Senate Democrats’ Latest Crazy Filibuster Idea

 

While you’ve been busy watching football or digging out of snowstorms, both House and Senate Democrats have been working overtime to find a way of enacting a partisan federal takeover of America’s elections. They are desperate to get a bill to the president’s desk.

And they are almost there. But that last hurdle is a doozy.

Please stick with me here because this is a sordid tale of brazen politics and a power grab that is unfolding before us that may blow up the Senate.

Let’s start with the House.

Last Wednesday, House Democrats pulled an interesting stunt. On a strictly partisan vote, they replaced the text of a bill that had already passed the House and Senate (as amended), HR 5746, which regarded extending NASA’s leasing authority. In its place, they substituted the bill with the language from their highly partisan election “reform” bills, the so-called Freedom to Vote Act (HR 1) and the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act (HR 4). Both bills had previously passed the House on a strictly partisan vote but stalled last year in the 50-50 Senate because of the filibuster.

These bills, both of dubious constitutionality, would impose federal requirements that would undermine the integrity of our elections and help make it easier for Democrats to “win.”

And you know what the filibuster is. That pesky Senate Rule XXII requires a three-fifths supermajority to end debate and bring a matter to a final vote.

Why did House Democrats do this? Amending a bill that had already passed the Senate became, technically, a “message” back to the Senate. That means Democratic Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York can bypass any filibuster on a “motion to proceed.” The rules still require 60 votes to end debate on the bill, but it is one less hurdle for Schumer to navigate. The vote will be on whether to accept the House’s rewrite substitution amendment to a bill that used to be about NASA.

It was legislative sleaze on steroids. And this is where it may get fascinating.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who you may remember was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, has been leading a Senate Democratic discussion on ways to circumvent around or through the Senate’s rules (XXII) to pass the bill with only 51 votes. While Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona support the Freedom to Vote acts, they oppose changing the filibuster on legislation.

Now, according to an interesting article in The Hill, Kaine and his cohorts are eyeballing another Senate rule. Rule XIX, clause 1a, the so-called “two-speech rule”:

When a Senator desires to speak, he shall rise and address the Presiding Officer, and shall not proceed until he is recognized, and the Presiding Officer shall recognize the Senator who shall first address him. No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer, and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate (emphasis added).

Let’s unpack this. First, the presiding officer can’t ignore a senator seeking recognition (although the majority leader has the first right of recognition under Senate precedents). Second, no senators can be interrupted without their permission. And third, senators are technically limited to speaking twice on any one question during a “legislative day.”

It’s that third issue that Kaine and his cabal have zeroed in on. A legislative “day” is not the same as a calendar day — it can extend for several days, so long as the Senate never technically adjourns for the day (it stays in recess).

But the problem is that pesky “speaking twice on any one question.” Any motion, including offering an amendment, counts as a “question.” Senate Democrats are trying to figure out whether they have the energy and willpower to run out the clock, exhausting or curtailing the Republican party’s ability to offer debatable motions and force a final vote that only requires a simple majority.

Can they do that? No one knows. This is uncharted territory. And it may blow up the Senate in the process.

One former Senate GOP aide, James Wallner, a purported procedural expert, thinks the Democrats can pull this off.

I don’t think so. And The Hill’s discussions with an unnamed senior Senate Democratic aide outline three good reasons.

First, the Senate’s two-speech rule is rarely, if ever, enforced. After all, the Senate has long exalted the right of “unlimited debate.” I’m unaware of any presiding officer’s act to deny a senator recognition to debate a matter, barring time limits under some “unanimous consent” agreement, budget and reconciliation rules, or post-cloture requirement. None of these exceptions apply to this amended NASA bill.

Second, it doesn’t deter any senator’s ability to offer an endless array of debatable motions and amendments. Each one would restart the counter on the two-speech rule back to zero. You can bet that Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has already conjured up a whole series of such motions and amendments. McConnell is arguably the U.S. Senate’s leading expert on elections. And he’s no slouch on Senate procedure, either.

Thirdly, which party would wear the other out faster? From The Hill:

The third problem is that Republicans would only need a few senators to tie up the floor, while Democrats would need to muster all 50 members of their caucus plus the vice president as the tie-breaking vote to repeatedly counter Republican motions noting the absence of a quorum, motions to adjourn and other procedural motions designed to hold up legislative business.

Kaine’s real strategy here may be to see if he can force a “talking filibuster” to wear out senators. But that won’t work.

Let’s consult Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who stands to return as the Senate’s president pro tempore if he wins reelection this fall and the GOP captures a majority:

“The confusion between the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington image of a filibuster and the cloture rule has led many commentators, members of the media, and even President Biden to suggest there was a time when senators had to speak non-stop to prevent the Senate moving to a final vote with a simple majority. That has never been the case. Since 1806, it has always required a super-majority to end debate on legislation if some senators believe further consideration is needed, meaning not just debate but for offering amendments as well. Don’t forget, cloture motions limit not just debate but the right to offer amendments and receive an up or down vote. This is an essential tool for senators to represent their states regardless of party.”

It might be one thing if Schumer, Kaine, President Joe Biden, and their Democratic colleagues have strong public support behind their efforts to undermine free and secure elections. But they don’t. And Biden’s poll numbers, along with those of his party, continue to decline as this debate continues. Biden’s job approval has descended to 33%, and there’s been a 14-point shift over the past year toward the GOP in party identification. Nearly three-fourths of voters support photo ID requirements to vote, including most Black voters, which the Democrats’ bill would practically eliminate.

I get why the Democrats want new federal election rules designed to benefit them amidst declining political fortunes, based on their success at the presidential level in 2020 (congressional and other elections, not so much). But I continue to be amazed at the Democrats’ dogged efforts to push their intensely partisan election reform power grab while approaching a political abyss in November.

If I were Schumer, I’d be looking at an exit strategy on election reform and changing the subject. And fast.

To what, you ask? Good question. The best exit strategy might be to see how fast a bipartisan group of senators can come up with reforms to the 19th century Electoral Count Act, which almost everyone agrees needs fixing. Offering that as a substitute and sending the bill right back to the House would be a nice trick if it can be achieved. Doubtful, but I see no other good way out for Schumer that doesn’t smell like defeat. And even that may not pass the smell test.

The clock is ticking.

Rasmussen Poll: 45% of Democratic Voters Favor Confining the Unvaccinated to ‘Designated Facilities’

 

Here’s the TLDR from a Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Report survey. For Democratic voters:

  • 55% support fines against those who choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 59% support house arrest for the unvaccinated.
  • 48% support fines or prison for questioning vaccine efficacy on social media, TV, or the radio or in online or digital publications.
  • 45% support temporarily confining the unvaccinated to “designated facilities” (cough) internment camps (cough).
  • 47% support government tracking of the unvaccinated.
  • 29% support temporarily removing parents’ custody of their children if parents refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Second look at a national divorce?

Moving On From Covid

 

In another conversation (Ekosj’s very interesting conversation on vaccination numbers vis a vis deaths) I saw this quote from The Hammer:

“Covid is over. Let’s move on. Half the country already has.”

I think half the country is exactly right.  But it feels like the other half can’t move on, whether from fear, ignorance, or sheer stubbornness.  My sister is my only sibling that still lives in our hometown, Portland, ME, where my 94-year-old mother still lives by herself.  My sister tested positive for COVID and emailed us this the other day:  “I wear two N95 masks and never go anywhere except to take Mom to the store and doctor appointments, so I don’t know where I got it.”  My brother and I didn’t comment because nothing I could have said would have reduced her stress level. I’m pretty sure she won’t be moving on any time soon.

And as much as I’ve been happy with Texans’ response to COVID (at least after the initial few months), the differences between communities can be shocking.  In the rural school district where I sit on the board, masks have been optional the entire school year.  We offer in-person instruction only, and our attendance rate has remained at 95 percent except for a short drop to 93 percent in November.  I read this in the San Antonio paper yesterday: “On Wednesday evening, South San Antonio ISD interim Superintendent Henry Yzaguirre made a plea to parents: bring your child to school every day. Attendance had dropped 5 percentage points in one week. Out of 7,824 total students, the district was missing 2,013 Tuesday — a 26 percent absentee rate. About 110 staff were out.”

The other half still seems terrified.  I don’t know what it will take for them to ever move on.

Donald, Don’t Do it

 

This is precisely the kind of petty behavior that confirms my belief that Trump should not be elected again. He’s decided that certain key people should state that they will step down if Trump decides to run for President in 2024. And he has Ron DeSantis in his sights.

Recently I heard a reporter ask Mike Pompeo, who I believe would be a very fine presidential candidate, if he would step down from a candidacy if Trump decided to run. Pompeo indirectly stated that Trump’s candidacy wouldn’t stop him from running. Chris Christie said something similar on Fox. But both of these men don’t have a high probability of being elected.

Why is Trump attacking? Ron DeSantis is a real threat.

I know we’re a long way from 2024, but Trump wants to get in his digs early.

Trump’s first attack was indirect. DeSantis was asked about his vaccine status, and he said he’d received the vaccine, but did not reveal whether he’d had the booster, and Trump wanted everyone to know that he did have the booster. Trump’s thinly veiled response: last week he seemed to swipe at DeSantis as ‘gutless’ politicians who dodge the question out of fear of blowback from vaccine skeptics.

How does Trump know that, and why does he care?

It turns out that Trump was booed recently at two speaking events in Alabama and Dallas when he encouraged people to get the vaccine. In contrast, DeSantis has kept current on the outcomes of getting the vaccines and the booster, and is highly critical of Anthony Fauci, the man whom Trump relied on.

In addition, Trump takes credit for getting DeSantis elected. (I don’t know if he’s mentioned how, until recently when DeSantis criticized lockdowns, DeSantis frequently stated his support for Trump.) But Trump demands loyalty, and he expects DeSantis’ loyalty to extend to declining a nomination for the Presidency.

Trump is entitled to wish for whatever he likes, including a lifetime support for his running a third time for the Presidency. He’s entitled to be disappointed, even angry, at DeSantis for not agreeing to step down if Trump runs again. But he’s wrong on several other counts. First, he’s going to garner criticism should he decide to run if he demands that DeSantis not run. Second, if he criticizes DeSantis because the governor won’t step down, his input could actually increase DeSantis’ chances for the nomination. Third, he could be threatening the chances of the Republican party winning the Presidency, due to the self-serving demands he’s making, which will suggest that the Republicans can be as inept as the Democrats. Finally, he could jeopardize the future of the country if he has a role in the Republicans losing the Presidency.

If Trump could be the adult in the room (as Biden tries to claim he is) and say he’d be “disappointed” if DeSantis would win, I’d be fine with that. And we don’t know what he’ll say over the next couple of years: he could back off or dial it up.

But I’m not holding my breath. Stay tuned.

Remember – Biden Was Always a Plant

 

The Biden administration has always been a Potemkin construct, a sham.  Every single person knows that he is simply mentally unfit, and everybody has known it since before the laughable election.  Some people lie about this because he’s their guy — they won’t admit it — but they know nonetheless.  Always did.

And this installation of a bumbling incompetent is not an accident.  Biden is prima facie in charge of nothing, therefore somebody else is, or somebodies else are.  I lean toward the latter.  There is indeed a conspiracy, it’s just not a well-organized one.  This whole thing is a tremendous exercise in the government becoming unaccountable.  People throughout government, media, and the actual Democrat party apparatus knew this, and willfully worked to install this marionette — each striving to get their hands on a string.

A dead body is ejected from a car at high speed.  Hundreds of people witness it.  The crowd turns on those asking “who was in the car”?  That’s two conspiracies — one of the perpetrators in the car, and another of those who have decided to shut up, and to shut others up, if they know what’s good for them.  They know what’s best for all of us — just ask them.  Yet it’s not crazy to point out that there is indeed a conspiracy, despite a lack of specifics.  “Can you cite your sources?”

Every President — every leader — relies on staff and institutions to advise, to plan, to execute.  This Presidency shows the staff and institutions finally engulfing the office.  Joe Biden is the most prominent casualty of the deep-state mutiny and coup which brought down Trump, and which now owns the Presidency.  Shut up if you know what’s good for you.

Regrets, We’ve Had a Few

 

Twitter is a toxic waste dump. Twitter ranks with socialism, genocide, mustard gas, and soy hot dogs among the worst things ever invented by humankind. We can all agree to that. But sometimes, with the rarity of a genuinely funny SNL sketch, there is a pony under that massive pile of horse manure. And this post and comments about missed opportunities is such a pony.

In high school I went to a sleepover and the girl I liked climbed into bed with me and she started tickling me and I was like ‘hahaha okay well time for bed’ and I think about that twice every 5 minutes.

Seems this is a near-universal condition among us.

Went to a wedding with a hot girl and we danced a lot even the slow songs. Afterwards we were walking to our cars (we had driven separately) and she said “want to see my new car?” And she specifically showed me how big the back seat was and I was like “cool well drive safe”

Also I should mention that she had suggested driving to my place to drive together to the wedding and I said “nah it makes more sense to meet there.” I think about this every day

And this.

In college I was bar backing and a really attractive bartender wanted me to walk her to her car for safety and then suggested I ride with her back to her place to make sure she got home safe, and I said, “then how am I going to get back to my car?” and then she left.

And this.

Crush invited me to the hot tub on a youth group resort trip to the Poconos. I told her I had Jesus paperwork to finish. She treated me like a close gay friend the rest of high school, which makes sense.

Also this.

In college this one girl I liked came to my dorm room to get some calculus tutoring. She brought wine coolers, drank half of one, and suddenly acted all drunk and giggled at everything. I said she can’t do calculus in this state and she should go home & take a nap. So she did.

This one rings so true.

Lol in high-school I was in the pit playing music for the drama production. Before hand they put flowers on our music stands and I was holding it talking to my homies. Cute girl on stage looks at me and says “is that for me?” And I go and say “no” and just went back to talking.

This one is my favorite though.

When I was a teenager, a cute girl who worked at McDonald’s wrote her number on the back of my receipt and I thought “I bet they do this in case there’s something wrong with my order”. Then tossed it in the trash.

If you’re like me, you’ll be thinking about missed romantic opportunities for the rest of the day now, and wondering, “What if…” I’ve definitely had my share of romantic opportunities that I squandered out of youth and stupidity.  But I have regrets larger than those. I have spent a non-trivial amount of time thinking over my life and things I would do differently if I were given a do-over.

The problem – as illustrated in the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Tapestry” – is that our lives are a consequence of our mistakes as well as our good choices. (Even Wil Wheaton was able to parse that message out.) I am where I am today because of a lifetime of choices – many of which I regret making.  One particularly bad choice I made led directly (years later) to the adoption of my three sons; maybe the only thing I have ever done and will ever do in this life that ever mattered. As much as I wish I could pull out that one terrible thread from my life, it’s connected to the greatest thing in my life. I cannot reconcile that.

Marlin: Funeral for a Friend

 

I’d known him through middle school, high school, and college. Now Marlin was dead.

He was smart. With a friend from middle school, he shared an interest in astronomy, producing a newsletter (Stargazing Monthly) and eventually building a telescope and observatory on the property of one of our schools. When the time came, he chose to attend Biola University in La Mirada (Blah Mirada, to Marlin), majoring in psychology.

His problem was the hole in his heart. Or rather in a heart valve. He had endured several operations, a decrepit valve each time replaced by a porcine one. This surgery was the last, and a modern artificial valve was installed. The surgery was successful.  As his recovery progressed, Marlin was invited to attend a meeting of his doctors. At that meeting, he suddenly sat up, and then his head fell to the table. An unseen infection brought stopped his troubled heart in his 23rd year.

Then came the funeral. I had been on the road, and traveled four hours to gather with fellow friends at the plain wooden church of which Marlin was a member. This was my first funeral for a friend.

It was horrible. The pastor, bless his heart, didn’t know Marlin. He couldn’t have; not the way he spoke about him. Marlin, he said, was a pious and faithful youth. We can’t understand this tragedy, he said, but be assured, Marlin had all the virtues one could hope to find in a Christian young man, especially during these vexing times. In short, Marlin was a good kid: loyal, obedient, happy, loving, faithful. I don’t know whether his parents took comfort from these words, but I know for a fact that they didn’t describe Marlin.

It wasn’t that Marlin didn’t possess these virtues in some part, but the unremitting picture of a juvenile saint was just plain wrong. The Marlin my friends and I knew did not just possess the sarcasm of adolescence; he was sardonic, cynical, and mordant. He cast a gimlet eye upon politics, religion, education, culture, and society in general. He was deadly and grim in his analyses. I can see his knowing grin and impatient eye-rolling even now.

Now, I think that as he lived his life, hobbled by infirmity from the joys of exuberant youth, Marlin was destined to hold this point of view. Underneath was always kindness, and even Christian optimism. But every day he lived was another day when he could not run and play with the other kids, when he was, for long periods, home-bound, and special in a way he did not desire and could not control. Girlfriends, children, family: all were vague and probably unobtainable futures. How could he be other than what he was?

But that Marlin didn’t show up for his funeral. The hagiography was galling; I think not only for his friends, but for everyone there. Perhaps this sort of thing was part of the culture of that congregation. As a late adolescent myself, I could only see the hypocrisy. Good Lord, at least say something true and honest about him. My prayer went unanswered.

After, my friends and I met, and over a soda corrected the record. It was a kind of salve for our broken hearts and our misplaced anger.

Marlin’s death changed me; it was my introduction to the mortality of even the young. His funeral changed me, or at least fed my adolescent disgust with cant and hypocrisy.

This January 23 will be the 41st anniversary of Marlin’s death. Since then I have not only been to many funerals; I have officiated over hundreds. Some were for those I didn’t know. I pray I have been honest; I know I have tried. I’ve learned that it’s not such an easy thing to do, and perhaps have learned more about grace in those 41 years.

But it seems meet and right to remember that funeral, and through it, my friend. And it seems right to look forward to our reunion one day, when we can laugh at the fools we were, and revel in the joy that is.

And I heard a voice from Heaven, saying unto me, “Write: ’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth.’” “Yea,” saith the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.” – Revelation 14:13

Marlin (1958-1981)

Omicron and Me

 

Well, it finally happened.  Two years on, inexorably and inevitably, I caught the ‘rona.  It’s hardly surprising, really, since I have been going about my business, carefully, but pretty much normally from the start, as have most of my family, my friends, my neighbors, and my own little corner of the world.  I had both the original Pfizer shots, late last Spring.  I’m not “boosted,” as I don’t subscribe to the idea that showing up every few months for another shot will do anything other than–over the course of time–make me even more susceptible to new variants increasingly clever enough to evade them.

And anyway, I heard Dr. Fauci say that–sooner or later–everyone would get Omicron.  So there.

I’m 67 years old.  I’m in pretty good health, although I could stand to lose just a few pounds.  I don’t have any of the commonly cited co-morbidities, and other than a diagnosis of early sarcoid in my lungs and lymph nodes over 30 years ago (which is monitored and buys me an annual chest CT scan to look at problem areas), I’m the picture of what the Victorians used to call “rude health.”

So I’ve banked on the fact that if Coronavirus ever caught up with me, I’d survive it.  And, by gum, I think I have!  So far, anyway.

I do want to issue a heads-up, though.  Even the “mild” Omicron variant is not a day at the park for those of us of a certain age.  It’s pretty vicious.  And although we can argue about the safety and benefits of the initial rounds of shots (something I’m just not going to do here), I’m glad I had them.  If you come down with a case, take it seriously.  Follow your doctor’s advice.  And take care of yourself.

As I bear down on the end of my second week in purdah, I thought I’d offer an update, so that those of you who care know I’m still alive and kicking, and so that those of you who’ve written me off don’t get too comfortable in your certainty.  None of what I write (now that I actually have an interest in writing something again) should be considered definitive medical advice.  I’m just telling you what I did to get through it, and what has worked for me.

The Beginning:
I caught it from a guest in my home.  No blame attaches to him.  He didn’t know, and neither did I, but once two of his sons (one, a PA state cop, the other in nursing school) were tested and found positive, the die was cast.  The first sign for me was excruciating joint pain, which–absent any other symptoms–lasted about a day, and was then accompanied by chills, then a fever, for another two days.

(Side note:  I’m famous, at my doctor’s office, for being the woman who never spikes a fever.  Never.  Ever.  My temperature is 97.5 at all times, and hasn’t varied for decades, no matter what else is going on.  Same with blood pressure, which is about 100/65, no matter what.  So one day into this, when my temperature was 101, and my blood pressure was 130/80, I knew something was up.  Thankfully, my pulse oximeter showed good oxygenation.  TBC, between the veterinary/livestock needs, and Mr. She’s last illness, I’m pretty well-acquainted with how to monitor vital signs, what I should consider a problem, and when I should start to worry.)

I retired to bed, feeling utterly miserable.  Thought, for about 36 hours, that I might be destined for the morgue.  Notified friends and family.  Dismissed pleas that I go and be tested: What the hell for?  Sit in a room for hours with dozens of people probably sicker than me, or in a parade of cars at a drive-through testing location breathing in petrol fumes, to find out–what, exactly?  That I had what I knew I had?  No, thank you.

Slept.  Didn’t eat.  Remembered to stay well hydrated.  Waited it out.  Called my doctor’s office at some point just to put them on notice.  They said I seemed to be doing the right things, and to keep up the good work.

About 72 hours in, the fever and the aches abated.  Still didn’t have much appetite.  I’d been taking a Nyquil knock-off with “fever-reducer, cough-suppressant, and antihistamine,” which probably made me feel even more out of it than I would otherwise.  Switched to a straight cough-suppressant, since that was now the most annoying symptom, and which had resulted in chest pain from the racking cough.  Used copious amounts of saline nasal spray, something I’m prone to do anyway to mitigate a tendency to sinusitis.

At this point, my brain started to reassert itself, and I found myself thinking about comforting unguents and palliative medicines from my childhood.  (Tea and coffee were, at this point, sheer anathema.) Onion soup.  Ginger and lemon which (fortunately)  can usually be found in my refrigerator.  Made a syrup from 1 cup of sugar, one cup of water, and one cup of thinly sliced fresh ginger root.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Let steep for an hour.  Strain.  2 tablespoons accompanied by 1/2 freshly-squeezed lemon, in 8oz of hot water.  Did more to clear out my bronchial passages and quiet my cough than just about anything else.  Still drinking 3-4 cups of that a day.  Listened to friends with (sometimes) helpful advice.  (Sometimes) even took it.

The Middle:
This started about four days in, by which time my cough had become bearable, my temperature and blood pressure were normal, and other than an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and strain, I felt pretty OK.  (Sheep and chickens don’t care about overwhelming feelings of exhaustion and strain, and still have to be fed and watered.  I suspect such factors contribute to overwhelming feelings of exhaustion and strain for me, just as other sorts of unignorable factors do the same for others.  Do what you must.  And not much else.)

And so, for the last week, I’ve done almost nothing (except what’s absolutely necessary for the aforementioned sheep and chickens).  Every day, I’m a little better, I have less of a cough, and I have (very) slightly more energy.  Why, yesterday, I even wired two new electrical circuits! (Something which, a week ago, I wouldn’t have had the physical, let alone the mental, capacity to accomplish.) Little by little, I’m coming back.  And today, for the first time in almost two weeks, I feel like writing.   I’ve read that full recovery can take from three to six weeks, if you’re of a certain age and you get a pretty good dose of this.  I believe it.

And I’d like to issue a special shoutout to friends and family who’ve sent me stuff, regularly checked in on me (sometimes, too regularly), and who’ve dropped off meals and supplies on the other side of my driveway gates (which function like the medieval plague crosses of old).  Thank you, all!  You’ve kept me going when I wasn’t sure I could.  And so here I still am.

The End:
No, it hasn’t come yet.  And I’m not expecting it to.  Sorry.

To close, I look again to my childhood, and to one of my mother’s favorite songs from hers (also, apparently, beloved of George Orwell):

Don’t count me out.  Just yet, anyway.

To fellow sufferers everywhere:  Take care of yourselves.  Let others take care of you.  And do everything you need to, to get well.  Prayers.

Basic Fact: The Texas Synagogue

 

The hostages ran away from the hostage-taker. They saved themselves. “‘First of all, we escaped. We weren’t released or freed,” said Cohen, who was one of four people in the synagogue for services that many other Congregation Beth Israel members were watching online.'” Then the FBI stormed the building, and shot the bad guy dead.

So how come the press reports it differently?

BBC:

The four people held hostage at the synagogue in Colleyville near Dallas were eventually freed unharmed, after a 10-hour siege.

WSJ:

The hostages held at Congregation Beth Israel were freed by an elite FBI rescue team that flew to the area from the East Coast, law-enforcement officials said.

Now I see that some sources (AP and NPR!) are correcting the record with the new information. Still, it is astounding how sloppy the reporting has been, for a story that is really not that hard to follow.

And I wonder why they had to shoot the bad guy, if he had no hostages. Surely he would have been more useful alive?

The Impossible Dream of Merging Homeland Security with Reality

 

I’ve never understood the airport security thing since 9-11.  They are looking for weapons, when I think they should be looking for people.  People, for example, like the Texas synagogue terrorist, who had a history of criminal behavior, mental illness, and anti-Semitism.  But Muslim terrorists killed thousands of people with box-cutters, so now I have to take my shoes off to get on an airplane?  I’m a 53-year-old Lutheran from Ohio, not a 23-year-old Muslim from Pakistan.  What do my shoes have to do with national security?  An article in The New York Post touched on this yesterday:

American travelers put up with a vast amount of security theater: millions of man-hours lost each year to unpredictably long TSA lines; intrusive pat-downs; the whole take-off-your-shoes-and-belt rigamarole. Yet the vast security apparatus can’t screen out a mentally ill Muslim extremist?

Americans need to demand that our Homeland Security apparatus be completely redesigned.  They should be looking for people, not weapons.  Which will be difficult politically, because a lot of those people (although not all) will be Muslims.  But saving lives can be difficult.  Regardless, the first thing we need to do is recognize the existence of reality.  We need to agree that what we’re doing right now makes no sense whatsoever.  Let’s start there.  Perhaps this latest synagogue attack will start the discussion.

And perhaps Joe Biden will recognize the destructive impact of his policies, and sign an order reverting everything back to Trump’s policies, while riding a unicorn through a sea of cotton candy.

The simple act of recognizing reality has become an absurd fantasy.

It’s amazing how complex and difficult and dangerous reality can become when we attempt to ignore it.  It really is much simpler to acknowledge the existence of reality, even if we don’t care for it at times.

But we’re Americans.  We don’t have to do that.  We have a Constitutional right to whatever version of reality we prefer.  That’s a pretty good summary of the Democrat Party platform, come to think of it.

Even if it doesn’t make any sense.  Criminally insane Muslim extremists are not a threat to us.  My shoes are.  That seems nice.  And really, you’ve got to admit, that would be nice.  It’s much easier to deal with my shoes than a criminally insane Muslim extremist.

But ignoring reality does not make it go away.  It just makes it more complex, more difficult, and more dangerous.  Which we see over and over again.  But we never learn.

But difficult decisions can be difficult.  Conflict can be unpleasant.  Maybe this time, just this once, we can just look the other way.  Can’t we all just get along?

That’d be nice.  It really would.

I wonder how that will work out?  You never know, I suppose…

The Second Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

 

The first assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was a national tragedy, but his assassin succeeded only in killing the man. The idea King lived and ultimately died for, most beautifully captured in his famous wish, his dream that his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” survived him. Ideas are not killed by bullets.

Ideas are killed by other ideas.

The second assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. is being conducted today by the people who pretend to understand and share his dream. They’re public intellectuals, race-baiting hacks, cynical hustlers and profiteers, idealistic fools, and people deceived into believing that they will always be victims without freedom or agency. They’re not killing the man but rather something the man valued more than his own life. As he said in his final speech, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

Today, figuratively speaking, the heirs of Rosa Parks are demanding reserved black-only seating on the public buses of Montgomery.

Small, mean, vicious people, those hacks and faux intellectuals and agitators, are busily destroying the life’s work of a man larger in death than they ever will be in life. Their ideas have more in common with those of the bigot who murdered King than they have with King’s own — are in fact the antithesis of the message King brought.

Rules for Political Discourse

 

Al’s Rules for Political Discussion

Personally, I have been appalled by the level of intellectual honesty in today’s political discussion. Cable news and social media have a big influence in driving discussions that everyday people engage in. I have asked myself what value I get from discussions that I have been a part of. Answer is not much. So, I have thought about this and would like to share a set of rules I am following whenever I become involved in such discussions. Here are my rules.

  1. Remember, cable news is mostly entertainment, with a little information thrown in. For example, I will watch Fox News to find out which catheter is the right one for me.
  2. Social media is just that — a medium where people can engage in social discourse. It is not a source of facts despite what the fact checkers say.
  3. Opinion is different from facts. Opinion can be a personal interpretation of facts or it can lack a basis in factual content. If the latter, please don’t waste my time.
  4. Whether I choose to engage in discussion with a person will depend on the following:
    1. Have we shared at least one meal together?
    2. Have I invited you to share a bottle of wine?

The reason for this rule is that if I don’t know you, most likely, I don’t care what you think. I am sure you feel the same way about me.

  1. Just as “my truth” is not “the truth,” neither is yours.
  1. When engaging in a political discussion, it is important to have agreement with the other party as to the relevant facts. Political debate should be about interpretation of facts, not having one’s own unique set of facts.
  1. It’s OK to have a different interpretation of the facts. That is what makes the discussion worthwhile. If you are coming from a different perspective and make a coherent point, I am overjoyed, as I just learned something.
  1. You could be the clown to the left of me or the joker to the right, but I am not stuck in the middle with you.

Hope this helps. These are my rules. You are welcome to make use of them.

Composite photo: Shutterstock and Axiom Strategies.

Fresh off the win for his client in the Virginia’s Governor race, Republican strategist and campaign manager Jeff Roe sits down with David Drucker to talk about turning the Commonwealth from +10 Biden to +2 Youngkin, and looks forward to the next two election cycles.

Roe is blunt (and explicit) about Joe Biden and the coming midterms, as well as the 800 lb. gorilla in the room for the 2024 Republican nomination for president – who might be able to challenge that – and who might be just be nothing more than a pretender.

Poland Prepares for War

 

The Polish government has set a goal of becoming the largest military force in Western Europe. Hard lessons were learned in WWII with the German and Russian occupation of Poland. The Russian occupation ended in the 1990s.

The Russian seizure of Crimea and the current threat to Ukraine has Poland worried. Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic States are worried as well. Norway, the Baltic States, and Poland are members of NATO. Sweden has a mutual military assistance pact with the United States. US armed forces, including the US Air Force, conduct training exercises with Finland’s armed forces.

Poland plans to increase the size of its full-time armed forces as well as training reserves for guerilla warfare. They pay their full contribution to NATO and are purchasing Javelins, F-35s, and will soon have the largest armored forces in Western Europe. Plans are in place to purchase new attack helicopters to replace their older obsolete Russian helicopters.

Poland is involved in hybrid warfare with Putin’s poodle, Lukashenko of Belarus. Russia is planning military training exercises with Belarus near the Polish border. Belarus, with Putin’s blessing, has been trying to destabilize Poland by importing Middle Eastern immigrants to Belarus and then trying to push them into Poland.

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Joe and I Don’t Understand

 

I don’t understand.  I’ve never had patients send me links to podcasts about high blood pressure or gastroparesis, but with COVID, it’s every day.  I’ve never been threatened by insurance companies that if I use a certain drug to treat a certain disease, they will remove me from their plans.  I’ve never been threatened by the CDC that I could lose my medical license if I don’t repeat whatever it is they’re saying today.  This is so odd.  I really don’t get it.

Joe Rogan must be thinking the same thing.  Some group has demanded that Spotify no longer carry Mr. Rogan’s podcasts (which average 11 million listeners EACH), with a letter which includes the following passage:

The episode has been criticized for promoting baseless conspiracy theories and the JRE has a concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals.

So they’re worried about an entertainment streaming service hosting a podcast by a stand-up comedian because they disagree with one of his guests.  Strange that they chose this particular guest.  Think of some of the other guests that Mr. Rogan has spent three hours with:

Bob Lazar is a physicist who claims to have worked on covert operations within Area 51 that were focused on reverse engineering alien technology taken from alien spaceships in the possession of the United States government.  Who knows, right?

He discussed with Graham Hancock his belief that human civilizations extend back much further than what is accepted in academia.  Graham also theorizes that these civilizations excelled in arts, science, and technology at levels we can not even comprehend.  These civilizations and their progress have since been wiped clean entirely due to dramatic shifts in the earth’s composition.

He’s had Sam Harris on, who proposes that science can be used to identify values, which he defines as “facts that can be scientifically understood: regarding positive and negative social emotions, retributive impulses, the effects of specific laws and social institutions on human relationships, the neurophysiology of happiness and suffering, etc.”

I could go on and on.  He’s had a lot of guests (around 1,800) with a lot of controversial beliefs.  That’s why he has them on — their outside-the-box thinking makes them interesting, and makes for entertaining podcasts.  I’m not criticizing these guests or anyone else.  They may be right about some of these things, even though their beliefs are considered to be outside mainstream thought.  I admire Mr. Rogan for at least listening respectfully to them, even though I suspect he doesn’t buy all of what they say, either.  At least he listens.

And he is allowed to listen.  Until the guest discusses COVID and says something that is not in step with whatever the CDC says this week.  Then, Mr. Rogan is not allowed to listen.  And neither are you.  And neither is anybody else.

Once a guest says something provocative about COVID, then Mr. Rogan changes from a stand-up comedian to a threat to humankind.

I find it fascinating that liberals hate Mr. Rogan.  He voted for Bernie Sanders, but he’s hated by leftists.

Why?  Because he listens.

He has people on his show that he doesn’t necessarily agree with, but he politely asks questions, and respectfully listens to their answers.  Leftists hate that.

And conservatives love it.

And leftists are open-minded, and conservatives are closed-minded.

I think that leftists really believe that.  I think they honestly believe that they are open-minded, and at the same time believe that people shouldn’t be allowed to discuss opinions that those open-minded leftists disagree with.  Maintaining both of those thoughts in your head at the same time should be impossible, but I think it’s common.

I don’t understand.  Neither does Joe.

I should be allowed to say what I want.  So should Joe Rogan.  You disagree?  Fine — let’s talk about it.  We’ll probably both learn something.  Maybe we’ll learn a lot.  Maybe we’ll learn less.

But we can’t learn anything when we can’t talk freely.

I had a patient tell me that she was glad that the “COVID fake science” theories were being taken off of Twitter and YouTube.  I asked her when, in history, has censoring ideas, and destroying those you disagree with — when has that, in retrospect, been a good idea?  When have the book-burners ended up being the good guys?  Has that ever happened?  Ever?  Perhaps — but I can’t think of an example.  She couldn’t either, but she was peeved for my temerity.

Tough.  It’s ok to be peeved.  That’s what happens when you disagree.  We argue our point.  Sometimes we get peeved.

But when we’re not allowed to disagree, then things tend to escalate beyond “peeved”.

Disagreeing is better than stifling.  Let the pot boil sometimes.  If you try to contain it, it will blow up.  Eventually.  Every single time.

This is scary stuff.

Quote of the Day: The Times We Live In

 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

My favorite book series of all time is the Lord of the Rings. When I was young, I did not realize the power of these works. As an adult, I can see the Christian element that flows through these books. What is amazing is that this passage is written by a man who watched his friends die in WWI.

I would dearly like it if we lived in a time like the optimism and energy of the late ’80s and ’90s. I wish that my children were not entering the world as it is. But that is not for me to decide. All I can do is decide what I am going to do with the times I live in. Like a fish in a pond, there is no way for me to move to a different pond; I must swim where I am. Every moment I spend wishing things were different is a moment I am not engaging with life. This is not to say wishing things were different is wrong. I mean, if it is OK for Gandalf, it must be OK for me. However, Gandalf does not dwell on it, he lets the feeling go and decides what he will do.

I am not a subscriber to the faith that all things were “meant to happen” but I firmly believe that we are able to choose how we respond to events, and we get to choose what we will do with them. The times today are strange and not what we have wanted. How will we respond?

It is not quoted perfectly in the movie, but it is powerful to see:

This has been part of the Quote of the Day Series.

Vaccine? No, Not Really.

 

The jab is a vaccine, or at least that’s what it’s called, but it really isn’t.  It is not a vaccine as vaccines were once understood.  It is an invasive genetic delivery therapy and consists of an injected mixture containing nanocarbon fibers, lipids, and strands of mRNA designed specifically to reprogram a cell’s DNA, its genes, and its purpose.  Instead of say, assembling within a scaffold of proteins designed to contract on command (example: muscle cell), the former muscle cell is reprogrammed by the mRNA to give up its duties and madly make COVID spike proteins until it burns out.

mRNA must work quickly or it breaks down.  It cannot enter a cell on its own.  Enter dense lipids, to protect the mRNA, and carbon nanoparticles to penetrate cell walls and allow the mRNA to enter a cell.  The manufactured spike proteins leak out of the now compromised cell and drift though the circulatory and lymphatic systems, until they locate an ACE2 receptor on the surface of cell and bind with it.  In theory, this would close a pathway for a potential COVID cell infection.  In addition, these circulating spike proteins will eventually be recognized by your immune system as invasive and will prompt an antibody response to neutralize them.  These same antibodies would respond to actual proteins on a COVID spike, effectively neutralizing any COVID viruses post-exposure.

Historically, vaccines for viral infections have been incredibly effective.  Small pox?  Eradicated.  Polio?  Virtually eliminated.  Chickenpox, the mumps, the measles, rubella, whooping cough?  Gone.  In the public mind, viral vaccinations are miraculous.  So, when this new mRNA technology was elevated to “vaccine” status, the CDC and NIH effectively tapped into the public’s vaccine goodwill.  But this new “vaccine” wasn’t a vaccine at all.  It was gene therapy, both unproven and unapproved.  The definition change is an old-fashioned bait and switch.

Redefining vaccines to include invasive mRNA genetic therapy also served another, more nefarious purpose.  It allowed the manufacturers to hide behind the legal liability shield provided generally to producers of vaccines.  Had the therapy been relegated to therapeutic status, producers would have to defend themselves against civil claims for possible harmful, even fatal, side effects.  And they might lose.

I submit, dear readers, that had the public known these things, many more folks would have been reluctant to participate in mass injection.  Further, if they knew that cell lines harvested from aborted fetuses were needed to develop the tests for the efficacy and safety of this therapy, even more people would have balked.

Further, the NIH, CDC, and vaccine manufacturers obviously did not know whether these new “vaccines” would be effective.  Authorizations were “emergency”.  They hoped they would be effective and if wishing were real, they all would have been, but wishing is never a good reason to place a bet.  These new vaccines have now proven to be largely ineffective.  They are not lasting, hence require constant boosters.  They do not prevent infection, hence breakthrough cases are now the norm.  They do not staunch infectiousness as those who get COVID, even if vaxed, boosted and asymptomatic, still shed virus and infect others.  They are not durable as new strains of the virus, like Omicron, are not deterred by the vaccines.  The only thing we know for certain: breakthrough cases are less mortal than infections in the unvaxed.  However, as with all respiratory viruses, evolved variants are also proving to be less harmful and more virulent than their predecessors

It is clear now that mRNA so-called vaccines seem to do only one thing; they reduce the severity of a COVID 19 infection.  There is a medical term for a treatment that reduces the severity of a viral infection: a therapeutic.  Government agencies have oversold this mRNA technology at every turn, even elevating it to “vaccine” status.  This was an abuse of language for political ends, largely benefitting the virus purveyors and their investors.  It’s time this mRNA therapy is purged from the definition of what constitutes a vaccine.  It is an invasive gene therapy.  At best, mRNA therapy has proven to be only therapeutic, a treatment whose benefits are limited and may not outweigh the risks for many easily discernable segments of the population.  The vaccine liability shield should not apply to these therapies.  Perhaps it is time to alert the trial lawyers.  The immense gains accumulated by the hucksters pushing this stuff have proven illegitimate.  And the therapy itself may well prove harmful to many while those harmed have had no good recourse.

Has the US Become an Oligarchy?

 

No one who watches politics has any doubt that Joe Biden is barely, if at all, running the country. That fact has been true from the beginning of his presidency, and probably long before. Many of us are assuming that Ron Klain with several cohorts in the administration are the ones in charge, making the shocking and ill-conceived decisions for Biden; Biden is just a figurehead. Let me explain why we have effectively, if not formally, become an oligarchy, and the implications of that structure.

Here’s a definition of an oligarchy:

Broadly speaking, an oligarchy is a form of government characterized by the rule of a few persons or families. More specifically, the term was used by Greek philosopher Aristotle in contrast to aristocracy, which was another term to describe rule by a privileged few. However, to Aristotle, an aristocracy signified rule by the best members of society, while an oligarchy was characterized by the rule of the few for corrupt and unjust purposes.
Although the term has, generally, fallen out of favor, oligarchy is sometimes used to describe a government or society in which rulers are selected from a small class of elites. These elites exercise power on behalf of their class rather than for the greater good. German-born, Italian sociologist Robert Michels coined the phrase ‘iron law of oligarchy,’ which holds that there is an inevitable tendency of organizations to become less democratic and more oligarchic over time.

Oligarchy can be subdivided into several categories; for our purposes, I’m using the umbrella term, although I must admit that I was tempted to include, facetiously, the definition of geniocracy:

With a focus on problem solving and creative intelligence, geniocracy is essentially a government that is run by geniuses. Compassion and intelligence are the two main characteristics of the person in charge of these types of countries, and these two factors are considered more important than other factors, including education, familial significance, or a majority rule.

Probably not.

This same article discussed the pros and cons of an oligarchy. Although many of the benefits listed are not being produced by the Biden Administration, most of the cons applied:

  • Only the speech of the oligarchs is taken seriously. The ideas of others are either ignored, criticized, or condemned.
  • Oligarchs will fight to establish a status quo of their liking. That goal is met by the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. The middle class slowly disappears, because the structure has no place for them.
  • The citizenry begins to rebel when it realizes the existing conditions and the lengths the oligarchy will go to in order to preserve them.
  • Rebellion starts to break out in the form of riots and mayhem. Although most rebellion at this point has come from the Left, those activities are meant to intimidate those who will protest the Left’s preferred outcomes. We only need to look at January 6.
  • An oligarchy harms the economy. Inflation is escalating at an alarming rate, with no end in sight.

Although the oligarchy membership list here is unclear, we can assume that includes powerful Democrats, the George Soros contingent, the medical bureaucrats (as well as other bureaucrats with influence), big corporations and members of the media (think NY Times or the Washington Post). It’s possible that some of these organizations are second-tier groupies.

Thus, the Democrats who decry our democratic republic as threatened are correct, but for the wrong reasons. Here’s one assessment of America’s situation:

American oligarchy is when myriad states take advantage of a pandemic to pass massive changes to electoral regulations by executive fiat, and thus in violation of the U.S. Constitution, in such a manner as to not-so-coincidentally benefit the regime’s favored political party. American oligarchy is when even the most anodyne of post-2020 election attempts to undo the ad hoc electoral changes of 2020, such as Georgia’s quite moderate voting law, are unfairly maligned by political oligarchs as ‘Jim Crow on steroids’ and viciously opposed by Big Business oligarchs all too happy to boycott states that legislate on behalf of cultural or electoral sanity.

American oligarchy is the spawning of a two-tier ‘biomedical security state’ in which dissenters from the ruling class’ preferred narrative on COVID-19 vaccines, mandates and lockdowns are punished via woke consternation, fired from their jobs, kicked off the digital public square and physically dragged out of convenience stores by police.

So here is where we find ourselves: a President who is a figurehead over a small, powerful group of greedy elites ( fighting for power or wealth or both)  who are determined to continue to gather more power over every aspect of our country.

It’s breathtaking.

The Time When Life Changed: Jan. 17, 1970

 

January 17, 1970, was a big day. Maybe it was my biggest day. It was the day I was born. My mother was at her baby shower. That was when she went into labor with me. That night, on a cold night, I came into the world. It was quite the change for me. Today does not look like it will be as big a day. I am taking my son to the dentist. We don’t have any big plans. I have not even scheduled myself to be off. (I used to get the Monday closest off for MLK day as a government employee, now if I don’t work, I don’t get paid!) There is nothing earth-shattering about one more circuit around the sun for one Bryan G. Stephens.

Still, we celebrate birthdays, and we celebrate our orbits. Each birthday I look back on how I have changed over the last year. This year things changed dramatically when, after being hired for a brand new job, 60 days in the place was shut down. After losing four jobs in less than three years due to corporate maneuvers, I had enough. In April of last year, I started my private practice as a mental health therapist. I applied to be on insurance panels and signed up for online connections. Thanks to the wuflu, teletherapy has become the new normal so I could start work immediately out of my home. I started renting office space one day a week with a local psychiatric practice. I thought I would be at more than one day a week, but the demand for face-to-face is just not there. So, for the first time in my life, I am working four days a week at home. Physically, working at home has meant too much access to the pantry, something I am working on. Mentally, it has been great. Not only can I see five or six clients in a day, I have been able to teach my daughter to drive. I see more of my teenagers than my wife does these days, something I treasure.

Daily ventures into the lives of clients have grown my sense of gratitude. I am honored to be allowed to enter into this sacred space with others. Of course, the money is not the same as running a $30 million a year company. Neither is the stress. I am as happy as I have ever been with my work. April this year will mark one year in private practice. I don’t know if I will be where I want to be by then, but I will be closer than I was.

It’s a good birthday.

This entry is part of the Group Writing Series.

Michigan Democrats: ‘All Your Children Are Belong to Us’

 

Hey, you know how some people refer to public schools as “government schools” and say that their mission isn’t really education, but social indoctrination and enforcing social conformity? And how other people say, “That’s kook talk. Get away from me, you kook! With your crazy kook talk.” Well, the Democrat Party of Michigan has firmly weighed in on the side of the kooks.

“The purpose of a public education is … to teach them what society needs them to know. The client of the public school is not the parent, but the entire community.” But the wealthy and privileged are exempt from this for some reason, according to the Michigan Democratic Party, because they can send their kids to private schools.

I really hope that Governor Whitmer runs for re-election on this theme.

In this week’s London Calling, James and Toby argue about whether the global pandemic is over (Toby thinks it is, while James thinks it’s a false dawn) and discuss the Johnny-come-latelies who claim to have been lockdown sceptics all along. They compare them to repentant Communists after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

They also worry that it may be all over for their old friend Boris (well, James isn’t that worried) and what is going to offered up to satisfy the Tory base in “Operation Save Big Dog,” whether that puts the television license back on the table. And if the BBC is such great value for the money why doesn’t it become a subscription service?

In Culture Corner, thumbs up to Yellowjackets (Sky in the UK, Showtime in the US) with reservations and Dopesick (Disney+ in the UK, Hulu in the US), while Toby gives lukewarm reviews to The Duke, Being the Ricardos (Amazon Prime) and Red Rocket.

Opening sound this week is the PM apologizing to the House for parties at No. 10.

Meet Bishop Anselm

 

Bishop Anselm of Canterbury is another awesome philosopher I like, and another one the learning of whom I’ve made easy for you through a new series of YouTube/Rumble videos. And, for those who want to read a few paragraphs instead of watching a video of a philosophy nerd talking, here are four pointers on Anselm.

First, the point of Anselm’s book, the Proslogion, is fides quaerens intellectum, “faith seeking understanding.” This is a more succinct version of Augustine’s idea that “Unless you believe, you will not understand” and a bunch of Augustiney epistemology and theology that goes with it.

Trust comes first, understanding later. We don’t understand in order to believe, but vice versa.

This is the standard model of faith and reason in medieval Christian philosophy.  The medievals recognize that faith and reason are not exactly the same thing, but that doesn’t mean they’re in conflict.  Faith and reason are better off together.  And faith comes first.  We know what we need to know by trusting reliable authority (of G-d, scripture, and church).  But a better form of knowledge would also involve understanding what we know–as much as possible.

This isn’t just medieval theology.  It’s not that different from how a lot of knowledge normally works.  Here’s how I put it in a book on Augustine: By simply trusting his parents, a child may have a true belief about who he is. But through a study of biology and genetics, along with running a DNA test, he may come to understand this fact through reason and know it without relying solely on authority.

Second, the Ontological Argument.  The famous, the infamous, the magnificent, the dreaded . . . Ontological Argument!

Anselm put it together first, although there are some roots in Boethius.  The Ontological Argument can be terribly confusing (if you let it), but it’s supposed to be terribly simple.  The trick is to not think about it too hard.  (Ok, think hard the first time, but once you realize what’s going on and realize there’s not much else going on, I’d recommend stopping all the hard thought.)

Here’s a simple version of the Ontological Argument:

Non-existence is an imperfection.
G-d is, by definition, a perfect being.
Therefore, if G-d does not exist, then a perfect being has an imperfection, which is impossible.
Therefore, G-d does exist.

Like most people, I don’t find the Ontological Argument entirely convincing.  Just looking at this simple version, if G-d does not exist, then there’s no perfect being to have an imperfection.  (If we stick a bit closer to Anselm’s version in the Proslogion, and from what I can tell, the argument only works if things have essences whether they exist or not. That’s too much metaphysics for now; maybe we shouldn’t talk about that; and maybe I don’t know enough medieval philosophy to talk about it anyway!)

Anyway, the argument is interesting, and just disagreeing with Anselm’s version of it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it.  It might show something important about the necessary existence of G-d: If there is a perfect being, then his non-existence is impossible.  And there are still those who think a related argument actually works!

In any case, the Ontological Argument is integral to the Proslogion.  The whole book is a meditation in perfect being theology–seeing what we can learn from the knowledge that G-d is perfect.  The Ontological Argument is supposed to get the whole thing started and make it work.  The book is, to some extent, a failure (on Anselm’s own terms) if the Argument fails.

But never mind all that.

Third, here’s the most important thing people need to learn about the Proslogion: It’s about a whole lot more than the Ontological Argument.

The Ontological Argument is in chapters 2-3.  That’s it.  There are 26 other chapters in the book!

Fourth, the ultimate goal of the book is to harmonize the love of G-d, the love of neighbor, and the love of oneself.  Loving myself means doing what I need to do to be happy.  And what I need to do to be happy is love G-d: G-d is the greatest possible being, the source of all goodness, infinite goodness, and the only infinitely good goodness, truth, beauty, and justice able to satisfy all our desires!

And the way to enjoy G-d is together.  The goodness of G-d is not lessened by being shared, but increased; some goodness of G-d is enjoyed by enjoying it in another person, and the way to love other people in the first place is to help them love G-d.

Here’s Chapter 25:

If it is wisdom that delights you, the very wisdom of G-d will reveal itself to them. If friendship, they shall love G-d more than themselves, and one another as themselves. And G-d shall love them more than they themselves; for they love him, and themselves, and one another, through him, and he, himself and them, through himself. If concord, they shall all have a single will.

This is all very Augustiney, of course. It’s hard to find a better summary of the Augustinian view of life, the universe, and everything in a single book than the Proslogion.

There’s lot more!  In one video, I explore the venerable idea of philosophical ascent to the knowledge of G-d.  The Proslogion is a lovely book in the ascent tradition.

In another video (and in a Ricochet post) I explain how Anselm presents the classical account of omnipotence: G-d has unlimited power, which is not the same thing as the ability to do just anything.

Etc.

One final observation: The Proslogion is a lovely book, and it’s also very short.  You can read it in an hour or two!  It’s one of those magnificent books that lets you learn some real history of philosophy without spending years studying in school.

Here’s where you can subscribe to me on Rumble, and here’s my Rumble channel for Anselm.  Here’s a YouTube channel for my Anselm videos. It has some old Anselm videos, but the new ones that are already on Rumble won’t be out on YouTube until sometime in early 2023 or so.

Senate Democrats Back Putin, Reject Cruz’s Nord Stream Sanctions Bill

 

This post’s title corrects the misleading headline on Roll Call, “Senate Democrats back Biden, reject Cruz’s Nord Stream sanctions bill.” To be perfectly clear, the Democrat(ic Socialists) have backed Moscow except for a brief interlude from Truman’s through LBJ’s presidency. The play-acting for the past five years was a cynical sham. The Democrats are green-lighting Putin taking control of at least Ukraine by force or threat of force, cynically pretending to support an after-the-fact set of sanctions not worth the paper or the global warming gasses emitted on the Senate floor.

See Power Line, “The Russian Bear, On the March” for an annotated summary of links. Directly, Sweden is very concerned about Putin’s larger intentions in the region, sending troops to a strategic island:

In an unusual move, Sweden deployed armoured combat vehicles and armed soldiers to patrol streets on the island of Gotland on Friday in response to increased “Russian activity” in the region, the military said.
Some 10 armoured combat vehicles and dozens of armed personnel could be seen patrolling the small port town of Visby on the strategically-located island.

The move came after three Russian landing ships sailed into the Baltic Sea through the Great Belt Strait in Denmark this week, and amid increased tensions between Russia and NATO.

[ . . . ]

Sweden, which has not been to war in two centuries, reintroduced mandatory military service in 2017 and reopened its garrison on Gotland in January 2018 amid concerns about Russian intentions in Europe. [emphasis added]

Of course, we are told that Russia is really the injured, threatened party. This narrative is not new, captured in the classic cartoon from the Winter War of 1939-40. That war started with a fake provocation created by Russian special forces against other Russian forces. It was justified by Stalin’s claim that Finland had been part of imperial Russia for about a century. Now we hear of a new false flag operation being planned by Putin, who longs to restore the empire Stalin ruled.

Masks For Thee But Not For Me: Cruise Ship Edition

 

Readers may recall the jarring images of maskless political elites such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney attending last year’s Met Gala as The Help stood by dutifully breathing up against pieces of fabric.

Some in the cruise and cruise-commentary world, far from seeking an escape from the reinforcement of such class divisions, find comfort in embracing them. Cynical as I am, I was surprised to learn that a cruise line would require a fully-vaccinated crew member to don a mask while working alone on the open decks of a ship even as passengers a few feet away enjoy the ineffable feeling of their lungs filling with fresh ocean air.

But such, it seems is the case.

This policy, like the aggressive sanitizing of every horizontal surface, has less to do with science than signaling to the scientifically illiterate that you’re unlikely to get cooties from their widget. The virus, after all, does not distinguish between passengers and crew members. (Both of whom, in any event, are required to be fully vaccinated.)

Far from finding such measures off-putting, some passengers and cruise critics actually take comfort in them in the way only those untutored in the basics of risk assessment can. Ignorance of how respiratory viruses spread is prevalent among this class. Iliana Schattauer of Life Well Cruised, for example, says of her recent experience “I did take a lot of comfort in the fact that everybody is vaccinated on the cruise,” as if other people’s vaccination status has any impact on her own health. As for requiring the small crew of Filipinos who clean the deck in the open air to wear masks even as hundreds of passengers gather maskless inside the dining room below, Schattauer’s take is essentially “Let them wear masks.” (See her entire video here.)

Those considering a cruise have noticed these counterproductive and illiberal policies. Many are now avoiding a cruise not out of concern for catching Covid but out of a desire to avoid the plight of this couple from Denver who were forced to spend key parts of their cruise holiday quarantining in their cabin despite being Covid-negative.

None of the policies described above are imposed by the CDC, Anthony Fauci, or New York governor Kathy Hochul. Instead, they are pursued by a private sector seeking a greater market share of aggressively ignorant and risk-averse consumers who, in turn, are less concerned with returning to normal than ensuring that the right people are covering their faces.

Tale of Tamiflu

 

Practicing pharmacy over the years you start to get a feel for what works and what does not.  Feedback is constant both welcome and otherwise.  Some drugs just seem to work for a wide range of people. Amoxicillin, cefdinir, and azithromycin are just a few of our greatest hits from behind the counter.  On the opposite side, we have drugs that despite approval and mass marketing never really seemed to take off.  Tamiflu is a great example.

It was hailed and marketed as a cure for the flu and there was a point due to demand, I would spend an inordinate amount of time opening capsules to compound it into a suspension for younger patients when the commercial product would go on backorder.  Despite dispensing a lot of it, the rave reviews never seemed to follow and it would be prescribed less and less.  The most loaded question in healthcare is how was your day and I recall once quipping to another pharmacist “just another day padding Roche’s bottom line, how about you?”

Tamiflu’s story would become more complicated as a multiyear effort spearheaded by the British Medical Journal would highlight many problems with clinical transparency that still resonate today.  Approval of Tamiflu and subsequent billions spent by world governments stockpiling it for a potential swine flu pandemic was all based upon recommendations by the CDC, WHO, and EMA.  None of which ever actually vetted the primary data and took it at face value.  A Cochrane review would conclude after a four-year legal fight to obtain the primary data that there was no clear evidence to support the claims that Tamiflu improved influenza complications or infections but did raise concerns about side effects like nausea, vomiting, headaches, hallucinations, and depression.

None of these shenanigans are the fault of the drug, oseltamivir phosphate the generic name for Tamiflu is an effective antiviral but studies have shown it needs to be started early and even a 24-hour delay in therapy causes a significant decrease in benefit.  In reality, once the patient had sought care, obtained a positive flu test, and filled a prescription, it was likely too late to be of any benefit.  Like many drugs though it may still prove useful for other purposes and a recent study has shown that it may be an alternative therapy for liver cancer.

We now know that the toxicity from oseltamivir occurs as the drug hangs around in the GI tract waiting to be absorbed.  Increasing the rate of absorption has been proposed to reduce its associated toxicity.  A potential new formulation of oseltamivir that replaces the phosphate salt with an organic salt ethoxysuccinate has been proposed.  The new formulation retained its antiviral properties and due to its increased rate of absorption expressed less toxicity compared to the phosphate version.  Since changing the salt would be a new product don’t be surprised to see oseltamivir come back again with a new name and a fresh patent.

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

hyattjn@gmail.com

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Further reading and references

https://www.bmj.com/tamiflu

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8673668/

Kositpantawong N, Surasombatpattana S, Siripaitoon P, Kanchanasuwan S, Hortiwakul T, Charernmak B, Nwabor OF, Chusri S. Outcomes of early oseltamivir treatment for hospitalized adult patients with community-acquired influenza pneumonia. PLoS One. 2021 Dec 15;16(12):e0261411. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261411. PMID: 34910777; PMCID: PMC8673668.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8651232/

Huang PJ, Chiu CC, Hsiao MH, Yow JL, Tzang BS, Hsu TC. Potential of antiviral drug oseltamivir for the treatment of liver cancer. Int J Oncol. 2021 Dec;59(6):109. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2021.5289. Epub 2021 Dec 3. PMID: 34859259; PMCID: PMC8651232.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8549332/

Wiemken TL, Furmanek SP, Carrico RM, Peyrani P, Hoft D, Fry AM, Ramirez JA. Effectiveness of oseltamivir treatment on clinical failure in hospitalized patients with lower respiratory tract infection. BMC Infect Dis. 2021 Oct 27;21(1):1106. doi: 10.1186/s12879-021-06812-2. PMID: 34702188; PMCID: PMC8549332.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6464969/#CD008965-sec1-0004

Jefferson T, Jones MA, Doshi P, Del Mar CB, Hama R, Thompson MJ, Spencer EA, Onakpoya I, Mahtani KR, Nunan D, Howick J, Heneghan CJ. Neuraminidase inhibitors for preventing and treating influenza in adults and children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Apr 10;2014(4):CD008965. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008965.pub4. PMID: 24718923; PMCID: PMC6464969.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8475347/

Kalashnikov AI, Sonina EG, Kulagina DA, Sysolyatin SV, Prokop’eva EA, Sherstoboev EY. Promising New Salt of Oseltamivir. Pharm Chem J. 2021 Sep 25:1-4. doi: 10.1007/s11094-021-02456-3. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34602660; PMCID: PMC8475347.