Those Who Matter Don’t Mind’

 

Hat tip: Ace of Spades.
Mike Rowe reminds us of a piece of wisdom from (our latest Cancel Culture target) Dr. Seuss:

Be who you are
and say what you feel,
because those who mind
don’t matter and those
who matter don’t mind.

If you, like me, are feeling lately depressed and distressed by the fundamental attack on Americanism, memes like this demonstrate that Americanism is going to be damned hard to kill. Although freedom is awfully fragile, the key benefit of the 200-year experiment in constitutionally-secured individual liberty is that has demonstrated that it can be done. Rule by tyrants, warlords, kings, potentates, oligarchs, self-proclaimed theocracies, and an over-class is not inevitable or avoidable. A people can (with proper boundaries and attitudes) self-rule to broadly shared benefit. And key to that is “saying your piece” and “giving people a piece of your mind” without being canceled.

There is a muscle memory in a large swath of America that doesn’t get visibly riled very often. And as someone observed that I cannot now recall, clearly quote, or attribute: The Progressives in charge realize that a backlash is coming and they are pushing as hard as they can to install gains in the next 700 days to preserve as much power and control as they can manage. Or, as Tucker has observed: If you treat people as extremists, that’s what they will become.

Progressives “don’t matter.” So for G-d’s sake (and America’s) don’t let them silence you.

Mixing Orwell and Huxley Is Bad Tactic for the Democrats

 

In “1984,” George Orwell feared that Big Brother would use fear and force to gain control of society. In “Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley feared that force would not be necessary, and that government could gain control of the population by doing everything for them. The people wouldn’t think that they were oppressed, because they had lost interest in thinking for themselves. As Neil Postman put it in his foreword to “Amusing Ourselves to Death” (emphasis mine):

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

For decades, the American left has been using Huxley’s “Brave New World” not as a form of literature, but rather as an instruction manual for gaining control of a previously free society. And it has been working just as well as Huxley feared. This is why every Democrat since FDR has fought against means-testing for Social Security – they want us all on the take. Just let government take care of everything. As George W. Bush said, “When someone is hurting, government has to act.” Once government takes responsibility for all our troubles, then we no longer need to take responsibility for ourselves. Which is nice. But Mr. Huxley knows where all this is going. And now that Democrats control the White House, Congress, and our elections, we’re starting to find out. Why are we just finding this out now? Because we didn’t listen to Mr. Huxley, who wrote “Brave New World” 90 years ago, in 1931.

The Democrat tactic of militarizing our Capitol is, in my view, a mistake. Huxley’s strategy of coddling the population into willing submission only works if they’re not scared. Huxley used Soma (a sort of relaxing sedative drug that the government handed out for free in “Brave New World”) to get everyone to relax and go with the flow. In today’s world, they would drink, take Prozac, watch Netflix, and play video games. And they would gradually lose interest in fighting the creeping oppression, which if they just relax, they won’t even notice anyway.

This only works if everyone thinks everything is ok. If something spooks them, and people start paying attention, then you move from “Brave New World” to “1984.” And nobody wants that. Not even the power-hungry leftists in charge. It’s so much easier if everyone just goes along, amusing themselves to death. Don’t do anything to give anyone the impression that the government is not their friend.

Razor wire and armed troops surrounding the Capitol gives the distinct impression that the government is not our friend.

I presume that Democrats have surrounded the Capitol with razor wire and troops to give the impression that Republicans are a dangerous threat to our society. At least, I think that’s why they’re engaging in this absurd theater.

But I really think it’s a mistake.

If the American people start to suspect something is wrong, that perhaps our government is not on our side – if the American people start to think like that, then all the Prozac and Netflix in the world won’t adequately sedate them.

Perhaps. Unless we’re so far gone, that we no longer care who’s in charge of us, as long as it’s not us. We may have reached that point. I don’t like the razor wire around the Capitol, but I would like another stimulus check, please. You’re banning authors from Clarence Thomas to Dr. Seuss? Yeah, well, just cancel my student debt and we’ll call it even. Maybe we’ve already lost the ability to think, and to care. I’m rewatching all six seasons of Bosch right now.

But again, I think the Democrats are making a tactical error by presenting such an overtly hostile front to those that they are trying to reassure into compliance. Why create conflict, when your Soma strategy was working so well?

When I see the razor wire and the troops around the Capitol, my first thought is not that the Democrats are hostile – my first thought is that the Democrats are incompetent. This is a mistake.

Or, maybe, I just hope it’s a mistake.

What do you think?

Baltimore: Should We Laugh or Cry?

 

Truth be told, I have had no connections to Baltimore, Maryland since my ancestors landed there in 1703. (Although the city wasn’t officially founded until 1729, the initial settlement was established in 1661.) Eventually, those ancestors chose to move westward; at least as far as Ohio.

As I was growing up, it seemed that many of my sports heroes were located in Baltimore (Johnny U. and Raymond Berry for the Colts; Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell for the Orioles). Still, I knew very little about the City. That being said, I don’t think I’m interested in learning much more.

Perhaps Baltimore is a microcosm of American cities; perhaps it’s a trendsetter, I’m not sure. All I can be certain of is that it has become a sick joke and that its elected officials resemble failed comedians.

Probably, the most famous was the former mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who achieved notoriety for her statement during the riots of 2015, “…We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well, and we work very hard to keep that balance..” (Of course, the citizens of Baltimore shouldn’t have expected much more since her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, had been convicted of embezzlement.) Blake’s successor, Catherine Pugh, wasn’t exactly a resounding success; she couldn’t even finish out her term and is, at this moment, sitting out her three-year prison term for tax evasion.

Of course, the mayor’s office isn’t the only entity that has been affected by corruption and incompetence. The City’s District Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, seems to have a knack for losing high-profile cases. (For example, her overcharging of the 6 police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray resulted in the complete acquittal of all of them.) As of late, Mosby has come under fire for her frequent travel on the taxpayer’s dime (23 trips in 2018 and 2019 to such locales as Germany, Portugal, and Kenya). Curiously, she has set up a travel agency (Mahogany Elite Enterprises LLC.) with the stated purpose of “…helping underserved black families who don’t usually have the opportunity to travel outside of urban cities, so they can vacation at various destinations throughout the world at discount prices.”

I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised at corruption in city governments; it’s become almost commonplace. However, what does disturb me (and should disturb all of us) is how this corruption and incompetence has found its way into the school systems; especially in the Baltimore City Schools. Although Baltimore pays its administrators more than anywhere else in the nation, its schools are among the worst. In one year, 13 public schools had zero students proficient in math. Nine out of ten black males could not read at grade level. A 2021 report reveals that, throughout the entire district, the schools have an average math proficiency score of 18% and a reading proficiency score of 17%.

However, mere statistics do not tell the entire story. I recently read a story about a senior at one of those schools who had failed all but three classes (over four years) and still graduated in the top half of his class with a GPA of 0.13 (no word on what the GPA of the valedictorian might have been). Of course, that might have been due to the fact that he had been late or absent 272 days over his first three years in high school (but that’s just a hunch).

A reason for this somewhat inadequate performance (along with that of the other students) was readily explained by an ad hoc group called “Baltimore City Votes”. According to the group, wait for it; the real reason is systemic racism. And, the only solution for the situation is (unsurprisingly) “more funding”.

Perhaps some of us who do not reside in Baltimore believe that their situation does not affect us. However, this would be a mistake. A couple of weeks ago I read in our statewide newspaper (The Columbus Dispatch) an editorial titled, Importance of learning Black history means it should never be optional”. The article had been written by Andrea K. McDaniels, The Baltimore Sun’s deputy editorial page editor. One memorable blurb from her piece read, “So when critics of the 1619 Project (named for the year African slaves arrived in the Colony of Virginia) say it is inaccurate and promotes divisiveness, they are mistaken. It tells the truth – and not what people want the truth to be.”

That editorial said a number of things to me but the most important thing was that “I’m not as concerned about the students in my city who can’t read or do math as much as I am about shoving a bastardized piece of history down the throats of every young student in the entire country.” For the self-appointed elites of our country (especially in the news media), a society of dullards is no big problem; after all, they’re more easily controlled.

Seeing all that is going on in Baltimore, I thought back to my ancestors and what they believed; “hard work is the key to success”, “work before play”, and “rational thinking”. Then reality set in; those are exactly the attributes that are today ridiculed as “white constructs”. To my chagrin, it appears that I have been a “white supremacist” from the moment my ancestors arrived in this country over three hundred years ago.

There was a novel written back in 1948 titled Cry the Beloved Country. As I recall, it was about South Africa but, as far as I’m concerned, that title is especially appropriate for what this country is becoming.

The Bad Side of History

 

I’ve never cared for the phrase the wrong side of history, perhaps because it is so often invoked by progressives to justify the grinding away of traditions and values of which I approve and that I think we will miss. When invoked as a defense of as-yet unrealized ambitions, it’s presumptuous: who really knows, after all, how history will judge the latest transformative social experiment?

Speculating about future history’s take on our times is always a high-risk endeavor. Just ask Martin Luther King Jr. or Theodor Geisel, if you doubt that. Or Andrew Cuomo, for that matter.

But the regular kind of history, the kind that actually looks back and learns from the past, has something to tell us. And to the extent that everyone who makes any sense at all agrees that slavery is bad, that fascism is bad, and that totalitarianism is bad, we have accumulated enough history to recognize when those bad old things are coming around again.

First, they came for Dr. Seuss, but I wasn’t the most popular children’s author in history whose whimsical illustrated works have charmed and delighted hundreds of millions of children for most of the last century, introducing them to language and rhyming and the joys of reading, so I said nothing.

To hell with that.

Book burning, literally or figuratively, is something fascists do. And that’s what Amazon is doing, Facebook is doing, Twitter is doing, and every other we-can’t-leave-you-free-to-hear-ideas-we-think-are-bad-for-you tech giant is doing when it silences someone it doesn’t like.

Don’t burn books.

The Great Books

 

Remember those 71 volumes of the Harvard Classics that you felt bound to read but after many minor starts, you set aside a volume and got lost in that detective series? So many books; so little time.

Well, the dreaded Amazon has published on Kindle all 71 volumes in one mostly well-linked file for a mere $1.99. Worth the price. Only 37,451 pages. I always have five or six books I’m reading, switching from one to the other, depending on my mood.

Currently, I’m reading Harry Jaffa’s “Storm Over the Constitution,” Andrew Roberts’ 1000+ bio of Churchill, “Walking with Destiny,” JK Rowling’s 4th Cormoran Strike P.I. novel, “Lethal White,” (writing as Robert Galbraith, she’s very good), Bernard Cornwell’s “Vagabond,” Michael Walsh’s “Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost,” and now Volume 3 of The Harvard Classics, starting with Francis Bacon.

I also have book 3 of the Malazan epic fantasy series on deck, but that series always requires such constant and sustained attention that I have to be prepared for my other books to be set aside.

Ah well. It’s good to live a life where your personal library is not even half-read.

______________

The Harvard Classics:
V. 1: Franklin, Woolman & Penn
V. 2: Plato, Epictetus & Marcus Aurelius
V. 3: Bacon, Milton, Browne
V. 4: John Milton
V. 5: R. W. Emerson
V. 6: Robert Burns
V. 7: St Augustine & Thomas á Kempis
V. 8: Nine Greek Dramas
V. 9: Cicero and Pliny
V. 10: The Wealth of Nations
V. 11: The Origin of Species
V. 12: Plutarchs
V. 13: Æneid
V. 14: Don Quixote
V. 15: Bunyan & Walton
V. 16: 1001 Nights
V. 17: Folklore & Fable
V. 18: Modern English Drama
V. 19: Goethe & Marlowe
V. 20: The Divine Comedy
V. 21: I Promessi Sposi
V. 22: The Odyssey
V. 23: Two Years Before the Mast
V. 24: Edmund Burke
V. 25: J. S. Mill & T. Carlyle
V. 26: Continental Drama
V. 27 & 28: English & American Essays
V. 29: The Voyage of the Beagle
V. 30: Scientific Papers
V. 31: The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
V. 32: Literary and Philosophical Essays
V. 33: Voyages & Travels
V. 34: French & English Philosophers
V. 35: Chronicle and Romance
V. 36: Machiavelli, Roper, More, Luther
V. 37: Locke, Berkeley, Hume
V. 38: Harvey, Jenner, Lister, Pasteur
V. 39: Prologues
V. 40–42: English Poetry
V. 43: American Historical Documents
V. 44 & 45: Sacred Writings
V. 46 & 47: Elizabethan Drama
V. 48: Blaise Pascal
V. 49: Saga
V. 50: Reader’s Guide
V. 51: Lectures

The Shelf of Fiction:
V. 1 & 2: The History of Tom Jones
V. 3: A Sentimental Journey & Pride and Prejudice
V. 4: Guy Mannering
V. 5 & 6: Vanity Fair
V. 7 & 8: David Copperfield
V. 9: The Mill on the Floss
V. 10: Irving, Poe, Harte, Twain, Hale
V.11: The Portrait of a Lady
V. 12: Notre Dame de Paris
V. 13: Balzac, Sand, de Musset, Daudet, de Maupassant
V. 14 & 15: Goethe, Keller, Storm, Fontane
V. 16–19: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev
V. 20: Valera, Bjørnson, Kielland

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Happy Birthday, Dad: The ‘Gremlin in the Petrol Tank’ Edition

 

One of the enduring memes (if we had had such a word to describe them at the time) of my childhood would have been my Dad’s invocation of the “gremlin in the petrol tank.” He was prone to bring it up in any situation where something unexpected happened and a thing that was supposed to have taken a finite amount of time, or achieved a particular outcome, either disappointed in the first instance, or didn’t perform as advertised in the second. Over time, we kids began to take it for granted. “Oh, yeah. There’s must be a gremlin in the petrol tank. No wonder it took so long. No wonder it didn’t work.”

But, as we grew up, and as we demanded more in the way of Science! dare I say, we began to doubt. Was Dad simply saying this to cover up a defect in planning or execution? Or was there, as Paul Harvey might have said, a “rest of the story?” Dear readers, in Dad’s own words–on what would have been his 102nd birthday–here’s the “rest of the story,” told through the eyes of a young and vulnerable Dad.

The events recounted here took place in 1947 or so; he’d have been in his late twenties and hadn’t been in Nigeria very long. (For the record, I have no knowledge of the “girl in Lincolnshire,” who appears in this tale rather like Coleridge’s “person from Porlock” and as far as I know, she is never mentioned again anywhere in Dad’s writings. I’m just grateful she took herself off and left the field clear for my mother. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been a me, and I wouldn’t have had such a Dad. But here I am. And without further ado, here he is, too):

One day, I was out riding alone, trailing the course of the stream on which Zurmi was sited so that I always knew roughly where I was, when I heard a sort of whirring sound followed by a sharp thwack and found a poisoned arrow, still quivering, sticking out of the pommel of my (or rather the Waziri’s) saddle.

Who fired it, I did not know, and I did not propose to stay around to inquire. As it was, it was not more than a couple of inches from my fly buttons and if it had been the same higher, I should have been dead inside an hour, or if it had been the same lower, the Waziri’s horse would have succumbed. When I told him about it, Mallam Muhammadu Azare merely said that it proved I bore a charmed life. This reputation stuck to me and later on had far-reaching consequences. [Brief–but inevitable–digression: A completely unexpected one of those consequences, which occurred after Dad died, was a short piece by Mark Steyn in National Review’s Corner, where, in what Steyn called “a practical solution to big government,” he told the story of Dad’s intervention in the matter of the cannibal king who ate the local tax collector.]

My experience during the War had been that fear rarely strikes at the actual moment of danger, but occurs in its most devastating forms either in anticipation or–more often–in retrospect, when the realization of what might have happened really registers. So it was with me on this occasion.

That evening, after I had eaten, I was sitting in my deck-chair smoking my pipe, when it suddenly hit me and I found myself sobbing bitter tears. What was I doing here, in a foreign land, miles from anywhere or anyone, unable (almost) to talk with those people I did see, and utterly without solace or companionship?

When I was a boy we had an old, oaken, His Master’s Voice gramophone with a huge wooden horn. We also had a collection of patriotic records by Peter Dawson: Drake’s Drum; Yeomen of England; The Fishermen of England, etc. On the flip side of one, was The Dear Homeland, which chronicled the pangs of separation endured by an expatriate “far across the sea.” That night, I wallowed in its sentiment:

In the dear homeland far across the sea,
Did they wonder was I happy, did they dream of me?
Did they sometimes long just to clasp my hand,
Or perchance was I forgotten in the dear homeland?

At last, somewhat shamefacedly lest anyone should see me in such a state, I got up and wandered off, taking Dusty, my Airedale, with me. It was a quite glorious night, such as is only seen in Africa. The Southern Cross was low in the sky in one direction and Polaris, a bit higher, in the other. And in between, set in a cloudless heaven, there were thousands upon thousands of twinkling pinpoints of light. Myriad stars and Venus, Mars and constellations that even I could pick out. Cassiopeia, Orion, the Plough and Little Bear–and over all, a full moon. Those same stars and moon, I reflected were shining too at home. We were all under one roof!

Suddenly, I felt at peace. Africa had won. I could cope, and my pride dictated that the least I could do was give it a fair try. Nevertheless, I continued to write to a girl I knew in Lincolnshire and had she given me the slightest encouragement, I might well have packed it in then and there. As it was, she never replied and it was several months later that a piece of her wedding cake arrived by post.

About three weeks after my epiphany, a message arrived by telegraph to Kaura Namoda (the railhead of the Gusau branch line), thence carried on foot, stuck in a cleft stick–to keep it free from sweat–telling me to move to Moriki and inspect the District Headquarters there and then pay off my carriers and return by train to Gusau, on a given date when I would be collected by the provincial truck and taken back to headquarters in Sokoto.

I finished up the inspection in Moriki and was then confronted with the conundrum of how to get back to Kaura Namoda, where I could pick up the train to Gusau. (The Waziri’s horse was no longer in the picture, as he and his groom had already set off home.)

I solved the puzzle by booking passages for myself and my staff in one of the “mammy wagons” that ply their trade, largely as did the ubiquitous common carriers in country districts in my childhood. This one, however, was slightly different.

To begin with, the driver was an Ibo, with very little English and even less Hausa. There were many like him in the Sabon Gari (New Town) of Gusau, which drew itinerant workers from all over Nigeria to its railway center.

Next, the highly decorated Bedford 3 tonner bought as a “flat” with a ramshackle wooden superstructure built on to it locally, appeared, to my unpracticed eye, as grossly overloaded. Mallam Muhammadu, however, all but said al Machiavelli, “né può essere, dove è grand disposizione grande difficultà” (“with great willingness there cannot be great difficulty”), and by then I had sufficient faith in his judgement to put my own fears to rest and to concur with his advice. So I willingly climbed on board and hoped for the best.

We had barely done eight of the forty or so miles that we had to go before we ran out of petrol. The lorry was unloaded, with everything being emptied out of it, starting with its passengers, until a 40-gallon drum of petrol was located and could be rolled over the edge of the backboard so that some fuel could be drawn off and the tank filled (or so I thought).

Three times this procedure was gone through before I asked the driver why he did not put more petrol in the tank when he stopped the first time. His answer completely flummoxed me “Noo Sah!” he said, emphatically, “Noo Sah! No can do! Small juju in tank ‘e done chop dem petrol plenti wan I go fillum!”

I did check, when we got to Kaura, and there was a crack in the side of the petrol tank and some signs of seepage from it. Doubtless, this was where the “small juju” had his habitation, and where he sat to drink the petrol!

The next day we caught the train to Gusau. Thence, as ordered, to Sokoto; me, my staff and Mallam Muhammadu via the provincial truck (which had a fully-functional, non-leaking, petrol tank) driven by Moman, the others with seats on one of the railway motor lorries that regularly ran between Gusau and Sokoto with goods and a few passengers carried in a modicum of comfort.”

One of the joys of the Internet is that I can revel in Dad’s memoirs and, at the same time, look up his references, bringing them to life and drawing him closer. I think that two of the best uses of 21st-century technology are remembering and connecting. Mr. She was fond of noting that the members of his generation–he was born in 1938–were among the first who could see the panoply of their entire lives recapitulated in real-time audio and video before their very eyes. (Much good it has done us, I sometimes think, given how prone we are to repeating the mistakes of the past, even when its mirror and its echoes thrust themselves before us every day.)

Unfortunately, the darker climes of the technological landscape in which we live are sometimes used by the stupid, the venal, the false, the desperate, the cynical, and the cruel to destroy, to defame, to gaslight, to grandstand, to manipulate, or–increasingly–to cancel. And much of Dad’s life, and his honor, vision, and humanity, stemming as they did from his foundational beliefs in his God and his country, are ripe today for mockery, insult, and cancellation.

Happy Birthday, Dad. A part of me is glad you’re not here to see it. Another part of me misses you every day.

And with that, remembrance and connection, for Dad, and for all of us sometimes wistful expatriates, whoever and wherever we may be:

I awoke once more, on my way I went
And my soul is overflowing with a deep content.
In the dear homeland far across the sea
They remember me, they miss me, and they pray for me.

Oh, how I hope that will always be true.

Democrats Gone Wild!

 

Under single-party rule, the internecine battles are generally more interesting than their debates with their opposition. Partially because corruption is so easy and rampant under single-party rule. But also because, with no meaningful opposition, the ruling party can do whatever it wants. So under these circumstances, you really find out who these people are and what motivates them.

This presents a problem for the modern Democratic Party since it has no obvious ideological underpinnings. It’s not based on Marxism, or Socialism, or Communism, or Libertarianism, or any other over-riding political philosophy. The only reason the Democratic Party has to exist is simply the acquisition of power. And the people who are attracted to that, the ones who end up in charge when Democrats gain power, struggle with their lack of ethical guidance and their tendency to abuse the power they just gained. Or worse, they don’t struggle with it – they revel in it, given the chance. Once they control the White House, Congress, and our electoral process, you get “Democrats gone wild.” There are no brakes.

Symptomatic of the left’s lack of intellectual framework is the nature of their public intellectuals and other thinkers and writers. The right has Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Bill Buckley, and so on and so forth. The left has Bill Maher, Charlamagne Tha God, Don Lemon, and so on and so forth. There was a fascinating exchange between two leftist thinkers yesterday. In a discussion about whether Andrew Cuomo needs to resign, Bill Maher stated that he did not need an investigation to prove Cuomo’s guilt of sexual harassment, and that “… it’s always on a case-by-case basis …” and that “… I believe these women completely …” Charlamagne Tha God, who apparently differs from Mr. Maher in that he is capable of independent thought, had a different take on the matter:

Mr. God told Maher that it’s “kinda hard” to ask Cuomo to resign when “you voted for Joe Biden.”

He explained, “If you weren’t more upset with Joe Biden, who had more serious allegations–“

“No, he didn’t!” Maher exclaimed.

“Yeah, he was accused of actual rape,” Charlamagne said.

“No, he wasn’t,” Maher doubled down.

“What are you talking about?!” Charlamagne gasped.

“Are you talking about the hallway incident?” Maher asked.

“Tara Reade!” Charlamagne responded.

Please read the whole article. It’s fascinating. It’s hard for me to know who to root for, here. And apparently, Democrats aren’t sure, either. Understandably.

Another Democrat presidential hopeful in another one-party state, California’s Gov. Newsom, is probably watching all this with interest. He was a Democrat hero just a few months ago. And now his own party is trying to destroy him, too. Why? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter.

But my point is that the infighting between power-hungry media mongers with no underlying ethical structure is going to make the next four years very, very odd. Just in the first month of the Biden administration, we have:

  • Shut down construction of the border wall, which was there to keep illegal immigrants out. While using razor wire and thousands of armed military troops around the US Capitol, to keep Americans out. Why? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter.
  • No apparent plan to combat our enemies overseas, like China, Iran, North Korea, etc. While aggressively attacking Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Seuss, and sci-fi actresses. Why? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter.
  • The governor of New York State earns an Emmy for his news conferences about his COVID policies, which killed thousands of people. He remains a media darling and is widely considered presidential material. And now, the Democrats are attempting to destroy him. Why? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter.
  • Shut down the construction of a pipeline that America had promised to help build. So now, instead of transporting petroleum through an underground pipeline, we’ll be using trucks, trains, and tanker ships – all of which result in major spills from time to time. How does this help the environment? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter.

I could go on and on, and you probably could too.

But this is only the beginning. With people like this in charge, it’s just hard to say what’s coming next. Joe Biden is famous for two things: Being not terribly intelligent and being spectacularly corrupt. Kamala Harris is famous for one thing: She will do anything – absolutely anything – for power. According to Willie Brown. And Mr. Brown’s wife. What have Mr. Biden and Mrs. Harris accomplished in their lives? What talents do they bring to their new jobs? Hard to say. But it doesn’t matter.

And these are the people in charge of the most powerful country the world has ever seen. So what will they do? Hard to say. What will they not do? That’s really hard to say.

Imagine being a lifelong Democrat voter, watching all this. I would think it would have to be disconcerting. Or at least, I really hope it is.

Because if a lifelong Democrat voter looks at all this and thinks, “Yep – this is what I’ve been hoping for…” then we have more serious problems than we think.

Mr. Maher, Mr. God, and millions of other Democrats are already struggling with how to handle this new reality. And when things are too strange for them, it certainly going to be very strange for the rest of us.

This would be fun to watch, if it was Greece or something. But the stability of the world depends largely on us – the most powerful country in the world. Everyone looks to us for security, stability, and predictability.

God help them.

Not Mr. God. But the real God.

God help them. And God help us.

Things are getting strange. We’ve been a one-party state for only six weeks, and things are getting really, really strange.

And you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet…

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Move the Middle

 

In the latest Ricochet podcast, Lawrence Fox ends the interview on a high note by calling on a bit of common sense that has escaped right-wing politicos for decades: You don’t win politics by moving to the middle. You win by moving the middle toward you.

While we are at it, move the left and the right as well. We have all strayed from better living.

Steve Hayward is correct. For America to thrive (or survive), the left needs to be redeemed and not just beaten in elections. A country cannot long endure half its citizens hating the others and objecting to all that they stand for, including free expression.

Too often, the right as well as left surrenders truth for comfort. Modern leftists often hate to be challenged, but at least they show passion for their values.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is loving something more than what you risk. Do conservatives love truth and justice enough to advocate it even when there are harsh consequences? Is it more important that your children be free of harassment or that they learn to be virtuous persons who are free in their hearts?

Courage is attractive. Intelligent and disciplined conviction is attractive. Joy and optimism are attractive. Live boldly by the virtues you cherish and discontented people will wonder how they can get a little of that.

Don’t talk only to voters who seem most agreeable. Don’t talk only to the undecided. Just talk. Be plain so that you are trustworthy. Then speak of values grander than yourself and allow for people to surprise you with interest. One never knows who can be persuaded and when.

The Gaslighting Continues … Pay Attention to the Facts

 

Ever since the tragic events in Charlottesville, VA, that fateful day in August 2017, not even eight months into Donald Trump’s presidency, when real white supremacists showed up for a “Unite the Right” rally, we have been warned repeatedly about the growing threat of “far right” groups.

No question that the Charlottesville rally organized by noted white supremacists Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler – who had obtained a permit from the city – was evil in many ways. Racial supremacy is evil in all its forms. A protester drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a young woman. Three tragically died, two from a state police helicopter crash.

The violence was largely preventable.

The police response to events of the day was the subject of an independent review by former US Attorney Timothy Heaphy. Charlottesville’s police chief resigned, as his and the inept state police response actually deserve some of the blame for the clashes that happened – they allowed the protesters to literally march into each other, and made a very belated effort to separate them. You can find Heaphy’s and his law firm’s review here.

But never ones to let a crisis go to waste, partisans quickly attempted to tie President Trump to the events of the day. They even created and to this day still repeat the “Charlottesville Hoax,” claiming that Trump called the white supremacists “very fine people.” Presidential candidate Joe Biden perpetuated the hoax with no pushback from so-called media fact-checkers as recently as last November. Never mind that President Trump explicitly condemned the white supremacists, but was actually referring to the people involved in both sides of a debate over removing Confederate statues.

Why am I going to all this detail? Because it sets the stage for the ongoing narrative – that we suffer from a continuing crisis of Trump-inspired “white supremacy,” that white supremacists and “far right” fringe groups, like the Proud Boys, were involved in or helped instigate violence during last summer’s riots and protests across the United States. It started with the first ones last May in Minneapolis, and more recently, fueled if not orchestrated the Capitol “armed insurrection” of January 6.

It is all part of a narrative that deserves closer inspection. Much closer. There is still a lot we do not know or aren’t being told. Or worse, much of it is misleading, if not wrong, and designed to deceive.

I don’t discount FBI reports and testimony that white supremacists and allied “far right” or alt-right groups are a serious issue. They always have been, especially when the Ku Klux Klan rose to prominence as the militarized wing of the Democratic Party about 100 years ago. We have a long, often disgraceful, and complicated history involving race in the United States. Over the past 60 years, we have made great strides to course correct. But instead of celebrating, honoring, and building on our achievements, malevolent partisans are perpetuating and reinventing painful historical episodes, and exploiting new events for malign purposes. And it mostly began in Charlottesville with the campaign to tear down, remove, and replace statues and names on buildings. Even Abraham Lincoln, no confederate hero.

That returns us to events of January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol. You know, the “armed insurrection” referenced by House Impeachment Managers during Trump’s second trial.

Independent conservative journalist Julie Kelly has delved into the “armed insurrection” accusation, and found it. . . wanting. So has journalist Byron York of the Washington Examiner, who recounts last week’s Senate hearing on the Capitol riots:

One of the witnesses at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on Wednesday was Jill Sanborn, who is an FBI assistant director for the Counterterrorism Division. In the course of the questioning, Republican Senator Ron Johnson asked Sanborn about the rioters and guns. Here is their exchange:

JOHNSON: How many firearms were confiscated in the Capitol or on Capitol grounds during that day?

SANBORN: To my knowledge, we have not recovered any on that day from any other arrests at the scene at this point. But I don’t want to speak on behalf of Metro and Capitol Police. But to my knowledge, none.

JOHNSON: So nobody has been charged with an actual firearm weapon in the Capitol or on Capitol grounds?

SANBORN: Correct. The closest we came was the vehicle that had the Molotov cocktails in it. And when we did a search of that vehicle later on, there was a weapon.

JOHNSON: How many shots were fired that we know of?

SANBORN: I believe the only shots that were fired were the ones that results in the death of the one lady.

And the Wall Street Journal did their own review:

Most of the nearly 200 people charged in federal cases in connection with the Capitol riot have no known ties to far-right groups, underscoring the challenge of heading off violent extremism, a Wall Street Journal review found.

Authorities say they are ramping up efforts to counter extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but they are discovering that any charges against people affiliated with organized groups such as the Proud Boys addresses only part of the issue.

According to the Journal’s review, 16% of the 195 defendants charged in federal cases have a known affiliation with right-wing militias or other groups that espouse violence. Researchers at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, a University of Chicago institute that looked at a larger group of arrestees that included local charges, found that 10% had known affiliations with such groups.

The Wall Street Journal continued:

As researchers and others try to pin down the motives that drove thousands to storm the seat of American government, they are looking at the arrested suspects’ economic, political and geographic backgrounds for insight into the riot and whether it could happen again.

The University of Chicago researchers, citing public records, found that those arrested come from both Republican and Democratic strongholds. Many worked in industries vulnerable to pandemic shutdowns, such as moving, construction and restaurants. About a hundred have public defenders or other court-appointed attorneys, the Journal found, after judges determined they couldn’t pay for their criminal defenses.

Individuals in more than two dozen of the cases reviewed by the Journal have sought bankruptcy protection in the past, been foreclosed upon or ejected by landlords, or left a trail of unpaid bills and taxes. At least 27 defendants had criminal records before their riot-related arrest, according to the Journal review.

There may be something bigger going on here, and maybe it is related, in some part, to our governments’ responses to the pandemic. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats continue to downplay last summer’s Antifa violence to keep eyes and cameras focused on the Capitol riot. Yes, let’s pay careful attention to the law enforcement treatment of the Capitol rioters as well as last summer’s Antifa rioters. We can start here. It is not “whataboutism” to compare the treatment of and reaction to violence last summer and at the Capitol in January, whether by public officials or our legal system. We do not need double standards or two systems of justice, but sadly, it is what we’re being fed. And it is poisonous gruel.

For the record, again, everyone who illegally and/or violently attacked the Capitol and its police that day should be vigorously prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We should feel likewise about the 500+ protests-turned-violent Antifa and BLM events in some 200+ cities this past summer. Over 300 have been charged from the Capitol riot – that’s a good start. Thousands were arrested and dozens were charged with federal crimes from last summer’s riots. But we still have a lot to learn, including that a lot of the political spin and media reporting we’ve been fed is gaslighting.

The Interesting Relation of Blood Type to Coronavirus Susceptibility

 

I read through this entire story on Fox News, which describes some research on blood type vs. Wuhan Coronavirus. They found that the virus bonds especially well to cells of Blood Type A, and less well to cells with Blood Type O. The researchers were surprised at what they initially saw, so they did some more experiments. The story is quite interesting, actually, and it was fascinating how the researchers studied what they had seen, and branched off into new studies based on their findings. Maybe the fact that my blood type is O may explain why I have not gotten the virus.

And I just got my vaccination appointment, finally! Our state is expanding eligibility to teachers now, and I think it was lucky to get an appointment before the lines are deluged with the cowardly teachers who refuse to teach.

How to Fix Our Elections the Right Way

 

The Democrats’ “For The People Act” ain’t it. Increasing numbers of people are waking up to realize that HR 1, passed narrowly by the US House of Representatives late Wednesday, may qualify as the worst legislation ever adopted by one of our congressional chambers. That’s no exaggeration. Having said that, House Democrats passed a similar bill in the past (2019), but with Donald Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of the Senate, it didn’t matter.

It does now. If Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kristin Sinema (D-AZ), both Democrats who claim to oppose ending the filibuster cave on the matter, with this bill as its vehicle, it could become law. Fingers crossed. It may be a close call. Pressure will no doubt be applied.

I won’t go into the bill’s voluminous flaws here. That’s been done extensively and in great detail by several excellent organizations and journalists, including the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the Institute for Free Speech, the Heritage Foundation, and others. A quick, top-line summary can be found here, courtesy of the Washington Examiner.

Just one comment about the bill that’s not receiving adequate attention: its provisions to provide a generous subsidy of taxpayers dollars to congressional and presidential campaigns. US Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) describes it in this TheHill.com oped:

H.R. 1 creates public subsidies for campaigns through a six-to-one taxpayer match on small-donor campaign contributions of up to $200. For every $200, the federal government will pay $1,200 of taxpayer dollars to a congressional or presidential campaign. Meaning regardless of whether you support my bid for reelection, $1 million in public funds would have been to get me reelected last cycle had H.R. 1 been enacted.

Rep. Davis’s claim is being slammed by the Washington Post’s so-called fact-checker, but others are independently making the same assertions.

Here’s the real issue. It is not just “voter suppression,” and it is not necessarily “voter integrity.” People are losing confidence in their elections. And when that happens, it makes it harder to honor and accept the “winners,” and for those who lost to accept the results. It is incredibly destabilizing to have elections constantly questioned and the integrity of our elections challenged. That never ends well.

The Issue: how do we fix our elections so people have confidence in the results, win or lose? I don’t want losing candidates or politicians claiming for months, if not years, that elections were “stolen.” Democrats pulled that stunt after 2016. Donald Trump and many of his supporters famously followed suit after the 2020 election.

I have some experience with elections. I’ve served as a poll worker (Virginia, 1996). I’ve served as a poll watcher (Pennsylvania, 2020). And I’ve worked for, consulted, or helped manage some 35 US House and Senate races in 25 states over nearly 3 decades. I’ve been involved in close elections and one congressional recount. I was also nominated to the Federal Election Commission by President Bill Clinton in 1996. I’ve been working on election and election reform issues for a long time.

The long-standing tension between Democrats and Republicans is “voter integrity” vs. “voter suppression.” Everyone I know has long advocated for free and fair access for all eligible voters, Democrat or Republican. Sure, there are instances of real voter suppression out there, to threaten or intimidate voters from showing up. Fortunately, they are rare. There are also instances of voter irregularities, illegalities, and fraud. This notable New York Post story outlines how consultants advise campaigns on how to cheat. It happens. It is not as rare but is usually not so voluminous to affect most election outcomes.

Following the November 2020 election, Rasmussen Reports polling showed that 47% of respondents believed the election was “stolen” from Donald Trump, including 61% of Republicans. Twenty-nine percent of “unaffiliated” voters agreed. That’s a lot and is very disconcerting. No matter whom you supported, or whose “team” you’re on, you should want elections resolved quickly, fairly, and transparently, with people accepting the results and moving on with their lives and the business of government.

So, how do we restore confidence in our elections?

For the record, most Americans have no issues with elections where they live. I was a poll watcher in Edgmont Township, Pennsylvania, this past November. It was one of the best-managed precincts I’ve ever seen. We were seated within close proximity of the election workers and the judge. We could see and hear everything, except how voters marked their paper ballots with pens (not Sharpies) provided by officials. Those ballots were run through a scanner to count and tabulate the votes. Paper ballots were kept and secured. Ballots with errors (such as voting for both Trump and Biden) were caught and resolved on the spot with a fresh ballot. We saw how expertly they handled both “spoiled” and “provisional” ballots. ID wasn’t required, but most voters showed them anyway to facilitate the process. Poll workers meticulously followed elaborate procedures to count and secure the vote. Dominion scanning machines seemed to work fine and were not connected to the internet (I checked). That’s how it is supposed to work. At least on election day.

But in several states, prompted by the pandemic, rules were changed in significant ways in several states, especially PennsylvaniaA private foundation subsidized official election activities in some of the state’s most Democratic Counties, including ballot “drop boxes” in predominantly Democratic areas. Requirements for signature verification of absentee ballots was removed by the State Supreme Court. Ballots were allowed to be received after election day and still counted in several states, including North Carolina. And then there was the issue of counting votes taking days if not weeks after the election. Texas and Florida had no problem, but New York, Pennsylvania, and many others did. None of that inspired confidence.

STATE PRIMACY OVER ELECTIONS

Many state legislatures, including Georgia and Pennsylvania, are moving legislation to fix many of these issues. And that’s where they should be largely resolved – at the state level. And that’s the first premise of my election reform proposal. It must be consistent with the US Constitution. The “times, places and manner” of elections was clearly left to the states, with Congress having the power to “make or alter” state regulations. Clearly, it was the framers’ intent for elections to be locally run with some uniformity – such as a nationally established voting age, a national election day, etc. – set by Congress. Congress has also stepped in with several laws, such as the Voting Rights Act and others, to end discriminatory activities.

Having said that, there’s a way for the federal government to help states with several important objectives to facilitate voter access and voter integrity. We can do both.

We have had two major post-election commissions – both led in part by former President Jimmy Carter – that provided a path that Congress largely adopted. Congress allocated funds for states to clean up their voter rolls. Some states have done a very good job of maintaining their rolls, such as Colorado and Oregon. Others, including Pennsylvania, have not. “Vote by mail” schemes do not work if voter rolls are not up to date.

CLEAN UP VOTER ROLLS

Congress should again provide funds to states that follow prescribed procedures to update and maintain their voter files. For example, at least annually, voter files should be matched against Social Security death records and the National Change of Address registry maintained by the US Postal Service. Some states do this, others, not so much. There is a problem of dead people voting in several jurisdictions. Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act provides several other means by which voter rolls should be checked and maintained for accuracy. Frankly, they’re not followed by many states and localities. The Public Interest Legal Foundation successfully sued Los Angeles County to force them to clean up their dirty rolls.

Perhaps Congress could establish a national voter registration registry by which states (and independent organizations) can easily check and correct records when voters move. Duplicates can be checked, challenged, and corrected. National voter databases make some people nervous, but it is a way to address dirty state rolls.

MAKE IN-PERSON VOTING THE GOLD STANDARD

Neither of the Carter Commissions envisioned a move towards vote-by-mail systems. Neither did they foresee the coronavirus pandemic. Never mind that there was never any evidence of viral spread from in-person voting in 2020, and the Centers of Disease Control assured the public that voting in person was safe if certain procedures were followed.

Voting in person is the safest and most secure way to make sure your vote counts.

Voting early in person is also a good way to give people other options. But how early? Two weeks? Two months? States like Virginia allowed early voting more than 30 days in advance, before even the last debate occurred in 2020, and absent late-breaking information that may have changed their minds. Two weeks seems more than generous.

A ROLE FOR ABSENTEE MAIL VOTING – AND DROP BOXES

The United States is different from the rest of the developed world in many ways, but one sticks out – nearly every developed nation bans voting by mail, some even for citizens or subjects living abroad. A few allow it under very strict circumstances.

While some states like Colorado and Oregon seem to have made universal mail voting work fairly well, it is expensive, cumbersome, and still not as secure as voting in person. Still, for those who are infirm or on travel, the ability to vote by mail or by secure drop box should be provided.

As a general rule, however, ballots should NOT be sent to voters unsolicited. Mail ballots should be affirmatively requested by registered voters, whether online or by mail. Ballots should be returned and received by election officials no later than election day. Election bureaus should be able to process such ballots upon receipt, to facilitate counting. Those who are recorded as having mailed a ballot should not be allowed to vote on election day, and only then by “provisional ballot” to be separately adjudicated by election judges following the election. Many states, to their credit, allow for online tracking of your ballot, simply by providing an email address. It seems to work.

In addition, and this is important, signature verification must be required for mail-in ballots until technology provides an equal or better means to verify the voter is who they say they are. Ballot integrity is not “voter suppression.” And no absentee ballot or ballot requested should be “forwarded” to another address by the US Postal Service. Most states prohibit it, but there are instances where ballots or ballot applications are forwarded, anyway.

What about “drop boxes?” If they are located in secure areas with ample video monitoring, then all good. States should act to require standards for their security, monitoring, and ballot collection (no private funding), with penalties similar to those for criminals who tamper with official US mailboxes. After all, the US Postal Service has lost the confidence in many of us to handle mail volumes these days. Drop boxes are a viable option.

One more thing. A major change in this election, at least where I voted last year, was the handling and tabulation of absentee or mail ballots. Before the pandemic, in Pennsylvania, absentee ballots were sent back to the voter’s precinct for tabulation and counting. With the pandemic (and a lot of private funding – see below), that tabulation was moved to a single location and handled separately, and with less supervision and transparency. In the future, Pennsylvania and other similarly situated states should resort to past practice – let the home precinct handle and count mail ballots.

VOTER REGISTRATION

The Help America Vote Act of 2002, as well as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, expanded ways to register eligible voters. When I applied last week for my new Virginia driver’s license, I also registered to vote and disclosed where I had previously been registered. I affirmed under penalty of law that I was a legal citizen (I was applying for a REAL ID, so I had to provide evidence of my citizenship anyway). But some states now provide driver’s licenses to those ineligible, but still register them to vote. The “For The People” Act protects such people from being prosecuted. States should be penalized for registering ineligible voters.

What about election day registration? That’s a terrible idea. How are states and local election bureaus supposed to verify eligibility on the day of an election? They can’t, so a reasonable deadline to register is appropriate – most states require 15-30 days. They can decide what they need, but election day registration is a cumbersome process for local officials and an invitation to fraud.

MORE BALLOTING LOCATIONS

One issue raised by election reformers is the wait times at precincts. That’s a fair point. We rarely had long wait times at my Edgmont Township precinct, but many do. States and local governments should invest more to open up more security voting locations where lines have been a problem. Mandating limits on “wait times,” as the For The People Act does, is absurd and unhelpful.

VOTING TECHNOLOGY – RETURN TO PAPER?

Much has been made about certain voting machines, whether they were attached to the Internet or their result sent to foreign servers, etc. I have no idea what the truth is. But we should ask Canada why they conduct their elections strictly by paper ballot. We’re a lot more populous than them, and there are trade-offs, but if we’re to have integrity restores in the process, we need to take a serious look at the technology being employed and how reliable it genuinely is. The Election Assistance Administration, created by the Help America Vote Act, was supposed to help this area. Clearly, there are issues.

With increasing the number of voting booths and locations, perhaps jurisdictions should seriously consider a return to paper-only voting, or at least paper ballots run through verified and tested scanners.

VOTER ID

Many Democrats claim that requiring voter ID is “voter suppression.” Poppycock. There are scores of life’s activities that require identification, but not for voting? Makes no sense. Most Americans support requiring some form of acceptable identification to vote. Further, from a new study on the impact of voter ID on voting:

“…we find that the laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation.” In fairness, they also have little impact on voter fraud. So yes, “reform” efforts are better placed elsewhere, not here. Requiring identification is not “voter suppression.”

NO PRIVATE SUBSIDIES OF OFFICIAL ELECTION ACTIVITIES

The Center for Tech and Civil Life, a center-left election reform non-profit based in Chicago, received more than $400 million in grants from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The organization used those funds to subsidize official election activities in some 2,500 precincts, mostly in support of mail and early voting systems and functions. My former home county of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, received $2.2 million. Interestingly, where Zuckerberg dollars flowed, Biden’s margin of votes over those for Hillary Clinton four years previously skyrocketed.

In many states, it is illegal to allow private subsidies of official elections. It is not rocket science to figure out why. Private dollars can be applied to provide special access to certain voters in specific locations to advantage one party or candidate over another. This may have been the case with the Center’s contributions, at least in Pennsylvania. Congress should outlaw private funding of official elections, period.

NO BALLOT HARVESTING

Ballot harvesting is outlawed in many states, and for a good reason. It allows “third parties” to go door to door, church to church, food bank to food bank, to collect ballots and drop them off at election bureaus. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how the process can be abused, including “helping” people cast their ballots or tossing those from people who may not have voted “the right way.” It was used illegally to sway a congressional election in North Carolina – for a Republican, by the way. Democrats and Republicans demanded and won a new election (which Republicans won).

The House “For The People” Act not only condones but institutionalizes and legalized ballot harvesting. That’s a horrible idea and must be rejected. Congress should outlaw, not condone ballot harvesting.

FINAL WORDS

These are not new or necessarily controversial ideas. Some of these proposals will be favored by Democrats, such as increasing balloting locations and drop boxes (so long as they are evenly and fairly distributed, and well-supervised). Republicans will support Voter ID requirements, signature verification on mail ballots, and a return to “in person” voting.

One final note: Campaign finance reform should be handled separately from election administration. There is a good case to be made for reforms in how our federal campaigns are financed. Our politicians spend too much time fundraising. Disclosure rules can be improved. Public financing, however, as proposed in HR 1, is a non-starter for many Americans, and rightfully so. Why should your tax dollars be used to subsidize campaigns of candidates whom you do not support? And yes, there is too much money in politics, but the best way to shrink that is to reduce the size and scope of government.

The question is, do we want to win at all costs, or do we want free and fair elections that everyone – winners and losers – have confidence in, no matter the outcome? It seems House Democrats have chosen the former. But we should not – must not – give up on the latter. It is a cornerstone of our democratic republic.

It is a principle that thoughtful Americans of both parties should be able to embrace and pursue. We can quibble on the details, but this framework is both bipartisan, fact-based, and common sense. It shows how we can increase voter access while ensuring the integrity of our elections. Why can’t our politicians in Washington figure that out?

Arizonans Are Revolting

 

Filling the restaurants and small venues in the beautiful outdoor weather. While Lord Governor Ducey talked out both sides of his mouth*, desperately trying to split the difference between Abbott/Desantis and Cuomo/Newsom, the bikers rolled back into downtown Mesa for bike night without permission or Mesa city hall control. Live music from an earlier rebellious era filled Main Street, punctuated by the sound of more Harleys rolling in. It was the sound of freedom.

Beyond the biker crowd, people jammed into every surviving eatery and watering hole, including new ones optimistically opened by small, true entrepreneurs. For the first time in nearly a year, you had to search for parking on a Friday night.

No fate. We can win. Fight.


* Arizona Executive Order 2021-05 relevant excerpts:

AZ EO 2021-05a AZ EO 2021-05b

Member Post

 

The left is now going after Thomas Sowell. (He excels at exposing the left better than anyone.) I have the paperback version of Vision of the Anointed. If you don’t, you better order it today before it is pulled or jumps to some unaffordable price. If you only own the Kindle version, it isn’t safe. […]

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Betting on the Neanderthals

 

Place your bets: Will newly maskless (i.e. “Neanderthal”) states like Texas and Mississippi experience a surge in COVID-19 cases? Or will cases continue to decline into summer just like the rest of the country and the world? The real problem is that Texas, Mississippi, and Florida jeopardize the establishment plan (a) to take credit for ending the pandemic when it recedes largely on its own, chased by the vaccinations while (b) simultaneously asserting eternal authority such that “normal” activity can only be done from now on subject to revocable permission depending on the discovery/invention of new dangers. If cases in Texas and Mississippi don’t surge, it could threaten the plan.

We can’t drop the fear narrative too early. Saint Anthony Fauci increases the threshold for herd immunity every week–a clear indication that he is not ready to relinquish his role or inadvertently help Neanderthals roll back any newly invented governmental powers. He has gone from 60-70% to 80-90% as the threshold. If you graph it, and project forward, at this rate he will define herd immunity as a minimum of 106.5% sometime in May.

Experts were allegedly surprised last month that SARs-Cov-2/COVID 19/WuFlu case counts dropped in India. Similarly, the failure of Floridians to die in larger numbers has continued to stump top journalists. And stumping himself, renowned expert Dr. Osterholm (author of Minnesota’s COVID-19 response and top Biden WuFlu adviser) predicted a sustained 6-14 week surge in cases at the same moment the rate of new infections in Minnesota was actually declining and about two weeks before infection incidence peaked across the entire upper midwestern US.

In stark contrast, your post author modestly points out (witnesses can be produced who will confirm) that I correctly predicted two weeks and three weeks in advance the COVID case peak day in a dozen US states each prediction correct within 24-48 hours. That is because, apparently unlike leading” experts,” I believe in science, epidemiology, and math but mostly because I can read a graph. Apparently, most journalists and their favorite experts start with the assumption that this disease should increases unchecked and any declines can only be attributable to NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) implemented by enlightened governments. Hence, their constant surprise and bafflement in response to actual trends and events.

Here are some facts to help you decide whether to reach out to Las Vegas and/or your favorite UK bookmakers if they open the books for COVID counts in dissident jurisdictions:

  • Contrary to “experts” last spring, COVID-19 did do its thing in Gompertz-like curves like every other respiratory epidemic. That means, the numbers initially take off but the rate of increase soon declines because the bug runs out of prime hosts\clusters and optimal conditions. This has resulted in curves that strongly tend to have similar slopes on either side of the peak. This is true in part because:
    • COVID-19 is seasonal See this and also this. Factors like sunlight, temperature, humidity, and even seasonal changes in human behavior and biochemistry strongly influence optimal conditions for the spread which in turn helps to explain why:
    • COVID-19 has distinctive regional patterns. NY, NJ and MA had identical curves and all first peaked exactly on April 27. MD, PA, DE and VA peaked at the same time about two weeks later and have shared with nearly identical curves throughout. The whole southern tier of the US and Mexico all shared a peak period at the end of July and beginning of August with similar, lower, flatter case curves than those in the northeast US states in March and April. The central US regional groupings had common peaks in mid-November or early December.
  • COVID-19 has probably infected more than half of the US population by now (29 million reported positives multiplied by six at the low end of CDC estimates of actual infections) and like other COVID variants, that boosts long-lasting T-cell resistance.
  • Every state in the US has had waves in either the spring/summer and/or during normal flu season. Texas and Mississippi both first peaked in mid to late July. So, when these same optimal seasonal conditions for those two states roll around again in 3-4 months, more than half of their populations will have newly acquired T and B-cell immunity in addition to specific antibodies plus the number vaccinated by then. COVID has no shot at an encore.
  • Contrary to claims and wishes of ardent mask-mandate defenders, there is no jurisdiction in the United States in which one can point to the graphs of case incidence and mask use/mandate implementation and find a correlation reflected in the case numbers. I have been told that masks work but even if in wide use that we should not expect that benefit to show up in the actual aggregate numbers of infections (a position that does not sound very mathy or sciency somehow). Therefore, lifting such a mandate should not be expected to influence case numbers either.

So, my bet is that (a) Texas and Mississippi will not experience a resurgence of COVID and certainly not anywhere near the rates at the same times as last year and (b) the reported infection incidence rate will be vanishingly small and the same as the other states in their same COVID regional pattern (GA and FL across to AZ and CA).

Now to the next bet: What will be the exact date on which the Biden Administration will claim all credit and declare victory over ending COVID-19? 

[ My earlier take on Fauci/Cuomo taking credit: ]

Father Emil Kapuan, Medal of Honor

 

I first wrote this essay several years ago, at that time Father Kapuan’s remains were considered lost, that has changed. His remains have now been identified. I would like to thank @scottwilmot for bringing this update to the story of Father Kapuan to my attention.

The remains of Father Emil Kapaun, a Kansas native and Catholic priest who died while a prisoner of war, have been identified by military officials.

Sen. Jerry Moran announced Thursday that the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency of the Department of Defense has identified Kapaun’s remains. As of Thursday evening, Kapaun was not listed by the agency among the names of people who have recently been accounted for.

“This evening I was notified that the remains of Marion County-native Father Emil Kapaun, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, have been identified,” Moran said in a statement. “Father Kapaun served as an Army Chaplain during WWII and the Korean War, and was taken as a Prisoner of War in 1951. He continued to minister to Americans as a POW before passing away on May 23, 1951.

Father Kapuan, Medal of Honor

The Korean War has been called the Forgotten War. The Soldiers and Marines that fought in this brutal war will never call it the Forgotten War.

In a mountainous area in North Korea near the Chinese border, there is a mass grave that contains the bodies of American soldiers, prisoners of war that perished from starvation, battlefield injuries, disease, and beatings administered by their Chinese Communist captors.

These men rest in God’s Peace far from home. They rest together linked in death, as they were linked in life enduring battle and hardship.

On this Memorial Day weekend, there are no Stars and Stripes that sprout from the ground like single-stemmed flowers that mark their resting place.

They left behind families that grieved for them, families that held their photographs and reread their letters, and saw their faces in the children, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews they left behind. Those families that were left behind send prayers in place of flowers, prayers that reach across eternity where no flowers go.

Father Emil Kapaun rests with them. Father Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage, not just in battle, but also in captivity. Father Kapaun has earned the Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with V for Valor, Purple Heart, POW Medal, and the Distinguished Service Cross. Father Kapaun is also on the road to sainthood.

“He expressed no fear of the enemy and stories of his brave deeds of dragging soldiers to safety, tending to their wounds and suffering circulated among the officers and men. How many lives were saved because of him? Only God knows for sure. His exposure to the terrible combat operations was for him, I believe, a dress rehearsal, for what followed.”

Father Kapaun’s jeep was hit so many times with bullets and shrapnel that it finally bit the dust. He had to abandon it and use a bicycle to get around the battlefield. His Mass kit was also pelted twice and the utensils and little chalice were too battered to fix. South Korean priests gave him a third kit, the essentials of which he decided to carry inside his leather jacket with his chalice tied to his belt. Nothing could stop Father Kapaun from offering Mass. His soldiers needed the graces, and so did he.

One time a report came in about a wounded soldier who was left on the front because there were no litters left to carry him. Kapaun asked for his location. He and an assistant then dashed ahead to rescue the man with no thought for their own safety. Machine gun and small arms fire sprayed bullets all around them. They found the wounded soldier and carried him back to camp and saved his life. For this particular act of heroism (almost routine for the chaplain) Father Kapaun was awarded the Bronze Star.

Braving the battlefield, often crawling on his hands and knees, Chaplain Kapaun was always searching for the wounded. He kept his guardian angel busy with so many close calls. A bullet once clipped the pipe in his mouth right in half. He was unfazed. He picked up the half-pipe, smiled, and took a good drag. Another time a shell nicked his helmet and knocked it off his head. Not even a scratch. The chaplain had his share of minor wounds, however. He got hit in the elbow once and the bone was seriously damaged. Every time he picked up a pen after that, he wrote awkwardly, and in pain.”

Medal of Honor Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea, from November 1-2, 1950. On November 1, as Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no-man’s land.

Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Facing annihilation, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate. However, Chaplain Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded. After the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of November 2, Chaplain Kapaun continually made rounds, as hand-to-hand combat ensued.

As Chinese Communist Forces approached the American position, Chaplain Kapaun noticed an injured Chinese officer amongst the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American Forces. Shortly after his capture, Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller. Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present, including those who might have otherwise fled in panic, to remain and fight the enemy until captured. Chaplain Kapaun’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the United States Army.

.

Midnight in the Republic, Volume 10

 

This series keeps coming back to the same themes. This one falls under this:

“[A] significant and growing portion of the American population is losing the virtues required to be functioning members of a free society.” – Charles Murray in Coming Apart (Page 289), 2012

I guess this should be call this the Dr. Seuss edition.

Honestly, I thought we had hit peak un-seriousness as a society in about May 2016 when the sane among us had to pretend to take a discussion about mass societal confusion regarding which bathroom to use as worthy of intellectual debate in America (an era also fittingly known as peak Obama-ism). Little did I know, we would pick up right where we left off after a four and a half year temper-tantrum by the left and mostly-left (i.e. fake right). The new peak in our sights: Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Instapundit hit on it (at least) twice yesterday. First:

The Cancellation Of Dr. Seuss Should Disturb You, Because You’re Next. “America is entering its very own Mao-like Cultural Revolution. The iconoclasm of the left’s culture war isn’t a side effect, it’s the point.”

and second:

This isn’t normal or reasonable and don’t let them gaslight you into thinking it is. This is warped and un-American and the people pushing it should be ashamed.

The meat of the first link really goes to a piece at The Federalist: The Cancellation Of Dr. Seuss Should Disturb You, Because You’re Next. Read the whole thing…here are some teasers:

But context and nuance don’t factor into the inexorable logic of the woke left, which flattens and refashions the past into a weapon for the culture wars of the present. What’s important to understand is that this isn’t simply about banning six Dr. Seuss books. All of Geisel’s work is, in the judgment of left-wing academia, an exercise in “White supremacy, paternalism, conformity, and assimilation.” It might be easy for conservatives to laugh that off as nonsense, but they shouldn’t, because this isn’t really even about Geisel. …

… The left’s war on the past, on long-dead authors like Geisel, isn’t really about the past, it’s about the future. It’s about who gets to rule, and under what terms.

There’s a predictable pattern to what we’re seeing now. It’s predictable because it has happened before in much the same way it’s happening now. …

So much for statues and books. At some point, the left will come for actual people, because the ideology of revolution demands that dissent—and therefore dissidents—be silenced, by force if necessary. …

So forget about Dr. Seuss. Forget about the statues and the books. Those things are just the beginning. It could easily get much worse. The woke revolutionaries of the left can’t be bargained with or appeased. They believe this is a zero-sum game, that one side will win and one side will lose. And they’re right.

(Another one worthy of a hardcopy for the files.)

The momentum is again pushing in this intellectually unserious direction and the elected ruling troika of Biden-Schumer-Pelosi (as well as their supports and enablers) are either in favor of or blind to the completely predictable ends that are now appearing on the horizon. This momentum clearly carries the will of those who now lack “the virtues required to be functioning members of a free society.”

America 2021: Into the abyss…

(See also Volume 1, Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7, Volume 8, and Volume 9)

(See also Midnight in the Republic, A Dystopian Interlude)

Gratitude from a Soul Saved

 

I’m starting with an apology. Ninety-nine percent of the time I sit down to write something, the end turns out quite differently than my original intent. So if I stray a bit by the end, I blame it on too much Hugo-esque romanticist tangent. What I mean to express is my heartfelt gratitude for being part of the Ricochet community. It truly is a special group that is defined not by some platitude-riddled mission statement, an out-of-touch, heavy-handed cabal, nor an elitist clique demanding oaths of servitude. It is shaped and conditioned by its members. And the founders, editors, contributors, and moderators keep us ever striving for the best we can offer each other, and I am in awe at how the bar keeps rising.

Today the news media environment is unimaginative and condescending. The condensed national network news shows spend 30 seconds on a few breaking stories (a full minute if it’s on Republican voters and QAnon). They’re the Thin Oreos of news: Sure it’s called an Oreo, but without the good stuff in the middle, is it even worth it? They might as well run a ticker across the screen and save the money they pay their teleprompter readers who are so serious, so articulate, so unrelatable. Cable news is just as bad but in a whole different way. Most of it is the same stories from a decade ago, just with more gray hair. The hosts use their platforms to throw grenades at other news shows, pundits, or politicians. The ‘debates’ are either struggle sessions or yelling matches that leave viewers feeling like a kid watching his divorced parents fight.

But Ricochet is different. Posts come from people across the country and throughout the world. People with different perspectives and backgrounds that foster rich, smart, informed debates that might not come to any solid conclusion, but leave one feeling the investment was worth the time. They inform, they entertain, they inspire. On any given day, no matter what has happened in the world, I am always surprised by the treasures I find from fellow members, both in the posts, and the comments that follow. Rarely is there the brief flash of rudeness, usually a byproduct of the passionate voices represented here. Ricochet is the model for intelligent, thoughtful, civil discourse that seems to be badly lacking in today’s attention-deficit, hyperactive, politicized society.

When I was introduced to Ricochet by one of the editors, it was as if I was given the key to the Secret Garden. And I could help tend the grounds! It was a priceless gift for someone who spent a lifetime being on the outside looking in. I was the poor kid in hand-me-downs with her hot little forehead pressed against the window. I spent my formative years a bookish introvert who dedicated her time to school and sports. Friendships beyond my family were non-existent, and it mostly persists today. Growing up, it taught me self-reliance and I developed a fierce independence, but it left a cavernous hole that personal relationships should fill. My long-suffering husband should be eligible for sainthood by now, being my only partner to ride the rollercoaster of ups and downs. At Ricochet, no one seemed to care that I was Quasimodo. There are no pariahs, no diktat, and no allegiance to this ideology or that. The boundaries are limited only by the interests and opinions and thoughts of the community, which are extended each and every day.

I very nearly gave up recently. My mind seems to be a soft target for personal anguish and dejection. The details don’t matter – they hardly ever do – but every setback cancels the gains by twofold. I’m very used to rejection. I think anyone who hasn’t gone through failure isn’t trying hard enough at life. But lately the no’s piled up higher than I could see past. Every rejection was a confirmation that I was an unwanted soul. I believed God had picked me for his amusement: To lead me on by dangling a few morsels of hope, only to watch me trip and fall flat on my back. He was Lucy with the football, and I was the pathetic Charlie Brown. I wondered if the pain was worth the process. But in the darkest time, even the faintest light can reveal a path out of the desolation. I was given that light by someone who has the wisdom, insight, and grace to understand that to write is to be. And this may be my chance to fulfill a purpose – probably not to change anyone’s mind, or be an earth-shaker, or cross any ‘important’ person’s radar, but to give back to a group that has given me so much.

In closing, I want to express my deepest, most sincere appreciation for my fellow members, the contributors, editors, moderators, and the technicians who keep the site running. I’m thankful for the men and women who keep making this place one of constant enrichment – through posts, stories, podcasts, conversations and debates, and friendships. I’m grateful for the people here – Founders on down – who continue to make political and cultural challenges fun and interesting instead of life-or-death perpetual wars. Because where else can I go to get the latest Saturday Night Old-Time Radio Show, hear an interview with a thought-provoking author, hear about the latest chicken-coop adoption, and get the latest from the anarchy in Seattle? It’s all here, and sometimes it works in mysterious ways.

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

School Diary: How to Anger a Budding SJW

 
A small eruption of social justice warfare erupted today at the start of class. Thoughts, critiques, suggestions, etc…all warmly welcomed.My class was waiting to begin when a chatty Hispanic student- call her K- said: “well, I read this article in the Washington Post…but I shouldn’t talk about it now…”

K has been my student for a year and a half so I should have known better than to take the bait. Most of her tuition is paid by a fund that sends “promising” students from public schools to independent/private schools in the state. We know this because she speaks about it constantly, to everyone. She’s generally cheerful, inarticulate, and uninformed (“Ok, so this Helen Keller person… I don’t really know who she was, but anyhoo, so… my sister said that she was blind and deaf. And she couldn’t talk either? But how… like I don’t wanna be mean or, like….well mean I guess but I mean how is that possible? Like at the same time?”)

However I said absentmindedly, “Give us an idea of the theme and we can tell you if we can address it briefly.” I will paraphrase: “So basically, I’m just coasting in school because I have certain advantages… I don’t have to work very hard to be able to, you know…” I cut her off here because I was shocked (and she was floundering). To use the term, “coasting”, I cut in, suggests that K is willing to accept advantages that she doesn’t deserve (I pointed out that K had stated that she does very little work) when others work harder and receive no recognition. That didn’t seem fair to me. There was a ripple in the classroom that I ignored because I was aware of how otherwise silent the room had become.

K was furious and hotly responded that her poor and unprivileged background (i.e. her ancestral background!), which I would never be expected to understand (it was implied that I probably would never think of trying either), entitled her to extra consideration and that colleges did not see the difference between the effort she put in and that of another peer who might be more “privileged”.

With the vivid image of a train shooting off the tracks, I decided to bring the heated exchange to a close. I said firmly that I understood her point but terms like “coasting” were a poor choice for such a sensitive topic because it implied carelessness and passivity. In conversations like these, I went on, it was important to pick one’s words more sensitively. K was very displeased with this conclusion and sulked in her chair. The exchange lasted 3-4 rapid-fire minutes. I felt my knees knocking together under my desk and I swear my stomach tied itself into knots. The room was silent for the rest of the period. I immediately emailed my principal to tell him exactly what happened so he would be looped in.

At the end of class, I asked K to stay for a few moments. I wanted to see if I could clarify how we had communicated at the very least. With a curtain of hair in her face, I explained that while students are free to discuss politics at school, I try to be as neutral as possible though challenging students is important- she sniffed. I understood her interest in today’s topic, but that our class was not the appropriate forum to have such a large-ranging discussion. Hopefully she would understand my intent, as I had understood hers and feel comfortable in my classroom still? She looked at me without blinking and then snapped, “I have to go to crew. Bye.”

I find aspects of this haunting. I know the principal said it would be alright and that K has been provocative with other teachers and administrators too. But I’m aware of the other students’ expressions, how students start to talk, how word spreads about an interaction. The horror of a confrontation with an angry mob of SJWs. K’s words today were offensive and prejudiced in the extreme. How many deserving students cannot come to our school because they are ineligible for financial aid or scholarship programs like K’s? How many would come with such programs and work hard to be deserving of such opportunities?

I feel disconcerted by the episode and there’s nothing to do about it. I couldn’t say more than I did, I didn’t want to say less than I did and I didn’t want to apologize for anything I did say.

Best Commentary I’ve Heard on Virus Management

 

I don’t have medical credentials, but some of what ZDoggMD says about mandates being “paternalistic” and about how our messaging could have been more along the lines of “here’s how you protect yourself” in a context of freedom aligns with what I have been thinking.

He says that instead of elected officials making rules about staying inside, people should have been encouraged to go to the beach, go hiking, do healthy things where there’s plenty of air circulation. We didn’t have to be in the mess we’re in now.

He makes reassuring points about the vaccines being effective and that we should be able to freely mingle now, in spite of the protests from the media about the variants.

For a breath of fresh air, watch this:

 

 

Mystery and Not-Knowing

 

Recently I had pretty much put aside concerns of not-knowing the outcome of one last test regarding my breast cancer. When the surgeon called a couple of days ago, I was stunned to learn at least part of the results. As I struggled to calm myself (since I was certain the test results would set me free from the possibility of chemotherapy), I realized that I didn’t know a whole lot more than I knew before he called. The results still left me in a state of not-knowing, and I didn’t like it one single bit.

Most people go through life in a continuous state of “not knowing” and don’t even realize it. We don’t know if we will encounter heavy traffic when we go out; we don’t know if it will rain in the afternoon in spite of a sunny forecast; we don’t know if we will catch a cold or get a hangnail. But because these are minor and transient conditions, we don’t worry about them; not knowing is not something we fear because we don’t give it much thought.

But then significant situations show up in our lives, unexpectedly, and are often alarming and distressing. How could we have not known? Or better yet, how could this have happened? It’s tempting to try to figure things out, and yet the discovery of causes often eludes us. So instead of coming to terms with the situation, we might obsess not only about causes but future decisions that we will need to make. In the beginning, we might not even realize what those choices might be. Until they show up, we can often rest in a state of not-knowing because we “know that we don’t know” and we might as well wait until we have something to worry about.

And then a day like this past Tuesday arrives. The surgeon has called to tell me that I am high-risk, whatever that means. Since he knows I will be visiting the oncologist on Friday, he assures me that the doctor will explain in great detail what the situation is, and then I can decide if I want to go ahead with chemotherapy. There are at least a half-dozen other factors to consider besides the results of the test.

Great. Just the kind of decision I want to make. At least my surgeon gave me a chance to absorb the idea that I would have another decision to consider. So, I felt my anxiety growing as I tried to find a comfortable way to not-know.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, I prayed. I thought about the wonder and mystery of the Divine, and how, no matter what happens, He will comfort and guide me, if I listen carefully. And then it hit me: not-knowing is not separate from, and in fact is embraced by, the Mystery of G-d.

What does that mean?

To me, I love the sense of G-d as Mystery*. Although we know a great deal about what G-d wants and expects from us, including obeying his laws and serving Him, there is a great deal we simply do not know. Our faith tells us that we cannot pronounce his true name; that any time we try to define or limit Him, we are mistaken. He is referred to as Ein Sof, “without end.” We simply must live with—that’s right—not-knowing. I suddenly realized I am perfectly comfortable with the fact that there is so much I don’t know about G-d. I can try to learn more about Him through my study, meditation, and prayer, and every glimmer of understanding informs the strength of my belief in Him. At the same time, I am not frustrated or disappointed about what I don’t know.

* * * * *

My epiphany came from realizing that my reactions to not-knowing rested in the loving-kindness of the Mystery. Whatever happened, whatever decision I made, if I used wisdom and discretion, I would be okay. That doesn’t mean that a different, even possibly “better” decision couldn’t have been made. But the Mystery will always be with me to reassure, strengthen and comfort me. That I will be able to accept the outcomes that evolve from my decision.

Whatever I choose for further treatment may not be easy to decide. But I have a sense of well-being that somehow, someway, it will all be fine.

*This Mystery is different from the Mystery in Christianity.

March Group Writing: Blowin’ Our Heritage

 

Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind (1962) captures a lot of what’s wrong with an entire generation (mine, mea culpa) and our dysfunctional ideological legacy. Bob Dylan had a gift for faux profundity. His work has been repeatedly explored by academics and even got him a Nobel Prize. Not being profound myself, I have found a lot of his oeuvre to be contrived, banal and preachy.

Here is the artist in his own words at age 56:

Here’s the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don’t find it anywhere else. Songs like “Let Me Rest on a Peaceful Mountain” or “I Saw the Light”—that’s my religion. I don’t adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I’ve learned more from the songs than I’ve learned from any of this kind of entity. The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs.

Deep. Too bad there is no Nobel Prize for theology.

But now to the song itself (lyrics reprinted at the end of the post for ready reference).

How many times must the cannonballs fly.… Unlike every other generation in every other place on the planet, Our Generation understood that war is harmful and bad. Our insight in that regard was astounding—to us anyway. The solution, as we conceived it, was not characterological, nor did it require a spiritual conversion—it was merely cognitive. The act of thinking that war is bad is itself the solution whose implementation merely awaits the assent of stupid people, thus the answer is blowin’ in the wind until the obvious can be grasped by all, not just by the enlightened.

How many seas must the white dove sail… Presumably, the white dove symbolizes peace (Here we pause to savor how original, poetic, and deep is this symbolism.). The dove (Peace) is looking for a home but why it is out over the ocean or why it would want to sleep in the sand is a mystery. I am not aware of any of the 300-some species of doves and pigeons in the entire Columbidae family that are pelagic or that would nest in the sand. A few build nests on the forest floor but most are sensible enough to nest in trees or on rocky ledges. But I digress. Most likely Mr. Dylan just needed a word to rhyme with “banned” and once he decided on “sand” that selection induced images of a nearby ocean (that is, if we dare to speculate on the methods of a creative mind awarded the Nobel Prize).

And how many years can some people exist / Before they’re allowed to be free? It is noteworthy that freedom in the song seems to be defined as a set of permissions rather than a state achieved and defended by those who demand it. Freedom is just a matter of goodwill on the part of the powerful. It has been a defining trait of Our Generation that all good things would spring from our enlightened foreheads once we were in charge. Today, a perverse variant of that outlook is a foundational concept for Wokeness.

If I could inject a dissident thought here: maybe in some instances if the cannonballs were to fly a few more times, the oppressor would lessen his grip. When the outer redoubts were taken at Yorktown thus allowing Washington to move his artillery forward, the prospect of those French and American cannonballs flying at close range was the proximate cause of Cornwallis’ surrender and the beginning of an unprecedented worldwide trend toward democracy and freedom. But, again, I digress.

How many ears…how many times can a man turn his head… We are in full folk song preachiness mode here all coming down to the age-old complaint of narcissists in every era: Why can’t They be as enlightened as we? And I do not really get why a man cannot see the sky except that Dylan needed a word to rhyme with “cry” in the next verse. But again, who are we to presume to understand the deep creative process at work here.

Aside from being largely comprised of mediocre verse, Blowin’ in the Wind reflects three tiresome, inter-related but pernicious themes that began to openly infest our society in the 1960s:

The Illusion of Autonomy. Most people in most places in most eras regard themselves as members of their culture/tribe/religion/country of origin. By the 1960s, teens were encouraged to believe that someday soon none of those ancient things would have any moral claim on our personal loyalties or identity because You can Be Anything You Choose to Be and The Future will not contain any of the bad stuff from the past because we are the ones who will build it.

It was an old gnostic delusion, returned in full force, transcendent beings struggling to escape the snares that bind them to corrupted temporal reality. We were exhorted invited to resist the pulls from old habits of mind that would drag us down into the same unenlightened reality that swallowed up our parents whose generation found itself merely on one side of the last war instead of transcending it as Our Generation would.

Intellectual superiority as moral justification. The conspicuously unenlightened Martin Luther King once said we should be judged on the “content of our character” when he should have said “the percentile of our SAT scores” or “the ranking of the school(s) that issued our diplomas” or “the political correctness of our social media content.” Issues of war and peace and social justice invariably involve tough trade-offs and tests of individual and societal character. Such challenges are never reducible to striking the right rhetorical stance or holding a nominally better set of opinions. Justification by zeitgeist alone is not just ineffective, it is personally deformative and delusional.

The seductive thing about a moral system based entirely on degrees of victimhood is that there is no personal guilt, no personal sins. Membership in the transgressor class or victim class in any given moment is all just kabuki in which pre-defined gestures suffice. There is no actual moral pain from awareness of actual personal transgression. Or at least there is not supposed to be.

An entire generation forced to read Catcher in The Rye, whose protagonist (that annoying, self-absorbed preppy twit Holden Caulfield) is obsessed with the rejection of “phony” behavior (which includes adherence to conventional norms and expectations whether done sincerely or not) has inexplicably spawned a moral cult (wokeness) that is entirely artificial, vile yet silly, and so lacking in any connection to facts, history or reality that sincerity has no purchase.

The Big Empty /Acedia. In its fullest sense, “acedia” means the state of being in which one decides there is nothing in life worth affirming. This can either take the form of dropping out (drugs, indolence, despair) or hyperactive work and play both to ward off reflection and to acquire the transient pleasures used to stave off an always looming horror vacui. The consistent theme in such lives is that none of one’s thoughts or actions are connected to anything transcendently important.

One of the great things about almost every culture in the entirety of human history is that it gives the individual a starting point and a context in which to find meaning. A successful escape from or destruction of cultural heritage means facing the same questions, doubts, and fears as are presented to every other human being but without the benefit of the distilled experience of many generations and the comfort that we are not alone in trying to make sense of it all.

That narcissistic cocktail mixed a half-century ago has devolved into the deeply pathetic struggle to escape “whiteness” combined with an unearned yet fiercely asserted moral authority to build a world which is decidedly pointless, cut off from everything not derived from its own silly ideological effluvia.

The wind is still blowin’ hard but contains no answers. We have struck the pose, assumed the role, passed judgment on the past yet the world gets worse and reality chooses to disobey. That man on the road now has no gender. The dove cannot be white must less sleep. The cannonballs still fly and in lieu of freedom, we must see, hear and believe what we are told. The answer, my friend, is that we stopped asking the right questions. The right questions are our real heritage, not the answers.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, and how many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
And how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
And how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

In Praise of Neanderthals

 

New Study: Some Neanderthal DNA may be protective against severe illness from COVID.

With several state governors (Democratic and Republican) lifting their coronavirus pandemic restrictions and mask mandates, President Biden responded by sharply insulting them. He accused them of “Neanderthal thinking.”

Except maybe it wasn’t the insult he intended.

While the media is giving much attention to Biden’s and his administration’s criticism of those governors, none appears to be given to this study published by the National Academy of Sciences just two days ago. Its title: “A genomic region associated with protection against severe COVID-19 is inherited from Neandertals.” Further:

“We show that a haplotype on chromosome 12, which is associated with a ∼22% reduction in relative risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 when infected by SARS-CoV-2, is inherited from Neandertals.”

Of course, I turned to my 23andMe report and was greeted by this banner.

I can’t ascertain whether my report shows me as possessing the COVID-protective haplotype. But since I seem to possess more Neanderthal DNA than most other 23andMe customers, especially from Europe, my odds seem good. “This haplotype is present at substantial frequencies in all regions of the world outside Africa. The genomic region where this haplotype occurs encodes proteins that are important during infections with RNA viruses.”

It turns out that Neanderthals – often derisively referred to as “cavemen” – picked up some pretty useful DNA modifications for fighting infectious diseases of their day that are proving somewhat helpful today. They also contributed to the evolvement of humans in some other important ways, too.

“Neanderthals lived in nuclear families. Discoveries of elderly or deformed Neanderthal skeletons suggest that they took care of their sick and those who could not care for themselves. Neanderthals typically lived to be about 30 years old, though some lived longer. It is accepted that Neanderthals buried their dead, though whether or not they left carved bone shards as grave goods is debated.

“It is not known if they had language, though the large size and complex nature of their brains (emphasis added) make it a likely possibility.

“Neanderthals used stone tools similar to the ones used by other early humans, including blades and scrapers made from stone flakes. As time went on, they created tools of greater complexity, utilizing materials like bones and antlers. Evan Hadingham of PBS’s NOVA reported that Neanderthals used a type of glue, and later pitch, to attach stone tips to wooden shafts, creating formidable hunting spears.”

I support the decision of governors to ease restrictions, even mask mandates (some states, like Florida and South Dakota, never imposed them). I even appreciate the very progressive Democratic governor of Pennsylvania lifting travel restrictions. Fans are beginning to attend NHL games again. So, I guess that makes me guilty of Neanderthal thinking.

Guilty as charged. You should be so fortunate.

Member Post

 

e•qua•nim•i•ty ē″kwə-nĭm′ĭ-tē, ĕk″wə n. The quality of being calm and even-tempered; composure. n. Evenness of mind or temper; calmness or firmness, especially under conditions adapted to excite great emotion; a state of resistance to elation, depression, anger, etc. n. Evenness of mind; that calm temper or firmness of mind which is not easily elated or depressed; […]

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