It’s a Good Thing He Doesn’t Lisp

 

Brandon had a news conference of sorts today. It was great standup comedy though it shouldn’t have been. It was about the Omicron variant of Covid. But … was it?

Brandon started off with this line. “When I was elected, I said I would always be honest with you.”

He had me laughing from the beginning.

In the next sentence, he told us that the new variant was the OmNicron. Not Omicron. Has someone changed the Greek alphabet? Is Omicron too gender-specific or racist? With everything else these woke fools are doing, they may have. I just didn’t get the memo.

But Brandon then mispronounced it several more times in the course of his standup routine.

I know, he’s old. He’s always been mentally slow and is slower now. Crazy Brandon, right?

But then Brandon calls on St. Anthony to make a pronouncement. And St. Anthony pronounces it OmNicron as well.

What? Is dementia catchable? Evidently.

So, I’m laughing at these people.

Then, Brandon allows certain members of the press sycophancy in a no doubt pre-rehearsed manner to ask questions. And sure enough, it’s OmNicron again.

After that, I’m just glad Brandon doesn’t have a lisp. Yet.

In the latest episode of Take Back Our Schools, Bethany and Andrew interview political strategist and father of three, Rory Cooper, about the recent election of Glenn Youngkin as Virginia’s new governor. We discuss Rory’s experiences organizing parents against Covid school closures and the role that parents played in the recent election.

Bethany and Andrew also talk about the enormous damage Covid policies are doing to our children and discuss whether the new “Omicron” variant will shut down schools again.

This is the third installment of this series. Episode 1 introduces the series and Episode 2 featured journalist Suzy Weiss about her two recent pieces for Bari Weiss’s Common Sense Substack.

All Eyes on the Legal System, Again

 

You are forgiven for being distracted from the slow-motion train wreck unfolding before our eyes as it descends upon the US Capitol. Why watch politicians arguing over a massive inflation-inducing, pork-infested spending package wrapped in a looming debt-limit crisis when you can watch jury trials? At least it may be more fun to watch than more media and government fear-mongering over the Xi – excuse me – Omicron coronavirus variant. We must not offend our would-be overlords.

Two verdicts last week affirmed our jury system. Everyone knows that Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal was followed up by the convictions of three Georgia men in the murder of Ahmad Arbery. The winner was justice; the biggest winners may be the jurors themselves, who at least in the Rittenhouse trial withstood attempts to intimidate them. Kyle is a winner, too, but he will suffer consequences for many years to come.

The losers were legion, led by scores of delusional, narrative-pushing media personalities and their unquestioning, equally-deluded followers, coupled with grifting political operatives who feed media with false information. People are dead, and the trajectory of dozens of lives is forever altered, long after the cameras move on to the next “mostly peaceful protest.”

The frustration, of course, comes from the disconnect between early reports of alleged crimes to the reality that ultimately emerges. It proves the old adage that a lie gets halfway around the world while truth puts its boots on.

Americans have long been transfixed by jury and criminal trials, both real and imagined. There’s a reason “whodunit” murder mysteries, trials involving “Ponzi schemes,” police shows (Hill Street Blues), and crime-fighting television programs (Perry Mason, Matlack, et al.) have long been incredibly popular with media consumers since television became a thing. And even before (Dick Tracy et al.). They usually involve very colorful people in communities everywhere with a winning media formula – a victim, a criminal, someone being right or wrong, a pursuit of justice, gripping visuals, and sensational headlines. “Florida man” is often involved.

So buckle up because the courts – including the US Supreme Court – are center stage again this week.

Two “celebrity” trials began Monday, starting with the lurid underage sex crimes alleged of Ghislaine Maxwell, the late Jeffrey Epstein’s paramour and partner accused of trafficking underage girls for sex with famous and often very wealthy older men from Bill Gates to Prince Andrew. We’ve all heard the stories about the brilliant former math teaching being an FBI informant who “didn’t kill himself” in his badly-supervised New York federal prison. He hosted former President Bill Clinton several times at “Epstein Island.” Maxwell’s pre-trial detention has been somewhat more supervised. Interesting things are said, “under oath.” This is likely a good week for the cottage industry of “crisis public relations” experts. Perhaps we will hear again from famous Clinton-fixer Lanny Davis.

Credit Davis for the best “crisis communications” advice I’ve heard: “Tell it all, tell it early, and tell it yourself.” Sadly, that rarely happens, courtesy of defense lawyers, at least when crimes are alleged. In fairness, you do have a right to remain silent. And another one against self-incrimination. You know the thing.

The real story here may not be what happens to Maxwell, but to the people who were part of Epstein’s circle and the victims who were trafficked to “entertain” them. Conspiracy theories are already legion concerning just how wide – and how high – child sex trafficking networks go. Exposing and eradicating all involved would obviously be an excellent consequence. We’ll see.

Also beginning today is the fraud trial of actor Jussie Smollett. Daily Wire lays the foundation for an event that occurred three years ago.

In January 2019, Smollett claimed he was walking alone at night in Deep Blue Chicago during a polar vortex when two supporters of former President Donald Trump — who apparently happened to be carrying rope and bleach in the event they saw someone to attack that particular night — recognized him and brutally attacked him while yelling racial and homophobic slurs.

Smollett returned to a friend’s home and called the police, still wearing the noose that was apparently placed around his neck from his attackers. His story didn’t seem plausible on its face, as it is unlikely that such big supporters of Trump were fans of “Empire” to the extent that they knew Smollett was gay and where he would be in order to attack him.

It was later reported that Smollett hired two brothers whom he had previously worked with to stage the attack to raise his profile and hopefully get him a raise on “Empire” and further his acting career. The brothers alleged that Smollett paid them to buy plain red hats that he later claimed were “Make American Great Again” (MAGA) hats signaling the attackers’ support of Trump.

In September 2020, Smollett insisted he was “set up” and continued to claim that he was attacked by two white men wearing MAGA hats. The brothers who said they were paid to stage the attack are black. The Daily Wire reported at the time that Smollett suddenly started claiming he had two witnesses who could prove he did not fake the attack.

After Chicago police investigated Smollett’s original claims for two weeks, they suspected he had staged the attack.

But don’t worry about poor Jussie. He’s still feted at Hollywood-style red carpet events ahead of his trial. January 6th “insurrectionists” are not so fortunate. And just as we saw with the Rittenhouse allegations, many celebrities and politicians were very quick to pass politically correct judgment and defend Jussie, including our now-current Vice President.

It wasn’t the only hoax perpetrated against Donald Trump or his supporters over the past five years. And that doesn’t even include the Trump-Russia collusion hoax about which we continue to learn much. It already qualifies as the most significant political scandal in American history as it continues to unfold. You know why – federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies conspired with Democratic party officials and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign to influence an election and undermine a presidency. The Washington Post and New York Times have yet to return their Pulitzer prizes. or apologize for their phony reporting of the scandal, based on malign anonymous sourcing.

The last trial, of course, is Wednesday’s US Supreme Court abortion case hearing, Dobbs v. Jackson. Here’s a concise description:

In 2018, Jackson Women’s Health Organization challenged the constitutionality of Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, which prohibits nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with limited exceptions for fetal abnormalities and medical emergencies. Both the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the law was unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s precedents in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, both of which recognized the constitutional right to pre-viability abortion.

Expect lots of theater from both pro and anti-life advocates outside the US Supreme Court on Wednesday morning. It won’t be the first time.

Don’t expect a quick decision from SCOTUS, but ignore the parsing of activists and media personalities (redundancy alert) who will look for clues from the questions by Justices of the attorneys involved. The outcomes of such landmark cases are often not announced until near the end of the court’s term in late June, just in time to influence the forthcoming November 2022 elections. And there is no shortage of significant cases this term, many of which will be announced around that same time. But this one is the big tuna since many predict it may overturn Roe v. Wade and its sister ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, as all this unfolds this week, be wary of people donning blue or red jerseys who push early judgments and prognostications through political lenses. We’ve seen how that works out. Let the judicial system work. It did last week.

Speaking of distractions, the person most pleased might be this one. And probably his father. Best wishes to New York Post journalist Miranda Devine and her new book that publishes Tuesday, November 30. It will be tough breaking through all the media clutter, especially since major media and big tech giants squashed this story 13 months ago. A story that later proved to be true.

Charles Spurgeon and Winston Churchill were right: A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots.

Animal Control Officers Ep. 10: ‘Dis-bearing the Lawyers’

 

“The Stories of Animal Control Officers Joe Tuesday and Bill Cannon”

(With a nod to Jack Webb’s ‘Dragnet’ TV series…)

It had been a busy morning – returning two zoo escapees caught wandering the city. The zoo had left its gates open – again. As we returned to the office a call came in – a code 486, “Bear at the Bar”; in this case, the legal bar. Proceedings at the City Courthouse were halted due to an adult black bear on the premises.

I’m Sergeant Joe Tuesday, Senior Animal Control Officer. Bill Cannon is my partner. This is one of our stories.

The call had been shorter than a lawyer’s briefs. The court bailiff had an adult male black bear in the courtroom that had refused his request for peaceful removal. So we grabbed the truck with the bear cage in back (In my experience it was a terrible idea to put a wild bear in the back of the squad car – they don’t like seatbelts.) and proceeded to the courthouse with all due haste.

“Joe, do you think it’s Bruce Bronsky’s pet bear Blake again?”

“Maybe. Wild bears are rare in town.”

The Honorable Ralph Wehremeye in full judge regalia greeted us at the curb.

“Joe! That bear has completely disrupted my courtroom!”

“That’s unbear… er, unfortunate, your Honor.” He looked at me funny but I continued.

“Would this visiting ‘ursus americanus’ be Bruce Bronsky’s bear Blake?”

“Why yes it is Joe. How did you know?”

“Lucky guess. May I ask why Mr. Bronsky brought the bear to court?”

“Yes, that’s pertinent. The bear was his alibi for an incident with his neighbor.”

“His alibi?”

“Yes. His attorney maintains that Blake would vouch that Bruce was actually home in bed at the time when someone sprayed an uncomplimentary phrase on his neighbor, Mr. Ferdly’s fence.”

“The bear could vouch for him…?”

“Yes. Did you know that Bruce raised Blake since he was a baby and taught him sign language?”

“Wait, Bruce was a baby when he started raising the bear?”

“No! The bear was the baby. Bruce says he taught Blake sign language.”

“The Standard – American Sign Language (ASL)?”

“Um, no unfortunately. Bruce taught him French Sign Language (LSF) since Blake was originally from Quebec. It’s a little tricky since bears don’t have fingers. But we intended to ask the bear to confirm the alibi and Bruce would translate his answer for us.”

I looked around for a camera. Nope – didn’t see one. The judge was serious. I sighed and motioned the judge to continue.

“So, what happened then? Where is Bruce and why isn’t Blake – his pet bear – with him?”

“Well, shortly after Blake was sworn in to ‘tell the truth, the whole truth…etc.’, Blake growled and made a hand gesture. When we asked Bruce to translate he said Blake thought the proceedings were a farce, a charade and a canard, not to mention an outrageous waste of time and the taxpayer’s money! I thought that was a lot to say with a single hand gesture and I told Bruce that his key witness was skirting dangerously close to a contempt of court citation and instructed him to so advise the witness.”

I hoped my face didn’t show my growing skepticism. He continued.

“Bruce appeared to instruct the bear as directed but the bear simply made a rude noise, climbed onto the Defense table and attacked the counsel’s lunch bag! Apparently it was chicken salad with a touch of curry. And peas! Who puts peas in chicken salad? I issued a stern warning, saying that I could hold both of them in contempt unless they showed proper deference to and decorum in, the Court!

Blake completely ignored me but Bruce apologized and said he understood and was frankly disappointed with Blake’s attitude. He attributed it to the approaching winter hibernation and to Blake having stayed up late the previous night to watch David Letterman. In fact, it was Blake’s staying up late that allowed him to provide the alibi! I was going to ask the bear to tell me who the guests were. That would confirm that he wasn’t lying about being awake!”

I hated my inability to simply nod without asking further questions and blurted out “so, where is Bruce now, your Honor?”

“Well, I excused him because he is a fine gentleman and after all, he has a business to run. He owns the Bentwell Brewery over on Bowers Boulevard. Behind the bank. I assured him we’d sort things out so he could get ready for the lunch crowd. He promised me my usual table.”

I was beginning to understand. “So Bruce left Blake in custody of the Court?”

“Yes. And that’s where you come in. The bailiff hasn’t been able to restrain Blake. I realized we needed the professionals for this job.”

“Of course.”

With that, the Honorable Judge Wehremeye scurried off to his reserved seat at the Bentwell Brewery.

It was quite a story and frankly Blake the bear’s reaction was predictable and justified. Bill and I grabbed the equipment needed to convince Blake to cease his courtroom occupation.

“Joe, do we need the tranquilizer gun?”

“Not so fast my trigger-happy hombre. Probably not. He’s a pet. Bring it but be – careful! The last time you tried to use it, you accidentally bagged a nearby unsuspecting member of the town constabulary.”

“The traffic guy. Yeah –He had to be a good 100 yards away! We’re just lucky he was bent over tying his shoe and facing away when it landed. He was pretty peeved with us.”

“With you mostly. And I particularly don’t want to ‘accidentally’ bag any lawyers today. They’re not in season and are particularly dangerous in their natural habitat – the courtroom.” Bill nodded. “Anyway, they don’t appear to be in attendance. Let’s go restore order in the court.” Bill kept the gun pointed at the ground as we poked our heads around the courtroom door and peered in.

As described, Blake – a full-sized adult ursus – was contentedly chomping on the contents of the bag lunches left behind when the Prosecution and Defense counsels had abandoned their tables at the front.

“Should I trank him now!” Bill asked hopefully. I shook my head.

“He’s too big and so far remains calm. Tranking is our last resort. I don’t want to drag a sleeping black bear from the courtroom by hand. He must be over 600 pounds!”

“Bigger than my mother-in-law!”

I looked at him and sighed. “Bill, you’re not married…and leave the jokes to me.”

“Oh, right.”

I knew this bear. He liked cookies, bratwurst, and beer. In that order.

“Do you have the picnic basket?” Bill handed me our standard picnic basket, carried for just these circumstances.

I inventoried the contents. Yep – all set. It had the four fresh chocolate chip cookies and – wait a minute. There were only three. Bill shrugged and smiled guiltily. OK, then, three cookies, a bratwurst, and three cans of a popular local beer – a Summit Elderflower IPA. Bears are omnivores and like Bill, will eat anything. If the bear loved the beer, we would be friends forever. I turned to Bill.

“I’m going to casually stroll up to the table and see if I can lure Blake with the basket. Cover me with the tranquilizer.” Bill nodded and slowly prepped the gun while I approached Blake.

“Hello Blake!” I said in my friendliest manner. “Look what I have!”

Blake stopped his rummaging through the lunch bag as I approached. When I was within arm reach I opened the basket and offered him a cookie. He snatched it, sniffed it and promptly snarfed it down. I reached for another and started walking away. Blake followed.

As we hit the courtroom door, I popped a beer and handed it to him. “It’s OK Bill.” I said over my shoulder. “He’s over 21 – in bear years.”

Blake the bear quickly downed the first Summit Elderflower and put his arm around my shoulders, looking hopefully into the basket. I handed him the second. By the time he’d finished the last one we were both sitting inside the cage. I handed him the remaining item in the basket – the bratwurst. Blake liked it. As I eased myself from the cage Blake curled up in the corner and began snoring contentedly.

“And that’s how you handle a pet bear, Bill. I’ll tell the judge he can resume operations. Keep an eye on our friend.”

I found His Honor at the Brewery. Our conversation was brief. “Your court room’s clear.” He thanked me between bites of a nice looking bratwurst on a brioche bun.

When I returned to the truck I found Blake sleeping while Bill sang a familiar tune in a loud voice. It was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody:

Scaramouch, Scaramouch; can you do the fandango!
Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening, me!
Galileo, Galileo…Galileo Figaro – magnifico!”

We sang in “a capella” harmony through to end, finishing with a meloncholy

…Nothing really matters, to me, any way the wind blows….

Blake snored his approval.

We drove to the brewery where we found Mr. Bronsky. When we opened the cage, Blake ambled out, belched loudly and hugged Bruce before strolling back into the kitchen.

“Whoa – Did you give Blake a beer?”

“Three. It helped us get him home.”

“Right. I guess it would. How did you know it would work?”

“That’s Animal Control Tradecraft knowledge. And experience. Bears love beer. Fortunately they tend to be sleepy and gregarious inebriates rather than angry ones.” Bruce nodded thoughtfully.

“Mr. Bronsky, is it true that Blake knows sign language?”

Bruce grinned. “Nah. It was just too funny to resist – the idea of him in a courtroom and pretending to talk to him in a language only I could speak and understand? And they fell for it!”

“Where did you get the bear?”

“When I was younger and before I bought the brewery, I had a circus act – ‘Bruce Bronsky and the Bear’. We traveled all over the country. We would wrestle and he’d stand up and growl. Everyone would scream. Then I’d slip him a treat and he’d pretend to be knocked out. The kids loved it. He’s actually gentle as a lamb. Just looks fierce.”

“Why didn’t you bring Blake with you when you left?”

“I know the bailiff. He was in on the joke. Didn’t he tell you?”

“No. He forgot to mention that.”

“Dang. Well, sorry about that.” He shrugged. “Oh well; no harm – no foul. Thanks for taking good care of him. Lunch is on the house!”

Just then my cell phone rang. It was a moose call – that is, a call about a moose. A code 780. The moose had meandered into town from the marsh and was now moodily munching marigolds at Mrs. Meredith Malloy’s. This was the third call this week from her. I told Bill.

“What is it about those marigolds?” he wondered.

“According to Manfred McFarkmoon’s Moose manual, they find marigolds marvelous.”

“You just made that up.”

“Yep. Good catch.” He looked at the siren button and I nodded.

As we sped off, I thought to myself that some days are just better than others and this was one of them.

Fluvoxamine/Fluoxetine and Other FIASMA Fighters

 

The latest drugs off the shelf to show potential beneficial properties in regards to covid are fluoxetine and fluvoxamine.  Retrospective cohort studies have shown a significant risk reduction for hospitalizations and intubation or death in covid patients who are on antidepressants.  This has led to short-term use of both as yet another affordable potential therapeutic that has been here the whole time.

These two drugs in particular are known as SSRIs (Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitors) Prozac and Luvox their respective brand names.  Like many drugs they have multiple effects across the body, they are also inhibitors of ASM (acid sphingomyelinase) an enzyme that cleaves sphingomyelinase into two parts resulting in a ceramide and phosphorylcholine.

During infection, the virus will activate this ASM enzyme causing excess ceramide production which results in clustering of the ACE2 enzyme on the cell membrane.  In vitro removing ceramide will stop the infection and restoring it results in the infection returning.  This makes ceramide production a ripe target for pharmacotherapy via ASM inhibition or AC (acid ceramidase) upregulation which metabolizes ceramide.

Functional inhibitors of acid sphingomyelinase (FIASMA) include many drugs across the spectrum, not just antidepressants.  Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker that retrospective studies have also shown to reduce the covid fatality rate.  Benztropine an anticholinergic drug for Parkinson’s and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder inhibits ASM and is a Sigma 1 receptor ligand another theoretical mechanism of action that may contribute to its antiviral properties.  Clomiphene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) blocks both covid and Ebola virus in the lab.  Hydroxyzine, a common antihistamine was shown in a study to have a significant association with reduced mortality.

Fluvoxamine though of all these has generated the most buzz due to two recently published studies.  The first, an actual randomized placebo-controlled study had eighty patients receive 100-300 mg of fluvoxamine daily for fourteen days.  Seventy-two patients received placebo and six would go on to have worsening symptoms defined as hospitalization, shortness of breath, or oxygen saturation less than 92%.  In the treatment group, zero patients would meet the criteria for worsening symptoms.

The next study looked at an even lower dose of 50mg of fluvoxamine twice daily in sixty-five patients none of which were hospitalized and at a fourteen-day follow up no patients reported any residual symptoms.  The placebo group of forty-eight volunteers resulted in six hospitalizations and twenty-nine patients reported having residual symptoms at the follow up.  Fluvoxamine like benztropine is also a Sigma 1 receptor agonist; perhaps this dual mechanism of action explains the positive results.

Jacob Hyatt Pharm D.
Father of three, Pharmacist, Realtor, Landlord, Independent Health and Medicine Reporter
https://substack.com/discover/pharmacoconuts

hyattjn@gmail.com

Bitcoin GtjoZgxE7WpTkWRE6JiEiXfUpqbWKxH4g

Litecoin ML1N31UVz6sRfo2m2oLaorXgPexUtv3Q3t

www.jeffersongroverva.com

Further Reading and References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8488928/

Kornhuber J, Hoertel N, Gulbins E. The acid sphingomyelinase/ceramide system in COVID-19 [published online ahead of print, 2021 Oct 4]. Mol Psychiatry. 2021;1-8. doi:10.1038/s41380-021-01309-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8570398/

Han L, Shan G, Chu B, et al. Accelerating drug repurposing for COVID-19 treatment by modeling mechanisms of action using cell image features and machine learning [published online ahead of print, 2021 Nov 5]. Cogn Neurodyn. 2021;1-9. doi:10.1007/s11571-021-09727-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8322398/

Williams TL, Colzani MT, Macrae RGC, et al. Human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocyte platform screens inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Commun Biol. 2021;4(1):926. Published 2021 Jul 29. doi:10.1038/s42003-021-02453-y

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41421-020-00235-0

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.582310/full

https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/315101

Kornhuber J, Tripal P, Reichel M, Mühle C, Rhein C, Muehlbacher M, Groemer T, W, Gulbins E: Functional Inhibitors of Acid Sphingomyelinase (FIASMAs): A Novel Pharmacological Group of Drugs with Broad Clinical Applications. Cell Physiol Biochem 2010;26:9-20. doi: 10.1159/000315101

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8359627/

Hoertel N, Sánchez-Rico M, Cougoule C, et al. Repurposing antidepressants inhibiting the sphingomyelinase acid/ceramide system against COVID-19: current evidence and potential mechanisms [published online ahead of print, 2021 Aug 12]. Mol Psychiatry. 2021;1-2. doi:10.1038/s41380-021-01254-3

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2786140

Hoertel N. Do the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Antidepressants Fluoxetine and Fluvoxamine Reduce Mortality Among Patients With COVID-19? JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(11):e2136510. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.36510

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7662481/

Lenze EJ, Mattar C, Zorumski CF, et al. Fluvoxamine vs Placebo and Clinical Deterioration in Outpatients With Symptomatic COVID-19: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2020;324(22):2292-2300. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.22760

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7888564/

Seftel D, Boulware DR. Prospective Cohort of Fluvoxamine for Early Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 19. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2021 Feb 1;8(2):ofab050. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofab050. PMID: 33623808; PMCID: PMC7888564.

Government Spending on ‘Infrastructure’ Not Quite What You Think

 

Allow me to explain how my experience with the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and the NFS (National Forest Service) informs my view of BBB (Build Back Better) and other Democrat initiatives.  Please bear with me on the background for the next several paragraphs – it’s relevant.  I hope you find these patterns as interesting as I do.

Before I moved to the festering swamps of South Carolina, I lived in the majestic mountains of East Tennessee.  I lived at 3,300 feet, on 56 acres surrounded by National Forest.  There was a National Forest access road that crossed my property for about a mile, and it was the only way into the National Forest for miles in any direction.  So I got to know the National Forest guys – they would need the code to my gate to access their road.  We got along well – really good guys.

About two miles behind my house was a major power right of way, where huge power lines carried electricity from a power plant on one side of the mountain to the Tri-Cities area on the other. The TVA also needed to cross my property to get to their lines.  We had a good relationship as well. Which was good, because the power poles up on top of the mountain were getting old, and there were a lot of power outages, so they had to go up there a lot.

As it turns out, those power poles were rated to last 25 years, and they were over 40 years old.  So the whole system up there needed to be replaced.  Which would be difficult, because this was extremely steep, rocky terrain.  Boulders, cliffs, and rattlesnakes.

So the TVA guy stopped by one day and said, “Hey, look, we need to get some heavy equipment up the mountain.  Big track hoes, D8’s, and huge trucks with big poles on them.  The trail on your property will be widened a bit, and we may tear some stuff up.  We’ll fix it all when we’re done, of course.  But this is big stuff, and you’ll know we’ve been here.  I’m really sorry.”

I said that I wasn’t real excited about that.  He explained about all the power outages in the nearby cities, and how old the equipment was, and that they sort of had to do this – they really didn’t have a choice.  He was very nice about it, and I saw his point, so I said ok.  He again assured me that they would clean up their mess when they were done.  He had always been honest with me in the past, so I agreed.

He then called the National Forest, and explained the same thing to them, that he would be crossing their land on the way to his power right of way.  The National Forest said no.  Heavy equipment is not permitted on a nature preserve (or wildlife refuge, or however it’s classified).  The TVA guy said he understood, but this wasn’t really optional – he had to do this.  The National Forest said no.  They talked repeatedly over the coming months, with no compromise from either side.  The TVA guy had to keep the lights on, and the National Forest guy had rules to follow, so there was really nothing to compromise about.  So there you go.

Meanwhile, the repairs of the lines over the mountain were becoming more frequent and more dangerous.  One day, when the TVA guy was watching one of his men hanging out of a helicopter in a snowstorm trying to fix a power line while trying not to get electrocuted, he decided that he just had to do this.  Somebody was going to get killed if they didn’t just fix the problem.

So when the weather got better, he called me and asked if he could bring his equipment up like we had talked about last year.  I said sure, and gave him my gate code.  He didn’t bother to ask NFS again.  Because he already knew what their answer would be.

The NFS had their own gate, at the back of my property – it was a big metal gate with a protected padlock.  The TVA guys just used their track hoe to lift the whole gate out of the ground, and laid it off to the side, to be replaced later when they were done.

They were very busy for about two months, and I was impressed that they didn’t change my trail too much.  And true to his word, when they left they took dozers and re-sloped the trail, planted grass seed, re-did the drainage ditches, and left it much better than they found it.

The National Forest trail was the same way – it went from a rutted, washed-out mess to a beautiful road with no erosion, due to better drainage and lots of grass seed.  A few months later, you couldn’t even tell they had ever been there, except the trail was in much better shape.

And the lights were on in the cities.  All the time.  And I didn’t see the TVA guys on my property.  There was nothing up there for them to fix anymore.

Nothing happened for a year or two.

Then one day a National Forest guy went up the mountain to check on something, and noticed the beautiful new metal power poles instead of the ancient rickety wooden ones that were there before.

He called his boss.  His boss called the TVA guy, and asked if he knew anything about those new power poles.  The TVA guy responded, “What?  Somebody put new power poles up there?  You’re not allowed to do that, you know.  Did you get their license plate number?  I’ll bet some idiot rednecks snuck up there one Saturday night with some beer, some fireworks, a team of structural engineers, and fifteen million dollars worth of heavy equipment and redid the whole dang thing!  My God, if I ever lay my hands on those sneaky kids…”

The National Forest guy was unamused, and filed a lawsuit against the TVA.  After all, there are rules.  What else could he do?

I didn’t hear anything about it for several years.  Until one day in my office, I asked a patient what he did for a living.  He said he was an attorney.  I asked what type of law he practiced, and he said that he had spent his entire career so far working for the federal government, on a lawsuit between the TVA and the National Forest Service.  I can’t remember which side he represented.

It had been over 10 years at this point.  He and his legal team had a few other little things come up from time to time, but he said the vast majority of their resources and time were spent on this case.  Year after year.  They knew the opposing attorneys very well, because they had been working on the same case for so long.  Over time, their wives and families became friends, and they often vacationed together.  They had one joint Christmas party every year for both opposing legal offices.

I asked if he was going to win the case.  He looked a little surprised at the question, and then said, “Yeah, well, it’s more of a process…”  I’m not sure what that means, exactly.

I asked if he enjoyed his job, and he said it was a good gig.  Pay was ok, job security was outstanding, he didn’t have to move to bigger and bigger cities, no real pressure, great benefits.

I called the TVA guy that night – he and I had a good relationship.  I asked him about it.  He said that he heard about the lawsuit from time to time, but it wasn’t really part of his world.  His job was to keep the lights on.  He figured that lawsuit would still be going on in a few decades when his replacement had to replace the power poles that he had replaced.

I wondered aloud whether this was the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.  He just said, “Eh, that’s how the government does things.  Just the cost of doing business, I suppose…   Gotta keep the lights on, right?

I wonder how much they spent on repairs for the 10-15 years before they replaced those power poles, working on top of a remote mountain in thunderstorms.  I wonder how much they’ve spent on this lawsuit, for the federal government to sue itself over a job that it had no choice but to do?

I wonder what the price of electricity in east Tennessee would be if some woman named Kate was in charge.  Someone who has to balance her own checkbook, someone with a high school education who works two jobs to make the payment on her double-wide, and who has more than a bit of common sense.

Federal bureaucrat:  “Hey, Kate.  We’ve got some extra ‘infrastructure’ money to spend, so we’re going to sue ourselves for environmental destruction that didn’t happen to provide a jobs program for our legal departments.

Kate:  “No.

But electricity is expensive because Kate is not in charge.  No one is, really.


A friend mentioned to me the other day how incredible it was, that when he turned on a light switch, the lights came on every time.

I told him that it was even more incredible than he understood.  He just had no idea.  He was probably thinking about electrons.  I was thinking about bureaucrats.

Under President Biden, the federal government is attempting a rapid takeover of as much of the American economy as possible.  When you read the next news story about “Build Back Better” or whatever the program of the day is, think about my story about the TVA and the NFS.

You don’t need to wonder how all those Democrat infrastructure spending bills will work out.  You already know:

A lot of money will get spent on stuff that has nothing to do with infrastructure.  Lots and lots and lots of money.

Much of this money will be paid to people with white-collar government jobs, who are expected to vote Democrat.  Other portions of that money will go to unions, who then donate that very same money back to the Democrat party.  Other portions of that money simply disappear, like fog on a beautiful sunny morning.

Very, very little of that Democrat campaign money will be wasted on anything resembling ‘infrastructure.’  Why would they do that?  That’s not what it’s for.

But despite their best efforts, things may actually sort of work.  The lights may continue to turn on, even in California.  The water may continue to be safe, even in Flint.  The levees may be maintained, even in New Orleans.  Things may actually sort of work.  For a while.

Until they don’t.

But don’t worry.  The government will fix it.

As long as you agree to increase your taxes again to pay for ‘infrastructure’.

So you shouldn’t complain about your taxes.  Your tax dollars are not campaign contributions for the Democrat party.  Remember – your taxes are used for ‘infrastructure.’  All this tax money is being spent on you!  Not the Democrat party!  Really!

I know it’s true – I saw it on CNN…

A Glimpse of 1955

 

I’ve mentioned over the years my involvement with the life and works of Peg Lynch, an American humorist and actress. Small-town Minnesota gal gets into small-town radio, hones her writing chops on ads and skits, comes up with a thing we now call “the sitcom,” ends up in New York, makes a wild pitch to the networks, ends up on national radio. She’s a hit! TV comes along, and she’s in on the early days, doing terrifying live broadcasts on “The Kate Smith Show.” This leads to a network sitcom, which, like everything else, she writes and performs with her stalwart partner, Alan Bunce. After TV ends, she moves back to radio to turn out 750 more shows, each a lapidary example of her style: no schtick. No corn. No stinging, slanging banter. No cliches, no archetypes. Just a situation, laid out, a fuse lit, a slow burn, an almost daredevil-like decision to set the scene without laff-a-minute gag routines.

Most of her sitcoms were saved on kinescope. Perhaps a tenth have been transferred to digital media. (It’s an ongoing process at the U of Washington.) One of the most recent restorations was put up on YouTube for a fortnight by her daughter, and it’s the fabled Halloween ep. “Fabled” because George S. Kaufman said it was one of his favorite things he’d seen on TV; fabled because Peg, iirc, thought it a bit much, but it turned out to be wildly popular. Her co-star was unhappy because his face was obscured for most of the ep.

Well. Uncharacteristic as the ep may have been, Bunce does a marvelous job.

Like all of her work, you ride along — she’s completely comfortable laying out five minutes without a hard punchline — until you just suddenly snort, because she’s prepped you for the moment when everything turns. It probably takes too long for modern audiences who want it now, now, NOW, but that’s how she worked. Note how it’s all one take. How she breaks the fourth wall to introduce the flashback. How the ads — also one take, shot while the cast took a breath — are performed with effortless brio by the great Lee Goodman, who even manages to work around a possible prop failure.

If I know Peg — and I did know Peg — she set up the flashback-framing device to pad it out and provide a third-act closing callback zinger. She got the idea, took it as far as she could, knew it wasn’t enough for the running time of the show, and built the wrap-around to frame it. I can almost hear her explain it: Oh hell, we were up against it every week to get it done. I was relieved with this one because I didn’t have to cut, I had to add. But then you realize adding’s just as hard.

So: For the first time since 1955, Peg Lynch, Alan Bunce, and the ’50s sitcom that exists mostly in kinescopes in a dark basement, waiting for restoration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnz8LMEwYQQ

Memories … Memories

 

I have been reading a story in The Wall Street Journal about the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s procurer (of young girls to feed his sexual appetite), and a mention of what her defense team will do gave me pause. Many of the witnesses will be some of those young girls (grown up now), who will tell their stories of wild parties and sexual abuse at the many homes of the late (and not lamented) Epstein. They will probably mention that Maxwell was the one who contacted them at first and persuaded them to attend those parties.

Her defense team will bring to the stand experts on “false memories” in their attempt to convince the jury that the women falsely remember their experiences with Epstein and Maxwell, and that they weren’t really abused at all. The experts will emphasize that, for the experiences that took place so long ago, the women simply can’t remember correctly what went on, even if they are not bald-faced lying.

Now, this brought to mind another occasion, one where a woman was certain that a person had sexually abused her over 35 years ago, and, funny thing, she was believed and supported by crowds of supporters. Christine Blasey Ford swore that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had abused her at a party they both attended while they were in high school.

Once again, the left tries to have it both ways. Women both can, and cannot, accurately report on experiences they had a long time ago. I am hoping that Maxwell’s defense team is unsuccessful at painting the accusers as confused about what really happened to them at Epstein’s parties. And I wonder if anyone will bring up the case of Ford vs. Kavanaugh.

What Cookware Is the Best?

 

Spilling over from Susan’s post on Kamala’s recent cookware purchases is a minor debate on what cookware works the best, for what purpose, and at what price. @doctorrobert, @kedavis, and @jimmcconnell have already commented. But what do you think? I suppose I started the digression with this comment:

I confess to you, I have one of these. I’ve only used it once to fry a single egg. I told my wife before l’affaire Kamala that she might as well start using it — we’re not getting any younger.

Mauviel Copper M'200 CI Fry Pan

Mauviel Copper M’200 CI Fry Pan

Select : 12″

$435  (It was much cheaper when I bought it.)

Williams-Sonoma many years ago. Up ’til now it’s just been too special to use.

What is your favorite skillet, chicken fryer, or saucepan?

Omicron Variant: Here We Go Again!

 

No one — I mean no one — is going to put me through the fear and misery of the last two years with COVID-19. Fortunately, I live in Florida, and we’ve watched Gov. DeSantis behave like a mature and wise adult regarding the virus. But once again, panic reigns as another variant shows up on the scene. And one state and most definitely the federal government can’t wait to pass more draconian measures supposedly to protect us.

When the announcement first came from South Africa about the new variant, called Omicron, the scientists emphasized that data was limited:

Health officials in South Africa said the reaction by other countries was premature, given how little was understood yet about the new strain. [Professor Salim Abdool] Karim noted that it was only detected thanks to South Africa’s excellent scientific surveillance of COVID-19 cases, which specifically hunts for new variants. Few other nations have such a robust genomic sequencing program to find the strains.

Surprisingly, the World Health Organization showed some sanity in its response:

But despite the World Health Organization’s call for ‘a risk-based and scientific approach’ as it urged nations not to adopt travel restrictions yet, some countries decided not to wait for the detailed scientific analysis. Britain, France and Israel have cancelled direct flights from South Africa and surrounding nations.

And, of course, the mainstream media couldn’t wait to publish the most frightening news they could possibly create:

A potentially dangerous new strain of the coronavirus is alarming scientists around the world and prompting governments to ban travelers from southern African nations. The variant was first detected in South Africa, where scientists were quick to flag it to the global health community.

As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports, there’s serious concern among experts that the new strain could set back the fight against the pandemic.

These reactions were based on only 100 cases in South Africa.

One day ago, however, the South Africans provided an up-to-date and less hysterical perspective:

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a practicing doctor for 30 years who chairs the South African Medical Association (SAMA), said she believed she had found a new strain of the virus after COVID-19 patients at her private practice in Pretoria exhibited strange symptoms.

‘Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,’ Coetzee told The Telegraph . . .

‘It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well,’ Coetzee told the paper. ‘So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer the loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home.’

Joe Biden, who accused Donald Trump of racist motivations for closing our borders against the coronavirus, may be doing the same thing on Monday against some African countries.

And we can count on New York to lead the way with a panicked approach:

There have been no confirmed cases of the new variant in the United States yet, but officials believe it may already be here. Two cases have been confirmed in the United Kingdom, which joined the US and European Union in issuing travel restrictions.

On Friday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency and put a temporary halt on all elective surgeries in anticipation of hospitalizations.

What do you think will be happening in your local communities and your state? Will governors wait for more information, or will they compete for the panic prize? Will school boards react and will the unions demand action, even if the science says to take a wait-and-see approach?

In other words, will the power brokers go for more power and expect citizens to submit?

For Those on the Left, Empathy Is Destructive

 

Two of my three daughters are world-class athletes. The oldest is a freaky fast 6’4″ who could shoot from anywhere, and was captain of the Duke basketball team. The youngest (“Linda”) is a little taller, a little faster, and plays volleyball for Georgetown.  Their middle sister is the world’s only 5’10” girl with a short complex.  She’s a brilliant pianist and was a very good high school athlete. But not an athletic freak like her sisters.

Anyway, all three girls are home for Thanksgiving, and it’s been wonderful. One of the Bastiat family Christmas traditions is we make gingerbread, then bake and decorate gingerbread cookies as a family. It doesn’t sound like much, but to us, it’s a big deal. Always a big production, as you can see from the picture.

Linda’s best friend is “Lisa,” who was a classmate of hers in high school, and basically lives at our house when she’s home from college. Lisa says she’s 5’2″, but that might be optimistic. I find it fascinating that these girls are inseparable even though they look so, um, striking together — but it works.

She and Linda both have issues about body image. People have always remarked upon their height. They have trouble buying clothes. Lisa wears a size-5 shoe, which is not easy to find. Linda wears a 14. Also not easy to find. You might consider their problems to be opposites, but they view them as the same thing. Which, really, they are. All of our problems are basically the same, right? Which seems weird. Except it’s not. So Lisa becomes our emergency backup fourth Bastiat sister. She fits right in. To us.

Empathy is a beautiful thing. It’s not sympathy. It’s understanding someone else’s difficulties. You can have empathy for someone that is not exactly like you. In fact, that’s the best type of empathy. Because then, at that point, you realize that we’re all essentially the same, and we’re all doing the best we can. Lisa hopes to earn an art scholarship. Linda feels the pressure as a scholarship athlete every time she has a bad practice. They talk on the phone, and they can empathize, even if they don’t quite understand. I can think of nothing more beautiful.

I can think of nothing more beautiful.

Once we’re no longer permitted to empathize with those different from us, and once we’re expected to agree with everything that is said by ‘our tribe’, then our society will self-destruct.  This seems obvious to me.  It probably also seems obvious to Lisa and Linda, in their ill-fitting shoes.

Seeking comfort by avoiding uncomfortable associations leads to discomfort.  Like uncomfortable shoes. Lisa and Linda understand ill-fitting shoes. Although they’ve figured out the difference between empathy and sympathy. Unlike many American adults. Part of their insight relates to self-respect. If they love themselves, that allows them to love others. Self-loathing leads to resentment of others. Which also seems obvious to me.

Tragically, I suspect that this also seems obvious to the Democratic Party. And I suspect their stated desire to emphasize tolerance over “love thy neighbor” is an intentional effort to destroy western civilization. I hope I’m wrong. But I’m becoming more and more certain that I’m right. Because if I was trying to destroy western civilization, that is what I would do.

Teach people to hate their history and hate themselves. Then they will naturally hate their neighbor, despite their efforts to tolerate him, and society will tear itself apart. You won’t have to destroy it from the outside — they’ll do it themselves on your behalf. And they’ll feel virtuous in the process.

Sympathy is often destructive. Empathy is always beautiful.

That’s not right or wrong — that’s just the way it is.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbor. He did not tell us to tolerate our neighbor. Empathy exaggerates what we have in common. Tolerance exaggerates our differences. Those who preach tolerance are exaggerating the divisions in our society to the point that we will no longer be able to live together. Regardless of their intentions, those who preach tolerance are sowing conflict. Conflict which cannot be resolved.

Which would normally be very upsetting to me. Except that this year’s batch of gingerbread is unusually good. Perhaps I’ll have just one more cookie. That giraffe with the broken leg — no one will notice.

I’m so, so thankful for my daughters.

All four of them. Even if one of them looks a bit different. We don’t care. We love her, and she loves us. And that’s good enough for us. We don’t need a government program to teach us to tolerate one another. We’re way past that already.

And the left fears such things.

Because such things destroy Critical Race Theory and other forms of tolerance that directly challenge “love thy neighbor.” If neighbors love each other, they have no use for tolerance.

And no use for progressives.

And that just won’t do. So they start teaching about divisions and tolerance in kindergarten. And they hope that kids like Linda and Lisa don’t eventually recognize that even though they have different problems, that our problems are really very similar, and that we have a lot more in common than we might think at first. Thinking like that is toxic to the left.

Imagine being a member of a political movement for which empathy is destructive.

That would give its supporters pause, I would think. Surely that creates some inner conflict for them, right?

Perhaps.

But even after exploring the importance of empathy, I find it difficult to empathize with their inner conflict, for some reason.

Fool Me Once…

 

“Can you assure me that you will go to the nearest emergency room within the hour?”

It was the middle of a workday—a Friday. I had sequestered myself in a small room dedicated to personal phone calls. I don’t recall how long it took me to reply to the nurse on the other end of the line, but when I did, my answer started with an “uhh” and ended with a “no.”

To be fair, I was the one who initiated the phone call to my insurance company’s 24/7 nurse line. For the past week, I had experienced discomfort in my rib cage with deep inhalation. After a few days, it was accompanied by a dry cough. No fever or chills. No achiness or fatigue, like one experiences with a typical flu. A nurse at the government clinic near where I work had listened to my lungs that same morning and said she couldn’t detect any fluid; however, she thought there was less airflow in my left lung as compared to the right. I had also told her about my heart “arrhythmia,” but she didn’t appear too concerned about my symptoms overall. She merely suggested that if they worsened over the weekend to get to an urgent care facility or come back to the government clinic on Monday when a provider would be available.

My only question for the 24/7 nurse was whether she thought the decreased airflow in my left lung might account for the heart symptoms. “Maybe with less oxygen through my lung my heart is having to periodically work harder?” She never quite addressed that. Instead, she put me through a battery of other questions. Did I think I was having a heart attack? She told me she could brief me on the symptoms if I wasn’t sure. I told her I did not think I was having a heart attack. I mean, I was having what seemed like a benign, relaxed conversation with her. How under-the-radar do heart attacks typically fly? Then she asked if I thought I might be experiencing shock and again told me she could brief me on the symptoms if I wasn’t sure. Here, my honesty got the better of me. I really didn’t know the signs or symptoms of shock. So I asked her to list them. After about the second or third symptom, I knew I wasn’t in shock. I was, however, suffering from acute ridiculousness.

That’s when the nurse strongly advised that I go to the nearest emergency room within the hour. (An emergency room? Within the hour? What the hell had I said?) That’s when I had a vague sense that it was no longer the nurse I was speaking to—it was the insurance company’s legal department.

Little did she know I had recently found myself in a similar situation. A routine screening mammogram had revealed “an area of concern,” and I was strongly advised to get a diagnostic mammogram to determine if this area of concern was … well, an actual concern. It’s a procedure that is not covered by my high-deductible health plan. I imagine most women in my position would not have given it a second thought; especially if, like me, they have a history of breast cancer in their family. But I’m one of those people (perhaps you are, as well) who has a greater fear of crushing medical debt than of death. My instincts told me I was fine, but I got the diagnostic mammogram anyway. Within a few minutes of the procedure, the technician told me the “area of concern” was no more. “I made it go away,” were her precise words. Well, ain’t that peachy. Does that mean I don’t have to pay?

When the 24/7 nurse realized I wasn’t going to budge regarding the ER, she offered (as if to haggle with me) that I proceed to an urgent care clinic within the hour. Again, I said no. Well, what were my plans, she wanted to know. I told her I would follow the directives of the nurse at the government clinic and go to an urgent care facility if my symptoms worsened. Or wait until Monday to visit the clinic if my symptoms didn’t improve. The 24/7 nurse did not like this plan. I should not—under any circumstances—wait until Monday to be seen by a doctor.

My phone call to the 24/7 nurse was over a week ago. My symptoms abated over time, if not as quickly as I would have liked. To top it off, I don’t have what would likely have been an unnecessary ER bill looming on the horizon. Do I feel vindicated in my decision not to follow the nurse’s advice? For the most part. But at the time, it felt like I was taking a chance, albeit a small chance. For me (and many like me), making a health care decision often feels like a roll of the dice. “Do I feel lucky today?” And this is only heightened by the recognition that our health care “experts” too often appear driven by forces outside the telos of the medical arts; namely, maximization of profits and protection from malpractice suits. COVID and vaccine policies have done little to ameliorate my skepticism toward the medical establishment.

I’m not sure I can get more cynical than this.

“Unprecedented,” a Profound and Disturbing Essay by Michael Anton

 

In the campaign season of 2016, an essay appeared out of the blue titled “The Flight 93 Election” exploring, in considerable depth, the very real dangers for our Nation should Hillary Clinton be elected President. Word of this epochal essay spread like wildfire and it became — not the cliché but the real thing — an overnight sensation. It was introduced to the wider world when Rush Limbaugh read every word of it on his radio show. How much impact it had on the eventual outcome of the election we will never know, but I would speculate that it almost certainly had a measurable effect. Like many in those pivotal days – we had no idea just how pivotal they were at the time — I devoured the article which simply corroborated my conviction that the style of the title was not at all overdone but described the importance of that decision precisely. The author was identified at the time of its release as Publius Decius Mus, the essay may be accessed here. His real identity was Michael Anton.

This very same scholar and highly accomplished analyst has now published another masterful essay in which he reviews the increasingly disturbing, chilling, and, in some cases, frightening developments wrenching our society these days, defined broadly as the last five to six years since approximately — and this is my marker, not the author’s — the most famous escalator ride in history. The theme is the large catalog of savage attacks on, to use Victor Davis Hanson’s phrase, the very pillars of Western Civilization.

I will try to couch my feelings about both the excellence of this piece of scholarship and the severity of its alarms for our future in somewhat muted tones, but, to put it as mildly as I know how to use the King’s English, every single American citizen with a sentient mind should read this essay, at least once but, more beneficially, twice, as I did. It may be accessed here; as noted, the publishers have most graciously granted me permission to provide this link and it is my hope that it will be spread far and wide so many will have the benefit of the depth of analysis it offers of the problems we face. They are so much more serious than the usual jokes and memes about the blithering fools who occupy our highest two offices presently and I hope to briefly review the major areas of Anton’s concerns — issues which are unprecedented in American history and, in some cases, all recorded history.

The author opens his discussion with these pithy observations on the current state of the “Republic” (about which more later) and its seemingly inevitable decline:

When I have thought about this, I have been in some part inclined to the opinion that present arrangements are unstable and may be approaching their end. Yet in thinking it through further, I am forced to admit that our times are marked by so many unprecedented trends and events that making predictions seems foolhardy.

He then turns to a familiar theme:

Are We Rome?

Noting that there seem to be many similarities between the fall of Rome and our present rapidly deteriorating situation, and examining the two examples extensively, he indicates that America, because of the confluence of so many unprecedented developments, is almost certainly headed for at least a slow, steady decline, if not imminent fall. One conclusion which jumped off the page to me was this one, which we seem to hear more and more often of late:

Yet in all important respects, our country is no longer a republic, much less a democracy, but rather a kind of hybrid corporate-administrative oligarchy.

There follows an analysis of the “cycle of regimes” theory which holds that “[j]ust as Rome was born, grew, matured, peaked, declined and eventually fell, so will — and must — America.” Under this theory, every regime — monarchy, autocracy, or democracy — falls when it becomes “overbearing and odious.” This phrase really hit home with me because our present system has clearly become overbearing and to call many of those in national “leadership” positions just “odious” would be to commit an act of kindness.

Unprecedented Immigration Policy Never Seen Before In World History.

We — that is, those of us of a certain level of “maturity” — were raised to regard the “Melting Pot” as one of those bedrock foundational principles which make the USA exceptional and to believe that E Pluribus Unum was not just some slogan on the currency. However, the author reminds us that Aristotle cautioned, in his Politics, that “dissimilation of stock is conducive to factional conflict,” and notes that we pride ourselves on our “exceptional track record of assimilating peoples from all over the world.” After reviewing the changes wrought by the devastating 1965 Immigration Act and the denunciation of the very idea of assimilation by our Ruling Elite as “racist” (is there a single thing left in our society that is not racist?) we have seen another development unprecedented in world history:

Be that as it may, no nation in recorded history has ever willingly opened its doors to millions of immigrants only to insist that they must never adapt to the traditional ways of their new country…

Other examples follow, such as the size of the tidal wave of humanity coming to America now estimated to be in the range of 100,000,000 — one hundred million! — since 1965. As he notes, no native-born population of any country has ever cheered its own dispossession. Ever.

Unsayable: The “Great Replacement” is Happening.

Not only is it happening- it is accelerating under the “Biden” administration. We are seeing another unprecedented move by a nation as described by the author:

No majority stock in any nation has ever deliberately sought its own replacement…

A headline today announced, as if it were believable enough to be taken seriously, that the administration has issued a massive number of show cause orders directing illegal immigrants all over the country to appear in court to prove why they should not be deported back to Mexico/Guatemala/Honduras/Somalia/Uzbekistan. I represent, in good faith, that this was not a headline in the Babylon Bee.

Anton also notes that while examples can be found of a new elite rising and then replacing an older one:

But of a ruling class coming to despise its own (broadly speaking) ethnic group and seeking ways to rob their fellow co-ethnics of power, standing, and influence? I can’t think of any other such cases.

Ugliness Is Everywhere. Decreed From On High?

Anton then turns his analytical acumen to the qualities which make our current class of elites markedly different from tyrants of old, who have always despoiled their countries for personal gain. Today’s “Anointed”, to use Dr. Sowell’s word, are driven by a “malice … atypical to the native despot,” continuing:

To force degeneracy on the whole of society, with the explicit intent of bringing the rest us to our knees, literally and figuratively—that, I think, has never happened before.

The author then views the landscape of ugliness the ruling class has “created,” noting that throughout history autocrats wanted to leave behind “beauty, the arts, and great works.” Now, since about the middle of the last century, everything has turned brutally ugly, including “not just the buildings, but the art, the literature, the music, almost everything.”

What follows at this point was a discussion which must have taken a serious measure of courage to write, and of The New Criterion to publish, as it is a depiction of not one, but two, areas which The Anointed have decreed to be off-limits in so-called “polite company” (an ever-dwindling group in our coarse society). He actually discusses — out loud — the ugliness of the people and the inexplicable choice of George Floyd as something approaching Sainthood.

As to the ugliness of the people, he notes that “[t]he point seems to be humiliation, forcing us little people to say ‘the thing which is not’” and further illustrates the “malice” of today’s ruling elite thusly:

That trick is also as old as the hills, but the deliberate promotion of ugliness seems to be a new way to play it.

Anton’s dissection of the George Floyd phenomenon surely should rank as one of the most honest, forthright, unsparing, and truthful discussions of this madness to be found anywhere and it alone makes the entire essay worth close attention and study.

At this point, I should note that by publishing this passage, in particular, and the essay, in general, The New Criterion has once again exemplified its credo:

“At The New Criterion we will always call things by their real names.”

Before having the sheer temerity to sketch out the many reasons George Floyd was no Saint, he begins this discussion as follows:

But in terms of what we choose to elevate, nothing illustrates the perversity of present America more than the deification of George Floyd.

He concludes:

But has any people ever chosen such an undeserving object of worship?

The Tragic State of Education Today.

If forced to sum up this entire depressing section of the essay (as I am due to the conditions of the gracious permission of the publication to publish the link to the entire article) in a few passages, it would be these:

There’s ample historical precedent for widespread illiteracy. But for teaching one’s own citizens self-hatred, degeneracy, and despondency—without teaching them to read and write?

Besieged by Barbarians.

The next section, entitled “Barbarians at the Gate,” discusses the destruction being wrought upon our society by crime and the sacking of our cities at the instigation of our “overlords” and also by modern technology, which he describes as “anti-human,” designed to “remake [Man’s] very soul.” He further discusses the never-before-seen “passionate hatred” of the “cultural locusts” who will leave no statue standing and no name unchanged.

Conclusion: Uncertain.

His very tentative prognosis is that we will be “somewhere between imminent collapse and drawn-out decline” and ends with this vivid, if not disquieting, finale:

Whatever the case, couple all this unprecedentedness with all this incompetence, and going long on Wokemerica seems a sucker bet. But, to end where we began, the very unprecedentedness of our situation means that all bets are off.

I have racked my brain — the few surviving parts of it — to try to find words adequate to the task of urging every American to read this essay thoroughly and imbibe its lessons as completely as possible. My brain only responded: reading this essay should be the duty, not the option, of every citizen who cares about our Beloved Nation and hopes to help, in some way, no matter how small, reverse its long decline. I hope this review will whet your appetite and prompt you to do just that.

God Bless America!

Author’s Note: Publication of the link to the article and brief quoted passages are provided with the permission of The New Criterion.

Merry Christmas Around the World

 

Do you have any cool Christmas stuff worth sharing–pictures, videos, stories, etc.–from places you’ve been and loved? Here are three of mine.

My favorite Christmas song from the good old days in Sanyati Baptist Mission in rural Zimbabwe is # 7 from the Shona Baptist Hymnal, “Ndiani Kudanga’ko.” It’s the Shona translation of the hymn “Who Is He in Yonder Stall?” Here’s a YouTube version from some Reformation Christians in Harare (Zimbabwe’s capital city):

And here’s a Christmas song in Urdu from Pakistani Christians:

Can you believe it? Seven people on the internet clicked the thumbs-down button on that!

And here’s the Santa Claus roller coaster display in Friendswood, Texas, each year:

Ok, now it’s your turn!

Let Me Go Get My Teeth!

 

Click!

I should preface this by saying that I am generally a very polite guy. As @arahant would say, I think it is mostly due to my “Southron” upbringing. But even my tendency to politeness has a limit!

I have been getting a lot (10+) robocalls per day — I think mostly due to the coming end of open season on health care options and my age. At one time, the caller ID showed a legitimate company and I would answer and explain — politely — that I’m not interested in changing.

Now, however, the caller ID shows random numbers from all over the country. If I answer, there is a delay and then a foreign voice asks how I am doing and says he has some options on improved health care options. I say I am not interested and hang up.

I am trying different call-blocking options and I will see how that works, but in the meantime, I have decided to get what entertainment I can get out of the process.

My last call:

me: “Herroo” (think of Larry the Cable Guy doing one of his weird impressions)

caller: “How are you doing today”

me: “Jutht fine!”

caller: ” uhhh ok, ….. I’m calling about some options on health care we have. Do you have medicare part A or B?”

me: “Leth me go get my teefth!” Click!

Other options:

me :” let me check with my nurse”

me: ” I’m not sure, the warden takes care of that for me”

me: “I’ve never gotten a call from Mabank, Texas, before. Where is that?”

me: “I see you are from Ipava, Illinois. Do you know the Goldarnets?”

Do you get these kinds of calls? What is your response?

Notre Dame Cathedral Gets Disney Makeover

 

Some plans have leaked for the reconstruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral (you know, the one that was hit by a devastating fire that in no way symbolized anything). They call for removing confessional boxes, altars, and classical sculptures and replacing them with a light show of scriptures projected on the walls, modern art murals with more sounds and light to create “emotional spaces,” a “discovery trail” of 14 themed chapels with an emphasis on Africa and Asia, and an environmentally-themed chapel. I am not making this up.

Some critics see this as desecration of a sacred space. On the other hand, if the goal is to gut the place of items of religious significance and replace them with trendy performance art, a lecture on diversity, and an altar to Gaia, I think they’ve absolutely nailed the Roman Catholic Church in the 21st Century.

Adventure in the Persian Gulf

 

Jack “Rattler” Owen had a dream when he was growing up: to become a US Navy fighter pilot. He is now a Navy pilot in today’s US Navy, but he is flying the E-2C Hawkeye, not fighters.

“Treason Flight,” a thriller by T. R. Matson opens with Owen discovering flying the Hawkeye can be every bit as exciting as flying a Hornet. He is over the Persian Gulf, flying a broken Hawkeye to USS Nimitz.

The aircraft has suffered multiple mechanical failures. “The Book” calls for him to bail out. Rattler wants to save the aircraft. It is expensive and operationally valuable. Nimitz has only four, and losing one during a potential war patrol will hurt capability. Rattler asks permission to make one try and gets it. He succeeds, saving the aircraft.

It is a fast-paced opening, and “Treason Flight” never slows down from there. “Rattler” is soon flying against Islamic terrorist groups, seizing Persian Gulf oil platforms. Despite outstanding flying performance during these missions (including saving another crippled Hawkeye), Rattler cannot seem to get on the good side of “Skipper,” commanding the air squadron aboard Nimitz. The better Rattler does the unhappier Skipper gets. It is almost as if Skipper would have been happier if Jack had lost the aircraft.

As if getting hassled by the squadron commander is not enough, Owen is going through a divorce his spouse initiated. He will soon be single, trying to decide whether he should start a relationship with an Australian flight attendant he met on leave. Plus things keep going wrong on Nimitz. It is as if there is a saboteur aboard.

“Treason Flight” is more than another naval aviation thriller. The first thing setting it apart is Matson’s use of the Hawkeye as the central aircraft in the story. The Hawkeye is an unarmed, twin turboprop aircraft, used for airborne early warning. It is supposed to avoid combat, making it an unlikely star in a combat thriller.

Additionally, Matson makes the bad guys Islamic extremists. Today’s thrillers more frequently fall back on the woke choice of white nationalists. Matson even puts a few new twists into the Islamic terrorist theme, giving them unexpected allies.

The result is a refreshing and original story, with good guys to root for and villains to hiss. If you liked the aviation thrillers written in the 1990s and this century’s first decade, “Treason Flight” is for you.

“Treason Flight,” by T. R. Matson, Independently Published, 2021, 196 pages, $29.99 (hardcover), $14.99 (paperback), $7.99 (ebook)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.

Quote of the Day: Rich

 

“I am indeed rich, since my income is superior to my expenses, and my expense is equal to my wishes.” – Edward Gibbon

This year — or maybe last — I became rich. Not Bill Gates rich or Jeff Bezos rich, but rich by my definition of rich: If you can maintain the lifestyle you desire without having to work, you are rich. If not, whether you are earning $15,000 or $400,000 a year you are still among the working poor.

This is not a new belief on my part. I have held it since the 1980s – the early 1980s shortly after I graduated from college. That was a time when I was hearing stories about stockbrokers in New York City losing jobs that paid $400,000 a year (in 1981 dollars) and reduced to living out of their cars within six months. I don’t know if the stories were true, but I remember reading them in the news. (Doesn’t say much for their credibility, does it?) But there were a lot of people, including coworkers, who were really into leveraged lifestyles back then. I could see it happening.

Even if those stories were myths, like most myths, they revealed a greater truth. It was not how much income someone received annually that defined wealth – it was how much of that income remained after expenses were paid. If the cash flow was sufficiently negative, you were not really rich. Even if the cash flow in was a monetary Ohio River, if the cash flow out were a monetary mouth of the Mississippi, you would end up broke at some point. You could go from a condo in Manhattan to the back seat of your car in six months if you were sufficiently feckless.

On the other hand, if your investments and passive sources of income exceed your expenses – assuming you like your current lifestyle – and you can reasonably expect that situation to continue? I consider that being rich. Think about it. You can buy whatever you want and your bank balance still goes up every year – even if you don’t go to work every day or even any day. Once you reach that point, the only utility extra income offers is as a bigger reserve against contingencies. And like any other possession, the utility goes down with every extra unit.

One example: I now live by myself. Owning a car had a great deal of utility. Having a second car – even without a second driver – has some utility, but less than the utility of the first car. The second car is a backup if the first one breaks down. But a third or fourth car has much less utility than the second car. The cost of extra insurance and maintenance may easily outweigh the value keeping those cars. (I am not Jay Leno. I don’t collect cars.)

At some point in the last two years, I achieved that status. I don’t have to work to maintain a lifestyle that makes me happy. I have no debts beyond a vestigial balance on my mortgage. I have enough savings to buy the luxuries I desire. (Mind those luxuries are small ones – a backup generator to maintain electricity when the power goes out, a rehab of the master bathroom, spending more time with my adult children.) I can pay my monthly expenses (including a monthly reserve for emergencies) and still have a positive balance from my non-earned income. I can travel as much as I want to, buy the books I want to keep, and afford the food I want to eat.

Nor does it mean I will always be rich. Stuff happens. There were Russian aristocrats, wealthy beyond imagination even by modern standards, who were impoverished by the Russian Revolution. There are no guarantees in life, only risk management. But for now, I am rich.

Admittedly my wants and desires are not extravagant. I don’t see the need to buy a new car every year. If my 12-year-old car is reliable enough to take me on the trips I want to make, that is good enough for me. If my subdivision is closer to Tennessee Avenue than to Boardwalk and Park Place, well, I like it that way. If what I can get makes me happy, why should I want more than that?

That does not mean I will stop working. I like working. I like the work I do. Even if I am rich, prefer not to be idle rich. For me, work adds meaning to my life. Even if I bank it all, the income adds to my financial cushion.

Knowing I am free to walk away from my job is liberating. I do not have to accept conditions I find improper. I am at liberty to do the right thing – even if it costs me my job – because I am no longer a slave to it.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was correct when he said the rich are different. Just not in the way Fitzgerald believed; soft instead of hard, cynical instead of trustful, or even that they believe they are better than others. Fitzgerald, despite the money he made, was never rich – he was always among the working poor, kin to the stockbroker who could not lose that $400K/year job without going bankrupt six months later. He never understood what makes the rich different. Not the money – the freedom.

Bad Faith Governance Through Coercion and Lawlessness

 

I didn’t intend for this to become a series of posts…but it appears it must. This little nugget passed by rather quietly earlier this week on Instapundit (less than 40 comments as of this posting):

OFFICIAL LAWLESSNESS: On ObamaCare, Democrats Defy the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the link is to a Wall Street Journal article to which I do not have access. But the Instapundit correspondent provided the meat:

The multitrillion-dollar tax, climate and entitlement spending bill the House passed last week cuts funding for hospitals that treat uninsured patients. It likely violates the Constitution in the process by punishing states that have declined ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.

Seven states, including expansion and nonexpansion states, still use uncompensated-care pools to reimburse providers for charity treatment. Section 30608 of the Build Back Better bill contains two separate provisions that would apply solely to nonexpansion states. The first would reduce by 12.5% their Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital payments, which offset the costs of hospitals that treat high numbers of uninsured patients.

…While the new subsidies authorized under the bill would expire in 2025, the reductions in Medicaid payments—which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at approximately $4 billion a year—are permanent.

That clearly violates the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, which declared ObamaCare’s mandatory expansion of Medicaid unconstitutionally coercive on states.

Yes, we all know that the phrase “clearly violates” is laughable with the Roberts Court … or, more specifically, with that complete joke of a “conservative” Chief Justice, Mr. Roberts himself. But also notice the deafening silence from opportunistic media whores like Republicans for the Rule of Law. (I’m beginning to think that they were every only as real at this Q character. But I digress.)

Regardless, while slightly more hidden than the mocking re-issuance of the eviction moratorium and the cynical Federal Contractor Executive Order, here we are again: The machine in DC continues to function in contrast to the good faith requirement in the voluntary founding compact for this little experiment.

Unfortunately, it is clear that this kind of “coercion and lawlessness” can go on all day every day and most of We the People won’t even notice…and the reliably incurious (or just plain collusive) press sure as hell isn’t going to spread the word. Worse, within our perimeter, there will continue be those who rationalize away all of these individual little cuts that are just adding to the thousands of others already inflicted on The Republic (Is it not already nothing but a rotting corpse?) and others will just look down there noses to utter their conscience protecting mantra: “Things really aren’t that bad.”

When does it begin to matter?

Trivia Question for the Football Fans Out There…

 

Who was the last Ohio college to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes? Ohio State has won an impressive 43 straight in-state games since that loss, but they have lost to Ohio opponents before. Do you know who beat them?

In 1921, immediately after winning the Rose Bowl, Ohio State lost to Oberlin, by a score of 7-6. Ohio State’s only touchdown was on a blocked punt, and they missed the extra point. The game was in Columbus, in front of 10,000 fans.

This year, the Buckeyes are 10-1, and Oberlin is 1-9 (beating only Hiram College 31-28). So if a rematch was held today, it might go differently. But you never know. And apparently, Ohio State doesn’t want to find out – they didn’t schedule Oberlin this year.

From their website: Oberlin is committed to a climate where all students belong and have equitable opportunities and outcomes. The GSFS department often partners with the Multicultural Resource Center to host events affirming and promoting equity for LGBTQ+ students as well as students of color and first-generation college students.

My sainted mother went to Oberlin for a year and a half before transferring to Denison. In the late ’60s, the trend was for every white girl to have a black boyfriend. And they all did. When I played at Denison in the late ’80s, the trend was homosexuality. The whole campus was gay. Oberlin had a football dorm and a straight dorm, and they were the same dorm. I’m not sure what the trend is now, and I hate to think what the trend there might be in 10-20 years.

But whatever the trend is, I’m sure they’ll all follow it. Nothing is as terrifying to a progressive as independent thought.

My point is that Oberlin has changed. My niece is a junior there right now, majoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. Imagine going to a party with those folks. And then imagine going to a tailgate party tomorrow for the Ohio State – Michigan game. Where would you have more fun? Where would you meet more fun people, who are more interesting to talk to? Where would you make new friends that you would keep up with later?

Anyway, for some reason, Oberlin’s football team has not thrived with these recent changes. And Oberlin College has not thrived, either. Applications are way down, and they’re having serious cash flow problems.

Ohio State is doing quite well, thank you. And they seem quite happy about things. While Oberlin students seem miserable. I guess the Buckeyes have gotten over their loss to Oberlin 100 years ago. Might as well let bygones be bygones, and have another beer, I suppose. Happiness is the best revenge, and all that…

Academia will be unrecognizable soon. It already is, come to think of it.

I can’t wait for the big game Saturday. I refer, of course, to the Ohio State – Michigan game.

I’m not sure who Oberlin is playing. Eh — nobody cares. About Oberlin in general, I mean. As it should be. Anybody who takes themselves as seriously as Oberlin does should not be taken seriously by anybody else.

Those who pursue joy tend to attract a following. Even if they sometimes look ridiculous doing it. Go Buckeyes!

Our obsession with something as unimportant as football is a sign of the health of our society. When everyone mopes around like an Oberlin student, or a Democrat activist, then we have serious problems.

God bless football. God bless joy. And God bless America.

What a 2,000-Year-Old Story Can Teach America

 

Every month I’ve been leading a group on Zoom to discuss some aspect of Judaism that we all may not know much about. Although some of my research describes familiar practices and beliefs, almost everyone learns something new. This month we discussed Chanukah, which begins very early on the secular calendar on November 28. We reviewed not only the familiar stories, but I realized that everyone, American Jews and non-Jews alike, have opportunities to reframe the way we see our lives during a season that is holy for many. These are the insights that emerged for me.

The Lighting of the Chanukah candles—

Most people probably know that Jews light eight candles, plus the shamash, which is the lead candle. The candles are lit to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah: when the Maccabees liberated the Temple from the Seleucids and restored and cleaned it, they found only one pure cruse of oil remaining. It was enough to burn for one day, but it burned for eight days, until additional oil arrived. To Jews, the miracle was a reminder that G-d was once again with us. The shamash, which is used to light the other candles, serves as the leader in this process. It “lights the way” to remind us of the miracle of the holiday.

What can we learn from this story? If you believe in G-d, it is a reminder that when life is difficult and challenging, we are never alone. If you don’t believe in G-d, there are miracles, great and small, every single day. We only need to pay attention and appreciate how they show up, often surprising and delighting us.

We also are reminded in these dark times that we can all take responsibility for lighting the way for others, particularly when they are struggling. We can take the role of the shamash, taking the initiative to offer hope and encouragement for those whose lives we touch.

History of the holiday

For years, the Greeks tried to force the Jews to accept their culture, language, and beliefs. Many Jews found the Greek culture attractive, abandoning their Jewish traditions and trying to force other Jews to join them. The Maccabees, five sons and their father, Mattathias who was a priest, fought against the odds to take back their faith and the Temple. And they were victorious.

What can we learn from this story? Many of us feel that the odds are against us to take back this country from the Progressive-Marxist agenda. The Progressives have worked for years to conquer our country, and they are persistent in trying to force us to accept them. We now realize that in effect, we are at war with them. It may be a long and protracted war. It may be demanding. But we simply can’t give up, until we have restored the Constitution and the rule of law.

Gift-giving

In modern history, Jews began the practice of gift-giving at Chanukah, probably imitating their Christian and secular brothers and sisters. Our giving began with giving Chanukah gelt, giving the children money that they would offer to charity. Today that giving is symbolized with the chocolate, foil-covered Chanukah gelt; many families also choose to give a gift each day of the holiday.

What can we learn from this story?

On a personal level, we can give people love, generosity, and caring. So many people are feeling lost, with everything that is going on politically and culturally. We can offer comfort to them when they are weary or sad.

But as citizens, we can work to give people even more. We can give them hope for the future of this country. We can work with others to ensure our freedom, our traditions, and our Constitution. We are, after all, a Judaic-Christian country.

But perhaps most of all, we can give people the courage, by our becoming role models, to take on the oppression and ugliness spreading throughout our country. We may feel like the underdogs at this moment: the country is governed by men and women who will do almost anything to achieve their goals. And maybe it’s time for us to realize that the Progressives will always despise us and try to undermine us, just because they hate our beliefs. But like the Maccabees, we must rally and refuse to give up.

The nation depends on us.

Latest News from Washington State Good for School Choice?

 

This interesting story is on the KOMO website this morning: “Enrollment drop could cost WA schools $500 Million in state funding.”

The Seattle Times reports that between October 2019 and October 2020, 39,000 fewer students enrolled in public school, about a 3.5% drop.

The numbers weren’t distributed evenly across grades — the most pronounced losses were among younger students; the number of kindergarten students plummeted by 14%.

How much of that drop is people leaving the state, and how much is people pulling their kids out of public schools to go to private or religious schools?  The article doesn’t say.

Those are pretty large decreases in public school attendance in one of the most reliably blue states in America.  One thing you can count on, though, is the state and local governments not reducing the property taxes allocated to schools.

Why Are Jews Businessmen?

 

Lots of things in life rely on instability to thrive.  Think of “Necessity is the mother of invention,” or even, “No pain, no gain.” But mankind (and womankind, especially) also have a deep and visceral fear of insecurity and risk.  Stability is planning for the long haul, while instability means being able to improvise and function “in the moment.” No person can live a good and full life at either extreme – those who live to avoid all risks are not living, and those who embrace all risks will not live for long.

But for some reason, Jews are more risk-tolerant than the average person. Why?

I think this is because the Jewish people are forever involved with sha’ar, gates. It is a blessing to Avraham:

I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall inherit the gates of their foes.

Gates? That is odd. After all, one might think that we are supposed to end up with land or possessions. But gates?

Gates are interesting places. Gates are a doorway into a new world (“This is the gate of heaven!”).  Lot welcomes the angels at the gates. Avraham buys the burial place at the gates – that is where deals get done. Hamor and Shechem go to the gates of the city convince the men to become circumcised. Mordechai (and the blessed husband in Proverbs) “sits among the elders at the gates.” When a widow shames her brother-in-law for not preserving his brother’s name, she spits on him and throws a shoe at him “at the gates.” The gates of a city is where all the action happens: interaction with outsiders, the marketplace for goods, services, and ideas (the forum is in or near gates). Judges sit at the gates, and so do businessmen and traders of all kinds.

But unlike private property, gates are not owned, at least not by individual people. They are places of action and interaction, not ownership. And the events at the gates are the least predictable. By contrast, a farmer has a limited range of expected action and reaction based on what nature throws at him. But anything can go down at a gate – a new rumor, a riot, an invasion. Gates are sources and breeding grounds for chaos. In part, this is because a gate is where people meet each other, and people, not nature, are always the X Factor in the world. Nature is cyclical, but people can actually change and grow.

Classical Jewish professions include dealing in law, finance, and commerce of all kinds. Indeed, outside of medicine, every stereotypical Jewish profession would be practiced at the gate of a city. There are historical reasons for this (for much of the last few thousand years, Jews were forbidden to own land in many countries).  But I think there are temperamental reasons as well. Jews seem more comfortable in those worlds than are many other people.

Why? What makes Jews more willing to be traders or financiers?

I think the answer is found in the text, when G-d tells Avraham why he is getting this blessing.

Because you have done this and have not withheld your son … your descendants shall inherit the gates of their foes.

What is the connection? Why does being willing to sacrifice your son mean that your descendants will inherit the gates of their enemies?

I think the answer comes down to risk tolerance. Here is why: Avraham takes a huge risk when he trusts in G-d. He has no idea how it will play out, but he is willing to take that risk anyway. The wordplay reinforces this: the word for “withheld” is the same root word as “darkness.” In other words, Avraham’s decision was made in the dark. He was aware of that he had no idea what the future held, but he was prepared to do what he thought was best, and pray that G-d would sort things out.

This is an essential ingredient for Jewish businessmen. It is a reason why solo entrepreneurs in commerce and finance and real estate continue to succeed, long after corporations would logically have forced them from the field: Jews are willing to take risks that rational companies, companies who always need more information before they take a risk, will delay or outright avoid. Yet it is through businesses like that that wealth is created: trade allows for expansion, and Adam Smith observed that trade, each person’s desire to maximize their own assets, grows wealth much better than does keeping your wealth locked away. The Hebrew word for “gates” also means “to multiply,” a reminder that wealth is multiplied through trade.

Entrepreneurial business is a leap of faith, and the road never leads where you think it is heading. It is not for the faint of heart – or those without faith.  Business risks are often unique and the waters are fouled with the mines of unknown, unforeseeable, and unintended consequences, just waiting to explode. Few people choose that kind of risk if a nice, safe options are at hand.  But Jews do.

It all connects. Avraham is blessed to inherit the gates of his enemies – that Jews will prosper in the gates of sometimes-hostile host nations and peoples – because Avraham was willing to take a risk with inadequate information and faith. In both cases, we do all that we can, and then we believe that G-d will help everything turn out all right, somehow. Because that is precisely what has happened for thousands of years, and continues to happen to this day.

[an @iwe, @susanquinn, @kidcoder and @eliyahumasinter collaboration]

Burned Out on Reality or Who Cares How Kamala Harris Spends $500?

 

A restlessness is pervading my soul. I’m tired of the horrid news, the insolubility of the issues, the repetitiveness of the ideas and my own inability to do something productive, when hopelessness seems impossible to shake off.

And this morning, I heard all the outrage about Kamala’s disgusting behavior in France when she bought a bowl and a pot at the insane price of $500—how dare she? When our own televisions and refrigerators are stalled indefinitely in storage containers in the ports of our great country.

Actually, and quite honestly, the only thing I found appalling about the Kamala story was that the conservatives were making a big deal out of her decision. Seriously?

Who cares?

We are on the brink of watching serious inflation rise and a gas shortage, dealing with the reality of 82,000 people brought from Afghanistan who were barely, or not vetted, at all, falling into the abyss of Marxism and Socialism, watching the President continue to descend into dementia, anticipating the winter surge of Covid and a new variant—can we please get serious?

Conservatives and Republicans are not well-served by our seizing on every petty action or statement made by the Left. Yes, I know they do it to us. But we are not them. It’s not like we don’t already have enough issues threatening the stability and traditions of our country.

Could we please focus?

CovidLand

 

I’ve been leaving CovidLand every weekend now for about eight weeks. It started with my vacation in western New York, then continued as I started the “restoration” of the dining room (i.e., removing the old wallpaper and painting) in the family’s western Pennsylvania home. Mom has set the deadline as Thanksgiving, when we expect about a dozen or more family to come to dinner. A far cry from the 30 or more that was a regular feature of my childhood, but a vast improvement over last year’s six.

Funny thing about that. We never asked if we should limit it to six last year. It was before any vaccine, and the family is aging to the point it just seemed prudent not to expose a lot of the older members of the extended family to the risk. Another funny thing. This year mom was shooting for 20, and we didn’t ask anyone about that either. You see, we don’t live in CovidLand.

Somewhere outside the DC Metro area, maybe by Frederick, certainly by Hagerstown where I often stop, I’ve left CovidLand behind. The masks, aside from those working for some sort of corporate affiliate like Dunkin’ Donuts or Wendy’s, are gone. There may be a sign on the door, but nobody is wearing them anymore. And it doesn’t seem to freak anyone out. It’s a wonderful feeling and just serves to highlight how much I hate life in CovidLand.

Each morning I get up for work, spend 45 minutes driving into the office, where I dutifully put on my mask as I enter the building, and walk to my office where, once the door is closed, I may remove my mask. I sit at my computer taking online meetings, answering phone calls and e-mails for wight to nine hours whereupon I don my mask for the walk to the car and drive home where (after doffing my mask upon entering my residence) I stare at my unused telework space.

It’s a nice space. Fully OSHA-compliant with an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, the monitor set at the perfect eye level, and a chair the proper height to prevent both back and leg strain. And it all looks nice. The desktop is uncluttered with shelves on either side of the desk to hold my printer and desk lamp. The desk is a fine old piece I picked up in a Salvation Army store for a song when I was in grad school and I have dragged it with me in every move since. Everything is plugged into a commercial-grade UPS, fully surge protected, with a spare battery in the nearby closet. The monitor is an identical model to what I use at work, so when my workspace comes up everything is exactly where I expect it to be.

My home internet connection is considerably faster and more reliable than the one at work, as is my HVAC, and my noise environment. In short, I have created in my home the workspace the government professes to wish for all of us keyboard warriors. Comfortable, efficient, healthy, and accessible. But it is not in an important building in the city where important people can see me and be assured my job, whatever it is, is getting done, as they walk past.

I work for an un-named federal agency and early on there was a great push for vaccinations. A very great push. One that indicated to me there was some metric involved leading to the technically allowed “no thanks” to the vaccine being an unacceptable answer. My personal experience with this was that I declined not to keep an appointment, scheduled for me with no real notice, to get my first shot of an un-named vaccine. I had heard about some of the side effects, wasn’t quite sure if I should consider myself “high risk” and wanted to read up and possibly wait for the promising single dose J&J vaccine which apparently had fewer and less severe side effects. I’d been teleworking for several days a week since March 2020, and exclusively for a solid month after the inauguration, so I wasn’t much of a risk. But it was quickly made clear to me that my “no thank you” was not well received by upper management. Note that upper management in this case may involve military ranks not necessarily used to supervising civilians.

Upon my physical return to work for some computer issues, to say that my immediate supervisor was “very concerned” that I have all the necessary information on “the availability of and information necessary to schedule” a vaccine would understate the situation. It was clear that “no” was not considered the right answer, and absent a well-documented medical or religious reason for it, that unacceptable no would fall on my supervisor as a failure to provide the upper management with the numbers they required.

I was planning on getting a vaccine at some point, so I relented and made everyone’s life easier. Of course, the second shot knocked me on my ass for a week that couldn’t have been much better than the actual infection, and from what I’d been hearing was considerably worse than a lot of cases, and I still had to quarantine for two weeks after the second shot till I was considered “fully vaccinated.” But it was better than catching COVID, right?

Well, that wasn’t really the goal. The goal was to get everyone back in the office ASAP. Upper-upper management had toured our offices sometime in late December 2020 and expressed dissatisfaction at the emptiness, hence in their view, idleness of the facility. Our organization is however about as technocratic and tied to your laptop as they come and was actually seeing a jump in productivity due to people at home routinely working longer hours with fewer interruptions than when in the office. We’d also been supplied with a version of Microsoft Teams that our IT staff hadn’t had time to wreck with IA (Information Assurance) compliance yet, so even the meetings were running better and more efficiently than usual. In short, we were proving every day that we could, as planned, continue to operate efficiently in a “disaster” scenario with minimal on-site presence. This was clearly unacceptable to those walking through empty hallways, unable to see the worker bees busy at their desks.

So we all got the jab. Well, most of us. There were a few who apparently stuck to their guns or had sufficient proof that their refusal to comply was not a widespread threat to the numbers management wanted to hit. From what I heard, we were well into the 90% vaccinated range when they told everyone that COVID was no longer a reason for telework, as our workplace, through the tireless haranguing of management, had been made safe for all, vaccinated (can’t get it, can’t give it) and unvaccinated alike. So we all returned. The unvaccinated were still required to wear masks mind you, they were voluntary for everyone else, but recommended when working in close proximity. And there was a “don’t ask” policy on vaccination status so you couldn’t assume that a mask-wearing employee was unvaccinated.

It was a glorious few weeks, before the dreaded delta variant, and it turned out that you could both give and get COVID regardless of your vaccination status. Then the masks came back out for all federal employees in all workspaces, unless you had a private office with full floor-to-ceiling walls and a door, so as to effectively seal yourself off … And the outdoors mandate was lifted, but there would still be none of this working from home because of COVID balderdash. All employees would show up at the office and wear their masks while they took their online meetings and answered their phone and their e-mails in their office! With the door shut. Lest the virus leap from a vaccinated you at your desk to the vaccinated and masked co-worker walking past in the hallway.

The feds weren’t alone. All of DC and most of Virginia and Maryland went back to full mask requirements, this time regardless of vaccination status. Because someone could be lying about that after all.

But this isn’t a panic mind you. It’s science. It’s lousy sloppy inconsistent and often bad or just plain wrong science, but damn you, it’s SCIENCE!

Funny thing about science, it doesn’t make judgments about right and wrong, good and bad, woke or not, it just presents a series of facts, a snapshot of reality that we have to come to terms with, but rarely do.  Oddly the medieval mind seemed more adept at this.  It was well understood that the lower calling of natural philosophy was distinct from revealed philosophy (usually referred to as theology back in the day).  Natural philosophy or theology could confirm, through observations by the senses, what revelation and scripture (Revealed Philosophy) had taught us, that the creator had provided us proof of the intelligence, power, and goodness of God based on the order and beauty of the world.  It took centuries to pry them apart and make Natural Science a thing of its own, absent judgments of morality or value, much like the politics of man were eventually recognized as a lesser earthly manifestation of divine law that would forever fall short. Our secular world was born out of the bitter experience that, as revealed millennia before, man was not god, and infusing men with the power or authority of God would not, and could not bring about heaven on earth. But that is another topic for another day.

The problem, or one of the current ones we’re dealing with presently is that, absent God, whom we apparently killed a century or so ago, science and man have once again taken on his role. Science is seen as the arbiter of right and wrong.  We must “follow the science” on global warming or deforestation or masking and vaccinations lest we become fallen beings, turning our backs on the revelations of science and the salvation it can provide us in the hands of proper-thinking men.

Funny thing about science.  It’s a snapshot of reality, and we may or may not get every detail out of that snapshot.  Reality can change, at least our version of it, based on our present ability to read and rationalize that snapshot.  Or based on what the secular priesthood tells us.  So masking is useless, or mandatory and you are fully vaccinated (can’t get it, can’t give it) after two doses, until you aren’t, because fully vaccinated now means three or four doses, and you can still get it, but not nearly as bad, but you should still shun the unclean who refuse to vaccinate because they’re young and healthy, or because they already had the virus, or because they’ve been exposed to it for over a year due to their jobs, and haven’t come down with a case yet…

So I’m leaving CovidLand, this time for about a week, to celebrate with family that we have all come through the worst of it, and can gather without inordinate fear to share a meal and a prayer or two thanking our creator, who reveals his goodness through things that can’t always be measured by the science of men, but that we all know exist.