Tuesday, October 26, 2021

When the news media fall over their own feet...


This correction is utterly priceless!

I'm not a fan or follower of DJT Jr., but in this case I have to admit, he's nailed it.  What was the Washington Post thinking of, to make so bald-faced an admission - in other words, confessing that one of its editors deliberately lied - that leaves it with egg (not to mention something less edible and rather more odiferous) all over its journalistic face?  And what's being done about that editor?  Will he or she suffer the consequences that should follow from such a breach of professional ethics?  If not, the admission isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will enjoy a moment of schadenfreude at the Post's expense . . .


Remember my warning about "blue states"?


I've warned repeatedly that if you live in a "blue state" or "blue city" (i.e. one controlled by progressive-left-wing liberal politics) you need to move, sooner rather than later, because anybody not in lock-step with the politically correct administration(s) there is going to be forced into line, whether they like it or not.

Washington state proves me right yet again.

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) filed an emergency rulemaking package last week extending emergency powers to Democrat Governor Jay Inslee. This package, which is an extension of current mandates, grants Inslee the ability to enforce COVID vaccine mandates on all private businesses in the state of Washington, according to elected officials.

Washington state house representatives Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) and Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor) released a statement on Monday condemning the actions of L&I.

"This mandate from L&I demonstrates a complete lack of transparency, which dilutes public trust in our government and fails to show the agency's good faith in promulgating the rule. The reality is this move by L&I is a blank check for the agency to enforce any of the Governor's mandates or edicts on private employers."

There's more at the link.

Isn't that lovely?  Washington's governor finds he doesn't have enough legal authority to make the rules he'd like to make:  so, instead of passing legislation or allowing the electorate to have a say, he simply has his bureaucrats introduce an "emergency rulemaking package" extending his powers.  The phrase "power grab" might have been invented to justify Gov. Inslee's approach to his job, and his constituents.

This is arbitrary, capricious, and dictatorial.  Washington state is deeply divided, with a coastal left-wing elite among the most progressive in the country, but a population in the interior that's of drastically different persuasion.  Inslee, needless to say, is among the former group - and he clearly doesn't care if he rides roughshod over the perceptions and principles and desires of the rest of the state.  He probably enjoys it.

The traditional motto during the Crusades was "Deus Vult" - "God wills it".  I guess now it's "Inslee Vult", as far as Washington state is concerned.  Just like divine will, any lack of enthusiastic cooperation will brand those concerned as faithless, pagan heathen, as far as the progressive left is concerned.

I truly sympathize with small businesses in Washington state.  A lot of them are going to be driven into bankruptcy or closure by this edict, particularly in those parts of the state that retain an independent spirit.  There appears to be nothing they can do about it - unless they move to a free state that respects their rights.

I hope many of them do precisely that.




Scott Adams captures the singularity dilemma perfectly.  Click the image to see a larger view at the Dilbert Web page.

We can take comfort in the fact that it can't be more destructive to our way of life, or do it any faster, than the Biden administration!


Monday, October 25, 2021



Several articles in recent days have reminded me of the reality of fear, and how it prevents us from dealing with the realities that confront us.  They've also reinforced the lesson that only if we overcome our fears can we move forward with our lives.

First, Larry Lambert points out the need to face up to our fears.

There is a medical family who lives in the mountains near me, and they’re friends of mine – but they are afraid. They had the plague, they had the vax, and they alone, wear masks. The plague made them sick – more or less like the flu. Same with me. Not my first flu. Not theirs either. But they’re afraid.

. . .

Nobody likes to be sick and to take it a step further, nobody wants to die – but both are in our future. None of us will live past 110 so do the math, count backward, and decide how you want to live what you have left.

I’ve had chronic pain that I’m not able to kick after not being treated for non-plague issues, and then when I was close to dying, they operated. Too late. But I suck it up and I don’t go out and lift heavy things very often. When I do, I pay. My point is that fear always makes things worse. Prudence usually makes them better but not always.

I revert often to Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl, a Psychiatrist. The memoir is riveting with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Frankl discusses how to cope with unavoidable suffering.

The new Dune movie is out covering the first half of the book. I re-read the book and may go and see the film, but to my point, there is this quote: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. Frank Herbert knew what he was writing about. Fear and panic create more harm than a resolute view of life and living said life – and hopefully dying well.

There's more at the link.

Larry's article resonated with me.  I've had two heart attacks, about ten years apart.  Statistically, it's a near-certainty that I'll have another, and that my heart problems will eventually cause my death.  It may be sooner, it may be later, but it's coming.  Am I to sit here, worrying myself to death at the prospect?  Or am I to get on with my life, accepting that certainty, but not allowing it to dominate or control my life?  I'm going to die one day.  It's as certain as the dawn.  I don't look forward to that, but if I can't change it, why be scared of the inevitable?  Why not make the most of the time that is given to me, and enjoy as much of it as possible?

Larry referenced an article by Thomas Harrington, "The Frightened Class".

They’re all around us, especially those of us who live in relatively prosperous metropolitan neighborhoods in the US or Western Europe. Despite being—at least in material terms—among the most fortunate people who have ever walked the earth, they are very scared. And they want you to be very frightened too.

Indeed, many of them see your refusal to be as frightened as they are about life’s inevitable risks as a grave problem which entitles them and their often powerful and influential fellow travelers to recur to all manner of authoritarian practices to insure that you adhere to their increasingly neurotic view of reality.

. . .

It has been said that, over time, we tend to “become what we do.” It seems that after orchestrating campaign after campaign of fear on behalf of the truly powerful, the “literate” comfortable classes have come to believe their own schtick to the point where they have trouble understanding, or even tolerating, those who have always consumed their mercenarily-produced fear porn with a large helping of salt. 

Worse yet, these self-frightened elites seem to think they can now remedy their lack of credibility with those living outside their grim prison of angst by simply amping up the volume on the scare machine. I suspect they might be in for a bigger and much more “physical” set of responses than they ever imagined could come their way.

Again, more at the link, and well worth your time.

Back in pre-pandemic 2016, Rolling Stone magazine asked:  "This is the safest time in human history. So why are we all so afraid?"

According to Lewis & Clark College president Barry Glassner, one of the country’s leading sociologists and author of The Culture of Fear, “Most Americans are living in the safest place at the safest time in human history.”

. . .

So how is it possible to be living in the safest time in human history, yet at the exact same time to be so scared?

Because, according to Glassner, “we are living in the most fearmongering time in human history. And the main reason for this is that there’s a lot of power and money available to individuals and organizations who can perpetuate these fears.”

For mass media, insurance companies, Big Pharma, advocacy groups, lawyers, politicians and so many more, your fear is worth billions. And fortunately for them, your fear is also very easy to manipulate. We’re wired to respond to it above everything else. If we miss an opportunity for abundance, life goes on; if we miss an important fear cue, it doesn’t.

“The more we learn about the brain, the more we learn it’s not something that’s supposed to make you happy all the time,” says Andrew Huberman, a Stanford neurobiology professor who runs a lab studying fear. “It’s mostly a stress-reactive machine. Its primary job is to keep us alive, which is why it’s so easy to flip people into fear all the time.”

. . .

Where fear is a response to a present threat, anxiety is a more complex and highly manipulable response to something one anticipates might be a threat in the future ... And that uncertainty is the exact lever that politicians regularly use to try to influence your behavior ... The crucial combination of uncertainty with perception of an escalating threat has led historically, according to Bader and other researchers, to an increased desire for authoritarianism.

More at the link.

Speaking of authoritarianism, Bari Weiss reminds us:  "We Got Here Because of Cowardice. We Get Out With Courage".

What we call “cancel culture” is really the justice system of this revolution. And the goal of the cancellations is not merely to punish the person being cancelled. The goal is to send a message to everyone else: Step out of line and you are next.

It has worked. A recent CATO study found that 62 percent of Americans are afraid to voice their true views. Nearly a quarter of American academics endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. And nearly 70 percent of students favor reporting professors if the professor says something that students find offensive, according to a Challey Institute for Global Innovation survey.

Why are so many, especially so many young people, drawn to this ideology? It’s not because they are dumb. Or because they are snowflakes, or whatever Fox talking points would have you believe. All of this has taken place against the backdrop of major changes in American life—the tearing apart of our social fabric; the loss of religion and the decline of civic organizations; the opioid crisis; the collapse of American industries; the rise of big tech; successive financial crises; a toxic public discourse; crushing student debt. An epidemic of loneliness. A crisis of meaning. A pandemic of distrust. It has taken place against the backdrop of the American dream’s decline into what feels like a punchline, the inequalities of our supposedly fair, liberal meritocracy clearly rigged in favor of some people and against others. And so on.

. . .

How did we get here? ... there is one word we should linger on, because every moment of radical victory turned on it. The word is cowardice.

The revolution has been met with almost no resistance by those who have the title CEO or leader or president or principal in front of their names. The refusal of the adults in the room to speak the truth, their refusal to say no to efforts to undermine the mission of their institutions, their fear of being called a bad name and that fear trumping their responsibility—that is how we got here.

. . .

If cowardice is the thing that has allowed for all of this, the force that stops this cultural revolution can also be summed up by one word: courage.

. . .

It is our duty to resist the crowd in this age of mob thinking. It is our duty to think freely in an age of conformity. It is our duty to speak truth in an age of lies.

This bravery isn’t the last or only step in opposing this revolution—it’s just the first. After that must come honest assessments of why America was vulnerable to start with, and an aggressive commitment to rebuilding the economy and society in ways that once again offer life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the greatest number of Americans.

But let’s start with a little courage.

Courage means, first off, the unqualified rejection of lies. Do not speak untruths, either about yourself or anyone else, no matter the comfort offered by the mob. And do not genially accept the lies told to you. If possible, be vocal in rejecting claims you know to be false. Courage can be contagious, and your example may serve as a means of transmission.

. . .

Every day I hear from people who are living in fear in the freest society humankind has ever known. Dissidents in a democracy, practicing doublespeak. That is what is happening right now. What happens five, 10, 20 years from now if we don’t speak up and defend the ideas that have made all of our lives possible?

More at the link.

Food for thought from all concerned.


A "war warning" from Michael Yon


Michael Yon is one of the relatively few journalists I respect highly.  He's "walked the walk", not just "talked the talk", in an independent career that's shown neither fear nor favor in his pursuit of the truth about people and situations.  He became a legend in the military community for his reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000's.  He's made his share of mistakes, IMHO, but he's also gone after stories the hard way, exposing himself to danger in the process (unlike many so-called "journalists" who merely listen to others who've "been up the sharp end" and report what they hear, but never go there themselves).

He's been warning for the past year and a half that we're facing a growing crisis in the USA, a deliberate onslaught that threatens democracy and our constitution.  He's just repeated that warning, with renewed emphasis.  I think his warning needs to be disseminated as widely as possible.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Keep adjusting your world view until you no longer are surprised. If you are surprised by this, try adjusting your paradigm to something like, "This has nothing to do with health. The Beast is using information war to destroy our military. And more. Defund the Police. Is a hostile takeover. Opening the borders is a hostile takeover. Breaking the economy is a hostile takeover. The Beast is setting conditions for authentic genocide."

If you try my current paradigm for just a week, you be unsurprised at ships off the coast unable to unload, forced jabs with untested chemicals into children's arms.

. . .

Because my paradigm has been amazingly accurate on general predictions. There are huge numbers of people out there still rushing for boosters who either never heard of things like ivermectin and Regeneron, or their paradigms are so primitive that they believe that my avoiding the untested chemicals, and going for the highly tested and probably highly efficacious FLCCC protocols, is a political statement.

. . .

I avoid most specific predictions such as "what is the spark?" I look at Conditions, and use the paradigm to predict future Conditions. Because I keep tweaking my paradigm to fit new information.

We are under attack. That is my paradigm. Under my paradigm, we will go into civil war, and The Beast will make a naked stab at genocide. The Beast is laying genocide traps everywhere. And those tech giant owners -- if they think they will be running the show, they are fools. The Beast will use them up and finally show them that real power flows out of the barrel of a gun. The Beast will take their companies and their lives.

. . .

PanFaWar: Pandemic, Famine, War. If you get a big dose of any one of these, you will get the other two. You can find plenty of examples in history books. In the Bible, for that matter. Our ancestors knew this.

In this case, the real Pandemic is false and coercive information.

I've seen many people surprised that they were being fired by military, police, fire departments, media. Or they say they think the powers that be will see the light. They already do see the light. You WILL be fired in many cases. In some cases, resistance will work.

But the idea is not to defund police 'to end brutality.' The idea is to empower real terrorists -- who will own the military, intelligence apparatus, police, and more. Remember Obama saying don't worry about metadata? Metadata is a large part of your recent life history. We kill people with metadata. I personally saw this many times in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's super easy.

Yes, they will ditch all the SEALs if they can get away with it. They already coerced military officers and NCOs to persuade people that women should be allowed into Ranger school and infantry, saying standards would never be dropped. The Beast lies. And The Beast finds people with medals who will lie for it, or it hands out medals to people who will do Bidding of the Beast.

Try my paradigm for a week. Look around. Does what you see make sense under my paradigm? There could be alternative explanations. We must adjust our collective paradigm until we are no longer surprised, and can predict what The Beast will do next. Because either we beat The Beast, or it will kill us.

Remember all my livestreams and posts in February 2020, when I was saying in clear terms that the life you once knew is over. 2019 is dead. We will never return to 2019 'normal.' The faster you can adjust to knew conditions, the better off your family will be.

And I would say many times in early 2020, that 2020 will be something most of us never experienced, and 2021 will be an entirely new world. I said this many times. And I will say this -- 2021 is just a warm up. 2022 will be far more intense.

You are at war. Ready or not.

There's more at the link.

Friends, I've tried very hard in these pages, over the past couple of years, to convey the reality of what we're facing.  I've succeeded in some areas, not in others.  The thing is, after seeing the November 2020 election stolen through fraudulent means, and after seeing the "Big Brother"-style, domineering enforcement of an ideology over all Americans by not just undemocratic but anti-democratic means over the past two years (including the last year of President Trump's term), there are still many who refuse to face reality.

The reality is this:



That's the essence of Michael Yon's warning, and it's the essence of what I've been trying to convey here.

We are facing a cold-blooded, deliberate attempt to end our constitutional and democratic way of life, and replace it with an oligarchical socialist dictatorship.  The COVID-19 pandemic is being used as a primary tool to accomplish this purpose.

Those behind this attempt will not scruple to use any and every means at their disposal, up to and including mob violence, political and ideological persecution, the usurpation of the rule of law, and the destruction of our economy.  These are all evils to us - but they are no more to them than tools to be used to accomplish their objectives.

The mainstream news media are no longer trustworthy.  Almost without exception, they're either parroting the "party line", or (if not actively supporting it) ignoring anything contrary to the "party line".  They are no longer disseminating "news".  They are disseminating what the powers that be want us to believe.  The social media giants are not only doing the same, they're actively censoring and discouraging the spread of any alternative viewpoint, even if those viewpoints can be proved to be factually correct.  Ideology has trumped reality, from that perspective.

We need to prepare for political, social, economic and cultural hardship, perhaps hardship so great as to constitute war-like conditions.  That's the reality staring us in the face right now.  You can choose not to believe that, if you wish:  but it won't stop that reality from happening to you, whether you believe it or not.  It is already happening to thousands of people who are losing their jobs and their careers because they refuse to submit.

As part of our preparations, we need to consider not only practical issues like building up emergency supplies, equipping ourselves to defend our loved ones and property, and so on:  we also need to adjust our mindset.  We can no longer blindly assume that "the government" is doing its best to help us.  If you doubt that, just look what "the goverment" has done to our economy and society over the past couple of years!  Helpful?  Yeah, right!  Instead, we need to see "the government" as yet another tool in the hands of those seeking to dominate and dictate to us how we should live and what we should believe.  In their eyes, government is not our servant:  it is our master.  Furthermore, government is not their master, but their puppet, something they control and use to carry out their program and do their bidding.

We can see this clearly in how they're using government to manipulate us through threats and enticements, punishments and blandishments.  You won't get the COVID-19 vaccination?  Then, in many states, prepare to be shut out of society, denied advanced medical care, prevented from earning a living - even forbidden to use shops, public transport, etc.  Yet . . . compare and contrast this dictatorial usurpation of democracy with states such as Florida and Texas, which are taking a firm stand against such measures.  Which states are floundering, economically speaking, and which are flourishing?

The old proverb tells us, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating".  Which policies are producing something worth eating?  The very fact that the powers that be are trying to shut down such independent measures in Florida and Texas says it all.  They can't afford to allow us to see for ourselves what works, and what doesn't;  what promotes the well-being of society, and what stifles it.

As Mr. Yon says:  "You are at war.  Ready or not."


Memes that made me laugh 81


Gathered from here and there over the past week.  Click any image for a larger view.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Sunday morning music


This morning I'm sharing with you a fun live concert by Golden Earring from 2007.  The entire concert is here, if you'd like to listen to over an hour of their music:  but I'd like to highlight this extended 19-minute version of their classic rock hit "Radar Love".  For those who only ever heard the short, commercially-played version, it's an eye-opener.

Fun stuff from veteran rockers.  It was sad to hear, earlier this year, that they've finally closed up shop after guitarist George Kooymans was diagnosed with ALS.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Saturday Snippet: The trials and tribulations of collecting pythons


The late Gerald Durrell, whom we've met in these pages before, was a British naturalist, animal collector and zoo-keeper who did more for the conservation and preservation of wildlife around the world than almost anyone else of his era.

He wrote many books about his experiences, which have become beloved of readers for a couple of generations now (I grew up on a steady diet of them).  One of them described his second visit to Bafut in what was then British Cameroon (today divided between Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon).  It was titled "A Zoo In My Luggage".

We've already used one excerpt from that book in a previous Saturday Snippet;  and I used an (side-splittingly funny) tale from an earlier book, "The Bafut Beagles", about his first visit to Bafut, in a Saturday Snippet a couple of years ago.

Here's Durrell's account of trying to collect a massive python from a West African cave.

I sent messages to all my old contacts among the local hunters, gathered them together and told them the sort of creatures we were after. Then we sat back and awaited results. They were some time in coming. Then, early one afternoon, a local hunter called Agustine appeared, padding down the drive, wearing a scarlet-and-blue sarong and looking, as always, like a neat, eager, Mongolian shopwalker. He was accompanied by one of the largest West Africans I have ever seen, a great, scowling man who must have been at least six feet tall, and whose skin – in contrast to Agustine’s golden bronze shade – was a deep soot black. He clumped along beside Agustine on such enormous feet that at first I thought he was suffering from elephantiasis. They stopped at the verandah steps, and while Agustine beamed cheerily, his companion glared at us in a preoccupied manner, as though endeavouring to assess our net weight for culinary purposes.

‘Good morning, sah,’ said Agustine, giving a twist to his highly-coloured sarong to anchor it more firmly round his slim hips.

‘Good morning, sah,’ intoned the giant, his voice sounding like the distant rumble of thunder.

‘Good morning … you bring beef?’ I inquired hopefully, though they did not appear to be carrying any animals.

‘No, sah,’ said Agustine sorrowfully, ‘we no get beef. I come to ask Masa if Masa go borrow us some rope.’

‘Rope? What do you want rope for?’

‘We done find some big boa, sah, for bush. But we no fit catch um if we no get rope, sah.’

Bob, whose speciality was reptiles, sat up with a jerk. ‘Boa?’ he said excitedly. ‘What does he mean … boa?’

‘They mean a python,’ I explained. One of the most confusing things about pidgin English, from the naturalist’s point of view, was the number of wrong names used for various animals. Pythons were boas, leopards were tigers and so on. Bob’s eyes gleamed with a fanatical light. Ever since we had boarded the ship at Southampton his conversation had been almost entirely confined to pythons, and I knew that he would not be really happy until he had added one of these reptiles to the collection.

‘Where is it?’ he asked, his voice quivering with ill-concealed eagerness.

‘’E dere dere for bush,’ said Agustine, waving a vague arm that embraced approximately five hundred square miles of forest. ‘’E dere dere for some hole inside ground.’

‘Na big one?’ I asked.

‘Wah! Big?’ exclaimed Agustine. ‘’E big too much.’

‘’E big like dis,’ said the giant, slapping his thigh which was about the size of a side of beef.

‘We walka for bush since morning time, sah,’ explained Agustine. ‘Den we see dis boa. We run quick-quick, but we no catch lucky. Dat snake get power too much. ’E done run for some hole for ground and we no get rope so we no fit catch um.’

‘You done leave some man for watch dis hole,’ I asked, ‘so dis boa no go run for bush?’

‘Yes, sah, we done lef’ two men for dere.’

I turned to Bob. ‘Well, here’s your chance: a genuine wild python holed up in a cave. Shall we go and have a shot at it?’

‘God, yes! Let’s go and get it right away,’ exclaimed Bob.

I turned to Agustine. ‘We go come look dis snake, Agustine, eh?’

‘Yes, sah.’

‘You go wait small time and we go come. First we get rope and catch net.’

While Bob hurried out to our pile of equipment to fetch rope and nets, I filled a couple of bottles with water and rounded up Ben, our animal boy, who was squatting outside the back door, flirting with a damsel of voluptuous charms.

‘Ben, leave that unfortunate young woman alone and get ready. We’re going for bush to catch a boa.’

‘Yes, sah,’ said Ben, reluctantly leaving his girl friend. ‘Which side dis boa, sah?’

‘Agustine say it’s in a hole for ground. That’s why I want you. If this hole is so small that Mr Golding and I no fit pass you will have to go for inside and catch the boa.’

‘Me, sah?’ said Ben.

‘Yes, you. All alone.’

‘All right,’ he said, grinning philosophically. ‘I no de fear, sah.’

‘You lie,’ I said. ‘You know you de fear too much.’

‘I no de fear, for true, sah,’ said Ben in a dignified manner. ‘I never tell Masa how I done kill bush-cow?’

‘Yes, you told me twice, and I still don’t believe you. Now, go to Mr Golding and get the ropes and catch nets. Hurry.’

. . .

The path lay at first through some old native farmland, where the giant trees had been felled and now lay rotting across the ground. Between these trunks a crop of cassava had been grown and harvested, and the ground allowed to lie fallow, so that the low growth of the forest – thorn bushes, convolvulus and other tangles – had swept into the clearing and covered everything with a cloak. There was always plenty of life to be seen in these abandoned farms, and as we pushed through the intricate web of undergrowth there were birds all around us. Beautiful little flycatchers hovered in the air, showing up powder-blue against the greenery; in the dim recesses of convolvulus-covered tree stumps robin-chats hopped perkily in search of grasshoppers, and looked startlingly like English robins; a pied crow flew up from the ground ahead and flapped heavily away, crying a harsh warning; in a thicket of thorn bushes, covered with pink flowers among which zoomed big blue bees, a kurrichane thrush treated us to a waterfall of sweet song. The path wound its way through this moist, hot, waist-high undergrowth for some time, and then quite abruptly the undergrowth ended and the path led us out on to a golden grassfield, rippling with the heat haze.

Attractive though they were to look at, these grassfields were far from comfortable to walk across. The grass was tough and spiky, growing in tussocks carefully placed to trip the unwary traveller. In places, where sheets of grey rocks were exposed to the sun, the surface, sprinkled with a million tiny mica chips, sparkled and flashed in your eyes. The sun beat down upon your neck, and its reflections rebounded off the glittering surface of the rock and hit you in the face with the impact of a blast furnace. We plodded across this sun-drenched expanse, the sweat pouring off us.

‘I hope this damned reptile’s had the sense to go to ground where there’s some shade,’ I said to Bob. ‘You could fry an egg on these rocks.’

Agustine, who had been padding eagerly ahead, his sarong turning from scarlet to wine-red as it absorbed the sweat from his body, turned and grinned at me, his face freckled with a mass of sweat-drops.

‘Masa hot?’ he inquired anxiously.

‘Yes, hot too much,’ I answered, ‘’e far now dis place?’

‘No, sah,’ he said pointing ahead, ‘’e dere dere … Masa never see dis man I done leave for watch?’

I followed his pointing finger and in the distance I could see an area where the rocks had been pushed up and rumpled, like bedclothes, by some ancient volcanic upheaval, so that they formed a miniature cliff running diagonally across the grassfield. On top of this I could see the figures of two more hunters, squatting patiently in the sun. When they saw us they rose to their feet and waved ferocious-looking spears in greeting.

‘’E dere dere for hole?’ yelled Agustine anxiously.

‘’E dere dere,’ they called back.

When we reached the base of the small cliff I could quite see why the python had chosen this spot to stand at bay. The rock face had been split into a series of shallow caves, worn smooth by wind and water, each communicating with the other, and the whole series sloping slightly upwards into the cliff, so that anything that lived in them would be in no danger of getting drowned in the rainy season. The mouth of each cave was about eight feet across and three feet high, which gave a snake, but not much else, room for manoeuvring. The hunters had very thoughtfully set fire to all the grass in the vicinity, in an effort to smoke the reptile out. The snake had been unaffected by this, but now we had to work in a thick layer of charcoal and feathery ash up to our ankles.

Bob and I got down on our stomachs and, shoulder to shoulder, wormed our way into the mouth of the cave to try and spot the python and map out a plan of campaign. We soon found that the cave narrowed within three or four feet of the entrance so that there was only room for one person, lying as flat as he could. After the glare of the sunshine outside, the cave seemed twice as dark as it was, and we could not see a thing. The only indication that a snake was there at all was a loud peevish hissing every time we moved. We called loudly for a torch, and when this had been unpacked and handed to us we directed its beam up the narrow passage.

Eight feet ahead of us the passage ended in a circular depression in the rock, and in this the python lay coiled, shining in the torchlight as if freshly polished. It was about fifteen feet long as far as we could judge, and so fat that we pardoned Gargantua for comparing its girth with his enormous thigh. It was also in an extremely bad temper. The longer the torch beam played on it the more prolonged and shrill did its hisses become, until they rose to an eerie shriek. We crawled out into the sunlight again and sat up, both of us almost the same colour as our hunters because of the thick layer of dark ash adhering to our sweaty bodies.

‘The thing is to get a noose round its neck, and then we can all pull like hell and drag it out,’ said Bob.

‘Yes, but the job’s going to be to get the noose round its neck. I don’t fancy being wedged in that passage if it decided to come down it after one. There’s no room to manoeuvre, and there’s no room for anyone to help you if you do get entangled with it.’

‘Yes, that’s a point,’ Bob admitted.

‘There’s only one thing to do,’ I said. ‘Agustine, go quick-quick and cut one fork-stick for me … big one … you hear?’

‘Yes, sah,’ said Agustine, and whipping out his broad-bladed machete he trotted off towards the forest’s edge some three hundred yards away.

‘Remember,’ I warned Bob, ‘if we do succeed in yanking it out into the open, you can’t rely on the hunters. Everyone in the Cameroons is convinced that a python is poisonous; not only do they think its bite is deadly, but they also think it can poison you with the spurs under the tail. So if we do get it out it’s no good grabbing the head and expecting them to hang on to the tail. You’ll have to grab one end while I grab the other, and we’ll just have to hope to heaven that they co-operate in the middle.

‘That’s a jolly thought,’ said Bob, sucking his teeth meditatively.

Presently Agustine returned, carrying a long, straight sapling with a fork at one end. On to this forked end I fastened a slip knot with some fine cord which, the manufacturers had assured me, would stand a strain of three hundredweight. Then I unravelled fifty feet or so of the cord, and handed the rest of the coil to Agustine.

‘Now I go for inside, I go try put dis rope for ’e neck, eh? If I go catch ’e neck I go holla, and then all dis hunter man go pull one time. You hear?’

‘I hear, sah.’

‘Now if I should pull,’ I said, as I lowered myself delicately into the carpet of ash, ‘for heaven’s sake don’t let them pull too hard … I don’t want the damn thing pulled on top of me.’

I wriggled slowly up the cave, carrying the sapling and cord with me, the torch in my mouth. The python hissed with undiminished ferocity. Then came the delicate job of trying to push the sapling ahead of me so that I could get the dangling noose over the snake’s head. I found this impossible with the torch in my mouth, for at the slightest movement the beam swept everywhere but on to the point required. I put the torch on the ground, propped it up on some rocks with the beam playing on the snake and then, with infinite care, I edged the sapling up the cave towards the reptile. The python had, of course, coiled itself into a tight knot, with the head lying in the centre of coils, so when I had got the sapling into position I had to force the snake to show its head. The only way of doing this was to prod the creature vigorously with the end of the sapling.

After the first prod the shining coils seemed to swell with rage, and there came echoing down the cave a hiss so shrill and so charged with malignancy that I almost dropped the sapling. Grasping the wood more firmly in my sweaty hand I prodded again, and was treated to another shrill exhalation of breath. Five times I prodded before my efforts were rewarded. The python’s head appeared suddenly over the top of the coils, and swept towards the end of the sapling, the mouth wide open and gleaming pinkly in the torchlight. But the movement was so sudden that I had no chance to get the noose over its head. The snake struck three times, and each time I made ineffectual attempts to noose it. My chief difficulty was that I could not get close enough; I was working at the full stretch of my arm, and this, combined with the weight of the sapling, made my movements very clumsy. At last, dripping with sweat, my arms aching, I crawled out into the sunlight.

‘It’s no good,’ I said to Bob. ‘It keeps its head buried in its coils and only pops it out to strike … you don’t get a real chance to noose it.’

‘Let me have a go,’ he said eagerly.

He seized the sapling and crawled into the cave. There was a long pause during which we could only see his large feet scrabbling and scraping for a foothold in the cave entrance. Presently he reappeared, cursing fluently.

‘It’s no good,’ he said. ‘We’ll never get it with this.’

‘If they get us a forked stick like a shepherd’s crook do you think you could get hold of a coil and pull it out?’ I inquired.

‘I think so,’ said Bob, ‘or at any rate I could probably make it uncoil so we can get a chance at the head.’

So Agustine was once more dispatched to the forest with minute instructions as to the sort of stick we needed, and he soon returned with a twenty-foot branch at one end of which was a fish-hook-like projection.

‘If you could crawl in with me and shine the torch over my shoulder, it would help,’ said Bob. ‘If I put it on the ground, I knock it over every time I move.’

So we crawled into the cave together and lay there, wedged shoulder to shoulder. While I shone the torch down the tunnel, Bob slowly edged his gigantic crook towards the snake. Slowly, so as not to disturb the snake unnecessarily, he edged the hook over the top coil of the mound, settled it in place, shuffled his body into a more comfortable position and then hauled with all his strength.

The results were immediate and confusing. To our surprise the entire bulk of the snake – after a momentary resistance – slid down the cave towards us. Exhilarated, Bob shuffled backwards (thus wedging us both more tightly in the tunnel) and hauled again. The snake slid still nearer and then started to unravel. Bob hauled again, and the snake uncoiled still farther; its head and neck appeared out of the tangle and struck at us. Wedged like a couple of outsize sardines in an undersized can we had no room to move except backwards, and so we slid backwards on our stomachs as rapidly as we could. At last, to our relief, we reached a slight widening in the passage, and this allowed us more room to manoeuvre. Bob laid hold of the sapling and pulled at it grimly. He reminded me of a lanky and earnest blackbird tugging an outsize worm from its hole. The snake slid into view, hissing madly, its coils shuddering with muscular contraction as it tried to free itself of the hook round its body. Another good heave, I calculated, and Bob would have it at the mouth of the cave. I crawled out rapidly.

‘Bring dat rope,’ I roared to the hunters, ‘quick … quick … rope.’

They leapt to obey as Bob appeared at the cave mouth, scrambled to his feet and stepped back for the final jerk that would drag the snake out into the open where we could fall on it. But, as he stepped back, he put his foot on a loose rock which twisted under him, and he fell flat on his back. The sapling was jerked from his hands, the snake gave a mighty heave that freed its body from the hook, and, with the smooth fluidity of water soaking into blotting-paper it slid into a crack in the cave wall that did not look as though it could accommodate a mouse. As the last four feet of its length were disappearing into the bowels of the earth, Bob and I fell on it and hung on like grim death. We could feel the rippling of the powerful muscles as the snake, buried deep in the rocky cleft, struggled to break our grip on its tail. Slowly, inch by inch, the smooth scales slipped through our sweaty hands, and then, suddenly, the snake was gone. From somewhere deep in the rocks came a triumphant hiss.

Covered with ash and charcoal smears, our arms and legs scraped raw, our clothes black with sweat, Bob and I sat and glared at each other, panting for breath. We were past speech.

‘Ah, ’e done run, Masa,’ pointed out Agustine, who seemed to have a genius for underlining the obvious.

‘Dat snake ’e get power too much,’ observed Gargantua moodily.

‘No man fit hold dat snake for inside hole,’ said Agustine, attempting to comfort us.

‘’E get plenty, plenty power,’ intoned Gargantua again, ‘’e get power pass man.’

In silence I handed round the cigarettes and we squatted in the carpet of ash and smoked.

‘Well,’ I said at last, philosophically, ‘we did the best we could. Let’s hope for better luck next time.’

Bob, however, refused to be comforted. To have had the python of his dreams so close to capture and then to lose it was almost almost more than he could bear. He prowled around, muttering savagely to himself, as we packed up the nets and ropes, and then followed us moodily as we set off homewards.

The sun was now low in the sky, and by the time we had crossed the grassfield and entered the abandoned farmland a greenish twilight had settled on the world. Everywhere in the moist undergrowth giant glow-worms gleamed and shuddered like sapphires, and through the warm air fireflies drifted, pulsating briefly like pink pearls against the dark undergrowth. The air was full of the evening scents, wood smoke, damp earth, the sweet smell of blossom already wet with dew. An owl called in an ancient, trembling voice, and another answered it.

The river was like a moving sheet of bronze in the twilight as we scrunched our way across the milk-white sandbank. The old man and the boy were curled up asleep in the bows of the canoe. They awoke, and in silence paddled us down the dark river. On the hill top, high above us, we could see the lamps of the house shining out, and faintly, as a background to the swish and gurgle of our paddles, we could hear the gramophone playing. A drift of small white moths enveloped the canoe as it headed towards the bank. The moon, very fragile and weak, was edging its way up through the filigree of the forest behind us, and once more the owls called, sadly, longingly, in the gloom of the trees.

Having meandered around that part of the world once in a while, I can attest to the searing heat and humidity of West Africa (it's near the equator).  It can be so humid that, if one exerts oneself and is panting for breath, it feels almost like trying to breathe water.  Definitely not my favorite sensation!


Friday, October 22, 2021

An insider's perspective on the container bottleneck at California harbors


I'm obliged to reader "Ray - SoCal" for sending me the link to an interesting series of tweets by Ryan Petersen about what he saw at the port of Long Beach yesterday, and his suggestions for dealing with the problem.  (He's the CEO of Flexport, a freight forwarding and customs brokerage firm, and therefore speaks with considerable insight.)  The text below is taken from ThreadReader, which consolidates his individual tweets into a text stream.

Yesterday I rented a boat and took the leader of one of Flexport's partners in Long Beach on a 3 hour of the port complex. Here's a thread about what I learned. 

First off, the boat captain said we were the first company to ever rent his boat to tour the port to see how everything was working up close. His usual business is doing memorial services at sea. He said we were a lot more fun than his regular customers. 

The ports of LA/Long Beach are at a standstill. In a full 3 hour loop through the port complex, passing every single terminal, we saw less than a dozen containers get unloaded. 

There are hundreds of cranes. I counted only ~7 that were even operating and those that were seemed to be going pretty slow. 

It seems that everyone now agrees that the bottleneck is yard space at the container terminals. The terminals are simply overflowing with containers, which means they no longer have space to take in new containers either from ships or land. It’s a true traffic jam. 

Right now if you have a chassis with no empty container on it, you can go pick up containers at any port terminal. However, if you have an empty container on that chassis, they’re not allowing you to return it except on highly restricted basis. 

If you can’t get the empty off the chassis, you don’t have a chassis to go pick up the next container. And if nobody goes to pick up the next container, the port remains jammed. 

WIth the yards so full, carriers / terminals are being highly restrictive in where and when they will accept empties. 

Also containers are not fungible between carriers, so the truckers have to drop their empty off at the right terminal. This is causing empty containers to pile up. This one trucking partner alone has 450 containers sitting on chassis right now (as of 10/21) at his yards. 

This is a trucking company with 6 yards that represents 153 owner operator drivers, so he has almost 3 containers sitting on chassis at his yard for every driver on the team. 

He can’t take the containers off the chassis because he’s not allowed by the city of Long Beach zoning code to store empty containers more than 2 high in his truck yard. If he violates this code they’ll shut down his yard altogether. 

With the chassis all tied up storing empties that can't be returned to the port, there are no chassis available to pick up containers at the port. 

And with all the containers piling up in the terminal yard, the longshoremen can’t unload the ships. And so the queue grows longer, with now over 70 ships containing 500,000 containers are waiting off shore. This line is going to get longer not shorter. 

This is a negative feedback loop that is rapidly cycling out of control that if it continues unabated will destroy the global economy. 

Alright how do we fix this, you ask? Simple. And we can do it fast now, 

When you're designing an operation you must choose your bottleneck. If the bottleneck appears somewhere that you didn't choose it, you aren't running an operation. It's running you. 

You should always choose the most capital intensive part of the line to be your bottleneck. In a port that's the ship to shore cranes. The cranes should never be unable to run because they're waiting for another part of the operation to catch up. 

The bottleneck right now is not the cranes. It's yard space at the container terminals. And it's empty chassis to come clear those containers out. 

In operations when a bottleneck appears somewhere that you didn't design for it to appear, you must OVERWHELM THE BOTTLENECK! 

Here's a simple plan that @POTUS and @GavinNewsom partnered with the private sector, labor, truckers, and everyone else in the chain must implement TODAY to overwhelm the bottleneck and create yard space at the ports so we can operate again.

1) Executive order effective immediately overriding the zoning rules in Long Beach and Los Angeles to allow truck yards to store empty containers up to six high instead of the current limit of 2. Make it temporary for ~120 days. 

This will free up tens of thousands of chassis that right now are just storing containers on wheels. Those chassis can immediately be taken to the ports to haul away the containers 

2) Bring every container chassis owned by the national guard and the military anywhere in the US to the ports and loan them to the terminals for 180 days. 

3) Create a new temporary container yard at a large (need 500+ acres) piece of government land adjacent to an inland rail head within 100 miles of the port complex. 

4) Force the railroads to haul all containers to this new site, turn around and come back. No more 1500 mile train journeys to Dallas. We're doing 100 mile shuttles, turning around and doing it again. Truckers will go to this site to get containers instead of the port. 

5) Bring in barges and small container ships and start hauling containers out of long beach to other smaller ports that aren't backed up. 

This is not a comprehensive list. Please add to it. We don't need to do the best ideas. We need to do ALL the ideas. 

We must OVERWHELM THE BOTTLENECK and get these ports working again. I can't stress enough how bad it is for the world economy if the ports don't work. Every company selling physical goods bought or sold internationally will fail. 

The circulatory system our globalized economy depends has collapsed. And thanks to the negative feedback loops involved, it's getting worse not better every day that goes by. 

I'd be happy to lead this effort for the federal or state government if asked. Leadership is the missing ingredient at this point.

Cogent points all.

I'm not sure how practical his proposed solution might be - after all, POTUS and California's Governor simply don't have the authority in law to do what he's proposing, and I'd be wary of giving them that degree of control, because I don't trust professional politicians not to misuse it - but it's a start.


"Indoctrination into tyranny"


That's what the Rutherford Institute calls the slow, steady erosion of our civil liberties and human rights by the "establishment".

Remember, authoritarian regimes begin with incremental steps: overcriminalization, surveillance of innocent citizens, imprisonment for nonviolent—victimless—crimes, etc. Bit by bit, the citizenry finds its freedoms being curtailed and undermined for the sake of national security. And slowly the populace begins to submit.

No one speaks up for those being targeted.

No one resists these minor acts of oppression.

No one recognizes the indoctrination into tyranny for what it is.

. . .

In other words, we can continue to exist in a state of denial. Yet there is no denying the ugly, hard truths that become more evident with every passing day.

  1. The government is not our friend. Nor does it work for “we the people.”
  2. Our so-called government representatives do not actually represent us, the citizenry. We are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests whose main interest is in perpetuating power and control.
  3. Republicans and Democrats like to act as if there’s a huge difference between them and their policies. However, they are not sworn enemies so much as they are partners in crime, united in a common goal, which is to maintain the status quo.
  4. The lesser of two evils is still evil.
  5. Some years ago, a newspaper headline asked the question: “What’s the difference between a politician and a psychopath?” The answer, then and now, remains the same: None. There is virtually no difference between psychopaths and politicians.
  6. More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, the U.S. government has become a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.
  7. The government knows exactly which buttons to push in order to manipulate the populace and gain the public’s cooperation and compliance.
  8. If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.
  9. America’s shadow government—which is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes right now and operates beyond the reach of the Constitution with no real accountability to the citizenry—is the real reason why “we the people” have no control over our government.
  10. You no longer have to be poor, black or guilty to be treated like a criminal in America. All that is required is that you belong to the suspect class—that is, the citizenry—of the American police state. As a de facto member of this so-called criminal class, every U.S. citizen is now guilty until proven innocent.
  11. “We the people” are no longer shielded by the rule of law. By gradually whittling away at our freedoms—free speech, assembly, due process, privacy, etc.—the government has, in effect, liberated itself from its contractual agreement to respect our constitutional rights while resetting the calendar back to a time when we had no Bill of Rights to protect us from the long arm of the government.
  12. Private property means nothing if the government can take your home, car or money under the flimsiest of pretexts, whether it be asset forfeiture schemes, eminent domain or overdue property taxes. Likewise, private property means little at a time when SWAT teams and other government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, wound or kill you, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family.
  13. We now find ourselves caught in the crosshairs of a showdown between the rights of the individual and the so-called “emergency” state, and “we the people” are losing.
  14. All of those freedoms we cherish—the ones enshrined in the Constitution, the ones that affirm our right to free speech and assembly, due process, privacy, bodily integrity, the right to not have police seize our property without a warrant, or search and detain us without probable cause—amount to nothing when the government and its agents are allowed to disregard those prohibitions on government overreach at will.
  15. If there is an absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off.
  16. Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.
  17. Forced vaccinations, forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases: these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials.
  18. Finally, freedom is never free. There is always a price—always a sacrifice—that must be made in order to safeguard one’s freedoms.

. . .

Evil disguised as bureaucracy is still evil. Indeed, this is what Hannah Arendt referred to as the banality of evil ... Such evil prevails when good men and women do nothing.

There's more at the link.

We didn't get here overnight.  It took decades of slow, careful erosion of our rights by "big government" to get here.  The question is now, are we going to continue to tolerate that?  Or are we going to stand firm on what remains of our rights, and resist further erosion?

The progressive left is gambling that we won't;  that we've allowed so much to erode that there isn't enough left for us to stand on.

When I look at how many Americans are going along with the COVID-19 propaganda with which we're being bombarded, and surrendering almost all control over themselves in blind, sheep-like panic . . . I can't help but fear that the progressive left may be right, at least for areas they control.

I guess it's up to those of us who still believe in freedom to fight back;  because, even if we lose, it's the right - and the only - thing to do.  Let us not "go gently into that good night", politically or otherwise.


It's not a "homeless" crisis - it's a drug crisis


Peachy Keenan has written a really good article in American Mind titled "Pass Tents".  She analyzes and explains why the "homeless" crisis is really a drug crisis, particularly crystal meth;  shows how much graft is involved in "managing" and "controlling" the "homeless crisis";  and suggests a way forward (which will never be adopted, partly because it's too logical and rational, and partly because it would eliminate the opportunities for graft and corruption in the present system).

Here's her explanation of the graft involved.

The homeless crisis is fake. By fake I mean, it’s an engineered social dysfunction created on purpose to ensure a steady flow of suitcases stuffed with unmarked nonconsecutive bills to City Halls around the country. It is a racket. A money laundering operation, just like the Department of Defense budget, and almost at the same astronomical scale.

Just like the open border, Covid, and inflation, fake crises are never allowed to go to waste.

Los Angeles voted itself $1.2 billion to “address homelessness” in 2019. The number of homeless people, naturally, shot up from 40,000 to close to 70,000 now. Meanwhile, Governor Newsom pledged $4.8 billion to “address” and “confront” homelessness in the state, where over 150,000 homeless live.

But wait, there’s more! As the recall pressed in on him, he announced an additional $12 billion to “confront” homelessness.

He’s addressing it, you guys! He’s confronting it! 

Liberal politicians understand that homelessness works. Homelessness is good. The more tents the better. The more lunatics who threaten and harass you with their pants around their ankles, the more likely you are to vote for new taxes and more spending.

You see a filth-encrusted hobo nodding out on a curb, urine running down the sidewalk—our leadership class sees cash. 

You see a machete-wielding degenerate with stained pants terrorizing tourists on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—a greasy LA city official sees a new tax, a new program, a big pay raise for himself.

There is a reason that LA’s infamous Skid Row has been allowed to fester and grow for almost 40 years. It now spans dozens of blocks in the downtown shopping district of America’s second largest city. It is mile after mile, block after block, of wasted zomboids shuffling past heaps of putrid trash, drug dealers, and pop-up brothels in Porta-Potties. 

It’s a perfect grift, and they don’t care if you know it. 

Thanks to the tsunami of money, in 2020 there was a 12.7 percent rise in homelessness, “despite an increase in the number of people rehoused.” 

I have no clue what “rehoused” means, but I’m guessing it’s a portmanteau of “deloused” and “re-hosed.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles mayoral candidates like Kevin De Leon continue to double down on the clown world policy of Housing First. 

Placing meth and heroin addicts in shiny new apartments with kitchens to clean, dishwashers to load and unload, beds to make, and trash to take out—what could go wrong?

San Francisco just announced it’s building micro-homes for some lucky addicts. 

They had to remove the Port-a-Potties from LA’s skid row a few years ago because they were being used as brothels. Prayers to the poor city employee who has to clean out each micro house when the resident ODs.

There's more at the link.

I think Ms. Keenan doesn't make allowance for the fact that some of the homeless are on the streets because of economic problems, and are not drug addicts.  I've met a number of them.  However, I'm in no doubt that the majority of the homeless are on the streets because of drug problems and mental health issues, most of the latter being related to the former.

Back in South Africa, in my younger days, I volunteered with a homeless persons' project, using an old church hall to provide overnight accommodation and a hot meal to the needy.  It was an eye-opening experience.  Most of the homeless with whom we dealt were more than willing to blame anybody and everybody but themselves for their plight.  They tried to bring in weapons, alcohol and drugs;  got violent if they thought they could intimidate volunteers;  and generally "played the system" for all they were worth.  For example, some "married couples" who came in for a night's shelter would turn out to be a prostitute and her pimp.  She'd turn tricks all night among the homeless men, who'd pay with whatever she would accept (usually drugs).  To deal with this, we were forced to segregate accommodation for men and women - only to be accused of "breaking up our marriage" by these serial fornicators, who had no scruples about using the Bible and our Christian faith as a weapon against us.  It took a very hard-nosed priest and ongoing instruction and support for the volunteers to prevent such tactics from succeeding.

When I came to this country, for the first couple of years I spent months traveling from city to city, raising funds for the church in Africa.  I took the opportunity to look at inner-city conditions, including homelessness, in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Orleans and other big cities.  Not to my surprise, the homeless problem in this country proved to be just as much addiction-related (alcohol and/or drugs) as in South Africa.  That was in the '90's, but I understand nothing's changed except the scale of the problem and the ready availability of drugs these days.

The so-called "War On [Some] Drugs" has been a dismal failure.  Wikipedia notes:

In 2015, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the War on Drugs, estimated that the United States spends $51 billion annually on these initiatives, and in 2021, after 50 years of the drug war, others have estimated that the US has spent a cumulative $1 trillion on it.

One trillion dollars - yet drugs are more freely available, and cheaper, on American streets today than they've ever been.  If it's proved so spectacularly useless, I hear you ask, why are we still funding the War On Drugs?  For the answer, see the excerpt from Ms. Keenan's article above.  It's entrenched, systematized, politicized, legal bureaucratic graft.  Literally hundreds of thousands of Americans, from cops to drug counselors to homelessness bureaucrats to politicians to cronies of all of the above, are taking that money out of taxpayers' pockets and transferring it to their own.  We could abandon the War On Drugs tomorrow, deal with the dealers and their addicts through the regular criminal justice system (or just allow them to use more and more until it killed them), and save ourselves a fortune every year.  We wouldn't notice much difference on our streets, IMHO.

That would also help deal with our homelessness crisis.  By throwing more money at it every year, we're deliberately making it worse.  How do you get more of something you want?  By subsidizing it - and that's what we're doing to the homeless.  How do you get less of something you don't want?  By taxing it - which is precisely what we're not doing to the homeless.  If they were 'taxed' by having to endure the consequences of their chosen way of life, rather than assistance to live it;  if they had to fend for themselves instead of receiving fake bureaucratic sympathy and ever-increasing handouts;  then a great many of them would vanish from our streets overnight.  Yes, some of them - the hopelessly addicted - would die.  They're going to die anyway, no matter how many programs we launch for them.  There is no hope for them.  That's reality - a reality I've seen personally on African and American streets.  All that palliative programs are doing for them is postponing the inevitable, at our expense.  The funds thus wasted could pay for a great many programs to help those for whom there is still some hope of improvement.

By all means, create exceptions for those in genuine need, those on the streets through economic hardship;  but let them be thoroughly vetted, to make sure that's why they're there.  There's no room for touchy-feely moonbattery here.  It's got to be rooted in and founded on reality, and hard-nosed administrators have got to insist on that - otherwise it'll inevitably degenerate into the same sort of nonsense we have today.

I highly recommend reading the whole of Ms. Keenan's article.  It's revealing, frustrating, and very true.


Thoughts after being cut upon


Yesterday afternoon I went to our Palace of Pain (a.k.a. local clinic) for a minor procedure under local anesthetic.  I collected several bits and pieces of shrapnel, bullet fragments, etc. over the course of several years "up the sharp end" in Africa, and now and then they still work their way to the surface and try to come out.  A couple of them needed to be dealt with, so it was hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to the scalpel we go.

One of them revealed a few interesting things.  First off, the shrapnel had entered perpendicular to the skin and embedded itself fairly deeply, but not so deeply as to threaten internal organs.  It was a sharp sliver of metal, about 1/3" long, shaped like a dagger, a long narrow triangle.  It punched through a previous injury's scar tissue to get into my body, where it was encapsulated over time (the body's standard self-defense mechanism with foreign objects it can't expel).

(The nice lady doing the cutting wanted to know - rather indignantly - why the shrapnel hadn't been dealt with at the aid station, rather than left to fester in my body.  I had to explain that the first-line medical station practiced what M*A*S*H called "meatball surgery", where the worst injured got the most attention.  Relatively minor injuries like being peppered with bits of shrapnel got a cursory wipe-down with disinfectant from a corpsman, a quick examination from a harried doctor, and an aspirin or two.  "They'll deal with that at base when you get there."  With that, he turned to take care of the sucking chest wound and the leg that was so badly crushed as to be in danger of amputation if something wasn't done at once, if not sooner.  I could hardly argue with those priorities!  Back at base, the medic's response was, "Well, you haven't dropped dead over the past week on the way back here, so I guess you'll live.  Here, have another aspirin.")

Anyway, she made a half-inch incision over the lump in my back, pressed gently, and out popped a perfect little capsule, almost an inch long and filled with dead white blood cells and other "padding".  When she sliced it open, there was the shard of shrapnel, still sharp.  She was quite taken aback, having never seen something like that before.  She told me that my body had obviously been trying to expel this for a while, but that it had been positioned right below the scar tissue from my earlier injury, which was tougher than uninjured skin and resisted the pressure.  Since it couldn't get out, over time it kept pushing and formed a lump, which she'd just cut open.  The resulting hole in my body was only half an inch wide, but more than an inch deep.  She warned me it may not close fully, because it's had that encapsulated shard buried in it for so long, but we'll hope for the best.  If worse comes to worst, it'll need a more formal medical procedure to close it.

I felt rather strange looking at that fragment of metal.  I've been carrying the damned thing around in my flesh for over 36 years (and a few other bits and pieces as well).  In a sense, it had become part of me - but now it wasn't any more.  I recalled the firefight in which I'd "collected" it, and part of me wanted to find the guy who'd thrown the grenade and tell him that the war was over, there was no need to hate any more, and we could shake hands.  Sadly, he didn't survive the engagement, so that won't be possible - at least, not in this life.

I remembered, too, sitting on my couch in my apartment in Johannesburg, watching on TV the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9th November, 1989.  In Southern Africa, we'd been part of the "hotter" side of the Cold War.  The Soviet Union, communism and totalitarianism had been our enemies and bêtes noir for decades.  Watching as East and West Berliners climbed on top of the wall to embrace each other, and the dreaded East German border guards stood back and did nothing while peace broke out all over, was utterly mind-boggling to someone who'd been shooting at their ideological comrades for so long.  Slowly, a thought wormed its way into my mind:  Maybe, just maybe, I might live to see forty after all... (I'd turned thirty the previous year, and frankly had not expected to live that long.)

All that came back to my mind on seeing that little piece of shrapnel.  The Evil Empire had done its best to see that I didn't survive - but I had.  However, I was still carrying around the evidence of their attempts.  It felt really weird to look at it, almost sad in a way.  I don't know how to put it into words, except that it felt like a part of me had gone - and I don't mean the capsule surrounding the shrapnel.

Strange.  Very strange.  Have any of you who are combat vets ever had such a feeling?  Can you explain it better than I can?