How I Tried and Failed to Educate Two Flat Earthers*

 

There is a world of insane conspiracy theories out there with people who believe in all sorts of loony things, like a flat Earth, the universe is spinning around a stationary Earth, all of the moon landings are faked, NASA is some huge spider-like agency feeding lies to the public, the contrails we see from airplanes are actually mists of chemicals being sprayed on us, the World Trade Center buildings were brought down with explosives by our own government, etc., etc. It is closer to us than we think.

I accidentally engaged one since she is a former liberal arts student from about five years ago who took one of my courses. I did not realize that she was like this until a few days ago, when I saw this post to which she responded. At first, I was not sure if she was just being sarcastic, but then I asked her if she was serious. Below is the feed, edited to hide identities of her (“CT2”) and the original poster (“CT1”) on the conversation. I tried to just give clear answers. Instead of helping them see reality, I evidently became part of the conspiracy….

Ok, from here on, it is just straight from the thread, with formatting, etc. for a Word document and hiding identities. Also, all of the figures somehow can’t make it into Ricochet. Enjoy, or weep for our nation. Your choice.


{Figure caption} But that’s ok because “science” and computer animations. XD

Image file described below here Whole Earth

[ Image, A photograph of the Earth with the overlay text “2016 And Still No Video Footage of the Whole Earth Continually Spinning in Space”]

CT1: I’ve learned so much since 2005, when I started discovering the truth about various things. I now know too much. I can see things for what they are without trying. We are under attack in every conceivable way, yet most people don’t recognize this clear…

CT2: Reality is pretty clear to me as well. I likewise feel like i know too much. The elite don’t even bother to cover their tracks anymore. So many things are so obvious now i can’t believe more people don’t have their eyes open.

Me: You think that the Earth is not spinning on its north/south axis?

CT2: I’m not saying it’s one way or the other. All I’m saying is that there is no proof that we are spinning. NASA has a way of leaving much to our imagination.

‪Me: Do you remember our discussions of the Earth-Moon-Sun system and things such as the reason for the seasons, solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, etc? There is so much proof that the Earth is a big ball whose surface we live on, which rotates on its axis approximately once every 24 hours, orbits the Sun approximately once per year, etc. The fact that you can’t recall the evidence, which we discussed in detail, even in such an elementary course, does not mean that “there is no proof.” This kind of intellectual laziness, to just reject as a conspiracy, things that you don’t study, won’t serve you well. As far as I can recall, you are capable of much better than this. If you are really interested in learning about the evidence for this, I will be happy to go over it with you in detail after the semester is over. (but be forewarned, this will come at some cost to you — you will be assigned homework!)

;) )

CT2: Out of respect for my former professor, I will not argue this with you, however, I do not appreciate being called intellectually lazy. NASA has been a prime target of my personal studies for some time and what I have found is they seem to be far from honest with us about the so called “science” they conduct. No pictures of Earth released by them are real/undoctored pictures. They disclaim that the pictures are composites or based off of artist interpretation. Seems fishy that they can produce no authentic images when they are in control of hundreds of satellites and high powered telescopes. We could be stationary and the universe may revolve around us and what you said would still make sense. I know i have seen videos of NASA astronauts filming from inside giant water tanks and pass it off as filming from space. In others the women permed their hair so it would stand straight up to give the effect of zero gravity. I do not shrug off information out of laziness. I just have questions that there seems to no answers for besides they are trying to hide the true state of things from the general public. NASA controls all the space intelligence agencies. It would not be hard for them to devise a plan like this and carry it out all over the Earth and remain unnoticed by the masses. It’s not like that many of us have seen Earth or space with our own eyes.

‪Me: Ok

CT1: Never seen a video of the spinning earth from space is all that’s being said. Can you provide one or an explanation as to why one doesn’t exist? Do you believe we went to the moon in 1969?

Me: If you really want to explore the evidence, then one factoid spoon fed to you, will never satisfy you, if you just want to say “it is all made up!” Hence my offer to CT1, who is still local, I believe. People want to believe that anything which is true is immediately apprehended from one photograph and a few words, but understanding how the world works takes patient study. I can recommend an elementary astronomy text, if you really want to read about this. Remind me on Thursday, when I am relatively free and I will look in my office and find a good text to recommend.

Until then, just look at the night sky. Look how all of the stars and the moon and the planets appear to rotate from East to west: That is what a relatively fixed universe looks like to a creature who lives on a ball and looks away from the center of the ball (“up”). You can do this two ways. Look up every half hour and follow, say, the Orion constellation or Jupiter tonight. You will see it advancing in “snapshots of time.” If you are a bit patient, just sit outside for one hour looking at a star near a tree or a building. If you keep staring, you will see the getting either farther and farther away from the tree, or closer and closer, depending upon if the tree is on the east horizon or west horizon. That is in principle the same thing philosophically, but comes closest to “seeing a video of spinning.”

As to the moon landing, I remember it vividly, since I watched it as a young boy. One of my few memories from childhood. It somehow entered my mind that this way my birthday present, since it happened two days before my birthday.

CT1: You thought you watched it on TV, what you saw was a show put on by NASA. A TV show, written, directed and filmed here on Earth. Do you know what the Van Allen Radiation Belts are? What you watched on TV was impossible to have transpired on the moon with the technology we had, it was a propaganda show, no man could traverse the VA belts and live. Houston, we have a problem. If they are faking the moon landings, what else are they faking…hint, it’s a lot

Me: ok.

CT1: Dismissive and arrogant deserves no respect. Answer the questions or do some research. He clearly has an interest in perpetuating the nasa lies since he’s employed to indoctrinate young minds to universal lies. He must be aware of the VA belts and chooses to ignore any argument that pokes holes in the junk science portrayal of propagandized events presented as real. This type of academic negligence destroys ones faith in the institutions of “higher learning”

CT1: Explain the VA belts professor

Me: It is a region of space filled with temporarily trapped charged particles, mostly protons and electrons boiled off by the Sun, but also from cosmic rays from outside our solar system. They are trapped by the magnetic field of the Earth.

CT1: now explain how a human in a tin can can pass through this radioactive field safely

Me: What biological effects there are on a person from such an environment depends upon factors including: 1)what the flux happens to be at that time 2) How much time one spends in that region. 3) The amount of shielding provided by the spacecraft. ….and probably other things that I have not come up with on the fly. Thus, living in the van allen belts might be very bad in terms of long term exposure, but passing through, say on the way to the moon or mars might be ok, depending upon the above factors. It is kind of like aircrews. The crews who fly at high altitude are exposed to cosmic rays with greater intensity than those of us on the Earth who are protected by ~20km of air. So the airlines limit the amount of time these crews spend at high altitude. Does this help?‪

Me: BTW, I have a class to teach in 45 minutes, so I will look at any further questions later.

‪CT1: the effects of passing through the VA belts are fatal if not shielded from the radiation, nasa admits in their new ORION preparations as much in their testing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlXG0REiVzE I’ll look for your reply later tonight, enjoy your class professor

‪NASA engineer admits they can’t get past the…

‪YOUTUBE.COM

CT1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8ZzFemBUJQ…

‪Moon Landing 1969 vs Scientific Evidence

‪YOUTUBE.COM

CT1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkYETGJ3OGE…

‪Moon Landing 1969 vs Scientific Evidence II

‪YOUTUBE.COM

Me: Hi YYYY: OK, so I watched the (edited) NASA movie you pointed me to. There is nothing inconsistent with what I said. How dangerous that region is, biologically, depends upon how much time you have people spend there. The more time the more radiation damage to people. The Apollo craft moved through this region very quickly to limit this, but I would also not be too surprised if they were more cavalier about the long-term cancer threats back then (doctors on TV still recommended some brands of cigarettes over others, I think…). In any case, I think they were much more focused on the whole ship exploding or just not working at some stage, killing the astronauts much more quickly than cancer. This is one of the reasons that astronauts then were chosen from the ranks of test pilots with “the right stuff,” who were used to taking calculated risks.

‪But biological danger just going through the VA belt is not all you have to worry about. There is solar wind throughout the (1 year?) trip which will cause some amount of ionizing radiation when you are not protected by Earth’s magnetic field or its atmosphere. So the problem they will have to solve is not just getting through the VA belt, but also minimizing the radiation during the entire trip.

‪Also, Mars does not have a strong magnetic field, so even when the astronauts are on Mars, they will probably (I am guessing at this since this is all outside my area of expertise) suffer from enhanced cosmic ray exposure for their entire stay on Mars. (Another year?) Also, since there is very little atmosphere on the planet, they will be exposed to enhanced UV radiation exposure during their stay since the planet has no Ozone layer.

‪Finally, on their trip back (another year?), they would be exposed to the same biological toll as on the way to Mars.

‪But, there is another risk, which I thought about, based upon the question of the conspiracy theorist who edited the film: Why are they testing these regions if they already tested with Apollo. I think the main reason is that technology today – especially circuits are tiny surface mounted components and integrated circuits. A single highly ionizing particle going through the wrong component in the wrong place could kill an entire chip or circuit. So, they probably have to build in a lot of redundancy to see if today’s extremely compact and light (important for traveling long distances using reasonable amounts of fuel) but more fragile electronics can survive large integrated exposures. This is something which would not have been a problem with the relatively humongous electronic components used in the 1960s.

‪I hope this helps.

‪I am not going to bother with the films on faked moon landings. These tend to be basically debunked notions based purely on “I don’t trust them” mentality. I have never seen any even slightly convincing evidence that this was faked. So, I don’t want to sink hours into watching such films. But if you have a specific question you want to ask, please feel free. Cheers, Ilan Levine

CT1: Thank you for a fantastic response, and by fantastic, I mean based in fantasy. Of course, if one is not willing to view the evidence of the fraud, they can confidently declare that they’ve never seen anything convincing to the contrary of their position. Fact is that you cannot debunk the documentaries made by committed researchers who have uncovered the fraud, without seriously looking at their findings. If you want to be taken seriously, you must confront their findings head on, not skirt evasively around them. Do yourself a favor in restoring any credibility you seek to maintain by looking at the evidence presented by those who have concluded the moon landings were a propaganda hoax. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xciCJfbTvE4. Bart obtained unedited raw footage of the video fakery from inside the capsule, it cannot be disputed, only avoided.

‪A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon

‪YOUTUBE.COM

Me: ok.


*Or, “When I learned that grading is not the least rewarding activity I do”

If anyone thinks that there was a more productive way to have engaged them, I would like to hear it. Signing off for the night, but will read suggestions tomorrow, he said hopefully.

A Response to… We are Headed to the “Final Solution”

 

Long time member. First time messenger. I am writing because of a metastasizing mass hysteria of the mob around Trump that is now personally felt. Are we descending into a Civil War?  One option is to pack a Sig Sauer P229 and hunker down, but instead, I am turning to the Ricochet community to at least ventilate my fears. This anxiety all came to a head yesterday when I received an email from a friend with a similar political persuasion who asked for solace after receiving an email from a longstanding friend. It was a crazy fanatical ranting, and my friend was frightened and sad. She thinks that friendship is over.  I feel it in the distancing of neighbors. I cannot talk politics with my liberal family.

And one of my very best friends sent me an email asking me to comment on her sense that there may be a “Final Solution” after reading an article consistent with her liberal views. She is Israeli. I am sending a copy of both her email and my response that I sent to her. Forgive me if it is long winded, but I need to get it out.

Here is the email from my good friend:

Hi Peter,

I know you feel different about Trump, but I needed to send this to you to see what you think.

  • Step One for Hitler was to discredit the media.
  • Step Two was to silence scientists and government employees.
  • Hate crimes against minorities grew to the highest in their country’s history. Clashes between parties became so extensive that Hitler ended civil liberties (Step Three), giving “law and order” as the cause. Those who opposed Hitler were ridiculed and threatened.
  • In Step Four wealthy supporters purchased media outlets, employing only those faithful to the ruling party.
  • In his final step (Step Five) Hitler declared that the only way the country could be unified was to restore traditional values. Minorities including gays, the disabled, Jews, Roma, and people of color were considered “inferior” and sent to death camps for slaughter.

We’re between Steps 2-4.

This is in case you were always confused by how so many people could go along with Hitler’s Final Solution, this is exactly how it happened. Cannot even believe that this [expletive] is happening in this country, in our time.

For me, this is appalling scary and sad very dark week….

Xxxx
Rachel

And here is my response:

Hi Rachel,

First of all, thank you for asking what my thoughts are regarding your concerns. It is an opportunity to voice different views respectfully, and I am sure that our deep friendship will endure those differences.

I am sorry to hear that you are frightened about this week, but it is understandable given your fear that we are headed towards the “Final Solution.” My sense is that conclusion is quite a stretch to make.

The steps outlined may or may not have been a part of how Hitler achieved the final solution, but it is not “exactly” the only elements that led to such a tragedy. My recollection of history is that central to the rise of Hitler was a severe economic depression with hyperinflation such that money was worthless and unemployment was rampant. Severe reparations imposed by the Versailles Treaty of WWI where Germany had an even more difficult time recovering from a worldwide depression exacerbated it. The constitution of the Weimar Republic was also weak leading to a greater avenue to centralized power. Such destitution, resentment, and lack of a tradition of checks and balances led to profound social unrest and the rise of a charismatic despot.

Defining some of our political differences may address some of your fears. Forgive me for repeating what I have said before. Liberals and progressives believe in power from the top down with a strong centralized authority while conservatives and libertarians believe in decentralized power from the ground up with an emphasis on individual freedom and states rights. Examples are too numerous to enumerate here, but the pattern is very consistent. Additionally, liberals and progressives assume the moral high ground of equality and social justice above individual freedom. Conservatives and libertarians would prefer to be free to do what is best for them and their loved ones so long as it does not hurt others. It would be less command and control, a higher tolerance of uncertainly, and an emphasis on individual responsibility, but I think that it would lead to greater prosperity for all including the poor if we adhered more to the economic philosophy of the “invisible hand” of Adam Smith, and we would avoid “The Road to Serfdom” as warned of by Frederick Hayek.

I would suggest that there is a greater chance for a Hitler to arise when moral righteousness is aligned with a strong centralized power, especially if some conditions are present such as economic despair. As government is given more power, it only wants more; there is never enough. And power corrupts. The Founding Fathers knew this when they formed a Constitution that was designed to decentralize power through an elaborate form of checks and balances. All politics is confrontation that hopefully leads to compromise, but I would submit that liberal politics, even if well intentioned, is the politics of coercion and force. (“I am smarter and know what is right for you, and we will use our power to force you to give something up for the good of others”). Centralized power leads to greater conformity (e.g., political correctness) and force. Decentralized power curbs the tyranny of the majority. In the conservative desire for smaller government and individual freedom that dovetails with capitalism, there is more of an emphasis on voluntary cooperation and persuasion. There is a patience and tolerance for evolution (versus the liberal’s bent towards revolution), where many local communities and families and institutions such as religions and cultures evolve into a consensus of what is best. The assumption is that there is greater wisdom in the many than in the few and that innovation through greater freedom leads to greater and lasting social change.

I also share your concern about Trump’s temperament, and we will all be subjected to a roller coaster of emotions with his actions. As you know, I was in the Never Trump camp, but in the end, I am more relieved that Hilary is not in power. His ideology is unclear, and I think that liberals and conservatives alike will disagree with many of his decisions. But to me, I think that he is imperfectly committed to smaller government (e.g., “drain the swamp”), greater individual choice and competition (e.g., school choice) and a stronger Constitution (Supreme Court). I am also more optimistic about emerging from this economic quagmire to have greater prosperity for all (reduced taxes and regulation). All of these factors mitigate against him becoming a Hitler. I actually think that Obama had a greater likelihood of becoming a dictator if it were not for the checks and balances of the Constitution. It is his lack of compromise regarding his singular piece of legislation in Obamacare and his sweeping dictatorial executive actions with pen and phone that will lead to the unraveling of his legacy to a footnote. Time will tell if Trump will also do the same. I, for one, will give him time and try to judge him more by his actions than his rhetoric.

Regarding the LBGT rights, I heard Trump say on election night that the issue of gay rights has been legally settled. However, your implied concern about being a victim of “the Final Solution” raises a question for me that perhaps you can help me understand. I cannot understand how you think that Trump is anti-Semitic? He is the most pro-Israel president we have had in a long time. His son-in-law is an Orthodox Jew. Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism. The Republican Party has been decidedly pro-Israel since its beginnings. Yet what perplexes me is why American Jews are at least 70 percent liberal? It is obvious that Obama is anti-Israel: the UN abstention establishes that any Israeli occupying the West Bank or worships at the Wall is a war criminal, and it takes away any need for the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel; he gave $221 million to the Palestinians who have repeatedly walked away from the table despite concessions from Israel. Alan Dershowitz has not only said that Steve Bannon is not anti-Semitic, but he also says that if you want to experience that bigotry, just join him when he goes on any liberal campus. I just don’t get it.

Finally, I will tell you my thoughts regarding each of the quoted steps:

•  Step One for Hitler was to discredit the media.

I have no problem with discrediting the media. With the exception of Fox and the WSJ, every major outlet has been liberally biased: NYT, Washington Post, CNN, NPR. Whether directly or subtlety, consciously or unconsciously, Americans have been forced fed this pabulum for a very long time.

•  Step Two was to silence scientists and government employees.

I actually think that it is the liberals who are silencing the scientists, whether through the withholding of federal grants, the withholding of tenure, or the oppression of group think of liberal institutions that do not tolerate dissenting views. It is my contention that the debate over climate change may be another example of this and that there may now be a more open debate. Academicians are now starting to voice their concerns. (Just to clarify, I have no doubt that human beings are affecting the climate. The question is can we measure the effect, does man truly have the ability to alter nature on such a scale, or is it hubris, and is it then fair to the poor that mammoth resources be diverted? So far, all the modeling has come up well short of predictions. I am inclined to put my government resources towards the basic sciences for cleaner energy and let the market develop technology. You can export new technology to other polluting countries; exporting regulations makes no sense. Finally, when you talk about silencing, read The Silencing by Kirsten Powers. She portrays the rampant oppression of political correctness on liberal campuses today with its use of micro-aggressions, safe spaces, trigger points, etc. Oberlin is the poster child for it. (One of her sons went there. I am a graduate) One example is that the classic Antigone was banned from the curriculum because a student complained that it traumatized him. Get real. And if by silencing government employees, we are talking about the “Deep State” or putting a curb on federal departments such as the EPA dictating regulation rather than following Congress, I am ok with that.

• Hate crimes against minorities grew to the highest in their country’s history. Clashes between parties became so extensive that Hitler ended civil liberties (Step Three), giving “law and order” as the cause. Those who opposed Hitler were ridiculed and threatened.

There is greater racial divide now than before Obama because of his divisiveness, but I do not believe that there are greater hate crimes today. And just an example of media bias: when that white developmentally disabled kid was systematically abused by those four black kids, the media was very challenged to call it a hate crime. As for “law and order,” I can understand that it does not make sense to the progressives when violence often accompanies the demonstrations of liberals. I think that reflects the revolutionary psyche of progressives in that the end justifies the means. There was not one unlawful violent behavior that occurred during the many demonstrations of the Tea Party.

•. In Step Four wealthy supporters purchased media outlets, employing only those faithful to the ruling party.

By definition, those who purchase media outlets need to be wealthy, and again, those outlets are predominantly liberal. I suppose this author may be referring to Steve Bannon, but there was certainly no outrage over Al Sharpton being at the side of Obama. I would put Bannon’s character up against Sharpton anytime.

•. In his final step (Step Five) Hitler declared that the only way the country could be unified was to restore traditional values. Minorities including gays, the disabled, Jews, Roma, and people of color were considered “inferior” and sent to death camps for slaughter.

We’re between Step 2-4.

This is in case you were always confused by how so many people could go along with Hitler’s Final Solution, this is exactly how it happened. Cannot even believe that this [expletive] is happening in this country, in our time.

Traditional values include the rule of law and respect for family and religion. Liberal progressive philosophy is rooted in Marxism, which is focused on the destruction of the family and religion so that the state takes over. People went along with the Final Solution where they were deprived of their voice because the government had taken over.

So when you have time, let me tell you what I really think.

Xxxx,

Peter

To the Ricochet community, thank you for listening. Do you feel me? I feel better already. But do you guys know the address of the closest local gun shop?

Sincerely,
A San Francisco Resident

Quote of the Day – Meritocracy

 

“The SAT 50 years ago pulled a lot of smart people out of every little town in America and funneled them into a small number of elite institutions, where they married each other, had kids, and moved to an even smaller number of elite neighborhoods. We created the most effective meritocracy ever.”

“The problem with the meritocracy, is that it leeches all the empathy out of your society … The second you think that all your good fortune is a product of your virtue, you become highly judgmental, lacking empathy, totally without self-awareness, arrogant, stupid—I mean all the stuff that our ruling class is.”

— Tucker Carlson

Let me observe Carlson’s quote about meritocracy echoes something Tennyson wrote in the poem The Passing of Arthur:

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

It is not our vices which are corrupting as it is our virtues carried to an extreme.

Short Thought for the Day

 

Mr. Rand and I are watching the series “Victoria” on PBS and have reached the episode where the Queen is pregnant for the first time.  She is terrified of dying in childbirth and is the recipient of a wealth of medical advice, most of it abysmal.

Mr. Rand, who’s now spent quite a few years around the baby birthing business in a variety of nursing capacities, most recently as a CRNA providing anesthesia care in a poor Catholic community hospital to, among others, laboring mothers, noticed and pointed out that our Medicaid patients on the South Side of Chicago now get vastly better medical care than Queen Victoria did in her day.

His observation got me thinking.  That fact is due almost entirely to capitalism – to the profit motive and the research and innovation it encourages, and the concern for client/customer/patient outcomes and satisfaction that it engenders.

It is too easy to take for granted what we have — to assume our level of progress was inevitable.  And it is too easy, in our short and harried lives, to fail to look back even a couple of generations, which is all that is necessary to see how staggeringly far we’ve come.

That is the test of a civilization – does it go from the first whiffs of ether to safe and painless outpatient surgery in 100 years, or from the telegraph to the iPhone in 150, or from a terrifying risk of dying in childbirth for a queen, who has all the care money can buy, to routine uncomplicated births for the poorest of the poor in 175.

Socialism is not progress.  It is the death of that real progress we are so fortunate to be living freer, more productive, and yes more leisurely lives as a result of.

Against the UBI

 

In last week’s Ricochet Podcast, John Podhoretz brought up the Universal Basic Income. I’ve been a proponent of the idea for at least a decade, and I’ve been in good company with the likes of Charles Murray and Milton Friedman, but I was recently convinced it would be a terrible idea.

First the arguments in its favor. In its best construction, the UBI would eliminate all other welfare and tax breaks. Leaving aside whether any deal to eliminate all or most other welfare and tax breaks is politically feasible (it isn’t), it has an alluring elegance. Everyone gets the same tax break, and ideally, the tax rate is completely flat, meaning there’s no tax cliffs destroying incentives. Those who can’t work can still survive. And no one is making any decisions about what they can do with “their” money.

This seemed like a slam dunk to me for a long time, but then I had the moral hazard spelled out for me. As bad as the welfare state is, one currently has to be at least ostencibly in real need in order to take advantage of it. You have to be disabled, or have children and no income, or seemingly unable to afford healthcare.

The universal basic income means that people that are perfectly capable to do work are now able to choose to live off of the government dole. In the perfect situation I outlined with no other welfare, the income wouldn’t seem like enough to live comfortably, but this assumes someone lives as a single taking care of themselves. If everyone gets their checks from the government, suddenly half a dozen young men who would otherwise able to work could move into a beach house together and live comfortably off of other people’s money. This would have a noticeable and large negative effect on the economy. Able-bodied 18-64 year olds without minor children are one of the few (and large) swaths of the population who don’t have easy access to welfare. UBI would change that. Why work your butt off when you could make a sizable fraction of that doing nothing?

So, while the current welfare state is bad, the UBI would almost certainly be worse. It would give many people who currently have to work strong incentives to stop. It almost certainly wouldn’t replace the current welfare state. Even if it was passed with (some) welfare elimination, welfare could easily be expanded again. The better, if unsavory alternative, is coming to terms with the status quo and working to reduce it as much as possible. Austerity is the name of the game. Make it harder for people to prove disability, and make them prove it again on a regular basis. Other people are giving them money against their will after all! Many of the new Republican voters are likely to be receptive to this. Do they really want more people to have potential access to their hard earned money?

Brian Caplan recently had a series of blog posts spelling out his reasoning against the UBI. He also won a debate on the subject.

Endings: Nana’s Life

 

When I was a child, my Nana was the most magical person. She would carry two giggling children at a time up the stairs tucked under her arms, claiming that she was carrying two sacks of potatoes. Every morning she stretched in bed, and when she came to visit all of us grandchildren would run down to the guest room and climb in bed with her and stretch. Arms up! Out! Up! Over! Legs up! Out! Together! Bicycle!

Nana was born in Nottingham, England. Her mother died when she was a baby and her older sisters brought up her and her brother, just a year older. They played in Sherwood Forest as children. Her father was quite strict, and she and her brother were very close, but he was killed in the Great War and she never got over mourning him.

Nana came to Canada to work in a lace factory as a teenager. On the boat from England, she was in second class, but the captain paired her up with a girl who was sailing first class by herself, and the two became pals. My Nana bobbed her long hair onboard along with her friend, something her father would have been horrified to see.

After Nana started working in Quebec, she found that the French Canadian girls were very cruel. They would cut her threads when she went on a break and call her mean names. When her older sister asked her to come to New York City to help her with her babies, my Nana hitched a ride on a motorcycle and came immediately. She never left the US, which made her an illegal immigrant, since she never had a visa or green card or anything like.

Nana met and married my grandfather, a big blustering Irishman, a union man who worked for Con Edison. Their marriage never seemed terribly happy, but they certainly were strong personalities and I loved them both a great deal. Nana, a Protestant, raised her two children as Catholics and shocked the priest at one point by asking for instruction to enter the Church fully. She worked at the school and was always present to help out in the parish so he had had no idea that she was not Catholic!

Nana was a looker, and loved style. She always instructed us grandchildren to avoid debt but only buy the best quality.

In her later life, Nana had severe emphysema and mostly stayed in her apartment. We grandchildren would take the bus to visit her after she and my grandfather moved out of NYC to an apartment closer to my parents. When I was able to drive, I would pick up her groceries and bring them to her house, where she would feed me and we’d play some gin rummy.

By the time I was a senior in college, it was clear Nana was not going to be with us much longer. Always super independent, she refused to leave her home and had a Do Not Resuscitate order on her frig. My family supported her decisions. Right after graduation, my mother asked me to do something for Nana. My mother had to be at a conference for her work — she was a nurse in charge of infection control for local hospitals — but she did not want her mother to be alone. So I lived with Nana for most of the last week of her life. I tried to make her food which she could not eat, or read her books which tired her, or rub lotion on her swollen and cracked feet. One night I fell asleep but was awakened by the sound of my Nana. She had tried to go to the bathroom by herself and had fallen. That was probably the hardest moment in my life, trying to gather Nana up from the floor and get her back together and to bed again. I was so afraid she was going to die there, and I knew I was not to call anyone. I cradled her, my beautiful strong Nana who used to carry me under her arm, and carried her to her room as best I could and tucked her in bed again.

My mother came back from the conference the next day, and came to her mother’s, and she died the next day while I was not there anymore. For years afterward, my siblings and myself would catch ourselves thinking we heard Nana’s voice singing out in our house, but of course she was gone.

I have an old winter cap of hers in my memory box, and it retains my Nana’s smell, a mixture of Jean Nate and her own self. It even has a couple of white Nana hairs caught in the wool. I pull out the cap occasionally to sniff it and think of her. I still love her and look forward to seeing her again.

The Strip

 

If there is a quiet space, they will pipe in music to fill it.  Where the pipes don’t reach, the street performers swarm, busking for dollars (or $5.00 if you want to take your picture with them).  The smell is unmistakable: a combination of cigarette smoke, booze, competing cherry and vanilla air fresheners, salted foods, body odor, perfumes, and waffle cones.

The people are dressed to the nines, barely dressed at all (sometimes both at once), slovenly and uncouth, or just tidy and unremarkable, and all intermixed at once.  You cannot drive anywhere, but then people don’t drive except to show off their rides, so you walk and walk up and down the bright streets, over the elevated walkways, and through the gaming floors with their miasma of smoke and hammering noise.

20-story portraits smile or stare down from glass facades, while others beckon from brightly lit billboards and marquees, while more sordid snap wallet cards and try to thrust them into your hands to lead you to lower establishments where the glamour is less polished and more visceral.  Vendors of Prada are within a minute’s walk of vendors of cheap trinkets, all housed in buildings that must have been uprooted from theme park imitation lands, where you can walk from caricatures of Egypt to renderings of New York brownstones, then on to a Roman forum, a rainstorm in Paris, and a gondolier boat ride through a canal, stopping in between to grab a cup of coffee, a milkshake, or an ice cream cone.

The Las Vegas Strip, the cluster of casinos running north from the airport on the south side of the city, is a strange place.  When I returned home from it last night I found the midwestern quiet unnerving after a week of solid noise and hotel living.  The locals told me again and again that they avoid The Strip themselves.  The food and drink, even when of decent quality, are massively overpriced ($8.00 for a beer?).  The strip shops carry a fantasy of goods and clothes, while the many other casinos in town are quieter and nicer.

And yet, while I would not choose this place as a vacation destination, I can see why so many choose it as a convention venue.  I was just there for the ConExpo, a massive trade show for the construction equipment industry only held every 3 years.  The show ran for 8 hours per day, over  5 entire days, with exhibitors such as my own company having to get there at least a day in advance for setup.

That sort of work it taxing on the mind and body, dealing with long stretches of boredom between hectic waves of established customers, proverbial tire kickers, end users, competitors looking to snoop, and genuinely good leads.  When you are not working the booth, you are walking the endless acres of booths, exhibits, competitors, and vendors, glad-handing your current customers while trying to get leads on new ones.  This show was so massive it was impossible to walk it in just a single day.  When each day was through we would part ways, some to seek out past coworkers for drinks, some to just unwind over a dinner, some for other things.  I had my wife with me, and we would would wander the strip.

There are few places in the world, perhaps New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, and the like where one has so very many options for things to do, yet in those cities the activities are spread widely and intermixed with businesses and homes.  Not so the Las Vegas Strip.  Where other cities are dilute, the Strip is concentrated into just a few miles.  Sure their Eiffel Tower is a phony, and their New York City Skyline is an amusement park caricature, but where else could you see both in such a short time?  And the fountains of the Bellagio, doing their dances every 15 minutes, are truly a marvel of both technology and art, while they attract a bevy of street performers and scantily costumed women who work to hold your eyes between the fountain displays.  You can go see a world-famous stand-up comic one night, then catch a major singer the next, and see acrobats on another.

Of course there are the racier acts too.  As a desk clerk told us, “it’s not a safe place for children.”  Some of the acrobatic performances are decidedly ribald, or even obscene, and nearly every casino has at least one nude dance revue at any given time.  And after dark the single man has strip-club cards, calling cards for private strippers, and numbers for brothels shoved at him constantly while walking the strip – such huskers leave the couples alone, but the cards litter the sidewalks like leaves of pulchritude.  Everywhere too is the urge to drink.  Any food or drink than can be served steeped in alcohol is available, and one could easily overindulge.

Las Vegas truly is Sin City, but it is also a dream of brighter possibilities if you choose carefully.  The locals may disdain the Strip, but in one way or another it is the Strip that feeds this city.  The locals are not even really locals, as one said to me.  They’ve all come from elsewhere, and may all return elsewhere if they have arrived to retire in the desert heat and low taxes.  Without the sin and vice, there is not much real industry in Vegas – what has arrived has done so because of the population base already there to support the casinos.  Las Vegas is an upstart and a fraud in many ways, but it is unique in what it does, and I “get it”.  I may not want to live there, but I understand why others do.  It was fitting that on our last night of wandering the strip, before the meetups with other Ricoteers that would follow, as we walked back to our own casino-hotel we stopped for one more fountain show at the Bellagio.  The fountains danced to Elvis singing Viva Las Vegas.

Member Post

 

Ann Althouse includes in a blog item from her recent travels in the Western USA the story of Orderville, Utah — a Mormon experiment in socialism. The comments to the post include the story of the Great Pants Rebellion of Orderville and why Mormons have rejected socialism: “Lance” commented: A great story about Orderville:  “It was not easy […]

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Member Post

 

Ian Tuttle, the Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow at the National Review Institute and frequent contributor at National Review, writes about the “customary and constitutional” practice of the incoming President from a different political party asking for the resignations of all (or most) of the previous Administration’s U.S. Attorneys. Mr. Tuttle does a very nice job of […]

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Telling the Truth to a Celebrity

 

The Member Feed is quite busy today – we just had an exciting weekend – but I still feel the need to share this with everyone.

This is the best celebrity truth-telling I have seen in a long time.

It’s Time to Uncouple Health Insurance from Employment

 

It’s a little-known fact in the great outside world — although probably widely known among Ricochet readers — that employer-paid health insurance is an artifact of the Roosevelt administration.

When employers were prevented by law from raising their employees’ salaries, they compensated by offering benefits, such as health insurance, to make it more desirable to stay on as employees.

Fast forward seven decades, during which the common practice went from lifetime employment with one company to a more free-flowing job-hopping style, when both employers and employees were more likely to look at other opportunities in the market. And now, taking that to the next logical step, the “gig economy” — independent contractors not beholden or dependent on any one company — is growing around the world.

Most of the evidence of the growth of free-lancing is anecdotal because it’s hard to get firm measurements. In 2016, CNBC estimated that the number of independent contractors had grown by 27 percent more than payroll employees over the last two decades. The McKinsey Global Institute interviewed 8,000 people in the United States and Europe and reported that “up to 162 million people in Europe and the United States — or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population — engage in some form of independent work.” That includes people who like to work solo, those who do a side hustle for extra money, those who would prefer a regular paycheck, and those who are doing independent work to scrape by. But if you’ve ever spent a morning in Starbucks, you know that a lot of people are keeping office hours there.

So when people talk about generals fighting the last war, they’re also talking about Congress making laws about health insurance. They’re making rules to maintain a status quo that’s going the way of the buggy whip.

On top of that comes a disturbing report from PJ Media this morning: This Secret Obamacare ‘Replacement’ Lets Your Boss Invade Your Privacy AND Gut Your Paycheck. H.R. 1313, Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, allows employers to coerce employees into “wellness” programs (that don’t even have any record of success) and dock their paychecks if they don’t comply. It also gives employers intrusive authority to look into employees’ health records, including genetic testing. (If you wonder why the gig economy is growing, this kind of behavior is part of the reason.)

But let’s just stipulate that not all employers are fascists. Why are the bad ones given such control over employees’ lives? By Republicans?

It’s time to put a stop to it.

  1. Count employer-paid health insurance as a paid benefit for tax purposes
  2. If you allow tax deductions for health insurance, allow them for all health insurance, whether paid by the employer or paid by the individual.
  3. Allow all employees to choose from the entire universe of health insurance — across state lines and outside their employer’s offering — if they want to.
  4. Make current laws protecting employee genetic-testing and health-screening privacy apply to insurance companies and employers.

Not everybody wants to participate in the gig economy. Many, maybe most, people want the security and teamwork of working for a company, at least for now, particularly while the health-insurance deck is stacked against self-employed workers. Let people make up their own minds.

But freelancers provide valuable services — they write books, drive cars, provide skills, craftsmanship and expertise, and too many other services to name. They take the risk to do something unique and specific. Small businesses find freelancers to be a boon in not having to pay for more employee hours than they need. Freelancers get to set their hours and priorities.

Small business is the biggest source of growth in our economy — the Small Business Administration says, “Since 1995, small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total United States private payroll” (Houston Chronicle) — and microbusinesses, one-person shops, and solopreneurs provide valuable support to those small businesses.

Last I checked, Roosevelt was out of office, and the Internet has upended a lot of our expectations about business. Get the US government out of the way and stop large corporations from treating their employees like private property, so that we can have a robust economy and the kind of freedom we were promised when this nation was founded.

UPDATE: As @Chuck Enfield pointed out, H.R. 1313 gives employers the right demand genetic testing and health screenings from employees as part of “workplace wellness programs.” This ought, it seems to me, to be against the privacy policies of HIPAA, but apparently it’s not.

It is against a 2008 genetic law that “prohibits a group health plan (the kind most employers have) from asking, let alone requiring, someone to undergo a genetic test. It also prohibits requiring such tests for ‘underwriting purposes,’ which include basing health insurance deductibles, rebates, rewards, or other financial incentives on completing a health risk assessment or health screenings” (Tyler O’Neil, on PJ Media).

I’ve revised the article for accuracy.

Member Post

 

A message from the ACLU on resistance and their workshops on how to resist and participate in demonstrations against the Trump administration. We will bring all the lawsuits necessary to defend these rights, Romero said. We’ll do the work in the courts. You do the work in the streets. People are motivated. They want to […]

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Bowing Out Gracefully

 

It is hard to stop. At least for me it is. Especially when I know that the work will continue. In 2004 I became a full time missionary and moved to the Republic of Georgia. My relationship and with the country had been growing for a couple of years and I got to visit twice before I moved here. The first trip I came in February when I thought the winter would be at its worst. Georgia did not disappoint me and my arrival was greeted with a snow storm.

The car that was taking me out to the village I would be staying in got stuck in the snow, trying to go uphill, and I got out with another American and pushed the car up hill until its tires caught on some clear ground. The car dared not stop and those receding tail lights made me very sad. It was mile before the driver felt safe enough to stop and wait for us to catch up and I got the pleasure of walking in thick snow, up hill and even more treacherously down hill, in freezing temperatures. For an experienced northern it would not have been much a test, I suppose, but for this Florida boy it tested my mettle and I knew then that I had to be sure of my call to come and live in such winters.

My second trip was also eventful as it came during massive street protests that became known as the Rose Revolution. The people of Georgia rose up against their corrupt leader that had just stolen his re-election and after a short series of street battles with Russian backed thugs the people broke into their parliament building as their fraudulent President was being confirmed into his office.

The President’s cronies attempted to hold the doors against the mob but the old corrupt men were no match for the enraged people and the doors broke open and the reformers rode in on a river of humanity. The President’s American-trained bodyguards surrounded him and faced down the crowd but their was no violence. The President fled the people and the people let him flee so it was I had witnessed my first overthrow of a government.

That was a first for me and I would find there would be many more firsts in my time in Georgia. I witnessed for the first time men dying, I experienced war for the first time, led modest war relief efforts and ministered to my first war refugees, witnessed my first murder, had to smuggle myself across a border, married for my first (and only) time, had my first son and my first daughter and finally for the first time I have to leave a ministry and work that I built and lead for 13 years.

I have found it strange to leaving something that I built and led knowing that it will go on just as well or even better than it was when I ran it. One big idea in the mission community is to be a sustainable. Being sustainable in missions speak is to make the goal of any ministry to be run by nationals. People dependent on visas and the like are never in as strong a position as the people that are actual citizens of the country and/or natural members of a culture.

Missionaries often go in preparing to work themselves out of a job and leave. As far as that goes I accomplished my task. For nearly a year I have pulled myself farther and farther out of the day to day operation of the ministry and turned more and more control over to the leaders I have mentored and trained for over a decade. Watching them step up to more responsibility has been wonderful and gratifying to see but also strange. Going from the decision maker to the the advice giver has been hard at times but necessary.

I fall back often on the what my goals were all along. A few years back I turned over all the youth groups I had started to Georgian youth leaders. As they took over the groups grew and became even more active. As this became apparent some in the church with axe to grind against me would snicker and whisper behind my back that my groups did better after I left them. The leaders that came after me were better than I was. These rumors got to my wife and it bothered her. I told her, “Well I did not aim to teach leaders to be worse than me. I wanted them to be better.”

Now I will really get to see if they are better as the time approaches for me to take my leave from a country and people that love deeply and admire greatly. I pray they do well and honor their Savior and do all that I know they are gifted and equipped to do. My job now is to prepare my family for a new beginning and to end well.

As things come to end I can look back a very fruitful ministry with a few hundred converts, new churches planted and new leaders raised up. One of the things I have been most proud of is seeing young believers marry and create new families and raising a new generation in the faith. For me that has been wonderful and one of the greatest blessings that I will leave.

In some ways I wonder if the mixed feelings that I have now are in a way preparing me for that time when my children will mature and leave my family to create their own and live their own life. I imagine it will be a wonderful to see that tiny baby I held in my arms on their first day out of the womb become a self sufficient adult who will have their own children. At the same time I now have some taste of how sad it will be to see them go and know that our relationship will never quite be the same again. For every ending there is a new beginning and for every person there is time to fade out so others might increase. Bowing out, even gracefully, is a bittersweet task…

Group Writing: Happy Endings

 

Trigger Warning: This is a “Dead Dog” post.

No doubt you’re wondering how I can possibly title a post about a recently deceased, and much loved, family pet, “Happy Endings.”

It’s simple. There are only three ways out for the dozens of creatures who’ve found their way to Chez She over the better part of four decades:

  1. Those who are really lost are returned, after exhaustive efforts, to their rightful owners,
  2. Those whose owners cannot be found remain with us until it’s time for the sad trip to the veterinarian, or
  3. Those who remain with us live out their good lives and die naturally on the farm.

The first option represents a consummation devoutly to be wished, and sometimes rarely, we’ve actually been able to make it work. The second option is illustrated by “Duke,” a beautiful Pointer mix who showed up on our back porch one fall day in 2001, full of buckshot, and who lived with us for just over three years, until he developed a galloping case of leukemia, and was helped into the next world by our friends with the means to do so. Understanding that that is sometimes the kindest thing to do doesn’t make it any easier, and it doesn’t make us mourn the loss of a beautiful young dog any less. It’s hard.

Option three, living to a good age and dying naturally on the farm, is what we wish for all our pets. And Penny had just that sort of happy ending.

Less than a week after we had Duke put to sleep, on 21 December, 2004, I received a frantic phone call from a co-worker. Kate is, like me, a lost dog magnet, and she’d found one at the intersection of Route 40 and I-70 in Washington, PA. “I’m on my way to my brother’s in Baltimore for Christmas,” she said. “Can you keep the dog, just until I get back?”

“Of course!” I said. “Just for a few days, right?”

Right.

I met Kate, and picked up the dog. She was filthy, starving, stinking, and almost dead. I didn’t know what to do with her (it was a work day), so I dropped her off at my friend the veterinarian for a check-up, and asked if they could hang onto her till I was done with work. Later that day, I arrived to find that she’d got various internal and external parasites, a terrible case of seborrheic dermatitis, bloody feet, was malnourished and dehydrated, was missing a few teeth, but otherwise, was negative for the worst sorts of diseases, and seemed relatively in one piece. They thought she was about four years old. I took her home, with an expensive bag of medicines, and got to work.

Of course, Kate never saw her again (a fact of which she was quite glad, having her own work cut out for her, over at Casa Kate).

Mr. She named her “Penny,” because he believed that, under all that dandruff, rash and oozing, was a gorgeous coat the color of a copper penny. And indeed, there was. She grew into a beautiful dog with a glorious shiny coat, and a magnificent tail with “feathers” that rippled in the wind when she ran.

She was a happy, patient, and kind dog. I don’t ever remember her growling at anybody, or anything. She had a good, deep, bark, which she used to get attention, never to intimidate or warn. She loved small children, and would let them do almost anything to her. She acted as an unpaid nanny to the occasional orphan lamb in my living room, never minding when they pestered her, and nosed around her hindquarters, sure that if they could just find the right spot, magic would happen, and milk would appear. She cleaned them up when they got themselves in a mess, and licked them to a shiny state of spit and polishedness (there are limits, even for me, in that regard, and they greatly preferred Penny’s ministrations to being thrust, bum-first, under a stream of warm water from the utility sink faucet).

She had a wonderful life.

And over time, she aged.

She developed a thyroid condition. And arthritis. And she went completely deaf. And her beautiful coat went largely grey, and then white. But her sweet disposition never failed her. (Well, except when she, the deaf dog, would have a bit of a tiff with Houdini, the blind dog, usually as the result of a collision because one didn’t see, or hear, the other one coming. That sometimes resulted in a short scuffle, with no harm done to either combatant).

Eventually, her mind started to go, and she was diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or, as we refer to it around here, Doggie Dementia. This manifested itself by her walking round and round in circles, not sure of where she was, and by getting stuck under the dining room table, after she had unerringly and unthinkingly walked between a couple of the chairs that surround it. Discovering herself in what she thought was a cage, her brain would take over, and instead of leading her out through the gap she came in by, she would just as unerringly walk in between the legs of a chair, and get it stuck on her back. She’d then barge noisily and clumsily around the room like an undersize elephant wearing an oversize howdah, until someone rescued her.

At two or three in the morning, this could be quite annoying, especially when it was repeated several times in the space of the same night.

Through it all, she maintained her sweet disposition, her love of a pat on the head, and a rub on the back, and her affection for all small things. And her food. She always loved her food.

But she particularly loved our granddaughter. I’ll never forget going to investigate a little sound I heard as I was making coffee one morning a few years ago. I couldn’t quite place it, and since I thought I was the only one up, I went to investigate. I discovered our granddaughter, who was not quite three at the time, lying in Penny’s bed with her, her head buried in Penny’s lovely blanket of long fur, sobbing her eyes out. Penny was lying perfectly still, her eyes fixed on our granddaughter, and her head snuggled against her.

I got down on the floor and asked what was wrong. “I don’t know where my mom is!” she sobbed. Turns out that her mother had woken up, thought her daughter was fast asleep in bed next to her, and had escaped to the bathroom for the rare luxury of a shower all to herself. The frightened little girl had sought solace in the warm embrace of the dog. And Penny, as always, did her part.

Several weeks ago, I began to contemplate the inevitable, and think that, perhaps, it was “time.” Even though she was still pretty game, and appeared happy, and pain-free, Penny was clearly starting to fail in other ways, and was becoming quite blind. But I kept putting off the evil hour–I’d tell myself she was fine, our granddaughter was coming for the weekend, let’s wait till after that, then–well, the temperature’s been below freezing for a week, the ground will be frozen, it will be hard to dig a hole (stop kidding yourself, it’s so cold you can wrap her up securely and put her in the shed for a few days till it warms up a bit–no, really, she’s OK, no need to overreact, and on and on.

And then one day, Penny took matters into her own hands. She had what Dr. She diagnosed as a little stroke. It was a Sunday afternoon (of course). The closest 24 hour emergency veterinarian is over an hour away, and I really didn’t want to put her in a car. She always had a terrible fear of cars (perhaps it had something to do with the circumstances in which she was found), and I didn’t want to add to her stress with a long trip to a strange place, especially since she was quiet. I called my local veterinarian, left a message saying I’d be there at 8AM on Monday, wrapped Penny up the way you wrap an infant in a ‘baby burrito,’ and put her head on a pillow. She slept. She woke up once at 3AM. I sorted her out, wrapped her up again, and she went back to sleep.

By 6AM, she was gone. At the age of 16+. Comfortably, it looked like. Happily. In her own home. With her boots on.  I suspect her heart just stopped.

She’d had the forethought and consideration to die on a warm Spring-ish day. I dug a hole and buried her with a bunch of crocuses from the farm.

I’m sure many would have thought her to be a useless dog. No good as a watch dog. No good as a guard dog. No good as a hunting dog. She approached all the creatures she ever met as if they were her friends, and they responded in kind. She was the sweetest and most comforting dog I ever knew.  If Milton was right, and it is as true for dogs as it is for humans that “they also serve who only stand and wait,” Penny earned her service badge right at the start.  And we’re sorry that she’s gone.

But somewhere, my strong but occasionally rather haphazard faith tells me, my clear eyed, sharp-eared, copper-haired Penny is running with the many denizens of Chez She that have gone before, her beautiful tail feathers rippling in the wind.

Happy Trails, sweet dog. We miss you.

Member Post

 

A hero rises from the great unwashed. Donning a Captain America shield, a flak jacket, hockey pads, a gas mask, and a helmet, the flawed champion wielded his mighty American flag draped stick adroitly at a Berkeley Trump rally. Fighting for truth, justice, and the American way he…..wait, maybe just the justice part, but it’s […]

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Member Post

 

ON WHY WE SHOULD CONSIDER A DISAPPOINTING PLAN To the People of Ricochet: AFTER experiencing the unequivocal inefficacy of Obamacare, we are called upon to consider a new healthcare plan being fashioned for Americans by Congress, known at the time of this writing as the American Health Care Act. The subject of healthcare speaks its […]

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I hate bullies. Always have, always will. I work in an office with a rolling headcount of about 14. Every man in there is a current or former SOF Operator, spanning three services. It is an incredibly “diverse” workplace, and I’m sure would pass SJW muster. We got the Kansas farm boy, the Mexican-American from […]

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She Ain’t at Work Today? Quick Get Something Done Before She Gets Back!

 

Nancy Pelosi took a day off Wednesday to posture, hopefully things got done while she was away. VDH effectively positioned himself as the conservative Prof. GOAT. How in the hell did Governor Geriatric Brown not complete the reservoirs in California and collect some of this runoff water? Droughts are a real and solvable problem. Flesh and blood people!

Trump is a necessary reset regardless of what you think. Rahm Emanuel is not a stupid man by any stretch. His recent talk at Stanford included the phrase “life is trade-offs” his words not mine. He espouses some fundamental government tenants that all of us Ricochet folk would respect. Problem is, he doesn’t practice what he preaches. He’s resting on extending the school day laurels, which I will admit was winning the 2014 NBA Championship … but it’s 2017. For innocent citizens like many of us are, getting shot is not fun. I’m speaking from experience on this one.

Immigration is a white people problem. I don’t believe this, but unfortunately lots of folks do. Chicago has long had a laissez faire approach toward illegal immigration. Fine by me until I asked if some of these occupied unskilled labor jobs could be occupied by the some 50 percent of young unemployed Black men that only have unskilled labor to provide.

I regret outing myself as a Trump voter everyday, mostly because it alienates me from lots of women my own age. “Die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.” I’m still a liberaltarian and a registered Democrat in the three states where I’m registered to vote. Sacrifices have to be made though and I got six years by my estimation before girls really have to matter in my life.

I’m really against infrastructure spending for obvious reasons but I’ll be damned if that doesn’t have to be challenged. Are those reservoirs not infrastructure? Spending money on things that would legitimately improve quality of life, like maybe an extra lane on a highway might deserve a few dollars.

If that’s the infrastructure Trump is talking about then his overall Madden player rating goes from like a 69 to 78. He’s still getting knocked for his views on NAFTA and tweeting too damn much but he’s got potential considering he’s the only QB we got.

Tom “pick your own” Cotton is the hero the city deserves but not the one it needs right now.

Free Markets.

Health Care Reality Does Not Care About Partisan Delusions

 

While I can think of at least a score (or two) of salient facts regarding the current health care reform debate, there are five that suggest that the politically palatable “plans” (left or right) are delusional. Here are five reality checks for America’s partisan “reformers.”

Reality Check 1 – While in real time price-wage terms, the average earner today pays less than one quarter of what they paid in 1958 for non-medical products and services, the average earner now pays four times the time-price for the health care services. (Time price is the number of hours of work required to pay for a product or service).

Reality Check 2 – Health Economists acknowledge that massively increased health expenditures by third parties, public and private insurance, since 1945 has contributed to the historically steep rise in the costs of medical care. Between 1910 and 1945 the health care rate of inflation (3.2%) was nearly identical to the consumer rate of inflation.

Driven by the creation of tax exempt insurance plans in and since WWII, and then by massive new insurance programs created and funded by government (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) it has been estimated that nearly half of the increase in prices since the 1940s has been due to the use of comprehensive health insurance rather than direct pay for services by choice driven consumers (who, when paying out of pocket, are more selective).

Reality Check 3 – The dramatic growth of federal spending on health care (it is now 20 to 25 times greater per person than in 1946) has resulted in half of the medical sector being directly funded by Washington. The remainder of the market is highly restricted and mandated (Obamacare) and much of it indirectly funded via “redistributionist” regulation. Health care inflation is not only driven by the form of direct payment (third-party insurance) but, as experienced in the sky rocketing inflation of higher education, it is also driven the massive increase in demand created by huge government expenditures.

Reality Check 4 – Overall longevity has not increased in proportion to new government health care expenditures. In other words, the marginal return (how long people live) on new health care expenditures has been dropping for decades. As health care expenditures, since 1950, have risen from 4 percent of the GDP to 18 percent of the GDP, it is questionable if any more government expenditures will actually improve long-term health.

Reality Check 5 – Obamacare is in a death spiral as major insurance companies are pulling out and the unsubsidized young and healthy avoid insurance. Medicare is projected by the Medicare Trustees and the CBO to be insolvent between 2026 and 2028 (if you ignore Obamacare double-counting), and medical providers are increasingly unwilling to provide service (especially to Medicaid clients). Individual mandated health plans are now so expensive that without government subsidies they are often unaffordable.

Conclusion

There is no way to halt medical inflation and drive down medical costs without reform that removes government mandates on insurance policy services and prices, transfers responsibility for insurance purchases (or direct pay) services to consumer choice, massively reduces overall government health care expenditures, removes tax deductions for employer provided insurance, removes regulations mandating care in emergency rooms, etc.

In other words, either we return to a free market with lower prices, better service, and price rationing by the market, or we become a fully socialized system with assembly line service, and health services rationed by Washington decree.

Of course, both choices are politically unpalatable…so expect the health care reform pain to continue, with reform “fixes” never “fixing” health care.

Remembering Itamar

 

There are events that happen that clear away all pretense. Something removes all posturing and by simple virtue of its starkness reveals something for what it is. The Itamar massacre is just such an event. And on its anniversary I raise it as a issue, because people cannot forget.

The event happened six years ago on March 11. A family of five was murdered in their beds. Set all things aside: that they were an Israeli family in a West Bank settlement, that the West Bank is contested territory, that the attackers were Palestinian, and that there is an ancient grievance between Muslims and Jews.

Set all of that aside. Read the Wikipedia article. There are four words that tell you everything you need to know. Four words that remove all pretense, all posturing, all excuses, all politics, all religion, all culture. Four words that remove all things and allows you to see something plainly for what it is.

“The infant was decapitated.”

Monsters. Simply monsters.

Can You Hear Us Now?

 

A 40 percent drop in illegal immigrants crossing at the southern border is being widely reported this morning. In my humble opinion, it has to do with the fact that we now have a president who has clearly stated that:

  1. we do not condone illegal entry, and
  2. we do not intend to tolerate it.

Yes, I know Obama was called (by the even-farther Left?) the “Deporter-in-Chief,” but what he communicated about the issue was very clearly: If you get in, you can stay. Especially if you’re a “child” (under 40) or if you’re trying to get reunited with a family (uh, how did those yearning family members get in here?). The swarm in reaction to DACA clearly demonstrated that Obama’s real message, or at least his fundamental ambivalence, was coming through loud and clear.

And guess what? It now turns out that a clear statement by our new president, which actually is backed up by action consistent with that statement, can have a real, measurable effect as well!

No, Trump isn’t the “President of the World”– but, as he acknowledged in his inaugural address, the world is listening in every time he speaks.

And they believe him.

And because they believe him, they’ll consider their plans in light of what he has said.

This comes as a tremendous relief to me. It had come to seem, during the last eight years and even before, that the purpose of speech by our presidents was obfuscation and/or self-preservation.

Speak up, Mr. President! To paraphrase GWB: I hear you, the world hears you, and the people responsible for this {destruction, invasion} will hear from all of us soon!

Flyover Country, Episode 68 – Stand By Your Man

 

Rebelling against the national Day without Women, Terry and Ryan ask one woman — Ricochet’s own Kate Braestrup — to work extra hard by engaging in today’s (well, Wednesday’s) podcast. So, we talk mostly about women and feminism, in addition to the usual assortment of whatever happens to come to mind.

If you enjoy listening to Kate, be sure to check out her books! And if you happened to miss last week’s podcast, A Ricochet Romance, give it a listen by following the link.
Kate’s books:

Here if You Need Me: A True Story

Anchor and Flares: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hope, and Service

Beginner’s Grace: Bringing Prayer to Life

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity: A Memoir

The End of Fantasy Europe

 

First off I would like to say that I have not read James Kirchick’s The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age. Frankly I have better things to do with my time, like reading about the previous dark ages that supposedly befell Europe. However, I have read @Claire Berlinski’s article and will be moving forward to address the issues mentioned there.

I am going to first address my biggest problem with this book and its title. It’s not the end of Europe which is being addressed. It’s the end of the European Union. Whenever Europe is mentioned I will likely be referring to the EU or as I like to call it Fantasy Continent.

Unlike Kirchick or Claire, I am writing to the people of Ricochet. People who elected Trump, people who didn’t vote for Trump. But people for the most part I don’t think have their heads in the clouds. People who live in what I like to call the real world. The one we live in and not the ones that fantasize about the way they wish the world works. Just people.

I am not going to get to much into Donald Trump. Other than to say that I don’t think he is some giant ogre of Napoleonic ambitions. Not even of Mussolini proportions. Frankly I find Donald Trump all too conventional, and if Twitter had existed in the 1960s, President LBJ would probably be tweeting away about how all these “damn hippies” didn’t understand all the good things the Great Society was doing for them.

Instead of talking about the United States, let’s talk about Europe. Or the EU. The US like all real countries is based on some sort of legitimacy. The US is a Republic gaining its legitimacy through its constitution and the people who elect their representatives. It’s not always good. My Country is a confederation of provinces who hold parliaments of representatives backed by the Queen and tracing back its legal rights to Magna Carta and even earlier traditions.  China derives its legitimacy through its one-party state of Communism and suffers for it.

The EU is not a country. But it pretends to be one. The EU is giant lie. It gains no legitimacy from its parliament, which cannot vote on legislation. It has unaccountable bureaucracies that give the production of milk 130,00 regulations. It has a council of Ministers that are made up of the heads of states for its numerous member countries. It has a couple Presidents that hold like six-month terms. It derives its authority from treaties with its various member states, but when those states reject it as the Netherlands and France have done in the past, it ignores those elections derived from the people and waits and tries again.

The EU was created in the belief of binding all the member states together economically but not politically.  But it then dumped on a parliament system that has no power. It stumbles blindly from one crisis to another. It tells its members that it’s an economic treaty like NAFTA. Then makes unaccountable decisions that no local representative can fix. Without representation and the ability to make redress, your state will have to run on something else. The EU is flying apart at the seams. It either has to make the choice to become one state. With a Parliament or government structure that has real legitimate authority.

But it won’t do that because none of the member states want to give up their sovereignty. So, it muddles along like a 21st-century Polish Diet. Not willing to give up an inch politically and letting its bureaucracies grow.

There is no reason and no possible way for Russia to fight against a United States of Europe. But it is not fighting a USE. It’s merely fighting the EU. A EU that was trying to bind the different member nations together politically and creating an effective central government would easily crush Russia. Economically and militarily.

From a selection of the book chosen:

I came to understand that history had not ended, that Europe was not in a “post-ideological” age, and that optimistic assumptions about the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy, regulated market capitalism, peaceful coexistence, and political pluralism were premature even on the very continent that so prided itself in having founded and exported these values to the world.

Nonsense. Neither the EU or Europe has ever brought any of those things or founded those values and exported them to the world. Great Britain did. France did, some might say. France ran Vietnam as an economic colony pure and simple. It did nothing during its colonial time to bring French Civilization, administration, or culture to most of its Empire. Algeria being really the only exception and even then… The same with the rest of the colonial empires.  Great Britain and its Empire were the exception to this. The rest of Europe was much too busy with its own usual self-centered ways, to be bothered exporting its culture to “barbarians.”

Most of us knew history had not ended. Most of us scoffed at the notion. We deemed those who sought a new order as arrogant, vainglorious fools. We also were much too busy making money in the post-cold war era.

A passage from @Claire’s article:

Kirchick recounts the now-familiar story of Europe’s economic torpor, its alienated immigrants, and its demographically unsustainable welfare states. Europe is reeling, too, from the effects of the greatest wave of human migration since the Second World War, a series of deadly attacks by ISIS, Britain’s abandonment of the European Union, and eight years of neglect by the Obama Administration.

His description of this is in places excellent. His chapter about Brexit is well-written, fair-minded, and painful with the same unintended irony that pervades the rest of the book. He is scathing about UK Independence Party head Nigel Farage and the type of American conservative to whom he for some reason appeals. He recounts with dismay watching Farage address “a half-empty lecture hall at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC” in 2015

First off let me break in here for a moment. The thing about Heritage is they have videos of their speeches available. Including the one of their keynote address made by Nigel Farage.

Why I could even post the link.

https://youtu.be/ePsDo7BIn0w

Looks a bit more packed to me by the video. I wasn’t there of course, but I do have a video.

Back:

At the end of his speech, I rose to ask the uncrowned king of British Euroscepticism what he made of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Although I was prepared for something unconventional, I did not expect what came out of Farage’s mouth.

War in Ukraine, he said, was the result of a “democratically elected leader brought down by a street-staged coup d’état by people waving EU flags.” Russian president Vladimir Putin could hardly be blamed for thinking that the “message” behind the Maidan protests was “we want Ukraine to join NATO.” Invading and annexing Crimea were perfectly understandable reactions to European imperialism. Ukraine’s dismemberment, the thousands of deaths in its eastern provinces, more than a million-displaced people, and heightened tensions between Russia and the West—all of it, Farage told me, was “something we have provoked.” A Kremlin spokesperson could not have scripted the response better himself.”

Let’s try that again.

Heck a democratically elected leader, or even a complete and total stooge is brought down by some armed revolutionaries living in the hills along with protests in the streets. The Stooge has run a terror campaign against his own populace, so public sympathy is high. The new regime is backed openly by a rival power. The neighboring superpower takes umbrage of this happening it its back yard. It starts with economic sanctions and supporting guerilla movements in that country. Those guerillas launch terror attacks on the new regime. The old superpower refuses to reoccupy territory in the land, and increases its military presence. That superpower goes further and plots the assassination of the new regime’s leadership and even supplies weapons and trainers to a group of exiles who will be invading the country to overthrow the new regime.

Hmm.  Anyone else guess that I am talking about Cuba and the United States of America.

Yes, the European Union provoked Russia response. But the European Union is just as guilty as George H.W. Bush who called for the marsh people to rise up against Saddam Hussein and then stood by as Saddam Hussein and the Iraq army crushed and killed thousands of people.

We may not like the fact that we live in a world of spheres of influence and terrible regimes who consider some countries theirs.

Nigel Farage spoke the truth to Kirchick.  He may have done it a bit crudely.  But to believe that Russia would not respond in the way it did after overthrowing their puppet in Kiev is to be naïve on a staggering level.

Farage and those like him, Kirchick carefully argues, live in a morally inverted world where the bumbling and bureaucratic (but benign) EU is likened to the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin is respected as the Moral Custodian of the West, even as Russia – relying on largely unreconstructed Soviet organs of statecraft – literally invades Europe.

I would counter that Farage and those like him, live in the real world. Where decisions have consequences. Where you don’t play power politics with the lives of millions, provoking dictators and then sitting on your hands and having a good cry cause the local bully came over and punched you in the face.

More:

“If Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea was the first external assault on the post–Cold War European political order,” Kirchick writes, “Britain’s rash decision to depart the EU was the first self-inflicted wound.” He marvels at this spectacle of self-destruction. “It is incredible to behold Great Britain, which once occupied more than 20 percent of the earth’s landmass, moving ever closer to the brink of its own disintegration.” The sentiment is right but its expression is a bit garbled; it was not Great Britain but the British Empire that spanned the globe; at its height, it occupied a full quarter of the world’s land mass. Here one wonders if Kirchick is holding at bay, perhaps at the cost of some mental energy, a premonition of the truly incredible spectacle of imperial self-destruction ahead.

And of course, my reply to Kirchick is this. Russia’s invasion of Crimea was not the first external assault on post-cold war Europe. That honor belongs to Georgia. As to Great Britain, its decision to leave was not rash. It was the best and smartest course of action. The people of Great Britain regained their sovereignty and their foreign and trade policies. Why should a free people decide to give up their sovereignty to unaccountable bureaucrats. No one has yet to explain to me why the EU is a good thing, though I know it’s coming.

Kirchick is contemptuous of American conservatives who through naiveté or malice cheer Europe’s disintegration. He is absolutely right to say there is nothing in Europe’s past to support the idea that the EU, if destroyed, would be replaced by a democratic and cooperative collection of sovereign nation-states. The view is historically illiterate. The long postwar peace is unique and fragile. “Those who claim that the EU has failed,” Kirchick writes, “must answer the following question: In comparison to what? The Europe of the Thirty Years War? The Napoleonic Empire? Hitlerite Europe?”

Ok, fine. I will answer that question easily and in two parts.

First off, the EU has nothing to do with the post-WW2 peace. The EU was not effectively formed until the 1990s, but even then, that’s not the reason Europe had such a long period of peace. It had a long peace, because the Second World War broke it. It also had the Soviet Union who had millions of men and tens of thousands of tanks and APCs and bombers, thousands of nuclear bombs pointing at it. You find plenty of reasons to cooperate when someone is constantly plotting to kill you. So, NATO might be a good supporting argument for European peace. Certainly, the presence of all those Americans and their money helped it along.

Long story short, Europe’s peace is not because of the presence of the EU. If the EU had never been formed in the 1990s, Europe would look a lot like it does today. Except probably be richer with a common market and a universal passport for citizens.

That being said. The best period in European history is not the post-WW2 era. It’s not even the post-cold war era.  The best historical period for Europe bar none is after Napoleon and before WW1. And let me tell you something: There are lots of European wars during this period. But also, Europe integrated culturally, economically, militarily, and through communications during this period in a way that it has not done so since. This was the Europe that made Europe. That strode the world like a colossus. That ruled (and ruled well) most of the planet. Who thought it was their destiny to civilize the world. It’s the true golden age of Europe. The EU and its pretensions are nothing more than a faded imitation of the rich successful confident Europe of that era.

Now I am going to skip over the immigration stuff. Frankly I don’t know enough to comment. Kirchick again:

Had Europe (as well as the United States) decided to act as something other than a passive bystander in Syria—by assisting the moderate opposition, creating safe zones, and destroying President Bashar al- Assad’s air force in the early months of the rebellion, years before Iranian and Russian troops hit the ground—there was a chance that the conflict might not have dragged on for so long. Reflexively citing the Iraq experience as a counter argument to any and all methods of military intervention is not sufficient, because in both Libya and Syria—unlike Iraq—war against civilian populations was ongoing and the prospect of impending genocide was apparent.

What makes Kirchick believe the EU an economic union with pretensions of greatness believe that it could stop any of that? The EU that Kirchick wishes existed died when Eisenhower blocked the French and British from seizing the Suez Canal. Europe would no longer have the ability to be a real power. The United States made them into vassal states at that point. Sure, they still have militaries and limited resources. But the Great Britain that can’t afford to put cruise missiles on its ships is somehow going to stem the refugee crisis? One has to ask does Kirchick not know where he lives?

Again:

Europe finds itself in hock to autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recap Taya Erdogan — the former offering himself as a “partner” against ISIS while bombing Western-backed opponents of Russia’s client Assad (whom the vast majority of refugees are fleeing), and the latter demanding political concessions in exchange for reducing the outflow of migrants languishing in Turkish refugee camps. By entertaining Putin’s cynical proposal of an “anti-ISIS coalition,” Western leaders willfully ignore how Moscow’s Syrian intervention is fueling the very migrant wave they supplicate him to help plug. Russia’s interest is very clear: In exchange for its supposed help in fighting ISIS, the West would lift sanctions on Moscow and effectively give a green light to its ongoing subversion of Ukraine. Astonishingly, many in the West apparently support this idea. A late 2015 survey of seventy-six diplomats, elected leaders, and advisors from across Europe and the United States found 53 percent supporting cooperation with Russia in Syria, while listing migration, Islamist terrorism, and the rise of populist parties as the most critical threats to Europe—three problems Moscow is actively aggravating by its intervention in Syria. Maintaining Bashar al-Assad in power will only prolong Syria’s misery by driving the Sunni majority that detests him even more into the arms of ISIS, therefore prolonging the conflict as well as the stream of refugees whose presence in Europe is driving up support for the far-right politicians Russia abets in numerous other ways. While the Russians have repeatedly demonstrated their overreliance on hard power to achieve their aims, Europe’s overconfidence on soft power, far from keeping the world’s problems at bay, has imported them into Elysium.

Well yeah? So, what? I don’t understand what Kirchick is doing here. He seems to think the EU is a real force for good in the world. And that somehow, I don’t even know what he is trying here.

Sorry, its getting late. I intended to write to conclusion and start this essay earlier in the evening. But I remembered I had an appointment with a candidate and we went late discussing viral political marketing.

In summary, I shall say it seems that the Kirchick wants an EU or even Europe that has never existed to fight for values it doesn’t believe in and grants it a legitimacy it doesn’t deserve. If Europe is ever to gain back what its once vibrant strong culture that it once had, it’s going to have to move away from the elderly, mendacity that it currently holds.

As I once said to a friend of mine in the German Air Force, “A lot of people are going to die before we fix this mess.”

His answer: “Yep.”

Member Post

 

 Some men are born to women in bikinis washing cars, some men achieve it and some have it thrust upon them. In my case it was thrust on me today. The video I ran across reminds me of the first time I witnessed such an event, which was also thrust on me. The inspiration was looking […]

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