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Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans...
October 02, 2014 03:04 PM PDT
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1812 Historian Tim Pickles faces off against Hy McEnery, and at Christopher TIdmore's behest corrects the "myths" of the battle. Pickles also talks about that a major fundraiser on October 18th and the 2000 re-enactors that are coming to New Orleans in the first weekend of January for the Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans

Breaking Story: McAllister Chief of Staff Threatens GOP Chair over Resignation Request
April 12, 2014 09:08 AM PDT
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Villere’ Calls for McAllister to Resign
Rep's.Chief of Staff Threatens GOP Chairman

By Christopher Tidmore,

In a breaking story, a highly placed source in the Louisiana Republican Party has revealed to The Louisiana Weekly that not only LAGOP Chairman Roger Villeré has called for the resignation of Monroe Republican Congressman Vance McAllister, but, in a new stunning revelation, Villere' was threatened when he did.
* In an exclusive to this newspaper, Adam Terry, McAllister’s Chief of Staff, responded to Villere’s call for his boss’ resignation by vowing to “expose other elected Republican officials” who have engaged in affairs while in office.
* Video of McAllister engaged in a long kiss with a staffer Melissa Hixon Peacock, age 33, who worked as his aide was recorded at his District office in Monroe, LA in December. The Ouachita Citizen obtained a copy of the video and to its website Monday, April 7th.
* Within 48 hours of its release, husband Heath Peacock announced he would be divorcing his wife of six years, and Vance McAllister was publicly apologizing for his behavior to his wife of sixteen years—as well as calling for an FBI investigation of who leaked the security footage.
* According to the highly placed LAGOP source, Villeré initially intended to privately urge McAllister to resign on the logic that Hixon-Peacock was a federal employee in his office. Moreover, the reported illicit activities, including the kiss, occurred in a taxpayer funded office between a public employee and her direct superior, during office hours. “It’s not just about the affair…It’s a situation of a Congressman taking advantage of his position and engaging in inappropriate activities with employees under his preview,” the source explained.
* Chairman Villeré attempted to telephone McAllister on at his home, cell phone, and office, repeatedly asking the Congressman to call him on a urgent matter. Shortly thereafter, McAllister’s Chief of Staff Adam Terry called back asking what the Chairman wanted with his boss. According to the source, to whom the story was related later, Villeré replied that the matter was between he and the Congressman, but also admitted under questioning that he was going to ask McAllister to resign.
* Reportedly, Terry hung up, and called back within three minutes. At that point, he began to threaten to expose affairs of “other elected Republican officials”.
* Villeré has not spoken on the record about the exchange, but an LAGOP Executive Committee member confirmed the conversation with Terry--on background, noting that Terry's threats left the Chairman no choice but to take a public stance, a motivation unexplained until now.
* In a public statement Thursday, Villere' did call upon the embattled congressman to step down, citing McAllister's infidelity as an example of a well-worn hypocrisy in politics.
* "A breach of trust of this magnitude can only be rectified by an immediate resignation. He has embarrassed our party, our state and the institution of Congress," Villere maintained. A video showing him engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of Congress, on public time, in a public office, with one of his employees, was the focus of the national press for days."
* Adam Terry has been running damage control for his boss all week. First, the Chief of Staff ruled out McAllister's resignation, and the called the video’s release, “a serious breach” of security, implying that a conspiracy was afoot against his boss.
* It was perspective of which West Monroe minister Danny Chance was in full agreement upon on Tuesday. In an interview with the Monroe News-Star, he contended that McAllister’s Monroe District Office manager Leah Gordon leaked the video of the congressman’s affair.
* Chance, pastor of Christian Life Church, maintained that Gordon provided the footage by back channels to Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and Jonathan Johnson, who worked for former U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Ruston.
* “I’m not taking up for the congressman; what he did was wrong,” Chance told the News-Star, but also added that he could not confirm whether Gordon ever personally took the video to Walsworth and Johnson. “But I just feel like there is a conspiracy to bring Vance down and destroy him. For someone on his staff to do that is wrong.”
* The internal jockeying came from the fact that Walsworth and Johnson worked for McAllister’s opponent, state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, in the fall special election. Adam Terry served as campaign manager for McAllister. He had also been Chief of Staff for the previous incumbent Rodney Alexander, and, according to some, when his boss passed him over for support for Congress, he used his expertise to help elect McAllister over Riser.
* Both Walsworth and Johnson have denied ever viewing the video before it was obtained by the press, calling the scenario ridiculous.
* Bill Land, who owns the building where McAllister’s office is located, claimed to the Capitol Hill Newspaper POLITICO that neither he nor his employees leaked the video. Land said the leak probably came from someone on McAllister’s staff.
* Giving the affair a distinctly reality television bent, McAllister previously worked with Heath Peacock for 16 years at Mustang Engineering, according to the Citizen. He left his post there last August to run for Congress, with the endorsement of Duck Commander Willy Robertson and his famed TV family.
* McAllister’s special election victory last year charmed many Democrats. He broke with the GOP, calling for Louisiana to accept expanded Medicaid funds. His election in the all-Republican runoff came mainly from a surge of African-American voters on his behalf. The Fifth District has one of the highest concentrations of Black voters in any GOP leaning seat in the nation, nearly 30%.
* "There's no doubt I've fallen short and I'm asking for forgiveness," McAllister said in a public statement on April 7th. "I'm asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I've disappointed.”
* "From day one, I've always tried to be an honest man,” the Congressman continued. “I ran for Congress to make a difference and not to just be another politician. I don't want to make a political statement on this, I would just simply like to say that I'm very sorry for what I've done. While I realize I serve the public, I would appreciate the privacy given to my children as we get through this."
* The Federal Election Commission, according to the Citizen, reports that Melissa Hixon Peacock donated $5,200 to McAllister's congressional campaign last year. Heath Peacock, donated the same amount.
* McAllister spoke about his Christian faith during his campaign last fall, even asking voters to pray for him in one TV commercial, a reason the “Duck Dynasty” family and Willy Robertson specifically, said they supported his candidacy.
* "I'm just freaking devastated by the whole deal, man," Heath Peacock said during an interview with CNN. "I loved my wife so much. I cannot believe this. I cannot freaking believe it. I feel like I’m going to wake up here in a minute and this is all going to be a bad nightmare."
* "He has wrecked my life," the 34-year-old Peacock told CNN. "We’re headed for divorce. It was just a kiss, that was all it was, but it embarrassed me and my family. This guy has turned my life upside down”
* The 40-year-old McAllister has five children; the Peacocks have a 6-year-old son.
Possible Challengers to McAllister Include Black GOP State Sen...
* Candidates have been lining up since word came out for this Republican safe seat, state Sen. Mike Walsworth amongst them. Former runoff opponent and Jindal intimate State Sen. Neil Riser (R) told the TP it was "too early to be talking about" it. The leading Democrat in the last special election Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo is "not planning on running", nor does another primary opponent GOP Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, who says he is "very content" with his current job. Democratic State Rep. Marcus Hunter also says he has no plans to run.
* On the other hand, Democratic State Rep. Bob Johnson is "certainly very interested," and Republican State Rep. Jay Morris uttered a coy "no comment".
* Most interesting, the State's newest GOP African-American State Sen. Elbert Guillory is keeping his eye on it , and Republicans State Reps. Charles "Bubba" Chaney and Frank Hoffmann are not commenting.
* Daily Kos noted, "Other possible Republicans include and businessman Harris Brown. While this seat is dark red and Democrats would have a difficult time here under the best of circumstances, four different Democrats split the vote in the special, leaving Mayo to finish just 3 points behind McAllister. Had the party been united, McAllister likely never would have made the runoff. Mindful of this fate, Hunter promises that the party 'will be running one Democrat this time, if I have anything to do with it.'" Perhaps that's the reason that McAllister went into attack mode against Bobby Jindal when the Governor spoke out against Medicaid expansion this past week..
* McAllister noted to the Baton Rouge Advocate, about Jindal's statements, "I thought, ‘You know what, I'm not going to skirt the issue. Republican, Democrat, it don't matter. Those working poor have paid that money in. That money's going to Washington. It's their money.'
* "For me to say I'm against Medicaid expansion makes me the best congressman California and Massachusetts could ever have, because that's where that money's gonna go." "It's about doing what's right. You keep your people healthy, they'll continue to work. They'll do better," McAllister maintained. "The money's there. As a business guy, I don't like Gov. Jindal standing up there and trying to use political points" to argue that the state can't afford the small fraction it would eventually have to pay to draw down billions in benefits. "It don't take Einstein to figure out that's a pretty darn good return on your investment."
* Definitely a strategy to appeal to Democratic swing voters in seat that stretches from Northeast Louisiana to the outer metro Baton Rouge suburbs, and possesses more African-American voters than any other GOP safe seat. And, one of the only Congressmen to come to McAllister's defense was New Orleans' Cedric Richmond, due to McAllister's willingness to work across party lines. Richmond, a Democrat, said the matter of the kiss was between McAllister and his family.

Ukraine, LA Natural Gas, Common Core, and Cameron Henry
March 07, 2014 06:31 AM PST
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Christopher Tidmore and Hy McEnery take on another edition of the Founder's Show with the situation in Ukraine--being a benefit to Louisiana? It could be if President Obama allows export of local liquid natural gas to Europe. We talk about the options in the Crimea, and then switch to the coming legislative session with Rep. Cameron Henry, talking about Common Core. Could Shakespeare be banned under the national standards, and why are people opposed?

Ukraine Breaks Apart, Kiev Burns But So Does Jackie Clarkson & A Whole Bunch of Birds in Las Vegas
February 21, 2014 06:33 AM PST
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On their new radio program on WRNO 99.5 FM from 8-9 PM Saturday night, Christopher Tidmore and Hy McEnery talk about the looming challenge of Ukraine, how the Western provinces are breaking apart from Kiev, and the possibility of Russian troops and a civil war.
Speaking of civil wars, what's going on with Lourdes Moran's endorsement of Council District "C" candidate Nadine Ramsey over her political mentor Jackie Clarkson? And, Barack Obama, Greatest Bird Hunter of all time?

Election Aftermath
February 06, 2014 12:51 PM PST

In our new WRNO Saturday Evening Program, Christopher Tidmore and Hy McEnery deconstruct the Mayoral elections and find out why Landrieu won the Black vote, Bagneris lost the Republicans, and what these elections hold for the November Senate race, and the impact to the nation at large

Tidmore Eats a Scorpion in Beijing
September 18, 2012 07:24 PM PDT

I usually send long emails describing a place. This time, I thought that I might try something different to capture the essence of the difference of the East.

There is a part of Beijing called "the Night Market". The main street is a clash of electronic billboards and high end shopping. Lined along the road are food kiosks. During the day, it is a working street, but at 7 PM, it becomes a walking thoroughfare, for night shoppers and those seeking pleasure.
Walking it, I thought of the crowds that pour out from the French Quarter onto the preternaturally quiet Canal Street. Why must it be that way? Could we not create a "Night Market" on Canal, at least on weekend nights--and bring our main street back to life.
Locals certainly would like the kind of experience,to be able to eat on the street, or duck into high end restaurants on the side. What a way we could recreate Canal Street with this lesson.
What makes the Night Market different, is the side streets then have slightly less expensive shopping options, and more exotic eateries.
In fact, it is how I came to eat scorpion.
For sale in this place are oddest foods imaginable. From spiders to beetles to every creepy crawly. There is a saying in Chinese, "Only the back of the cow is inedible. Everything else in this world can be eaten." The vid proves it.
Watch the video, if you dare. (It's tastes a bit like barbecued soft shell crab.)

Tidmore on the MadBus in Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan
September 06, 2012 06:34 PM PDT
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Tidmore in Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan

Christopher Tidmore continues his adventures, traveling overland across Central Asia.  He currently rides on 's London-Sydney exploratory venture, on their first trip via the Tajikistan-Siberia-Mongolia route.   He is writing about his experiences.   Now, he continues, leaving Uzbekistan and going to Tajikistan and into Kyrgyzstan.
Wednesday, August 5, 2012
"Let's go to border number three," Johnny muttered as we all piled back into the MadBus from our impromptu stop for anything cold to drink.
     For nine hours we have been trying to leave Uzbekistan, but from the first, and then the second borders, we have been rebuffed. 
    In fact, we back-tracked on the second border for five miles to approach it from a second gate—at the same crossing—and still were told that a truck could not cross.  
     At least, that's what it seemed.  No one was sure exactly the reason that all could pass but the big Orange bus, save for the crossed arms that means "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!"
It took two days to leave.   Our route, though, took us through a passage to a stunningly beautiful mountain range, remote, but pristine.  
     Scattered along the ground was a pure white marble, of the type found in Italy around Mont Cassini and worth fortunes to sculptors.   We drove along the blue stream for a day, and through a tunnel that Literally stretched at least four miles.
     Explosively blown open as a deep portal through the rock in recent years, the road itself was unfinished due to cascades of water that kept falling through cracks in the walls.   We trudged along and emerged from the other side.   Finally we arrived in Dushanbe.
Tidmore and the MadBus in Uzbekistan
August 24, 2012 01:42 AM PDT
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Christopher Tidmore has crossed the Atlantic by ship, traveled overland from Europe to the Caucuses and now along the Silk Road in Central Asia, he enters Uzbekistan.    He is circumnavigating the world this year, and writing about his experiences. 

Somewhere on the Steppe
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
9:24 AM
I just drank the Babushka's Chai—out of her cup.   When one rides with a Russian family in the carriage of an Uzbeki train across the desertscape, and they endeavor to be hospitable, one must make allowances.
     Ange and I are in separate chambers of an all night sleeper train hurtling across Uzbekistan to Uganch, in an effort to meet our tour in nearby Khavi...  


Tidmore Around the World--Part Two, the Caucuses--Tblisi and Azerbaijan
August 23, 2012 03:27 AM PDT
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Christopher Tidmore is traveling around the world, by sea and land, on the MadBus.   He has crossed the Atlantic, and now has joined to transverse the Silk Road across Central Asia.  His latest updates from Georgia and Azerbaijan...


“Nicholas Sarokozy gave us that piano,” the guide said pointing to a giant white object that looked like a two story building.   People were sitting beneath it for shade, out of the sun’s glare in the Riverside Park.

           It was quite literally a massive piano, as if designed for King Kong.  “Sarkozy gave it to us as a promise that we would be let into the European Union.   We like to say when we find a giant tall enough to play it with one hand, we will be admitted.

            Just about the fifth of never.  Yet, the cynical reaction was a rarity, and exception, to the usual optimistic nature displayed by the citizens of the Georgian Capital, to which we returned after a short few days in Armenia.  

        The historic city is built on the side of a mountain, at who's top, the massive statute of the Mother of Georgia looks down from above the ancient fortress...


On the MadBus-Part 1 Caucasus Journal--Tidmore in Armenia
August 05, 2012 03:55 AM PDT
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At a club called Poison, the Bohemian Bourgeois Backpackers joined with the yearning youth of Armenia to find midnight truth in dance and music.
. Western songs were interspersed with Armenian Jazz and pop standards as we gathered at this neo-flower child themed subterranean bar. Ostensibly, our first night in the Armenian Capital of Yerevan was dedicated to celebrating our tourmate Feng’s Graduating with a First from Christ Church College, Oxford University. Or at least, that is what we told ourselves as we hopped from bar to bar, trying to understand the night life of this city that aspires so to be modern, yet behind the recently constructed towers for Oligarchs, there rests something ancient.
. There is a Bourbon St. Bar in Yerevan. It says that one “need not go to Montreal or Louisiana” for great jazz . It could be found there. And as night falls on this vibrant city, it can be found everywhere.
. Armenians have taken the signature Creole artform and turned it into their own music. Like so much of the 21st century’s culture. This isolated nation, accessible only through Georgia or Iran, yearns for the West, connected by the eight million Armenians scattered across the planet by the Diaspora.
. “Yerevan is three thousand years old, but it is a new city,” our guide Marney observed the next day.
. The city escaped the Stalinist dullness of many other Soviet SSRs thanks to the abundance of the local volcanic rock. The buildings have a brownstone brilliance that evokes permanence, though, the most the oldest structures (with only a handful of exceptions) date from only the 1920s.
. The city suffers from earthquakes, and the famed one from the 1670 leveled every structure in the city, forcing it to be built anew. This feeds into the Yerevanite’s lack of resistance to ripping down pre-war structures in favor of taller modern ten story showplace towers funded by the wealthier members of the Eight Million Strong Diaspora.
. “It’s terrible that we just rip down the buildings,” Marney noted. “I know they are not that old, but other cities have historic districts. Tbilisi manages to have the modern and the old. Why can’t we?”
. The new structures are not cold, however, but very Art Nouveau buildings along walking throughfares. In the city center, one of these developments has opened the walking mall between the cafes and nightlife around the Opera House and the step like park called “the Cascades” and Republic Square—where every night the fountains are programmed for water shows to music until midnight. The experience is breathtaking and honestly superior to those in Barcelona.
. In fact, it was an earthquake that convinced the Armenians that they were better off outside of the Soviet Union. Unlike the other Caucus states, the Armenians generally view the Russians positively, as the last bulwark of defense in holding the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Thousands of Russian Army units are deployed in Armenia.
. But, despite the financial and political costs, the Armenians embraced independence reverently—even the pro-Russian elements in society, all because of a failure.
. The 1988 Earthquake damaged Yerevan in such a fashion that the city managed to fully recover only in recent years. And, the Soviet Government, bankrupt at that stage, was able to provide very little fraternal socialist help.
. Moreover, the Armenians, a deeply religious people who boast of being the first Christian state, were faced with loss of job or home for attending church, and shortly before the end of the Soviet period, their Apostolic Catholos (Pope or Patriarch) died and the Soviets tried to prevent the appointment of a new one—knowing the political influence this religious leader enjoyed.
. It was only when the Diaspora threatened to appoint one, and move his See to Lebanon, that the Politburo in Moscow relented.
. Today, the churches are filled by the generation that came of age in 1991. Their children may not feel the urgency to the same degree, but Armenians of all stripes, like the Georgians, view their church as key to their national identity.
. (Marney also took a subtle dig at the ornate Georgian Orthodox Church, noting that Armenian Apostolic Churches are rather stark, featuring a single icon of the Holy Mother and Child, and little other paintings or statues. Their church came of age before the embrace of graven imagery, and the resistance stuck. A Baptist or Methodist would feel quite at home in their worships.)
. Still, while the Armenian’s northern neighbors in Georgia had their “Rose Revolution”, there seems to be little impetus for major political reform. The influence of the Oligarchs lurks everywhere. Their sons drive White Lada SUVs, and pay no attention to pedestrians or police. In one case, an Oligarch bought the two hundred year old market, and despite major protests, was able to turn it into a Supermarket—over public objections.
. The people are well educated and traveled. Tourism has brought the Diasporan members all over the country regularly, so few are not exposed to the outside world, and English is becoming extremely common. (Like Georgia, all the roadsigns and buildings are listed in English as well as the native tongue.)
. So, why do they tolerate a corrupt government? “We need to stay friendly with the Russians,” Marney suspected. Of course, there is another explanation. If the Armenians had a protest, after an hour, many joke, everybody would retreat to the coffee houses of a drink.
. Humor is a key part of the Armenian personality. For example, as Marney recounted an old bit, “When God was going to give out the lands of the Earth, he said to be there to get your lands at a certain time. But, the Armenians stayed out too late drinking the night before, so they showed up really late the next morning.”
. “God said, ‘Why are so late? I already gave out all the lands of the Earth.”
. “The Armenians replied, ‘God, you don’t have anything left?’”
. “Well, there is this bit of Rocky land that no one wanted. If you really want, you can have that.’ And, so the Armenians were given Armenia. But, wait,” Marney said with a glint in her eye. “After the Armenians left, the Georgians showed up. They had been drinking even later, and said, ‘God what about us?’”
. “’What is it with you people in the Caucuses? Can’t you ever be on time?’ God exclaimed, and then softened, ‘Well there is this piece of land I was going to keep for myself. It is full of beautiful mountains, and gorgeous forests, and the best vineyards on the planet. I suppose you can have that.’”
. “The lesson is,” Marney set up theatrically, “always be the last one to show up.”

. Unlike the Azeris, the Armenians generally like the Georgians and vice versa, but good natured jibes are a national sport. For example, the Armenians are very proud of their written language, created when the Persians refused to allow Greek to be used in religious or governmental business. Saint Mashop Matas derived the current alphabet. Or as Marney put it, “When St. Mashop came up with out language, he worked all morning, and he was tired and hungry buy lunch time. So he sat down to a plate of Spaghetti. Did you know that we Armenians CREATED Spaghetti. Okay, anyway…So, we was just about to eat the first noodle, when the Georgians showed up.”
. “They said, ‘St. Mashop, you wrote a language for the Armenians. We want one too!’”
. “St. Mashop said, ‘I promise I’ll write you one after lunch, but I’m very hungry right now…”
. “No, we can’t wait!”
. “But, just let me eat a little bit…”
. “No, NOW!!!’ Georgians can never be patient.”
. “So, St. Mashop was so angry that he threw the Spaghetti against the wall, and said, there is your alphabet, and that’s why the Georgian language looks like upside down Spaghetti.”

. Like the Irish, the Armenians use humor to deal with the great tragedies and travails of their history. When you live on a fault line, and your capitals are leveled by nature every couple of centuries, and your neighbors seek the kill you in the alternate decades, you have to laugh.
The Armenian Genocide
. To understand the divisions of the Caucuses today, one cannot ignore the historical legacy of the genocide. Because of it, there are no direct border crossings from Turkey or Azerbaijan into Armenia, which lies between both..
. The people of the Caucuses--whose habits of hospitality, generosity, and joie de vivre are so similar—divide themselves into hostile camps, thanks to the tragedy of a century ago.
. Armenians look to their “lost lands” every time they stare into the distance at Mt. Ararat. Historic Armenia is in Turkey today. Likewise Azerbaijanis look at Yerevan, and particularly the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh, and feel the loss. It seems having visited both countries, that one felt as if he were standing on the borders of Alsace-Lorraine in 1910, and threat of war looming all too near.)
. As the Armenians tell the tale, the “Young Turks” or the ruling group at the end of the Ottoman Period craved a union of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia, from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan and beyond..
. (The psychological affinity was certainly there. In Baku, Azerbaijan, for example, a guide name Gulten was to tell me that not only are the languages all but identical and intelligible, but, “We say that Turkey and Azerbaijan are one country, two states.”)
. It is quite possible that the stratagems of the Young Turks might have succeeded were Armenia not in the way. Their answer, as related by the historians at the National Museum, “No Armenians, No Armenian Problem.”
. Thus began what has come to be called the Genocide where Armenian villages were reportedly ethnically cleansed and hundreds of thousands died. Most of historic Armenia now rests in Turkey.
. (The curious reaction is that not only do the Turks claim that the genocide never happened, and that less than 3,000 people were victims, but so do the Azeris. In fact, the excellent history museum in Baku lists the efforts to resist Armenian aggression in 1918, and the efforts that were made to form a united Army of Islam in the Caucuses.
. “Yerevan was once a Azerbaijani city,” my guide in Baku noted, correctly. She claimed, citing historical papers, that the city was given to the Armenians as a generous gesture, since they had no capital, and Nagorno-Karabakh was signed over in exchange.)
. The lost province myth, so like France and Germany dominates the Genocide conversation today, in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

. To the Armenians, the Genocide not only caused the deaths of countless hundreds of thousands, and forced most of their population to scatter to the ends of the Earth, it robbed them of their historic lands.
. But, the Azeris often say the same thing. Caught up in the Genocide arguments invariably is Nagorno-Karabakh. My Armenian guide argued that the majority Armenian population would have been part of the Republic, but for a paper signed by Khrushchev. My Azeri guide pointed out that the region was majority Azerbaijani until the Russians resettled Armenians from Iran and Turkey, thus diluting the native populations.
. Today, no person can enter Azerbaijan after having had a Nagorno-Karabach stamp in their passport. Of course, there are few Azeris left living in the sundered land, anymore than there are the thousands of Armenians that once lived in Azerbaijan during the Soviet period.
. Both groups have been ethnically cleansed. A pity for a people so similar.
. .
While the Azeris look to the lost NK, the Armenians still pray for a return of their historic lands, and specifically their historic mountain, visible from Yerevan, and all along the border regions.
. One derives a better perspective of the Armenian pain still felt from the Genocide at the Khorvirap monastery, in the shadow of the Holy Mountain of Ararat.
. Armenians define their identity from Noah. The ancient name of the nation, Hyek, labels them descendants of Noah’s son of that name. Here stood the ancient capital of Armenia, and here, after imprisonment for 13 years in a pit (that visitors can still viist by descending a ladder), St. Gregori the Illuminator upon his release Armenia into the first Christian State.
. Mount Ararat, the holiest place for the Armenian people, is in Turkey, a product of the Genocide.
. It is amazing that having survived the first organized state genocide in history that the Armenians remain such a sunny people. The Azeris too.

Churchill’s Brandy of Choice

Few landscapes in Yerevan evoke more senses of pride—and loss—than the view of Mt. Ararat from the Yerevan Brandy Company.
. One stands in the apex of the Capitol City, just down from the Blue Mosque and the most ancient Cathedral in the City, and one looks into Modern Turkey.
. It’s not surprising that the gorge is surrounded by Brandy companies. With that view, most Armenians need a drink, they often joke.
. Humor aside (for once) Armenians pride themselves on making some of the finest Cognacs in the world. And, none finer than Yerevan Brandy’s Ararat Vin.

. It was Winston Churchill’s Brandy of Choice.
. At the Yalta conference, Stalin served the reserve Brandy to Churchill, and the British Prime Minister declared it the finest he had ever tasted.
. It was not an idle boast from a man who once tried to calculate if he had ingested enough spirits to fill a railway car. (In that case, Champagne, though such a conversation about Brandy is quite likely.)
. Stalin, trying to ingrate himself with Churchill, began to send cases of the Vin Brandy to Chartwell.
. Just over a year later, in one of his communiqués, Churchill mentioned to Stalin that as much as he was still enjoying the Brandy, it seemed to the Prime Minister that the quality of the Cognac had deteriorated. It just wasn’t as good as a year before.
. The Soviet Autocrat was furious, and demanded to know from his ministers why? It turns out, that the skilled Cellar Master had been sent to a gulag in Siberia.
. Stalin ordered him back and Churchill enjoyed the Ararat Vin until his death in the 1960s. Who says drinking doesn’t save lives.

. For a Churchill enthusiast, a visit to the Ararat Distilleries promises as taste of the Ambrosia that fueled our hero. And, so over the bridge spanning the nearly dry river, and up the hill and the nearly 100 steps to the Red Brick landmark, I climbed.
. Tours were supposed to be daily until 4 PM, and as it was only 2:45, I felt comfortable. That is, until the Gate to the gift shop and the tours was found locked.
. In the heat of the day, with a dwindling set of options, I walked to the loading dock and the staff car entrance at the rear of the complex. Everything was automated, and I wondered if I could get a message inside.
. A few moments later, a Land Cruiser SUV drove up, and the shaded window slid down.
. “Can I help you?” a middle aged man with a thick Northern French Accent inquired. I told him that I had come for the tour, but that the gate was locked.
. He looked at his watch, and said, “It is too early for them to be closed.”
. A pause in conversation followed, but I filled the time with my interest in all things Churchill, and my GREAT disappointment (thinking that maybe he would pass on a message to the guard).
. “Get in,” he said. And, so not wishing to look a gift horse in the proverbial mouth, I did. The guard waved us through, with not even a moment’s hesitation, and I began to chat with the man, first in English, then haltingly in French.
. The person who had rescued me was Philippe Thibaud, current Cellar Director of the Yerevan Brandy Company, and a senior manager with their new parent company, Pernod Ricard of France.
. Essentially, I realized as he directed me to his office, and then told his assistant to arrange a tour, that the CEO of the company was facilitating my visit to his Distillery.
. The guide, a young Armenian fluent in English and French, described her passion for the Brandy, and showed me the cabinet where the Ararat Cognac had won first place in France in 1910. (Philippe was quick to note that the company can no longer call their product a Cognac, under EU naming rules. And, this despite the fact that HE was from Cognac, France.)
. “This company is the pride of Yerevan,” my guide gushed, saying that it had been her dream to work here for years. To Armenians, drinking their Brandy is both their highest art form, and singular pleasure.
. As I sat tasting the various brandies made, including the reserve Vin that Churchill so loved (and rarely was given to tourists), I felt that pleasure. Interspersed with local Chocolates, I savored, the way Armenians savor life.

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