Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"The Myth of Man the Killer"


--Leslie <;)))><  )O(

As I've said, I rarely post other people's articles, but this one seriously needs repeating.


by Eric S. Raymond:

One of the most dangerous errors of our time is the belief that human beings are uniquely violent animals, barely restrained from committing atrocities on each other by the constraints of ethics, religion, and the state.
It may seem odd to some to dispute this, given the apparently ceaseless flow of atrocity reports from Bosnia, Somalia, Lebanon and Los Angeles that we suffer every day. But, in fact, a very little study of animal ethology (and some application of ethological methods to human behavior) suffices to show the unbiased mind that human beings are not especially violent animals.
Desmond Morris, in his fascinating book Manwatching, for example, shows that the instinctive fighting style of human beings seems to be rather carefully optimized to keep us from injuring one another. Films of street scuffles show that “instinctive” fighting consists largely of shoving and overhand blows to the head/shoulders/ribcage area.
It is remarkably difficult to seriously injure a human being this way; the preferred target areas are mostly bone, and the instinctive striking style delivers rather little force for given effort. It is enlightening to compare this fumbling behavior to the focussed soft-tissue strike of a martial artist, who (having learned to override instinct) can easily kill with one blow.
It is also a fact, well-known to military planners, that somewhere around 70% of troops in their first combat-fire situation find themselves frozen, unable to trigger lethal weapons at a live enemy. It takes training and intense re-socialization to make soldiers out of raw recruits. And it is a notable point, to which we shall return later, that said socialization has to concentrate on getting a trainee to obey orders and identify with the group. (Major David Pierson of the U.S. Army wrote an illuminating essay on this topic in the June 1999 Military Review).
Criminal violence is strongly correlated with overcrowding and stress, conditions that any biologist knows can make even a laboratory mouse crazy. To see the contrast clearly, compare an urban riot with post-hurricane or post-flood responses in rural areas. Faced with common disaster, it is more typical of humans to pull together than pull apart.
Individual human beings, outside of a tiny minority of sociopaths and psychopaths, are simply not natural killers. Why, then, is the belief in innate human viciousness so pervasive in our culture? And what is this belief costing us?

The historical roots of this belief are not hard to trace. The Judeo-Christian creation story claims that human beings exist in a fallen, sinful state; and Genesis narrates two great acts of revolt against God, the second of which is the first murder. Cain kills Abel, and we inherit the “mark of Cain”, and the myth of Cain — the belief that we are all somehow murderers at bottom.
Until the twentieth century, Judeo-Christianity tended to focus on the first one; the Serpent's apple, popularly if not theologically equated with the discovery of sexuality. But as sexual taboos have lost their old forbidding force, the “mark of Cain” has become relatively more important in the Judeo-Christian idea of “original sin”. The same churches and synagogues that blessed “just wars” in former centuries have become strongholds of ideological pacifism.
But there is a second, possibly more important source of the man-as-killer myth in the philosophy of the Enlightenment — Thomas Hobbes's depiction of the state of nature as a "warre of all against all", and the reactionary naturism of Rousseau and the post-Enlightenment Romantics. Today these originally opposing worldviews have become fused into a view of nature and humanity that combines the worst (and least factual) of both.
Hobbes, writing a rationalization of the system of absolute monarchy under the Stuart kings of England, constructed an argument that in a state of nature without government the conflicting desires of human beings would pit every man against his neighbor in a bloodbath without end. Hobbes referred to and assumed "wild violence" as the normal state of humans in what anthropologists now call "pre-state" societies; that very term, in fact, reflects the Hobbesian myth,
The obvious flaw in Hobbes's argument is that he mistook a sufficient condition for suppressing the "warre" (the existence of a strong central state) for a necessary one. He underestimated the innate sociability of human beings. The anthropological and historical record affords numerous examples of "pre-state" societies (even quite large multiethnic/multilingual populations) which, while violent against outsiders, successfully maintained internal peace.
If Hobbes underestimated the sociability of man, Rousseau and his followers overestimated it; or, at least, they overestimated the sociability of primitive man. By contrasting the nobility and tranquility they claimed to see in rural nature and the Noble Savage with the all-too-evident filth, poverty and crowding in the booming cities of the Industrial Revolution, they secularized the Fall of Man. As their spiritual descendants today still do, they overlooked the fact that the urban poor had unanimously voted with their feet to escape an even nastier rural poverty.
The Rousseauian myth of technological Man as an ugly scab on the face of pristine Nature has become so pervasive in Western culture as to largely drive out the older opposing image of “Nature, red in tooth and claw” from the popular mind. Perhaps this was inevitable as humans achieved more and more control over their environment; protection from famine, plague, foul weather, predators, and other inconveniences of nature encouraged the fond delusion that only human nastiness makes the world a hard place.
Until the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, the Rousseauian view of man and nature was a luxury confined to intellectuals and the idle rich. Only as increases in urbanization and average wealth isolated most of society from nature did it become an unarticulated and unexamined basic of popular and academic belief. (In his book War Before Civilization, Lawrence Keeley has given us a trenchant analysis of the way in which the Rousseauian myth reduced large swathes of cultural anthropology to uttering blinkered nonsense.)
In reality, Nature is a violent arena of intra- and inter-species competition in which murder for gain is an everyday event and ecological fluctuations commonly lead to mass death. Human societies, outside of wartime, are almost miraculously stable and nonviolent by contrast. But the unconscious prejudice of even educated Westerners today is likely to be that the opposite is true. The Hobbesian view of the "warre of all against all" has survived only as a description of human behavior, not of the wider state of nature. Pop ecology has replaced pop theology; the new myth is of man the killer ape.
Another, darker kind of romanticism is at work as well. To a person who feels fundamentally powerless, the belief that one is somehow intrinsically deadly can be a cherished illusion. Its marketers know full well that violence fantasy sells not to the accomplished, the wealthy and the wise, but rather to working stiffs trapped in dead-end jobs, to frustrated adolescents, to retirees — the marginalized, the lonely and the lost.
To these people, the killer-ape myth is consolation. If all else fails, it offers the dark promise of a final berserkergang, unleashing the mythic murderer inside to express all those aggravations in a gory and vengeful catharsis. But if seven out of ten humans can't pull the trigger on an enemy they have every reason to believe is trying to kill them, it seems unlikely that ninety-seven out of a hundred could make themselves murder.
And, in fact, less than one half of one percent of the present human population ever kills in peacetime; murders are more than an order of magnitude less common than fatal household accidents. Overall, all but a vanishingly small number of murders are performed by males between the ages of 15 and 25[1], and the overwhelming majority of those by unmarried males. One's odds of being killed by a human outside that demographic bracket are comparable to one's chances of being killed by a lightning strike.

War is the great exception, the great legitimizer of murder, the one arena in which ordinary humans routinely become killers. The special prevalence of the killer-ape myth in our time doubtless owes something to the horror and visibility of 20th-century war.
Campaigns of genocide and repressions such as the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin's engineered famines, the Ankha massacres in Cambodia, and “ethnic cleansing” in Yugoslavia loom even larger in the popular mind than war as support for the myth of man the killer. But they should not; such atrocities are invariably conceived and planned by selected, tiny minorities far fewer than .5% of the population.
We have seen that in normal circumstances, human beings are not killers; and, in fact, most have instincts which make it extremely difficult for them to engage in lethal violence. How do we reconcile this with the continuing pattern of human violence in war? And, to restate to one of our original questions, what is belief in the myth of man the killer doing to us?
We shall soon see that the answers to these two questions are intimately related — because there is a crucial commonality between war and genocide, one not shared with the comparatively negligible lethalities of criminals and the individually insane. Both war and genocide depend, critically, on the habit of killing on orders. Pierson observes, tellingly, that atrocities "are generally initiated by overcontrolled personality types in second-in-command positions, not by undercontrolled personality types." Terrorism, too, depends on the habit of obedience; it is not Osama bin Laden who died in the 9/11 attack but his minions.
This is part of what Hannah Arendt was describing when, after the Nuremberg trials, she penned her unforgettable phrase “the banality of evil”. The instinct that facilitated the atrocities at Belsen-Bergen and Treblinka and Dachau was not a red-handed delight in murder, but rather uncritical submission to the orders of alpha males — even when those orders were for horror and death.
Human beings are social primates with social instincts. One of those instincts is docility, a predisposition to obey the tribe leader and other dominant males. This was originally adaptive; fewer status fights meant more able bodies in the tribe or hunting band. It was especially important that bachelor males, unmarried 15-to-25 year-old men, obey orders even when those orders involved risk and killing. These bachelors were the tribe's hunters, warriors, scouts, and risk-takers; a band would flourish best if they were both aggressive towards outsiders and amenable to social control.
Over most of human evolutionary history, the multiplier effect of docility was limited by the small size (250 or less, usually much less) of human social units. But when a single alpha male or cooperating group of alpha males could command the aggressive bachelor males of a large city or entire nation, the rules changed. Warfare and genocide became possible.
Actually, neither war nor genocide needs more than a comparative handful of murderers — not much larger a cohort than the half-percent to percent that commits lethal violence in peacetime. Both, however, require the obedience of a large supporting population. Factories must work overtime. Ammunition trucks must be driven where the bullets are needed. People must agree not to see, not to hear, not to notice certain things. Orders must be obeyed.
The experiments described in Stanley Milgram's 1974 book "The Perils of Obedience" demonstrated how otherwise ethical people could be induced to actively torture another person by the presence of an authority figure commanding and legitimizing the violence. They remain among the most powerful and disturbing results in experimental psychology.
Human beings are not natural killers; very, very few ever learn to enjoy murder or torture. Human beings, however, are sufficiently docile that many can eventually be taught to kill, to support killing, or to consent to killing on the command of an alpha male, entirely dissociating themselves from responsibility for the act. Our original sin is not murderousness — it is obedience.

And this brings us to the final reason for the prevalence of the myth of man the killer; that it encourages obedience and legitimizes social control of the individual. The man who fears Hobbes's "warre", who sees every one of his neighbors as a potential murderer, will surrender nearly anything to be protected from them. He will call for a strong hand from above; he will become a willing instrument in the oppression of his fellows. He may even allow himself to be turned into a killer in fact. Society will be atomized into millions of fearful fragments, each reacting to the fear of fantasied individual violence by sponsoring the political conditions for real collective violence on a large scale.
Even when the fear of violence is less acute, the myth of man the killer well serves power elites of all kinds. To define the central problem of society as the repression of a universal individual tendency to violence is to imply an authoritarian solution; it is to deny without examination the proposition that individual self-interest and voluntary cooperation are sufficient for civil order. (To cite one current example, the myth of man the killer is a major unexamined premise behind the drive for gun control.)
In sum, the myth of man the killer degrades and ultimately disempowers the individual, and unhelpfully deflects attention from the social mechanisms and social instincts that actually underlie virtually all violence. If we are all innately killers, no one is responsible; the sporadic violence of crime and terrorism and the more systematic violence of governments (whether in "state" or "pre-state" societies, and in wartime or otherwise) is as inevitable as sex.
On the other hand, if we recognize that most violence (and all large-scale violence) arises from obedience, and especially from the commission of aggressive violence by bachelor males at the command of alpha male pack leaders, then we can begin to ask more fruitful questions. Like: what can we do, culturally, to disrupt this causal chain?
First, we must recognize the primary locus and scope of the problem. By any measure, the pre-eminent form of aggressive pack violence is violence by governments, in either its explicit form as warfare and genocide or in more or less disguised peacetime versions. Take as one indicator the most pessimistic estimate of the 20th-century death toll from private aggression and set it against the low-end figures for deaths by government-sponsored violence (that is, count only war casualties, deliberate genocides, and extra-legal violence by organs of government; do not count the deaths incurred in the enforcement of even the most dubious and oppressive laws). Even with these assumptions biasing the ratio to the low side, the ratio is clearly 1000:1 or worse.
Readers skeptical of this ratio should reflect that government-directed genocides alone (excluding warfare entirely) are estimated to have accounted for more than 250,000,000 deaths between the massacre of the Armenians in 1915 and the "ethnic cleansings" of Bosnia and Rwanda-Burundi in the late 1990s. Even the 9/11 atrocity and other acts of terrorism, grim as they have been, are mere droplets besides the oceans of blood spilled by state action.
In fact, the domination of total pack violence by government aggression reaches even further than that 1000:1 ratio would indicate. Pack violence by governments serves as a model and a legitimizing excuse not merely for other government violence, but for private violence as well. The one thing all tyrants have in common is their belief that in their special cause, aggression is justified; private criminals learn and profit by that example. The contagion of mass violence is spread by the very institutions which ground their legitimacy in the mission of suppressing it — even as they perpetrate most of it.
And that is ultimately why the myth of man the killer ape is most dangerous. Because when we tremble in fear before the specter of individual violence, we excuse or encourage social violence; we feed the authoritarian myths and self-justifications that built the Nazi death camps and the Soviet gulags.
There is no near-term hope that we can edit either aggression or docility out of the human genome. And the individual small-scale violence of criminals and the insane is a mere distraction from the horrific and vast reality that is government-sanctioned murder and the government-sanctioned threat of murder.
To address the real problem in an effective way, we must therefore change our cultures so that either alpha males calling themselves government cease giving orders to perform aggression, or our bachelor males cease following those orders. Neither Hobbes's counsel of obedience to the state nor Rousseau's idolization of the primitive can address the central violence of the modern era — state-sponsored mass death.
To end that scourge, we must get beyond the myth of man the killer and learn to trust and empower the individual conscience once again; to recognize and affirm the individual predisposition to make peaceful choices in the non-sociopathic 97% of the population; and to recognize what Stanley Milgram showed us; that our signpost on the path away from mass violence reads "I shall not obey!"


[1] One respondent has disputed my claim that bachelor males commit all but a vanishingly small number of murders, pointing out that Uniform Crime Report statistics for 2001 indicate that only 45% of murders for which age of the perpetrator was recorded were committed by males in the 15-to-25 cohort. Unfortunately for his objection, the UCRs have an inbuilt sample bias; they don't include the results of the sort of endemic civil violence that is rare in rich countries but all too common in the Third World. In general, it seems to be the case that the bachelor-male cohort is both the most prone to violence and the least resistant to social control — so in societies and contexts with less effective norms against violence (and higher over-all levels of it) the share perpetrated by bachelor males goes way, way up. Conversely, the background rate of violence by people who are not bachelor males changes less. Anyone who doubts this is invited to study footage of (say) the L.A. riots and ask themselves what the dominant demographic is.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Arizona Outrage


Cry foul!  Dirty trick!  Crooked politics!  Boy, am I p!ssed off -- and all the other voters in Arizona should be too.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, Arizona is not a "red" state but a weird state.  We don't have a "racial majority";  the last census showed that (during the summer months, when all the snowbirds have flown) our population is just over 30% White, just under 30% Native (mostly Navaho), almost exactly 30% mixed White-and-Narive (which is exactly what a "Latino" is), just over 5% Black and just under 5% Asian.  Our chief industries are mining and ranching, with a little farming (where possible), a small bit of manufacturing (usually for local markets), and legal gambling -- on the Reservations, those famous Indian Casinos.  Our total population is about 6 million, spread out over one large city (Phoenix, the 6th largest in the US, but with a violent-crime rate that isn't even among the top 100), two small cities (Tucson and Flagstaff), and all the rest either suburbs of those three or small ranching/mining/farming towns with populations of 5000 or less.  It's also a state under siege because of its long border with Mexico -- lands which are mostly held by the local Navaho tribes.  The Navahos, and other Pueblo-nation tribes, have been fighting off invasions from Mexico for the last 800 years, and they actively hate the Illegals.  Even the big bad drug cartels don't try crossing the border at the Native lands anymore because those Natives don't just catch the crossers and hold them for the ICE;  they shoot them.  Nobody complains much about this, because the Natives own outright one-sixth of the state (including some of the best silver mines), and are a major voting-bloc.  Arizona is the only state in the union where the ballots are printed in English, Spanish, and Tohono O'odom.

So it's not really surprising that the voters registered as Libertarian, independent, and Green combined outnumber the voters registered as Democrat and Republican combined.  It's also not surprising that the Libertarians got about 10% of the vote at the last election.  The Big Two in Arizona are worried over that.

That's why the state election committee passed a bill raising the number of signatures needed to put a candidate on the ballot.

That cute trick neatly knocked the Libertarian Party candidates (to say nothing of the Greens) off the ballot for the upcoming primary election.  Yes, you can get a Libertarian mail-in/early-voting ballot for the primary, but there are no names on it -- only space for write-in candidates.  Needless to add, the Libs have been sending separate mailings around, explaining the problem and listing the names of their candidates, and asking the voters to write in the names -- also listed on the LP's website (azlp.org).

The problem is that the LP doesn't have the budget to tell the story, expose the scandal, and advertise to the general public. 

So I'm doing it here.  If you're an Arizonian, no matter what party you back, you've got to admit that this is a dirty trick and needs to be stomped on.  Whatever ballot you get, write in the LP candidates, just to kick the crooked election committee in the keister, as it deserves.

For federal offices:

US Senator: Adam Kokesh
US Congress: Zhani Doko

For state offices:

Governor: Barry Hess
Secretary of State:  Jenn Gray
Attorney General:  Michael Kielsky
State Mining Inspector:  Kim Ruff
State Senator:  Jeff Daniels
State Representative:  Robert Allen Pepton

Local Offices:

Phoenix Mayor:  Nick Sarwark
Central Arizona Water Conservation District:  Jim Iannuzo and Ronald Sereny

For reminders, go the the azlp.org website and keep track.

Yes, dammitol, this is an unpaid but shameless political announcement, intended to "influence" the election.  So sue me.

--Leslie <;)))><



 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Now For Something Completely Different


Use this the next time somebody complains that there are too many cats in the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqOzTh2pjEw&app=desktop

--Leslie <;)))><  )O(

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Perspective on the Howling



Fact:  Over a century ago, an American warship --  the USS Maine – mysteriously exploded in Havana Harbor, at a time when the US was supporting native uprisings against Spanish colonial rule.  Even then, there was good argument that the explosion was caused by serious flaws in the ship’s boiler;  nowadays, with the hindsight of much better engineering knowledge, it’s all but certain that the ship’s boiler system was at fault.  Nonetheless, a newspaper mogul named William Randolph Hearst ordered his editors and reporters to claim that the ship had been blown up by Spanish saboteurs, and the US must not tolerate such an insult.  He kept on like this for weeks, until the US population – which made the mistake of believing that anything published in the newspapers must be true – pressured the federal government to declare war on Spain.  The result was the Spanish-American War, which ended the colonial empire of Spain – and, incidentally, sold millions of newspapers for Hearst.  It’s been said in the years afterward that Hearst started a war just to sell his papers.

News-media editors and owners have regarded this feat with awe and envy ever since.

With that in mind, consider how two major news-media corporations have steadily and constantly attacked Trump the Spoiler ever since election night, desperately trying to get him impeached and install Hillary in his place – with a little help from the Democrat National Committee and billionaire George Soros.  First they tried to claim that Trump was a neo-Nazi, and he’d won because all the “racists” in America had voted for him.  That didn’t work, despite the carefully-sculpted Charlottesville caper, because nobody with any sense believes that there are nearly 50 million Nazis voting in the US.  …Besides, a lot of people who voted for Trump were Black.  Black racists could be understandable, but Black neo-Nazis?  No way.

So, while not entirely giving up on the Trump-is-a-Nazi pitch, they took up the public theory that Trump is a Russian Dupe, and the Russians hacked our election to put him in office.  And what’s their evidence for this?  Simply that Russian agents – like agents of nearly every other government in the world – tried to “influence” our federal election. 

Pause for another historical fact: everybody and his uncle has tried to “influence” US elections since before America became a country.  Many of the Founders grumbled at the ways agents of the British crown tried to sway elections in various colonial Houses of Burgesses, usually by rallies which included lots of free sausages, cigars, and hard cider.  The political rally with free goodies has been a staple of political campaigns ever since.

More to the point, there’s a difference between “influencing” an election by swaying the minds of the voters and “cheating” by dickering with the voting and counting process.

After America gained its freedom and began holding elections regularly, would-be election cheaters had to come up with ever more elaborate tricks as election committees learned to counter them.  After more than two centuries, across 50 different election systems, those election committees have become very good at countering election-cheats.

Contrary to popular opinion, no, you can’t just use an Internet connection to hack into a vote-tallying machine and alter the results.  The last people to try that were an all-American company called Diebold, who actually made the vote-tallying machines, and were caught at attempting the cheat nearly ten years ago;  their machines wound up in the junk-heaps, they were obliged to pay back millions, and their company no longer exists.  Modern voting systems – a different one for every state – have several tallying methods, elaborate oversight methods, and multiple air-gaps.  Computer-hacking simply won’t work.  If you want to cheat on an American election, you have to do it the old-fashioned way: stuff the ballot-boxes (the classic Democrat trick) or kick people off the registration rolls (the classic Republican trick).  A lot of states have countered these tricks by making the voter-registration rolls a matter of public record, so that literally anybody can look at the rolls, look at the election results and cry “Foul!”, and demand a recount – which, of course, will be very carefully overseen. 

Now “influence” is another story, and everybody has tried it at one time or another.  The old song “Jefferson and Liberty” was written by Irish “interests” to encourage undecided citizens to vote for Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson did indeed win the election, but I really don’t think it was just the song that did it.  During the 1930s, a lot of German agents formed the German-American Bund, which paid for political ads and speeches supporting the ‘new regime’ in Germany.  That didn’t stop the election, and re-elections, of FDR nor keep the US out of the allied side of World War Two.  During the early Cold War, various Russian agents invented or infiltrated pro-peace groups and tried to persuade the public to persuade the govt. to get out of the Korean War, even unto buying ads for opponents of Ike in the ’52 election.  Didn’t work. 

And never mind the home-grown groups, who buy ads and create rallies and spread rumors for their own candidates.  Professional advertising companies have been quietly hired by political parties for nearly a century, in hopes of applying their expertise to something other than selling soap.  One result is that the American public has developed a good nose for advertising pitches and a healthy cynicism for the same – enough to give them a practical working immunity to political ads.  Any advertising executive can tell you that even the best of ads can’t guarantee buyers.  Consider how many people have seen, and loved, Budweiser ads featuring those beautiful Clydesdale horses;  that still hasn’t made Budweiser everybody’s favorite beer.  “Influence” is only the ability to make people listen to what you have to say, not to make them believe it, let alone act on it.

Now, bearing all that in mind, let’s look at what CNN and NBC and assorted Democrat pundits and politicians have been throwing at Trump for the past week.

First, after claiming for nearly a year that “Russia meddled in our election to elect Trump!” the media and DNC made a point of trying to prevent the Tump/Putin summit meeting in Helsinki, on the excuse that “Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments is an insult to our democracy” (Chuck Schumer).  Those indictments were against “12 Russians who *allegedly* interfered with the 2016 election by hacking the DNC server” (Rod Rosenstein). 

But the meeting went ahead anyway, and at the joint press conference Putin offered to permit US officials – including Mueller – to come to Russia to assist in their investigation of the Trump-Russia collusion story.

He also stated: “Business associates of Mr. Browder (one of the indictees) have earned over $1.5 billion and never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country.  They were transferred to the United States.  They sent huge amount of money -- $400,000,000 – as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton…the way the money was earned was illegal.  So we have solid reason to believe that some (US) intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions.  So we have an interest in questioning them.”

Did anyone see the media pick up this blockbuster of a story?

Anyway, Trump met in private with Putin – nobody else there but two translators – and afterward said that he believed Putin when he said that Russia “did not interfere with our 2016 election”.  The media and Democrats, of course, went ape-sh!t over that comment, howling that it proved that Trump trusted Putin more than his own “intelligence community” – and extrapolating from that to accusations of treason and calling on the military for a coup to remove Trump from office.  Their hysteria is amazing. 

More interestingly, Mike Pompeo – who has been quietly close to Trump for a long time – said that the Russians “tried to interfere with our election”.  Note the words “tried to”.  He did not say “succeeded”. 

Put both those phrases together, and it’s quite possible that they’re both true;  the Russians tried to interfere with our election – and they failed. 

Now, the entire “intelligence community” does not necessarily like, or serve, Trump.  Different departments of the federal bureaucracy – a.k.a. the Deep State – have their own political biases, continued sometimes for decades.  The FBI, for instance, has a long history of serving and protecting Democrat administrations, while the CIA has a similar history of serving and protecting Republican ones.  Not every employee of these bureaucracies toes the party line, but enough of them do to establish a trend.  Comey, for instance, did remarkable services for Obama and later for Hillary. These included forbidding FBI personnel to even use the word “Jihad” or “Jihadist”, and inviting a CAIR official to be advisor to the FBI on “hate crimes”.  This is the real reason Trump fired him, and one of the reasons Trump has no trust in the FBI.  The CIA wasn’t entirely clean either, given the behavior of Brennan during the Cold War and afterward, but it behaved much more sympathetically to Trump than the FBI did.

In fact, there’s good reason to believe that when Trump first planned to go to Russia on business, he had the sense to go talk to the CIA about what he might expect there – and Pompeo was the agent he talked to.  I further suspect that Pompeo has been Trump’s reliable guide to dealing with Russia ever since.   I’ll go so far as to say that Pompeo – and Trump – know some things about Russia, and China, which could be very advantageous to the US as long as they’re kept secret.  More on this later.  So of course the DNC and its media cronies, in their hysterical efforts to get rid of Trump, are likely to expose it. 

In fact, Trump is not “subservient” to Putin – the opposite, if anything.  Trump has, in fact, been noticeably tough on Russia.  He has approved the sale of weapons to the Ukraine, he has not lifted the sanctions on trade with Russia (which is much more important than it sounds) but approved sanctions against specific Russian oligarchs (by which we can read “Russian Mafia moguls”), he has flogged the other NATO countries into paying their fair share for their common defense (primarily against Russia), he has berated Germany’s Merkel for her plans to make a gas and oil transmission pipeline linking Germany directly to Russia (think about that), he has torn up Obama’s agreements with Iran that Russia wanted so badly, and above all he has increased our military’s funding and let it loose to actually win the war against the Jihadis in Syria -- and all the way into Africa.  Actions speak louder than words, and his actions have not been those of Putin’s kiss-@ss. 

So what is he keeping secret? 

First, the fact that Russia’s attempts to “influence” the 2016 election were pitiful, and easily caught.  They managed to hack into the voter registration rolls in a few states – where, in fact, the registration rolls are a matter of public record.  They also managed to hack into the DNC’s “analytics” – the surveys of what Democrat voters tend to like, which gives the DNC ideas about how to appeal to them – which would be about as effective as hiring Pew or Gallup to do the same survey.  They spent maybe $100,000 under cover of a shell company to buy political ads playing up racial and social divisions in the US – and there’s no evidence whatever that those ads changed a single vote.  They also bought memberships in the NRA, which is laughable considering the NRA’s attitude toward Russia, and that it had already endorsed Trump over Hillary on its own hook, for free.  In short, Russia did a p!ss-poor job of “influencing” our elections – or anything else.  The scary specter of ingenious Russian agents worming their way into the US govt. is a total illusion.

So is Russia’s power, period.  For over a century the Russian economy has been staggering from disaster to disaster, constantly running out of food and having to buy grain from its claimed “enemies” in the west, with factories functioning at roughly 50% capacity, with farms that can’t get their produce to market for lack of transport, with military hardware that is 15-50% inoperable, with an army which is mostly unpaid and moonlighting (and could not even conquer all of the Ukraine!), with its internal trade depending at least 50% on barter, and with most of its money tied up in the west – at least partly by Trump’s doing.  No wonder Putin wants that $400 million back!  Those trade sanctions are seriously hurting Russia, and Putin really-really wants Trump to take them off.  Russia could save half its annual harvest if it could only get a thousand working pick-up trucks – and fuel, and replacement parts – out to its farms, and Trump is in a position to make that happen.  Trump does indeed know how to play Economic Warfare.  And what’s Putin supposed to have on Trump, anyway?  A rumor of his cavorting with high-class Russian whores?  Ridiculous.  Everyone knows that Trump is too shameless to be blackmailed!  No, Putin does not have Trump by the short-hairs;  it’s the other way around if anything. 

And the same is true of China, only with more mouths to feed.  They’re both paper tigers, maintaining an excellent false front.

Probably the only “modern industrialized nation” in worse economic shape is North Korea, which has become an expensive embarrassment to China and Russia alike.  They’d both love to see Kim & Company vanish, and see economic powerhouse South Korea take over the whole peninsula and turn it into a money-maker, instead of a sinkhole, with which they could profitably trade.  The problem is that Russia and China cordially hate each other, and would happily make war if they thought they could win.  China has the advantage of a lot of cannon-fodder which it would be happy to lose in war, while Russia has the superior weaponry – such as it is – to do that.  In order to keep Russia and China quietly focused on getting rid of Kim, both countries have to keep up their false fronts with each other.  Revealing their weaknesses before the world would disrupt the whole plan.

That’s the reason Trump doesn’t want to expose Russia’s secret – or China’s.  It’s the dumb Democrats, in their frenzy to Get Trump (and what, put Mike Pence in his place?), who are endangering the game.  We can only hope that their own hysteria collapses on them before they do serious damage.

--Leslie <;)))><  )O(      

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lively Summer Weather


When most people think of summer in Arizona, they think of blistering heat -- which is generally quite true -- and little else.  What you generally have to live here to learn is that the summer is also when we get the Monsoon storms -- and we're getting a bunch of them right now.  It started two days ago with a ferocious windstorm, followed by a dust-storm, followed by rain.  We couldn't follow too well how the rest of the Valley of the Sun was affected because one of the first effects of the windstorm was to knock out the electric power in our neighborhood.  It took the electric company nearly ten hours to get the power back on.  Meanwhile, we were left padding about in the dark with the assistance of flashlights, candles, and the lights on our phones. 

When the power, and the TV, came back on the next day we got an eyeful of flood reports -- yes, floods, in Phoenix!  We were exceedingly grateful that we'd gotten a lot less rain out here to the west in Buckeye.  ...And then we got a clear look at what the windstorm had done. 

A major limb from that damned eucalyptus tree in the front yard had come down, not on either of our cars but right between them, partly blocking Rasty"s Bronco and completely blocking my little rice-burner.  We've spent the last day and more breaking off the lesser branches and stuffing them in the garbage can, and dragging the stripped larger branches out of the driveway.  ...And that work hasn't been easy in the returned clear sky, and therefore 105-degree heat.  It's going to be a long time before I can get my car clear. 

It's also a good thing that we've both recovered from that nagging case of sourceless fatigue which, I'm convinced, was caused by a low-level but persistent flu.  Has anybody else out there noticed anything similar?

Anyway, half an hour's work out in that slaughtering sun is the best either of us can do at a time -- usually followed by an hour spent indoors, in the air-conditioning, with a good pint of ice-water.  As you can guess, the work is going slowly.  The garbage-can is full of twigs and leaves, and we'll have to drag the rest of the branches off to the scrap-wood pile in the back of the yard.  Cutting up those damned branches is going to be more hot work, and the new reciprocating saw works only off batteries;  that means maybe half an hour's work per couple hours' charging.  Oh well, that's excuse enough for getting out of the sun.

The real giggle is that there are more storms due in tonight or tomorrow;  let's hope that the power doesn't go out again.  Oh well, we can always use the rain.  Arizonians will forgive much in exchange for water.  The floods that swept through the central valley yesterday have already sunk into the ground, the reservoirs and the cisterns, much to everyone's relief.  Truth is, if it weren't for the summer Monsoon Season rains -- which come up from the Gulf of Mexico -- the state couldn't survive until the winter rainy season comes in from the Pacific.  It's a gamble which set of storms tend to hit harder, but each of them provides half the water for the year hereabouts: with luck, that's a good four inches of rain in a handful of days. 

Oh yes, the weather hereabouts is definitely extreme! 


--Leslie <;)))>< 
 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

THE FORGOTTEN WORKING ANIMAL


Now for something completely different, concerning our food supply.


Most of us today live in cities, completely artificial surroundings, with no more view of nature than a strip of lawn, a potted plant, or maybe a small pet.  We occasionally go to parks, more rarely to public gardens or zoos.  It’s easy to forget our place in the ecosystem that keeps us alive, and it’s easier to forget the function of various animals in that system.

Those of us who still live in the country, on working farms, have a better sense of the realities of nature.  We know that evolution never stopped, and “survival of the fittest” is still the name of the game.  We know about predators, parasites and plagues – animal, plant and microbe.  We also know about our symbiotes and allies.  We know why there are certain domestic animals that we raise and care for, but do not eat.          

Certain ornamental fish, small birds and small rodents – like hamsters and gerbils – we keep purely as pets, but others we keep because they perform vital work for us.  They help keep us alive, and we must never forget it. 

There are just 9 kinds of animals in the world that can be trained to carry burdens or pull loads for us:  elephants, horses, donkeys, camels, llamas, oxen, large goats, reindeer and large dogs.  Despite the easy availability of machines, these animals are still valued for their work in particular circumstances, especially since many of these animals can be used to grow their own fuel.  There’s an old saying among small farmers: “Farm with horses, and keep more of what you make.”  And ask any Alaskan if sled-dogs are more useful than snowmobiles. 

Dogs also perform many other tasks for us: hunters, guards, guides, and even health-alarms.  Cart-trained goats can also give milk.  Other domestic – or even semi-domestic – animals perform vital services that are harder to see.  Small birds, even wild ones, devour insects and worms which would otherwise harm us or our crops, and some of them – like hummingbirds – pollinate many of our crops, especially fruit-plants;  this is why we make the effort to put out food, water, and shelters for them.  Bees do more than produce honey;  they pollinate most of our food-plants, especially grains, and also protect their territories against invading insects and animals. 

There’s one creature which most people have forgotten is a working animal, think of only as a useless pet, and that is a serious mistake.

That animal is the cat – the common house-cat – and it protects us more than we know.

Think:  the most common, numerous, fertile, and invasive land-mammals on Earth are the Rodents – rats, mice, moles, gophers, ground-squirrels, tree-squirrels, and more.  Most of them eat the same food-plants that we do, and a few of them – like the rat – eat meat, too.   Rats, in particular, are quite willing to eat us if they can. 

The damage rodents do to humans is incredible. The most numerous and invasive species of land-mammal on the planet is the common or house mouse, and the runner-up, by a whisker, is the common rat.  Rats and mice annually destroy 20% of the world’s human food supply, according to the UN – and that’s not counting the damage done by rodents to crops in the field.  That’s also not counting the dozens of rodent-borne diseases – like the Black Plague – that can jump to other species and infect humans.

In the wild, rodents are preyed on by snakes, raptor-birds, bears, weasels, wolves, foxes, coyotes, wild dogs, and especially by the dozens of species of small wild cats.  In human territories such as farms, towns and cities, the only rodent-predators found in any large numbers are domestic (or stray) dogs and cats – and cats are more efficient at it.  House-cats are also much more likely to hang around human habitations rather than wander off into the wild. 

Despite wildly inaccurate claims by admitted cat-haters,* there is no way to tell how many cats there are in the US alone, and likewise no way to tell how many rodents they kill, but we know that there is no shortage of rodents.  We know that communities which restrict the numbers of outdoor cats and dogs tend to suffer from amazing plagues of mice and rats (see “mouse plague”, South Australia and Apopka, Florida, and see also “rat plagues”).  People who earnestly tell you that we have an “overpopulation of cats and dogs” have really no evidence for this except the abundance of stray animals in shelters.  The best solution to that problem is to spay/neuter the strays, try to find homes for them, and if nobody takes them, turn them loose again – hopefully to find their own homes.  You can never tell when a “stray” is actually somebody’s lost pet. 

We can also tell from direct observation, despite the claims of cat-haters and the ignorant, that house-cats very rarely kill birds.  Think: birds small enough for a cat to tackle have faster reactions than cats, can see 300 degrees around them, and can fly.  Only a very sick or injured bird would move slowly enough for a cat to catch.  As for the idea that cats climb trees to get at nests, recall that birds form breeding pairs who stick together to feed and protect their young;  two birds, who can fly, are more than a match for a cat, who must climb – and can’t go further than a branch that will hold his weight.  If anything, the climbing – “roof”, “wharf”, or “ship” – rat has a better chance to steal birds’ eggs than the cat does.  Direct observations by amateur birdwatchers and professional biologists reveal that the biggest predator of birds is… other birds: eagles, hawks, owls, and ravens.  The cat doesn’t even come close.

No, the major prey of small cats is small rodents – and it was from the beginning.  When humans learned how to farm and store food, around the eastern Mediterranean Sea and eastward into Asia, the rodents – particularly rats and mice – saw that they had an easy smorgasbord with humans.  One reason that humans developed pottery, besides carrying water, was to secure their food against rodents – particularly rats and mice – who could gnaw through anything softer.  Rats and mice, in particular, took to hanging around human habitats, waiting for their chance to steal food that humans provided.  Their presence, in turn, provided a feast for the various breeds of Felis Sylvestris – the native wild cat of Africa, Europe, and southern Asia.  

This is how the ancestors of the modern house-cat began hanging around with humans.  Humans soon noted that when the cats moved in the rats and mice thinned out, so they began providing regular favorite foods – tender meat, milk, later cheese – and shelter, to entice the cats to stay.  The cats accepted the deal, and it has lasted to this day.

Neither the arrangement nor the cat has changed much in thousands of years.  Domestic cats – Felis Cattus – are still capable of interbreeding with wild cats, and their offspring are fertile.  The house-cat still preys primarily on rats and mice, with occasional side-dishes of whatever other small rodents, reptiles, or fish it can catch – and whatever it can charm, demand, forage or steal from humans.  Whether as an only-occasionally-hunting pet, a busy farm-cat, or a feral full-time hunter, the cat still destroys the pests that destroy our food.

The cat is a vitally important working animal, whether ignorant cat-haters realize it or not.        

This is why fools who want to exterminate cats – and dogs – need to be recognized as domestic terrorists, and treated accordingly.


--Leslie Fish  <;)))><       

*



Friday, June 22, 2018

"Torn From Their Mothers' Arms..."


Be very careful not to watch "Law and Order" right after your Significant Other has been watching hours of MSNBC, which has been hyping the Border Crisis all day.  It might give you unorthodox ideas.

The story according to the news media is: a bunch of poor-poor refugees, fleeing from Violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, came north to the Texas border, seeking Asylum.  They were greeted by Cruel Immigration Agents of Trump, who promptly arrested the refugees, locked them up, and *Tore The Children From Their Mothers' Arms* and carried them off to hidden prisons all over the country, which the reporters Haven't Been Allowed To See -- and therefore *must* be Abusing the children, possibly even selling them to pedophiles, and in any case isn't keeping very good track of which kid belongs to which adult, so probably won't give them back.  Oooh, Humanitarian Crisis!  Summon the ACLU!  Call in the UN!  Kudos to a firm of lawyers offering to defend for free all government workers who refuse to remove the children for Reasons of Conscience. 

Eventually even Rasty got tired of this, handed over the TV remote-control wand and went off to his studio to deal with his email.  I promptly channel-surfed, seeking something more intelligent, and came across a "Law and Order" re-run.  The story followed the usual pattern: mysterious homicide leads to a white-collar scam perpetrated by rich man whose wife may-or-may-not be in on the scam.  To pressure a confession, the police arrest the wife.  There's a scene where she tries the Weepy Hysteria ploy, wailing: "Who'll take care of the children if I'm in jail?"  A cynical cop replies: "Child Protective Services will pick them up.  We're not going to put them in Rikers with you."

CLICK!!!  Revelation!!

Well, of course US police don't put little kids in adult jails!  CPS takes the kids off to processing centers, and from there the kids get put in foster-homes of various sizes.  Time spent in the processing centers depends on how old the kids are, and what they need.  According to folks who've worked there, the first thing the kids get is identified;  ask their names and parents' names, fingerprint them, nowadays retinal-print and DNA print them.  The kids are usually given cookies and milk during the process.  Next, the kids get washed. 

After that, they get a thorough physical exam -- and clean clothes -- and whatever medical treatment they need.  For Central and South American, African, and Middle-Eastern kids, that usually involves vaccinations, dental treatment, a course of antibiotics, de-lousing, de-fleaing, and worming.  Sometimes it takes more than that, even surgery.  In short, while their parents are in jail, the kids get lots of free healthcare.  There's even an underground system for desperate poor parents of sick kids to visibly 'sneak' across the US border where they know the border patrol is watching, just to get themselves jailed (and whatever healthcare they get there themselves) and get their kids free healthcare from CPS;  even if the lot of them get turned back to wherever they came from, it's often worth the effort just for the medical treatment.  Naturally, the US govt. doesn't want to advertise this arrangement;  it's having enough trouble providing healthcare to its own poor folks.

Once out of the processing centers, the kids usually go to licensed group-homes, usually tax-funded but privately managed households of 20 or fewer residents.  The group-homes are segregated by age and gender, obviously, and the very young children go to specialized "tender age" centers that provide professional care for infants.  For pretty obvious security reasons, the locations of the group-homes and tender-age centers are kept fairly secret -- yes, even from self-righteous, blabbering reporters. 

Needless to add, CPS is always overloaded, overworked, and underfunded.  Yes, the sudden influx of a few thousand kids on the Texas border would have caused amazing stress on the system.  Texas CPS would have had no choice but to send the excess kids to centers in other states.  I seriously doubt, though, that the system would have lost track of the kids -- not even any late-teenagers who might have wanted to run away and get loose in America. 

Another problem which the CPS workers have discovered is that a lot of those kids are not related to the adult "refugees" claiming to be their parents.  The whole "refugee" caper is beginning to look more and more like a set-up, wherein CPS and the border patrol -- and, of course, Trump -- are made to look Terribly Cruel for treating children of "refugee" lawbreakers the same as American citizens.  

So what's the solution, within the restrictions of federal immigration laws -- which, indeed, Trump inherited from Obama?  Especially knowing that, no matter what he does, the media will put the worst possible spin on it?

Well, what he's done is agree, in public, that he won't separate the children from the adult refugees who claim to be their parents anymore.  So far, the best the anti-Trump crowd can do with this is to claim victory for making Trump reverse course on his promised immigration policy.

I suspect that they're celebrating too soon.  If Trump does indeed have the political power to single-handedly suspend parts of the immigration laws and procedures, then he can indeed rejoin the kids to their supposed parents -- and then deport the lot of them, and use the whole incident as leverage to get The Wall built. 

The "refugees" will be shoved back into Mexico, which doesn't want them, so they'll probably be escorted back to the borders of Guatemala.  Guatemala is currently dealing with the aftermath of a 36-year-long war between the government and the Mayan Indians, plus the added crisis of a massive volcanic eruption.  Life in Guatemala isn't very easy right now, but it's definitely possible.  More, with the internal real refugees running from the volcano, there's enough 'confusion' that the returning, failed US-invaders would have no trouble fitting in, even with (now healthy) children in tow.  They wouldn't have to go all the way to Honduras or El Salvador, where the gang-violence is worse. 

The liberal media, of course, will then blame Trump for Sending Children To Certain Death -- but that will focus public attention on those miserable countries to see just why they're "death traps", instead of relying on vague references to "fleeing violence".  The result just might be enough international forces leaning on those wretched countries to finally solve their "violence" problems.  I can see Trump quietly pressuring the involved govt.s to let him send special forces troops into the jungles to hunt up the gangs with spy-drones, and wipe them out with other drones, in practice for going after the Jihadists elsewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, there are already people asking on the Internet just why the media is flapping all this outrage about foreigners, who are basically being treated no differently from Americans who break misdemeanor laws.  I can see the backlash rising already, using the same phrases the media gave everybody: "children torn from their mothers' arms!" 

Whoever put this setup together are not likely to get the results they wanted.


--Leslie <;)))><