Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why are Jews so powerful and Muslims so powerless? by Dr. Farrukh Saleem January 8, 2010

(Folks, I don't usually quote whole-hog from somebody else's blog, but this one needs to be spread far and wide. The author is a Pakistani journalist with a wide following in the Muslim world, and he's telling it -- no holds barred -- like it is. Let's hope that nobody declares a Fatwa on him for this.)



There are only 14 million Jews in the world; seven million in the Americas, five million in Asia, two million in Europe and 100,000 in Africa. For every single Jew in the world there are 100 Muslims. Yet, Jews are more than a hundred times more powerful than all the Muslims put together. Ever wondered why?

Jesus of Nazareth was Jewish. Albert Einstein, the most influential scientist of all time and TIME magazine's 'Person of the Century', was a Jew. Sigmund Freud - ego, superego - the father of psychoanalysis was a Jew. So were Karl Marx, Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman.

Here are a few other Jews whose intellectual output has enriched the whole of humanity: Benjamin Rubin gave humanity the vaccinating needle. Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine. Alert Sabin developed the improved live polio vaccine. Gertrude Elion gave us a leukemia-fighting drug. Baruch Blumberg developed the vaccination for Hepatitis B. Paul Ehrlich discovered a treatment for syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease). Elie Metchnikoff won a Nobel Prize in infectious diseases.

Bernard Katz won a Nobel Prize in neuromuscular transmission. Andrew Schally won a Nobel in endocrinology (disorders of the endocrine system; diabetes, hyperthyroidism). Aaron Beck founded Cognitive Therapy (psychotherapy to treat mental disorders, depression and phobias). Gregory Pincus developed the first oral contraceptive pill. George Wald won a Nobel for furthering our understanding of the human eye. Stanley Cohen won a Nobel in embryology (study of embryos and their development). Willem Kolff came up with the kidney dialysis machine.

Over the past 105 years, 14 million Jews have won 180 Nobel Prizes while only 3 Nobel Prizes have been won by 1.4 billion Muslims (other than Peace Prizes).

Why are Jews so powerful? Stanley Mezor invented the first micro-processing chip. Leo Szilard developed the first nuclear chain reactor; Peter Schultz, the optical fibre cable; Charles Adler - traffic lights; Benno Strauss - stainless steel; Isador Kisee - sound movies; Emile Berliner - the telephone microphone and Charles Ginsburg - the videotape recorder.

Famous financiers in the business world who belong to the Jewish faith include Ralph Lauren (Polo), Levis Strauss (Levi's Jeans), Howard Schultz (Starbuck's) , Sergey Brin (Google), Michael Dell (Dell Computers), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Donna Karan (DKNY), Irv Robbins (Baskins & Robbins) and Bill Rosenberg (Dunkin Donuts).

Richard Levin, President of Yale University, is a Jew. So are Henry Kissinger (American secretary of state), Alan Greenspan (Federal Chairman of Banking under Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush, Jr.), Joseph Lieberman, Senator, Madeleine Albright (former Secretary of State), Maxim Litvinov (USSR Foreign Minister), David Marshal (Singapore's first Chief Minister), Issac Isaacs (Governor-General of Australia), Benjamin Disraeli (British statesman and author), Yevgeny Primakov (Russian Prime Minister), Jorge Sampaio (President of Portugal), Herb Gray (Canadian Deputy Prime Minister), Pierre Mendes (French Prime Minister), Michael Howard (British Home Secretary), Bruno Kreisky (Chancellor of Austria) and Robert Rubin (former Secretary of the Treasury).

In the media, famous Jews include Wolf Blitzer (CNN), Barbara Walters (ABC News), Eugene Meyer (Washington Post), Henry Grunwald (Editor-in-Chief of Time Magazine), Katherine Graham (publisher of The Washington Post), Joseph Lelyyeld (Executive Editor, The New York Times), and Max Frankel (New York Times).

Can you name the most beneficent philanthropist in the history of the world? The name is George Soros, a Jew, who has so far donated a colossal $4 billion; most of which has gone as aid to scientists and universities around the world. Second to George Soros is Walter Annenberg, another Jew, who has built a hundred libraries by donating an estimated $2 billion.

At the Olympics, Mark Spitz set a record of sorts by wining seven gold medals. Lenny Krayzelburg is a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Spitz, Krayzelburg and Boris Becker (Tennis) are all Jewish.

Did you know that Harrison Ford, George Burns, Tony Curtis, Charles Bronson, Sandra Bullock, Barbra Streisand, Billy Crystal, Woody Allen, Paul Newman, Peter Sellers, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas, Ben Kingsley, Kirk Douglas, William Shatner, Jerry Lewis and Peter Falk are all Jewish?

As a matter of fact, Hollywood itself was founded by a Jew. Among directors and producers, Steven Spielberg, Mel Brooks, Oliver Stone, Aaron Spelling (Beverly Hills 90210), Neil Simon (The Odd Couple), Andrew Vaina (Rambo's 1, 2 and 3), Michael Mann (Starsky and Hutch), Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), Douglas Fairbanks (The Thief of Baghdad) and Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) are all Jewish.

To be certain, Washington is the capital that matters and in Washington the lobby that matters is The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. Washington knows that if PM Ehud Olmert were to discover that the earth is flat, AIPAC will make the 109th Congress pass a resolution congratulating Olmert on his discovery.

William James Sidis, with an IQ of 250-300, is the brightest human who ever existed. Guess what faith did he belong to?

So, why are Jews so powerful?

Answer: Education!

Why are Muslims so powerless?

There are an estimated 1,476,233,470 Muslims on the face of the planet: one billion in Asia, 400 million in Africa, 44 million in Europe and six million in the Americas. Every fifth human being is a Muslim. For every single Hindu there are two Muslims, for every Buddhist there are two Muslims and for every Jew there are one hundred Muslims. Ever wondered why Muslims are so powerless?

Here is why: There are 57 member-countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and all of them put together have around 500 universities; one university for every three million Muslims. The United States has 5,758 universities (1 for every 57,000 Americans) and India has 8,407. In 2004, Shanghai Jiao Tong University compiled an 'Academic Ranking of World Universities', and intriguingly, not one university from Muslim-majority states was in the top 500.

As per data collected by the UNDP, literacy in the Christian world stands at nearly 90 per cent and 15 Christian-majority states have a literacy rate of 100 per cent. A Muslim-majority state, as a sharp contrast, has an average literacy rate of around 40 per cent and there is no Muslim-majority state with a literacy rate of 100 per cent. Some 98 per cent of the 'literates' in the Christian world had completed primary school, while less than 50 per cent of the 'literates' in the Muslim world did the same. Around 40 per cent of the 'literates' in the Christian world attended university while no more than two per cent of the 'literates' in the Muslim world did the same.

Muslim-majority countries have 230 scientists per one million Muslims. The U.S. has 4,000 scientists per million and Japan has 5,000 per million. In the entire Arab world, the total number of full-time researchers is 35,000 and there are only 50 technicians per one million Arabs (in the Christian world there are up to 1,000 technicians per one million). Furthermore, the Muslim world spends 0.2 per cent of its GDP on research and development, while the Christian world spends around five per cent of its GDP.

Conclusion: The Muslim world lacks the capacity to produce knowledge.

Daily newspapers per 1,000 people and number of book titles per million are two indicators of whether knowledge is being diffused in a society. In Pakistan, there are 23 daily newspapers per 1,000 Pakistanis while the same ratio in Singapore is 360. In the UK, the number of book titles per million stands at 2,000 while the same in Egypt is 20.

Conclusion: The Muslim world is failing to diffuse knowledge.

Exports of high technology products as a percentage of total exports are an important indicator of knowledge application. Pakistan's exports of high technology products as a percentage of total exports stands at one per cent. The same for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait , Morocco , and Algeria (are all at 0.3 per cent) while Singapore is at 58 per cent.

Conclusion: The Muslim world is failing to apply knowledge.

Why are Muslims powerless?

Because we aren't producing knowledge.

Why are Muslims powerless?
Because we aren't diffusing knowledge.

Why are Muslims powerless?
Because we aren't applying knowledge.

And, the future belongs to knowledge-based societies.

Interestingly, the combined annual GDP of 57 OIC-countries is under $2 trillion. America, just by herself, produces goods and services worth $12 trillion; China - $8 trillion, Japan - $3.8 trillion and Germany - $2.4 trillion (purchasing power parity basis).

Oil rich Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar collectively produce goods and services (mostly oil) worth $500 billion; Spain alone produces goods and services worth over $1 trillion; Catholic Poland - $489 billion and Buddhist Thailand - $545 billion. Muslim GDP, as a percentage of worlds GDP, is fast declining.

So, why are Muslims so powerless?

Answer: Lack of education!

All we do is shouting to Allah the whole day and blame everyone else for our multiple failures.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Unanswered Question

What puzzles me most about the whole Wikileaks uproar is that nobody seems to have asked: were all these leaked documents authentic? Did anybody verify any of them? All of them?

Note that the govt. didn't have time to even read all those thousands of documents, let alone verify them, before it started on its galumphing attack on Assange and Wikileaks. Yet it carried out its attack quite swiftly and comprehensively, as if it had planned all these tactics in advance and had only been waiting for a fitting target.

What this spells to me is that the govt. has been planning for years to censor the Internet, and used Wikileaks' leaks as an excuse.

Given the retaliation that the "Hacktivists" of the world have pulled off -- on every company that bowed to govt. pressure and abetted its attack on Wikileaks -- I'd say the govt. made a truly serious mistake.

For one thing, the govt. assumed that the hackers it had in its hire were all the best of the breed, which isn't necessarily the case; I've known plenty of hackers who, having worked for govt., swore off in disgust and vowed never to work for it again. Second, the govt. simply assumed that everybody would, knee-jerk automatically, agree that Wikileaks' leaked documents were "unpatriotic" -- which, again, isn't true; the people who have actually read some of the documents report that they simply reveal cases of corruption and incompetence, not military secrets, which nobody cares to defend. Third, it assumed that nobody was prepared for this, which is way off; computer nerds have been expecting the govt. to try something similar for more than 30 years -- and had made plans accordingly.

Now the Cyberwar is on, and it looks as if the nerds are winning. The various companies whose websites the Hacktivists shut down understood the message -- that the hackers could just as easily have hacked directly into their cash accounts -- and some of them have been retreating from their govt.-pushed positions. A bank that froze Wikileaks' account quietly released $80,000 to Assange. For every server that cut Wikileaks out, hundreds have sprung up to support it. Sympathizers have raised more than $200,000 for Assange's legal defense. Volunteer nets have been gleefully transferring the Wikileaks package all over the 'net. The govt. managed to catch exactly one of the pro-Wikileaks hacktivists: a 17-year-old boy who made an amateur's mistake in forwarding an email.

Obviously the govt. isn't stopping the hacktivists worth...ah, spit. The nerds have the skills, the numbers and the experience to win this cyberwar, and I expect they will.

But lost in all the scuffle is that basic question: were all those documents accurate? Everybody on both sides simply assumes they are, but quite simply, nobody has had the time to check out all of them. This whole eruption could have started over next to nothing.


--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another Moving Report

Hi, team. Okay, as of today I have a new local number -- 602-373-0320, for use only in the Phoenix area, from T-Mobile. The only drawback is that I had to get a Nokia, which has to be one of the worst-designed phones I've ever met. My old long-distance number -- 310-339-4345 -- is still the same.

Yes, you can email me at fish.leslie@gmail.com. I spent a good part of today going round and round with Cox, who promise that they'll have my old email address up and running in "a few days". "What's a 'few'?" I asked. "Well, maybe 24 hours, maybe 48, maybe longer", said the Cox techie. *Sigh* Apparently, for all their speed-of-light communications, they still have speed-of-snail secretaries. Patience!

Aside from that, I put together my membership, payment and demo-CD for the Tucson 2011 Folk Festival, so unless the demo and check get lost in the mail (I'll send it registered, just to be safe), I'll be appearing there next Spring. I'll also be singing at PantheaCon in California, in February, and -- didn't I mention this elsewhere? -- with Joe Bethancourt at Fiddler's Dream in Phoenix on New Year's Day. Besides that, I'm assembling a promo-package with Joe's help, and once I have enough copies, I'll be going around to the open-mics and local venues again. Wish me luck!

More later.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Moved!

Hi, folks. Sorry for the long delay, but I spent the last half of November finding and moving into a new address. My old pal from Berkeley, "Rasty" Bob Ralston, went in with me on getting an apartment here in Mesa, so everybody's happy except the cats -- whom we can't let outside, because we're not supposed to have four of them. *Sigh*

Also, there's been a problem transferring my email account, since I had it previously piggy-backed on my landlady's account. She (or her husband, whoever was primary account holder) will have to call up Cox Communications and formally "authorize transfer of lesliefish@cox.net to Leslie Fish" -- and I haven't been able to catch up to them yet. *Sigh* again. Well, meanwhile, I've figured out how to use the gmail account attached to this blog, so you can reach me there in a pinch.

I'm also trying to get a local phone number (if you've got Verizon, you can call me at 310-339-4345, but otherwise don't; Verizon charges for incoming calls as well as outgoing, the cheap b@stards) with T-Mobile, who've promised to send me my new phone and charge-card in a few days. When I get it, I'll post the new number here.

So, Rasty has worked as a band-manager before, and he's trying hard to get me some local gigs. As soon as we've settled ourselves and our stuff into the new apartment, and put together a promo package, we'll be hitting the local open-mikes and dropping off packages at every acoustic-music venue in the Phoenix area. Cross fingers and wish me a lot of gigs!

Oh, yes: I'll be singing with Joe Bethancourt at Fiddler's Dream coffeehouse in Phoenix, on New Year's Day (well, evening actually: starting at 7 PM). Anybody in the area is invited to come see us.

Best, and more news later.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More Book Reviews

IN CASE THERE'S A FOX by Aya Katz, CreateSpace Publishing

As promised, here's the review on Aya's book. With "In Case There's A Fox" she joins the long and honorable list of parents -- including Rudyard Kipling, A. A. Milne and Dr. Seuss -- who made up bedtime stories for their children that later became children's books. Let's hope Aya's becomes equally successful.

This is a thin little trade-paperback with a glossy cover, illustrations by the author, and a short story in rhyme about a little girl -- who, of course, just happens to have the same name as the author's daughter -- that, when she "goes for walks, In the fields full of phlox, She is always concerned That she might meet a fox". Though the fox never does appear, the little girl goes through various adventures looking for one. The rhymes are smooth and easy, falling into a rhythm designed to lull a child to sleep; the illustrations are likewise softly Impressionistic in gentle, muted colors suggesting dreaminess. In short, this is an ideal bedtime story in solid form. Parents everywhere in the English-speaking world should be grateful for it.


SOUL SURVIVOR by Bruce and Andrea Leininger, from Grand Central Publishing, details one of the best-documented cases of reincarnation that I've ever seen: a World War Two fighter pilot reborn as a little boy in Louisiana in 1998. What makes it so effective is the wealth of confirming detail dug up by the boy's father, who started off as a Christian bigot -- actually saying "Not in my house! There will be no such thing as a past life! Never!" -- that set out to track down the rational source of his little son's nightmares, and ended by convincing himself.

In the father's hunt for the facts, the story turns into a historical mystery tale that reveals vivid details about WWII in the Pacific and the men who served there, not to mention their families, and as the last survivors of The Greatest Generation die off, it's important to collect their stories and remember their world. But beyond that, one of the most powerful scenes in the book comes when the father goes to a WWII veterans' reunion and finally reveals the real reasons for all his research and questions -- and the veterans, and their families, all have tales of their own to tell about their paranormal experiences during the war.

Anyone who insists on doubting that psychic phenomena or reincarnation exist should read this book.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Interesting Election Results

If find it interesting that I can't find a site on the Internet -- yet -- that simply lists all the races, all the votes and all the percentages. I had to hunt through a few dozen sites to get that information, which is intriguing by itself.

Okay, so the Republicans now have a majority of seats in the House and a knife's-edge balance in the Senate. Has anybody looked further? Did anyone noticed that a politically-naive newcomer, Rand Paul, won the seat in Kentucky? Note that Alaska is still counting votes because, if you please, the majority of votes went to a write-in candidate. When was the last time that happened? Rhode Island elected itself a governor on the Independent ticket, which is a real anomaly too.

More to the point, if you look at the returns and percentages in every race, in all but two of them the Rep/Dem votes do not add up to 100%. Some 1-9% of the voters did not stay home, but bothered to go to the polls and vote for anyone but a Republican or Democrat. Does this suggest something?

What I see building up here, like a slow volcano, is a growing distrust of both the Big Two political parties -- in fact, a distrust of political parties in general. After the Reps/Dems, the candidates who got the largest number of votes were those who listed themselves as Independent. If this trend continues, and I think it will, it'll mean a really radical change for American politics. Among other things, it means that spending millions on election advertising will no longer guarantee victory, and that right there will be an enormous change. It also means that the Old Boy network within political parties will go out the window.

Most of all, this means that the electorate is no longer sleeping -- and trusting. Any politicians with the sense to see what this means should be afraid, very afraid.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Reviews and Shameless Plugs

It being that time of year when I have to renew my library card, I’ve had my mind on books lately. So, for all you literate folks out there – and you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t – here’s a short list of my current recommendations.

First – Shameless Plug #1 – is "A Dirge For Sabis", first book in the trilogy, “The Sword of Knowledge”, available at www.amazon.com. The trilogy was an experiment by C. J. Cherryh, wherein she took a general outline of history on a fictional world, divided it into three ages, and handed each outline to a partner to make into a novel. I got the first book, about the downfall of the old Empire of Sabis and the founding of a new society. CJ wanted to keep the fantasy elements to a minimum, so the only magic that works in this fictional universe is Murphy’s Law: you can psychically well-wish or ill-wish somebody, and that’s it. All the rest is science and politics. Being the jolly Anarchist that I am, I centered the story on a group of scientists (and their families) struggling to hold off downfall and chaos with a new invention: a simple black-powder cannon. The chief conflict of the story is their struggle to save something of their collapsing society despite the obstacles of medieval politics. It’s a jolly good read, if I say so myself.

Shameless Plug #2, likewise available at Amazon.com, is my collection of true funny stories: "Offensive As Hell: The Joys of Jesus-Freak Bagging". The title pretty much says it all, and I want to thank again all the folks who told me their pet tales. Here you’ll find stories of lucky accidents with pythons, calculated nudity, fortunate storms and inspired comebacks. It can be read purely for laughs, or as a handy tool-book. Listed under “humor”, this garnered a lot of reviews at Amazon, all of them merrily positive. It’s a small book, but I’ve heard enough such stories since that, if I ever do a second edition, it’ll be a good bit thicker.

Now for other people’s stuff.

"Verasheyan", by J. Trout (it was that name which made me stop and look), from Phaze Books (www.phaze.com), is something uniquely weird. It’s a Science Fiction/BDSM/erotic Romance, which isn’t something one encounters every day. The plot is simple enough: future cops capture a beautiful hermaphroditic alien who, as bodyguard to an interstellar crook, knows all his/her boss’s secrets. To wring the information out of the alien, the commander hands him/her over to a BDSM expert, Master Zane, and his assistant Nell. The experts succeed in getting the info, in a series of blisteringly erotic scenes, but Nell falls for the alien, and Master Zane plots to keep custody of him/her as a toy for Nell. Part of the deal involves taking on the police commander as a student, and his subsequent training – neatly paralleling the developing relationship between the Alien and Nell – involves some eye-opening revelations about the BDSM phenomenon. This is either the hottest textbook or the most informative bit of porno that I’ve ever encountered.

"The God Delusion", by Richard Dawkins, is guaranteed to PO fundamentalists of any stripe. Dawkins’ style alternates between the picky pedantic philosophizing of an Oxford don – which isn’t surprising, seeing that he *is* an Oxford don – and the incisive clarity of an investigative reporter. If he had just stopped with giving a good logical argument as to why the traditional Old Testament (or Koran) god can’t exist, this book would be a fairly fast and entertaining read. The problem is that he then goes on to insist, on no evidence or logic whatever, that if “God” can’t exist then no other energy-being, or souls, or psychic phenomena can exist either. This tends to make Atheism seem as bigoted as Pat Robertson’s brand of Christianity. Still, this book delineates the current Atheist position very neatly; it’s something that any thinking person should sharpen their wits on. It just might inspire some good Fantasy and Science Fiction stories.

That’s all for now, folks. Anybody wanting to post short reviews/plugs of other books here, feel free. Enjoy!


--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hoplophobic Cops

This really happened to me, about two years ago, when I was living in the house on Catalina Drive, Phoenix.

This will take a little explanation: in that house the kitchen/dining-room area is cut off from the hallway not by a complete wall but by a waist-high counter that runs back to a doorway near the back kitchen wall. Anyone standing in the hallway could be seen over the counter by anyone at the front door or in the kitchen/dining-room. Anyone lying on the floor couldn't be. Got that? Okay.

I was busy with my email when I heard a howling, thumping disturbance out in the main part of the house. I got up and went out and saw, in the hallway, a strange woman fighting with one of my tenants. The woman had a knife and was hacking at the tenant, who had grabbed her from behind and was squirming to avoid the knife.

So I pulled out my gun (the little-bitty North American Arms .22 mini-revolver, so small you can cover it with one hand), pointed it at the woman and yelled: "Freeze!"

Probably because we were in a working-class neighborhood, where people have experience with such things, the woman promptly froze -- and then dropped to the floor. The tenant grabbed the knife out of her hand and got out of the way fast, setting the knife on the counter as she passed. The woman on the floor began to cry, but had the sense not to move. I kept my gun pointed at her and told the tenant to call the cops, which she did.

At that point the action stopped. Then tenant sat down in the kitchen and waited. The woman on the floor cried and waited. I "held the point" (i.e., kept my gun aimed at her) and waited. We all waited for the cops to show up, and it took them a good quarter-hour or a little over. Since I was holding the point with my arms fully extended, you can imagine that they began to get tired. I leaned against the nearest wall to brace my arms, but it didn't help much.

*Finally* the cops came to the front door and knocked, and the tenant hurried to let them in. They stopped at the door, looked around, saw me standing sideways to them aiming my gun at something they couldn't see down the hallway, and they said what cops always say when they see any armed civilian: "Police! Freeze! Drop your weapon!"

I wasn't about to let the woman have a chance to escape, so, *carefully not looking at the cops*, I replied: "Police, help! Come put your guns on this perp so I can take mine off."

The cops looked at each other as if they'd never heard of such a thing, tippy-toed a little closer, and shouted again: "Police! Freeze! Drop-your-weapon!"

Again, keeping my eyes on the woman, I called back: "Police, help! Come take charge of this perp."

Again, the cops exchanged glances and tippy-toed a little closer. Again, they gave their standard call, and again I answered. Step by step, "Police! Freeze!" by "Police, help!", they made their way close enough to the counter to look over it and see that, yes, I was holding my gun on a woman who was lying on the floor crying.

Finally one of them had the sense to come around the end of the counter and say: "It's all right, we've got her." I said: "Finally!", pulled up my gun (pointing it safely at the ceiling), and started to shove it back in its belt-holster.

"No-no-no!" snapped one of the other cops. "Don't put it away; give it to us."

What the hell, it was a cheap little thing; if the cops elected to steal it (which they usually do with citizens' guns), I could replace it easily, so I handed it toward the nearer cop. He jumped back, wailing: "No, don't point it at *me*!" -- though in fact, I wasn't. I dutifully pointed the muzzle back toward the ceiling and handed it toward him again, and this time he took it -- with such exaggerated care that you'd think I was handing him a grenade. He carried it away, fussing with it. I started rubbing my cramped arms and grumbling about having to hold the point for a good 15 minutes while I'd waited for them to show up.

While the first cop cuffed the woman (which seems to be another of their standard behaviors), I explained to a third cop what I'd heard, seen and done. I also showed him the knife -- which he looked at, pronounced "a cheap Chinese job", and then ignored.

As the first cop was frog-marching the woman outside, and the third was questioning the tenant, the second came up to me and shamefacedly asked me how to unload my gun. After an instant's astonishment, I told him. He still couldn't do it. I offered to unload the gun for him, but oh no, he wouldn't let me touch it again until it *was* unloaded. *Sigh* Impasse. Finally, I set my hands over his and showed him: "Take the knurled end of the rod under the barrel between your thumb and middle finger, then press the end of the rod firmly with your index finger, then pull the rod out. Now pull the hammer very slightly back, and push the cylinder out of the frame." It took three tries before he got it. The gun was now in three harmless pieces -- frame, cylinder and rod -- and he didn't seem to know what to do with it. I gave up on the whole business, went back into the computer room and resumed working on my email.

It took half an hour to straighten the whole mess out. The tenant chose not to press charges, the woman left her knife right where it was and departed, and the cops went back to their cars to make reports. One of them came up to me and handed back the pieces of my gun, and they all went away.

What did I conclude from all this? First, that the cops do *not* show up quickly, even when you tell them there are "weapons" involved. Second, even in a no-gun-control state like Arizona, the cops assume that any civilian with a gun is automatically the Bad Guy. Third, they don't seem to know what to do when the civilian has caught the Bad Guy and is holding him/her for them. Fourth, they're not as familiar with guns as they like to think. Fifth, that they won't steal any civilian's weapon if it's too cheap, too small or too complex for them.

The moral of the story is: if you catch a Bad Guy on your own hook, make sure you do it with a cheap and/or complex weapon that the cops won't want. Also, if you hold the perp for the cops, be sure to have a friend standing near who can explain -- fast and loudly -- that the person holding the weapon is the Good Guy. And of course don't point either the weapon or your eyes at the cops. It also helps to memorize the words: "Police, help! *He's* the perp; I'm the Good Guy!" -- because they certainly can't tell from looking.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ON ABORTION

by Leslie Fish


One of the not-so-minor points in the recent presidential race was the abortion question. Obama stated that he believed in a woman's right to abortion. McCain and Palin announced that they didn’t personally believe in abortion but, if elected, they would not make a federal case of it but would leave the legality of abortion to the individual states. Still, the word went out: “If McCain gets elected, you can kiss Roe vs. Wade goodbye.” That helped tip the balance toward Obama. It’s pretty obvious that, no matter what the Family Values crowd may think, a vast number of Americans – particularly women – want to keep abortion legal. Those who don’t had best consider the following facts.

First, abortion can take place only during the first trimester of pregnancy. After that it becomes dangerous to the mother, and no doctor will do it for anything less than a direct threat to the mother’s life. Now, during the first trimester of pregnancy the object in a woman’s uterus is certainly not a “baby”; it won’t become that until the last trimester. It isn’t even properly called a “fetus”; it won’t be that until the second trimester. The proper scientific name for it is “embryo” – as in “embryonic” – and it is absolutely not a human being. It does not have a human heart or a human spine or human lungs, and it certainly does not have a human brain. For the religious-minded, consider that without a brain there is no mind, and without a mind, how can there be a soul?

Yes, an embryo is made of human tissue, but then, so are your toenails. Yes, it’s technically alive, but then, so is a virus. Yes, it will eventually develop to become a human being, but then, given enough time, so will whole species of monkeys; the only difference is time – six months versus six million years. The physical condition of an embryo is somewhere between that of a primitive worm and a salamander. Its life is certainly not worth the life, or health, or freedom, of a real human being – such as a woman – not unless you’re going to claim that women are not really human beings.

Now, on the question of the “value of life”… Ask: whose life?

No man has ever died in childbirth, but countless hundreds of millions of women have. Childbirth is not safe. It has not been safe since human beings began walking upright, and growing big brains and big skulls to hold them. Even in America today with all our boasted medical science, according to the medical actuarial tables, for women between the ages of 15 and 50, childbirth is the second most common cause of death. You don’t want to know what the first one is. (You do? All right: it’s violence – usually perpetrated by men. Childbirth is always perpetrated by men. Men have a lot to answer to women for.) Any woman who becomes pregnant is placing her life at risk. No one should be forced to place their life at risk without their consent. No one should be forced to risk their life for someone else’s beliefs. No man has the right to order a woman to risk her life for what he wants.

In any country that calls itself free, to risk your life or not must always be the individual’s choice. Therefore, to abort or not must always be the individual woman’s choice – and nobody else’s. Anything less is tyranny.



END

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Old Friend, New Tactic

An old buddy of mine from California sent me this, and I thought it was just too good to keep to myself. Enjoy!

******

First the background to this little tale: last weekend tragedy struck a friend. Samuel, the 16-year-old older brother of one of Hannah's classmates, died suddenly. Cause; brain swelling due to head injury. Samuel's head got hit, he seemed OK, two days later he died. Horror, grief and misery.

Sherri, upon hearing this, was badly upset, but has cried it out. Life goes on. We'll attend funeral, as no doubt will much of Hannah's school.

(note: Sherri is Nathaniel's wife; Hannah is their little daughter)

I maintained a more stable facade, but (how like a man) I needed to argue furiously with someone in order to feel better. I was pissed off at the world and I needed to win an argument.


Well what do you know, there in a walkway at the College of San Mateo were two anti-abortionists. An older man and an older woman, both white-haired, at a table full of pamphlets and obstetric models. No bloody fetus photos, fortunately. These were gentle folk; they're for life, don't you know.

Normally I'd have shrugged it off, but like I said, I needed to argue with someone. It had nothing to do with them, or their issue, but they voluntarily put themselves in the argument zone, so I availed myself of that service.

I met them several times, breaking for class and lunch, so the following is a condensation of several confrontations.

I asked them if they were against abortion in the case of rape or incest. They hemmed and hawed, they evaded and equivocated. I pressed the issue, she avoided my eyes, he met my eyes (his were blue) and he said yes, they're against abortion for incest or rape. I pressed further; should the government _forbid_ abortion for rape or incest? He, seeing that this was a pissing match, doubled down. Yes, the government should outlaw abortion in the case of incest or rape. "You are extremists", I said, and I pressed further. It turned out that they were for the use of tax-paid government coercion to compel a woman to bear her rapist's child, against her will. (I refrained from calling that 'the second rape'; a minor missed opportunity in an otherwise enjoyable rant.)

Oh, but you see it's all about life. Oh really? I asked if they were against the death penalty, or warfare, or self-defense. They were for self-defense; I replied, "then you're not pro-life." I explained that I objected to their tendentious abuse of language. If they called themselves anti-abortion, then that would be accurate; but they called themselves pro-life, when in fact on several key issues they aren't, and that's hypocrisy.

Ooo, they didn't like that! These quiet elderly gentlefolk didn't like what they saw in the mirror I held up to them. That they of all people should be hypocritical and callous; how could this be? That's totally inconsistent with their self-image! Normally I wouldn't bother to impose so violent a revelation upon such lambs, but like I said, they volunteered to lose an argument, and I needed to win one.

To his credit he gave as good as he got; he called me closed-minded. I retorted that I would love to hear his opinion, if only he would give it rather than evade. For instance, what about saving the life of the woman? Again they equivocated, again I close-mindedly insisted on a yes or no answer. At one point I ranted, "More evasion! If you were outright fascist then at least we could argue it, but this business of thinking one thing but not being able to say it - that's not respectable!"

Finally, holy moley, the man doubled down. Yes, if the doctors could save the baby then the woman must go through with it, whether she wants to or not. (At this point a young woman, who had been reading one of the pamphlets at the table, set it down and left.)

I called that a religious view, contradicted by other religious views, and as such not enforceable under the First Amendment. He said that the First Amendment is about no established churches, like C of E; I answered that it's also about not enforcing religious laws. He then said that some atheists came up to him and thanked him, and therefore this was not a religious issue, at all, it's about Life. Well, what about self-defense, war and the death penalty? Round and round we went!

Again I homed in. "Suppose a woman were raped; and she could not survive labor, Should the government use its full force of coercion to forbid the abortion, or not?" "That's a hypothetical question," he weaseled. I denied that flat out. I pressed on. "Suppose she has the abortion anyhow. What sanctions do you recommend? Fines?" They gave no answer. "Imprisonment?" They did not meet my eyes. "Oh, I know!" I crowed. "How about the death penalty? That way she dies either way!"

Four blue eyes stared at me. I smiled. I waited for an answer. None came. I waved my hand. "You're not serious," I said, and I left. It felt good.

I came back later for more, and it went the same. Again I pressed, they evaded, they objected to my vehemence, I quivered with excitement. And again I asked, what sanctions for the raped woman who aborts? Fines, imprisonment, death? And again, no answer.

And that, Leslie, is how to shut up "pro-lifers".


Sincerely,
Nathaniel

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Slaves, Arabs, and Educated Fools

Hi, fans. I've been keeping this one on the back burner for awhile, but I think it's time I posted it. It's time for another juicy controversy, anyway!


SLAVES AND ARABS

--Leslie Fish


It’s easy to lie with history if your listeners are lazy scholars who won’t bother to check out your story. It’s easier still if they’re gullible and trusting, and believe you without question. It’s easiest of all if they believe unquestioningly because you tell them lies they want to hear and want to believe.

That’s the only explanation I can think of for the belief, common among Black Americans, that Elizabethan-age White men created the African slave-trade but the Arabs have always been the Black man’s friend.

Anyone who bothers to look through the actual evidence can find that the first slaves in America were White, and the African slave-trade was invented by Arabs – more than 3000 years ago.

The records are still preserved in museums, detailing ships’ passengers of the 16th and 17th centuries, showing how many settlers in early America were “indentured servants” from Britain. An indentured servant was a poor man or woman who found someone to pay his/her passage across the Atlantic, and then was obliged to repay that shipping-ticket with anything from five to ten years of unpaid labor and absolute obedience. An indentured servant was a slave, pure and simple, but with a limited sentence. At the end of his or her five-to-ten years’ service, he or she was dismissed with the clothes on his or her back, plus whatever he or she had managed to accumulate from gifts, bonuses, or picking through Master’s trash. The women usually became servants in someone else’s house, or shop, only paid wages now. The men quite often traded their few belongings for a good axe and struck off into the wilderness to become trappers – Mountain Men – whose adventures became great tales of exploration in later histories.

African slaves weren’t so lucky, even from the very beginning. There are carvings and wall-paintings from ancient Egypt which show huge idealized Pharaohs defeating and enslaving dwarfish caricatured Africans. Surviving Egyptian records speak of various conquests, and slaves subsequently taken, in Nubia – present-day Ethiopia and Sudan. Egyptian slaves had little or no hope of ever being freed.

Interestingly enough, the ancient civilizations in Europe had no use for slaves from Africa. The ancient Greeks and Romans made slaves of prisoners taken in battle, but those battles were usually fought among themselves. They also used slavery as part of their judicial system, as punishment for serious crimes, the way we use prisons today. A Greek or Roman slave was also expected to work for him/herself in his/her spare time, so as to earn money and buy his/her freedom. There’s a speech by the great Roman lawyer, Cicero, in which he says: “We have endured Caesar’s tyranny for six years, which is longer than slaves taken in battle are expected to endure a master.” This makes it clear that a large percentage of Roman slaves stayed enslaved for no more than five years. The Greeks and Romans also had sufficient respect for their goddesses of fertility that they did not make a habit of gelding their male slaves.

Another Roman custom held that a slave freed by his master, on becoming a citizen, was honor-bound to vote his former master’s way forever afterward. This meant that anyone with political ambitions and a bit of money could get a quick voting-bloc for himself by buying up, and then freeing, a lot of slaves. Rome also had a large working class – the Plebians – always available for labor, and the practical Romans knew well that it was cheaper to hire a Plebian and pay him only for the hours he worked than it was to buy a slave and pay for his food, clothing, shelter and doctoring, day and night, year after year, whether s/he was working or not. With this system in place, neither the ancient Greeks nor Romans had any pressing need to go sailing off to Africa to get slaves. As Europe slid into the Middle Ages, the feudal system guaranteed enough cheap labor that, again, there was no need to hunt for more in Africa.

It was not so in the Arab world, where surviving art and written records note an abundance of African slaves. For over 2000 years, an Arab “gentleman” proved that he was better than the dirt-poor peasants by owning at least one slave, and that slave was usually Black – if only so that the neighbors could tell at a glance who was the Master and who was the slave. If male, that slave was usually gelded. If female, she was a bed-slave until the ravages of age dismissed her to the kitchen and the laundry. The children of such women became slaves in their turn, with no hope of reprieve.

The conquests of Mohammed and his descendants in the 7th century swept North Africa under Arab rule and opened all of Africa to the Arab slave-trade. One consequence of this was the curious rule, under Sharia – Moslem religious law – that the soul of a gelded man could not be admitted to paradise. Given the Arab custom of gelding male slaves, this meant that it wasn’t worthwhile to convert slaves. That, in turn, meant that the religious rules for proper treatment of one’s fellow Moslems did not apply to the slaves – nor to anyone whom an Arab slave-dealer might intend to enslave, and geld. To this day, Arab religious law claims that any non-Moslem is “kufar”, and may be captured and sold as a slave.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, there was no great demand for slave labor until after the discovery of the New World. Spain claimed all of South America and most of North America, and hurried to establish settlements for mining gold, silver and salt, raising cattle and crops, growing sugar-cane and rendering it down to rum and molasses. All these enterprises required a lot of cheap labor, and the natives were notoriously bad at providing it; in fact, they tended to die quickly in captivity. It was Spain that started importing African slaves, making the African slave-trade a booming business. Various European countries – including England, France and Holland – tried their hands at providing slaves for the Spanish-American market, but it was the Arabs who captured Africans from the interior and brought them to the coast for sale to the Europeans.

As late as the mid-1800s, the most famous slave-dealer in the western world was a clever Arab named Tippu Tib. He would take caravans into the interior of Africa, posing as a harmless merchant, and while he sold goods at enticingly cheap prices to the African tribesmen, he would quietly count their able-bodied young men and women, note their defenses and map the approaches to their villages. Later, he and his henchmen would return in the dead of night to attack the villages, overpower the defenders and capture the inhabitants. He was considered “merciful” – or practical – in that he would often leave the children alive, with a few elders to raise them, in hopes of returning for another crop in ten or fifteen years. Exact figures are impossible to find, but it’s estimated that Tippu Tib alone was responsible for the capture and sale of over 100,000 Africans in his lifetime.

After 1865 there was no longer a market for slaves in North America or Europe, and the market in Central and South America rapidly dwindled, but the market in Arab countries lingered on. As late as 1950, there were an estimated 450,000 slaves in Saudi Arabia. Pressure from the United Nations and the industrial countries drove the trade underground in the last half of the 20th century, but the practice lingers on. As recently as 2003 Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan – a member of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body – claimed before the Saudi Information Agency that: “Slavery is a part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long as there is Islam.”

In view of all this, it’s hard to see why modern Black Americans still believe that only Whites caused their historical miseries, that embracing Islam will somehow set them free, and that the Arabs are their best friends.


--END--

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Report from DragonCon

Hello all! I'm back from DragonCon (over Labor Day weekend, in Atlanta) with sore feet, a lot of contact addresses for other filkers, and a lot of convention stories.

First off, I rode two days on a bus (and you don't realize just how big this country is until you've crossed it on a Greyhound bus) to get there. On the way, I ran into another conventioneer, named Jennifer C., and we happily struck up a deal that she'd help as my roadie. This turned out to be helpful when we finally arrived (two hours late) at the Atlanta bus station and found no ride waiting. Jennifer helped haul my gear (three bags and my guitar) while I phoned contact number after contact number, and finally got a ride -- which served for both of us. Jennifer likewise helped with my gear on the return trip, which was just as long.

Second, the con was *huge*. It spread across five hotels, three of which (the Hyatt, the Marriott and the Hilton) were fortunately linked by sky-ways. The official number of members -- as the con-com had claimed to the Atlanta Fire Marshall, anyway -- was 40,000, but the actual number was closer to 70,000. There were no less than 30 separate programming tracks, all very well attended. The dealers' room, the one time I managed to get there, was jam-packed. So were the hotel corridors, to all hours. It's quite an experience to ride down a crowded escalator with fans dressed in jeans and T-shirts and multiple buttons, as dragons, werewolves, Klingons and Anime characters -- and a bit of a problem when they're wearing large wings. I ran into another three fans there who also volunteered to be my roadies, so nobody got burdened with the job full-time.

Third, the hotel complex's architecture was weird enough to inspire songs about Hotel by Escher; even with a map and guide, I got lost more than once. Matt Leger, who I ran into at one of the filksings, claimed that the "LunaCon Hotel" -- which he wrote a song about -- was still worse, but I'd have to see it to believe it.

Fourth, the convention participants' Green Room served excellent free food and free beer to all hours (which was lucky for me, since I didn't receive any per diem payment for food and the Hyatt's food prices were incredible: $40 for two tuna-salad sandwiches, if ya please). I heard, though I didn't get there to confirm it, that the Hospitality Suite was much the same -- minus the free beer. Most of the convention members ate at the hotels' joint Food Court, which I likewise didn't get to see, since I spent almost all my time inside the Hyatt.

Fifth, despite the enormous size of the convention (the con-staff boasted that only ComiCon and World Fantasy Con are bigger), the number of filkers was dismayingly small. Perhaps 100 fans showed up for the concerts, not enough showed up at the filksings to carry a single all-night filk, and only a very few brought any kind of instruments. I later learned (from Mike Leibmann, founder of GAfilk and the sffilk website) that this was because DragonCon had gone through some severe changes since the last time I attended, 7 years ago. Back then, the con-chair was very filk-friendly -- but he'd gone to prison for taking indecent liberties with a 16-year-old, and the subsequent con-com had tried to distance themselves from him by reversing nearly all of his policies. This meant that DragonCon was quite filk-unfriendly until 2009, when Robby Hilliard took over the filk-track and started repairing the damage. Alas, he hadn't yet managed to spread the word of the changed policy very far; at the con's end he asked me if I could think of any way to encourage more filkers to attend, and all I could think of was to suggest he discuss it with Mike Leibmann.

I wish I'd also thought to suggest that DragonCon increase the number of dealers' rooms to three, and lower the price of the tables. Depending on when one signed up, a single space in the dealers' room could cost anywhere from $200 to $1500, which put them way out of the finances of most filkmusic dealers. Even Tales of the White Hart didn't show up there. Nobody was selling any of my albums at the con, so what I did was hand out cards for the sffilk website at every concert. I hope they did some good. Aside from the fun of the con itself, most of the profit that I got from it was contact numbers and e-dresses of assorted fans.

Altogether, I'd say that despite its various problems -- mostly related to its sheer size -- DragonCon is something that no fan should miss. Go there at least once in a lifetime; it's the SF-fandom equivalent of Burning Man.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Monday, August 23, 2010

Junk Science II: Gore-ball Warning

Has anybody noticed that the Politically Correct crowd have stopped wailing about "global warming" and have re-labeled it "climate change"?

Gee, could that be because, for the past four years (since the sun started into a low-sunspot activity cycle) the world's temperatures have been getting cooler? Down here in Arizona, for instance, this has been the coolest and wettest summer in 11 years. We've had only 5 days of 110-degree-or-better temperatures, and more than 7 days of heavy rain. (Yes, I know this is eye-popping to all you out-of-staters, but that really is cool and wet for Arizona.) Various scientists (underplayed in the mainstream media) have finally been able to make themselves heard on the subject of solar weather-cycles and their effect on Earth's temperatures, and "global warming" is slowly but steadily being recognized as a hoax.

Not that this matters to Al Gore (whose home uses more electricity than the average suburban city block, and who flies around in a private jet that uses more fossil-fuel than any dozen citizens' cars). He and his followers are still pushing that idea that evil-evil American industry is creating an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere which causes Global War-- ooops, "Climate Change". And what do they recommend as a solution? First, "Cap and Trade" -- which is just foreign aid under another name and a fiercer obligation. Second (perhaps their ultimate goal), that the US give up all its evil-evil industry and become the world's farm. These ideas (and the concept of Global Warming itself) was first pushed by Japan, of the Kyoto Accords, back when Japan was trying to become the new industrial leader of the world's economy -- which would necessarily mean making their rivals cut back. Later it was pushed by China, which is likewise trying to become the new industrial leader of Asia, at least. Both these cultures have a long history of practicing economic warfare, and there's no reason to think they've given up the practice.

They also knew which cultural buttons to push in order to sell this idea to the US, not to mention Europe; everybody knows how concerned we White Foreign Devils are about ecology. I'm surprised they didn't push the "racism" button too.

The problem is that so many otherwise-sensible scientists (not to mention the mainstream media) fell for it -- hook, line and sinker. Or did they fall? It's one thing to say that all those "climatologists" were spoon-fed faulty data, or were discouraged from looking very far into the history of Earth's weather. It's another thing that they deliberately censored other scientists who came up with opposing data, which we now know they did. Even the Nobel Prize committee gave Al Gore and his Global Warming movie the prize, without serious peer review. Why?

Gee, could it be that all those scientists were sold on a political agenda? Did they all tacitly (or otherwise) agree that, even if the story wasn't true, it would be a good idea to bleed money out of the US and even shut down its industrial base? Are we talking about a conspiracy here, or just a common bigotry?

A conspiracy, especially when pushed by rich and powerful people who can manipulate politicians and the media, is bad enough -- but a bigotry is worse, because it can continue under its own power without anybody pushing it.

There's an understandable laziness in otherwise hard-working people who, having made up their mind about some issue, don't want to bother with the effort of digging up the facts that might contradict their ideas. This is somewhat forgivable in people with ordinary jobs, who have other things to worry about, but when it comes to scientists and reporters -- whose jobs *are* to dig up the facts -- such lazy thinking can't be forgiven. Neither can their comfortable, and possibly profitable, bigotry.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Even a Stopped Clock Is Right Twice a Day

Make no mistake, Carl Worden is generally a right-wing nut -- so if even this guy can see the stupidity of the War on Drugs, then anybody can. Therefore I'm shamelessly forwarding his comments. Enjoy!


Worden: The Truth About The War On Drugs

by Carl F. Worden


Ladies & Gentlemen:
Our government has used the War On Drugs, hereinafter referred to as the WOD, as an excuse to infringe upon, and, in some cases, entirely butcher, our Bill of Rights. They have sold these infringements to you and yours, based upon the perpetually wrong philosophy that the ends justify the means. In general, the American public, and perhaps some of you, bought that philosophy hook, line and sinker. I will now dispel the myths perpetrated upon the masses by our benevolent government regarding the WOD.

Put me to the test. Tomorrow, ask every person you meet this question:
If hard illegal drugs were legalized, would you use them? You will find that 98% of all the people asked that question will give an emphatically negative answer. The fact is, the other 2% who answer in the positive are probably already using them! What’s wrong with this picture? Our government says the WOD must continue to protect us from our assumed inability to resist that which can harm us. “My God”, they say, “you can’t do that!” “Why, we’d have an epidemic on our hands!” But wait, didn’t we just establish that these illegal drugs are available right now to anyone who wants to use them? Is there anyone reading this that believes the designation “illegal” inhibits anyone from using these substances, considering their wide availability and low risk of discovery? THINK! You’ve been fed a big fat, government sponsored lie!

Let me tell you something about the drug trade.
Robbing, stealing, murdering, raping; those are all crimes. But drug dealing is not really a crime, it is a business! Sure, the rule makers call it a crime, but it violates none of the Judeo-Christian rules.

Heck, you can buy cyanide -- but would you swallow it? Why isn’t cyanide an illegal substance? Here is my first revelation to you: You can discourage crimes through the criminal justice system, but you can only destroy a business by making that business unprofitable.

There are no self-starters in drug abuse. Contemplate that fact for a moment. Re-read what I just wrote. How many of you have awakened one morning and decided this is the day you will try illegal drugs? Not you! Why would you assume anyone else would? The fact is that illegal drugs are sold, often using free samples given at parties where alcohol dims judgment and where “word of mouth” advertising, the pressure of peers, gives credibility to initial experimentation. You see, it’s not only a business, it is a sales business. And why do these “friends” offer you these free samples? Obviously, it is to gain new, paying “clients”. In support of this seemingly insignificant sales delivery system, there is a vast array of growers, processors, cartels, smugglers, mid-level and street-level dealers who all take a “cut”, making the street cost of these drugs rather significant. The result is a multi-billion dollar industry whose very survival depends on these drugs remaining illegal.

Let’s consider this scenario.
The United States government passes legislation to go into competition with the drug cartels. They arrange for direct business with material suppliers in Colombia, Iran, Mexico -- you name it. Whatever drugs are being currently sold, the U.S. Government will supply them. However, these drugs will be sold only through licensed pharmacies, and with a regulated mark-up only 15% over actual cost. There will be no taxes applied. Further, no advertising of any kind regarding these drugs is allowed. Anyone wishing to purchase these very pure and inexpensive drugs would have to ask for them. At the time of purchase, the buyer would be supplied with a written warning regarding the use of the specific substance purchased. In addition, the buyer would be required to sign a waiver which affirms that if s/he becomes ill, indigent or disabled as a result of the use or abuse of the substance in question, they would be ineligible for any form of social medical treatment or welfare benefits. These forms and sales records would be forwarded by the pharmacy to the newly reorganized DEA, whose sole purpose would be reduced to that of regulation enforcement of the pharmacies and record keeping.

The illegal drug trade would simply implode overnight. There is no way the illegal smuggling operations could compete with pure drugs being sold over the counter at only 15% over cost. Further, there would be no street level dealers trying to sell their drugs to your children, for the simple fact that there would be no profit motive to do so.

Remember: the way to destroy a business is to destroy it’s profitability. Where the “word-of-mouth” advertising is absent, there are no drug sales to new, prospective users. Of course, sales to minors would be strictly prohibited, and anyone convicted of doing so would be subject to a prison term of 25 years to life.

Currently, almost 70% of our imprisoned population is there on drug-related convictions. By attrition, our prisons would be emptied to accommodate the truly violent criminals in our society. In addition to the vast savings to our socialized health care and welfare systems, the need for more prison construction would become unnecessary, and so would the many jobs of prosecutors, judges, police officers, bailiffs, court reporters -- well, you get the picture. There is a vast legal-industrial complex in this country that is also dependent upon sustaining the WOD for it’s very survival, a survival supplied only through your tax dollars.

Look, I’m not the smartest kid on the block; far from it. I am not so foolish, prideful or egotistical to think I’m the only person who ever thought of this. Your government wants to keep the status quo because they are getting something from it. The scenario I’ve just published would also drastically reduce violent and non-violent crime committed by those who need to sell your bloody $10,000.00 Rolex watch for $250.00 in order to finance their next fix. It would substantially reduce the cost of your car, homeowners, disability and medical insurance. It would leave the government without excuse to shred any more of your civil rights, and with steadfast encouragement, to reinstate those rights taken under the guise of the WOD. Most of the gun crimes are committed by those in the drug trade, including the street gangs who depend on illegal drug sales for their survival as well. And we all know that when gun crimes are committed, our government uses that as the excuse to pass more and more gun control legislation, legislation that only effects the law-abiding gun owners like us.

I won’t spend any more time on this. You get the picture now and I know you can think for yourself. There are literally thousands of direct and indirect benefits to be derived from the controlled legalization of currently illegal drugs, and, as I’ve already pointed out, I’m not the only person who ever thought this out. There was a time I was vehemently against even the mere suggestion of what I’ve just proposed, and only because I had a closed mind. Experience has taught me to question every former assumption, and you should too: There is nothing in this world that will cost you more than a closed mind.

Carl F. Worden

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Junk Media

Hello again, team. Sorry I've taken so long to get back to you, but I've been busy writing a for-hire novel, which I've got to get finished by the end of September -- not to mention having my computer in the shop for a week, and getting ready for DragonCon. I'd originally planned to report my adventures in the brave new world of Vaping, e-cigarettes, and hunting for designers thereof, but this came up instead. So, onward.

An old friend who lives in Wisconsin phoned and told me about the state's local hyper-Liberal Arts and Entertainment newspaper (I trust you're all familiar with the breed), which had published an article about Arizona's famous SB 1070 law. Along with the usual patronizing mooing about Little Brown People, the article made this amazing statement: "(the law) is an attempt by the white two-thirds majority to impose its will on the Latino one-third minority". The article then goes on to piously note that this is why we need a good Liberal government: to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority, and to curb the majority's excesses. Uhuh.

Now, besides the blatant anti-democratic elitism, note the stunning error of fact: "white two-thirds majority".

According to the last census, the population of Arizona is roughly 30% White (yes, a minority), 30% Indian (primarily Navaho tribes), 30% mixed White-and-Indian (which is exactly what Latinos are), 5% Black and 5% Asian. Census figures are not a state secret; you can find them easily on the Internet. These self-righteous insular Liberals simply didn't bother to look.

This certainly isn't the first incidence of the Mainstream Media displaying their righteous passions without bothering to do their homework. The more respectable magazines and newspapers, when caught in their resulting errors, will usually apologize and make corrections in a corner of the editorial page; the broadcast news programs rarely admit to their errors at all. When both the US Army and the Red Cross investigated the Abu Ghraib "torture" scandal, they discovered that those infamous photos were faked; they'd never been taken in Abu Ghraib prison at all, and photographic analysis showed that the pictures were a hoax. Yet this information hardly reached the media at all; far more attention was paid to the Army firing the commander of the prison. There was virtually no reporting of the correction, and certainly no apology.

Now why is this? Given the abundance of information available simply on the Internet, it isn't that hard to check a story out. Surely in an age of runaway lawsuits you'd think the media would be more careful about possible suits for libel. Perhaps the armies of lawyers they keep on the payroll have made them overconfident. Perhaps they keep enormous slush-funds for settling out of court. Or perhaps they have such contempt for the intelligence of their audiences that they assume the public will believe them blindly, and they'll never get caught -- at least not badly -- in their little mistakes. So is it laziness, overconfidence or just plain arrogance that makes the media so thoughtless with the facts?

In any case, they're mistaken about the gullibility of the public. Despite the media's ferocious decrying of Arizona's anti-illegal-immigration bill, a recent survey by the major polling companies showed that fully 70% of Arizona's population, and 68% of the rest of the country, are in favor of SB 1070 -- and half a dozen states are drafting similar laws of their own. Another poll showed that, of the three groups that Americans trust the least, politicians come in first, lawyers are second, and the media are third. Newspapers and magazines have wailed about dropping readership, and yet more polls show that a rapidly-growing percentage of the population get their news primarily from the Internet.

Does anybody, except the media pundits themselves, wonder why?


--Leslie <;)))><...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Junk Science: Smoke and Lies

According to the popular myth, people smoke tobacco because they're addicted to the nicotine – which also constricts the blood vessels and raises the blood pressure, which is likely to cause strokes and heart attacks – but it's the tars in tobacco that actually cause lung cancer. This theory is supposedly backed up by a horde of respectable Scientific Experiments.

Having seen some of those experiments myself, I've concluded that those terribly respectable Scientific Experiments were mis-designed – perhaps deliberately. The whole Smoking Myth is false – and I can prove it, with a history book and a thermometer.

Back when I was in college, I earned extra money by working as a laboratory assistant in the medical school's research labs. One day my boss sent me off to another lab to borrow some forms, and there I saw an odd experiment in progress. There was a cage containing ten white mice, complete with food and water containers, and it was covered down to within half an inch of the cage floor by an airtight clear plastic box. Inside the plastic box was mounted a cigarette holder, and in the cigarette holder sat a lit cigarette, smoking itself, its smoke filling the plastic box down to the level where the mice were poking about in the sawdust. As I watched, the cigarette smoked itself down to nothing and went out. Within two minutes a lab assistant hurried up, lifted the plastic box, cleaned out the stub of the dead cigarette, put another cigarette in the holder and lit it, then set the box back down on top of the cage. I asked – as if I couldn't guess – what this experiment was about. “The effects of smoking tobacco,” said the assistant.

To myself I said: “What's wrong with this picture?”

First, that plastic box kept almost all fresh air out of the cage. The mice were in serious danger of suffocating on their own CO2. Human smokers do not shut themselves up in airtight containers to smoke. Human smokers inhale a puff of tobacco smoke through the mouth, carburete it with fresh air – usually inhaled through the nose – exhale, then take several breaths of fresh air before taking the next puff. Those mice were being deprived of fresh air and were subjected to constant smoke.

Second, one cigarette is enough to satisfy an adult human being for at least half an hour. The average adult human being weighs about 150 pounds. A mouse weighs less than an ounce. Ten mice weigh a good bit less then one pound. The smoke in their cage was not only constant but a serious overdose – by a factor of about 200 to 1..

Third, the cigarettes in that plastic box were passively smoking themselves. Human smokers don't inhale passive smoke; they inhale what they puff. Anyone who's watched someone else smoke knows that when the smoker puffs on the cigarette the burning coal flares. It flares because of the air – oxygen – being pulled into the burning coal. Anyone who's ever seen a picture of a blacksmith pumping air into the coals of his forge has seen something similar. Now, why does the blacksmith pump air into his coals? Because when they flare, they burn hotter; in the case of the blacksmith's forge, those flared coals are hot enough to melt iron. Flaring the coal of a cigarette also makes it burn hotter, and this changes the nature of the smoke.

When tobacco burns at low temperature the nicotine in it vaporizes, and is inhaled as nicotine. When tobacco burns at high (flared) temperature, the nicotine actually burns; in Chemists' terms, it oxidizes – that is, an atom of oxygen is added to the molecule. This extra atom changes the nicotine to another substance: a chemical called nicotinic acid. The trade-name of nicotinic acid is Niacin. If that name sounds familiar, it's because Niacin is better known as Vitamin B3. What real smokers inhale is not nicotine at all; it's a vitamin.

This is why nicotine patches do a poor job of helping people stop smoking; it isn't the nicotine that people smoke to get – it's the Niacin. The name sounds familiar because you were probably taught the importance of getting your daily vitamins by the same grade-school teacher, or school nurse, who taught you that cigarette smoke is a deadly poison.

Niacin/nicotinic acid/Vitamin B3 has one unique characteristic; it's just about the only chemical known to man that causes human nerve cells to regenerate. This is why Niacin is often prescribed for stroke victims. This is also why – and you have to actively search the Internet to discover this, unless you have access to a very large and well-organized medical library – while smokers do indeed tend to have more respiratory problems than non-smokers, they also tend to have lower rates of Alzheimer's.

In brief, most of the official research on the effects of tobacco smoking is skewed, biased and inaccurate.

Stranger yet, none of the official studies on smoking pay much attention to medical history. Specifically:

1) Archeologists tell us that the American Indians smoked tobacco for more than ten thousand years, yet we can tell from their skeletons that none of them ever died of lung cancer until the late 20th century. Why?

2) We know that in 1583 Sir Walter Raleigh met with the farming Indians of Virginia, and he swapped them iron tools for samples of their crops – including tobacco – which he took home to the court of Queen Elizabeth the First. Queen Elizabeth's courtiers weren't terribly interested in corn or squash, but they were very much interested in tobacco. Soon everybody who was fashionable in Britain was smoking tobacco. The other countries of Europe, not to be outdone, likewise took up smoking tobacco as fast as they could get ships to America and back. British and Dutch merchant-explorers took tobacco as a trade-good all over the world, and soon people in Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands were smoking tobacco too. From about 1600 to 1900, everybody in the world smoked tobacco – but none of them got lung cancer.

2) That's right. Lung cancer was an unknown disease until shortly after World War One, but even then it remained vanishingly rare. As late as 1930 my grandfather's medical school professor could invite all the school's students down to the autopsy room to witness the examination of “something so rare you will probably never see it again in your lifetimes” – a man who had died of lung cancer. It wasn't until after World War Two that lung cancer became a common disease. Now, what happened around the time of WWI, that became worse during WWII, that affects the way people breathe?

For one thing, people all over the world took to driving cars that were powered by gasoline, a petroleum product.

For another, major industries sprang up that were likewise fueled by petroleum products.

For a third, during WWII a truly incredible amount of petroleum was burned in the air – not only from the exhaust of war vehicles but from burning ships, factories and refineries.

It's also notable that the largest number of lung-cancer cases came out of the shipyards, among workers whose job was to glue sheets of asbestos to the hulls of ships. Inevitably, some of that asbestos was ground into dust and inhaled by the shipyard workers.

Further, the glue they used to apply the sheets of asbestos had carbon tetrachloride as a solvent; those workers couldn't help but inhale carbon tetrachloride fumes in the course of their work. Both asbestos and carbon tetrachloride are well known as carcinogens.

The earliest medical researchers who studied the sudden upsurge of cancer in America after WWII thought at first that this epidemic was caused by air pollution. For various reasons that nobody ever made clear, they soon switched the focus of their research to tobacco smoking. Why?

Well, a brief inspection of the size and wealth of political lobbies will readily show that the tobacco companies are nothing compared to the petrochemical corporations. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that it wasn't until the 1960s that medical researchers found other ailments directly traceable to air pollution – enough illnesses to move the federal government to pass the first air-pollution laws.

Little by little, the air-pollution laws reduced the amount of pollutants that factories could eject into the air, but not much was done to reduce air pollution caused by petrochemical fuels. Even today, medical problems caused by air pollution are downplayed in the media; how many media stories have announced the fact that smokers who live where the air is clean have lower rates of lung cancer than non-smokers who live in air-polluted cities?

As proof of the power of Big Oil to skew the news, note how the media downplay the vast growth of the alternate-fuel industry. By searching the Internet you can find not less than three new companies which are churning out industrial-sized lots of fuel ethanol derived from cellulose – vegetable trash – and three more that make job-lots of diesel fuel derived from vegetable oils, cellulose and algae. Obviously somebody is buying all that alternative fuel, or these companies wouldn't exist. Yet you won't find a whisper about this in the mainstream media.

It's pretty clear that for 50 years tobacco has been used as a whipping-boy for the sins of Big Oil.

Still, there's a way to get the truth out.

First: form a front-group which has no connections to any tobacco company. Give it a neutral name, such as “Seneca Valley Medical Partnership” or “Pima College Research Group”, and make sure its paper trail is impeccably respectable. Then apply for a government grant to study “the health issues related to the presence of tobacco smoke under varying environmental conditions” such as “effects of differences in temperature and air pressure on the chemical composition of tobacco smoke”, or something similar. Be careful to phrase the grant proposal so it sounds as if you're looking for more Evils of Smoking, of which the government approves. Hire some experienced medical researcher to write the grant proposal. It's vitally important that the research be done on government money, with no connection to any tobacco company, or else the Professional people won't believe you.

Second: set up an experiment to determine the real contents of inhaled tobacco smoke. That is, connect the intake nozzle of a light-pressure air pump to the butt of the cigarette, set a glass tube over the outflow hose of the pump to collect the smoke, start the pump and light the cigarette. This should well mimic the effect of inhaling, as opposed to merely generating, tobacco smoke. Do this with a whole pack of cigarettes, then analyze the chemicals that have collected in the tube.

Third: collect every article available about research on the chemical contents of tobacco smoke. When you find significant differences between what they found and what you found, you'll have excuse to collect the original notes on all smoking experiments. Of course, the further back in the past the experiments were, the less likely you'll be to get complete notes. Try anyway. Look specifically for the methodology of those experiments.

Fourth: collect product catalogs of every medical-research supply house in the country, as far back as you can get them. Look specifically for the lot-numbers of different breeds of laboratory mice. You'll find that there are several breeds of mice, all with different characteristics. There's a breed of mouse that is immune to cancer, and for that reason is being intensely studied by cancer researchers. Of greater interest to tobacco researchers, there's also a breed of mouse which is cancer-prone. These mice will develop cancer from any change whatever in their environment.

These cancer-prone mice are expensive because they're hard to breed; the female mouse usually develops cancer after bearing a single little of young. They're also wonderfully useful to people who make a living by Scientifically Proving that their employers' business rival's product, no matter what it is, “causes cancer in laboratory mice”. So whenever you find a supply catalog listing for cancer-prone mice, carefully record the lot numbers of those mice from every catalog you can find, as far back as you can get catalogs from that supply company. Whenever you manage to get complete notes on previous smoking experiments, look for the order forms for the experiment's equipment – and especially check the lot numbers of the mice that were used in the experiments. You may find something surprising.

Finally: conduct your own experiments with ordinary (neither cancer-prone nor cancer-immune) mice. Make certain that their cage provides fresh air, that the tobacco smoke circulated in the cage comes from properly flared and burned tobacco, and that the amount of smoke pumped into the cage is not excessive for a creature the size of a mouse. Keep thorough notes about the long-term health of the mice.

Once you've gathered enough evidence, don't just publish your results in the scholarly journals; take it to the mainstream media and shout it in their ears. If none of the American media will tell your story, take it to the media in Canada, Britain, Australia, France and Germany – all of whom should be delighted to reveal another scandal about America. Then formally and publicly take your evidence to the tobacco companies, and persuade them to sue – for slander and libel – everyone connected with the earlier, negative experiments.

Be certain to point out, whenever and wherever possible, that honest research could have been done at any time during the last 50 years. Once the scandal starts making regular headlines, the media pundits themselves will ask who fostered this deception – which is easy enough to guess – and why the government was so easily taken in by it. The answers to the latter question are easy enough to find:

1) Government legislators, executives and bureaucrats are not trained in methods of scientific research. They never think to do the research themselves; like most civilians, they're willing to believe whatever they're told by respectable, “reputable” scientists. The problem with this blind trust is that “reputable” scientists can have personal agendas, and be swayed by money, just like anyone else. Usually it takes another scientist, or several, repeatedly shoving the facts under the politician's nose, to persuade the politician that the first scientist was wrong.

2) Government legislators, executives and bureaucrats are just as easily swayed by massive propaganda – call it advertizing – as anyone else. Here's where the power of money makes itself felt. Whosoever has the most money for professional lobbyists, ads in the media, or even creating slanted scientific experiments and getting the results published in the professional journals, has the advantage. Again, Big Oil has far more money for such advertizing than the tobacco companies do.

3) Demonizing tobacco is profitable. The actual cost of a pack of cigarettes at the factory, including the company's profit, is about 50 cents. Various state and federal taxes raise the price to over ten times that, and nobody dares to complain because everyone knows that smoking is Dangerous and Sinful, and nobody wants to be publicly branded as endorsing danger and sin.

This is where the new federal tax on tobacco comes from. Various Indian tribes have made a good living for the past few years by producing and selling their own cigarettes, which – Indian Reservation industries being exempt from state taxes – were priced much lower than the regular brands, and therefore sold well. State governments whined because they couldn't touch all that juicy cash from sales of affordable tobacco, and eventually the federal government listened. Purely from motives of protecting the Public Health, of course, the federal government then slapped new federal taxes on Reservation-produced cigarettes. The enormous federal debt, and all those civilian tax-revolts, surely had nothing to do with it. Finally, they forbade anyone to sell cigarettes to individuals (but companies are acceptable) using the mail, the phone system or the Internet. This will do a fine job of shoving the Indians back into poverty, unless they can sell their tobacco products abroad or to the growing e-cigarette market.

Punishing the innocent, rewarding the guilty, and robbing the Indians again: this is where lying in the name of Science has brought us.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why I Won't Be Attending WesterCon After All

I had intended to go to this year's WesterCon until I learned something unpleasant about the state of California, the city of Pasadena, and the management of the convention's hotel -- the Pasadena Hilton.

First, the idiot government of California, which has managed to run broke the richest state in the country, thinks it has the intelligence to tell What's Best For Everybody -- whether the people want it or not. It's banned tobacco smoking (without legalizing marijuana!) from any building that's open to the public, and a lot of outdoor spots as well. Second, the equally-brilliant government of Pasadena chose to prove its Righteousness by going the state one better, and banned smoking from even more outdoor locations than the state did.

But the bigot's crown goes to the management of the Hilton, who banned smoking not only from all their rooms, not only outdoors within 20 feet of any door, but from their entire property -- even the parking lot. This means you have to go clean out to the public street, or at least sidewalk, to light up.

Now, even if you believe that all the stories about The Evils Of Smoking are true -- and in my next post I'll show good evidence that they aren't -- you have to admit that this goes far beyond science or common sense. Outdoors, a 20-foot distance is quite enough to dissipate smoke from any cigarette, or even cigar, and keep the smell from offending even the most sensitive aristocratic nose. (Yes, I've seen people -- no names! -- who claim to be terribly-terribly Sensitive and allergic to smoke, who go into pretty-good-imitation fits of anaphylactic shock if they see someone holding even an unlit cigarette 40 feet in front of them; I've also seen those same people somehow unable to smell a lighted cigarette 10 feet behind them.) 20 feet is enough. If Second Hand Smoke were as lethal as bigots (and their lawyers) like to claim, nobody would have survived the first colony at Jamestown.

So this lofty policy of We Don't Want That Sort Of People On Our Property is not based on health or science. It's based on something else, something I won't support or condone. I will, however, post a song about it.


SINCE THE CIVIL WAR (c) Leslie Fish, 2000

Where shall you walk tonight my love, to cause nobody pain?
Under the dripping trees, my love, or under the open rain?
You cannot step beneath a roof; the law has made that plain.
'Cause you're a smoker:
That makes you our Nigger now.
You're a toker:
We can use you anyhow.
We can't abuse Blacks or Jews
Or Spanish anymore,
But we can do things to you
The law has said we couldn't do
To anybody since the Civil War.

2)
Don't try to give a cure, my love. Don't say what might be done
With filter-fans or ionizers; all such talk is done.
The point is not sweet logic, dear; the point is dirty fun.
We want victims.
This is our excuse today.
Legal victims.
Don't take our excuse away!
We want free cruelty.
Compassion's such a chore.
Bigotry can be free!
Hard for you, but fun for me.
It isn't just for White folks anymore!

(Break)
Praise the air, so free of smoke --
While pollution makes us choke.
"Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh --
And the sudden smell of burning flesh."
Soon enough. (Burn the witch!)
Hang tough. (Kill the bitch!)

3)
We weary of compassion, love. We tire of being good.
We're tired of toleration, and of doing as we should.
We want to go and raid again in any neighborhood.
Give us bloodlust!
Oooh, we've missed it for so long!
Legal bloodlust!
Now the taste is sharp and strong.
Just say yes to Righteousness,
And join the cause today!
Love so sweet can't compete
With hunting victims down the street.
Love, I think it's time you ran away.


--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Talking To Each Other, At Long Last

Long ago when I was back in college, a bunch of us anti-war types realized that the then-dawning Libertarian movement had enough features in common with us that we really could sit down and talk about our similarities and hammer out our differences. We held what we called a "Left-Right Conference" at the University of Michigan, and invited everyone we knew in a student-political context. Well, only half a dozen people showed up -- which was a pity, because we found that yes, we really did have a lot in common.

Well, all these years later, we finally are seeing the dialog start. I happened on a political site called AlterNet, where there was an article posted called "Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative"; it pulled out the usual cliches about how Liberals really are concerned for their fellow humans while Conservatives are passionately bound to "authority, loyalty and purity" -- and, being raised in old-fashioned Family Values, they were all victims of abusive parents. *Sigh*

Well, I was among the first half-dozen people to respond to the article, but I wasn't the first to bring up the word "Libertarian". The whole discussion -- over 100 posts now -- has gotten into a discussion of what Libertarian ideas are, and how they could be realistic in our modern "corporation-run" world. The posters are clearly coming from both ends of the political spectrum, and there are a lot of them. The ranting name-callers have given up, and the serious dialog has started. I've put in at least three posts explaining how a Libertarian (or even Anarchist) society would deal with social welfare ("Who'll take care of the sick and injured?" "YOU will -- you and everyone who thinks like you.") and corporate greed ("Organize!"). The discussion has gotten detailed and lively.

But the big point is, these left-wing Radicals and right-wing Libertarians are *talking* to each other, talking intelligently, noting similarities and hammering out differences -- finally, after all these years.

If only this tendency will spread! I expect I'll spend my spare time for the next week hunting up political blogs and forums to see how many of them really are conducting on ongoing, online, Left/Right Conference. I think this is what will bring on the real change in American politics -- after all these years.


--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Rolling Whorehouse

Okay, I promised I'd tell this story, and I will. 'Twas February of '09, when I still lived in the old house up on the northwest side of Phoenix, where I usually did my shopping at the plaza on Thomas Road and 59th Avenue. The major industry there is a big grocery store which had changed hands several times before becoming a Ranch Market.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ranch Market, it's a supermarket-chain that makes a point of appealing to the local "ethnic" market, no matter what that "eth" may be. I saw one in northern California that would have been at home in Tokyo, and another whose goods were all labeled in Korean script with English for subtitles.

This one on the corner of 59th and Thomas blatantly appealed to Mexicans. The goods were all labeled in Spanish, a good quarter of them were plainly imported from Mexico (at exorbitant prices), the loudspeakers played Mexican pop music, the decor practically screamed "The Lonesome Wetback's Home Away From Home", and of course the stockboys and cash-register girls were all young Mexicans -- though I noticed that the management was all Anglo. Outside were racks of Mexican CDs for sale, and the newspaper boxes were filled with free papers entirely in Spanish. One of them was the La Raza paper, with the word "Reconquista" prominent in the headlines. I and my tenants had taken to calling the store "the Mexploitation Mart".

Since I'd been shopping at that store for years, under its various changes of ownership, I knew where to find the bargains. I'd filled up my cart, managed to purchase everything easily despite a cash-register girl who spoke no English, and went rolling my cart out the door into the parking-lot. I was wearing a denim jacket, though I hadn't fastened it, and had my hair piled up under a watch-cap.

As I pushed my cart down the parking-aisle, I approached a black windowless van whose rear door was open. Just outside that door stood a middle-aged Mexican woman stuffed into a too-tight shiny-nylon sheath dress, wearing entirely too much makeup, teetering on spindly high heels. As I rolled past her she called out: "Hey, you want some tamales? Nice red-hot tamales?"

Startled, I turned to face her -- and simultaneously, two things happened.

One: I saw that inside that windowless van was a mattress covered by a sheet, and on it sat a young Mexican girl in a halter-top, denim short-shorts, shiny high-heeled shoes and too much makeup. Right there, I realized what that van was, and what those women were doing.

Two: As I turned toward them, my jacket swung open -- revealing my unmistakable breasts. Right there, the middle-aged woman shut her mouth and grimaced in the embarrassed fashion of a whore's shill who realizes that she's just been propositioning another woman.

She turned away quickly, and I shrugged and rolled on to my car. All the time I was loading the groceries in the trunk, I cast glances at the mini-whorehouse to see if it got any customers.

Yes, it did. A couple of lanky Mexican boys strolled up and stopped to dicker with the shill. At the next glance, I saw one of them climb into the van and the shill close the door behind him. By the time I'd loaded the last of my groceries, rolled the cart to the cart-rack, gotten in the car and started the engine, they were finished. As I backed my car out into the aisle, I saw the van's rear door open, the first boy climb out and the second one scramble in. I shrugged and drove away.

I don't know if the managers of the Ranch Market knew what form of small business was going on in their parking-lot, but I'm fairly sure that they weren't getting a commission, because the next time I went shopping there I didn't see that van anywhere in that lot.

I did, however, see it a week later in the parking-lot of the local Home Depot. It was after dark, but there were plenty of Mexican men hanging around in the lot -- and the back door of the van was closed.

I've heard jokes about "curb service", but this was the first time I'd seen it done.


--Leslie <;)))><)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The View From The Peanut Gallery

OBSERVATIONS ON A TEA PARTY RALLY

Yesterday, May 29th, I attended a rally in Tempe Diablo Stadium called “Stand With Arizona”, intended to show support for our new anti-illegal-immigration bill. For those of you who’ve never heard of Diablo Stadium, it’s a baseball park where the Angels play. It’s also a good long way from downtown Phoenix, which is where the pro-illegal-immigration rally was being held. At the plaza in downtown Phoenix the Pro-Illegals could march for free; renting Diablo Stadium for the day cost the Anti-Illegal rally’s organizers considerable money, which shows how serious they were about avoiding physical confrontations with the Pro-Illegals crowd.

I’d dressed in one of my singing costumes (long pale-denim skirt and Indian blouse) and towed my guitar along because I’d had a handshake deal (agreed on by email) to sing at the rally. Once at the stadium, I saw that everybody else – including the speakers – was wearing shorts or bluejeans, T-shirts or knit blouses, so I was actually overdressed for once.

The entry was merry chaos: people welcomed through the gates by volunteers in corn-yellow T-shirts whose only idea of where to steer people was either into the free seats in the bleachers or down on the green near the speakers’ platform for $10. Where were the entertainers supposed to go? Not a clue. One volunteer suggested I try Operations, which I did, but there was nobody in the office. Another suggested the Press Box, but had to get help finding it. – and the lone harried organizer at the Press Box insisted that I couldn’t get in without “credentials”. Most Science Fiction conventions are better organized.

I eventually contacted two of the other singers, who guided me to the recording booth in the dugout. I’d arrived at a little after 5 PM, and the singing wasn’t supposed to start until 8, so I had plenty of time to re-string my guitar and observe the proceedings.

The first thing I noticed was the playful carnival mood among the participants, many of whom had brought their children; everybody was jolly and polite, and there was none of the self-righteous fury one usually finds at protest rallies. Next thing I noticed was the absence of hucksters; there were only four dealers’ tables, near the entrance, and they were selling only American flags of various sizes, T-shirts and trinkets with the organizing committee’s logo on them – obviously to offset the cost of renting the stadium and bringing in the speakers. I noticed that nobody was selling food or even soft drinks, though there were countless flats full of bottled water being given away for free. There were a few people – wearing clearly different T-shirts from the rally volunteers’ – handing out leaflets for the Libertarians and the Constitutional Party. I also noticed the signs huckstering hopeful political candidates (none of which, interestingly enough, included a party affiliation), and local radio and TV stations, particularly KFYI. In fact, as I sat near the sound-engineer’s mixing board, I saw a couple people come by wearing “press” badges and ID tags for KFYI radio who asked if they could get copies of the recordings.

The next interesting thing I saw was how many of the crowd were Black, Latino, Indian or Asian. I particularly noticed one little old Asian lady holding up a sign that read: “I was a Legal Immigrant”. Also, many in the crowd were youngsters. This was definitely not a collection of old White folks.

Many of them, though, had driven in from Texas. I learned the significance of that later.

Another interesting note was just how many cameras were in the audience. There were cameras set up near the speakers’ platform, which instantly transmitted the view of the podium to a huge TV screen at the back of the platform, so that even the last seat in the bleachers had a good view of whoever was talking. There were obvious media cameramen toting big professional cameras that needed tripods. There were freelance professional photographers with huge-lensed film cameras and transmission-quality videocams. Besides that, almost everybody in the audience was using either small personal videocams or the camera-apps on their cell-phones, and I saw at least one laptop computer with an antenna. I’d guess that the final population of the rally was about 8000 people, and that a good 5000 of them took pictures. Nothing that happened at that rally went unseen or unrecorded, and that was obvious to anyone there.

This fact did not go unnoticed by the one trouble-maker I saw in the crowd: a deliberately crazy-looking older White man who clapped and hooted at the speakers, danced clumsily around a choice spot in center-field, and did his best to attract the attention of the cameramen. The yellow-shirted volunteers kept a polite but watchful eye on him, and everybody else quietly moved away from him on the infield. After awhile, seeing that everyone was deliberately ignoring him, he sat down and kept quiet.

It soon became clear that the whole Tea Party movement is wildly decentralized. Despite the obvious time and money spent on the soundstage and recording equipment, and the presence of cheerleaders in the audience, shouting slogans and asking the crowd to join in (“Gimme an A, gimme an R…”) the rally was clumsily organized, more like a high-school pep rally than a political meeting. Everyone – including the crew at the sound-mixing board – did their individual jobs well, but nobody knew what anybody else was doing. I eventually found out that the singers were supposed to be in the middle of the field, behind the sound and recording equipment, at the speakers’ platform – so there I went. The rally started an hour late, so most of the speakers and entertainers had their time cut short, and – as low man on the entertainment totem-pole – I had my proposed two songs cut completely out of the program. Ah, well; there’s always next time.

So I went back to the dugout (which also turned out to be one part of the “no smoking” labeled stadium where one could discreetly light up), and hung out with the sound-recording engineer. As the clock ticked well past the official starting time, a man from KFYI came over and urged the sound-man to at least put on some music CDs. “We’ve got too much dead air here,” he complained. The sound engineer and his assistant argued a bit over what kind of music would appeal to this crowd, versus what CDs they actually had, and finally settled on some Johnny Cash songs. This bears out my theory that damn-near everybody in America likes Johnny Cash.

Anyway, one album later, the proceedings finally opened. The MC, from the Phoenix Tea Party chapter, did the usual brief welcoming speech – and then pointed out all the people who had “bussed in” from Texas, and invited them to all stand up and be cheered. There were a surprising number of them.

Then the speakers stepped up and the speeches started, and I noticed an interesting division; most of the out-of-towners were Conservatives, while the locals were primarily Libertarians. I could tell the difference by whether they said “God bless America” or asked “How many of you have read ATLAS SHRUGGED?” The MC carefully addressed the crowd as “whether you’re Conservatives or Libertarians or anywhere along the spectrum”. Speech by speech, I slowly got the picture. Most of the money for this rally had come from Conservatives in Texas, who were trying to pass a state law of their own that mirrored our SB 1070 – and with good reason.

The speaker from Texas told of a Somali terrorist who had recently sneaked across the Mexican border and was now holed up in Houston, claiming “sanctuary” and hiding in a church. This put the Conservatives in a serious dilemma; on the one hand, they’re addicted to their religious bigotry and didn’t want to weaken the power of their local church, but on the other, they badly wanted to keep Islamofascist terrorists out of the US. Whatever they did about the Somali terrorist, they meant to keep any more of his ilk from getting into the US so easily, and that would mean putting an ironclad barrier on the porous Mexican border. Yes, they honestly meant their slogan: “Stand With Arizona”.

Other speakers included two Latino ladies – one from Columbia and one from Mexico – who had immigrated legally and become citizens. Both of them agreed that, yes, it was difficult and took time, but it was worth it if you wanted to be an American citizen. Both of them stoutly agreed that nobody should come here to stay permanently if they weren’t willing to become Americans.

I noticed that nobody mentioned the corollary: that the Illegals, by and large, only want to become rich Mexicans at America’s expense. Nonetheless, comments by other speakers – such as the head of the local police union – made it clear how much the Illegals cost the state, and the country, by supplementing their minimum-wage incomes with welfare frauds and professional crime. The statistics on kidnapping, robbery, car theft and massive methedrine-dealing were infuriating, though the audience kept their expressions of outrage to boos and short slogans.

Other speakers, from as far as Washington state and Missouri, promised to combat California’s threatened boycott of Arizona with a “buycott”: a campaign to advertize Arizona-made goods and services, and to encourage tourism, in other states that were considering laws similar to SB 1070.

A lot of people in the crowd tossed out spontaneous ad-libs, usually quite clever, to which the audience laughed appreciably. When the speakers called for chants and slogans from the audience, the crowd responded politely rather than passionately. The loudest cheer of the evening came when the MC reported that live coverage of this rally had “crashed the servers” on the Internet – meaning that so many people had been following this event on live streaming video/audio that the servers couldn’t keep up with the demand. I understood this because I’d noticed how hard it’s been to get downloads from YouTube for the past couple of weeks. It’s clear that grassroots political organizing has entered the Internet age, and that the mainstream media can no longer control what the public sees, hears or believes.

The speaker who impressed me the most was Ted Hayes, an elderly but spry Black homeless-activist, the man who created the famous Dome City in Los Angeles. He spoke briefly of his career as first a Civil Rights activist in the ‘60s, and then got down to the subject of racism. “When I was a boy, growing up in Jim-Crow age Massachusetts,” he told, “I got called a Nigger maybe a dozen times. White kids would yell that, and we’d chase them and threaten to beat them up, and they’d run away – and the next day we’d all be back to playing stickball together as if nothing had happened.”

But when he and other activists, both Black and White, marched in Los Angeles in support of the anti-immigration law, it was a different story. “The Latinos called us Nigger a hundred times over, and called the Whites with us Honkies and Rednecks” and less printable things, and spat on them, and threw bottles and “all kinds of crap”. It was, he said “worse than Montgomery, Alabama”. At the end of the march, he said, he sat down and cried because racism was not dead in America – but it wasn’t the Whites doing it. “You tell me,” he finished, “Who are the racists.”

He was followed by another singing group, a small Conservative rock band. Their performance was good, but I concluded that in all the years since the ‘60s Conservatives haven’t yet produced good songwriters – nothing to compare with Libertarian musicians, such as Rush.

The final speaker of the night – who was clearly making this a big stop in his re-election campaign – was Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Despite his expectations of his audience, he’d taken care to be introduced by a celebrity: Lou Ferrigno, still impressively muscled all these years after he ceased playing The Incredible Hulk. The crowd was appreciative, despite Ferrigno’s obvious speech impediment. The Sheriff spoke briefly, mostly the expected platitudes, with one notable piece of news; if the ICE wouldn’t process any Illegals arrested in Arizona, Arpaio would still have them prosecuted under state law. He also mentioned that he had a sizable reserve of tents, enough to increase his tent-city jail “all the way down to the border of Mexico”. To this some ad-libbers in the crowd yelled that if anybody escaped from the tent-city jail, they could run to Mexico – and welcome. To his credit, Arpaio didn’t speak long and left the last word – and applause – to Ferrigno.

After that the MC stood up and announced that the rally was over, and asked the crowd – politely, again – to be sure to drop their empty water-bottles in the recycle-bins and take care not to snarl traffic on the way out. The crowd obligingly packed up and left, with much conversation but little noise. Nobody snarled traffic on the way out, and the cars pulled away with no delays. By then it was 10 o’clock, almost exactly. I got the impression that this was the time-limit the organizers had bargained for when renting the stadium.

Altogether, the crowd could best be characterized as playful, co-operative and polite. From what I could tell of the organizers, they were a little more affluent but less experienced than the old Mobilization to End the War – and were willing to delegate necessities like security, audio-visual systems and recording to various experts, regardless of their political leanings.

From what I saw, I’m guessing that there’s a certain internal political tension in the Tea Party between the Conservatives and the Libertarians. The Libertarian movement – and party – were founded back in the late 1960s, and have been studiously ignored by the media and the older political groups ever since, until they gained enough numbers to create the Tea Party. The media and the political groups don’t quite know what to make of them, and so try to cast them into molds they already know. Liberals dismiss them as racist-Republican-redneck Conservative nuts. Conservatives approach them tentatively because the Libertarians agree with them on some issues – such as limited government, free enterprise and enforcing the immigration laws – but depart wildly on others – such as Gay rights, religion in public, and abolishing the drug laws. The Conservatives are clearly trying to take over the Tea Party, just as Republican candidates are trying to woo it, but neither have succeeded yet. All that has prevented an open breach so far is the Tea Party’s sticking strictly to legal-political issues that the Conservatives agree on, and the Libertarians’ need for the Conservative’s support in numbers and, admittedly, more money.

I predict that this peace will hold until either the Tea Party becomes politically successful enough to win major elections for Libertarian candidates – such as Ron and Rand Paul – or the Conservatives try to push for school prayer or legal oppression of Gays. Until then, the balance will hold – with great politeness.