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The writer, Bruce Bawer is a conservative gay man who lives in Norway with his husband and is appalled by Islam: he’s one of my favorites. This is his review of a novel called Rodham, by a woman named Curtis Sittenfield, about “what if Hillary had dumped Bill and gone on without him…” an alternative […]

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Amazon is creating a new series based on Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It will be set in the Second Age, the age dominated by the long-lived men of the island of Númenor. Here are the latest (but not so recent) rumors about the production. The Tolkien estate has announced the constraints it has placed on Amazon’s […]

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Icon, Part 13: Pentecost

 

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” (Acts 2: 1-13, NASB)

Ten days after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples, and they began to “speak in tongues”. From this point forward they are no longer the Disciples, but the Apostles. This is the beginning of the Christian Church.

Each of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church is important, and each marks something else for us to learn about Christ, but there is something qualitatively different about Pentecost. Christ’s death and resurrection were world-changing, but it was from the event of Pentecost that the Apostles, one might say, “found their voice” through the Holy Spirit, and took the message of the Resurrection out into the world. For the three or so years of Jesus’s earthly ministry, His message and His Disciples stayed largely within Judea and Samaria (though holy tradition does speak of journeys and correspondence further afield), but after Pentecost the faith and message of Jesus spread rapidly throughout the entire Roman Empire (which it would fundamentally change over the next 300 years), the Persian Empire, beyond there into India, southwards into Ethiopia, and to points further beyond.

Why is this day called Pentecost? Remember that the first Christians were also Jews, and the descent of the Holy Spirit occurred during the Jewish Festival of Weeks (Shavout), which is celebrated fifty days after Passover, and thus itself also often called Pentecost (“Pente” means 50, and “cost” or “caust” meaning offering or feast).

Liturgically, the Ascension of ten days prior marked the end of the Paschal season, and Pentecost marks the beginning of a new season of the Orthodox Church. The vestments change from the white of Pascha to green, and will remain as such until the beginning of the Dormition Fast in August. Until the beginning of Great Lent, the Liturgicon of the church (the calendar that dictates the readings) is henceforth marked by the number of weeks since Pentecost. The ten days between Ascension and Pentecost are not left unmarked, however. During this time, since Ascension always falls on a Thursday, there is an intervening Sunday, and this commemorates the First Ecumenical Council – the first Great Council of the church since one mentioned in Acts, called by the emperor Constantine at Nicea, and at which the first two-thirds of the Nicene Creed were written. The Saturday of the Eve of Pentecost is Soul Saturday, during which we especially pray for our beloved departed (there was a similar commemoration on the eave of Meatfare Sunday too).

The Feast

“Today all the nations in the city of David beheld wonders, when the Holy Spirit descended in fiery tongues, as the God-inspired Luke spake; for he said: The Disciples of Christ being gathered together, there was a sound as of a mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And they began to speak strange doctrines and strange teachings with diverse tongues, to the Holy Trinity.” (Great Vespers on the Sunday Evening of Pentecost, www.antiochian.org)

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirt of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the father has are Mine.” John 16: 12-15a. New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1982.

On this day, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, descends on the Apostles in Jerusalem, and from this day they begin not only to preach, but to perform miracles in Jesus’s name. Their preaching in tongues is said to be the lifting of the curse laid down at the Tower of Babel.

“When the High One descended, confusing tongues, He divided the nations. And when He distributed the fiery tongues He called all to one unity. Wherefore, in unison we glorify the most Holy Spirit.” (Orthros Kontakion, www.antiochian.org)

The coming of the Holy Spirit fulfilled the promise Jesus made in John 16, and who animates and speaks through the Church from this day forward.

“The Holy Spirit hath ever been, is and ever shall be; for He is wholly without beginning and without end. Yet He is in covenant with the Father and the Son, counted as Life and Life- giver, Light and Light-giver, good by nature and a Fountain of goodness, through whom the Father is known and the Son glorified. And by all it is understood that one power, one rank, one worship are of the Holy Trinity.” (Great Vespers of Pentecost, www.antiochian.org)

It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is one of three persons of the Triune God, though this is a great Mystery as we cannot describe or understand this fully. There have been, and indeed still are many Christian denominations who reduce the Holy Spirit to something else less than one of the persons of the Trinity, and do so in an effort to understand or explain what is beyond human reckoning. Yet this in turn distorts understanding both God the Father and Jesus Christ in the process. Pentecost is a revelation to us of the truth.

The Icon

Of all of the festal icons of the Orthodox Church, the icon for Pentecost is one of the most difficult to understand, for it contains many different elements all at once. We see a crowned old man at the bottom of the frame, standing in a doorway, holding a cloak or cloth between his hands, and 12 flaming scrolls standing upright in the cloth. Above him we see a window, and both the window and doorway appear to be set into a wall. Yes surrounding the man and the window we see twelve figures seated at a different perspective, with the two figures in the back (at the top of the frame) at the same size, or maybe larger than those in the foreground. The figures are all holding scrolls or books, they may have flames above their heads, and above them all is the lower edge of nimbus of dark light, with 12 rays. What is going on here?

As with many other icons, the icon of Pentecost is not a literal depiction of events – it is not a historical document, but instead presents Pentecost as an even captured in eternity, in which we are all present. The entire church, all believers from all ages that have passed or are yet to come, is there in this moment.

The twelve seated figures are the 12 Apostles seated in the Upper Room, experiencing the descent of the Holy Spirit represented by the nimbus above. Those holding books instead of scrolls are gospel or epistle writers. But even this should strike the viewer as a bit odd: several of the Apostles present on the icon were not actually in the room. At the top of the ring, facing each other, are Peter and Paul. Paul at this time was still a Pharisee, and persecuting the early Christians. Yet because Paul was so important to the early spread of the faith, being a prolific preacher, church planter, and writer, and is ranked alongside Peter, we see Paul placed alongside Peter, while Matthias, who was elected by the other Apostles to replace Judas, is absent. Further, Luke certainly was not there either, yet he too is present among the twelve figures, again emphasizing the eternity of Pentecost.

The 12 figures present are all depicted at the same size and scale (though sometimes Peter and Paul are slightly larger), showing them all as equal. Notice too that there is a space between Peter and Paul. This is the space reserved for Christ, though occasionally one will find Mary seated here instead.

What of the old king and the rest? The old king is Cosmos, representing all of humanity, and the darkened doorway from which he is emerging is the world darkened by sin. The cloth he carries holds the teachings of the twelve, bearing the light of the Holy Spirt. Some say the doorway he emerges from reminds them of the Tower of Babel, whose curse the Holy Spirit has come to break.

A Coptic icon of Pentecost

Into The World

From this moment forward, Christ’s earthly ministry has been brought fully to completion. The Apostles go forth to preach and to teach, spreading far afield. This is almost, but not quite, the end of the Paschal cycle that began months ago. There is no kneeling in church during from Pascha through Pentecost, but either at Vespers the night before, or at Vespers the evening of, the Church collectively kneels for the first time since Holy Week for what are known as the Kneeling Prayers. These are all at once sober, penitential, and deeply thankful prayers that reiterate the message of the entire ministry of Christ and of the Paschal cycle.

And for the week to come we do not fast but celebrate, but in preparation for a variable-length time known as the Apostles Fast, which runs from 1 week after Pentecost through until the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. This fasting is to honor the Apostles and all who came after them, especially those martyred for their faith. At the conclusion of Sts. Peter and Paul, at last we conclude the entirety of the Paschal and Pentecostal cycle.

Author’s Notes

In a darkened chapel in the hills north of Pittsburgh, as the rain pounded outside, the nuns sang and chanted the Vigil of Pentecost while the rest of us stood and prayed in the back. As the vigil reached its crescendo, more lights were lit, and the abbess, using a long pole, set the brightened chandeliers swaying around, making the shadows in the corners dance. The Holy Spirit was descending, and the Earth was quaking in celebration. The bell tower pealed loudly above the storms.

We returned in the morning for the hours, Orthros (Matins), and Liturgy, followed by an early celebration of Vespers and the kneeling prayers. The rains let up here and there, enough afterward to briefly see some of the flower gardens before I had to leave the monastery grounds and return home from a weekend journey (I wrote about this Here, last year).

This year, of course, no retreat or pilgrimage is possible. In fact, I haven’t been to church (save for maintenance work) since the first Sunday of Lent, now 3 months gone. Most of us haven’t, in fact. Yet we take comfort in knowing that at times, especially during the Communist or Muslim persecutions, or during wars, that many of the faithful went for years without setting foot inside any church at all, and if they received the Eucharist it was only in secret. Saint Mary of Egypt (see Here), spent 40 years in the desert. Our time has been far shorter, and was never meant to be permanent.

But this time of trial, this weird prolonged Lent, is coming to an end. In fact, I should be in church tomorrow at last, welcoming the descent of the Holy Spirit after our own time of confused trial. There won’t be many of us (we are not allowed full capacity just yet), and we must wear our masks, but we will return.

Finally two other notes. First, of course for the western churches your Pentecost was celebrated a week earlier. Of course, our Pascha (Easter) was also a week later than yours, and Pentecost is tied to that. For those of us on the Revised Julian calendar, we will resume regular programming shortly.

Secondly – I should have had this written last Summer. But I got behind. Very very behind. I did not have my essay on the Ascension up until August, already almost 2 months late by then. Then this essay proved challenging to write anyway, and life intervened besides, so I set it aside and aimed to have it done this year. This puts me too back on regular programming, and I’ll hopefully have the icons on the Transfiguration and the Dormition of the Theotokos actually out when they’re supposed to be out. As time permits I hope to have a couple of other supplementary essays up too, though I make no promises on when those will land.

Sources:

Liturgical texts from www.antiochian.org

Scripture quoted from both NASB and NKJV

Alfeyev, Met. Hilarion. Orthodox Christianity, Vol. IV: The Worship and Liturgical Life of the Orthodox Church, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Yonkers, NY, 2016

Kidd, Fr. David (ed), and Ursache, Mother Gabriella (ed). Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarian. Holy Dormition Monastery Press, Rives Junction Michigan, 2005.

https://www.oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/pentecost-the-descent-of-the-holy-spirit

https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/pentecost-icon-as-an-icon-of-the-church/

https://www.orthodoxroad.com/pentecost-icon-explained/

Let’s Gas Up at the Gas-a-Teria!

 

Gilmore Gas-a-Teria at night 1948

In 1948, the first self-serve gas station was opened in the United States. The station was in Los Angeles, the car capital of the country, on Beverly Boulevard just past Fairfax Avenue and was operated by Gilmore Oil. Gilmore Oil was a large, local oil and gas company well known in southern California. Gilmore called these self-service stations “Gas-a-Teria’s”. The Gas-a-Teria was a massive station for the time featuring eight islands with three pumps per island. The self-serve gas saved the customer five cents per gallon and the attendants at the station were young women.

Gas-a-Teria Attendants

The area bounded by Fairfax, Beverly, and 3rd Street where the Gas-a-Teria was located, was prime real estate. The Gilmore family had owned the land for decades operating it as a dairy farm. In the early 1900s, Arthur Gilmore was drilling a water well when he struck oil Beverly Hillbillies style and he turned the dairy farm into an oil production field. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t too surprising that he struck oil as his property was located only a mile or so north of the La Brea Tar Pits.

When Arthur died in 1918, his son E.B. Gilmore took over the business. E.B. expanded the company into the gas station business building it up to a network of 3,500 stations mostly on the west coast. E.B. was also a born promoter – the company motto was “Roar with Gilmore” and the company logo was a Lion. He sponsored aviator Roscoe Turner and several race drivers including Indy 500 winners Kelly Petillo and Wilbur Shaw.

In the early 1930s, Gilmore began developing this portion of their property and it eventually featured a baseball field (Gilmore Field – home of the Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars), a football stadium (Gilmore Stadium,) a drive-in theater (Gilmore Drive-In), a large Farmers Market open every day of the year, and the Pan-Pacific Auditorium with its distinctive architecture. The ballpark, football stadium, and drive-in were razed in the 1950s to make way for CBS Television City.

From lower to upper photo – Gilmore Stadium, Gilmore Field & Pan-Pacific Auditorium with Gilmore Drive-In to the right of Gilmore Field

Getting back to the self-serve gas idea, it took quite a while for the idea to catch on. At the time of the Gas-a-Teria, gasoline stations competed on the basis of quality – high-quality gasoline and full service with attendants, usually dressed in a clean, white uniform, who would wash the windows and check the engine oil level and tire air pressure in addition to pumping the gas. In my neck of the woods (Sacramento), the first self-serve gas station was opened in the mid to late 1960s along Fair Oaks Boulevard. My dad started gassing up there after they opened and when I got my license, I also got gas there circa 1970.

The attraction of the self-serve gas was the same as at the Gas-a-Teria – the customer saved money by pumping his own. The way it worked is the customer would buy tokens from the attendant who sat in a small kiosk with the tokens being required to operate the pumps. A funny thing, their gas price wasn’t that much different from the Gas-a-Teria in ’48 (the photos show it was 21 cents at the time) and the Sacramento self-serve which was 27 or 29 cents as I (fuzzily) recall. Later, I worked pumping gas at a Standard station for about a year around 1974 by which time three of the stations 12 pumps were self-serve and the other nine still full-serve. I think that was pretty standard in the mid-1970s.

Gradually over the years, the percentage of self serve pumps at gas stations across the country increased from a quarter to a half and so forth but it took quite some time – 15 years or more – before almost all the pumps were self serve. There are, however, still two states – Oregon and New Jersey – which ban self-service gasoline. If you’re interested, here’s a brief article on the history of self-serve gas.

I was trying to think of a song, any song, about gas stations but the only tune I can think of along those lines is “Too Much Monkey Business” by Chuck Berry.

I should note that I originally posted a bit about the Gilmore Gas-a-Teria several weeks ago at Things I Learned Today group. I decided to expand it a bit and post it here in the Member Posts. These sorts of subjects get posted at Things I Learned Today group regularly so, if you don’t belong, you might consider joining it.

DAY 139: COVID-19 Ideology Makes You Immune Somehow

 

Picture above is credited as a Black Lives Matter protest in Boston.

According to CNN, over 1,000 health professionals sign a letter saying, Don’t shut down protests using coronavirus concerns as an excuse. Impressive, no? Think of it: More than one thousand health experts are telling us that the threat of infection from SARS-CoV-2, the reason countries all over the world shuttered their economies, should not be a reason to shut down large gatherings to protest racial injustice.

The health experts tell us (among other things):

Infectious disease and public health narratives adjacent to demonstrations against racism must be consciously anti-racist, and infectious disease experts must be clear and consistent in prioritizing an anti-racist message.

***

COVID-19 among Black patients is yet another lethal manifestation of white supremacy. In addressing demonstrations against white supremacy, our first statement must be one of unwavering support for those who would dismantle, uproot, or reform racist institutions.

***

[A]s public health advocates, we do not condemn [demonstrations that call attention to the pervasive lethal force of white supremacy] as risky for COVID-19 transmission. We support them as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States. We can show that support by facilitating safest protesting practices without detracting from demonstrators’ ability to gather and demand change. This should not be confused with a permissive stance on all gatherings, particularly protests against stay-home orders. Those actions not only oppose public health interventions, but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives.

So, protesting health orders that deny freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and employment has a high risk of disease transmission, but protesting racial injustice does not. Interesting. So the reason you are gathering provides a prophylactic for the disease? And your double-blind study supports this, does it?

Well, of course, this is utter nonsense. So how can “over 1,000 health professionals” be so…incoherent? Well, for one thing, there aren’t over 1,000 health professionals signing this letter. Read the fine print; always read the fine print: “This letter is signed by 1,288 public health professionals, infectious diseases professionals, and community stakeholders.”

Infectious disease professionals are OK. They may not be right but at least they have knowledge of the relevant medical issues. Public health professionals, which means they are associated in some way with public health but may not have relevant expertise, lend some credence to the matter but not as much as infectious disease professionals. Community stakeholders? Well, that could be Molly, the crazy bag lady, pushing a shopping cart, and looking for an open spot under a freeway overpass.

Note that the CNN report doesn’t print the part of the letter that identifies the signatories. That’s because even a cursory look at it reveals how thin the expertise of this collection of people actually is. Only 34 of the 1,288 signatories identified themselves as having some credentials in infectious diseases. Some of those may be students and two are “infectious diseases pharmacists.” Two-hundred-forty-one are MDs or DOs and 206 are MPHs with some overlap between the two. Ninety-three are Ph.D.s with some overlap with other professional credentials. One-hundred-nineteen expressly identify as students although there are likely more. In other words, there are a lot of “community stakeholders” on the list.

Now doesn’t that make you comfortable that there is a clear medical consensus? That while large gatherings of people who are protesting lockdowns are a health hazard the same or larger groups protesting racial injustice are not? Thought so.

[Note 1: I will be arbitrarily ending the daily COVID-19 posts on Day 150. It is clear now more than ever that this is not a public health crisis, it is a public policy crisis dressed in whatever garb best suits those that promote government control over our lives. That will be the constant battle of the remainder of my life. But it has nothing to do with the disease we labeled COVID-19.]

[Note 2: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

More Bad History

 

With the announcement that President Trump wanted to bring up to one-third of US troops from our permanent bases in Germany, Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted out the following:

Ok. If you want to argue that it’s bad policy, fine. Make your case. If you want to drag the founding of the nation into it, then you better think twice. As certain members of this community will attest, I’m not a big fan of bad history or history distorted to fit an agenda.

Has she never read George Washington’s farewell address? (“…nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded…”) Has she not read Thomas Jefferson? (“Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.”) Is she totally unaware that a generation ago, the man who was known as “Mr. Republican,” Robert A Taft, Sr., was a staunch “non-interventionist?” While we lament the current situation on our shores, maybe we should have been taking care of business in our neighborhoods instead of worrying about what was happening in the suburbs of Baghdad?

Oh! the NeverTrumpers cry, he’s doing Putin’s bidding! Please raise your hand if you think the Russians are ready to steamroll across the plains of Poland and into Germany. Hell, all he really has to do is cut off the natural gas just as he did in 2009. With Germany abandoning coal and crude oil for energy production, that will give him even more leverage.

Perhaps if Rep. Cheney wants or needs a more recent history lesson she should look into the proposals that went even further than Trump’s. In the not-so-distant past, the Pentagon was proposing cuts of 50 percent or more. The New York Times Editorial Board chimed in:

“There is nothing sacrosanct about maintaining particular Army divisions in Germany. The role of American military forces there has evolved considerably over the decades — from occupying a defeated enemy to deterring Warsaw Pact aggression to symbolizing Washington’s post-cold-war commitment to remain militarily engaged in Europe. Along the way, the size of the American presence has evolved as well. In the nearly 15 years since the Berlin Wall fell, United States force levels in Germany have dropped by roughly 75 percent.”

Who was leading these efforts in the glory days of American foreign policy? Well, that was 2004 and I suspect she’s probably going to see the old man for Father’s Day…

Better Policing Would Be Nice, But…

 

Insisting that the police be better — and they can always be better — is all well and good, if you aren’t under the mistaken impression that the biggest problem black Americans face is their treatment by the police. Because that isn’t even close.

No, the biggest problem black Americans face is that they’ve been told for too long that they’re victims of institutional racism and that none of their personal choices will change that. And, believing that, too many black Americans have sensibly enough decided that there’s no point in participating in an American experience that they’ve been convinced is rigged against them. And so they’ve been cheated out of prosperity and success by people who pretend to be their allies, who pretend to have their backs, and to have their welfare at heart, but who really just want their votes.

The current protests are a very costly distraction and worse than meaningless. They’re part of the lie that’s sold to black Americans every day, part of the fiction that ours is an oppressor country that wants black Americans to fail and suffer. That lie is a self-fulfilling prophecy because it sets black Americans up for failure by encouraging them to drop out of the American experience that they have every right and ability to enjoy.

So yes, the peaceful protesters may have their hearts in the right place, but they’re fighting the wrong battle, duped by those who find it much more useful to sell a tale of oppression and injustice than to embrace our shared heritage of opportunity and success. The problem isn’t the police. The problem is that black Americans have been told that they shouldn’t participate because they can’t win, and have been saddled with institutions and policies that leave them weaker and less able to achieve what they could achieve on their own.

Online Dating: Social Justice Warriors and Frozen Snowflakes

 

This seems like something that could be added to the conversation on social justice warriors. While browsing Hinge this evening, I came across this profile which took me aback, something that rarely happens anymore. This person’s response to a prompt about “what social cause I care about” was by far the craziest I’ve ever read on one of these sites. There is a theory that some people say far-fetched things to impress other people especially in blue cities like Chicago, but the sheer madness and breadth of what he invented here makes me think he was actually being quite concrete. Here’s his answer:

“Disabling the white, ableist, cis-hetero patriarchy by destroying capitalism, firing all cops, and guillotining the rich.”

Let me add this: what do you think he does for a living? He’s a kindergarten teacher. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

The Spectator’s US edition has an interesting piece on “snowflakes freezing into icicles” about rapid change that the snowflake generation has undergone from seeming merely whiny to actually crystallize into something dangerous. It’s a worthwhile read. It’s people like this who are attending these mass demonstrations, even peacefully, who never stop apologizing for their apparent privilege, who think themselves allies to “oppressed” blacks and devote themselves to the BLM cause (i.e., harangue the rest of us in person and online with quotes from Desmond Tutu – “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor) and tell everyone else who isn’t black we aren’t allowed to talk (those people inspired by the aforementioned quote) because we just don’t get it and never will and everything about us is racist from the get-go). The Hinge character was a crystallized snowflake as described by The Spectator.

This is also the first time I have heard about bringing back the guillotine…

Women: No More Excuses

 

Last week we made a trip to the gun range for the first time in weeks. I nearly forgot how empowered I feel when I hold, aim, and shoot a gun. Especially because I practice regularly and shoot pretty well. But then I remembered that in spite of having a concealed carry license, I still am not carrying.

I read an excellent article in the NRA magazine [unfortunately behind a paywall] that was specifically directed to women who are reluctant to conceal carry. It was spot on in describing the primary reason women don’t carry:

What I’ve found is the training differences are not related to our strength, size or mechanical ability. Though these challenges may be in evidence, I’ve seen women overcome them all. And it’s not that there isn’t enough equipment designed for women. These days, plenty is made to accommodate us.

One of the critical differences, and indeed the biggest hurdle for women, is our mindset. More specifically, our traditions, our evolution and our societal mores that set many of us up with deep-rooted notions that run counter to good personal defense.

I could identify with some of the excuses the author listed, too. And they are just that—excuses. Yes, I live in a quiet, gated community. Yes, the protests in Central Florida have mostly been peaceful. Yes, the odds of my needing to have a gun on my person are slim. At least, they were slim. I’m not so sure if that’s true anymore

It took a long time for me to work up to agree to my husband’s buying a gun. I thought he was paranoid. He felt it was important for me to at least be familiar with the gun. Gradually I gave shooting a try; it was frighteningly powerful and noisy. With practice and training and a good set of ear protection, I began to enjoy the experience. I felt a new confidence, particularly in my ability to protect myself and my home. But if I am out and about, a gun sitting in a locked box in my bedroom is not going to do me a single bit of good.

Where would I need a gun? Who knows? At the dry cleaner? At a restaurant? At the grocery store? The truth is that if I’m not armed, I am helpless in the face of an armed adversary.

As I watch the violence spreading throughout the country, it finally may be time to carry.

Using Some Officer Discretion

 

George Floyd apparently tried to pass off a counterfeit $20 bill to buy either food or cigarettes. This was hardly a pivotal moment in the universe of crime. He could be charged with theft by deception, and the $20 amount would be a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor that would probably not merit any jail time, in all likelihood a fine at most.

As a police officer, you could use some discretion by giving Mr. Floyd the opportunity to pay for the item or items with real money. Apparently he had two friends with him. If Mr. Floyd didn’t have the money you could ask his friends to help Mr. Floyd out and pay for the items. Sweeten the deal by telling them the sooner payment is made everyone can be on their way.

Your next step would be to talk to the clerk and propose that if the payment is made the clerk has the option of trespassing Mr. Floyd from the store, an exclusion. Ask the clerk if he really wants to go to court and testify if payment can be made. You don’t need to tell clerk the court calendar is so full that Mr. Floyd will probably never go to trial.

If that fails a simple arrest, a quick run to booking. An Incident Report and Custody Report. This type of arrest should have never ended in death.

Mayor Lightweight Says No to ‘Vigilantism’ in Chicago

 

Disturbed by reports of white men patrolling their Bridgeport neighborhood with baseball bats, and with no apparent awareness of the irony in her statement, Mayor Lori Lightweight decried these citizens’ attempt to protect their community and property while Chicago law enforcement is unavailable or focused elsewhere.

“… we’re not about to allow that practice to happen here in Chicago. If there’s an issue, call 911,” Lightfoot said. “I absolutely support neighbors being vigilant as to what’s going on on the streets and in their blocks but taking up arms, that leads to chaos and we’re not supporting vigilantism in the city of Chicago under any circumstances.”

So, the Mayor is against “vigilantism” but is apparently all right with Antifa and BLM rioters burning, pillaging, and destroying other people’s property in an effort to bring about chaos and enforce “social justice,” an empty phrase that has no meaning.

Democrats have had political control in all the major cities in the U.S. for many years. These inept and empty-headed leaders have allowed homelessness, crime, and now anarchy to rule the day.

Sadly, Mayor Lightweight’s “identity vigilantism” is a concept that is likely to spread.

What’s Ellison’s Goal of Upping Charges for Chauvin?

 

What do hardcore leftists want? They want revolution. They want violence and mayhem. They want to tear down the whole system, so they can get in power and exact revenge. So color me skeptical that Keith Ellison was being a tool when he upped the charges against the police who killed George Floyd.

[Andrew McCarthy] believes Ellison might have just colossally screwed up his case against the cops. My words, not his. McCarthy called Ellison’s amended charges “dangerously flawed.”

He’s right that they’re dangerous. But from Ellison’s point of view, are they flawed or brilliant? Remember that the Los Angeles riots of 1992 were ignited by the acquittal of the police officers who beat up Rodney King.

Victoria Taft at PJMedia writes (article linked above) that “the most diabolical” part of Ellison’s order is that it signals to police that they will be charged with crimes for doing their jobs. She quotes McCarthy again.

By contrast, the new “felony murder” count, spearheaded by Keith Ellison, the radical leftist state attorney general, puts police on notice that they can be charged with a crime — felony assault — for doing their job, which routinely involves physically restraining suspects who resist lawful commands.

I agree with her that that’s pretty evil. But I suspect there’s an even more diabolical motive underlying his move:

An acquittal will incite more riots.

Things That Make Me Crazy

 

I started my career in Big Law but have now had my own small firm for 25 years. I’m still amazed by the tone-deafness and hypocrisy of many large law firms. I’ve been watching them (and corporations) fall all over themselves to express solidarity with BLM. Today, I saw one firm solemnly issue a “Statement Against Racial Prejudice and Injustice.” They quoted MLK: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” How noble of them.

So, just for my own amusement, I went to their website to see how many African-American partners they had at the firm. One-hundred-sixty-three lawyers in total, six African-Americans, two African-American partners.

Constantly getting lectured by hypocrites sure is exhausting.

Perhaps Some Really Good News! 2nd Expert Asserts COVID-19 Losing Potency.

 

First from Reuters on May 30:

The new coronavirus is losing its potency and has become much less lethal, a senior Italian doctor said on Sunday.

“In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy,” said Alberto Zangrillo, the head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s coronavirus contagion.

“The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago,” he told RAI television.

Italy has the third highest death toll in the world from COVID-19, with 33,415 people dying since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21. It has the sixth highest global tally of cases at 233,019.

However new infections and fatalities have fallen steadily in May and the country is unwinding some of the most rigid lockdown restrictions introduced anywhere on the continent.

This morning from Zerohedge:

As if the world needed another reason to be bullish after Friday’s jobs number surprise, one doctor from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is doing his best to keep the rally going.

Dr. Donald Yealy, the chair of emergency medicine at UPMC, says that fewer people are testing positive for the virus and those who test positive don’t seem to be getting as sick. 

“All signs that we have available right now show that this virus is less prevalent than it was weeks ago,” he said, according to PennLive. “Among people who test positive, the total amount of the virus the patient has is much less than in the earlier stages of the pandemic.”

He also said the proportion of those needing a ventilator has fallen. “We see all of this as evidence that COVID-19 cases are less severe than when this first started,” the doctor said.

What This Means

After the first report, Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity Blog, a man with a Ph.D. in Pathology, speculated that:

A. Since it is almost certain the COVID-19 came from a lab, then:

B. That the key human transmission element that made COVID-19 so infectious and deadly, the inserted four strings of amino acid proteins into the Spike glycoprotein (S) that are suspiciously unique to 2019-nCoV among Coronaviruses, are likely since they are inserted in a lab to be very unstable and highly likely to degrade over time.

C. What we may be seeing in the loss of potency of COVID-19 is the likely degradation of those inserted Spike glycoprotein inserts of COVID-19 that cause the infectiousness to man described in B.

If this degradation of the potency of COVID-19 proves to be true, this is incredibly game-changing great news!

It means quarantines can be ended without concern because COVID-19 will be much less infectious and that any new cases should be able to be effectively handled now with the HCQ/Zinc combination which has been proven to be very effective early in the infection process when the infection load is light, which this degradation of COVID-19 is causing.

Einstein, Ether Strings, and Millikan on the Electron

 

In the early years of the last century, R.A. Millikan measured the charge of the electron. He was one of the greatest experimentalists to ever live, not only isolating and measuring something so incredibly small but doing other important work with things like cosmic rays. As such, when I saw he had a book, named The Electron, I figured he ought to know a thing or two about the subject. He did; it’s a complete, informative, and up-to-date book, so long as that date occurs within World War I.

The book has been eye-opening, not because of the new physics, but because of all the outmoded and discarded theories that he mentions and dismisses on the way. What if electrons didn’t have a fixed charge, but a statistical distribution that averaged out to what we think of as a fixed charge? This was a viable theory until Millikan disproved it looking at his oil droplets. What really got me though was when he spent his last chapter describing wave-particle duality. Only there was no such thing when he wrote the book. At that point all modern physics had was a real head-scratcher of a problem. Sample quote:

To be living in a period which faces such a complete reconstruction of our notions as to the way in which either waves are absorbed and emitted by matter is an inspiring prospect.

Wait, ether waves? Let’s begin early. How does light get from the sun to you, the discerning customer? The Greeks would have told you it emits minute particles, but they hadn’t tumbled to the notion of measuring the world experimentally, so their explanations are suspect. Ol’ Ike Newton liked that theory pretty well and he put it on a sound mathematical basis. About 1680, a Dutch feller name of Huygens watching ripples in water proposed that light was actually a wave traveling through an interstellar medium, the luminiferous ether. During the 1800s, the ether theory reigned supreme because it was best able to explain what light does. However you describe it, your description has to fit what we see light actually doing:

  1. Light interferes with itself. That is, it generates patterns of high and low intensity much like any wave would.
  2. The speed of light in water is slower than that of air (which is slower than light in a vacuum).
  3. Radio waves exist, and as you lengthen the wavelength of a radio wave, it becomes a static electric field.
  4. The speed of light is independent of the motion of the source.

Add to that the presence of an ether is useful for describing electricity and magnetism. An electrostatic field is a strain in the ether. These days we don’t believe in ether, but we still talk about electrostatic fields. At least I paid a college professor good money to talk about ’em for a whole semester. Doesn’t sound like such a good idea in retrospect.

As the year turned 1900, life was pretty good for a proponent of the luminiferous ether. All four of those tests are difficult to impossible to explain with a “corpuscular” theory where light is a particle, and relatively easy to explain where light is a wave. The problems come when you look at some exciting new experiments.

  1. X-rays passing through matter will eject not every electron, but only one out of a multitude.
  2. The photoelectric effect — where shining light on a metal produces an electric current — depends only on the wavelength of the light, not on the total amount of energy. A strong red light won’t produce electrons when a weak blue light might.

If light is a wave then the total energy of that wave is spread out uniformly over that wavefront. Why then does only one electron get the boot by your x-ray, not every single one the wave passes? J. J. Thompson, the guy shooting x-rays in this instance (There were a lot of people flinging x-rays around back then. I gather they took lumps of radium to parties to irradiate stuff and see what happened.) Thompson proposed that the ether wasn’t a continuous medium, but instead consisted of innumerable strings binding the universe together, and that electromagnetic forces travel down these lines.

Now, how these strings don’t get tangled like the backside of a TV cabinet nobody ever seems to have explained. But what that does do is that it lets your light travel as a wave, but keep all the energy localized in one spot. That lets your x-rays only hit the occasional electron all right, but then how does one ether ray interfere with another?

Right about this time the clock strikes 1905. Probably anyone who’s read this far knows what’s coming. A furry little patent clerk, name of Albert Einstein, shows up on the scene. He drops four scientific papers like a rapper droppin’ the mic and struts off stage. Along with special relativity, and an explanation of Brownian motion (another thing Millikan experimentally confirmed), he explains the photoelectric effect by means of Thompson’s ether-strings theory. He borrows Plank’s constant and describes with it the energy of escaping electrons.

Now, at the moment, nobody was able to test that. But in short order, Einstein’s equations were tested and shown to be valid all along. So all’s peachy in string land? Well, nobody’s worked out how one string interferes with another, but there’s another problem. If all the ether is strings, then it can’t possibly vary continuously in an electrostatic field. This is something Millikan could see and measure with his oil droplets. Therefore, no strings. But if there are no strings, how come Einstein’s equation describing the photoelectric effect works? That question baffled Millikan.

There’s one more way to explain why x-rays only eject the occasional electron, rather than all of them. What if the x-ray doesn’t provide the energy? What if the energy is stored up in the atom, and the x-ray only triggers it in passing? Ignoring how precisely the triggering works, this would explain why only the occasional electron gets ejected. The problem then has to do with why the ejected electron’s energy depends on the incident x-ray’s frequency. It makes sense if that’s where the energy comes from, but if the atom provides it, then why does the frequency matter? Does each atom have a number of electrons for any given frequency waiting to be ejected?

That’s the point where Millikan finishes his book; he doesn’t have the answer. The real answer, by which I mean the accepted by a century’s worth of physicists since, is that light exists both as a wave and a particle, that everything when you get that small does. In short, that quantum mechanics and all its freakiness exists. And if you’re not satisfied with that explanation, well, now you know why the alternatives didn’t cut it, and what questions you’d have to answer to provide your own. Good luck.

NYT Opinion Page Goes Full Maoist

 

Here are the latest orders to the peasants.

The link is here. John Batchelor has weekly segments with Michael Vlahos about the new American Civil War. We may be getting there sooner than I could ever have imagined. This could be considered an acceleration of Obama’s, “Get in their face.” I for one would find it delightful if my liberal relatives would stop communicating with me.

D-Day for Millennials

 

To all the spoiled brats of the New York Times that are made to feel “unsafe” by an op-ed from a senator. Just remember, that 76 years ago today, men your own age and younger, walked into machine-gun fire so you could have the freedom to live your life in such a frivolous way. I’m not an American but to me, with all its faults, it’s still Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”

Buy Physical Media

 

A generous helping of shutdown-induced free time has allowed me to catch up on my ridiculous backlog of movies on disc.

Note “movies on disc.” I think it’s safe to say that I don’t personally know anyone who owns as many movies as I do in a physical form. I also own a healthy number of television shows on disc, as well as myriad sports-related selections. In all, I would estimate that I have something like 2,000 discs worth of content, all of which I keep in simple albums for the sake of efficient storage, allowing all of this material to occupy only two small shelves on a bookcase in my den.

Why do I own so many discs in an era in which streaming is now the preferred format?

Several reasons. First, audio and video quality are typically better. A Blu-ray disc can hold enough data to produce higher video quality than what you’ll normally get on a streaming service, as well as uncompressed audio.

Secondly, it’s never been a better time to be a physical media fan. With streaming services exploding in popularity, discs are in decline. Demand is lower, especially after the initial wave of fans buy the products the first month the movie is out, so prices drop quickly.

Disney aside, even new-release discs drop below $20 pretty quickly. Even better, popular titles from yesteryear often get bundled together at incredible discounts. To name just one example, The Jack Ryan Collection, which includes five Tom Clancy blockbusters, can be had for $19.99 on Amazon right now.

I’m fairly indifferent to those movies, but, at $4.00 each, I’m considering making a purchase.

Those are the pragmatic reasons I buy physical media. But there’s a third, increasingly important one. (more…)

Day 138: COVID-19 “Deliver Us From Evil”

 

When I say “deliver us from evil” I am not referring to the plague arising from the natural world; I am referring to acts of men and women in power restricting the liberties of individuals in the name of “public safety.” First, let me say something that is not apparently obvious to some in the younger generations: It is evil to force another to submit to your arbitrary will. There are times when one is made to submit because of the crimes they commit. But peaceful persons doing nothing but pursuing their own ends and desires without depriving others of their life, liberty, and property are entitled to do so.

When we review our Constitution there are five actors described in our national structure: The Legislature, The Executive, The Judiciary, The Several States, and The People. The Legislature represents the People having been elected by them to set law. The head of the Executive is selected by the People and executes the laws. The Judiciary ensures that the Legislature and the Executive act within and in accord with the Constitution that the People created. Several States have governments and structures set up by the People of those respective states. The People are sovereign individually and are sovereign collectively in forming their government and selecting their leaders.

At least that is the way it is supposed to be.

The Kaiser Family Foundation just published Litigation Challenging Mandatory Stay at Home and Other Social Distancing Measures. It is a helpful, if unhappy, summary of the legal landscape at the moment.

Mandatory social distancing measures during public health emergencies, such as stay at home orders, are based on states’ general authority to protect the general health, safety, morals, and welfare, known as the police power. The police power is a very broad power through which governments regulate individual rights to protect the interests of society as a whole. Common examples of the police power are safety regulations to reduce fire hazard, zoning laws that regulate land use, and laws prohibiting gambling or prostitution. Examples of social distancing measures adopted under the police power in the current coronavirus pandemic include mandatory stay at home orders, mandatory traveler quarantines, closures of non-essential businesses, bans on large gatherings, school closures, and limits on bars and restaurants and other public places.

***

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition of state use of the police power to regulate individual rights in the interest of protecting public health dates back to 1905. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the Court upheld a government requirement for smallpox vaccination when that virus was spreading. The Court set out the legal test, still applied today, which provides that a state’s exercise of the police power to promote public safety during a public health emergency will be upheld unless the order has no real or substantial relation to public health or the measure beyond all question is a plain palpable invasion of fundamental rights.

***

Most courts to date generally have allowed stay at home orders issued during the current crisis to remain in place to protect public health, despite restrictions on individual rights such as free speech, peaceful assembly, travel, and free exercise of religion.

***

Adoption of social distancing measures continues to be a subject of policy as well as political debate. Courts generally have upheld these measures in the interest of protecting public health during emergencies, despite acknowledging the restriction on individual rights, in cases brought by individuals and groups seeking to fully exercise those rights. Three cases to date have asked for Supreme Court review. The Supreme Court has denied stays in all three cases in which plaintiffs have appealed to block state stay at home orders.  Other cases are pending review at district courts and courts of appeals. While state and local actions to open up might make some of the current litigation moot, states may decide to re-instate some of these orders if there are new flares in COVID-19 over the coming year, and we can expect similar legal challenges.

In summary, if you think the courts are going to uphold the sovereignty of the individual when the government declares an emergency think again.

This is a challenge to our fundamental rights: When will the courts step in to declare that an “emergency” is bogus? If they never do, how can the people be sovereign? Will not evil men and women use this constitutional “loophole” to control us and maintain power? What rights cannot be overridden by a declaration of emergency; the power to change our government by vote?

Interestingly this threat to individual sovereignty comes from the states and not the federal government. The federal government is one of limited powers; only that which is specified in the Constitution of the United States. That point is expressed directly in the 10th Amendment to the Constitution:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Our state government is presumed to have all powers except those reserved to individuals as natural rights and such other rights as the people have reserved in the several statutes passed by their representatives in the state legislature.  The 14th amendment to the Constitution, adopted after the Civil War, underlined the fact that individuals have natural rights beyond the authority of the state, not just federal, government:

Section 1.

… No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

And herein lies the battleground. Will the federal courts enforce those natural rights? They are failing us in the early tests, will they continue to fail? What then?

[Note 1: I will be arbitrarily ending the daily COVID-19 posts on Day 150. It is clear now more than ever that this is not a public health crisis, it is a public policy crisis dressed in whatever garb best suits those that promote government control over our lives. That will be the constant battle of the remainder of my life. But it has nothing to do with the disease we labeled COVID-19.]

[Note 2: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

Bigotry and Being Human

 

Evolution has hardwired us so that threats go right to the top of our mental in-boxes. So, if 99 purple people walk peacefully by me but the 100th punches me in the nose, that 100th purple person is going to make a much bigger impression on me, both literally and figuratively, than did the other 99.

So:

  • When I see the 101st purple person and alarm bells go off, that doesn’t mean I’m a bigot, it means I’m human.
  • The one purple guy who punched me didn’t hurt only me, he hurt the peaceful 99 purple people as well.
  • If purple people are significantly more likely to attack police officers, police officers are less likely to give purple people the benefit of the doubt. Cops are human, too.
  • No matter how few unarmed purple people are hurt or killed by police officers every year, those incidents will loom large in the minds of other purple people.
  • Derek Chauvin didn’t just kill George Floyd, he hurt every police officer in America. He made their jobs harder and he put their lives more at risk.
  • Derek Chauvin also hurt every black American who is now afraid to turn to the police when they are in danger.
  • The police officers who are assaulting journalists and peaceful protesters are giving citizens more reasons to fear and hate other police officers.
  • The rioters and looters are giving other Americans reasons to fear and hate people who look like them.
  • At the very least, I can decide not to pass the hatred on. I can decide not to be the reason why others hate and fear people who look like me.

Tales from a Dartmouth Costco

 

I just recently returned from a trip to Costco.  My Meat is all sealed in freezer bags and in the freezer.  My yogurt rotated in the refrigerator.  My toilet paper stacked in the bottom of the linen closet.  You get the picture.  Today was the first time I’ve been frustrated with the “precautions” and “social distancing” and the face masks!  God, don’t get me started on the face masks (spoiler, I’m about to get started).

On my first arrival at the store, there was a line up to get in.  “This is fine,” I said to myself “I’m really just trading waiting in line at the cash for waiting in line to get in the store, with the added benefit of less crowded aisles”. I tell you this to assure you, the ranting to follow isn’t because I went there in a foul mood. “Wasn’t it raining in Halifax, Nova Scotia today?” you ask”. “Don’t ruin my story!” I snap back.

So after selecting my products, I’m waiting in line.  “No, that’s not the line, the line’s over there.” “Oh, ok.”

So now I’m frustrated, it all just boils up on me.  This has gone on long enough (too long), I’m ready for it to be over.  Is because COVID-19 was essentially a non-event in my province?  Yeah, that has a lot to do with it.  The last time I checked the statistic, a couple of weeks ago now, I used to track them daily. then just stopped.  There were about 60 deaths, in a province with a population of just under 1 million people.  All but two of them were residents of nursing homes, and all but five of them were residents of one particularly poorly managed (that’s a story I can tell at another time) nursing home. There hasn’t been a positive case in this province outside of residents or staff of that nursing home in about two weeks.  We’ve flattened the curve! There is no curve.

But that’s only half the story, of course.  All this week there have been tons of mass public gatherings.  The “experts” tell us, the benefits of these gatherings outweigh their risks?  When was there ever a balancing of risks and benefits?  Even the “essential workers” had to practice proper social distancing blah blah blah. Anyways, smarter people than me have written about this hypocrisy, I’ll refer you to Jonah Goldberg’s G-File for today (well those of us who still like Mr. Goldberg, I accept he’s persona non-grata with some of us).

Let’s talk about the masks: First of all, can we all please agree that unless you’re wearing an N-95 mask, you’re not fully protecting yourself by wearing one, sure you might gain some protection with a paper, surgical or cloth mask, but you’re doing more to prevent yourself from spreading than you’re doing to prevent yourself from contracting when you wear one.  So to me, most of the people wearing masks are just virtue signaling.

My favorite anecdote of the day came while I was loading up my car.  The couple in the parking spot next to me was loading their car at the same time.  The husband, wearing a mask was teasing his wife for not being able to hear people in the store.  The wife, not wearing a mask, was defending herself “how can anybody hear, it’s loud in there to begin with, they’re all wearing masks, and plastic face shields and standing behind plexiglass”.

Let’s think about them for a moment.  They were far from the only couple I saw today in that same situation, one partner wearing a mask, the other not.  Whatever benefit his mask provides is negated by her not wearing one. If he’s protecting himself because he has some co-morbidity or something, ok, fair enough, but I’m thinking you don’t wear your mask when you kiss your wife goodnight.  And if he’s saving us from any virus he might be carrying, well, at this point, who among us thinks you have something she doesn’t.

All of this is to say, I have to go back to Costco tomorrow because I forgot to pick up the cat food.

Member Post

 

I promised a little while ago that I would be writing about my recent travels, and since I’ve already done a piece on London and Paris last summer, I thought some readers might like a Saturday night sojourn to Rome.  This trip did not begin in the most auspicious of ways. While it was a […]

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Dreams Over Despair

 

Before I begin citing the problems facing those born into Black America, let’s begin before birth. If you are potentially Black in America, but still have yet to take your first breath, you have about a 27% chance that you will never be born (according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health.) Other studies suggest that this statistic could be much higher, especially in NYC and other large cities. If you are lucky enough to take your first breath, you have about a 69% chance that you were born to an unwed mother. Other statistics suggest that you have a 33% chance that you will grow up in poverty. Even if you are not impoverished, you have a 46% chance you will be poor, that is your family’s annual resources comprise less than 2X the poverty rate. Note that 27% of low income Black families have no visible means of support at all, that is no one in the family is employed. If you live in a single parent household, you are almost certain to be impoverished.

There is some reasonably good news; if you are Black, you still have about a 79% chance that you will graduate from high school. However, the quality of your high school education may not prepare you for work or college. If you go to college, there is a 58% possibility that you will drop out before graduation. Though African Americans (self-identified in census data) make up just 12.6% of the US population, FBI arrest statistics indicate that Black Americans commit over 50% of the murders and robberies committed in the US. The victims of those crimes are nearly always Black as well. The incarceration rate for Black American males is over 4%, so babies unlucky enough to be born both Black and male face a 4% chance of becoming a prison inmate. Once in the system, you will likely remain there; 86% of Black prisoners are rearrested and sent back to prison (80% for Whites, alas.)

If you are Black and of working age, you are more than 2X as likely to be unemployed as a White person. This statistic is likely to be much higher in large urban areas (like 6.5X in Washington, DC.) These figures move with economic conditions though the ratios remain stable. The numbers are quite a bit worse for younger working-age Black Americans.

So what is at play here in America? Why is it so difficult to be successful in America if you are Black? Who stole Black America’s dreams and left them wallowing in despair? Is this evidence of White Privilege and Systemic Racism, or is something else at work here?

What is at work here is racial politics that encourage poor choices and bad outcomes. In pandering for the Black vote, politicians have allowed communities to be overrun with crime, drugs, and despair. Instead of encouraging good choices and pursuit of dreams, politicians have provided a desperate existence of state dependency, public or subsidized housing and unwed motherhood. Schools have been allowed to decline, achievement has been denigrated, and expectations have been serially lowered. Success is measured in how easily and readily one can game the system and score free benefits or hide under the table earnings. Property has no value to those who have none. Lives have no value to those who see no future. Politics and politicians become the means to continued subsidy. And worst of all, wanting more, wanting out, working to better oneself, is seen as despicable, as an affront, as disloyal. If you obviously try to seek a better life, you are a pariah. Despair, you see, must triumph over dreams.

So how to address these issues.

First and foremost, there is the problem of unwed mothers and unplanned pregnancies. This problem is not exclusively a Black American problem. The Hispanic and White illegitimacy rates have been rising for decades as well. And with illegitimacy comes poverty and state dependency. Two-parent and earner families have more stability and flexibility, can pursue opportunities where ever they arise, and are much less likely to remain mired in poverty. In better circumstances, children are more likely to thrive and achieve. Expectations are higher all around. So from a policy perspective, whatever we can do to encourage intact family formation and marriage, then the horrific outcomes that are unfortunately the rule in single-family households mired in poverty, can be averted. These initiatives should be entirely colorless but will impact the Black community most because illegitimacy disproportionately affects that community.

No doubt, education must also play a role here. We must improve schools in predominately black and other impoverished communities; this is obviously not just a funding problem. Some of the worst-performing schools in the nation (NYC, Boston, Baltimore) spend more than 2X the national average per student on education, and yet the schools in poor and declining neighborhoods are failing. Support for charter schools and voucher programs has proven to be an efficient and effective way to force public schools to perform and compete for students. A major effort must be made to encourage education and allow both parents and children to see educational achievement as a means to a better life. Everyone must understand that opportunities are unlimited if they strive for better, acquire skills, and achieve in the classroom.

Lastly, Black communities must be purged of all crime, drugs, and gangs. These corrosive influences destroy communities, place them under siege while leaving the neediest and impoverished, those who cannot leave, to be easy victims, stuck in a horrific situation. Drugs and dependency are always the wrong choices. Children who grow up in such a desperate environment, who cannot see any kind of better future for themselves, are recruited into lives of crime and drugs, of poverty and dependency.

Once crime is controlled, incentives can be used to bring back commerce, to renovate property and to rebuild communities.

In the meantime amid this horrific collective tantrum some call protests, we have to get the message out. We care about these communities. We want every American to achieve and make something better for themselves. We have no reason to wish anyone anything but contentment and success. And most of all, we want nothing but success and achievement for Black Americans, but it’s not something that they can take. Like every other American, they have to work for it, overcome obstacles, persevere, and achieve.