Ebola – Don’t Panic But Don’t Underestimate The Virus

As someone who is married to a doctor who spends her vacations in Africa treating rural villagers I take Ebola very seriously, especially since quite a few medical personnel have died from the virus. Although this virus has been infecting people since the 1970s we know very little about it. In the past it has burned itself out by pretty much killing everyone who came into contact with it in the African bush. This time around it has made it to the cities, and news stories are circulating that it has left Africa and made it to Europe and perhaps the US.

The crazies are beginning to take notice. Michael Savage has slammed the CDC for bringing two Ebola victims, an American doctor and nurse, to the US for treatment. He asks, “Why have they brought an infected doctor and another patient from the area of contagion to Emory University in the U.S. when these individuals could treated just as well in Africa? Perhaps they are using these two patients as guinea pigs in a trial for a new vaccine from which billions are to be made if successful.”

Evidently Savage has never spent time in an African hospital. I have seen my share, and if your idea of a hospital is an American public high school nurse’s office except with fewer drugs, then you have a pretty good idea of what constitutes the average African hospital. They simply do not have the resources that Emory does. Could we bring Emory over there? Perhaps in a few months sure, but the Americans had hours to live. Was there a risk to bringing them here? Absolutely, but that risk had to be weighed against the likely outcomes for the two Americans. A few weeks ago someone found a stash of old smallpox vials that had been forgotten. We’ve been experimenting with dangerous biological organisms here in the US for decades; it’s not like this is the first time a virus as notorious as Ebola has been brought to US shores. So the risk was miniscule compared to the odds against the two Americans suffering from the virus. In my view it was the right decision. Oh, and Michael, the gist of your argument makes you sound as wackadoodle as the anti-corporate progressives.

Ebola is a frightening virus, but the way forward is to combat the virus with scientific research, not throwing up the walls and cowering in fear. And it certainly isn’t by using one’s favorite whipping boy to stifle a vaccine.

 

“All this blood we see out here is on Obama’s hands”

Once again the British media covers American problems better than the American media does. This Daily Mail piece interviews ranchers on the border in Texas. Warning: It’s not pretty.

The Council Has Spoken: August 1, 2014

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Jesse Ventura’s New Book

Hot on the heels of his legal victory over the widow of Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, former wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura announced the release of his new book.

Update: Here’s one opinion from the NSW (Naval Special Warfare) Community. Evidently I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a special circle of Hell waiting for this turd.

Open Borders Hurt Poor Americans the Most

Something tells me if we were facing an influx of corporate CEOs or a flood of journalists into this country willing to work for less than minimum wage the illegal immigrant invasion would be portrayed differently. In Bracing for Amnesty Matthew Vadum writes,

Although amnesty remains deeply unpopular among the American public at large, the activist Left wants the low-ball estimate of 11 million illegal aliens present in the U.S. to be processed because they see them as future Democratic voters. In addition, many labor unions, such as SEIU (which has executives focused solely on immigration issues) see today’s illegals as future union members. Business lobbies favor amnesty because they crave the cheap, largely unskilled labor.

Vadum captures the unholy trinity pushing for opening our borders to cheap labor. Lost in the rush is the impact on those who will suffer the consequences, the working poor. Those who claim to represent them aren’t. I happen to live in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. The chicken tender scorers at the local Tyson chicken processing plant won’t be seeing higher wages paid for their dangerous and soul-killing work, not when the county is filled with Mexican laborers. But it’s great news for Tyson shareholders and the management who has to keep them happy.

Yet I am perceived on the Left as a racist for pointing this out.

Why I Collect Ancient Roman Coins

In the picture above I’m holding within my hand a silver denarius minted in Ancient Rome during the reign of Marcus Aurelius between 161 and 180 AD. Emperor Marcus Aurelius was considered one of the better Roman emperors, the last of a string of decent leaders known as the “adoptive emperors” beginning with Nerva and ending with Aurelius’s choice of his biological son Commodus to succeed him. At that point it was all down hill for the empire.

I have begun a modest collection of ancient Roman coins, focusing on pre-Diocletian post-Republic silver coins known as denarii. As seen in the picture above they are quite small, roughly the size of a dime, and usually weigh around 3 grams. As with any hobby the key one can spend too much money. This site specializes in the high end where one can spend thousands on a single coin. Some of these are works of art (for truly beautiful ancient coins check out these Greeks). I stick to a $50 per coin limit.

There’s something sublime about holding a coin that was minted by hands long dead. I find the honest wear of these coins more appealing than the sterile beauty of their high end cousins. This wear is the result of being touched and carried by countless people, and each coin sets one’s imagination alight. Was this a day’s wage for a Roman on a Parthian campaign? Or was it an offering to the numerous gods the Romans worshiped? Then there are the hands of those who kept it over the millennia, first as a store of wealth after the collapse of the empire, then as a curiosity and finally, a reminder of a time long before. I sometimes reflect on Life and see the threads of generations that tie us to our distant past. The strands are clear for the most recent generations, but it doesn’t take long for them to trail into darkness after only a handful of generations. Yet what amazes me is although the strands are in the darkness and we don’t know to whom they tie us, we still feel their pull on us in our daily lives.

The foundation of the calendar that manages our time lay in the reforms made by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. The names and duration of all the months are courtesy of Caesar (except Quintilis and Sextilis which were named July and August after Caesar and his successor Augustus). Our political system, our philosophy, even the languages we speak are all tied to the Romans and their idolized yet disrespected  forebears, the ancient Greeks. Everything we do is shaped by the threads which stretch into the darkness and lead back to Rome and the hands that touched that coin, yet these threads remain invisible to us.

But the coins aren’t just about the past, and the threads don’t end with us. They pass through us and it has nothing to do with whether you have children or not.

We are participants in History and we shape its future in ways that are impossible for us to imagine. Dramatic gestures like voting mean much less than the low-level interactions we have with one another. One of the most important decisions I made in my life, to appeal my rejection from college,  was suggested by a co-worker at a video store I worked at. I forget her name, but her words led me to challenge the decision successfully which in turn placed me at a location where I met my Wife. I didn’t know that moment was so important, and neither did she, but her kindness and my humility to accept her advice came at a critical moment. The importance of that interactionhas tempered my interactions with others and made me more positive and helpful with those I meet because I never know if and when I will have a similar impact on them the way that bouncy little college girl at the video store in 1988 had on me.

Just as the hands shaped the Marcus Aurelius denarius, our hands will shape the world of those far into the future who will touch the things we touch, and feel the same tug of threads in the darkness that we feel. We of course will be long dead but our influence will live on just as the Romans does today. Let us hope they will think of kindly and not judge us too harshly, or worst of all, forget us.

Council Submissions: July 30, 2014

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2 More Years of Failure Instead of Impeachment

John Boehner does have some brains at least. The House Speaker has ruled out impeachment, saying “(I)t’s all a scam started by the Democrats in the White House.”

Boehner is right. The GOP doesn’t need to make a martyr out of the worst president I’ve lived under in my brief lifetime. Better instead to let Obama golf his way through his lame duck presidency as the world falls apart and the Democratic Party’s 2016 chances with it.  Let the Democratic Party own this mess without the distraction of Obama’s martyrdom. They need to savor the failure of his presidency as only his opponents have and face the consequences of their stupidty to raise this inexperienced academic to the most powerful position in the world.

My late mother-in-law used to always tell someone when they complained, “You chose this path.” We as a country chose this path and we are constitutionally obligated to suffer the consequences of our actions. No matter how much I detest this president, I do not want to see him impeached unless incontrovertible proof arises for  “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” All the scandals I have documented on this website, all the idiocy the world and this country has suffered from the incompetence, misguided idealism and sheer greed of this president and his administration do not rise to that standard.

I opposed the impeachment of Clinton when I was a Democrat, and I oppose the impeachment of Obama as a registered Republican. I am relieved to see Boehner appreciates what impeachment means to the political fabric of the United States in contrast to those who will impeach anyone whom they oppose.

Today’s Dose of Irony

For you connoisseurs of Irony. This from the People’s Cube.

Be sure to check out the complete post for your 100% RDA of Irony.

Perceptions of an NRA Member

I kind of like this meme. Here’s my take on my life as an NRA member.

The Council Has Spoken: July 25, 2014

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American Jews Need to Wake Up

I chatted to a friend of mine this morning over what’s been going on in Gaza. He’s Jewish and was quite critical of Israel in a post on Facebook. Instead of commenting on his post, I messaged him, and we went back and forth regarding Israel. Our discussion made me realize how American Jews simply do not get Israel. They don’t fully comprehend what Israel is about. American Jews have had it easy for the past few generations. It’s been a long time since discrimination against Jews was common, and anti-Semitism has been a low key affair here in the USA when compared to Europe and the Middle East.

There have always been some Jews that were Zionists, that felt a deep seated, often faith-based need for the establishment of the state of Israel. But it wasn’t until the Russian Pogroms at the turn of the century followed by the spike of anti-Semitism in continental Europe that culminated in the Holocaust that a majority of  Jews understood the necessity of Israel. For two millennia Jews had relied upon “blending in”, compromising whenever necessary, and relying upon the humanity of non-Jews for their existence. But the Russian Pogroms followed by the Holocaust proved the bankruptcy of such beliefs. Jews might be safe for awhile, but they could never rely upon non-Jews for their very existence. Hitler proved the fragility of the Jewish people, how easily their situation in the Diaspora could turn from success and prosperity to survival overnight.

Hitler and the Nazis did not arise from nothing. The only difference between them and the various kings and queens who expelled or sanctioned the slaughter of Jews since the fall of the Roman Empire was scale. Queen Isabella would surely have used train cars to expel the Jews from Spain had they existed in the 15th century, and the Czars would have resorted to the gas chambers had they the technical know-how of 20th century Germany. To the survivors of the Holocaust “Never Again” didn’t mean the world should never allow mass murder on the scale of the Holocaust, for the Jewish community it was a warning that never again should the Jews entrust their survival to anyone but themselves.

The State of Israel promised that no matter how bad things got in the Diaspora, every Jew had a home, a place of safety, a “plan B” for when things got bad and the disease of Jew Hating arose. For over 60 years Israel has provided that plan B to all Jews no questions asked, and hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union to Ethiopia have taken Israel up on the offer.

American Jews of today don’t understand the need for this. Generations have grow up in a culture where not only are Jews accepted, individuals are celebrated. Instead of seeing Jews as “Christ killers” conservative American Christians see Jews as co-religionists and view Israel as proof of the promise and power of G-d’s Word. But through the centuries Jews have enjoyed such prosperity, success and even celebration in places where they were later slaughtered.

The signs are already here. While the fundamentalist Christian sects remain strong Israel supporters, the more liberal Christian sects are falling prey to leftist ideology that embraces anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism and the cause of the Palestinians. Jewish students are increasingly harassed on college campuses. Yarmulka wearers are attacked. As the BDS movement evolves the distinction between Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and Judaism itself becomes erased. Jew Hatred is so deeply embedded in Western Society that it doesn’t take much for it to arise to the surface. America has a long tradition of Jew Hatred; we just haven’t reverted to type just yet. But we will, and once the disease infects the moderates and eventually the Right, American Jews will learn what “never again” truly meant, but as usual they will only learn it the hard way.

There will always be non-Jews like me who support Judaism for various reasons. Are American Jews ready to rely upon the likes of me for their safety and survival? I would hope not. American Jews need Israel more than I do. It’s their Plan B, there for them when the s**t hits the fan and they need to get out quick. But it will only be there for them if they support it every time it needs them to.

 

Council Submissions: July 23, 2014

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A Trip to Mt. Hiei, Kyoto Japan

I wrote the following while living in Kyoto Japan in 1993. Noise pollution in Japan remains an issue today.

Kyoto is a city of a million people lying about 35 miles north of Osaka. Although mass transportation and urban sprawl have turned Kyoto into a suburb of Osaka, Kyoto has retained its identity as being the cultural and historical capital of Japan, even managing to retain its distinctive dialect of Japanese. It sits in a broad valley with low mountains to the north, east and west with a thin and shallow concrete banked river running north-south through the eastern half of the city. The city is a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial spaces with the edges predominantly residential and the southern part of the city industrial. Centuries old Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines dot the city. Although Kyoto escaped the bombings which leveled other cities like Osaka during the war, most of the temples and shrines in Kyoto were destroyed in the various civil wars which raged in the area between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries or by accidental fires which periodically spread and laid waste to the city.

Late one summer the Wife and I  decided to escape the heat and city life by visiting Mount Hiei in Eastern Kyoto. Hiei is a cone-shaped mountain rising about 3,000 feet above sea-level at the northeastern edge of the city. We chose Hiei because we were craving outdoor activity after months spent living and working in the city. Plus Hiei’s history is irresistible to any serious Nipponophile.

In the 12th century monasteries of the Tendai sect of Buddhism were established around the summit of Mt. Hiei. Thousands of warrior monks lived, prayed and trained at the “Enryakuji”, the great monastic headquarters of the sect. As the power of the rulers in the Imperial Palace in Kyoto ebbed with the general collapse of centralized government during the period, the warrior monks caused problems. At various occasions during the next three hundred years the monks would descend on Kyoto to rape, pillage and generally wreak havoc in the city and the surrounding areas, returning to the safety of their heavily fortified monasteries before an organized defense could be mounted. Weakened by corruption and the shift of power to the provincial nobility, the central government could do little to combat the raids and the threat the monks posed to feudal society.

Oda Nobunaga was the first of three great leaders who unified Japan in the 16th century. He was a provincial lord from the east of Kyoto who, using diplomacy and force, began the unification of Japan which his successors Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Tokugawa Ieyasu completed in the early 17th century. In 1568 Oda seized Kyoto and for 3 years worked to control the various sects of warrior monks living in the mountains surrounding the city. In 1571 he laid siege to Mt. Hiei in an attempt to subdue the monks of the Enryakuji. With the failure of various diplomatic overtures and military attacks and no sign that the monks were suffering from the siege, Oda installed archers at the siege line circling the mountain and the set fire to the trees. The heavily forested mountain of cypress, fueled by dry summer winds created an inferno which trapped the monks at the mountain’s summit, setting fire to their wooden fortifications. In desperation the monks ran through the flames and were picked off one-by-one by the archers. Thousands of monks were killed and at a single stroke he power of the warrior monks was destroyed. Only in 1992 did the monks of the Tendai sect begin to include Oda Nobunaga in their prayers at their annual memorial of the event.

We took a city bus to the foot of the mountain then a cable car which ratcheted up the side of the mountain on geared tracks. Halfway up we switched to a rope-way which lifted us above the cypress-covered valley and carried us to the summit. As we exited the car and stepped on the broad summit of the mountain, all thoughts of a quiet hike in contemplation of nature and history were blasted out of our skulls by a barrage of Japanese pop music blaring from loudspeakers mounted on telephone poles and trees around the summit. Expecting to find quiet Buddhist temples and hiking trails we found a miniature golf course and game center with a grass-ski lodge where one could strap on roller skis and ski down the mountainside while being serenaded by Japanese pop stars. Searching the woods for an escape from the cacophony we stumbled upon a broad asphalt parking lot flanked by small open air kiosks selling souvenirs and fast food such as fried octopus and squid omelets. We crossed the parking lot and ignored a chain across a trail head and set down the path strewn with soft drink cans. cigarette butts and even rusting refrigerators. Although quieter the noise echoed between the ridges and trees to become an even more annoying din.

The trail zig-zagged down the mountain but try as we might we could not escape the noise. Just when we thought we had found a place where the noise was blocked, the wind would shift and we would be assaulted by the noise again. After half an hour of hiking down the mountain, the litter and omnipresent noise were too much and we decided to leave.

As we turned and began the hike back up the trail we heard the sound of a distant temple gong. Behind a thicket of trees we could make out a Buddhist monastery. The gong sounded again and for an instant I imagined the how the valley must have looked hundreds of years ago during Oda’s siege. The encampment and bamboo barricades at the foot of the mountain. Oda’s banners flapping in the summer breeze. The smoke and advancing wall of flame. But the gong stopped and the din from above muscled out the thoughts. We slowly made our way up the trail and left the mountain.

2014 Update: Beat poet Gary Snyder once said of Japanese Buddhism, “They got the message but didn’t open the envelope.” While living there I was never able to bridge the dichotomy between what the Japanese present and what they really are. Pollution was everywhere, and noise pollution in particular made it impossible for one to ever be alone with his or her thoughts. There were even speakers at the famous rock garden temple of Ryoanji that never shut up. The idea of tranquility never became reality, and the Japanese couldn’t understand it because they had grown up with the noise pollution and so couldn’t understand why foreigners complained. They just didn’t get it.

 

The Council Has Spoken: July 18, 2014

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