Category Archives: Background Perspective

Perfect Storm

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Abraham Lincoln, 1862 Address to Congress

Shipwreck_in_Stormy_Seas_by_Joseph_Vernet,_National_Gallery,_London Public DomainIn 1997 Sebastian Junger published his first major book.[i] In “The Perfect Storm” Junger described the final voyage of the Andrea Gail, a six-man crewed commercial fishing vessel out of Gloucester, MA[ii] in 1991. The ‘perfect storm’ was hatched by the combining forces of a classic North Atlantic Nor’easter and Hurricane Grace, a late season brute coming up out of the Caribbean.  “A mature hurricane is by far the most powerful event on Earth,” wrote Junger, “The combined nuclear arsenals of the United States and the former Soviet Union don’t contain enough energy to keep a hurricane going for one day.” There were 60 mile per hour winds, but they generated 75-foot waves that overwhelmed the ship.

Today we face a similar perfect storm, but our victory over it will not be as simple as finding a safe harbor or running from it to an open sea. Our enemy is not wind and waves, but a revolution that has been building for three hundred years and broke full force upon us in the sixties. The classic Nor’easter in this analogy is good old-fashioned concupiscence, hedonism, and the hopeless quest for happiness through means insufficient to sustain it. The hurricane that accelerated the perfect storm into frenzy is the post-modern madness of self-fulfillment and the illusion that we can be anyone or anything we please.

One devastating manifestation of the perfect storm has been called by many, the “Sexual Revolution,” and it was to have freed us from the traditional chains of marriage and responsibility. More accurately I believe, it has been named the “Lonely Revolution’ because of the desolation visited on our culture, our morality, and most damaging on our marriages and families.

“Even in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.” St. Hildegard of Bingen

The human costs of the Lonely Revolution are well documented (See links in the box below). What we also must attend to is the underlying creed that fuels it. The late Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman wrote that naming our times “post-modern” was neither illustrative nor particularly useful. He coined a better term in his book, “Liquid Modernity.”[iii] Too many find themselves adrift in isolated individual survival pods, essentially disconnected, fatherless both in family and metaphorically.  We struggle with “the growing conviction that change is the only permanence, and uncertainty the only certainty.” He wrote further, “Forms of modern life may differ in quite a few respects – but what unites them all is precisely their fragility, temporariness, vulnerability, and inclination to constant change. To ‘be modern’ means to modernize – compulsively, obsessively; not so much just ‘to be’, let alone to keep its identity intact, but forever ‘becoming’, avoiding completion, staying underdefined. Each new structure which replaces the previous one as soon as it is declared old-fashioned and past its use-by date is only another momentary settlement – acknowledged as temporary and ‘until further notice’”[iv].

Thus, we drift untethered, unmoored, alone. No disconnection is more unsettling than the hook up culture of the Lonely Revolution, which separates men and women in an essential way. No longer is the profound union of sex defined by marriage, commitment, love, mutual total gift of self, and respect. It is one-night stands of sweaty sheets and furtive morning after departures. Of obsessive seeking of meaning in pleasure and bogus intimacy, but with no real path to contentment or fulfillment.

Neither war nor pestilence has undermined our civilization more effectively than the dishonest dogma that sex and marriage and children are not connected, and that we must make sure that disconnection is implemented such that the intrinsic male and female human bond stays broken.[v]

“Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe[vi]

This a passage with a quote posted by a friend last week on just one aspect of this dreadful storm.

“So, prolife feminism, in a nutshell, states that for most of history women were treated as property. Obviously, this is patriarchy. And patriarchy, among other things, is the epitome of “might makes right” thinking.

“It says, “Because I am bigger, stronger, and have more power and wealth than you, I can treat you however I choose. I can control you, abuse you, and even use violence against you if I want!”

“Through our liberation as women, we are no longer thought of as property (in most of America at least) but many feminists have adopted that very same patriarchal way thinking, which I guess makes sense as we’ve been seeped in for ages. Anyway, now they are applying this “might makes right” mentality to their very own children in the womb without even realizing it.

“WE are the bigger, stronger, more powerful ones, and rather than using our strength and privilege to protect the vulnerable, we’re merely passing that same patriarchal flavor of dehumanizing oppression down to the unborn by denying their agency, and humanity.

“And here’s the kicker – that old shitty patriarchy still wins anyway! Because by promoting abortion as the ultimate “choice” (even though for so many women it’s anything but a choice, but I digress) our capitalist hellscape of unrelenting production doesn’t have to slow down one bit. It can keep chugging along with all of us happy little cogs in the machine going without things like paid family leave, universal healthcare, accommodations on college campuses for pregnant and parenting students, or ya know, other things like Amazon workers who need to be relocated to a desk job for 9 months… yeah, no, none of that, gross. Progress that says female fertility isn’t a liability? Boooo.

“Abortion on demand keeps the status quo neatly in place and reminds us little ladies that in order to operate outside of the home, we must physically take on the male normative form which is never with child.

“Abortion is simply the flesh tax we must pay – sacrificing the lives of our own children – for entry into YOUR world.

“And then we are told to call that bullshit “equality.””

-Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa

Abortion as liberation or what is peddled as bodily autonomy as a defense of it are perfect propagandizing to enable male carelessness. The woman is not liberated; it is the man who is licensed to engage in the baby making act without obligation or respect or dignity or self-emptying gift to one another or commitment to the profound responsibility of child raising or love.

And then we are told to call that bullshit “equality.”

Headline grabbing corporations which purport to “value” the bodily autonomy and freedom of their female employees now offer pay for abortions and transportation to states that allow abortions. Vanity Fair, MSNBC, and all the usual suspects heap praise on their generosity. Such phony philanthropy panders to the lies into which women have been sentenced by the sexual revolution culture. Pervasive indoctrination reinforces the deadly message that killing their children is freedom for women.

The primary motivation for corporations is blatantly obvious:  to enhance the bottom line. Please, we are not fools. A full-term birth, even without complications risk, parental leave, and an additional insured in the family plan health insurance is ten or twenty-fold times more expensive than an abortion even including transportation, room, and board. Especially so in large corporations that self-insure, but even in smaller companies, health insurance premiums are renegotiated every year based on experience and costs.  And that doesn’t begin to consider lost productivity, retraining replacements, and later time off for childcare. High fives all around in the Human Resource Department: big woke culture points and a big win in the board room.

Let’s not be naive: there is no altruism in paying for a plane ticket to obliterate a life.[vii]

And then we are told to call that bullshit “equality.”

Another recent post from another friend:  The terms “fetus” and “zygote” are no different than “toddler” or “teenager;” they refer to stages of human development. Toddlers possess the same dignity as teenagers just as fetuses and zygotes possess the same dignity as any other human.[viii] Hence, every human life begins in the same way, and absent violence or disease proceeds apace through all his or her stages from conception to natural death.  The science of embryology is clear and consistent.

JPII Quote copyright CatholicVoteProponents dearly love to frame the conversation in superficially clever emotional terms (“Keep your rosaries off our ovaries.” Or “Our bodies, Ourselves.”) or some version of freedom necessary for women to succeed or marginalizing the pro-life position as religious ‘extremism.’ They decline the opportunity to conduct a reasoned moral argument. The syllogism looks like this: A.) It is always morally repugnant, and no justification exists to deliberately attack and destroy innocent human life. B.) A fetus is just another word for small developing human being. Therefore, C.) Deliberate killing of a human fetus is morally repugnant. No religion is required for the propositions or the conclusion. Some prominent atheists are pro-life advocates with arguments based on logic, science, and the existence of objective truth that is knowable.[ix]

I look forward to the defenses which will surely come. Challenge the propositions or the logic as you may. Will they be coming as science deniers – not really a human being? Or will they be submitting a moral proposal that the large and powerful have a ‘right’ to take the life of the small and defenseless when their developing lives are judged sufficiently inconvenient? I will fight that battle until I can no longer stand.

The fairy tale with a happy ending is that an ‘unplanned’ and problematic child is a malignancy, a robbery, a weakening of equality, and that this burgeoning, undefined life ought to be expendable. But grotesquely underlying this narrative like an ogre under the bridge is a terrible truth.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Illustration 1: “Shipwreck in Stormy Seas,” by Joseph Vernet, National Gallery, London, Public Domain

Illustration 2: From CatholicVote

[i] http://www.sebastianjunger.com/the-perfect-storm He has sincIe published many great books I have read, which you can find at the link as well. His mother hired Albert DeSalvo to do some handyman work in her house in Belmont when Junger was a child, a narrative of which Mr. Junger included in his book “A Death in Belmont” about DeSalvo, the ‘Boston Strangler.’ More recently he produced a marvelous documentary based on his book, “War,” and his time as an embedded journalist with a platoon during their 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.  Much good reading here if you haven’t enjoyed the skill and imagery of Mr. Junger’s work.

[ii] An acclaimed movie followed, which helped bring Mark Wahlberg to star status as the captain of the Andrea Gail.

[iii] Many thanks to Genevieve Kineke who introduced me to Bauman and “Liquid Modernity” in her superb talk on the irreplaceable role of motherhood in all its wonderful manifestations in the family and spiritually. If you can find her speaking and especially if she is giving her presentation on “How Elastic is Motherhood,” get to it.

[iv] From “Liquid Modernity,” Zygmunt Bauman, 2000, Polity Press, in association with Blackwell Publishers, LTD, Cambridge, UK

[v] See links below in a separate box in essays and charts that speak eloquently about these effects and illusions.

[vi] In Goethe’s 1790 play Torquato Tasso the character Leonora speaks (act 1, scene 2) the lines “Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille / Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt”  From Stack Exchange: https://literature.stackexchange.com/

[vii] Why Big Business Loves Abortion

[viii] Every embryological text states something similar to this from Princeton.edu: Life Begins at Fertilization with the Embryo’s Conception. “Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote.” “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).”

[ix] Secular humanist/atheist video for life.

Links to accompany ‘Perfect Storm’ post

The Zealous Faith of Secularism (How the Sexual Revolution became a dogma), First Things, Dr. Mary Eberstadt

Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution Part I   The Catholic Thing, Dr. Mary Eberstadt

Five Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution Part II   The Catholic Thing, Dr. Mary Eberstadt

The Growing Feminist Rejection of the Sexual Revolution, Crisis Magazine, Austin Ruse

Dr. Anthony Esolen Podcast about his book “Sex and the Unreal City” and why the Sexual Revolution has produced so many lonely people.  Presented at Magdalen College  The Loneliness Revolution

Millennials and the Loneliness Epidemic  Forbes

Inside the Adolescent Mental Health Crisis NY Times

The American Family Today Pew Research

The Loneliness Pandemic Harvard Magazine

Bitter Pill – Economics, First Things, Timothy Reichert

The Long-Term Struggle for Hearts and Minds, The Catholic Thing, David Carlin

Great collection of Public Discourse essays about a post Dobbs decision America and common myths about abortion.

Some samples:

Marco Rubio is Right: The Life of a New Human Being Begins at Conception, BY PATRICK LEE, CHRISTOPHER O. TOLLEFSEN AND ROBERT P. GEORGE

Forty Years Later: It’s Time for a New Feminism, BY ELISE ITALIANO

The Lazy Slander of the Pro-Life Cause (Answers the slander that pro-life advocates only care for the baby before it is born), BY HELEN ALVARÉ, GREG PFUNDSTEIN, MATTHEW SCHMITZ, AND RYAN T. ANDERSON

Why the Arguments about “Bodily Autonomy” and “Forced Birth” Fail to Justify Abortion, BY RYAN T. ANDERSON AND ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS

Many more thoughtful and well written essays on various related topics regarding common myths and what a post Roe country will look like.

Index of all essays on the topic from Public Discourse

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Lumpenproletariat Revisited

“There is nothing on this earth that is more to be prized than true friendship.” St. Thomas Aquinas

For over ten years, what started as a set of personal reflections shared with family and friends has been viewed tens of thousands of times, an outcome for which I am surprised and grateful to all of you who have engaged in the conversation. I’ve enjoyed many discussions via email or comments, way more than I ever expected from this.

Quite a few current readers have subscribed in the last couple of years. I thought it might be interesting to repost a couple of early ones for folks who are new to the blog. This is the first of them.

When I was reviewing some old posts, I came across a comment that caught me emotionally from a good friend, Rick Champagne, who passed away a few years ago. Rick was a talented illustrator and artist. He owned a small business that specialized in customizing vehicles with terrific artwork. While serving in the Marines in Vietnam, he was exposed as many others were to the defoliant called “Agent Orange,” which eventually caused the cancer that he fought valiantly for years. He was part of our informal Saturday morning breakfast clan that met at a favorite haunt for at least ten years and shared our lives together.

What he started as a pinstriping specialty in his autobody shop grew into a sought-after customizing business, especially for motorcycles. Here is an old link that still works. Some of his creations, all hand painted are included on his Facebook page as well as some original fine art landscapes and portraits. It remains up after almost three years, so I hope it works for you to get to know Rick a bit. https://www.facebook.com/EagleEyePaint/

An innovator and terrific storyteller who loved tinkering, inventing gadgets, and gardening, Rick is missed by many, including me. RIP, our dear friend.

I am unable to repost without converting the old ones to drafts and then publishing again. That wipes out the comments, so I’m going to add a link to the original in case you were interested in his short comment. Link to original “Lumpenproletariat.” Rick enjoyed the blog, and we talked about some of the stories together.

“The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” Henry David Thoreau

I posted the original under the category of “Tree Stories” about my younger days as a climber. I’ve made some minor edits for clarity and corrected a couple of typos. Hope you are inspired to comment or send me an email with your own early work memories. This is almost entirely cut and pasted from the old one ten years ago.  If you find any errors in my memories, please let me know. My memory is a noted faulty instrument.

********************

tree climber

Making a Move

The scream of Wes’s customized Sachs 250 dirt bike came out of the foothills, and then kicked up a great cloud of dust on the long dirt driveway, signaling the beginning of our workday.  He was rarely late, but never early; his avocation was motocross racing, which he did professionally, but not lucratively.  His daily bread was earned, like the rest of us, cutting trees for EZ Tree Service in 1969 Colorado.  Our fenced in staging area on the plateau north of Boulder and just east of the beginning of the Rockies was where Ed Zemeckis stored and split his for-sale firewood. The lot provided parking for the various bucket trucks, chip trucks, log trucks, trailered large woodchippers, pickup trucks and stump grinders with which we plied our trade.

Ed was a self-taught genius mechanic who could fix, weld, or fabricate almost anything.  He weighed in at over two twenty and couldn’t get up a tree if a grizzly was chasing him, but he could run an organized and effective business.  My interview for a job was typical of skills-based hiring methods at the tail end of the post war boom.  I drove into the yard between his house and barn for our appointment, and as I walked toward the front door past an eight-yard dump truck, I heard a grunt, then a “put the pin in for me, will ya?”  Looking around, I saw a hefty set of legs protruding from under the truck.  Ed was bench pressing a drive shaft back up to the transmission and needed someone to jam in the bolt to secure it.  What he would have done had I been late was never made clear.  Perhaps he was waiting to show me how strong he was.

He slid out from under the truck and asked me if I had my rope and saddle with me.  Of course I did, and Ed gestured towards a large cottonwood in his side yard.  I threw the rope into it with one cast; foot locked up to a low branch and scrambled to the top, tying in when I got there.  “Can you start Monday?”  “Sure.”  His Prairie Home Companion pleasant, pretty, fiftyish wife brought out some lemonade, and I had a job.  Both of us knew that should Monday prove that I was adequate at a climbing interview, but fell short in cutting or pruning skills, there wouldn’t be a Tuesday.

“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.”  Henry David Thoreau

Two of the crew worked in the lot full time cutting and splitting the hardwood we brought back with Ed’s homemade, vertical log splitter, which was powered by a barely mufflered Ford industrial strength engine and his own concoction of foot pedal and hydraulics.  The terrifying monster functioned as a guillotine for logs, could easily blow apart 18” oak and would have horrified any hapless OSHA inspector who stopped by – not that one ever did.  Load the log between the channel iron guides, step back, step on the foot pedal, and the blade would slash downward with the inexorable slam of a pile driver.  No safety lock-out (not even shutting off the motor, because the hydraulics held enormous pent- up force), no cage, no emergency shut off – just drop in the wood and get the hell out of the way.  The rest of us mounted up in whatever configuration of equipment the assigned work required, and off we went.  The good old days.

The climbers were Wes, who had a degree in History, Ted, the lead foreman with the handlebar mustache and quintessential Westerner, Hatch, originally from Boston, who we later discovered stole high performance cars as a side business, Bob, a multi degreed (Math and Physics) Rocky Mountain Rescue Group mountaineer, and I, newly hired. Ron, who supplemented his income as a part time marijuana dealer, and Stan from Chicago, a former Oakland Branch Hell’s Angel, were the bucket truck operators.  The rest of the crew worked on the ground, running lowering lines, chain sawing up fallen trees, chipping, dragging, loading, and raking up chips in the yards of our customers.

Young and fit men all, but the alchemy of the late sixties, especially in a place like Boulder, melded a disparate cast of characters into a crew, a team, who worked, played, and took considered risks together.  Men of quite different backgrounds and education, but mutually respectful and sharing a common, fundamentally American, understanding of how the world worked.  Some of us challenged that understanding, but we all had no doubt that it was how things were.

tree-cutting-blocking-down-climber-in-tree

Take Down

We were brought up to share the principles and promise of capitalism:  success and opportunity if we “worked hard and played by the rules.”  The differences among us regarding the “playing by the rules” part were legion, but everyone fully integrated, indeed never thought to question, that every day we got up and worked hard at rough physical labor.  We all simply expected it of ourselves as a given.

Karl Marx postulated in The Communist Manifesto that there were only two classes, the ownership and the workers – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the oppressed and oppressors, and the violent resolution of that “exploitation” would create a utopia.  As it turns out, Marx soon compromised his premise by parsing his dichotomy into many subsets.  The lowest of the low was the lumpenproletariat, that “dangerous class”, and there were elements of that outlaw self-perception among the well-educated, countercultural, and possibly underemployed tree guys.  Set apart – sweaty, dirty, brawny, laughing, profane and derisive of those outsiders who were condescending towards those of us who did for a living what most of them would never attempt.

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.Ralph Waldo Emerson

With the foolish vanity of youth, I saw our motley band as made up of the kind of guys recruited by Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles: “rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists.”  And proud of it.

After an additional forty more years, I now recognize the naïveté, narcissism, and vainglory of such posturing, but at the time, invulnerable young men held it dear.

I have stories to relate – both about the work and the men who did it.  We can go down that road together, if you like, in future posts.

“If boyhood and youth are but vanity, must it not be our ambition to become men?”  Vincent Van Gogh

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Swine, Double Speak, and Bringing Home the Bacon

“It has been the political career of this man to begin with hypocrisy, proceed with arrogance, and finish with contempt.” Thomas Paine

[i]smart_pig Recently I read an article about a bacon crisis looming in California. [ii] Sad is the plight of the owner of a small breakfast diner who survived the pandemic restaurant crisis but may be put out of business because her staple, bacon, eggs, and home fries, might soon be missing a key ingredient. A California law written in 2018 is coming into effect with regulations about the space and care required on pig farms for every resident pig to permit them to ship pork products into California. California consumes about fifteen percent of all pork products in America. A tiny portion of pig farms in Iowa, from which most of California bacon, ham, pork loins and related products come, can afford to comply. Hence, it will be eggs, home fries and yummy vegan bacon substitute soon in the diner, and the owner fears the line for Sunday brunch will be considerably shorter.

 The impetus for the new laws was a series of videos shot surreptitiously by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and others that graphically demonstrated that not unsurprisingly pigs are not treated very well on many pig farms or in slaughterhouses. [iii] Now before we change the subject of this post, let’s not get into a discussion of the horrors of pig abuse. We will stipulate that these are truly awful and need to be redressed by a humane society. The subject of the post is that undercover videos were taken. The owners and workers at the large farms who were filmed most certainly were not aware they were starring in the videos. Vice President Kamala Harris and now Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra, both former Attorneys General for California, were in the forefront of legislation to protect chickens, pigs, and veal cattle from abuses.[iv] When the exposed malefactors are favored targets of the politicians, there is no squeamishness about the source of the information.

Another recent story revealed the video recordings made by an undercover journalist professing to interview Keith McCoy, a long-time lobbyist for Exxon Mobil Oil, for a job opening. [v]In it, the candidate spoke candidly about the duplicity of the big energy company paying “tribute to the virtue”[vi] of renewable energy and lowering carbon emissions to placate the climate change activists.  Another California Democrat, Rep. Ro Khanna, Chair of the Environments Subcommittee of the House Committee of Oversight and Reform,[vii] and various news outlets have no objection to undercover investigative videos when they unmask favored targets.[viii] Again, I’m not defending the possible hypocrisy of a huge international energy corporation , only demonstrating that undercover videos exposing it are perfectly acceptable with the Democrats who attack such a juicy quarry.

“Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground. Pretending you’re moral, saying you’re moral is not the same as acting morally.” Alan Dershowitz

Current HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and VP Kamala Harris, when they were successive Attorneys General in California, investigated and prosecuted the Center for Medical Progress and their investigator, David Daleiden, for producing undercover videos which disclosed some appalling illegal activity of abortion clinics, primarily Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is not a favored Democrat target, rather they are a favored partner.

Harris and her staff colluded directly with Planned Parenthood to push legislation that was originally drafted by a Planned Parenthood lawyer, then used to prosecute Daleiden for his undercover videos. She has been a major recipient of Planned Parenthood political donations for many years, as were many other Democrats. In the 2020 election cycle alone, PP donated $10,401,306 to political campaigns through their multiple PACS, all but $23,000 (or about 99.8%) of it went to the home team Democrats. [ix]

On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. On January 28th, he announced he was issuing an executive order that the Trump ban on Planned Parenthood federal funding was ending. PP receives in a good year over $500 million in Federal dollars, much of it from Medicaid, Federal money disbursed by the states. Since 78% of their “clinics” are in or near poor minority neighborhoods, Medicaid is a major source of PP’s annual $1.3 billion in revenue.[x] Planned Parenthood benefits with a strong immediate return on investment for their ten million in PAC money to Democrats and Joe Biden.

The president of the non-profit Planned Parenthood is paid about a million dollars a year; the average salary of executives, including “clinic” directors is north of two hundred thousand; the average salary of the executives back at the mothership headquarters is over three hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year.[xi] There is a lot at stake for these executives. Biden also is working very hard with his allies to eliminate the Hyde amendment from spending bills, specifically currently the funding for HHS, led by Becerra. The Hyde amendment was supported for years by Joe Biden. No more. It stipulates Federal funds cannot pay directly for abortions. Eliminating it would open new floodgates for Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.

The rules for Becerra and Harris change according to the subject of the undercover videos. If it’s a meat producer or a multinational energy company, all’s fair. If it’s the partner of Democrat politicians, the gloves are off going after investigative journalists. Harris responded to Planned Parenthood’s concern about videotaping their clinic operators by working with PP to write legislation making such undercover videos a felony. As Attorney General, she found a friendly judge and with a subpoena directed a pre-dawn raid on David Daleiden’s home, confiscating computers, cameras, and videos. After she collected over $81,000 in campaign contributions from PP and moved on up to the Senate, her hand-picked successor, Xavier Becerra indicted Daleiden on fifteen felony counts; some were dropped, and nine are still being adjudicated.

All the legal actions against Daleiden by PP’s big cadre of lawyers are being defended against at great cost pro bono by the Thomas More Society[xii]. Another pet judge was found in San Francisco, and PP sued Center for Medical Progress and Daleiden personally. Obtaining a judgment in front of their judge in San Francisco, Planned Parenthood was awarded $2.2 million, which would bankrupt their victims. Planned Parenthood’s goal is to silence him permanently. They have injunctions against the release of more videos, which are as damaging as the early ones that made it into the public domain. Sue him back into the stone age, a scorched earth legal strategy that has him in danger of bankruptcy and/or prison. Thomas More Society and Daleiden are appealing all verdicts and fighting the judgement, which likely will persist for years in the courts and cost millions to defend. Planned Parenthood has plenty of money and lawyers ready to go.

What is it about David Daleiden that so terrifies PP and its Democrat allies? I invite you to look at the videos that were made public prior to the injunctions. Center for Medical Progress investigative videos. The first response from Planned Parenthood was to try and get the undercover videos outlawed in California, which they did. Then they unleashed their formidable public relations propaganda team to spread the rumors that the videos were fake and heavily edited. Daleiden responded by posting the full original, unedited versions including hours of edited out footage of riding in cars and eating in restaurants.

The evidence they disclose is damning. The investigative journalist Daleiden posed as a middleman broker buying fetal body parts to sell to research labs. Selling fetal body parts is illegal, so the stakes for the PP executives include felony convictions and prison. The videos show PP directors negotiating prices, describing how they can alter their abortion procedures with actual live cutting up fetuses to salvage specific baby parts. One said point blank that she wanted the additional money to fulfill her dream of owning a Lamborghini. Other videos show other PP employees promising that fifty livers should not be a problem if the price is right. As I suggested with the slaughterhouse videos, do not watch these on a full stomach. Documentation is well preserved, names are named, and faces are explicit. The cold and casual calculation of descriptions of procedures and price negotiation is chilling.

If put into general release, and they are not silenced, it would be impossible for Planned Parenthood to maintain the fiction that they are in this for the benefit of woman’s health care and “reproductive rights.” They kill and kill without remorse in a very organized fashion for big money, and there is not much they won’t do to keep that quiet.

“For some, trying to uphold such a distorted, upside-down morality is too much to bear. Frederica Mathewes-Green was a young pro-choice feminist. But after reading a physician’s account in Esquire of an abortion, her eyes were opened. “There I was, anti-war, anti–capital punishment, even vegetarian, and a firm believer that social justice cannot be won at the cost of violence,” Mathewes-Green recounted. “Well, this sure looked like violence. How had I agreed to make this hideous act the centerpiece of my feminism?”  Scott David Allen

[i] Smart pig picture is taken from an article in Modern Farmer, 2014, by Andy Wright. “Pig headed: How Smart are Swine”

[ii] Bacon May Disappear in California as Pig Rules Take Effect, Associated Press, Scott McFetridge, July 31, 2021

[iii] A short Google search will turn up many such videos investigating farms and slaughterhouses in Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, and other places. Here’s one from PETA. Don’t watch on a full stomach or before you head to the diner for breakfast: https://www.peta.org/videos/nebraska-pig-farm-investigation/

[iv] We are not vegan in our house, but we do buy cage free eggs, eat no veal, and buy meat from humanely raised pigs and grass-fed free-range beef. I’m not defending the people who treat animals inhumanely, only pointing out that the evidence that brought them down was collected by breaking California laws about spy videos from investigators and journalists.

[v][v] CNN exposes the Exxon Mobil videos shot by Greenpeace.

[vi] “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld

[vii] Why does the name “House Committee on Oversight and Reform” sound suspiciously like an Orwellian Congressional Star Chamber?

[viii] Article on the hearing and the lobbyist.

[ix] Open Secrets, which tracks all political donations, shows this for Planned Parenthood. Over $2.9 million went to the Biden campaign or positive ads, and over $2 million went into attack ads against Donald Trump.

[x] For some information on the original eugenics’ agenda of PP, there are many resources. A start would be an old quo vadis blog post, Maggie Two.

[xi] Article with some examples: — CEO salaries at affiliates increased 22 percent in the last two years. All make over $100K.  According to former Texas clinic director and former PP national employee of the  year, Abby Johnson, they are bonused on meeting abortion quotas among other criteria. 33 make over $200,000 a year. 16 make over $300,000 a year. 6 make over $400,00 a year, and the boss makes over a million. The report said that the average Planned Parenthood CEO is “in the top five percent of all workers in the United States.” Non-profit is a fungible term.

[xii] Here is a link to the Daleiden and Center for Medical Progress cases. Thomas More Society is a non-profit group of skilled attorneys working on behalf of pro life and religious freedom cases. https://thomasmoresociety.org/client/david-daleiden/ Interestingly in case of strange bedfellows, PETA filed an amicus brief supporting Daleiden’s cause.

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Dueling Populisms

“What do I mean by “democratic capitalism”? I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism [i]

We rightly have been obsessed with COVID 19 to the exclusion of almost all other topics, but there are other viruses which infect our blood and brains, some of which may have more lasting ramifications.

In a podcast[ii] with Dr. Arthur Brooks, who was featured in a past post here[iii], journalist Jay Nordlinger discussed with him a research paper published out of the University of Berlin. Well referenced, it concluded that financial crises precipitate populist movements of all stripes, but mostly of the radical left. Populism does not inevitably lead to tyranny, but when it does, it is horrific from the National Socialists of the Third Reich and Stalinist slaughters to the “Liberte, egalite, fraternite” gory excesses in France in the late eighteenth century. Dr. Brooks quipped that they sometimes go “real Frenchy” when the economic and political leaders who were once envied and imitated end up in the tumbrils on a public ride to a sharp end dispossessing them of their heads.

The financial crisis does not have to be as dire as that which afflicted the French peasantry[iv] prior to setting up the guillotines. A collapse of the housing and mortgage markets in 2008 and a decade or so of wage stagnation, shrunken opportunity, burdensome personal debt and high unemployment led to the much less bloody “Make America Great” Trump phenomenon and “Feel the Bern” Social Democracy movement here and their analogous movements in many Western countries. Dueling populisms[v], rooted in the fertile soil of discontent, are both feeding on a gnawing sense of helplessness, fear, and a sense that injustice is being done. Both propose solutions that are incompatible with one another[vi], and both perceive the other to be their mortal enemy. For both, most of their proponents believe most sincerely that they offer relief to the oppressed and the best opportunity to right the wrongs in the culture.

We find it difficult even settling on the meanings of the terms we use to describe our disagreements.  Nor do we help ourselves when all sides use the same hackneyed phrases and accusations in social media posts to describe their opponents. [vii] How do we begin to rebuild the trust necessary to hack away the thorny briars with our brush hooks[viii] and clear the path forward?

“The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’ The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.”  George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language.” (First published: Horizon. — GB, London. — April 1946.) [ix]

Nearing the fifth month of the unprecedented and politically completely unpredictable COVID 19 financial crisis, the question is what form will the next or prevailing populism take? Have our dueling populisms changed through all of this? Have they distilled and hardened? After a hiatus of a quarter or two, or year or two, will the domestic economy resume its decade long period of relative economic improvement? Will we absorb over 100,000 deaths, keep ourselves angry and entertained with futile social media political posts and continue our untidy path to the unknown? Or has there been a tectonic shift that will not resolve without more earthquakes?

That is the unanswerable question, not whether the Trump administration or the Cuomo administration in NY succeeded or failed in managing the pandemic. Swedish model? Florida model? New York model? Hard lessons we must learn, but not the most important ones. COVID 19 will slow down, perhaps recur periodically like the flu or SARS on cruise ships. But inevitably, another crisis of greater or lesser moment will eventually overtake us. How long will we remain in our trenches lobbing mortar shells at each other and calling each other “Fascists?” And what will our new reality look like when we emerge through the smoke and stink into the light and charge over the top of the trenches?

“The future meant nothing to me until it stuck.”  John le Carré, “Legacy of Spies”

[i] The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, by Michael Novak, 1982, Simon & Schuster

[ii] Podcast on Ricochet with Jay Nordlinger and Dr. Arthur Brooks. https://ricochet.com/podcast/q-and-a/the-essential-arthur-brooks/

[iii] ‘Lead Kindly Light’ in a Culture of Contempt

[iv] The French peasants of 1785 spent 90% of their income on just bread to keep their families just above starvation. Their queen’s famous (and perhaps apocryphal) response when told her people had no bread was “Let them eat cake.” Not without sympathy, perhaps she thought the lack of bread was due to bad bakery inventory control.

[v] Clear description comparing the two populisms: Dueling Populisms, Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

[vi] Probably nowhere else is the conflict between these movements so stark and irreconcilable as with abortion. One side view it as a necessary component of the reproductive rights of women to end the life of their child for their own necessary benefit: physical health, psychologically, emotionally, economically or socially. The other side sees the intrinsic evil of taking the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable of human beings. Irreconcilable and impossible to compromise those different understandings of the same act.  The child either lives or doesn’t. Solomon settled that one centuries ago.

[vii] As fellow social media posters, can we resolve to never use the following words, which no longer have any coherent meaning: Fascist, moron, despicable, fool… Please feel free to add your own contribution to this list.

[viii] Brush hooks are  much better tools  than chainsaws for briars. Brush Hooks and Plumb Bobs

[ix] “Politics and the English Language.”

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Pharming for Profit Part Two

“All things are engaged in writing their history…. Not a foot steps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints in characters more or less lasting, a map of its march.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first time I ever met anyone with a nut allergy was a good friend in Maine. He was a former Marine and CIA something (he couldn’t really talk about it) who was the head of the English Department at the local campus of the University of Maine. We were at a church after Mass function, and he was avoiding the delicious homemade brownies provided by a parishioner, although I knew he had a sweet tooth that rivaled mine. I offered him one, and when he declined, I asked if he was fasting for a reason. He answered that it was not a spiritual endeavor, but that a brownie with walnuts in them could kill him as his throat would likely seize up, and he would fall on the floor. I agreed it was probably a good idea to skip the brownies. Since thankfully I suffered no tragic similar malady, I ate his too.

What was once relatively rare has become so common that children cannot bring even a peanut butter sandwich to school because they could be shared with other kids who could be done great harm.  This is disappointing to me, because without peanut butter sandwiches, I probably would not have survived past ten. What has happened that so many are now brownie with nuts and peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich deprived? Please refer to the statistics cited in Part One regarding the multiplication of vaccines and chronic diseases mandated for children. Children in the U.S. born after 1989 are afflicted with a chronic disease at a rate four times higher than those born before the new vaccine protocols kicked in. (54% vs. 12.8%).

Among the quadrupling chronic diseases are food allergies, and nut allergies among the most common and life threatening. [i] Their instances have tripled since 1997, and visits to the emergency room for children have increased 214% for anaphylactic[ii] reactions to food[iii].  Anaphylaxis health care claims have increased 377%. Is this correlation with the onset of the huge increases in mandated vaccines for infants and preschool children coincidental and due to other environmental causes?  Perhaps, it is possible. It is also possible that it is not coincidence.

Autism is another epidemic that has become a devastating plague in the same time period – from one in 166 children in 2004 to 1 in 59 in 2018[iv]. Yes, some of that may be better diagnosis. Yes, there may be other environmental causes. Yes, there may be a genetic predisposition, just as with some of the other chronic conditions and allergies. As mentioned in the last post, the pharmacology industry is indemnified against any damage suits for vaccine induced injury, so any claim is decided by something set up by the Federal government: the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

While VICP will adjudicate any claims for vaccinations for flu or childhood disease, they will shred any that mention autism. Not to be considered. Because it has been “proven”[v] that there is no relationship between autism and vaccines. “Settled science” is a magic and meaningless phrase; it ends all reasoned discussion. So if you think your child has vaccine induced autism because its onset was immediately after a vaccination, and your child was on a normal developmental path prior to that, and there have been such instances, not only will the manufacturer be indemnified against damages by a Federal firewall, that firewall will not allow you to even present a case. Game, set, match, you are on your own. In the footnotes below, several are for pages in the Children’s Health Defense website; exploring that will give you far more information on the topic than a blog post. There are references to eighty-nine peer reviewed studies that correlate to one degree or another the onset of autism to vaccination or immunization injury, but they are ignored, rebutted, rebuked and derided by the vaccination industry, an industry that produces annual revenues of 1.6-billion-dollars. The “settled science” is theirs.

But the point of these statistics and facts is not to shut down childhood vaccination programs, but as with other hot topic science issues that have morphed into political or ideological issues, rather can we just consider two commonsense questions and not be threatened with being drawn and quartered as a science hating troglodyte?

 “Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete.”  Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”

Many states, most recently California, are enacting increasingly draconian laws to mandate infant vaccinations. They cite another desired outcome of the nanny state, “herd immunity,” a defined percentage of the immunized (an unfortunate and chilling metaphor). These laws use the coercive power of the state like refusal to admit students into schools if they haven’t checked all the vaccination boxes. There have been instances where the arm of the state named child protective services or the department of children and youth has stepped in to take children from the parents in order to get them vaccinated. Kids trust their parents when they jump off the dock into their arms, and they trust them to make the right decisions regarding their safety and well-being. Not the state, but their parents.  Question one: given the still open questions of risk and the good possibility that genetic predisposition increases risk to harm from vaccinations, why should the state not allow a physician and her patient’s parents to determine the avoidance, timing or spacing of some or all vaccinations as medical exemptions if higher risk is determined for individual children?

If you are past sixty, the pressure put on to get flu and pneumonia shots is increasing. Every time I have acquiesced in this high profit agenda, I get sick, maybe not full flu sick, but headache, scratchy throated, muscle aching two day misery, only to learn afterwards that the strain of flu for which I was being inoculated missed the mark that year. Another strain of flu virus was making the rounds. With the “herd immunity” refrain in full sway, our physicians and pharmacies are driven to put on the pressure. I cannot go to buy Band-Aids or have a six-month checkup without being asked multiple times, “Have you had your flu shot yet?” Most of the time these shots are free, at least to me. Each time, I politely decline. Among the millions of dollars of settlements that are paid out by VICP, by far the largest share is for flu shot injuries[vi]. Question two: with an aging (and increasingly expensive population), can refusal to cover flu related illness and hospitalization by insurance carriers for any without documentation of a flu shot be far ahead of us with the terrifying partnership of the power of the state, big pharma and insurance companies?

Sometimes as Will Rogers reminded us, “Commonsense ain’t so common.”

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Aldo Leopold


[i] Vaccines and food allergies. https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/no-enigma-vaccines-and-the-food-allergy-epidemic/

[ii] Anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis is a sudden onset allergic reaction that can close the throat and cause death or permanent damage. 35% of the attacks are experienced with the first exposure. One can kill you if not immediately diagnosed and treated. Nut allergies can cause this. So can vaccinations.

[iii] Increase in emergency room visits for anaphylaxis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29663520

[iv] Increase in autism in children. https://www.autismspeaks.org/science-news/cdc-increases-estimate-autisms-prevalence-15-percent-1-59-children

[v] Except for 89 peer reviewed studies like this one. https://childrenshealthdefense.org/research_db/a-two-phase-study-evaluating-the-relationship-between-thimerosal-containing-vaccine-administration-and-the-risk-for-an-autism-spectrum-disorder-diagnosis-in-the-united-states/

 

[vi] Approximately 44% of the number of VICP settlements (VICP total injury pay outs are $4.2 billion with a B) in the history of the program since 1988 have been for flu shot injuries. https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hrsa/vaccine-compensation/data/data-statistics-october-2019.pdf

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Pharming for Profit Part One

‘Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it – would they let me – since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.” Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”

In a terrible hot summer when I was nine or ten, my mother did not allow her then five children out of the yard because the plague had come to my hometown, and no one knew what to do about it. No pick-up baseball games or stickball with a chalked strike zone on the cement of the school wall as we usually played almost every day. The town swimming pool was drained and closed with locked gates and warning signs. Life Magazine had cover stories and pictures of the paralyzed kept breathing through a tube loaded contraption called an “Iron Lung.” The patient victim was laid on their back looking up with only their head exposed, a seal around their necks and haunted eyes; a mirror was suspended at an angle attached to the mouth of the machine so they could see visitors.

The white and chrome gleaming artificial lung alternated pressure and non-pressure to fill and empty the lungs with an ominous repetitive pumping sound as it filled and emptied the chamber enclosing their body, reminding all with every pulsation of fragility and mortality. White and chrome cylinders the size of coffins with thick windows so the doctors could monitor the movements of the chest, but a harkening to the rack in a wicked baron’s castle troubled all who saw them. After the disease ran its course, some of the afflicted would regain their strength, some would die, and some would pass the rest of their lives with metal braces on their withered legs to enable them to get around. We’d see them lurching about and avert our eyes. Polio. Polio. Polio. Polio. Fear in whispered conversations among the mothers of the neighborhood. Like practicing by futilely ducking under our school desks for a Cold War nuclear drill, polio left a mark on all the children who went through that summer.

When Jonas Salk tested and developed his vaccination a year or so later, we lined up for the shots at the town Blackburn Memorial Hall.  All the school nurses administered them when we came back in the fall for any who had missed the first round. Jubilation. Freedom to roam and swim and play pick up baseball. Polio shots were added to smallpox inoculations with their telltale irregular round scar on our upper arms as regular immunization against that with which we had no other defense. Vaccinations. Miracles.

But something has gone amiss, and like all man-made miracles they can run awry with unforeseen, powerful consequences, especially when the miracles intertwine with political agendas, social engineering and money.

“This is the first time in medicine’s history the drug industry has placed at our disposal a powerful, disease-producing chemical for use in the healthy rather than the sick.” Dr. Herbert Ratner, so called Senate “Nelson Pill Hearings,” 1970

Dr. Ratner will reappear in a later post, and probably more than two for this is complicated. Drawing analogies between vaccinations and birth control pills will take some explanation, but for now, we will stick with the former and postpone the latter. But analogy does exist, and the implications are alarming. His quote almost fifty years ago was prophetic; limiting his observations to just the Pill was optimistic. What could be a better business model for big Pharma than producing something highly profitable for healthy people, not just the sick? There is a much larger market with the well.

Both before and after the polio terror, most of us developed normal immunity to what were called normal “childhood illnesses” through exposure, various rashes, fevers, swellings and outbreaks. I had them all: mumps both sides, measles, chicken pox and rubella, along with the usual panoply of flus, stomach bugs and fifty or so upper respiratory infections. During this rite of passage, we acquired for the most part lifetime immunity. Deaths from these diseases were very rare and usually in people otherwise compromised by poor health. I never heard of anybody dying from one of them; most, like me, rested quietly, isolated as much as possible in rooms shared with siblings with some books and a hovering mother bringing sweet drinks, Jello in our favorite flavor (I liked the red stuff) and whatever else we could stand until the symptoms passed. Our siblings usually wound up sick too. Sometimes we skipped a few days of school unless we were unlucky enough to catch one during vacations. If we developed a spectacular rash or swollen glands, there were pictures taken for family albums to torture us as adolescents at gatherings and with prospective spouses.

Vaccinations do not grant lifetime immunity in most cases and require booster shots (whatever that means) from time to time, which most adults do not get. Most adults in their thirties think they are fully immune because of their childhood inoculation, but they are wrong.  Childhood diseases incurred as an adult are more severe, more unpleasant and can carry more serious consequences.

We had two vaccinations: smallpox and a combination diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) in a few stages. Before we were two, we had five shots and never more than one in an office visit. Later came polio, first as shot, later taken orally.  In 1986, there were twelve shots. Today there are fifty-four with multiple shots for some and kids get up to five in one visit. Check the attached schedule. [i] What was when I was a kid a small part of the pharmaceutical industry is now almost twenty percent of their revenue and a fifty-billion-dollar monster revenue producer. And miracle of miracles for a business, the vaccine producers are indemnified against any losses by a Federal piece of legislation called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. Can’t be sued. Skate free from any threat to their guaranteed profits. Any claims go into something called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) that was set up after lots of claims had the pharmaceutical corporations threatening to stop producing them. The government in its capacity as grand nanny decided that the public interest was best served by covering the tail side of Big Pharma. Did you know that? [ii]More next time.

One more piece of data to mull over before the next chapter: the flood of children with chronic diseases [iii] breaks down like this: children born before 1989 when the new vaccine protocols vastly expanded are afflicted with a chronic illness at a 12.8% rate. Those born after 1989 are stricken at a 54% rate. [iv]Bet you didn’t know that either.

Hopefully without drawing the quick and understandable wrath of either the proponents or the anti-vaxxers and being immediately consigned to the crazies, we will explore this a bit more in the next post.  Please hold your fire until then.

“The truth is, of course, that Mr. Shaw is cruelly hampered by the fact that he cannot tell any lie unless he thinks it is the truth.” G.K. Chesterton. From the introduction to “Orthodoxy” about his good friend and frequent debating opponent, the Progressive, George Bernard Shaw.

[i] From the Children’s Health Defense organization: CDC Recommended Vaccine Schedule

[ii] Would be like if the car companies came up with a pure hydrogen powered car that fixed much of the CO2 emissions terror and fit right in with the anthropogenic climate change scare agenda. Trouble is in some very rare instances they would explode into tiny pieces, killing everyone in a 100’ radius. Then the government to push the progressive rock up the hill passes legislation to indemnify the car companies from damages, so that they’ll keep making the damn things. Far-fetched? Maybe. The good of the many outweighs the assured harm to the tiny few.

[iii] They’re the neuro-developmental diseases, ADD, ADHD, language delays, speech delays, tics, Tourette Syndrome, ASD, and autism. The auto-immune disorders, Guillan-Barre, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. The anaphylactic diseases, food allergies, rhinitis, asthma, and eczema. (From a speech this year by Robert Kennedy Jr.)

[iv] Ibid

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Lil’ Rhody

“Louisiana loses 30 miles off our coast a year. We lost 100 miles last year off our coast thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We have lost a size of land equivalent to the entire state of Rhode Island.”  Bobby Jindal (former governor)

Rhode Island has its own miles of beaches and estuaries. Through a series of circumstances that were in retrospect fortuitous, we have recently retired on Aquidneck Island near some sublime geography like mile long Sachuest Beach (Second Beach), Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and over the Mount Hope bridge into Bristol an Audubon refuge with an adjacent bike path through estuary and coastline that runs fifteen miles along Narragansett Bay. Although smaller than some ranches in Texas, Rhode Island is a lovely place to live.

One of the original thirteen colonies, tiny Rhode Island possesses the cockiness of a persistent undaunted underdog. Nearby to us, Newport was occupied for a time by British troops during the Revolutionary War after they defeated a small contingent of colonials in our town of Portsmouth on the north end of Aquidneck Island. Mansions were commandeered by British officers and are still gainfully inhabited by locals; one is now the Newport Art Museum. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is located on Bellevue Avenue along with its “cottages” like The Elms and The Breakers. Newport is on the south end of Aquidneck with a long history and many homes from the early eighteenth century and a few from the seventeenth. The oldest still open tavern in the country, the White Horse Tavern, is in Newport, built in 1652 and a tavern since 1673. The Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the Old Colony House (Original Rhode Island State House) a few hundred yards away. Fine dining, lively pubs and sailboats in the harbor abound. The America’s Cup races have been held in the waters here.

Rhode Island was just recognized as the most peaceful state in the union by USA Today[i], based on its lowest composite violent crime rate. We have come a long way since Raymond Patriarca[ii] ruled New England organized crime from his lawn chair on the sidewalk outside his vending machine distribution company on Federal Hill. Very little, if any, violent street crime, at least crime not authorized by Raymond, occurred on Federal Hill then, but for different reasons. Muggers may or may not have been successful in their felonious intent towards some Rolex wearing out of state patron of one of the fabled Federal Hill Italian restaurants, however no second attempts by the perpetrator were recorded. Nor were their bodies usually identified, even if scattered pieces were discovered in the Johnston landfill.

Irony is the mother’s milk of Rhode Island. The long list of governors, congressmen and mayors of at least four cities that went to prison just since we have lived here rivals any collection of woeful miscreants in the country. But a few were memorable and contributed to Lil’ Rhody’s ambiance.  One of the Federal prosecutors who put Raymond Senior away for good was a young firebrand, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci. Buddy eventually rode his hard charger reputation to become Mayor of Providence for multiple terms. Twice he lost his mayoralty, both for his own felony convictions. The first time was for straightening out a contractor who had slept with Buddy’s wife during the separation, but before the divorce. This correction was aided by a fireplace implement and (perhaps) a lighted cigarette extinguished on the face of the guy who made Buddy a cuckold. Buddy served no time but lost his job. He took advantage of his temporary ineligibility for office to become a hugely successful radio talk show host while he waited for his parole to wind down: witty, charming, quick and funny, he knew where all the political bodies were buried. His regular callers ranged from shock jock Don Imus and experts on government waste and budgets to Joe the Barber who knew everyone worth knowing among Rhode Island’s panoply of fascinating characters.

When his parole was completed, he easily won reelection swatting away the neophyte pretenders like annoying horseflies on Salty Brine Beach. During his tenure, the city was transformed from potholes and litter into a show place. The Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers, long imprisoned by concrete and steel conduits and buried by pavement, were dug out and exposed to the sunlight after a century. The confluence of the reborn rivers merge into the Providence River and now play host to gondolas and Waterfire events with music in the adjacent streets. The roads were well maintained, the schools were highly rated. The fire department was one of the best small city units in the country, all while keeping the tax rates low for longtime residents. Mayor Cianci loved his city; his politicking skills and reading of crowds that frequently gathered at his events were legend. We have a picture of him with his arm around our youngest daughter in her baseball uniform at an opening day event. Meg said he was nice and smelled of cigars. He was dressed in pressed jeans and a Providence sweatshirt, managing another city event picking up winter litter along the city roadsides. Ironically, he often held court at one of the Federal Hill restaurant’s sidewalk tables talking to anyone who stopped by. Everyone called him Buddy. His enemies called him Vincent. No one called him Vinny that I ever heard.

His second felony conviction for criminal corruption ended his string of terms after new Federal prosecutors investigated the Mayor’s office for a variety of offenses like cash in envelopes for parking lot permits, liquor licenses not renewed after the Mayor was blackballed by an exclusive and snooty East Side brandy and cigar men’s club and sweetheart snow plowing contract deals. No specific bribe was ever credited to Buddy, but his city hall administrators were knee deep. He rewarded personal loyalty with appointments and trust, and his courtiers profited. The RICO conspiracy due to the stench of his associates brought him down. He spent five years in a Federal prison without public complaint (don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time) and then was almost reelected to a third set of mayoral terms. Now in full disclosure with his famous toupee discarded, his luck ran out, and his independent run after the Republican Party disowned him fell short in a three-way race.

Back at the radio station to much acclaim and enthusiastic welcome from his loyal constituents, Buddy fell ill while on the air and died shortly thereafter to be mourned by most of the city. Despised by the progressive politicians who circled him constantly like a pack of jackals stalking an aging lion, he reveled in ridiculing their pretentions and hypocrisy. A particularly egregious representative of their ilk, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a doctrinaire and unctuous progressive, was always referred on the air as Weldon Shitehouse[iii] whenever Buddy would eviscerate him for some profoundly stupid ideological remark the hapless Senator solemnly opined. I still miss Buddy. The annual oldest in the country Fourth of July parade in Bristol will never be the same without him riding by in the convertible pointing to and greeting those he knew at every turn. The world is less interesting without him.

“Political corruption is to Rhode Island as smog is to people who live in Los Angeles: nobody complains of its absence, but when it rolls around everyone feels right at home.” Phillip Gourevitch, “The New Yorker”

Space and the beleaguered reader’s patience and attention span prohibit more for this post. The next one will address the soulless landscape of the current batch of more sinister and cowardly politicians who this year enacted some truly despicable legislation with a series of backroom power moves. More adventures in the Ocean State to follow.

 

[i] https://patch.com/rhode-island/newport/rhode-island-named-most-peaceful-state-u-s

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_L._S._Patriarca

[iii] https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/09/senator-sheldon-whitehouse-grilled-brett-kavanaugh-about-a-yearbook-fart-joke-seriously/

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CRISPR Critters

“I don’t know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know.” East of Eden, John Steinbeck

We have recently taken the plunge having long ago resigned ourselves to the reality that there is no privacy anymore. Spitting into a tube and mailing it off to 23 Ancestry, our DNA sequence has been typed and available for analysis. Among the findings on me was that I have deep in my genome a tiny percentage of Italian and Portuguese ancestry. No longer can Rita lay sole claim to a Mediterranean heritage. Our DNA sequences will join millions of others cataloged in servers and can be used for everything from medical research, predicting potential health risks and tracking ethnic backgrounds to catching criminals.

DNA databases have been subpoenaed and used to close some old cold cases, including catching a 1973 serial killer, Joseph DeAngelo. Mr. DeAngelo hadn’t even been typed, but his relatives had, and when investigators interviewed the relatives, Mr. DeAngelo figuratively and literally came under the microscope. The investigative team subpoenaed a DNA sample from him in a decades old hunt for the killer. He came up 99.99 percent as the guy. More than likely, he’s breathed the last free air of his life.

A caution about our well tracked future is whether genetic markers would make their way to health insurance providers, or in some Brave New World, whether these indicators could be used to hike premiums for those with certain predispositions. Or worse, deny coverage entirely. May already be happening beneath the radar. This will be adjudicated, precedent established, and hysterical editorials will be written. Count on it.

“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled.“ 

The Times They Are A-Changin,’ Bob Dylan

Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, wanted to find a cure for HIV AIDS, surely a positive pursuit. He developed a new vein to explore. Why not, instead of curing the disease, make people who cannot get it? He hypothesized the way to do that was to alter a specific gene, CCR5. Using CRSPIR[i] technology on an embryo, he cut and pasted, then implanted tiny humans in a willing (or not) uterus and grew some people. He grew two — twin girls and maybe a third later. Once the word leaked to the international press that He was altering the DNA in genes and making designer babies, the Chinese government reacted with righteous horror, as did many. The government claimed that it was not aware of the extent of his tinkering, and that no authorization was given to implant the babies, only to grow them awhile, see what happens and kill them. He must have saved up his milk money and found some other dark funding for his enterprise. There was even talk of capital punishment for He Jiankui, not an uncommon solution to an embarrassment in China. Last week credible evidence was found by other scientists looking at grant studies that there was Chinese government funding for his research from the start, all of it. Color me surprised. Once a method of customizing human beings is perfected, can Superman soldiers be far behind? Or IQs exceeding 300? Or mutant tireless and uncomplaining laborers? Or any number of permutations of designer people? How will science ethics hold fast with trillions of dollars were at stake? Aldous Huxley writ large. The commodification of human beings continues apace.

Last week another story ran that Crispr Therapeutics and its partner Vertex Pharmaceuticals[ii] had treated a rare blood genetic disease, beta thalassemia, with a one-time application of a CRISPR invader. More trials with human beings and unintended consequences be damned. The same team has started a similar study for sickle cell anemia, a genetic plague that is especially deadly in the African American community. The shares of both companies soared. A new world is upon us, and riches are there for the brave of heart. What could possibly go wrong with purposeful, profitable tweaking of the basic building blocks of human life? Not with a bang, but a whimper.

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I had a dream — a murky vision — of emerging after a long walk in a desolate wood – gnarled ancient trees without leaves – and coming upon a clearing with a dried-up spring and an abandoned house with weathered wood plank walls and a door partially ajar hanging off just the bottom hinge. With some difficulty I pushed through the door and found only a scarred pine table and a tipped over ladder-back chair. On the table were a stale crust of bitten bread, a few broken crayons, a half-burned candle fixed in wax and yellowed books with bent back pages. A story I’ll never know.

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood

When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud

I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form

Come in, she said

I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.  Shelter From the Storm, Bob Dylan

[i] CRISPIR is the acronym for “clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” It is powerful and terrifying tool that mimics how a type of bacteria ‘learns’ to recognize and defend against a virus. In the bacteria, the “remembered” RNA sequence cuts the DNA of a virus it has learned to defend against into pieces, rendering it harmless. The new technology uses specific RNA sequences to cut and replace targeted sequences of DNA in a cell, including an embryo, and “fixes” or otherwise alters that embryo’s DNA, its chromosomes, its genes, what makes it, it.

[ii] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/crispr-infuses-first-human-landmark-132242277.html

 

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Frogs, Hot Water and A Whip of Cords

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”  Mark Twain

Having used a frog and boiling water metaphor to comment on gradual acceptance of radical change, I was disappointed when I learned that when put to the test (don’t ask), the story doesn’t hold water. If you put a frog into cold water in a pot and slowly bring it to a boil, absent a lid, the frog will hop out when it gets uncomfortable, and if you throw a frog into boiling water, it will do what lobsters do in similar circumstances, except not as tasty. But the lessons to us humans from the myth of frogs and boiling water applied to changing culture are true. We can be brought slowly to a boil and not notice.

At Mass recently, a visiting retired Columban[i] missionary priest with a hint of his Irish pedigree in the lilt of his speech said this, “If we do things over a long period that are wrong, they become right.” What is true in individuals is true in society. He was speaking of the Gospel reading from Luke relating the story of Jesus driving the money changers from the Temple. Over many decades the selling of animals for profit to be sacrificed by pilgrims in the Temple had become accepted practice, as was the chicanery of money changers cheating foreigners in the exchange rate to swap their foreign coins for local coins to buy their sacrifices. In another version with more detail in John’s Gospel, Jesus first made a whip of cords, lashing many cords together, which took some time to do. He burst into the Temple outer court with daunting ferocity that terrified the merchants, who certainly outnumbered Him. He drove out the sheep, the cattle and the money changers, turning over their tables and scattering their coins. He shouted to the lesser merchants selling pigeons (poor pilgrims could only afford to buy a bird to sacrifice) to “Take these things away, do not make my Father’s house a den of thieves.”

On the Shroud of Turin,[ii] the mysterious photographic negative image shows a broad shouldered, strong, crucified man. Jesus was a carpenter, a construction worker, not a clerk, and looking at this image we can picture him in a righteous fury intimidating the cheats of the Temple marketplace. This deliberate act to overthrow years of accepted corruption was what set the course of the Temple authorities in their determination to destroy Him in a conspiracy with the power of the Roman Empire and judgement seat of Pontius Pilate.

What Jesus chose as his target was a symbol of the dishonored Temple culture and the self-serving blindness of its administrators. What analogies can we find today, and who is going to wield the whip of cords to such effect? And who will stand to be crucified?

“There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’.

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.” Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin,’ 1963

 

Lines have become blurred and grey is fashionable, but sometimes friends must talk in primary colors. What we lived in the sexual revolution and its aftermath started in fire and now is embers and ashes. Embers that are best left without new fuel and fresh oxygen.

As the first century Jewish culture had accepted gradually the commercialization of their worship, what grotesqueness have we accepted without a backward glance or embarrassment? Let me suggest the degradation of marriage and families over seventy years or so has led us incrementally, a few degrees at a time into a sanguine acceptance of unreality in what is natural in human beings, especially regarding all things sexual and even in the structure of our bodies. This has not been an accidental dance, but carefully choreographed and plotted step by step, well-funded in its implementation. Not only have we normalized the abnormal, we have made it inviolable; any questioning of this new orthodoxy is deemed not just ignorant, it is called hate speech. In some jurisdictions it is prosecutable, and lives can be laid waste. We insulate heresy to the new orthodoxy in parentheses and issue trigger warnings. Well, please take heed and be so warned. The adults must speak plainly, and the kids should leave the room, although they too are proselytized with great zeal every day.

The cascade of small stones and mud down the slope now has caused us to lose our footing regarding the immutable binary nature of the structure of our bodies. Rather than male and female, we are fungible with exchangeable parts. The XX and XY chromosomes in every cell in our body have failed us, and though they cannot and will not be changed, the results of their labor can be maimed if it suits our tortured desires. With mutilating surgeries and injections of hormone cocktails unknown in nature, we create permanently infertile mockeries with no hope of resolving into new life[iii]. Worse, rather than love and guide our children as their XX and XY chromosomes determine, when we hear their childish confusions and attempts to make sense of it all, we encourage the muddle and inflict these doomed experiments on them. Finally, we congratulate ourselves on our tolerance, and make that a god. To speak common sense regarding this tragedy is banned from the marketplace of ideas[iv].

Once we started down the road of separating the natural functions of human sexuality, of cleaving with a broad-ax childbearing from pleasure and intimacy, the landslide began: half of marriages failing across all demographics and geographies, rainbow coalitions, billion-dollar pornography empires (prostitution with a camera running) spilling into our entertainments, sexual assaults and harassment commonplace, domestic violence increases, renegade commitment phobic men, the normalizing of what was once considered degenerate and dehumanizing, large investment now into development of ever more “realistic” sex robots that completely disengage sex from human contact – the whole sorry, sordid panoply. Where is that whip of cords when you need one?

“I am a Roman Catholic. I believe that sex is both natural and holy. Its nature is reproductive. It is holy, because it is the act that brings into being another person made in the image of God. But our enemies believe neither of these things. They have said that the act is or can be merely recreational. They have said that the act implies no difference between the male and the female. They have said that it has nothing essentially to do with babies. They have even said that there is nothing wrong with its being impersonal: hence, not solely pornography, but also the delight of waking up the next morning to ask the name of the person with whom you have soiled the bed.” Anthony Esolen[v]

[i] Columban missionary order celebrates its hundredth anniversary.

[ii] See earlier blog post, Shrouded

[iii] Petition from pediatricians to uphold scientific definition of sex

[iv] Teacher fired for not calling a “transgendered” student by the prescribed pronoun

[v] Crisis Magazine, “Contemporary Culture is Not Just Unreal – It is Irreal” Oct 18, 2018

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Ride That Photon

At the speed of light, propagation of TIME stops. So, a photon does not travel forever because our concept of time does not hold true for it. Photons do not experience passage of time. Victor Mazmanian, retired Associate Professor of Physics, U.S. Air Force Academy quoted from an answer to a Quora question, “How can light travel forever?” 

I confess that I am a Quora stalker, mostly science, history and philosophy. Never have I posed or answered a question. Perhaps I will work up my courage to do so. When I read the for the most part well informed questions and answers, for now, I am content to learn and to wonder. I follow a few of the contributors like my friend Bob Cormack[i] from Colorado. Mostly though I am eclectic and follow my curiosity. That probably qualifies me as a geek in its current definition.[ii]

The Quora article I linked above is clear and simple without being simplistic about complex subjects like the quantum packets of energy called photons that are always either in motion at the speed of light or non-existent when they stop moving. For photons, time does not exist because at their velocity, time does not pass, a “trip” of twenty light years is a flash without so much as a nanosecond transpiring from their perspective.  The math of the quantum physics and relativity will remain well beyond this humble blogger’s aptitude, but the concepts and inspiration to the imagination are mine to play with.[iii]

If we were able to transform and hitch a ride on a photon, a form of time travel would be possible. Astronomers recently discovered a rocky planet circling Proxima Centauri, a mere twelve light years away. With current technology, this would be a journey of about 544 centuries at fifty two thousand miles an hour, which was what the New Horizon Pluto probe attained. It took New Horizon about nine and half years to get to Pluto. Even at the speed of light, should we be able to travel that fast, a round trip to Proxima Centauri would take a couple of dozen years. Upon our return, we would have not aged a day or perceived any passage of time, but our friends and families would be decades older. Or not here at all.

Please dont make fun when I tell you something true.  Across the River and into the Trees, Ernest Hemingway

John Archibald Wheeler, theoretical physicist and doctoral advisor to many, including Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman, proposed that as we learn more and more about the universe, we will see that it is informational, more like a computer than a machine. Or more like a mind. Wheeler revived the study of general relativity after World War II, invented the terms “black hole” and “wormhole” and was involved with Feynman and others in the development of quantum mechanics. Many current physicists now subscribe to this “informational” understanding of the universe and believe it is the path to eventually uncovering a unified theory of physics, resolving the paradoxes of relativity and quantum theory. Wheeler said this during a eulogy of mathematician Hermann Weyl in 1986, “Time, among all concepts in the world of physics, puts up the greatest resistance to being dethroned from ideal continuum to the world of the discrete, of information, of bits… Of all obstacles to a thoroughly penetrating account of existence, none looms up more dismayingly than ‘time.’ Explain time? Not without explaining existence. Explain existence? Not without explaining time. To uncover the deep and hidden connection between time and existence….is a task for the future.” [iv]

The essence of knowledge does not consist in the effort for which it calls, but in grasping existing things and in unveiling reality. Moreover, just as the highest form of virtue knows nothing of difficulty, so too the highest form of knowledge comes to man like a gift—the sudden illumination, a stroke of genius, true contemplation: it comes effortlessly and without trouble.  Dr. Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture English translation, Random House, 1963

For God, time is not linear, rather more like a photon perceives it than like we perceive it. All of time is seen at once, as now, beyond humans to even conceive of His gaze. How this is understood in terms of free will and pre-destination, I’ll leave to the theologians. For this post, I’d like to consider where humans may find some common ground with this view of the cosmos.

The ancients and medieval philosophers taught that human knowledge is gained in two ways, which they named ratio and intellectus. Ratio was what we would now call a left brain activity, rational, discursive, leading to conclusions and requiring lots of work or study. Intellectus is more right brain, wholeness, intuitive, contemplative and receptive. The difference might be perceived in coming upon a vista like the Grand Canyon. Our left brain is curious and studies the mile-deep cliffs of the Grand Canyon dropping to the Colorado River: geological eras with their names and characteristics, rising and receding seas, the crushing together and uplift of tectonic plates and layer upon layer of aggregated stones and fossils. This is learning with ratio.

Intellectus is content to take it all in, to be silent, to think long thoughts or no thoughts at all, to grasp the canyon as beautiful in and of itself: objectively valuable, not just subjectively satisfying[v]. Ratio has to do with the temporal, with the investment of our precious time and work. Intellectus has to do with the eternal, outside of time.  Like for the photon, time stops, or rather there is no time that matters.

Gazing in wonder and gratitude at beauty changes the beholder. Contemplation, absorbed in the beauty with mind emptying peace, but filled with instantaneous knowledge and understanding, is of the soul, as well as the will and mind. I believe it is in this that we can imperfectly understand the concept of human uniqueness. We are made in Imago Dei, in the Image of God. When we perceive, however minutely, as God perceives, outside of time, we participate in our limited fashion in the Divine.  Captivated by the beauty when we visited the Grand Canyon a few winters ago, my inner voice echoed an ancient voice, “I am Beauty itself, gratuitous and without limit. Rest in Me. Trust in Me. Do not be afraid.”

Can we ever expect to understand existence? Clues we have, and work to do, to make headway on this issue. Surely someday, we can believe, we will grasp the central idea of it all as so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that we will all say to each other, Oh, how could it have been otherwise! How could we have been so blind so long? John Archibald Wheeler in his famous it for bit talk.

[i] I introduced readers of this blog to Bob Cormack six years ago. Acrophobia: Tale of Two Bobs.

[ii] Originally “geek” denoted a carnival freak who entertained by biting the heads off live chickens. To date, I have not indulged in that fowl slaughter.

[iii] , Before any physics geniuses complain that I am not qualified to remark on the details of the science, I agree completely. But the minutiae are not the point of the post.

[iv] Wheeler, John Archibald, 1986 “Hermann Weyl and the Unity of Knowledge.” American Scientist, 74:366-375

[v] See Dietrich von Hildebrand’s view of truth and beauty with the distinction of the “subjectively satisfying” from the “objectively valuable” as explained briefly by Bishop Robert Barron. Von Hildebrand, a Catholic moral theologian, was once called by Adolph Hitler his number one enemy and had to flee for his life when the Third Reich annexed Austria. Dietrich von Hildebrand and Our Relativistic Age, Robert Barron, Word on Fire website.

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