Saturday, August 31, 2019

Gardening Rough


Now for something completely different: the fun and games of mini-farming in a small town in rural Arizona.  Doubtless most of you have heard about my little house on a large lot in Buckeye, AZ, and my efforts to grow a small (less than 20 trees) orchard.  So far I have eight pomegranate trees of different breeds, colors, and flavors, plus one surviving grapevine, one pecan tree, two (one may not survive) apricot trees, one stunted tangerine tree, one struggling almond tree, and a sour orange tree that started out to be a Bearss lime tree (long story).  That's not counting my breed of super-smart cats.  I put together a legal club -- the Ralston-Fish Land Club -- just to have a legal entity (I can't afford to create a legal "trust") that I can will the land to, that will continue to keep the trees and the cats alive if I should knock off suddenly.  I've got a Go Fund Me project to support the club which I don't report to nearly often enough.

Anyway, the main problem with doing any kind of farming or gardening in Arizona is water.  The heat is secondary, and after that there's the salt in the soil (which is why I can't grow avocados here), and after that the #%!&*@ gophers.

Starting from the top, this year started out wonderfully cool and rainy, perfect for farmers, but almost exactly on May Day everything changed.  The temperature rocketed to over 110 F and stayed there.  The summer Monsoon became a Non-soon -- all of two small rainstorms and then nothing.  I've had to go out and water the trees by hand every other day.  This has not made my water-bill easy to pay, and the trees took heat damage anyway.  The pomegranates fruited all right, but the fruits are small and hard.  I'll go out this week and gather all the ones that are ripe (and when they're this hard it's difficult to tell just which ones are ripe) and run them through the juicer.  I'll be lucky to get a single gallon of juice from the lot of them. 'Twas even worse for the grapevine;  the only grapes that grew were snatched up by the local birds.  And I lost the little American Chestnut tree, and won't be able to replace it until December, damn.  I may have lost one of the apricots, but the other's surviving.  The pecan tree was sunburned and stunted, though it's surviving too.  I'll need to get another pecan, of a different breed, to cross-pollinate with it in order to get nuts off either of them.  Oh, headache!

Nothing can be done about the salt in the soil;  most of Arizona is old sea-bed silt.  The best I can do is keep adding fiber and compost.  Given all the vegetable-trash that the local grasses and weeds produce -- not to mention the available stable-sweepings from my neighbors who keep horses -- that wouldn't be a problem except for the effects of the @#$%&! gophers.

The local critters are a breed called "pocket gophers" -- which means they're small enough for a cat to catch when they poke their noses above ground, if the cat happens to be crouching in ambush at the right place, at the right time.  Alas, that's not enough kills to cut down on the gopher population.  Getting at the damn diggers when they're in their network of tunnels as another story.  I haven't been able to find any source of gopher-snakes anywhere in the state, and hiring an exterminator costs a good chunk of change.

Even so, that wouldn't have been much of a problem (gophers don't like the taste of pomegranate roots, or pecan or citrus roots) if it hadn't been for the tenant's dogs.  We  had a couple of tenants living in the trailer outside who had dogs, and both dogs enthusiastically declared war on the gophers.  They'd chase the gophers into their holes and then try to dig them out.  The result is potholes all over the yard, some of them nearly a yard deep, not to mention the equally-large mounds of dug-up dirt.  The yard would look like a fairy-sized barttlefield, except that -- as in the famous World War One poem -- the grass, and the native weeds, did their work.  All that loosened soil made fine bedding for every kind of seed in the territory, and my necessary tree-watering benefited the damned weeds as well.  The result is that my orchard is more like a miniature jungle.

The cats love it.  They can hunt through the tall weeds or stay cool under the leaves during the heat of the day, or they can stroll back into their roofed kennel, or hop through the pet-door into the back room of the house, as they please.  It's not so much fun for me, since I have to drag the watering-hoses up and down the yard full of thick weeds and disguised pot-holes that could easily catch and twist my rather-fragile ankles.

So I've got to go out and mow that sizable yard, then rake up all the vegetable-trash and run it through a wood-shredder, dump it in a compost-pit, and then flatten out the ground.  This kind of mowing can't be done with a lawnmower;  it'll take a weed-whacker, a machete, a hoe, a pick-axe, a tiller a wood-shredder and maybe an axe.  Yes, the weeds grow tough in Arizona!  Aside from the wood-shredder, I've managed to collect the tools -- including a new weed-whacker which I've named Goses, because I want him to Mow Down the land -- but the problem is the time and labor that all this is going to take.  Between me and Rasty and Jerry Marin, our current guest, we don't have a single body athletic enough to do all this in a single day -- or weekend, or week.  Neither can we assemble enough $$$ between us to hire professional landscapers to come do the job for us.  Damn.  We've got to do it ourselves, and it'll take a month at least.

So this is another reason (besides finances) why I didn't show up at CokoCon this weekend, and don't foresee going to any other local cons soon.  No, I haven't given up on fandom, really.  If anyone asks what Leslie's doing this season, tell them she's hacking her way through the fairies' jungle, trying to reclaim the land for her orchard.

Now you know.

--Leslie <;)))><  )O( 

    


Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Seven Stupid States


This is an expansion on a post I made years ago, so let me repeat that one first:


ON ABORTION
by Leslie Fish

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

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

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

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

No man has ever died in childbirth, but countless hundreds of millions of women have.  Childbirth is not safe.  It has not been safe since human beings began walking upright, and growing big brains and big skulls to hold them.  Even in America today with all our boasted medical science, according to the medical actuarial tables, for women between the ages of 15 and 50, of the 12 most common causes of death, childbirth is not the last.  Any woman who becomes pregnant is placing her life at risk.  No one should be forced to place their life at risk without their consent.  No one should be forced to risk their life for someone else’s beliefs.  No man has the right to order a woman to risk her life for what he wants.

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


                                                                      *****

As you can tell from the names of the contestants, this was originally written a few elections ago.  Since then, the political divisions -- and stupidities -- have grown worse.   Trump won the 2016 presidential election, driving the Democrats into a continuing fit of hysteria which has led them to become blatant Socialists.  The Democrats then won enough seats in the 2018 congressional election to start openly pushing their Socialist agenda, which scared the Republicans at the state level to start passing some ridiculously Reactionary laws.  Among these were the various laws in the Seven Stupid States which restrict access to safe legal abortions down to almost nothing.

Now whatever your attitude toward abortion itself, a bit of reflection will show that these laws -- and the politicians who voted them in -- are just plain stupid.  For one thing, they make those states (I'll name no names) look like hotbeds of religious fanaticism and misogyny.  Any business with female managers or corporate officers will avoid building or investing there, which will do those states' economies no great good.  Neither will the lawsuits already in the works, launched not only by women's-rights groups but by medical organizations which rather resent politicians practicing medicine.

For another thing, these laws will do nothing to cut down on the actual numbers of abortions.  There are still the other 43 states where abortion is legal, often right next door to the Seven Stupids, where determined women can go to get the operation done -- often cheaper than they could have at home, even counting the cost of travel and an overnight motel stay.  Where that cost becomes burdensome, the burden will fall -- as it did back in the days when abortion was illegal all over the US -- on the poor, the people most in need of baby-making restriction.  Women too poor to get out-of-state abortions will certainly wind up on welfare, if they aren't there already, and so will their unwanted children.  States that won't pay for poor women's abortions today will find themselves paying for the support of those children for the next several years.

the only advantage gained by those laws is to make the politicians who voted for them feel wonderfully self-righteous.  The taxpayers who will have to live with the effects of those laws are not likely to be grateful, and they are likely to make their opinions known at election time.

Moral grandstanding doesn't really pay well, and it's ultimately stupid.

--Leslie <;)))><

Sunday, August 11, 2019

LIMITS TO THE BIG LIE TACTIC




It’s been a lively couple of weeks in for the mainstream news.  First, the second debate of the Democratic presidential hopefuls revealed some amazing planned policies.  Second, a teenaged lunatic shot up the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three people plus himself.  Third, a vicious young punk shot up a packed Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people before he surrendered.  Fourth, the next day, another vicious young punk shot up a shopping mall and bar in Dayton, Ohio.  Fifth, during those same two days 47 people were shot in Chicago, by different shooters and at different specific locations.  Sixth, a vicious gang-banger killed four people during a two-hour stabbing spree in Los Angeles.  Seventh, the Democrat hopefuls, and their allies, responded to the tragedies with even more amazing accusations and threatened policies.

To start with the end, various Democrat pundits pulled out their usual boilerplate about gun control, demanding: 
1)      “universal background checks” – which already exist.  Federal law requires all licensed gun-dealers, whether in their shops or at a “gun show”, to check potential buyers’ ID against the NCIS database to see if said buyers have criminal records or have been adjudicated “mentally incompetent”.  Private sellers – say, a neighbor selling his spare shotgun to another neighbor, or a grandfather giving a basic .22 bolt-action rifle to his grandson – are not allowed to perform background checks, even if they want to, because (thanks to a law passed by the dear old ACLU) they’re legally forbidden to access the NCIS database.  All that’s needed to make “background checks” truly “universal” is to abolish that stupid law and let private citizens us the NCIS database.
2)      “red flag laws” – which have been judged unconstitutional.  Allowing police to confiscate people’s property (in this case firearms) without due process of law, purely on the complaint of anybody (such as an ex with a grudge) that so-and-so is “crazy and dangerous” is a wide-open  invitation for abuse. 
3)      Ban the sale of “military-style assault weapons” and “extended magazines”, which are definitions so vague as to be unenforceable.
…and these are the more reasonable demands.  Others include banning all semi-automatic firearms, house-to-house searches to collect them, and declaring all Republican voters “mentally unfit” to buy guns. 
     
And it gets crazier.  Of course one could expect Democrats to blame every tragedy on Trump and his “divisive rhetoric”, but singer John Legend claims that the president’s “racist venom” and “bigoted policies” directly “inspire killers”;  this is ironic, considering that Legend himself has publicly called on people to harass Trump officials, and do anything to throw “flaming racist…piece of shit” Trump out of office. 

Never mind Maxine Waters’ exhortations of the past year for civilians to go out and harass Trump voters everywhere in public – “in restaurants, in department stores, and in gas stations” -- which many Democrat voters have faithfully gone and done.  She has never been charged with “incitement to public violence”. 

And more: Reza Aslan, former CNN executive went on TV to claim “The President is a white nationalist terror leader.  His supporters – ALL OF THEM – are by definition white nationalist terror supporters.  The MAGA hat is a KKK hood.  And this evil racist scourge must be eradicated from society.”  Considering that some 40 million citizens voted for Trump, this could be considered “divisive rhetoric”. 

Wilder yet, MSNBC’s national security analyst Malcolm Nance claimed on the program “Hardball” that mass shootings in the US are fueled by “far-right white supremacist ideology by shooters who want to eliminate liberalism.”  He insisted that “these people feel that…Donald Trump is giving them subliminal orders in their head.” 

And more yet; Beto O’Rourke said of Trump’s “rhetoric”: “the only modern western democracy that I can think of that said anything close to this is the Third Reich, Nazi Germany”, and it’s issuing “an invitation to violence.”  And MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski claims that in “inciting hatred, inciting violence, inciting racism…this is a president who seems to want these things to happen.”  Nicolle Wallace, likewise on MSNBC, goes her one better, claiming “You now have a president…talking about exterminating Latinos.” Princeton professor Edward Glaube, on “Meet the Press”, said that simply using the phrase “illegal immigrant” somehow “set the stage for people who are…on the extreme to act violently”.  Weirder still is former FBI agent Frank Figliuzzi’s statement that Trump ordering the flags that had been lowered to half mast raised again was a secret Nazi signal, because he happened to order it on the 8th of August – and August is the 8th month;  since the 8th letter of the alphabet is H, “the numbers 88 together stand for ‘Heil Hitler’.”  It couldn’t possibly be, say, a commemoration of Nagasaki Day, could it?  That is, if he thought of it at all.

The general theme of these claims is that Trump is a white-nationalist/white-supremacist/neo-nazi and so are his voters – all 40+ million of them.  Right. 

Now I’ll be the first to admit that Trump is a boorish lout with all the subtlety of a bull in a china-shop, that he’s very likely the reincarnation of P. T. Barnum – part businessman, part showman and part con-man – though a much worse speaker, and he’s probably the worst public speaker I’ve ever seen in public life, but where’s the proof of real racism?  He’s quite fond of his Jewish daughter and son-in-law, boasts of his black friends, and – actions speaking louder than words – has done more economically, educationally and socially for People of Color than his predecessors.  According to several federally-commissioned Pew studies, this year both Black and Hispanic unemployment hit record historic lows.  Also Black and Hispanic rates of college graduation reached record highs.  So did numbers of Black and Hispanic independent businesses.  And never mind the educational, economic and social gains by American Asians.  It’s an odd racism that has given such real advantages to “non-whites”.

So the usual claimed evidence for “racism” is Trump’s “divisive rhetoric” and the idea that the mass-shooters of the past two weeks are all neo-nazis who adore Trump.

To deal with the first, all of his claimed “divisive rhetoric” lambasts illegal immigrants, particularly the ugly M-13 gangster cartel, and certain Muslim-majority countries which have – according to the FBI and Interpol – nasty histories of funding, training, and supplying the majority of the world’s Jihadist terrorists;  gangsters and terrorists are not nice people, and not the sort you want to welcome into your country, state, or town.  There’s nothing “racist” about that fact.  To restate the obvious, “Mexican” is not a race, and neither is “Muslim”.  More, words are not actions;  rude or thoughtless words are not the equivalent of physical attacks.  In fact, professionally-offended Democrats – particularly Democrat Socialists – have used far more “divisive rhetoric” than Trump and all his working associates put together.  The proof of that is the “intersectional” politics that have plagued our educational institutes for the past three years and more.

Now as for the second charge, the more the police learn about those incidents, the more complicated the story grows. 

First, the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter – Santino William Legan, 19 – drove to the park with a shotgun, an AR-15, a clown mask, a passport and several other odd items in his car.  He cut a hole in the fence to sneak in, then ran through the park shooting people at random until the police came after him, whereupon he shot himself fatally in the head.  Also found among his belongings was a “hit list” of widely different targets: religious institutions, political groups of both parties, federal buildings and courthouses.  According to FBI agent John Bennett there was no manifesto but Legan was “exploring violent, competing ideologies” and “there was nothing that was all one-sided or the other.”  He was not a “white supremacist” but a chaotic lunatic.

Then there’s the El Paso shooter, whom the media have obsessed upon for days, claiming he had left a “white nationalist manifesto” on the Internet.  The manifesto was quickly taken down, but enough sites copied it to keep it available – such as here: https://pulpitandpen.org/2019/08/05/heres-the-el-paso-shooters-full-manifesto-read-it-before-you-believe-the-news/ 

The commentaries on the site are also well worth reading.  But the point is, Patrick Crusius was not a proper “white supremacist”;  he hated unchecked immigration, but his screed is also full of Left-wing tropes about “corporate elites” and overpopulation.  He also mentioned that he didn’t like Trump.  It’s understandable why the Internet platforms censored his manifesto;  it doesn’t neatly fit the stereotype the Democrat politicians and their media allies wanted to spread.

Worse is the conclusion, by FBI agent Steve Hooper, on the Mike Broomhead TV show, that Crusius’ “triggering event” for the shooting was, if you please, an incident during the Democratic candidate debates. MSNBC personality Savannah Guthrie asked this question:  “This is a show of hands question and hold them up so people can see. Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants,” Guthrie said to the candidates Thursday night. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, and Eric Swalwell all raised their hand.  Hooper claims:  “When the most recent debate when they all said free healthcare, they all raised their hands. That’s what pushed him over the edge. He felt he was justified. He felt he ran out of alternatives.”

Less thoroughly mentioned in the media, interestingly enough, is the case of the Dayton, Ohio shooter, Connor Betts, whose schoolmates described him as a Leftist bully who hated women.  On his own Internet sites he described himself as a Satanist, and an Antifa member, who wanted to kill ICE agents and Republican voters, and signed his posts with “Kill every fascist”.  He attended an Antifa rally last May, wearing the usual face-mask and sunglasses, with a semi-auto pistol exactly like the one he used in his shooting spree. The first person he killed in his rampage was his own sister, and there’s no evidence that it was a random shot.  Note the accounts at: https://lauraloomer.us/2019/08/05/dayton-shooter-satanist-member-of-antifa-despised-ice-interacted-with-left-wing-media-outlets/#.XUmQUJNKhBw
All this, likewise, does not fit the stereotype the Democrats are trying so hard to push.

Other exceptions to the scenario include 47 people shot, 8 of them killed in Chicago, over the same two days as the El Paso and Dayton shootings, which the media avoided mentioning – possibly because Chicago has had a Democrat government for nearly a century, and has had fiercely strict gun-control laws nearly as long, and the perpetrators in all those cases were Black.  So were most of the victims.

Another exception to the Democrat story was the mass-stabbing and robbery spree done by gang-banger Zachary Castenada, across Garden Grove and Santa Ana, California, in a scant two hours just last Wednesday, which left four dead and two wounded.  The police who caught him claimed that he gave no motive for the killings, though he had a long record of violent and drug crimes.  Castenada is Hispanic, as were four of his victims.  This case too has received only brief and local media coverage, possibly because he used only knives, although he had a handgun in his possession.

More carefully ignored facts:

2)      The majority of mass-shooters in 2019 so far have been Black – 
3)      The US is not the world’s worst country for mass shootings, including civilian mass shootings --https://pjmedia.com/trending/no-the-united-states-doesnt-lead-the-world-in-mass-shootings/

So, no – it’s not Trump’s fault, there is no “surge of white supremacism”, the majority of voters are not neo-nazis, and the picture which the Democrats and their allied media have been crafting – and blatting on the airwaves for 20 hours per day for the last two weeks is false. 

The Big Lie tactic was not invented by Hitler’s minions, but only made famous by them, and it can be defeated.  I don’t mean just by repeating the verifiable truth by every available outlet, like little drops of water slowly wearing away the Grand Canyon;  I mean a weakness which is built into the tactic itself. 

That weakness is the tendency to overplay your hand – to make sure that everybody hears the same story, with the same carefully-crafted words, spoken by the same carefully-groomed Talking Heads, accompanied by the same carefully-chosen weeping sympathetic victims, on every available media outlet, 20 hours out of every 24 for as many days as possible.  For one thing, the audience tends to become bored.  For another, once calmed down a bit, the audience tends to think about the story and notice the details that don’t quite fit, and then begin to think about other possibilities.  Worst of all, with enough repetition, fear wears out. 

I repeat: fear wears out -- and this is the doom of all tyrants, from wherever, physically or politically, they may hail.

This is why the Democrats are pushing to pass more gun-control laws – fast, fast, before the voters have time to calm down and think.  This is also why wiser heads among the DNC are leaning on the fringey-er members of Congress to tone down their “rhetoric”, lest they cause a “backlash” that will throw the election to Trump. 

Scariest of all is the possibility that the propaganda-jaded voters just may grow tired enough of the partisan squawking to turn on both of the Big Two parties and agree:
A plague on both their houses: vote Libertarian!  To misquote Shakespeare even further, “’Tis a consummation greatly to be wished.”

--Leslie <;)))><