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“How does that help?”

 

Sometimes it is better not to know. Mrs. iWe and I, who in our youth were perpetually curious, have learned through experience that when someone tells us we are better off not knowing something, we should not ask again. Indeed, we ask, “How is that a helpful thing to say?” whenever one of us or our children opts to share a juicy bit of gossip, or crank up bulldozers in the vicinity of sleeping dogs.

With non-family-members, reproof is usually not appropriate; so we get very quiet in those situations. Sometimes they even take the hint.

But around family, this is particularly sticky. What happens when someone wants to air old grudges, or ask about something they really do not need to know?

There is a Torah precedent for this: Jacob’s sons dispose of their annoying brother, and lie to their father by producing the famous coat, covered in blood. But many years later, Joseph turns up. He gets square with his brothers, but all Jacob learns is that Joseph is alive.

The Torah fairly bristles with the unasked — and unanswered — questions. What happened to Joseph all those years ago? Jacob never asks. The brothers never tell their father, and Joseph does not utter a word. And if we think about it, the reason is simple enough: no answer can be helpful. All it can do is open old wounds, and perhaps carve a few new ones.

In every family, I think this is a potential minefield. There are those who always want to relitigate the past. They live with anger and grudges, issues that cannot be resolved even if others try to make amends. We cannot undo the past, after all. But they continue to insist on bringing it up, time and again – regardless of whether or not it helps to do so.

I know the Torah teaches us that when it is not productive, to let it go. But how do you make it happen in practice?

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Overturning Supreme Court Decisions

 

Last week I was reading some of the twitter outrage over judicial appointments, and how the Trump Administration would change the course of American Jurisprudence for a generation — even if he can be limited to one term. Naturally, the focus of these freakouts was Roe v. Wade. But I started to think, if I had the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions, I honestly dont think I would start with Roe. There are many others that need to be done away with that have a far larger impact on day to day lives.

This is my list, in random order:

Kelo v. City of New London: Permits the abuse of eminent domain for connected developer cronies of city hall.

Katz v. US: On the reasonable expectation of privacy. A terrible standard. Anyone who has ever dated knows there is wide variation on what a “reasonable expectation” is. A person’s rights should not depend on their reasonable expectations.

Harlow v. Fitzgerald: Qualified immunity of public officials. No.

Chevron v. NRDC: “Administrative deference” allows agencies to interpret statutes. Essentially allows bureaucrats to re-write the statutes that should have otherwise constrained their activities — creating the administrative state.

There are probably four or five more that I would like to overturn before Roe. What would be your list?

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A Thirst for Change

 

“Before a man will take a path that leads to a well, you must first teach him the meaning of thirst.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Having worked many years attempting to help those with mental health, addiction, and family issues, the above words have, over time, penetrated my bones.

When you begin to work in the field of “helping others,” you will take for granted that the person you care about wants nothing more than to reach that rejuvenating well –representing recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, release from depression, freedom from a toxic social or family environment, retreat from a life that revolves around physical pleasure and material things, an end to homelessness, or increased independence overall. But if the person you want to help lacks a desire to truly change (verbal declarations of a willingness to change notwithstanding), you may as well be talking to the wall.

Creating change is not just a problem for the person in distress; it’s equally, if not more of a problem for the caregiver, family member, or friend who wishes to see a change in the other person. The frustration of seeing someone you love stuck in a self-destructive rut is close to unbearable.

So how do you teach someone the meaning of thirst, instill in that person a desire for change? I do not think, except in rare cases, that one person alone can change another. Let me go out on a limb and say that 90 percent (or more) of psychotherapy sessions, in my humble opinion, are a waste of time. I realize psychotherapy is sometimes helpful to some people but, more often than not, it is an exercise in narcissistic self-indulgence encouraged by the therapist. I also do not think that a family member or friend on their own, in the vast majority of cases, can bring about a fundamental change in the life of the one they love.

Before going further, I hereby solicit your story of bringing about or witnessing a major change in another person — or in yourself. How did it happen? Was a support group involved or was it an individual effort? Last but not least, was the change inspired by a spiritual awakening of some kind?

Let me reiterate that it’s my impression, after working in this field for many years, that psychotherapy seldom changes anyone. However, research has shown that if there is one factor that can lead to a positive outcome from one-on-one talk therapy or counseling, it’s the quality of the relationship between the counselor and the one seeking help. Take all your therapeutic theories and techniques and throw them in the discard pile. It’s the relationship that counts.

Based on my experience, however, I have found that the most effective, if not the only way to help the average person change is by connecting that person with a group of people with a similar issue, be it alcoholism, drug addiction, obsession with food, sex, or gambling, life after divorce, grief over the death of a loved one, family dysfunction, childhood abuse, post-traumatic stress, or manic depression. Typically, the leader of a successful group is not a detached psychologist but someone who has been through experiences that match those of the other group members.

The best example of this is the 12-step program for alcoholics or drug addicts. If you want to be inspired, I urge you to attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the original 12-step group. The struggles of alcoholics and other addicts will be familiar to you, I promise, since everyone is afflicted by an addiction of some kind. (Note: if you are reading this, you are probably addicted to the Internet to one degree or another; I know I am.) Twelve-step meetings are mainly composed of people standing up and telling their stories. You cannot help but gather strength and feel renewed by the amazing tales of recovery that you hear. AA groups are everywhere — probably in your neighborhood, too, as a quick Internet search will reveal.

Yet a 12-step group is more than a group of individuals spilling their guts; it’s a fellowship, too. Group members become friends and build up their lives together. Online groups or communities may serve a similar function, although contact with group members in the flesh is far more rewarding.

Some have criticized AA for being a cult. This accusation stems in part from the spiritual basis to recovery that is advanced in the AA program for change. Five of the 12 steps invoke G-d explicitly and another step mentions “a Power greater than ourselves.”

(Perhaps step three, if truly internalized, is the most life-changing: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understood Him.”)

Let me say here that AA does not fit the definition of a cult for several reasons: there is no guru or leader revered as someone who is closer to the truth than anyone else, money is not solicited nor is a fee charged to attend meetings, anonymity is mandatory, and people are free to come and go, with no stigma attached to those who choose to leave the group.

AA is the clearest demonstration of a starkly ironic truth about human beings: the best way to help yourself is by helping someone else. But helping others is not just for self-improvement. It is a basic human need. When this need is unmet or suppressed, life becomes a burdensome ordeal.

AA was founded in 1935 and grew out of a partnership between Bill Wilson and Bob Smith. Their first meeting would serve as a paradigm for the mentoring relationship that is at the core of AA’s success. Wilson, who had achieved sobriety after a long struggle, had just completed an unsuccessful business trip in Akron, OH, and suddenly felt that the only way he could keep himself from drinking was to help a fellow alcoholic. Wilson, after frantically calling a number of churches, finally located Bob Smith. Wilson shared his story of recovery with Smith and soon Smith would himself become sober and stay that way for the rest of his life.

Wilson’s encounter with Smith set the precedent for AA sponsorship. What happens is that a new member of the group still in the throes of substance abuse or barely sober will connect with a sponsor, someone who has been sober for an extended period of time. Ideally, the sponsor will meet personally with the newcomer once a week and serve as a guide along the path to sobriety. More importantly, the sponsor is available 24/7 to the mentored alcoholic or addict.

The key to the sponsorship relationship is that it is as crucial to the continuing sobriety of the sponsor as it is to the success of the newly sober individual.

A critical lesson taught by AA is that alcoholism, like every other addictive or mental health disorder, is a lifetime proposition. You cannot be cured. The best you can do is learn how to manage your condition. A few days before his death, after not having taken a drink in decades, Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, begged his nurse for whiskey. Recovery is not complete until the day you die.

Recovery through interaction with a group is not limited to alcoholism or addictive disorders. I recently witnessed two remarkable recoveries from manic depression and each of them happened in a group setting. Imagine a young man walking the streets of a major city making offensive remarks to strangers and being picked up by the police on several occasions. Less than a year later, that young man is a full-time student and is engaged to be married. Or consider a young woman in a mental hospital tied down with restraints, able to navigate life in a reasonable fashion two years later with an admiring boyfriend in tow. Both of these success stories happened after the protagonists attached themselves to groups of people with similar struggles.

Teaching someone the meaning of thirst means giving up on being the teacher. Instead, if at all possible, have your loved one make contact with a fellowship of people who will gladly take this mentoring task upon themselves. These will be individuals who finally realized they lacked something, developed a thirst for it and now, having already traveled a distance to find it, want to take others with them along the way.

* * *

I am most curious about success stories in this arena, for the edification of myself and others, and therefore, as I stated at the outset, would love to hear your story of bringing about or witnessing a major change in another person — or in yourself. How did it happen? Was a support group involved or was it an individual effort? Last but not least, was the change inspired by a spiritual awakening of some kind?

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Book Review: “Smoke ’em” Shows Military’s Role in Masculine Rite

 

Anyone serving in the U.S. military before 1980 remembers the cry opening every break: “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Almost everyone, from the lowest private to the most senior officer present, would light up a cigarette.

Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration by Joel R. Bius examines the link between the military and cigarette smoking. He shows how cigarette consumption and the military were connected.

In 1900 cigarettes were a surprisingly small fraction of tobacco consumption. Around 7 percent of all tobacco products were retailed in the form of cigarettes. Cigarette smoking was viewed as unmanly and un-American.

World War I changed that. Nicotine proved the American Expeditionary Force’s battlefield drug of choice. Tobacco simultaneously calmed the nerves while increasing alertness. Smoking masked the battlefield’s stench. Although tobacco was known to be bad, its adverse effects were long-term. Meantime, there was a war to win. Organizations like the YMCA freely distributed cigarettes, the most convenient form of smoking tobacco to our boys in the trenches.

The link stuck when the boys returned home. Cigarettes gained the cachet as a man’s vice, linked with battlefield bravery. Bius follows the arc cigarette consumption followed through the century’s middle years. Battlefield use of cigarettes in World War II sealed the image of cigarettes as a masculine activity. By then, the Army issued a cigarette ration and subsidized smokes at the PX. Use hit a peak after World War II years when 80 percent of men smoked cigarettes.

Despite the 1964 Surgeon General’s warning and government efforts to cut tobacco use thereafter, cigarettes remained popular, even after the military eliminated the cigarette ration in 1972. It took the All-Volunteer Army to break the link between smoking and the military. Containing health care costs led the military to discourage tobacco use. That in turn broke smoking’s image as a masculine activity. Cigarette use plunged; until today, cigarette use is almost back to 1900 levels.

Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of a masculine rite of passage.

“Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration,” by Joel R. Bius, Naval Institute Press, 2018, 328 pages, $39.95

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When to talk about someone’s perceived flaws

 

I’ve been thinking about the grief I took, from a few Ricochetti, because I refused to engage in the pollical talk that many people on this site revel in. So do I. But there is a time for that. So, rather than nurse my anger, I decided to write this essay, to explain, yet again, […]

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Happy Challah Days

 

I’ve got the apple cake in the oven and the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions ready for making latkes at a moment’s notice. May the Lord bless all who light their candles tonight and remember the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Temple.

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Narcissism Is Unpleasant. Guilt Destroys.

 

@doctorrobert linked to a brilliant essay by Kevin Williamson which compares the intolerance of today’s left to the intolerance of other religions and political movements over the years. That started my wheels turning and my brain excreted the following contribution to the debate. Williamson makes a series of characteristically brilliant points, but I wanted to look at the same phenomenon from a different angle. Please don’t read Williamson’s NRO article and then read mine – he’s a phenomenal writer and I’d prefer to avoid direct comparisons to his work if possible. But for what it’s worth, I submit the following:

I turn 50 today, although I don’t feel a day over 85. I work too much, don’t take care of myself very well, and I’m tired all the time. I’ve had both feet on the gas for so long that I can’t remember any other way to live. The immortal philosophers Def Leppard once observed, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” I hope they’re right.

I’ve reached the age where people reflexively call me “sir,” and when I trip over a curb, people don’t laugh at me, they come running to help. I think, “Why is everyone acting so weird around me? What’s wrong with these people?” Then I look in the mirror. “Oh, right. I got old. Huh. I thought that would take longer.” Being on the other end of those sympathetic looks that I used to give old people has gotten me to thinking about our culture’s apparent infatuation with youth, and how it creates the seemingly incongruous but certainly destructive environment of narcissism and guilt. Allow Jim Beam and I to explain, hopefully using better sentence structure than that.

The hippie movement of the ’60s and ’70s had a famous mantra: “Never trust anyone over 30.” I suppose that makes sense if your goal is to do whatever you want, unconstrained by the cumulative wisdom of thousands of years of civilization. All those old customs and rules may have made some sense back in the ancient times of primitive civilizations, like, for example, the Eisenhower administration.

But the birth control pill changed everything. Are those bummer rules really relevant anymore? I mean, come on, dude. If the pill frees us from the biological consequences of our actions, then shouldn’t we be freed from the ethical consequences of our actions? And then, our actions could be, well, just anything we wanted them to be at any given time! What a wonderful world that would be, right? And if the old world can’t handle this new reality, then we obviously must move on to the new world, right?

If you want to live in a new world, first you must destroy, or at least delegitimize, the old one. Including the old people. Like, for example, me, I guess. What always struck me as odd, even when I was a young person, is that young people and old people are the same people. Just at different times in their lives. Just as Thomas Sowell pointed out that rich people and poor people are often the same people at different times in their lives. Leftists, and others with simplistic views of the world, often view young people or poor people as a sort of civil rights group, when in fact they’re just, well, people.

Man’s movement away from God over the past 50-70 years is due, in large part, in my view, from a lack of gratitude. Just like with spoiled kids. When spoiled kids get anything they want, they paradoxically lack gratitude. And that kid can never be happy. That kid is spoiled goods. Can’t be fixed. The spoiled kids of the ’60s and ’70s, likewise, are damaged goods.

Their parents, who were often born during WW1, survived the depression, and served during WW2; they just wanted their kids to have a better life. They were generous with their children – sometimes to a fault. Then the birth control pill came out. At exactly the wrong time. So these spoiled children, who thought they could have whatever they wanted whenever they wanted it – suddenly they really could have whatever they wanted. Whenever they wanted it.

Deep down inside, they knew that something was wrong. But they were enjoying what they were doing. So they could have changed their course and lived their lives according to the wisdom of the ancients. But they did not choose that path. Instead, they chose to continue to pursue immediate pleasures, with no apparent consequences. Who among us would not? Especially at the age of 16-24 or so?

And that left an enormous hole in their souls. It was hard to see at the time. It’s easy to see now. They became college professors and have nearly destroyed our university system. They became leaders in the Catholic church and their ingrained lack of respect for tradition or anything else greater than themselves has, at the very least, fundamentally changed the Catholic church. They have entered leadership positions in politics and our government has grown into an unpredictable monster acting with no apparent limitations.

The narcissism of the baby boomers, and their dream of a world with no constraints has led to power systems with no constraints.

Just for the record, after high school I was selected to play in an all-star football game. I couldn’t make it because I had moved to Sweden to live with my absolutely gorgeous Swedish exchange student girlfriend. My parents were less than thrilled, as you might imagine. But I knew what I was doing. Or, at least, I thought I did. So, I cast no stones. I’ve been there. And I understand.

But as destructive as narcissism is, I think guilt is worse. Guilt is a horribly destructive force. For a lot of reasons, many of which have been described by much (much, much, much) greater thinkers than me, like Thomas Sowell and many others. But the destructive aspect of guilt that I want to address here is its tendency to cause the bad behaviors of a few to rapidly metastasize to society as a whole.

Suppose a man decides that he is actually a woman and he wants to marry a man who for some reason thinks he is actually a man who wants to marry a woman who is actually a man. Ok. Ten years ago, that would not interest me, and the most response it would get would be a chuckle or a roll of the eyes. Whatever. Seems odd to me, but it’s really none of my business – go ahead. Whatever floats your boat.

This live-and-let-live attitude is, I would argue, an absolute requirement for a stable, peaceful society. At some point, one of my neighbors is going to do something I find odd. As long as I don’t stick my nose in his business and tell him how to live his life, then we can still be friends and love one another as neighbors and move on with our lives in peace.

But now, this attitude is viewed as homophobic and hateful, and the left seeks to criminalize my desire to leave other people alone. If the man/woman from the case I described asks me to bake a cake for his/her wedding, I cannot simply give him a list of other bakers who would be happy to help. According to the left, I must bake that cake. I can’t simply allow him to do things I don’t personally approve of – I am forced to participate.

Why would the man/woman, or the state, feel the need to force a stranger to participate in something they disapprove of? I think it’s to absolve their guilt. Just like the Democratic Party’s resistance to means testing for Social Security – we can’t criticize an activity if we’re all in on it. No one will call Social Security simple thievery if we’re all on the take. T.H. White’s description of totalitarianism — “anything that is not forbidden is now compulsory” – is a pretty good description of today’s intolerant left.

I would argue that narcissism leads to the abandonment of traditional ethics and mores. This leads to bad behavior, which leads to guilt, which leads to demand for others to assimilate and even participate in this new ethical system, which eventually leads to totalitarianism by outlawing independent thought. Whew.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe you just wasted five minutes of your life reading the drunken ramblings of someone who is substituting his longing for his youth with a longing for a beautiful society that never actually existed. If that’s the case, I apologize.

But I wonder if maybe all those old, dusty ethics, morals, and traditions – that, when I was young, seemed to limit my personal freedom – maybe those restrictive traditions actually protect our personal freedoms.

I’ll let you figure it out. I’m tired.

Man, I’m always tired. I’m getting old. I gotta slow down…

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An incredible editorial cartoon honoring President Bush

 

There is an incredible editorial cartoon honoring President Bush by Marshall Ramsey of the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. I have been unable to transfer it here, but I put it in Comment #2. Comment #3 is from when Barbara Bush passed away and greeted Robin who had died two days before her fourth birthday. Comment #1 is […]

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Ricochet Meetup Day, Fort Lauderdale—A Success!

 

We had a wonderful time meeting at Tap 42 before the National Review cruise left the next day! Since my photos were so poor, I’ve included some of my photos from Butterfly World nearby, which are a bit better. (You really must visit there if you’re ever in South Florida!)

Barkha Herman, James Lileks, Boss Mongo, Susan Quinn and her husband Jerry, Stad and Neutral Observer, and formerlawprof got caught up or acquainted, telling stories about all of you who weren’t there! (Just kidding.) I have two pictures because I didn’t get everyone in just one:

Around the table from left to right is formerlawprof, Neutral Observer, Stad, Barkha Herman, Jerry Quinn, Boss Mongo and Susan Quinn

This is a better shot of Neutral Observer (in stripes) and James Lileks across from her.

And to make up for my poor photography, here are sweets for the eyes:

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Quote of the Day: Anti-Semitic or Anti-Israel—or Both?

 

“Now, it isn’t inherently anti-Semitic to be critical of Israeli political leadership or policies. The Democratic Party antagonism toward the Jewish state has been well-established over the past decade. But [Ilhan] Omar used a well-worn anti-Semitic trope about the preternatural ability of a nefarious Jewish cabal to deceive the world.

“It’s something you would expect to read in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or hear from a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, not a US congresswoman.

“Omar had a chance to retract, or at least refine, her statement. Instead, she doubled down. ‘These accusations are without merit,’ she claimed, blaming Jewish Islamophobia for the backlash. ‘They are rooted in bigotry toward a belief about what Muslims are stereotyped to believe.’” — David Harsanyi, The New York Post

One of two Muslim women who were elected to Congress, Ilhan Omar, is showing her true colors. Although she originally presented herself as a moderate Muslim, her positions are becoming clear. She now calls Israel an apartheid state. She once had reservations about the BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanction) movement, which targets Israel; she now supports it. And she has shown disdain for Israel and the Jewish people.

Most American Jews will probably shrug at her positions, since many are highly critical of Israel themselves. After all, how much damage can one Islamist do? Not a whole lot, on her own. Unfortunately, there has been evidence for years that many Muslims are employed by the US government; it’s impossible to know whether they love this country or have allegiances elsewhere.

I wonder if Ilhan Omar would have been elected if she’d been honest with the electorate.

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Our finest writer

 

Kevin Williamson is the best conservative writer today. This essay could hardly be better analyzed or argued. As is so often the case, his final sentence is the most insightful. https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/twitter-deadnaming-misgendering-ban-superstition-magical-thinking/

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The Usual

 

As Sarah walked from the diner’s serving room to the kitchen, she knew two things: her blood pressure had already begun to rise, and that it was only a matter of time before her latest customer began screaming like a psychopath. Sadly, it was a routine that they had all become used to. She really […]

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Only in Bakersfield?

 

This morning I drove to the local WalMart to pick up some maintenance supplies for my pickup truck. (Boy, does that sentence place me in a cultural niche, or what?) As I was going to the automotive cashier I saw a white couple get in line. She was clad in a jacket with a Confederate flag on the right sleeve. He had a NASCAR hat and a Confederate flag belt buckle.

Right behind came two African-American men. One of them was wearing a Lakers cap and a shirt with an image of Snoop on the front. The other one had a shirt commemorating Huey Newton. As the line progressed, the four of them got into a friendly discussion regarding whether or not synthetic oil is appropriate for an older Honda Civic. All four seemed to have opinions on the subject. They then exchanged numbers on their cell phones, made their purchases, and went their separate ways.

Any watcher of cable news would think this scene impossible. Is it only Bakersfield?

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White House M&M’s

 

President George H.W. Bush’s favorite candy was M&Ms, or so I remember the story. Moreover, he gave them out in “White House”-emblazoned boxes, in lieu of the cigarettes I had been told were once available to reporters in the hallway outside the White House press briefing room. At least that’s my memory of the matter. I’ve still got the box (sans the candies — I ate those at the time). I’ve also still got an official White House folder with the prepared briefing notes, and a paper napkin with the presidential seal on it. I also still have the little American flag I waved from the South Lawn while Marine One landed, and President Bush disembarked.

In 1990, I was in 8th grade and that was the year of our class field trip to Washington DC. It must be a rite of passage all over, as I remember encountering other 8th-grade school trips, and have chaperoned my eldest daughter’s own 8th-grade trip. The school I went to was rather well off and some of the parents had connections. What sort, I never found out, but they did get us a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol building, then a White House tour.

The White House was the usual tour, nothing out of the ordinary there. We saw a lot of the various presidential portraits, the antique furniture, and heard the tour guide refer to Mimi Eisenhower with a vulgar term as he described how she had sold off irreplaceable accumulations of chairs, tables, and sundry plates, all so she could bring in 1950s modernist junk. Jackie Kennedy, by contrast, received hagiographic treatment for then buying a lot of it back (sometimes with her own funds). Much of the tour now is a blur, but those things stand out.

The memory sharpens, though, with what came next. We did leave the White House by the usual tour group entrance, but then were escorted on the sidewalks back around, past the front, and on to the Old Executive Office Building next door. From there we walked up a grand spiral staircase, up to what I think was the 5th-floor hall, and there laid out were trays with refreshments. We were offered drinks (milk or juice, probably — I know the adults got coffee), and boxes of M&M’s. Then we were issued briefing folders and shuffled into an auditorium.

I recognized it right away as the blue-curtained press briefing room I had seen on TV. In there, a series of suited young men came out and introduced themselves. One by one, each spoke about things the President was working on. I don’t remember now much of what was said. We were 8th graders and most of this was over our heads. Plus, this was a field trip after all, and none of us had really slept, instead spending the nights watching TV in the hotel rooms, playing cards, fighting, or trying to slip the notice of the parents and teachers to do a bit of exploring. In short, we were all exhausted and these speakers were (and I’m trying to be kind here) not exactly engaging.

I’m ashamed to say that the one section I remembered best was the guy talking about the Thousand Points of Light initiatives, and the reason I remember that one so well is because I was in the front row and fighting desperately to stay awake against the tender whispers of Morpheus. In glancing around I could see even the adults were losing that argument.

But when I was certain I too was losing my grip on the waking life, a tall black-suited African-American man, wearing an earpiece, ducked into the room and said “Hey! Would you all like to see something special?”

We were all very awake, all at once. “Come on, the President is going to be landing on the South Lawn in a few minutes. Let’s go wave him in!” The speaker at the podium looked relieved as I think he was putting even himself to slumber, and grabbed our coats and folders and pushed our way out the back door of the room — the door the President and his aides use. We were now in private territory, walking briskly and noisily down the stone hallways where we could see offices branching off on either side. Our Secret Service guide stopped for one moment in front of the largest office. Its lights were on and its door open but it was empty and roped off. “This is Vice President Dan Quayle’s office. It’s basically the Oval Office for the VP. He’s not here today, but you can take a quick look.” One by one we glanced around. “OK, it’s time to move.”

We were almost jogging by this point, and I’m still surprised nobody tripped as we ran down the back stairs towards the ground floor. We reached a small foyer with windowed doors. Looking out, we saw the side of the White House. “Ok, as you go out, each of you will receive a flag. When the chopper lands, and the President disembarks, wave them and cheer.”

“Will he say “hi” to us?” someone asked.

“Don’t know. Better hurry.”

And soon there we were, shivering and shuffling our feet on the gravel path as we heard the very loud and low burr of two twin-rotor helicopters approaching. They came in quickly, and low, and one plunked down on the lawn while the other hovered not far above it. From the first one, a man in a dark suit came out. Then another. Then another… Oh! Wait! That’s him! That’s President Bush! We started cheering and waving our flags. I don’t know if he heard us over the loud chopper engines, but he did see us and wave as he walked towards the building we had just left. But that was it, the tour was over, and soon we were back on the street, back on our tour bus, and on to another stop.

I do still have the box and the folder. Pretty sure the autographed photo is really auto-penned. But what a visit! And it was long before Desert Shield, Desert Storm, The Recession (the way the news would talk about that, you’d have thought the US was dying and doomed), or Ross Perot. Just an overcast, cold, and windy March morning when the world still seemed fresh, and the ugly politics of the ’90s had not yet intruded in my life or my mind.

I don’t know who pulled the strings to get us where we got to, but thanks to them, and thanks to the hospitality of President Bush for putting up with a bunch of sleep-deprived 8th graders. The candy was a nice touch too.

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You Can Blame the Submarine Service

 

One of my dad’s golfing buddies did not care too much for President George H. W. Bush. He started ranting about George H. W. Bush one afternoon, and my dad ended that part of the conversation by simply saying; “You can blame the Submarine Service.”

Submarines in the Pacific were tasked with “Lifeguard Duty” for aviators during WWII. The first video is of the rescue of the future president, George H. W. Bush. The second video is archive footage of submarine rescues of B-29 crews.

Rest in peace, President George H.W. Bush.

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Elimination: The Moravian Tracts

 

The three photos in this post are from a September bicycle ride. Each shows a visible trace of the old boundary of one of the three Moravian Tracts in Tuscarawas County, Ohio: the Schoenbrunn Tract, the Gnadenhutten Tract, and the Salem Tract.

The boundary between the cornfield on the left and the grove of trees to its right is the south boundary of the Schoenbrun Tract. Seen from Hwy 416. (Clicking on a photo will take you to a larger version of it on my SmugMug photo site where I’ve posted a series of photos from the entire ride.)

These tracts, of 4,000 acres each, were granted by Congress as “indemnities” to the Christian Delaware (Lenape) Indians in Ohio, and put under the trusteeship of the Moravian Brethren, the pacifist missionary group under whose guidance these Indians had been Christianized. (That’s not a good theological term, but it’s one I’ll use here.)

Ninety-some of these Indians had been massacred at Gnadenhutten in 1782. This massacre wasn’t a one-sided fight labeled “massacre”; it was a cold-blooded, systematic killing by a Pennsylvania militia company that appointed itself to retaliate against a wartime raid by other Indians. The pacifist Indians were easy picking and did not expect harm from the Americans. They were lured from their fields into the town by promises that nothing bad would happen. They were then disarmed, locked up in cabins overnight, then brought out in the morning in small groups and killed with blows to the skull by a cooper’s hammer. The site of their mass grave is at the edge of the town cemetery/historical park in Gnadenhutten.

You could say it was an act of elimination. However, two badly wounded boys did escape to tell the others.

The whole story leading up to this event is complicated, as is the aftermath, and I’m not going to attempt to retell it here. One summary of this theater of the Revolutionary War has it as a place where “whites killed Indians, Indians killed whites, Indians killed Indians, and whites killed whites in guerrilla warfare that was localized, vicious, and tolerated no neutrals.”

This incident complicated the relationship between the remaining Christian Delawares and the Moravian Brethren but did not eliminate it. Most of the Christian Delaware Indians spent the next years elsewhere in Ohio, Michigan, and Canada, some with the Moravian missionaries and some elsewhere. Some Native people have ever afterward blamed the Moravian missionaries for what happened, saying their plan had been to first tame the Indians and then kill them.

The tracts were finally surveyed in 1797, after a third act of Congress was passed, each act stating the grant in more specific terms. But they were never much used for the purpose intended by Congress. Not many Lenape people came back to them to stay. In the 1820s the tracts were sold to European-American settlers.

On the south boundary of the Gnadenhutten Tract. I got distracted by this car and forgot to look for the boundary, but it turns out to have been at the edge of the yard, behind the car.

The effect of the event on our history has not been eliminated, nor have all traces of physical boundaries of the tracts been eliminated. Property boundaries formed by the tract boundaries still serve as field and property boundaries, as shown in the photos.

Looking through a fence that follows the south boundary of the Salem Tract in the Tuscarawas River valley. Here it is also the boundary between Salem and Oxford townships.

Associated with this story is a more recent act of elimination that I found bothersome. It’s one I found while writing this article, at the website known as Ohio History Central. I have often found this site to be a useful resource, but its explanation of the Moravian missionary effort at Schoenbrunn (up the river from Gnadenhutten and established earlier) can be misleading to those who don’t know more of the story.

In the first paragraph, there is this sentence: ” The purpose of this community was to provide Moravian missionaries a place to enforce the assimilation to Christianity of the Lenape (Delaware) residing in Ohio.”

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what the Moravians thought their main purpose was.

And there is more in the same vein, such as: “Moreover, Lenape children were forced to attend schools designed to provide them with instruction in both English and the missionaries’ religious beliefs. By requiring these rules of the Christian Lenapes, the Moravians drove a wedge between those Lenape who converted and those who did not.”

It is true that the Moravians tried to foster a sense of community among the believers here in America. They had also done that back in central Europe, where they had often lived as a community somewhat separate from the rest of the world, and where community sometimes took priority over family. And there may well have been a bit of “Our way or the highway,” to their dealings with the Delaware.

But the highway was wide open to any of the Delaware people who didn’t care for the Moravian Christian life. It wasn’t even a Hobson’s choice. Many of their relatives resisted the Moravian missionaries, and nothing I have read has indicated they would not have welcomed the Christian Indians back into their communities at any time. It doesn’t seem right to use the word “enforce” quite the way it’s used.

Some Christian missionaries among the North American Indians did engage in cringeworthy activities at this time and later, and their involvement with the government in removal of Indians from their lands and destruction of their culture was too often dishonorable. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the Moravians sometimes had mixed motives, too. The Apostle Paul noted that even our most righteous acts come from motivations that are not always so righteous. But this web page makes no acknowledgment of the complicated motives and situation of the Moravians, nor of the complicated situation of the Delaware. There was something that drew some of the Delaware to these communities, and nobody (to my knowledge) has explained that in this case it was access to European goods or help in getting an advantage over their enemies, as was often the case in associations between Native Americans and Europeans.

People trying to do good for others often find themselves engaging in coercion of others for their own good. But would I say (for example) that those who are trying to provide a system of universal health care for the people of this country are really doing it in order to control the people?

Well, come to think of it, I would say that and have said it. And historians have said that of Bismarck’s introduction of nationalized health care in Germany. But should we project that sort of understanding onto the Moravians and their dealings with the Delaware? I say that to do so risks elimination of the possibility of understanding people and their choices.

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The Machu Picchu Boogie

 

Shadows and smoke. There are many men and women who fight to keep this nation safe outside the bright lights of declared combat zones. Their adversary is a shifting, adapting network of those who, for profit or ideology, want to undermine the United States and its interests. Temporary alliances are made with the bad to fight the evil. The rules shift with the composition and capabilities of the network. Violations of Operational Security (OPSEC) can lead to personal tragedy and national embarrassment. The fighters that operate out in the shadows and the smoke fight as hard as they can, and take succor when they can.

The moderators have quite reasonably asked that I give fair warning: The yarn below the fold is a bit racier than regular Ricochet fare. That’s not to be prurient. It’s an effort to depict three-dimensional fictional characters, not two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. If you do decide to jump below the fold, I hope you like Leo and Patricia as much as I do (despite what they do). And Coker? Well, Coker’s Coker.

Leo looked up at the undulating woman and thought Now I know the reason women get boob jobs, they want them to look like these. She was the total package. Voluptuous, sexy and sensuous. And smart. Super smart in a world where the not-smart-enough die off pretty fast. Leo, a confirmed bachelor, figured he might be falling for her. Too bad she’s an assassin.

The liaison hadn’t been planned. It was an unanticipated by-product of the job. Leo was charged to meet with the Peruvian “expediter” that had been involved in a couple of kidnappings of some American kids while they hiked the Machu Picchu trail. Carlos Garcia Menendez was not the actual kidnapper, though he was key and essential to enabling the kidnappers, not just with the abduction, but for providing sustainment and support to the kidnappers during the ransom negotiation process. American kids had suffered, Garcia needed to be…dissuaded.

Patricia Avilar Cortez was a known freelance killer of men. She had popped corrupt politicians, cartel minions, and (intelligence assessed, corrupt) security forces personnel in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. Originally from Medellin, Colombia, she used her pursuit of a Ph.D. in Anthropology and early Meso-American studies as a cover to travel the region; oft times the travel was truly for academic reasons, sometimes for more nefarious purposes. Intell reports assessed that Cortez’ raw beauty was one of her biggest assets in facilitating her operations, gaining her access to her targets; Leo believed it.

Although Cortez and Menendez had never met, she had used Menendez’ services to support some of her operations, and the two had a congenial professional relationship, even if it was just online and telephonically. She had been a logical asset for Leo to leverage to broker a meet with Menendez. She was being handsomely remunerated for her efforts. The US Government was paying her more to set up a meet than she would usually get for wet work. Not that she knew it was USG paying for her services. Theoretically.

Leo had made the hour flight from Lima to Cusco, then made the two-hour drive to Ollantaytambo, near the Sacred Valley. There, he linked up with Cortez (please, call me Patricia), where they had confirmed their plans and left the ville together, though in separate rental vehicles. Leo had spent some time selecting and setting up the cottage he would use to launch to the Menendez meet, which would take about an hour and a half of travel over rough terrain from the launch point. Menendez had a finca out in the boonies; A little getaway that was perfect for a long weekend—or for staging men, weapons, equipment and cash in support of his many and varied illicit activities.

The cottage Leo had selected was tucked into a gentle little draw that backed up to a steep ridgeline to the rear of the house, while the front had a long, slightly sloping meadow that ran down about 250 meters to the “main road” in front of the house. “Main road” was dirt, pitted and pocked by erosion and runnels. The gravel driveway that ran up to the house was in much better condition. The house was stone and heavy timber, with a front porch that looked out over the little valley and up into the jagged hills on the far side. Rustic but with natural gas and good plumbing. Leo had rented the place for a week on either side of the meet.

Leo and Patricia had arrived a little before noon the day before. The plan was to “remain overnight” (RON in military parlance) then move to the rendezvous and subsequently the meet late the next morning. Plenty of slack time built into the schedule to overcome contingencies and still get to Menendez on schedule. The beautiful view, the romantic cottage, the lack of cable or satellite television, and maybe just a little bit the bottle of vino tinto that Leo had had in his rental vehicle had led to the unanticipated congress with the sultry Patricia. Leo thought how his SITREP would read (“Uh, well, y’see, one thing led to another, and…”). Actually, even though higher knew he’d be working with Cortez, reporting this particular activity with a foreign national was required. He wouldn’t be sanctioned; the act itself only reinforced his cover. Leo needed to report just to ensure that he couldn’t be accused of divided loyalties or improprieties later. Leo just wasn’t a kiss and tell kind of guy. Dang, there’d be chick intel analysts reading his reports. It was worth it though, even if Patricia’s chosen profession contraindicated a post-coital nap.

Despite the elevation, the light of dawn warmed the cabin as the sun rose over the mountains. Patricia got up from their spoon session, naked, and raised the dawn-side front window and opened the shutters. She then moved to the low slung table, shook a cigarette loose from the pack of Marlboro reds there and lit up. Leo had brought the cigarettes; not a regular smoker, the reds just seemed to fit with the rustic setting. She tucked her legs under her, tilted her head up, and blew a soft plume toward the rafters. Leo stayed on the bed, basking in her beauty as much as the sunlight.

“That was a lovely evening,” she said. “In this moment, I am hoping that today goes as well as last night, eh, Leo?” She smiled at him brightly.

Leo tried not to clinch up, or drop his jaw, or just groan and bury his face in the pillow. Leo. That wasn’t his cover name. It wasn’t even close to his cover name. It was his real name. In an effectiveness review of the cover he was using for this op, even if the cover was penetrated, it was guaranteed not to reveal his true name, just another cover. And on. His current cover had five degrees of separation from his real name. Unbreakable to any adversary, they said. Technology couldn’t beat the layers of deception and authentication, they said. Leo gave up and groaned into his pillow. Patricia ground out her cigarette and walked over to the bed. She straddled his back and began kneading the now-balled up muscles of his neck and shoulders.

“I’m sorry, my love. I have upset you.”

“Nah. I guess. Never been busted before. Not like this. You mind telling me how you cracked it? I want to know who to choke to death whenever I get back.”

“Well,” she said, working on his overdeveloped trapezius muscles, “you are aware, are you not, that you look nothing like a consultant, yes? Even a clean coal energy consultant that spends time outside and at construction sites. I look at your muscles, and”—she ran a hand over the hard, shiny ridge of tissue on his right shoulder—“your scars, and consultant does not come to mind.”

“Okay. That’s verisimilitude. The verisimilitude was weak. Great. I learned all that stuff about clean coal power generation for nothing. Still doesn’t tell me how you got to Leo, though. Whoever that guy is.”

Her burst of musical laughter and the light, honeyed air that it blew over his back almost made up for his shredded pride and abject horror at having been sussed out. Almost.

“Verisimilitude. I like that word, Leo.” Though her English was perfect, her slight accent made it “ver’similitude.” Between that and the warmth of her butt on his, while she did some world-class massage work made Leo suspect their morning timeline might not have as much slack built into it as he’d intended.

“And?”

“And I have a young friend at one of the universities I visit. He is a computer expert. Very good. Best data-miner I’ve ever met. He does much of the research for my work and on many of the people I…interact with. He discovered your identity for me. I am not sure how. But you should know, he said discovering who you really were was very, very difficult.”

“You think it was that difficult or was he just trying for a higher payoff?”

“Mmm. Since his only ‘price’ is dinner with me every month or so, I think he was being truthful.”

Leo rolled over and Patricia let him, still keeping her straddle. She arched her eyebrow at him but maintained her devilish grin.

“And what comes with the dinner, Reina de mi corazón?”

She laughed, and replied in a conspiratorial whisper, “Nothing. He is very, very gay.”

“So a gay guy busts one of the most airtight covers I’ve ever had, and all he wants is an occasional dinner? I’m guessing this guy wants to be you.”

“This statement may well be true.” Then she wiggled a little bit, and bent down and kissed him softly.

Later, Leo drifted off to the mental mantra “Do not fall asleep next to the assassin. Do not fall asleep next to the assassin…

Leo woke to see Patricia staring at him, still smiling. Either this chick really digs me, or she deserves an Academy Award. Given her day job, it’s probably Oscar, not Leo. Leo reached out and gently moved a wayward length of India ink hair away from her cheek and tucked it behind her ear. Leo stared back. Then again, I am pretty darn diggable. He realized that he hadn’t woken from anything Patricia had done. Instead, he could hear, very faintly, a distant hum. Engines.

Patricia said, softly, “I am thinking, in this moment, that we will be having company.” Faintly ‘I am theenking, een thees moment.’ Leo had taken a hard fall over that verbal tic of hers. Her smile was gone, but he could see it peeking out from her eyes and her dimples, wondering if it were time to come out and play again.

“Nobody was supposed to meet us here. We were supposed to rendezvous with Menendez’ boys at an intersection about an hour north of here.”

“I know, my love.”

“And you don’t have any side plans for us to receive unexpected guests?”

“No, my love.”

“You keep calling me ‘my love,’ I might fall for you. Then you’d be stuck with me.”

“I know, my love.”

Leo sighed. Freaking hot Latina assassins. Be the death of him.

Leo started to dress. Cargo pants. Tactical-ish hiking shoes. Performance tee and then flannel shirt. Lightweight jacket with lots of handy pockets.

Patricia pulled on her thong, then, holding her jeans in one hand, she raised an eyebrow at him as if to say, “A little privacy, please?”

Leo snorted. “After the last day and a half, there’s no way I’m not watching those jeans go over that butt.” She shot him that devilish grin, and finished getting dressed. The jeans must’ve been part Lycra, to fit like that, and her donning them was every bit as enervating as he’d expected it would be. Watching the rest of her dressing was a delight, too.

Leo started to make a bawdy comment on how maybe they need to be getting undressed again when she stepped up, lightly placed her fingers on his chest, and imperiously pushed him away. “In this moment, you should be thinking about work.”

Leo grinned at her, and stepped out on the porch. She followed. Leo’s gaze took in their two rental 4×4’s, the meadow of the valley, and the peaks all around them. His ears took in the sound of what he took to be an approaching motorcade. Patricia’s gaze took in Leo, assessing.

“Okay. Menendez’ finca is that way,” he pointed down the road in the direction opposite the sounds of engines, “And when I reconned the route a couple days ago, there are lots of ambush points just between us and the rendezvous, let alone the finca.”

“We are in the mountains,” she said. “It is difficult to find a piece of road that is not a good ambush site.”

“A-yup. I don’t think a bunch of trucks that could drive to this location would just accidentally happen to drive by.”

“No.” Patricia seemed relaxed, and Leo couldn’t identify any stress indicators emanating from her voice, posture, or face. He also noticed that the “my loves” had gone adios. Good. Time for game face.

“Given that, they could be drovers, meant to herd us into pushing for the finca. Right into an ambush or blocking position. They could be innocent passers-by, but chances of that are slim to none, and Slim didn’t come to town. Now, we can scarper, which means we run right into whatever they have set up for us out there. We can move toward them and find out what they want on whatever ground we happen to meet at. Or we can stay here, and see what they want.”

“If what they want is no good, then we are stuck here. I have a weapon. You must have a weapon. Still, we are not in a position to win a fight, Leo.”

“We don’t fight. We run. There’s a trail out back leading up over that ridgeline at the back of the house. On the other side, I’ve got a vehicle stashed. Even if Menendez sent guys to cover the back trail on the other side of the mountain in case we run—which I doubt—we’ll still be able to get out. That’s a job for one, maybe two.”

She lamped her smile at him. “You have a plan.”

He grinned at her. “I got a plan. In case everything went south.” No point in telling her that there was also an extra vehicle stashed a terrain feature from the rendezvous point, too. Leo’s mama didn’t raise no fools. Except the one that trusted the goniffs that built his cover.

By way of explaining the contingency vehicle, he said, “Don’t trust Menendez.” She frowned at him. “I have never known the word of any smoking hot Colombian contract killer chick to be anything less than sterling. But I hadn’t met you yet.”

She smiled. “That is why you did not sleep, mi amor?”

“Uh, maybe. Partly.”

“Until this morning. You are very cute when you snore. ‘S a good snore. Very soft. Like your kisses.” 5000 lumen smile.

“Aaand I’m thinking it’s time to get ready to roll.” Leo went to his backpack and pulled out a canvas envelope. Unzipping it, he pulled the upper and lower receivers of an M4 SBR out, married them up, and pinned the little rifle together. Then he got it locked and loaded. Given that this was not (officially) combat and he was not (emphatically) to use a weapon except for in dire straits, the weapon was not festooned with all the doodads and extras he’d have on it were he in a combat zone. Then, his carbine would look like a rail gun out of an updated Buck Rogers film. Instead, he had only a simple red-dot Trijicon sight. The precision of the Trijicon went a long way toward compensating for the 12” barrel of his li’l carbine.

He looked over at Patricia, and saw that she had pulled a mini AK-47 from her bag, and rocked in a mag. She only had iron sights, but she definitely looked like she knew what she was about.

Leo affixed a holstered Glock to his belt and pulled his shirt and jacket over the top. He saw Patricia also putting on a sidearm.

“Is that a Makarov?” he asked.

Si.”

“Cool. What are you looking at for ammo status?”

“I have a magazine in the pistol and the AK. I have three extra magazines for each.”

“Okay, I’ve got one in each, and four extra mags for each. None of our weapons have interchangeable ammo, so if you have to harvest, take the mags, too.”

“I will not have to harvest from you, mi amor.”

Insha’Allah. The house is solid timber and masonry, so we’ve got pretty good cover if we need to fight. If they bring any heavy weapons, rounds could penetrate, so stay low.” He moved over to the window that Patricia had opened, pulled the shutters in and closed the window. A foot to the left of the window, Leo took out his folding knife and began working the plaster. In moments, he had a two-inch by eight-inch lozenge carved out that looked out into the meadow. He crossed to the window on the other side of the door, and bored out another lozenge. Loose plaster littered the floor.

“I cut out these firing ports earlier. Stay away from the windows and shoot through this. If it comes to shooting.”

“If it comes to shooting.”

Leo leaned his SBR against the wall and walked outside and sat on the porch, his feet just able to touch the ground beneath it. Patricia came out and sat next to him. Her feet couldn’t reach the ground, so she swung them playfully. Her hands went to her face, and she lit two of the Marlboro reds, passing one to Leo.

The engines were getting louder, but sound bounced around in the mountains so much, Leo couldn’t even guess at an ETA.

“I have worked with Menendez for years. It has been profitable for him. I do not know why he would do this.”

“No telling. It’s probably not even you. He’s probably not digging the big, ugly gringo that showed up on his turf to read him the riot act.”

She elbowed him lightly in ribs, then contentedly leaned on his shoulder while she drew on her cigarette. “You are not ugly, mi amor, you are rugged. But I am thinking, in this moment, that maybe a doctor should look at your nose sometime. It has been very abused.” She looked up at him and shot that killer grin (Leo thought this chick adds a whole new dimension to ‘killer grin’) “It might help with the snoring.

“Still, I do not understand this. If Menendez fears you, or suspects who your jefe is, why accept a meet at all? If he trusts me enough to set up the meet, why send men in early? This does not make sense.”

“I’m sure he has what he thinks are valid reasons. Is your relationship with him so profitable that he would not see losing you as a customer a simple overhead cost?”

“No. He makes good money from me, but he makes good money from many people. But he must know, if I survive, I will seek retribution. In this moment, he should not be thinking only of money.”

“Eh, maybe he just sent us escorts, to ensure our safety.”

“Then why not put that in the plan? And who would make us two more safe?”

Verdad, baby.”

Finally, some dust appeared on the approach road. Vehicles were close, and they were throwing a lot of dust into the thin mountain air.

Leo said, “They’ll be here soon. Why don’t you go inside and cover me? Be ready to shoot anyone that shoots at me? That’d be great.”

“Since I have worked with Menendez, should I not stay out here and talk to these men?”

“No. This is man work. Let me stay outside. It’s for the best. No toxic masculinity here.”

“Toxic? What? I do not understand this.”

“I know, baby. Why I love Latinas. Get on inside now.” Leo pulled out his electric ears from a coat pocket, and inserted them. With active noise enhancement and active noise defeat, he hoped they would help keep him from being one of those old guys with a huge ear-horn toothlessly gumming out “speak up, young feller” when he got old, if he had the chance to get old. Aw, shucks. He turned and stepped back into the doorway, digging around in another coat pocket; he always kept some extra foamies on him. He pulled out the little cardboard envelope and extended it toward Patricia, who was inspecting her firing port. “Hey, you might need these.”

She smiled at him and pulled her jet hair back from her ear. She already had e-ears in; Leo recognized that they were a newer gen than his. This lady

“Uh. Oh.”

“Thank you for thinking of me, Leo. You are ver’ kind.”

Leo stepped back outside.

A beat-up Land Rover with a cargo rack on the top crested the rise into the small valley. Behind that came a Toyota Hilux light diesel 4×4 pickup truck, then another, and another. One SUV and three pickups. All three Hilux’ had two in the front and at least three guys in the back. All the guys that Leo could see were carrying long guns. The vehicles had come in from right to left. The Land Rover stopped at the far-left edge of the little valley. The other vehicles spread out before cottage. Say, one vehicle every fifty meters. The drivers, shotgun riders, and truck bed personnel began to decamp.

Leo stood up on the porch, waved, and sounded off with a loud and thunderous “¡Hola!

They started shooting at him.

Leo dove back inside and slammed and barred the door.

Patricia was already laying down fire. Leo grabbed his SBR and rolled over to his firing port. Looking out to assay the situation, he could see that the gun thugs were spreading out in a vague notion of a skirmish line and moving forward. They were trained, but not well trained. Leo could tell that they knew, sorta/kinda, that they should be bounding forward in teams, and that those not bounding should be providing suppressive fire on the cottage. But the bounds were kind of a hunched over trot. The malitos providing supporting fires were either standing or on a knee. Amateurs. Still, there were enough of them to push through and end him and Patricia, if they had the will. Patricia was reaping men with cool, well-placed headshots.

Leo looked over at her, “No more kills, just wounds.”

She looked at him and threw him an eyebrow.

“The kills are easy, they can just leave the bodies. The wounded will scream and cry and make all the shooters wonder what will happen if they get hit. The wounded will want to pull back, leave, get to a hospital or somewhere they can be treated.”

She just nodded at him and went back to shooting.

Leo threw some rounds into the Land Rover. That’d be where the bossman of this goat rope was, may as well make him sweat a little. He took out some knees and knocked some pelvises inside out (no gut shots; nobody deserved to get gut-shut, unless it was unavoidable), then looked over at Patricia. She was tightening up a little. She was doing the math and the numbers didn’t look good.

“Hey, chica. It’s going to be alright.”

The malitos had clued in that walking straight up (or even bent over at the waist a little bit) was not a good idea. Most of them had hit the dirt. Leo could hear crying and wailing from the wounded. Thing about just wounding them, they’d take it personal. Kill a bunch and you still had a reasonable expectation of a clean kill if you wound up on the short end. Wound a bunch, they were going to take some time putting you down. There was some commotion on the third truck in line.

Leo put out some dispersed fires to encourage everyone to keep their heads down, then oriented on the truck. Large steel plates were being hoisted above the bed. Meant, too, that the inside of the bed was armored and he couldn’t just shoot through. After a couple beats, he saw a large barrel emerge between the plates. Big barrel. Not good. Leo traversed his weapon over in the slot and started pinging the steel plates, the bed of the truck, and maybe the barrel. No reason the gunner should get into the scrum all calm and sedate. From what he could see, he figured the big gun for a Dishka (DShK 1938). Its 12.7 mm rounds were comparable to the US Ma Deuce .50 caliber. The heavy stone and timber construction components of the house would be about as much cover as tissue paper. No bueno. Despite the rounds he was pinging into the truck, he saw the barrel of the Dishka nod up and down. Like someone had just jacked the charging handle. Time to get low.

“Patricia—down now!” he yelled, getting prone on the floor as fast as he could. Without hesitation, Patricia followed suit. The tableau in front of them was not the type of stage on which she played for mortal stakes; she was more than willing to follow Leo’s lead. Her face was a little stressed, but for a non-gunslinger, Leo was proud of her. Well, as proud as one could be of a contract killer that saw the black widow spider as an operating template, not a bug to get squished. The fact that the Dishka was on a slightly lower elevation meant that going prone was a good bet; a proficient gunner could figure out the firing solution to get at people on the floor, but Leo doubted the guy behind the gun was that guy.

The Dishka opened up. Its rounds ripped through the walls and door for about a five-round burst. Leo was right, the rounds were high. After the five rounds, the gun fell silent. All the gun thugs had stopped shooting in order to watch the Dishka. As soon as the gun stopped, Leo sprang up and started putting rounds into gun thugs. Most were not looking at the cottage, but at the truck with the gun. Hey, My Friends, my eyes are up here. Patricia followed his lead. No more looking to wound; it was time to put steel on whatever meat target presented itself. A guy jumped into the back of the gun truck, and bent over like he was heaving something aside. Then he stood and repositioned himself so that he could settle in behind the gun—and fell over, hanging from the plates of the steel armor. Patricia looked over to Leo.

“You have us covered.”

“I do, indeed, Beautiful. Now, I recommend you empty that mag into the crowd, reload, and we’ll get out of Dodge.”

She nodded and went back to careful, aimed shots. Leo did the same. They clicked dry at about the same time and reloaded. Even as they simultaneously reloaded (Bad fire discipline, Leo noted), guys were getting dropped both in the field, and particularly around the gun truck. The shooter was using a suppressed weapon system and subsonic rounds, so while the gun thugs could generally guess at where the rounds might be coming from, they really had no idea how to pinpoint the shooter.

Leo threw his backpack on and looked at Patricia. “You ready?” She nodded. “Okay, stay behind me and step where I step. I left some surprises on the trail for anyone that either tries to sneak in the back door, or who tries to follow us. I’ll point out the hazards, but stay at my back and you’ll be fine.”

Leo went out the back and headed up the game trail that led from the back of the cottage up to the ridgeline, then back down the far side. Not too far away on the other side of the ridge of hills was the stashed vehicle. Leo led out. As they navigated the trail (and off the trail, when it came to the Leo-emplaced hazards) he pointed out where to walk, and why. Punji sticks, claymore, man-trap. Their movement was relatively quick, although the altitude and Leo’s mass made him feel like he was chasing individual oxygen molecules in order to get a breath. Patricia seemed to have no problems at all. Leo was willing to vouch for the fact that she was in shape.

As they neared the bottom of the far-side of the ridgeline, navigating carefully down a scree, they heard a crump on the other side. Leo looked at Patricia and shrugged. “Claymore.” They continued moving. They found Leo’s car, and moved out. They drove straight through Ollantaytambo, and stopped in Cusko. There, Patricia gave Leo a quick peck on the cheek, and took her leave, disappearing into the crowd of tourists, backpackers, and the vendors trying to make a buck off them.

Leo shook his head, put the vehicle in gear, and moved on.

——————–24 Hours Out From Egress———————

Leo, back in Lima, had some kind of madman pounding on his hotel room door. He pulled out his phone and called up the app that showed him what the pin camera he’d placed in the hall could see (those little eye-ports in hotel room doors are for suckers). He grinned, knowing the force of nature he was about to host and moved to the door. He pulled the rubber wedge door stop that he always put in his hotel doors, and swung the door open with an expansive “welcome to my palace” of his other hand. Dave Coker stormed in.

Tall, lean, and what the kids called “jacked,” Coker looked like the model that Hollywood CGI specialists used for werewolves. His shoulders were broad enough, and his waist narrow enough, and he was so light on his feet that he looked like his shoulders were upheld by cables, and his lower body just dangled beneath them. He had dark hair, a sharp chin, and eyes that, on reflection, made Leo think of werewolves.

“Dude! I gotta spend two days in a hide while you do the hibbity-jibbity with Pocahontas? That is so wrong, man. You so owe me.”

“You got some good shots, in, bro. We’re even. How often you been put in a hole, given weapons-free status as soon as big guns come out, and have a target rich environment serve itself up on a platter? Shee-oot. I’m thinking you owe me, brah.”

“That was a great shoot. After you and Pocahontas pulled out, it took them about two hours to police up their wounded and get out.”

“They head for the finca, or back down the road?”

“Toward the finca. They dropped a couple of guys to follow your backtrail. I’m thinking I heard your claymore clean them out?”

“That’s what I’m supposing. I heard it go off, but wasn’t going back to check on it. Speaking of which…”

Coker waved him off. “While you were doing briefings at the Embassy, I made arrangements. I got a team going in to recover all the vehicles, undo and repair as much damage to the cottage as they can, and dismantle and recover all your tricks and treats on the backside. Both of our weapon sets have been recovered, cleaned and put into storage for the next time some US bubbas need to do the Machu Picchu boogie. Still, brother, I was out there getting all kinds of ate up by bugs and snakes ‘n’ whatnot”—Leo rolled his eyes— “you need to make this right, man.”

“Quit sniveling.”

“It’s not sniveling when it actually sucked.”

“Alright, when we get back to Miami, I’ll buy you dinner or something.”

“Or something? Dude, you owe me dinner and, like, 23 lap dances at the Pink Pony!”

“23? When was your last urinalysis? There’s no way—”

There was a quiet knock at the door. Coker looked at Leo with his eyebrows up and whispered, “we blown?”

Leo sighed. He had a feeling he knew who was knocking. “Probably.”

Coker stood and moved to the little kitchenette table of the suite and picked up one of the chairs by the leg. He stood off to the side of the door while, with his other hand he deployed his tactical folder (neither of them could carry firearms inside the capital city without special permissions, which they hadn’t sought on this op). Leo checked the pin camera via his phone, nodded to himself and said, “We’re blown, but it’s cool.”

He went to the door, pulled his wedge out, and opened it. Patricia stood there, smiling broadly. She was in a nice sundress, no hat, wearing flats. Leo assessed that her legs looked better in flats than the legs of most women wearing the highest of stiletto heels. He stood back from the door and made the same expansive hand gesture he’d made with Coker. “C’mon in. Mi casa es su casa. Apparently.” Patricia breezed into the suite.

She saw Coker standing there, chair in one hand, knife in the other, and walked right up to him. “You are the shooter that saved us. I know this. My brave francotirador. Thank you.” She reached up and softly pulled his face down to hers, and kissed him gently but lushly on each cheek. Leo grinned and had to stop his laugh; Coker, wildman, shooter, human Tasmanian devil, was blushing. Coker looked over at Leo and said, in the worst sotto voce ever, “Dude, two days in the hole was so worth it.”

Leo deadpanned, “So, you gonna put down the chair now?”

Coker looked as if surprised at the chair in his hand and placed it back at the table. The knife seemingly disappeared while he did that.

Patricia approached Leo and hugged him. Leo hugged back, genuinely, and shot daggers with his eyes at Coker, who was silently laughing and making hip gyrations behind the hug.

“Okay, let’s all sit down and”—more daggers at Coker— “relax.”

“I cannot, mi amor. I have many things to do. As I know you must, too. It is just, I am thinking, in this moment, you need to leave Peru tomorrow.”

“Well, baby doll,” piped up Coker, “we got lots of stuff we still need to do here in country.”

“Yes, I know.” Patricia took both his hands in hers. “I am thinking it is very, very necessary for you to leave Peru tomorrow.”

Leo looked over to Coker, who managed to combine wide-eyed wonderment with a nonchalant shrug. Coker said, “Ain’t nothing we need to do, can’t be done remotely, I suppose.” Leo nodded.

“Okay, Patricia. We’re gone tomorrow.”

“Thank you, mi amor.” She gave him a long, slow kiss and walked out.

Coker looked at Leo and said “Dude…”

——————-48 Hours Out After Egress———————————–

Leo and Coker flew out of Lima to Miami. From there, Coker headed back to Bragg, while Leo moved on to DC, where he wanted to have a very engaging and dynamic conversation with some people as to the terms “unbreakable,” “airtight,” and “backstopped” as they applied to cover.

———————72 Hours Out After Egress————————————-
Carlos Garcia Menendez was found dead, floating in the pool behind his mansion on his estate on the outskirts of Lima. There were no signs of foul play and local security forces deemed it death by heart attack.

———————-30 Days Out After Egress————————————-

Leo moved into the Sombras y Humo restaurant, in Bogota. The name was appropriate. Physically and metaphysically thought Leo. The restaurant was outdoors. Only the huge hearth and chimney were permanent, built of brick and mortar and containing the entire cooking capability of the restaurant. The rest of the place was outdoors, with nets strung above to keep random leaves, twigs, and branches from falling on the costumers.

Leo looked across the restaurant and saw her. She was sitting at a table with her back to one of the huge oak trees that formed the perimeter of the restaurant. He looked over the restaurant, and walked toward her. She was dressed el paisa, traditionally, with a white below-the-shoulders blouse, laced in the front with a drawstring that was getting a workout. From what he could see, it looked like she was wearing a peasant skirt. She had a big round wine glass in front of her, with a little dollop of vino tinto spooled at the bottom. There was a box of Marlboro Reds on the table. When Leo reached the table, she languidly extended her hand to him. He took it and kissed it three times gently; two on the back, the last he turned the hand over and kissed her palm. She smiled and maybe blushed a little bit, it was hard to tell in the subdued lighting of Sombras y Humo. Leo took the seat across from her.

With her killer grin—that seemed to have a little “I’ve got a secret” to it—she head chucked one of the waiters. Bemused, Leo watched her settle back, watching him. The waiter came over with a low-ball glass with a cube in it and some amber goodness and set it in front of Leo. Patricia looked like a kid on Christmas morning, waiting to tear into the presents with glee.

Leo shot her his best Bond eyebrow, and took a sip of the drink. Maker’s 46. His drink. He was again horrified, and maybe a little delighted. Not as delighted as Patricia, though. She looked like she might jump into a clapping spree. He smiled at her. “This is a very good drink.”

Her smile caught an edge of sly to it. “I thought you would like it.”

He held the crystal tumbler up and shot questions at her with his eyebrows. No more Bond-international-man-of-mystery arches. This was straight up “what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on?” browing.

Patricia delicately placed her fingertips on her formidable bosom, behind which, at some point, there had to be a heart. “I must confess,” she said, her smile tamping down a little bit, “I think maybe I have become a stalker. A little bit. Your background is costing me many dinners with my university frien’.

“Sorry about the dinners,” said Leo, “But this is a really good drink.” Her smile amped up and she wriggled in her seat, a little bit. Leo sighed. Freaking hot Latina assassins. Be the death of him.

She took a drag on her cigarette, and as she exhaled she lifted her chin. She looked down her nose at him, and her affect became severe. She does a really good severe, thought Leo.

“I am thinking, in this moment, that maybe you have not told me the truth, Leo.”

“Why, whatever do you mean, my love?”

“I am thinking that you wanted Menendez gone. I am thinking that you gave him intelligence that led him to believe I meant to harm him, and thus he sent the bad men. I am thinking you used me as a tool to eliminate someone you couldn’t get permission to eliminate yourself.”

“You got it. Absolutemente. You’re right.”

Patricia tapped the ash of her cigarette authoritatively, as if to say so there.

“But,” Leo grinned at her, “I am thinking, in this moment, that you used me ever bit as much as I used you. You aren’t the only one to know smart data miners, mi hermosa señorita. Since we left the cottage,” he reached out and took one of her hands in both of his, “and the cottage was great. One of the best days of my life, other than all the shooting.”

She beamed at him, “Yes, other than that.”

“Well, I aimed my data miners at you. Bigger than our initial look at you; a deep dive. Seems like best we can determine, your last couple contracts that were supported by Menendez didn’t go so well. The right equipment wasn’t at the cache. The bugout plan wasn’t supported. Security forces seemed to know what you were going to do before you did it. As near as we can tell, you barely made it out of Guayaquil, four months ago.”

She stubbed out her cigarette and brought her hand up to Leo’s two, that were holding her other. “Guayaquil was ver’ difficult. I do not like fights, Leo. I do what I do, but not fighting. You are a fighter. I know. That is not my…style.”

“I know. And you needed to confirm or deny whether Menendez was purposefully targeting you, for failure if not assassination. But you didn’t want to brace Menendez to find out without any backup. Then I show up, looking for someone to broker a meet. You did some checking, too well, I think, and figured I would make a great back up. At least, in all the research we did, seems like an overarching theme is that you don’t and haven’t killed anyone didn’t need killing. That’s a good thing. A man’s lover shouldn’t be a killer of the innocent.”

“Are we lovers, now, Leo?”

“For one great day. Not now. I don’t see how we go forward. I don’t see how we square our differences. I do what I do, you do what you do, and this one time our interests intersected. But in the future? Patricia, in the future what if they send me after you? I can’t do that.”

Patricia disentangled their hands, lit two smokes, and reached forward to place one on Leo’s lips. Again, the drawstring of her blouse defied the laws of physics by not bursting asunder. Again, Leo tried and failed not to stare. Again, he felt his IQ drop at least fifty points at the sight.

Mi amor, I am thinking, in this moment, that the abduction of young Americans walking the Machu Picchu trail was not the only reason you targeted Menendez, and contrived to aim me at him.”

“No?”

“No. Menendez was doing more and more work for Hezbollah. Hezbollah was conducting more operations, and supporting the operations of other…elements of that regime. If I were an Americano operator,” she reached up and gently brushed his face, “with a broken nose, I would be more worried about that than kidnapped children. Kidnapped children fall under the realm of the FBI, verdad?”

Verdad, baby. Though we help out where we can.”

“Our ‘way forward’ is: I aid you with Hezbollah. I do not like those malitos. They are all pinche pendejos. They treat women like basura. I could help you…deal with these bad men.” Her eyes twinkled and her smile amped up. “I am thinking it would take much planning, much coordination. We would have to work together ver’ closely.”

Leo considered. “Yeah, we would. We have to do a lot of administrative stuff before acting. At least in Latin America.”

Por supuesto. And, if the price you paid me to broker a meeting with Menendez is a hint at what you would pay me for an…elimination, then I think we could work very well together.” She stood and took Leo’s face in her hands. “Very well.”

“Sounds good. What now?”

“Now, I am thinking I have another glass of wine, and maybe you have another drink. Then we go to the Zona Rosa and dance and drink some more. Then we go back to your hotel.”

Leo gave a long-suffering sigh. “I suppose you know what hotel I’m staying at?”

Killer grin, “Of course, mi amor, you are at the Santa Fe. You have the clock tower suite.” She leaned toward him. AAGGH! Physics! “I know there is a hot tub that is directly under the stained-glass clock. It is lovely. We should try it.”

“Okay. You order the drinks, I’ll hit the bathroom. And we’ll follow your plan.”

The bathrooms were in a stone building off of one of the corners of the open-air restaurant. Leo walked to the building and stood at the corner watching Patricia. She had her cigarette in her hand, pointed vertically (in Bogota, it’s not just smoking, it’s art), and was taking a sip from her oversize wine glass.

Leo pulled a small earpiece from his pocket and screwed it into his ear.

As soon as he activated the earpiece, he heard Coker’s voice. “Sounds like we’re happy,” said Coker.

“We’re happy. She’s in. It’s all good.”

“Do you ever feel dirty, Leo, knowing you’re just a gigolo for your country?”

“Not at all.”

“Alright. I’m out. See you in Miami tomorrow.”

“Day after tomorrow, brother. See you in Miami day after tomorrow.”

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QotD: Jesse Owens about German athlete Luz Long

 

Here’s my post for tomorrow about seven hours early: From Wikipedia:  By the summer of 1936, [Lux] Long [German athlete] held the European record in the long jump and was eager to compete for the first time against Jesse Owens, the American world-record holder. The long jump on August 4 was Long’s first event against […]

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Bumblebees and Frame Rate

 

For years it was posited that bumblebees could not fly — they simply could not displace enough air to make it possible. Nobody told the bees, of course, so they carried on anyway.

It turns out that the camera used to film bumblebees had a frame rate that captured half the bumblebee’s flaps, and nobody knew that the bee flapped twice as quickly as they thought it did — and so it flew.

I saw a tweet today where the frame rate of the camera shows a helicopter’s blades not moving at all. It is neat — check it out! Which reminded me of the bee, of course.

There is a deeper lesson here: we are limited by our instruments and very often don’t realize it. So instruments that do exactly what they are designed to do may nevertheless lead to erroneous conclusions. Hence, the bumblebee.

I thought it might be cool to hear from the engineers and scientists (or maybe even poets) on your stories of how instruments did their job, but people learned very incorrect lessons nevertheless. Please, share with the community!

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Real Hate Speech and Actually Unsafe Community [UPDATE: 30 November]

 

The suspect in the first of two closely timed attacks on Orthodox Jewish boys sure doesn’t look like a skinhead or Klansman, which is why there is not a word about the suspects’ race.

The boy was walking home with his mother around 6 p.m. Sunday near Throop Avenue and Walton Street in Williamsburg.

Without saying a word, the passerby approached and punched him repeatedly in the face before rushing off, police said.

The attack likely NOT random, as it was followed by a second similar attack in the area, beating down another young Orthodox Jewish boy.

Just 30 minutes later, a second Orthodox boy, age 12, was walking home when he was approached by four or five strangers near Walton Street and Union Avenue — just over a block away from the previous attack, police and law enforcement sources said.

The group of men shoved the boy to the pavement and punched him before fleeing, law enforcement sources added.

So, someone spun these men up and pointed them at Jewish boys. If words matter and if we are supposed to check public figures on setting a hateful tone, where is the media and DNC outrage, heck, where are Saint Sasse, Defender of the TruCon Faith Flake, and the Venerable (if he’s not lyin’) Ryan? Their silence, now, condemns them, especially after another Democrat pundit, Marc Lamont Hill, went full eliminationist.

Speaking Wednesday at a United Nations-organized observance event for the terrorist-affiliated Palestinians, CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill appeared to endorse violent resistance against Israel and call for the 70-year nation state’s elimination.

In a speech delivered at the event’s opening meeting, he specifically argued that the Palestinians should be allowed to use methods of violent resistance to combat their alleged oppression by the Israelis.

Watch Marc Lamont Hill’s whole UN speech, or at least watch the most on point clip:

His call for the elimination of Israel, is linked with and justified by Black Lives Matter’s hatred of police, by literally blaming the Jews for alleged American police anti-black brutality. CNN owns this. Twitter (Jack Dorsey) and Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) are as complicit, based on their own demonstrated standards for de-platforming “hate” and “unsafe” speakers. figures on setting a hateful tone, where is the media and DNC outrage, heck, where are Saint Sasse, Defender of the TruCon Faith Flake, and the Venerable (if he’s not lyin’) Ryan?

CNN’s first reaction is their real position. CNN initially failed to condemn or to fire Marc Lamont Hill.

Then the heat got too high, and CNN dumped Hill with a one sentence statement to Mediaite, but were silent on his eliminationist Jew-hatred.

“Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN,” a CNN spokesperson told Mediaite.

Indeed, CNN has simply erased Marc Lamont Hill, and failed to post anything about his firing.

[UPDATE: In the late evening hours of 29 November, after I published this piece, CNN finally posted a story on the firing. CNN’s story, about dismissing Marc Lamont Hill, had not one word of corporate condemnation or contrition. 

CNN said Thursday that it had severed ties with contributor Marc Lamont Hill following controversial comments the liberal pundit made about Israel.

So, CNN considers the comments “controversial,” not hateful or unsafe. “Liberal” is good in CNN’s view, so we are left with Israel as the reason CNN reluctantly had to part ways with Hill. This was a rather subtle way to blame the Jews. END UPDATE]

Were CNN to do otherwise, they would have to attack the intersectional darling, Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar, about whose Jew-hatred Susan Quinn wrote in QOTD: Anti-Semitic or Anti-Israel—or Both? See Powerline generally for coverage from her state, and see Scott Johnson’s withering piece on Ilhan Omar at RealClearPolitics.

And despite her self-portrait as an apostle of love, Omar is a proponent of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. She is, to put it bluntly, an Islamist hater of Israel. In a 2014 tweet during Israel’s hostilities with Hamas, for example, Omar prayed for “Allah to awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” In a May 31 tweet this year, she referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime.”

[…]

Omar soft-pedaled her support for BDS during her appearance before a large Democratic audience at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park the week before the competitive Democratic primary on Aug. 14, though she has proudly reiterated it since her election. During the campaign the Star Tribune kept her support of BDS a deep secret to voters who get their news from the paper. Although she holds herself out today in the Star Tribune an apostle of love, Ilhan Omar is an enthusiastic trader in one side of a bigoted coin.

So, the Democratic Party is returning to its anti-Semitic roots, but Klan Party 3.0 reflects the global coalition of the secular left and Islamists. The leftist party and their media mouthpieces misdirect false claims of outrage against right wing “extremists,” while shrinking the space in society where Jews are safe. Time for real leaders, not the self-serving posers and office-seekers, in the Republican Party to stand up against Klan Party 3.0. President Trump, your nation needs you all the more, to hate back the Jew-haters with interest.

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Elimination?

 

Many years ago, 1989 to be exact, I bought a house in an older neighborhood in Sacramento. Most of the homes were small Victorians with elderly owners who had been there for years. Some previous owner had put an addition onto the house, planning to have an in home business, but the county put a stop to that. So, I had two front doors one at each end of the house facing the street. Lack of openness by the seller, I soon discovered there were drug dealers next door. Took me near a year to get rid of them, and I open carried every time I worked in my yard.

There was a young Hispanic couple in the house on the other side of the druggies, with a small little girl. They called her Chiquita, a cute two- or three-year-old. I made it a point to get acquainted with them, and they helped me organize a “Neighborhood Watch” group so we could help the older folks if they needed, and we were able to stop the druggies from terrorizing the neighborhood. I became extremely fond of this young family, from Guatemala, who were in the country legally. The wife had already obtained her citizenship, but hubby was having difficultly with his English. All my grandchildren called me Kay Grandma, to keep me separated from all their other grandmas and great grandmas. So, Chiquita started calling me Kay grandma, and soon both her mom and dad were calling me Kay Grandma. They had another little one, a boy, they gave him an English name.

Fast forward, life happens. My mother became ill and needed care, my house was foreclosed as I could not keep up the payments, my mother’s care, keeping up her house payments, and for several years paying for someone to daycare her while I worked. It really got too much so I took early retirement to stay with her myself. After she passed away, I had funeral expenses and my siblings paid for none of it. Not the care, house upkeep, nor funeral. Then my siblings had me evicted so they could sell her house. I lost track of my little family. I tried to find them before I came to MT but they had sold their house and moved.

Meantime, as I aged I forgot their last name. I am now living with Kaylett, and she wants me to seriously downsize. I have boxes and boxes of paper stuff, like old checks and bank statements, tax returns from 1960, etc. because I never, ever, throw out anything. You never know when something might come in handy. Having been raised in the Great Depression, I am very frugal. I have now shredded all of my 1989 bank records, 1990, ’91, and in ’92 came upon a check I had paid the young couple for cleaning out my Comfort Coach, that my older daughter had trashed. Both of their names were on the check in full. So I did a web search and think I found them, because one of their “related to” came up with the little boy’s English name. Though not a little boy any more. It’s been 26 years since I last had contact with them. So I wrote a “To Whom It May Concern” letter, giving my particulars, and hope I had the right people.

Last night the phone rang, and a familiar voice rang out, “Kay Grandma” is that you?

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Small Modular Reactors: Update

 

Some more news on the SMR front:

Proponents of the project say the beauty of the NuScale design is that the reactors can’t melt down, can’t be hacked and the plant does not have to be shut down to be refueled. The reactors are underground and submerged in an 80-foot pool.

“This design is very simple in terms of its contrast to the large reactors,” Hunter said. “The simplicity in this thing made it pass the design certification process quickly, which for UAMPS, was reassuring.”

In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined NuScale did not need a redundant power source because of its self-cooling features.

“The plant was intentionally designed to be as simple and effective as it possibly could be,” said George W. Griffith, the senior reactor physicist with Idaho National Laboratory. “That determined everything else going on down the line.”

As expected, the naysayers use the same old clichés. One of my favorites is the idea that energy conservation can be used to “produce” more energy. In the business, we call that “negawatts.” The truth is, conservation works to a point, but then you reach a point of diminishing returns governed by the existence of absolute maximum efficiencies.

However, I disagree with using “manmade global climate change” as a driver for the advancement of any source of electricity. Why? You can probably guess . . .

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No Wonder We’re in Such a Mess

 

Apparently, there’s a new streaming service run by our friends at Fox News, called “Fox Nation.” I won’t subscribe because, even if I wanted to, I don’t stream anything, due to a very expensive satellite Internet connection. It’s the only thing available out here and it caps out at 15GB per month. Every additional gigabyte […]

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