Archive for the ‘America’ Category.

Memorial Day 2017 – Remembering Lance Corporal John F Kanaczet Jr

As far as I’m concerned secular America has a single holy day, and it’s today. While the day has devolved into a day off to swim, shop or barbecue I think it’s important to remember and give thanks to those who gave everything so that we would be free.

Today I’d like to thank John Francis Kanaczet Jr from Providence Rhode Island.

According to his memorial page, “John was the son of Evelyn Ferreira of Providence and stepson of Joseph P. Ferreira and the son of John F. Kanaczet Sr. also of Providence RI. He enlisted in the US Marine Corps on October 16 1967 in Providence RI. With orders for duty in Vietnam he arrived in DaNang on March 26, 1968 and was assigned to Company K, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st MARDIV (Rein) FMF.

While in their ambush position northwest of Duyen Son hamlet the men observed an enemy force moving along a trail west towards the foothills and opened fire. Gun fire was returned by the VC wounding one Marine and mortally wounding LCpl Kanaczet while quickly withdrawing into the night.”

He was 19 years old. Today he would be 67. He had no brothers or sisters and his father passed away the following year, living just long enough to experience the True Hell of burying a child. His mother passed away in 2001.

Today isn’t about shopping, swimming or barbecues. It’s not about the living but about the dead, those who gave everything in the name of Freedom for us. It’s about young men like John Francis Kanaczet Jr.

Thank you John F. Kanaczet Jr. Thank you.

Our Miserable 21st Century

Our good friend and fellow Watchers council member The Glittering Eye alerts us to a must-read post at Commentary magazine that explains why Americans feel their country is on the wrong track. “So general economic conditions for many ordinary Americans—not least of these, Americans who did not fit within the academy’s designated victim classes—have been rather more insecure than those within the comfort of the bubble understood. But the anxiety, dissatisfaction, anger, and despair that range within our borders today are not wholly a reaction to the way our economy is misfiring. On the nonmaterial front, it is likewise clear that many things in our society are going wrong and yet seem beyond our powers to correct.”

It’s a must read.

For generations Americans came to expect a rising standard of living. But the jobs that provided that for those without a college degree are pretty much gone, and the college degree itself has become increasingly expensive and its value debased. Many of the same trends that gutted the manufacturing sector such as offshoring in search of cheap labor and increased mechanization are now moving into the service sector. For many Americans it has become a Red Queen’s Race to maintain their current lifestyle, often they often resort to credit to do so. For others their standard of living is in decline and they know it.

Then there are the young, facing college degrees that cost well into the six figures which deliver incomes only into the middle five. Education was always the “ace in the hole” for Americans, but while degrees are used to weed out candidates, unless they are in very specific niche fields they rarely justify the expense to obtain them.

I am middle aged, married and by most measures comfortable. Yet I have no retirement savings, I am still paying off my wife’s medical school loans, and I worry about the job prospects of our adult child. I feel like ours was the last generation to advance up the ladder through conventional means (hard work, sacrifice and education) and that after we arrived someone pulled the ladder up behind us.

How are people now in their teens and twenties supposed to succeed if their aren’t any well-paying jobs?

Of course there will always be entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, but we can’t be a nation of Steve Jobs especially when Apple is the biggest company in the USA yet employs less than 70,000 people here. We need the equivalent of the old manufacturing companies that employed hundreds of thousands of people at salary levels that would be well into the six figures by today’s standards.

Sure the stock market is reaching highs, but most people don’t own stock and most that do can’t touch that wealth until they retire. Will it still be there when they do?

Americans know something is wrong, but we haven’t put our fingers on exactly what yet, and even when we do it’s not clear to me what the solution is.

How do we employ millions of people at $100k a year or better? I have no clue and neither do any of the Nobel prize winning economists.

We are entering uncharted territory. It is possible that the gap that has become a gulf between the wealthiest and the rest of of us will continue to grow, in which case the only solution might be some form of redistribution. But the wealthy are very good at protecting their wealth and can move it as a last resort should the less well off demand “their fair share.” Raise taxes on the wealthy and their money will disappear in the blink of an eye.

As an American I am supposed to be optimistic about the future, but I’ve seen too many smart people make stupid decisions that make things worse for everyone to be anything but pessimistic.

Blue Lives Matter

Although nothing that I say about it, or you say about it is going to stop people gunning down cops. Dead cops doesn’t fix dead innocents killed at the hands of cops. But Black Lives Matter has now made Blue Lives Matter. It’s 1969 all over again, just with crappy music and no moon shots.

Update: 7/19/16 -  Another day another dead cop: “Kansas City, Kansas, police Captain Robert David Melton was killed in a shooting Tuesday afternoon.”

This is not the country I want.

Plain Facts

1. Too many black people are being gunned down by the police without justification. Black Lives Matter didn’t start for no reason. We have seen too many grainy videos of black men being shot in circumstances that don’t justify the death penalty. Broken taillight. Selling single cigarettes. In these cases unarmed civilians are shot by law enforcement. Under these circumstances the standard police tactic of overwhelming force – aggressive demands, guns drawn – failed. Such shock and awe tactics may work on the battlefield but they should be the last resort in a civil society. There is a place for SWAT tactics, but that place is not in America’s streets during traffic stops.The best tool a cop has is his or her brain, and they must be trained to use it. Currently cops rush in and their goal is to gain the upper hand and control a situation. This tactic minimizes the danger to law enforcement but strips civilians of all power and dignity, leaving them vulnerable to police misconduct. Such vulnerability can often boomerang and lead to more physical aggression by those detained. Instead cops must be trained in deescalation tactics and learn how to operate in an uncontrolled environment. American gun owners are often told how we could learn from gun-free societies such as the UK and Australia. Perhaps American cops can learn new tactics from law enforcement that don’t escalate into a fight/flight situation for everyone involved.

2. It is possible to be pro-cop AND pro-black. Trevor Noah is a liberal asshat in my view, but he’s right on this one topic: It’s possible to be pro-cop and pro-black. This is America in the 21st century. We shouldn’t have to choose between living in total anarchy or a police state. If we cannot come up with a solution that navigates between these two extremes than we do not deserve to live as a free people and our society is doomed.

 

3. Dead cops won’t fix dead black people. 5 dead cops in Dallas do not increase the sympathy for dead black men like Philando Castile. Neither does this fix the problem unless you believe the problem can only be solved by a full-on race war, and if that’s the case then pick up your shit and leave my country.

4. We have a problem and we have to fix it. As the parent of a teenager and one who is considering becoming a LEO I don’t want my kid to be gunned down for no reason, either for a broken taillight as a civilian or in revenge as a cop. Our leaders continue to fail us, so it us up to we Americans to step up and begin to fix this problem ourselves. The first thing that we can do is to recognize we have a problem. The second thing we can do is accept that we can be pro-cop and pro-black. We shouldn’t have to pick sides. The next thing we can do is reach out to others and search for solutions that don’t involve promises that lead to anarchy or a police state.

There will be more videos. There will be more dead civilians and likely dead cops. This is not the America we want and it is our responsibility to change it.

PS: Yes, white kids and Hispanics are being gunned down by cops too, but the fact remains that most of the incidents are white cops shooting black men. The solution, whatever it is, will be color blind.

Perspective

My Facebook news feed is filled with the excitement of today’s pro-gay marriage ruling by the Supreme Court. As someone who’s philosophy can be summed up as “happily married lesbians protecting their marijuana plants with a closet full of AK-47s,” I too am pleased with today’s ruling.

But a dose of perspective is in order.

Today 37 tourists were killed in Tunisia and an attack on a chemical company in France left one dead at the hands of radical Muslims. These radical Muslims do not support gay marriage. They much prefer dropping gays from great heights.

Many of today’s celebrants in the USA believe I am an Islamophobe because I see the threat posed to our way of life by radical Islam. That way of life includes the right of gays to live, let alone marry. They don’t appreciate that if an Islamic caliphate arose in the US and sharia law were imposed, they would be some of the first to die.

Sorry to ruin their buzz but this is the reality, and the sooner they stop waving their rainbow flags and set their minds to seeing radical Islam as the threat that it is the better.

Libertarian vs Conservative vs Liberal

As I state in my bio, I am very much pro-Life but do not believe the government should be given the power to control women. Legislation is a very blunt instrument and no matter how well intentioned, well thought out and well-written the Law of Unintended Consequences make it a certainty that someone somewhere is going to fall afoul the law and suffer needlessly. So I accept the fake right to privacy at the heart of Roe v Wade, believing it is up to us pro-Lifers to make abortion rare and ultimately unnecessary without resorting to the law banning it.

It would be nice if pro-choice people reciprocated with the very real right to bear arms for a similar reason. But they don’t. Instead they want to disarm those of us who choose to protect ourselves, forcing us to suffer at the hands of criminals or a tyrannical government. They are just as blind and ignorant as the pro-Lifers who demand victims of rape carry their babies to term.

 

 

American Magical Thinking – Flag Edition

I remember immediately following the 9-11 attacks everyone needed to fly the American flag. Suddenly they were hard to come by, even the flag stickers that people slapped on their cars to show their patriotism.

Today something similar is happening to the Confederate battle flag. Because of the Charleston Church attack people have decided to remove or outright ban the sale or display of the flag to show their anti-racism.

Both cases show the power of symbolism to the American psyche, and their meaningless outside of it. In the aftermath of 9-11 people felt they needed to do something to help, so they waved flags. Today a week after the church attack people want to do something, so they want to burn the Confederate battle flag.

The sudden appearance of the American flag didn’t damage al Qaeda, the perpetrator of the 9-11 attacks, and the removal of the Confederate battle flag from our society will not stop racism. Islamic terror and violent racism won’t succumb to such magical thinking no matter how well-intended the gestures may be.

Update: Reason.com, in “Massacres and Magical Thinking“, points out several examples of magical thinking in statements of the Left and Right.

SooperMexican Explains Baltimore Riots in One Sentence

Simply sublime SooperMexican

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Exceptional Americans by Don Surber

Commentator and fellow Watcher’s Council member Don Surber has released his new book, “Exceptional Americans.” The book tells the stories of 50 Americans who aren’t very well known but left their marks on our nation. Definitely inspirational and worthy of adding to your Summer reading list.

What My Taxes Could Buy

In a previous post I lamented the total my family paid in state and federal income taxes last year and suggested that with that money I could have hired my own public servant. Extending that idea some I decided to search USAJobs to find out which civil servant that money would get me. Here are some of the positions whose pay grade fell within the total my family paid. Note that this cost does not factor in fringe benefits which for federal employees are borderline ridiculous to those of us who never worked outside of the private sector where even the coffee isn’t free these days. But since that’s tough to calculate and would overcomplicate this simple blog post, I’ll assume the cost of intangibles like fringe benefits is not more than 20% of salary. We are also not wealthy so a high level civil servant like a secretary of state is out of the question. Even Hillary’s speaking fee would take several years worth of taxes to pay.

So what would our taxes buy us if the IRS decided to let us hire directly*?

1. Security Guard -  I’ve never understood why you pay a guy so poorly to protect you and your stuff. Either pay him well so that he’ll take a bullet or don’t hire one at all and go with a security system, a well stocked gun safe or both. While I like the idea of having my own private security guard even a well paid one we could really use the help in other areas.

2. Wildlife Biologist – Cool! I’ve always wanted one of these. In fact I was one (sort of) in a previous life and have a lot of respect for those who choose this profession. There’s lots of wildlife on our property and I’m interested in getting more. The other day I took the dogs out for a run in the upper field and heard a bobcat in the nearby woods. The dogs took off after the howl but the cat was too fast for them and called again far enough away that the dogs went back to sniffing each other’s pee. Several species of snakes, birds and other critters call our property home, and I’m sure we could keep him/her busy. While it’s cool to have one on staff, there are other pressing needs. Still let’s not rule this job out just yet.

3. Aircraft mechanic – Let’s rule this one out right now. Although I do plan on getting my pilot’s license before I shuffle off this mortal coil I could really use a lawnmower mechanic more than an aircraft mechanic at this juncture.

4. Foreign Service Employee – I wanted to be one of these so bad at one time but Life got in the way – most likely for the best because my deep debilitating shyness often manifests as arrogance, likely why I washed out of the interview process. Still with our taxes I could afford to hire my own diplomat. I could probably also send him or her to Switzerland to intervene in the Iran negotiations by shouting Persian insults at the Iranian negotiating team. “A mouse should eat you!” That would make the New York Times front page.

5. IT Specialist – You’re hired! There’s nothing worse for a computer professional than troubleshooting your own gear when you don’t feel like it. I need an Apple Support tech just to handle the Wife’s Apple products, and one with networking skills could rewire my home network so that I didn’t need 3 hotspots just to cover my 2,000 square foot house.

Unfortunately the IRS won’t let us hire directly, but I recommend everyone look at their total income tax bill – not just the refund. You might be surprised at how much you pay. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit jealous over the pay and perks of civil servants. Until recently I didn’t even have the benefit of paid time off, so the idea of working one day as a substitute teacher and getting a $30k/year pension for life does inspire a hint of jealousy, but even more outrage.
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  • Before someone goes all freaky the above is satire. All taxes were paid and no public servants were harmed in the making of this essay. Satire used to be allowed in our society but over the past decades I’ve watched our freedom of speech get nibbled away by mice first on the Right during the Reagan administration then on the Left during the Clinton and Obama years. If you think I’m making this up watch a movie from the 1970s. The language is shocking and would never make it on screen today which is perhaps why comedy is dying in our country. Yes it is dying. Nothing made this century comes close to the humor of Blazing Saddles or Airplane! let alone earlier classics like The Pink Panther and A Night at the Opera.

Happy Pay Your Fair Share Day

Today is April 15th and for American citizens around the world it is the annual day of reckoning when all federal, state and local income taxes for the previous year are due. For conservatives and libertarians it is a day to despise but for liberals it is a day to celebrate. 49% of Americans do not pay any income taxes and benefit in many ways from the taxes paid from the 51% percent, so how you feel about today depends on whether or not you pay income tax.

My family is one of the 51% who does pay income taxes.  I know exactly how much we pay and we pay a lot. How much is that? Well without going into too much detail we pay enough to employ our very own government worker, one of America’s 22 million government employees. It would be nice if we could buy him outright. My grass needs cutting, some of the dogs baths and there’s always trees to fell in the forest. It would be great to have someone clean house or cook, activities that I usually end up doing after work.

I know I’m not the first to realize this, but if you don’t pay taxes why should you be allowed to vote? Shouldn’t those who actually have skin in the game by paying taxes elect those who create tax laws? We had a revolution with a slogan of “No taxation without representation,” perhaps the new slogan should be “No Representation Without Taxation.”

For more info on that idea check out this Forbes piece, worth it for the Benjamin Franklin quote you won’t see on a Toyota Prius anytime soon.

 

 

Why I Say “Merry Christmas” Even Though I’m not a Christian

For the same reason I wish my Jewish friends a “Happy Hanukkah” during Hanukkah even though I’m not Jewish.
For the same reason I wish my Muslim friends “Eid Mubarak” during Eid al-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha even though I’m not Muslim.
For the same reason I wish my Hindu friends a “Happy Diwali” during Diwali even though I’m not Hindu.

Because I like them and I respect them, and even though I don’t share their beliefs I want to show them that I care about them and value their friendship.

That’s true tolerance, and I don’t need a bullsh*t bumper sticker on my car to proclaim it.

There Must Be a Better Way

A few months back I came out strongly against the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO. Although I now question the events surrounding his death, and accept there was an altercation between Brown and Officer Wilson in which Brown was not blameless, I still am left to wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong with policing in America. On Saturday a 12 year old boy was shot on a playground in Cleveland for wielding what turns out to have been a replica gun. The boy, Tamir Rice, died of his wounds on Sunday. The 911 caller told the 911 dispatcher that the boy was wielding a “probably fake gun” and scaring everyone, but that information was not passed to the responding officers, and I’m not sure if it would have made any difference had it been.

As a legal gun owner I take my rights and my responsibilities seriously. Everything I have learned over the past 7 years since I took up my 2nd Amendment right has taught me that a gun is always a last resort, and that when I point the weapon I have to be prepared to accept the consequences for what happens to anything in front of my weapon. And I realize cops have a hard job. I know cops, and some of my friends are cops and I have a lot of respect for those who accept the calling to serve and protect, so this isn’t criticism coming from some Leftist who wants all “pigs to die” or wants anarchy in the streets. I don’t see why I have to choose between anarchy on one hand and living in a police state on the other. Both extremes aren’t pleasant for anyone, be they civilians or cops. There has to be some middle way.

Something is wrong, terribly wrong with how we police given the number of unarmed people shot by police in our country. I believe that the decline of neighborhood policing caused by budget cuts coupled with the militarization of police forces has changed the way the Police perceives the Public. The kind of attitude that cops are trained to have is they better control the situation before it controls them. This works in a war zone where everyone is a possible enemy but in civil society, even one as well-armed as ours, that attitude is going to lead to where we are today: hundreds of unarmed civilians dead every year.

Was Tamir Rice being stupid? Yes. Was Michael Brown stoned and aggressive after stealing from a quick shop? Perhaps. But isn’t there a better way to handle these situations, some way between ignoring the crime and shooting the suspects dead?

 

Ebola in America: 2 Weeks In

Two days ago a 26 year old nurse in Dallas, Nina Pham, tested positive to the virus. She was one of Thomas Duncan’s seventy caregivers. Her diagnosis puts a pretty smiling petite face on a horrendous disease, and one can only hope that by discovering the disease early she will be luckier than the man she treated at Texas Presbyterian hospital.

 

We don’t know exactly how she caught the virus from Duncan. She wasn’t one of the responders who came into contact with him during his first visit to the hospital, after which he was sent home with antibiotics and Tylenol. Evidently she had worn the gear dictated by the CDC, “gown, glove, mask and shield,” yet still got sick. The CDC stated there must have been a “breach in protocol” but Ms. Pham doesn’t recall when it may have happened and neither do the investigators who have interviewed her. The CNN article notes “Or the problem could have been something else entirely.”

“Something else entirely” means maybe we don’t know this disease as much as we think we do, and after 40 years of research that isn’t very much.

Take for example the question of whether the virus is spread through the air. The CDC states unequivocally “Ebola is not spread through the air or by water,” but others aren’t so sure. “We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks,” writes Lisa M Brosseau, ScD, and Rachael Jones, PhD in commentary published by the Center for Infectious Disease and Research Policy (CIDRAP). According to CIDRAP Brosseau and Jones are nationally recognized experts on infectious diseases, not tin-foil hat posters from ZeroHedge.

Here’s the distinction between an airborne infectious disease and one spread through aerosoles. The common cold is considered to be an airborne virus, potentially spread from one person to another without landing on any surface. An aerosolized one is defined by Brousseau in a 2011 research paper as one where disease is spread through the air between people, or as Brousseau writes, “defined as person-to-person transmission of pathogens through the air by means of inhalation of infectious particles. Particles up to 100 μm in size are considered inhalable (inspirable). These aerosolized particles are small enough to be inhaled into the oronasopharynx, with the smaller, respirable size ranges (eg, < 10 μm) penetrating deeper into the trachea and lung.”

Notice any difference? Let me know if you do because I don’t.

I would expect that scientists would disagree about how a relatively new disease like Ebola spreads, but the CDC needs to be honest and it needs to assume the worst. The medical workers currently treating Ms. Pham need to assume the virus can be spread through the air and a 10 micron virus will spread through a facemask or around a plastic shield as if it weren’t there. They should wear respirators.

Americans need the Truth. Truth will deter panic more than empty assurances from pseudo-politicians in the CDC.

Update: A second hospital worker has tested positive to the disease, and it’s increasingly likely that Ms. Pham didn’t make a mistake removing her protective gear. Instead it’s looking like the CDC protocol for handling this disease is wrong and needs to be changed.

Since the advent of antibiotics and common vaccines we have been spared the pandemics that raged through our history like Bubonic Plague, Smallpox and Spanish Flu. These diseases not only killed millions, they changed our history countless times. Since these were tamed, however, the only large outbreak has been HIV so most of the experience of public health professionals has been with this virus. Unfortunately HIV and Ebola are very different viruses. HIV is quite weak outside the body. It breaks down quickly on surfaces and can only penetrate the skin through a wound. Ebola on the other hand is much stronger. It can remain virulent on surfaces for long periods. It easily passes through the skin and doesn’t need to gain entry to the body through a cut the way HIV does. Worse, the those infected shed much more of the virus through diarrhea, uncontrolled bleeding and vomiting. HIV doesn’t cause such symptoms making it much harder to transmit.

My guess is that the CDC’s protocols are based on HIV and if so, they are inadequate and must be changed. “(CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden) outlined new steps this week designed to stop the spread of the disease, including the creation of an Ebola response team, increased training for health care workers nationwide and changes at the Texas hospital to minimize the risk of more infections.”

Mistakes are going to be made, and demanding perfection is unrealistic. As long as we learn from the mistakes and deal honestly with their consequences we will eventually control the advance of this disease. Am I scared? Of course I am. This is a nasty disease but what other choices do we have?

Update 2: It gets worse. The second hospital worker, a nurse named Amber Joy Vinson, flew from Cleveland back to Dallas just 12 hours before she came down with a fever. The plane stayed in Dallas overnight and then was used for several flights the following day before being taken out of service today.

The likelihood of a passenger on any of those flights catching the disease from Ms. Vinson is low but it is not zero, and given the failures so far to stop the spread in Dallas I’m wondering whether it would have been too much to ask for hospital management and the CDC to make the following rule:

If you are being actively monitored for potential exposure to the virus (as Ms. Vinson was), don’t fly.

It seems like common sense to me.

One other note: We will soon be entering cold/flu season and millions will be developing fevers that are not caused by Ebola, providing a perfect screen for the disease to spread in. While perfection from the CDC may be too much to ask, we should expect them to at least up their game.

Update 3: Ms. Vinson knowingly boarded the plane with a temperature of 99.5 degrees. This is below the threshold of 100.4, but what the heck…

Update 4: March 1, 2015 – Pham survived the disease and is now suing the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for failing to protect her and the other caregivers.

 

Stinkbug War: 2014

Just a note for you Internet denizens who are plagued by stinkbugs.

The infestation began about around Sept. 11 with the stinkbugs crawling on our screens, windows and siding. We set up indoor traps (lamps above pans of water with detergent in it) and I dedicated a shop vac to sucking them off the outside of the house. I put a small amount of water with non-t0xic detergent in the shop vac, and when it became full I dumped it into the mulch pile and turned the pile.

Current body-count so far: 3,000 estimated but they didn’t go down without a fight. They broke the shop-vac so I’m using an old handheld Shark from my workroom, and if that breaks I’ve got a new 6 gallon one in a box in my truck.

I just spent 15 minutes and sucked up 242. They absolutely love getting between the plastic dog houses and the deck. I scored about a third of the count there.

The horror… The horror…