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I just noticed yesterday that the 2020(?) Olympics are about to begin Friday. The Olympics have always been important in our household. Mine and my wife’s first summer together was during the 1996 Atlanta games and ever since we’ve rolled out the TV and for two weeks enjoyed the games. We root, we jump up […]

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Last October, the FBI arrested thirteen men who they claimed were devising a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Six of those men were charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Democrat politicians and their media allies immediately blamed President Trump for the incident [more examples HERE and HERE], and Whitmer herself took to the […]

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The schadenfreude is strong with this one: https://thepostmillennial.com/lebron-james-bombs-at-box-office-after-going-woke-and-simping-for-china?utm_campaign=64466 And then there’s Victoria’s Secret: https://www.breitbart.com/entertainment/2021/07/19/woke-rebranding-victorias-secret-throwing-out-iconic-angels-imagery-in-stores-as-it-closes-hundreds-of-locations-and-loses-millions/ I wish the editors at Ricochet would add a new category called “Schadenfreude” . . .

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The Czech Republic Gets Its Very Own 2nd Amendment

 

From N-TV (all translations are mine):

The Czech Republic is adding the right to keep and bear arms to its constitution. After the Chamber of Representatives approved the amendment, the Senate, the Second Chamber of the Parliament, approved it with a considerable majority. The Constitution of the EU-Member State will contain the following sentence in the future:  “The right to defend one’s own life or the lives of others with a weapon is guaranteed under legal circumstances.”

Die Rheinische Post reports:

The initiative was a reaction to efforts of the EU-Commission to make the purchase of firearms more difficult. After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November of 2015, Brussels had decided to tighten laws governing weapon purchase and ownership im the EU.  More than 100,000 people signed a petition against this in the Czech Republic, including the current head of the government, Andrej Babis, founder of the populist party ANO.

President Milos Zeman is expected to sign the law.

To me, the interesting thing about the passage of this law is that it is another piece of evidence for a growing east/west divide between people who had to live under the various totalitarian dictatorships that constituted the Soviet Union and left-leaning western states that are determined to make soft totalitarianism – often in environmentalist guise- the model to beat for 21st-century political hegemony.

Quote of the Day: Abundance

 

“America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to ‘the common good,’ but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance—and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.” – Ayn Rand

Reactions to the Billionaires’ Space Race underscore this quote’s relevance today. Bezos and Branson using their bucks to travel into space has triggered a lot of jealousy and envy. Their flights have been decried as a stunt. There are calls to tax or ban this type of space travel.

Ignored is that Branson, Bezos, and Musk used their own money to build a commercial space infrastructure that gave them access to space travel. They spent their own private fortunes to pursue their own personal interest to travel in space. In the process, they have created jobs in the commercial space sector and permitted cheaper access to space. Good jobs – ones that are productive. And in the process, they are creating abundance and new opportunities for all.

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I’ve never understood the big desire for flying cars. Cars have been able to fly for a very long time. The car sitting in your driveway can fly. There are two problems with the flying car you already own. The first is the flight time is very short. The second is the landings are a […]

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On a thread today I had occasion to make reference to a golf tournament that JY plays in every year, organized by one of his UCLA buddies. JY was invited for years and demurred; the kids were young, money was tight. Finally, in 1999 he was cajoled (mostly by me) to participate. By the looks […]

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Book Recommendation: The Mysterious Benedict Society

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society is now a miniseries on Disney Plus. Nobody will be surprised to learn the book is better.

The title is actually the title of the entire series, too, which now includes five books–the original, three sequels, and a prequel. Of the five, the original is clearly the best, a modern classic. The others books are just “fun reads”, written for pre-teens. I may be biased, but I think the original book is worth reading as an adult.

The book is wholesome, with clear lines drawn between good and evil both in the external world and within individual characters. It cannot be called a conservative book, because it doesn’t have an underlying message. Rather, it explores themes. It does not attempt to indoctrinate, but it’s the kind of book that makes kids think about questions and allows them to make up their own minds.

With that being said, I think the book was quite prescient regarding one particular aspect in the modern state of the world. (It was published in 2007). This may have been intended as a bit of commentary on something that was happening then, but it’s spot on regarding the situation we have gotten ourselves into during 2021.

Watching the miniseries has reminded me of this a bit. There is a bit of softening and blurring of the themes, and one particular line was changed in a way that irritated me because it diluted what had been a clear moral statement. But the elements that made the book prescient and excellent are there, buried underneath the weirdness that happens when a book is adapted for television.

I have always felt that children’s fiction and middle grade novels have more space to be genuine than genres written for teenagers and adults. Young Adult literature, in particular, often feels like a vehicle for sappy romance. C.S. Lewis argues that adults never really outgrow fairy tails, and I feel this way about The Mysterious Benedict Society, although it’s not quite a fairy tale.

The Possibilities and Restraints of Our Collective Nostalgia

 

The Stahl House

There is much waxing nostalgic about the heights of American ideals in the recent past that clouds our judgment and decisions applied to the present and the future. Humans have a natural tendency to look to back on preceding eras as the hallmark of an idyllic time with an aim of its return. Drifting through the ether of the here-and-now with its ever-present doomsayers, political weaponizing, and unrealized dreams and ambitions of succeeding generations, idolizing the past has come to be a coping mechanism for present failures. It is time to stop the cycle. The America of the present is not an irredeemable sinner that must be destroyed because of its transgressions. Nor is it a martyr for a higher cause whose valor can only be proven by falling on its own honorable sword – a suicide for a cause that never was.

The July/August issue of Vanity Fair contains a profile of the quintessential Mid-Century Modern home – The Stahl House – the family that continues to occupy it, and its inextricable link to that post-war time. It is an essay supplemented with rich photographs of seemingly model figures in a model home. The picturesqueness implores the reader to place himself in that time and place – one free from the urgent madness and chaos of the present time. It is the same as our wonted habit of using nostalgia as the miracle salve for the complex world we occupy today. But it’s a mistake to conflate sentimental longings with concrete solutions for present problems. For conservatives, we often revert to the William F. Buckley, Jr. battle cry against the tyranny of progressivism to “Stand athwart history, yelling STOP”. Or waxing nostalgic for stern, Reaganesque rhetoric of the type that bound a nation together in a successful effort to defeat Communism. Just as we can’t place ourselves in the idealized pictures of the Stahl House, we cannot place ourselves in a foregone time to overcome our current crises.

It traps the mind in a perpetual state of adolescent immaturity to ape the slogans of the past. It is a dangerous path that leads to a political and cultural atrophy leaving conservatives unprepared to fight the evolving war of progressive policies that already has a head-start in schools, government, and private institutions. The undercurrent of discontent that catapulted President Trump to office in 2016 was widely seen as a complete surprise to the political machine that had been riding on the coattails of a Cold-War mentality for decades. Zombie Reaganism became the moniker of a Republican Party disjointed from the realities of the middle and working class Americans who felt betrayed by decision makers whose decision involved exclusive disregard for their base’s interests and problems. At the same time, conservatives gave away their naming-rights to an increasingly radical left. Allowing past stigmas as such as anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-science, bigot, prude, “put them back in chains” to perpetuate without forceful pushback alienated potential supporters who felt a party wallowing in its own milquetoast mentality would never stand up for the traditional values that were being unfairly threatened.

Even now, after what could be termed a Trump-Revolution there is a stubbornness of a certain order within the conservative movement that won’t acknowledge the failings of disengaging from the culture wars that led to such an outcome. It doesn’t mean there needs to be total recalibration of principles, nor that the path forward means closing our eyes to a changing media, socioeconomic, and demographic environment and plow blindly through the political desert hoping we find the oasis of the 1980s is our salvation. It doesn’t exist. But we can use those lessons that we often look at fondly as a golden era of conservatism and apply them to the challenges we face today. The opportunity is ripe for a conservative movement to make strides with the American people just as the progressive left is caught in the tar-pit of its own revisionist nostalgia.

Conservatives dip into a nostalgic view of the past in an attempt to frame America as a Rockwellian ideal. It’s not what the left likes to label as a “whitewashing” of history, or willful ignorance of our past sins and national struggles, or stifling legitimate grievances by identity groups to maintain “The Patriarchy”. Rather, it harkens back to an America that seemed closer to a national cohesiveness than the present tumultuous and divisive time. Americans had a self-awareness that allowed for the inherent meritocratic opportunity simply by their choice to be American.

Conservatives can legitimately look to the past as a model from which to build on principles that created the greatest nation in the world – conserving an enduring and objective moral order, adhering to custom and continuity of knowledge, prudence in enacting change, upholding property rights, individual liberty, and the freedom of thought that comes with a limited government and centuries of trial and sacrifice that came out of the past to better serve and sustain a prosperous, liberty-centric future. But we should be wary of becoming so mired in sentimentality for what we imagined that ideal to have been that we become paralyzed, stunting any progress to carry those principles forward in a dynamic, hyper-political ecosystem.

While conservatives would be sensible to harness the tools of the past to fight current battles, the progressive left is regressing to a historical bait-and-switch, romanticizing a time when they envisioned disruption, disorder, and civil upheaval as a noble cause and themselves the virtuous warriors of self-sacrifice. The underground counterculture of the 1960s gave way to the radicals of the late 1960s and 1970s and ushered in a new era of Great Society government monopoly on social justice, racial divisions, and economic disparities. The Make Love, Not War peaceniks whose visions of communal utopias reached their Timothy Leary-zenith by way of Wavy Gravy and his Hog Farm turned violent through groups like the Weather Underground, New Liberation Front, and the Symbionese Liberation Army, groups that were the models for today’s Antifa militants. Today we see these same geriatric activists who live in an idealized, glamorized past as heroes of their own revisionist story. People like Delores Huerta who co-founded with Cesar Chavez the National Farmworkers Association (later to become the United Farm Workers) in the 1960s, who now laud the Texas State Democrats as cut of the same cloth of activist to enact “real change” and be the hero voices of the oppressed minorities in a racially damaged America.

Timothy Leary

The left beats the protest drum, insisting American icons like Martin Luther King, Jr., would never externalize as plausible his own famous words that children “will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.” Or denying the inherent value of the unborn when they insist on the abortion euphemism as “healthcare” or “women’s rights”. They think they’re carrying on a legacy of “Fighting the Man” when, sometime in the midst of President Carter’s sweater changes, they became the man. Anti-FBI and anti-war marches gave way to yuppie endeavors to perpetuate war for profit and use the government to silence nonconformists and dissenters seeking individual liberty, forcing the hand of social media companies to do their censorship bidding. The shouts of “Hell No, We Won’t Go” and oil-barrel bra-burners now think sacrifice is washing their bras in the porcelain sinks of Washington, D.C. hotels and chartering private planes to escape responsibility prosecution. They treat Cuba’s decades of oppression as the utopia of their dreams, but there is no line forming for milk-jug boat-trips to the collapsing island. It’s a crazy, mixed-up world, and no amount of “turn on, tune in, drop out” will erase the left’s legacy of upending traditional norms and glorifying violence in exchange for canonization in the halls of radicalism.

Nostalgia is a wistful practice in sentimentality, a bittersweet remembrance of how we wish to remember our past. It is taking a tour through the Stahl House, seeing in our minds’ eye a past as unspoiled as the view from the cantilevered balcony. But conservatives can’t fight the wars of the past with antiquated weapons, hoping the future is based on previous experiences. That is simply speculating for the sake of unpreparedness in a world that changes exponentially with each political cycle. We can use the lessons of the past – how we succeeded and how we utilized the tools at hand – to defeat a foe that insists on its own ignobility through a romanticized activism that is as much a solid foundation for reality as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Nostalgia, W. Somerset Maugham said

Is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.

Pulchritude Privilege

 

Have you ever noticed that when you’re making your way down the aisle on your way to your seat in coach, the passengers in first class seem to be more attractive than you are?  (On a recent trip to Paris, I took the photo below of the guy sitting next to me, fairly typical of the people in coach.)

What’s the deal?  What are all of these attractive people doing in first class?  Perhaps it’s a vanity thing.  Maybe attractive people like to watch, and be envied by, the plebes who wrestle with their bags on their way to the back of the plane.

Nah, that’s not it.  After doing a bit of research, here’s what I found:  Attractive people make more money than the rest of us, so they apparently spend some of their discretionary income to ride in first class.

Pulchritude privilege!

A researcher for Smithsonian Magazine found that handsome men earn 13% more than unattractive ones.  In fact, the income gap between attractive and unattractive people, according to Smithsonian, is comparable to the gap between genders or ethnicities.

Pulchritude privilege!

Even a cursory search on Google reveals a plethora of studies that show that attractive people have a distinct and unfair advantage over unattractive people.  They are happier, more self-confident, and have more friends.

Pulchritude privilege!

They’re even smarter. According to a study done in the United Kingdom, attractive people have IQ’s, on average, that are 12.4 points higher than unattractive people. (That’s kinda weird, isn’t it?)

Pulchritude, etc.

I’ve long thought that physical attractiveness is the most powerful advantage one can have.  White privilege?  That’s so last month.  This month, if you’re going to remain au courant, you need to accuse handsome people of flaunting their pulchritude privilege.  Tell them — now where have I heard this? — to check their privilege at the door.

So how does one decide who is attractive and who is not?  The easiest way is to show photos of random people to a wide range of viewers.  Let these viewers sort them out by asking them who is attractive.

Some aestheticians argue that attractive people project the appearance of health.  That is, they have symmetrical features, clear skin, lucid eyes, and straight teeth.

Finally, according to the golden ratio (1.62), an ancient measurement of beauty, the ideal face is roughly 1 1/2 times longer than it is wide.  And that ideal face also evidences equal distances from the forehead hairline to a spot between the eyes, from there to the bottom of the nose, and from there to the bottom of the chin.  These golden ratios apparently cross-racial categories. (If you’re dissatisfied with this paragraph on the golden ratio, you have every right to be.  I didn’t receive a math privilege like you uppity STEM majors out there who passed algebra in high school.)

Of course, there are other privileges that come with us when we are born.  There is, for instance, the fast-twitch-muscle-fibers privilege (think Usain Bolt), the perfect-musical-pitch privilege (think Mozart), the body-spatial-awareness privilege  (think Simone Biles), and so on.

I’ve always thought that the pleasant-face privilege would be very nice to have.  This is the privilege of people who have a face that isn’t particularly handsome but has a pleasant and inviting appearance, i.e., has bright open eyes, perhaps a perky nose, and a mouth that curls slightly upward at its ends.  People just naturally take a shine to those with the pleasant-face privilege.

In case you’re wondering, I was pretty much left out of everything except white privilege when they handed out privileges. I’m slow of foot, not particularly well-coordinated, one eyelid is lower than the other, and I have the flushed complexion of my Irish/Scottish forebears. (All of this when I was a younger man.  Now I’m just old.)

I only possess one privilege for certain. I can sing Yankee Doodle Dandy while patting my belly and rubbing a circle on the top of my head. Do you scoff? Try it yourself.

Postscript:  If you’re attractive, I’d rather not hear about it.  But if you’re as ugly as sin, come sit right here next to me and tell me about it.

Member Post

 

Social media and instant communication has changed our world for the better but there have been downsides.  One drawback is the conflict created between family and friends on sites like Facebook.  I personally haven’t used Facebook in years, but I’ve heard many stories about people losing family or friends over political arguments on social media. […]

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“Shrink-flation” refers to the behavior of packaged-food makers who, instead of raising prices on existing products, reduce the package size and charge the same price.  Remember when you could get a half-gallon of ice cream?  The ice cream makers have been reducing package size for years, and are still doing so now. So, what would […]

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I have created a Group to take up the challenge by @garyrobbins about the treatment of the “insurrectionists”. There is a website that Gary linked that contains information about who was arrested, charges made, and dispositions: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/IV0h3/23/ and https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/J2rPI/11/. I welcome Group Members assistance in slicing and dicing the data. As of this post 581 […]

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Quote of the Day: Momentum

 

“How did you go bankrupt?”
“Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly.”
— Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

“Same-sex marriage…was the trigger for not only woke capitalism, but the radicalism of today’s left. It was the success that they had in achieving gay marriage that gave them momentum, made them think that nothing would ever arise within American society to stop them, and has led to a kind of acceleration of all these cultural issues. It wasn’t a week after Obergefell was decided that the cake baking episode happened, and then transgenderism became an issue, where all these same groups began accelerating their attacks on the traditional ideas that there are men and women. So I think same-sex marriage was a real accelerant in the decline of marriage from all of the perspectives, but also an accelerant in the collapse of America’s regime.”
— Dr. Scott Yenor, The American Mind podcast, July 19, 2021

The general public may be finally noticing the leftward lurch happening in universities and in K-12, public and private, but the culture has been shifting for decades. It started in the 1960s with a variety of changes in social norms, like the elimination of strict dress codes and curfews for women at the large public university my mother attended. Her first year, in 1962, the female students had a 10 p.m. curfew. The next year, those rules were scrapped. By the time I got to college, we no longer had female-only dorms. The closest to that you could come was an all-female floor. I have yet to embark on college tours for my own daughter, but what I have read suggests that it will be difficult to find such a sex-segregated living situation. Even in the 1990s, some colleges had embraced co-ed dorms to the extent that even the bathrooms were co-ed. A friend who attended one of these institutions told me about the discomfort of that living situation and the efforts she would make to find a single stall bathroom in another building when she really needed privacy.

These changes swept in with the tide of feminist thought. Americans have largely welcomed movements for increased equality, whether based on race, sex, or sexual orientation. We have liked seeing ourselves as part of a society that is fair and inclusive, or at least approaching more fairness and inclusivity. It also seems that we don’t want to be called, or to think of ourselves, as prudes or homophobes. Since the 1960s, the taboos against sexual promiscuity and immodesty have fallen away, so completely that now women complain that they are unfairly treated when airlines won’t let them fly with strapless outfits or with their midriff showing. Fine, we shrug, not wanting to seem “judgy.”

A lot of these cultural shifts seemed beneficial, or at least harmless. In the last few years, however, it has become clear that the LGBTQ+ movement, especially since transgenders have taken the primary place in it, and anti-racism advocates are making a moral claim that can’t succeed without the existence of an intolerant, bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic population. If that population doesn’t exist, they must infer its existence and presume that those awful people are secretly inculcating their hateful beliefs in their children. I don’t think that’s a particularly nice thing to do, so I am not disposed to be accepting of these insults. Thankfully, many American parents feel the same way.

What we really don’t want to be called is racist. When people were only complaining of microaggressions, we didn’t worry too much. Plenty of my friends have taken the attitude that all you have to do to avoid those is to just not be a jerk or say anything “wrong.” They are nice people, so they think everyone else is basically nice, too. But when the dominant culture skips over the step of making evidence-based accusations of racism and just moves right on to inferring racist beliefs and attitudes in our children, apparently that’s when Americans finally balk.

The demands for submission to the leftist narrative are encroaching more swiftly into the personal lives of Americans. It’s been happening gradually for decades, but I have noticed the acceleration since 2015. I could cite specific news stories, such as Christians being deemed unfit to hold certain government positions, but I noticed the shift in the public debate and in the tone of communications from our public school administrators and teachers. They were emboldened to express political opinions while treating them as simply conventional wisdom. The confidence of those on the left was not damaged when Donald Trump won the presidential election. To them, it simply demonstrated the righteousness of their cause that so many Americans would vote for a man that they deemed vile and racist. I think it was another accelerant in the leftist effort to conquer our culture. The coronavirus pandemic, the death of George Floyd, and the election of Joe Biden have all provided more momentum for progressives. They are, by definition, on the move. And they are moving pretty fast now.

Disney to Unveil Animatronic Biden at ‘Hall of Presidents’

 

Either this picture is of President Biden visiting the Disney Hall of Presidents, or Disney’s version of Biden will be the most similar to the living man of any of the presidents in their display. Perhaps President Biden’s hair and makeup team could take some tips from the Disney artists, to make the real President Biden look more lifelike…

How Much are You Willing to Sacrifice, or Where is Your Red Line?

 

Several months ago, I wrote about a profound blessing I experienced: I chose a Hebrew name, since I couldn’t remember the Hebrew name I was given as a child. (This method is acceptable under Jewish law.) At the suggestion of a friend, I chose the name of a woman I admired, Ruth, from the Bible, who was a convert to Judaism, and through circumstances, left the land of Moab to accompany her mother-in-law back to the land of Judah. I’ve always been in awe of her generosity and commitment, and am honored to carry her name.

But today I realized that Ruth also demonstrated a willingness to make sacrifices, too. When she traveled with Naomi back to Judah, both women were widows and they would be two women traveling alone. But Ruth was also leaving Moab, the land of her birth. When she left, she knew she was leaving her sister and her family behind. In those days, she likely realized that she would never see them again. She would also be leaving the familiarity of her environs, and would be going to a foreign land. In those days, even though they would probably be connecting to Naomi’s relatives, they were two women alone without plans. Ruth’s choice was indeed honorable: to choose to be with her mother-in-law and to practice her new faith, regardless of what might lie ahead.

She was also sacrificing much.

Now many of us have done our share of moving, of leaving friends and families behind. But in these times, with modern technology and communications, most of the people in our lives are only a telephone call, a plane trip, or an email away. For the most part, families and friends can stay in touch. We rarely are called to leave them forever.

*     *     *

As I look at how our country is changing, I’m beginning to realize that these times may also call for much, much more from us than we would ordinarily consider. We have already seen our rights degraded, our liberties infringed upon, our beliefs ridiculed or condemned, our allegiances being questioned. Leftist organizations and the government, sometimes subtly, at other times blatantly, expect us to comply with lockdowns, masks, and vaccines. Our speech is being censored. Our children are being propagandized. Our country is being demeaned and criticized.

The question occurred to me: where is my personal red line when it comes to my life being restricted by government bureaucrats? I can’t even imagine strategies implemented that would be so offensive or limiting that I would have to take action. Not only that, what actions would I be willing to take? How much or what would I be willing to give up? Would I be willing to risk my reputation? My friendships? My life?

I can’t help thinking of Germany in the 1930s when many people couldn’t imagine the future that awaited them. But some anticipated the danger that was just ahead and left the country when they could.

Is it premature to be thinking about the future and my response to tyranny? Or do I have a responsibility to assess my life at this time, look forward and consider what I might feel called to do?

Are these questions you have ever asked yourself?

[photo by Max Langelott at unsplash.com]

When Is It Considered Negligence?

 

On July 4, lightning started a small blaze in the forest near Markleeville, CA. Markleeville is the county seat for Alpine County, thankfully still the least populated county in California. At the time of the initial fire, the US Forest Service decided to let the fire burn itself out when it had consumed about an acre more than a week ago. Unfortunately, given the dry conditions, the fire is now raging some two weeks after the initial lightning strike and, at last count, has consumed some 21,000 acres with 0% containment. At least three structures have burned down to their foundations, more are likely to burn if containment cannot be achieved. The small towns of Woodfords and Markleeville are in the crosshairs. The prevailing winds blow from west to east through the Carson Canyon which because of its high cliffs and ridges on the canyon’s north and south side act more or less can act as a wind tunnel, so there is a possibility that if the flames reach up to the Woodfords area, the winds will push the fire further eastward, possibly down into the flatter grasslands and pastures just south of Gardnerville and Minden, NV.

The story caught my attention today and my brothers and I have a particular interest in it. Our parents owned a small home just north of Markleeville on Crystal Springs Road perched and a slope near the Carson River that runs parallel to a stretch of Highway 88 which connects to Highway 89 a route to Lake Tahoe west of Woodfords and the route down into the aforementioned Gardnerville/Minden area in Nevada, cattle grazing country that stretches out in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada range, the same mountains that ring Lake Tahoe.

My brother, Don, related the circumstances around an earlier fire in the same general area shortly after our parents retired to live in the Woodfords house in the late 1980s in responding to my email about this latest fire:

Exactly what happened when the folks lived there. Someone was using a backhoe without a spark arrester, starts small fire. Local volunteers show up, start working the fire. Forest Service shows up, says “We got this, go home.” Next thing, it’s out of control.

The fire burned up to the back door of the next downriver home, skipped off downstream. I seem to remember over thirty homes destroyed.

Mom and Dad and I spent a night in Gardnerville. I was allowed to spend the next night at the house, folks came up the following day. And that had a lot to do with the decision to leave the mountains and move to Tucson.

There is a thunderstorm in the forecast for the area, so perhaps that will help to dampen a lot of the fire if a prolonged downpour ensues. Of course, a thunderstorm could also mean a few more lightning strikes…that perhaps the US Forest Service may also dismiss.

More information on the Tamarack fire can be found here. And here.

BRCC False Flag Operation: I Thought So

 

When the uproar started about Black Rifle Coffee Company’s CEO supposedly badmouthing conservatives, I thought it smelled like a typical false flag operation designed to tear down a conservative company or institution. Now it seems that the NY Times interview of CEO Evan Hafer was selectively edited to change the context of his words…surprise, surprise.

The interviewer got Hafer talking about when he was personally attacked for having a Jewish-sounding last name, and then used his words to make it seem Hafer was talking about conservatives in general.

When are we going to learn? Robert Heinlein wrote about exactly this sort of stuff in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, for crying out loud.

Member Post

 

This is how it is in the United States of America in 2021: Dozens of Americans held in a Washington D.C. jail have been incarcerated for months awaiting trials that aren’t scheduled to begin until next year. Joe Biden’s Justice Department has repeatedly sought pre-trial detention for Americans who, on January 6, protested Biden’s election…. […]

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The Coming False Confessions

 

I am currently reading (actually listening to) the abridged version of the Gulag Archipelago. What inspired me to do so? Frankly, it was to fill in some much-needed knowledge about what we could be facing in this country if one-party rule is realized. Does this sound alarmist? It does, including to me. I don’t want it to be true, I don’t want to think that people who occupy this country in the same way I have, natural-born and public educated, will become the oppressors of their fell0w-citizens. Can I even say “citizen” anymore? Is it an approved designation? After all, words (and thus thoughts) are in flux.

As I have contemplated the description by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of Stalin’s gulags, I have been particularly struck by how “crimes” were assigned and “confessions” were obtained. Solzhenitsyn offers a detailed tutorial of how everyone is broken — no matter how strong and resistant, no matter how righteous your thoughts and actions, no matter how innocent your behavior. Gulag is an unremitting story of a society completely corrupted and in which no one is safe.

As I listened to the description of various interrogation techniques employed I was struck with how many are currently employed by law enforcement. You say, “whoa there, steady on, don’t go Through the Looking Glass!” I am not being critical of law enforcement. And let me quickly state that not all of the interrogation techniques described by Solzhenitsyn involve torture, brutality, and barbarism. Many are psychological. And they are employed by law enforcement because they work.

But here is the important part: These techniques work whether or not there is anything to confess. Although not pervasive there are a number of cases where false confessions have been coerced. And five of the techniques described in the Gulag Archipelago have been used in those cases: lying by interrogators (to include false promises or false evidence), lengthy interrogations that physically and emotionally exhaust the interrogated, “good cop” “bad cop” approaches, no assistance of counsel, isolation within a windowless room depriving the interrogated with a sense of the passage of time and creating a sense of dependency on the interrogator. An important safeguard against false confession in law enforcement is that there be independent corroborating evidence of the truth of the confession. In Gulag, no such protections existed because the object of the process was to convict, fill the labor camps and terrorize everyone else into submission to State control.

With this in mind consider the fate of those arrested and incarcerated for alleged crimes at the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021: How have they been treated in contrast to BLM rioters and looters? Have they had effective assistance of counsel? Has solitary confinement “softened them up” for confessing to something they did not do? What independent corroborating evidence exists for anything to which they might confess? Do we even know who they are? Yes, we know of some, but how many are there, and what exactly was their involvement in intentional criminal activity?

Most importantly, does the United States have political prisoners? For many decades, probably throughout the history of the country (recall the Sedition Act under President John Adams), there have been persons jailed for opposition to the government. When that opposition has been through violence most people accept that their jailing is due to the violence and not their political positions. Conflating acts of violence with “free speech” is dangerous. And thus it was particularly disingenuous of Chris Cuomo in defense of the “mostly peaceful protests” to ask on his CNN show last summer “Show me where it says protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful”. Using the Cuomo standard why was anyone arrested at the Capitol Building on January 6? Why have so many been detained without bail?

The first sentence for participation in the Capitol Building riot has been handed down:

Paul Hodgkins, a 38-year-old Floridian, is now the first Capitol rioter convicted of a felony to be sentenced. He pleaded guilty last month to obstructing congressional proceedings — specifically, the counting of the electoral votes, which he helped delay on January 6. He spent about 15 minutes inside the Senate chamber, wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a Trump flag.

Eight months for Hodgkins for helping delay the counting of votes, while charges are dropped against BLM arsonists and rioters. Your business and livelihood can be completely destroyed, peasant, and your life ruined, but no jail time for those responsible. But if a legislator is inconvenienced and maybe a bit frightened, eight months and probably more for the perpetrators.

As the Gulag Archipelago recounts, when the prosecution is political, legal protections disappear. And our courts have become increasingly unreliable in ensuring that civil liberties are protected and that there is equal justice under the law. The FISA abuses remain unaddressed. The courts are denying standing to states suing other states trying to enforce the constitutional system of federal electors. Chief Justice John Roberts justified a fictional reason for declaring Obamacare to be constitutional because elections have consequences. Well then, by G-d, the courts need to make sure that elections are free and fair, the rules adopted in a constitutional manner, that laws are faithfully executed, and that persons who object to government acting outside of constitutional processes have equal protection of the law. Otherwise, we are entering a period when the following may become true for us:

“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

And

“Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”

And

“To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions…
Ideology—that is what gives the evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

Future Ben & Jerry’s Flavors?

 

Ben & Jerry's Palestinian sundaeWhat do you think the next Ben & Jerry’s flavor will be? Might it be Arbeit Macht Frei Almond, or River to the Sea Salted Caramel? Ben & Jerry’s went full anti-Semitic this week, joining the BDS movement with a corporate announcement. Their UK-based parent organization, Unilever, distanced itself but did not disavow the New England leftists’ anti-semitism.

Ben & Jerry’s Will End Sales of Our Ice Cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

July 19, 2021

We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.

We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.

Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.

New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett denounced Ben & Jerry’s, which came despite the Israeli political class finally driving the hated Bibi out of office.

“THERE ARE many ice cream brands, but only one Jewish state,” said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as the anti-Israel ice cream. This decision is morally wrong and I believe that it will become clear that it is also commercially wrong,” he said.

“The boycott against Israel – a democracy surrounded by islands of terrorism – reflects a total loss of way. The boycott does not work and will not work, and we will fight it with full force.”

Unilever tried to have it both ways in its response to the blowback from Ben & Jerry’s

Unilever statement on Ben & Jerry’s decision
19/07/2021

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex and sensitive situation. As a global company, Unilever’s brands are available in more than 190 countries and in all of them, our priority is to serve consumers with essential products that contribute to their health, wellbeing and enjoyment.

We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades.

Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000. As part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission. We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel.

Please read Ben & Jerry’s statement here.
Media queries: press-office.london@unilever.com

As John Hinderacker notes on Power Line Blog, Ben & Jerry’s took a stand on the wrong side:

In today’s world, anti-Semitism usually manifests itself as a unique and obsessive concern with the real or imagined–usually imagined–misdeeds of Israel, while ignoring indisputably more significant failings on the part of other states. In my book, Ben & Jerry’s is guilty of anti-Semitism.

Ben & Jerry’s denounces America as systematically racist. They have never given so much as an ice cream social for the young Black lives lost to urban violence. They now traffic in the colonialist Israel smear, while providing cover for the Palestinian Authority thugs and Hamas terrorists dominating the Palestinian people. I guess real oppression of Palestinian Arabs, and the real, abiding criminal violence threat to Black lives in American cities, are issues Ben & Jerry’s don’t care about.

The Deep Thinkers of the Left

 

LeBron James is the most prominent athlete in the NBA – a multi-national organization that generates billions in revenue.  The NBA entertains sports fans all over the world, and is a powerful force in the world of entertainment and sports.  Mr. James is widely considered to be one of the best players of all time.  He has also become very outspoken in the realms of politics, social justice, economic equity, and so on.  Some have questioned why his ability to play basketball would lead him to view himself as qualified to speak on other matters that have nothing to do with sports.  Mr. James responds to his critics, “I will not just shut up and dribble … I get to sit up here and talk about what’s really important.”

While it may be true that basketball is not as important as the topics of worldly significance that he often speaks on, this does not mean that he has any particular expertise in these fields.  But he continues to share his views on the matters of the day.  He clearly views himself as above his occupation (playing basketball), and above the organization that made him famous (the NBA).  He apparently believes that his brilliance on the basketball court translates into brilliance in many and varied other unrelated fields.

Prince Harry is one of the most prominent members of the British Royal Family – an organization of enormous historical significance that is closely followed by millions of people all over the world.  He has been world-famous since the day he was born, and his membership in this exclusive club, due simply to his birth, has given him opportunities that most people could only dream of.  He has also become very outspoken in the realms of politics, social justice, economic equity, and so on.  Some have questioned why his royal birth would lead him to view himself as qualified to speak on other matters that have nothing to do with, um, with his area of expertise.  Whatever that is.  Prince Harry recently announced that he is writing his memoirs, which may seem odd for a 36-year-old who has done little in his life other than be rich and privileged.  But he explains:

“I’m writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become. I’ve worn many hats over the years, both literally and figuratively, and my hope is that in telling my story—the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned—I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think,” he said in a press release. “I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the course of my life so far and excited for people to read a firsthand account of my life that’s accurate and wholly truthful.”

So humanity will soon be blessed with the insight of a 36-year-old English Prince.  He clearly views himself as above his occupation (being a prince), and above the organization that made him famous (the British Royal Family).  He apparently believes that his birthright as a prince translates into insights that are worth sharing with people around the world.

Pope Francis is the leader of one of the most historically important organizations on the planet – The Catholic Church.  He has also become very outspoken in the realms of politics, social justice, climate science, economic equity, and so on.  Some have questioned why his occupation as a religious leader would lead him to view himself as qualified to speak on other matters that have nothing to do with Christianity.  But he continues to use his position to promote leftist politics.

He speaks on religion too but spends an extraordinary amount of time on topics that would seem to be beyond his job in The Catholic Church.  He clearly views himself as above his occupation (Pope of The Catholic Church), and above the organization that made him famous (The Catholic Church).  He apparently believes that his position as a religious leader translates into brilliance in many and varied other unrelated fields.

A basketball player, a prince, and a Pope would seem to have little in common.  But these three have one prominent quality in common – they are all devout leftists.

Many leftists seem to believe that they have a deep understanding of topics on which they have little apparent expertise.  PJ O’Rourke touched on this topic with the great quote, “I’m not a liberal, so I have a poor grasp of stuff I don’t know anything about.”

This really does seem to be a common trait among leftists.  LeBron James.  Prince Harry.  Pope Francis.  Greta Thunberg.  John Kerry.  David Hogg.  Al Gore.  AOC.  Nikole Hannah-Jones.  Leonardo DiCaprio.  And on and on and on.

This says a lot about leftist leaders.

But I think it says more about leftist voters.  If you listen to basketball players, teenagers, actors, and so on as voices of authority on, well, on anything at all, then you must be a leftist.

And you must be a fool.

The Priceless Value of Empathy

 

Empathy, “the capacity to place oneself in another’s position,” is one of the hardest things for anyone to achieve. It is almost impossible to change someone’s mind unless you first understand how they think, what makes them tick.

One of the hardest things in the world to do is to set our own perspective aside, and see things from someone else’s point of view. A true friend is someone who listens. A great salesman is someone who knows what you want – even need – to hear. A writer can be great if they can truly get inside the mind of the reader, and pre-emptively understand how their words will be read.

A failure to communicate stems from the failure to have empathy. Engineers usually do not fall short because they are bad at engineering; they fail when they cannot put themselves in the minds of their audience to understand how their words and PowerPoint presentations will be received. An engineer who cannot communicate effectively is worse than useless.

Rabbi David Fohrman offers a brilliant analysis of our foremothers Rachel and Leah. He explains that Rachel’s greatness is found when her sister rebuffs childless Rachel’s request to share in a precious moment when a child comes home with flowers for his mommy. Leah fires back: “You first took my husband, and now you take my son’s flowers?”

Rachel replies: “Therefore he shall lie with you tonight, in return for your son’s flowers.”

What’s going on here? Fohrman explains that Rachel, who was obsessed with the fact that she had no children, and that her sister seemed to be getting all the good things in life, was immediately struck by an epiphany: from her sister’s perspective, it is Leah, not Rachel, who is the victim in the relationship. In contrast to Leah, Rachel was shapely and beautiful. It was Leah who had to pretend to be someone else on her own wedding night. It was Leah who had to be married to a man who hated her, a man who openly preferred her sister.

But in that moment, Rachel managed to flip her perspective, and see it from her sister‘s point of view instead of her own viewpoint, barren and bitter that it was. Fohrman puts words in her mouth: “How could I ask you to share the joy of your child, without me sharing in return with you?”  She declared a truce and gave her husband to her sister in return for the flowers. Rachel gave Leah and Jacob a do-over for the wedding night.  The child that was conceived that night is named for “reward” – the reward both sisters get for that moment of empathy, for that truce between them.

It is the first act of empathy in the Torah. And it tells us a lot about much more than this. The entire episode is a validation that BOTH sisters have valid points of view. There is no single “truth” of the matter, and anyone who has empathy has to be able to validate someone else’s point of view, complete with different notions of what is important in life, and even of the facts themselves. To even ask which version is “true” would be to miss the entire point.

In every human interaction, there is a clash of perspectives, of different versions of what is true or accurate. The Torah does more than accept this: it endorses it. It is through understanding other people that we learn to grow. Having empathy does not invalidate your own version of reality, your own truth. But it tempers it with the knowledge that there are other valid ways of looking at a situation.

Every proper marriage is an ongoing test in this regard: marriage forces us to wrestle with trying to come to grips with a different point of view. No good marriage can be built on a perfunctory dismissal of your spouse’s way of seeing things. And it is why the High Priest had to be married – if we are not confronted with the challenge of understanding the perspective of a wife, we have no chance at being able to understand the perspective of G-d Almighty. This is not because G-d necessarily sees things as a woman does, but because G-d sees things differently than we do, forcing us to question our perspectives in order to wrestle with the divine.

The Torah is full of examples of different facts emerging. Jacob names a place – but the Torah takes pains to tell us what other people name that same place (e.g. Gen. 28:19 – “Bet-El” versus “Luz”; Gen 31:47 “Jegar-sahadutha” versus “Galeed.” Both names exist and are used. A similar thing happens when Rachel names her son “Ben-Oni”, and Jacob renames him “Benjamin.”  Neither name is “true” – each perspective is validated.  The names are the way in which we choose to label our world, the prism through which we see it.  And if we use different names, then we have accepted that each person has their own version, their own truth. The Torah seems to be telling us that this is perfectly fine.

The text goes much farther than merely different names for places and people, though. The entire last book of the Five Books of Moses, the text I refer to as “The Torah,” is a radical departure from the earlier texts. Deuteronomy is, except for a few verses at the end, a set of speeches given by Moses.  These speeches are radical for a very simple reason: the version of events described in them can be very different from how the same event is described earlier in the Torah. Deuteronomy contains Moses’ perspective, and he can present an entirely different set of facts.

Numbers 13:

And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, “Send thou men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall you send a man, every one a ruler among them.”

But in Deuteronomy (1:22), Moshe tells the people:

Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to reconnoiter the land for us and bring back word on the route we shall follow and the cities we shall come to.” I approved of the plan, and so I selected twelve of your men, one from each tribe.

See the enormous disconnect? In the first telling, the idea is G-d’s. In the second, the idea of sending the spies comes from the people!

I am well aware that one can try to square the circle and try to make both versions somehow true, though such an attempt flies in the face of the actual words. Nevertheless, that is not nearly as interesting as understanding why the text gives us an entirely incompatible set of explanations for who decided to spy out the land!

We can understand why Moses might have changed the story: he was not inclined to blame G-d, and he wanted the people to own their own history and be able to consciously grow past it. He wanted the Jewish people to take responsibility and grow even from their failures. Even if it did not really happen that way!

Yet however we parse it, we have the text with BOTH versions. This means that the Torah is teaching us, the readers, a very explicit lesson: It is OK to have different – even incompatible – versions of the same story. The purpose of the story is, after all, to grow connections and relationships, to help people make sense of their past, and find pathways into the future. One could even argue that the Torah’s purpose in telling us the story for a reason easily explains why different explanations of the origin of the world are offered by geologists, physicists, chemists, and, of course, founding religious texts for different religions. There can, thanks to the prism selected, indeed be a vast range of differing accounts of the creation of the world – with none of them necessarily being wrong.

And so the purist ideal of “one version,” or perhaps even “one true version,” becomes collateral damage, sacrificed when the purpose justifies it. We can – and should – customize the story for the listener, always seeking to find ways to constructively move forward. It is why it is good and right and proper to find ways to compliment others instead of insisting on “telling it as I see it.” The latter is an act of supreme selfishness and indifference, while the former shows sensitivity and consideration.

I fear this lesson is often missed by those who insist that there are somehow no inconsistencies in the Torah, that everything dovetails and aligns perfectly. I take the text seriously, so when there are differences within it, then we are to learn from those differences as well.

The lesson seems evident: there is a deep and inherent value in each person’s perspective. And the notion of a single “true” version of an event is antithetical to the purposes of the Torah. Empathy is a higher goal, because it allows us to build a common vision, an understanding between each other, and between man and G-d.

It is no accident that the Torah gives us different and contradictory versions of events. It is on purpose, to teach us that, as long as we act in good faith, validating different perspectives, names, and even events, it is an act of love, constructively building relationships. That is what we should be all about.