Thursday, June 22, 2017

A black radical puts whites in their place . . .

. . . or so he thinks.  Here's an excerpt.

What I propose will certainly have most white/cisgender/heterosexuals who practice bigotry (or do not believe they practice bigotry even when they do) up in their outrageous feelings because they have become accustomed to our worship, rely on our fealty, and receive sustenance from our sacrifice. They want us as Django Unchained’s Stephen, infinitely and perpetually servile, or as the punchline to their malicious humor, laughing along with them.

Our indifference to their well-being is the only thing that terrifies them.


If you see them drowning.

If you see them in a burning building.

If they are teetering on the edge of a cliff.

If their ships are sinking.

If their planes are crashing.

If their cars are skidding.

If they are overdosing.

If their hearts have tellingly arrested.

If they are choking in a restaurant.

If they are bleeding out in an emergency room.

If the ground is crumbling beneath them.

If they are in a park and they turn their weapons on each other:

Do nothing.

Least of all put your life on the line for theirs, and do not dare think doing so, putting your life on the line for theirs, gives you reason or cause to feel celestial.

Saving the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous.

Let. Them. F***ing. Die.

And smile a bit when you do.

For you have done the universe a great service.

Ashes to ashes.

Dust to bigots.

There's more at the link.

I do strongly recommend reading the article in full.  I'm pleased that such attitudes are openly expressed like this.  It allows the rest of us to know who our enemies are.

If you know, or encounter, people who approve of such sentiments, or express them . . . make a mental note, and - in the event of social unrest - take appropriate precautions against them.


So, when does the Clinton Foundation investigation start?

It seems to me, with all the feverish enthusiasm in certain quarters of Congress and the Senate to investigate President Trump ad nauseam, that it's time to return the favor.  When does the investigation start into the Clinton Foundation and the many, many allegations of corruption against it over the years?  I'm sure you remember them.  For example:

There appears to be a whole lot more (and more convincing) evidence against the Clinton Foundation than against President Trump.  That being the case, why isn't it being investigated just as enthusiastically - and as vindictively?

I note, too, that private investigators are uncovering a great deal of material that should, I think, be far more widely publicized . . . but the mainstream media are almost completely ignoring it.  For example, consider the work of Charles Ortel.  Last year he wrote:

State, federal, and foreign laws bar public charities from being run for private gain in interstate commerce—which means, by using the mail, telephones or the internet. The Clinton Foundation’s complex operations (it is not just one entity but a web of them) do not comply with this requirement. Nor does the Clinton Foundation ever seem to have submitted its financial records to an independent, properly certified audit by a qualified accounting firm.

Overall I consider the Clinton Foundation to be a charity fraud network.

There's more at the link, and in other entries on his Web site.  He's just one of those who've been digging for dirt about the Clinton Foundation.  Most of those doing the digging appear to have found what they were looking for.

Isn't it time we hauled all that data out into the light, and figured out how much of it is real, and how much is political smoke and mirrors?  After all, if we're doing that with the allegations concerning President Trump, isn't it only fair and even-handed to do it to the other side as well?  (Yes, yes, I know - naive question - but one can still ask it, no?)


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Ohio ... will see 10,000 overdoses [resulting in death] by the end of 2017"

That's the forecast from a coroner in that state.  (A tip o' the hat to Tamara for linking to the article.)

Overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 — they now claim more lives than car crashes, gun deaths and the AIDS virus did at their peaks.

In Ohio, it has sent the death toll surging. According to data from the Montgomery County coroner, 365 people died of drug overdoses from January through and May of this year; 371 people died of such causes in all of last year.

On any given day, Montgomery County sheriff's deputies respond to multiple overdose calls and are equipped with Narcan, or naloxone, a nasal spray that counteracts the effects of a drug overdose.

Each deputy carries two doses, but that isn't always enough to save lives. One deputy said that more than 20 doses were needed to revive a recent victim and that victims often don't survive.

The death toll has overwhelmed the coroner, who tests for more than two dozen varieties of fentanyl during autopsies, and the county morgue's body cooler is consistently filled with overdose victims.

Coroner Kent Harshbarger estimates that ... the state will see 10,000 overdoses by the end of 2017 — more than were recorded in the entire United States in 1990.

There's more at the link.

That's an absolutely ghastly statistic . . . but in all honesty, what effective means are there to change it?  Prohibition has manifestly not worked.  Since the so-called 'War on Drugs' kicked off in 1971, illegal and prescription narcotics have become much more prevalent, and much easier to get, than ever before.  The 'War on Drugs' has ended in defeat, whether officials like to admit it or not - so why continue it?  Einstein famously defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  By that standard, the 'War on Drugs' is insane.  Period.

Of course, there's another side to the 'War on Drugs' - it makes it much harder for those of us who need prescription narcotics (including yours truly) to get them.  Restrictions on the legitimate prescribing of such drugs have made it more and more onerous and expensive for us to obtain them.  I wrote some years ago about the problems involved in getting them in Tennessee.  Texas is a bit easier, but I still have to see the doctor every three months to get my prescription renewed - and hand over a co-payment every time.  I'm fortunate, because I can afford that;  but I know others who need their prescriptions just as badly as I do, but can't afford such repeated doctor visits.  We have the 'War on Drugs' to thank for that.

I've seen the effect of prolonged drug use on the convicts with whom I worked as a prison chaplain.  Those of you who've read my memoir of those years will recall the self-proclaimed 'Sam the Sex God', who'd fried his brain on PCP when he was a teenager, and now had little or no control over his emotions or feelings.  He was far from alone.  I shudder to think how many there are like him in our prisons - and how many who are not in prison, but walking the streets, with a potentially very dangerous lack of self-control.

From a humane, moral and ethical standpoint, I simply can't recommend letting addicts die of their overdoses, rather than bring them back with Narcan . . . but from a practical standpoint, a number of law enforcement officers with whom I've spoken about the problem have no qualms about recommending such an approach.  One told me that he'd 'jump-started' (his term) one particular addict no less than seven times in the past month.  "Why should I do it an eighth time?" he demanded.  "All he'll do is go out and steal something else, to pay for the ninth high - and then we'll be off to the races again."  I find it hard to argue against that.

Ten thousand deaths this year, in just one state.  How many more in other states?  How many in the USA as a whole?  How long can this insanity continue?  Is it even remotely possible to stop it - and if so, how?

Your guess is as good as mine . . .


He should have stayed in prison . . .

. . . rather than be shot by his partner in crime.

James Robert Young Jr., 41, of Macon, had been out on parole for less than 10 months when he was fatally wounded after breaking into a woman’s home at 152 Bradstone Circle.

. . .

Young was trying to carry out a big screen TV and dropped it when the woman yelled at the men and they started to run.

The other man fired a gun back toward the house and hit Young, Davis said.

“I’d much rather see one burglar shoot another burglar than an innocent homeowner,” Davis said.

Young died in the threshold of the woman’s front door, Bibb County Chief Coroner Leon Jones said.

The shooter is still on the run.

. . .

Young has been incarcerated at least five times in Georgia prisons for crimes committed in Bibb County, according to the Department of Corrections website.

There's more at the link.

I'm just waiting for cries from his family and friends of "But he was putting his life back together!" and "He dindu nuffin!"  Despite them, I daresay the taxpayers of Bibb County and Georgia owe a collective vote of thanks to the shooter, for saving them the expense of yet more time behind bars for the late Mr. Young.


Is there any legal way to overturn this?

I'm infuriated to learn that potential evidence in the alleged interception of communications between some members of President Trump's election team has been placed out of reach of investigators.

The National Security Council cannot hand over records relating to former National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s surveillance of Americans, because they have been moved to the Obama presidential library and may be sealed for as many as five years, conservative watchdog Judicial Watch announced Monday.

. . .

Judicial Watch earlier this year filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for those documents, including of communications between Rice and any intelligence community member or agency regarding any Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers, or any suspected communications between Russia and Trump officials.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the group will seek to find out when the records were moved, and warned of legal actions.

. . .

The Wall Street Journal editorial board has argued Rice had no reason to request the unmaskings. Since then, the House intelligence committee has also subpoenaed the intelligence community for information on unmasking requests by Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

There's more at the link.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this transparently duplicitous maneuver was performed precisely to hide illegal monitoring of President Trump's campaign by the Obama administration.  There is no logical reason whatsoever why unmasking requests by Ms. Rice should form part of President Obama's library.  To place them behind that firewall can only be an attempt to prevent them being used in investigations and (possibly) prosecutions.  No other explanation seems possible.

I hope this can be overturned, and the records made available.  If it can't be done under existing law, then I want Congress and the Senate to change the law to make them accessible.  This maneuver was nothing more or less than an obstruction of justice.  It must be overturned, or the rule of law (what's left of it, at any rate) will become nothing more than a hollow mockery.

Oh - and if the Democratic Party is so hot about investigating everything, I presume they'll put their weight behind obtaining these records as well.  If they don't, all their rhetoric will be exposed as meaningless partisan political hackery . . . not that we don't already know that, of course.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

One of the simplest, easiest-to-understand descriptions of inflation I've ever read

Captain Capitalism, whom we've met in these pages before, has a new article about tuition fees.  In the process of explaining why they're so high, he describes inflation in very simple, easy-to-understand terms - probably the clearest description of it that I've ever read.  Anyone with even a Grade 5 or 6 education should be able to grasp it without difficulty.

If you've ever wondered why prices go up all the time, the article will answer your questions.  It'll also demonstrate why the Fed's policy of quantitative easing during the recent financial crisis was so potentially dangerous.  Its effects have not yet made themselves felt in full.

You'll find his article here.  Go read.  It's worth your time.


Nice flying

Here are a couple of US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II's performing reverse landings aboard the USS America.  A reverse landing is when the aircraft is pointing in the opposite direction to the ship, which is moving forward along its normal course.  Effectively, the Harriers have to fly backwards at the speed of the ship in order to remain stationary relative to their landing position on the deck, and descend while maintaining backwards flight.

Some tricky flying there - but they made it look easy.  Nicely done, guys!


Doofus Of The Day #963

Today's award goes to a herpetophobic couple in Houston, TX.

A small lizard has been safely relocated after a concerned Houston-area residency called Texas wildlife officials about an alligator above their door.

The nearby residents informed Kroboth that their reptile-squeamish neighbors had "freaked out" about a garden snake the previous week.

There's more at the link.

I've heard of herpetophobia, but this is ridiculous!


Monday, June 19, 2017

Déja vu all over again?

I see Bernie Sanders is at it again.

Democrats gearing up for a new round of battles against Republican efforts to do away with Barack Obama's signature health care law are condemning a US Senate replacement bill being crafted by Republicans behind closed doors.

Senator Bernie Sanders urged Democrats on Sunday to do "everything they can" to oppose a Republican bill that for weeks has been drafted by party leaders in secret.

"My understanding is that it will be brought forth just immediately before we have to vote on it. This is completely unacceptable," Sanders, an independent who is a member of the Democratic party leadership, told CBS's "Face the Nation" program.

"It seems to me that what they want to do, because this legislation is so bad, is keep it secret, keep it hidden, and in the last possible second rush it before the Senate and get a vote within a few hours. That is beyond belief," Sanders said in a separate interview with CNN.

There's more at the link.

Well . . . dare one suggest that those Republicans have learned a thing or two from another senior Democrat, back when Obamacare was first passed?  In March 2010, Nancy Pelosi infamously opined:

But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

I actually agree with Senator Sanders that what the Republicans are doing is unacceptable.  However, if he's so concerned about it, why didn't he object when the Democrats did precisely and exactly the same thing to pass Obamacare, back in 2010?

Democratic pot, meet Republican kettle.  Kettle, pot.  Sauce, goose, gander.  Wash, rinse and repeat.



Received via e-mail from multiple sources yesterday (Father's Day):

'Nuff said.


Are you interested in reading more?

I wrote last Saturday about the Catholic Church's proposal to excommunicate mafiosi in Italy, and commented that it wouldn't work.  I was challenged in a comment to that article by fellow blogger Dad29 (whom I've known about for years in cyberspace via his blog, and I'm sure he's a sincere, committed Catholic).  He felt that I was being unreasonable in my criticism.  Needless to say, I see things differently;  but that's only to be expected, I suppose, given our respective backgrounds.

I'm thinking about posting an article (or a series of articles) analyzing precisely where (and why) I see the Catholic Church as having gone wrong, and failed its members very badly, in recent decades, culminating in the clergy child sex abuse scandal.  I may be unusually well placed to do so, having been an 'insider' at the time, and also being well schooled (at post-graduate level) in organizational behavior and organization development before becoming a clergyman.  Added to that, I have a lot of real-world experience in different organizations and environments.  I think that combination gives me a much broader background than most commentators on the issue, and also a lot of relevant education and experience from which to analyze the issues involved.

The question is, would I be wasting my breath?  Would you, my readers, be interested in learning more about the subject, or would it be boring and uninteresting to you?  I'd like to know before I invest a lot of time and energy in writing about it.  Please let me know in Comments, yea or nay.



EDITED TO ADD: Apart from those who left comments below (for which, thank you very much), I've had a number of e-mails from readers on this topic. There's a lot to think about, particularly how to frame and structure the matter so as to shed light rather than heat (I really don't want to do anything to damage anyone's faith). I'm going to give it some more thought. I may end up writing a short book-length treatment, rather than just a blog article or two, and go into a lot more detail - but again, I have to be sure it won't cause more harm than good. We'll see.

Terror, counter-terror . . . dystopia?

So, the inevitable has happened.  After several incidents of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in the UK, it appears that an incident of counter-terror, directed against Muslims in that country, has now occurred.

One man has died and 10 others were injured when a van was rammed into worshippers in a terror attack near a London mosque, before the driver is said to have screamed: "I'm going to kill all Muslims".

The van driver - described by witnesses as a large white man - was detained by members of the public after the incident in Finsbury Park early on Monday that police said had "all the hallmarks of terrorism".

There's more at the link.

Let's be honest here.  The response of the UK authorities to the initial incidents of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism was pathetic.  Sure, police swarmed the streets, and there were all sorts of emotional responses (up to and including concerts to benefit the victims), but none of them addressed the real problem - that there are tens of thousands of potential terrorists in Britain, who are there because the government of that nation deliberately allowed them to enter, and allowed their ideology to be propagated unchecked.

By now it's too late to address that problem.  The authorities would find it almost impossibly difficult to trace and deport all of those tens of thousands of radicalized Muslims;  and even if they could, existing laws would prevent them from doing so on the grounds of 'human rights' or other current hot-button buzz-words.  Besides, if they were to be deported, who would take them?  Many of their countries of origin are only too happy to have got rid of potential terrorists.  They don't want them back.  Furthermore, many of the radicalized were born in Britain.  They have no other homeland to which to return.

The authorities won't admit it's their fault, of course.  They'll claim that no-one could have foreseen the extent of the problem when previous generations of politicians allowed mass immigration, virtually unchecked.  They ignore the crystal-clear vision and explicit warning delivered by the late Enoch Powell.  His so-called 'rivers of blood' speech in 1968 was widely derided and rejected at the time, but his views have proved to be prescient.  Here are a few excerpts.

In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General’s Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London ... Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase.

. . .

We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.

. . .

The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word “integration.” To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members ... to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.

We are on the verge here of a change. Hitherto it has been force of circumstance and of background which has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible to the greater part of the immigrant population – that they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority did not operate.

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population.

The full text of Mr. Powell's speech can be found here.

Nearly two decades after his death, in 2015, his friend Simon Heffer pointed out:

[David Cameron] is but the latest prime minister to have paid lip-service to the warped ideal of multiculturalism, and all that entails. In case one is unsure what it does entail, let us run through the card. It is an idea that the cultures and values of new, minority communities are the equivalent of the majority ones.

It means the majority culture may not expect those from minority cultures to abide by majority ways. It carries with it an expectation to tolerate attitudes that the majority reject, such as towards women and those professing other faiths. And it abjures interference in those minority cultures, for fears of accusations of racism. That last fetish has paralysed sensible response to multiculturalism for decades, and continues to stop any senior politician giving the right lead today.

. . .

It was not Powell who made this discussion impossible: it was the fear of generations of politicians since him to state the bleeding obvious, that there was a group within Britain’s community of predominantly decent, law-abiding and highly civilised Muslims who were determined to impose a primitivism and savagery first on their co-religionists and then, if they could, on the rest of society.

To refuse to tolerate that was not racism, it was common sense and an appeal for reason and decency; to use what Powell had said as an excuse for doing nothing was simply the expression of a desire for a quiet life.

. . .

If you seek the monument of Powell’s critics, look about you. We are a prosperous, decent country that normally embraces many faiths and outlooks within a strong common culture. Yet we have this malignancy eating away at a part of us: and our political class still fears to take the lead necessary to deal with it.

Again, more at the link.

Since the British government and its security authorities have flatly refused to do anything meaningful about the problem of terrorism that has taken root in their midst, it's only to be expected that at least some of the people of Britain are now going to take matters into their own hands.  All over the world, in every nation where crime (including terrorism) has become a real and crippling problem, people have taken the law into their own hands in dealing with it.  I saw that at first hand in South Africa.  It's happening today in countries like the Philippines (where President Duterte has actively encouraged ignoring the rule of law in dealing with criminals, and allowed Communist guerrillas to fight alongside his forces against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists), and in Venezuela, where criminals are increasingly receiving 'street justice' rather than handed over to authorities whom no-one trusts any more.  Now, it seems, it's beginning to happen in Britain as well.

I don't expect yesterday's attack to be the last.  After the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, I wrote:

The terrorists haven't thought about it, I'm sure, but they're going to produce a similar and even greater tragedy for their own people than they've inflicted on France.  The reaction from ordinary people like you and I won't be to truly think about the tragedy, to realize that the perpetrators were a very small minority of those who shared their faith, extremists who deserve the ultimate penalty as soon as it can be administered.  No.  The ordinary man and woman on the streets of France is going to wake up today hating all Muslims.  He or she will blame them all for the actions of a few, and will react to all of them as if they were all equally guilty.

One can't blame people for such attitudes.  When one simply can't tell whether or not an individual Muslim is also a terrorist fundamentalist, the only safety lies in treating all of them as if they presented that danger.  That's what the French people are going to do now.  That's what ordinary people all across Europe are going to do now, irrespective of whatever their politicians tell them.  Their politicians are protected in secure premises by armed guards.  They aren't.  Their survival is of more immediate concern;  so they're doing to do whatever they have to do to improve the odds in their favor.  If that means ostracizing Muslims, ghettoizing them, even using preemptive violence against them to force them off the streets . . . they're going to do it.

I've written before about how blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is disingenuous and inexcusable.  I still believe that . . . but events have overtaken rationality.  People are going to start relating to 'Muslims' rather than to 'human beings', just as the extremists label all non-Muslims as 'kaffirs' or 'kufars' - unbelievers - rather than as human beings.  For the average man in a European street, a Muslim will no longer be a 'person'.  He's simply a Muslim, a label, a 'thing'.  He's no longer French, or American, or British, no matter what his passport says.  He's an 'other'.  He's 'one of them' . . . and because of that, he's no longer 'one of us'.  He's automatically defined - no, let's rather say (because it's easier to blame him) that he's defined himself - as a potential threat, merely by the religion he espouses.  He may have been born into it, and raised in a family and society and culture so saturated with it as to make it literally impossible, inconceivable, for him to be anything else . . . but that doesn't matter.  It's his choice to be Muslim, therefore he must take the consequences.  We're going to treat him with the same suspicion and exaggerated caution that we would a live, possibly armed hand-grenade.  He's asked for it, so we're going to give it to him.

More at the link.

I think that's at the root of last night's attack.  As Newton posited, 'every action begets an equal and opposite reaction'.  Terror provokes counter-terror.  It's as sure and certain as the dawn.  It's been that way throughout human history . . . and we haven't changed.

In the end, society will either sort out its terror problem, or the whole of society will become dominated by terror.  That way lies dystopia . . . and I really don't want to live in a dystopian nightmare.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday morning music

Let's have something different this morning.  Here's French composer François-Adrien Boieldieu's Harp Concerto in C, dating back to 1800-1801.  In this performance, the Lake Sumter Chamber Orchestra is directed by Pasquale Valerio.  The soloist is Elizabeth Hainen.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

If you've already abdicated moral authority, what's the good of threatening to use it?

I'm cynically amused at the latest news concerning the Mafia in Italy.

The Vatican is looking to develop a new doctrine that calls for excommunicating Catholics for mafia association and corruption.

That's the decision reached this week after the Vatican hosted its first-ever conference on fighting corruption and organized crime.

There's more at the link.

The Mafia has been going strong in Italy for a couple of centuries, despite active opposition from official, legal and Church circles.  If that had no effect on its bosses over such a long period of time, what makes the Vatican think that excommunication will produce better results?

There's also the little point that, while priests who perpetrated sexual abuse on children have been defrocked in many (but not all) cases, the administrators and Bishops who appointed them, and in many cases simply transferred them instead of disciplining them, mostly got off scot-free, despite being accessories to the crime of child abuse, often both before and after the fact.  So much for the Church's moral authority.  It no longer exists for many people . . . so what makes the Church think that mafiosi, many of whom are far more corrupt and evil than the average child molester, will think twice about defying its latest edicts?

No.  Like the much-touted measures against child abuse enacted by the US Catholic bishops, this is pious window-dressing, nothing more.  It will achieve nothing, except to let befuddled Church bureaucrats congratulate themselves that they've "done something".  Same old, same old.


Food as a means to inspire national unity?

I was very interested to read an account of how Israel used food as a means to inspire national unity, and reconcile different groups to a common sense of identity.  Here's an excerpt.

One of the biggest shocks for many foreign visitors to Israel is the lack of familiar Jewish cuisine. Where are the smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese at breakfast? What about the delis that define Jewish cuisine from Montreal to Los Angeles? Or the kugel (a casserole made from egg noodles or potato), gefilte fish (an appetizer made from poached fish) and matzoh ball soup served at Jewish tables around the world? Time Out Tel Aviv even has a section entitled ‘Where to find the best Jewish food in Tel Aviv’, and the few cafes that do sell Ashkenazi food (like Eva’s) typically emblazon their menus and awnings with the label ‘Jewish food’, something you would never see at a neighbourhood shawarma joint. These are strong indicators of just how spare this kind of cuisine is here.

In reality, Israeli cuisine has long been more closely associated with its immediate environment, a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern traditions and ingredients. The early Zionists eagerly adopted Palestinian dishes, such as falafel, hummus, and shawarma, while in recent years Israelis have developed a more diversified palate. Still, ‘Jewish food’ remains scarce. But very few visitors know the reasons behind the dearth of it in Israel: despite the fact that the early settlers were mostly Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe, they forsook traditional Jewish food both because of scarcity but also in deliberate service to the formation of a new national narrative.

. . .

Early adherents to the Zionist project, committed to creating a Jewish state in the territory now known as Israel, sought to abandon vestiges of their past. Just as the European settlers favoured Hebrew over Yiddish and khakis over frock coats and homburgs, they also purposefully chose to eat indigenous foods over Ashkenazi ones. “Many of the first Ashkenazi Jews who came here, the ideological pioneers, were interested in cutting off their roots from the past and emphasizing the newness of the Zionist project,” explained Shaul Stampfer, professor of Soviet and East European Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “One of the ways of doing that [was] through the food.”

The adoption of indigenous food lent the early European implants an air of authenticity. The production of local ingredients – the things that grew well in the desert and along the Mediterranean coastline, and the many dishes adapted from Arab kitchens – became part of the Zionist narrative. Advertisements at the time implored the population to eat locally grown ‘Hebrew watermelons’. The Jewish people had returned to Zion and had the diet to prove it.

Later, as Jewish immigrants from Morocco to Ethiopia began piling in, each with their own unique style of cooking, the creation [of] a national cuisine became ever more important. “They were grappling with people from different cultures and traditions and it was a challenge to convince them that they belonged together,” said Yael Raviv, author of Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel. “They had to use everything and anything to forge this unified nation. Food is so tied to Jewish heritage, laws of kashrut [kosher dietary rules], and the Israeli economy is really driven by agriculture – so it became a very effective tool because it could be used in these various ways.”

There's more at the link.

I must admit, I wouldn't have thought of deliberately using food as a tool to foster national pride and patriotism!  Intrigued, I looked for the book mentioned in the text.

From the blurb:

Yael Raviv’s Falafel Nation moves beyond the simply territorial to divulge the role food plays in the Jewish nation. She ponders the power struggles, moral dilemmas, and religious and ideological affiliations of the different ethnic groups that make up the “Jewish State” and how they relate to the gastronomy of the region.

. . .

Focusing on the period between the 1905 immigration wave and the Six-Day War in 1967, Raviv explores foodways from the field, factory, market, and kitchen to the table. She incorporates the role of women, ethnic groups, and different generations into the story of Zionism and offers new assertions from a secular-foodie perspective on the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish nationalism. A study of the changes in food practices and in attitudes toward food and cooking, Falafel Nation explains how the change in the relationship between Israelis and their food mirrors the search for a definition of modern Jewish nationalism.

I'm reading the book at present.  It certainly presents a new perspective on how food not only is already an instrument of cultural expression, but can be used as a deliberate tool to redefine, reinvent and propagate a different culture.

I couldn't help comparing the Israeli experience to the foods eaten in different regions, and by different groups, across the United States.  It's intriguing - and amusing - to ponder whether:
we might not accomplish greater cultural unity here too!

(On the other hand, I remember introducing my wife to one of my favorite South African curries . . . not nearly as successful as felafel, I fear.  The heat nearly cooked her from the inside out!)


Friday, June 16, 2017

Machete versus shotgun - and the machete wins

Today's lesson:  if you want to play the tough guy, make sure you don't take on a really tough guy!

A machete-wielding homeowner confronted three would-be robbers early Thursday morning [in Sarasota, FL], holding one of them for deputies and chasing the others off in a dramatic melee that was caught on surveillance video.

. . .

The home’s surveillance video shows the hooded men burst onto the porch waving a shotgun, machete, and a crowbar.  One of the residents disappears out of view, then returns waving his own machete as the suspects scramble.  Before long, the suspects are scrambling over the fence as other residents and even a small dog chase them around.

The residents disarmed one of the suspects, later identified as Alen Beltran-Vazquez, and held him until deputies arrived.  Deputies soon caught up with the two other would-be robbers in their suspected getaway car at a nearby gas station, along with two more suspects.

There's more at the link.  Here's security camera footage of the encounter.

I don't know whether the shotgun was loaded or not, but the thug holding it certainly didn't use it to any worthwhile effect.  I wonder if the cops and/or the court will let the homeowner keep it as a souvenir of the occasion?


Reflections on Texas small town life

1.  It's good to live in a town where our contractor, putting up a privacy fence around our newly extended back yard, can leave his trailer parked outside it overnight, with materials and tools in the back, in the confident expectation that everything will be as he left it in the morning.  Petty theft isn't something anyone worries about around here.

2.  It's rather nice to live in a small town where people get to know you.  To get cheery waves while walking or driving down the street, along with a "Hello!" and a smile, is very pleasant.  (Sometimes you'll get those from perfect strangers, too!)  So is walking into the post office, or the bank, or a local store, and being greeted by name.

3.  It's fun to be told by the mailman that "You've won the Amazon prize this week" for the most parcels delivered from that vendor to a local address.  (Said, I might add, with a friendly grimace through a layer of perspiration, as he lugs the latest batch of boxes to our door.  Hey, northern Texas in high summer is hot.  What can I say?)

4.  It's amusing to watch local cyclists training in preparation for the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred race, held in Wichita Falls at the end of August.  The name describes the race very well:  100 miles through high summer heat, usually around 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) or even more.  Locals giggle at the more dedicated cyclists as they go rushing past them, Spandex dripping with sweat - and sometimes running smack into the rear of vehicles ahead of them, because the riders have their heads down and aren't watching for road hazards.  I think it's the local version of light entertainment!  Whizz . . . zip . . . whoosh . . . CRUNCH!  "Thar goes another 'un!  You gotta new dent in your tailgate, buddy!"


If you're coming to LibertyCon at the end of June . . .

. . . you need to check and confirm your hotel booking ASAP.

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel (the venue for the convention) has installed a new booking system, and the LibertyCon organizers advised that we check our reservation.  Lo and behold, it wasn't in the new system!  We've fixed that, so we're OK for now, but I suspect that folks who don't check in advance may find themselves short of a room when they arrive.  (Some have been moved to the Marriott hotel downtown, as the Choo-Choo has converted one of its blocks to condos.)

If you're coming to the con, please get in touch with the Choo-Choo and confirm your reservation ASAP.  If there are any problems you can't resolve with them, please contact LibertyCon immediately.


Terrorists are being beaten back in Nigeria

While most news articles focus on the woes of ISIL in Syria, let's not forget that Boko Haram, Nigeria's home-grown fundamentalist Islamic terrorist movement, formally declared its allegiance to ISIL a couple of years ago - which led to a split in the organization.  It looks as if it's having as many problems in Nigeria as ISIL is having in the Middle East.  StrategyPage reports:

The Boko Haram split began in August 2016 when ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) announced that it was replacing Shekau, who was accused of mismanagement, with Abu Musab al Barnawi. ISIL believed Shekau devoted too much effort to killing fellow Moslems (especially civilians) rather than the real enemies of ISIL (local security forces and non-Moslems in general). ISIL leadership was also unhappy with the Boko Haram use of children and women as suicide bombers. That has become an issue in Nigeria because the use of children as suicide bombers has tripled this year (27 in the first three months of 2017 compared to nine in 2016). While the new Boko Haram leader has concentrated attacks on the security forces and non-Moslems he has also used children, especially females, as suicide bombers. Barnawi is a son of Mohammed Yusuf, one of the ISIL founders. Barnawi was appointed chief Boko Haram spokesman in January 2015. Although Barnawi has developed a following in Boko Haram Shekau refused to accept the ISIL decision.

Boko Haram is now split into competing factions which is nothing new as there have always been some factions, but not to this extent. At this point many Boko Haram loyalists regret the 2015 decision to become part of ISIL, which was believed to be an effort to avoid a split in Boko Haram as more radical members declared themselves followers of ISIL or even tried to go to Syria to join ISIL. Few African Islamic terrorists have done that, largely because of the cost and difficulty travelling from Africa to areas where ISIL is (or was) dominant. But in many parts of the world older Islamic terror organizations are fracturing because their more enthusiastic members prefer the ISIL style of ultra-violence.

. . .

In many parts of the northeast (mainly Borno state) ravaged by Boko Haram violence local civilian militias have been the key element keeping the Islamic terrorists from winning or, at this point, rebuilding ... Officially called the Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force or CJTF). There are about 30,000 CJTF volunteers and most are now armed. About two percent of those who joined CJTF have been killed and many more have been wounded or injured while on duty. In effect, about ten percent of the CJTF men have been injured. But the soldiers respect them, the local civilians depend on and support them while Boko Haram has come to fear them.

. . .

By the end of 2014 some CJTF groups were launching attacks on Boko Haram, and usually winning because they knew the area and people better and often were able to launch a surprise attack at night. A major factor in this was that in the more remote areas, like near the Sambisa Forest, the CJTF groups contained a lot of local hunters. These men are professional hunters who thrive in rural areas where there is a lot more game than people. CJTF first demonstrated to the army the skills of local hunters who tracked game for a living. The army noted that the success of CJTF attack units was largely the result of local hunters. Soon the army began to hire some of the hunters who were exceptional trackers as well as offering bounties if they could track down certain Boko Haram men or groups.

There's more at the link.

I submit it's important to keep an eye on what's happening with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism all over the world, because it's likely to draw in US forces to a greater or lesser extent as it develops.  As ISIL is being beaten back in Syria and Iraq, it's sending its forces back to the parts of the world they originally came from, and encouraging them to set up local ISIL 'branches' and continue their terrorist activities there.  We saw that in the Philippines last month, where ISIL motivated local Muslim fundamentalists to try to take over an entire city (a situation which has still not been resolved).  Nigeria is another flashpoint, one that may still blow up in new and deadly ways as ISIL sends more resources that way.  So is Yemen, where Iran (nominally an enemy of ISIL, but which allows the latter to operate from its territory into Afghanistan) has whipped up a full-blown civil war.

Modern fundamentalist Islamic terrorism may have had its roots in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, but its tentacles have spread to many countries since then, and it shows no signs of slacking off.  ISIL's latest calls to its members and sympathizers to attack Western European nations and civilians are merely the latest episode in an ongoing war of attrition.  We'll do well to keep an eye on what's going on around the world, to see from where the next wave of terror may spread outwards to create fresh mischief and mayhem, as 'refugees' from those areas arrive on our shores to claim 'asylum'.  There are already thousands of them in European nations.  If you think that won't happen here, too . . . think again.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

The tyranny of the über-state - and what happens when it breaks down

Fred Reed has a very thought-provoking essay.  Here's a lengthy excerpt.

“The consolidation of the states into one vast empire, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of ruin which has overwhelmed all that preceded it.” Robert E. Lee

The man was perceptive. Amalgamation of the states under a central government has led to exactly the effects foreseen by General Lee.

In, say, 1950, to an appreciable though imperfect extent America resembled a confederacy. Different regions of the America had little contact with each other, and almost no influence over one another. The federal government was small and remote. Interstates did not exist, nor of course the internet, nor even direct long-distance telephone dialing. West Virginia, Alabama, Massachusetts, New York City, Texas, and California had little in common, but little conflict arose since for practical purposes they were almost different countries. They chiefly governed themselves. The  proportion of federal to state law was small.

It is important to note that regional differences were great. In 1964 in rural Virginia, the boys brought shotguns to school during deer season. Nobody shot anybody because it wasn’t in the culture. The culture was uniform, so no one was upset. It is when cultures are mixed, or one rules another, that antagonism comes.  Such shotgun freedom would not have worked in New York City with its variegated and often mutually hostile ethnicities.

Regions differed importantly in degree of freedom, not just in the freedom of local populations to govern themselves but also in individual freedom. It made a large difference in the tenor of life. If in Texas, rural Virginia, or West Virginia you wanted to build an addition to your house, you did. You didn’t need licenses, permits, inspections, union-certified electricians. Speed limits? Largely ignored. Federal requirements for Coast Guard approved flotation devices on your canoe? What the hell kind of crazy idea was that?

. . .

Then came the vast empire, the phenomenal increase in the power and reach of the federal government, which really means the Northeast Corridor. The Supreme Court expanded and expanded and expanded the authority of Washington, New York’s store-front operation. The federals now decided what could be taught in the schools, what religious practices could be permitted, what standards employers could use in hiring, who they had to hire. The media coalesced into a small number of corporations, controlled from New York but with national reach. More recently we have added surveillance of everything by Washington’s intelligence agencies.

Tyranny at home, said said General Lee. Just so. This could happen only with the consolidation of the states into one vast empire.

Tyranny comes easily when those seeking it need only corrupt a single Congress, appoint a single Supreme Court, or control the departments of one executive branch. In a confederation of largely self-governing states, those hungry to domineer would have to suborn fifty congresses. It could not be done. State governments are accessible to the governed. They can be ejected. They are much more likely to be sympathetic to the desires of their constituents since they are of the same culture.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.

There's another aspect to this, one I've seen in action at first hand in South Africa, and (in the opposite sense) in the former Soviet Union.  It's a political and social and cultural phenomenon, but it's rooted in Newton's Third Law of Motion:  'To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction'.  In cultural terms, a government or political philosophy may apply pressure to achieve and maintain a particular effect in society.  When that pressure is removed, the countervailing pressure against it - the 'equal and opposite reaction' - will immediately result in the opposite effect being at least strengthened, if not becoming dominant.

In South Africa, the political and racial philosophy of apartheid decreed that every cultural 'nation' - in particular, African tribes - must be separated from all others, and emphasize its national or tribal identity.  This was taken so far that many tribes were forced into 'homelands', some of which became nominally 'independent'.  The idea, of course, was to prevent the adoption of any overarching Black or African identity - 'divide and rule' in a tribal context.  However, when apartheid collapsed (which was demographically inevitable), the result was a rush to emphasize national unity over any and all divisions of tribe, culture, language, etc.  (Those divisions are very real, illustrated by the fact that to this day, South Africa has no less than eleven official languages:  English, Afrikaans [a Dutch derivative dialect], and nine tribal tongues.)  It was the opposite of apartheid . . . call it an enforced 'togetherheid', if you like.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union emphasized a strong central government under Russian hegemony.  The states that had made up the Russian Empire were forcibly amalgamated into the USSR, their ethnic, cultural and language divisions forcibly dismantled, with the Communist Party demanding and enforcing an overarching Soviet and Marxist-Leninist identity that subsumed all others . . . or so they thought.  However, when the Soviet Union collapsed, those ethnic divisions reasserted themselves.  The enforced union disintegrated, with its component ethnic divisions and former independent states splintering off from the central state as fast and as far as they could.  To this day, Russia is a far smaller entity than the former USSR that it dominated.  It's trying to reassert its political domination, but this is often fiercely resisted by the former Soviet states around it.

In both cases, South Africa and the USSR, we see the 'equal and opposite reaction' in full swing.  In South Africa, the reaction was against the former orthodoxy of separation and towards unity.  In the Soviet Union, the reaction was against the former orthodoxy of unity and towards separation.

Consider Mr. Reed's thesis in the light of those examples.  The USA was, until the mid-20th century, content to muddle along with strong regional identities and cultures and customs, governed with a light and careful hand from the federal hub in Washington.  In the half-century since then, that's been overturned.  The federal government has demanded - and achieved - much greater domination over the states, and imposed cultural norms from its centralized perspective that were (and still are) sometimes diametrically opposed to regional views and norms.  This reached its apogee under the Obama administration, where health care, housing, immigration and refugee resettlement, and many other issues were dictated nationally and imposed willy-nilly.  President Trump is trying to undo some of those aspects, but his administration is also centralist at its core, and may not place a high priority on undoing the federal controls that it's inherited.

I suspect a great deal of the political tensions we're currently experiencing are the fruit of this dichotomy.  Other commenters are noticing it too, although perhaps not equating it with an 'equal and opposite reaction' in political terms.  As David French noted last week:

A civil war results when the desire for unification and domination overrides the desire for separation and self-determination. The American civil war is a classic example. There were grounds for separation — North and South were culturally different on a scale that dwarfs modern divides between red and blue — but the North did not consent. It sought to first unify and then transform the southern states. By contrast, had Scotland voted to leave the United Kingdom, would England have mobilized in response? No, the U.K. came close to its own national divorce, the dissolution of a union generations older than the American republic.

Here is the core American question. As we continue our own “big sort,” will the desire to separate trump the desire to dominate? Or can we instead choose to tolerate? We’re still quite far from the kind of near-miss that Britain just experienced, and we’re even farther removed from the vicious strife of a true civil war, but the trends are pointing toward continued matching of like with like — and along with that, increasing hostility against communities not like our own. In my Memorial Day column, I asked what I believe to be the key question: “Is there a single significant cultural, political, social, or religious trend that is pulling Americans together more than it is pushing us apart?”

I don’t believe a civil-war mentality will save America. There are simply too many differences and too many profound disagreements for one side or the other to exercise true political dominance. Red won’t beat blue in the same way that blue beat gray. Adopt the civil-war mentality and you’ll only hasten a potential divorce. No, absent a presently unforeseen unifying ideology, event, or person, the idea that will save America is one of the oldest ideas of the Republic: federalism.

So long as we protect the “privileges and immunities” of American citizenship, including all of the liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights, let California be California and Texas be Texas. De-escalate national politics. Ideas that work in Massachusetts shouldn’t be crammed down the throats of culturally different Tennesseans. Indeed, as our sorting continues, our ability to persuade diminishes. (After all, how can we understand communities we don’t encounter?)

If we seek to preserve our union, we’re left with a choice — try to dominate or learn to tolerate? The effort to dominate is futile, and it will leave us with a permanently embittered population that grows increasingly punitive with each transition of presidential power. There is hope, however, in the quest to tolerate. Our Constitution is built to allow our citizens to govern themselves while protecting individual liberty and providing for the common defense. It’s built to withstand profound differences without asking citizens or states to surrender their strongest convictions. We can either rediscover this federalism, or we may ultimately take a third path — we may choose to separate.

Again, more at the link.

I don't know what the future holds for America, but I'm seriously worried about it in the light of current events and the attitudes they're revealing.  In a way, it's almost a political and cultural form of xenophobia - we're afraid of being dominated by the other, so we're becoming increasingly intolerant of it and its disciples.

I fear we've lost sight of Benjamin Franklin's sage admonition:

"We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."


The baseball shootings: ignoring the human tragedy

I'm sure all Americans in their right (not right-wing, but logical, balanced, fair, reasonable) minds will be as horrified as I was at the deliberate targeting of Republican congressional representatives at a baseball practice by a deranged shooter yesterday.  However, the reactions to that tragedy speak volumes.  Two days ago, before the shooting, I asked whether America was a house divided, and if so, whether it could stand.  I suspect this tragedy has gone a long way towards answering my question.

Many far-left-wing and progressive commenters actually rejoiced in it.  (Click the image below for a larger view.)

There's more at the link.  And, yes, I'm aware that when tragedy strikes a left-wing personality, there are many equally deranged, bitter and twisted people on the right who'll delight in it (as happened, for example, after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in 2011).  I'm not trying to demonize only one side here:  merely showing that basic humanity and common decency are conspicuous by their absence in far too many of those who have become politically radicalized, no matter what side of the political aisle they may choose.

Most commenters refused to acknowledge (or perhaps didn't even think about) the human tragedy involved.  Multiple families are traumatized right now, their loved ones fighting for their lives.  Even the family of the perpetrator (if he had any surviving family - I don't know) must be agonizing over why he chose to do what he did.  However, almost no commenters had a word to say about that aspect.  They turned the tragedy into an argument about pet hobby-horses like gun control, or used it as an opportunity to condemn their political opponents.  Humanity was conspicuous by its absence.

Folks, I've been shot.  I've shot other people.  I've been present at far too many incidents where others were shot.  There's always a human dimension (as there was, for example, in the wartime death of two young Cuban soldiers, about which I wrote here).  If you can't see it, or don't care about it, then you've become less than human yourself.  You don't have to don sackcloth and ashes and make a big, public, wailing exhibition of yourself:  but for heaven's sake, recognize the truth that a tragedy like this is a human tragedy, irrespective of political, social, economic, cultural or any other affiliation.  As such, it should - it does - affect all human beings.  John Donne was right.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

In losing that realization, that perspective, we are all impoverished . . . and we are all endangered, because if humanity becomes dehumanized, what is left to us?  And, if America is so polarized, so divided, that all we can do is rejoice over death or injury to those on the 'other side' . . . what is left to our nation and our society except mutual hatred, contempt and destruction?

May Almighty God have mercy on us all.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Larry's on a tear again

Long-time friend in cyber- and meatspace, bestselling author, and fellow blogger Larry Correia is at it again.  This time he tackles the boss of, Mike Glyer.

I had some exposure to the vitriol and nastiness of File770 denizens when I called for a boycott of Tor Books over the unconscionable behavior of one of their staff.  Those who frequent it decided to be rude to and about me, even though I'd never darkened their online doorstep and none of them knew me at all.  I was therefore not surprised when they targeted author Jon del Arroz (whom we've met in these pages before) for his not-politically-correct views.  However, they were so rude that they attracted Larry's attention - and he's responded in his usual tactful (NOT!), diplomatic (NEVER!), mild-mannered (HA!) way.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the seedy underbelly of fandom, File 770 is a garbage gossip column website run by a scumbag named Mike Glyer. His whole shtick is to be a news aggregator for the sci-fi/fantasy business and collect links from people who actually create things for a living. He play acts at being an impartial journalist, but in reality everything he does is slanted to screw over anybody he doesn’t like.

He chums the water for his horde of psychos so they can go about forming internet lynch mobs, boycotts, and black ballings. But then he pretends to be all impartial and above the fray. If you ever want to lose all faith in humanity, read the comments there. His regulars range between basement dwelling goons, creepy weirdo stalkers, and angry rainbow haired social justice warriors.

If you are in any writer’s groups with conservative or libertarian authors in them, then you’ve inevitably heard about this shithole website. We mostly call it Vile 770 or File 666. At one point or another that page has tried to start shit with every author who gets on Glyer’s bad side. Because when you are ever the nail that sticks up, the File 770 crew are the hammer that wants to knock you back down. Luckily, they’re about as effective as a Fisher Price squeaky hammer. So mostly we just mock them.

There's much more at the link.  It's classic Correia gold.  Go read the whole thing.

(By the way, I've never spoken with Mr. Glyer in any way, shape or form, so I'm not going to be rude about him myself:  but I will say that File770 commenters are consistently negative and rude to and about anyone who doesn't toe the progressive, left-wing, social-justice-warrior line.  I therefore suspect that Larry's rant is more on-target than not.)


This is why, given any choice at all . . .

. . . you should never, ever live more than two or three floors up in an apartment tower (or, for that matter, work above that level in a skyscraper office building).

That's Grenfell Tower in London, on fire.  There are many more pictures at the link.  Several fatalities have been confirmed, with more people as yet unaccounted for.

Ever since I was a sector officer in civil defense in Cape Town, South Africa, responsible for several high-rise office blocks in the city center, I've had a real phobia for such places.  When one is taught just how many things can go wrong, to cause a fire or other disaster, one realizes how little chance one has in places like that.  9/11 proved that for terrorists, such towers are an open invitation to mass casualty events, too.

I realize some people have no choice but to live and/or work in such buildings.  For them, I have the following advice.

  1. Live and/or work as low in the building as you can - preferably within three floors of the ground, if at all possible.  If you're forced to live or work higher than that, have a plan to get lower in the building at the earliest possible opportunity in the event of a problem, even if this is against company policy or the orders of your superiors.  What's more important - your job, or your life?  Speed can save you.  Delay can kill you.  Ask those who got out of the Twin Towers on 9/11.  Those who didn't or couldn't move fast, didn't survive.  (If you're partly disabled, as I am, this is an even more important consideration.  I can't move fast or far on foot, even if I want to.  I've got to be ready to move as quickly as possible if I'm going to make it out of such a situation.)
  2. Be prepared to evacuate in the event of fire or other disaster.  This includes having a 'bug-out bag' permanently packed and ready, containing all your essential documentation, medication, a change of clothing, etc.  Have one for each family member at home, and have one for yourself at work as well.  The change of clothing is particularly important.  Have you ever watched office workers trying to walk down twenty-plus flights of stairs in high heels?  I have.  It's not pretty - and they delay everyone behind them, too.  If they kick off their shoes to walk faster, their feet can (and will) be trodden on by others, causing possibly crippling injury - and if they're not used to walking in bare feet, they'll be hurting and slowing down within a few floors.  Having a pair of good walking or running shoes can be, literally, a life-saver.
  3. Know every potential exit route available to you, including ones that may be officially 'off limits'.  In the event of disaster, who cares if some bureaucrat has decreed that this passage is for higher-ranking personnel only, or that stairwell is reserved for use by certain floors?  If your life is at stake, you don't have time to argue or discuss the matter.  Make sure you know how to get to any and all of them.
  4. If you might potentially be trapped in your apartment or office, consider providing your own means of escape.  This is where being lower in the building can literally be a life-saver.  You can buy emergency rope ladders that are installed on your balcony or just inside an opening window, and can unroll to give you a way to reach the ground down the outside of the building.  If you can't afford one, or don't have space to store one, you can at least have a safety or rescue rope long enough to reach the ground from your location, with knots tied in it at regular intervals to help you get down it.  (Fitness and strength are essential to use it safely, of course.)  Have one or two portable fire extinguishers on hand (preferably at least 4-5 pounds weight, so as to have multi-use capacity, and rated for fire types A, B and C), not only to put out fires in your vicinity, but also to help you get past or through flames on your way out of the building.  Fire masks that allow you to breathe and protect your eyes will be extremely valuable (I've tested this one, with acceptable results).  Also, keep on hand a tool or tools that can smash windows, force open doors, etc.  Fire axes, pry bars, Halligan tools, etc. are used by fire departments for a reason.  There's no reason you can't own and use them, too - and some training may be useful.  In particular, don't forget those most basic, yet most essential, of tools - a good pocket flashlight and folding knife!  You can often take them places where you can't take something bigger or stronger.  Make sure both are stout units that will stand up to being dropped or abused.  When you're trying to save your life, you may not be able to handle or use them gently.
  5. Have multiple ways to attract the attention of emergency services.  A flashlight or lantern with a strobe setting, an emergency whistle, an air horn - there are many devices that will help to announce your presence and indicate that you need help.  They might save your life.
  6. Realize that if you're caught in a crowd, you're effectively no more than a lemming among lemmings.  A crowd is not intelligent.  It's an amorphous mob of individuals 'following the herd'.  It can be stampeded, driven, manipulated . . . all bad things.  Get out, fast, and get clear of the crowd.  You'll be a lot safer that way.
  7. As you get clear of the crowd, remember that predators always gather to prey on the herd.  If you move away, you give up your anonymity among the mass of people.  I guarantee you, at that fire last night, muggers, pickpockets and other criminals were drawn to the mass of people evacuating the building, or just gawking at the flames.  As you get clear, remain alert to your surroundings, and be prepared to fend off unknown would-be 'helpers' or other potential threats.
  8. Pre-arrange contact methods and routines for your family.  If anyone is caught up in an emergency, they should know whom to call to leave messages that they're OK (or not), that they've got away from the scene of the problem, and where they can be found (or need to be picked up).  It's a lot easier, particularly for kids, if they have a cellphone pre-programmed with emergency numbers, so all they have to do is punch one button, or select one particular entry in their address book.  (Of course, in a major emergency, the cellphone networks will almost certainly be overloaded, so calls may not get through.  Text messaging may be more reliable;  or you might want to invest in some Family Radio Service (FRS) two-way radios, to maintain contact with those who are close enough to you to use them.  They're very handy if you're in a group, and get separated - you can ask each other where you are, and navigate to a recognizable landmark where you can be reunited.  You can also use them if you're in different vehicles, to keep in touch and arrange to meet up at a convenient stopping place.)

Those are just a few suggestions.  My primary one, however, is still not to live and/or work in such buildings.  It's a lot safer if you're not there in the first place!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Question of the day

If it's certain, beyond any doubt, that this man did what he's accused of doing . . . why is he still breathing?

That is all.


What is this 'morning' of which you speak?

Kili says, "I reject your morning!"


"Every house divided against itself will not stand." That goes for America, too.

In watching the brouhaha over alleged links between President Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, and allegations of who said what, when, to whom, and why, and what the words mean, I'm driven to a conclusion already reached by many.

This nation is irreparably, irreconcilably divided against itself.

That became clear during the Presidential elections last year.  Even before the vote, researchers identified several key areas in which the two sides of our political divide have become more and more divided.  What's more, that divide has come to dominate different areas and groups in our body politic.  To name just one example, since President Trump's election, the mainstream news media (dominated to an extraordinary extent by the left, progressive wing of US politics) have unleashed a barrage of insults, disdain and attacks that is almost unprecedented in its uniformity.  Sure, past Presidents have faced similar attacks from a segment of US media;  but there were always almost equal and opposing resources to respond in kind.  That's no longer the case, thanks to the domination of the media by left-wing money and groups and individuals.  Alternative views are all but drowned out by the hubbub.

What's more, the mainstream media no longer care about non-partisanship.  They openly advocate for one side or the other.  A classic example is an article in the Washington Post last Sunday titled 'Is media coverage of Trump too negative? You’re asking the wrong question.'  A key quote:

The president’s supporters often say his accomplishments get short shrift. But let’s face it: Politicians have no right to expect equally balanced positive and negative coverage, or anything close to it. If a president is doing a rotten job, it’s the duty of the press to report how and why he’s doing a rotten job.

There's more at the link.

I happen to believe, unlike the author, that the question in the title of the article is the right question, and needs answering:  and I believe that her cavalier dismissal of the president as 'doing a rotten job' is her own partisan perspective, rather than based on fact.  Therein lies the problem.  She would probably dismiss me as a 'right-wing nut job', rather than take my views seriously.  (I tried very hard to read her article with an open mind, but the partisanship of which it reeked made that very difficult indeed.)  Of course, the same bias and partisanship can be found in articles on the other side of the political divide, as well.  The problem cuts both ways.

A blogger writing under the name of Didact summed up the divide in an article last January.

On the one side, we have always had the small-government libertarian types. Back in the days of Jefferson and Adams, they were the Southern Democrats. They were primarily advocates of an agrarian-focused, decentralised, minimalist, small-government philosophy that generally left people the hell alone to get on with their own business.

On the other side, we have also always had the mercantilists, the industrialists, the big-government centralists. They believed that a strong central government was absolutely required to prevent the new nation from being overwhelmed by its competitors and sinking into irrelevance or slavery under a foreign power.

That ideological difference has persisted, in various forms and espoused by various parties, all the way through to the modern day. That is of course well known. Eventually, the divide became so deep and so bitter that it resulted in the War Between the States, which Northerners rather oxymoronically refer to as the Civil War, and Southerners somewhat more accurately refer to as the War of Northern Aggression.

That divide was eventually papered over, at least somewhat, by the North's crushing victory over the South. To this day, the South still hasn't fully recovered from that defeat and the years of the Reconstruction Era that followed- and the wounds and scars inflicted by that defeat still linger on.

But- and here is the key difference between then and now- even throughout those times of bitterest division and discord, the two sides were able to talk to each other, right up until the time for talking was over and there was nothing left to do but start shooting.

And that is precisely what America has now lost.

You will not find finer exemplars of the two spirits of America than Presidents Adams and Jefferson. One believed completely in a strong central government; the other believed equally completely in a weak one. The two argued, often contentiously and always with eloquence and conviction, in favour of their respective positions.

Yet the two of them were also closer than brothers. Their respect for each other transcended their political differences and united them in their love for their new country, and their desire to see it succeed. Not for nothing have they been called "Founding Brothers".

This is what America has lost today. The two sides of the debate no longer talk to each other. They talk past each other.

Again, more at the link.

Many people recognize the existence of this divide in America;  but not many have thought about its implications for our nation as a whole.  Well, I'm a pastor, albeit a retired one.  I try to look at and think about this country from the perspective of my faith, just as others will see it through the filters of their own biases and perceptions and bedrock perspectives.  That faith makes me ask:  have things gone too far?  Have we reached a tipping point?

Jesus warned us:  "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand."  Right now, our 'kingdom' (or country) is divided against itself.  Right now, our cities - overwhelmingly left-of-center in their political orientation - are divided against the heartland that feeds and sustains them.  Right now, our houses - our families - are often divided on political, social and economic issues.

Can this nation, in its present form, survive a divide so deep, so bitter, and so vitriolic?  I don't know . . . but I have real and very serious doubts.  What say you, readers?