I need to apologize for the tardiness of posts and sometimes sloppy editing.  I failed to bring my laptop to Italy and had to rely on an old creaky iPad, and, when I returned, I am still in the same leaky boat, since thieves broke into our house and stole, among more precious valuables, my laptop.  Alas, my desktop appears to be on its last legs, and the new laptop will not arrive for a week or so.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

24 Responses

  1. Allen Wilson says:

    You have my sympathy. I know how it feels to have your house broken into and precious, irreplaceable things stolen.

  2. Allen Wilson says:

    It was my understanding that most thieves won’t steal laptops nowadays because if they get online with them they can be traced. Not that it would do any good to trace them. But when they broke into my house they took things sitting beside the laptop and left the laptop seemingly undisturbed. I was told that this was why. Maybe your thieves were amateurs.

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    AW, yes. I tracked my computer to a house where a registered sex offender lived, but many hours when the police decided to follow up my information, the computer died and could only show where it had been. They then refused to do anything. So while I think the thieves were dimwits, .e.g for not taking the power supply to the laptop, ignoring some expensive electronic equipment that was quite portable, and missing a mink coat and other moderately valuable articles worth at least as much as they stole, in the current state of things, they made the correct decision.

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS They do have the model and serial number, and I was able to lock it down before it died. It ain’t worth much now.

  5. Vince Cornell says:

    What a rotten thing to have to come home to. May that which was left in disarray find order soon.

  6. Robert Reavis says:

    Unbelievable, Tom! Very sorry to hear about this. Actually what’s unbelievable is the routine rhythm and familiarity of such crimes. Our local Church had all its copper wire removed from the air conditioning system which was probably worth about $200.00 to $300.00 to the thieves and $10,000 to replace/repair and build a steel cage around the new unit to try and prevent the next round.
    My neighbor had a break in four months ago and we had one of our cars tampered with for some junk music cassettes and my wallet. The GOP response is “ you should have not left it in your car, in your driveway, yards from your home at three in the morning when thieves like to cruise the country, trespass on your property and take whatever they want” The local Church’s response was to install more outside cameras and to anchor the tabernacle to the marble altar with large bolts and steel straps under the apparent theory that if these last thieves came for copper, their friends will be back for gold! ??
    Anything but admit the obvious— Dorothy, Kansas, long time ago !

  7. Gregory Fogg says:

    In my childhood we would go on vacation without locking the doors. The car keys were always in the ignition switch. But about ten years ago my entire liquor cabinet ( minus three quite old bottles of vintage port ) , several dozen bottles, including a 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve , was stolen. I no longer keep a well stocked liquor cabinet. An apartment break-in in Rio de Janeiro cost me a pair of elephant hide Tony Llamas. We’re definitely circling the drain.

  8. Robert Reavis says:

    Thank you, Mr. Fogg. My rant deserved your kind caricatured correction. In fact I am certain if I looked up the most recent FBI crime statistics, except for the elephant hides in Rio, things would be better than although I never could keep my children away from my liquor cabinet.

  9. Raymond Olson says:

    What a damnable annoyance! I hope the crooks didn’t trash the place, too. Or too much. The only thing stolen from me that I can recall being stolen from me was a copy of John Rechy’s City of Night, a trashy but artfully mannered novel of the ’60s. It was taken by an FBI agent (that’s what my mother-in-law said). (Liquor cabinet? What’s that?)

  10. Kellen Buckles says:

    We hate to hear about your welcome home, Tom and Gail! Your trip was hexed at beginning and end, wasn’t it?

    For years we have put off installing security cameras in the house and barn — a risky tardiness in this neighborhood where the neighbor hoods (six) squatting in a vacant 1-acre lot just a block down the creek have a reputation for thievery (confirmed by one of their parents!). They are probably the guys who stole my 20′ ladder. One of the innocent girls walks her dog down our dead-end street scouting for targets. We take a bag of “heaters” with us when we leave home…. Now that we have a cell phone we are looking at indoor cameras such as WYZE Cam Pan v2. CNET just rated it very high and it only costs $50, 1-time. It calls your phone so you can see in real-time and make the decision. That is tempting! Any advice out there?

  11. Sam Dickson says:

    Tom: your and Gail’s experience and the comments show another dimension to the toll taken by crime.

    So often, as withk your laptop and the Church’s copper wiring mentioned in another comment, the crime brings very little to the perpetrator but causes huge damage to the victim.

    It’s not just the value of what is taken that matters. It’s the disruption and expense inflicted as collateral damage.

    I used to own property in minority neighborhoods but I finally gave up. Almost every time there was a gap between a tenant moving out and the new one moving in, the house or apartment would be invaded by thieves who would rip out the sheetrock to get the copper wiring. They would even cut squares or rectangles out of the carpeting because, I guess, they brought the measurements of one of their rooms with them.

    They would sometimes cut squares or rectangles out of the sheetrock and haul them off because apparently they had a use for a piece of sheetrock smaller than the standard size on offer at Home Depot.

    At that time sheetrock was about $2.50 for a standard size slab.

    All this work for so very little. Why don’t they just rake people’s yards?

    Criminals like these do much damage and they are like sand in the machinery of society.

  12. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    A friend using an app located where his stolen laptop was but the police would not try to recover it telling him that was their policy, not to recover stolen electronics.
    I had some sun glasses stolen from my car. My practice was to not lock my car figuring that a thief would cause more damage breaking in. The glasses were a prescription though and were probably not usable by the thief. I now keep my car doors locked but still keep my prescription sun glasses in my car.

  13. Allen Wilson says:

    I won’t into the details, but I have a car sitting at a garage waiting for an electronic component without which it cannot function, and which cannot be sourced anywhere anymore because the Chinese aren’t selling them to the US anymore because they got mad at the US over a trade dispute. Why do I need that component? It is a side effect of someone breaking into the car and trying to steal it.

    Thieves wage war against their neighbors and against society. None of these scum really need to steal. They do it because they enjoy disrupting other people’s lives. They get a sick thrill out of it. It makes them feel powerful. I’ve seen the looks on some of their faces when they know people know that they did it but they can’t be punished. It’s a smirk they get. There is a reason why in some countries thieves used to be impaled. Remember when the big invasion of Europe occurred back in 2015? Often the local criminals in this or that city were joining up with the invaders and participating in the raping and looting. Why shouldn’t they? The were already at war with their own society to begin with. I have heard that there is a connection between theft and homosexuality, and I believe there is also a connection between theft and treason.

  14. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I’m sorry about the loss of Mr. Fogg’s whiskey, though Pappy Van W is in my view the most overpriced distilled spirit on the planet. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do whenever someone is kind enough to serve it to me, but after a long life of swilling bourbon that got started seriously when I bought my first bottle from a colored young man from the back of a restaurant in Mt Pleasant, I finally realized about two years ago that I have low standards. While I cannot stomach the Evan Williams I drank in college and can barely get down Jim Beam, but only if it is undiluted (they have, by the way, gone back to an older recipe when sales fell off), but I don’t want anything much better than George Dickel (not a bourbon, true) or Wild Turkey 101, which I used to drink with Carolina shrimpers. The trouble is that my favorite scotches are now priced beyond the bounds of reason.

    I did in Italy discover something I had learned many times before. When you don’t drink anything distilled before dinner, limit yourself to wine with perhaps a glass of grappa or brandy at the end, you sleep more soundly and wake up like a newborn babe ready to “take on the day.”

    We found a wine store a few blocks away from our apartment in Pisa. The sign had not been repainted in, I would guess, 50 years at least, and I walked by several times before seeing the magic words, “Vino Sfuso”, bulk wine. I went in and looked around. They had a small set of shelves with good bottled local wines at a fair price, but they had an array of tanks. They solkd me, my first time, a bottle of white and a bottle of red they decanted from the tanks, for about 4.5 EU, but the next time it dropped to less than 3 because I brought back the bottles. The wines were simple, delicious, and so clean I could foolishly consume two bottles without any ill effects the next day. I miss many things in Pisa, none of them being the Torre Pendente, beautiful as it is, but most of all I miss the wine store and a little osteria run by two sisters, who treated us like family.

  15. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I understand a bit the mentality of robbers who steal cars and rob banks and justify themselves by saying it is all insured. But people who break into your house, treat it with contempt, steal your wife’s and her mother’s engagement rings, they are scum. Such people have always been with us, but they generally came from the impoverished classes. With the Welfare State shelling out up to $70 grand a household in benefits, these people can hardly pose as Robin Hood.

    I don’t tend to read much about the criminal classes. In college I took a course in 19th century French lit, and our professor forced us, for about a month or so, to read a Zola novel a week. I would not do that in English, much less than French and told him so. I was his best student so we worked out a compromise. I haven’t even read John Rechy, though I did read Céline. The one book in recent years that seemed to say the most about the degraded mentality of moderns was Jean Raspail’s wonder novel, “Sept Cavaliers.”

  16. Gregory Fogg says:

    I’ve purchased several bottles of 23 y/o Pappy. Although somewhat pricey, they were all bought before today’s wildly inflated, confiscatory current prices were i effect. I’ve even given a bottle as a gift.

  17. Gregory Fogg says:

    I usually buy Turkey 101 now.

  18. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I’ll take Pappy as a gift any day. Turkey 101 has the advantage of warning you, if you don’t dilute it with more than a cube of ice, at the first sip of what you are getting yourself into. Fancy mixed drinks are, for the most part, for fools and self-deluded hypocrites. What is fancy? Anything more than two important ingredients (I don’t count bitters). So, Martinis, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds–yes–and even Daiquiri’s and Margaritas, though I don’t usually touch such stuff. I’ll make an exception for a Sazerac–whiskey, vermouth, bitters (often two kinds, e.g. Peychaud and orange), citrus zest, and Herbesaint or some other anisette.

  19. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Far better said than my comments is this by one of Illinois’ best poets:

    All the snow has turned to water
    Christmas days have come and gone
    Broken toys and faded colors
    Are all that’s left to linger on
    I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
    For they always bring me tears
    I can’t forgive the way they robbed me
    Of my childhood souvenirs

    Memories, they can’t be boughten
    They can’t be won at carnivals for free
    Well, it took me years to get those souvenirs
    And I don’t know how they slipped away from me

    Broken hearts and dirty windows
    Make life difficult to see
    That’s why last night and this morning
    Always look the same to me
    And I hate reading old love letters
    For they always bring me tears
    I can’t forgive the way they robbed me
    Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs.

    Memories, they can’t be boughten
    They can’t be won at carnivals for free
    Well, it took me years to get those souvenirs
    And I don’t know how they slipped away from me.

    Here is later version in which the poets talks about how he came to write the song and dedicates the performance to Steve Goodman.

  20. Gregory Fogg says:

    One of my favorite Prine songs. Old joke – there are two rules for drinking liquor 1) no more than two ingredients 2) ice is an ingredient.

  21. William Shofner says:

    While we are on the subject of theft, my brother and I, during the summer of ’73, toured Europe in a convertible we purchased while there. One evening, we stopped in Naples, locked the car and walked a block away to grab a pizza. An hour later, we returned to the car to find that thieves had cut open the convertible top and had stolen our luggage from the back seats of the car. The next day, we drove to Rome to spend the night at a hotel; we wisely took everything out then remaining in the car, except for a few postcards we left in the glove compartment, and left the car parked on the street next to the hotel but unlocked so that any thieves in Rome could easily rummage thru the car, see that there was nothing of value in the car to steal and then go away.

    The next morning, we went out to the car confident that all would be fine, only to discover that someone had distained opening the unlocked doors to the car, but instead busted out a car window and stole our…postcards. La dolce vita?

  22. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Making the Grand Tour in a convertible is risky business and driving it to Naples was is and forever shall be foolhardy. I’ve been swindled in minor ways twice in Italy, but never robbed, even when I was traveling on my own and staying in some pretty dodgy places. I have never got on a bus or train in or near Naples without feeling the light touch of magic fingers searching vainly for something to steal. Even so, I have grown to like Naples, but I don’t think I could bring myself to lead a group of trusting Americans to such a place.

  23. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Some of you may want to look at 3 Ingredient Cocktails by Robert Simonson. Subtitled An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon.

    I have most often been drinking cognac, Armagnac, and French Brandy. When I turn to bourbon or rye, it is usually on the rocks.

  24. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    When we travel we always put my wife’s jewelry and other valuables in my gun safe. It is located where it cannot easily be seen.