Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Faith Unto Idiocy


As a sidebar to my previous posts, it must be admitted that it isn't just Arabs who will cling to a precious fanaticism in defiance of facts.  When sufficiently wedded to a self-serving faith, anybody can do it.

Case in point, Megan Kelly -- who has made herself a laughingstock all over the media for claiming it's "obvious" that both Santa Claus and Jesus were/are "White".  In fact, she's only 3/8ths correct, at best.

Let's start with the real, historical Jesus.  He lived and died in first-(obviously!)-century Judea, his parents were Jewish, and so were their ancestors -- as the bible takes pains to point out -- all the way back to King David.  First-century Jews were definitely Semitic.  There are facial reconstructions done on first-century Jewish skulls -- there's at least one on YouTube -- which show that, in life, these folks looked very much like modern Semitic Arabs.  There's no mention in the bible that Jesus looked remarkably different from his cronies and neighbors.  Therefore, Jesus was about as "White" as the average Iraqi cab-driver.

Santa Claus is a different case.  He's based on two sources, one historical and one mythical: the historical Saint Nicholas, and the mythical "jolly old elf, Kris Kringle" who lives at the North Pole and rides around during the Winter Solstice in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.

Now, Saint Nicholas -- also called Nikolaos of Myra -- was a historic fourth-century Christian saint and Greek (Byzantine) Bishop of Myra, in Lycia (part of modern-day Turkey), who was famous for his charity, especially to children.  That was before the major Arab and Turkish invasions, so the Lycians were somewhere between Aryan and Semitic.  Nikolaos might have "passed" for White, but only if Kelly is willing to be very tolerant and wink one eye at "Mediterranean" types.

The mythical Kris Kringle, on the other hand, has good claim to be not only White but Norse -- very Norse.  Many inhabitants of cold northern countries rode about in sleighs during the winter, but only the Norse, Lapps and Finns trained reindeer to pull them.  The pre-Christian Norse revered the evergreen tree, particularly at the Winter Solstice, when they would decorate a fir or pine with lights, symbolizing the sun -- sympathetic magic, intended to transmit the tree's strength into the weak sun -- and with symbols of good fortune that they wished for: such as snug houses, fat livestock, healthy children, and gold.  The Norse also had a legend that Odin, king of the gods and master of wisdom, would wander the countryside in winter, checking on the well-being of his worshippers, rewarding the good and punishing the bad.  In honor of Odin, they would visit their neighbors and give presents, as well as holding feasts to ensure that everyone in the community had enough to eat.  Sound familiar?  Yes indeed, Kris Kringle was White -- and much older than Christianity.  From grim gray one-eyed Odin the Wanderer to jolly fat white-haired Kris (with both eyes) is a moderately long step, but even a god can mellow with age.

So there it is;  Jesus wasn't exactly White, and Santa Claus wasn't entirely Christian.  Those are the facts, ma'am.  Live with it, or continue to prove you're a self-made idiot.

 --Leslie <;)))><  )O(      



     

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

THEY'VE ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAT

by Leslie Fish

First, let it be understood that "Arab" is not a race – no matter what clever propagandists may tell you.  Along with the usual Semitic/Mediterranen types, there are also tribes of Arabs who have creamy-pale skins, red or blond hair, and blue or green or hazel eyes.  There are also tribes of Arabs who are distinctly Black.

"Arab" is not a religion, either.  There are (or were until recently) Christian Arabs in Lebanon, Pagan Arabs in the Kurd provinces, And even Jewish Arabs near what used to be Babylon. 

"Arab" is not even a language, or language family.  Folk in the middle-east speak more than Arabic;  there's Urdu and Pashti, for example, not to mention the north African languages.

What "Arab" really means is a particular culture.  This culture spreads throughout the middle-east, westward across north Africa, and eastward as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Though it shares various features with its neighboring societies, it's readily recognizable and distinct from them. 

Chief among its distinct characteristics are its constant attitude of self-righteous victimhood, its eager religious fanaticism, its related disbelief in objective reality, and its particularly vicious sexism.  Most scholars blame these on Islam, but in fact they existed long before Islam was invented;  the culture shaped the religion more than the religion shaped the culture.  Note particularly how cultural icons like veiling women's heads, female circumcision, and execution of women for mere suspicion of "adultery", are not commanded anywhere in the Koran. 

So where did this peculiar cultural pattern come from? 

The answer stretches back over 4000 years, which explains the common assumption that Arabs have "always been like this".  It goes back before the beginnings of literacy itself, which is why the evidence has been dug up by the archeologists more than historians.  The earliest writings, though, include accounts of earlier myths -- which contain tantalizing hints of an earlier culture which was far different.

What we have managed to learn in the last century is that the first civilizations were matriarchal.  Before about 4000 years ago, humans didn't realize that it was sex that caused pregnancy;  people thought that women made babies by themselves, by magic.  Therefore, the only bloodline was the mother's;  all inheritance of property or rank went through the mother's line.  From a "great mother" ancestor of a tribe, to a divine Great Mother of all humanity, to a Great Mother Goddess of all life were easy steps.  Artistic images of Great Mother Goddesses have been found all the way from Britain to Mongolia, Scandinavia to Africa, dating as far back as 25,000 years. 

Between 4000 and 5000 years ago, it changed.  Humans learned, most likely from observing domesticated animals, that sex is necessary for breeding – therefore, males had a share in the next generation too.    

How people reacted to this knowledge varied widely.  Some cultures moved smoothly toward ambiarchy, steadily giving men – and male gods – more social standing.  Others insisted on turning their societies upside down, elevating males above females and reversing the previous moralities;  where the matriarchies had been largely peaceful, increasing their wealth and influence with trade, the new patriarchies became fiercely warlike and imperialistic.  Over the course of nearly 2000 years, the warlike patriarchies conquered their neighbors and enforced their New World Order on most of Europe, Asia and north Africa.  The history of this conquest was brilliantly revealed and detailed in Merlin Stone's classic book, "When God Was A Woman".

Until about 30 years ago, archeologists assumed that the cultures which chose warlike patriarchy all came from the Aryan tribes along the northern tier of Europe and Asia;  Dr. Marja Gumbatas even traced the pernicious attitude to the Kurgan culture of eastern Russia.  Further diggings since then, however – including the famous Grave of the Amazon Queen found in western Mongolia – show that this wasn't the case.  The northern Aryan cultures were ambiarchal down into historical times.  The warlike patriarchies which swept down into Greece, Crete and Mycenae were "northern" only in relation to the Mediterranean, having come the long way around the Black Sea.  The warlike Aryans who swept into India around 1700 BCE were likewise "northern" only in relationship to India.  The Hyksos who conquered Egypt came primarily from the east.

It turns out that the real epicenter of warlike patriarchy was a place called Eridu, just east of the juncture of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in present-day Iran.  However subsequent capitals of empires shifted, the center of the warlike patriarchal culture was in the heart of the middle-east.  There it has remained to this day.

This explains much about Arab culture ever since.  First gods dethroned goddesses, then eliminated them altogether – culminating in the institution of a single all-ruling god who demanded his worshipers conquer/convert the world for him.  Women were progressively stripped of all social rights, ending as chattels – even regarded as soulless animals, who could be slaughtered at will.  War was valued higher than trade, to the point were trade came to be regarded as only a subtle form of warfare.  The need to justify the almost-frantic sexism in the face of facts led to the assumption that the laws of nature are not fixed – the foundation of science – but only the whim of the ruling god, who can change his mind if bribed with enough prayer, piety, and human sacrifices.  Likewise, when the world, and the facts, refuses to go one's way for all one's piety, it must be somebody else's fault – and thus the sense of outraged victimhood, which in turn justifies any action against that perceived somebody else.  Historically, all these elements where already present in Arab culture before Mohammed was born;  the religion he invented only gave them all a unifying excuse.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Progressive Failure

I've posted this before, but I think it needs to be posted again -- if only because I have some following ideas.

*****


How the naïve flaws in the great Progressive Ideal have led to bad political decisions in the modern world.

Have you ever heard of the Progressive Ideal?  You should have.  Progressivism is the ancestor of modern Liberalism, Globalism, Socialism, and its bastard grandchild Communism.  Progressivism was invented in the 19th century, as an antidote to the blatant self-serving Imperialism of the age.  It inspired the great reform movements of the past hundred years, and much fine literature and music.

Unfortunately, it also inspired much dangerous stupidity in politics and economics, which plagues us to this day.

The basic tenets of the Progressive Ideal start with simple truths, but then elaborate into  unfounded fantasies that warp out of sync with reality.  These include:

1)      All Men (and Women) Are Created Equal.  To Progressives, this means that all people are basically the same.  They all think and feel alike, and all want the same things.  There's no such thing as a bad person: only a dissatisfied or, at worst, a sick one.  Give everybody a good education and income and healthcare, says the Progressive, and everybody will happily join the great worldwide community of civilized people, and there'll be no more war or crime;  therefore it's the duty of all civilized people to guarantee a good education and income to “disadvantaged” people the world over.

2)      All cultures have something to contribute to the human experience.  Therefore, Progressives conclude, all societies are equally valid.  There's no such thing as a bad culture: only an ignorant one. Give all societies good educations, and they'll all become equally enlightened – and they'll happily join the great worldwide community of civilized nations, and... etc. Therefore, Progressive theory claims, it's the duty of all civilized societies... etc.

3)      People who live in privileged societies are often ignorant of the condition of other societies or blinded by their own prejudices.  According to Progressive thought, this means that nobody from a wealthy, free, generally happy society has any right to judge other societies, or the people in them. However, people from “disadvantaged” societies are never ignorant of the condition of their privileged brethren, or blinded by prejudices, and can see the sins of the privileged clearly;  so, the Progressive believes, they have a right to judge the privileged people and their criticisms must always be taken seriously.

4)      Economics is a powerful motivation.  Therefore, Progressive thought holds, all people are moved by the promise or lack of money above everything else;  give people – or societies – enough money to satisfy their needs and wants, and they'll happily join in the great worldwide community of civilized nations, and so forth.

5)      Nobody likes to get hurt.  From this the Progressive philosophy concludes that nobody in his/her right mind wants to commit violence themselves;  therefore, the only reason that anybody really wants to commit violence on somebody else is that this somebody else must have committed some terrible outrage against him/her.  Thus, if somebody complains furiously against you, and is willing to shoot or throw bombs at you, the Progressive assumes that the guilty party is you;  you must be guilty of some outrage or other against the bomb-thrower – and therefore must do your best to compensate/placate the poor outraged victim.
     
     6)    Everyone deserves justice.   Therefore it's the duty of better off individuals and societies to help their less fortunate neighbors.  Progressive theory holds that one should give to the poor until the better off is no better off, and both are “equal” – in wealth, freedom, or anything else worth having – or in the lack thereof.

The starting truths are valid, but the idealistic elaborations are just plain wrong, and that was clear even 100 years ago.  That’s what inspired the famous comment, variously attributed to Shaw and Clemenceau:  “He who is not a Socialist at 20 has no heart;  he who is not a capitalist at 40 has no head.”  It also inspired Gilbert and Sullivan to add to their “little list” of people who never would be missed “The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, /Every century but this one, every country but his own.” 

Let's take these six tenets and their elaborations in order.

First, “equal” does not mean “same”.  All men are not brothers;  ‘cousins’ is more accurate – and not always first cousins, either.  All people do not think and feel alike. 

Likewise, all societies are not equally valid;  there are some which cause misery and ruin to their own people, not to mention their neighbors. 

Third, advantages make you smarter;  people who have access to thorough educations, honest information and the ability to travel and check facts for themselves are a good bit less likely to be blindly prejudiced or ignorant than people who don't have those advantages. 

Fourth, there are some motivations stronger than money, and you cannot bribe people into being Good. 

Fifth, there really are some people and some cultures that run on arrogance, bloodlust, envy and spite;  they'll use some minor or even fancied slight as excuse to kill their neighbors – and, incidentally, loot the dead for whatever they can get. 

Sixth, a healthy, wealthy, honest and free person or society does not have a duty to become just as diseased, poor, corrupt and tyrannized as his/her/its neighbors.  Sharing a cup of poison with your neighbor does not do you or your neighbor any good.   

In brief, yes we do have the right to study, judge and criticize other societies.  Yes, there are some objective standards by which we can judge the success and value of a society.  And no, all societies are not equally “good” by any objective standards.   

What makes the difference is culture.  Now ‘culture’ doesn’t mean just the theater and the opera and the ballet, nor even clothing styles, popular music, crafts and cuisine and current TV shows.  A ‘culture’ is the way an entire society thinks, and there are some societies which think very badly.

All men – and women – may be created equal, but all cultures are not.  If you want a religious excuse for this, you could say it’s because human beings are created by God, who is perfect, but cultures are created by human beings, who are…not.  In spite of the Progressive Ideal, there really are downright evil cultures – and downright evil societies, and governments, and even individual human beings – judged by the simple standards of long-term survival. 

What would you say about a culture that has produced marvelous food and music and art and architecture – but which condones or actively encourages dissociative psychosis, the rape of children, and the burning to death of women?  What would you do with a culture that produces wonderful music, dance and poetry – but which treats women and children as livestock, and assumes it has a duty to conquer the world?  How would you evaluate a culture which assumes that political and economic corruption is as common as air, and that you can never trust your neighbors, friends, or even families, but must always be prepared to backstab the other guy – with outright warfare, with subtle economic warfare, or by selling him poisoned goods – before he can do it to you?  I name no names, but these are not healthy or successful societies. 

The societies I've just described have managed to survive for centuries on the sheer inertia of their large populations, but they've been repeatedly conquered and tyrannized by other cultures with better standards.  In fact, these societies have been pulled into the modern age, and into a few better habits, largely by the charity – or practical greed – of their conquerors.   

Yes, it’s true that all cultures have something to contribute to human knowledge – arts and crafts at least – but it’s also true that a stopped clock is right twice a day;  that doesn’t make it something worth keeping.

Yes, good people can live in bad cultures, but they don’t survive easily and they don’t have much influence.  An evil culture can – and often does – sweep its population along with it, whether they will or no, at which point all a decent person can do is run.  This accounts for a lot of immigrants who’ve come to America over the past two centuries. 

You can tell who those immigrants are by the way they wanted to become Americans, and assimilated as fast as they could.  In other words, no matter how much sentimental fondness they might have had for the Old Country, they recognized that not just the economy but the culture Here was better than it was back There.

Here's where the Progressive Ideal collides with itself.  The people who judged that one culture can very well be superior to another, and that the culture Here is superior to the cultures There, are those same “disadvantaged” – the poor and the powerless – whom the Progressive Ideal claims to be the only fit judges.  So, are all cultures equally valid, or are only the “disadvantaged” virtuous enough to judge them?  You can't have it both ways.

When faced with this little logical contradiction, people who are passionately devoted to the Progressive Ideal will all too often choose to jettison Progressive Assumption #3;  they assume that the poor and powerless may be virtuous and innocent, but they're also ignorant, and must be protected and guided by their intellectual superiors. 

At this point the Progressive Ideal tilts over into elitism and tiptoes toward tyranny.   It's only a short step from “protecting and guiding the innocent” to lying to them outright: teaching them only “what's good for them to know” and censoring the rest.  The next step after that is locking people up “for their own good”.  Thus the Progressive Ideal progressed into the great tyrannies of the 20th century.

It's far wiser to get out of the logical contradiction by admitting that all cultures are not created equal, that some societies really are worse than others, some governments are downright dangerous, and when they start encroaching on their neighbors there's no choice but to go to war.

Political philosophers throughout the 20th century have bent over backwards trying to find workable alternatives to war, but history has shown that the only real alternatives to war are to surrender or run away.

Running away requires the means to travel far and fast – and some safe place to run to.  It's no accident that for the last two centuries the safest place to run to has been America.  That's how various groups of ideological pacifists, like the Amish, wound up here.  The Amish came to the US from Switzerland, fleeing religious persecution;  here they thrived – but you'll note that there are no Amish in Switzerland now.

Surrender can mean danger worse than war.  In World War Two the US lost over 400,000 men in just under four years of war.  That's a sobering number, but it doesn't compare with the nearly 20,000,000 helpless people killed in the death-camps by the Nazis.  It doesn't even compare with the 2,000,000 people killed in Cambodia when Pol Pot took over.

The grim truth is that there is something worse than war – and that is to be killed in vast numbers without even a chance to fight.  This is why wars will, and must, continue so long as there are honestly bad cultures, societies and governments in the world.

Still, the Progressive Ideal insists that all people and all cultures are not only equal but basically the same, and they should all join together to create a happy one-world economy, society and government.  People who believe this blithely overlook the fact that many cultures – and societies – in this world are not something we want to add to the global mix.  You don’t make a healthy drink by mixing milk with poison.

No, we can’t have One Glorious World Order until a lot of just plain bad cultures have changed beyond recognition.  This won't happen while the Progressive Ideal, with all its dangerously naive flaws, still rules our political thinking.


                                                            --END--
 



Saturday, November 23, 2013

A JFK Assassination Theory I'll Bet You Haven't Heard Before


On this 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, there are TV documentaries galore -- most of them pooh-poohing the various "conspiracy theories", except that they're finally willing to admit (50 years later) that there were at least three shots fired, not one.  The Official Story, though, is still that all the shots came from behind and were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from the School Book Depository.  And, of course, that Oswald acted alone.

You  wouldn't believe some of the excuses the Official Story supporters have come up with to try to explain away what witnesses -- and the famous Zapruder film -- showed: that the second (at least) shot hit Kennedy in the head, and his head snapped BACKWARD.  Anyone who knows anything about shooting, or basic Physics for that matter, knows that an impact from behind knocks the impacted object forward.  Therefore, JFK was shot from in front as well as behind;  therefore, there was a second shooter.  This implies a conspiracy.

 But it ain't necessarily so.  Rasty, who (like me!) has a lot of connections in weird places, came up with this one:

The first shot came from high and behind all right;  it hit Kennedy high in the back and exited low in the throat, then went through Connally (who was half-turned toward JFK) going through his shoulder, then his wrist, and finally burying itself in his thigh.  The Secret Service man who was sitting directly in front of Connally realized what had happened, and grabbed for his rifle -- which was concealed under a rug between the two front seats, loaded, with the muzzle pointing backward.  In his haste and excitement, as he lifted the gun and started to pull the rug away, he accidentally hit the trigger -- and that was the shot that hit Kennedy from the front, and killed him.

This would explain the cover-up;  the last thing the federal govt. would ever want to admit in public is that the president of the US was killed by the incompetence of the Secret Service.

Ah, but was it just incompetence?  Here's my addendum to Rasty's theory.  Admittedly, there's only one piece of evidence for it: JFK's route through Dallas wasn't originally supposed to go through Dealey Plaza, but the route was changed -- by the Secret Service -- at the last minute, so how did Oswald (or whoever the first shooter was) know when to be in place?  So yes, there was a conspiracy -- and at least part of the Secret Service was in on it.  So that killing shot from the front wasn't an accident after all.

As to who could have -- and wanted to -- put such a conspiracy together, more than a few people have come up with that one, based purely on motive and opportunity:

LBJ did it!

Well, why not?  He had the ambition, ruthlessness, bigotry (he was originally part of the Texas right-wing crowd), connections (he had lots of rich and powerful friends, including Hunt, in the Texas right-wing crowd) and sheer arrogance to pull it off.  There was a rumor (quickly quashed) soon after the assassination, that someone on the plane that took JFK's body back to Washington saw Johnson standing over the body and chuckling -- but that by itself doesn't mean he set up, or helped set up, the actually killing.  A clever playwright wrote an underground play (widely seen, and the script widely circulated) called MacBird, which was a rewrite of MacBeth with LBJ as the title character, but again, the writer had nothing to go on but motive and opportunity.

Still, there had to be some reason -- other than presiding over the highly unpopular Dirty Little War which Kennedy hadn't wanted to pursue -- that LBJ decided to quit the presidency after only one term.  Guilty conscience, possibly?  Or fear that enough digging into both of the Kennedy assassinations might finally come up with the shocking truth?

After 50 years, and most of the involved personnel having died off, it's unlikely that we'll ever get the whole story.  Still, even today, less than a quarter of the American populace believe the official version of the JFK assassination.  Indeed, despite -- or possibly because of -- the overgrowth of government in the US since then, that incident marked the turning point in America's trust of its governments, from the federals on down.  We've become a lot more cynical since then, with no end in sight.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(



 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

An Already-Lost War



Last week, the Arizona state Corporation Commission allowed our local electric company, Arizona Power Systems, to charge extra to people who have put up solar generating systems on their own land.  Why, you may ask?  Well, APS argued that it had been supporting green-clean solar energy by, if you please, "subsidizing" solar users by buying the extra electricity these folks had generated at home and not used up themselves, but couldn't afford to do that anymore because there are so many solar users in the state nowadays.  Besides, they insisted, everybody uses the electric grid which APS built, and therefore everybody should share in paying for it.  APS originally wanted to charge solar users $100 apiece, per month, for the privilege of dumping their extra electricity into APS' grid.  The Corporation Commission, whose idea of the scales of justice is a pair of coat-pockets, and whichever pocket gets filled heavier wins, generously decided that such a fee would be too high;  APS can charge solar users no more than $5 per month.

Now think about this.  People who put up solar generators on their own land (often on their own roofs) at their own expense, who turn sunlight (very abundant here in Arizona) into electricity, make enough electricity to power their own homes/farms/schools/shops/etc. and more, must pay the electric company for the extra power which those folks put into the state grid.  Uhuh.  This is like saying that anyone who makes his/her own gasoline and can't use it all him/herself must pay Exxon to come haul it away rather than selling it to the oil companies, let alone anyone else.  Rrrrright.

This leaves solar-users three choices:  1) pay the minimal fee and forget about it, 2) get off the grid entirely, cut their ties to APS and tell the company to go scr#w itself, or 3) appeal the ruling in federal court.  Either of those last two tactics will work.

I doubt if anyone else in Arizona knows this particular piece of history, since it happened more than 40 years ago in New York state, but it certainly applies here.  Back in the 1960s, a fairly-famous Anarchist writer named Murray Bookchin lived in a co-op apartment building in New York city.  Being very interested in the ecology movement (IIRC, he wrote one of the entries in the original Whole Earth Catalog), and being something of an electrical engineer himself, he persuaded the other members of his co-op to put up a wind-generator on the roof and use it to power the building.  Their generator worked so well that not only did the whole building have abundant electricity, but it fed power back into the city's power-lines -- thereby making the meters run backwards.  Well, the local electric company wasn't about to take that lying down;  it sent the cops after the tenants for the crime of "cheating" the electric meters.  The NYC government's courts (which were much more sympathetic to their city electric company -- Con Edison -- than to some bunch of radical weirdos) agreed, and charged the tenants ridiculous money.  Murray Bookchin and his buddies didn't give up that easily;  they appealed the case -- in the district federal court.  There they argued that they had provably created their own electricity and didn't owe Con Ed anything.  In fact, by putting the excess electricity into the grid, they had given the city added power -- and if anything, Con Ed owed them for the product.  The judge agreed, overturned the lower court ruling, and ordered Con Ed to pay the tenants for the electricity they had generated (plus court costs) and any further electricity the tenants might pump into their lines in the future.  Con Ed had no choice but to comply.  Of course, the company found ingenious excuses to pay the tenants only pennies, but the point is, they were obliged to pay.  Now remember, this ruling was made in federal court -- which means that the ruling applies in all states and territories of the US.

Yes, that includes Arizona.  Once the solar users of Arizona discover that little fact, they can appeal the Corporation Commission's ruling -- likewise in federal court -- and get it reversed.  APS will then have to pay every solar user in Arizona who generates more electricity than s/he can use and pumps the excess into the grid.  It's federal law!

This is going to cost APS some serious money.  Possibly this is why APS is sucking up as much money from solar users as possible, before they get wise.  Possibly APS is hoping that those solar users will cut themselves off the grid first, so it won't have to pay.

In any case, solar generation is not going to go away.  Neither will wind-generators in less sunny states.  What will happen when all those green-clean generators get together, form a co-op, and become a power company of their own?


--Leslie <;)))><  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some Thoughts on Veterans' Day


Veterans' Day was originally Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War One.  Now that the last veterans of that war have died -- as Eric Bogle grimly predicted in his song, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" -- Americans no longer remember that war, except as a historical incident with no more connection to our modern lives than the Civil War.  This is ironic, since both those wars shaped the nature of warfare ever since.

Both of them were wars of mass slaughter.  WWI killed no less than 11 million combatants, at a time when the world's population was less than half of what it is now, which sent the surviving populations of Europe reeling in shock.  Americans had a partial immunity to that shock, having seen 500,000 of its combatants killed in the Civil War -- particularly in the prophetic slaughter of Pickett's Charge, in the battle of Gettysburg.  As the poet Stephen Vincent Benet put it, "He went out with fifteen thousand;  He came back to his lines with five."

That shock and horror made too many governments reluctant to commit to war -- any war, no matter how necessary -- until too late for anything but mass slaughter.  If the other European governments had agreed to trounce Hitler when he moved against the first of his neighbors, Czechoslovakia, they could have prevented the immense slaughter -- 42 million -- of World War Two.  Thus did the fear of war make big wars inevitable.  There are times when a small, fast, decisive war can prevent a far worse one.

Robert Heinlein was once asked by a Politically Correct lady if he didn't agree that "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent". He replied, "Yes.  The competent resort to it much sooner, when it will do the most good."

All too few people -- from citizens to presidents -- understand the sense of that, which has led to the long-drawn out, miserable, indecisive wars the US has fought ever since WWII.  We, and our allies, seem to have learned all the wrong lessons from WWI.

Nonetheless, in honor of those who really thought that WWI would end wars, I dutifully hang out the flag on Veterans' Day.  Likewise, I wrote the following song for them -- with a Blues tune, that allows for slightly-sprung scansion, which I don't yet know how to record on my computer.  Ask me at the next filksing, and I'll perform it for you.

WAR NO MORE
(c) Leslie Fish, 11/12/01

1)
In the eleventh month,
On the eleventh day,
At the eleventh hour,
I heard the president say:

(CHO)   War no more.
               Make war no more.
               Go home to your families,
               War no more.
2)
We've fought and killed and wounded,
Until the ground is rough
With wreckage of the slaughter,
And we've all had enough.     CHO.

3)
The enemy is beaten.
He can barely raise a hand
To save his own, let alone
Take anyone else's land.

              War no more.
               Make war no more.
               Go home to your families,
               War no more.


--Leslie <;)))><   )O( 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Samhain!


Hello, and jolly All Saints' Day -- originally the old Celtic Pagan holiday of Samhain.  The early Christian church commandeered the Pagan holiday by calling it All Saints' Day, a.k.a. All Hallows.  This made the night before it All Hallows Eve, which morphed into Halloween.  Samhain had been the beginning of the Celtic year, so the night before-- the last of the old year -- was the Feast of the Dead, and that convention hung on long after the church took over.  Thus, a lot of the old Pagan traditions -- witches (originally priestesses) gallivanting about telling fortunes, ghosts (or children masquerading as the same) going from house to house collecting food and drink, telling scarey stories about the dead, and so on -- got attached to Halloween.

Being a good Pagan myself, I celebrated Halloween by sitting out on my front porch, flanked by jack-o-lanterns, dressed as a witch, giving out candy to the wee scarey creatures who showed up at my door.  To make it more interesting, I stuffed the candy into a jack-o-lantern carved with a big scarey mouth and told the kids that if they wanted the candy they had to take it from the goblin's mouth.  They did, which shows how brave a little kid can be in the quest for candy.  This being a largely-empty block in a farming town, not many kids came by, so Rasty and I have enough leftover candy to last us to New Year's.  Happy Halloween!

Now for the scarey story.  Surely you've noticed, in the past few years, that Zombies have become the new popular monsters -- and not your classic Haitian Voodoo zombies (originally victims of puffer-fish poisoning), but modern killer-virus-animated zombies, half-rotted but still ambulatory, lusting for raw meat (or brains), spreading their plague to anyone they bite who gets away.  Now why has this breed of zombies become so fashionable?  They're not so sexy as vampires or werewolves, not so pitiable as the Frankenstein monster, and not so magical/mystical as the Mummy;  they're completely loathsome, and usually threatening to wipe out humanity.  So what's the appeal?

Well, it's a way of dealing with a scarey future.  We all know that unscrupulous governments have experimented with germ-warfare weapons for decades, and it isn't much of a stretch to imagine such a disease getting loose in the world -- not after seeing how AIDs and other viral plagues have taken off in recent years.  Watching how fictional heroes survive against seas of plague-spreading monsters gives us some reassurance that we'd survive if the zombie virus existed.

But here's the really scarey part;  the zombie virus already exists -- and has existed for ages.  A few thousand years ago, it made its way across the Americas into Asia and then Europe, wiping out most of the giant mammals of the Ice Age.  Its effect on wolves, dogs and other canines contributed to the werewolf legend.  Its effect on bats made the otherwise-harmless animals into icons of evil.  Some anthropologists believe it's what wiped out the Anasazi culture of the southwest.  Yes, it attacks the brain first, and turns its victims into howling, ravening lunatics who run around attacking anything that moves -- after first paralyzing them so that, for awhile at least, they appear dead.  Yes, it's spread by bite.  Yes, it makes the victims numb to any other sensation, so that they can take wounds and not notice them.  Yes, there's a vaccine for it, but no, there's no cure.  Fortunately, it also makes the victims incapable of drinking water, so that they die in a matter of days.  It's called rabies, also hydrophobia.

Of course, if some Dr. Frankenstein should succeed in altering the virus so that it left the victims capable of eating and drinking, its zombie victims could survive a good while longer.  In that case, like the Bubbas of the Apocalypse, anyone wanting to survive the attack would do best to pack a 12-gauge shotgun and be willing to shoot first (in the head) and ask questions later.

BOOOO!!!

Happy Samhain -- and get your pets vaccinated. 

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(           


  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Buckeye Canal: A Weird Corner of History


While looking around for possible irrigation for my planned orchard of rare fruit-plants, I came across this odd little piece of history -- on the website of the Buckeye Water Conservation and Drainage Department, if you please!  It's a long tale, so I'll be copying it in sections, starting here:

Introduction

            Although not widely known, the history of the Buckeye Canal reflects a dramatic story in the history and development of the arid regions of the American West.  Land and water form the sum and substance of the history and those who sought to acquire private land and put scarce and unpredictable amounts of water on it for beneficial use formed the essence of this history. 
It all started with a vision, shared by Malin M. Jackson, Joshua L. Spain, and Henry Mitchell, of a wonderful opportunity to utilize the abundance of water.  They discovered this water flowing 23 miles west of the junction of the Agua Fria River and the Salt River, situated in the central part of Maricopa County. 
In 1887 development work began on the irrigation system that was to supply the necessary water for what became known as the Buckeye Valley.  Despite economic and environmental challenges of enormous proportions, this enterprise, ultimately, turned once desolate acreage into highly productive agricultural land.
The system was first operated as a corporation serving as a common carrier from the date of construction until 1907 when negotiations were completed whereby the Valley land owners purchased the irrigation works outright.
            The Buckeye Irrigation Company, which, in 1907, after twenty years of fits and starts, emerged from the hopes and dreams of various irrigation speculators and would-be entrepreneurs, played the central role in this story of private capital harnessing the natural resources of the American West.  The struggles against alternative periods of flood and drought, economic downturns, and fiscal uncertainties, combined with shifting federal land and water policies, led Buckeye Valley settlers to seek their own solutions to securing, preserving, maintaining and delivering water to their agricultural lands. 
            For many years all of the water for irrigation of the approximately 20,000 acres of developed land was supplied from the regular flow of the Gila River, which drains more than half of the State, and is the largest stream in the State except for the Colorado River.  However, due to the many dams and up-stream users, irrigation wells had to be drilled to supply adequate water needed for all the land.  At the present, some of the water supply is being purchased as effluent from the City of Phoenix and others; thus, effluent, stream flow and pumps together provide the water to meet all the demand.
            We want to give homage to Malin M. Jackson, Joshua L. Spain, and Henry Mitchell for their foresight, determination and courage in developing the Valley irrigation system later known as “The Buckeye Irrigation Company.”  We also want to recognize our forefathers who pioneered in the development of the Valley and through their perseverance, founded the present Valley towns and communities that are good friendly places to enjoy life.



More to follow.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Crowd-Sourcing, Baby Steps



Following up on last week's post:

Thanks to several friends' advice, I signed up with www.gofundme.com -- a small but reliable and growing crowd-sourcing service.  Good thing I was already signed up with Facebook, because that and my own address book were the major audiences they sent out my message to.  I admit their system of setting up an appeal page was easy enough for even a toddler-on-the-information-highway (like me!) to understand and use.  Special thanks to Ori for guiding me, step by step, through the process. 

Oddly enough, it's hard to find my appeal-page by going directly to GoFundMe;  just looking up my name or the name of the campaign -- "Rare and Endangered Orchard" (which is odd enough to stand out) -- isn't enough.  However, it's easy to find it by going to my Facebook page.  Why?  I dunno. 

Anyway, the campaign has brought in a couple hundred dollars already, (for which I have to send off some autographed books and CDs tomorrow), so I'd say it's doing pretty well.  Cross fingers! 

Meanwhile, I've been doing what grounds work I can -- clearing out weeds with trunks as thick as saplings.  Whew!  Once we get this lot its going to take a lot(!) of work to clear, fence, soil-restore, dig and plant.  That's okay;  I'm looking forward to the first fruits already.  If we weren't pinching every penny to buy the land, we would have planted our first Bear Lime tree by now, and maybe a couple of desert-hardy grapevines.  I'm also looking into heat-tolerant raspberry plants, and daydreaming about raspberry jam.  I don't think anybody has made jam, or wine, out of Golden Pomegranates in the last few centuries, but it would be fun to try.

Wish me luck!

--Leslie <;)))><  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quick, How Do I "Crowd-Source"?


Fans, can anybody out there tell me how I go about "crowd-sourcing"?  I need to raise $5000 fast.

It happened thuswise;  when Rasty and I bought our wee cottage here in Buckeye, we found that there was an empty lot next door that used to be part of ours.  It was totally "unimproved" --  no water, no sewage, no electricity, completely "unbuildable", and in fact full of trash -- but if we could get it and rejoin it to our lot, we could plant it to a whole mini-orchard of fruit trees.  A friend found and called up the owner, who said he'd sell the lot for $12,000, but hinted that he could be talked lower.  Since we'd spent all we had buying our house, we decided to let him wait a few months before asking how much lower he'd go.

Well, today we found out.  A couple of brokers knocked on our door an asked if we'd move our Ford Bronco off the lot, because some workmen were going to come and clean up the lot for sale.  A few more questions, and I found that the owner -- who's been in an accident, has a lot of medical bills and needs money fast -- was now willing to sell it for $9,000.  I promptly called the owner offered $4000 down (all we've got in the bank), "cash on the barrelhead, quick sale", and the rest as soon as we can get it.  He agreed not to list the property publicly until he hears back from me.

So, where do I raise $5000 fast?  We're absolutely NOT going to mortgage the cottage, or sell our one and only vehicle, or tie ourselves to a loan shark.  All I can think of is "crowd-sourcing" -- and I have no idea how to do it.  What are the crowd-sourcing websites, and how do they work?  And what could I offer the folk who are willing to put up money to the project?  I could promise autographed copies of my books and albums to anyone who'll send me $100 or better, but honestly, my fans could buy those from my publishers' websites -- or from Amazon -- a helluva lot cheaper.  I could promise to write a song, or poem, or story for any such pledger, but how many of you fans out there are willing to go for that?  I can promise free exotic fruit from the orchard (how would I ship it?) once it starts producing, but how long will that take?

Can anybody give me some ideas here?  ...And of course, if anybody wants to chip in, you could send to my PayPal account at lesliefish@cox.net.  Please let me know, folks;  I really am a Toddler On The Information Highway here.

--Leslie <;)))><  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Watch the GOP Implode


All the news right now is about the federal shutdown, which was caused by a handful of Republican senators in a last-gasp attempt to keep the Obamacare bill from going into effect.  So far, the shutdown has done no worse than to send a lot of park rangers and CIA analysts off on unpaid vacations, but there are promises of worse to come.  I've heard dark mutterings, from various old and disabled folks, that if their Social Security checks don't arrive, they'll march on local Republican Party offices with torches and axes.  I don't think they're joking.

Of all the stupid moves the GOP has made over the last dozen years, this one has to take the cake.  I can't think of any single move the party could have made that's more guaranteed to cost it votes, and possibly send it spiraling down to permanent eclipse.  Already, here in Arizona at least, more voters have registered as independent or Libertarian than either Republican or Democrat -- and this is supposed to be a "red" state.

And the worst of it is the GOP's obvious and thundering stupidity!  Okay, so the Repubs don't like the Affordable Care Act;  well, a lot of citizens don't, including me, for good reason.  It's a huge (2900 pages!), sprawling, sloppy, bureaucratic mess, with all too many opportunities for corruption and pork -- and nobody who voted for it even read the damned thing first!  It's a classic example of a bad bill.

Even so, the Republicans have tried more than 40 times in the past four years to repeal it, have it declared unconstitutional, defund it -- and failed every time.  Instead of those 40 repetitions of failure, why didn't the Republican senators do the smart thing?  If they'd spent half as much time going over the bill -- page by page, paragraph by paragraph, line by line -- and thrown out all the redundancies, excessive bureaucracy, cute little bits of pork (like one paragraph that allocates $100 million to rebuild the infrastructure in Gaza), and just plain inefficiencies, they could have cut away more than half of it by now.  They might even have cut it down to less than 100 pages, and come up with something actually workable -- like simply expanding the coverage of Medicare, for example.  But no, they had to insist on throwing out the whole pie.  Stupid!

Of course, if Congress really was serious about cutting down the debt, and federal spending in general, it should have paid attention to the Government Accountancy Office -- which has spent the last three years looking over the federal bureaucracy, hunting for redundancy, inefficiency and waste, and has found no less than 1500 departments which should be abolished completely.  Simply voting to get rid of those useless departments would save trillions, right there.  But has anybody in Congress even brought this up?  Stupid!

The antics of the GOP are sending it down to destruction, but I suspect that the Democrat party is not far behind.  Indeed, if there was a third party that had any kind of decent advertising, they'd both be on the trash-heap of history already.

--Leslie <;)))><  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Warning: Fanatic Attack


In all the noisy news about the budget crisis and Congressional deadlock, one story has sneaked past the public attention which it desperately deserves.  Quite simply, the Evangelical Church is trying to get control of the US military -- again.

While nobody was looking, Sen. Inhofe (Rep., Oklahoma) and Wicker (Rep., Mississippi) quietly introduced Senate Bill 3526, which they had the gall to label the "Military Religious Freedom Bill".  It allows military chaplains to refuse to perform marriages of people they don't like, prohibits same-sex marriages or even marriage-like ceremonies at military facilities.  As the Military Religious Freedom Foundation puts it:

"While private churches and chaplains are well within their rights to decline performing same-sex marriage ceremonies, military chaplains -- paid by federal dollars -- have a duty to serve all military members.  Military chaplains still retain the right to perform -- or not perform -- marriages of any kind.  However, this bill would remove the requirement to fulfill the needs of all military members by providing facilities and referrals where needed."

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Rep. John Fleming (Rep., Louisiana) inserted a so-called "military religious freedom" amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act last month.  The bill says that the "Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions and speech of a member of the Armed Forces", which sounds fine on the surface -- until you remember that the Evangelical Christian sects really-truly believe that they are under orders from God to convert everybody in reach to their brand of Christianity, and their "religious actions" include preaching at everybody they can reach -- whether those people want to be preached at or not. 

The Evangelicals call it "persecution" when they're forbidden to order everyone under their command to attend the officer's church, endure long sermons of the officer's chaplain, and swear pledges to the officer's faith.  In the past they've been shameless religious bullies, threatening and insulting members of other religions, even desecrating other people's places of worship, and now they wail about the loss of their power.  Never mind that their religion is, by definition, unconstitutional.  Never mind that the same "rights" they demand to push their own faith and bully others could equally be used by the radical Moslems.  Never mind that their pushing of religious insults in Iraq encouraged a lot of Iraqis to join the enemy ranks.

If there's anything our military doesn't need it's being pushed into a "Christian army" to launch a "Crusade" in the middle-east!  The best way to rid the world of the Jihadists is to encourage them to fight each other, not give them a common enemy that will weld them together.

So first we have to trot over to the petition-sites and sign petitions to defeat these so-called "Religious Freedom" bills.  Next, we have to block every attempt by the Evangelicals to gain legal or political power anywhere. 

Don't let them claim that "the Bible says" is an excuse for anything;  the Old Testament was never meant to be taken literally, not even by the people who wrote it.  The OT was written in Ancient Hebrew, which was a cobbled-together pidgin of at least 12 different tribal tongues.  As such, it was word-poor -- having less than 10,000 words.  This meant that each word had to carry the freight of several different meanings, and which meaning was intended had to be guessed from context.  This made a language very good for poetry, but very poor for precision or accuracy.  The inclusion of army camp manuals and topical political orders didn't help matters.  Scholars without personal religious axes to grind have been aware of this for centuries, but the professional religion-pushers still insist that their interpretation of this ancient book of mythology is the One And Only Truth.

And that way lies disaster.  We've seen what religious fanaticism has done to Islam;  we'd better beware of what it can do to religions closer to home.

--Leslie <;)))><   



  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Back From WorldCon! ...to the Syrian Mess

Hi, folks!  Sorry it's taken me so long to sign in, but I've been recovering from LoneStarCon3.  Whew!  One whopping big convention it was, too.  The ConCom assigned me two alternate roadies -- Chris Cook and Joe Abbott: thanks, guys! -- and I seriously needed them, both as pack-horses and trusty native guides.  The con was spread out over two hotels and the Convention Center, and I really needed help toting my guitar and songbook-bag back and forth between them.

And a full schedule I had, too -- two or three panels per day, three concerts (including one from the exhibit hall, where I sang "Banned From Argo" -- the one time per year I do it -- from a remarkable mockup of the bridge of the Enterprise), the nightly filks, rehearsals, and singing for the Masquerade half-time show and the memorial section of the Hugo Awards.  Phew!  I daresay they got their money's worth out of me.  Hopefully, since so many fans were taking pix and videos of me, a lot of my sings will wind up on YouTube.

Anyway, one of the panels I sat on was "Is An Armed Society Really A Polite Society?", and you can guess what my answer was.  The panel fielded questions from the audience based on observed cases: Switzerland, which gave Heinlein his inspiration in the first place;  the comparison of Morton Grove, Illinois, with Kinnesaw, Geogia;  and finally the example of Arizona, which I could comment knowledgeably upon.  All the real-life examples proved that, yes, when everybody is armed and everybody knows it, the violent-crime rate is exceedingly low and -- yes -- people are generally very polite.

Somebody from the audience came up with the question of: what about other cultures -- such as the middle-east -- where anybody who has weapons goes out and shoots up his neighbors in the name of religion;  would arming everybody still work there?  Now bear in mind that I hadn't had a chance to see a TV news program, or read a newspaper, in days -- so I had no idea of what was happening in Syria.  Still, knowing something of Arab culture and history, I replied: "Yes. Give small arms to everybody, and let the fanatics fight it out  until they kill each other off, and only the sensible people are left standing."

...And the whole audience cheered.

I didn't have much time to ponder that until the con ended and I was on my way home.  While waiting for my bus in the Greyhound station, I got to watch the TV news and saw Obama's first speech about Syria.  My first thought was: are we sure that it was Assad who used the poison gas on his own people?  My second was: where is he now?  My third was: the rebels are made up of at least a dozen factions, and in Assad's absence they would certainly fall to fighting among themselves.  And my fourth thought was to remember how the audience had cheered my comment.  By the time I got home I had a pretty good idea what was going on, and a pretty good idea of what the US should do.  I kept quiet about it, though, until Obama made his second speech Tuesday evening.

So here's my take on it.  First, no, Obama is nobody's fool.  He came out of the Chicago Democratic Party, which means the old Daley Machine.  I lived in Chicago for 12 years (from what I hear, I'm still voting there!), and got to know the local politics well;  believe me, nobody gets very far in the Daley Machine without being smart.  He may personally like the Arabs and like the Muslim Brotherhood, but he's too smart to politically tie himself to a sinking ship.  He could have gone ahead and unilaterally ordered an Air Force strike on Assad's territory, but he bothered to ask for Congress' support.  Why?  For one thing, because he knew that the Republicans in the House of Reps would automatically do the opposite of whatever he asked for, which would make the GOP -- which has been a big supporter of the military, the Patriot Act, and so on -- look like a bunch of hypocritical fools for not wanting to stomp Assad.  Second, in explaining how he knew that it was definitely Assad who used the poison gas (and even releasing video footage of the aftermath), he revealed that the US's spy system in the middle-east is very detailed and extensive, which should give any intelligent Jihadist pause.  Third, he gave himself an escape-hatch in case the citizens want to stomp Assad but Congress refuses to OK it.  Not dumb.

As to what should be done: no, there is no good side in the Syrian civil war -- a vicious despot, secretly backed by Iran and Russia and Al-Qaeda on one side, and a collection of assorted Jihadists (particularly the Muslim Brotherhood) on the other.  They were efficiently killing each other off until Assad risked using poison gas -- Sarin -- on the rebels.  Yes, that is definitely "over the line";  we really can't allow "weapons of mass destruction" (nukes, poison gas, weaponized diseases) to get, or stay, in the hands of oriental despots.  It's that simple.  Saddam Hussein didn't really have nukes, as Bush hinted, but he too had used Sarin gas on his own people (the Kurds) and was playing with germ warfare;  therefore the US military took him out, and his own people made it permanent.  Assad, likewise, has to be taken out, permanently -- if only because Achmedinejihad is watching, and if Assad is allowed to get away with gassing his own people (after which it would be no great step to using it on Israel, or us), then Achmedinejihad will feel emboldened to do more than just posture and threaten about developing nukes. Even Russia has seen this, and note that Putin has backed away from his earlier posturing and harrumphing.  The quickest and most effective way to stop Assad and discourage Achmedinejihad is to bomb Syria flat;  bomb every building or construction that could possibly conceal or manufacture those reported tons of poison gas -- not to mention any building that Assad could be hiding in.  Besides killing Assad and destroying his Sarin stocks, this would also leave Syria in no condition to fight anybody with anything except small arms:  rifles, grenades and grenade-launchers.

The rebels could then claim to have won the country -- and, no longer united by a common enemy, would start fighting among themselves.  It wouldn't take much to encourage such standard Arab behavior, and the CIA could always find ways to supply small-arms to whichever faction might be losing, so as to keep the fight going.  Besides giving warning to Achmedinejihad, this would continue the US's long-term strategy of killing off the Jihadist fanatics;  if we're not killing them ourselves in Iraq or Afghanistan, this is an excellent way to make them kill off each other.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with asides in Pakistan) have so far killed off at least 225,000 Jihadists, at a cost to the US of $4 trillion but less than 5000 lives.  Getting the Jihadists to kill off each other in Syria would be even cheaper: maybe $1 billion in bombs, rockets and airplane fuel, and less than $50 million in small arms and ammo.  Syrian Jihadists have already killed off roughly 100,000 of each other, with no help from us;  with only a little encouragement they could do even better.

And make no mistake, this is a war of extermination;  the Jihadists themselves have made it so.  Everyone in the middle-east has dutifully told us the same thing.  The religious fanatics will not stop killing everyone who isn't just like them, not until they're killed themselves.  They want the world, and will settle for nothing less than death.  We can't let them have the world, so we have no choice but to oblige their second wish.     

 --Leslie <;)))><   )O(    

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Few Smart Laws

Hi, friends.  Sorry I've let my weekly posting go so long, but I've been a bit preoccupied getting ready for WorldCon.  Anyway, a non- Anarchist buddy (strange, I have so few of them) asked if I didn't think there were some good laws in the world, or even in the US -- laws that weren't tyrannical and hadn't been corrupted -- and after an hour's thought, I had to agree that, yes, there are a few.  Among them are these:

1) The Bill of Rights: the ten first amendments to the Constitution, which firmly state what even a democratically elected government cannot do.  Though badly eroded, like an old stone jetty, these ten still hold the government back enough to keep it from being an absolute tyranny.  Religions which try to force everyone into their church, cops who wantonly assault and murder citizens, covert criminals who try to disarm everyone so as to increase their potential victims, can all be brought to heel.  All it takes is enough vigilance, enough energy, and enough lawsuits.  Despite tons of well-funded propaganda, the NRA (among others) still defends the 2nd Amendment, and the ACLU still defends the other nine.

2) Indiana's anti-mask law.  Back in the 1920s, the vicious Ku Klux Klan had become an large and dangerous pest in a lot of states, enough to worry the state legislatures, who then sought various remedies to curb its power.  One of the simplest and smartest solutions was a law passed by the legislature of Indiana, which simply stated that no person could cover their face in public.  This meant that whenever the Klanners gathered for a parade, a rally or a lynching, they had to expose their faces -- so that everyone could see who they were.  There were good enough cameras in those days to capture the moments, and record the faces, identifying the Klanners beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The power of the Klan promptly began to wane, and today it's down to nothing.  The law still stands -- to this day, brides in Indiana have to wear their veils on the backs of their heads, and kids trick-or-treating can only wear costumes and face-makeup -- but there's no attempt to rescind it, despite the minor inconveniences.

3) Detroit's ban on high heels.  For more than half a century, in the city of Detroit, it has been illegal for anyone to wear high-heeled shoes inside the city limits.  The law has no penalties.  Of course, people -- usually women -- walk around wearing high heels all the time and nobody arrests them.  So what's the point?  Well, the legal effect is, if anyone wearing high heels slips and falls and injures themselves, they can't sue the city for damages.  This has saved the city millions of dollars avoiding frivolous lawsuits.

4) Arizona's livestock laws.  Arizona is a poor state whose major industries are ranching and mining, with farming coming in a distant third, and everything else Also Ran.  For that reason, laws concerning mining and ranching make up about half the laws in the state.  Among them is the definition of "livestock" as any commercially valuable animal, and that can cover a lot of ground.  If your pet dog is a purebred of any breed, whose pups could be sold for money, then your pet dog qualifies as "livestock".  The same is true of a pet cat, bird, fish or snake;  if you bought it for money or could sell or rent it for money, then it's "livestock".  The laws that forbid the killing, stealing or injuring of somebody else's livestock are really draconian: prison at least, and in the case of horses, even execution.  (The reason for legally hanging horse-thieves dates back to pre-automobile days, when leaving someone on foot out in the countryside was as good as murder -- because there are several places in this state where a human can't walk far enough to reach water, whereupon s/he dies of thirst;  even today, despite all the warnings and water-maps that the Park Rangers hand out, a few hikers every year underestimate distances and die of thirst.)  The result of these laws is that animal cruelty garners severe punishment in Arizona, and only "foreigners" -- from other states or other countries (guess!) -- are likely to do it.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(       

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Coward(s) of the Year" Candidates

I don't usually quote from the newspapers, but this is an unusual case -- from the Chicago Tribune, Aug. 2nd:

*Kass: Was police killing of 95-year-old necessary?

Common sense tells me that cops don't need a Taser or a shotgun to subdue a 95-year-old man.

August 02, 2013   John Kass
When John Wrana was a young man, fit and strong and fighting in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps, did he ever think he'd end this way?

Just a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday, in need of a walker to move about, cops coming through the door of his retirement home with a Taser and a shotgun.

The old man, described by a family member as "wobbly" on his feet, had refused medical attention. The paramedics were called. They brought in the Park Forest police.

First they tased him, but that didn't work. So they fired a shotgun, hitting him in the stomach with a bean-bag round. Wrana was struck with such force that he bled to death internally, according to the Cook County medical examiner.

"The Japanese military couldn't get him at the age he was touchable, in a uniform in the war. It took 70 years later for the Park Forest police to do the job," Wrana's family attorney, Nicholas Grapsas, a former prosecutor, said in an interview with me Thursday.

Wrana's family wants answers. The Illinois State Police are investigating the horrific incident but won't comment, and neither will the Park Forest police pending the outcome of the inquiry.

I wasn't at the scene, and maybe the police have a good explanation. But common sense tells me that cops don't need a Taser or a shotgun to subdue a 95-year-old man.

And after doing some digging, I found there are two versions of events: The police version, and a new picture that raises questions of whether John Wrana was killed unnecessarily.

The Park Forest police version is that on the night of July 26, John Wrana, a resident of the Victory Centre senior living facility, threatened staff and paramedics with a 2-foot-long metal shoehorn and a metal cane.

The police statement neglects to mention that the old man also used a walker, at least according to photographs supplied by Grapsas.

"Attempts were made verbally to have the resident comply with demands to drop the articles, to no avail," the police statement reads. "The resident then armed himself with a 12-inch butcher type kitchen knife."

But lawyer Grapsas says that Wrana's family never saw a knife in his room and that staff also told him Wrana didn't have such a knife.

"So where did the knife come from?" Grapsas asked.

The police statement leaves the impression that the staff was under threat, leaving police with no choice other than to shoot him.

But according to Maria Oliva, an executive with Pathway Senior Living, the staff was kept out of the room after police arrived. So there was no imminent threat to staff.

"The staff was not inside once the police were on the scene," Oliva told us. "At different times the staff were in there, but not when they were called. They (the police) were in charge at that point."

Police said there had been threats made against the staff. But Grapsas said he was told that staff begged to be allowed to try to calm down the old man.

"If there were threats to the staff, why did the staff want to intervene and say, 'Let us handle this; we'll get him calmed down'?" he asked.

Grapsas says he was told that police used a riot shield to come through the door before shooting bean-bag rounds at the old man as he sat in his chair.

Riot shields are used to push back mobs of angry young protesters in the streets, or against dangerous convicts in prison cells, not to subdue an old, old man in a chair.

"At some point, I'm told there were between five and seven police officers, they went back to the room with a riot shield in hand, entered the door and shot him with a shotgun that contained bean-bag rounds," Grapsas said.

If this is true and police had a riot shield, why on earth would they need a shotgun?

Most veteran cops I talked to suspect this is a case of unnecessary force. I've never met a police officer who couldn't handle a 95-year-old man in a walker. And John Wrana wasn't Jason Bourne. He was an old war veteran who didn't want to be pushed around.

But one senior police official who has trained police recruits in defensive tactics had a different take.
"When I first heard it, I was like, 'C'mon,'" he said. "Then I thought it through. We don't know what occurred. We don't know what information they had at that time. If you don't have all of the facts, it's hard to judge someone. … Anyone can be dangerous."

Sharon Mangerson, 74, doesn't see her stepfather as dangerous.

Wrana and Mangerson's mother, Helen, were married for more than 30 years. Helen died in 2005. So Wrana lived with Mangerson in the south suburbs until his health — and her health — began to fail.
She said he was a fiercely independent member of the greatest generation, honorably discharged as a sergeant after serving in India and Burma during the war.

"He was a very vital 95-year-old, let me tell you. He still played cards. He taught the 70-year-olds how to play gin rummy," she said in an interview. "I used to admire him so much because he was able to keep doing those type of things. As independent as they come, trust me."

On the night of the incident, he wound up at Advocate Christ Medical Center. The doctor was on the phone with Mangerson, telling her that even if Wrana survived surgery, he'd likely be on life support. Wrana wanted to talk to her. The doctor held the phone up to his ear, she said.

"He just said, 'Thank you for everything you've done for me. I love you and goodbye,'" Mangerson recalled, her voice cracking. "That was it."

Will the family ever get an explanation?

"I want answers," she said. "I want someone held accountable."*

*****

My take on it is that the old man, for reasons of his own, wanted to commit Suicide By Cop -- and knew the local police well enough to guess how to pull it off.  This in turn implies that the local cops are always like that: dangerous, bullying, cowardly pigs.  In that case, the old war hero may have committed one last act of heroism: sacrificing his life to bring a thundering lawsuit down on the pigs' heads, a lawsuit that will strip them to their back teeth and make them a byword all over the country, if not the world.

This incident inspired Rasty to come up with a fitting monument for John Wrana: ironically, a parallel to the the famous Darwin Awards.  He proposes a website for the "Coward of the Year Award".  It will include a candidate form, where anyone can -- for e-submitting a fee of $2 -- propose a candidate, tell who and where the candidate is, and explain just why the candidate deserves the award.  Anyone can -- for an e-fee of $1 -- vote on any of the proposed candidates.  At the end of the year, the candidate who wracked up the most votes (and therefore money) will be presented with the award: a fancy scroll describing his/her winning deed, and a one-way plane ticket to any other country.  Is there anybody out there who has the computer expertise to set up this website?  If so, please contact me.

Now, what shall we call the award?  The White Feather?  The Jelly Spine?  Suggestions are likewise welcome.

--Leslie <;)))>< 


Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Very Moral Cat


For the past couple of weeks our local handyman, Luke, has been doing various small jobs around our house -- renovating a closet, repairing a bathroom, patching door-frames, etc. -- and he noticed that whatever he was doing, he attracted a small audience of my cats.  They'd sit for hours watching him, apparently fascinated with his work.  Luke was used to this sort of treatment from children, but getting it from cats was something new.

"I bred them for intelligence," I told him, "And they've got it.  They're about as intelligent as 6-year-old human children, except for not having symbolic language.  But they're still cats, with all the curiosity of cats, and they use their intelligence for their own little furry purposes.  Of course they're fascinated with the strange things you're doing;  they've never seen anything like it before.  By the way, we've got to give away four of the younger ones.  Would you like a cat?"

"Can't take one," he said.  "We're going to move soon, and anyway, my Doris is allergic to cats.  Sorry."

Oh well, it was worth a try.  Luke went back to spreading plaster on the bathroom wall, just being more careful of his audience of cats.

The next day he made a point of hunting me up, where I was working at the computer, and -- with a solemn look -- told me:  "You know, that little Siamese-looking cat of yours is very moral."

I pricked up my ears at that, since "moral" is not a word one usually associates with cats, and said: "What do you mean?"

So Luke sat down and explained.  He'd been in the kitchen, washing out a paintbrush in the sink, when one of the cats -- a colorpoint, therefore either Comet or Nascar -- trotted up to him and meowed for attention.  When he looked, she trotted over to the cat-box in the corner, and jumped up on top of it;  she didn't set foot inside the box, but walked carefully around the rim.  She made the classic scratching motion that a cat uses to kick litter over a fresh pile of urine or manure, looked at him again, then picked her way over to the waste-bucket at one end of the box where I keep the poop-scoop, and scratch-scratched at that.  Then she looked at him again, turned around and picked her way to the other end of the box where I keep the carton of clean cat-litter, and scratch-scratched at that.

Intrigued, he came over and looked at the litter-box, and saw that it was indeed overloaded.  The cat repeated her actions and meowed a bit urgently.  He got the hint, took up the waste-bucket and the poop-scoop, and began cleaning out the litter-box.  Before he'd cleaned out more than half of it, the cat jumped into the clean end, squatted, and made use of it.

"She wanted me to flush her toilet so she could use it," he finished, "Rather than poop on the floor.  That's a really good cat."

Well, what could I say but to repeat: "I bred them for intelligence, and they've got it."

"Yeah," he agreed.  "Too bad Doris is allergic."


 --Leslie <;)))><   )O(   




Sunday, July 14, 2013

Follow-Up


The latest propaganda trick from Big Pharma shows the industry's disturbing influence on the mainstream media. 

To quote Life Extension, the newsletter of the Life Extension Institute -- one of the longest-lived (founded in the 1960s, and several of its founders are still alive and kicking) and respectable of the naturopathic organizations:

"On April 13, 2013, a meta-analysis performed by the Mayo Clinic was released that looked at 3600 patients and found huge cardiac benefits in those who supplemented with L-carnitine...  The Mayo Clinic study found carnitine supplementation was associated with a 27% reduction in all-cause mortality, a 65% reduction in ventricular arrhythmias, and a 40% reduction in angina symptoms in patients who had experienced a heart attack.  The media largely overlooked this favorable report, however.

"Instead, headline news stories were created based on a report released a week earlier that had asserted that carnitine (found in red meat) may react with certain gut bacteria in certain individuals to promote a compound (TMAO) that could then cause heart disease.

"These carnitine findings were based on a sub-study of 10 people.  They were obscure, theoretical, and preliminary.  Yet the media ignored hundreds of studies showing significant cardiovascular benefits to carnitine, choosing instead to use this study in isolation to bash anything that contained carnitine."

The researchers who came up with that 10-man study published their findings in the journal Nature Medicine, which has a strong bias toward vegetarianism and would welcome any "study" that made red meat look bad.  The clinic where the study was done was not named.    

This story shows that: 1) mainstream reporters and editors don't do their homework;  2) the big pharmaceutical companies have a pipeline to the mainstream media, whereby they can push reports from a small, "obscure, theoretical and preliminary" study in order to discredit following studies by a much more reputable researcher;  3) Big Pharma is scared to death that "supplements" might get approval from an institution as prestigious as the Mayo Clinic.

The reason for Big Pharma's hostility toward mineral and vitamin supplements is obvious once you look closely.  Supplements aren't just rival medicines;  they're all derived from natural sources -- they're discovered, not invented:  derived, not synthesized.  This means that they can't be patented.  Given the downright obscene profits that Big Pharma makes from its synthetics (as much as 20,000% of manufacturing costs, according to Consumer Reports), the industry really-really doesn't want the public trusting medicines that anyone can make from food sources -- and sells for a thousandth of Big Pharma's price.

Our Latin lesson for today is: cui bono and caveat emptor!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Big Pharma Propaganda


I'm annoyed to see the pharmaceutical industry trotting its anti-vitamin propaganda around various popular news websites again, especially after seeing what a help vitamins, minerals and other nutrition supplements have been to me and my friends.  I suspect it's because growing numbers of regular, respectable, AMA-anointed doctors are recognizing the usefulness of supplements and are prescribing them -- widely, sometimes instead of pharma-company-made (expensive) prescription drugs.  Macy's, as they say, has no reason to love Gimbel's.  Still, denouncing one's rivals by clever half-lies and outright lies is dirty pool.

The main lie being pushed by Big Pharma is that, except for cases of provable deficiency, vitamins and mineral supplements are useless, a scam, and a waste of money -- which could better be spent on proper prescription medicines.  Right.  Tell that to the numerous cardiologists, neurologists and oncologists who've found that Niacin is very good for their patients' post-operative care.

Lies are fairly easy to disprove, which is probably why Big Pharma relies more on half-lies, which only require omitting certain information rather than falsifying it completely.

The most common half-lie is that Linus Pauling (probably the greatest chemist of the 20th century), who believed in the benefits of Vitamin C, took mega-doses of Vitamin C but died of prostate cancer anyway -- therefore Vitamin C is useless.  The whole truth is that, yes, Pauling was infatuated with Vitamin C and would hear no criticism of it, and did indeed die of prostate cancer -- but that was at the age of 93.

Half-lie number two is that "studies have shown" that cancer patients who took large doses of vitamins -- especially Vitamin C -- actually died sooner than patients who didn't, and therefore vitamins are actually bad for you.  The whole truth is that it was, ironically, researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute who discovered that cancer patients who ate carefully-balanced diets with lots of vitamins did indeed die faster than those who didn't -- because the cancer cells ate the nutrients first and left the patients to starve.  The best chemical means to kill cancer cells is to change the Ph of the blood from acid to alkaline, ingest mineral supplements which strip the protective/disguising biofilm off cancer cells so that white blood cells can attack them, and to hyperoxygenate the blood -- cancer cells being anaerobic.  Indeed, the last thing one should ingest is anti-oxidants, such as Vitamin C.  Mega-doses of Niacin, on the other hand, assist in hyperoxygenation.

Half-lie number three is that vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements aren't controlled by the FDA, and therefore have no standards of purity or quality whatever.  The whole truth is that despite lack of FDA oversight, supplements are constantly subject to analysis and criticism by nutritionist and naturopathic medical organizations -- not to mention the Consumers' Union -- and with a little study the prudent buyer can learn which producers and products are reliable.

Half-lie number four is that supplements are "a billion-dollar a year business", and therefore a scam.  The whole truth is that Big Pharma is a 646-billion-dollar a year business, proven to overcharge outrageously and lie shamelessly, and the cheats -- and prices -- of vitamin and mineral manufacturers are nothing by comparison.

Half-lie number five: supplements, even when proven "pure", have little if any effect.  The whole truth is that minerals and vitamins are synergistic -- which is how they're found in Nature -- and therefore work best in concert with each other.  Calcium, for example, doesn't get absorbed very well without the assistance of Vitamin D, and works even better when its absorption is regulated by Vitamin K-2.  K-2, in particular, has shown itself very useful for pulling the calcium out of arterial plaque and depositing it in the bones and teeth where it belongs.

Half-lie number six: plenty of supplements, when tested, didn't work on most people -- so the few subjects who did show health improvements must have gotten them from other sources.  The whole truth is that supplements are idiosyncratic -- they vary in effect with the biochemistry of the individual.  Example: Hyaluronic Acid, which replaces cartilage and repairs arthritic joint damage for 20% of the population, and does little for the other 80%.  This is why researchers are always looking for new vitamin and mineral combinations from Nature, and studying their chemical effects.  The best way to take supplements is to get one's own biochemistry mapped and then get the advice of an expert, such as a naturopath or nutritionist.  There's a lot more to the healing effects of supplements than just popping commercial megavitamins from the grocery store

In any case, minerals and vitamins are cheaper, safer, and sometimes a lot more effective than the Latest New Thing from the big pharmaceutical corporations.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(