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SBA Is Prime Swamp-Draining Real Estate


News broke yesswamp_fever_by_andreewallin-d36oonxterday that President-elect Donald Trump has tapped former wrestling executive Linda McMahon as leader of the Small Business Administration. The announcement immediately triggered sneering and snark from hipsters horrified that anyone related to trashy, macho, violent, misogynistic television would be allowed to sully the hallowed halls of the SBA. “What qualifications” they ask “does she have other than the fact that she donated $6 million to a super PAC funding Trump’s presidential campaign and $5 million to the Trump foundation?”

Actually, McMahon has served as the head of a joint venture which she founded called Women’s Leadership LIVE, which promotes opportunities for women in business and public service. This experience would seem to fit well with the SBA’s programs, including the Women’s Business Centers program and the 8(a) Business Development Program which steers federal contracts to businesses owned by women and minorities.


A Boy Named Lucia


15420922_10154208922519072_7420073817290444484_nEvery year around this time, Sweden celebrates the feast of Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr who according to legend brought aid to persecuted Christians in the dead of night, her head adorned by a candle-lit wreath. This is commemorated yearly by a reenactment, usually performed by children, carrying candles and singing Christian songs.

Most major Swedish companies do their best to capitalize on this cutesy tradition, but this year Åhlens, one of the largest department store-chains in the country, decided to go above and beyond the traditional and the ordinary. On the cover of the Christmas edition of their company magazine as well as their website, they chose to use a young black boy as the Lucia-model, dressed in the traditional gown and wreath, and the internet lost its collective mind. The comments ranged from “this is genocide on white people” and “A disgusting affront on Nordic tradition” to the more blunt “You make me puke.” Just a few days after the picture was published it had to be taken down after the boy’s mother asked the company to protect the boy from what ended up being a racist hate-storm.


Obesity, Fatty Foods, Death, and Science


shutterstock_513863296Something is killing us — beyond the fact that life itself is a terminal condition. This week brought news that the US mortality rate overall has risen slightly since 2014. “It’s a definite milestone in the wrong direction, and the concern a lot of us have is that it reflects largely the approximately three-decade-long epidemic of obesity,” Stephen Sidney, a California research scientist, told the Wall Street Journal. Death rates rose for eight of the 10 leading causes, including heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, injuries (including drug overdoses), diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and suicide. Cancer death rates continue to decline, and influenza deaths were unchanged. The uptick in deaths means that life expectancy rates for babies born today have dropped a bit.

For something as multifactorial as overall death rates, a certain modesty is necessary in interpreting the data and/or offering hypotheses. I have my favorite suspicion, and I freely acknowledge that it’s a hunch. A large number of Americans are living alone (27 percent in 2014 compared with 13 percent in 1960) and becoming alienated from community, church, and neighborhood groups (the so-called mediating institutions of society). A 2010 AARP survey found that one third of adults over 45 reported that they were chronically lonely, whereas only 20 percent said the same a decade earlier. Not everyone who lives alone is lonely, and some people who live with others are, but the rise of loneliness is real and has measurable health effects.

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2 Cheers for NGOs


Skipsul’s recent post on the nefarious role that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) sometimes unwittingly play in the third world is an excellent read and echoes other recent articles critical of NGOs as a whole. (A Jerusalem Post piece called them the “new feudalism”). As an American expat working for an NGO in Iraq, I felt somewhat compelled to respond, not out of any desire to “defend the herd,” but simply to offer a little insight into their nature, both good and bad. I’ll restrict my commentary only to the areas I’ve worked in or observed personally. I would suspect some of what I say might not be relevant or applicable to NGO work outside of Iraq.

Important to note, NGO work is broadly divided into two often mutually exclusive parts; advocacy and humanitarian work. Most NGOs exist either to advocate and lobby for a particular issue or to provide a particular humanitarian service. You might assume they do both as a matter of course, but with rare exceptions, most NGOs stick to one or the other. The reasons for this are quite simple and each have their tradeoffs. Advocacy work is inherently political in nature. Either you’re lobbying for local/foreign governments do do something (give money, provide assistance, etc) or you’re lobbying for local/foreign governments to stop doing something (genocide, discrimination, neglect) Since local governments often bear some responsibility for the disaster being addressed in the first place (Iraq especially), advocacy NGOs can find themselves at loggerheads with local politicians. And believe me, you will never find a more petty and conniving politician than the ones this country produces. As such, advocacy groups are usually reluctant to delve into humanitarian work because these efforts would be hampered by their too-public profile.


Postcards from Vienna


vienna7Last Sunday, Norbert Hofer lost the Austrian presidential election to Alexander Van der Bellen. This was a re-run; the original vote was held in May, with Van der Bellen, an elderly former Green Party leader, defeating Hofer by little more than 30,000 votes. Hofer’s party — the Freedom Party — challenged the results of the May election on the grounds of procedural irregularities: The glue on the absentee ballots, they said, was defective. The Constitutional Court ruled in their favor and called for a repeat. 

Hofer is widely described as a far-right candidate, although I don’t think this term helps readers to understand what he represents. That said, I’m not sure that I can explain what he represents, even after a week of asking Austrian people what they thought he represented. I was surprised by the vagueness or the evasiveness of the response when I asked people, “So, what does Hofer stand for? What’s his ideology?” 

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The Captain of the Nevada: Dec. 7, 1941

USS Nevada, beached and burning at Hospital Point

Author’s Note: I read “Day of Infamy” by Walter Lord when I was 11 years old. It is still the best first-hand account of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A great read you won’t be able to put down.

At 8 am on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the 183 Japanese planes of the first attack wave descended on Pearl Harbor. Admiral Nagumo’s attack fleet was less than 100 miles from Pearl. Luckily the Enterprise, the huge American aircraft carrier, was at sea. Not so lucky was the fact that the American battleship fleet was anchored and inert, tied up in a neat row called Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. The battleships were huge sitting targets. Even if someone had sounded an alarm when the planes were spotted on radar, it wouldn’t have made that much difference as it takes two hours for a battleship’s boilers to come up to full pressure so she can move properly. All of the battleships at Pearl had dead cold boilers that morning. Completely tied up at anchor, after coming up to full boiler pressure, it would have taken another 45 minutes with the help of multiple tugboats to get a battleship away from Battleship Row and moving.


Trump Picks EPA Head, Left Loses Mind


pruittMany conservatives were nervous when Donald and Ivanka summoned Al Gore to Trump Tower for a discussion on climate change. Any fears were put to rest Wednesday when his transition team chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.

Pruitt gained national attention by suing the EPA over burdensome regulations expected to harm Oklahoma businesses and residents. He challenged the agency’s radical rules on carbon emissions, cross-state air pollution, regional haze, and greenhouse gasses, which relied more on social justice than hard science.


Sanctuary House


On Thanksgiving Day, I stopped by the palatial home of my longtime friend and lawyer, E. Hobart Calhoun, a fellow Mensa member, bon vivant, and part-time oenophile. He was burning leaves in his front yard. I jumped out of my reconditioned hybrid Ford Falcon and raced to stomp out the flames, feverishly checking for any sign of the EPA death squads routinely patrolling our neighborhoods these days.

“Have you lost your mind?” I asked E. as I stepped out of my rugged Duluth steel-threaded overalls, which had caught fire in spite of Duluth’s guarantee that they were flammable or inflammable, whichever word is right.

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The Perversion of the Marriage Contract


Paul A Rahe has a post on the Main Feed, The Haunting Fear That Someone is Having a Good Time, where he talks about the absurdity of the modern view on sexual consent and how it removes passion from the relationship. The last several years have seen a rise in accusations of sexual assault on college campuses with the rise of Kangaroo courts treating accusations as truth without any investigation, frequently resulting in the expulsion of the accused without any opportunity to defend himself in a court of law.

Whether it is Mattress Girl or The Duke University Lacrosse team, real damage has been done to young men based on false allegations that were acted upon without any legitimate investigation or trial. This has resulted sexual consent contracts. I am not kidding. There is even an app! I’m sure most of you already know this.

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The Eastern Border – An Important Podcast

Official Logo for the Podcast

Having grown up in the seventies and eighties, I distinctly remember the time when the Soviet Union was A Thing. I remember when nuclear arms were always to the front of our minds, and the policy of assured mutual destruction was supposedly the only thing that kept us from assured mutual destruction. It was such a reality that about a decade ago, when discussing history with a few people younger than me and some professors older than me, I was surprised to see what they understood about Soviet Communism and its place in history.

For many, they have less information on the atrocities of the Soviets and more on the ideals those atrocities were supposedly performed for. I recall discussing the fall of the Soviets with my history of film professor who lamented the fall of Communism when it was the only politico-economic philosophy that supposedly cared about the common man. I was surprised to hear that, as I understood there was some great atrocities against these common men they philosophy supposedly lifted up. Such objections were usually brushed off with claims moral equivalency that today still wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny.

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When You’re So Out of Touch You Don’t Even Know You’re Out of Touch


Paul Krugman went on a snippy little Twitter rant the other day. (In case you forgot, Paul Krugman is the NY Times columnist and Nobel-prize-winning economist who predicted the stock market would crash on Trump’s election and never recover. Within a week, it hit record highs.) He was just gob-smacked that some people are saying elite New York Times columnists are out of touch with the rest of America.

A lot of people seem to be settling on the narrative that Trumpism reflects a backlash against the arrogance of liberal elites. Really?

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Don’t Do Dew


Friends don’t let friends drink Mountain Dew. Put aside your worries over pot, or cocaine, or crystal meth, there is a far more dangerous street drug out there, and it is legal for sale to even minors. It is dangerous, addictive, and should be banned for a wide variety of reasons. I speak from experience as a recovering Dewer. Yes, I too used to ride the Green Dragon. I know too well the horrors that stem from chugging even a single can of the Lizard. I too have woken up with a caffeine withdrawal headache in a strange cabin wondering what the hell I did the night before, with my stomach reminding me that whatever it was, I was regretting it now, and the only quick cure being another hit of Jade Mischief. There is nothing quite so horrible suffering through the shamrock shakes when you’re forced to go cold turkey, as you crave for one more, just one more please, of the Kermit Nectar. For the love of any children in your life, keep them away from chartreuse chanteuse.

When I was a child, it used to be pushed as “Dew it country cool!” and “Do the Dew” (eww), and it was always shown on TV as being the catalyst for wild rural fun. And my friends whispered of its magical powers to keep you awake all night long, but it has a sinister side. It has been more recently pushed to my own children under the slogan “Kickstart the night”, and this is perhaps a bit more honest of the sorts of mayhem this green mayhem can cause. Thankfully, modern science has finally untangled the secrets of this verdant horror, and I here present them to you.