bicentennial observations. Her ancestor George III, owner of the ships humbled by Constitution, no doubt spun in his imperial grave.

Now, just in time for the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, the U.S. Postal Service has released the design for an “Old Ironsides” stamp. The beleaguered postal service, in the process of closing 3,700 post offices throughout the United States, hopes to use Constitution to sell commemoratives for needed funds. And because closing post offices means losing such sales… they have launched this new stamp on Facebook, thereby hoping to reach millions of folks of philatelic bent. And so her good uses continue… her future now, we hope, secured. Next time you visit Boston, do visit, for she has always been one of the glories of the nation and so she remains.

‘A-one, an-a-two,’ the ‘wunnerful, wunnerful’ world of Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. It’s a Saturday night in 1955, and you’re looking for entertainment. You want it bright, cheerful, positive, and free; the kind of program that taxes you intellectually not at all… but makes you smile with feel-good music delivered by feel-good people. You spin the dial and find a guy called “Lawrence Welk” and his Champagne Music. You give a listen… you like what you hear and thence forward every Saturday night is dedicated to the ultimate feel-good- guy Lawrence Welk, so expert at creating just the soothing ambiance you need.

This is the man and his music we’re celebrating today. Go now to any search engine and find his signature tune “Bubbles in the Wine”. Lay back, enjoy, and leave the cares of the real world far, far away… Born March 11, 1903 in Strasburg, North Dakota…

Lawrence Welk is arguably the most celebrated individual ever from the rolling hills and punishing climates of North Dakota. And he hated every single aspect of the state that remembers him so fondly now.

He hated Strasburg, a German-speaking community in the middle of nowhere.

He hated his father Ludwig… he hated his mother Christina… emigrants who started life in Odessa, Ukraine, then a part of imperial Russia… arriving in America in 1892…

He hated the sod house in which he grew up.

He hated farming, its backbreaking, never-ending chores and obligations.

He hated the bleakness of it all… and so he bided his time, daydreaming about a place over the rainbow that was anywhere other than where he was. A place where there were happy people, people with a song in their heart and some insistent, cheerful melody on the brain. He knew such a place existed… and he was sure he would find it.

His ticket out was a mail-order accordion. It sold for $400, a fortune in those days. He borrowed it from his unrelentingly pragmatic father, who essentially indentured him to the farm he hated until his 21st birthday or until this headstrong son paid off this astronomical sum. Part of the deal was that Lawrence take on extra paying work on other farms, too, every penny to go to his father. He did, with vengeance in his heart…

Punctilious in his obligation, young Welk on the occasion of his 21st birthday left everything he knew and hated, turning his back resolutely on his detested past. He and his accordion never looked back; they couldn’t. They had burned every bridge and outraged every familial tie. Failure was not an option…

There was hardship ahead…. lots of scheming and hopeful connivances… even days of despair as he strove to find his way…. But every moment that was less than perfect became the fuel to create this always happy, always perfect place of his imagining.

Welk in those early days of the 1920s was a blur of activity. He performed with bands lead by Luke Witkowski, Lincoln Boulds, George T. Kelly… and led the big bands of the dancing Dakotas, the Hotsy Totsy Boys… and the Honolulu Fruit Gum Orchestra. Then he did what he’d always been destined to do… he created his own band and started to craft the lighter-than-air sound that made him rich and famous worldwide. It was a style scoffed at by learned folks, discriminating folks, folks of hubris, condescension and arrogance… but a style embraced by the millions who knew a good thing when they heard it.

A ball of energy, always immaculately turned out, his dancing pumps oiled and shined, baton at the ready… and the celebrated smile about to be delivered with mega- watt brilliance, this was the Lawrence Welk of WNAX Radio, Yankton, South Dakota… and beyond… Always an optimist in hot pursuit of perfection and the better life he took time to study at the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1927.

This was the height of America’s gift to the world, the Jazz Age when a gyrating generation showed their disapproving parents how a body in motion could move in hepped up ways, contorted, nimble, thrilling to watch, soaring to dance. You probably never knew, or even imagined, that the Lawrence Welk of your memory in November, 1928 cut a popular ragtime record with his Novelty Orchestra, for Indiana-based Gennett Records. It was called “Spiked Beer” and it moooooooooved!

But jazz was not his metier; dance tunes and “sweet” music was… and he became a recognized master of an undemanding, smoothie sound that attracted real people, too often burdened by their difficult realities, especially during the Great Depression Welk and his trademark sound helped an often desperate, despairing nation get through… whistling and dancing, forced to move on, move out, move up… optimists all, down perhaps for a minute, but wisecracking as we got back on feet set in motion by the facile tunes of young Mr. Welk.

He kept Amerca dancing in the dark days America needed to dance more than ever… let’s hope that his parents (now a distant memory for Lawrence) came to recognize the swan they had brought forth amongst the chickens… maybe even on one-never-to- be-forgotten night dancing at the Farmstead to his lolly-pop confections, and smiling… If so, it was the only time champagne in any form entered what is now called the Ludwig and Christina Welk Farmplace, an attraction you can visit when next in Strasburg.

The Lawrence Welk Show.

In 1951, after cutting several records (including Spade Cooley’s popular “Shame on You” in 1945) and appearing in many motion pictures, where his increasingly inimitable sound became the perfect background for what were then called “Soundies”, Welk moved to Los Angeles, the most superficial metropolis on earth, where they welcomed him with open arms and where he launched The Lawrence Welk Show on KTLA radio, where it was broadcast live from the Aragon Ballroom at Venice Beach. What a piquant image that is… the smoothly oiled muscular bodies on the beach…. the even smoother sound of Lawrence Welk emanating from on high like so much star dust.

The show was a great hit… and was the proximate cause the ABC network picked up Welk for national distribution in June, 1955. It was here the family of Walt and Victoria Lauing, my maternal grandparents, enter the scene. It is because of them and their obsession with Lawrence Welk and his sound that I wrote this article at all, for they and millions like them were the reason he succeeded.

Walt and Vic, young and attractive, were South Dakota people, who probably heard Welk in his early days. By the time I was 10 or so (1957) they had imbibed a lifetime of champagne music. Minutes before the program began, every child present was hushed and bribed to stay that way… and all was ready for the imperial entrance of Walt and his lady, recliners at the ready. No sound but the bubbles in the wine was even allowed or tolerated for the next 60 minutes. The congregation was ready… the Maestro could commence.

I laughed, of course, and derided, as youngsters of smart-aleck tendencies will do but amongst the cascading effervescence there was love, veneration and gratitude. He was their sound…

That was why my grandmother wrote away for tickets to the program when she and Walt flew to California to see my mother, their daughter, and family . You see she meant to dance with Welk on air. Every week she saw a myriad of other blue-haired ladies stand in line for the chance of whirling in her favorite’s arms on nationwide television. My grandmother wanted that, too…

And so one Saturday night we witnessed her televised struggle to get to the head of the queue, only to discover that the other ladies were as determined as she was… and despite our cheers, she failed.

She didn’t blame her idol, of course; it wasn’t his fault he was so popular and desired. But we all felt it keenly. It was probably the only time he ever let a fan down, until in 1982, when as the nation’s oldest television host, he at last retired, age 79. His legacy and bouncing music live on in the Lawrence Welk Museum, Escondido, California. I’m sure the spirits of Walt and Vic visit… for he made them so very happy for so very long.

‘The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.’ Waiting for Hurricane Irene in Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 28, 2011.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Whether it is because of the unsettling information we have received minute by minute over the last few days; whether it is because of the ominous predictions of so many knowledgeable authorities; whether it is because it is just 5:48 a.m. and it is still pitch black, the moment of the day when night fights its ouster and will not cede to the light, I cannot say… but this is a moment of apprehension, disquiet…even dread.

This is the moment we remember the power of a Nature we so often forget and so regularly outrage.

Now this Nature has reminded us of where true power resides… and of what it means when we talk of an “act of God.”

For now, this very minute, amongst the treasures and securities of my comfortable life, I await the advent of the manifestation of unrelenting power, a force capable of disrupting this cherished life in an instant, leaving me, and millions like me, bereft, shocked, lamenting.

This is the tale of an act of God, called Irene by mankind; this is the tale of one man in storm’s path, waiting, waiting, every daily occupation and thought now set aside while we await the capricious judgement of this mighty storm.

We ask ourselves and carefully scan our multitude of information sources for answers to these insistent queries:

When will it hit?

Where will it hit?

How long will it punish us?

What will it take… what will it leave?

These are the questions of the hour… and we have only the fallible devices of challenged mankind to answer them… and so “the answer is blowin’ in the wind…” Thus I selected “Blowin’ in the Wind” for today’s background music. You can easily find it in any search engine. Find it now and listen carefully.

Written by Bob Dylan in 1962, it became the anthem of a restless generation… which wanted answers… and got none. Now I want answers, too, and renewed securities and peace of mind…. But none but God Himself could reassure me at this moment when even the coolest hand of all craves confidence to be reinforced, restored.

6:25 a.m., first light.

From the window of my study I look out upon the usual early day scene. There is rain in the air… and a light breeze blows the still-green leaves, not yet touched by an autumn now just days away. It is quiet now… no living soul to be seen. This is my world… and at this moment no man alive could say what its condition will be just hours away. But we know, in every fibre, that what is present now will somehow be different, great or small; storms, even as they weaken, make sure of that.

6:48 a.m.

Like millions I scan the news services, not so much for a history of this storm’s destructiveness as for clues and prognostications of what my future holds in the hours ahead. Fallible though even the greatest storm authorities can be, I nonetheless examine their predictions with care; my life, my future, perhaps my very existence on this planet is here foreshadowed. Whether the news be intoxicatingly good or the very worst it could be, I must know…

While scanning my sources, gleaning every fact, I note the condition of my dining room; my storm command center. There are crumbs on floor and table, this room with its historic paintings on the wall not as pristine and well ordered as usual…. and there’s the open pizza box, a certain sign that last night’s meal was eaten in a rush, gulped down while listening to the latest storm coverage. People facing grave disruption, even extinction do not concern themselves with dirty dishes and wayward crumbs. They have graver issues at hand than where crumbs have fallen and what to do with last night’s congealed remains. Normality is when these matters regain our notice with broom and dust pan at the ready. What seizes my attention now is battlefield intelligence from this fast- moving war zone.

9 of my fellow humans, quick and alive just hours ago, now dead. Irene has cost them everything while robbing us of the necessary time and mental state essential for mourning. For now, the dead must take care of the dead; the living have other priorities.

Item: Millions of people from first battered North Carolina north have “at this hour” (as only t.v. newscasters ever say) no electricity… It’s loss drives home their vulnerability and submission to the storm. To be without power is to lose the vital moorings of life. To lose power is to be removed at an instant from every essential service of the 21st century. We feel its loss keenly, for the loss of power is crippling, humbling, demoting us in an instant to the primitive realities of our ancestors who lived with the reality that it is better to light just one little candle than curse the darkness. Do you have your candle ready for just this moment? I do…

8:01 a.m.

The news reports are coming in thick and fast now as sleepy journalists file the day’s first reports. Outside the windows the trees now bend low before a wind not so gentle as before. The light of early Sunday morning is greyer now and obscured by the rain, now heavier, harder falling. Is this a worrisome portent of what we may expect as Irene moves toward us… or is it but the kind of storm that irritates and inconveniences but does not disrupt or kill?

While I wonder, the great cities of the Eastern seaboard are shuttered, quiet, watchful; it’s inhabitants chary, anxious, hopeful that they and their world will survive intact, this incident to be forgotten, not the day of dread remembrance which may still be their fate. They cannot know if their roofs will hold, they cannot know if they will suffer and lose all; they cannot know if dear friends and neighbors will die. And they cannot know in these hours before impact if they will live… or be nothing more than a statistic, dead, so brought to oblivion by Irene’s thoughtless puissance.

Its winds now 115 miles per hour.

Its wingspan 500 miles.

Frothing the sea with waves of 7 feet.

And the most important statistic of all: 65,00,000 million people directly impacted, prisoners of a remorseless presence, disregarding the people of this land, their lives and occupations. Storms care nothing for these; their movements, their actions; in everything they do explicable only to themselves and answerable to none.

8:30 a.m.

Darkness now covers the land, the day now awash in heavy rain from a darkening sky. Except for a few daredevils, impacted humanity is now inside, hopeful, a nervous prayer on their lips and quiet words to God for deliverance. My shutters are beating now against the glass… the chandelier above my head has now flickered and flickered again. Thus does the great storm announce its movements and threaten our already threatened equilibrium.

It is said that there are no atheists in a fox hole. Neither do such disbelievers abide in storm zones and catastrophes. In such times prayers come as easily as breathing. As the stormy sea rises, as the seas rush in to threaten and drown our realities, this is my prayer, for myself and my beleaguered fellow travelers now facing the fate that great Irene carries through the surges for us all:

“O Eternal Lord God, who alone spreads out the heavens and rules the raging of the seas, receive into your protection all those who go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business on the great waters. Preserve them both in body and soul, prosper their labors with good success, in all times of danger, be their defense, and bring them to the haven where they would be, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Let God hear this our prayer for we are all mariners today, threatened by Irene’s great wind, roiling the seas around us… and so now we wait… prepare… and pray,, our Lord our sure redeemer now and forever.

How to read an auction catalog and intelligently participate in auctions worldwide.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. The autumn auction catalogs have begun to pour in, a stunning library of things rare, notable, luxurious, just the kinds of things you know are necessary for the “look” that screams your name. You are — or want to be — a collector on an international scale… but you don’t know how to get started. You are seized with curiosity for what’s available but need a knowledgeable friend to show you the ropes. I am that friend, and it’s time to start your education.

I have selected Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for today’s background music. Written in 1874, it is lush, grandiose, opulent in the Slavic style, just the kind of music that gets you in the mood for seeking the treasures which will enhance your life and present you to the world just as you like. Go now to any search engine and find the rendition of your choice; make sure to include the celebrated “Kiev Gate” portion. Then come along with me as I open a spectacular world to you… by giving you the practical details you need to participate.

A word about your guide… me!

For the last twenty years and more, I have been an active, even obsessive, participant in the auctions presented by the greatest auction houses in the world… Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York, Rome, Paris, London, Amsterdam… Bukowskis in Stockholm… the Dorotheum in Vienna. Each sale always had a catalog… and I have learned what only other collectors, connoisseurs, museum officials etc. know: how to read an auction catalog and know the essential, hitherto unpublished facts, the facts which crack the code on participating successfully in these auctions. For you see, what the cognoscenti know they are not anxious to share with you. They want to hoard this information and keep it from you; the better to gather the treasures of the earth unto themselves and themselves alone… without being bothered by… you! That changes today…

The pivotal fall sales of the world’s great auction houses are now underway; nearly daily from now until the great pre-Christmas December sales take place, the eye-popping, mouth-watering catalogs arrive to titillate, frustrate, unsettle… for that is what these and all auction catalogs are so artfully designed to do… they aim to plant the seed of desire in your mind and so haunt you night and day. I know that siren song too well; it has insinuated itself into my brain often and expensively over and over again. And if you have an insistent eye for beauty and a need to acquire, it will insinuate itself into yours, too.

First, start today.

Success in auctions is based on these key factors:

1) the development of an “eye”

2) doing the necessary homework for each item of your interest

3) finding and listening to your experts

4) setting and living within a realistic budget.

Let’s look at these points one at a time:

1) Developing your “eye”.

Great collectors, sage and savvy collectors, are people who can see within even the most battered and mistreated object not just what it is now… but what it once was and with tender loving care can be again. This skill is pivotal and can only be developed by constant and detailed artifact review. ALL collectors know the value of doing their homework. The development of the Internet has made this easy, for the information you need is as near as your computer.

Gathering this information long precedes acquiring objects or having the necessary funds to do so. Thus, start visiting the websites of the auction houses mentioned above. ALL now post their catalogs online available for your scrutiny 24 hours a day, a benefit your parents and grandparents could only have imagined. With these e-resources you are able to be better informed than any previous generation of collectors. Use this advantage to develop the all-important eye.

The “eye” that it takes a lifetime to acquire through constant viewing, reviewing, and careful judgements is not something you can rush. Its development is predicated on constant catalog review, reading what experts have to say, attending museum lectures and events… assiduously working on seeing, perceiving, looking beyond the surface into the soul and meaning of each object. This is a lifetime’s occupation and should be undertaken as early as possible. People who do not do this are and always will be at the mercy of the market and will never develop a collection of merit that showcases your impressive knowledge and success on the never-ending hunt.

2) Doing the necessary homework.

Many wealthy people buy art and artifacts by the yard, advised by decorators who may know something about arrangement but who almost universally lack the essential knowledge of history, provenance, and underlying value and significance possessed by real collectors.

Like it or not (and you’d better like it) all true collectors understand the need for intense analysis of any item in which they’re interested. This information comes first by studying the catalog; then requesting a “condition report” from the auction house. This reports consists of what the auction house knows about the object in question. It will be honest but it may well raise more questions than it answers. If so, check the catalog to get the name of the auction house’s designated authority on this object. Either email or call. You will find these experts personable, candid, anxious to be helpful. Just remember at all times: they want to sell this object, and so condition reports must always been read with a grain of salt.

3) Finding and listening to your experts.

Because auction house experts all work to sell, you need your own experts, people who have no other thought than honestly advising — you. Where do you find such people? Auction house experts can help, by making referrals. They will know everyone who is anyone in the field. You will need their expertise. Take full advantage of it. As I can attest these folks, zealous in your service, can spare you the pain of expensive, embarrassing mistakes. Listen carefully too what they tell you, especially once you know they have that all-important eye.

4) Setting and living within a realistic budget. Have you begun to master the key points above? Good! Now it’s time to gather the funds you need to participate. Begin at once.

Depending on your particular area of interest, you may be able to start for as low as a few hundred dollars. Start small, start careful, go slow, as you come to know the vicissitudes of auctions. Remember, these great auction houses have existed for hundreds of years. Move forward with due deliberation. But don’t let deliberation become procrastination. Care is needed but so is the ability to take action as necessary, while always setting and living within your inviolable budget.

Last Words.

You are now ready to begin one of the most important and exciting journeys of your life… as you commence your walk down the red carpet towards the most beautiful, valuable, and important objects on earth. One last thing: don’t expert those who don’t appreciate such things to appreciate you and your sublime and never-ending search. Don’t let their uninformed remarks and blindness infuriate or irritate. By following these steps you will leave such people in the dust while embracing all the connoisseurs, experts, and knowledgeable friends who henceforth enrich your life. Be sure to include me amidst their number… and let me know how with this candid advice you get on with your passion.

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What’s wrong with America? Get mad along with me and sound off!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Before you read this article, go to any search engine and find Peter Finch’s celebrated “Mad as Hell” speech from the 1976 film “Network.” I know exactly how Howard Beale, the character he plays, felt. Disgusted! Infuriated! Past mere anger! A nuclear melt-down gone beyond all these… His was pure rage… out of control rage… volcanic, explosive, searing. It ignited a profound response in the national psyche. And though his words date from 1976, they are as apt today, as perfect a fit today, as unadulterated truth today.

See for yourself…

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.

We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We know things are bad — worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad!”

And so with this (here abbreviated) speech he got the apathetic up, the procrastinating, the nay-sayers and every Chicken Little in the land. He got the fearful to get up, the people who just wouldn’t say what they saw. He got the politically alienated to get up, the people who never voted and always complained, doing nothing. He got them and all their listless friends and neighbors up, too.

He told them to throw up the windows, stick their heads out and scream their heads off: “I’M MAD AS HELL… AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!”

And in a minute or less, people, enraged people, angry people, chagrined and shame- faced people were doing just that. And, friend, when you finish this article I want you to do the same thing, for it’s way past time for such a profound tribal, deeply primitive outburst from us the good people who built this nation and who keep it going. We are the tax-paying, America loving, thoroughly responsible, helping others citizens of the Great Republic, the people devalued, diminished, demoted and still asked for more as we seethe while watching others do less, scoffing at us, the heart of the nation.

Open that window!

Throw up the sash!

And SCREAM…. for you and I have taken it all far too long and there is vengeance in our heart…

I’m mad about the fact that we can find billions of dollars to blow up Iraq and Afghanistan but not a penny for our decaying infrastructure. Where’s the logic in this?

I’m profoundly angry about the fact that for each dollar we spend on homeland “security” we feel less and less secure. Taking off our belts, shoes, pants, shirts and everything else has just made us ridiculous, without improving our security one iota.

I’ve had it with both political parties, who think their work consists of charging each other with obstructing the business of the nation when we all know they are both the culprits.

I’ve had it with candidates like Michele Bachmann whose every utterance is another embarrassment. It’s time to call it not just the way we see it, but the way it is. Michele’s an uneducated bigot with sex, particularly gay sex, on the brain. Let’s just say everything about the lady makes me mad and should make you mad, too.

As for Mitt Romney, he’s a pompous twit; after spending millions of the dollars he made by reorganizing companies and putting people out of work, he’s less liked now than when he started. The plain fact is, no one likes him or wants him in the Oval Office.

As for Rick Perry… tell the unvarnished truth. If he created a single job in Texas it was a minimum wage position in the service sector flipping burgers. What he likes doing is signing executive orders executing felons under 18 and the mentally ill. I’m enraged that no one bothers to say that Perry alone executed more criminals in his 11 years as governor; more than all the other governors of the nation combined.

I’m enraged about the “birthers” the people who still waste their time and money with their “proof” Barack Obama is an alien, disqualified to be president. And I’m mad at Obama too, for not fighting for jobs and what must be done to lift the economy and cut the unemployment rate. He’s been advised over and over again what to do; he lacks the grit and fortitude to make it happen and that makes me mad all over again.

I’m mad at the “leaders” who lie to us and pander by suggesting easy choices will solve the nation’s financial problems. Tell us how bad things must get before they get better. Stop lying to get re-elected when your policy back in office is to lie some more to get re-elected all over again.

Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what has to happen with Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and every single entitlement that exists. Don’t sugar coat the pill… tell the people the God’s honest truth.

And while you’re at it…

Clean up the Internet, too.

I’m mad as hell about

* the jerks who send those millions of emails lying about some bogus legacy and what I have to pay to get it. Use our sophisticated technology. Go get ’em; clear ’em out. Put ’em in jail, or worse.

* the guys who launch viruses, clog the system, bringing down the unwary. It’s time to find them (easily done) and put them away for a significant stretch for crimes against humanity.

I’m mad as hell about our educational “system”

* teachers who cannot teach but can erase and alter standard test results, each one more adamantly opposed to educational reform than the last.

* principals who have none, their only concern to keep the financial tap open whether or not anyone is learning anything.

* students who wear their trousers at the ankle, every inch of exposed flesh cocking a snook at the system and outraging any opportunity to learn.

And there’s more, much, much more to get mad about, to get up and scream about, but let this suffice for now. What we must do is clear… but I wonder if any of us has the guts to do it…. I wonder if I’ve got them myself…. or whether we’ll stay mad as hell while saying nothing, absolutely nothing, which is how we got in this mess in the first place.

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Two women, vastly different choices. Coco Chanel, Nancy Wake. What would you have done if you lived in France during the occupation?

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. In dealing with the events following the fall of France June 22, 1940 you must always ask yourself, “What would I have done to keep living?” Then remember that every single Frenchman and Frenchwoman had to ask this question…. and answer it, often paying with their lives if they made the wrong decision at the wrong time.

This is the story of two women, one internationally renowned, the most famous name in fashion, Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel….. and Nancy Wake. One you have heard of for years, may even have one of her creations near at hand… the other you may be hearing about for the very first time, for all that she was one of the great heroes of the French Resistance.

This is their story… and I suggest that before you dig in you search any search engine for Edith Piaf’s signature tune, “Non, Je ne regrette rien,” released in 1960. Then return to meet today’s protagonists, both of whom made decisions which could easily have cost their very lives and undoubtedly cost one her reputation.

Two events have inspired this article at this time.

First, an important new book on Chanel has just been released, “Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War”, author Hal Vaughan. Second, Nancy Wake died, at 98, August 7, 2011.


Born August 19, 1883 Chanel came into the world with nothing. Her childhood was chaotic; in 1895 her mother died of tuberculosis and her father left the family. Chanel spent 6 years in an orphanage. There she learned the trade of seamstress. She wanted to be a singer… but she didn’t have the talent. What she had was not mere talent, but genius. She had the skill, greater than any other couturier, to make a woman look chic, elegant, well (never over) dressed.

Chanel became a licensed modiste (hat maker) in 1910 and opened her first Paris boutique. The business took off when theatre actress Gabrielle Dorziat modelled her hats in the play “Bel Ami” by F. Noziere.

It was not only the clothes Chanel created which were impressive. All her life she managed to impress the right people; people who saw that she was going places. In 1920, for instance, she was introduced to ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev; she liked him and his family so much, she invited them to live with her. They were Russian emigres, broke, yet each of these titans recognized genius in the other. It is a very useful skill to possess, and Chanel had it in spades.

In 1924, Chanel made an agreement with the Wertheimer brothers, Pierre and Paul, directors of the eminent perfume house Bourgeois since 1917, creating a corporate entity “Parfums Chanel.” Chanel got 10 percent of the stock. Here was the root of her later problems. Almost immediately she regretted the deal she’d made and spent the next 20 years (including the years she spent in Nazi occupied France) to gain full control, denouncing Pierre Wertheimer as the “bandit who screwed me.”

Loyal, but to whom?

For years there have been doubts about just whom Chanel was loyal to during the occupation and Vichy regime. Now 84-year-old World War II veteran Hal Vaughan presents detailed documentation that is sure to make customers and fans squirm.

His first find was an accident; while working on another project in the French national police archives. It was a “smoking gun” making it crystal clear that Chanel was a Nazi agent. (Her code name was Westminster, which seems like an inside joke given the fact that the Duke of Westminster, the wealthiest peer of the British realm, refused to marry her. A gentleman, Westminster allowed her to claim it was he who had been rejected. She did so in this memorable line, “There have been several duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel.”

Chanel’s objective, like that of so many other French citizens, was to get through the war as comfortably and profitably as possible. This wasn’t necessarily bad; it all depended on the choices you made. And here is where Chanel went seriously wrong. First, she grew careless about her anti-Semite opinions. They were bigoted, lurid, and, importantly, unwise. Chanel had never been stifled; she was not going to be stifled now,, although every word she uttered on the subject was ill-advised.

She erred again by commencing an affaire with Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a professional Abwehr spy 12 years her junior. They lived in the famous Rtz Hotel, which was under Nazi control.

Vaughan’s book now takes the matter further. His book alleges that in 1940, Chanel was recruited into the Abwehr; a year later she traveled to Spain on a spy mission and later still went to Berlin on the orders of a top SS general. And now the facts so painful to read. Vaughan reports that Chanel’s anti-Semitism pushed her to try to capitalize on laws allowed for the expropriation of Jewish property to wrest control of the Chanel perfume lines from the Wertheimer brothers, who were Jewish. One is relieved to learn that Chanel and the Wertheimers continued to negotiate after the liberation. In May, 1947 the parties came to a mutual accommodation. Chanel in future would receive two percent of all Chanel No.5 sales worldwide, an agreement which guaranteed her about twenty five million dollars a year, some of which she could use to rehabilitate a reputation which embarrassed Chanel and her enterprises.

Nancy Wake.

While Chanel was attempting to rewrite history and buff her image, Nancy Wake was accepting one high-level decoration after another for the brave, dangerous, and constantly successful deeds she’d done and which turned her into one of the signature heroes of the Resistance.

A statement released by Australian prime minister Julia Gillard upon Wake’s death, said, “Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end.”

How did this happen?

Born in New Zealand she grew up in Australia after the family moved. She became a nurse, but her heart wasn’t in it. And when she got an inheritance from a New Zealand aunt she went out to see the world; in due course she became Paris correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. The outbreak of war in 1939 saw her in Marseille. It was there her notable career began, as she helped British servicemen and Jews escape the German occupying forces. She was never caught, but her husband, captured and tortured by the Gestapo, was not so lucky. She avenged him by participating in the heroic 1944 attack on the local Gestapo headquarters.

The Gestapo also bestowed her famous name, “The White Mouse,” because every time she was cornered, like a tiny mouse she managed to escape… to another daring deed and the highest decorations of France, the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. In due course, Wake helped to arm and lead 7,000 resistance fighters, perhaps her finest moment being the weakening of German defences before the D-Day invasion.

Two women, two choices.

It is easy to judge these women now, to laud Wake and condemn Coco Chanel. But that begs the essential question. If you had been in occupied France what would you have done? It’s not easy to say when the query is real, not academic… which is why in the teaching of history, it is essential to be scrupulously fair to the deceased… and never allow snap judgements and easy moralizing for matters as serious and perilous as this.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is, where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at

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‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.’ The watery end of bright-smiled Marie Joseph and her unsettling fate.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

It is high summer in Fall River, Massachusetts, once a focal point of American commerce and the most elegant of sailing ships, now a city defined by its gnawing problems and of people who arrive only to count the days until they leave this way station to something better.

Many of these new arrivals are Hispanic and the place where the most adamant of New Englanders flourished is now a place where often the language is Spanish and the orientation Latin. How surprised the mariners of Massachusetts would have been… but even they, unhappily seeing the transformation of their works, would have looked twice at the radiant smile of Marie Joseph, the kind of smile that lightens loads, brings people together, and holds them together when it’s needed, as it always is.

Marie Joseph graced lives, she did not impose upon them. Such people are too rare… always valued…. the sinews on which all communities rely, especially the ones which seem to have more than their share of problems.

The new arrivals, not yet ascending to country club status, rely on the plethora of municipal services which, in this year 2011, are stressed, pressured, threatened, deteriorating. But more needed than ever… especially if that service is the state-run swimming pools that provide relief on the so-hot summer days you always forget are a sweltering feature of summer hereabouts.

The thought of the beckoning pool, aqua marine, cool, refreshing, a blessing to folks without air conditioning is just what Marie Joseph wanted… and so, arrayed in that smile that wouldn’t quit, she made her way to the modern city’s version of the old swimming hole. In the last picture of Marie Joseph, taken the day before she died (June 26, 2011) her smile is incandescent, radiant, cast on the child in her arms with plenty left over for the rest of the world.

That image should have defined the event and the day, a happy memory in a life of challenges and tribulations… Instead, that image stands as irony, proof (if it were ever needed) that life is short, can never be taken for granted, and can end in ways inexplicable and horrifying… as it was about to do for Marie Joseph.

The water slide took her down indeed, to the conclusion of a brief life, just 36 years.

She saw the water slide. It looked fun… especially as she watched a nine-year-old neighbor go down the slide accompanied by the full panoply of quips, expressions, and ear-shattering squeals all kids horde for just such events. She was game. You had to take your fun when and where you could.

As she slid down the water slide into death and eternity, no one (except the nine-year-old) paid any attention. No need. That water slide was popular and no one gave it a second thought. But this day something went terribly wrong… while people who should have seen saw nothing… or at least they say so now…

The first horror: death by drowning, surrounded by people.

Marie Joseph may have known how to swim; her friends and family are not sure. She didn’t ask. Why should she; she had watched her young friend use the slide joyously; she probably didn’t know the water was 12 feet deep. Once in the water, Marie was in trouble… and must have made a fearful racket as anyone would as they faced the reality of their situation and fought for life. How could this death struggle happen before so many… with only one person, her young neighbor doing anything to assist?

He at least knew something was wrong and tried to pull Marie up, to safety; and when he failed, he called upon the lifeguard for assistance. But demi-god in his Ray Bans, he had better things to do than his job; ignoring kids’ babble was part of what made him so cool and exalted.

Here the story goes from tragedy to the macabre, from one family’s grief to an enduring symbol of ineptitude, scandal, and staggering incompetence.

Marie Joseph was now dead… but no one knew it…

The friends she came with wondered where she had gone; something no doubt had come up; she’d tell them later. And so the sunburnt children wanting more… and their mothers who had had enough, all went home…

… leaving the body of Marie Joseph entombed in water, her raven tresses in constant movement under the water under the summer’s night. And so on this cheerful day did Marie Joseph pass a night peaceful perhaps for her, but of mounting worry and concern for her family and friends. Where had she and her radiant smile gone?

Business as usual.

The next day was business as usual… the kids came to swim and scream, the mothers to watch and gossip, complaining about the temperature and how hot it was; the lifeguard, high above, looked down on the scene and wondered if his girl was cheating on him, of all people.

And throughout this day, mere feet below the teaming activity, the lifeless body of Marie Joseph moved to the water’s beat, its whereabouts known only to God. Yes, on this evening, too, and throughout the stages of the night, did her unseeing eyes abide in their incomprehensible resting place.

And, though its staggers belief, it went on for another day… another day with the corpse swimming with youngsters… and where chary mothers saw nothing… and lifeguards with plum summer jobs, envied, yet saw absolutely nothing.

And still the story worsens, morphing from the shocking to the incredible.

Now officials, making a periodic visit, appeared. Despite the inexplicable disappearance of Marie Joseph, now common gossip, these officials made only the most cursory of inspections… not one suspecting that the pool itself and its cloudy waters held the body. Like everyone else but one small boy they looked… and saw nothing, though the corpse of a beautiful woman was dissolving into debris….

… which teams of lifeguards missed and even the people charged daily with inspecting the pool, cleaning it, keeping the waters fresh and clear. Add these, too, to the staggering number who should have seen… but say they did not.

Now, of course, alarm bells ringing in the face of widespread condemnation, officials great and small come slowly forward, mutter platitudes, and run for cover. A tiny fraction of this energy would easily have saved the life of Marie Joseph or at least given her honorable burial, sparing her from becoming a thing of horror and nightmare. For such she has become, no longer the beloved person she was but a fearful presence for the children who now see a place of sun, light, air and shimmering water as a place of dread and abhorrence, wondering what else they may find there.

Marie Joseph did not deserve her fate. Let some poignant lines from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, provide her one better:

“Who is this? and what is here? And in the lighted palace near Died the sound of royal cheer; And they cross’d themselves for fear, All the knights at Camelot: But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, “She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott.” (1842).

‘She’s come undone She didn’t know what she was headed for,

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. In 1969 The Guess Who recorded a catchy little number, an insidious bit of fluff that all of a sudden you find yourself whistling in a crowded elevator. Tunes can grab you that way, you know; this one surely does… and its catchy lyrics too. These lyrics are spot on for today’s article… for, verily, the New York hotel maid at the center of this matter has well and truly come undone; the woman who hoped to put French presidential candidate Strauss-Kahn away may be headed that way herself whilst the man she charged may end up in the Elysee Palace yet.

It’s one of the greatest political stories ever. After you’ve found the tune in any search engine and listened to it a couple of times, you’ll be ready to dig into this…

Adam and Eve-like, it all started with one man and one woman. So far, both parties agree. Any other facts they can agree on? Just this: that she was the maid…. and came to clean and fluff the gentleman’s room in the New York hotel where he was staying.

The parties agree on nothing else, thereby proving yet again what every crime author knows: that when there are only two people who know the facts, not only will they not agree… but the truth will be crushed amidst the endless charges and countercharges as the story morphs so that what each eye witness says bears absolutely no resemblance to what the other is saying. Still, we can make some very educated deductions.

1) Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund until May 18, 2011 is accustomed to hanging out with heads of state, ministers of finance, and the highest-level diplomats. Thus he was probably up to no good that fateful day of the incident; that’s why he was staying where he was staying. Covering his tracks that day was a priority; after all, he was a candidate for President de la Republique.

2) He may well have jumped out of his bathroom stark naked, the better to impress the object of his (very temporary) affections; if so, it shows a man deluded by his magnitude, for truly with that embonpoint, his salad days are well and truly over. But you must remember, he was surrounded by flunkies always at the ready to say, “Oui, m. le ministre….”

3) The maid, who says she was raped, was not the blushing rose originally portrayed… she may have had financial gain on the brain. This would have been the more shocking had not every denizen of Manhattan been conniving their own chicaneries that day. Hey, it’s not cheap to live in the Big Apple, and you’ve got to get those bucks however you can… So may the maid have reckoned when a very big fish with unlimited financial resources at his disposal fell in her net. No wonder she started dreaming big… and talking fast.

First, in her mandated role as “good girl”, she told her employers. Now, remember, this is Manhattan and every man except for a couple of thugs on 42nd Street have now been trained in the rudiments of feminist philosophy. This is especially true of all law enforcement personnel. These now lean over backwards to accommodate the woman. After all they definitely don’t want Gloria Allred, Esq., feminist avenger, on their tails. Anything but that…

Thus, when Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and his prosecuting team were made aware of this matter (which happened, you’ll remember, with record-breaking celerity), they may have had this paradigm in mind: big man rapes helpless woman of color, then hightails it back to Paris (of all places), there to resume his privileged life of luxury, excess, and deceptions. Oh, yes, that man HAD to be stopped or, by golly, he’d be President of France and it would be THEIR fault.

And so, in the best tradition of those fast-moving films about high level treachery and intrigue, the arresting agent grabbed Dominique Strauss-Kahn in his first- class seat, just as the doors were closing on his freedom flight to Paris… whew! They had their culprit… and the media of the world endlessly ran the arrest photos of the man well ahead in the race to become titan of Europe, preserver of la belle France and its immemorial traditions, confidant of God.

As these photos ran, Dominique’s “friends” did, too… After all, he had a long tradition as an aggressive skirt-chaser; he’d had problems before. Thus, his IMF colleagues fired him at once… showing their sensitivity by appointing a woman, Christine LaGarde, as his successor. Things reached a low indeed, the most abject low, when Strauss-Kahn was shackled, just like a drug lord with decapitations on his rap sheet… the prosecutors had their man and they made the most of his humiliation and their triumph.

But it all rested on the testimony of one woman…. and herein was the weakness.

The more they questioned the maid, the more nervous the prosecutors became.

Item: 32 years old, she had committed a host of minor frauds, all designed to enhance her new life in the United States. These frauds took place over the seven years since she’d arrived from Guinea. She lied on immigration paperwork, cheated on her taxes, and misstated her income so she could get an apartment reserved for the poor.

Item: Prosecutors acknowledged that there were “troubling” revelations and “glaring” inconsistencies in her various accounts. For instance, she lied about what happened after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn in his hotel room. She initially said that after she had been attacked she waited in the hallway until Strauss-Kahn left the room. She later admitted that after the episode,she cleaned a nearby room, then returned to Strauss-Kahn’s suite. Only after that did she inform her employer.

Item: (and perhaps the most telling of all), days after her testimony and her testimony alone had put Strauss-Kahn in the pokey, prosecutors knew this: a few days following Strauss-Kahn’s arrest she had made a telephone call to her main squeeze. He helped her fabricate a statement and memorize it. This included a false story that she had been gang raped in Guinea. More troubling was the phone call where she suggested Strauss-Kahn was ripe for the plucking. Her boyfriend was interested; after all in an Arizona jail he had time on his hands… and had to make up for the 400 pounds of marijuana which had been confiscated… He needed money, too.

As the drip-drip-drip of inaccurate, misleading, false information came from the main, no longer a blushing rose, the case against Strauss-Kahn waned. The man may not have been, probably was not, innocent; but had the perfect accuser: one who handed him the grand gift of plausible deniability. The judge released him…

…. to re-emerge, the cognoscenti say, as a prime presidential candidate again.

If he pulls it off, it’ll be a tale of Second Coming import. He’s bruised, of course, and he looked like what he is: an aging, rather inept lothario; that must be, they say, his German side, so unchic.

But he’s got a splendid ace in the hole… the picture of a dejected man, unnecessarily, humiliatingly shackled. That outraged the French who are just capable of electing Strauss-Kahn for spite; sticking it to New York, Washington, feminist zealots everywhere… and particularly Vance, Jr. and his rush-to-judgement team.

Vance mishandled this from the beginning. Why? Because he forgot that you are innocent until proven guilty and should be treated accordingly. That’s the American way and it’s the right way. If he’d gone ahead on this basis, he could have proceeded with his work, discovering the facts as they emerged. He didn’t do this and so gave New York and its justice system a black eye. Now it’s too late and he’s come undone.