Samurai Gaiden: Asano Nagaakira

I imagine by this point anyone with an interest in Japanese history has probably heard of the Chushingura – the tale of the 47 Ronin. The macguffin of the story is that Asano Naganori, the Lord of Ako, breaks the law and is punished and his retainers murder the man who offended Asano and caused him to break the law.

Well…we’re not talking about that today; that was just the elephant in the room we had to address because we are going to be talking about Naganori’s cousin…Asano Nagaakira.

nagaakira_asano

Asano Nagaakira (1586-1632)

Nagaakira was the son of Asano Nagamasa. Nagamasa was one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s higher retainers – what with being brother-in-law to Hideyoshi’s wife and all. He served in many of Toyotomi’s battles and even acted as the mediator to Tokugawa Ieyasu during the end of Komaki campaign. Following Toyotomi’s victory over the Hojo at Odawara, Nagamasa was given control over Fuchu in Kofu province, worth some two-hundred thousand koku.

Nagamasa was accompanied to Odawara by his eldest son, Asano Yukinaga – also known as Yoshinaga. They both also fought in the Korean campaigns for Toyotomi, serving under Kato Kiyomasa during the siege at Ulsan. In 1598 he was named as the senior-most member of the Go-Bugyo, the 5 Administrators of Japan tasked with keeping the government working efficiently after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s death. Not to be confused with the 5 Regents, of course, he was step down from there.

Lo and behold, however, that two years later when things came to a head between Toyotomi’s son, Hideyori, and Tokugawa…both of Nagamasa’s son joined Tokugawa. This may have had something to do with the fact that the elder son, Yukinaga, narrowly avoided being implicated – and subsequently executed – in the controversy surrounding Hideyoshi’s relative and one-time heir, Toyotomi Hidetsugu.

And who saved Yukinaga? Well it was actually Maeda Toshiie, however I’m sure that nearly getting executed for being friendly acquaintances with your master’s nephew-in-law is not something that really brings you around to the master’s infant son.

Another point of conflict was supposedly the fact that Nagamasa was not exactly on friendly terms with Ishida Mitsunari. Nagamasa apparently believes the war in Korea had been going well when he was sent there, while Mitsunari believed it was going poorly and advised recalling the troops.

During the battle of Sekigahara, Yukinaga commanded troops on Tokugawa’s side, leading a sizable force of 6,500 troops in the battle. Nagaakira was also present under Yukinaga’s campaign and while Yukinaga was awarded lordship over Wakayama domain in Wakasa province. Nagaakira was then made a page for Tokugawa Ieyasu’s son and heir, Tokugawa Hidetada.

Nagaakira ruled his eventual domain from here - Hiroshima Castle.

Nagaakira ruled his eventual domain from here – Hiroshima Castle.

Now we segue a moment away from the Asano clan to touch on a member of the enemy force…

Apparently one of the daimyo of the pro-Toyotomi ‘Western Army’, Hideyoshi’s half-brother, Kinoshita Iesada was moved from his 40,000 koku domain of Himeji in Harima and given control of the smaller domain of Ashimori in Bitchu province – worth a little more than half his old domain, 24,000 koku.

What does Iesada have to do with Nagaakira? Well you see, first of all Iesada was of the defeated side, but Tokugawa Ieyasu respected the valorous deeds that Iesada committed while fighting him and so he was rewarded with only having his domain reduced, rather than being totally removed.

However Iesada died somewhere between 1603 and 1610 – several sources had different lifespans listed. It seems that Iesada’s son, Kagetoshi, who had been totally removed from his previous domain, was accused of treason and the Shogunate refused to let him or Iesada’s younger sons inherit the realm.

Ashimori was then given to Asano Nagaakira, making him a daimyo in his own right, now. Fast forward a mere three years when the elder son, Yukinaga, dies without an heir. Nagaakira, who now has some pretty potent connections – being Tokugawa Hidetada’s former page, being liked by Ieyasu…oh and did I mention he married Tokugawa Furihime – Ieyasu’s granddaughter, making him Ieyasu’s grandson-in-law.

I’m sure you can see where this is going…Nagaakira is made Yukinaga’s heir and he inherits the entire domain of his late brother. So when the Toyotomi were causing trouble again and everything was leading up to the the eventual Siege of Osaka it makes sense that the pro-Toyotomi folks came after the Asano clan to get its support. Of course Nagaakira has no reason to join them – sure his father was one of Hideyoshi’s favorites, but he has ascended to great heights under the Tokugawa shogunate. He’s even married into the shogunal family. So why would the Toyotomi even bother coming to him for support?

Well, one thing I may have neglected to mentioned earlier is that…Yukinaga, his brother, died under suspicious circumstances. And the suspected leader of the ‘let’s kill Yukinaga‘ conspiracy? Tokugawa Ieyasu. So needless to say, on the outside it looked like relations may have been strained between the Tokugawa and the Asano. I’ve read that Yukinaga’s official cause of death was kidney failure, however the official records were later changed to suggest he died of complications due to syphilis – apparently caused by his habit of amorous relations. Although I don’t know for sure if those were contemporary records or more modern records, the source was vague and…not a fully reliable one, to be fair.

The Battle of Kashii was part of the battles involved in the Siege of Osaka.

The Battle of Kashii was part of the battles involved in the Siege of Osaka.

It also seems that when Kato Kiyomasa was acting as a mediator between Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyori that Yukinaga was also there and was believed to be a Toyotomi supporter during the peace conferences

Of course, as anti-climactic as it may seem, Nagaakira remained loyal to the Tokugawa and took part in the Siege of Osaka. His forces were also the main defenders of the Battle of Kashii, which was the first battle of the Osaka Summer campaign.

In the battle Toyotomi-loyalist Ono Harunaga led a force of three-thousand to besiege Wakayama castle…Nagaakira’s home. Nagaakira was apparently able to determine that Harunaga only had three-thousand troops, while Nagaakira had five-thousand. So Nagaakira engaged the besiegers in the field near Kashii and, after killing two of Harunaga’s lieutenants in battle, the Asano army forced the Toyotomi loyalists to retreat.

During the actual siege of Osaka, Nagaakira participated in the Tokugawa force’s rearguard. Apparently throughout the campaign Nagaakira claimed to have taken 44 heads during the combined two years of battles.

After the completion of the Osaka campaign for his valor and loyalty Nagaakira was moved to Hiroshima domain in Aki province, worth a grand total of about 426,000 koku. You know…after it was removed from Fukushima Masanori’s control in 1619.

Asano Nagakoto (1842-1937)

Asano Nagakoto (1842-1937)

Hitler receiving the Chancellorship from President Hindenberg.

Hitler receiving the Chancellorship from President Hindenberg.

With the size of Nagaakira’s domain, it made him the sixth-largest daimyo

FDR won his second term in a landslide 523-8 in 1936.

FDR won his second term in a landslide 523-8 in 1936.

in the country, Tokugawa family not included. His family remained as the lords of Hiroshima for a total of twelve generations, until the domain was dismantled as part of the Meji Restoration at which point Nagaakira’s descendant – Asano Nagakoto – was named a Marquis and served as a member of Chamber of Elders and ambassador to Italy. Nagakoto was one of the last daimyo of Japan to die, living to the age of 96 and passing away in the year 1937. A man who ruled as a samurai daimyo lived to see Adolf Hitler elected Chancellor of Germany and FDR win a landslide victory for his second term in office.

 

And it all started with Asano Nagaakira succeeding his brother as Lord of Hiroshima and keeping loyal to his grandfather-in-law.

~RCS

 

SG: Yoshitomo Update

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you all know that on our new Samurai Gaiden channel I finally fixed the Minamoto no Yoshitomo video from last year that got absolutely buggered somewhere between editing and uploading.  You can find the new video below, on our YouTube Channel, or where the old Yoshitomo video used to be in the Samurai Gaiden playlist:

 

~RCS

Samurai Gaiden: Valentine’s Day in Japan (incl. Tanabata Story)

Aaah, the sweet smell of a rose. Well, okay actually this one is made from brass and the perfume that was on it when I bought it has since faded. But February is still the month of love, with Valentine’s Day coming in about a week and a half.

Oh, don’t give me that look…yeah it was kind of a cheap trick to do the story of Tadaoki and Garasha last year, but this time I’m going to do a legit Valentine’s day episode. And I figure…what better Valentine’s topic than…Valentine’s Day in Japan.

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Japanese Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day made its way to Japan in the late 1930s and it was actually marketed to Foreigners living in Japan. It wasn’t until the 1960s that an actual ‘tradition’ began to develop within the modern Japanese culture.

Valentine’s Day in Japan is a little bit different than here in America. Instead of men going out and buying their wives chocolate, cards, stuffed animals, and taking the ladies out on a fancy dates…in Japan it is the women who give chocolate to the men in their lives. And not just their spouses.

First of all it is basically just chocolate, the cards, stuffed animals and the like aren’t nearly as prominent in Japan. After the Christmas holiday has ended stores will start displaying raw chocolate and chocolate making kits – the idea being that the ladies are supposed to make their own chocolate, rather than just buy store-bought candy.

Secondly the chocolate is doled out to the people in the lady’s life in one of three styles: Giri-choco, honmei-choco, or the less popular tomo-choco.

Giri-Choco means Obligation Chocolate. It is given by women to their male peers – coworkers, fellow students, etc.

Honmei-choco is the True Feeling Chocolate or Favorite Chocolate. It is given by women to their spouses, boyfriends, or perhaps to a crush to show that they like him.

Finally, Tomo-Choco is Friendly Chocolate. It is supposed to be given from one girl to another to express a deep friendship and appreciation between the two ladies.

Now here is where we start to get really fun. Just like the over commercialized American version of Valentine’s Day, the Japanese candy makers came up with a great idea – “Let’s convince men to do Valentine’s Day, too!”

I’ve read that there was an attempt to get men to buy Marshmallows for the ladies who gave them chocolates, but it didn’t become very popular. In the 1980s the Japanese started to celebrate White Day, where men were supposed to return the favor by giving gifts to the ladies who gave them chocolate – Giri or Honmei – and on top of that it is considered unseemly to give a gift less than double the value of the chocolate.

Generally the men will either buy or make a chocolate dish for the women, usually out of white chocolate, hence the name of the day where men return the favor is called White Day. It is also acceptable for men to buy the ladies small gifts such as flowers, other types or candy, or just something neat…probably jewelry.

In America, as I said before, Valentine’s Day is often a day for big, fancy dates. But that is actually usually a part of the Christmas celebrations in Japan and Valentine’s Day is usually just an exchange of chocolate.

Now a similar day occurs in July during the Tanabata festival, which is based on an old Chinese festival called the Qixi Jie or Festival of the Two Sevens. Tanabata is just the Japanese pronunciation for Qixi, of course.

In the Heian period Empress Kokken adopted part of the Qixi Festival’s idea and created the Kikkoden or Festival to Plead for Skills. Although interestingly enough you can apparently translate that in a more literal fashion to wind up with Festival of the Begging Craftsman.

Anyway, the idea was that you would write little wishes on a piece of paper and offer them up to the Shinto deities – the idea being to ask for help or luck in improving your skills. Generally ladies asked for improvement in sewing or cooking and men asked for improvement in the manliest of skills…penmanship.

Which creates an interest paradox. If your penmanship is so bad the deities can’t read it…will they still help you or not?

Not quite this Orihime.

Not quite this Orihime.

Regardless, the story behind the celebration is of the Star-crossed lovers the

He's only a swordsman in Age of Ishtaria.

He’s only a swordsman in Age of Ishtaria.

Weaver and the Herdsman, Orihime and Hikoboshi. In the story the Weaver is the daughter of the sky king and was tasked with creating heavenly fabric every day of her life, on the banks of the Amanogawa – the Heavenly River. Amanogawa is, of course, a euphemism for the Milky Way.

 

The Sky King realizes that his daughter is sad and she explains that because all she does is work on the river’s edge, she can never find anyone to fall in love with and marry. The Sky King introduces her to the herdsman, Hikoboshi, who kept his herd on the other side of the river.

Orihime and Hikoboshi fall in love at first meeting and get married. Shortly thereafter the Sky King realizes that Orihime is spending all her time with Hikoboshi and has stopped producing the heavenly fabric. At the same time, Hikoboshi’s herd is left to wander all over heaven on their own with no herdsman to command them.

The Sky King angrily separates the two lovers, sending Hikoboshi back to his own side of the river and forbidding them to see each other any longer. Orihime was despondent at the loss of her love, though, and begged her father to let her see Hikoboshi, again. The Sky King eventually relented and made a caveat – if Orihime produced lots of heavenly fabric for him, then she could meet Hikoboshi once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month, hence Festival of the Two Sevens.

Orihime did as was expected of her, but on the 7th day of the 7th month when she went to the river to meet with Hikoboshi she found that her father had removed the bridge – possibly when he first forbade them from meeting. So she could not cross to Hikoboshi’s side and he could not cross to hers.

Orihime dropped to her knees on the bank of the Heavenly River and cried so hard that a flock of Magpies were moved by her sorrow and rose to the heavens, promising to carry her across the river. They formed a living bridge so that Orihime could walk across the river and meet with Hikoboshi.

So once a year the, literally star-crossed lovers, are able to meet. And the myth goes that…if it rains on Tanabata Day it is because the magpies were unable to form the bridge and it is the lovers’ tears at being forced to wait another year to meet.

tanabata-full-1185092

Well…that was, only slightly less depressing than Tadaoki and Garasha’s story. At least no one died in it. Although I’ve gotta say I would be a might bit tempted to throw the Sky King in the river and drown him if I was Orihime. But alas, Tanabata is certainly a more touching story to found your own version of Valentine’s Day rather than the modern interpretation of the holiday which is…basically to keep candy companies in business.

~RCS

Samurai Gaiden: Hino Tomiko

A few months ago in America we had an election for a new President. The election basically boiled down to a contest between two factions, each supporting a chosen candidate. Voters essentially had to choose between two wealthy bourgeoisie financial people with a history of racist remarks, a lack of understanding for the common man, and accusations of political corruption. And each of their factions were headed up by moneyed interests – other wealthy bourgeoisie – who cared only about their own interests over that of the country as a whole.

You know what that kind of reminds me of? The Onin War.

You know, the war that arguably began the Sengoku Period where the Yamana and Hosokawa clans openly fought against each other and brought destruction to the capital. But where did it all begin?

The difference between the American election and the Onin War are that…in America we voted with ballots and in Japan they voted with spears and arrows.

But like everything in life it all started with a woman, as life is wont to do. And that woman in particular was Hino Tomiko.

tomiko2

Hino Tomiko (1440-1496)

Tomiko was the daughter of Hino Shigemasa. Shigemasa was Naidaijin during the reign of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The Hino clan, at the time, was a strong kuge family. It was arranged that Tomiko would marry the Shogun and so she became his wife at the age of 16, because that’s how political marriage works.

Four years after the marriage, Tomiko gave birth to her first child. Unfortunately the child died later that day. Tomiko, not wanting to be ostracized as infertile or anything and replaced as the Shogun’s wife decided to blame the child’s death on the wet-nurse, Imaimari no Tsubone. Tsubone was exiled to Oki island, upon lake Biwa, and she committed suicide before arriving.

Yoshimasa was a relatively lazy man, though, and really didn’t even want to be Shogun. He wanted to retire and make someone else rule for him. Since his son hadn’t survived infancy he decided to name his younger brother Yoshimi as his heir. The idea was that Yoshimi would be taken under Yoshimasa’s wing and would eventually ascend to the position of Shogun.

Tomiko did not like this idea, she wanted to be the wife of the Shogun and the mother to the next Shogun. Unfortunately being the mother of no one, meant that she had little say in her husband’s plans.

That is until a year after Yoshimasa had already put his plan in motion when Tomiko gave birth to a fancy new son. She pushed for Yoshimasa to halt his plan to enthrone his brother, and instead name their newly minted son as heir.

Reticent? No...plotting.

Reticent? No…plotting.

This caused factions to form within the capital. Yoshimi – the brother – was backed by the very powerful Hosokawa clan, while the young son – eventually named Yoshihisa – was naturally backed by Tomiko’s family, the Hino clan and also the strong Yamana family.

And thus we have the McGuffin for the Onin War. Eventually things degraded between the Yamana and Hosokawa to the point of all-out war, destroying much of the capital and setting up what eventually became the Sengoku Period.

The Onin War is often cited as the straw that broke the camel’s back and led the way for the Sengoku Period to begin. It showed that the Ashikaga Shogunate no longer had any of the real authority they once had and that they couldn’t control their underlings: The samurai daimyo of the outer provinces. And one could argue that it was all caused by an ambitious woman who wanted her son to be ruler of the nation. That woman was Hino Tomiko.

~RCS

One could also argue it was all caused by a lazy man, but this month’s story was about Tomiko so I ended on her name, instead of Yoshimasa’s. If you’d like to hear more about the finer details of the Onin War, then let us know in the comments. If there’s anything else samurai-related you’d like to learn about, let us know that, too.

Do Not Shop at Best Buy; Don’t Use BB Credit Card!!

Note: I had originally written this last year, but shelved it because I wanted to cool down a bit from the initial issue and make sure I wasn’t just venting.  But no, you folks deserve to know what Best Buy is doing and I hope I can save you all from having the same issue.

This is a warning to anyone who shops at Best Buy. I’ve done lots of shopping there, myself. I bought my Hauppage, most of the computers and laptops I’ve owned in the past decade, and numerous cables, cords, and hookups.

I recently bought a whole new computer system there: Laptop, Desktop, the Hauppage, and all the accouterments that were necessary. While checking out the awesomely helpful worker there offered us the chance to get a Best Buy credit card. We normally say no, but he sold us on the idea of the 5% cashback in store credit.

We were buying like $1,500 worth of stuff. Now, keep in mind that we have a credit card with rewards points that give us 1 point per dollar spent. We can get merchandise (we got a free Keurig a few years back from it), gift cards (1,100 points get $100 gift card), or cash back (6,000 points gets $50 in cash).

Because of the holiday season they were running a special where you’d get bonus points for purchases made during the time we were shopping. You got a $5 Best Buy gift card for every 250 points you acquired, which would normally require $250 in purchases. But with the bonuses they were running, we would get almost 7,000 points. We would only get 1500 points on our own credit card, enough for a $100 gift card…and not much else. But the points we would get from the Best Buy Credit Card would equal out to $135 in gift cards. Sure they were all from Best Buy, but there were a few things we planned to pick up from there in the future, anyway.

Our plan also included our usual trick: Pay the card off at the end of the month so that we don’t have to pay any interest. It’s a good trick; builds credit and gets you bonuses.

So we get everything home and put it all together, happy days. We went back and used the card again to buy a few more parts that we needed a couple weeks later, even. Then the bill comes. I try to log onto their website to pay the bill off…no go, there site is currently down. No problem I’ll try it again tomorrow.

The next day I try to log on; good news it’s working. I try to create an account…won’t let me. My password isn’t good enough. I spent over thirty-fucking-minutes trying to make a password that it found acceptable. I finally had a 38-character password with numbers, letters – both capital and lowercase, punctuation marks and thought I had finally achieved victory!

Password: “Wh@t do you want from m3 you stupid organization?”

Nope, sorry…your username isn’t strong enough.

Browser closed, I’ll do it tomorrow.

So after a couple of days to get my brain back in order and gather some holy artifacts from the Vatican, Mecca, Sri Lanka, and the ruined tombs under a Temple of Ammon-Ra, I kidnapped some virgins to sacrifice and after another 30-plus minute tirade of tries I managed to create a password and username combination that it finally found acceptable.

Well apparently one of my sacrificial virgins wasn’t untouched enough, because when I tried to log on…site froze. Crashed my whole browser. I’ve only got a few more days to pay the damn bill. I’ll try one more time…nope, site’s down; crashes and won’t let me log in.

Fuck it, I’ll do it the old person way – I mean, the old fashioned way.

I write them a check and pay it off it in full. Mission complete, plan success. Now just have to wait until I get the e-mail with my gift cards in it. I was told they would be e-gift cards, that was no problem.

They didn’t come. Also started getting weird phone calls, people calling several times a day…no actual messages, just heavy breathing and the occasional bit of background chatter between people on the line. Looked up the number…a few people claim it might be Best Buy credit services. Most people claim that doesn’t make sense, because they don’t have a Best Buy credit card; number has a 65% scammer rating.

Then another number starts calling. Same thing, they claim to be Best Buy credit services, but this one has an 83% scammer rating online. No go, fellow. Then a third number starts calling, same thing as the other two.

I need a cable or something else small and electronic, so I head to Best Buy and pick it up. I could use a new microphone for the Samurai Gaiden videos, too, want to see if they have lapel mics; they do not, by the way.

I figure I’ll use the credit card again. Come to find I have a balance on it. It matches the same amount as we spent on those couple of little things I bought a couple weeks after we got the computers. They must not have been on the first bill.

No problem…I’ll pay it when the bill comes. We got the card in October, it’s now November, I’ll get another bill either late this month or early December. Hmm…no bill in December. Come to think of it…no gift cards, either. Better go into the store and see what’s up, right?

No problem, because the holidays have a super-long return policy it’s delaying everything. You see, the holidays have a 90-day return policy instead of just the normal 30-day policy, but if they let you have the gift cards after 30 days like normal…you could buy $4,000 worth of stuff and get hundreds of dollars in gift cards and then return all the stuff you bought for a full refund and then keep the gift cards.

Try logging in the website again to see what the balance is, maybe? Yeah sure, I’ll try that. Site’s down, it freezes up and locks everything up. Maybe I should try another browser? Good, the other browser doesn’t lock up the whole system…it just doesn’t go anywhere. Hit the log-in button and it just sits there and has a spinney icon on it for twenty-straight minutes. Well, beautiful, their site is a piece of shit. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow?

December…January…February…maybe I should head back in to the store and see what I can do there? I seem to remember the salesman telling me that if all else failed I could pay it off in the store. Go in there and the nice lady at customer service gives me a blank fucking look and says, “Sorry, the card is actually issued through Citibank, you can only charge on it here, you have to go into a Citibank or call them to get any issues with the card sorted out. Our you could go on to their website.”

“There website is down every time I try it. It just freezes and locks up, I’ve even tried different browsers on different computers.”

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to call them. I can give you a number. But since it’s Friday afternoon, they’re all gone and you’ll have to wait until Monday, I’m sure.”

It is now mid-march and I have just finally gotten the damn thing sorted out. They never sent me a bill, they reported me to credit agencies for not paying these nonexistent bills, and they charged me hundreds of dollars in late fees and interest! They also apparently sold my number to a bunch of scammers, because I now get called several times a day by these scam numbers. I finally got the website to work just long enough to get everything paid off.

And now, finally, at least I can use my gift cards now that I’ve got all that fixed up. The customer service lady told me I can go onto the Best Buy website and see them, even if the e-mails aren’t showing up.

Okay, lets see how many gift cards we’ve got. Let’s see what the website says…

“I’m sorry, your $135 in gift cards have expired. You currently have one, single $5 gift card…but if you spend $1,500 more dollars in the 2016 calendar year, you’ll become an Elite member!”

Fuck you Best Buy. Fuck you and your deal with Citibank. Fuck you both. I will never do business with you again, I will advise everyone I know not to business with you, and I will do everything within my power to keep people from doing business with you. You are a shitty company and I wish I had never shopped at your establishments. And I’m going to make damn sure I never make that mistake again.

You fucked me, hard; it won’t happen again.

~RCS

I can’t tell you exactly how many hundreds of dollars they charged me in interest and late fees, because when I alt+tabbed over to my word processor to start this post the site auto-logged me out. And I don’t intend on ever logging back in.

New Samurai Gaiden Channel!

With the new year starting we have decided to create a new Samurai Gaiden channel, specifically for our Samurai Gaiden videos.  You can learn more about the reasoning by watching either, or both, of these two videos:

New Samurai Gaiden Channel

 

Update on What we’re doing with the old DickJutsu channel:

We hope this will help to be more productive and enjoyable to all our fans!

~RCS

Drumpf’s Muslim Ban

I feel I couldn’t really remain silent on the subject of His Excellency King Drumpf’s recent executive order barring Muslims from entering the country, including U.S. Citizens originally born in predominantly Muslim countries, I saw this tweet:

ibrahim-tweet

It got me thinking about a man I knew once upon a while ago, Victor (real name Dharkur). He was Iraqi by birth, but when we invaded Iraq he defected to the U.S. And joined the U.S. Army as a translator and interpreter. He had taken a furlough of sorts into the Reserves to pursue his Engineering degree and he had gotten a job at the place I was working at the time.

He and I had several interesting conversations about Islam and it is thanks, in part, to him that when I wrote The Sultana’s Journey as part of my book Escort that I knew enough to make sense of how going on Hajj worked.

I never once felt unsafe with this man around, and considering we were in a law-enforcement type of setting I felt buoyed with him acting as my backup. As the senior officer I knew I could send him to do a task and he would accomplish it and that if I needed aid with something, Victor would be there for me.

We only worked for a few weeks together before a more permanent position became available for him at another location.

He had once lived in the south where he was engaged to a nice young white girl. Her family was Southern Baptist and at a gathering her father, uncles, and two brothers cordoned him off to the side and told him he had five minutes to leave or they were going to shoot him. His fiancée said, “No, they’re serious. I love you…so you should leave.”

As he was driving away he looked back to see the uncles coming out of the house carrying shotguns. That was how America thanked him for aiding us in battle. Keep in mind that neither of the five men about to shoot him had seen a day in the military and this was a career soldier they were about to murder. True patriotism there, I must say.

Now to be fair I only know a few dozen Muslims, but I’ve yet to meet one that made me feel unsafe. I, however, am intimately acquainted (and often times related) to violent Christians. People who regularly say things like, “We should just nuke the whole Middle East.”

christianity-like-radical-islam

Yes, because nothing proves you’re more peaceful than something like talking about murdering millions of innocent people because they pray the same god as you, but call him by a different name.

I feel much safer in a group with the Muslim acquaintances I have than the Christians I know. So if we really want to ban a hateful religion, Islam isn’t the one I’m afraid of.

~RCS

Happy [Chinese] New Year?

So you may have noticed that we’ve been down for a bit.  We were planning big things for New Years and fell into the death spiral of, “We’ll make the announcement as soon as everything’s ready.”

Well…one thing comes to another and we realize the stuff we’re doing has make the site go down and we’ve not told anyone what’s going on.

So…we are in the process of moving a bunch of stuff over, changing things around, and doing cool new stuff.

So we clearly didn’t get it done time to be a New Years’ thing…so we’ll call it a Chinese New Years’ thing.

~RCS

Hopefully we’re done before Islamic New Years. (September 21, for those unaware.)

Viva Fidel Castro? I suppose not…

For those of you who pay no attention to the media, Cuban ex-President Fidel Castro died a day or so ago.  There is a political divide in this country (and several other countries in the world) over whether Fidel Castro was a good man or not and whether or not he was a good president or not.  The divide is so prominent in the U.S. that we’ve essentially been at one-step-away-from-war with Cuba for almost twice as long as I’ve been alive.

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” -Fidel Castro (not really)

But what we must remember is that much of the cruelty Castro is accused of…is because of the United States meddling in his country.  Much of the death toll associated with his regime are CIA-funded counter revolutionaries and assassins sent by the U.S. to destabilize Cuba and oust Castro.

Castro and his cronies ‘Che’ Gueverra and the current president of Cuba, Raul Castro, led a popular revolt to oust the American-backed president, Fulgencio Batista.  In the first 50 years of Castro’s regime he is popularly regarded as killing or imprisoning 50,000 people.  Batista was in power for 10 years and killed or imprisoned 20,000 people.  If we assume that would have continued he would have a death toll of closer to 100,000 people in the same amount of time Castro was in power.

So let’s talk a bit about Batista.  Donald Trump, our future president came out cheering on social media over Castro’s death.  This id kind of interesting considering Batista was first elected president of Cuba in 1940 as a Democratic Socialist.  He was pro-union, pro-labor law, and anti-Fascist and an accomplished military veteran (everything Trump isn’t and everything he hates).  He won around 56% of the vote, in the 1940 election.

Y’know, the look of this guy reminds me of someone Maybe I’ll think of it as we continue?

Batista’s regime lasted only 4 years and the man he groomed to replace him lost in the 1944 election.  It is believed that Batista embezzled almost the entirety of Cuba’s treasury and fled to the U.S. before the next President could be sworn in.  Batista spent the next few years living a life of luxury in the U.S. where he ran for re-election as a Cuban Senator in absentia (this means he won the position, despite not even being in Cuba).  With this new position as Senator secured he returned to Cuba and ran for President in 1952.

It was a triple-threat race with the popular vote heading starkly toward Cuba’s Partido Orthodoxo party with a respectable second being the Cuban Partido Autentico party.  Running a distant third was Batista’s party.  So a few months before the election with almost no hope of actually winning, he secured his old military contacts and staged a military revolution.  He declared himself President, cancel the elections, and exiled then-president Carlos Prio Socarras from the country.  Well okay to be fair, Socarras was a bit of a dupe and apparently didn’t believe that Batista would actually stage a coup, so he did nothing to respond to the attacks when they occurred.  Once Batista took control and named himself President, Socarras quietly ceded defeat and fled the country.

Ah! There it is; that's who he reminds me of!

Ah! There it is; that’s who he reminds me of!

This is where the fun part occurs!  The U.S. government recognized Batista’s as the legitimate government and remained allies with Cuba, under Batista.  Now to be fair, sections of Cuba did continue to prosper under Batista – he wasn’t a complete idiot when it came to administration.  He was actually a pretty good government administrator.  But at this point he began a new direction where he desired more personal wealth, more power, and more respect – particularly from those of the upper echelons of Cuban society.

Batista got in deep with organized crime and American business.  In one instance Batista allowed an American phone company to raise their service rates to Cuban by an astronomical rate (he, naturally, received kickbacks from them).

And the number one form of aid from the U.S. to Cuba during Batista’s reign?  Weapons.  The U.S. supplied Batista’s police forces and his military with the munitions they needed to ensure someone didn’t pull a Batista and raise their own military revolution.  U.S. government officials even referred to him as a ‘despot’, but he was anti-communist by this point (remember that he got elected on a pro-Communist ticket in the 1940 election) and so that made him pro-America in the 1950s.

JFK was anti-Batista and actually, at least secretly, approved of Castro’s revolution when it began.

Yup, I can definitely see it. *Disclaimer: Artificial Colorization

Yup, I can definitely see it.
*Disclaimer: Artificial Colorization

You see Fidel Castro was a young lawyer, a rising star in the political spectrum of Cuba.  Right up until Batista canceled the elections that were supposed to bring Castro to the forefront.

Batista held fraudulent elections in 1954 and the man who had once defeated his protégé was the major runner-up against him.  Batista used brutal intimidation tactics to keep people from voting for anyone but him, or for voting for anyone at all.  Batista convinced the opposing parties in the election to abstain from voting if they opposed him.  This would be the equivalent of saying, “Well I support Hillary Clinton, so I just won’t vote that way I can’t vote for Donald Trump.”  In the election that Batista legitimately won over 75% of the country voted…in this one only 45% of the country voted.  Batista’s opposition dropped out of the election out of fear for their supporters.  The funny thing is…the guy still won almost 7% of the vote after dropping out of the race.

Batista began a campaign of brutality against his own people including killing University Students because his regime deemed all unemployed youth to be potential revolutionaries.  He shut down the universities and recalled a military officer who was popular to help support him.

Sadly for him, said officer led a military revolution.  It was found out though and Batista won the fight.  Eventually Castro would gain enough support from the people to overthrow Batista and force him to flee to Europe.

So as we remember Castro upon his recent death at the age of 90.  Remember that the U.S. of the 1950s created the Castro regime.  We created it by keeping such a vile piece of brutality in power as Batista.  Castro may not have been the perfect president, but I believe he was better than the alternative.

At least the good news is the U.S, doesn’t stand beside brutal dictators that turn the military on their own people any longer.  Right?

syrian-deathtolls

Oh…yeah…I forgot we don’t learn from our mistakes.  Damn it.

~RCS

The Hamilton-Pence Affair

I put this up on my Facebook account about a week ago.  Figured there are some people who check the site, but don’t follow us on Social Media.  So here’s the Pence/Hamilton post I’d done:
On the subject of the Hamilton cast singling out VP-elect Pence, particularly regarding Van Zandts’ recent comments about how the people on stage shouldn’t single out people in the audience I have only one thing to say and in 4 points:
1. Think back to a few years ago when Hugh Jackman was on stage for a play and a guy’s cell phone rang in the audience.  We all laughed and cheered when Jackman singled him out and chided him.
2. I assume that Trump and his Trumpsters (my personal colloquialism for his most fervent supporters) would also agree that no other stage should be turned into a forum for political speech; not just a broadway play that is literally about political, right?  Something like…a Ted Nugent concert, or the Ramones getting inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame, or a Megadeath frontman claiming that Barack Obama staged the Aurora Theater massacre and the nutjob who shot up that Sihk temple.
3. I can only assume that all the people claiming that the Hamilton cast was out of line to address Pence that way would be just as upset if the cast had endorsed Pence, right?  I mean after all the argument isn’t that they denounced Pence – especially since they technically didn’t, they asked him to be true to his and his leader’s word and run the country for the betterment of everyone in the country, not just a select few – but that the issue is that they used the stage to single out a politician and address him, openly, period.  So if Pence went to see a showing of Other People’s Money and they singled him out, thanked him for watching the show, and then applauded his efforts as Governor and future VP that you would all be just as upset by them politicizing a theater stage.  Yes?
4. And finally…the fact the media and Trump made a bigger deal out of it than Pence.  Pence, dirt-bag that he is, actually said in an interview that he wasn’t that upset about it and then said that the Hamilton show was great and the cast, talented.
 
And that’s my thoughts on the Hamilton matter.
~RCS

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