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Africa Journal: Going Rogue

Gurley Street, Monrovia, Liberia.

Imagine you didn’t have squat. You live in a dirt-floored, corrugated zinc-roofed hut. You work and save and you finally get the opportunity to get a little something for yourself; let’s say an el cheapo transistor radio, so you can listen to the VoA or Liberia Today. Then somebody steals the little gimcrack you spent months saving for. How would you react?

Back in the ’80s, Liberians didn’t react well. When the call “Rogue!” went out, people came boiling out of their huts and shacks to chase, apprehend, and mete out rough justice to the rogue.

Thus, it was at/about 14 years of age, I first saw a man die by violence.

All the third-country kids (get of the diplomatic corps, international businessmen, and the Lebanese diaspora) went to the American Cooperative School in Liberia. About 200 kids, K-12, from 30 different countries. The ACS was located on Old Road, next to the Old Road Fish Market, where we’d buy road-baked fish (four for a dollar) that was amazingly good, once you batted the flies off.

There was a traditional big yellow school bus that would truck all the embassy kids from “embassy row” (Sekou Torre Ave.) to school and back. I’d been in-country for about two weeks and our bus was trundling home one afternoon down Old Road, when we had to stop for an insta-mob; hundreds of people shouting “Rogue!” The subject of the yelling was a 20-something looking guy, and the crowd was knocking the snot out of him right by our bus. I don’t know what the guy had done—or had allegedly done—but the crowd was relentless.

My bus-mates and I hung out the windows with a bird’s eye view of the mob beatdown. Eventually, a soldier showed up to take control of the situation. Wearing a ragtag uniform, literal hobnailed boots, and carrying an AK-47, he started putting his boots to the rogue. After a couple of minutes (seconds?) of mercilessly kicking the rogue, the soldier handed off his AK to a member of the crowd (!) and swinging both arms for momentum, he jumped up, and came down.

Most of my bus-mates screamed, some immediately puked; I just remember thinking that brains didn’t look at all like I imagined they would. Instead of the light, fluffy grey that textbooks depicted, they were dark, storm-cloud grey, with maroon and purple whorls. Yuck.

About a year-and-a-half later, I had Liberia dialed in. I knew all the places a young man could go to get into trouble. I knew and spoke the local patois. I had a deep love of the people.

One weekend evening, me and my buddy Dave were stumbling down Gurlry Street (the Monrovian red-light/bar district) getting ready to shamble home before curfew — not a parental curfew, but the citywide curfew Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe had put in place upon taking the reins of state via coup d’etat. We’d usually go to Dave’s house, which was on the beach, walk into the ocean fully clothed, and scrub down with sand to eliminate any olfactory evidence of our misadventures. Then we’d hang our clothes over the wall of his house, and sit on the beach until we were dry enough and sober enough to tiptoe into the house and rack out.

On our way off of Gurley Street, a guy started pestering us: asking us for money, offering to show us “de bes’ places” (Dude, I’m wearing a dashiki and talking to you in Liberian English — do I look like I need a tour guide?), and generally being a pain in the tuchus. Finally I wheeled on him and deployed “Ey, my man, how you can be humbugging me so?” He punched me in the chest, and took off running. Instinctively, I lit out after him. I knew within a step what he’d done.

Dad, on his travels, had picked up gold jewelry for my brother and me. The reason, he said, was that someday we might have to make it over a border or back to the Embassy unsupported; cash may not work, but gold will. I can’t remember what my brother got, but I’d gotten a lion’s claw, encased in a golden web, on a gold necklace. On the first stride of my chase, I knew he’d stolen my chain when I didn’t feel it thump against my chest. Son of a…

I chased him for a couple blocks, right behind him (y’know, it’s only after starting these Africa Journals that I realized how much running I had to do back in the day). He finally figured he wasn’t going to outrun me, close behind him and screaming “Rogue!” at the top of my lungs, and turned off onto an eroded dirt alley. I could see the end of the alley ahead of us. Half of the back end was occluded by a white, clapboard building. The other half led into one of the intermittent strips of jungle one found all through the city. He hits that jungle, he’s gone.

I upped my speed, reached out and grabbed the waistband of his trousers, picked him up, and ran us both into the white clapboard at full speed. It’s a technique. We both scrambled to our feet. I don’t know about him, but my bell was a little rung. He grabbed me by the throat with his free, not-holding-my-damn-necklace hand. Bad decision, wasted effort. Let me show you how it’s done. I punched him in the throat and he dropped; the paroxysms of a traumatized trachea can be pretty debilitating. I stomped on his exposed, palm-up forearm, and recovered my necklace.

Just before I could turn and make my egress out of the alley, a hand that was about the size and weight of a canned ham fell on my shoulder and turned me around. The owner of the hand was huge and hugely muscled. He didn’t have a shirt on, just a leather vest. And he had a leather eye patch over one eye. A frikkin’ leather eye patch.

Please don’t be his big brother, please don’t be his big brother…

“Ey, my man, t’enk you for catching the rogue.”

Not a problem, sir.

About then Dave came stumbling around the corner. “What’re we doing?”

We getting the hella outta here.

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The Spiritual and Scientific Miracle of Water


Water As Cure

.In the Fall of 1865, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was thrown into an asylum in Vienna — where he would perish from Pyaemia. Like many other abscess and septic conditions that result from infection, which would be easily treated by antibiotics, it was a painful and torturous death sentence. Semmelweis had indeed gone insane at the point of his internment, but for undoubtedly understandable reasons. Dr. Semmelweis, mere months prior to his commitment, was a prestigious Austrian physician. One who supervised both obstetricians and autopsies at the renowned Vienna General Hospital. During this era, childbirth in a hospital was not the optimal choice for parents. Wealth bought the services of home birth specialists — the primary motive was the reduction of puerperal or postpartum infections. In hospitals, the crowded rooms would become breeding grounds of septicemia infection — claiming the lives upwards of 40 percent of women and their children. Giving birth in the hospital even began to earn an ominous, taboo association.

Semmelweiss also ran the morgue and autopsy section of the hospital. Performing grueling 18-hour shifts, he would often be bleary and once mistakenly grabbed a scalpel by its sharp edge — nearly severing tendon in an incision with an instrument that was just used to perform a sternum separation. Semmelweiss prepared for the worst — his friend and colleague having just died after making a similar mistake and succumbing to septicemia in a mere 48 hours.

Three days passed. Besides a few stitches, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss was just fine. Consumed by possibility, curiosity, and likely survivor’s guilt — Semmelweiss refused to engage in any other endeavor besides to determine the reason he was spared the guaranteed infection. In this age where blood-letting and humors still ruled medical textbooks — there was simply no explanation that was satisfactory. Finally he came across only one distinction between the scalpel that entered his hand versus the one that ended his colleagues life:

Lemon water.

As a fluke, Semmelweiss often washed his autopsy tools in a lemon water solution entirely for aesthetic reasons. Germ theory was still a way off, and the colleagues he mentioned this to, at best, laughed off Semmelweiss’ eccentricities. But the man was convinced. In weeks, he had his obstetrician department washing all hands and tools in a rudimentary sterilization he had concocted from acidic compounds. Almost instantaneously, bed fever or puerperal fever dropped from, sometimes, 40 percent to a mind-boggling number of less than 2 percent.

Over and over again, he traveled from birthing hospitals, and every time, septic fevers plummeted without fail. It was indisputable.

Or so he thought.

This was before Pasteur, and a threat to the bedrock foundation of medical science (which we know now is absolute quackery) — Semmelweiss was discredited, stripped of his license, and thrown into an asylum after he refused to stop advocating for his simple method of washing hands — especially when bed fever came back with vengeance. Two weeks later, Dr. Ignatz Semmelweiss was found dead in his cell. Beaten severely by guards — he died after his wounds became infected and septic.

Now, we know the importance of water and soap as anti-bacterial agents to fight infection. But imagine the hubris involved in ignoring the staggering results of across the board drops in postpartum infection fatalities wherever Semmelweiss’ practices of hand-washing was put into place. A cautionary tale of the maniacally evil potential of pride; and its root cause: fear of obsolescence.

Pasteur, while contemporaneously near the same discovery still wouldn’t break through to a usable solution like Semmelweiss until the 1870s. Imagine, if Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss, who gave his life trying to bring this knowledge to the world succeeded in 1865 — at the end of the Civil War. How the course of history would have been impacted.

Hubris has robbed humanity of far too much.

The rejection of Semmelweiss, in my opinion, is one of the most tragic and foreboding tales of human vanity. One they pawned off on systems of positivism and empiricism — failing to recognize that Semmelweiss had ample proof of the overwhelming success of his rudimentary antiseptic. This story is one that is hard for me to fathom — as the data was plain as day. These men chose to protect their systems of archaic notions rather than save lives. And as they were Christians, with the parable of Pontius Pilate literally washing his hands of the death of Christ — I often think to this and wonder what could make men so horrifically obtuse. Pride is perhaps the most dangerous sin, as it emboldens our ignorance with righteousness — making us willing to cause suffering, even death, rather than be proven wrong.

Water as cleansing, life, and rejuvenation were certainly not novel concepts. At the root of their rejection was the fear of realization that their identity, one based on expertise, was nothing more than a fabrication.

Water as Spiritual Cleansing

Every creation myth in the history of humanity features a flood or deluge event. One where the masses have gone astray to harm and prey on the pure of heart, the meek and innocent. Upon being washed into extinction, the Earth is cleansed of its iniquity — making way for a new population. Cleansing and acceptance is a common yet powerful ritual with many permutations in many religions; none more prevalent than Baptism. Even beyond Judeo-Christian ritual — there is a vast assortment of catecheses outside this well-known ecumenical definition of christening. Perhaps the most wondrous theological thread all faiths share is the baptism ritual: A promise of rejuvenation through cleansing.

Beyond the schisms, baptism through blessing or protection remains a feature in Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Rabbinical orders, Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and countless other monotheistic and procedural religions.

At the heart of every culture, the significance, reverence, and appreciation of water’s integral importance to life is the kernel from which germinates personal spirituality and redemption.

Water as Scientific Miracle

My city is built upon the Edwards Aquifer. Charged over 200 miles away in the karst topography of Hill Country — a vast system of caves brings the life-giving treasure under San Antonio — supplying this would-be lifeless desert with a lush-green environment. The water’s source, although a mere 30 miles away, takes 225 years to travel to the wells where its springs naturally deliver it through pressurization to our city. The water that I just poured into my glass beside my computer materialized during a storm during George Washington’s first term in office. But as a cohesive body, that isn’t quite right as a definition. A miraculous substance we take for granted all too often — water has the most peculiar properties of any substance on Earth.

*Each molecule of water is made up of three atoms: two hydrogen atoms locked in a sort of triangle with one oxygen atom—giving us the famous chemical formula H2O. The slightly imbalanced structure of water molecules means they attract and stick to many different substances. That’s also why all kinds of things will dissolve in water, which is sometimes called a “universal solvent.” Water can make its way through any matter known on Earth — with enough time even a stream can carve the Grand Canyon.

Water on Earth is a combination of hydrogen with oxygen, but there are actually three different isotopes of hydrogen and each of those can combine with oxygen to give a different kind of water. If deuterium (hydrogen whose atoms contain one neutron and one proton instead of just one proton by itself) combines with oxygen, we get something called heavy water, which is about 10% heavier than normal water. Similarly, tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons and one proton) can combine with oxygen to make something called superheavy water.* — Properties of Terrestrial Water

Water’s unique molecular structure is accompanied by its peculiar reaction to external stimulus. It expands when frozen, condenses upon cool surfaces, its cohesion properties are immense — something any belly flop will confirm. Perhaps most interesting, to me, is the behavior it undergoes with sound:

Sound travels through water with some truly fascinating results. In a tube, various frequencies (or keys) will vibrate the flow, but nothing noteworthy, until 440hz tuned Middle C — and it will undergo a spectacular quaking: taking on fractal shapes and forms that defy any real physical explanation. Here’s a simple experiment showing a similar effect:


You guys know me. I admire you all a great deal — but there are some things we don’t agree on. I’m not saying that means I harbor any ill will — or think less of you — actually, it means I respect you immensely. Too much to lie to you.

Water is a spiritual and scientific gift from God. I was going to end this piece by proclaiming liberals as atheistic and druidic worshipers of Nature. But the truth is, I believe the shepherd parable of Christianity is applicable here. We are told to keep our house in order. To not delve into the gluttony of excess. We are cleansed first with the water of baptism. In return we have unabashedly befouled our waters with unspeakable waste. The oceans are marked by seven gyres — currents that twist due the Earth’s gravitational spin and plate tectonics. In each one exists a churning miasma of human garbage. Each one an unspeakable blemish that marks our cavalier disregard for stewardship. I think back to Pontius Pilate. I think to the prideful monsters who jailed Ignaz Semmelweiss. I don’t say this as an admonition as I would be a fool to say I am privy to some truth you are not. But, we must not let pride turn out heads away from those truly concerned. Indeed, many liberals are simply prideful heretics — but some are genuinely concerned. And as I saw the droughts truly take hold last year — unearthing a deep, unrealized fear here in the Heartland with its roots in the Dust Bowl — I couldn’t help but remember Dr. Ignatz Semmelweiss’ story.

This isn’t my declaration to accept climate change and every progressive cause in their fickle tantrums — but it is a request that we reject the sober concerns after careful deliberation. Not prideful dismissal.

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YAF at Brandeis: Dinesh D’Souza


This is a report I wrote on the talk that Dinesh D’Souza gave at my school last night, even though you can watch the whole thing here .

In the beginning, the Assistant Dean of Students somewhat awkwardly read a speech about how it is a good thing to have this event on campus, and then she pointed out that if people wanted to be loud, they could go to the convenient protest area behind the actual lecture hall, which got some laughs. (I’m sorry if you were hoping for drama in the piece, but spoilers: There was no trouble, and to be honest I didn’t expect any. D’Souza, who also spoke at Brandeis ten years ago, expressed surprise about this at the end.)

D’Souza opened by remarking that back when he was in college, liberal views were prevalent on campuses, but conservative views were definitely visible, including among professors. Now, it’s harder to talk to people with different views, because different views are seen as a threat. D’Souza expressed doubt that many liberal college students today would be able to answer the question, “What are conservatives trying to conserve?” I would tend to agree.

Next, D’Souza said he would discuss racism and fascism, two things leftists accuse Trump of, and noted that spreading accusations of fascism is new to the Left; it just started about a year ago. In terms of racism, D’Souza gave us the sordid history of the Democrat Party, pointing out that literally all slaveowners were Democrats and it is very logically shaky to blame it all on ‘the south.’ (Here, a tangent on how liberals like to blame things on “America,” “the white man,” etc. instead of on the people who were actually responsible.) Post-bellum, the Democrats invented white supremacy. Segregation, the Ku Klux Klan, racial terrorism, and lynching were all their policies and institutions. Democrat Woodrow Wilson made the Ku Klux Klan cool again by showing Birth of a Nation in the White House in the early twentieth century. The fabled ‘Big Switch’ never happened; only one single Dixiecrat, Strom Thurmond, switched parties. Obama and Clinton both eulogized former Klan member Robert Byrd. There is an idea that, after all, you had to be in the Klan in those days if you wanted to further Democrat ideals.

D’Souza pointed out the obvious fact that fascism has always come from the Left. He provided a brief history of fascism, starting with Mussolini. Mussolini grew up Marxist, but Marx turned out be wrong about many things. The working class did not get poorer. The Revolution did not come from England or from Germany, but rather from Russia, and it came in the form of overthrowing the czarist regime — not capitalism. Marx’s idea of socialism has never worked out, and in D’Souza’s opinion, never will. National Socialism to the rescue! People are much more likely to die for a nation than for an economic class, and that’s why Nazism did better than plain old Marxism.

With that history lecture over, D’Souza brought up Herbert Marcuse and his 1960’s statement, “No free speech for fascists!” The spirit of the Antifa. But the truth, according to D’Souza, is that Trump seems to want the opposite of fascism — to unleash capitalism, and detach it from the state.

Now I’ll just give you highlights from the Q & A period.

The less cringey people came first. Somebody asked a question about politicians changing their minds and what that means, and D’Souza said that all politics is a hybrid of principle and opportunism, and that isn’t a bad thing. He gave a spiel about how SSM succeeded because the Left was cleverly fighting a culture war outside of politics, and the Right was not fighting that war, and so by the time the issue entered politics, it was a fait accompli.

A fun moment a little later on was when D’Souza ended up explaining that Trump does not want to deport immigrants. Illegals are not immigrants, and they do not have constitutional rights.

The really cringey guy came up next. I’ll paraphrase: “You think that Democrats are less moral than Republicans but the Democrats say that they care about climate change!” D’Souza expressed an opinion that climate change seems like theism to him: there is not really empirical evidence that we can all see and thus conclude, yes, it exists. The student’s response, which just sort of went on for a while, immediately reminded me of Pascal’s Wager. So that was funny to me because it seemed to prove the point D’Souza had just made. (You all can watch this segment at 1:21:00 in the video I linked at the beginning, if you want to subject yourselves to it.) D’Souza also talked about how he comes from a third world country and they would love to have things that climate change activists think is bad, such as oil, so that they can become a second world country. No one talks about climate change in India. (My libertarian environmentalist friend was interested to hear that conservatives as well as liberals make the argument that environmentalism is for privileged people.)

We finally got around to the female students, and of course they wanted to know about women’s rights. (Reminded me of Brandeis Conservatives meetings; hard to find a woman who really wants to talk politics. I admit that I find it a little embarrassing.) D’Souza said that abortion is not a constitutional right, and even if it was, why should it be subsidized when our other rights, e.g. our second amendment rights, are not? (The student to whom he was saying this shook her head.) He also ended up explaining Roe v Wade and why he thinks it would be a good idea to overturn that decision.

All in all it was an interesting event with a good sized, ideologically diverse turnout, and everyone was courteous. So good for Brandeis, and thank you to Dinesh D’Souza and Young America’s Foundation for the privilege.

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Quote of the Day: What I Like About Texas, 29 April 2017


You ask me what I like about Texas? Well aside from the obvious, such as @rightangles‘ posts and pics, and the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes in full bloom at the height of spring, the list is exhaustive. We could be here all night long.

Fortunately, 31 years ago during the Texas sesquicentennial, country singer-songwriter Gary P. Nunn put that question and its many answers into a song, from which the following verse comes:

You ask me what I like about Texas?
It’s the big timber ’round Nacogdoches.
It’s driving El Camino Real down to San Antone.
It’s the Riverwalk and Mi Tierra,
Jammin’ out with Bongo Joe,
The stories of the Menger Hotel and the Alamo.
(You remember the Alamo!)

Here’s a video clip of Nunn performing the song on “The Texas Connection,” a weekly program that was broadcast weekly on The Nashville Network during the ’80s and ’90s, live from Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. The song begins just past the one minute mark:

God bless you, Texas. I miss you dearly.

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George was 77, going on 78 when we met. He owned a firm that rather suddenly had become my client due to an emergency failure in their IT network – an emergency that lasted 20 years. A protégé of George’s at the firm would end-up becoming one of my best friends – a relationship that will last forever.

George was remarkable: full-bird Colonel on General Patton’s staff, DoD project manager for the implementation of the world’s first mainframe computer, editor of a military journal for decades, college teacher, business owner, founder of the Pachyderms – a group of folks with thick skins, a sense of humor, and a keen interest in politics and bourbon.

But the thing I remember most about George was his gentle, humble laugh. We sat for many conversations over the years in his glass office on Kirby Drive – always quiet, private, and interesting. Until just a couple years ago, George came to the office everyday … wearing a tie and a smile, with a pipe in one hand and a newspaper in the other. He was a classic gentleman, old school. Every time we talked I learned something about life, the military, history, WWII, women, politics, the original mainframes, bourbon, or pipe tobacco. We never once talked business – his or mine. He had other things on his mind and I was interested in hearing about them. Making George laugh was a special treat for me – I’ll always remember that gentle sound.

In my life I’ve met a ridiculous number of remarkable people – there’s really no accounting for it. They make you say things about them long after they’re gone. George was one of the remarkables. He passed-away on Saturday and was laid to rest at Veterans Cemetery yesterday in a misty parade of friends walking behind his horse-drawn caisson through hallowed ground. He was 103. I hope all the remarkables will live to 103, continue to sit and converse with me, drink wine, and laugh.

Requiesce In Pace, George McDowell

April 26th 2017

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Do You Talk to Your Electronics?


I have an iPhone, and it has its much-touted digital assistant called Siri. In theory, you can speak to Siri and ask it to look things up for you, give you directions to some place, schedule things, or do any number of other jobs for you on your phone. Last year, Apple extended Siri into is OS-X operating system. Microsoft has its own digital assistant, called Cortana, which has been embedded in Windows 10 since its roll-out a couple of years ago. I can choose not to use Siri, I’ve found that Cortana, though, constantly seems to be listening unless I disable any built-in microphones (sometimes with a soldering iron). Amazon now has its Echoes, which bypass the phones and desktops and get strategically placed around the house. If you have a Kinect bar on your X-Box, it’s listening to you too, and the Sony camera does likewise on the Playstation (which is really annoying when dialog in some show on Netflix triggers the PS4 to attempt some task).

I must confess I fail to see the point to any of these.

Asking Siri to navigate me any place is roughly akin to playing darts with a drunkard and a map. Its ability to research anything is pathetic, and I’m well content to do anything else on the computer with my keyboard and mouse. It takes me less time to do it than it does to figure out how to ask Siri to do it. Cortana is, quite frankly, creepy in its never ending attempts to help me – it is like Microsoft gave voice to Clippy, and even when I disable the damned thing, Microsoft often seems to turn it back on with its next round of patches. I’ve not tried an Echo, and quite frankly I refuse to let one through my door. The Kinect bar was an interesting novelty, soon abandoned by the kids and unplugged by me, but my wife likes the PS camera, even as she shouts commands at it while it pretends not to hear her.

Do any of you use any of these things successfully? How are these things representative of “the future” of home or work life? Do these services save you time, improve your productivity, or otherwise work for you in some way? I’m curious to know if anyone here has a different perspective.

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Bill Nye, Harry Potter, and Why Millennials Can’t Think


Millennials can’t think. They get their science from Bill Nye. Their only form of literary reference is the Harry Potter franchise. Read another book, please! Bill Nye was fun in the 90’s to get the basics about science – law of gravity, simple machines, energy transfer. I think the place that Bill Nye holds in the culture today is due to the nostalgia of millennials.

I’ve seen a number of the episodes of Nye’s original series, Bill Nye the Science Guy. I remember watching the show in grade-school and junior high. His shows and topics covered in each episode were quite superficial; they served as an entertaining introduction to whatever new topic we were beginning to learn about. There was no depth there. He was an entertaining figure when I was in fifth, sixth, and seventh grade; now he’s just a dolt. Fellow millennials (and you gen-xers) please stop holding up this bad actor as a “scientist.”

I’ve read the Harry Potter franchise many times. I’ve seen the movies multiple times. I was six years old when the first book came out. It was one of the first longer books that I read, not the first but one of the first. I read each book when it came out. When the later books came out, I remember going to the midnight releases and rushing home to read it until I was too tired to read another word. A good series. I enjoyed it and I still enjoy it.

With all that being said, fellow millennials please read another book! Harry Potter is good. It’s not great. The first longer books that I read were Roald Dahl books. I also loved C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and there is actually some depth with that series. Mark Twain is fantastic. The Little House on the Prairie series is delightful.

Why should you read another book? So that you can make a literary reference. You can understand a reference in the newspaper. So that you’ll know what a Bacchanal is and where it comes from. You’ll know what big brother is. Some are more equal than others. (I hope you all caught that last one.)

The worst part of this lack of thought is that there are countless “journalists” that always and only ever make a reference to the principal villain in Harry Potter, Voldemort, when talking about the “evil” Donald Trump. There are many, many tweets and articles that do this (I have no desire to find them again, because whenever I see one I am usually half-tempted to throw my computer out the window). If you think Trump is so bad, then why not compare him to Mustapha Mond? Or maybe call him Ralph?

This ignorance to other literary references and to trusting Bill Nye as a “scientist” is due to blind nostalgia. Harry Potter and Bill Nye remind us of our adolescence. They remind us of a time with no responsibility. It’s fine to have memories. It’s problematic to use those memories as a crutch and a reason to never expand your mind.

Millennials, Screwtape would be proud of your ignorance.

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Federalism Seems to Be a Hard Sell to Conservatives and Republicans


The recent ruling of a federal judge issuing a temporary injunction against President Donald Trump’s executive order denying further appropriations of federal revenues to cities that have deemed themselves to be “sanctuary cities” created another internal battle among Conservatives. Former U.S. prosecutor and National Review contributor Andrew McCarthy voiced concern that the judge’s ruling does not actually find fault in the executive order or the statute upon which the order was based, but rather, the judge concocted controversies in order to conjure up a ruling against Trump. McCarthy states that the executive order, in effect, did nothing other than demonstrate President Trump’s desire to enforce existing immigration law.

Another National Review paragon, David French, echoed much the same in his blog post for National Review’s “The Corner.” “The executive order was not changing the law. It did not strip federal funds from sanctuary cities. It directed federal officials to enforce existing law and then larded up that directive with meaningless legalese that made the order look far more dramatic to the untrained eye.” French’s sentiment regarding this executive order is much the same as McCarthy’s, at least in as much as it did nothing than exclaim a desire to enforce existing law. The existing law is 8 U.S.C. § 1337 which, according to the executive order, a sanctuary city must comply with or risk losing out on federal grants.

Viewed through this perspective, the federal government is attempting to use the carrot of funding for local initiatives in exchange for those local municipalities from operating as a sanctuary city, but how are sanctuary cities not complying with federal law? In yet another National Review contributor’s words, Charles Krauthammer, sanctuary cities are “defying the federal government” in that they act in opposition to the federal government’s enforcement of immigration law. This seems to mean that Krauthammer thinks that sanctuary cities are creating an atmosphere where federal law does not apply and that illegal aliens can seek refuge in these cities. Krauthammer has even employed the tactic of comparing such cities to segregationists and Confederates in what Krauthammer views is the flouting of federal law.

Krauthammer’s sentiments are not only over the top, but they display his ignorance of how our federal system works, or is supposed to work, as does the executive order itself. Krauthammer claims that these cities are engaging in “nullification and interposition” by operating as a sanctuary city. Krauthammer is either ignorant of, or believes his audience is ignorant of, what nullification and interposition is because sanctuary cities are not operating in anyway reminiscent of South Carolina in 1832.

For starters, sanctuary cities are not ignoring federal law, let alone federal law these cities believe to be unconstitutional or violations of their rights to self-government, as South Carolina framed justification for their nullifying the Tariff Act of 1828. Sanctuary cities are merely saying that they will not allow law enforcement entities under the jurisdiction and control of these local governments to do the job of federal law enforcement as it pertains to immigration law. Kari Hong, a law professor at Boston College who specializes in immigration law, explains that “activists believe that immigration laws will no longer apply or be enforced in a sanctuary city. That is not true. It’s just that the federal government has to do the enforcement and not the local police. And the federal government is always allowed to do that enforcement, even in sanctuary cities.”

The officials who have declared their jurisdictions sanctuary cities are acting within their right to do so since what they are really declaring is that local resources will not be spent to enforce federal law. This authority comes from no other than Justice Joseph Story in an 1842 ruling that dealt with the apprehension and return of fugitive slaves in free states to the states in which they were in a permanent state of servitude. The case arose out of a Maryland slave owner seeking the return of a slave who had become free and a resident of Pennsylvania. The slave owner relied on the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 to supersede a Pennsylvania state law that sought to free slaves within Pennsylvania territory. The case is Prigg v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. 539 (1842) and the pertinent portion of the ruling is where Story writes “’The president shall commission all officers.’ Now, if no man can be an officer of this government, without bearing the commission of the president, certainly, no ‘magistrate of a county, city or town corporate’ can be a judicial officer of the general government, and so cannot take authority under the act.”

What Story is saying here is that, since local officials are not empowered by the federal government to act in their local capacity, then how could they be expected to act within a federal one. In this instance Story was discussing the use of local officials to apprehend slaves and turn over to slave owners those slaves determined to fit the claims of the slave owner by a local court in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. Story’s ruling spelled out that the slave owner is within his rights to claim his property under the act, but that the act did now spell out how said property was to be apprehended and that a state could refuse to act in furtherance of the slave owner’s claim. To enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, Story reasoned, officials of the federal government were the only ones required by law to act. Krauthammer would do well to educate himself on Story’s ruling, and on nullification for that matter, since Story was no proponent of what might be called Calhounism.

Immigration law is a federal concern and, as such, officers of the federal government are the only ones required to enforce it. States and local municipalities may assist federal officials in enforcing such laws, but there is no justification for saying that states or municipalities are in violation of the law when they do not. As Krauthammer might say, and indeed he did, “we live in a federal system.” Well sanctuary cities, whether you agree with them ideologically or not, are acting in accordance to federalist principles. Maybe it might be time that the general government begin to do the same.

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Bucharest or Bust


Here’s an old one Brother @docjay asked me to put up awhile ago. And in honor of my Grandparents 80th wedding anniversary today.

Craciun left his home in Călărași, Romania when he was 10 due to an alcoholic and abusive father. I never got the full story, but Grandpa’s Dad was a prolific lush whose drinking may have been responsible for his wife’s death. Craciun roamed the countryside and Black Sea shore, following the footsteps of Ovid and Trajan, taking odd jobs in the city during winter and migrant farming in the summer. Focusing on carpentry, he plied his trade in rural and urban settings. By the time he reached 20, he was a skilled craftsman that had grown accustomed to an itinerant lifestyle. That all changed when he met my Grandmother outside Bucharest in Romania. Working on her Father’s farm, they fell in love and were married.

Buying a one-room shanty, they enjoyed an idyllic lifestyle of romance and beauty in a rural village on the outskirts of Bucharest. Despite their peaceful existence, the shadow of WWII was growing and soon swallowed them whole. Work went from scant to nonexistent. King Carol II’s neutrality crumbled when Germany annexed France. Practically overnight Romania’s borders became Axis-controlled. Romanian men, aged 14–50 were kidnapped and conscripted into Nazi service under penalty of death. When they came to Craciun and Arden’s neighborhood, he was rounded into a group with other “acceptable men” and told to dig ditches. Within seconds of completion, an entire Romani caravan was shot and tossed into the shallow grave.

It was December 1942, and the men were rousted out from bed half-dressed and shivering to be marched to Stalingrad. That battle had already raged for four months, with an inconceivable death toll of 2 million. 200,000 were Romanian. The Nazis were using non-German captives as fodder for suicide-blitzes against the city gates — while German forces had the safer task of flanking the South. These villagers were being marched to their demise and they knew it.

Supplies were scavenged from those who had begun to die in the march. My Grandfather knew some German from his travels and worked at developing a speaking relationship with the officer who barked threats at the ragged platoon — much to the other captives’ collective chagrin. Grandpa told me the quickest way to gain favor, no matter the situation, is always humor. After a few successful jokes, Cracuin gained favor and began to be handed rotten pieces of bread and fruit. When the officer wasn’t looking, he shared his meager meals with the others starving next to him. Soon he was handed a filthy Nazi uniform, overcoat, and a weapon. Some sort of weird German rifle, not the standard infantry-issue Mauser. As soon as the Officer turned*, Craciun clumsily aimed the gun at the Officer only to have the barrel grabbed and gun stolen by the man he had just broken bread with. Demonstrating allegiance by exposing treason was immensely rewarded. And by foiling his impulsive coup — this man had likely secured a hot meal, cot, perhaps even a clean overcoat. The man turned the rifle around, shouldering the butt of the rifle. Craciun closed his eyes in fear.

Hearing the first click, he flinched wildly with every subsequent pull of the trigger. Eyes tightly shut, he prayed for his Wife until an exasperated sigh and a slap across his head finally caught his attention. Craciun opened his eyes to see the Polish man yelling while pointing at the gun. Unable to understand each other, the man gestured to the frozen and rusted mechanism, and perhaps most importantly, the complete absence of ammunition. It was unloaded. The Polish man handed Craciun the rifle back and smiled. Digging into his pants cuff, he produced a small clip with five rounds.

The men bonded despite the harsh penalties of fraternization. To avoid suspicion, they answered one other with either a loud nasal exhale or sucking-in through the front teeth. Days blurred into weeks. The only discernible metric of time was the plunging temperature. Physical duress of the march was amplified by intense tedium and sent many spiraling into madness. Craciun and the Polish man occupied their focus upon the consuming task of the rifle. Although the exterior was rusted over — fusing the trigger, bolt mechanism, and ejection port together — the internal barrel’s piston remained in working condition. The rifle was one of the first gas-operated automatic assault weapons. If any part failed to release the combustible gas, it would generate an explosive backfire that could tear-off an arm clean from shoulder. Lacking any solvent or grease, the men alternated shifts, methodically palming small rocks, combining the minerals with their skin’s oil as a rudimentary lubricant. Countless nights passed with no progress, until one late-evening a loud SCHHIING sang out from the gun’s awakened spring. Craciun awoke to see the Polish man sinking the five-round clip deep into a modified magazine obscuring it from view. He smiled as he handed over the gun.

As Providence would have it, the following morning, the German officer pointed to an ice-covered sign written in indecipherable Ukrainian. The Officer smiled and said “Izyum.” Southeast of Kursk, they had walked almost 500 miles. Although still 100 miles away from the epicenter of Stalingrad, six months of unceasing carnage had transformed the bucolic countryside into battle-mangled Hellscape. Bodies lie decomposing. Women and children knelt dazed or screaming beside them. All the while, live-fire signaled nearby skirmishes. A single shot rang out directly above — making the Officer march up the ravine to investigate. Craciun raised his rifle to take aim, but again the Polish man pushed down his barrel. Pointing to his ears and mimicking gunshots, he indicated the need to wait for background fire to avoid alarming any other Officers. They hiked on into the snowy quiet. It was the only time Craciun sweated during the icy march — and he was pouring droplets into the snow. Seeing the anxiety, his Polish friend yanked his sleeve down hard. Looking deep into his eyes, he raised a stern finger to his lips, then farted.

Both men laughed.

Each Platoon consisted of about 15 men, paced around a 300 yards apart and supervised by one Unteroffizier, the Nazi equivalent of an NCO. War-hardened plunderers, they sharpened their vicious depravity with shrewd paranoia. The efficient cruelty of protocol swung like a sharpened pendulum, flaying any man, woman, or child that dared defy it’s routine. For much of the march, visibility was unrestricted by geography, maintaining a clear line of sight straight to the horizon. After crossing the Eurasian Steppe, hills and valleys marked the topography, aggravating the regimental line. As they crossed into Izyum, an assortment of rivers colluded with open-fire skirmishes, further spreading out the regiment. Progress was halted until three Officers could make visual contact. To cross water, the three platoons stopped as the first officer waded chest-deep through the water, holding his rifle above his head. The remaining two platoons laid flat on their stomachs as Officers kept their sights trained on the moving captives. As the Platoon in front of Craciun finished moving across the water into Izyum, a sudden crescendo of fire from an unseen source targeted the rear group, forcing them back to take cover in a deep crevasse.

After a few frantic minutes, the Officers were completely isolated from each other. The Polish man raised his chin to glance around, confirming the opportunity with a quick nod.

Kompanie! Hissed the Officer, while pacing back and forth. KOMPANIE! An audible rise of concern tinted his voice. The platoon continued to lie sprawled out, faces buried in the ground. The Officer jogged to the front, swinging his weapon behind him to fish out a set of binoculars. The men remained prone, docile in exhaustion. Even as the Officer crouched unarmed, scanning the horizon for the forward platoon, not one man moved a muscle. Not until the Officer shouted “Abteilung!” his voice suddenly cracking with youth and panic did they all poke their heads up in unison. Craciun rose quickly from the prone position and drew the weapon on the officer — who realized his vocal slip and spun around to reassert control. The entire platoon remained still on the ground, with the exception of Craciun, the man with a defective rifle. The Officer laughed derisively at the man, who was feebly aiming an unloaded and broken rifle at him.

Angriff. He coyly taunted in German. The Nazi took off his helmet — Angriff! he heckled, pointing at his head. Letting out a mocking sigh, the Officer removed the Luger from his holster in a dramatic fashion. Craciun exhaled, and imagining a deer in the sights of a hunting rifle — he pulled the trigger.



Click. click. He rapidly pulled the trigger to no avail. Craciun cried out in frustration as the Nazi strolled to a stop, no less than five feet away. The officer raised his sidearm straight to his eye level. Staring into the barrel, he was mesmerized by the Nazi’s garish grin, dancing in the steam of its own contemptible breath.

Firing a warning shot over his head, the Nazi motioned for Craciun to get on his knees. The Officer pressed the barrel against his forehead until the recently discharged muzzle seared his flesh. Looking at Craciun with disgust, he tilted his head and mimicked the sound of a sadistic dentist, indicating for him to open his mouth. Rather than wait, the Nazi forcefully plunged his pistol into his mouth, shattering several teeth.

Closing his eyes, Craciun began to pray and weep for his wife, provoking laughter from the Officer. Seeing this as an opportunity to make an example of an upstart, he began to lecture the platoon in German. Eyes burning from pain and tears, Craciun surveyed the group to see his friend, one last familiar face before the end. He feared he wouldn’t be able to identify him lying face down with the others, vision restricted by the Nazi’s pistol in his mouth. Hopeless, he scanned the periphery once more and found him at an instant. Not only had Craciun’s friend sprung to his feet, he was frantically gesturing like a madman.

The Polish man’s left hand extended, he moved his right wildly back and forth, as if he was sawing. This quickly caught the Nazi’s attention. Not wanting to turn his back on the renegade he had wounded, the Nazi screamed for the Polish man to lie back down while keeping his pistol firmly in Cracuin’s mouth. Undaunted, the Polish man continued to wildly motion while yelling obscenities at the Officer. Clearly, he had lost his mind. Cursing at the officer, he continued to paw at the air aggressively, like he was whittling a phantom stick. The Officer, who apparently spoke Polish, was now enraged. Pulling the pistol out from Craciun’s mouth. he turned to shoot the madman.

Right then the Polish man instantly changed his gestures, signaling for Craciun to look down at his lap. Seeing this in his periphery, the Nazi realized he had made a fatal error.

Picking up the rifle, Craciun aped the Polish man’s movement and yanked the handle on the rifle, charging the empty chamber with a live round. Before the Nazi could turn on his heel, a hail of bullets riddled his torso. Climbing upwards with each shot’s recoil, the fifth and final bullet entered behind his right ear, obliterating his cranium into a burst of red mist as it exited the forehead. The headless body dropped to its knees and slumped forward.

Craciun held the smoking rifle, finger still squeezing the trigger, shaking in disbelief. The Polish man screamed in delight as he ran over to the kneeling, headless Nazi. Grabbing the corpse’s hand, he shook it vigorously, proclaiming Halo! before kicking the lifeless body on to its side. Quickly, he ransacked the Offficer’s provisions and boots before the platoon regained their senses. Running over to Craciun, he pulled him to his feet and handed him a canteen. Craciun stared at the headless corpse unresponsively, until the Polish man splashed water in his face bringing him out of his stupor.

The platoon were still mostly laid out on the ground. Craciun and his friend rousted them to show that the Nazi was unequivocally dead. Speaking different languages, it took some time but most had risen to their feet. Still some refused to move. For what seemed like hours, Craciun tried to convince another Romanian to return home with him — but he refused — lying in the ground repeating the German order, Bleiben, over and over. Craciun and his friend finally left him and four others there in the dirt.

Trying to move with stealth, their excitement got the better of them, occasionally breaking into a full sprint. Approaching the crevasse, the men crept to where the rear platoon had retreated into a shallow descent. They discovered their huddled bodies, massacred from above by a barrage of gunfire. They scouted the area for some time before they moved in and took the other Officer’s uniform and equipment.

Armed and dressed as Nazi Officers, they hoped to avoid wayward Russian forces, along with any Germans since neither spoke the language fluently. After spending the night in a gully, they awoke to see a full Nazi battalion approaching. Starving, exhausted, and sleep-deprived — they mulled their few options — deciding to overwhelm than blend.

Using the scavenged four Stielhandgranate, awkward German WWII hand-stick grenades primed by pull cords. They wedged them in an outcrop of rocks, hanging perilously over the road. With a pair of boots from a dead soldier, they filled one boot with sand and placed it on a rock directly over its empty counterpart. Tied with the pull cords from the grenades while precariously balanced on a branch — they stabbed a hole in the top boot to improvise a delayed explosive, having no way to estimate the time of detonation.

Walking out to the road they stood shoulder to shoulder. Less than half a mile away, they began waving back the first platoon in line of the battalion.

Their hearts raced as the platoons approached. They continued to wave them back, trying to indicate trouble ahead. The battalion moved forward undeterred. Half a click away and nothing. Craciun and his friend paced on, feeling more fraudulent in their Unteroffizier uniforms.

100 meters. It seemed the device had failed. They both agreed they would not be captured. After finishing their solemn prayers, the Polish man turned to Cracuin and slowly loaded the bullet in the chamber, morbidly teasing him until they both chuckled.

50 meters. The men waved the platoon to go back with panicked gestures. As they came in shouting distance, the men began to run towards the platoon while waving for them to take cover. Within 100 feet of being face-to-face, their makeshift timed explosive finally detonated. The uneven four explosions’ unexpectedly echoed of mortar fire. Both men yelled Schnell! running through the first platoon. Punctuating their ruse, the nest of Russians who had killed the rear platoon opened fire in a real attack on the line. Mayhem and confusion took over, making the officers give the order to retreat.

Fooling a battalion consisting of nearly a thousand soldiers to flee — it took a Generalmajor to restore the order of the frenzied Wehrmacht. By then the men had long trekked northwest, arriving in Kiev where they parted ways after a fond farewell. It was March by then and Stalingrad had ended in a bloody stalemate. The remaining Germans abandoned conscription to redouble their efforts in holding the Western line.

Craciun could do nothing but think of his wife, his home, and his bed while on a train he hopped in Ukraine. Crossing the border into the Romanian city of Rădăuţi, it finally dawned on him he never caught his compatriot’s name. Only miles away from home, he cursed himself for not exchanging information. Even as he crossed into the outskirts of Bucharest, the glory of his return felt diminished by the frustration of not learning the identity of his friend. Although they shouldered each other through an improbable escape and singular journey — they would never meet again.

As he walked up the street to his house, he felt the shame follow him through the neighborhood. His concerns evaporated when he saw the ebony tresses of his Wife’s hair, glinting in the halcyon simmer of sunset, through the house’s front window. She was a Master Chef, diligently working away in her modest kitchen. He swallowed down hard as his eyes filled with tears. He tried to say her name but emotion had consumed his voice.

Besides, this would be a better surprise in person.

Asterisks and underline indicate technical and research credit to @skipsul.

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Astronomy Becomes the Playground of the Social Left


This isn’t a shocking novelty to me, and it isn’t my first post on this topic. Yet it makes me despair when I see astronomy conferences taken over by irrelevant left-wing social issues. There’s an astrobiology conference going on now and, while I’m not there, I’ve been enjoying following the discoveries and new research online.

Today, though, the NASA Astrobiology Twitter feed is preoccupied with retweeting social issues that are apparently coming up. My inspiration for the post is this tweet, which complains about color-blindness in the workplace. Remember: racism is wrong because we’re all the same, deep down, and if you treat everybody the same, you’re a racist for not recognizing our differences. Her follow-up tweet here reminds us that because we need to make the culture of science inclusive, which means explicitly excluding “white male” science culture. This tweet celebrates the underrepresentation of men on one discussion panel, while this tweet complains about their overrepresentation on another.

I avoided this year’s big American Astronomical Society meeting in part because of the town hall session titled “Racism: Racial Prejudice Plus Power.” Note the session’s axiom:

We operate under the assumption that all people are created equal. If given the same choices and opportunities, all people will make choices that lead to beneficial life outcomes. Thus, any disparate and insidious outcome (e.g., astro demographics) is not natural/intrinsic, but created/extrinsic.

Remember what an axiom is? It is a statement of truth that is so fundamental that you don’t need to prove it. This “axiom” implies that all groups of people would choose to become astronomers at the same rate, if it weren’t for racism. There are no internal cultural differences that could possibly affect their choices, no differing priorities. Every difference in demographics must be due to racism.

Are fewer than 50% of astronomers women? That’s because of sexism. Conversely, are fewer than 50% of, say, schoolteachers men? Nurses? What about English majors? Women’s studies majors? That’s not sexism, though — except that because men freely choose not to go into these fields, that points to their own sexism in devaluing the work of schoolteachers and English majors.

Even better, get a hold of this page’s “About Us“:

“We are committed to an intersectional feminist approach combined with a framework of cultural materialism to understand the past and present repercussions of systemic oppression of marginalized groups on our ability to study the Universe

Please see the Resources page for a list of vocabulary words and background reading.”

That last sentence kind of cracks me up.

But it worries me that we’ve hit the point when this radicalism becomes the norm even in a scientific field, and none of us will be brave enough to speak up against it in public. I’m sure not!

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She works in a diner called the Desert Rose which sits along the northwestern edge of Colorado, near the Utah border. It’s a small and undistinguished affair, worn and weathered but always brightly lit and burning like a little beacon in that high American wasteland. Triangles of cherry pie sit bleeding in the pie case, and strips of honey-yellow flypaper spiral down from the low stucco ceiling.

She was born and raised in a tiny mountain town one-hundred miles southeast. She grew up uncommonly good-looking, self-reliant, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes with all the other small-town girls and boys. She began working when she was in the eleventh grade, and she’s not stopped working since. Waiting tables is what she’s done for most of her life. She graduated high school but never went to college. After school, she drifted awhile, developed a taste for books, black coffee, practical knowledge.

By age thirty-five, she’d already buried two husbands, both miners, one killed in a car crash, the other dead by disease. She has two teenage children who love her. Now, no longer young but not yet old, she is beautiful still, and single. She plays jazz records and reads in her rented apartment that’s too small for three.

There have been many other jobs — night auditor, bank teller, housecleaner — but waitressing is the one she always comes back to. There are no special skills in her repertoire, no trade. She’s well-read, her mind of a naturally speculative cast, and she quotes to herself from old poets (… full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air).

At twilight, invariably, there’s a fleeting sense of sadness that comes over her.

Fifty feet behind the Desert Rose, a cluster of cottonwoods grows along the banks of a sea-green river. They are ancient and massive trees. Wind moves sluggishly through their dusty boughs, and moonlike globes of cotton orbit the bodies of the trees and fall soundlessly into the swift molecular water. Sparse grass grows along the desert floor, the desert stretching off into an intricate horizon. At the end of her shift, she likes to stand at the back porch of the café and listen to the wind sifting softly through the grass. Certain times of the year there are blue-and-purple flowers that grow among the river stalks: she thinks she can smell their sweetness on the desert air. The bone-colored moon rises meanwhile in the east and fills a small quadrant of the sky, suffusing the clouds with its yellow and sulfurous light.

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Adjusting for Publication Bias Reveals True Climate Sensitivity


One of my good friends (who I’ve unsuccessfully been prodding to join Ricochet) writes the underappreciated blog “Grok in Fullness” under the pseudonym Jubal Harshaw. Since he’s refused my brow-beatings, I’m forced to regurgitate his brilliance here.

His most recent post references two articles on climate science. The thesis of his article is that there is statistical bias in prestigious journals with regards to climate science (“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”). Both “Publication Bias in Measuring Climate Sensitivity” and the counter article “No evidence of publication bias in climate change science” actually conclude the same thing, titles notwithstanding. Please go there to see all the lovely details complete with “funnel plots” and intellectual rigor.

But the bias is not the most interesting part for me. The most interesting part is the climate sensitivity conclusion, on which both articles agree. You see, CO2 has a mathematical contribution to the greenhouse effect that amounts to about 1.0 C for every doubling of carbon. It’s logarithmic, which already mitigates the effect of continued burning of fossil fuels. What it all comes down to is what the secondary “forcing” is (mainly the feedback loop of extra water vapor, a powerful greenhouse gas, released into the atmosphere due to increased temperature). Climate alarmists would have you believe the effect of all the other factors is 3x to 6x. It turns out both the bias adjusted factor and the “complete” factor (including the results in obscure journals) came out to about 1.6x.

This, to me, is awesome. Not because it comports with anyone’s particular bias on what they want climate change to be, but because their agreement makes it sound like the truth. Now we might have a solid idea what a doubling of CO2 will cause. Each doubling will cause around a 1.6 C increase in world temperature.

I’m going to leave alone if this is a good thing or a bad thing and just let it sink in with everyone that this is probably the closest to a concrete answer as we’ve ever had to this question. It also comports with the observed increase of 0.8 C with the 46% increase (280 to 410 ppm) since the start of the industrial revolution (a factor of 1.6 climate sensitivity actually predicts a 0.88 C increase).

Now that there’s enough data to have a ballpark idea of climate sensitivity, all of the debate should be able to flow from this probable fact. Use this value early and often (allowing for experimental uncertainty). It’s been pretty obvious for some time that the effect of CO2 is not zero or negative, and it’s also been obvious for some time that the effect isn’t an immediate catastrophe. This result is a good corroborator of common sense.

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Humor in Uniform II


LT Bronze Star, breathless from exertion, rips into our hooch and announces that something terrible has just happened at the Beer Tent. “What happened?” I asked. “Another brawl, is anybody dead?”

“Much worse, dude, it has been shut down!” he exclaims.

“CO got tired of the fighting and broken noses?” I offered.

“No man — they ran out of beer,” explains Bronze Star.

So, believe it or not, a plot was hatched. Bronze Star and I go in search of our Company Commander with our brilliant scheme to resolve the crisis. We found our CO but things got off to a horrendous start when I opened with, “Sir, from our experience the Beer Tent situation is going to be bad for morale.”

CO responds with, “First of all you have no [redacted] experience, second what is the Beer Tent situation?”

We explained the problem and offered our ingenious and highly illegal solution. We are shocked and relieved that the CO did not kick us out of his tent but said in a calm voice (first time I think that he ever spoke to either one of us without threatening to have us shot at sunrise), “First time you two [redacted] idiots ever came up with an idea that makes any sense at all.” (We are pleased by this compliment.) “Let me run it by the Battalion Commander and see if the three of us don’t get fired.”

Sometime later the Company clerk finds Bronze Star and me and tell us that the CO wants to see us ASAP. We are scared and wondering whether or not we will breakdown in front of tomorrow’s firing squad, but when we find the CO he tells us to be at the flight-line tomorrow morning at zero dark-thirty for a helo ride to Iwakuni, Japan to resupply the Beer Tent.

So we stuff our backpacks with one dollar bills and spend a restless night, dreaming about shave leg, long-haired dictionaries (but I repeat myself), and indoor plumbing. The next day we fly to Iwakuni and walk into the base’s liquor store and tell the clerk that we want to buy beer, lots and lots of beer. “How much?” he inquires. We proceed to dump the contents of our backpacks on the counter and proud of the mini-mountain that we’ve just created tell him, “That much.”

A forklift or three of beer pallets are loaded onto the CH-47 and we change into civvies and go out into the ville on the prowl. Suddenly the sun comes up and we shag [redacted – rhymes with bass] back to base and pour ourselves onto the helo mere minutes before launch time. Slept all the way back to the training area, then slept some more in our tent. When we were finally prepared to face the day, we ventured down to the Beer Tent which was already up and running, and in full swing. We were greeted and mobbed as conquering heroes and lifted unto shoulders and marched around the tent until we were both dizzy from all of the laps, pride, and lack of sleep.

Good times!

Am almost 100 percent certain that nothing like this will ever happen again, at least not in the Marine Corps. Times, as they say, are a changing.

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Furniture for the Vapid


The following is a repost of a piece I wrote five years ago here, but when I saw Mike Rowe riffing on pre-distressed and pre-stained jeans at Nordstroms, I felt it deserved unearthing. I’ll have you know, the motor oil stains on my jeans ($30 Wranglers) are genuine, but if someone wants to pay me to stain theirs too, yeah, I’ll take their money! All $425 worth. Anyway, in honor of the latest effort at rich people attempting to look like the proles, I again offer up Furniture for the Vapid….

Today I received a catalog set (I do not know why) from Restoration Hardware, a company well known for its overpriced furniture. I would have tossed it out, but my wife snatched it from me and pointed to a page saying “Hey, do you remember the movie Zoolander? You remember Derelicte?” (I’ll wait here while you look up the reference.) My interest was piqued.

Restoration Hardware has introduced a whole new style of furniture called “Exposed: Deconstructed Style.” Actual description:

Meticulously handcrafted to reveal the old world artistry of its inner workings, our 19th-Century English Wing Chair features a deeply tufted, s-scrolled wing back, rolled arms, and a plush seat. A heavily distressed* solid walnut frame is accented with nail-heads and whipstitching, complemented by rich burlap and antiqued cotton upholstery.

*(Distressed is code for “we let my Labrador puppy go to town on it with a phalanx of two-year-olds in reserve)

Let that sink in….

Okay, to translate: We took a perfectly good chair and ruined it. For $1995!

When the hell is burlap “Rich” anyway? And Exposed Nailheads? Jeez, give me a tetanus shot before I sit down will ya? Wait, you want to see it?

Now, this gave my wife and I some thoughts on other furniture collections they should have, all in this same “retro / broken” theme.

First Up: Recliners of the Greatest Generation

Inspired by a cleaning out of my grandparents’ basements: Strenuously hand-flogged to reveal the inspired stains of 30 years of classic television viewing, our authentically rusted recliner frame has been specially upholstered with Moggie-and-tobacco scented foam padding, accented in the seat with special accent springs, surgically sharpened and left in Thoreau’s fishpond for that extra rusty feel. The whole has been lovingly covered in patches with Yorkie-Gnawed Sun Bleached Turquoise* Vinyl. The reclining mechanism itself has been finely tuned so that it will never quite extend or retract for the extra authentic feel. You will luxuriate in every metallic squeal and eek as you doze for hours with the television volume turned up to eleven. Price: $2495.00

*Rich Burlap, Avocado Green, and Burnt Orange colors coming soon

Next: The Juvenile Collection

For the ultimate in authentic distressed furniture, we proudly present the Juvenile Collection. Each piece has been hand-selected at the flagship Ethan Allen Store in Montpelier, Vermont, then lovingly turned over to our professional distressors in far Cathay. Each piece has a unique blend of staples, Yorkie-bite marks, crayon stains, and nail-polish spills. Each piece has been scented with a special blend of spilled organic (hormone-free!) chocolate milk and fruit punch. You will revel in the feel of the realistic splinter effects, and marvel at the stipple-pattern hammer blows on wood frames.

Cracks and seams in the upholstery have been pre-filled with luxurious Ritz Cracker crumbs, fresh-squeezed orange juice, popsicle sticks, raspberry sorbet, and Legos, for that authentic veteran furniture grit. Each seam has been specially enlarged to fit most major brands of remote controls, for that authentic “Where the heck did it go?” feel.

As that final touch, you can request each piece be distressed by a single individual. For a special fee, that young-at-heart distressor will even sign your piece.**

Prices vary by piece and designer***

**Due to customer complaints, we will ensure that all future distressor signatures will use the Roman Alphabet.

***Sorry folks, but the signature pieces signed by “Manuel 4485769” and “Help Us Please” have sold out.

And: The 20s Experience

For those who year to re-live the “glory daze” of their post-college years, without sacrificing quality or luxury. Our centerpiece to this collection is our authentic distressed Cinder Block coffee table. Mounted atop vintage cinderblocks and bricks carefully removed from Detroit factory walls is our sustainable-rainforest New Guinea Mahogany 2-by-4 table top. We have specially added beer rings from our local micro-brewery for that extra-authentic feeling, and “cigarette” burn marks added using fair-trade hemp ropes from Guatemala. ($3250)

The perfect counterpoint seating will be found in our luxurious burlap futon, harvested from the Philadelphia Ikea and hauled by authentic Sherpas and mules to our factory, where we adjust the legs to perfect uneven-ness and add realistic mystery stains and odors. We include, at no extra charge, a roll of 1964 silver quarters so you can “level it” if you choose. ($2375)

Rounding out the collection is our sublime red and blue plastic milk-crate bookcase and entertainment center. Propped up on the same authentic Detroit cinder blocks as our coffee table, we have assembled the finest collection of plastic crates from a wide assortment of organic (hormone-free) dairy establishments. No two sets are quite alike! There is no better way to display your collection of Michael Moore Blu-Ray discs.