Monthly Archives: May 2007


Fred Thompson is running for president. I am glad; at a minimum, his presence should contribute clarity to the Republican race.

He also is continuing his weblog and podcasts over at ABC. Today he’s talking bluntly about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What do you think America would do if Canadian soldiers were firing dozens of missiles every day into Buffalo, N.Y.? What do you think our response would be if Mexican troops for two years had launched daily rocket attacks on San Diego — and bragged about it?

I can tell you, our response would look nothing like Israel’s restrained and pinpoint reactions to daily missile attacks from Gaza. We would use whatever means necessary to win the war. There would likely be numerous casualties on our enemy’s side, but we would rightfully hold those who attacked us responsible.

More than 1,300 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since Palestinians were given control two years ago. Israelis, however, have gone to incredible lengths to stop the war against them without harming Palestinian non-combatants. But make no mistake, Israel is at war. The elected Hamas government regularly repeats its official promise to destroy Israel entirely and replace it with an Islamic state. Hamas openly took credit for killing one woman and wounding dozens more last week alone.

The Palestinian strategy is to purposely target and kill Israeli civilians. Then, when Israel goes after those launching the attacks, Palestinians claim to be the victims. If Palestinian civilians aren’t hurt in the Israeli attacks, they stage injuries and deaths. Too often, they garner sympathy and support from a gullible or anti-Semitic media in the international community.

Israelis, themselves, are often incapable of facing the damage they inflict in self-defense. Knowing this, Islamic extremists are using their own populations as human shields.

On a non-Fred note, but not unrelated to what he’s writing about above, I received an e-mail from a singer-songwriter named David Kerner:

I thought you might be interested in my song, Sderot Town – I’ve attached it to this email. You’ll hear the Bob /Woody influence. Just found your site recently and look forward to reading more of your posts.

I’ve posted the mp3, in its entirety, on my site, along with the lyrics and a link people can use to help the kids of Sderot.

A very good year

1998. In concert, Bob Dylan was wearing the songs from 1997’s Time Out Of Mind album like so many well-worn leather jackets. Thanks to YouTube, and in particular to a very generous uploader named rankflv, quite a few of these performances can now be easily accessed. Click here for a dynamite version of ’Til I Fell In Love With You. Click here for a great rendition of Million Miles. (Both of the preceding are from Brookville, NY, January 30th, 1998.)

And don’t miss the wonderfully intimate performance of the old song Cocaine Blues from Vancouver, Canada, on May 14th, 1998, with, of-course, Tony Garnier on stand-up bass, Larry Campbell on guitar, and Bucky Baxter on pedal steel (starts out with black screen, but be patient).

Gathering no moss

Yesterday, John Gibson of Fox News picked up on how, in the recent Rolling Stone interview, Bob Dylan frustrated Jann Wenner’s attempts to get him to profess belief in certain liberal/left articles of faith, such as man-made global warming. Gibson did a short piece called Why Bob Dylan Rocks, and I believe he mentioned it on the air too. Today, the NewsBusters blog has picked on the same story. Nice to see. Of-course that whole Rolling Stone story was previously covered in this space more than a month ago: here, here and here.

Captain Jeter

The title of this post does not refer to the talented Yankee baseball player who is also his team’s captain, but to the name which is on the tombstone of the grave which Bob Dylan visits in the video for ‘Cross The Green Mountain (click here for previous post.)

A photograph of the grave can be seen at

The stone reads:

Capt. W.R. Jeter
13th VA Cav.
Born May 25, 1834
And fell in defense
of his country

Note: the website mistakenly says “fell in defense of his county;” I think that looking at the photograph closely confirms that the word is indeed “country,” of-course.

In the video, Dylan rides into the cemetery on horseback and places a framed photo or daguerreotype on the grave.

I have no speculation as to why Capt. Jeter’s grave was chosen, but naturally it does arouse curiousity as to any story surrounding this particular Confederate soldier. I don’t know if there are any Civil War buffs out there who might know anything about him. The power of Google, however, has given me this so far:

In 1903, a book was published called “A Virginia Girl In The Civil War 1861 – 1865,” self-described as “Being a record of the actual experiences of the wife of a Confederate officer. Collected and edited by Myrta Lockett Avary.” The complete text of the book is hosted on the web by the University of North Carolina at this link.

As described in the introduction, the book is basically the oral reminiscences of a then-elderly woman as provided to Ms. Avary, who edited and arranged the stories for publication. The woman was married to a Confederate officer, as the subtitle states, and herself spent time nursing the wounded in hospital wards.

I came across the text via Google because one of the woman’s friends is married to a Captain Jeter, who ultimately is mortally wounded and is tended to in his last hours by the storyteller herself.

If you read sufficiently through the text, you will discover that the storyteller’s husband is in the 13th Virginia Cavalry (the one named on Capt. W.R. Jeter’s grave stone). It seems at least highly likely that the Captain Jeter mentioned in this story is also in the same cavalry, because when he is wounded, the storyteller’s husband sends word to her to go to the hospital and tend to him.

But now a caveat; the book’s introduction also states:

Out of deference to the wishes of living persons, her own [i.e. the narrator’s] and her husband’s real names have been suppressed and others substituted; in the case of a few of their close personal friends, and of some whose names would not be of special historical value, the same plan has been followed.

So, we don’t know for sure if we can rely on the name “Jeter” after all. Was this one of the close personal friends whose name was changed? I can’t say.

Nevertheless, given the other circumstances which jibe with the information on the grave marker, it seems to me that there’s a better than even chance that this is the actual Captain Jeter of the 13th Virginia Cavalry whose grave Dylan visits in the video for ‘Cross The Green Mountain.

So, here is an extract of the text of this book, where the narrator learns of Captain Jeter’s wound, goes to tend to him, and later talks with his mother and his widow.

And now began for me the nursing in hospital wards that made up so large a part of our lives during the war.

“Jeter shot, perhaps fatally. Go to the hospital and see what you can do for him. I have telegraphed to his wife and mother. “DAN.”

The orderly who brought me this message from my husband said that Captain Jeter’s command had been in a skirmish that day, and that the captain had fallen, mortally wounded, it was thought.

I went to him at once. He was lying unconscious across the bed as if he had fallen or been dropped there, dressed in full uniform with his coat buttoned up to his throat, breathing stertorously, and moaning. There was a small black hole in his temple. I thought he must be uncomfortable with his clothes on, and proposed to the nurse that we should try to undress him, but she said he was dying and it would only disturb him. All that day and until late that night I stayed with him, changing the towels on his head, wiping the ooze from his lips, listening to that agonizing moaning, and thinking of the wife and mother who could not reach him. About ten o’clock he seemed to be strangling.

“It’s phlegm in his throat,” the nurse said. She ran her finger down his throat, pulling out a quid of tobacco that had been in his mouth when he was shot and that had lain there ever since.

He died at midnight, and his mother came the next day at noon. I don’t know which was the hardest to stand, her first burst of agony or her endless questions when she could talk.

“Did he suffer much, Nell?”

“Not much, I think. He was unconscious from the time he was shot.”

“Nell, did he send me any message? Did he call for me?”

“He was unconscious,” I repeated gently, “and we must be thankful that he was. If he had been conscious he would have suffered more.”

“Yes, yes; I reckon I am thankful. I don’t know how I am now. But I’m trying to submit myself to the will of the Lord. Nellie, you don’t know what a sweet baby he was! the prettiest little fellow! as soon as he could walk, he was always toddling after me and pulling at my skirts.”

I turned my head away.

“Last night I dozed for a minute and I dreamed about him. He was my baby again, and I had him safe in my arms, and there never had been any war. But I didn’t sleep much. I couldn’t come as soon as I got the telegram. I had to wait for a train. And I was up nearly all night cooking things to bring him.”

She opened her basket and satchel and showed me. They were full of little cakes and crackers, wine jellies and blanc-mange, and other delicacies for the sick.

“Do you think if I had gotten here in time he could have eaten them?” she asked wistfully.

“He could not eat anything,” I sail choking back my tears.

“You don’t think he was hungry at all Nell? The soldiers have so little to eat some times – and I have heard it said that people are sometimes hungry when they are dying.”

“Dear Mrs. Jeter, he looked well and strong except for the wound. You know the troops had just returned from the valley where they had plenty to eat.”

“I am glad of that. I was just getting a box ready to send him full of everything I thought he would like. And I had some clothes for him. I began making the clothes as soon as I heard the troops had come back to Culpeper. You say he was wounded in the head?”

Neither of us closed our eyes that night. She walked the floor asking the same questions over and over again, and I got so I answered yes or no just as I saw she wanted yes or no and without regard to the truth.

Several months after this I saw Captain Jeter’s widow. She was surrounded by his little children – none of them old enough to realize their loss.

“Nell,” she said, “you remember the day in Petersburg when we stood together and watched the troops start off for Norfolk – and everybody was cheering?”


“Well, war does not look to me now as it did then. God grant it may spare your husband to you, Nell!”

I shivered.

I called on another widowed friend. Her husband – a captain, too – had been sent home, his face mutilated past recognition by the shell that killed him. Her little ones were around her, and the captain’s sword was hanging on the wall. When I spoke to her of it as a proud possession, her eyes filled. His little boy said with flashing eyes:

“It’s my papa’s s’ode. I wants to be a man. An’ I’ll take it down and kill all the Yankees!”

“H-sh!” his mother put her hand over his mouth. “God grant there may be no war when you are a man!” she said fervently.

“Amen!” I responded.

“Oh, Nell,” she said, “when it’s all over, what good will it do? It will just show that one side could fight better than the other, or had more money and men than the other. It won’t show that anybody’s right. You can’t know how it is until it hits you, Nell I’m proud of him, and proud of his sword; I wouldn’t have had him out of it all. I wouldn’t have had him a coward. But oh, Nell, I feel that war is wrong! I’m sorry for every Northern woman who has a circle like this around her, and a sword like that hanging on her wall.”

The little boy put his arm around her neck. “Mamma,” he said, “are you sorry for the Yankees?”

“My dear,” she said, “I am sorry for all little boys who haven’t got a papa, and I’m sorry for their mammas. And I don’t want you ever to kill anybody.”

NOTE: This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text. (Click here to go to the UNC website and access the complete text.)

So, there you have it. Captain Jeter is just one of some 500,000 soldiers who died during the U.S. Civil War.

Memorial Day

Shortly after Bob Dylan’s Modern Times was released last year, some phrases and echoes from the poetry of Henry Timrod (1828 – 1867) were found in the lyrics by Dylan fan and disc jockey Scott Warmuth (previous post here).

Around here, that’s all the excuse needed to go to Timrod for some lines on this Memorial Day.

Ode Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead,
at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C., 1867


Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.


In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!


Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
Which keep in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
And these memorial blooms.


Small tributes! but your shades will smile
More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Than when some cannon-moulded pile
Shall overlook this bay.


Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!

In his memoir, “Chronicles,” Dylan remembers reading microfilmed newspapers from the Civil War era in the New York Public Library, and notes the deep effect that studying this time had on him.

Back there, America was put on the cross, died and was resurrected. There was nothing synthetic about it. The godawful truth of that would be the all-encompassing template behind everything I would write.

That’s what you’d call a big statement. Yet, the only song of Dylan’s where it is clear that he is writing directly about the U.S. Civil War is ‘Cross The Green Mountain. It is a song I personally find to be deeply affecting no matter how many times I hear it. It was released in 2003 as part of the soundtrack to the Civil War epic "Gods and Generals." From the makers of the more widely acclaimed film “Gettysburg,” “Gods and Generals” focuses on the story of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. He died after being hit by friendly fire during the battle of Chancellorsville. Dylan’s song features an echo of this event in one of its verses:

Close the eyes of our captain, peace may he know
His long night is done, the great leader is laid low
He was ready to fall, he was quick to defend
Killed outright he was, by his own men

And there is another echo I just discovered for myself — I don’t know if it’s been noted before elsewhere or not. There is a poem called Stonewall Jackson’s Way, written by John Williamson Palmer in 1862. A few of the lines go:

We see him now–the old slouched hat
Cocked o’er his eye askew–
The shrewd, dry smile–the speech so pat–
So calm, so blunt, so true.

The last couplet of Dylan’s song goes:

They were calm, they were blunt, we knew ‘em all too well
We loved each other more than we ever dared to tell

The song also incorporates a more obvious reference to a Walt Whitman poem, The Soldier’s Letter, where a soldier’s mother receives a letter telling her that her son has been wounded but “will soon be better,” when in reality at that juncture her son has already died.

A rather remarkable video was made for ‘Cross The Green Mountain, mixing footage from the film with new scenes featuring Dylan (and members of his band) in full Civil War era costume, attending to the body of a fallen soldier. It was directed by Tom Krueger. The video utilizes only an abridged version of the eight-minute-plus song, unfortunately; about one third of it. Here it is, nonetheless, via YouTube:

Rock of Ages

At the Sands Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the late show of November 19th, 1999, Bob Dylan and his band delivered a gentle rendition of Rock of Ages.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
While mine eyes shall close in death,
And I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Unlucky dog

Perhaps the title of this post is wishful thinking on my part, but we shall see. From The Scotsman: Raid on spy’s home ‘reveals details of Chirac’s secret £30m pound bank account’.

LONG-STANDING rumours that the former French president Jacques Chirac holds a secret multi-million-euro bank account in Japan appear to have been confirmed by files seized from the home of a senior spy.

Papers seized by two investigating magistrates from General Philippe Rondot, a former head of the DGSE, France’s intelligence service, show Mr Chirac opened an account in the mid-1990s at Tokyo Sowa Bank, credited with the equivalent of £30 million. It is not known where the money came from, nor whether it is connected to various kick-back scandals to which Mr Chirac’s name has been linked over the past decade.

Last year, Mr Chirac “categorically denied” having a bank account in Japan.

The seized documents have been described by the magistrates as “explosive” and are believed to contain copies of the former president’s bank statements.


Claims of Mr Chirac’s secret nest egg first came to the attention of the French authorities in 1996 when his friend Shoichi Osada, a Japanese banker, decided to invest £500 million in France, so triggering a routine investigation by the DGSE, which is said to have stumbled upon the then president’s Japanese account.

Thrown into a panic, Mr Chirac is said to have summoned Gen Rondot in 2001 and ordered him to destroy all DGSE evidence of the account. Unfortunately for the president, the spy simply removed the notes and memos about the affair to his home, where they were seized in March last year by Mr d’Huy and Mr Pons. Since then, the judges have been discreetly pursuing an investigation, interviewing 20 intelligence officers about the affair.

Mr Chirac is reported to have struck a deal with Mr Sarkozy, whereby the latter will push through judicial reforms ensuring the ex-president escapes prosecution. However, the magistrates are expected to move before the reforms are passed this summer.

This is just the beginning of what Jacques Chirac needs to answer for, if you ask moi, but the path towards justice will likely be a long one, and may well have to await the decision of a Higher Arbiter.

Sarkozy may have made a deal to get Chirac off the hook for his malfeasance, but here’s hoping his own tenure as president will have better results for everybody. The editors of National Review, at least, are gushing over his choice of foreign minister:

The appointment of Bernard Kouchner as foreign minister of France calls for superlatives like “exceptional, incredible, original.”

Nearing 70 now, Kouchner has led a full and rewarding life. A gastroenterologist by training, he was the moving spirit that set up Doctors Without Borders, truly a life-saving organization. He has been a minister of health, and the U.N. civil administrator in Kosovo. He likes to say that he is on the side of the oppressed, and one reason for that is the fact that his grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz.

For a long time Saddam Hussein was a particular bete noir of his, and Kouchner condemned France for arming and trading with such a killer. Siding with President Bush against French President Jacques Chirac, he was almost alone in the French elite in backing U.S. intervention in Iraq, and gloried in emphasizing that he was right.

A Socialist, he campaigned for Sérgolène Royal in the recent presidential elections, and said harsh things about Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy surprised everyone by picking him, but the Socialists surprised nobody by straightaway throwing him out of the party. More superlatives may soon be in order.

Just thinking

Ever notice how the word “fiery” and the name of Muqtada al-Sadr are inextricably linked in just about every story that appears in the press on the “radical cleric”? A Google-search on his name and the word “fiery” will deliver 48,800 results as of right now. An example of his fiery rhetoric today:

“No, no for Satan. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel.”

I guess it’s kind of like how Dick Cheney is always throwing out red meat. Or, the way troop deaths in Iraq are always reaching a grim milestone. (And then there’s always Bob Dylan and all his anti-war songs.)

A lucky dog

Speaking of feel-good, treacly stuff: enjoy the story of an Iraqi mutt named Hero, arriving on a plane to New York City today, and on his way to a new home in New Hampshire.

Hero, the Iraqi mutt.

Hero’s arrival has been long awaited by Skip and Ronda Rollins, the Newport couple that plans to take the dog in. Their son, Spc. Justin Rollins, was one of the soldiers who discovered the pup, among a litter of newborn puppies, outside an Iraqi police station in March.

One day later, Rollins was killed by a roadside bomb.

“That was one of the last things we talked about,” his girlfriend, Brittney Murray, said. “He said, ‘I can’t wait for you to see these new pictures I got. I know you’re going to go crazy.'”

The photos show Rollins playing with his tiny new friends.

“You can see it in the pictures: He’s happy,” Murray said.


It’s on Drudge, but in case you missed it — don’t. “It” is a clip on YouTube of Senator John Edwards being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly, in October of 2001, while bombs fall on Afghanistan in the early part of that conflict. O’Reilly predicts that the war on terror will be expanding as time goes on, and could involve conflict with such nations as Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Iran, and asks Edwards whether “we will be as united as we are now.” Edwards responds with total confidence, “Oh I think we will be.” O’Reilly says, “Really? You guys aren’t going to give Bush a hard time?” Edwards assures O’Reilly and the viewing public, “I think that we will be united with the president throughout this war on terrorism.”

The comparison with his statement yesterday that there is no war on terrorism (or that there shouldn’t be) is, of-course, delicious, and it’s also a broader reminder of what politicians generally said in the wake of September 11th.

Nevertheless, despite this and other serial buffoonery on the part of John Edwards, I think that he is one presidential candidate that shouldn’t ever be counted out. And that’s due to the fact that the desire to be president seems to power every cell in his body. Anyone else in his set of circumstances wouldn’t even be running. His tenacity and hunger for the job will keep him in the race, waiting for the leaders to falter, and his ability to bury willing listeners in gallons of treacly, feel-good, snake-oil goop will serve him well with a good deal of the Democrat party base — sad to say.