I have not previously commented on the monumental train wreck commonly referred to as Obamacare because much has already been said ad infinitum and I have little to add. However, I am impelled to throw out a comment or two.
One: When dealing with politics, a truism is that nothing is as it seems. Everything has a hidden agenda. Two: Politicians know next to nothing about health care, an extremely complex system. Three: Politicians know even less about computer software systems. Notwithstanding all this, they--all Democrats--fashioned a ridiculously complex, 2000+ page law purporting to revamp and control the American health care system, ostensibly to provide health care to 46 million uninsured, currently reduced to 7 million, or is it five? This involved a computer software system consisting of millions of lines of code created by an inexperienced foreign vendor.
Are you getting a picture here? This contraption was never intended to work. The "hidden" purpose was to move eventually into a single-payer health care system, commonly known as Socialized Medicine. I am not going to go into the merits or demerits of socialized medicine. There are a number of these behemoths clanking along in other countries, evidencing various degrees of ineptitude and disfunction, all at costs far exceeding the wildest pre-predictions.
It is an apparently irrestible impulse of the left-wing to state goals far in advance of implementation. It has been clearly stated by several lefties, including our esteemed king--I mean president. Single-payer was and is the clearly-stated goal. Obamacare is intended to be a disfunctional stepping stone to that end, riding in like the proverbial white knight to save us all from the current mega-cyborg clanking loudly towards functional oblivion.
How, you ask, will this work? Won't it be even more of a mess than the current one? Not really. It already is in place. It's called Medicare. All that is needed is to expand it to cover everyone instead of us lucky folks over 65. Gobs of money will be required, but then the Chinese seem to have an inexhaustable supply to lend us, or maybe the Federal Reserve can just create the money out of thin air like it already is doing to pump up the stock market. All it takes is a simple computer keystroke. "How may trillion did you say you wanted?"
So, be of good cheer, folks. The Cavalry is coming to save us all. Except folks like me who are already there. Lucky us.
Bet y'all can't wait.
I have long made a practice of prognosticating and commenting on issues involving aviation by virtue of my background as a former jet fighter and transport (C-130) pilot. But I must admit this one has me stumped. There is no doubt Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 was hijacked, probably but not necessarily by one or both flight crew members--pilot and/or co-pilot. The problem is not what happened, but why.
The what is clear because the aircraft transponder and a flight data reporting system were turned off 12 minutes before the final voice transmission from the pilot. The key equipment was the transponder or SIF. A transponder is a device that replies to an interrogation with data. The SIF, which stands for Selective Identification Feature, responds with a selectible four-digit code when interrogated by a radio frequency signal. It is used by Air Traffic Control to uniquely identify various aircraft. The response codes are displayed on the ATC scopes.
As a matter of interest, this system dates back to World War II and the advent of radar early in that conflict. The problem was telling the good guys from the bad so you didn't shoot down a friend. This problem was solved by the development of IFF, which stood for Identification--Friend or Foe. The early IFF's used a two-digit code, 00 to 77. Why 77 is lost in the murk of history, but probably had something to due with the octal numbering system favored by IBM. The codes would be changed daily.
After the war, the system was adapted for civilian use, the code set expanded to four 0-7 digits to allow for the unique identification of many aircraft under ATC monitoring. A unique application incorporated later was a special hijack code, which was 7777. What was neat was the fact that code digits were selected by thumbwheels set close together so that all four could be rotated upward, selecting all 7's, by sliding the palm of the hand forward. It was not necessary to look.
I'm sure modern airliners have equipment considerably different from what I was used to in the planes I flew umpteen years ago, but the principle would be the same.
In the case of MH370, the hijack 7777 code was not activated, suggesting crew complicity. What is equally mystifying is the flight path, identified by line of position (LOP) determination by a satellite. This identified the likely flight path as either circular northward over parts of India and possibly China into the southern Arabian peninsula, or southward over water toward Australia. The northern route is unlikely due to probable detection by ground radar. The southward path was largely over the Indian Ocean to nowhere.
Some large pieces of possible wreckage have been detected by visual satellite west of Australia, approximately at the limit of the aircraft's fuel. It seems likely to me that MH370 flew southward overwater to nowhere and ran out of fuel, crashing into the ocean with the loss of all aboard.
This whole scenario makes no sense, as there is no apparent motive. If this was a suicide effort, why fly for hours and hundreds of miles? If it was a hostage incident, where were they going? There were 160 Chinese citizens aboard out of 229 total. What nation or terrorist group would want them? Certainly not Iran, the home country of both pilots. China is a friend to a number of the Middle Eastern terrorist-supporting countries, especially Iran who certainly would not want to antagonize their Chinese friends. And what would the Taliban or Hezbollah do with that mess?
I'm sorry, but for the first time in my memory, I have no plausible theory, except an act of irrational and evil insanity. There is little doubt that MH370 and its crew and passengers are lost. The hours-long flight must have been an horrific experience for the passengers. I suppose in this secular paradise of an un-Christian world anything is possible. We may never know the real reason why.
I think a number of analysts and reporters are missing the point when it comes to the current antics of Vladimer Putin regarding the Russian incursion into the Crimean Ukraine and Ukrainian border areas. Based on long personal observation of Russian/Soviet actions going back to World War II, I think I have some slight understanding of the Russian mystique.
Russia was a feudal cripple prior to the Communist revolution and a world non-entity afterwards, that is until WW II. The ill-considered Nazi invasion, engineered almost solely by a psychologically crippled--after grievious injury in an assassination attempt by his own high military officers--Adolf Hitler, inspired massive Allied assistance and eventual German defeat thanks to dogged resistance by outgunned Russian/Soviet armies and incredible suffering by the Russian populace and, of course, the brutal Russian winter. This monumental achievement began the ascendency of the Soviet Union on the world stage. Continued massive aid, largely from the U.S., helped the now Soviet Union, consisting of Russia in the lead and including the star--the Ukraine--and other lesser lights, achieve world status.
At the end of WW II, the U.S. was the sole nuclear power. However, it is not well known that Nazi Germany had a very active atomic bomb development program reputed to be in advance of our own. It was detected by underground agents and subsequently bombed to rubble by the British. Hitler decided not to reconstitute it. [Thank you, Lord!] Both the U.S. and the Soviets grabbed off German nuclear scientists, with The Soviet Union getting most of them along with a bunch of rocket scientists. (Remember the V1 and V2?)
Much of the Soviet nuclear program was the result of extremely effective espionage led, you guesssed it, by the KGB, against a feckless U.S. Consequently, the Soviet Union became a nuclear superpower in competition with the U.S. in what was called the Cold War. Russia/Soviet Union was now a major player on the world stage, a heady experience for what was and still is a depressing, mostly gray country. The Russian people loved their new-found, unfamiliar status as a feared entity.
Then came Reagan, Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980's. This largely was the result of an obsession with military hardware without an economic infrastructure to support it. There are many Russians today who regard those Cold War days with nostalgia, perhaps foremost our friend, Vladimer Putin, former head of the KGB. He has publically stated his ambition to be the architect of the reconstitution of the Soviet Union. The Ukraine, former star member, is his first target.
Having observed weakness, incompetence and indecision in the American executive branch and confident in his immunity from meaningful consequences, I believe he has decided to make his move. Crimea, a strategic region with fine all-year seaports which Russia lacks, is simply the first shoe dropping. Be prepared for more footwear thumps.
Either our Administration is oblivious to what is going on or has not the guts to take meaningful action or, sadly very likely, we do not presently have the military capacity, especially air power, to engage in any major action due to depletion by several unwise and protracted Middle-Eastern wars, followed by extremely unwise budget cuts and downsizing. The Syrian diplomatic/military flop was, I believe, the cardinal event in emboldening Putin to make his move. He is probably unstoppable, particularly because he has the support of much of the Russian public who yearn for the heady days of yesteryear.
Economic sanctions will be ignored by stalwart, long-suffering Russians, for whom suffering is an art form. Such is the consequence of weakness, real or perceived.
In the words of the Lone Ranger, we return to the days of yesteryear. Should be interesting to watch.
"....give me death." words spoken by Patrick Henry at the founding of this great nation. Words that would never be heard today in this self-indulgent, dependent society. This post is about liberty, or freedom if you will. This nation was founded by people who escaped from a despotic all-powerful monarchic government under King George III in England. They were deptermined to limit the centralization of power, which they accomplished by writing a Constitution that restricted government to limited, specified, functions, all other powers to be vested in the states. By enforcing decentralization, they hoped to prevent the concentration of power that inevitably results in despotism. In the words of Lord Acton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
I was eight years old at the start of the Second World War for the United States. I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but I knew it was something very important. As time passed, I became aware that we were in the fight of our lives, for the survival of freedom. The entire nation joined in the greatest mobilization of industry and military might the world has ever known. There was no dissent, because the cause was so precious--our freedom. Great numbers of young Americans sacrificed their lives for an ideal so important as to impel the dire risk of life. Civilians sacrificed in a severe rationing program without complaint; well, maybe a little. Consequently, we prevailed over the powerful Nazi and Japanese war machines. Make no mistake, it was a near thing. I personally believe that God took a hand in this struggle to give us the victory. The D-Day invasion would have failed except for a fortuitous confluence of happenstances that blunted the Nazi response to the invasion. I don't believe in "fortuitous happenstance," otherwise known as luck
Time has passed. Bit by bit our freedoms have been co-opted in the name of security and protection. Government has grown into the all-powerful megalith that we have today and we have let it. The Constitution has been circumvented and often simply bypassed to justify "programs" promoted as benefits. As the Marquis de Custine said in 1839, "Despotism is never a greater menace than when it claims to do good. It excuses its most heinous acts by its intentions, and evil posing as a remedy has no limits."
Every law, every regulation, every bureaucratric policy constitutes a loss of freedom. Each government intrusion into our lives incorporates a transfer of power to the central government. Degree by degree, over the years, the frog has been boiled. Today, virtually every activity involves government to some degree. Yes, we are secure, more or less. Yes, we are comfortable, more or less. But at what price? We have abdicated the first two letters of "independence".
Of course some law and regulation is necessary for an orderly society. But we have gone well beyond that. The free, aggressive, independent entrepreneural spirit that built this nation has been coopted by government control. Liberals would say, "Good; only government has the power to fix things." Unfortunately, as Lord Acton wisely observed, with power goes corruption. Government has become an end in itself. It has become more concerned with perpetuating and expanding its power by whatever means necessary than serving the public.
Everything political has become about power. Even environmentalism-at the government level-and health care ("Obamacare") are about power. Common Core is more about federal control than education. The "War on Poverty" instituted in the 1960's, an abject failure by any measure despite the expenditure of trillions, was more about centralized power than helping people. You don't help people out of poverty by giving them things; you simply sap ambition and make them dependent--on the government. An African-American leader, I think it was Sharpton, once said in all seriousness, (I paraphrase) "The solution to the poverty problem is for the government to give every poor person $10,000." (Ten grand was a lot more money back then.) Only personal ambition and resolve will solve the poverty problem, and that's what our liberal, socialistic government actively discourages.
I'm not saying all politicians and bureaucrats are charlatans. Unfortunately, though, many are. The fault lies with the philosophy. Helping and giving are not necessarily synonymous. "Please help the poor" should not mean a handout, but rather a hand up. The liberal approach is a handout; the conservative is opportunity. This is perhaps overly simplistic, but the concept is valid. Only the opportunity, exercised, to become self-sufficient is a permanent solution. Al Sharpton's approach would last maybe six months and the recipeints would be worse off than before. Don't scoff; a version of that policy has already been implemented.
Freedom is the heart of opportunity. Freedom and independence are intertwined. Take away a person's independence and you stifle ambition and incentive. Our government, mainly at the federal level, has become so pervasive in our society that the kind of brave resolve so evident during the "Great War" is largely gone. The frog is boiled and I fear for the future of this soon-not-to-be great nation. It was a noble and daring experiment created by inordinately brilliant men, I believe with divine guidance, and enforced by the most remarkable document ever created, our Constitution, a set of precepts that uniquely enshrined freedom. Diabolically clever people have found ways to circumvent it, to our great peril. What the Founders feared has come to pass. We have become for all intents and purposes a monarchy.
George III is reincarnated and lives in the White House.
As is the custom, Memorial Day is featured in newspaper articles and newscasts. Tributes to the fallen are numerous and fully justified. However, there are many unsung heroes that languish in anonymity. One such account is of the hell ships of WW II. Towards the end of the war, Japan was desperate for POW labor to replace their young men gone to war. Consequently, they shipped American POW's in the holds of merchant ships bound for Japan. The conditions as you can imagine were abysmal and many died during the voyage and afterwards from debilitation.
In violation of the Geneva Convention, the ships were not marked as POW transports. As a result, many were sunk by American submarines and aircraft. The loss of life was horrendous, made worse by the Japanese killing the survivors instead of rescuing them. A total of 3600 American POW's were lost in Japanese merchant ship sinkings, most during 1944. Another 700+ who were not sunk died later. There are stories of American POW's attempting to save their comrades by hoisting them out of the sinking ships' holds by building human "ladders", only to be gunned down in the water by the Japanese.
In September, 1944, the Shinyo Maru was sunk with the loss of 832 Americans, 82 executed in the water. In October, the Arisan Maru went down with 1800 loss of life, 8 survivors executed. The Arisan Maru went down on October 24th with the loss of 49 POW's from Wisconsin, the deadliest day in the entire war for our state. These are just a few examples.
There are two lessons to take from this largely ignored chapter of WW II. One, is that America is one of the very few nations who fight wars under moral precepts. Other nations typically ignore the Geneva Convention and execute prisoners or starve them under unspeakable conditions of detention, including extreme torture. We are the stronger as a result of our inner moral strength. One reason for the tenacity and valor with which Americans fight is we have a cause, a moral imperative that our opponents rarely possess. This leads journalists to wonder where we find such men and women today in our volunteer military.
Second, there are many cases of valor and bravery not directly related to combat. Our POW's with very few exceptions, conducted themselves with patriotism, bravery and an inner strength that often confounded our enemies. They must not be forgotten. So, on this Memorial Day, 2013, let us remember them all, those that died in combat and those that died at the hands of a depraved enemy. They too served with honor.
God bless them all.
Last Sunday's newspaper contained a story about a stroke victim who sued and won a $2 million settlement from a hospital in West Bend and its Emergency Department (ED). They misdiagnosed an early minor stroke event, a transient ischemic accident (TIA) that caused temporary stroke symptoms. He was sent home and later suffered a major stroke that left him partially disabled. The ED and its physician were cited for failing to administer or inform the patient of a simple test, an ultrasound, that would have detected a 95% carotid artery blockage that later resulted in the major stroke. The article was informative but contained some erroneous information.
I feel compelled to relate my personal experience with stroke to correct the error in the newspaper article and to provide some important information concerning strokes and their treatment that I believe is inadequately understood. This in the hope that someone may avoid the mistakes made in our case that had tragic results.
My wife, Joan, experienced a stroke in 2009 at home. I detected the symptoms almost immediately--confusion, inability to understand questions and inability to stand. I immediately called 911 and the ambulance was there within 10 minutes. She was transported to a nearby hospital, arriving well within the first hour after symptom onset. At the hospital, she was examined by their stroke "expert" neurologist. Upon my arrival, he informed me that he "didn't think it was a stroke," a diagnosis that surprised me since both I and the EMT's who transported her thought it was. I asked what he thought was wrong and he said "something chemical." Joan was awake and struggling with everything she had against what she knew as an RN was happening to her.
I objected to the doctor's diagnosis as an impossibility since she had taken no medication that morning. He informed me--and this is the error in the newspaper article--that they had taken a CAT scan and "it was clear" except for "evidence of an earlier stroke," which was correct. The impression I got was that there was no evidence of a stroke so I stopped objecting. Joan was admitted and spent two days struggling against the dark monster that was destroying her brain, screaming "NO!, NO! GOD HELP ME!" almost non-stop. I can only imagine the horror that she was experiencing as her personality, her essence, was being inexorably snuffed out as her brain cells died. ( It takes about two days for brain cells deprived of blood supply to die.)
Joan had suffered a blood clot, caused by atrial fibrillation. A-fib is erratic contraction of the upper chambers of the heart, the atriums, that draw in blood and pass it to the lower chambers, the ventricles, that then pump it out. A-fib causes pooling, like eddys in a stream, which can result in the formation of clots. In her case, which is common, the clot passed into the aorta, the main artery carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The first major arteries branching from the aorta are the carotids, one on each side of the neck, that supply blood to the brain. Her clot passed through the left carotid and lodged in the left cranial artery that supplies much of the brain's left hemisphere. The areas affected included speech recognition and generation, a major motor cortex (muscle control) and cognition areas at the front and rear (parietal and occipital) of the brain.
Atrial clot formation is effectively treated by anticoagulants, most commonly warfarin or coumadin. Due to some medical miscommunication, Joan was not taking that drug. This is an important point. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with A-fib, make sure that anticoagulant therapy is instituted promptly. The second medical screw-up, the most damaging, occurred in the hospital ED.
There has been substantial public exhortation to get stroke victims to the hospital as soon as possible. However, there has been little specific explanation as to why. Blood clots form relatively slowly, starting as soft fibrous masses and gradually solidifying in a matter of hours. There is a drug called tPA--tissue plasminogen activator--that, when administered during the clot "soft" phase, will dissolve the clot. After the clot hardens, usually six hours after initiation, tPA is no longer effective. If administered within the first hour, when Joan was in the ED, tPA is 70% effective in achieving significant improvement.. This decreases gradually until at 3 hours it is about 50% effective and at 6 hours about 10%. (These statistics come from a definitive study by the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke [NINDS], a division of the National Institutes of Health.) Unfortunately, thanks to the hospital stroke expert's "I think it's not a stroke" diagnosis, tPA was not administered to Joan. In fact, virtually nothing was done for her, leaving her to fight alone, a fight doomed to failure. Those two days while she screamed and her brain cells died were the worst two days of my life.
So, here is the bottom line, the things you need to know should a loved one experience stroke symptoms. These are: weakness, facial drooping, confusion, lack of motor control--e.g. inability to grasp or stand, unresponsiveness. Should any or several of these symptoms occur suddenly, do not hesitate. Call 911 and get the patient to the hospital.
At the hospital, the ED will typically order an immediate CAT scan. The purpose of this procedure is NOT to determine if a stroke is occuring, but rather to identify the type of stroke--thrombic (blood clot) or ischemic (hemorrhage). The X-ray cannot see brain cells dying due to blood starvation. (Only a PET scan can see this, but is rarely covered by insurance.) It can see blood escaping from a hemorrhaging blood vessel. In the case of bleeding, tPA should not be administered because it will exacerbate the bleeding. However, if the bleeding can be arrested, substantial recovery is likely as flooding with blood does not kill brain cells, it merely shocks them into non-functioning which usually diminishes with time. About 2/3rds of strokes are caused by blood clots choking off blood supply to part of the brain. Brain cells deprived of blood supply eventually die--permanently.
If the CAT scan "sees" no blood, you must insist on the immediate administration of tPA! Some few doctors hesistate to administer this valuable medication because there is a 5% statistical possibility it may cause bleeding. Medically, this is a very small risk, but because of the vagaries of malpractice suits, some physicians prefer to avoid it. It also is expensive, about $3,000, usually covered by insurance, and requires some expertise to administer properly. But it will most likely greatly minimize subsequent. stroke disability. Insist on its administration; it is your right as a spouse or relative.
I will never forgive myself for allowing myself to be misled, I believe deliberately. My dear wife and I will live with this the rest of our lives. Joan is almost completely disabled, unable to communicate or do most anything for herself. She must be fed and is incontinent. She spends her days in a hospital bed or a special wheelchair (Broda). She is being cared for at home. It is the least I can do.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, as my profile attests. The recommendations and descriptions in this post are based on my personal experience and fairly extensive research into tPA. I should note that there are guidelines relative to the administration of tPA beyond the results of the CAT scan. I did not list them because they are not common, except perhaps for the limit of sentient blood pressure not in excess of 185 mmHg. I believe the reason for this limit is that chronic hypertension can weaken the walls of blood vessels making leakage more likely, which could be aggravated by tPA. In my and Joan's case, she had a blood pressure in the ED of 187 mmHg, but this was not sentient BPas she was extremely agitated and struggling. Anyone's blood pressure elevates under stress.
The purpose of insisting on administration of tPA is to force the physician to justify not administering it, should that be his or her decision. In no way am I suggesting that a doctor's recommendations be ignored, just that they be in the best interests of the patient.
There have been much blogging and news commenting concerning the Boston Marathon bombing, much of it inaccurate and some of it flat off the wall. Early and even recent news reports have contained much inaccuracy. Even a skeptic like me jumped the gun a bit, as my previous post on the subject indicates. I apologize for that, although I wasn't far off.
However, there is one element of this outrage that is incontrovertible. This was an act of pure evil. There is no possible rational or even irrational justification for blowing up innocent civilians at a celebratory event like the Boston Marathon. No political statement or religious belief can justify this event.
I have in past blog posts referred to the existence of a palpable evil in the land. Lest you misunderstand, I am not talking about a psychiatric aberration or some abstract concept. This is not something amenable to therapy. This is a case of an evil entity utilizing susceptible individuals to commit heinous acts. I believe that people that commit mass killings of innocent strangers are the implementation of a malevolent entity whose purpose is to sow doubt and discord to the purpose of unmoralizing us.. I can think of no other reasonable explanation.
History is replete with atrocity. The Holocaust, mass murder of thousands and even millions for political purposes, mothers killing their children, and the plethora of serial killers that have plagued society through them ages to the present day. Society has struggled to understand and eliminate these myriad unexplainable heinous acts without success. We've tried, and continue to try, to identify a solution to the problem through the methodology of mental health treatment, also witout success.
Evil fears the light of day. Acknowledging its existence and dealing with it openly is the only viable reaponse: the proverbial cross thrust in the face of the vampire. There is an omnipresent force for good in the world. We used to acknowledge it openly in schools and the workplace. Today, religious activity is discouraged and even banned in public in the misguided cause of separation of church and state. Even at this moment, some of you are uncomfortable with me, a person of scientific background, openly talking about supernatural religious concepts. I should keep it to myself except on Sunday morning for about one hour.
God exists and so does the Devil. Despite past man-made distortions and abuses in the name of religion, Christianity and Judaism consistently espouse good and oppose evil. Will religious practice and faith solve the problem of mass atrocity? I don't know, but anything that diminishes evil influence I believe is the only effective antidote to evil. If indeed those who perpetrate these acts are not in control of their impulses, then maybe, just maybe, a more open relationship of people with the only real force of good in the world will help. The desired end would be reduction in the susceptibility of individuals to succumb to evil.
Before you dismiss me as a religious fanatic, which I am not, think about the force behind the epidemic of horror afflicting society in recent and past years. To my extensive recollection, it clearly has gotten worse as we have progressively de-emphasized religious belief in society and relegated it impotent to influence our actions. Maybe it's time for a turn-around. We keep trying the same "fixes", with the same disppointing results. Repetition will not work in this instance. Onloy a greater force for good will result in effective change.
Scripture states that Satan has dominion over the earth until the last days. Looks to me like he's doing a bang-up job.
Note: I have extensively edited this piece.
It's too soon for detailed discussion, but a couple of things struck me in listening to the news coverage of this outrage. First, this has the fingerprints of al Qaida all over it. There was an early report that five additional bombs were discovered, unexploded, for a total of seven bombs including the two that did. Classic al Qaida tactics are to set off one or more coordinated explosions and then secondary blasts a short time later to catch the emergency personnel responding. I believe this was the tactic employed in Boston, except that the second set of explosive devices did not explode.
Had all seven bombs detonated, the loss of life would have been easily in the hundreds and al Qaida, or one of its splinter groups, would have had the follow-up attack predicted by Osama bin Laden after 9/11. It's generally accepted that they have been desperately trying to accomplish another major terror attack in the U.S., unsuccessfully which is a tribute to the safeguards instituted after 9/11 and the effectiveness of Homeland Security. President Obama wisely has kept much of the Bush-era policies, like the USA Patriot Act and electronic monitoring (ELINT), in place.
I believe this was to have been the big one. The fact is this attack, bad as it was, was not as horrendous as it could have been had all seven bombs detonated. The reason they didn't appears to have been that cell phone towers were shut down immediately after the initial blasts, according to early news reports. Al Qaida frequently uses cell phones to set off IED's. The folks who set up this procedure and implemented it so promptly deserve our gratitude. They are the real reason al Qaida did not get the massive terror conflagation in the U.S. that they so desperately desire.
Rest in agony, Osama.
NOTE: News reports at this time are confused and contradictory. The newspaper today (Tuesday) reports only two additional bombs were found and that cell phone service was operational. Until the situation clarifies, please treat this post as purely speculative. I still believe al Qaida was involved.
My atttention to this blog has been erratic of late, to say the least. Particularly with respect to the post on gun control, I have not serviced the comments with the attention they deserved. The reason is complex, but relates to the physical and emotional stresses of my caregiver role. At times I get quite tired and have no ambition to write, even though my head is still filled with ideas. There is a period in the day of two or three hours in the afternoon when Joan is down for her nap that I could come up to the computer room and sit down and write. But in fact I just plunk down in my easy chair and let the daily newspaper put me to sleep. I don't get enough sleep in a typical day.
So, don' t lose faith, my friends. I value your kind attention to my work in reading and commenting. I appreciate each and every comment, even those somewhat lacking in erudition or courtesy. I am feeling better and may now be able to again entertain you with my scribbling. At least I hope.
Pierre, I particularly regret not, as you put it, engaging in a give and take of ideas. With respect to the gun control issue, let me try to explain my position. Your argument is that if new restrictions save at least one life, it's worth it. No, it isn't. We are dealing with a constitutional issue, the 2nd Amendment. It clearly intends to protect the possession of arms by the citizenry. The reference to militia is in recognition of the fact that, even up to the Civil War, there was no national standing army or navy. War was simple in those days. You got a gun and, with your neighbors, shot at the enemy. (I know this is an oversimplification, but the principle is valid.) He shot back and whoever shot the best won the day. Thus, it was essential that the able-bodied citizenry had arms behind the door, ready to be taken up in defense of our fledgling nation.
Times have indeed changed. We have standing military that fights our wars. Citizen militias are an anachronism. But, it is in the Constitution, however irrelevent that part of the 2nd Amendment may be today. We tweak the Constitution to suit our present-day needs at our peril. It could very well lead to decimating the entire document, leaving us with a hollow document providing no protection of our rights against the predations of government "fixers". I think no one wants that.
There is a mechanism for changing the Constitution by amendment. It is somewhat tortuous and lengthy, deliberately so as to prevent knee-jerk modifications in response to an emotional issue. (Sound familiar?) If, however, the majority of states, 2/3rds to be exact, agree to a change, it can be done and not infrequently has been in the past. Simply put, if you don't like the constitutional citizen arms provision, then change it.
Oh, that will never happen, you say? Well then, I guess we'll have to live with it. Or maybe not. As a specific example, say Congress passes a so-called assault weapons ban, sometimes referred to as a ban on black-painted rifles. The problem is there are probably millions of black rifles already out there, so banning new sales will be largely ineffective. Then we have another tragic incident. The next step would logically be to confiscate the millions of assault weapons in private hands. Then there's an incident with Glock 17's, so we ban large-capacity magazines, leaving only Glock 10's. The same scenario repeats and existing private Glock 17's are confiscated. Need I go on? That is really the danger the NRA fears: gun confiscation. So do I.
I agree that the 2nd Amendment is somewhat outdated. But I fear that attempts to circumvent it with legislation could lead to a very undesirable paradigm. That is, working around constitutional provisions to suit immediate societal concerns. A slippery slope, indeed.
I have been on a self-imposed sabbatical, for reasons that are not clear even to me. Consequently I have not written any posts for some time now. However, a recent newspaper article so incensed me that i could not remain quiet.
The article described a situation involving a young girl, age 3, the daughter of an unmarried woman. This woman, one of 25 children by 15 different men, had a long history of physically abusing her other children, who had consequently been removed from her control and placed in foster care. Then, about three years ago she gave birth to another child, a girl whom she immediately abused with injury. This infant child was also removed from her and placed in a foster home.
Time passed, about three years, as the child grew up in the foster home, apparently in a loving, nurturing environment. However, nothing was done to terminate the mother's parental rights. The foster family experessed a desire to adopt the girl but was unable to because the mother still retained parental rights. By policy, the girl could not remain with her long-term foster family apparently because of concern for bonding, which was a bit late in this case. The Milwaukee child welfare agency then returned the child to the biological mother, who had received counseling. The mother, who appparently is suffering from mental problems, then immediately abused the child again.
The issue ended up in court before a Judge Foley, apparently a good man. Because action had not been taken to terminate parental rights by the agency, adoption by the original foster family, the only family the child has known, was not possible. The child could not be returned to the control of the mother because of the history of abuse. Therefore, the judge's only recourse was to place the child back in the foster care system. Judge Foley was publically incensed at this record of incompetence. This poor child's future is now one of multiple foster care environments with, believe it or not, supervised visitation with this obbviously incompetent biological mother. Talk about a bleak future.
Milwaukee has the unenviable reputation of possessing one of the worst records of returning children to biological mothers that resulted in further abuse. This is a classic example of the destruction of young innocent lives at the hands of an incompetent bureaucracy. I can only speculate on the reasons for this incompetence. Lack of concern is certainly a possibility, but a misguided racial element may also be involved. There apparently is a philosophy in the black community that states that black children should be raised only by black parents. I do not know if this was a factor in this case. I don't even know the race of the original foster family, although many are white. I sincerely hope that race was not a factor in the mishandling of this case, which resulted in ripping this child from a loving foster family wishing to adopt her and throwing her to the bureaucratic wolves. Had adoption occurred, this child's future would have been brightly optimistic instead of the present portent of dark disaster.
I don't have a solution, except that this bureaucratic morass should reorient itself to the welfare of the innocent child above and beyond any biological considerations, race-tinged or otherwise. I would hope that this case would result in legislative or at least administrative remediation, but, sadly, I doubt it.
This first rule: Protect the bureaucracy.
Hi, fans, I'm back! Did you miss me? Oh, well anyway, here I am again. Seriously, things got a bit hectic with the holidays and all and with my caregiver responsibilities. I just lost the incentive. So, herewith I will make a few concise comments--yes, I can do that--on a current subject that bothers me. More to come, Lord willing.
Gun Control and Mass Murder: The recent rash of multiple shootings involving individuals not normally considered mentally deranged has inspired the gun control advocacy community to again rail against assault weapons--which they are not--and guns in general. First, the so-called assault rifles used in some of these incidents were not assault rifles. The actual assault rifle that these weapons resemble is the military M-4, a selectable full or semi-automatic weapon chambered for a high-velocity .223 caliber--about the size of a .22--high-velocity cartridge.
The AR-15 is an M-4 lookalike that is only semi-automatic, firing once for each trigger pull, just like all modern handguns. It is mostly a status symbol or souvenir-type weapon, not really very suitable for hunting. (The .223 bullet is fairly light, not much good in brush found in many hunting environments. A leaf will deflect the bullet.) The classic .30-06 is a much better hunting weapon.
Having said that, banning this and similar rifles will do little to deter mass shootings. There are plenty of other hunting-appropriate weapons available as well as myriad handguns. Banning any specific weapon type is a futile gesture designed to harass gun-owners. Even though the AR-15 is not a very useful weaon except to defend against terrorists, lack of legality would have a negligible effect on mass killings such as Sandy Hook.
Banning a weapon type would only result in shifting to another for someone impelled to commit mass murder. So, what is my solution? Believe it or not, I am not in favor of the NRA aproach of arming the schools. While this might well prove effective in deterring or neutralizing a perpetrator--think if the Sandy Hook Principal and/or Psychologist had been armed and trained--I think it creates an unacceptable atmosphere of schools as armed camps. (However, I have no problem with individual school authority figures availing themselves of concealed carry under the law, just not requiring it. "Gun Free Zones" only advertise vulnerability.)
The problem, as I see it, is the nature of the society we have created. There is a clear perception of entitlement and equality, as advertised by our President during his inaugural speech, that results in much frustration among certain individuals who for personal or circumstantial reasons are frustrated in their desires. Some of these folks, suffering from a total lack of moral scruples, will react with anger at any convenient target, resulting in apparently unexplainable atrocities. They are simply motivated by mindless anger at their percieved misfortune and lash out at totally innocent victims.
This is the concequence, unintended of course, of our government's misguided attempt to "fix" everything. When "everything" isn't fixed for someone, the result is often anger and sometimes mindless rage. Until we instill a more realistic concept involving personal responsibility for one's situation in life, I'm afraid the ground will remain fertile for evil.
Sounds too simplistic? Got a better Idea? I'm listening.
I recently published two posts on the existence of evil as a palpable entity in the world (Face of Evil and Dual). I recommend re-reading them. Now we have another horrific example, the Sandy Hook massacre of Kindergarten children by a 20-year-old misfit. Adam Lanza was an obscure loner who, while considered strange, was not thought to be insane. Strangely, the divorce court gave his mother complete control over his affairs. It would be interesting to know why.
After an altercation with his mother, he took one of her guns and shot her in the face, a particularly brutal way to shoot someone. He then went to a nearby Elementary School with which he or his mother had no connection, broke in by shooting out the glass in the door and, armed with two handguns, embarked on a rampage. The principal and the school psychologist tried to stop him but were no match for his guns and were shot down dead. (One wonders if things would have ended differently if one of those school officials had been armed. A moot point because the school was a gun free zone.)
He then proceeded to a Kindergarten classroom and shot 27 children to death, finally taking his own life as the police closed in, for a total casualty count of 31 killed including him and his mother. There is no conceivable motive for this most horrendous of acts. No level of insanity would impel such an act, and Adam was not psychotic by all accounts.
As usual, we are currently engaged in an orgy of attempted explanations and preventive action proposals, from greater gun control although no-one has shown how that would have prevented this event outside of complete gun confiscation, which actually has been proposed by one legislator, to greater concern for mental health. Another legislator proposal has been to ban "semi-automatic handguns" in complete ignorance of the fact that all modern handguns, including revolvers, are semi-automatic--firing each time the trigger is pulled. An assault weapons ban is completely irrelevent to this situation in that none were involved. Tighter restrictions on gun sales would also have been ineffective in that the two weapons he used were legally and conventionally purchased by his mother.
So, what to do, for we must do something in accordance with standard liberal philosophy, other than wring our hands? The answer is, there is nothing we can do to prevent this type of perpetrator from committing heinous and inexplicable acts or horror. What we are dealing with, as I have previously stated, is a palpable force of evil. If you prefer demonic possesion, I suppose that's close enough. Evil is loose in the world and getting more powerful with each passing day. Even in pacifist countries like Norway, evil performs. I won't talk about some of the atrocities occurring daily in the Middle East and Africa, and other places around the world.
Gun control, even confiscation, is not the answer. The British are considering banning knives to stem the increase in violence following their gun ban. The only protection against evil is to oppose it with force. Yes, I'm talking about an armed responsible public. Sandy Hook is just the latest in a series of senseless mass killings that could have been prevented or mitigated by armed civilian opposition. Not in every case, of course, but at least potential victims would have a fighting chance against the encroachment of evil.
I know this is controversial, but I am open to a better suggestion. (Please, not forcible confiscation of 17 million guns.) I firmly believe that the only way to defeat evil is to confront it with effective means.
I was eight years old. It was Sunday, December 7, 1941. We went to church and came home for a quiet Sunday day of rest. We didn't watch the news because in those days we didn't have 24-hour saturation news coverage. Television was in the experimental stage. We had one radio, a brown RCA table radio on the kitchen table against the wall. It had a short wave band with which I liked to fool around. Otherwise, it was seldom turned on.
We knew nothing of the events in the South Pacific on the Island of Hawaii, more correctly Oahu. The Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval facility and Hickam Field, the airbase, that day. Bombs were falling and U.S. warships were blowing up and being sunk. Men were dying by the thousands, over 2300 by final count. The mighty battleship Arizona was mortally wounded by, it was later speculated, a bomb that went down a stack and exploded deep in her bowels next to the powder magazine. (Naval guns fired so large and heavy a projectile that the powder charge and warhead were separate. The gunpowder charge was in cloth bags loaded behind the projectile. The ship's magazine was full of bags of gunpowder.)
The Arizona blew up and capsized. Oil spilled out and caught fire. Few of her crew were able to escape as the lifeboats were useless and the ship was surrounded by a sea of burning oil. But we at home were oblivious. Our sole news source was the evening newspaper. The attack started at about 7:00 A.M., 11:00 A.M. our time The evening newspaper carried an early account of the tragedy. My parents were dumfounded and I was confused. We turned on the radio. Sometime either that day or the next, I forget which, our President Roosevelt spoke to Congress and his speech was carried live on the radio news. We listened to F.D.R.'s famous "This day shall live in infamy" speech, declaring war on the Empire of Japan. The man gave a great speech.
And so we were at war. Soon after Germany declared war on us as an ally of Japan. It is rumored that Hitler was upset at Japan for giving F.D.R. justification for entering the war. It was Adolf's strategy to keep us out. It is also reported that Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese naval office in charge of the attack, was opposed to it. He is reputed to have said afterwards, when his fellow officers were celebrating their great victory, that he feared that all they had done was to awaken a sleeping tiger. History proved him to be prophetic.
The war effort that followed was remarkable in its dedication and single-minded goal: to defeat the Axis. We had war bond drives. Schoolchildren purchased war stamps for 10¢ each and pasted them in a booklet. When the booklet was full you exchanged it for a $25 war bond, We kids planted victory gardens to help with food. Seed packets were distributed through the school free of charge. The garden was only 5 ft. x 7 ft., but everything helped.
We had food rationing with ration books that allowed limited purchases of staples. No steak. Gas rationing allowed the purchase of limited amounts of gasoline a month, just enough for my father to drive to and from work. Nothing was left for recreational trips. We had an "A" ration card, designated by a black sticker with a white "A" on the inside of the windshield. This was the lowest priority. Farmers, workers in essential industries and government officials had other letter placards like "B" and "D" allowing more gasoline to be purchased. We collected fat drippings and turned them in. (Fat was used to make munitions.) Nylon stockings disappeared, replaced by rayon which ran so easily that stockings with runs became the norm. (Nylon was needed for parachutes.) There was much more.
War plants sprang up seemingly overnight and other industries converted to war production. There was a shortage of workers because of the draft and the expansion of the industrial base. Women went to work in large numbers. Some journalist coined the phrase "Rosie the Riveter" and it stuck. The gals did a great job. Many signed their names inside warplanes, occasionally with an address.
The country was united like never before. There was no dissent, no peace activists, no media criticism. Patriotism was endemic. There was but one purpose and that was to win the war. Sleeping tiger, indeed. The rest is history.
So, that's what we commemorate on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, this year the 71st anniversary of the "Day of Infamy." The commemoration seems less of an event with each passing year. I think that's unfortunate.
We live in an unfriendly world armed to the teeth with weaponry that dwarfs anything that existed in 1941. There are people out there who don't like us very much. There are powerful nations working hard to equal and exceed our military capability. We are the king of the hill and there are those whose goal is to pull us down. The risk to this nation is not al Qaeda or the Taliban; they cannot defeat us. China and Russia are not our friends and they are growing in power while we are focused on this Middle East exercise in futility. Does anyone really believe that the Arab world will become peace-loving democracies, regardless of what we do? Our danger comes not from there but from nations with the capability to defeat us militarily. Not yet, but there are policies in place in Washington that do not bode well in the long term for our military strength. This could turn out to be a tragic mistake.
Complacency is a deadly enemy. Just ask the souls of the 2300.
The morning dawned dark and dreary. A cold drizzle was falling. I went out to my mailbox to get the paper and...there it was, big, black and scary: the headline--"It's Obama!" My heart sank. I hadn't watched the election coverage the night before. I went to bed fat, dumb and happy. Today, on this depressing day, the truth slammed into me. We are doomed! We won't survive another four years of the Evil One.
The I went into the kitchen. There, at my window feeder was a tiny black-capped chickadee. Another was at my (heated) bird bath drinking. Then a beautiful crimson cardinal flew onto my white bird feeder in the yard. Then I realized, God was in his Heaven and all was right with the world. Life would go on and we would suvive.
O.K., that's a bit embellished. I didn't--and don't--think we are doomed. I don't like our continuing president. I think he is not good for this country. He will try to drag this nation further to the left, perhaps with some success. The economy will stagger onward in the doldrums. Unemployment will stay high because many businesses, especially small ones, will be reluctant to expand and hire due to uncertainty about government regulations and the impact of Obamacare.
But we will survive! Four years is a drop in the bucket of history. This is a strong country, with great resources that, unfortunately, we are not utilizing. But this nonsense of renewable energy, windmills and solar panels, will eventually sink under its own weight of excessive cost and inefficiency. If by some miracle it doesn't, then I am wrong and it will work, which would be a good thing.
The greatest danger, in my view, is the rise of an entitlement class of people who depend on government for sustenance. This includes many college students, who came out in droves for Obama thinking that he would somehow forgive their loans and/or provide for their education. Should this group become too large, we could have an "Atlas Shrugged" condition where the payers would be buried by the takers. Remember, government has no money of its own. All is our, or China's, money, and the latter is not limitless. Thus, the drift toward socialism, if that's where we're headed and I believe it is, will of necessity be self-limited and will collapse of its own weight. I doubt we will get that far. This country has too long and successful an experience with capitalism.
So, take heart, all you conservative Republicans out there drowning in your beer. At some point we have to learn that we cannot win a negative smear campaign. The left is too good at it, based on long experience. Regardless of media hand-wringing, negative ads do work. In this campaign, they persisted despite published rebuttals. Repetition is diabolically effective. As Alvin Toffler said many years ago (1965 to be exact), "We are advancing the sophistication of deception faster than the technology of verification. The consequence of this is the end of truth." We are there, Dorothy.
Bottom line, I am not depressed. Personally, I believe God has blessed America and will continue to do so. As the Desiderata says, "Although it may not always be clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." So again, take heart, losers. There is always another day.
No, I'm not going to tell you for whom to vote. That is solely your decision. I just want to mention a few things for your consideration. This is, as many pundits have stated, some vehemently, a critical election. It will in all likelihood determine the kind of country we will be for generations to come. There is a stark difference between the two parties and candidates.
President Obama is a borderline--some say extreme--socialist. This is not necessarily an evil thing. A number of countries in the world are socialist, or socialist-leaning, and they are surviving. Some of them in Europe have hit a rough spot, mainly due to irresponsible fiscal policies, but they will undoubtedly survive. (The viability of the European Union is another matter.) We in this country have also been fiscally irresponsible, but due to our inherent strength and resources, we are surviving and probably will continue. Our debt-to-GDP ratio is still survivable, but barely. We should be sweating it.
Should he win this Tuesday, this country will undoubtedly shift further to the left toward a government-managed economy. This will be a form of fiscal socialism, wherein government has the power and resources to manage our lives to our benefit. The absence of the necessity to face re-election will in all liklihood embolden the leftward shift. This will require transfer of significant wealth from the private sector to the government to implement policy. It may not be entirely in the nature of taxes, but in myriad fees and loans. The latter are paper transfers to the private sector, paid back in real money. Hence a transfer of wealth to the government. Obama rather obviously believes firmly in the efficacy of government to "fix" things and manage activities that once were the province of the private sector. Nationalizing of industry is a logical eventuality. If you believe this is a desirable paradigm, then vote accordingly.
On the other hand, if you feel that the private sector is the best vehicle for economic and social progress, then the other side is your cup of tea. Republicans generally support a capitalist model. This country was built on such a model, but it can be argued that today it is outmoded. Capialism/free enterprise generally rewards entrepreneurship and individual responsibility. You are left essentially to sink or swim on your own. This is not a pure policy, but rather a tendency. So, if you favor limited government power over society and the economy, then vote accordingly. What is at stake Tuesday is a choice between two models of society for this country that will endure.
I'm sure many of you have been waiting with great anticipation for my take on the current campaigns and upcoming election. Well, this is it, beginning, middle and end. Truthfully, there isn't a whole lot to say, which of course will not stop me. This election is much like others in the recent past, just a little more extreme. The rhetoric is more aggressive and nastier, although the issues are similar: The economy (jobs), social issues like abortion (women's health) and health care especially for the elderly, and that old faithful, the middle class. Oh yes, I almost forgot foreign policy. Misrepresentations and outright lies abound. This, unfortunately, is what elections have deteriorated into.
What is new is the extreme polarization, the gap between left and right. The Obama administration is arguably more government-centric than, say the Clinton years (not all would agree), and Romney is somewhat more conservative than, say, the Bushes (again, not all would agree). The label "Socialist" is frequently applied to President Obama, with some justification, and a "Capitalist" sticker is slapped on Romney. In reality, that's essentially what this election is, or should be, about: philosophy of government.
All else derives from this factor, a consideration often lost in the fog of rhetoric. Domestic and world view depend on philosophical perception of solutions to problems. Obama and the current crop of Liberals have a centric world view that sees the solution to conflict as a meeting of the minds of all nations under centralized enforcement. Nationalism is undesirable. Hence a permissive and benign approach to the Middle East quagmire, an approach that currently does not seem to be working all that well. Our extended hand of friendship has been bitten.
Romney and most Conservatives adopt a more nationalistic approach to foreign relationships, a policy that essentially ensures an armed standoff among unfriendly nations. This, incidentally, is Benjamin Netanyahu's Middle East peace concept: an armed standoff, his version of MAD. But I digress. Both approaches are obviously flawed, but then the situation is intractable unless you subscribe to Jimmy Carter's solution: the elimination of Israel.
Domestically, the differences are classic liberal-conservative. Much misleading rhetoric abounds in this arena. For example, there is an Obama-Biden yard sign that reads, "Bin Laden is dead; the auto industry is alive; vote ... ." Not so. The assassination of Osama bin Laden was in the works for years, before Obama took office. It was authorized under G.W. Bush. Much planning and investigation, including identifying bin Laden's courier-driver and tracing him to Osama's compound, with subsequent mapping of the compound via IR satellite and drone analysis. Obama was called in at the last moment as Seal Team 6 was already in the process of executing the operation. Obama had very little to do with the operation other than giving the final go-ahead. Like he had a choice.
Insofar as the auto industry is concerned, GM and Chrysler were on the brink of bankruptcy. The implication by the administration is that without the massive infusion of bailout--read taxpayer--funds, the two industrial giants and their hundreds of thousands of jobs would disappear from the face of the earth. Anyone familiar with Chapter 11 bankruptcy knows that this is completely contrary to the principle of Chapter 11, which purpose is to allow the company/corporation to reorganize and remain in business. Practically every major airline has gone through bankruptcy and is still in operation.
The real issue was the UAW union contracts, which would have been abrogated by the Chapter 11 process and subject to difficult and certainly less beneficial renegotiation. The bailout was to salvage critical union support for the Democrat administration. Yes, it worked, but so would have Chapter 11, without the huge commitment of government (taxpayer/Chinese) funds.
Romney on the other hand paints Bain Capital as a benevolent organization dedicated to preserving jobs. Hardly. Bain Capital was and is a business primarily concerned with making money. Certainly, the salvage of troubled companies is part of the picture, since could very well be financially beneficial to Bain. However, should circumstances dictate, shutdown of a troubled company and loss of jobs is also in the picture.
I have previously discussed this business of the "middle class," which has myriad definitions. I do not like the division of the American populace into "classes". This is contrary to the principles of this country and the economic system that made it great. "All men are created equal" is not just a clever phrase. It means we all start off even, regardless of circumstances, and our station in life is the result of our efforts. The "middle class" can become the "upper class" or the "lower class" depending on our skills and effort. The "middle class" benefits from the economic progress of the nation as a whole. Government has precious little to do with it except to screw it up.
So, whom do you vote for? Depends on your own personal socio-political philosophy. If you are a lover of government and believe in its efficacy in solving problems, then vote for what we currently have. If you favor independence and personal initiative and believe that the less fettered the economy the better, that money in private hands is better than in the government's, then vote for a change.
I think you know where I stand. Most of all, please vote, but only once.
There was a recent letter published in our daily newspaper from an MD who bemoaned the fact that 70% of health care dollars are spent on the elderly, those over 60. His recommendation was to restrict expensive medical procedures, even life-saving, from older folks. (Full disclosure: I am one of those "old folks.") He suggested the return on investment was too little to warrant spending all that money on the elderly, especially since medical costs are so high and rising.
Professor Peter Singer at Columbia University, who is the philosophical guru for the pro-abortion movement, openly advocates assisted suicide and the withholding of medical procedures from the elderly who, in his opinion, are unproductive and not worth the cost.
Obamacare incorporates medical advisory panels responsible for issuing "guidelines" concerning the cost effectiveness of medical procedures. These are not the so-called "death panels" widely discussed by some opponents. I am not in favor of Obamacare, mainly because I don't trust the government to do much of anything right, but the "death panel" accusation is unwarranted, at least for now.
Elderly parents suffering from strokes, Alzheimer's or just general infirmity, are routinely shunted off to nursing homes and often virtually forgotten. Heaven forbid that caring for the old folks should interfere with our lifestyle. I have seen the insides of two well-rated nursing homes and witnessed the neglect to which many residents are subjected. I heard the granddaughter of a 104-year-old resident curtly inform the lady, in response to a plea to go home, "No, Geneva, this is your home for the rest of your days." Geneva lived out her days in half of a semi-private room.
I saw ranks of white-haired old folks, mostly ladies, lined up in wheelchairs against the wall where they spent most of their days except for the occasional visit by an activity person and mealtimes. This was truly warehousing. Family visits were rare, usually on holidays or the occasional weekend. I've been told by someone who worked in nursing homes for years that once-a-year visits by the children are not uncommon.
Caring for the elderly and infirm at home can be daunting, as I well know. In many other cultures, respect and obligation to elderly family members is simply a given. They are permitted to live out their days in familiar surroundings with loved ones rather than in a sterile institution tended by underpaid and often indifferent staff. I have seen this first hand. Even in so-called "good" nursing homes, care is minimal. My wife was of necessity in nursing homes for a period of a few months. I visited with her for most of every single day. Even with my close presence, she ended up with a bedsore and two rather nasty heel ulcers which took months to heal when we finally got her home. Incidentally, I was the one who detected both problems, not any of the staff. (I noticed blood seeping through her socks.)
Most of the elderly are parents who raised children. They loved, nurtured, fed, clothed, housed, educated and protected them through their growing up. Sadly, too many become, in the words of the Pete Seeger folk song, "obsessed with the mania for owning things." They become wrapped up in the daily demands of their own little lives and are wroth to allow anything or anyone to interfere with their hard-won lifestyle. Mom and Dad are fine so long as they are self-sufficient. When that is no longer the case, "out of sight, out of mind" comes into play in too many instances.
To illustrate the attitude toward elderly parents in other cultures, let me relate an example from personal knowledge. A very close friend, an observant Jew (observes all holidays and festivals) with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, had his elderly and infirm mother living with them in Texas. Travel requirements necessitated by family issues out of state made it difficult to continue to care for Mother. Mike then travelled to Israel to other family in Tel Aviv, a sister as I recall, who were able to care for the lady. He transported her to Israel and settled her in the sister's home. She lived there until she died at the age of 100, among family who loved and cared for her. Mike was there when she passed on.
From a purely practical standpoint, the cavalier attitude toward the elderly in this country is quite understandable. After all, effort expended to care for aged parents must be taken from the precious little time available in most families today. Financially, lawyers and advisors are hired to set up finances so that the old folks' assets are transferred early enough that they quickly become indigent and the county pays for their long-term care. Private pay in nursing homes is rare. (I know. I private-payed for my wife, Joan, for one month and it totally screwed up their accounting system to the extent that it took six months to send me the bill. And then it was wrong.)
Many older folks have conditions, usually involving arthritis, that incur chronic and severe pain. By way of example, my wife, Joan, has extremely severe lumbar spinal arthritis (lower back). All five lumbar vertebrae and the one sacral are involved. There is significant stenosis which resuls in extreme pain. She has virtually no discs left. This situation is inoperable and there is no effective therapy. She has been on major pain medication for many years--the notorious oxycodone. Before her stroke, it allowed her to function. (Despite what you may have read in newspaper articles, the stuff does work.) And yes, she is addicted. So what? At her age, this is irrelevent. Her situation is not unusual, yet our daily newspaper and a number of other do-good organizations are crusading to make it difficult for non-cancer patients to obtain pain medication. No-one suggests an alternative; let the old folks suffer.
The stated goal here is to reduce prescription drug abuse by addicts. The fact is, most illicit pain medication is not prescribed, but rather obtained through a thriving black market supplied via the hijacking of bulk shipments. Some drug store chains have resorted to camouflaging their trucks to reduce the chances of being hijacked. Since law enforcement is unable to stem the hijacking epidemic, the (mostly) liberal "fixers" resort to the easier target of the law-abiding elderly under the theory that "we have to do something."
The hard truth is, old folks are a problem in this country. They threaten to bankrupt Medicare, already nearly 50% subsidized by general tax revenue, take too many medications increasing demand which justifies higher prices, and overload clinics and emergency rooms. Worse, they do not pull teir own weight or produce sufficient wealth and contribution to society to justify their expense.
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps I am a bit today, but the trend is there. Rationing of medical care, limitations on drug prescribing and cutting Medicaid payments for long term care are on the horizon. Medicare funding is being cut, somehow magically not impacting service.
Much of this would be solved if we had a culture of caring for our parents and grandparents instead of trying to find ways to duck the responsibility and dump them off on someone else, like government. Most opioid pain medication is generic and not a major contributor to the overall cost of medical care. Unnecessary tests often justified to protect against litigation needlessly increase costs.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is we have a responsibility for our elders. Personal sacrifices made to care for them can be rewarding. I speak from experience. Besides, we owe them! We neglect them at the peril of our souls.
P.S. Translation of the Headline is left to the reader.
I watched and read several commentaries, memorials and tributes associated with the 11th anniversary of 9/11 last Tuesday. Remembering the victims certainly is appropriate, but nowhere did I find a single reference to who did it. I know we're trying very hard to not offend Muslim sensitivities, which seems not to be working all that well, witness the deadly outrage at the U.S. embassy in Libya and violent demonstrations in Egypt. Seems like the Arab Spring has turned to winter. Some of us felt all along that it was less an expression of democracy and more a power play by radical Islamic elements. Sadly, it appears we may have been right.
We have, or at least had, a tendency to heap scorn on the 19 or 20 perpetrators of the destruction of the WTC twin towers and concurrent murder of thousands of innocents. We usually picture terrorists as wild-eyed ignorant fanatics blowing themselves up. Yet, the 9/11 perpetrators were generally well-educated mostly Saudi men, some of them professionals. However, they chose to immolate themselve in a blatant attack on the U.S. Their motivation was their fervent religious belief, a belief that includes destroying obstacles to the spread or Islam. (The Koran does encourage persuasion but also condones violent and deadly destruction of obstacles to the propagation of the faith.)
These men were simply firm believers in their religion, generally a desirable chracteristic. They felt compelled to martyr themselves in support of that religion, also not really a bad thing when you consider the fate of the Christian apostles. They, however, felt justified in taking many innocent lives with them. Osama bin Laden, the architect of 9/11, was a respected and well-educated professional man as well as a fervent believer. Make no mistake, these people are not kooks, which makes this paradigm even more dangerous.
So, where is the evil in all this. Certainly this was an evil act, considering the loss of innocent life. Was it in the act itself or those who perpetrated it? No, the act in itself was not evil, but the Wahhabist form of radical Islam that justified the act is the true evil. The perpetrators died for their faith. I don't blame them, but then who is to blame? Let us take a look at this faith.
Islam and Christianity have common roots. The Biblical Old Testament is the basis of much of the Koran. The Old Testament contains accounts of bloody violence, a fact frequently pointed out to me, even to the extent of the massacre of women and children. I'm not going to try to justify these historical events. Theologians have twisted themselves into knots trying. The fact is, they happened. But that was then and this is now.
Recall also that Christianity and Islam worship the same Diety. Allah is just another name for God. So, why does radical Islam kill and destroy to defend and spread its faith while Christianity, with the same imperative to spread the faith, does not? The difference is that Christianity is based on the New Testament, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Mohammad is not Jesus. Islam does not have the benign persuasion characteristic of present-day Christianity. (Judaism is another case which I will neglect for now.) We send out missionaries, they--the Wahhabists and their sympathizers--send out bombers.
Why us? What did we ever do to Islam to earn their enmity? The simple truth is, it's our very existence. Remember, Islam demonizes obstacles to the spreading of the faith. The United States, a very successful, rich and extremely powerful Christian (mostly) nation, is a powerful symbolic obstacle to the world-wide spread of Islam. Israel, as a successful Jewish nation in the desert of the Middle East, is another hated symbol of non-Islamic success. However, Israel is small and not nearly the equal of the U.S. It's no accident that Israel is known in the Islamic world as the "Little Satan," but the U.S is known as the "Great Satan." WE are the big problem for expansionist, radical Islam. Thus, we are the target. The Atlantic Ocean and vigilent security measures have protected us for some time, but cannot be depended on to shield us indefinitely.
We must recognize that our enemy, radical, Wahhabist Islam, not a small group by any means and growing, considers our very existence an abomination. As the Israelis know, this enmity will never end. Certainly not all Muslims subscribe to this aggressive form of Islam, just as there are many different Christian denominations, but the radical element is strong and relentless and, sadly, frequently enjoys the tacit approval of the non-violent sects of Islam.
I have no happy ending. But we endanger ourselves by letting down our guard. Apologetics and appeasements will not work. The problem is not what we do, it is us. We would do well not to forget that on this anniversary of the most successful terrorist attack ever.
1. Prelude A few of you may have noticed that I've been gone for awhile. Nothing earthshaking but, as someone once observed, "It's not the major disasters that bother me, it's the constant pitter-patter of little defeats." There have been a number of issues at home that have distracted me from this blog, which, you may be surprised to know, is not my main priority. The dust has settled a bit, so I'm back for the moment. (I trust you all have been civil and restrained in your comments, which I have not had the time to monitor.)
There are a number of bloggable subjects, mostly political. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I'm quite tired of politics at the moment. The tsunami of mendacity that is politics these days has simply turned me off, so for the time being I leave political commentary to those who thrive on it. However, here are two pieces illustrative of the human condition: tragedy and darkness, joy and light.
2. Evil II My last post discussed the "Face of Evil,' my take on the motivation of mass killers of the innocent. I suggested the existence of evil in the world that has rendered certain mercifully few mescreants without a soul, or a conscience if you prefer: an inability to distinguish between right and wrong. Shortly after publication of that post, the horrendous massacre at the Sikh Temple occurred. Following has been a paroxysm of analysis of Mr. Wade Michael Page that persists to this day. I believe this is due at least in part to unacceptance of the existence of pure evil by liberals, who, quite laudably in most cases, try to find an explanation and subsequent corrective action for appalling events. "Given sufficient resources, we can fix anything."
I'm sorry, but I don't believe that. I believe that evil exists as a palpable force among humanity. Mr. Page, skinhead and kook, is posthumously being identified as a really dangerous individual whose conduct should have elicited action. This by some who knew or had contact with him. This is hindsight. His persona and actions, while not mainstream, were not justification for restraint or treatment. He was a skinhead kook and little else. Yet, he took it upon himself to kill several innocent souls, at prayer yet, who simply looked different from him. I believe this man was possessed, not by demons but by a palpable evil. It exists among humanity and impels senseless and grossly inappropriate violence against the innocent.
Christians like me call him Satan. Others harken back to primitive survival instincts not completely suppressed by time. Freud had another explanation, something about the ego. The distinction is subjective. The fact, I believe, remains that a number of individuals commit heinous acts without rational motive or justification in defiance of analysis. This does not deter an army of psychiatrists, psychologists, pundits and barroom analysts from submitting their own "answers". But none of these explanations, when looked at objectively, explain the conduct and indicate effective corrective action. We search in vain for the comfort of closure. We must face the fact that evil as an entity exists in the world today.
I don't have an answer to evil. Perhaps acknowledging it will help, but I sort of doubt it. The only course, in my opinion, is to defend against it with the means at our disposal. I happen to believe that concealed weapon carry could help stop a massacre in progress in a few instances. It can be argued that a Gunfight at the O.K. Corral might do more damage than good, but I do think that the ability to defend oneself in general is a good thing.
Having said that, I, along with the NRA, decry the ease with which Mr. Page, a known skinhead with bizarre beliefs, legally obtained weapons. I, along with all you gun-banners, am not comfortable with lethally-armed nut cases. Restricting assault weapons is useless feel-goodedness. Identifying unstable individuals and barring them from legally purchasing weapons strikes me--and the NRA--as reasonable.
3. To Fly There was a article in Saturday's newspaper about an innovative program at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, instituted by a minister, whereby inmates participate in the raising and release of monarch butterflies. This struck me as a brilliant idea and singularly effective therapy as opposed to most psychiatric treatment which has proven largely ineffective.
My wife, Joan, many years ago came across an article on the monarch butterfly, which is quite unique in the insect world. It has a life cycle that is both fascinating and compact. The whole process of egg to caterpillar to butterfly is consummated in just a few weeks. The article she read described the construction of a "monarch tree" to display the miracle of metamorphosis that takes place in creating this strikingly beautiful and delicate flyer. The brevity of the cycle serves to hold the interest of observers as there are no long lapses of inactivity as is the case with most other butterflies and moths.
The monarch life cycle is unique and miraculous in itself. Monarchs migrate south for the winter along several flyways. At one time, the destination was some unknown place in Mexico. Then someone found the "monarch trees," a grove of large trees festooned with millions of butterflies wintering over. Well-meaning environmentalists and tourists congregated and eventually drove the monarchs away. Now they winter over in Florida and other parts south. In the spring they return, laying eggs on milkweed as they come. The ragged survivors usually don't live long afterwards, having performed their function. Occasionally you might see a bedraggled survivor of the amazing two-way journey. And the life cycle continues. For some reason, monarch population in recent years has fallen off, a sad loss.
Monarch Caterpillar, Chrysalis, Butterfly
Joan proceeded to create this "monarch tree" by placing a dead branch about 2-3 feet high in a coffee can filled with plaster of paris. The large branch had to have many smaller branches. Next, she and some neighborhood enlistees began searching for eggs. The monarch larva feeds exclusively on milkweed, which renders it unpalatable to predators who leave it alone. The egg is a small, black dot which takes a sharp eye to detect. Found, the leaf is detached and placed in a quart Mason jar covered with a piece of cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. Additional fresh milkweed leaves are added as the original dries up. The eggs quickly--a few days--hatch into a tiny worms--oops, I mean caterpillars. As they consume milkweed and grow, they shed their inelastic skin five times and grow into a two-inch beautiful multi-striped, smooth-skinned caterpillar.
Careful observation over a couple of weeks detects when the caterpillar stops eating. He is now ready to "hang". The caterpillar is removed from the jar and placed on the tree. There, on a branch he begins to weave a small silk nubbin. When done, he turns his rear to the nubbin and a small black hook appears. The hook engages the nubbin and the caterpillar drops, suspended from his hook, and curls into a "J" shape (first image below).
Monarch Caterpillar to Chrysalis
After a few days, his skin splits and peels back, revealing a beautiful green chrysalis with gold accents. Much wriggling dislodges the shriveled skin leaving just the smooth chrysalis which quickly hardens, suspended from the silk nubbin.
A short time later, the chrysalis darkens and the outline of wings can be seen. It then splits open and the monarch in all its glory emerges.
Monarch Emerging from Chrysalis
At first, its wings are small and shriveled and the body outsize. The butterfly pumps fluid from his body into his wings, filling them out to normal size as his body shrinks. He hangs for a few days as the wings dry, dripping a brown fluid. When dry, he begins to slowly flap his wings, which is a clue that he's ready to fly. Joan and company, myself and the kids included, quickly take the butterfly from his perch on a finger and take him outside. Then comes the greatest moment of all, when a quick movement of the hand launches him into flight. He usually flies a short distance and alights to rest a bit before flying off into the world. Failure to detect the readiness to fly results in chasing down butterflies attached to drapes and curtains.
One incident stands out in my memory. Joan threw herself fully into the "Monarch Project," as was her way. Whether it was knitting, gardening (her 100-foot garden was the wonder of the neighborhood) or butterflies, she never did things half-way. Thus, we had dozens of caterpillars in various stages of development and two good-sized trees full of chrysalids, crawlers and hangers in our kitchen.
One day, she sprayed insecticide on some flies near the kitchen door to the garage which was open. A breeze ws blowing in through the screen door. The insecticide blew over to the monarch station with the trees and jars. Immediately, the caterpillars began wriggling and barfing--yes, barfing--as the insecticide hit them. In a panic, Joan called a neighbor lady and they both began washing caterpillars in warm soapy water. I came in to witness this bizarre scene of two ladies frantically scrubbing insecticide off little green worms. Believe it or not, they saved nearly all of them.
The trees with their little miracles made excellent show-and-tell for our kids and our eldest won a Science Fair first prize for her presentation display. To witness these incredible metamorphoses leading to the wonder of colorful flight was indeed a privilege.
One of you evolutionary biologists has to explain to me how random-chance mutations created this wonderfully complex miracle of nature. I believe this is another of God's gifts of beauty to us poor mortals.
This is a difficult post for me to write. The Aurora, Colorado, mass killing of 12 innocent souls and the wounding of 58 others, some seriously, is a monstrous tragedy with victims well beyond the casualties. Dozens of family members and friends are also deeply affected. Please believe me when I assure you I am not trying to capitalize on this tragedy, but I think there is a critical issue here that the media and others are missing. The significance of this and other similar mass killings committed without clear motive or justification is not being addressed, which masks their significance.
As is virtually always the case, the pundits and analysts come out of the woodwork to search for an explanation, precursor, motive or justification for someone deciding to kill a large number of innocent people, usually complete strangers. They look into the perpetrator's childhood, his activities, his associates, searching, searching for some vehicle of understanding. This derives from the pervasive notion that bad things can be prevented from happening if only we find the key to the behavior and fix it. Sometimes it's there in a distorted childhood or traumatic event, but usually it eludes identification.
Jeffery Dahmer had a stupefyingly normal upbringing in a normal family. He stated he didn't know why he did what he did, he just wanted to. The present mass killer, James Holmes, complete with red hair, appeared to be a relatively harmless Batman freak to friends, family and associates. One person, a shooting range proprietor, judged him from a bizarre voicemail greeting and strange conversation to be too unstable to shoot at his range, but did not consider him dangerous. Fellow neuroscience researchers thought him strange or did not notice him at all. The government gave him a sustaining stipend plus a $26,000 grant for his research, part of which he apparently spent to purchase the weapons he used in his rampage.
So. what motivated this hapless misfit and other mass killers? Are they just nuts? Certainly they are not mainstream mentally normal, but is that enough to explain such catastrophic behavior? I think it offers a partial explanation, in that we have shut down mental institutions and made it extremely difficult to commit someone against his will. However, there are lots of mentally deranged individuals walking the streets who don't slaughter a dozen or more fellow citizens.
So, what do we have here? How do we explain these seemingly inexplicable tragic events? We have a tendency in this country to avoid acknowledging evil. We explain the most heinous occurences, sometimes with extremely tortured reasoning. Atrocities committed by Islamic extremists are justified--not by everyone but by some--as the consequence of our bad deeds as a nation. Even 9/11 was so justified. Today, the cowardly street bombings by rebels in Syria are excused as a justified reaction to persecution by the Assad regime. It appears that only Adolf Hitler is acknowledged as an unredeemable bad guy by most folks. Yet, seemingly inexplicable outrages continue to occur with disturbing regularity.
Gun restrictions or an outright ban will not stop the acts of the man without a soul. An assault weapons ban is meaningless. The AR-15 "assault rifle" Holmes carried, along with a shotgun and handgun, was semi-automatic like most handguns, rifles and shotguns. "Semi-automatic" means the weapon fires each time the trigger is pulled. "Military style" is a meaningless appellation that relates more to appearance than function. The military AR-15 has full automatic capability, but is not available to the general public. The designation "assault weapon" is vague and undefined, which is why the NRA opposes their ban. A weapons ban will not stop mass killings. It will just serve to mask the problem.
The cold, hard truth is that evil exists in this world. There are individuals whose, in the Biblical sense, souls are dead. There is no voice of conscience to stay their proclivities for evil. There is no guilt or remorse. The image of red-haired James Holmes in a courtroom, nodding off during the proceedings, disconcerts family members and the public at large. Everyone is afraid to say it: this is an evil man. Jeffery Dahmer was an evil man. John Wayne Gacy was an evil man. So were David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Charles Manson and more.
Without a soul, there is no limit on conduct. I do not subscribe to the inherent evil of man as some do. I interpret the concept of original sin differently. But there are those depraved individuals for whom there is no explanation other than they are purely evil. Evil has existed in the world since the beginning of history. It even has been responsible for despicable acts in the name of religion. This is not the fault of the religion, but rather of the soulless monster who cloaks his evil actions in it.
Aurora, Colorado, has no rational explanation, other than the act of an evil man. We search in vain for a rational causation. Holmes perhaps is technically insane, but that is not the answer. The only answer, and it is imperfect, is to confront evil where we find it and not to be afraid to deal with it, instead of like the shooting range operator who shrugged off his suspicions. Honest recognition of the existence of evil at least may allow us to identify and confront the enemy before the commission of a horrendous act of mass destruction.
There is no limit to the evil acts of the soulless.