Conservative Conversation + Podcasts

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Gun Rights Are Civil Rights


Gun control tended to be used to disarm blacks when they were first introduced. Has the justification changed that much since then? Do the leaders of the democratic party actually have a much higher view of blacks than when Wilson was watching Birth of a Nation in the White House theater, or LBJ was cynically using the Civil Rights Act for votes?

If you cannot trust police, you can trust in your own self-defense. I do not fear law-abiding citizens of any color taking up arms — if all the black people I worked with at an 80% black college were carrying, I would have felt safer. (Good luck with a school shooting when the guy trimming trees and the dude on the lawn mower just drew down on you)

Trust No One, Trust Not Even Yourself


We are facing a massive crisis of trust in America, with good reason.

After vast amounts of lying and gaslighting by the media and government, along with plenty of sketchy news sources, we are in the realm where even people on the same side don’t have any common sources.

This goes beyond frustrating — trying to write a piece that challenges a status quo means lots of in-depth research, and it could easily be dismissed by “the study was faked” or “government officials pressured the authors.” Previously, I would say that was crazy talk, but now I’m not sure how to prove a source is actually trustworthy.

On the other hand, I find it hard to take seriously many of the reports I see from people I disagree with. In some cases, there are references, but that raises the time investment involved.  There’s only so much time in the day, and I could be doing something enjoyable or beneficial instead of running down sources.  Just dismissing people is so much easier, but it means I will never change my opinion.

It makes me wonder why am I spending time on Ricochet at all. How the heck are we supposed to persuade people outside of the conservative movement (such as it is) when it is this hard to persuade each other?

The Unending Hatred for Russians


I want Putin to lose. I want him to learn that if a country wants freedom, he cannot take it away. I’m cheering for Ukraine. But the insane escalation of anti-Russian measures is disturbing.

Banking sanctions are one thing, but some of the petty elements are just insane.  People who live in Russia cannot receive money via Patreon or other donation services.  One guy I support was developing a video game trading market, and got completely cut off.  He can’t even use online development tools.  Speaking of games, several games have cut off Russians from the ability to buy any items in the game using actual money  (For a lot of free games, that’s the game company’s revenue stream).

Some of the attacks on Russians are just bizarre, like going after vodkas made in Latvia (Stoli) and the US (Smirnoff). We even have places refusing to allow Tchaikovsky music to be played. Does anyone think Putin gives a damn about these ridiculous measures? The point of sanctions and such is get Russia to leave the Ukrainians and other former satellites alone.

Putin probably appreciates when crazy people do things like argue for deporting Russians and having Russian citizens lose their jobs. There’s nothing like insane criticism to get people to sympathize with a side. I remember reading the Philadelphia Trumpet‘s anti-Catholic propaganda and thinking that it made the Roman Church sound awesome.  They had a guy dressed as a cardinal drawing a sword, and the issue was called Crusade. They wanted to blame Catholics for Islamic terrorism, I wanted to yell Deus Vult!

One last note: I have the sneaking suspicion everyone enacting these anti-Putin measures would really like to use them on all of us here. Maximum Trudeau, in other words. Doesn’t change the Ukraine situation, but it does make me worried.

Essential Workers Honk Back


One of the posts I wrote that got the widest circulation was on what actually matters in a crisis. Instapundit and even Ace of Spades picked it up. Back then, people were really worried about the pandemic, other issues tended to fade into the background. All that mattered was surviving the virus, and our response to the virus.

Pretty rapidly, we were introduced to the concept of the “Essential Worker.” The Essential Worker had to be at work, no matter what. Critical infrastructure workers, health care workers, food supply chain including grocery stores, delivery drivers, and first responders. I was a second-tier essential worker, as I was around to support people researching the virus. There was a lot of gratitude for essential workers back then, when you could say “We’re all in this together” and get determined nods rather than eyerolls.

One of the main groups of essential workers was truck drivers. Quite simply, without truckers our supply chain is dead.  Amazon is nothing without a freight fleet, and our economy and civilization would fall into disrepair as items pile up at railyards, docks, and factories. Right now, part of the supply chain nightmare is that truckers are in short supply. Around when I wrote the article above, truckers were finally getting some thanks. Even Justin Trudeau tweeted about thanking truckers for their hard work during the early pandemic.

A funny thing happened to the Non-Essential workers during the pandemic — they got to feel virtuous by staying home. This included a lot of government workers and even politicians.  The lockdown was not so bad for them, and for many the promise of social control was too much to resist. Meanwhile, the essential workers were taking all the risks and working extra hours. Gratitude faded into entitlement, experts torched their credibility, and the lockdown dragged on.

Vaccine mandates combined with a lackluster vaccine took this standoff to a new level. The elite political class, which is about as far from essential as you can imagine, decided to crack down as opposed to actually persuading. Essential workers began to push back, and suddenly the contrast became clear. Essential workers realized they held the power in society. All they had to do was organize.

The Convoy is a cousin of the Tea Party in the US, a demonstration by civic-minded citizens mostly drawn from the middle class. It has the benefit of being backed by labor union tactics without the bureaucracy. Perhaps now that they hear the blaring of horns from miles of trucks, the non-essential workers will get off the road and out of the way of the essential workers that keep our economy moving.

Honk Honk!

On Relishing Pickles


I have always loved pickles.  Dill, sweet, bread & butter – I like the pickled cucumber.  Strangely enough, I do not like unpickled cucumber at all.  This also goes for relish, the hot dog’s eternal companion alongside mustard.  (As far as hot dogs are concerned, I am NeverKetchup.  Chicagoans have more tolerance for conservatives than ketchup on a hot dog)  Relish was spreadable pickles, so naturally it would be awesome.  Since I have been attempting to eat healthy, I have been adding more and more pickles to my diet, including on sandwiches with various flavors of mustard.

Then one day I was (0f all things) playing a video game which had a cooking minigame.  One of the recipes was relish, made with corn and tomatoes without a cucumber in sight.  This was apparently a good topping for a hamburger.  Now I would never get my cooking tips from a video game, but I was intrigued.  What were these relishes without pickles – was this a UK thing?  This led me down a rabbit hole of articles.   Relish covers a huge range of toppings, including onion relish and something called chow chow, which I previously thought was a dog.  Chow chow is apparently a sweet onion/cabbage/pepper relish like a sweet sauerkraut, popular in certain regions of the US.  Sauerkraut is another condiment I love, especially with brats or Polish sausages or pierogi.

A trip to Amazon later, and I received a few jars of relish.  Onion relish and chow chow are pretty dang amazing on sandwiches, making a worthy rival to the cucumber variety. I have nearly emptied a jar in a week.  How had I not heard of this?

So what are your your favorite pickled foods or relishes?  Anyone know of a good non-Amazon source for foods not popular in my area, like onion or pepper relish / chow chow?

White Coat Waste Project: Beyond the Beagles


People have been discussing the story of Fauci funding experiments on dogs, which can be rather disturbing. Dogs are wonderful animals, and people do not like to see them suffer. Cruelty toward animals always is undeserved, since animals are not moral agents like we are.

However, this is not sheer cruelty; this is animal experimentation. A massive amount of medical research relies on animal experiments because studies on cells do not capture the whole picture. I honestly do not know if we could safely test new drugs on people without animal studies — it would be much riskier. Animal models behind nearly every medical advance you hear announced in the media.

So what does this have to do with the White Coat Waste Project? I looked on their site, and they never acknowledge animal research could have benefits or could be conducted ethically. I decided to look into their listed backers, and what I found was not entirely surprising.

In short, if you like burgers, these people probably hate your guts.

I look at animal experimentation differently. I regularly work with people in the middle of dissecting mice, and also work with Animal Center veterinarians. I’ve read their policies and seen some of their review process for animal work. You can’t just stuff puppies full of chemicals or pathogens for kicks.

The principles of animal research are the three Rs:

  • Reduction – use fewer animals to accomplish the same goal.
  • Refinement – improve techniques to eliminate suffering that does not directly promote research goals.
  • Replacement – use cell-based or other non-animal methods whenever possible.

These are enforced by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) that reviews all animal use at the given university/institute/etc.  It’s not a rubber stamp, and there are animal welfare hotlines maintained in case someone wants to blow the whistle on bad conduct.  Animal welfare gets a higher priority than researcher welfare in some cases – if researchers are cooking because the AC went out, that’s bad.  If lab animals are overheating, that’s a serious crisis that must be fixed immediately.  Animal research facilities have to get accredited like medical facilities do in order to be funded, with regular inspections.  The policy on housing dogs for use in laboratory research specifically includes exercise and play time with animal care techs.  Even rodents need to get enrichment squares that they can use to make a nest.  The standards required are exacting, and researchers can lose funding for violating them.

So if you want to kick Fauci to the curb over puppies, be my guest.  I have made my disgust for the man known.  He’s a disgrace to the profession, and his tendency to exploit loopholes in research rules is just asking for trouble.   Just keep in mind that animal research is a massive component of medical research, so beware throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Quote of the Day: The Stalin of our Times


“That feels about like what we are living through right now. Progressive politics is the Joseph Stalin of our times, and everyone is so terrified of attracting its anger that they just kind of go along with the crowd and keep clapping, because it is easier to clap until your hands are red raw than be the one that sits down first.”  — Will Jordan, aka the Critical Drinker

I’m sure many of you have heard the story about how no man wanted to be the first person to stop clapping after Stalin’s speech, because of the sheer terror of appearing disloyal to a paranoid conspiracy theorist butcher of a tyrant.  That is the culture of paranoia in action – it is not enough just to be loyal, but to be absolutely beyond suspicion as a diehard loyalist.

Suspense novelist Will Jordan reviews movies on YouTube as the Critical Drinker, using humor and the persona of a drunken Scotsman to make serious points about what is good and bad in movies and TV shows. In his review of Black Panther from back in 2019 (before he had taken on his signature persona), he used the discussion above to describe how critics described the movie as God in movie form, which is accurate. Every woke movie gets worshipful reviews because the critics need to keep clapping, even their audience gets smaller and smaller. It also is applicable to many other contexts.

Why do companies fall over themselves to appear woke? For a lot of them, it is the fear that the Twitter mob will come for them if they appear to be going off the reservation. People who come from academia or elite urban environments often have no idea what people outside of the bubble actually think, so they believe reality is Twitter. There are plenty of consumers outside who do not care about woke politics, but they won’t cancel you for being woke.

This is also what points to the weakness of woke politics. Once you have a small group who refuse to clap, the illusion is shattered, because woke people on Twitter are massively outnumbered by the rest of us. Their boycotts can be crushed by our buycotts. Preference cascades are fairly dramatic, especially when dissent is suppressed.

QOTD: Three Generations of Retcons is Enough


Jacobson v. Massachusetts has become the catchall decision for justifying all kinds of pandemic countermeasures. I had not looked into the matter in detail, as I am not a lawyer (thank God). However, I ran across an article on SSRN from Josh Blackman (one of the writers at The Volokh Conspiracy) that dismantles how a decision to allow a jurisdiction to levy a fine equivalent to a parking ticket for the refusal to receive a vaccination against one of the most deadly diseases known to man (smallpox is a Risk Group 4 select agent, alongside Ebola and its relatives; by comparison, anthrax and the Black Death are merely Risk Group 3) mutated like a virus into allowing all kinds of measures under the rubric of public health.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the most disturbing U.S. Supreme Court decision to remain on the books as good case law plays a role here. Buck v. Bell is the infamous decision that allowed for the state to forcibly perform medical procedures on people without their consent to uphold the good of the gene pool, giving us the infamous line that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” As if forcing a person to be fixed like a stray dog is not bad enough, there is evidence that Carrie Buck was not even mentally handicapped, nor was her honor student child, and she was likely set up by her lawyer, who was either horrendously incompetent or actually in favor of negative eugenics. You could use this decision to justify forced medical procedures on every person who holds a political position unpopular with political elites.

This brings me to the change in interpretation Blackman discusses:

Buck completely retconned Jacobson. The Cambridge Law did not involve forcible vaccination. Remember, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court observed, “[i]f a person should deem it important that vaccination should not be performed in his case, and the authorities should think otherwise, it is not in their power to vaccinate him by force, and the worst that could happen to him under the statute would be the payment of the penalty of $5.” Jacobson could not be involuntarily jabbed in the arm with a syringe. Rather, the criminal penalty was a modest $5 fine. A 1963 article that critiqued Holmes recognized that Jacobson did not actually sustain “compulsory vaccination.” The Massachusetts law “did not, as in Buck v. Bell, require submission to the order, but subjected to fine or imprisonment anyone who refused to comply.” Being forced to pay a nominal fine did not invade any “fundamental”right. Carrie Buck, by contrast, did not have the option of paying a fine to avoid sterilization. Buck v . Bell radically expanded the scope of Justice Harlan’s modest decision. In time, Holmes’s misreading would become the paradigmatic understanding of Jacobson. The first level of Jacobson’s myth was firmly in place.

Basically, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. made the original decision from a fine into involuntary vaccination so that he could justify his decision to allow involuntary medical treatment on inconvenient people.

I personally agree with the general idea of the original Jacobson decision. It is rational that the government can take actions that limit a citizen’s rights to deal with an epidemic. For example, people exposed during the recent Ebola outbreak were quarantined, and they could be arrested if they broke quarantine. There needs to be solid justification and the ability to appeal to courts to determine if the measure is reasonable and not cruel or unusual. The Holmes variant is an entirely different strain, and I agree with Blackman that the Supreme Court needs to eliminate this legal virus from its jurisprudence.

QOTD: Not Who You Think


If there was no crime and violence in communities of color, who would suffer?” — Graffiti on sidewalk outside of CTA Roosevelt Station, Chicago, Illinois

I first ran across this graffiti (clearly done with a stencil and pink paint) a month ago, and it got me thinking. Who would suffer, actually? We can see who the author believes would suffer: has plenty of trashing of the police, and Trap House Chicago is apparently a “restorative justice clothing store” down on the South Side. (Obviously, CoC violations galore there.)

First, let’s take a step back and look at the quote. Crime and violence are written about like weather, just something that happens. There’s no agency — no criminals or violent people. If there’s no crime and violence in their hood, the criminals are going to have to leave their community and go commit crime elsewhere. Not sure if that counts as suffering, though. Also, communities of color is only something woke liberals say. Actual Black and Hispanic communities are not too fond of each other. During the riots last year, the Latino gangs ran any suspected rioters out of their territory with force. The urban talk radio station had plenty of callers upset that construction crews were hiring Mexicans rather than their brothers.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the usual suspects here:

  • Police: Do people think that most police in fairly peaceful communities want to have more crime? I suppose there might be a few adrenaline junkies, but most police probably wish they didn’t have people shooting at them, or people thinking that they are racist because cops took Dad to jail and shot their cousin. If someone made a patrol in Austin as easy as one in Rogers Park or Hegewisch, cops are not going to suffer.
  • Suburban/rural white people: I’ll let you speak for yourselves in the comments below, but I never felt any joy over urban crime from outside of the city, even as a high school edgelord into fascism. Generally, the sense is apathy and resignation. It has been this way long enough we thought it always would be that way. The only other element is fear of the crime coming to you. No one wants to deal with gangbangers. If urban crime stopped being a problem, you would probably see more visitors to cities. I don’t see any suffering here.
  • Corporations: Big business wants customers and profits. Crime both directly hits the bottom line (theft, vandalism) and reduces the ability for consumers to buy products. Every business from Amazon to the corner bodega is going to be cheering on a drop in crime, and Wall Street would be doing the happy dance as the Dow climbed. Suffering? Not a chance.
  • Politicians: Surprisingly, I don’t see this as a group that benefits from minority crime. Most politicians rely on bringing the pork home and making their constituents happy. Crime is a real problem that requires tough solutions. Expanding government power directly angers voters here, making it more challenging than issues like climate change or poverty. No politician would suffer from cities getting Canadian crime rates.
  • Minority activists: Activists derive their income and importance from having a problem to deal with. People like Al Sharpton and Black Lives Matter need to have racial tensions to address, or they are not going to matter anymore. You can see this because they keep talking about how bad it is now, as if the civil rights movement never happened. As if Barack Obama did not get elected president, as if Black actors have to be hidden on U.S. posters like they are on Chinese posters. Any progress might cut off the money spigot.

The answer: Activists like the graffiti man would suffer. Would there be much of a market for a restorative justice clothing store if there was not a crime problem in minority communities? Would anyone follow the man behind this graffiti if there were less racial tension? His profiting from the suffering of Black people would make plantation owners rise from their graves in a standing ovation.

This Was The Desired Outcome


You may remember times in the past where you felt proud of your country.  That the United States would stand strong.  That we would uphold our honor and legacy.

It’s hard to feel that way right now. 

This withdrawal from Afghanistan was done with a series of idiotic decisions, deliberately scrapping a pre-existing plan for withdrawal.   And now, we are told that we cannot rescue our own people.  People we should have been evacuating for a while now.  Afghanistan may be the graveyard of empires, but no empire left in such disarray.  How do you go from a stalemate to an abject rout?

It’s humiliating.  And I say that is the point.

The Left wants people who are either dulled into apathy or beaten down and humiliated into slaves begging to be beaten.  They want to break our pride, in hopes that we will become yet another cheap banana republic.   They want the USA to lose, until it is weak enough to rule.  They keep on desecrating every single cultural franchise they get involved with, since they want us to culturally revere being the most dysfunctional oppressed being that identifies as a slave.  What else is CRT but humiliation and anti-American propaganda.

The problem is that people are getting more outraged by this.  They expect people to welcome the  lash, since they view anyone outside of their bubble to be a drooling idiot.  More and more people are telling them to go directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect my taxes.  Political regimes are highly vulnerable to preference cascades.  The dictator of Romania went from unquestioned ruler to a bullet-riddled corpse remarkably fast.  Our government relies on voluntary compliance with most laws.    Enough people stop following a law, and there is nothing that can be done.

For now, it is important to keep in mind that the Left views us as their chief enemy.   Any anti-American force is their friend.  If you have woke friends, consider if they would sell you out.  If so, it is important to make a planned withdrawal from the woke sphere, as opposed to a Biden-style rout.    Push back on the humiliation regularly – it is good for the the soul, and keeps the spark alive.  And get active in your local GOP organization so we can get solid antiwoke candidates on the ballot.

Never Surrender

Quote of the Day: Friendship and Stories


“Those who cannot conceive of friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a friend.” – C.S. Lewis

Contemporary media and culture does not seem to understand friendship, which is a tragedy beyond measure.  A true friend is worth more than refined platinum.   There was the friend who picked me up in another state, the friend who prayed with me after I snapped and lost control of myself, the friend who asked me to be his best man, the friend I talked down from the brink of suicide, the friend I trained and hired for my job, the friend who taught me how to shoot, the friend who I introduced to his future wife.   All of these are men I care about and respect – my bros.   There are also close friends I have that are ladies whom I am not romantically involved with at all.  These are co-workers and old college friends, one of whom is like an adopted younger sister.  The idea that having a close friend actually means a desire to screw them is utterly disgusting to me, but society seems to aim that way.

Youtuber and dedicated Tolkien fan Just Some Guy takes on this trend in fine fashion:  (some non-CoC language)

There’s something sad in this.  Could you imagine growing up without any good friends, where the the only love you receive is in exchange for sex?   Perhaps there is some Freudian psychology or similar theory behind this, but it seems to go deeper.   Sometimes I look at the social justice crowd, and see a horde of broken people looking to make everything as messed up as they are.

Just Some Guy makes another point in his video, one that goes along with the discussion above.   Media and stories do not have to be about you or people like you for you to understand them and enjoy them.   They can expand your worldview and show you another perspective on life.  Tolkien writes in a mythic way, not like contemporary authors even from back then.  Reading the Lord of the Rings as a child was a challenge, but well worth the effort.  It took me to another world, with different perspectives.  If a technology-revering geek could appreciate the perspective of a tree-loving ruralist, perhaps these social justice types could imagine a world where you could have loyal platonic friendships, even with people you had deep-seated grudges against.

The problem is that such a story is does not provide validation.  If enough cool people in stories are like me, maybe then I won’t be an outsider.   However, stories are not necessarily written to validate your worldview or life.  Changing a story to suit you is like painting on another artist’s canvas – perhaps it is fun to do in your imagination, but doing on the real thing is an insult to the creator of the work and mocks anyone with a different interpretation of the work.

Perhaps, if people cannot find validation in themselves, they should look to their friends.

QOTD: Words Have Value


“Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money.”

—Frederick Douglass

What a contrast with the woke propagandist of today, terrified of hearing something that offends them.  Mr. Douglass realized the power of words to persuade people.  He didn’t have an army of abolitionist soldiers, or the power of law and law enforcement at his back.  He had his writing and speeches with which to defend his race, but that was enough to make a difference.  The genius and phenomenal orator was joined by author  Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose novel was likely the second most important English book after the Bible.  People could not mentally justify seeing Uncle Tom in chains, sharpening the moral divisions in the country before it split into two.

However, if you take away free speech, there’s no chance for the word to spread.  Ideas die where they begin, and the weaker factions in society are locked out.  The woke try to presume that they have perfect representation, grounded in their collective view of the community, but they have no room for a Thomas Sowell, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or David Rubin within the ideological boxes.  They obviously are trying to block these alternate voices from getting their message out, they try to prevent people from hearing a message that could change their worldview.   I know my change of position on gun control came from people explaining just what the Assault Weapons Ban actually banned, and similar gun control follies.

Freedom of speech is not just a question of you being able to talk, it is a question of whether you can hear what other people have to say.  Their words hold value, like yours.

Quote of the Day: The Empty People


“From the moment I joined @LokiOfficial it was very important to me, and my goal, to acknowledge Loki was bisexual. It is a part of who he is and who I am too. I know this is a small step but I’m happy, and heart is so full, to say that this is now Canon in MCU.”
Kate Herron, Twitter

“Belief in yourself is more important than endless worries of what others think of you. Value yourself and others will value you. Validation is best that comes from within.”
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Dreams in a Time of War

“A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard for validation.”
― Ryne Sandberg

Strong people validate themselves. When I was looking for quotes on validation, all of the successful people talk about not needing validation or being their own validation. It’s a question of self-confidence. Do you believe you can do it, and can you actually do it? While most people could use some appreciation now and then, and getting a compliment on work from someone I respect feels damn good (I remember getting praised by our chem safety expert on handling chemical incident – he was not easy to please), and people need to be able to work with reward of a paycheck.

Validation when it comes to identity is a bizarre area. I have never really needed validation for any aspect of my identity since I stopped being a teenager, and I suspect most people are similar. Who needs to have someone else tell them they are who they are? Why would you doubt yourself?

This brings me to the first quote. Ms. Herron was driven to join a company in order to make a popular fictional character share her sexuality. She comes off with all the emotional security of a child, where if you put a disabled kid working with superheroes, the kid in a wheelchair feels better about himself. Now, I’m not a psychologist, but turning to a movie character to fill up your heart can’t be healthy. It seems like we increasingly have people who demand that every franchise and work of art show them as being great, stunning, and brave, like a house covered in motivational post-it notes.

Could it be that they are trying to squash out that still small voice saying that they are wrong?

QOTD: Bork Bork Nom Nom


“I don’t know about you guys, but I think the 70lb landshark filled with sharp teeth and aggression is pretty good backup.” -Donut Operator

One of my favorite YouTubers is the former police officer who goes by the handle Donut Operator.  Donut does regular police recaps sometimes deadly serious, other times really funny.  His takes on K-9 units are mostly in the latter territory.  This is one of the more CoC-friendly videos of police dogs in action, and it is pretty funny to watch a crazy junkie get used as a chew toy.

He has a few other videos with funny commentary, with K-9 “translation”, but be warned that there is ample use of arresting language.   “That guy smells like methamphetamine and bad choices.”   or Deploy the fur missile!

One of the things I’ve learned is police officers deal with the craziest parts of society, people at their worst and best, they outright hilarious to nightmarish tragedy.   With all of this, it is good to have a partner to count on, regardless of whether they are on two legs or four legs.

If any of Ricochet’s law enforcement community has some good K-9 stories, feel free to post them below.

For Veterans: A Hat Question


I love wearing baseball caps. For one, they are cheaper than a hairpiece. I have a wide collection of hats from work or places I have visited or from sports teams.

If I were to buy and wear a Space Force hat, is that Stolen Valor? I think the Space Force is awesome, and want to support them. What about buying a CVN-65 Enterprise cap, since my dad served on the Big E?

I’ve never claimed that I served, and do not want to give the wrong impression. What do you think?

Quote of the Day: Fallen from the Pedestal


“Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.” — Daniel J. Boorstin

During the beginning of the pandemic, I was seriously worried.  Things were not going well, and a lot of the Democrats seemed to be more interested in virtue signaling than disease control.  As someone trained in public health, I know that epidemics need to be managed aggressively.  Contrary to what many people say, you can stop a virus from spreading with proper quarantine and infection control practices.  Trump was taking decisive action on border control  (similar measures of containment have been used throughout history), but he needed a trusted advisor who knew about fighting disease.  Then we saw the nightmare in Italy, and people really wanted to avoid it.

Enter Dr. Anthony Fauci.  A trained microbiologist, who seemed to know what he was doing.  My boss, who I respect greatly, had nothing but good things to say about the man.  He seemed like a consummate professional, wanting to achieve one last victory over disease before he retired.  He actually seemed to avoid going behind Trump’s back or undermining him, which made me respect him.  If I was working on a public health crisis for Obama, Biden, or whatever Democrat, I would either work with him, or resign.  That’s the role of a public health expert. 

I was not alone.  Many of my colleagues and friends were reassured by Fauci.  He was now a nationwide celebrity.  But cracks were starting to appear.  I was not troubled by the reversal on masks.  In fact, I took to wearing a mask just fine.  (My positions were recorded in posts I made at the time) What bothered me was the lack of pushback on excessive lockdown measures or nursing home practices.  You do not need to be a public health professional or doctor or scientist to know that keeping vulnerable seniors away from infected people is a smart move.  Furthermore, it seemed odd that there would be a full-court press against the lab leak theory.  Totalitarian countries are not known for their safety records, and we have to make a point to maintain containment and protection in our laboratories.  I had actually asked my boss if there was any discussion of the lab leak theory in the biosafety community, way back in April or May last year.

The BLM riots were pretty much the breaking point.  Either large outdoor gatherings are safe, or they are not.  The cause does not matter.  Fauci was safe, Trump would have had his back if he condemned large outdoor gatherings, but he did not.  Our public health establishment chose wokeness and hypocrisy, and lost the trust of many Americans.  Fauci also became a celebrity, an icon.  He was making pronouncements without much judgment – to be honest, it was as if he was trying to be like Trump.  The contradictory pronouncements torched his credibility.  Trump said whatever he thought, but earned credibility through actions.  Fauci just made it seem as though he was giving random opinions, not considered scientific judgment.

They say in DC that the coverup is worse than the crime, and Fauci’s attempt at covering up his role in supporting research in Wuhan and gain of function research generally should have face charges for lying under oath.  The really disturbing question to me is whether the gain of function research actually produced any valuable data for the pandemic response.  After all, the whole point is to make the Wuhan Coronavirus before it shows up in nature, so we can stop it more easily.  One of the chief criteria for evaluating GoF studies is scientific merit.  I saw a different type of GoF study get shot down in committee at my institution over scientific merit and crazy risks.  (When your expert virologist says “this should not be allowed to exist”, that’s a bad sign…)   The American people are waiting to hear what the benefits of GoF studies were in this crisis.

The recent release of the Fauci emails has fully kicked him from the pedestal.  He knew that asymptomatic spread (the whole justification for masks) was negligible, yet pushed masking.  He worked closely with China, and coordinated to stop discussion of the lab leak theory.  He was working on a biopic film on his life during the worst part of the pandemic, and had a book ready to roll, since he obviously had plenty of time to write a book.  The man is a disgrace to the scientific community and to all public health history, merely a bureaucrat in a lab coat.   In short, Fauci had the chance to either be a hero or a mere celebrity.

He chose… poorly.

Quote of the Day: Ignorance is Woke


“Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here.” — Apoorva Mandavilli, NY Times reporter focused on COVID-19,  May 26, 2021

This tweet (because of course, it is from Twitter) is absolutely maddening. According to this excuse for a journalist, we should not consider the theory that the Wuhan Coronavirus escaped from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, because it is derived from racism. Aside from idea we should ignore concepts that evil people come with (in which case, I’m tossing out socialism, as Karl Marx was a scumbag), the whole idea that the lab leak theory is racist is pure and utter madness.

Have you ever heard of Malcolm Casadaban before? He died as a result of a lab exposure to what was thought to be a non-virulent strain of Y. pestis, to which he happened to be uniquely vulnerable. This was at the University of Chicago, in 2009. People unfortunately die in lab accidents regularly. My job is there to prevent this. Working with dangerous pathogens requires diligence and defense in depth. I can describe to you how to implement these protocols from the NIOSH Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) manual – it is not a trivial process. One of the most important elements of our biosafety program is having an open and honest reporting culture – if you see something wrong, you can report it without fear of reprisal. As you can imagine, that is almost certainly completely absent from Chinese laboratories.

This is a recurring problem with totalitarian governments and safety. I can wax rhapsodic on how awesome nuclear energy is, and I would happily live at the fence line of the largest nuclear power plant in the United States. However, that does not go for totalitarian countries. You could not pay me enough money to live next to an RBMK reactor in the old Soviet bloc. Not only was it a bad design, it was operated in a culture of fear and cronyism.

This is why I am not concerned about the work at most US high containment laboratories, not very concerned about work in Taiwan, but very concerned about work in the PRC. I have heard reports of workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology selling lab animals for meat. If true, that’s such a failure of biosafety I would never imagine having to explain it, like having to explain to shop workers not to grab a running sawblade or lab workers not to do shots of denaturated alcohol.

This is something that sounded at least as reasonable as the bat soup theory since I heard of it in March 2020. No racism necessary. However, Facebook and other social media squashed it. It’s still something that people fear to mention on YouTube for fear of getting their channels struck down. I thought this was driven by Chinese cash and companies selling out, but this tweet suggests we may be giving them too much credit. This moron is so brainwashed into the woke cult that she views any criticism of a non-white country as racist in origin. I’ve seen video game characters with more depth and reasoning than this reporter, who probably looks down at all of us as subhuman. Better to refuse to know the truth than accept a heretical thought.

Ignorance is Strength, and also like totally Woke!

How to Make a MAYDAY Call


You probably do not imagine yourself making a Mayday or SOS call, but it is good to know how to do so in an emergency. In an amazing act of government reasonableness, anyone can call on any band in a real, life- or limb-threatening emergency. I could use my handy-talkie on a military or police band, or the dedicated marine radio band regardless of my license. If you are asked to call in a distress signal by a pilot or ship captain in an emergency, you are in the clear.

Before you start calling on the radio, make sure any emergency distress beacons are activated. Ships should have an EPIRB available – never go on open water without one. Planes can set their transponder into distress mode. If you are going into the wilderness, it is probably a good idea to carry a personal distress beacon and familiarize yourself with other distress signals.

The first thing to understand is that radios are not like phones. You need to select the frequency/channel. For marine radio, you want channel 16 (156.8 MHz), for an airplane you want 121.5 MHz. If you are on a distress channel, do not talk over another person. Once you get a hold of someone, they will likely ask you to change to another channel if you can, just in case you are not the only one having a really bad day.

Now, you need to follow protocol. This is similar to the information to relay on a 911 call: Who, What, and Where.

  1. “Mayday Mayday Mayday” – Repeating something three times is an emergency signal in itself. Remember, an SOS in Morse Code is: •••–––•••
  2. “This is [ship name] [callsign]” – Always identify yourself when calling on the radio. Use the NATO phonetic alphabet for the callsign if you can.
  3. “We are at …” – give a GPS location if possible.
  4. “We are … ” State the nature of the emergency. Relay information from the pilot/crew
  5. “Callsign Over.” You should let the people listening know when you are finished, so they can transmit.

Now wait a minute and listen for a response. Do not hold down the transmit switch. You can repeat the message if you do not receive a response in a minute or two.

An example:

Mayday mayday mayday. This is the Giraffe Kilo India November Three Five. We are at Four Eight Decimal Two Five One Nine Zero Zero North by Eight Eight Decimal Three One Zero Eight Three Six West. We are taking on water and we have lost our rudder. We have 15 people aboard including four children. Kilo India November Three Five over.

Hopefully, this is news you don’t end up using. However, experience taught me that it is better to be prepared than not.

Answering a Floral Mayday (M-1)


There is a reason I’ve been delaying this piece until the floral mania is over.  This was not a normal M-Day, this was basically a floral mayday call.  The reason will become rapidly apparent if you have read my previous posts.

This year, the crew was the Steel Rose; lead florist and fearless leader, Silence; IT guy and assistant manager (and son of Steel Rose), a new assistant florist from a family of florists – let’s call her Bumblebee, myself, and an old friend of mine and coworker, who is a safety professional and ordained minister – let’s call him the Rev.  We also had a former bank teller for half a day Thursday.   That’s it.  The bottled water delivery guy who offered to show up was a no-show.  This was the leanest crew they had ever run with – the Rev and I did 90% of the deliveries.

This was also Prom weekend for the local high school.  Did I mention that there were multiple large funerals needing to be delivered?  Yeah, this was going to get interesting.

Thursday morning I staggered downstairs, stomach striving in vain to turn itself inside out and spontaneously combust.  I load up the first order with the ex-teller, and promptly pull an abdominal muscle.  I am delaying the delivery because I feel like I’m trying hara-kiri.  This is not a promising start to the morning.  Fortunately, the ex-teller is understanding.  We make the deliveries after I can move, and I developed a new technique to get in the car (lead with the head, then use arms to swing my legs and body inside) that avoids stressing the area.  Some Gatorade and a bismuth subsalicyclate chaser kept my stomach under control.  The day goes on, and eventually the teller leaves.  Meanwhile, an idiot McDonalds employee got Silence sick – putting cheese on the “non-dairy” breakfast burrito.  So the store’s delivery team is far from healthy.   Fortunately, Silence could probably deliver flowers easier than sleeping.  We talk about various geek stuff while running the remaining deliveries, then I spend the evening organizing paperwork from the store.

Friday introduces the dynamic duo for this event.  I’ve known Silence since the mid-2000s – we were on College Republicans together – but I’ve known the Rev since 1994.  We went to high school and did Ag labor together.  He was there when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.  He got me a job when I needed one, and I trained Silence to be my replacement.  The Rev and I make a great team.  I was back at full strength and began calling various recipients to make sure they are home.  Most are not.   To be blunt, this morning is a blur of order deliveries and making up song lyrics for street names: e.g. “Myyyyy Shabbona”  “Du.  Du Pont.  Du pont mich”

We arrive back for pizza at lunch and get back to orders in 10 minutes.  Now, it’s time to head to neighboring towns for delivery.  This was a long trip, especially since our phones got no reception.   I look for a map in the car for a map in vain, before the Rev manages to get enough signal to get a route.  This gives us plenty of time on country roads to talk philosophy and talk about what we might do the next time we meet up.  Eventually, arrive back at the store around 6 PM, a 10-hour day done.  I set Google Maps to download the entire delivery area to my phone for offline use.  I watch some geeks joke about woke culture with Silence for a few hours, post my advice on flower deliveries, and then crash.

Saturday began early with two funerals, one needing to arrive at 8 AM. Funerals involve multiple large arrangements, and are one of the biggest sources of business for the store.   I run them over with Silence before the Rev and I start tag-teaming the process of calling the recipients to make sure they were home.   We have mixed results: in one case, we ended up calling one person half a dozen times from 9 AM onward, and even tried to deliver without success at 4:30 PM.  However, despite the recipient being named Elsa, I refused to let it go.  We ended up handing off the flowers over a fence at the high school parking lot.  (Thankfully she tipped us!)   We then took a set of orders that had not been called to check in.  Our first one led to a non-existent address.  It went 211, then 217, with no 215.  We went to call the store, but my phone had no signal and the Rev’s phone had suddenly been deactivated.  Our next delivery was actually a long way away.   By the time we got back, it was revealed that the house was 205 and the recipient was not home.

It was lunchtime, so the Rev and I ducked out for Arby’s and Dairy Queen.  The Rev and I always used to hang out at the Dairy Queen in high school, so it was a throwback to earlier days, with old friends.  (ave atque vale to our mutual friend the Fox, crazy as he was Christian.  May he frolic forever in the fields of Heaven)  We arrived back refreshed by unhealthy food and took on yet more orders.  I ran out of space on my order route log and had to get a new one.   Then Silence ran to take another funeral in the main delivery van – which had my phone and all my maps.   The second delivery van was in a difficult spot, so the Steel Rose herself had to find it with the Rev.  I ended up handling a bunch of pickup orders, including a delivery order who was extremely abusive to me.  This became more understandable when the Steel Rose mentioned the lady had just been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Eventually, it came time for the last deliveries of the day – nursing homes.  Now these are usually easy, as the recipient is not going anywhere.   However, our first nursing home was excessively frustrating.  I went to be buzzed in, but no one was at the desk.  A well-meaning resident saw my predicament and was trying to wheel himself to the door, which was naturally alarmed.   I waved him off and went to another door, where at least I was able to talk with someone.  A number of people began milling around near the door, none buzzing the door.  Finally, a nurse directed me to place the arrangement on a table so they could get it.  Why they could not open the door for 30 seconds to receive the order, I have no idea.  Fortunately, the others were easier to deliver, once we figured where they went in the vast senior complex with various levels of help.

Finally, it was over.  We arrived back at 5:30 PM after another 10 hour day.  As we sit exhausted, drinking ice water in the now-closed flower shop.  the Steel Rose breaks the good news.  We have done better this year than the last year, with half the staff.  The Rev and I have an enthusiastic invitation back next year to help out.  The Bumblebee was another success story – she’s going to be a permanent addition.   Who knows, maybe my crafty girlfriend can help out with arrangements some time?    Now I’m going to enjoy the remains of my weekend and relax.

Advice from the Flower Shop (M-2)


Yet again I find myself working at my friend Silence’s mom’s flower shop in Northeastern Illinois. Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and unlike last year, most people are only giving lip service to COVID-19 regulations. It is crazy busy, and I am absolutely tired, so I will not have the full series of narrative posts this year. However, I can give you some pointers on flower ordering.

  1. Do not use wire services like FTD or 800flowers. They are likely to lose your order, promise something the florist cannot make, or even just take your money.  Use DuckDuckGo or your favorite search engine to help find a florist in the area, and call them directly.  You have much better accountability, a better idea of what you will actually get, and generally more helpful staff.  Besides, these are the small business owners we like to talk about supporting.
  2. Give the florist the recipient’s phone number.  I know you want to surprise Mom or your honeybunny with flowers, but we need a person to contact prior to sending out a delivery vehicle.  Someone has to be home to receive the flowers.  We can’t just leave flowers on the doorstep – too much risk of damage or theft.  We may need to call when we arrive or call to confirm the address.  Trust me, I’ve never seen a person bored or uninterested in receiving flowers.
  3. If you are clueless about flowers, give the florist a few ideas and a price range.  Florists deal with this all the time.  Mentioning a favorite flower or color will help personalize it, but these ladies are professionals.  I once used a florist after I forgot my mom’s birthday.  I mentioned she liked the Packers and fall colors, and gave a generous price ceiling.  Gorgeous arrangement with Packer balloon delivered, relationship restored, disownment canceled.
  4. Delivery orders need much more lead time than pick-up.  If this is a last-minute order, try for a pickup.   Delivery orders need to be planned and generally fill up much faster than pick-up orders, especially on holidays.  Most florists will have some items in the case ready to be sold, unless it is already insanely busy.  We can help you pack it safely
  5. Request a full-size card if you have a long message.  Flower cards are business card sized.  We had some USO cards for mothers of fallen soldiers that required microprinting to fit the message.  With a larger card, we can put on as long of a message as you want.  Alternatively, brevity is the soul of wit – keep it to the point.


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